Jeremiah 3:12
Go, proclaim this message toward the north: 'Return, O faithless Israel,' declares the LORD. 'I will no longer look on you with anger, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD. 'I will not be angry forever.
A Proclamation from the King of KingsJeremiah 3:12-15
BackslidingC. Locke, D. D.Jeremiah 3:12-15
Israel Invited to Renew Her Marriage by RepentanceC. Simeon, M. A.Jeremiah 3:12-15
Love of the WorldW. P. Lockhart.Jeremiah 3:12-15
One by OneLyman Abbott, D. D.Jeremiah 3:12-15
Return! Return!Jeremiah 3:12-15
The Backslider's ReturnH. A. Hall, B. D.Jeremiah 3:12-15
The Mercifulness of the Divine NatureJeremiah 3:12-15
The Relationship of MarriageJeremiah 3:12-15
To BackslidersJeremiah 3:12-15
Confession of Sin the Indispensable Prerequisite for its PardonS. Conway Jeremiah 3:12-19
That this is so is shown by the evident fact that if it could have been dispensed with it would have been. For the desire of God to pardon his guilty people is, as this section shows, intense. He will not cease to seek after them even when the punishment of their sin has actually come upon them. Hence (ver. 12) he addresses them in the lands of their exile, Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Media (2 Kings 17:6), and three times (vers. 12, 14, 22) implores them to "return." He "fills his mouth with arguments," and endeavors by every kind of assurance and promise to induce them to return. Ver. 12: they shall be completely forgiven. Ver. 14: they ought to return, for they are his by right, as the wife is the rightful possession of the husband. Ver. 14: they are the object of his constant regard, so that they cannot be concealed from his eye or hindered from his help. No, though in a whole city, or tribe, or nation, there should be but "two" or even "one," still his hand would reach them there, and bring them out and restore them to Zion. Ver. 15: and those who in days gone by had so happy rule they should greatly multiply in the land. And, better still, they should so realize and rejoice in the spiritual presence of God that they should no longer need the aid of the ancient symbols of that presence, such as the ark of the covenant of the old dispensation. Ver. 17 and Jerusalem should be so filled with the Lord's presence that they should call the city "the throne of the Lord." And the "nations" should be converted, and their wickedness be forsaken. Ver. 18: and Judah and Israel should be one, and in unity and affection possess the land. Such were the glorious hopes with which God sought to win back his people's hearts to himself, and they conclusively show how intensely the heart of God was set upon his people's return. But eagerly desirous as God was for this restoration of his lost children to his heart and home again, he is evidently held back from indulging such affectionate promptings by considerations that could not be overlooked. What they were, the demand that he makes for confession of sin plainly shows. They are -

I. The Law of righteousness. Sin is the violation of that Law, and until due atonement and acknowledgment have been made, sin ought not to be forgiven. I may, in accordance with cur Savior's commands, refrain from inflicting punishment on one who has wronged me, even though he have not repented of his wrong; and that refraining from inflicting punishment, or from demanding what is my right, is forgiveness in the sense our Lord meant; but he did not mean, for it would be a command impossible to obey - that I should receive such a one into the same confidence and love which I bear towards a dear friend who has never deserved anything else. Therefore my forgiveness of such an unrepentant offender, though granted in accordance with our Lord's command, and well-pleasing in his sight, and the best I am capable of, is nevertheless not complete, not perfect; for perfect forgiveness, that which God would bestow upon sinful men, means far more than the remission of penalty: it means restoration to the love, the fellowship, and the confidence of God. But this cannot be apart from due atonement made on the part of the wrongdoer. The Law of righteousness, the Law written upon our hearts as well as inherent in the nature of things, forbids such forgiveness apart from the essential condition of such forgiveness.

II. And the well being of his household is that other consideration which restrains the prompting of affection to forgive sin unconditionally and from mere pity. Man is not the whole of God's household. He may be only the one sheep who has gone astray. The rest, the ninety and nine blessed ones who need no repentance. But to pardon sin without atonement would be to confound all moral distinctions, to discourage the good, and to teach the wrong-doer to regard his wrong as a very slight matter; it would be to carry the discords of earth into the presence of God, and to reproduce there the sins and sorrows of this world. Therefore let the love of God towards sinful man be inconceivably great, and it is so, still it is held back in its exercise by these considerations now named. But where sin is confessed as God demands it should be, then, as is promised here and in many other Scriptures beside, God's pardoning love can go forth and the sinner be restored to the favor, which he had lost. And the reason of this is not because the sinner's poor and inadequate confession of his sin is a sufficient atonement for the wrong he has done, but because, when he sincerely makes that confession, he is invested with the acceptableness of Christ. For Christ has made that atonement perfectly which man can only offer in the most imperfect way; "man's repentance needing too often, to be repented of, and his very tears to be washed in the blood of Christ. But Christ looked upon sin as God looks upon it, hated it as God hates it, consented to God's judgment concerning it by bearing the penalty of it; "he bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and so made that true, that perfect confession and atonement which we can never make. And he did this in our nature, and as our Representative. So now, when we come in his Name, sincerely repenting of sin, though that repentance be inadequate in itself, yet because it is "the mind of Christ," and looks upon sin sorrowing over it as he did, our imperfect atonement is accepted in his perfect one, we have the fellowship of his sufferings, his atonement is in our measure reproduced in us, and we are made conformable to his death. Pardon thus bestowed neither violates the Law of righteousness nor is inconsistent with the well being of the whole family of God. Hence it is that, as in ver. 13, the demand is made for confession of sin, and then of their iniquity in all its aggravated forms. Without such confession pardon cannot be bestowed. Not till the prodigal "came to himself," went to his father and said, "I have sinned," was he forgiven, notwithstanding all the yearning of the father's heart after his lost child. Now, to bring men to this looking upon their sin as God looks upon it, as the Lord Jesus looks upon it, is the object of God's disciplines, of the pain and smart which so often accompany sin, and of so much of the teaching of the Bible and of God's providential government. And those who have trusted in Christ are continually to be "looking unto Jesus," for in that trustful look is the sure guarantee of the preservation of the "mind of Christ" in them in regard to sin, and so of their forever abiding in the favor and love of God. This mind of holy hatred and sorrow on account of sin it is the especial work of God's Holy Spirit to produce in men; that Spirit who is given to them that ask his aid, more readily than even parents give to their children what those children they so much love need and ask for. - C.

Return, thou backsliding Israel.

1. From one who

(1)has been wronged (ver. 13);

(2)might therefore justly be angry;

(3)but is "merciful" (ver. 12).

2. To one who

(1)has been grossly disobedient;

(2)has been equally ungrateful;

(3)is reaping consequences of disobedience and ingratitude.

II. THE CONDITION OF RETURN. Confession is the condition of return, because —

1. Genuine confession of sin can proceed only from genuine contrition for sin, which is not unfrequently brought about (Luke 15:17) by a comparison of the lamentable consequences of backsliding, with happiness previously enjoyed.

2. "Godly sorrow" or genuine contrition "worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of"; i.e. it finds relief only in that confession which is the condition of return. True repentance involves —

(1)Contrition for sin against God.

(2)Confession of sin to God.

(3)Return from sin "towards God" (Acts 20:21).


1. God's anger will be averted (ver. 12).

2. God will Himself escort the wanderer home.

3. A happy future. Comprising(1) life under a rule which can commit no errors, legislative or judicial (ver. 15);(2) a promise that the restored shall not "walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" (ver. 17), the cause of their backsliding.

(H. A. Hall, B. D.)

1. It is a fearful thing that a believer should backslide.

(1)Such mercy has been shown to him.

(2)Such love has been enjoyed by him.

(3)Such prospects lie before him.

(4)Such comfort is sacrificed by his backsliding.

2. It is a wretched business for the man himself, since by it nothing is gained, and everything is endangered.

3. It is injurious to the whole church to which the backslider belongs.

4. It is mischievous to the outside world.

5. What is the immediate duty of the backslider? the immediate remedy for his backsliding? — "Return."


1. The usual jealousy of love.

2. The abundance of the sin (ver. 2).

3. The obstinate continuance in evil, notwithstanding chastisements (ver. 3).

4. The refusal of tender persuasion (ver. 4).

5. The perversion of mercy (ver. 5).

6. The warnings which had been despised (vers. 6-11). It is a great increase of iniquity when we perceive the suffering which it causes others, and yet persevere m it ourselves.


1. Does it not remind you of other days?

(1)When you first came to Jesus.

(2)When you were happy with other believers.

(3)When you could teach and warn others.

(4)When you began to go aside, a little.

(5)When you have sinned grievously through this backsliding.

2. Indulge these memories till they affect your heart.


1. It is God Himself who utters it.

2. Anger will be removed (ver. 12).

3. Love continues (ver. 14).

4. Healing will be given (ver. 22).


1. "Only acknowledge thine iniquity" (ver. 13). What a simple matter!

2. Lament the evil (ver. 21).

3. Own the sad result (ver. 25).

4. Trust in God for restoration (ver. 23).

5. Heartily renew allegiance (ver. 22).


1. Special guidance (ver. 14).

2. Suitable food (ver. 15).

3. Spiritual insight (vers. 16, 17).

4. Childlike spirit (ver. 19).

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Let us have up the backsliders, and ask them why they slid back. Of course they have excuses. All wrongdoers have. You interview any defaulting bank officer, etc., and they will tell you a tale of sweet and childlike artlessness to account for their weakness, as they will call it.

1. I was deluded into being confirmed by the urgent solicitations of the rector, or my parents, or my Sunday school teacher. I was over-persuaded by my wife or my friends. I acted hastily. Now just put this into plain English and look at it. You were deluded into an attempt to rise to a higher plane. You were over-persuaded to strive to be a better: man. or woman. You. acted hastily in resolving to strive to get the better of evil passions and ugly habits. How does that sound?

2. My rector said that there would be a great comfort in being a communicant, that it would bring a peaceful conscience, and a joy in life, and a satisfaction of heart. Now I did not find it so. After I became a communicant, my old bad feelings returned, and I gave way often to evil thoughts, words, and deeds, and the world did not change, and I was not very different, and so I stopped the whole thing. Now, if you had a very sick friend, and the doctor should leave pills which if steadily taken would bring relief, what would you reply on hearing your friend say after taking two or three, "I feel no better, I will take no more"? You would reply: "The doctor never said a dose or two would answer. He said that if persevered in the pills would bring relief." Would you blame the doctor or the medicine, if your friend's bad symptoms still continued?

3. It was such hard work. Why, there was no end to the care we had to take. We had to watch our words all the time to see that we let out no scandalous or ugly or impure ones, and our steps that we went nowhere which would be likely to peril our Christian profession. We found that to be consistent we had to struggle, and to meet opposition, and to go contrary to our own wishes, and when we fell, it was so hard to get back, we got discouraged and gave up. Young men have told me that, whom I saw, just to keep their places in the store, working like very galley slaves, thinking no self-denial too great to hold on there, rising early, going without sleep, hurrying through their meals, restraining their tempers, bearing patiently with troublesome customers and overbearing employers. Do you not see the awful inconsistency, the poor futility, of this excuse?

(C. Locke, D. D.)




1. The merciful disposition He felt towards them.

2. The relation under which He still regarded them.

3. The benefits which He was still ready to confer upon them.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

Backsliders are very many. Departing from the living God is no strange thing. Many Christians are one while hot, and another lukewarm, and even cold. They are diligent and fervent today, but idle and indifferent tomorrow. Even the best of believers are not always at their best. Who among us has not had cause to make confession that he has not kept up to his first love at all times; neither has his lamp been always clearly burning?

I. THE PROCLAMATION: "Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith" the Lord."

1. It was to be a proclamation, for God is King; and if His subjects rebel He does not lose the rights of His sovereignty. He sends, therefore, to them a royal message with all the power which belongs to the word of a king. "Go and proclaim."

2. This proclamation is sent to the worst of sinners, to the very basest of backsliders. They broke their marriage bonds to the one living and true God, and made themselves loathsome in His sight by the most detestable idolatries. It is sad that there should have been such a race of backsliders; but it is glorious to think that to such as these the message of God's mercy was sent.

3. The Israelitish people were not only the worst kind of backsliders, but they had already reaped in a very large measure the result of their backslidings, for they had been carried away captive. They had suffered the loss of all things because they had departed from their God, and yet they had not learned the lesson which affliction was meant to teach It was still needful to call them to repentance, and God bade them return to Him: His proclamation was to them.

4. I see some mercy, and that of no little kind, in the messenger who was sent to deliver this message, for it was Jeremiah, that man of a broken spirit, who could say of himself, "I am the man that hath seen affliction."

II. A PRECEPT. It is a very simple one, and as short as it is clear. It is given in the proclamation, — "Return, thou backsliding Israel."

1. Return, — be as you were; come back: repent, and do your first works. Hearken this is the precept; return unto your Saviour; just as you are, come back to Him. Come back as you came at first, with your sin acknowledged, looking to His Cross for pardon. Did you grow too great, and think you could live without your Saviour? Return! Did you dream of being so perfect that you did not want His righteousness, for your own would suffice? Away with that glittering bauble, that idle notion of thy perfection, and come back, and beat upon thy breast, and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Repent of thy pride, and return again to thy Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Return at once. Delays are always dangerous, but never so dangerous as when they are proposed by backsliders.

3. And come thou back with all thy heart. Let there be no mimic repentance; no pretended returning. Thou shalt find the Lord if thou seek Him with all thy heart, and all thy soul.

4. And mind that thou return practically; that is, that thy life shall be changed, thy idols broken, thy omitted duties fulfilled with eagerness, neglected means of grace pursued with fervour; that done which thou hast left undone, and that evil forsaken into which thou hast gone with such headlong folly.

III. THE PROMISE. "I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you." See that anger, like a black cloud, charged not with refreshing rain, but with fire flakes that shall bum as they fall: ay, burn their way into the very core of your being, as with the fires of hell. Not a flake of it shall burn you if you return unto your God. There is full, free, and immediate forgiveness to be had. "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins. Return unto Me." This is a grand motive for coming back: the sin that separates is put away. He will wash you thoroughly from your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin, and whatsoever you need He will give to you, and He will not upbraid you. I find that the passage might be read, "I will not cause My face to fall upon you," meaning this — that if the child of God comes back, God will not look angry at him any more. "I will not cause My anger to fall upon you. I will not even cause My face to fall at the sight of you; but I will receive you graciously; I will in tender mercy put away your transgressions, and reveal My love to you."


1. Here is, first, God's mercy. Nothing delights God more than to forgive sin: at this blessed work He is at home. He is happy at it; He finds pleasure in man's turning to Him, and finding life. Mercy as His last-born attribute. Until sin came there was no room for mercy — the mercy that forgives, and therefore mercy is God's Benjamin, the son of His right hand, and He delights to give to it ten times as much as to His other attributes when they feast together. It is the heaven of His heaven to receive a hell-black sinner to His heart, and put away his sin. "I am merciful," saith the Lord. Therefore come to Him, and believe in His mercy; and doubt no longer, but lovingly receive what He lovingly gives.

2. As for you who once knew Him, and loved Him, and rejoiced in Him, I want you just to dwell on that second argument, namely, marriage. "Return, for I am married unto you, saith the Lord." It is done, and though you do not stand to it He does, the great transaction still stands on His part: though you believe not, He abideth faithful. He has bought you with His blood, and the price will never return into His veins. Wherefore, come back to Him.

V. THE ADVICE that He here gives as to how we are to return. He says, "Only acknowledge thine iniquity." "Alas, I have so wandered!" Acknowledge it. "But I have done it so many times!" Acknowledge it. "But I have wandered against light and knowledge!" Acknowledge it. It is not a hard thing to do, to get thee to thy chamber, and before God confess thy faults. You have, first of all, to have a knowledge of it, and then to acknowledge it. Feel thy sin, and then confess it. Be convinced of it, and then plead guilty at the judgment seat. "What am I to acknowledge?"

1. Your breach of covenant — that you have transgressed against Jehovah your God.

2. Next acknowledge your greedy sin — that thou "hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree."

3. Confess also your hardness of heart. God has spoken, and you would not hear; He has entreated, and you would not regard Him; He has come very near to you, and you have turned your back upon Him.

4. Confess also your ingratitude. His voice, which is your Father's voice, you have not heard or obeyed. What unnaturalness!

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE GROUND OF THE APPEAL. "I am married unto you." A man to have slidden back must at one time have been forward. He cannot have truly wandered from the Lord, unless he has personally known Him. To those, therefore, who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus is the appeal made, "Turn, O backsliding children," etc.

II. TO WHOM THE APPEAL IS ADDRESSED. The Christian who seeks first his worldly advantage, and fails to see that his "chief end is to glorify God," is led step by step farther and farther from the Most High.


1. The context shows the spirit in which it is to be complied with (ver. 13). First must come confession. As the old proverb has it, "Sensibility to a fault is half-way to amendment."

2. In the text itself we have the appeal in one word — "Turn."

3. The promise associated with this appeal (ver. 23). This is a promise of Almighty power. I remember hearing a brother who, when asked who converted him, replied, "God converted me, who else could do it?" So may we say of the healing of the backslider, "Who but God can do it?" Blessed be the name of the Almighty, He promises to do it.

4. The language used by the backslider as setting forth the One to whom he returns (ver. 22).

(W. P. Lockhart.)


1. It is going back.




2. It is generally preceded by —

(1)Pride (Proverbs 16:18).

(2)Vain confidence (Matthew 26:33).

(3)Negligence (Matthew 26:58).

3. A man may be —

(1)Enticed by sinful pleasures.

(2)Led back by sinful companions (1 Kings 11).

(3)Driven back by sinful fears (Matthew 26:69-74).


1. Heavy losses.


(2)Tender conscience.

(3)Sweetest enjoyments.

(4)Brightest hopes.

2. Severe disappointment. His holy expectations are lost, of what he might have been and done for Christ, and the after rewards.

3. Terrible disgrace.

(1)Before the world, as a hypocrite.

(2)Before the Church, as "the thief" (Jeremiah 2:12).

(3)Before God (Psalm 51:3-9).


1. Immediately.

(1)Delay makes your case worse.

(2)God is willing to pardon.

(3)The Church is waiting to receive you.

2. Humbly.

(1)Confessing sin.

(2)Abhorring sin.

(3)Forsaking sin.

3. Believingly. Remember —

(1)The love of your espousals.

(2)The individuality of your relationship.

(3)The love of your husband.

(4)Your own duty.

(The Study.)

When the Duke of Argyll was taken in rebellion in Scotland, and brought before James the Second, the King said to him, "You know that it is in my power to pardon you?" It is reported that the prisoner answered, "It may be m your power, but it is not in your nature to forgive," — a speech which, whether true or not, cost him his life. He died like a stoic, executed at Temple Gate. What a contrast to the Divine. To err is human, to forgive is Divine.

I am married unto you.
These be dainty words — a grateful anodyne for a troubled conscience. Such singular comfort is fitted to cheer up the soul, and put the brightest hue on all her prospects. The person to whom it is addressed hath an eminently happy position. God speaks to His Church in her most abject estate, and though He does not fail to rebuke her sin, to lament it, and to make her lament it too, yet still in such an estate He says to her, "I am married unto you." Oh! it is grace that He should be married to any of us, but it is grace at its highest pitch, it is the ocean of grace at its flood tide, that He should speak thus of "backsliding children."


1. The affinity of marriage, though exceedingly near of kin, is not one of birth. Marriage is not a relationship of natural birth but of voluntary contract or covenant. Such is the relationship which exists between the believer and his God. Whatever relation there was originally between God and man, it was extinguished by the fall. Now, Christian, just contemplate what you were, and the degraded family to which you belonged, that you may magnify the riches of His grace who espoused you in your low estate, and hath so bound Himself with all the pledges of a husband that He saith, "I am married unto you."

2. Marriage union is the result of choice. The first choice is with God. That choice was made, we believe, before the foundation of the world. God never began to love His people. He saw them in the glass of His decrees; He foresaw them, with His eye of prescience, in the mass of creatureship, all fallen and ruined; but yet He beheld them, and pitied and loved them. "They shall be Mine," saith the Lord. Here we are all agreed; and we ought to be all agreed upon the second point, namely, that we also have chosen our God.

3. Marriage is cemented by mutual love. Where there is not this mutual affection, it deserves not the name of marriage. Need I talk to you of the love of God? It is a theme we are scarcely competent to talk of.

4. This marriage necessitates certain mutual relations. I cannot say "duties," for the word seems out of place on either side. How can I speak of the great God making pledges of faithfulness? and yet with reverence, let me word it so, for in my vocabulary I have hardly words to set it forth. When God becomes a husband, He undertakes to do a husband's part — to nourish, to cherish, to shield, to protect, to bless those with whom He condescends, in infinite mercy, to enter into union. And now, what upon our side? The wife has to reverence her husband, and to be subject unto him in all things. That is precisely our position towards Him who has married us. Let His will be our will. Let His wish be our law.

5. It also involves mutual confidences. In a true marriage, the husband and wife become one. Henceforth their joys and their cares, their hopes and their labours, their sorrows and their pleasures, rise and blend together in one stream. The Lord our God has said it. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. Now, Christian, just see: you stand in the relation of a spouse, and you must tell your very heart out to Christ.

6. This marriage implies fellowship in all its relations. Whatsoever a husband possesses becomes his wife's. She cannot be poor if he be rich; and what little she has, whatever it may be, comes to him. When Christ took His people, He gave them all He had. Now, it is saying but very little when I add, that, therefore, whatever we have, belongs to Him — oh! it is so little, so very little, but one wishes it were more.

7. The very crown of marriage is mutual delight and complacency. The wife of a Persian nobleman, having gone to a feast which was given by the great Darius, was asked by her husband whether she did not think that Darius was the finest man in the world. No, she said, she did not think so; she never saw any one in the world who was comparable to her husband. And doubtless that is just the opinion which a husband forms of his wife and a wife of her husband where the marriage is such as it should be. Now, certainly Christ sets a very high store upon us. He does not see us as we are, but in His infinite grace He sees us as we are to be. The sculptor says he can see a bust in a block of marble, and that all he has to do is to chip away the extra marble, and let the bust appear. So Christ can see a perfect being in every one of us, if we are His people; and what He is about with us day by day is taking off the excrescences, making us to be like Himself. And as for us, who are His people, I am sure we can say that there is no delight which can equal communion with Christ.

II. HOW FAR DO YOU AND I EXPERIMENTALLY UNDERSTAND THIS? Oh! blind eyes, that cannot see beauty in the Saviour! Jesus! they are besotted, they are mad, who cannot love Thee! It is a strange infatuation of the sons of men to think that they can do without Thee, that they can see any light apart from Thee, Thou Son of Righteousness, or anything like beauty in all the gardens of the world apart from Thee, Thou Rose of Sharon, Thou Lily of the Valley! O that they knew Thee! But, Christian, I speak to you. Surely you know something about this, that God is married to you? If you do, can you not say with me, "Yes, and He has been a very faithful husband to me"? Well, then, speak well of Him, speak well of Him! Make this world hear His praise! As for you who do not know Him, I should like to ask you this question, and do you answer it for yourselves. Do you want to be married to Christ? Do you wish to have Him? Oh! then, there will be no difficulties in the way of the match. If thy heart goes after Christ, He will have thee. Whoever thou mayst be, He win not refuse thee. Oh! He seeks thee! And when thou seekest Him, that is a sure sign that He has found thee. Though thou mayst not have found Him, yet He has found thee already. The wedding ring is ready. Faith is the golden ring which is the token of the marriage bond.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

One of a city.
The revelation of God to man is progressive. A revelation depends upon the power of the person revealing to give, and equally upon the power of the person receiving to receive. God could not, if He would, reveal the whole truth concerning Himself to the human race at the outset — not because He was unable to impart, but because the human race was unable to accept. The revelation of God in human history has therefore been a gradual and a progressive revelation. The wise men of all nations have always believed in one God. But there was one nation in which the wise men were wise enough to believe that the common people should also be taught that there is one God; and so, while in all the surrounding nations the doctrine of the unity of God was an esoteric doctrine — that is, a doctrine reserved for the few — in the Hebrew nation the prophets took this interior and secret doctrine, and, by many a trope and figure, and by many a direct affirmation, gave it to the common people. And thence they went on to learn and to teach that this God is a righteous God. The gods of the nations about were either unmoral or immoral; but the doctrine of the prophets, of the Old Testament was, God is a righteous God, deals righteously, expects righteousness. Connected with that was the teaching that God stands in relation, not to the whole human race, for that was too large a doctrine for them to accept at first, but in special relation to the Jewish race; and then that He did stand in relation to the other people also, but in the relation to the other people of a judge, and in the relation to the Jewish people of a Father. And so grew up, in the earlier period of Jewish history, the notion that God had chosen one nation, and was dealing with that nation — guiding, guarding, inspiring, redeeming it. Time passes on. This nation sins more and more, and the prophets see the gathering clouds — gathering for its destruction. They see the Assyrians and the Chaldeans on the north and east gathering against the nation, and they begin to say, Although you are God's chosen people, God will punish you and carry you away captive; but still Israel is God's nation, and God will save Israel; though He carries you away captive, He will so discipline you that He will bring you back as a nation, and as a nation you shall be saved and redeemed. Time went on another hundred years or so, and the prophesied disaster drew near, and Jeremiah came, and he brought another message. He said, No, this nation is not to be saved; but God will gather out of the nation here one and there another; He is married to the nation, but the nation as a nation He has given up as hopeless; nevertheless, He will take one out of a city, and two out of a family, and will bring them to Zion; He will deal with them one by one. When Christ came upon the earth, He met the old impression that Israel was to be treated as a nation, and it almost seems at first as though He shared that hope; but His later message was, God will take away the kingdom from Israel; and will give it to a new people that will bring forth the fruits thereof; this people He will gather one at a time from all the world, gathering them into the one great Israel of God.

I. GOD AS A CREATOR AND RULER OVER NATURE DEALS IN INDIVIDUAL WAYS. Mr. Ruskin has called attention with great eloquence to the difference between the old-time workman and the new-time workman. The old-time workman worked individually, himself carved the whole piece, whatever it was, and so put himself into that carving; it was the product of his hand not only, but of his brain and his heart, and was the manifestation of himself. The modern industrial products are the products of machinery They are multiplied and cheapened, but they are no longer individual. Now, men think of God as one who puts a great machinery in operation, and that works out the product. But not so does the Bible represent Him, and not so does modern philosophy represent Him. God is not a first great cause. He is the perpetual, eternal, everlasting, and only cause, the cause that lies beneath all phenomena, so that every product of nature is a new and different manifestation of a God who is in every phenomenon. This is the reason for the infinite variation in phenomena. God never made two faces alike; never made two blades of grass alike; nothing that ever came from God's hand, was exactly the repetition of anything else that ever came from God's hand.


1. He gives to each individual in the Church and each citizen in the nation His personal work. Humanity is not like a great army that is marching along in serried rank, and if one man drops out another man can take his place; nor like a factory in which a thousand men are working, and if one drops out some one else can come in and carry on his work. It is individual and personal work, and God comes to you, and says, "I have something for you to do, and if you do not do it, it will be left undone; there will be one vacancy, one citizen left out of the assembly, one blank space in the page."

2. So He deals with each individual in all the discipline of life. He never sends a tear, a heartache, a failure, what men call a disaster, except as He sees the need for it. He knows what each soul wants, and to each one He adjusts the medicine according to the necessity.

3. So, in all the administration of His love, God deals with you one by one. We discuss the question of indiscriminate charity. The phrase is a contradiction in terms. Charity is discrimination. Love cannot be undiscriminating. God does not give His benefits by wholesale. God does not sound a trumpet when He does His alms, to gather the people to receive them. In all His benefactions, He deals with one at a time. "My God shall supply all your need" — that is Paul's declaration. Special providences! There are no other. All providences are special. God does not throw men out to the influence of certain great generic laws and then interfere to help them on special occasions. God's loving kindness and tender mercies are over all His works. Every life is guided and directed by the hand of an infinite love, if we only will allow it to guide.

(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)

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