I. THEIR HUMILIATING VISION. "Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her." "See" what? The deliverance, the exaltation which God wrought for the victims. Few things are more painful to a malign nature than to witness the prosperity and happiness of the object of its intense aversion. Every beam of delight in the hated one falls as fire on the soul nerves of the hater. Witness Haman and Mordecai. It is destined that every ungodly persecutor shall witness one day the happiness of the godly whom he has tormented. The songs of the martyr shall fall on the ears of the human demons that forged his chains, kindled his fires, and tortured him when living. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Another thing in the passage presented to us concerning religious persecutors is -
II. THEIR TAUNTING SPIRIT. "Where is the Lord thy God?" Scorn is one of the leading dements in the soul of the persecutor. "My tears," said David, "have been my food day and night, while mine enemies continually say, Where is now thy God?" Again, "Mine enemies reproach, saying daily unto me, Where is thy God?" Again, "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?" How this taunting spirit was shown in those who persecuted and put to death the Son of God! "They that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40). The taunting spirit is generally malific. It is fiendish, has in it the venom of hell. The taunting spirit is generally haughty. "Proud and haughty scorner is his name" (Proverbs 21:24). The taunting spirit is generally ignorant. He who deals in ridicule generally lacks the power of information and argument.
III. THEIR UTTER RUIN. "Now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets." There is a God that judges on the earth, and his retributive forces are ever on the heels of crime. The blood of martyrs cries to heaven, and stirs these forces to action. "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10).
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones Mother with infant down the rooks. Their moans
Mother with infant down the rooks. Their moans
Homiletic Monthly.The picture before the eye of the prophet is that of famine in the midst of plenty, want in time of harvest, sterility amid summer fruits, soul fasting and wretchedness in a season of external prosperity and fulness. The time of ingathering is at hand. And yet Israel knew not the day of Divine visitation; she had no appreciation of the golden fruit, no heart or no capacity to pluck and eat the ripe clusters. This is a truthful representation of the experience of very many Christians and churches. There is no heartfelt appreciation of God's outward mercies, or of His gracious, spiritual manifestations." He comes to them in the "summer fruits," and in the autumn "vintage"; but so dull are their spiritual perceptions, so vitiated are their tastes, so surfeited are they with the "apples of Sodom" and the wild grapes of sinful indulgence, that they know it not, and feel no hungering after righteousness; "there is no cluster" in all God's vintage which they can eat. So have we seen souls in times of glorious revival, when sinners were pressing into the kingdom, and many souls were refreshed and full of rejoicing, unrevived, unblest, crying, "Woe is me!" "There is no cluster to eat." So have we seen whole churches and communities left to darkness and desolation and death, while the mighty God had bared His arm for salvation, and was deluging the land with a wave of regenerating and sanctifying power.
My soul desired the first ripe fruitmaturity, and bring forth fruit unto perfection, to the honour and praise of Jesus Christ.
I. THE MARKS OF RIPENESS IN GRACE.
1. Beauty. There is no more lovely object in all nature than the apple blossom. Much loveliness adorns youthful piety. Can anything be more delightful than our first graces? Autumn has a more sober aspect, but still it rivals the glory of spring. Ripe fruit has its own peculiar beauty. What a delicacy of bloom there is upon the grape, the peach, the plum, when they have attained perfection! Nature far excels art. The perfumed bloom yields in value to the golden apple, even as promise is surpassed by fulfilment. The blossom is painted by the pencil of hope, but the fruit is dyed in the hue of enjoyment. There is in ripe Christians the beauty of realised sanctification which the Word of God knows by the name of the "beauty of holiness." This consecration to God, this setting apart for His service, this avoidance of evil, this careful walking in integrity, this dwelling near God, this being made like unto Christ, — in a word, this beauty of holiness, is one of the surest emblems of maturity in grace.
2. Tenderness. The young green fruit is hard and stone-like; but the ripe fruit is soft, yields to pressure, can almost be moulded, retains the mark of the finger. The mature Christian is noted for tenderness of spirit. I think I would give up many of the graces if I might possess very much tenderness of spirit. An extreme delicacy concerning sin should be cultivated by us all.
3. Sweetness. The unripe fruit is sour, and perhaps it ought to be, or else we should eat all the fruits while they were yet green. As we grow in grace we are sure to grow in charity, sympathy, and love. We shall have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians.
4. A loose hold of the earth. Ripe fruit soon parts from the bough. You shake the tree and the ripest apples fall. You should measure your state of heart by your adhesiveness, or your resignation, in reference to the things of this world. The master will not let his ripe fruit hang long on the tree.
II. THE CAUSES OF THIS RIPENESS. So gracious a result must have a gracious cause.
1. The inward working of the sap. The fruit could never be ripe in its raw state were it taken away from the bough. Outward agencies alone may produce rottenness, but not ripeness; sun, shower, what not, all would fail, — it is the vital sap within the tree that perfects the fruit. It is especially so in grace. Everything between hell and heaven which denotes salvation is the work of the Spirit of God, and the work of the grace of Jesus. That blessed Spirit, flowing to us from Christ, as He is the former of the first blossom, so He is the producer of the fruit, and He is the ripener of it until it is gathered into the heavenly garner.
2. The teaching of experience. Some fruit, like the sycamore fig, never will ripen except it be bruised. Many of us seem as if we never would be sweet till first we have been dipped in bitterness; never would be perfected till we have been smitten. We may trace many of our sharp trials, our bereavements, and our bodily pains, to the fact that we are such sour fruit; nothing will ripen us but heavy blows. Ripeness in grace is not the necessary result of age. Little children have been ripe for glory. Many an aged Christian is not an experienced Christian. Time may be wasted as well as improved; we may be petrified rather than perfected by the flow of years.
III. THE DESIRABILITY OF RIPENESS IN GRACE. Many Christians appear to think that if they are just believers it is enough. To be just alive as a Christian is horrid work. The fruit which under proper circumstances does not ripen is not a good fruit,; it must be an unwholesome production. Your soul can surely not be as it should be if it does not ripen under the influence of God's love and the work of His grace. It is the ripe fruit that proves the excellence of the tree. The Church wants mature Christians very greatly, and especially when there are many fresh converts added to it. The Church wants, in these days of flimsiness and time-serving, more decided, thorough going, well-instructed and confirmed believers.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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