Sermon 2754. Strange Dispensations and Matchless Consolations

(No. 2754)




"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her." Hosea 2:14.

THIS is one of the many instances in the Word of God of His free, rich, Sovereign Grace. The Lord has set the children ofIsrael before us as a great model. They are our beacons with regard to sin, but they are a pattern to us when we see in themthe gracious dealings of a Covenant-keeping God. Often did they rebel, but just as often did the Lord forgive them. Frequentlydid He smite them with His rod, but He never turned them over to destruction. He still remembered His Covenant made with Abraham,Isaac and Jacob, and He suffered not His faithfulness to fail.

We have, in the prophecy of Hosea, an instance of what God thought of the sins of His people. He commands the Prophet to speakin rough earnest language of their constant rebellion and yet, no sooner has He directed Hosea to deal harshly with His erringspouse, than He seems to stop him in the middle of his furious prophecy and bids him now address her with words of comfort!This is the connection in which our text is found set in the black letters of the volume of threats against guilty Israel.This precious jewel shines all the more brightly in the thick darkness of their sin and despair. This torch of love and kindnesssheds a heavenly light and makes their eyes and hearts rejoice.

Let us now turn to these words of the Lord and regard them under the following aspects. First, I see, in the text, the singularreasons for Divine Grace. ''Therefore, behold!" I see, in the next place, the strange dispensations of Divine Grace. "I willbring her into the wilderness." In the third place, matchless consolations. "I will speak comfortably to her." And, in thefourth place, sweet persuasions.' 'I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her."

I. In the first place, we have, in our text, THE SINGULAR REASONS FOR DIVINE GRACE. "Therefore, behold!"

It is not without cause that the word, "therefore," is inserted here. We are to look to the context to find what are the premisesfrom which a conclusion of mercy is drawn. You might naturally conceive, judging according to human logic, that the precedingverses described either Israel's goodness, or else her abject repentance if she has gone astray and rebelled. But, on thecontrary, there is no mention of these things at all! They speak not of her goodness, but of her badness and, in fact, theyspeak so strongly that the Prophet uses terms that are never employed except after excessive iniquity. He charges Israel withwhoredom and speaks of her as having committed uncleanness with many lovers. This is strong language and shows that he meansto declare the excessive character of her sin and, instead of speaking of her as being a penitent, he declares that she wasstill impenitent. Notwithstanding many, many Providences and the hedging up of her way with thorns, she would break throughand run after her many false lovers. And then, strange to say, contrary to all human reasoning, there comes the inference-ifI may so call it-an inference of sunshine from a dark cloud, an inference of mercy from a whole mass of sin and iniquity!

If the inference had been, "Therefore I will destroy her, I will cut her in pieces and give her children to the sword, andher women to be carried away captive," our reason could well have seen that it was the natural consequence. We could easilyhave seen that the logical terms agreed, but here it seems as if it were quite a non sequitur. How can it be that a, "therefore,"should spring up, when the previous verses have been filled with a description of her sins?

Here let us pause to remember that the reasons for God's Grace to us are far above all human reason, for He Himself has toldus, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."No, I will go further than this and say that not only are God's modes of reasoning far above our own, but they often seemas if they were even contradictory to ours. Where we should draw one inference, God draws the very opposite! See yon poorpenitent sinner? He "would not lift up so much as his eyes to Heaven; but he smote upon his breast and cried, 'God be mercifulto me a sinner.'" What is our inference from this, looking at the publican as he stands there? Why, that he is a rebelliouscreature, and that God cannot and will not accept him, but must punish him! Does God draw this inference? No, for, "this manwent down to his house justified." See yonder Pharisee with outstretched hands? He stands and prays thus with himself, "God,I thank You that I am not as other men are," and so on. What is our inference? Surely God will accept so good a man as this!He will be sure to justify a man so holy and so moral. Not so, for that man went down to his house without justification,unsatisfied, unblessed with the smile of Heaven-while yon sorrowing publican received God's gracious forgiveness!

We, ever since the Fall, have learned to reason badly. Our reasoning faculty has been as much confused as any other powerthat we possessed. We have turned aside from the straightforward path and we know not how to draw the true inference whichGod draws from our sins. So then, it seems from our text, that so far from looking at any reason for mercy to anything thatis good in man-if God ever seeks in the creature a reason why He should show mercy, He looks not to the good, but to the evil!When we come before God it would be well if we would always remember this. We are committing great folly if when we are spreadingour case before Him, we dare for one moment to speak of ourselves as good or excellent. We shall never succeed in that way-Hewill not listen to us, for this plan has no power with Him! But if, when we come to Him, we can plead our sin and our misery,then shall we prevail. No, we may even go the length of the Psalmist, David, when he prayed, "For Your name's sake, O Lord,pardon my iniquity"-and for a strange reason, you would say-"for it is great." He used the greatness of his sin as an argumentwhy God should have mercy on him!

O you legalists who are looking to yourselves for some arguments with which to prevail with God! O you who look to your sacraments,to your outward forms, to your pious deeds and your almsgivings for something that will move the heart of God-know this, thatthese things are no lever that can ever move Him to 1ove! Nothing but your sin and misery can ever stir His mercy! And youlook to the wrong place when you look to your merits to find a plea why He should show pity on you!

And yet, albeit that this reasoning seems extremely strange, I may use an illustration which will justify such reasoning asthis in the mind of every thoughtful man. Here is a poor creature shivering in the cold with nakedness. And there is one whohas warm garments to give away. Will not the nakedness of the man be his claim to benevolence? If there is any generous soulwho desires to feed the hungry, it is not likely that he will bestow his bread upon one that has abundance! But if he hearsa soul uttering the wail which is excited by the pangs of hunger, that very wail shall make him move his hands to supply theneeded food. Generosity, liberality and mercy know of nothing that can move them as misery can. And the very reverse argumentis formed from that which men are so fond of using. They will go to God with a plea analogous to this-as if a beggar shouldmeet me in the street, and say, "Sir, give me charity! I am not very poor, I am not very hungry, therefore give me charity!"He would not use such a foolish argument as that! He, like a wise man, says, "I am hungry, I am starving, therefore give mefood." Would that you would use the same sensible argument when you come before God and plead, not for your merit's sake,but for your misery's sake! Think not that you are to tip the arrows of your prayers with the feathers of your own merit-thatshall never make them fly to Heaven. It will be better if you can wing them with a sense of your own miseries, for then theyshall reach the heart of God and He will send you the promised blessing in return. Strange reasoning, you say, this of Grace-thatGod will save men, not for their goodness, but if there is any reason that can be found in them, it is rather for their sinand for their misery than for anything good in them!

If you will carefully look at the text, again, you will notice that after the word, "therefore," there comes a word of exclamation-"behold!"Whenever we see the word, "behold," in Scripture, we may be sure that there is something well worthy of our attention. Itstrikes me that Hosea, when the Lord commanded him to write this verse, was quite staggered. "Lord," he said, "how can thisbe?" He was filled with amazement. "I have been threatening Your children. You have told me to set their iniquities beforetheir face-and now you bid me say, 'Therefore I will have mercy upon them.'"

The conclusion seemed to him so strange that he was utterly astonished! And the Lord permitted His servant to record his astonishmentby putting in that word, "behold."

Nor do I think that is the only reason for the use of the word. It is also, I think, put there that we may admire the Gracehere displayed and that we may remember the mercy of God-and especially the deep-rooted secret reasons for that mercy. Theywill continue to be, on earth, the theme of admiration and, in Heaven itself, the object of eternal astonishment. When weshall be permitted to see why God had mercy upon man and especially why, out of the human race, he had mercy upon us-why Hechose us while others were suffered to perish-we shall be incessantly compelled to lift up our hands in astonishment! Andeven in the heavenly city, itself, joy shall sometimes be superseded by wonder, and we shall, even there, be astonished tofind such matchless Grace displayed for such singular reasons. "Therefore, behold!" Again I would say to those who are trustingin themselves-Give up your foolish hopes! Men and brethren, look not to the empty cisterns, but come away at once to the fountain,the Divine, kingly fountain of Sovereign Grace, for there, and there only, it is that your hope of pardon can be realized!For, in yourself, there is nothing but that which would lead to your destruction-only in Jehovah can reasons for salvationbe discovered! ' II. The second point is THE STRANGE DISPENSATIONS OF DIVINE GRACE.

God is about to have mercy upon poor fallen Israel, so what does He say? "I Will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness."This may seem to some a strange way of showing His love, yet it is not an unusual one, for it is the common method by whichGod manifests His love towards His chosen ones. You will, perhaps, smile when I make the observation that there was nothingwhich a Roman slave more anxiously desired than to have a box on the ear from his master. "That was a strange desire," youwill say, yet that box on the ear was the object of the morning and evening prayer of many a slave in Rome, for, you mustknow, if a master once gave his servant a box on the ear, he was free from that day forth and was no longer a slave! Now,that strange manner of freeing a slave is analogous to that which God uses when He is about to set free one of Satan's bondsmen.

He first of all gives us the blow of conviction and then He gives us the liberty of Grace. Is it not singular that God shouldbegin to show His love to His people by taking them into the wilderness? Is it not a strange manifestation of Divine favorthat He should bring us, not into Canaan, not to the grapes of Eshcol, not to all the riches of the land which flowed withmilk and honey, but that He should bring us, first of all, into the wilderness? Your experience, if you are a child of God,will help you to understand this. "The wilderness" may be explained thus-when God is about to save a man, He first of allbrings him into a state of spiritual destitution. He thinks himself rich and increased in goods and that he has need of nothing.Talk to him about the sinful state of a natural man and he is insulted! He says he is as good as his neighbors. He does notknow that he has much to confess when he is on his knees. Indeed, he hardly sees the use of confessing to God at all! If suchas he does not get to Heaven, at last, he does not know who will!

Now, when God means to have mercy upon a man of that sort, instead of feeling that he has every virtue and all strength, allof a sudden he finds himself without one good thing to recommend him to God! And, worse than this, he finds that he has nostrength to perform a single good act. "Oh," he says, "I once thought I could repent and believe whenever I pleased, but,now all my strength is gone, my heart is hard and I can scarcely compel a tear to flow! I imagined that in the last momentof my life, I could say, 'O God, have mercy upon me!' and that, then, I would be saved. But now, I find faith to be quiteanother thing from what I thought it was. Now I am stripped of all self-confidence. My comeliness is departed, I must robemyself in sackcloth and cast dust and ashes upon my head. My soul is spiritually shut up. I find no food. Nothing comes fromwithin and nothing comes from without." This state of spiritual destitution is set forth by this wilderness state.

Moreover, by the wilderness, doubtless, is meant affliction, for full often, when God means to bring a man to Himself, Hesends affliction upon him. This is the Good Shepherd's black dog with which He brings His wandering sheep back to Him. Itcomes howling after us and biting at our heels, and then we fly away to Christ. How many are there among you who were firstbrought to repentance by the loss of your property, or the death of someone dear to you? If everything had gone on smoothly,the stream would have wafted you along down to the gulf of black despair, but, all of a sudden the flood boiled around you,and the tempest gathered above your devoted head! Then you cried unto God in your trouble and your losses were more than recompensed-yourGod was found and your soul was saved! Happy are you who lose a fortune to find a Savior! Blessed is the burial of a friendor relative that leads to the new birth of our own

souls and brings us to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! We have, many of us, great cause to bless that rough right hand ofGod which has smitten us so sternly, but which has always been moved with love whenever it has given us a blow of chastisement.

Further, I think this wilderness may mean not only spiritual destitution and affliction, but also loneliness. When God meansto save a man, He always makes that man to feel himself to be all alone. There was a time with me, I know, when I went upto the House of God and I knew not whether there was anyone else there while the sermon was being delivered. I seemed to beshut in by a black wall while the minister's eyes appeared to be looking down into my soul. I believed that the good man meantme when he used the word, sinner-I could not think he was referring to anybody else! I loved not society, but was always seekingsolitary places for prayer, trying to draw near to God in prayer, to tell Him my needs and to ask for His mercy. It is a happysign when the Divine Hunter singles out one from the herd. He looks round, singles out His prey, and hunts him until, at last,He brings him down and carries him home rejoicing. The deer, when wounded, retires to weep, and bleed and die alone-and so,too, hearts when wounded love shady solitudes, that they may weep alone before God. This is, I believe, the meaning of, "Iwill allure her, and bring her into the wilderness."

I will give you one more picture and then I think I shall have described this wilderness sufficiently. Can you, for a moment,imagine yourself taken away, all of a sudden, and carried by some giant hand swiftly through the air and deposited in themidst of the Desert of Sahara? You look around you and there is nothing to be seen that can afford you hope. Above you isthe burning vault of Heaven with the furnace sun sending forth its fire upon you. Beneath you is the arid sand with no trackof a traveler anywhere! At first you rush on, hoping soon to find the desert's edge and to escape. Night succeeds day andin the thick darkness you still travel on-fear and hope together winging your feet. Day dawns again, but you are as far fromdeliverance as ever! And I can imagine that with your throat parched, and with your soul melted within you, you would castyourself down upon the sand and cry, "Lost, lost, lost!" The echo of your words would come back to you from the burning Heavenabove you and you would be the complete picture of despair-lost, lost, lost! Yet this is where God brings the man whom Hemeans to save! He puts him into such a position that above him seems to be an angry God. Beneath him a desert of sin and nota glimpse of hope-and he lies down, helpless and despairing, and cries, "Lost, lost, lost!"

My Hearer, are you in such a position? Then, remember that the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lostand that you are one of those whom He came to save, for you are manifestly lost. He will never be disappointed with the resultof His work! Those whom He come to save, He will save and if you trust Him, He will save you! You shall be brought in amongHis redeemed people here on earth and you shall see His face and rejoice in His great salvation in the day when He Shall comein the Glory of His Father with all His holy angels with Him!

III. Now, note the next division of the passage-GOD'S MATCHLESS CONSOLATIONS.

Does He bring her into the wilderness that she may be the prey of the vultures, or that the jackals may devour her? Oh, no!He brings her there that He may "speak comfortably to her." You see how the two things go together. There is a precious goldenband in the text-a band which neither death nor Hell can ever shatter, which, like a sacred rivet or heavenly link, joinsthe two sentences together. "I will bring her into the wilderness"-that is true, we know-"and I will speak comfortably toher." That is also true. The two are linked together and cannot be separated. Those who are brought into such a wildernessas I have described, shall hear the comforting words of Jehovah spoken to their hearts!

Now, with regard to these comforts, I would remark that they are sure comforts. We may take the words, "I will," which standat the beginning of the verse, as relating to each clause and, therefore, we may read it, "I will speak comfortably to her."Therefore we have, first of all, sure mercies-"I will." Good old Joseph Irons used to say, "Our shalls and wills are impotentand impracticable, but God's shalls and wills are Omnipotent." Has He said it, and shall it not be done? Has He decreed it,or promised it, and shall it not stand fast? Rest assured, poor Soul, that whatever may not be or whatever may be, if youare brought into the wilderness by God, He will assuredly speak comfortably unto you there! It may be a long while that youwill have to wait, but, though the promise tarries, wait for it, for the time for its fulfillment shall surely come-it shallnot fail! In due season, the Lord will remember you and will not forget you in your low estate, for His mercy endures foreverand His faithfulness knows no end. He will speak comfortably unto you.

Note next, that they are not only sure consolations, but Divine consolations. "I will speak comfortably to her." Many ministershave tried what they could to cheer the sad, but they have done nothing. I have never learned so much of

my own weakness as when, in preaching, I have sought to comfort some of God's tried ones. I have sometimes, in my sermons,put in a little honey on purpose for them, but, somehow, that honey has seemed to ferment and become sour, so that they couldnot feed upon it. I have talked with them and done all I could to comfort them and, sometimes, I have had to turn them overto my Brothers in the Eldership and they have done their best-and failed. What, then, shall I say, Lord? Your poor servantcan do nothing here. Will You do it, Lord? Will you, O blessed Spirit, who are the Comforter, take them by the hand and "speakcomfortably" unto them? If You speak, they cannot refuse to hear, and then shall they indeed be comforted! O poor, tried Soul,is not this a rich promise, indeed? "I will speak comfortably to her." He will not merely send an angel or minister to comfortthem, but He will Himself do the work-"I will speak comfortably to her."

The third remark I make upon these consolations is that they are effectual consolations. The Hebrew bears the interpretation,"I will speak to her heart" We speak to your ears, but God speaks to your heart. Oh, what speaking that is, when God speaksright from His heart into our hearts! Some of us have experienced this at times. We have found the Word of God to well up,as it were, from Him and then, as it has welled up, it has gone down deep into our hearts and we have been made to drink ofit to the very fullest. "I will speak to her heart." Poor Soul, if you are brought into the wilderness, God will effectuallycomfort you. He has effectually convicted you and He will effectually console you! If He has brought you into the wildernessof humility and sore distress, He will as surely bring you into the Canaan of faith and


I remark, in the next place, that these consolations are not only sure, Divine and effectual, but they are full. "I will speakcomfortably to her." What rich words of comfort are those which God addresses to His people! He pardons them, He justifiesthem, He sanctifies them, He preserves them, He upholds them, He prevents them, He brings them safely home, at last, and allthis He speaks to the heart of the poor, tried and tempted soul in the wilderness-and thus He makes it "rejoice with joy unspeakableand full of glory."

It is not in my power, my dear Friends, to speak to your hearts. I can only speak to your outward ears, but let me repeatsome of those things which God says when He speaks to the heart. "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: thoughyour sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "I evenI, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins." "Whoever will, let him takethe water of life freely." "Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out." "He is able to save them to the uttermost thatcome unto God by Him, seeing He always lives to make intercession for them." Thus God speaks rich promises of pardon and Healso says, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."

How sweetly He speaks concerning the trials and troubles of this world! "Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God,believe also in Me." And how graciously He tells His people, "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer;I have overcome the world." And how comfortably does He remind His people that, come what may, they shall still be secure!"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walkthrough the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the fire kindle upon you." And then, when His poor people think Hecan hardly remember them, He says, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son ofher womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you."

And then, lest even this should be of no avail, He says, "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindnessshall not depart from you, neither shall the Covenant of My peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you." "For thisis as the waters of Noah unto Me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have Isworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you." Truly did I speak, when I remarked that this consolation is full,and well does one of our poets express the same sentiment when he says-

"What more can He say than to you He has said, You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?" We have a Bible that cannot be enlarged!We have promises that cannot be extended! We have blessings that cannot be exaggerated! And imagination's utmost stretch couldnot make us conceive of anything beyond! Oh, may God, who has brought you into the wilderness of sore trouble, bring eachone now present into His gracious Presence, that you may know that He Himself thus speaks comfortably unto you!

IV. Now I close by coming back to the first clause of the text, and meditating on THE SWEET PERSUASIONS with which God drawsus to Himself. "I will allure her."

There are many who are very much afraid they are not converted because they have not had a thunder-and-lightning experience-theywere not converted in stormy weather-they had not the terrors of the Law of God and the shaking over Hell's mouth that somehave experienced. They have read of John Bunyan and his desperate struggles, but they have not gone through anything of thekind. They can say that they have felt their need of a Savior and realized their sin, but the accounts they have heard ofwhat others have known of the terrors of Hell have been so impressed upon them that they have feared that they could not beGod's people. Read our text. It says, "I will allure her." It does not say, "I will drive her." It does not say, "I will dragher." It does not even say, "I will compel her." It does not say, "I will make her run into the wilderness for fear of Me."No, but the Lord says, "I will allure her."

What does this mean? I cannot explain it better than by a very simple figure. I see the fowlers come, sometimes, to ClaphamCommon. I once saw a man with a robin redbreast in a cage. This poor little bird was made to sing and so tried to decoy otherbirds from the sky. The fowler was luring birds, catching them by the lure-and, my Brothers and Sisters, this is how God bringsmany of His children to Himself. We have all been like wild birds, but He has converted some of us, by His Grace, and putus into the cage of the pulpit-and made us sing as best we can, so as to lure poor sinners to come to the Divine Fowler, theLord Jesus Christ! I wish I could sing better. I would that I were a better decoy, that I might bring more to Jesus. Manya Sister has been a decoy to her brother. Many a wife has lured her husband to Christ. You cannot drag them, but you may drawthem. All that you can do, in your daily life, and in your house, or wherever else you may meet with these poor worldlings,is to lure them to Christ by letting them hear how sweetly you sing and see how happy you are, even while you are, as theysay, a poor caged bird! Let them see how you enjoy your liberty in Christ and so seek, with all earnestness, to bring themto the Savior!

There is another figure which will explain the Lord's words, "I will allure her." When your little children are learning towalk, they are set up by the side of the table. They are quite frightened at first, for they have hardly tried their littlelegs yet. The nurse desires that the child may walk a little way. Well, what does she do? She holds out an apple, or a sweetmeat,to tempt it, and it tries to come to her, but it is ready to fall-so the nurse's finger is held out and the child is supported.It rests a moment and it is lured on again, with some toy or picture, something that tempts it on-and thus it learns to walk.Possibly you say that I ought not to use such a simple figure. No, but, I ought, for it is used in Scripture-"I taught Ephraimto go, taking them by their arms," just as a father might hold up his little one by the arms and let its feet just lightlytouch the ground. The Lord condescends thus to speak, and surely I may do the same! May not a man speak thus with his fellows?Yes, surely this is the way in which God brings many of His children to Christ! He lures them! He does not thunder forth andfrighten them, but He tempts them on by mercies and baits of heavenly pleasure- and so are they drawn to the Cross of Christ.

Some have been lured by the sweetness of the Character of Christ. They have taken His yoke upon them because He is "meek andlowly in heart," and they have found rest unto their souls. Others have been lured by the blessings of religion. They havesaid, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace," and have said to the people of God, "We will go withyou." Many have been lured by the prospect of Heaven and the joy which has been set before them. And they have counted theirlives as less than nothing in order that they might first suffer the reproach of Christ and then inherit His Glory. Do notbe cast down because you have not had a terrible experience. Perhaps you are among those whom God sweetly lured to Himself.

So I conclude my discourse by bidding every Christian here to go forth and endeavor to lure poor souls to Christ. You mustalter the shape of that face of yours that is so long and miserable! You are not luring souls to Christ-you are doing quitethe reverse-you will drive them away from Him. Put away, I beseech you, that constant habit of murmuring and grumbling ateverything and everybody. Come, take your harp down from the willows and sing us one of the songs of Zion! Let us have nomore groaning-that will frighten away the poor wild birds. They see your misery and how can they be lured to come when theysee you so unhappy? I think that the long faces of God's people do a good deal of mischief. I see nothing to cause them, butjust the reverse. Our Lord Jesus says that the hypocrites are of a sad countenance, so I should not like to have a sad countenance,for fear any man should think me a hypocrite!

What does He further say? "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face: that you appear not unto men to fast,but unto your Father which is in secret: and your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly." Do not let the worldlingknow that you are fasting. If you have troubles, keep them within you, do not let him know of them-let him see a happy exterior.In this way, you will allure him to Christ! And take care, by the gentleness and kindness of your conversation, to bring himto think of that religion which he has hitherto rejected. I have heard it related of some Methodist that, after praying along while for his wife's conversion, threatened to beat her if she were not converted in a certain time. I believe she wasnot converted, but that was not the way to bring her to the Savior! Instead of wooing sinners and alluring them, there aresome who, if they do not go to the length of physica1 force, nevertheless seem as if they would bully them to Christ, theyspeak to them so sharply and sternly.

There is never any good done in that way. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and more souls are broughtto Christ by sweet words than by sour and bitter ones. Let our life be like that of Christ-"holy, harmless, undefiled, separatefrom sinners"-and then, added to this, let us have a heavenly cheerfulness about us which will lead others to see that thoughour religion takes away from us the pleasures of the wicked, it gives us something so much better! Isaac Watts was right whenhe said-

"Religion never was designed To make our pleasures less."

Go, Beloved, and lure others to Christ! And may God the Holy Spirit bless each one of you! If in the wilderness, may He speakcomfortably to you. If hardened in your sin, may He bring you into the wilderness! And if He has already spoken comfortablyto you, may He help you to speak comfortably to others! Amen.


Verse 51. And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go toJerusalem. It is a very remarkable expression that is used here-"when the time was come that He should be received up." Itdoes not say, "that He should depart," or, "that He should die." It leaps over that and speaks only of His glorious Ascensioninto Heaven! When that time was drawing near-and, of course, His death would come before it- Christ "steadfastly set His faceto go to Jerusalem," where He knew that He should die upon the Cross.

52, 53. And sent messengers before His face: and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready forHim. But they didnot receive Him, because His face was set for thejourney to Jerusalem. And, of course, Jerusalem was a sortof rival of Samaria. And if He was going there to worship, they did not want Him to stay with them. Yet the Samaritans werebelievers in the first five Books of the Bible. They accepted the Pentateuch, and they ought, therefore, to have practicedhospitality, imitating Abraham's noble example. They erred both against their own Scriptures and against the dictates of humanitywhen they refused to receive Christ because He was on His way to Jerusalem.

54. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will You that we command fire to come down from Heaven,and consume them, even as Elijah did? James and John, two of the most loving of Christ's disciples! John, the most lovingof all, startles us all by failing in the matter of love and so being as bad as the Samaritans themselves! I have often noticedthat very "liberal-minded" people who denounce bigotry in general, do it with about seven times as much bigotry as those whoare out-and-out bigots! In fact, it is a wonderfully easy thing to be a bigot against all bigotry, and to be illiberal towardseverybody except fellow-liberals. Well, that is a pity. It is far better to have the spirit of Christ, even when the Samaritansrefuse to exercise hospitality. At any rate, let them live. You notice that John quotes the example of Elijah and this shouldteach us that the best men mentioned in Scripture did things which we may not copy, and that they did some things right, whichit would be wrong for us to do. Under special Inspiration of God, Elijah, the Prophet of Fire, may call down fire from Heaven-butyou and I must not do so-we are not sent for any such purpose. Let us, therefore, be cautious how we make even Prophets ourexemplars in some things.

55, 56. But He turned and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of For the Son of Man is notcome to destroy men's lives, but to save them. If that principle had been always remembered and followed, there would havebeen no persecution. To cause a man to suffer in his body, or in his estate because of his religious opin-

ions, be they what they may, is a violation of Christianity! Consciences belong to God, alone, and it is not for us to becalling for fire, the stake, the rack or imprisonment for men because they do not believe as we do! "The Son of Man is notcome to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

56. And theey went to another village. That was the easiest thing for them to do and a great deal better than calling forfire from Heaven upon anybody! If one village would not receive them, another would. And if you cannot get on with one person,get on with somebody else. Do not grow angry with people-that is not the way to make them better. To fight God's battles withthe devil's weapons is generally, in the end, to fight the devil's battles on his behalf-let none of us make such a mistakeas that!