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The fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
MORNING. ISAIAH lvii.
THE righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
To society at large, the death of the righteous is a calamity; especially the death of righteous kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah. To themselves, indeed, death is a blessing! God grant to thee, O my reader ! the death of the righteous.
He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each
one walking in his uprightness. But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these? Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up Behind the doors also and the posts hast
3 In awful contrast are placed the wicked; slaves of the world and their own wills, cruel and licentious, making their sons and daughters pass the fire to Moloch.
to offer sacrifice. thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast
9 The nation is reproached for having striven to propitiate the kings of Assyria and Egypt by a base subservience, instead of putting their whole trust in the mercy of their God-courageously and unreservedly*.
* They sent presents, which were conveyed by ambassadors. Yet their presents and their homage were as unprofitable as they were debasing. Indeed, even as to this life, a mean truckling to our worldly interests is ever false policy; whereas a bold pursuit of honour, under trust of the divine blessing, is fruitful alike of success and comfort.
15 Blessed truth! He who inhabit
eth eternity will dwell in my heart, if I be lowly and contrite, and ready to welcome Him! What comfort in my sorrow does that truth convey!
lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not? I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; and shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. 1 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him. 29 But the wicked are like
the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast
18 O how placable is our God! True, He punished his erring people; but He will forgive, if they will return!
20 The wicked are turbulent and unhappy-dissatisfied and envious.
up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
The humble and good seek peace, and ensue it. They envy not, they covet not; they have found, that godliness, with contentment, is great gain. They patiently tarry the Lord's leisure. Heaven is their aim.
EVENING. ISAIAH lviii.
'CRY aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness,
1 Bear with your minister in his earnestness; even though he someHe speaks but as God commands him. times speak severe and painful truths.
2 The closest observance of outward forms in our fasts and other
religious services profits not, unless there be also a spirit of inward devotion. God requires heart-service.
and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not
this the fast that I have
not to deal thy bread to the
5 Devotion, to profit our souls, must company us into active life, and influence us in the fulfilment of all our relative and social duties *. ashes under him? wilt thou call
• The true worshipper of God will
exercise every act of charity and
benevolence which circumstances present to him, and his means can compass.
oppressed go free, and that ye 7 When we exercise compassion upon the poor and afflicted, are they and poor, is not the Lord the Maker not "our own flesh ?" As to rich "Have pity upon the
of them all?
the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: and the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
8 The happy effects of such sincerity shall be evident to all, like the bright and cheering light of morning, when the shades of night are past. The Lord will be always at hand, to help thee, and guide thee, and walk with thee! He is with thee now +.
Jezebel proclaimed a fast for strife and violence. 1 Kings xxi. 9. +He shall "both prevent and follow you"-go before you and follow after as thy rereward.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places : thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. 13 If 13 To keep alive this religious spithou turn away thy foot from rit in active life, let us "keep holy the sabbath, from doing thy the Sabbath," by turning away from pleasure on my holy day; voting all our thoughts on that day it every worldly affection*, and deand call the sabbath a delight, to the honour of our God. So shall the holy of the LORD, ho- his favour and blessing shadow us! nourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Che fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
BEHOLD, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear 2 Whether we would that He reheavy, that it cannot hear: ceive us in mercy, or punish us in but your iniquities have sepower, must depend upon ourselves. parated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will 3 If we change from holiness to sin, not hear. For your hands He punisheth; if from sin to holiare defiled with blood, and ness, He blesseth †.
1 God is always the same, in power and in mercy, in love and in justice.
your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trusted in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is
5 The sinful soul conceiveth evil
thoughts, and bringeth forth ungodfinished, bringeth forth death; even liness; and ungodliness, when it is as the serpent its venomous brood.
What feet are to the body, affections are to the soul-agents which, if of a worldly stamp, conduct it to evil. From the Sabbath, therefore, We must turn away such affections: not pursuing on that day our usual pleasures, not following our usual occupations; but delighting to make a distinction, which shall prove that we have in mind the honour of our God, and are then most happy, when we most honour Him.
The Jews were astonished that when, as his elect, they cried unto God in their calamities, He delivered them not. We learn, that election saveth not the disobedient. Profession is mockery without sincerity.
crushed breaketh out into a
viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works
6 Even the most subtle counsels of mere worldly wisdom, in civil or social life, are weak as the spider's web; a breath may sweep them all away.
are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they
8 A crooked expediency, and a selfish course of policy, whether in public or in private affairs, lead to ruin. There is only one safe path, the straight and narrow road of Christian principle *.
have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; in transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and
9 The worldly wise wait for light, and behold the prospect becomes obscure and perplexing. Every wicked man knows this.
16 Since no man could save his own soul, much less the souls of others, God himself, in the likeness of man, became our Redeemer and Intercessor; and Himself was revealed as our Righteousness.
* The other roads are broad and smooth, and they who walk them, like bewildered travellers in the desert, fancy refreshing fields and bright streams, where in reality glaring sands await, to blind and overwhelm them in the darkness of death.