And it will be said, "Build it up, build it up, prepare the way, take every obstacle out of the way of My people."
I. THE BITTER FATE OF THE UNGODLY. Departing from God, they have no resort but that which they find in their own poor divinities, in those "heaps of idols" whose power is blown away with the first breath of adversity; they may cry to these wretched images, but they will meet with no response. This will prove the portion of the ungodly. in every age: the powers to which, in God's absence, they have recourse will fail them utterly in their time of need; they may be numerous, they may be "companies," they may be highly esteemed, but they will certainly tail when the hour of trial arrives. Worldly wealth, a great reputation, troops of friends, high social position, varied attainments, strength of bodily constitution, - any one or all of these, or other resources besides these, may be possessed, but they will ignominiously fail in the hour of supreme necessity; they will not, for they cannot, deliver a human soul in its deepest troubles, in its darkest hours; they will be as impotent as "the chaff which the wind driveth away." "Vain things for safety" are they all. The soul of man has wants which strike deeper and which rise higher than any of them can reach.
II. THE BLESSED HERITAGE OF THE GODLY. "He that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land." To him may come, will come, hours of darkness, of loss, of trial; but he has a stay and a resource in God his Father, in Jesus Christ his unfailing Friend, which will make him blessed at every point of his pilgrimage, in every stage of his career. For him will be:
1. The rest of heart which comes with a consciousness of spiritual integrity.
2. Growth in all that is good and wise.
3. The happiness of heart which is found in the worship of God: "He shall inherit my holy mountain."
4. The joy of sacred service, of rendering succour, of imparting strength to the weak and comfort to the sad, of rescuing and reinstating the fallen and despairing.
5. The hope of the heavenly inheritance. - C.
1. The want of a true and large ideal of Christian life, as an inward, spiritual and Divine disposition, and the attempt to live in mere conformity to rules, and with a vague impression that if one conforms to the Church he shall in some way, he knows scarcely how, be saved, is itself one of the causes of perpetual stumbling. The attempt to live merely for the fulfilment of social moralities; the attempt to live so that all the rules which are prescribed by all those who are governing in the Lord, shall be obeyed; the attempt to live upon any such low conception as that of regulations, conventions, observances, is sure to make the Christian life poor, and the travel uncertain. For "a new creature in Christ Jesus" is the apostolic definition of a Christian. Our aspiration and effort will be in proportion to the dignity and the ideality, if I may, so say, of our conception of what religion is. If we suppose it to be simply not doing evil, we shall put forth but very little exertion, and we shall receive but very little stimulus.
And shall say, Cast ye up.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
2. The attempt to live the Christian life with a low tone of feeling is a reason why men do not make greater progress. In all the writings of the New Testament you will find that fervour, intensity is required in every feeling. We not only need to have moralities, but we need to have Christian graces, which are, as it were, orchids, epiphytes, and fed upon higher and purer things — light, and moisture, and other elements that the air contains. Now, none of these can thrive in our temperate climate. A temperate climate is good for temperate things; but for intensities it is not good. And many dominant and characteristic traits of Christian character are such as never can be brought out without fervour.
3. Lack of deep and continuous devotion. This is either from the want of a sense of the great spirit-world on whose border we live perpetually, or it is the result of excessive occupation, over-occupation, which crowds all the time, and prevents one from ripening in a true Christian devotion.
4. Another hindrance which men find on the road of progress in their Christian life, is their ignorance as to the effect of outward activity in developing inward fervour, and the effect of inward fervour in developing outward activity — as to the effect of the reciprocal action of the inward and the outward life. Men arc accustomed to separate these qualities, which should never be disjoined. Men should be active that they may be emotive; and they should be emotive, that emotion may work into activity.
5. A very common hindrance to Christian development is the attempt of men to perform their Christian work outside of their appropriate spheres. Wherever you are, there begin the battle; there subdue everything that stands in conflict with the law of conscience, and the law of love, and the law of purity, and the law of truth. Begin the fight wherever God sounds the trumpet, and He will give you grace that as your day is, so your strength shall be. But until we cease dividing our life into two parts — secular and religious — we never shall be very eminent and consistent as Christians; we never shall make any very great progress in the Christian life.
6. Too much companion. ship is not good.
7. This stands closely connected with another social hindrance to the development of true Christian life, and that is, the addiction of men to pleasure. I mean not indulgence in wasting and disallowable pleasures, but an excessive addiction to recreation of any kind. We are bound to grow in grace. If we do not, grow, we are bound to know the reason why.
(H. W. Beecher.)
( M. Henry.)I. THE STUMBLING-BLOCKS WHICH CHRISTIANS HAVE THROWN IN THE WAY OF THE JEWS.
4. Neglect of the law of Moses.
5. Unbelief of the prophets.
II. THE STUMBLING-BLOCKS WHICH THE JEWS HAVE PUT IN THEIR OWN WAY.
2. Traditions of men.
4. A false view of God.
5. Unbelief in the Son of God.
III. THE BLESSED FRUITS OF THEIR REMOVAL. These fruits are set before us in the verses which follow our text.
1. Humiliation and contrition (ver. 15).
2. Revival and healing. The promise goes on thus: "To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. I have seen his ways and will heal him."
3. Comfort and peace. "I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him" (vers. 18, 19).
I. LET US SHOW WHY THIS IS.
1. The way of believing is such an uncommon way. Men do not understand the way of trusting. They want to see, to reason, to argue. How very difficult it would be for a cow, that has always lived by the day the short life that can be fed on grass, if it had to live by reason, as men do. And when man has to live by faith he is as awkward at it as a cow would be at reasoning. He is out of his element.
2. Men, when they are really seeking salvation, are often much troubled in mind. They feel that if God be just He must punish them for their wrong-doing. And when they are told that if they believe in Jesus Christ all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven, they wonder how it can be. Conscience makes unbelievers of us all; and stumbling-blocks are created by our trembling condition.
3. Besides this, men are often ignorant of the way of salvation. I am not speaking now as though I blamed them. I was brought up to attend the house of God regularly. Yet when I began to see the Lord, I did not know the way of salvation. I knew the letter of it, but not the real meaning: how can a man know it till the Spirit of God reveals it to him?
4. Satan is always ready to prevent souls from finding peace in Christ. Thus have I shown why there are so many stumbling-blocks.
II. Now I am going to TRY TO LIFT SOME OF THEM OUT OF THE WAY.
1. Here is one of them. One man says, "I would fain believe in this Jesus Christ of whom you tell me, but if I were to come to God through Christ, would He receive me? "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." In all the history of the human race there never has been found a man that came to Jesus Christ whom Christ rejected yet.
2. "But," says another, "I am a very peculiar person. I could very well believe that any man in the world who trusted Christ would be saved except myself; but I cannot think that He would save me, for I am so odd. Ah, I am odd myself, and I had the same feeling that you have. I thought that I was a lot left out of the catalogue. If you knew other people you would find that there are other strange people besides yourself; and if God saves so many strange people, why should He not save you? He delights to do wonders. He will crowd heaven with curiosities of mercy.
3. But I hear another say, "Sir, I have such a horrible sense of sin; I cannot rest in my bed! I cannot think that I shall be saved." Wait a bit there; let me speak to this person over here. What is your trouble? "My trouble is, sir, that I have no sense of sin. I know that I am a sinner, and a great sinner; but I do not think that I shall be saved, for I have no horrible thoughts " Will you change with the other man? Will he change with you? I should not advise either of you to make any change; for, in the first place, despairing thoughts-are — not necessary to salvation; and, in the second place, so long as you know yourself a sinner, and are willing to confess it, such thoughts are untrue. Despairing one, look to the Cross and live; and thou who dost not despair, look to the same Cross and live; for there is salvation for every eye that looks to Jesus crucified.
4. A trembler cries, "I am afraid to come and trust Christ, because I do not know whether I am one of the elect." If you trust Jesus Christ I will tell you then that you are Go ' elect, to a certainty.
5. "All," says another, person, "I think I have committed this unpardonable sin. Do you long to he delivered from .the power of sin? Then you have not committed the unpardonable sin, because it is a sin unto death, and after a man commits it he never has a living wish or desire after God from that moment.
6. "Oh, but," says another person, "my stumbling-block is this: that the whole thing seems too good to be true, that I, by simply believing in Jesus Christ, shall be saved. I confess that it does seem too good to be true, but it is not. God in Christ Jesus is clearly capable of marvellous deeds of grace. There are some stumbling-blocks that I cannot remove; they must always stand there, I am afraid.
7. An objector says to me. "I would believe in Jesus; I have no fault to find with Him, but, then, look at His followers, many of them are hypocrites. We do look at His professed followers, and the tears are in our eyes, for the worst enemies He has are they of His own household. Suppose Judas does betray Christ, is Christ any the worse for that? You are not asked to trust in Judas, you are asked to trust in Christ. The reason why it pays to make bad sovereigns is because, good ones are so valuable; and that is why it pays certain people, as they think, to pass themselves off as Christians. If there were no real Christians, there would be no pretenders to that name.
8. "But," says another, "here is my stumbling-block: if I were to believe in Christ, and become a Christian, I should have to alter my whole life." Just so. There would have to be a turning of everything upside down," but then He that sits upon the throne says, "Behold, I make all things new.
9. "Oh, but," says one, "I should have to run the gauntlet in my family if I became a Christian." Which is the better thing, do you think — to be sneered at for doing right or to be commended for doing wrong?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Take up the stumbling-block.
I. There is the stumbling-block of SELFISHNESS. This has always cumbered the way. Ananias and Judas yielded to it.
II. Close by this block is another, that of INTOLERANCE. The Church, strong outwardly, was impatient of divergence of opinion.
III. TERRORISM had also to be rolled out of the way. Figure was taken for fact. The great Father was presented in the guise of an implacable judge. Harsh representations of God and future punishment caused revolt.
IV. There is the stumbling-block of an ELABORATE CEREMONIAL SYSTEM.
V. The block of INDIFFERENTISM, on the other hand, also needs removal. Indifferentism is only another name for selfism. It should matter to each man if his fellow suffers.
VI. Some will say that all the stumbling-blocks mentioned are nothing compared with those formed by THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. The last is a conglomerate rock. Worldly attractions, amusements, desires, lusts, are often too strong for those who profess to be unworldly. Byron said, "The inconsistencies of professing Christians made me an infidel. Was he alone? Conclusion: How are these evils, these blocks of offence to be removed, and a way made for the coming of our King Jesus? There must be more faith in the presence and potency of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)Isaiah 58:12, "the restorer of paths"): — Few are the exceptionally gifted men and women whom God calls to be pioneers, discoverers and creators of new paths — road-makers. "Primal needed work," to use Walt Whitman's phrase, is not possible for the majority of us. We have not the genius, the energy, the courage, the self-reliance, the independence of intellectual comradeship which characterize the select company who are able to hew their way, like Stanley's men in "Darkest Africa," through forests, and force their way through wildernesses and deserts, thus opening up new highways for human thought and life, and action, and civilization, and new highways for God. But we can all be road-menders. We can all aid in removing the stumbling-blocks out of the way. We can all be restorers of paths. This is the humbler task. It demands fewer talents, less daring, less originality than pioneer work, but who can gauge its value? Who will venture to affirm that it is less honouring or less acceptable to God, and less of a boon to man and the world? Perhaps, after all, to mend the old roads, to restore the former paths which have fallen out of repair, and make them straighter, safer, and more comfortable to the feet of travel-worn pilgrims, is as noble and useful a vocation as any to which God calls His servants.
I. What need there is for road-menders and restorers of paths in THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL WORLD! To protect the widow and orphan; to stand by the oppressed; to ameliorate the lot of the starving poor and the slaves of the sweater; to grapple with the drink curse, the gambling curse, the curse of impurity, the curse of an inordinate love of gold and pleasure; the curse of preventable poverty, preventable disease, preventable premature old age and death — what a field of service for God and man!
II. What need there is for road-menders and restorers of paths in OUR NATIONAL AFFAIRS! As lovers of our country; as patriots' who have a share in shaping the home and foreign policies of our Governments and moulding public thought and national conduct and character, let us do what we can to lead our nation into saner and safer and nobler paths.
III. What need there is for road-menders and restorers of paths in THE RELIGIOUS WORLD! Is not much of our Churchianity to-day an empty form, a mere show? How far removed from our professedly Christian life in the Church are our commercial life, our political life, our home life, our society life in the world! What an amount of nominal Church membership and formal Christianity there is nowadays!
IV. What need there is for road-menders and restorers of paths in THE SPHERE OF PERSONAL GOODNESS AND HELPFULNESS! After all, the best contribution any one of us can make to the glory of God and the welfare of man is that of a really good life; a life fashioned after the pattern given us by our Lord and Master; a life filled by the Holy Spirit, a life of friendship and filial fellowship with God.
(R. Briggs, M. A.)
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