Isaiah 51:3


The Lord would comfort Zion, and make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness would. be found therein. The expression, "garden of the Lord," signified everything that was choice, inviting, eligible, that ministered to peace and satisfaction. It may be taken as suggestive of the Church of Christ, which ought to be, to the outside and unreclaimed world, what the cultivated garden is to the surrounding wilderness. The Church - each separate Church - of Christ should be as the garden of Lord in respect of -

I. CULTURE, DIVINE AND HUMAN. The garden is marked out from other spaces by the superior culture which it receives; every square inch of it has attention flora the gardener's hand. The ideal garden is carefully and regularly weeded, digged, planted, pruned, etc. The Church of Christ should show the signs of heavenly, of spiritual culture. On it the Divine Husbandman has bestowed the greatest care. He has wrought upon it, suffered for it, watched over it, tended it with wondrous condescension and inexhaustible love. Human culture has also been expended upon it: the ministry of man, the watchful love, the earnest 'prayer, the faithful admonition, the solemn vows of its own members, have been given to improve and perfect it: it is, or it should be, well-cultivated ground.

II. SECURITY. The garden is fenced on all sides, that no wild animal, that no intruder of any kind, may enter, to steal or to ravage. The Church of Christ should be a sphere of the greatest possible security. In it there should be no occasion to be dreading the presence of the marauder, of "the thief who comes... to steal or to destroy," of the enemy that undermines faith, or that wins away holy love, or that deadens sacred zeal. There we should be free to walk without apprehension, without fear of harm.

III. BEAUTY. We aim to make our gardens as beautiful as the finest taste can make them; to exclude all that is unsightly, and so to introduce and arrange everything that, in part and in whole, it shall be attractive and inviting. From the Church of Christ should be excluded all that is distasteful to the Divine Lord - all that is irreverent, untruthful, discourteous, ungenerous, inconsiderate. Within the Church should grow and flourish all these graces of the Spirit of God which are fair and comely in the sight of God and man.

IV. FRUITFULNESS. What the fruitage of the productive garden is to the house-bolder, that the many-sided usefulness of the active and earnest Church is to the Lord of the vineyard.

V. VARIETY. That is a poor and imperfect garden in which are only two or three kinds of flowers, and where the beds and lawns are laid out so as to suggest monotony. That is a poor and imperfect Church where only one or two orders of intelligence or moral excellence or piety are found. Our Lord does not want to see all the flowers and shrubs and trees in his garden cut and trimmed so as to be of an unvarying pattern.

VI. PEACE AND HAPPINESS. We associate with the garden the thought of tranquility and peace. It is the abode of domestic felicity; there friendship spends its golden hours; it is the resort of happy love. The Church should be the home of peace and joy. To it we should be glad to retire from the bustle and strife of life; in its fold we should find the purest and the sweetest satisfaction which earth can yield. There have been Churches which might justly be called the arena of conflict or the wilderness of neglect. The ideal Church - that at which we should aim, and for which we should strive and sacrifice - is one that might be appropriately designated, "The garden of the Lord." - C.









For the Lord shall comfort Zion.
I. THERE IS A LOW ESTATE, OF THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL CHURCH, AND OF PARTICULAR BRANCHES OF IT, AND LIKEWISE OF INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

II. THERE ARE GRACIOUS PROMISES OF REVIVAL, of restored fertility and productiveness.

III. THE MODE IT WHICH THESE BLESSED EFFECTS MAY BE LOOKED AND SOUGHT FOR. When the eye of faith is directed towards Christ, when we believe in Him as the Lord our righteousness, when the prayer of faith ascends to heaven, when the ear hearkens to the inspired Word, then we may expect that God will be gracious to His inheritance, and refresh it when it is weary. We may not look for the supplies of the Spirit of God unless we earnestly ask for them.

(H. J. Hastings, M.A.)

Taking these words as the prophet's statement with regard to the spiritual Church of God, under the appellation of Zion, we propose from these words to call attention —

I. TO THE DEPRESSION OF THE CHURCH.

1. This depression arises from the small number of those who belong to the Church.

2. The depression consists also in the want of spiritual vigour on the part of those who belong to the Church.

II. TO THE PROSPERITY OF THE CHURCH. Observe —

1. The source to which the prosperity of the Church is assigned. "For the Lord shall comfort Zion," etc. Christianity is, emphatically, the ministration of the Spirit.

2. The nature of the prosperity by which the Church will be distinguished. What: is the precise import of this comforting of Zion, this comforting of her waste places, making her wilderness like the garden of Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord? Here you will observe, that a vast augmentation of the numbers of the Church must plainly be regarded as included. A great purification and refinement in the characters of those who do pertain to the Church will signalize those future days.

3. The means to be adopted by the true friends of the Church in order that the period of this predicted prosperity may arrive.

III. TO THE DELIGHT OF THE CHURCH. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody." This emotion may properly arise from contemplating —

1. The wonderful change which shall have been accomplished in the condition of the Church itself.

2. The connection between the prosperity of the Church and the glorification of God.

3. The connection between the prosperity of the Church and the happiness of mankind.Conclusion:

1. Our first anxiety, of course, must be, that you may individually belong to the Church of God yourselves.

2. What we next desire of you is, that you will labour in all the appointed means and instrumentalities by which the prosperity of the Church of God is to be secured.

(J. Parsons.)

(1)The land of bliss is

(2)full of human beings

(3)in festive frame and active enjoyment.

(E. Delitzsch, D.D.)

I. HEAVENLY COMFORT PROMISED. This is a promise to God's Church. The Church of God — captured as it has been by Christ from the world, chosen to be the palace where He dwells, builded together for a temple wherein He is worshipped — is frequently called "Zion."

1. The object of this comfort. "The Lord will comfort Zion." Well He may, for she is His chosen. "The Lord has chosen Zion." He would have those upon whom His choice is fixed be glad and happy.

2. The Lord Himself is the Comforter. There are sorrows for which there is no solace within the reach of the creature; there is a ruin which it would baffle any mortal to retrieve. Happy for us that the Omnipotent comes to our aid.

3. How does the Lord propose to comfort Zion? If you read the verse through you will find it is by making her fertile. The true way to comfort the Church is to build her synagogues, restore the desolation of former times, to sow her fields, plant her vineyards, make her soil fruitful, call out the industry of her sons and daughters, and fill them with lively, ardent zeal.

4. The promise is given in words that contain an absolute pledge. He "shall" and He "will" are terms that admit of no equivocation.

II. THE MOURNFUL CASES FAVOURED. "He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord."

1. Are there not to be found in the visible Church persons whose character is here vividly depicted?(1) There arethose who once were fruitful, hut are now comparable to wastes. I remember one Monday afternoon, when we had been waiting upon the Lord in prayer ever since seven o'clock in the morning, that there came a most remarkable wave of prayer over the assembly. And then two backsliders got up and prayed one aider the other. According to their own account, they had been very bad fellows indeed, and had sorely transgressed against God; but there they were, broken-hearted and fairly broken down. It was a sight to make angels rejoice as their tears flowed. Certainly their sobs and cries touched the hearts of all of us who were assembled. I thought to myself, "Then God is blessing us, for when backsliders come back it is a proof that God has visited His people."(2) Then a second department of the promise is, "He will make her wilderness like Eden." I take the wilderness here to be a place of scanty vegetation. Oh, how many there are in the Church of God who are just like that! They are Christians, but sorry Christians they are.(3) A third character is implied in the desert — the deserted places where no man dwells, where the traveller does not care to linger. How many professors of religion answer to this description of the soil! They are like deserts. You not only never did bring forth fruit, but you never concerned yourself to do so.

2. Ask ye now, what does the Lord say He will do for them? He says that He will make the wilderness like Eden. You know what Eden was. It was the garden of the earth in the days of primeval probity. So the Lord says that when He visits His Church He will make these poor backsliders, these immature Christians, these nominal professors, like Eden. Moreover, as if to strengthen the volume of His grace and of our hope, He says that He will make her desert like the garden of the Lord. He shall come to you and delight your heart and soul with His converse.

III. CERTAIN DESIRABLE RESULTS WHICH ARE PREDICTED. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." You notice the doubles. The parallelism of Hebrew poetry, perhaps, necessitated them. Still I remember how John Bunyan says that "all the flowers in God's garden bloom double." We are told of "manifold mercies," that is, mercies which are folded up one in another, so that you may unwrap them and find a fresh mercy enclosed in every fold. Here we have "joy and gladness, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." The Lord multiplies His grace. Oh, what a delightful thing must a visitation from God be to His Church! Without God all she can do is to groan. Nay, she will not always do that. She sometimes indulges a foolish conceit, and says: "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." After that will soon be heard the hooting of dragons and the cry of owls. Let God visit His Church, and there is sure to be thanksgiving and the voice of melody. This is the mark of a revived Church everywhere. New impetus is given to the service of song.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The garden of the Lord
(for children): — Here and elsewhere Holy Scripture pictures a gathering of the upright and holy as a garden, and Christly people, whether men or children, as the trees and plants and flowers in such a garden. In His garden —

I. GOD WILL HAVE NO WEEDS. This reminds us —

1. What a number of evils must be destroyed. Idleness, falsehood, cowardice, disobedience, etc., are weeds that must be plucked up and destroyed.

2. The ways by which evils are to be destroyed.(1) Like weeds, they are to be plucked up and burnt. There must be no half measures in dealing with sin. We must get at the roots and then burn the whole.(2) Like weeds, they must be cleared by better life taking their place. In New Zealand, where the hoe of the settlers failed to destroy the rank vegetation that had rooted there for centuries, they have successfully adopted the plan of planting among it our common English clover. And as it grows it actually is rooting out the formidable flax-weed with its fibrous leaves and strong woody roots. So truth, courage, love, will root out lying, cowardice, selfishness. We get rid of evil from hearts and lives by "the expulsive power of a new affection."

II. THERE IS A GREAT VARIETY OF FLOWERS. Rich rose, stately tulip, "sweet lily of the valley, etc. — a. thousand varieties all helping us to understand the famous preacher who said, Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into." So there is great variety in the virtues; no monotony in Christian character. There are virtues that, like lofty trees and brilliant flowers, make heroes and martyrs. And there are others like flowers with tiny petals and delicate tints. St. Francis of Sales said, "How carefully we should cherish the little virtues which spring up at the foot of the Cross." What are they? some one asked him. "Humility, meekness, kindness, simplicity, candour," he replied.

III. HE HIMSELF HAS JOY. Over true souls He rejoices. The prophet says, God rejoices "over them with singing." God seems to sing over those of whom He says, as of, David, "a man after God s own heart;" as of Daniel, "O man greatly beloved;" as of the Lord Jesus Christ, "My well-beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

IV. ALL THE BEAUTY OF ALL THE FLOWERS IS TO BE TRACED TO HIS CARE.

1. He is the Owner.

2. He is the Sower.

3. He is the Gardener — Christ called God the Husbandman.

4. He is the Source of all life and beauty. For He is Sun, and Wind: is as dew — and showers also.

(U. R. Thomas, B.A.)

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