[Painting above:- ‘No. 102 “Sun Set.” From an original painted by Zeljko Vertelj - Mouth Painter.’]
“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from, the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” I want to apply these words to the children of God. If the lost are to he reached by the Gospel of the Son of God, Christianity must be more aggressive than it has been, in the past. We have been on the defensive long enough; the time has come for us to enter on a war of aggression. When we as children of God wake up and go to work in the vineyard, then those who are living in wickedness all about us will be reached; but not in any other way. You may go to mass meetings and discuss the question of “How to reach the masses,” but when you have done with discussion, you have to go back to personal effort. Every man and woman who loves the Lord Jesus Christ must wake up to the fact that he or she has a mission in the world, in this work of reaching the lost.
A man may talk in his sleep, and it seems to me that there is a good, deal of that kind of thing now in the Lord’s work. A man may even preach in his sleep. A friend of mine sat up in his bed one night and preached a sermon right through. He was sound asleep all the time. Next morning his wife told him all about it. He preached the same sermon in his church the next Sabbath morning; I have it in print, and a good sermon it is. So a man may not only talk but actually preach in his sleep. There are many preachers in these days who are fast asleep.*
[* Many today are ‘fast asleep’ relative to responsibility truths and conditional promises! Others are focused upon this evil age and its sporting attractions! ‘All these will I give you,’ says the Enemy of souls, ‘to watch and keep you from a deeper study of the Scriptures!’ ‘Keep going over the basics which they know; and don’t talk about rewards or a prize, the people in your congregation will only become confused!’]
There is one thing, however, that we must remember; a man cannot work in his sleep. There is no better way to wake up a Church than to set it to work. One man will wake up another in waking himself up. Of course the moment we begin a work of aggression, and a war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, some wise head will begin to cry, “Zeal without knowledge!” I think I have heard that objection ever since I commenced the Christian life. I heard of some one who was speaking the other day of something that was to be done, and who said he, hoped zeal would be tempered with moderation. Another friend very wisely replied that he hoped moderation would be tempered with zeal. If that were always the case, Christianity would be like a red hot ball rolling over the face of the earth. There is no power on earth that can stand before the onward march of God’s people when they are in dead earnest.*
[* But how can God’s redeemed people enthuse others in ‘the onward march,’ when they themselves are being duped by Satan into believing that they already have everything! Who in their right mind would believe anyone - ‘in dead earnest’ - talking to them about something of great importance which they can lose (Rev. 3: 11)!
Most of the Lord’s redeemed people are never warned about
losing a “crown”! It has been said: “If you
talk about the real issues nobody comes back!” This may be one reason why multitudes of
pulpits are occupied with spiritualizers! A-millennialists who have no word of hope for
the nation of
Others believe these neglected truths will empty the church! But will they? NO! Their effect will be the very opposite! and God will always honour those who ask Him for the grace, courage and strength, to teach His people Scriptural truths that are not being disclosed! Will they be ENTHUSED on “THE ONWARD MARCH”! SEE PART 2]
In all ages God has used those who were in earnest. Satan always calls idle men into his service. God calls active and earnest - not indolent men. When we are thoroughly aroused and ready for His work, then He will take us up and use us. You remember where Elijah found Elisha; he was ploughing in the field - he was at work. Gideon was at the thrashing floor. Moses was away, in Horeb, looking after the sheep. None of these eminent servants of God were indolent men; what they did, they did with all their might. We want such men and women nowadays. If we cannot do God’s work with all the knowledge we would like, let us at any rate do it with all the zeal that God has given us.
Mr. Taylor says: “The zeal of the Apostles was men in this - they preached publicly and privately; they prayed for all men; they wept to God for the hardness of men’s hearts; they became all things to all men, that they might gain some; they travelled through deeps and deserts; they endured the heat of the Syrian sun and the violence of Euroclydon, winds and tempests, seas and prisons, mockings and scourgings, fastings and poverty’ labour and watching; they endured of every man and wronged no man; they would do any good, and suffer any evil, if they could but hope to prevail upon a soul; they persuaded men meekly, they entreated them humbly, they convinced them powerfully; they watched for their good, but meddled not with their interest; and this is the Christian zeal - the zeal - of meekness, the zeal of charity, the zeal of patience.”
A good many people are afraid of the word ENTHUSIASM. Do you know what the word means? It means “In God.” The person who is “in God” will surely be fired with enthusiasm. When a man goes into business filled with fire and zeal, he will generally carry all before him. In the army a general who is full of enthusiasm will fire up his men, and will accomplish a great deal more than one who is not stirred with the same spirit. People say that if we go on in that way many mistakes will be made. Probably there will. You never saw any boy learning a trade who did not make a good many mistakes. If you do not go to work* because you are afraid of making mistakes, you may make one great mistake - the greatest mistake life - that of doing nothing. If we all do what we can, then a good deal will be accomplished.
[* False teachers may speak disrespectfully of another’s work! Christ recommends that we examine our own: and if we are adding our works, where they do not belong, or fail to disclose divine truths, where Another’s works do belong, what then will the outcome be of such at the judgment seat of Christ? There will be “A just recompense of reward” for all: but the nature of that reward will depend upon the quality of the superstructure we have build upon the One Foundation - by the doctrines we hold and teach! Our Lord was rejected for His doctrines, not for His behaviour!]
How often, do we find Sabbath-school teachers going into their work without any enthusiasm! I had just as soon have a lot of wooden teachers as some that I had known. If I were a carpenter I could manufacture any quantity of them. Take one of those teachers who has no heart, no fire, and no enthusiasm. He comes into the school-room perhaps a few minutes after the appointed time. He sits down, without speaking a word to any of the scholars,* until the time comes for the lessons to begin. When the Superintendent says it is time to begin the teacher brings out a Question Book. He has not been at the trouble to look up the subject himself, so he gets what some one else has written about it. He takes care not only to get a Question Book, but an Answer Book.
[* We see examples of this sectarian behaviour throughout the churches of Christ! Has the Apostle James nothing to say about it? This behaviour is so contrary to Christ’s teachings, and distasteful to Him! But these are quickly forgotten and put out of sight and mind by so many within His Church! Jas. 2: 1.
Our examples often lead others into a mode of life; this may well end in exclusion from His millennial kingdom: “and those examples, too, might be found, where there was no denial of the truth that Jesus is coming to reign. Thus it is now. Earthly conduct unsuited to the heavenly calling is a very frequent pit-fall of the enemy in our day.” (Govett.)]
Such a teacher will take up the first book and he says: “John, who was the first man?” (looking
at the Answer-book the teacher says - “Yes, that is
the right question” John replies, “Adam.” Looking at the Answer Book the teacher says:
“Yes, that is right.” He looks again at the Question Book and he
says: “Charles, who was
I like to see a teacher come into the class and shake hands with the scholars all round. “Johnnie, how do you do? Charlie, I am glad to see you! How is the baby? How’s your mother? How are all the folks home?” That is the kind of a teacher I like to see. When he begins to open up the lesson all the scholars are interested in what he is going to say. He will be able to gain the attention of the whole class, and to train them for God and for eternity. You cannot find me a person in the world who has been greatly used of God, who has not been full of enthusiasm. When we enter on the work in this spirit it will begin to prosper, and God will give us success.
As I was
They brought the white-haired man into
the Assembly Hall and as he appeared at the door every person sprang to his
feet; the tears flowed freely as they looked upon the grand old veteran. With a trembling voice, he said: “Fathers and mothers of
to the President of the Assembly, he said: “Mr.
Moderator, if it is true that Scotland has no, more sons to give to the service
of the Lord Jesus Christ in India; although I have lost my health in that land,
if there are none who will go and tell those heathen of Christ, know then I
will be off to-morrow, to let them know that there is one old Scotchman who is
ready to die for them. I will go back to
the shores of the
Thank God for such a man as that! We want men to-day who are willing, if need be, to lay down lives for the Son of God. Then we shall be able make an impression upon the world. When they see that we are in earnest, their hearts will be touched; we shall be able to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I did not
agree with Garibaldi’s judgement in things, but I must confess I did admire his
enthusiasm. I never saw his name in the
papers, or in any book, but I read all I could find about him. There was something about him that fired me
up. I remember reading of the time when
he was on the way to
[* Many Christians would not refuse a place in ‘His kingdom’; but if suffering is the only way to the crown, they immediately reject it. Their minds are on earthly things; they covet riches; run after the world’s pleasures; study its philosophy, and obey its teachings rather than the precepts of Christ; they would gladly receive the world’s honours today, than those which will be bestowed on others in the age to come! No one having a mind-set like that, can possibly be described as: ‘building up His kingdom’.]
I have read of a man in the ninth century who came up against
a king. The king had a force of thirty
thousand men, and when he heard that this general had only five hundred men, he
sent him a message that if he would surrender he would treat him and his
followers mercifully. Turning to one of
his followers, the man said: “Take that dagger and
drive it to your heart.” The man
at once pressed the weapon to his bosom and fell dead at the feet of his
commander. Turning to another, he said:
“Leap into yonder chasm.” Into the jaws of death the man went; they saw
him dashed to pieces at the bottom. Then
turning to the kings messenger, the man said: “Go back to your king, and tell him that I have five hundred
such men. Tell him that we may die but
we never surrender. Tell him that I will
have him chained with my dogs within forty-eight hours.” When the king heard that he had such men
arrayed against him, it struck terror to his heart. His forces were so demoralized that they were
scattered like chaff before the wind.
Within forty-eight hours the king was taken captive and chained the dogs
of his conqueror. When the people see we are in
earnest in all that we undertake for God, they will begin to tremble; men and
women will be enquiring the way to
And when might that rule be established upon this earth? In the “age” to come. Luke 20: 35. Therefore, we need to be ‘in earnest in all that we undertake for God”. We need to take care that we do not undervalue our birthright. If we do, the Righteous Judge will most certainly exclude us from the thousand years of His coming glory.
Esau did not leave his father’s presence with a curse, after he had bartered away the blessings due to him as Isaac’s the first-born son; but when its value was later realized, all the crying and tears were unable to bring about any change of mind in his father! Heb. 12: 17. “In every deed as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord; because all those men which have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it:” (Num. 14: 21-23, R.V.).]
A fearful storm was raging, when the cry was heard, “Man overboard!” A human form was seen manfully breasting the furious elements in the direction of the shore; but the raging waves bore the struggler rapidly outward, and, ere the boats could be lowered, a fearful space separated the victim from help. Above the shriek of the storm and roar of the waters rose his rending cry. It was an agonizing moment. With bated breath blanched cheek, every eye was strained to the struggling man. Manfully did the brave rowers strain every nerve in that race of mercy; but all their efforts were in vain. One wild shriek of despair, and the victim went down. A piercing cry, “Save him, save him*!” rang through the hushed crowd; and into their midst darted an agitated man, throwing his arms wildly in the air, shouting. “A thousand pounds for the man who saves his life!” but his starting eye rested only on the spot where the waves rolled remorselessly over the perished. He whose strong cry broke the stillness of the crowd was Captain of the ship from whence the drowned man fell, and was his brother. This is the feeling we want to have in the various ranks of those commissioned under the great Captain of our salvation.* “‘Save him’ he is my brother.”
[* As any thoughtful and well-informed Christian knows, there is more than one kind of “salvation” spoken of throughout the Holy Scriptures: but the only “salvation” which is mentioned - over and over, and over and over again in our assemblies today - is the eternal salvation which Jesus Christ, our Captain, has purchased for us in full!
The Writer of Hebrews asks the question: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation:” (2: 3)? But, those who never hear of any salvation, other than the one they presently have, suppose these words are directed toward the unregenerate!
In Luke 13: 23, another
question is asked: “Lord, are there few that be saved? And he [Christ] said unto them, Strive to
enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall
not be able.” A
glance at the context in verse 28 makes it
clear that the salvation here refers to “the
The fact is, men do not believe in Christianity because they think we are not in earnest about it. In this same Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle says we are to be “living epistle’s of Christ, known and read of men.” I never, knew a time when Christian people were ready to go forth and put in the sickle, but there was a great harvest. Wherever you put in the sickle, you will find the fields white. The trouble is there are so few to reap.
God wants men and women; that is
something far better than institutions.
If a man or a woman be really in earnest, they will not wait to be put
on some committee. If I saw a man fall
into the river, and he was in danger of drowning, I would not wait until I was
placed on some committee before I tried to save him. Many people say they cannot work because they
have not been formally appointed. They
say: “It is not my parish.” I asked a person one day, during our last
There are Christians amongst us who might think we are ‘mad’ - because the doctrines we hold have a
tendency to position us amongst a very small minority of like-minded believers! But is not this the very reason why our Lord
Jesus Christ was rejected and crucified? His
on the eternal punishment of the lost; the intermediate state in Sheol/Hades;
Judgment before resurrection; selective resurrection; a just
recompense of reward: these are all very controversial doctrines! Religious leaders refused to accept
them, and they said He was demon possessed!
The Apostle Paul was persecuted
for his teachings and on one occasion, he was deserted by all his followers! Was he ‘mad’? Only two, out of a nation of redeemed
souls, for giving a true report were in peril of loosing their lives! Stephen,
the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death for his teachings! God chose
man – Moses - to deliver a nation from bondage in
And if God chose one man to republish works by R. Govett, D. M. Panton, G. H. Lang and many others – whose writings were unpopular amongst Christians in their day, was He ‘mad’? No! God always acts today as He did centuries ago! We may describe a man’s work as: ‘a one man show’! but that doesn’t necessarily imply that we should believe we are right because we do not agree with the writings published; or that those particular writings, because they are rejected by the majority, must be wrong! In fact, we could use numerous examples of how God chose ordinary working-class individuals, to disclose unpopular truths which, over the centuries had been rejected and left out of print! The fact of the matter is, - Scriptural truths are never found to be taught by the majority!]
One great trouble is that people come to special revival meetings, and for two or three weeks, perhaps, they will keep up the fire, but by and by it dies out. They are like a bundle of shavings with kerosene on the top - they blaze away for a little, but soon there is nothing left. We want to keep it all the time, morning, noon and night. I heard of a well once that was said to be very good, except that it had two faults. It would freeze up in the winter, and it would dry up in the summer. A most extraordinary well, but I am afraid there are many wells like it. There are many people who are good at certain times; as some one has expressed it, they seem to be good “in spots.” What we want is to be red-hot all the time. Do not wait till some one hunts you up. People talk about striking while the iron is hot. I believe it was Cromwell who said that he would rather strike the iron and make it hot. So let us keep at our post and we will soon grow warm in the Lord’s work.
Let me say a few words specially to
Sabbath-school teachers. Let me urge upon
you not to be satisfied with merely pointing the children away to the Lord
Jesus Christ. There are so many teachers
who go on sowing the seed, and who
think they will reap the harvest by and by; but they do not look for the
harvest now. I began to work in
that way, and it was before I saw any conversions. I believe God’s method is that we should sow
with one hand and reap with the other.
The two should go on side by
side. The idea that children must grow
into manhood and woman before they can be brought to Jesus Christ is a false
one. They can be led to Christ now in
the days of their youth, and they can be kept, so that they may become useful
members of society, and be a blessing their parents, to the
What is the trouble throughout Christendom to-day, in connection
with the Sabbath-school? It is that so
many when they grow up to the age of sixteen or so, drop through the
Sabbath-school net, and that is the last we see of them. There are many young men now in our prisons
who have been Sabbath scholars. The cause
of that is, that so few teachers believe the children can be converted when
they are young. They do not labour to
bring them to a knowledge of Christ, but are content,
to go on sowing the seed. Let a teacher
resolve that, God helping him, he will not rest until he sees his whole class
brought into the
I well remember how I got waked up on this point. I had a large Sunday-school with a thousand children. I was very much pleased with the numbers. If they only kept up or exceeded that number I was delighted; if the attendance fell below a thousand I was very, much troubled. I was all the time aiming simply at numbers. There was one class held in a corner of the large hall. It was made up of young women, and it was more trouble than any other in the school. There was but one man who could ever manage it, and keep it in order. If he could manage to keep the class quiet I thought it was about as much as we could hope for. The idea of any of them being converted never entered my mind.
One Sabbath this teacher was missing,
and it was with difficulty that his substitute could keep order in class.
During the week the teacher came to my place of business. I noticed that he looked very pale, and I
asked what was the trouble. “I have been bleeding at the lungs,” he said, “and the
doctor tells me I cannot live. I must
give up my class and go back to my widowed mother in
I was speechless. It was something new to me to hear any one speak in that way. I said: “Suppose we go and see the scholars and tell them about Christ.” “I am very weak,” he said, “too weak to walk.” I said I would take him in a carriage. We took a carriage and went round to the residence of every scholar. He would just be able to stagger across the sidewalk, sometimes leaning on my arm. Calling the young lady by name, he would pray with her and plead with her come to Christ. It was a new experience for me. I got a new view of things. After he had used up all his strength I would take him home. Next day he would start and visit others in the class. Sometimes he would go alone, and sometimes I would go with him. At the end of ten days he came to my place of business, his face beaming with joy, and said: “The last one has yielded her heart to Christ. I am going home now; I have done all I can do; my work is done.”
I asked when he was going, and he said: “To-morrow night.” I said: “Suppose I ask these young friends to have a little gathering, to meet you once more before you go.” He said he would be very glad. I sent out the invitations and they all came together. I had never spent such a night up to that time. I had never met such a large number of young converts, led to Christ by his influence and mine. We prayed for each member of the class, for the Superintendent, and for the teacher. Every one of them prayed; what a change had come over them in a short space of time. We tried to sing - but we did not get on very well -
“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.”
We all bade him good-bye; but I felt as if I must, go and see him once more. Next night, before the train started, I went to the station, and found that, without any concert of action, one and another of the class had come to bid him good-bye. They were all there on the platform. A few gathered around us - the fireman-engineer, brakes-man, and conductor of the train, with the passengers. It was a beautiful summer night, and the sun was just going down behind the western prairies as we sang together -
“Here we meet to part again,
But when we meet on
There’ll be no parting there.”
As the train moved out of the station, he stood on the outside platform, and, with his finger pointing heavenward, he said: “I will meet you yonder;” then he disappeared from our view.
What a work was accomplished in those
ten days! Some, of the members of that
class were among the most active Christians we had in the school for years
after. Some of them are active workers
to-day. I met one of them at work away
out on the
Let me again urge on Sunday-school teachers to seek the
salvation of your scholars. Make up your
mind that within the next ten days you will do all you can to lead your class
to Christ. Fathers, mothers, let there
be no rest till you see all your
family brought into the
* * *
[From F. B. Meyer’s book: ‘The Prophet of Hope’, pp. 77-128.]
Dare to believe this; dare to anticipate the far-off interest of tears; dare to live in the day which is after tomorrow. As Dante said, “In God’s will is our peace.” He loves us infinitely. No good thing will He withhold. He must lay deep in tears the foundations that shall upbear our eternal weight of glory:
Thus hath He done, and shall we not adore Him?
This shall He do, and can we still despair?
Come, let us quickly fling ourselves before Him –
Cast at His feet the burden of our care.
GOOD NEWS FOR
PRISONERS OF HOPE
There is a change in the phraseology of the remaining chapters of this book. Not now the word of the Lord, but the burden of the word of the Lord. By this term we are prepared for tidings of sorrow and disaster, which are about to fall on the nations addressed. These burdens lay heavily on the soul of the prophet, who was probably already advanced in years when he announced them. There is, at least, a remarkable contrast between the visions of the earlier and the predictions of the later chapters. The difference has even led some critics to suppose that they were added by another hand; but this view, founded rather on internal evidence, cannot be maintained in the face of the strong external testimony for the unity of the authorship of this book.
When Zechariah wrote this prophecy, the early troubles of the
returned remnant in the reconstruction of
All these predictions were literally fulfilled within a few
years by the invasion of the third of the great world-conquerors, Alexander the Great.
Then a stream of exalted prediction ensues, sweet as the
refrain of an angel’s hymn, which, as the Evangelist tells us, was fulfilled
when, in lowly triumph, Jesus entered
Then follows the remarkable promise alluded to in the heading of this chapter. “As for thee also, because of the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee.”
In eastern lands, liable to long spells of drought,
it is customary to hew cisterns out of the solid rock for the storage of water,
that provision may be made against the failure of the rains. These abound in
Thus, in every age God’s people have been imprisoned. You may have been caught in the snare of this world’s evil. You have no sympathy with it, yet somehow you have become involved in the snares and toils of malign combinations. As the wild thing of the forest, bounding carelessly down the glade, suddenly finds itself at the bottom of the dark pit prepared and hidden by the hunter; so you, who began life so guilelessly, and passed your early days so blithely, have awoke to discover yourself involved with people and things, from which you cannot dissociate yourself. You have no desire for them - they chafe and try you - but you cannot get off. It seems as though some evil spirit has lassoed you, not indeed in your soul, but in your home and circumstances.
Or, perhaps, you have been led captive by the devil at his will. There is no doubt about your sonship; in your better moments, God’s Spirit witnesses clearly with yours that you have been born again; you have strong yearnings after the souls of others, and at times are marvellously used for their awakening and comfort: and yet, during long and sad periods of experience, you seem the bound slave of the great enemy of souls; swept before strong gusts of passion; careening in the dock; water-logged until progress in the divine life seems impossible, and you can only drift helplessly to and fro on the tides.
Or, perhaps, you have fallen into deep despondency, partly as the result of ill-health, and partly because you have looked off the face of Christ to the winds and waves. The clear-shining of his love is obscured, and at times it is difficult to believe in anything but the pressure of your own dark thoughts. Some of God’s children seem to choose the valley of the shadow of death as the site of their dwelling, and then employ doubt, dread, and despondency, to design and build the house, which is sadly like a gaol. They affect the sombre tint, and the despairful tone; and - strange anomaly! - appear happiest when abandoned to the profoundest melancholy.
All such are prisoners, but they are prisoners of hope. There is a sure and certain hope of their deliverance. Out of their prisons they shall ultimately emerge, as Peter, angel-led, from his. The clouds might more easily succeed in imprisoning the sun than any of these dark conditions permanently hold one of God’s children. They belong to the light and day; and, though they see it not, Hope, as God’s angel, is standing near, only waiting his signal to open the prison door. The prisoner, on whom the sentence of capital punishment has been passed, and who has no strong, wise friends to interfere on his behalf, may well abandon hope as he passes within the massive walls of the fortress, and hears the heavy gates, one after another, slammed and locked behind him. But where justice and truth are on his side, when he has been the victim of craft and guile, if there be a good wife and strong friends to espouse his cause, though he be incarcerated, bound with chains on the Devil’s Island, and though the weary years pass over him, yet he is a prisoner of hope, and shall come forth again into the light of day. All God’s [redeemed] children are prisoners of hope.
Their hope rests on the Blood of the Covenant. “Because of the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit.” When God entered into covenant-relationship with Abraham, the sacred compact was ratified by the mingled blood of an heifer of three years old, a she-goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And, in after years, when, beneath the beetling cliffs of Sinai, Moses acted as mediator between God and the children of Israel, he sent young men, because the order of priesthood was not established, which offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord. Then Moses took the blood and sprinkled part on the altar, and part on the people, saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words” (Gen. 15: 9; Exod. 24: 7, 8).
Similarly, when the new covenant - the provisions of which are enumerated in Heb. 8 - was ratified, it was in the blood of Jesus. As He took the cup, He said: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins.” “And for this cause He is the Mediator of a new covenant.” The shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God indicates that God has entered into a covenant relationship with Him, and all whom He represents, who are, by faith, members of his mystical body, the Church. On his side, He promises to be a God to us, and to take us to be his people; on our side, Christ promises, on our behalf, that we shall be a people for his own possession, zealous of good works. This covenant embraces all who have believed, shall believe, and do believe in Jesus. It embraces thee, if thou dost at this moment simply believe in Him as thine, and art willing to be evermore his. And in placing the cup to thy lips at the Holy Supper, thou dost visibly and solemnly attest thy belief that there is a special relationship between God and thee, not in virtue of thy worthiness, but for the sake of his Son, that great Shepherd, who, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant, was brought again from the dead.
Because of the Blood of the Covenant, God will send forth each of his imprisoned ones out of the pit. That blood binds Him to interpose on their behalf. Wherever they are, and however thick-ribbed the walls of their prison, God must deliver them. That they might have strong consolation, He has confirmed his word by an oath. He will bow the heavens and come down, will ride upon a cherub and fly, will certainly rescue from the entanglements and complications of evil.
Suppose two men were bound in the closest, tenderest friendship, not needing to exchange blood from each other’s veins, as the manner of some is, because heart had already exchanged with heart; and suppose one of these, travelling in Calabria or Anatolia, was captured by brigands and carried into some mountain fastness, threatened with death unless ransomed by an immense sum of money: can you imagine his friend at home, in the enjoyment of opulence and liberty, settling down in circumstances of ease, and allowing his brother to suffer his miserable fate, with no effort for his deliverance? It is impossible to imagine such a thing! With tireless perseverance, he would leave no stone unturned, and the captive might rely on every possible effort being made for his deliverance. So it is with God. Whatever be the sad combination of disaster which has overtaken us, He is bound by the Holy Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, to spare no effort till our soul is escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler, until the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
There is a remarkable illustration of this in the story of the
Is not this the reason why some of us are not delivered? We should be glad enough to accept deliverance, but are not prepared to pay the price. We have not observed the divine order, and crowned Jesus King of our hearts and lives. We are wishful that he should be our Saviour, but not altogether prepared to accept Him as King. This is our mistake; God hath exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour; He is first King of Righteousness, before He is Priest after the order of Melchizedek: and it is only when we confess with our mouths Jesus as Lord, that we shall be saved.
But do not fear Him. His footfall is very soft. He is lowly, and rides upon a colt, the foal of an ass. No prancing steed, no banner flaunting in the breeze, no long train of warriors. Soft as the summer breeze; irresistible as the summer sunshine, before which great tubular bridges bend. Lowly as a child - thy King, thy King is here! And before his advent the bars are broken, as though ice were thawing drop by drop in spring, and letting the imprisoned ship through the close-set floes.
The King speaks peace; but He uses his emancipated ones as
weapons in the great fight. “I have bent
O prisoners of hope, lift up your heads! your
salvation is come out of
As we turn from this chapter, we cannot but feel that it contains unexplored depths, which no previous fulfilment has exhausted; and which are probably awaiting further developments, which, at present, we cannot prognosticate. When the closing verses tell us of what God will do for his people [Israel], “seen over them,” “defending them,” “saving them, as the stones of a crown glittering on high over his land”; when our attention is called to the greatness of his goodness and beauty reflected on the people of his choice - we cannot but feel that days are coming in which He shall yet more conspicuously and victoriously interpose on their behalf, and when, literally, his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. And if such a surmise be true, this chapter is closely related to the scenes which are delineated in the last chapters of this book, and which probably lie just in front of us, waiting for the withdrawal of the veiling curtain, which often appears to move with preparations for the events behind it.
* * *
To the superficial eye there is no difference in the distance from our earth of the planets and the fixed stars; but, as a matter of fact, between the one and the other there is a vast intervening space of millions of miles. So in regard to these predictions. The prophet searches “what manner of time” the Spirit of Christ which is in him signifies. He describes the great facts revealed to him; but it is not within his province to announce the times and seasons which the Father hath kept in his own power. He sees the mighty mountain ranges; but it is left for us to discover that deep and far-stretching valleys lie between the nearer and the further, between the first and second advents of Christ. We shall find, therefore, the prophet passing from the one to the other, and grouping on the foreground of his picture incidents which really belong to different ages in the world’s history. Such a method of workmanship was necessary, if prophecy was to be an incentive to faith and patience.
We have already had an illustration of this in the previous
chapter, when the advent of the Christ on his lowly steed, the struggle of the
Maccabees, and the deliverance of
In this chapter and the next, taken as one, we detect the same
fact. We are bidden, in the first verse,
to ask for the latter rain, that Pentecost which is to close the present age,
and which the apostle Peter describes as “times of refreshing from the presence
of the Lord.” These are to be expected, he tells us, when the Jewish people repent and
turn again to God, and will inaugurate the time of restitution of all
things, whereof God hath spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have
been since the world began. And the rest
of the chapter may be interpreted as referring to the same events. But the next deals with the destruction of the
second temple by Titus, and the rejection of the true Shepherd. In the thirteenth chapter there is a similar
rapid transition from the final cleansing of the chosen people to the awaking
of the sword against the Shepherd, who is also the fellow of the Lord of Hosts.
And probably there is no satisfactory
clue to the comprehension of the Lord’s closing utterances about the fall of
If these thoughts are borne in mind, there will be no obstacle to our deriving help and teaching from these chapters; and in the last days of this dispensation we shall be able, with tolerable accuracy, to assign the various paragraphs to their respective place on the great chart of God’s providential government.
From the summons to ask for the latter rain, coupled as it is
with the Divine promise of a gracious hearing, we are led to a graphic
description of what God will make of his people - a description which was
partially realized in the successful stand made by Judas Maccabaeus and his brethren against Antiochus. “
In the meanwhile, during the present [evil] age, we may view the Jewish race as so much buried seed. “I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember Me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and shall return.”
At the end of the seventy years’ captivity the people of God’s
ancient choice were distributed through Parthia,
Media, Persia, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt,
Libya and Rome, Crete and Arabia. Everywhere,
throughout the great
At this present hour the Jews lie sown among all the nations of the earth. But they still live, or exist, with their children, and shall one day return. There shall be springtime, earing, and harvest. The sea of affliction has too long rolled over them, with the thunder of its mighty billows. Its wide expanse has stretched out between them and their great destiny; but their Almighty Friend shall yet pass through it, smiting its waves and drying up its depths, achieving a national deliverance, so that they may reoccupy the land given in covenant to their fathers.
It was thus with the first believers. By the rough hand of the persecutor, the rich
wheat of Pentecost, which had laid too long in the bin
of the mother Church, was scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and
How many illustrations have existed, throughout the entire history of the Church, of the effect of God’s sowings! “My Father is the Husbandman,” said our Lord. With both hands He has prosecuted his work of sowing. In the persecutions of Nero, Decius, and Diocletianus, the precious seed of the Kingdom was sown deep in the dark graves of agony and death. Surely the great Sower went forth weeping, as He bore the precious seed to its destined ministry. It was buried in the voracious animals of the arena, in the labyrinths of the catacombs, in the dens and caves of the earth; but it lived again in millions of converts that so filled the earth as to appal and silence their persecutors. The emperors at last gave up the work of slaughter, because martyrdoms only served to root Christianity deeper in the empire. The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church.
There was a grand quality in the corn of the
So in later days. The martyrs of
In all probability many of the children of God who read these lines know what sowing means. They, too, have fallen into the ground to die. That obscure village in which your friends say you are buried; that humble position in which your powers are cramped and limited by neglect and confinement; that bed of suffering and weakness; that incessant demand to undertake menial and lowly drudging; that summons to leave home and friends, and sphere of successful labour, to become the companion of savage and illiterate people - all this is the grave, with its darkness and silence, in which God sows his people; not that they should abide there for ever, but that they should bring forth much fruit. You shall live through other lives. Your prayers and alms shall be a memorial before God, and the day shall reveal the wonderful ways in which you have no longer abode alone.
Listen to the complaint of the buried seed: “Lord, in trouble have we visited Thee. We have poured out our prayer when thy chastening was upon us. We have been with child; we have been in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.” And here is the Divine response: “Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the dead.”
Sowing means death. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die ...” We must be prepared to die, not only to sins, and weights, and self-indulgences, but to our own notions of pleasing God, to our emotional life, to our self-congratulation at the results of Christian service, to the energy and enthusiasm of our devotion. The little corn of wheat must feel very disconsolate when it finds itself attacked by chemical agents lurking in the soil, that begin to tear at its integuments and strike their rapiers at its heart. It is sad at having to surrender its beauty of form, its sprightly nimbleness, its secret soul. Dying is not easy work. And when the process is prolonged, when the disintegration of the self-energy takes place by slow degrees, it is bitter to bear.
Sowing means darkness. Through long months the seed lies in darkness and has no light. Madame Guyon tells of prolonged seasons in which she lost all the joy of God, that she might be led to God Himself. It is a strange experience: “God removes all conscious experience of his grace, all power to work for him, and the very beauty of the Divine virtues.” The soul does not fall away from God, because He is beside it whilst it treads the dark valley; but it goes ever deeper into the grave of Jesus - no song on its lips, no rapture at its heart, no ray of sunlight from the former sources of hope and consolation.
Sowing means loneliness. The corn of wheat falls into the ground to die, that it may not abide alone; but this dying is necessarily a long experience. Each man is born alone, and alone he dies. God will perhaps touch your friends, and you will be separated from them by misunderstandings; your home life, so that your dearest will be called from your side; your church relationships, and you will have to go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach. But there is no one who has left brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or children, for Christ’s sake, that shall not receive a hundredfold in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children; and in the age to come eternal life.
But God does not forget the buried seed. Can a woman forget her sucking child? Can a farmer forget the seed which at so much pains he flung abroad on the brown furrows? Can God forget those who have not counted their lives dear unto themselves, but for his sake have been killed all the day long, and counted as sheep for the slaughter? They shall be his, in the day that He shall make even his peculiar treasure.
In that wonderful ladder or scale of ascending prayer, of
which we are informed in Hosea, we hear the heaven calling to God, the earth
calling to heaven, and the corn, wine, and oil calling to the earth, and
Jezreel (the sown) calling to the corn, wine, and oil.
And as the result of these appeals,
ringing through earth and heaven, He who had sown his people in the earth, has
mercy on them, and says, Thou art my people; and they say unto Him, Thou art
our God. “Doubtless Thou art our Father,
though Abraham knoweth us not, and
When the destined hour has come the buried seed hears the call of spring to arise and come forth from her cell. The voice that bade Lazarus come forth is heard [in ‘Hades’] deep down in the recesses of the earth. That [body] which was in the grave hears the voice of the Word of God, and comes forth. How beautifully the words of the prophet’s vision lend themselves to the metamorphosis of the spring: “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”
Yes, buried ones, God does not forget your work and the love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to his saints, and still minister, though your ministries be hidden from the admiration of the great world. Your resurrection is guaranteed. You may not be able to discover the body of usefulness with which you will be clothed. God will give you your body as it pleases Him, and to each its own. But your death shall be swallowed up in the victory of life, and God shall wipe all tears from your eyes.
And that new life will be God’s. “They shall remember Me, ... and they shall live.” Jesus said that he who believed in Him, though he were dead, yet should he live. Now, to believe is to receive. Evidently, then, the life which comes after death is by the reception into our spirit of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. We obtain by union with Jesus, and direct from God, all that we had previously sought in his service, his gifts, his people.
“The soul lives no longer, works no longer of itself. It is God (by the Holy Spirit) who lives, works, operates within it. This goes on increasingly, so that it becomes rich with his riches. It is also enriched and revivified by degrees as it was stripped by degrees (2 Cor. 3: 18). The soul lives with the life of God. He being the principle of life, it cannot want for anything. It has lost the created for the Creator; nothingness for all things. All is given to it in God, not to possess, but to be possessed” (2 Cor. 6: 10; Col. 2: 9).
You have, as it were, been buried in
Who shall estimate the results? One head of corn may have fifty seed-corns, and each of these fifty, and each of these again fifty. At this rate, we may soon arrive at tens of thousands. Behold the revenue of your tears, and prayers, and anguish. God will richly compensate. Lift up thine eyes and see. They gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters borne in arms. The little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation, because the Lord will hasten it in his time.
* * *
THE SHEPHERD OF
(ZECHARIAH 11: 1-17; 13: 5-9)
If these two passages are read together, it will be observed that they give some remarkable foreshadowings of the ministry of the Messiah to his flock of the chosen people, as well as to those other sheep of which He spake, as not of that fold, but which He must bring, that they should become one flock, one Shepherd (John 10: 16).
Five hundred years before Judas sold the true Shepherd for
thirty pieces of silver - the price of a slave - and then, seized with remorse,
flung the price of blood upon the
At the time of which we write the Jewish people seem to have
been specially unfortunate. Joshua and Zerubbabel had both passed away,
and the rulers and priests who had succeeded them were actuated by the most
violent passions. They resembled fire
devouring the cedars of Lebanon, or the axe by which the oaks of
It was under such circumstances that Zechariah felt called
upon to become the shepherd of Jehovah’s harried flock, and to stand in the
breach which should have been filled by faithful and righteous men. Whether
Two staves were in his hand: the one a club to beat back the
beasts of prey; the other the crook, with which to extricate any of his charge that might be entangled in pit or thicket. The one was called Beauty, or Grace; the other
Three shepherds, which probably stand for the threefold office of Priest, Prophet, and King, had already failed in the difficult work of restoring order to the disturbed and distressed land. There had been an inalienable disagreement between the Divine Spirit and them. “My soul was weary of them, and their soul also loathed Me.”
After a brief effort to reclaim Israel for its true Shepherd, Zechariah renounced the attempt, saying, “I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let them which are left, eat every one the flesh of another.” He broke his staff of beauteous grace, and cut it asunder; as though the tender love of God had withdrawn from its long wrestle with indomitable pride and self-will. As he did so, the poor of the flock that gave heed unto him, knew that he was acting in accord with the word of the Lord (verse 11).
Then came the crucial test. The prophet challenged the people to appraise
his services, to give him their estimate in money value. “I said unto them, If
ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear.” This incident may have taken place in the
Thereupon the prophet also broke in pieces the other staff,
Bands, that the brotherhood between
In the following paragraph (verses 15-17) there is a further evident reference to the terrible reign of Antiochus, whose cruelties towards the Jews instigated the heroic uprising of the Maccabees and their adherents, and led to deeds of faith and prowess, which will be for ever famous in the annals of the world.
Five centuries passed, and Jehovah made one last effort to
reclaim his wandering sheep, who were “distressed and scattered, as sheep
not having a shepherd” (Matt. 9: 36). Full of grace and
truth, fresh from the bosom of the Father, Jesus was sent to gather the flock,
which had been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. It was already a flock of slaughter when He
began his ministry. The dark shadows of
that awful storm of disaster and destruction, which was, within a period of
forty years, to sweep
It was at this juncture that the nation was challenged to appraise the worth of the Saviour’s ministry. Between Judas and the priests a monstrous bargain was struck. “They weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver.” This meagre dole of the priests stands in grim contrast to the priceless gift of Mary’s ointment, at which Judas cavilled; but for this, and so little as this, the Messiah was sold, betrayed, and done to death.
Rejected by his own - the people whom He ardently longed to
save - and forsaken by his chosen followers, the Good Shepherd went forth alone
to meet the sword. Not the sword of
Caiaphas, or the priests; not the sword of Pilate, or the Romans; not the sword
of impending justice - but the sword of righteous retribution for the sins of
Israel, and the sins of the world. Jew
though He were by birth, He was more. The
Son of Man, the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven - such are the designations
placed on his head, like many crowns. It
was as the representative of the race that He went to receive into his own
heart the penalty which, like the sword of Damocles, hanging by a hair,
impended not over
That sword had flashed in the hand of the Cherubim at the gate
When our Lord was arrested in the
garden, condemned by his judges, and, finally, nailed to the cross; when his
heart broke with uncontrollable and unfathomed grief; when the soldier took a
spear and pierced his side - simultaneously with these outward scenes there was
the awakening of the sword of Divine justice, which pierced and laid bare his
heart. “He was wounded for our
transgressions. He was bruised for our
iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with his stripes we
are healed.” We cannot penetrate the deep mystery which
veils the cross, or understand how the suffering of the Shepherd could be
counted as equivalent to our bearing the results of our sins. It is difficult to comprehend the transference
of penalty from a sinful race to the sinless Substitute. But it is impossible to read the inspired
statements that describe the death of Christ without realizing that, in some
way, which we shall, perhaps, understand in heaven, He met and satisfied the
claims of violated law, so that it can ask no more. The quotation of this verse by our Lord
Himself on the threshold of
It is interesting to notice how our Lord quotes this summons to the sword. The prophet hears it addressed directly by the lips of God, “Awake, O sword, against my Fellow;” but in the thought of Jesus, it was not a dumb and impersonal agent merely, with power of automatic or self-prompted action, but an instrument in his Father’s hand. In his lips the quotation stands: “I will smite the Shepherd.” With Him there was no vague abstraction or impersonality. It was not an attitude or quality of the Divine nature, such as justice or righteousness, that drew the sword from its scabbard, and plunged it in his heart. He even refused to see Judas, Caiaphas, or Pilate. Passing by all these secondary causes, He sped into the very presence of the Father, and realized that the cup was mixed, the death of the cross arranged, and the sword wielded by Him. This enabled Him to bear his unutterable woe with yielded will and acquiescing heart.
In this, O child of God, learn a life lesson. In all anxieties, in troubles that men may cause to thee, refuse to consider thyself a prey of their wild will, as though thou wert a storm-driven leaf; but dare to believe that what God permits to come is his appointment, and that amid all the plottings and machinations of human malice runs a Divine purpose.
The infinite meaning and value of the death of the Cross are indicated by the three significant appellations with which the Sufferer is addressed.
MY SHEPHERD. - Mark that emphatic MY. It is as though Jehovah would contrast the Shepherd of his choosing with those that had been selected by human caprice. His Davids against the people’s Sauls. From out of the family of man, God has drawn, and is drawing, certain who are attracted by a special affinity to his Son, wrought in them by his Holy Spirit; and these are accounted his flock, and are entrusted to his pastoral care. They were the Father’s; but the Father has made them over to the Son, according to Christ’s own words: “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me, ... and these have known that Thou didst send Me.” Distinguished from the rest of men - because they hear the Shepherd’s voice, know, and follow Him - these enjoy immediately and intimately His pastoral care. He guides them over the wolds of time, feeding them on the green pastures, and beside the still waters; conducting them through darksome gorges and dangerous glens; defending them from lion and bear with rod and staff; and even in the realms of glory not ceasing to be their Shepherd. They follow Him even deeper into the heart of eternity, where the fountains of life first break forth into sight.
This thought for the sheep committed to his custody possessed the mind of the Great Shepherd on the night in which He was betrayed, when He went forth to meet Judas and the arresting band. Placing Himself between them and the frightened little group that cowered behind Him, He said, “If ye seek Me, let these go their way.” If He had been an hireling, when He saw the wolf coming, He would have fled; but because He was God’s Shepherd, He stood between his own and peril, as He always will do in every dark hour that may menace us between this and the safety of the gates of pearl.
We have a strong claim on Jesus, because He is God’s Shepherd, the representative of the Divine care, the custodian of the Divine honour. In every prayer for help, we may remind Him that He stands to us as the gift and sponsor of the Divine faithfulness. He must be to us all that God Himself would be.
MY FELLOW. - When our Lord quoted this text in the upper room, as He rose to leave it, He stopped before He reached these words. But the omission was not due to any hesitation on his part to appropriate them. He knew that He was Jehovah’s Fellow, else He would never have included the Father with Himself in the significant pronoun, We. “We will come and make our abode with Him.” He counted not equality with God a prize to be grasped at. And it was the fact of his being Jehovah’s Fellow that made his death of such infinite worth. Man could not have redeemed his fellow; but the Infinite Lawgiver Himself, taking to his heart the penalty of his own broken law, afforded it the greatest possible homage and satisfaction.
Surely there is a designed contrast between Fellow and Hosts. God is the Lord of many Hosts, in heaven, and earth, and sea; but He has only one Fellow. All the Hosts of angels and nature had not availed of the work for propitiation - this He must do Himself; and He did it in the person of Jesus.
THE MAN. – “The Man that is my Fellow.” By his tears and anguish, by the pains of
death and the article of dissolution, his humanity was attested. And how real, how tender,
how near they make Him to us all. No man so abject and sinful but may
approach Him, when he is numbered with the transgressors, and hangs in death
between two malefactors. Would you touch
God through his Fellow, then touch yonder dying
Beware how you treat this blessed
The disciples were scattered when their Shepherd was taken. He had foreseen this: “Behold the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every one to his own, and shall leave Me alone.” And it seemed as though the hand of God was against them, to their utter undoing in the dread hours that followed. But who shall tell the woes that befell the chosen people that had rejected the Messiah! The disciples wept for but a little space and their sorrow was soon turned into joy. But the Jews succumbed beneath the woes, which, within forty years, befell their nation. It came to pass in all the land, that two parts were cut off, whilst the remainder passed through the fire, and have been passing through it ever since. Nor can it be otherwise, until they acknowledge Jesus as their true Shepherd, and allow Him to fold them, and humble themselves to become the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
* * *
THE SPIRIT OF GRACE
(ZECHARIAH 12. & 13.)
There is unusual solemnity in these opening words, as though to assure us that there can be no doubts as to the sufficiency of the Speaker to carry into effect all that He is about to unfold. “Thus saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”
The vision itself refers to a time yet future, though perhaps
not far away, when the Jewish people shall have returned to their own land, but
still in unbelief. Indeed, it is
supposed by some that they will be in actual league with some awful
impersonation of Antichrist, in accordance with Daniel 9: 27.
For some reason, for the present veiled in mystery, the anti-Semitic
hate with which some of the nations of Europe are already smitten will then
become universal, “and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together
“I will make
“In that day
will I make the chieftains of
Immediately upon this, an assurance is given that in that
awful day, more fully described in the succeeding chapter, the Lord shall save,
and the Lord shall defend (verses 7, 8). In clouds the long-rejected Messiah, accompanied by his Bride - the Church [of
the firstborn] - will appear to the succour of his brethren, as
Joseph interposed on the behalf of his; and, as they behold Him seated at the
right hand of power, and coming as He told Caiaphas He would, in the clouds of
heaven, they will appropriate the old refrain, prepared by Isaiah for this very
occasion; when He shall swallow up death in victory, and take away the reproach
of his people from off all the earth:- “Lo, this is our God; we have waited
for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will
be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25: 9). “Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and
they which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over
Him. Even so, Amen.” Then the Lord
Jesus will slay the lawless one with the breath of his mouth, and bring Him to
nought by the brightness of his coming.
And then the solemn and awful threatenings of this passage will take
effect: “It shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to
destroy all the nations that come against
Let us now turn from this side of the picture to consider the threefold effect that this interposition will have on the Jews themselves:-
“In that day shall there be a great mourning” (verse 11).
“In that day there shall be a fountain opened” (13: 1).
“It shall come to pass on that day, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land”
I. A GREAT MOURNING. -
Notice the certainty of this announcement.
“There SHALL be a
great mourning in
The Comparison. “As the mourning of Hadadrimmon in
Yet another metaphor is pressed into service. The anguish with which a parent mourns for
his only son, the bitterness of sorrow for a firstborn, is heartrending in any
land, and among all peoples; but it is peculiarly so in an Eastern - a Hebrew
home. Yet the bitter mourning which is
one day to fill
It will be universal. From the highest to the lowest of the court - for Nathan here stands for the youngest of David’s sons; from the highest to the lowest of the priestly order - for Shimei stands for the least conspicuous of the priestly clans; all the people that remain shall be bowed in one common act of contrition. It is much to see one prodigal stricken with remorse - what will it be when a whole nation beats on its breast, and bewails its sins! Every wind laden with dirges, all the open spaces black with prostrate forms, all eyes wet with tears, the sombre shadow of the funeral pyre flung over all.
It will be lonely! “Every family apart, and their wives apart.” Excessive grief seeks seclusion. It brooks no distraction; it’s attention is too absorbed with the object of its agony to have thought for anything beside. It did not seem surprising to her friends, when Martha arose from a houseful of mourners, and hastened away. They whispered, “It’s natural enough: she wants to be alone. She goeth to the grave to weep there.” So this mourning will isolate people. Each will feel personally concerned; each will feel as though chiefly responsible; each will take to his own heart the crucifixion of the Messiah, and will turn the Miserere into a wail of personal confession. “I have sinned; I pierced his hands and feet; I am of all men most miserable, and of all sinners the chief.”
It will be due to a vision of the mediatorial sufferings of Jesus. “They shall look on Him whom they pierced, and they shall mourn.” There is no doubt as to the application of these words, for as the beloved apostle stood beside the cross, on which only the precious casket of the Jewel - the body of our Lord - remained and saw the soldier pierce his side, as the blood and water issued forth, he was reminded by the Holy Ghost that this Scripture was being fulfilled (John 19: 34-36).
This is the fact which the Spirit of God delights to use for the breaking of our hard hearts. They are broken on the broken heart of Jesus. They are pierced by the sight of His piercing. They mourn when they look on Him whom they pierced.
There are two kinds of sorrow - the one to death, the other to life. The first considers the penalty of our wrongdoing; the second the Person against whom the wrong has been done. The one is largely selfish, dreading only the scorpion whip and the sting of flame - it would cease in a moment if these were withdrawn; the other is altogether regardless of consequences that may accrue to itself, and bitterly laments that shame and sorrow have been brought to the heart of Jesus, so true, so tender, so altogether lovely.
Sinners seeking forgiveness often appear to think that they must bring some need of sorrow as a condition of acceptance with the Saviour. If only they can feel an adequate sorrow for sin, they may surely bring their tears as a price for his mercy, as a reason for his salvation. But we can never feel an adequate sorrow for sin. To wait for this will be to wait for ever. To postpone coming until the tear-bottles are full, will be to postpone for ever. Besides, the spiritual philosophy of the matter is that we shall never get the right sorrow for sin till we see Jesus, and are admitted into the intimacy of his love. The tears that we do not need to weep over come, not before, but after conversion. It was after the poor sinful outcast had been forgiven that she washed the Saviour’s feet with tears. It was when Jesus turned and looked upon Peter that he went forth to weep bitterly. We must come to Christ as we are, not trying to realize what sin is, not seeking to be smitten with adequate grief, but just accepting his finished work and trusting Himself: after this will come the forth-pouring of our grief. The eyes that first look to Him for salvation may be tearless, but they will not long remain so. The first act may be largely one of the will; but the last will be of the emotions. When we have looked on Him whom our sins pierced, we shall mourn as one mourneth for his only son, and be in bitterness as one in bitterness for his firstborn.
Let us distinguish, then, between Repentance and Penitence. The one is the child of the will; the other of the heart. We repent when we turn from sin to Christ; we are penitent when we meet his eyes, as Peter did, and go out to weep bitterly. To repent is the definite act of the moment; but penitence will accompany us to the very gates of heaven, only to flee away before the light of eternal blessedness.
The Agent in producing this mourning is the Holy Spirit. “I will pour ... the Spirit of grace and supplication.” Conviction of sin is the special work of the Holy Spirit. He uses the truth as his sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow. He particularly takes the truth of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus, and presents that to the conscience, pressing home the evil of rejecting such a Saviour, such pity, such holy, yearning love, until the soul understands what sin has cost the Lord, and melts, as icebergs do when they float down into Southern seas.
II. A FOUNTAIN OPENED. -
On the day of Pentecost Peter pointed to those cleansing streams. “And Peter said unto them; Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” With marvellous force and eloquence John Bunyan brought out the force of those words, “every one of you.” “But I struck Him on his head with the rod: is there any hope for me?” Every one of you, saith the apostle. “But I spat in his face: is there forgiveness for me?” Yes, is the reply, for every one of you. “But I drove the spikes into his hands and feet, which transfixed Him to the cross: is there cleansing for me?” Yes, cries Peter, for every one of you. “But I pierced his side, though He had never done me wrong; it was a ruthless, cruel act, and I am sorry for it now: may that sin be washed away?” Every one of you, is the constant answer. Repent, and turn again, that your sins be blotted out. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin. If the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your consciences!
And as it was at the beginning of this era, so it shall be at its close - with this difference, that whereas then some few thousand souls only stepped into the fountain, at last a whole nation, the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, shall wash there and be cleansed. Then the words of the apostle Peter, spoken centuries ago in Solomon’s porch, will be fulfilled, when Israel repents and turns again; her sins will be blotted out, and there will come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and the restoration of all things, “whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began” (Acts 3: 21).
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF IDOLATRY. –
The names of the idols will be cut off out of the land, and the prophets and unclean spirits will be caused to pass out of it. It is not enough for God to forgive. He must deal with the sources of all the waywardness and backsliding of his people. There will be, therefore, a strong and radical dealing with idols, prophets, and demons.
The thoroughness of these drastic measures is brought out in an imaginary vignette of a household scene in those happy days. It is supposed that the son of Godly parents, who have lately mourned for their sins apart, and been delivered from them, suddenly feels himself called upon to assume the role of a prophet. He encourages people to come to him to detect the culprit in some theft or murder, or to cause the rain to fall on the parched ground, or to perform magical rites over the sick, or call up the dead - to do, in fact, what Balaam wanted Balak to do, when he sent for him across the desert. The tidings come to his parents, who are so devoted in their adherence to God, that they would rather lose their child than allow him to pursue his evil, God-dishonouring work in their home. “It shall come to pass that, when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.” It would not be possible to discover a stronger way of affirming the absolute transformation that will finally come over the Jewish people, when their devotion to God shall overpower their natural love to their children.
The passion against idolatry and false prophets would become so intense, that the practisers of arts which had imposed on the credulity of the people would be ashamed and afraid to own their profession. “The prophets shall be ashamed, every one of his vision, when he prophesieth, neither shall they wear a hairy garment” - this being the special dress of the sons of the prophets, by which they were at once recognised.
If a township of people should rise against a man suspected of being a prophet, he would vehemently protest that they were mistaken, and that he was no prophet. Trembling for his life, because so certain of the temper of his accusers, he would make any subterfuge to escape suspicion. “I am a tiller of the ground, for I have been made a bondman from my youth.”
If, finally, in the pursuance of their hot inquiry, they discovered marks on his body, which indicated that he had been previously convicted and branded for following the calling of a prophet, he would rather assign them to the hands of his friends than dare to admit that he had ever been suspected of claiming to be a prophet. “One shall say unto him, What are these wounds between thine arms? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
This inquiry and reply have often been associated with the marks of the nails in the hands of Christ. But this is not the natural reading of the passage, which can only be attributed in the sense above given; the evident drift of the passage being to show that there will be such a revelation of the evil wrought by the prophets, and so strong an antagonism against them, that those suspected of being such will be prepared to evade the charge at any cost, knowing that if it is established against them they may expect but short shrift. This will be a deliverance indeed, which shall be radical and final. But if God is prepared to do so great and perfect a work for his ancient people, let us give Him no rest until He has utterly abolished our idols also, and purified us unto Himself - people for his possession, zealous of good works.
* * *
THINGS WHICH MUST
SHORTLY COME TO PASS
It is impossible to regard this mysterious and sublime
prophecy as having been already fulfilled. There is
nothing in the story of the Maccabees, nor in the fall of
Following, then, the successive features of the prophet’s
delineation, we learn that a time is coming when the nations of the world -
which, to adopt a modern phrase, may indicate the concert of European powers -
will be gathered against
At first this invasion shall be completely successful. “The city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and
the women ravished”: hell let loose, and no restraint exerted on the excesses of
the infuriated soldiery.
Then will the Lord appear to his people, as He did to the typical Jew on the
It is impossible to doubt that, at that time, there will be a
literal appearance of the rejected Saviour.
Where his feet
often stood in the days of his flesh, they shall stand again.
“His feet shall stand in
that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before
“Ye men of
It was when his brethren were in their greatest straits that Joseph made himself known unto them; and when the Jews are in their dire extremity, they will cry aloud for help and deliverance from Him whom they rejected. That memorable scene in the ancient land of the pyramids will be reproduced in all its pathos, when the long-rejected Brother shall say to his own brethren after the flesh, “I am Jesus, your Brother, whom ye sold unto Pilate: and now be not grieved, nor angry with yourself, that ye delivered Me up to be crucified; for God did send Me before you to preserve a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great deliverance” (see Gen. 45: 1-15).
When this final reconciliation shall have taken place; when
the mutual blessings and embracings have effaced the memory
of the bitter past; when the chosen people shall have recognised their great
Deliverer - He will set Himself to deliver them. It may be that they will recognise Him in the
act of their deliverance. The cleaving
mountain shall make a way of escape, as of old time the cleaving sea. On that memorable day – “one day,
which is known unto the Lord, not day, and not night”; when the cold and frost (verse 6,
R.V., marg.) shall mingle with the throes of earthquake (verse 5);when the sun shall be turned into
darkness and the moon into blood; when atmospheric and cosmical convulsions,
accompanying the crisis, give evidence of its momentous character, as the pangs
of the travail-hour in which the new age is being born - God will destroy the
face of the covering that is cast over all peoples, and the vail that is spread
over all nations. He will swallow up
death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and
the reproach of his people shall He take away from off all the earth; for the
Lord hath spoken it. How touching and
significant are the prophet’s words: “It shall come to pass, that at
evening time it shall be light.” The day of
Whether we shall live to see that evening we cannot tell. But during these latter years, many signs have been giving evidence that we are approaching one of those epoch-making moments in the history of our race which may be called the hinges of the ages. The despair which is settling down on some of the noblest spirits; the excessive devotion to pleasure which engrosses the light and vain; the descent of empire from the gold of imperial autocracy to the iron and clay of the rule of the peoples; the lawless disregard of family ties and sacred institutions; the bitter hatred of the Jewish people, known as anti-Semitism, which, like a contagious fever, has befallen most of the European nations; the interesting movements among the Jews themselves, that known as Zionism, that identified with the name of Rabinovitch in South Russia, and those which are attempting the recolonization of the land of their fathers - all these announce the near approach of the fulfilment of these words. It seems, as we study contemporary history, that, in all likelihood, we are watching the first stages of scenes destined to culminate in the public reconciliation of the Jews with their Messiah.
The calculations of the most careful students of prophecy also indicate that we are approaching the time at which the times of the Gentiles run out, and at which the chosen people must be restored to their national prerogative and reinstated as God’s representatives before the world. “Now from the fig-tree learn her parable. When her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that He is nigh, even at the doors. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
Apparently the land of the Jews is destined to pass through considerable changes, dating from the time of the Lord’s interposition on their behalf. The issue of living waters east and west; the depression of the surrounding country to the level of the Arabah, from Gibeah of Saul on the north to Rimmon on the south; the elevation of Jerusalem, as though to a level plateau; and the removal of the curse are, of course, capable of metaphorical and figurative treatment: but there is no precise reason for doubting that the volcanic action, which is so clearly referred to in the fifth verse, will produce great modifications of the present landscape.
That the Jews shall be entirely victorious in that last great
struggle is abundantly enforced. We
learn from Ezekiel’s visions of the same event that they that dwell in the
cities of Israel shall go forth to make fires of the weapons of their foes, to
burn them, so that they shall have no need to gather the wood of the forest for
fuel; and that men will have to be set apart for the work of burying the
multitudes of the dead. Here, too, we
are told that when
This, surely, is the scene which the beloved apostle depicts in marvellous phraseology, thrilling with the splendour of his rich and glowing eloquence:
“I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He that sat thereon, called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and He hath a name written, which no one knoweth but He Himself. And He is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written - KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great” (Rev. 19: 11-18, R.V.).
Behold the Lord, by many a prophet, and especially by his servant
Zechariah, has proclaimed to the end of the earth: “Say ye to the
* * *
THE MILLENNIAL AGE
(ZECHARIAH 14: 16)
The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the brightest and gladdest
of all the Hebrew Festivals. It
commemorated the wanderings of the children of
The time fixed for its celebration was after the harvest was gathered in. “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.” But the rest of that first day was consistent with the gathering of branches of palm trees, boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook. What a joyful conjunction! The labours of the year were over, the corn was in the barns, the wine and oil were safely stored, the fields were resting in the mellow sunshine, recuperating after their toils. From all parts of the land the people gathered to the city of their fathers, whose grim and ancient palaces and fortresses were festooned with greenery, the roofs covered with bowers, and all the open spaces packed close with leafy tabernacles. “The people made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water-gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim” (Neh. 8: 16).
To the quickened eye of the prophet, scenes were to take place
again, similar to those recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 3:
4; Neh. 8: 16); only in the glad days he anticipated there would
gather not Jews alone, acknowledging the Divine King, but representatives of
the nations of the world, gathered out of every land, and speaking in every
tongue. “It shall come to
pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against
The fair vision that closes the vista of the glade of time to
the Hebrew prophets, was always the rehabilitation of
Even in those halcyon days when righteousness shall begin to
cover the earth - as waters the sea - when tidal waves of salvation shall sweep
over the nations, some will be recalcitrant.
The true conception of the Millennium does not imply that every single
soul will be regenerate; but that the pre-ponderating influences of the world
shall be in favour of whatsoever things are just, pure, lovely, and of good
report. As now the heavenlies are filled
with the evil spirits, who rule the darkness of this world, so then they shall
be filled with Christ and his saints, who shall rule the cities and continents
in the direction of righteousness, temperance, and peace. But even under these favourable
circumstances, the evil of the human heart will break out into obstinate
rebellion, and some will refuse to submit to
This adaptation of punishment to the circumstances of the
lands which are the objects of Divine chastisement is very significant. Clearly it would be no punishment to the
At this juncture a shaft of light breaks over the coming age, which stands revealed in all its beauties of holiness. We all know that the High Priest wore on his
forehead a golden plate, on which the sacred words, HOLINESS TO THE LORD, were engraved. It was always on his mitre, held there by its
lace of blue, that the people of
[* 2 Pet. 3: 8. ]
Holiness stands for three things: Separation from sin and unbecomingness; devotion to the service of God; and that growing likeness to Him which is the necessary consequence of receiving Him as an Almighty Tenant of the heart. For holiness can never be an inherent and personal attribute; it must always be ours in proportion as we are God-possessed and God-filled. They are holiest who have most of God. It is a remarkably vivid portrayal of the distinction between Judaism and Christianity, that the word, which of all others characterised the exclusiveness and limitations of the old law, should be here appropriated to the most ordinary and commonplace of domesticities.
We have here, first, the abolition of the distinction between sacred and secular. Some people resemble ships, which are built in water-tight compartments; all their religion is kept carefully apart from the ordinary interests and pursuits of their existence. For instance, they go religiously to their place of worship on Sunday, but would be almost horrified if you were to mention the name of God in their drawing-room, or at the dining-table. They might even look at their guest reprovingly, as much as to say, There is a place and a time for everything, but not here or now. With such, Holiness to the Lord is well enough for the high priest and for the sanctuary; but it has no place on the bells of the horses, or the vessels of household use. Certainly the ostler in the stable, or the domestic servant about her duties, would have no right to use so reverend a designation.
But surely this rigid separation between duties as sacred and duties as secular, between clean and unclean, between holy and common, cannot be justified in the face of the teachings of the New Testament, which bid us do all, even eating and drinking, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10: 31; Col. 3: 17).
Besides, consider the genius and inner heart of Christianity. (1) It brings us into the possession of a new life. We are Christians, not because we avow a certain creed, or conform to certain outward exercises; but because we have received the life, the Eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us in Jesus. And is it possible to restrict the manifestations of life? Can a flower weave its petals and exhale its fragrance to order? Can the young things of the woodlands and meadows be thus to-day and something else to-morrow? Can a child observe days and times in its laughter, its tears, its appetite? Is not God’s life always the same in its abundant and infinite variety? So surely the life of God in the soul should, and must, express itself in all the outgoings of our existence - in speech, act, movement - equally on the six days as the one day; as much in the kitchen, or the shop, as the church. If you are possessed by the life of the Holy One, it will as certainly appear as the idiosyncrasy of your character, which underlies, moulds, and fashions your every gesture.
(2) Moreover, Christianity is Consecration to Christ. It may be questioned if we have a right to call ourselves Christians unless we regard Him as our Judge, our Lawgiver, and our King, and are deliberately obeying and serving Him. But if we are going to reserve our religion to certain days, places, and actions, we necessarily exclude Him from all that is not contained within the fences we erect. If it be measured by days, we exclude from the government, and therefore the peace, of Christ, at least six-sevenths of our time. Does the owner of a slave expect his ownership to be curtailed and narrowed after this fashion? Would he consider that he was receiving the value of his purchase-money, which he had paid down for the exclusive and unceasing rights of proprietorship? And what right have we to suppose that our Master Christ will be satisfied with an arrangement which asks Him to accept a part for the whole a composition for the entire debt?
(3) Then, also, the needs of the world demand an entire and unbroken religious life. The world does not see us in our religious exercises, whether in our private retirement or our public worship. It has no idea, therefore, of the anguish of our penitence, the earnestness of our desires for a righteous and noble life, the persistency of our endeavours. And if we do not give evidence of our religion in our dealings with matters that the men of the world understand, they will naturally and rightly consider that religion is an unpractical dream, the child of superstition and emotion. We need to witness to the world, where its paths intersect ours, and in regard to matters it can appreciate. If we are found to be more patient, truthful, honest, than other men; if our integrity can only be accounted for by causes beyond our ken - then the children of this [evil] age will be prepared to acknowledge that we have come into contact with sources of life and strength, which are clearly realities, but of which they know nothing.
For these reasons, we should refuse to maintain the false distinction between things that are sacred and those that are secular. There are right and wrong things in the world. The wrong ones are, of course, to be fenced out of our lives; but all right ones are sacred. Everything that may be done at all, may be done to Christ, and in being done to Him, is rendered holy. The ostler [same as ‘Hostler’ - one who has care] with his horses, the servant with the vessels of her household service, the clerk with his pen, the mechanic with his tool, the guide with his alpenstock, the artist with his camera, may realize that those mystic words are graven on his forehead, and in the instrument of his toil. And each one of us, on entering the workshop of his life, may feel that he is serving God there as much as if he were entering the shrine of some holy temple, and were called to minister at God’s altar. The pots and vessels may be looked on as though they were the vessels in which the victims’ blood was collected as it flowed from the sacrificial knife.
II. THERE MAY BE THE INCLUSION OF MANY THINGS WHICH ONCE SEEMED SECULAR, IF WE CAN CONSECRATE THEM TO CHRIST.-
The Jews were forbidden to own horses. With a tear in his
voice, the sacred chronicler records it as a sign of Solomon’s degeneracy that
he brought horses up out of
What a graphic and significant manner of teaching one of the profoundest lessons!
Judaism, with its special days, places, and men, had its part in the religious training of the race. It was the Kindergarten of human childhood; but when we become men, we put away childish things. Probably every life, in its earliest stages, must be fenced and partitioned off from things which, however innocent in themselves, are prejudicial to its development. It was impossible for God to teach men what holiness meant, save by this process of prohibition, of separation, and of setting apart. But, when the lesson was fully learnt, the Levitical code was abolished, and Jesus came, saying, “It was said to them of old time; ... but I say unto you.” The horses which might not be used, came to be as much in vogue as the bowls of the altar or the household vessels, and to bear upon their harness the significant sentence that gleamed aforetime on the forehead of Aaron and his sons.
the middle ages, saintly souls dreaded to enter the sacred relationships of
home, and thought that the babble and prattle of babes, and the love of wife,
were inimical to their highest interests.
But they sadly misread Christ’s meaning; they forgot that He sat at
So with recreation. It is not wrong to unbend the bow in manly games, that develop the sinews and expand the lungs, or to join in the pastimes of your age and companions, so long as you can write on bat and football, on tennis racquet and piano, on oar and paddle, on skate or sleigh, the words of the High Priest’s frontal, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. What ever you cannot pray over, refuse to touch. Whatever you can make a matter of prayer and consecration is legitimate. Every thing is good, and not to be refused, which can be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
The same rule applies to the enjoyment of nature, of art, of music, of beautiful objects, whether sculptured or carved, photographed or painted. True holiness does not consist in bare walls, and hard seats, and a dingy environment; but in all that resembles God’s work in nature, which is exquisitely beautiful, whether it be the creepers that change to crimson in the autumn, or the enamelling of the rocks, or the tessellated floors of the woodlands, or the silver features of the stars.
Take the horses into the economy of your life; only see to it that the memory of “Holiness to the Lord” recurs to you at every movement of their arching necks.
Let us take note that there must be an elevation of all life
to the level of our sacred and religious moments. It would be, of course, possible to obliterate the distinction between sacred and
secular by treating all as secular; but this would be a desecration of our life
indeed. The process is not one of
levelling-down, but of levelling-up. The
Lord’s house must be established “on the top of the mountains,” and all nations are to flow to
it. It is not that the priest is to take
off his sacred emblem when he enters the sanctuary; but that he is to put it on
when he goes to the stable to mount his horse.
It is not that the bowls of the altar are to be ejected from their
sacred office there; but that common vessels - “every pot in
We cannot make all time sacred unless we set apart special hours and days for God. We cannot carry the spirit of pure and undefiled religion among our fellows, unless we often enter into our closet and shut the door, and pray unto our Father, who is in secret. We cannot do all tasks to the glory of God, unless we have mountains of transfiguring prayer. We cannot read all books and papers in a religious spirit, unless we are loving and systematic Bible-students. We cannot use ordinary vessels as though they were the bowls of the altar, unless we handle the bowls of that altar, which is in the possession of all holy souls who do not serve the tabernacle. “Wherefore, forsake not the assembling of yourselves, as the manner of some is”; ... and, “Remember the Sabbath-day [the ‘first day of the week’] to keep it holy.”
So many bells ring out in our lives. The morning wakening bell, and the school-bell; the work-bell for the mechanic, and the shop-bell for the assistant; the visitors’ bell on one side of the door, and the tradesmen’s on the other; the wedding bells with their merry peal, and the funeral bells with their sorrowful monotone; the bicyclist’s bell warning the foot-passenger on to the pavement, and the bells on the sleigh-horses, as they draw the vehicle over the frozen snow. To many of these, in times past, we have given a lethargic, listless, and indolent response; we have resented their intrusion on our slumbers and plans; we have chafed against their peremptory summons. But enough of this. Henceforth, let us hear in their clangour or chime the call of God to the tasks to which He summons us; let us obey with alacrity, looking to Him for grace and strength to do whatever He would have us do, and realizing that on each the inscription of Aaron’s frontal-piece is engraven, “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.”