But not all of them welcomed the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?"
I. IT IS GOD'S PART TO PROVIDE THE OPPORTUNITIES. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (ver. 17). The apostle recognizes that men cannot be condemned for unbelief, if they have not had the opportunity-of hearing the gospel, No person will be condemned in the day of judgment who has not had the opportunity of salvation. And lest any one, applying this rule to the case of Israel, should suggest that they had not such an opportunity, he asks the question, "But I say, Have they not heard?" Can the plea of ignorance be put in on their behalf? Nay. "Their sound" (that is, the voice of God's messengers, referred to in ver. 15) "went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." God has done his part for the enlightenment and salvation of men. He has revealed himself in his works of nature. He has revealed himself in his Word. He has revealed himself in his Son. Jesus is the Emmanuel, "God with us."
II. IT IS MAN'S PART TO AVAIL HIMSELF OF THEM. The mere possession of gospel privileges is no guarantee of salvation, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel (ver. 16). Israel had the Law, with its types and ceremonies, pointing to Christ; their prophets, who spoke of him. Yet, with all their privileges, they rejected Christ. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." It will not profit us that we have been brought up in a Christian home, in a Christian Church, or that we have had the Bible in our hands, unless we ourselves "obey the gospel," accept its invitations, respect its precepts, and submit ourselves to Jesus as our Saviour and our King. Yet there are many who are resting entirely upon their privileges, without exercising that living personal faith in Jesus Christ for which these privileges afford the opportunity and the help.
III. OPPORTUNITIES NEGLECTED WILL BE TAKEN AWAY. Israel had been from the beginning forewarned of this. So long ago as the time of Moses it had been said to them, "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you" (ver. 19). Then Isaiah repeated a similar warning," I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me" (ver. 20). The same lesson in the history of Israel is repeated by Christ more than once in his parables. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, the lord of the vineyard is represented as letting out his vineyard "unto other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons" (Matthew 21:41). The same lesson is taught in the parable of the wedding-feast, where the invitation, rejected by the regularly invited guests, is sent out to the highways and hedges. We have the same truth in the parable of the talents. "Unto every one that hath shall be given... but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (Matthew 25:29). The history of the Jews is a solemn warning against the neglect of opportunities. It is a solemn warning to all those who, though brought up in Christian homes and in a Christian land, make light of the blessings of the gospel, resist its invitations, and set at naught its counsels. - C.H.I.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?1. Paul prevents an objection to that which was said concerning the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, that it was of God. As if some Jew should say, No, Paul, God never sent you to preach to them, for if He had He would have sent you first to us, and have blessed your labours; but the greater part obey you not, either of Jews or Gentiles. This Paul answers by a concession, with a correction annexed, as if he should say, Indeed all do not obey the gospel, yet you Jews are not to be offended, because, as our sending was foretold, so your and their incredulity; and the small fruit and effect was foretold also.
2. All have not obeyed, i.e., believed. So called because obedience is an inseparable effect of faith. So we say of the trees in our orchards, this is a pear, that a plum, when they are the trees that bear such fruit; so faith is the tree that bears the fruit of obedience. The obedience of faith is twofold. First, of reason, when it gives place and way to the gospel, though it conceive it not. For the gospel goes beyond reason, as in the point of the Trinity, incarnation of Christ, justification of a sinner before God, resurrection, etc. Abraham believed (2 Corinthians 10:5) above or against reason, and the gospel is said to bring into subjection our reason. That of works is when we observe the law, for faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6), and is to be shown by our works.
I. FAITH IS CALLED OBEDIENCE. Obey thou in life, and make thy reason obey. No man standing on his own reason ever believed; an unsanctified wit is a great hindrance of faith. The greatest philosophers (Acts 17:18) most resisted Paul, as our greatest politicians most scoff at preaching of the Word.
II. ALL ARE BOUND TO HEAR, AND NOTHING SO WORTHY TO BE HEARD AS THE GOSPEL. Let us say of hearing, as Paul speaks of knowing it, viz., that he esteemed to know nothing besides (1 Corinthians 2:2). The nurse's song doth not so quiet the babe as the preaching of the gospel the conscience. It is the hand of God offering us forgiveness of sins. He, therefore, who hath ears to hear, let him hear. If thou wilt not now hear that which may profit thee, thou shalt hear one day that which will make thy heart to ache, even this, "Go, you cursed," etc.
III. MINISTERS MUST BE AFFECTED AND GRIEVE WHEN THEY SEE THE COMPANY OF REVERENT HEARERS SO THIN, AND THEIR LABOURS SO FRUITLESS. The prophet here complains of this; so Christ groans for the hardness of the people's hearts, and weeps over the stubbornness of Jerusalem. The shrewdest turn to be done to a minister is to deprive him of the joy of his labours, and the way to rejoice them is to embrace the gospel they preach.
IV. ISAIAH AND PAUL GAVE NOT OVER, THOUGH THEY HAD CAUSE TO COMPLAIN. As the physician omits no point of his art, though the recovery of his patient be desperate, so, though we preach to many desperate and scoffing hearers, we must not give over, but rather use the more diligence.
V. ALTHOUGH FAITH CANNOT BE WITHOUT PREACHING GOING BEFORE IT, YET PREACHING MAY BE WITHOUT FAITH FOLLOWING IT. As that which is to be known may be without the knowledge of it. There are two things required to faith: the determination of that which is to be believed, and the inclination and persuasion of the heart to believe. Preaching determines, but it is God who persuades by preaching. God can do it without preaching, but preaching cannot do it without God. Our voice can say repent, but it is God only that gives repentance. Paul preacheth to Lydia's care, but God hath the key of her heart.
(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)1. Man is the same disobedient creature under all dispensations. We bemoan his rejection of the gospel, and so did Isaiah, who spoke in the name of the whole company of the prophets.
2. It is one of the greatest proofs of the depravity of man's heart that he will no more obey the gospel than the law, but disobeys his God, whether He speaks to him in love or in law. Men will sooner be lost than trust their God.
3. When any receive the gospel it is a work of grace — "the arm of the Lord is revealed"; but when they refuse it it is their own sin — "they have not obeyed the gospel."
I. THE GOSPEL COMES TO MEN WITH THE FORCE OF A COMMAND. It is not optional to men to accept or refuse it at pleasure (Acts 17:30; Mark 1:5). To refuse to believe is to incur great sin (John 16:8). There is a death penalty attached to disobedience (Mark 16:16). It is so put —
1. To secure the honour of God. It is not the offer of an equal to an equal, but of the great God to a condemned sinner.
2. To embolden the proclaimer of it. The minister now speaks boldly with his Master's authority.
3. To remind him of his obligations. Repentance and faith are natural duties from which the gospel does not exonerate a man, although it blesses him by bestowing them upon him.
4. To encourage the humble seeker. He must be at full liberty to believe in Jesus, since he is commanded to do so, and threatened if he does not do so.
5. To suggest to men the urgent duty of seeing to their soul's welfare. Suicide, whether of the body or of the soul, is always a great crime. To neglect the great salvation is a grave offence. The gospel is set forth as a feast, to which men are bound to come, under penalty of the King's displeasure (Matthew 22:1-7). The prodigal was right in returning to his father; and if he was right in doing so, so would each one of us be in doing the same.
II. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE CLAIMS OF THE GOSPEL TO OBEDIENCE?
1. The authority of the sender. Whatever God commands, man is under bonds to do.
2. The motive of the sender. Love shines in the gospel command, and no man should slight infinite love. To refuse to obey the gospel of salvation is an insult to Divine love.
3. The great gift of the sender: He has given us His only begotten Son. To refuse Jesus is a high affront to measureless love.
4. The reasonableness of the demand of the sender. Should not men believe their God and trust their Saviour?
5. The earnestness of the sender. His whole heart is in the gospel. Note the high position which the scheme of salvation occupies in the esteem of God. Shall we not obey an appeal put before us with such energy of compassion? Ask your own consciences whether you do right to refuse or neglect the gospel of the grace of God. Ask those who are now saved what they think of their long unbelief. Do not incur a world of regrets in after years by long delays. Do not jeopardise your souls by refusing the gospel.
III. WHAT IS THE OBEDIENCE REQUIRED BY THE GOSPEL? Not mere hearing, crediting, liking, professing, or proclaiming; but a hearty obedience to its commands. It claims —
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Renunciation of self-righteousness and confession of guilt.
3. Repentance and practical quittance of sin,
4. Discipleship under the Lord Jesus; and this means obedience both to His teaching and His example.
5. Public confession of His name, in His own way, namely, by baptism. Conclusion: If you refuse to obey the gospel your hearts will harden to a deeper unbelief. Others will obtain the blessing which you refuse; and this will deepen your own condemnation (Romans 10:19). You will die in your sins, with your blood on your own heads.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. PRIDE OF INTELLECT. We all know something, and none knows over-much. "A little learning is a dangerous thing." The temptation is to reject everything which does not fall within the grasp of reason. Observe some of the fundamental facts of the gospel over which we stumble because they baffle us.
1. The manger. Not for a moment must it be supposed that a finite mind can comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation. That, however, is absolutely no reason at all why we should reject it.
2. The Cross. How can the innocent suffer for the guilty? How can the Infinite God bear the sins of His creatures? How can justice be satisfied by vicarious pain? But the mystery of God's vicarious death in our behalf is really no more incredible than the lower but like mystery of a mother's love. And a mother's love is the commonest thing in the world.
3. The open sepulchre. He that was dead is alive again. This also is repugnant to our reason. And yet life out of death, the mystery of mysteries, is all around us and ever forcing itself upon us.
II. MORAL PRIDE. The worst of us thinks moderately well of himself.
1. The suggestion of sin is abhorrent to us. It disturbs our equanimity; it troubles our sleep. Christ tears away the turf from our assumption of virtue and exposes a graveful of "dead men's bones and uncleanness." Little wonder that a sinner will have none of it.
2. We do not like the notion of repentance. We all would kill John the Baptist could we catch him.
3. The doctrine of free grace is repugnant to us. We would cheerfully pay; but Croesus himself could not, with all his generous possessions, buy one of the clusters from the king's vineyard. We would be glad to suffer if suffering could expiate the mis-lived past; but we cannot. Christ has suffered once for all. What then remains? How shall a sinner be saved? By simply accepting the proffer of pardon and life. He that believeth shall be saved. Is this all? Ay; and it is the slightness of it that offends us. We must become nothing in the presence of Christ, to the end that Christ may become everything to us. There are two concluding thoughts.(1) The report that God has loved us and given Himself for us is true. This is the news, the god-spel, the glorious gospel of the blessed God.(2) And if it were not true, still let us cherish it. If it be only a fond delusion, let us in any case continue in it. If but a dream, let no rude hand or unkind voice awake us. If there is no God, no Almighty Friend to care for this world and its suffering creatures, still let us dream of a kind Providence and murmur in our sleep, "Abba Father." But the gospel is true. We speak that we do know and testify that we have seen. God's arm hath been made bare for us.
(D. J. Burrell, D.D.)I. THE GOSPEL IS A REPORT.
1. It is not a new report. It is that which was first heard by our first parents, "Thou shalt bruise his head." It is the same which was received by the patriarchs and prophets, of whom it is said, "These all died in faith." It is the same which began to be made by Christ, when in the fulness of time He brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. Novelty is sometimes pleaded against the preachers of the gospel. There is, indeed, a sense in which it is new; its excellence can be known only by experience.
2. But, if it be not new, it is full of truth. Your attention might perhaps be excited by a report that is not true, as some of you may have been excited by the mimicry of the stage, or as others may have poured tears of sensibility over a romance. But all is truth, all is reality here.
3. But supposing it to be true, is it interesting? Is this report an important one? Yes, it is as good as it is true, as true as it is good. There is something striking in the scheme of the gospel. Infinite wisdom is displayed in it, infinite grace is manifested in it; it is infinitely glorious in its effects. Drop it in a town, in a village, in a family, its influence will be soon felt. It does more than all the wisdom of the senate — than all the maxims of philosophers — than all the power of armies.
II. THIS REPORT IS CONNECTED WITH FAITH. Else it is made in vain. The complaint is, "Who hath believed our report?" I do not mean a family faith, for the exercise of which a man can assign no other reason than that his father believed so before him. Nor do I mean a geographical faith, by which a man makes a profession of Christianity merely because he lives in a Christian country. I speak of genuine faith. This is a Divine principle, and it produces Divine effects. It is of the operation of the Spirit, and it is always accompanied by proper fruits. Wherever the gospel report is carried, it carries the obligation to believe it, for there is —
1. Sufficiency of object. Christ, who was "made sin for us, though He knew no sin," and who is as willing as He is able, and as able as He is willing, "to save to the uttermost."
2. A sufficiency of authority to warrant all that the sinner expects. The Saviour came to seek and to save sinners. And is not this your character?
3. A sufficiency of invitation. The language of this report is, "Come." The Old Testament says "Come" — "Come, and let us reason together," etc. "Ho, every one that thirsteth," etc. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "Come" — "If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink" — "Come unto Me, all that labour," etc. "And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come," etc.
(W. Mann, A.M.)I. This quotation is regarded by Dean Vaughan as the citing of A PARALLEL CASE. "The gospel is sent to all; but" (it may be objected} "not all obey. It is true. That complaint is as old as Isaiah's time: who believed? This failure did not stop Isaiah's utterance, nor is the same experience any argument against the universal proclamation of God's message now."
II. Dr. Hodge considers it as A PROOF. "The complaint of the prophet was not confined to the men of his generation. It had reference mainly to the general rejection of the gospel, especially by the theocratical people. 'Christ came unto His own, and His own received Him not.' And this was predicted of old."Hearing and hearkening: —
I. YOU HAVE ALL HEARD. These are the days in which knowledge is increased in the earth, and many run to and fro. The Maories of New Zealand have heard of a Saviour's love, and many of them have rejoiced in it believingly. Throughout the world the gospel is winning its widening way, and on the wings of mighty love it flies, scattering its treasures in its flight. But, apart altogether from the condition of the heathen world, the fact remains that all of you have heard the gospel. I talk to one who, though he sits in darkness still, cannot plead that no day-star has arisen. You remember, doubtless, the touching story of the dying gipsy boy who, being visited by a lady who told him of Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, poured this doleful lament into the missionary's ears, "Nobody ever told me! Nobody ever told me!" He died, muttering words which to his mother were altogether unintelligible, but which the good lady understood; for, as his spirit passed away, he shook his head and wept bitter tears, saying, "Nobody ever told me!" My friends, you cannot make that excuse before the throne of God, for you have all heard the gospel.
II. Let me try to show you THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEARING AND OBEYING. The fact that the apostle laments that they did not all obey, implies that some did. Wherever the gospel is preached some will receive the truth in the love of it. But, alas, I must confess that in New Zealand, as well as in Old England, there are many who, though they hear it, do not hearken to it. I will try to show you the difference. We have in the Colonies a custom in connection with the Fire Brigade which will illustrate my point. The city is divided into numbered wards, and when the alarm has been sounded, the bell tolls out the number of the ward in which the conflagration has occurred. By this arrangement those who are from home, attending a service or visiting their friends, are informed of the locality of the fire. Suppose the system could be amplified, so that every street and house were indicated; what eager listening there would be! When the bell had finished clanging its alarm, would not every householder count the strokes? and he who heard the number of his house sounded out, would have wings to his heels immediately, and rush away to save his children and his goods from the fiery element. Now, it is when the gospel comes home to a man like that — when he hears his number rung out, and feels that his soul is in danger of eternal burning — when the finger of God points at him as Nathan's did at David, and a stern voice declares "Thou art the man" — then it is that he has given up hearing for hearkening, and hearkening becomes equivalent to obeying. Then he hastens to the Saviour, saying, "I flee unto Thee to hide me." Perhaps another illustration will make this clearer still. There is a large crowd in the street, and I hear the bellman's ringing, and his stentorian voice crying out, "Oh yes! oh yes! oh yes!" He proceeds to announce that as the inhabitants of the town are perishing for lack of bread, and shivering for want of clothing, certain friends have opened a soup kitchen yonder, and others in another place are giving blankets and clothes away. The starving, shivering people listen with all-eager interest. Oh, what glad tidings it is to them — bread enough and to spare! "Oh," they say, "this is just the thing for us." No, they do not stop to say that. Away they go, without comment, to receive the bounty. They listen first, and then they hearken. They no sooner hear than they obey. But, while the crowd was listening to the bellman, a fine lady in a grand carriage said to the coachman, "John, what is the matter there? Just pull up a minute. I would like to see what is wrong." Thereupon the splendid equipage neared the crowd, but did not remain, for her ladyship was disgusted as soon as she saw so many poor, hungry, ill-clothed folk, and said, peevishly, "Drive on, John; drive home." She did not want any soup and blankets — not she. She could readily have spared half of hers for the poor and needy, so of course she does not obey the bellman. I am persuaded that the great reason why there are so few hearkeners among so many hearers of the glad tidings is that they do not realise their necessities.
III. Now, lastly, LET ME URGE YOU TO OBEY. You have heard the tidings. You cannot doubt that it is glad tidings. Procrastinate no longer. Accept the joyful tidings and the Saviour of whom the tidings speak. Why do so many remain disobedient to this heavenly vision? Either they do not realise their need, or else they do not recognise the richness of the supply. It must be one or the other. Stretch yourselves in imagination on a couch. You are lying half asleep in a room on the wall of which is a simple picture. At a cottage door a poor wayfarer sits upon a fallen log. He looks hungry and tired; and just in the porchway there stands a kind-looking country woman with a baby in her arms, and a little child beside her with a basin of porridge or of soup in its hands. The little one is being taught by its mother to be good and kind to the poor. How is it that want and weariness do not eagerly accept kindness and refreshment? The answer is found in the fact that it is not real life at all; it is only a picture. The man has no real needs, he is not actually hungry, nor is it a basin of porridge at all, and the smile on the woman's face is only pictured. There is nothing real in all of it, or the dinner would soon be demolished, the famished fed, and the giver gratified. There are some who do not accept the offered mercy because its glorious reality has never dawned upon them; nor are they aware of the reality of their need, though they may have a dreamy sense of the fact that something is wanting.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)The Times tells us, "Nothing is more remarkable than the complete extinction of that keen interest, that intense faith, and that eager hope, which manifestly inspired the politicians of half a century ago, and made their influence felt among all classes of the community." In religious circles it is common to hear comments on the indifference of a large number of persons who go to church, the absence from their minds of anything like powerful convictions, and the easy nonchalance with which they pass by great and solemn inquiries, the importance of which used to be felt by nearly all. Ministers of the gospel, therefore, who have the responsibility of guiding the Church, have need to remember that if they would see an earnest faith on the part of their people, nothing is more necessary than that their own hearts be pervaded by it, and if they would see that faith controlling other men's lives it must very really control their own.
(A. M. Fairbairn, D.D.)
(R. F. L. Blunt.)
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