Produce your cause, said the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, said the King of Jacob.
These words are a challenge to such as serve not God. The study of this question may be a wise anticipation of the judgment day. Now we may search for our reasons; and if they be found to be unsound, we may put our conduct right; but when we stand before the judgment-seat of Christ it will be too late for repentance. To form a court now in which to hear this cause, it is only needful that we should remember that the great God can judge the very secrets of our hearts. The Judge of all the earth is upon His holy seat. Before Him we now stand. While the doom of each is not yet fixed, the voice of the Almighty is heard, "Produce your cause," etc.
1. The great Searcher of hearts may come into the midst of such as are given to the love of present things, and say, "Produce your cause." What such will bring forward is this: they are not persons addicted to any particular vice; they are amiable, kind, sincere; they live without strife with men; they live without hostility towards God. But they have great love for things as they are: they are powerfully influenced by things seen and temporal; they are contented with their earthly portion; and they seldom have any strong concern or desire about the things not seen and eternal. Their cause is that of listlessness about the things of the soul, of an unwillingness to admit what seem to be melancholy thoughts, as they cast a shadow over a fair scene of earthly comfort, with which they feel that they can remain content. It is that of the orderly members of society, towards whom our respect and our affection are so soon drawn. It seems almost unkind to wake up such out of their soft sleep. But God says, "Bring forth your strong reasons" to justify such a life. And reasons are given. It is so pleasant to be a peace, that we care not to be disturbed. Yes, if there were to be no sudden shock of death: if this loved world were to continue unchanged: if there were no cunning enemy plotting while the careless sleep: if there were no holy service to be done for God, no brotherly counsel to be given to man! But love of ease is no strong reason to justify a careless career, which is to end in unrest for ever. You may say, we are of the quieter sort; and may we not float in the eddies of life, without being hurried on by the current of evil? Why cannot our religion be of the passive order? But the answer comes at once, Are you so safe as you endeavour to think? Is there really the calm which your spirits in their drowsiness think there may be? There are, no doubt, beautiful Christian graces which bloom best in the shade. But do not such daily open their petals, and breathe out fragrance towards heaven? The cause of the careless, or the worldly-minded, of such as sit still in sloth as to spiritual concerns, will not stand in the judgment.
2. How much less will that other man prosper, whose cause may be thus produced. He is a man willing to admit that much may be said in favour of a religious life. Up to a certain point he is prepared to accept and to carry into effect the duties which rise because of a man's relation to God who made him. But religion has been made to ask too much: is pressed too indiscriminately upon every period and transaction of life. The law of God cannot be observed, and therefore it ought to be powered, or adapted to the condition of modern thought and feeling. The man will not pretend to justify all he does. But his strong reasons are that it cannot be otherwise. He lives in a world where perfect obedience is not to be expected. Other men sin, and their sinning involves sin in him. He is made with passions which do and will take fire, when temptation finds its convenient seasons. He is ready to listen to advice how he may avoid the grossest sins; but he is not prepared to care about opinions concerning a holiness which he never hopes to reach. Behind these strong reasons men entrench themselves, and seem to keep the conscience untouched by the arrow from the Lord's bow. The cause so produced wants one great feature; there is no real sorrow for sin. The blame of sin is skilfully shifted from the sinner to his God. "Why hast Thou made me thus?" is the complaint which such a man makes. It is considered a misfortune rather than a fault, that he has not obeyed the commandment of the Lord. How can God justify a man who thus blames his Maker! How can a man justify himself, when it shall be brought out against him that if he had hated sin it might have been forgiven, if he had resisted sin it might have been overcome in the strength and according to the grace which God gives. Such reasons to support a cause will be weak in the day of the Lord.
3. A man will say, My life is not right, my conscience is not quiet, my position is not safe; but what am I to do? The religion of many so disgusts me that I have no faith to follow them. The opinions vary so much among those who call themselves Christ's servants that I am at a loss what to believe. My cause is bad: but which shall I accept as a better? And my reasons for remaining as I am are strong, from the difficulty as to whether I may not move and only sink lower. And such arguments satisfy a man for a time: they excuse, if they do not justify. But are they really sound? Is it true that there are no sincere followers of Jesus? Is it true that there are no saving truths which stand out as a rock, notwithstanding all that party spirit has done to hide it by party walls? Is Christ so covered that He cannot be found? I boldly assert that no such difficulties exist. There are, it may be, hypocrites everywhere. Sincere Christians are inconsistent and weak in many things; but salvation, God's grace, Divine life in the soul, is a real thing. The sinner who searches for a perfect Church or a perfect Christian, and stands aloof from Christ because such things are not to be found, may have grounds for finding fault with his neighbour, but he has no strong reason by which to defend himself. Such a cause, so supported, must fall to the ground, when the truthful test of God's own touch shall show what manner of cause it was.
4. But it is time to produce another cause: that of a man who holds the truth in unrighteousness; who is orthodox in creed and incorrect in life; who has the form of godliness, but denies the power thereof. It is the case of many to be found in the house of God on each Sabbath day: professors of Christ, but followers of the world, its vanities, or its sins. Such men bring no objections against the truth or service of God; but they do not savingly believe, they do not honestly serve. Religion with them is a thing without life. They have a horror of over-zeal. The reasonable man is earnest. He is calm and self-contained; but he has been strongly moved at the sight of sin, he has been deeply moved by the power of grace, and he cannot but give himself, body, soul, and spirit, to do his Lord's will. He, too, can produce his cause and bring forth his strong reasons. Is it not reasonable that, when God works by the Holy Ghost upon a sinner's soul, the effect should be felt and seen t Conclusion — The believer has his strong reasons. He says the time is short, and the work is great. He says sin is too terrible to be trifled with: salvation is too great a thing to be dealt with carelessly. The devil is in earnest — Jesus is in earnest — the wicked are in earnest; why should the Lord's people hang back, as from a cause they doubt or a conflict about which they feel afraid? And these reasons have the solidity of truth and the power of truth. They commend themselves to a man's judgment the more he weighs them well and the nearer he comes to the day of death. Let us all be warned. It is not a question about one man taking another man's advice. It is a far higher matter than a triumph of believer over unbeliever. As those who would not part when the Lord comes, — as those who cannot envy each other a place in heaven, inlet us give diligence to make our calling and election sure."
(J. Richardson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.