One of them said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long until the fulfillment of these wonders?"
I. IT IS A CONSOLATION TO KNOW THAT THE ANGELIC RACES ARE INTERESTED IN HUMAN WELFARE. As Daniel looked with a more intent gaze, he perceived other angelic forms in close proximity. So when God opened the eyes of Elisha's servant, he saw a host of heavenly cavalry encircling his master. Devout research is ever well rewarded. The angels have not attained one common level of knowledge. They inquire one of another; become each other's teachers and each other's helpers. The same topics that interest good men interest angels also. The same impatience to penetrate future events, which men feel, angels also in some measure cherish. They especially take an interest in the Church of God. They sympathize with us in trial, persecution, and suffering. They desire to see God, in the progressive revelations of himself.
II. FORMS OF SOLEMN ASSEVERATION ARE EMPLOYED BY THE ANGELS TO GIVE US STRONG ASSURANCE. This illustrious angel raised himself to a particular posture, employed special gesticulation, and uttered a special form of words, with this one view, viz. to persuade his auditors of the authority with which he spake, and of the certainty that his words should be performed. Thus God commands his highest servants to accommodate themselves to human infirmities. Nothing on his part shall be wanting to enlighten and ennoble men. The eternity of God is pledged for the fulfilment of prophecy. As the eternal God lives, it shall be done.
III. OBEDIENCE ENLARGES THE CAPACITY TO RECEIVE, To hear and to understand are not identical. Perhaps we really understand nothing. We see not things as they are, but only as they are related to us. Feeling, affection, inclination, assist greatly the understanding. It is possible that God might tell us fully and lucidly the future course of this world, and still we might be only bewildered. It is the voice of fatherly kindness that says to his child, "Go thy way." Perform all thy common duties. The future is "closed and sealed." "A good understanding have all they that keep his commandments." There is solid happiness for every man who can calmly wait the larger unfoldings of God's will. Food for real hunger there always shall be; but provision for imaginary wants will not be forthcoming.
IV. TRIALS HAVE THE MOST OPPOSITE EFFECTS ON THE RIGHTEOUS AND ON THE WICKED. No amount or severity of outward trial is, in itself, competent to improve or soften men. "Though a fool be bruised in a mortar, yet will not his folly depart;" "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The hottest fire of suffering cannot. Hence God saith, "Why should ye he stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more." Notwithstanding exile, bondage, defeat in war, desolations of every kind," the wicked will still do wickedly." The voice Divine at last will speak. "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still." But the effect upon the righteous is the very reverse of this. The fire, that hardens clay, melts the wax. Not a few shall discover that the fire only removes the dross - separates vile elements from the sterling - and produces lustre and renown. Under this severe and searching discipline, true Israelites shall be purified and made whiter than snow. Purity of character shall bring with it greater clearness of vision; while, on the other hand, persistence in sin will tend to darken intellect more and more, until it shall be submerged "in the blackness of darkness for ever."
V. LOSS OF RELIGIOUS ORDINANCES IS THE GREATEST OF EXTERNAL CALAMITIES. This is, in reality, a greater calamity than the desolations of a war or the ravages of a plague. God's calculations of human epochs date from his withdrawal flora his temple. The suspension of the daily sacrifice - this marks the commencement of an era. Men are wont to reckon epochs from the rise or fall of human dynasties. Not so God. His interest in human affairs centres in the temple. The profanation of the temple by setting up idol-worship there - this marks the opening of a dark and tempestuous day. This chastisement is a fitting type for a yet greater woe. The number seven has long time been a signature and symbol for perfection and rest; therefore the broken period of three times and a half betokens the very opposite - disquietude, turmoil, woe.
VI. ASSURANCE TO THE RIGHTEOUS OF PERSONAL AND PERFECT SECURITY. Whatever disasters shall befall the wicked, or whatever tempests may roll over the heads of the righteous man, this is certain - "Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." This is a fixed and definite end, which the Divine Being has set before him, and every arrangement of Providence is adjusted with a view to this end. This is the inheritance which God himself has chosen for us, and secured by promise, oath, and blood. If Israel, in possession of the earthly Canaan, could sing, "We have a goodly heritage," much more can the redeemed in heaven chant that joyous strain. The lot is already apportioned unto us. The Divine attributes are pledged to us for its enjoyment. No event, nor force, nor personal being, in the broad universe, can prevent the grand consummation, "Thou shalt stand in thy lot." The kingdom has been prepared for us "before the foundation of the world." "If children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ." - D.
How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
1. Wonders have an educational value. Coleridge says, "In wonder all philosophy began, in wonder it ends, and admiration fills up the interspace; but the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance, and the last is the parent of devotion. To a child everything is wonderful. Its sense of wonder is the spring of its desire to know. If it be possible to find a man, or a community, who has ceased to wonder, then you have a man — or a community — in a state of mental decay or mortification, for without the sense of wonder and the desire to know, mental, moral, and spiritual progress is impossible.
2. Wonders are God's voice in man's soul against materialism. They speak to us of things unseen and eternal. They rouse us to thought and action. Wonders for the mind and heart are as much needed as bread and water for our bodies.
3. Wonders are a kind of protest against rationalism. We are helped by reason in a thousand different ways. But there is something above and beyond reason. Reason has its limits as well as its laws.
4. Wonders are helps to faith. We may wonder at that chemistry in the field of nature by which God gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater, or how He makes the grass to grow for the cattle; but enough that we know whom we have believed, and can pray as children, "Give us this day our daily bread."
(J. Kerr Campbell.)
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