But you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns surround you, and you dwell among scorpions. Do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their presence, though they are a rebellious house.
I. OPPOSITION FORESEEN. Men who have long time departed from God are not easily induced to return. The tree that has grown wildly crooked, cannot readily be restored to straightness and shape. Those who have abandoned the paths of truth and righteousness, sadly degrade their original nature. The cedars are reduced to thorns and briers. Sinners are unprofitable and injurious in the world - a curse to society. They bear no fruit, or only sour and poisonous fruit. They choke the promise of better things. Or they are like scorpions, bent only on mischief. Originally lords of nature, they have sunk to the level of the meanest insects. There is poison in their crafty words. There is a danger in their very looks.
II. COURAGE DEMANDED. "Be not afraid of them." Why should God's servants fear? Our adversaries' words are mere breath. Not a particle of power have they but such as is permitted them by our Master. While they open their mouths in loud boasting, the finger of death is loosening the silver cord within. As the mighty God hath said to the angry waves, so hath he said to these, "Thus far shall ye go, and no further." They may loudly bark, but it is seldom they have power to bite. The fierce opposition of the ungodly may turn to our good; it may and ought to develop our courage. The severer the conflict, the more strength we may gather, and the greater will be our triumph. As they are so zealous in a bad cause, how much more zealous should we be in the very best of enterprises?
III. THE ONLY WEAPON PERMITTED. In this conflict with human folly and rebellion, our only weapon is to be "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." "Thou shalt speak ray words unto them." If they meet us with contempt and malice, we have but to repeat in calmer tones, and with undisturbed patience, the same facts - the message from the lips of God. Any addition of ours, however suitable it may seem, only weakens the force of the message. We must see to it that the edge of the weapon is not blunted by our own carelessness. Our only concern should be that we do speak all the counsel of God - that it is the Word of God, both in substance and form, which we utter.
IV. AN INSIDIOUS DANGER EXPOSED. "Be not thou rebellious like that rebellions house." One foe within the camp is more injurious than a thousand outside. If a germ of disease be in the medicine, it will invalidate all its efficacy. Rebellion assumes a myriad forms. It is a hydra with more than a hundred heads. Listlessness in hearing the heavenly commission - a tampering with its fixed terms, a rash attempt to improve the Divine original - these and such-like acts are seed germs of rebellion in the soul. "If the salt be deprived of its savour," wherewith shall the corruptions of the world be purged out? An unfaithful ambassador adds fresh aggravation to the revolt of a province. Sin is a contagious evil. - D.
1. Let your fear be exercised about God; He is an object fit to be feared. When the dictator ruled at Rome, then all other officers ceased; and when this fear of God rules, all other fears will be hushed. And that is not all; if God be sanctified by us, he will be a sanctuary unto us.
1. Fears are prejudicial: they take away our liberty; they put halters about our necks, and strangle our comforts; they multiply and prolong our miseries; they wound and disable us.
Be not afraid of them.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the, Tracts for the Times.What is here implied, as the trial of the prophet Ezekiel, was fulfilled more or less in the case of all the prophets. They were not teachers merely, but confessors. This world is a scene of conflict between good and evil. The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good cannot conquer, except by suffering. When was it that this conflict, and this character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled? Cain, for instance, was envious of his brother Abel, and slew him. Ishmael mocked at Isaac; Esau was full of wrath with Jacob, and resolved to kill him. Joseph's brethren were filled with bitter hatred of him, debated about killing him, cast him into a pit, and at last sold him into Egypt. Saul persecuted David; and Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah; and the priests and the prophets the prophet Jeremiah. Lastly, not to dwell on other instances, the chief priests and the Pharisees, full of envy, rose up against our Lord Jesus Christ, and delivered Him to the heathen governor Pontius Pilate, to be crucified. So the apostles, after Him, and especially St. Paul, were persecuted by their fierce and revengeful countrymen. The case seems to be this: — those who do not serve God with a single heart, know they ought to do so, and they do not like to be reminded that they ought. And when they fall in with anyone who does live to God, he serves to remind them of it, and that is unpleasant to them, and that is the first reason why they are angry with a religious man; the sight of him disturbs them and makes them uneasy. And, in the next place, they feel in their hearts that he is in much better case than they are. They cannot help wishing, though they are hardly conscious of their own wish, they cannot help wishing that they were like him; yet they have no intention of imitating him, and this makes men jealous and envious. Instead of being angry with themselves, they are angry with him. These are their first feelings: what follows? Next they are very much tempted to deny that he is religious. They wish to get the thought of him out of their minds. Nothing would so relieve their minds as to find that there were no religious persons in the world, none better than themselves. Accordingly, they do all they can to believe that he is making a pretence of religion; they do their utmost to find out what looks like inconsistency in him. They call him a hypocrite and other names. And all this, if the truth must be spoken, because they hate the things of God and therefore they hate His servants. Accordingly, as far as they have power to do it, they persecute him, either, as the text implies, with cruel, untrue words, or with cold, or fierce, or jealous looks, or in some worse ways. A good man is an offence to a bad man. The sight of him is a sort of insult; and he is irritated at him, and does him what harm he can. Thus Christians, in former times, were put to death by the heathen. Even now, no one can give his mind to God, and show by his actions that he fears God, but he will incur the dislike and opposition of the world; and it is important he should be aware of this, and be prepared for it. He must not mind it, he must bear it, and in time (if God so will) he will overcome it. There are a number of lesser ways in which careless, ungodly persons may annoy and inconvenience those who desire to do their duty humbly and fully. Such, especially, are those, which seem intended in the text, unkind censure, carping, slander, ridicule, cold looks, rude language, insult, and, in some cases, oppression and tyranny. Whoever, therefore, sets about a religious life, must be prepared for these — must be thankful if they do not befall him; but must not be put out, must not think it a strange thing, if they do. For instance, persons may press you to do something which you know to be wrong — to tell an untruth, or to do what is not quite honest, or to go to companies whither you should not go; and they may show that they are vexed at the notion of your not complying. Still you must not comply. You must not do what you feel to be wrong, though you should thereby displease even those whom you would most wish to please. Again: you must not be surprised, should you find that you are called a hypocrite, and other hard names; you must not mind it. Again: you may be jeered at and mocked by your acquaintance, for being strict and religious, for carefully coming to church, keeping from bad language, and the like: you must not care for it. Again, you may, perhaps, discover, to your great vexation, that untruths are told of you by careless persons behind your backs, that what you do has been misrepresented, and that in consequence a number of evil things are believed about you by the world at large. Hard though it be, you must not care for it; remembering that more untruths were told of our Saviour and His apostles than can possibly be told of you. Again, you may find that not only the common run of men believe what is said against you, but even those with whom you wish to stand well. But if this happens through your conscientiousness, you must not mind it, but must be cheerful, leaving your case in the hand of God, and knowing that He will bring it out into the light one day or another, in His own good time. Again: persons may try to threaten or frighten you into doing something wrong, but you must not mind that; you must be firm. In conclusion, I will call your attention to two points — First, do not be too eager to suppose you are ill-treated for your religion's sake. Make as light of matters as you can. And beware of being severe on those who lead careless lives, or whom you think or know to be ill-treating you. Be kind and gentle to those who are perverse, and you will very often, please God, gain them over. Pray for those who lead careless lives, and especially if they are unkind to you. Secondly, recollect you cannot do any one thing of all the duties I have been speaking of without God's help. When brought into temptation of any kind, we Should lift up our hearts to God. We should say to Him, "Good Lord deliver us."
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times.)
2. They are to be men of courage who are in public place.
3. God is with His, those He calls and employs in public service. This should put life into us.
4. Those who are in public place are in God's place, and they must be like unto God, fearless of men, but dreadful unto men.
5. They that are godly, true Christians, their godliness, their cause, suffer by their fearfulness.
6. There is not that in wicked men that should make us to fear them, if we consider they are briers, thorns, scorpions, contemptible things, rather to be despised than feared.
7. God will dismay and confound us if we fear men (Jeremiah 1:17).
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
2. Set faith to work. Men in public places should have their hands at work on earth, and their faith in heaven. The just live by faith, and will not die by fear.
3. Labour for purity and holiness. The most holy men are the least fearing men.
4. Value not life too much. Be willing to spend and be spent for God.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(A. Bell, B. A.)
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