Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low; the uneven ground will become smooth, and the rugged land a plain.
|The Prophet's Commission||E. Johnson ||Isaiah 40:1-11|
|A Great Work Requires Preparation||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|A Highway in the Wilderness||J. Service, D. D.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Christ Requires a Straight Road||A. T. Pierson, D. D.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Comfort for the Afflicted Church||Bp. Horne.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Israel's Preparation for the Coming of Christ||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparation Among the Heathen for the Reception of Christianity||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparation for the Advent Messiah||D. Wayland, LL. D.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparation for the Coming of Christ||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord||S. P. Jose, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord||C. Garrett.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparing the Way of the Lord||G. Redford, LL. D.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparing the Way of the Lord||W. Williams.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Preparing the Way of the Lord||W. H. G. Temple.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Appealing Voice||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Divine Glory Revealed in Christ||R. Watson.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Gnostic Gospel||F. Watson, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Golden Age||W.M. Statham ||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The King's Highway||F. W. Macdonald, M. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Road Maker||W. H. Williams.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|The Way of the Lord Prepared||J. B. Brown, B. A.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Vox Clamantis||J. P. Gledstone.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Vox Clamantis||J. Parker, D. D.||Isaiah 40:3-5|
|Human Preparation for the Divine Advent||W. Clarkson ||Isaiah 40:3-6|
|Christianity an Essential Element in True Civilisation||A. Rowland, B. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|No Fear of Utopia||Canon H. Scott-Holland, M. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|Picturesque Abuses||Canon H. Scott-Holland, M. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|Redemptive Growth||Canon H. Scott-Holland, M. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|Rough Places||J. Parker, D. D.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|The Battle for To-Day||Canon H. Scott-Holland, M. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|The Levelling Force of Christianity||D. Thomas, D. D.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|The Prophet and the Picturesque||Canon H. Scott-Holland, M. A.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|The Prospects of the Church||T. Price.||Isaiah 40:4-5|
|The Rough Places Made Plain||A. Watson, D. D.||Isaiah 40:4-5|There are and ever have been in the soul of society opinions, prejudices, feelings, conventional notions which, like mountains and valleys, have separated men into classes, and prevented the free-flowing interchange of soul. Those mountains rear their frowning heads and throw their chilling shadows in every district of society. Those valleys yawn everywhere, and form an impassable gulf between the brothers on either side. Christianity has a power to remove those mountains, fill up the valleys, etc. How does Christianity do this? In two ways —
valley shall be exalted
, etc. Everything depends upon how we view the future, whether with the horoscope of history or prophecy. History says the old evils return - war, strife, wrong, selfishness. Then the heart sinks, and inspiration to duty is weakened. But when we go with the prophet to the mountain-tops, we see -
I. PATHS OF PREPARATION. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." There are the ruins of the old military roads of the Caesars, but the Caesars are gone. There the Ptolemies of olden time made incursions, but their sway is past. But the highways of commerce, the freer intercourse of peoples; the more humanizing influences of equity in law, and reformation in punishment, the kindly workings of pity and charity to the neglected and forgotten; - all these are preparation-paths for the great King who is to reign in righteousness. Not alone through the royal gates of olden prophecies, but through the triumphal arches of redeeming ideas and influences which he has set at work, the Messiah shall come.
II. OBSTACLES REMOVED. "Every valley," etc. This is but a figurative way of stating that no hindrance can affect the onward march of the Redeemer. In Eastern countries the things described here were obstacles sufficient to hinder Solomon in his Eastern journeys. There were limits to his progress when he left his grand basilica to visit his wide domains. Not so will it be with One greater than Solomon.
III. GLORY REVEALED. It is hidden now. Men are dazzled with false glory, with meretricious ideas of empire, and they see no beauty in Christ that they should desire him. But one day - as the aesthetic student realizes in time what is true art, as the musician understands the majesty of Beethoven - the moral nature of men being quickened and renewed by the Spirit, they shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God. Not some here and there, but man everywhere; "all flesh shall see it together." What a vision! and what a day of jubilee! We need cherish no doubt about it. The vision is not imagination. The grand climacteric result is not predicated from a mere study of the triumph of the strongest forces. God has pledged his own word: "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." - W.M.S.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. I.
THE WORLD IS STILL FULL OF THINGS NEEDING TO BE SET STRAIGHT. So far as the economy of our earth is concerned a period of confusion has immediately preceded the establishment of Divine order. Chaos preceded Paradise. Egyptian bondage was the precursor of the exodus, which was the beginning of a national life Divinely ruled. Judaism was at its worst and Paganism in its most corrupt condition when the voice of the preacher of righteousness was heard, preparing the way of the Lord. Isaiah here compares the social and religious condition of a people awaiting a revelation of Divine glory to the condition of a country, barren as a desert, and impassable by reason of mountains and valleys; and the preparation of a highway amongst these physical obstacles represents the exaltation of what is base and the abasement of some things that are high in human life before the coming revelation of God. Around us here in England, as well as in those foreign countries to which missionary enterprise addresses itself, is a wilderness, in which what is good cannot and does not grow. The bodily and moral degradation of some of our own people, if it were revealed in all its nakedness, would startle the Church from its stately propriety. A "wilderness" is a fit emblem of a large section of our own population. Yet in this land we have had the Gospel for centuries. How much more, then, do the heathen want and deserve your sympathy! Another phrase in our text, which speaks of "valleys," may remind us further of depths in our social life in which corruption hides. Meanwhile pride covers us, as with a garment. We talk of "the progress of the age," we boast ourselves of our achievements and discoveries. There are "mountains" of pride to be brought down, as well as valleys of degradation to be exalted. And how many "crooked" things are yet to be made straight! What distortions of truth are yet to be found in England, as well as elsewhere! The orderliness of Divine progress in the natural world is a truth so contorted that some argue from it that all things seen were originally made of things that do appear, and chat there was no Divine Creator in whom they found their origin. The mercifulness of God is used as an argument against the possibility of punishment for sin.
II. THE WORLD IS NOT ESSENTIALLY THE BETTER FOR THE HUMAN INVENTIONS OF WHICH THE NINETEENTH CENTURY IS SO BOASTFUL. Much of the misery of modern life is due to the fact that moral and religious advance has not kept pace with mechanical advance, and our danger is lest developed mechanism should be to our age what a complicated and resistless machine would be in the hands of a child who knows not the ends for which it is designed. Trains and steamers carry us over land and sea with a swiftness which, to our grandfathers, would have seemed incredible. Our daily bread is often the product of labour done in the far-off fertile fields of California. There has been a literal fulfilment of these words, which speak of conquering mountains and valleys, and overleaping all obstacles, such as Isaiah never dreamed of. But the question is fairly asked, Are we the better for all this? Are we wiser, are we happier, are we nobler, are we more Christ-like, than our fathers were? We have greater appliances than our fathers, but it may be fairly doubted whether we surpass them either in capacity or in enjoyment. When you go for a holiday you can rush up the Rhine, through Switzerland, and back across France in a fortnight, but probably, in a dozen journeys of that sort you see far less than poor Oliver Goldsmith did when, with a fife as his companion, he trudged along the highways of Europe. Scientific instruments are marvellous in power and in accuracy, but scientific men have not advanced in genius beyond Newton or Herschel. Music is heard on every hand; but it is not better than the music of Handel, or of Bach, or of Haydn. In short, we have not a higher life because we have higher material appliances, and you and I are not one whit the nobler men because we can read all the news of the world in a penny paper, and transact our business with the other ends of the earth in a few hours. What do we all gain if, in covering our land with factories and steam engines, we are covering it also with want and wretchedness? In spite of all scientific discoveries and mechanical appliances, it is evident that the world wants something more than these can give. It wants freedom from its sins, and a Redeemer who can set it free. It wants love amidst its cruelties, and rest amid its weariness.
III. THE WORLD REQUIRES MOST OF ALL A REVELATION OF THE GLORY OF GOD. Many say, "Let our trade and our railways and all our conveniences first find entrance to a heathen land, and then the people there will be prepared for the Gospel." A grosser delusion could hardly be promulgated. Our own social condition might show its fallacy, and experiment in heathen lands has confirmed it. When this so-called "civilisation" has preceded Christianity, idolaters have become atheists, and their last state worse than their first. The great object we Christians are to keep in view, in all our achievements, is that "the glory of God" may be revealed — not the glory of man, nor of a society, nor of a sect, but the glory of God. As a king, a man finds his glory in the contentment of his people; as a father, a man finds his glory in the well-being of his children; and so the great King and Father of us all finds His "glory" in our contentment and well-being. And how can that be brought about? It is by the work and words of those who speak "comfortably" to the sinners, who proclaim a reconciled God revealed in Jesus Christ.
IV. GOD IS LOOKING TO THE CHURCH TO BRING ABOUT THIS CHANGE. He is addressing His people here, and, instead of saying "I will comfort," He says "Comfort ye." No angel messengers now wing their flight from heaven to announce the glad tidings of great joy. The message has been entrusted to us. Let us have patience, though the results of our work at home and abroad seem sparse and small. The upraising of valleys and the levelling of mountains is no child's play, even in the physical world, and it is harder still in the spiritual realm. When we remember the cost at which some modern discoveries were won, and see the patience and skill and risk which accompany the driving of tunnels through mountains, or under the sea, we are ashamed of the ease with which Christians give way to disheartenment. In preparing the highway here spoken of we must work on the plan the Norwegians adopt for keeping up their roads. Each occupier of land, in proportion to his acreage, has his own allotted portion of road to maintain, and for that he is responsible. So, in proportion to your capacities and opportunities, you have your work to do — in your home, in your class, in your sphere of thought or activity, and from that responsibility none can release you.
SOME OF THE MOST FORMIDABLE OBSTRUCTIONS TO THE DIFFUSION AND PROGRESS OF TRUE RELIGION AND THE CERTAINTY OF THEIR REMOVAL.
1. The defective character of personal religion. There are many features of the Christian character scarcely ever brought out to public view; and others whose nature is so misapprehended as to lead to a misshapen exhibition of the spirit and precepts of the Gospel of Christ. Have you never been pained when at the close of the day you have endeavoured to ascertain the character of your thoughts, feelings, and actions? Have you never been surprised at the moral personage who has presented himself to your view at such seasons? There is much of secularity mingled with the religion that prevails. What has religion done for us if it has not so elevated the tone and order of our feelings as to render us indifferent to the pleasures of sin? As a natural consequence of this defective piety much is withheld from the service of God. There is so much of self mingled[with our religious engagements. The purposes of God embrace the agency and co-operation of man. If, then, the piety of the Church be defective, if the body that acts for God be enfeebled by disease, or misguided in its operations, how fatally must its efficiency be counteracted! But assuredly an end will be put to this state of things, for "every valley shall be exalted," etc.
2. The division and animosities amongst Christians. A sectarian character has thus been given to the Church, a fictitious and morbid zeal has been engendered, and those resources which ought to have been expended in the evangelisation of the world have, on many occasions, been laid out for party and sinister purposes.
3. The connection that subsists between religion and State politics. The Christianity that has been patronised by the State — that has been adopted as the stepping-stone to emolument and power, this has been mistaken for the religion of the Bible.
II. THE RESULTS WHICH THE PROPHET REPRESENTS AS CONSEQUENT UPON THE REMOVAL OF THESE OBSTRUCTIONS. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Nothing can be more inspiring than this prospect. If it is gratifying to see the boundaries of science enlarged, or the elements of human happiness increased; if the political resurrection of a nation inspires us with joy; if it invigorates our hearts to see the spirit of an age awakening from its slumber and preparing itself for wise and virtuous action, what should be the emotion of our hearts in contemplating such a consummation as is represented in my text? It is not the mere promise of an approaching good by which the prophet here seeks to inspire our mind. It contains the elements of all conceivable happiness. It will embody and secure to the inhabitants of our world the highest enjoyment of which their nature is susceptible. The glory of God has hitherto been but partially unveiled. The sun is still behind the cloud, and a shadow is in consequence thrown on our path. But when the piety of the Church shall be freed from its present stains, when her divisions are healed, then shall she arise and shine, for her light will have come, and the glory of the Lord will be risen upon her. But we are informed that" all flesh shall see it "together." The Evangelist slightly,, varies the latter part of the prophecy — "All flesh shall see the salvation of God." As yet the salvation of God is known to but a limited portion of the world. But the salvation of God all are yet destined to see.
I. BY THE LEVELLING TRUTHS WHICH IT REVEALS.
1. A common God.
2. A common nature.
3. A common obligation.
4. A common depravity.
5. A common salvation.
II. BY THE LEVELLING SPIRIT WHICH IT GENERATES. The spirit which Christianity generates in the human soul is such that raises a man above all those prejudices of the heart and conventionalities of life that divide men. What is the spirit? It is a spirit that has supreme regard to three things —
1. The spiritual in man.
2. The right in conduct.
3. The eternal in destiny. The socially levelling force of Christianity, however, does not involve spoliation.
The crooked shall be made straightThere is much in us which would instinctively resent and repudiate this ideal that he has put before us. Take, for instance, that sensitive faculty in our century receiving so peculiar and overwhelming a development, the sense of the picturesque. The words of my text break in with a very surprising emphasis. This vehemence of the prophet clashes with all the primary instincts of this sentiment of ours. Mountains flattened out, valleys filled in, highways levelled from end to end, every broken piece of rough ground repaired, every turn and twist in the path straightened — what a picture to portray with such rapturous enthusiasm! Could any result be more deplorable? It is the very murder of the picturesque! The picturesque asks only that the mountains should rise yet higher, be more pathless, more craggy, more perilous; that they should be torn by glaciers and scoured by avalanches and wasted by storms and bemoaned by winds, and be aghast with lonely desolation — that is what it prefers, that is what excites it, — and the valleys shall plunge yet deeper, more gloomy vaults, sunless, with hoarse torrents buried in awful black gulfs and roaming along in anger out of sight. There should be no roads if possible; at least, never level or straight for two yards together; and there should be cliffs that are frowning and overhanging and ruinous and threatening, and high and fierce and solitary rocks. Everything should be rough, everything should be crooked, for the sake of the picturesque!
()In this contrast between the prophet and the picturesque is there nothing but of a light or superficial nature, nothing serious? I doubt it. The prophet's thunderous intensity brings our sentiment to a check just at the point where it is apt to pervert the moral judgment. Where is that? At the point where it helps to blind us to the actual life, the actual needs and necessities of a living present. The feeling for the picturesque belongs always to those who are outside the object of their admiration. They are looking on as unconcerned spectators. That which they observe lies wholly outside their own living, personal experience, and that is why it touches them and startles them, and pleases because it startles. It is so odd, so unexpected, so dreamy, so old. That is the sentiment bred in tourists, in passengers tarrying the day, gazing from without at a scene, unaffected by its sorrows, aloof from its inner reality. We like these strange, huddled, dirty streets, and these swarming beggars, and these crumbling walls, and these crooked alleys, and all the oddities of decay, and all the quaintness of the obsolete. Abuses, so long as they do not hurt us, are much more picturesque than their remedies. In this mood what serious blunders we have made abroad — offences against our best English self, for the native English have a love for liberty, for a free people. How much has our love for the picturesque killed our sympathy for freedom in Rome or in Venice, shall we say? This error which we make again and again abroad is very apt to repeat itself here at home; for those who have leisure to enjoy the picturesque are bound, of course, to have already reached some comfort themselves, some security of position. That thatched cottage in the dell, in the hollow of the wood, could anything be more engaging? We have sketched it again and again. It is very damp, and those colours on it that we like so, the greens and the yellows, reveal the dampness. It is buried under the trees, it stands on soppy ground, and there is no drainage; there is a cesspool behind. But how raw the new brick four-roomed house would look without an offence in our rustic nook! There is a great deal more of this among us comfortable and educated people than we are at all aware of. It acts as a dead weight on us, it counteracts the force of our reforming zeal. We should never for one moment dream of letting the picturesqueness stand in our way if we had to sink into consumption through the damp or die of typhoid in some undrained, old-fashioned street; but somehow it puts in its plea with us with far greater power when others are concerned, and we are but spectators. It is against all this that the prophet's zeal thunders. The picturesque may rightly widen our sympathies for the past; it may plead for gentle handling of what is so fair in the deposits of the past, it may rightly prompt us to do oar very utmost to save what is beautiful and natural from cruel, hideous misuse by commercial greed, but there is one supreme law which it never must gainsay, the law which is uttered in the cry of the recovered king, Hezekiah, when he recovered from his sickness: "Death cannot celebrate Thee. The living shall praise Thee, as I do this day."
()Since the cloud and curse of sin, all this growth of ours, which is our life, is remedial, corrective, redemptive. It is won through strife over wrong, through struggling out of evil, and always, therefore, it must witness to its vitality by straightening the crooked, by making the rough places plain. It must always testify to its life. Always it must be bettering bad highways. It must be abasing mountains that obstruct and daunt. It must be filling up valleys that cramp and choke and darken. That is the necessity, the necessity of clearing the way for free motion towards a better day. But, again, even from inside this growing life, even after we have torn ourselves out of the ranks of unconcerned spectators and irresponsible tourists, and have thrown ourselves with heart and hope into this remedial work, and are keenly striving to bring the crooked straight and to loosen the terrible burden of wrong; even then this old perplexity and trouble will recur, and recur in a subtler and much deeper form. Perhaps in the very midst of our reforming zeal there will suddenly come a thought, a sight crossing our mind of all our hopes achieved. The crooked, now so cruelly wrong or disastrously distorted, has at last been made perfectly straight. What then? Are we better off? What a poor, stale, stupid place this world will have become. All wrongs redressed, all blunders rectified, all inequalities levelled; everybody on the same platform, decent, snug, comfortable — a dull, unbroken mass of average respect-abilities. Comfort for the comfortless — it was for that that we had hungered and toiled. But the comfortable! Look at those who have already attained it. Are they so encouraging a prospect? What if all were as they? After all, moral character is our sole aim; and will character have lost or gained when our efforts have succeeded? Where is character found now? we say. Is it found amid the comfortable? Hardly. Is it not always won through suffering, strife, anguish? Those rare simplicities of the poor, those generosities, those devotions — are they not worth all the smugger virtues? Would they not have vanished in a world where there was nothing crooked, no high lights and no dark shadows, no ups and downs? Perhaps we take up some industrial Utopia, some book like "Looking Backward," and as we read we are chilled to the marrow. There is a dull recoil. How utterly repugnant; how fiat and stale and unprofitable! All that makes humanity dear and pathetic and glorious gone, died out! "No room in such a world," we say, "for high adventures, shining heroisms; no trumpet calls, no splendid risks, no holy indignation, no exaltation of sacrifice, no prophetic passion. Democratic equality has levelled all the roads straight as dies. They run between their kerbstones. All is smooth, orderly, equitable, and there is no material there for art, none for music. Where shall we seek for Schubert's songs that float like dreams? "They were won," we say, "by his tears." And where will be our Hamlets and our Lears in the romance? How will man ever display his higher capacities except through pain and struggle and sorrow? Yet those are the very conditions that we are labouring to deny him. Alas! our hearts sink, our imagination protests, our hopes flag, and the glowing passion of the prophet, as it catches sight of the very fulfilment of its dream, dies away in the wail of the preacher, "Vanity, vanity, even this is vanity."
()We have invented a terror for ourselves. We need not be the least afraid. These visions of the future deceive us by suggesting a finality at which man will have arrived. These Utopias are just what will not be true. That is just what we are quite certain will never occur while this present age endures. The one thing that we know of the future is that it will not be like that, for we know that at each moment of his earthly career, until his Lord Jesus comes again to make earth and heaven anew, man will be found warring as a soldier — a pilgrim pressing on towards eternity with mountains still towering ahead, dark with unknown destiny, with valleys into which he must plunge, and moaning with perils through which he must dare his way; with tough tasks still set him to achieve; with nerves, therefore, still strung and prophet voices calling and eyes strained forward into the night, and loins girt, and heart on fire, and foes to fight, and deaths to die, and victories to win. But you will say, "Is that a very encouraging message? Why waste our efforts, then, in struggling to set things right if the crooked will never be straight, if the high road will never be levelled? Why grind at smoothing down our present hills if always there will be fresh mountains beyond?" Just because man is, in essence, a pilgrim, a soldier, a servant of Jesus crucified, and it is his very life to bring this to the front. He discovers himself in and through this struggle and pilgrimage, through the strain of the war. That is his mission in which he proves his courage and his nerve. Unless he is always correcting evil, unless he is always battling down wrongs, he is not himself, and he knows not of what spirit he is made. What the particular wrong may be which he is called upon to redress at this moment, or at that, is determined for him by the conditions of history, by God Himself, for God is in history-He directs, He allots, He distributes the task to man — there is a design clearly disclosed. One by one, God brings up to men the difficulties, the obstructions that He would have them encounter. Our forefathers had their own fight to fight, and they fought it. They were tested and proved in other ways. One fight at a time! They fought for liberty, they fought for free speech; they could not attend to underlying poverty. Now their part is played, their mountains are brought low, and their crooked things are made straight, and therefore there is time and opportunity for something else. There is another task for us, another test applied. We are not to enjoy what our fathers put straight without doing our own part to bend the crooked into line, to make rough places plain.
()Since God is in history, there is continuity in our pilgrimage, and there is purpose. The old wars, by healing some wrongs, prepared opportunities for new efforts. There is advance, after all, along this- highway, -however much there is still always a rough place just ahead, a cruel corner to put straight. We are farther along. There are wrongs righted and thrown behind us, and therefore the nearer we draw to the end. Enough for us that we know the spot on the road at which we stand, that we know what are the crooked things which it is our own special task to set straight. Let us look at them and leave the rest to God. Who can doubt at what spot on the road we stand to-day? Those crooked things on which the light of God has been turned in our day-there they are; we know them and we see them — the commercial pressure that falls on the weak, and that breaks and spoils the humanity under it, manhood, womanhood, home, joy; the heartless mechanism of an impersonal economic system which crunches the aged, the women, the children; the sorrows of those who labour on without any hope of reaching an end of their labour; men and women, jaded, bruised, disfigured, always under-fed, invalided by penury, unqualified for work, unfit for what they do; men and women tossed to and fro by blind tides of fluctuating markets over which they have no control; men and women accumulated in hordes, unsheperded and unregarded in squalid tenements, in sordid and mean dishonour, living environed by disease, born into a world too masterful for their infirmities, sustained at the edge of starvation by a competition that never improves them and yet never eliminates them, drawn under by demands which they are helpless to fulfil, bruised and damaged in trying to meet them. No one anticipated that our industries would create them or sustain in existence classes of this type. They are the signals of some defect in our system, of some perversion, of some disease,, of some disaster — that something that meant well enough has gone crooked, that the machinery of our civilisation is out of gear. We have got out of the track. That much is plain. Therefore a responsibility is laid upon us; a thing has got to be done.
And the rough places plainI. We may take this to be, in outline, THE DESCRIPTION OF GOD'S WORK WITH OUR WORLD AND WITH MANKIND, REGARDED AS A PREPARATION FOR THE FUTURE. It is the voice of history, of nature, of science, of revelation. The present is a preparation for the future, as the past was a preparation for the present, and as the future will be a preparation for a still coming and greater future. We know the history of religion; how slow its progress — how for centuries it was only successful in casting down obstacles, and preparing the hearts of men for the entrance of a faith which was worthy of its Author. It required not the labours of one prophet like John only, but the labours of many generations of prophets, to prepare for the advent of Jesus Christ. Religion passed through numerous forms before it arrived at that form which Christ gave it. And as this was the work of God in the religious thought and life of man, so was it the work of God in the world. The kingdom of heaven did not come until the world was in a measure ready for it.
II. So we may say that this is AN INDEX TO THE COURSE OF HIS PROVIDENCE IN EVERY AGE AND COUNTRY. This lesson may be learned — that in all cases the spiritual is above the material; and that all progress and improvement in the material world are but means to an end, and are intended to serve far higher interests. All these benefits of rapid intelligence, of conveniences, of comforts, are but the removal of hindrances out of the way of the progress of what is spiritual and Divine. If they leave men devoid of better aims — if they leave us selfish, earthly, false — they are no blessings after all! If we use the gifts of nature and invention and discovery merely to attain our own ends, and if there is no growth of the spirit of truth and charity, we have gained nothing: we have merely added to our former powers the power to increase our selfishness. But such is not the use for which these new acquisitions are designed. If there are more facilities for reaching the human mind by thought and speech or writing, all the more carefully ought everyone who has influence over his fellows to see that that influence is wholesome, and not hurtful. The material is the servant of the spiritual. What John the Baptist was to Christ, such is all the world to the Christ. All nature was a preparation for Him, all knowledge, all discovery. The world did not see this at the time; but the fact is true for all that. People say that the growth of human wisdom and the increase of human blessings are adverse to the Gospel; but on looking back on history we see that all these things were in the hands of God, and were all made to prepare the way for the kingdom of God. So it is, and so ought it ever to be.
III. THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY IN MAKING THE PATH TO GOODNESS EASIER.
IV. THIS IS OUR WORK AS CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD AND FOR THE WORLD. This is part of our task for those who are finding the road to goodness and right living hard and rough. Each of us has something in his power to prepare the way for the kingdom of God in the lives and hearts of others. To many, the difficulties of a right life are very great, and it is no easy task for them to carry it out. Everything is against them: training, circumstances, companions, habits. From their youngest years they have been familiar with evil. It comes to them naturally to deceive, to lie, to do all manner of misdeeds. How can such a youth ever open into a manhood of worth or goodness? He must be helped by education, by guidance, by living examples of affection and well-doing. Christian society, the Church, must come to his aid. And what is all this but doing the work of Christ, the work of prophets and evangelists, the work of the Gospel, preparing a highway, helping those who cannot walk, making the rough places plain, making it easier for a man to stand in goodness and truth? After all is done, however, both for nations and individuals, there will be difficulties to overcome. You can never for yourselves, or for those whom you most love, so arrange things that all personal need for care and effort shall cease. There will be for every man the cross to carry, and for many men the thorn to trouble them.
()I. ROUGH PLACES.
1. In general human history.
2. In individual human life.
II. ROUGH PLACES MADE PLAIN.
1. The supreme power of Jesus Christ.
2. The supreme power of Jesus Christ used for the advantage of mankind.
3. The advantage of mankind identified with the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.
III. THE TRANQUIL AND BLESSED FUTURE OF THE WORLD. Christianity is good news. Inequalities are to be rectified. Relations are to be adjusted.
PlacesJerusalem, Lebanon, Zion
TopicsBroad, Crooked, Entangled, Exalted, Ground, Hill, Hilltops, Level, Lifted, Low, Mountain, Places, Plain, Raised, Rough, Rugged, Straight, Terrain, Uneven, Valley
Outline1. The promulgation of the Gospel
3. The preaching of John Baptist foretold
9. The preaching of the apostles foretold
12. The prophet, by the omnipotence of God
18. And his incomparableness
26. Comforts the people.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesIsaiah 40:1-5
7725 evangelists, identity
4112 angels, messengers
1320 God, as Saviour
4020 life, of faith
LibraryApril 18. "They Shall Mount up with Wings" (Isa. Xl. 31).
"They shall mount up with wings" (Isa. xl. 31). "They shall mount up with wings as eagles," is God's preliminary; for the next promise is, "They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." Hours of holy exultation are necessary for hours of patient plodding, waiting and working. Nature has its springs, and so has grace. Let us rejoice in the Lord evermore, and again we say, rejoice. And let us take Him to be our continual joy, whose heart is a fountain of blessedness, and who …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
'Have Ye Not? Hast Thou Not?'
'Have ye not known, have ye not heard? hath it not been told yon from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?... Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?'--ISAIAH xl. 21 and 28. The recurrence of the same form of interrogation in these two verses is remarkable. In the first case the plural is used, in the second the singular, and we may reasonably conclude that as Israel is addressed in the latter, the nations outside the sphere illumined by Revelation are appealed …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Unfailing Stabs and Fainting Men
'...For that He is strong in power; not one faileth.... He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.'-- ISAIAH xl. 26 and 29. These two verses set forth two widely different operations of the divine power as exercised in two sadly different fields, the starry heavens and this weary world. They are interlocked, as it were, by the recurrence in the latter of the emphatic words of the former. The one verse says, 'He is strong in power'; the other, 'He giveth …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
O Thou that Bringest Good Tidings
'O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain: O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!'--ISAIAH xl. 9. There is something very grand in these august and mysterious voices which call one to another in the opening verses of this chapter. First, the purged ear of the prophet hears the divine command to him and to his brethren--Comfort Jerusalem with the message of the …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Shepherd and the Fold
... Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation.' EXODUS XV. 13. What a grand triumphal ode! The picture of Moses and the children of Israel singing, and Miriam and the women answering: a gush of national pride and of worship! We belong to a better time, but still we can feel its grandeur. The deliverance has made the singer look forward to the end, and his confidence in the issue is confirmed. I. The guiding God: or the picture of the leading. The original is 'lead gently.' Cf. …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Secret of Immortal Youth
'Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.'--ISAIAH xl. 30, 31. I remember a sunset at sea, where the bosom of each wavelet that fronted the west was aglow with fiery gold, and the back of each turned eastward was cold green; so that, looking on the one hand all was glory, and on the other …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Salvation Published from the Mountains
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! I t would be improper to propose an alteration, though a slight one, in the reading of a text, without bearing my testimony to the great value of our English version, which I believe, in point of simplicity, strength, and fidelity, is not likely to be excelled by a new translation …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received at the LORD 's hand double for all her sins. T he particulars of the great "mystery of godliness," as enumerated by the Apostle Paul, constitute the grand and inexhaustible theme of the Gospel ministry, "God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD , make straight in the desert a high-way for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. T he general style of the prophecies is poetical. The inimitable simplicity which characterizes every …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
The Withering Work of the Spirit
THE passage in Isaiah which I have just read in your hearing may be used as a very eloquent description of our mortality, and if a sermon should be preached from it upon the frailty of human nature, the brevity of life, and the certainty of death, no one could dispute the appropriateness of the text. Yet I venture to question whether such a discourse would strike the central teaching of the prophet. Something more than the decay of our material flesh is intended here; the carnal mind, the flesh in …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871
This Sermon was Originally Printed
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God."--Isaiah 40:1. WHAT A SWEET TITLE: "My people!" What a cheering revelation: "Your God!" How much of meaning is couched in those two words, "My people!" Here is speciality. The whole world is God's; the heaven, even the heaven of heavens are the Lord's and he reigneth among the children of men. But he saith of a certain number, "My people." Of those whom he hath chosen, whom he hath purchased to himself, he saith what he saith not of others. While …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858
8Th Day. Reviving Grace.
"He is Faithful that Promised." "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint."--ISAIAH xl. 31. Reviving Grace. "Wilt thou not revive us, O Lord?" My soul! art thou conscious of thy declining state? Is thy walk less with God, thy frame less heavenly? Hast thou less conscious nearness to the mercy-seat,--diminished communion with thy Saviour? Is prayer less a privilege than it has …
John Ross Macduff—The Faithful Promiser
"And the Redeemer Shall Come unto Zion, and unto them that Turn,"
Isaiah lix. 20.--"And the Redeemer shall come unto Zion, and unto them that turn," &c. Doctrines, as things, have their seasons and times. Every thing is beautiful in its season. So there is no word of truth, but it hath a season and time in which it is beautiful. And indeed that is a great part of wisdom, to bring forth everything in its season, to discern when and where, and to whom it is pertinent and edifying, to speak such and such truths. But there is one doctrine that is never out of season, …
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning
Hillis -- God the Unwearied Guide
Newell Dwight Hillis was born at Magnolia, Iowa, in 1858. He first became known as a preacher of the first rank during his pastorate over the large Presbyterian church in Evanston, Illinois. This reputation led to his being called to the Central Church, Chicago, in which he succeeded Dr. David Swing, and where from the first he attracted audiences completely filling one of the largest auditoriums in Chicago. In 1899 he was called to Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, to succeed Dr. Lyman Abbott in the pulpit …
Various—The World's Great Sermons, Volume 10
Of Loving Jesus Above all Things
Blessed is he who understandeth what it is to love Jesus, and to despise himself for Jesus' sake. He must give up all that he loveth for his Beloved, for Jesus will be loved alone above all things. The love of created things is deceiving and unstable, but the love of Jesus is faithful and lasting. He who cleaveth to created things will fall with their slipperiness; but he who embraceth Jesus will stand upright for ever. Love Him and hold Him for thy friend, for He will not forsake thee when all …
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ
Prayer and Devotion
"Once as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly had been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God. As near as I can judge, this continued about an hour; and kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud.. I felt an ardency of soul to be what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to love …
Edward M. Bounds—The Essentials of Prayer
The God of all Comfort
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Among all the names that reveal God, this, the "God of all comfort," seems to me one of the loveliest and the most absolutely comforting. The words all comfort admit of no limitation and no deductions; and one would suppose that, …
Hannah Whitall Smith—The God of All Comfort
Appendix xi. On the Prophecy, Is. Xl. 3
ACCORDING to the Synoptic Gospels, the public appearance and preaching of John was the fulfilment of the prediction with which the second part of the prophecies of Isaiah opens, called by the Rabbis, the book of consolations.' After a brief general preface (Is. xl. 1, 2), the words occur which are quoted by St. Matthew and St. Mark (Is. xl. 3), and more fully by St. Luke (Is. xl. 3-5). A more appropriate beginning of the book of consolations' could scarcely be conceived. The quotation of Is. xl. …
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Among all the doctrines of our holy Christian faith, the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, stands most prominent. Luther calls it: "The doctrine of a standing or a falling church," i.e., as a church holds fast and appropriates this doctrine she remains pure and firm, and as she departs from it, she becomes corrupt and falls. This doctrine was the turning point of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. It was the experience of its necessity and efficacy that made Luther what he was, and …
G. H. Gerberding—The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church
The Humble Worship of Heaven.
1 Father, I long, I faint to see The place of thine abode, I'd leave thy earthly courts and flee Up to thy seat, my God! 2 Here I behold thy distant face, And 'tis a pleasing sight; But to abide in thine embrace Is infinite delight. 3 I'd part with all the joys of sense To gaze upon thy throne; Pleasure springs fresh for ever thence, Unspeakable, unknown. 4 [There all the heavenly hosts are seen, In shining ranks they move, And drink immortal vigour in, With wonder and with love. 5 Then at thy feet …
Isaac Watts—Hymns and Spiritual Songs
Gerhard Ter Steegen Is. xl. 11 O God, a world of empty show, Dark wilds of restless, fruitless quest Lie round me wheresoe'er I go: Within, with Thee, is rest. And sated with the weary sum Of all men think, and hear, and see, O more than mother's heart, I come, A tired child to Thee. Sweet childhood of eternal life! Whilst troubled days and years go by, In stillness hushed from stir and strife, Within Thine Arms I lie. Thine Arms, to whom I turn and cling With thirsting soul that longs for Thee; …
Frances Bevan—Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso, and Others
His Schools and Schoolmasters.
(LUKE 1.) "Oh to have watched thee through the vineyards wander, Pluck the ripe ears, and into evening roam!-- Followed, and known that in the twilight yonder Legions of angels shone about thy home!" F. W. H. MYERS. Home-Life--Preparing for his Life-Work--The Vow of Separation--A Child of the Desert Zacharias and Elisabeth had probably almost ceased to pray for a child, or to urge the matter. It seemed useless to pray further. There had been no heaven-sent sign to assure them that there was any …
F. B. Meyer—John the Baptist
Impiety of Attributing a visible Form to God. --The Setting up of Idols a Defection from the True God.
1. God is opposed to idols, that all may know he is the only fit witness to himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent him by a bodily shape. 2. Reasons for this prohibition from Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. The complaint of a heathen. It should put the worshipers of idols to shame. 3. Consideration of an objection taken from various passages in Moses. The Cherubim and Seraphim show that images are not fit to represent divine mysteries. The Cherubim belonged to the tutelage of the Law. 4. …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
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