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Isaiah xxxii. 13. Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers ; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city. There are two parts of tlie Christian preacher's office, and both of them of very great usefulness. The first is, that he should expound the Scriptures ; — the second, that he should address his hearers on those things which concern them particularly ; that is to say, on the particular faults which he may know them to be guilty of, on the particular temptations to which they are exposed, on those circumstances, whether in themselves or in their outward condition, which most affect their character, whether for good or for evil. o man would speak to his own children or household exactly in the same way that another man would speak to his; and this is, because there is in every family something more or less peculiar to them, so that what would suit another, would not exactly suit them. And this is one great advantage of a resident minister, — that by living amongst
300 SERMO XXIX. the people and knowing them, by seeing and hearing their state, and their opinions and actions when out of the church, he may be able when he speaks to them in the church, to tell them the very things which they most need, to give the right medicine which may restore health, because he knows not only the complaint, but also the
general constitution of the patient. This, however, a stranger cannot do. A man of whom you know nothing, and who knows nothing of you, cannot pretend to enter into the particular state of your souls, nor to fix on the particular sort of exhortation which you may most need. He must take the other part of the Christian minister's office, and that too not the least useful ; he must endeavour to expound the Scriptures. For here, however little we may know of one another, we are all on common ground. The Scriptures were given to our fathers, and to us, and to our children after us ; — they are the learning which we all need, and which we can never understand too well. In one parish of England, as much as in another, — in one nation as much as in another, — nay, in one part of the world as much as in another, — the Scriptures are alike our common lesson. Yet, so rich are they in all the treasures of wisdom, that they contain what may satisfy the wants of one generation, and the diiferent wants of another : they may be
SEKMO XXIX. 301 most useful at one time of the world for one tiling, at another time for another. I propose, then, now, to explain to you, as well as I can, the first lesson of this evening service, and to dwell particularly on those points of it which seem to me to be of most concern to us in our present generation. The first lesson of this evening was the thirtysecond chapter of Isaiah. I said just now, that there was so much in the Scriptures, that they could satisfy the different wants of different times;
and this is particularly true of the Prophets. There is a great deal in all parts of Isaiah which relates to our Lord Jesus Christ : there are, indeed, to be found in it some of the most famous prophecies in the whole Bible. ow, in the beginning of the Gospel, when the Christians were disputing with the Jews and heathens, to show that Jesus was the Christ, they would use the Prophets mostly for their prophecies : they v/ould turn to Isaiah, and read those passages in which the Spmt of Christ that was in him testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and of the glory that should follow ; they would, then, point out how exactly Christ's life and death had fulfilled those prophecies, and would thus prove from the Scriptures, that this was he of whom the prophets had spoken, the Messiah, who had been promised for many generations. This was the use
302 SERMO XXIX. whicli our fathers, in the beginning of the Gospel, made of the writings of the prophets ; they turned to them as the best witnesses of Christ. And so they are rightly used by those good men in our own days, who make it their particular business to go to the heathen or to the Jew, and to turn them to the knowledge of Christ's salvation. But the prophets afford another use, which I think concerns us in these days, — us I mean who are living at home in our own country, amongst a people abeady named by the name of Christ, — whicli concerns us yet more nearly. The prophets spoke of things to come, it is true ; but they spoke of things present also : they held up a light in a dark place, imperfectly understood in their own days, but bright and clear when the full day arose, of which they had obscurely spoken ; but they also
held up a light, a broad blazing light, to the men of their own times, whicli would never become clearer than it then was, and would be hardly ever again so clear. That is, they were teachers of righteousness to their own people : the sins which they reproved were the sins which they saw daily committed ; the judgments which they threatened wore the judgments which these sins would draw down ; and, as this part of their task was more addressed to their own generation than to after ages, so it is most useful to those times and those nations which are most like the times when the
SERMO XXIX. 303 prophets lived, and the state of the nation of Israel, to whom their word was spoken. ow I think, that our times and our own nation more closely resemble the time of Isaiah's preaching, and the nation of Israel to whom he preached, than any other time or nation that could be named. The worship of God was established by law amongst the Israelites as it is amongst us : they and we are alike in this, that both professed, as a nation, to believe in and to worship the true God. They honoured God with their lips as a people, though their heart was far from him : and so, at this very day, through all the ten thousand parishes of this land, how many voices will have joined in our Christian services of prayer and praise, whose hearts to-morrow will go their several ways to their pride, their pleasure, their covetousness, and their selfishness, without any thought or love for him whom their tongues so lately honoured I Israel, in the days of Isaiah, was full of great riches and great poverty, — great covetousness and luxury on one side, great misery
and carelessness of God on the other. Who can look through this land at this moment, and not see the same state of things here ? Israel, in the days of Isaiah, had those who measured things and actions not by the word of God, l3ut by the custom of men ; — if practices were common and of long continuance, they were called by some
304 SERMO XXIX. honourable name, whether they were an abomination in the sight of God or no. So it is among us, when we are for ever asking, not whether things and actions are such as become the Gospel of Christ, but whether they are worse than the state of other nations, or than the state of our own fathers. Again, Israel, in the days of Isaiah, had too many of those who scorned at God's word and his promises ; who went on in evil after their own devices, following their own bad passions of violence and disobedience, and imj)atience of the laws of God and man, and who said that God would not see, neither would the God of Jacob rea-ard it. And of this too, they who know what is the present state of England, know that there is too much amongst us. The prophets, then, are in a most remarkable manner the mirror, or glass, in which we may see our own likeness. It is only the names and outsides of things that are ancient and different ; the reality is exactly the same. ow the thirty-second chapter, which was read as the lesson for this evening, is just such as we might all say of ourselves, looking forward to the time of Christ's second coming : " Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest ; as rivers of water in a dry place ; as the shadow of a great
rock in a weary land." Is not this the Christian's
SERMO XXIX. 305 language 1 — we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein cl welleth righteousness ; — where there shall be a perfect rest for the people of God. Again, Isaiah goes on, " And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the hasty shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly." All this ought to have been the case, and was the case, amongst Christ's true followers, at his first coming ; it is so now, wherever his Gospel is received, not in word only, but in deed, and in power ; it will be so entirely, when Christ comes once more to complete the number of his redeemed. Then, indeed, every eye shall see him, and shall own him, and every ear shall hearken to the voice of his awful judgment ; then the heart of the hasty, or thoughtless, shall understand what it is that it has despised : while the tongue of the humble believer, which want of education, or of natural ability, may have here on earth made to speak feebly and hesitatingly, shall then be ready to speak, as ^A'ith an angel's voice, the praise of its Redeemer, But Isaiah says again : " The vile person shall be no more caUed liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause tlio VOL. II. X
306 SERMO XXIX. drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil : he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things ; and by liberal things shall he stand." ow this only requires a little attention to render it, I think, perfectly plain. The general sense is this, — now in this present state of things, covetousness and oppression work very often without breaking any human law, and without being blamed by men as they deserve. We are told that the Pharisees, who were covetous, derided what our Lord said about the danger of riches, upon which he answered, "Ye are they that justify yourselves before men ; but God knoweth the heart. For that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of Grod ;" that is, the vile person and the churl, — in other words, the selfish and the closehanded, — may be praised now, and obtain, for any slight acts of liberality which they may perform, the credit of being liberal and bountiful ; and this, even although their heart be really set on covetousness, and though their general conduct be that of maintainers and supporters of things unjust and oppressive. But in that day, when all hearts are open, and when God's judgment shall judge all things as they are in very truth, — they shall lose the false names which men gave them, and shall
SERMO XXIX. 307 be called, as they really were, selfish and hardhearted ; while the truly liberal and charitable only, — they, whose charity is formed after the pattern of Christ, and the picture drawn by
Christ's Apostles, — " shall stand fast for ever and ever, and shall not be ashamed." The prophet then proceeds to speak of the judgments that are going to befal Israel, mixing with his threatenings the promise of blessings upon repentance. He speaks of the desolation of Israel ; — that on " the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers, yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city." But he speaks also of a restoration, of a period of repentance, and pardon, and peace, and blessedness. And this we know, that Israel after the flesh, — that is, the nation, or people of the Jews, — has never yet seen, except so far as that they were restored to their own land after having been carried captives to Babylon. But even when thus restored, they were neither free, nor righteous, nor happy ; and a far heavier judgment fell upon them in the second destruction of their city and temple by the Romans ; since which it has never been restored at all. I believe, then, that from the time of om' Lord's rejection by the Jews as a people, — they as a people were rejected by God ; and that since that time the Israel of prophecy is what St. Paul calls the Israel of God, — that is, the Christian church, composed out of X2
308 SERMO XXIX. Jews and Gentiles together, and the heirs of the faith and promises of Abraham, although not all were his heirs in natural descent. To us, then, God's Christian Israel, a promise is made of a state of overwhelming blessing after a time of fearful judgments — judgments for the punishment of the tares, and for the cleansing and perfecting of the good seed ; till, at last, when all
that do evil, or that tempt to evil, shall be gathered out of the kingdom of God, the righteous may " shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." My brethren, the times and the seasons of God's judgments and blessings are things which, I think, we vainly desire to know l^efore the time of their arrival. When these judgments will come, and when the kingdom of God shall be fully manifested, not even the Apostles were permitted to learn in their day ; and I cannot think that any fuller revelation is made to us. But they will come, wherever there is the sin to be weeded out, — the imperfect good to be purified, — the patient faith to be rewarded. This was our Lord's answer, when his disciples asked him where the things of which he spoke should happen. His reply was, "Wheresoever the carcase is, thither will the eagles be gathered together ; " that is, wherever there is sin, there also will be judgment. It may be, that the blessings of which the prophet
SERMO XXIX. 309 speaks would have come long ago, had mankind been fit for them. By the last words of the chapter, '' Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass ;" — that is, blessed are ye who go forth into every land to sow the seed of the Gospel, — he seems to have imagined, that so soon as the Gospel was revealed, — so soon as it was preached among all nations, and received by them, then judgment and righteousness should prevail, and peace and everlasting blessedness follow in their train. We know by experience, that the Gospel may be received, and nations may call themselves
Christians, and yet judgment and righteousness may not flourish ; and, therefore, they must look for a curse from God and not a blessing. Yet, ourselves, each of us, if we fulfil what is prophesied of us, so we shall surely reap the blessing which is promised to us. As wherever there is sin, so also will there be judgment, — so wherever there is faith and love, there will be peace and blessing ; — peace, that none can take away, even " when it shall hail, coming down on the forest, and the city shall be low in a low place," even amidst the most fearful scenes of tribulation and misery ; — blessing, infinite and eternal, when death shall have removed us from sin and temptation, and shall bring us for ever into the presence of God.
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