Mockers of Religion
Isaiah 28:10
For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little:

A different explanation to that given in the previous homily is finding favor in modern times. The passage is supposed to represent the drunkards mocking Isaiah over their cups. "Does he not know what respectable persons he is dealing with, not like children who need leading-strings, but educated priests and prophets? They have caught up from Isaiah one of his favorite words (probably), and repeat it with a sneer. He is always interfering with moral and political recommendations; always finding some 'little' point to censure and correct" (Cheyne). "Vers. 9, 10 contain the taunting language of the drunken priests and judges of the Jews, who repel with scorn the idea that they should require the plain and reiterated lessons which Jehovah taught by his messengers. Such elementary instruction was fit only for babes; it was an insult to their understanding to suppose that they stood in need of it" (Henderson). Dr. S. Cox puts this view of the passage in a very striking and forcible way: "In their private intercourse with each other, when, as Isaiah tells us, they 'were swallowed up of wine'... in their shameless carousals, the false priests, and the prophets who backed them with 'lying visions,' made themselves great sport in jeering at Isaiah, in ridiculing the one prophet who cared more for the welfare of the people than for their applause, and loved the service of God more than the pleasure of the senses. They mocked at his incorrigible simplicity. They mimicked and burlesqued his manner of speech. 'Whom would he teach knowledge?' they cried; 'and to whom would he take a message intelligible? To weanlings from the milk, just withdrawn from the breast?' To them he seemed an intolerable moralist, forever schooling them as if they were babes, and needed the mere milk of instruction, and not strong men capable of digesting meat. 'With him,' they said, 'it is always precept on precept, line on line, line on line, here a little, and there a little.' Or, as we may, perhaps, better translate their words, they said,' With him it is always "bid and bid, forbid and forbid, a little bit here, and a little bit there." What really angered these huffy scorners was that the prophet treated them as though they were children only just weaned, and not masters in Israel. They were weary of hearing him repeat the first rudiments of morality, and apply them to the sins and needs of the time." We may fix attention on this point - Mocking at religion and religious teachers represents the last stage of apostasy. There is little hope for the mockers; they must go into the fires of judgment. But what stages do men pass through before they reach this point of decline? In answering this question we may keep our eye on the illustrations afforded by the apostasy of Jewish priests and rulers, and at the same time make due applications to the perils of apostasy, as we may ourselves be exposed to them.

I. The religious man steps upon the sliding, downward road, when he begins to NEGLECT PERSONAL SOUL-CULTURE. As the Apostle John tells us, a man prospers-only as his soul prospers. The essential thing in the good man is not well-ordered conduct, but the regenerate life. The new life needs its care and its food continually. This neglect of soul-culture is the "grieving of the Holy Ghost," of which St. Paul warns us so earnestly. It is the "leaving of the first love" of which the risen and living Christ complains. A man goes wrong first in matters of private devotion and Christian habit.

II. The next step is the ENTHRONING OF SELF-WILL IN THE PLACE OF GOD'S WILL. Lose the sacred humility and fear that comes with close relations to God, and self will be sure to grow big, and the rule of life comes to be the "devices and desires of our own hearts." Then mistakes, stumblings, and wanderings are easy; and "broad" ways are preferred to narrow.

III. As soon as this condition is established, there arises the wish to SEE AND KNOW NOTHING THAT CAN POSSIBLY CONVICT AND HUMBLE; and the man lets the dust cover his Bible, the grass grow over his kneeling-place, and excuses keep him from the house of God. Like these priests and leaders, they are at heart afraid of what God's Isaiah might say to them. May we not fear that this is the secret reason for modern neglect of God's worship? Men do not wish to be warned. They fear lest they should be warned. They do not want to hear the truth about the degrading slavery in which idol self always holds its victims.

IV. Then comes the beginning of the almost hopeless stages. A BLINDING AND HARDENING PROCESS GOES ON; and presently those who would not see cannot see. Then a man can hear all the terrors, and heed none of them; can listen to all the persuasions of the everlasting love, and be moved by none of them.

V. And at last he CAN EVEN MOCK AT GOODNESS AND GOOD MEN; and in his foolish and wicked pride can scoff even at God's Word and God's prophet. Down low indeed that man must have fallen who once knew the "glory of the Lord," and waited for the Lord's will, and now, in his rioting, can jeer at sacred things. Impress that those who neglect the culture of piety put from them all gracious influences, and become so possessed with the evil spirit of self that, like the demoniac in the Gospels, they say, even to the healing, saving Christ, "What have we to do with thee?" - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

WEB: For it is precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little.

Little Ways and Great Service
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