Sermon 3435. Sanctified Sorrow
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1914.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Oyou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will Jay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundationswith sapphires. And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your borders of pleasant stones."Isaiah 54:11,12.
Who can doubt that this promise belongs to the Gentile Church, since it has been so richly fulfilled in her history? For manyan age the light did not shine upon heathen lands. One spot, alone, upon all the earth received the genial beams of the Sunof Righteousness. Vast continents, thickly populated, full of life, bustle and enterprise, lay spread out as a moral waste,barren and neglected. But little Revelation of God had found its way among the teeming multitudes of the population. To themthe dispensation of the Grace of God had not been proclaimed. The mystery of Christ was not as yet made known unto the sonsof men. The Israelites had a monopoly of Covenant privileges. But now in these latter days, how wondrously are the tablesturned! The branches of the wild olive have been grafted in "that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body,and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel." Thus the Lord has taken unto Himself a numerous seed once ignored byIsrael, "which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtainedmercy." Not after the lineage of the flesh, but according to the nobler lineage of faith, the same are the children of Abraham-andwith faithful Abraham do they inherit the Covenant mercy of God. This day the barren woman keeps house and is the joyful motherof many children. The Gentile Church has her stones of sapphire-God is in the midst of her to make her glad!
Not less fully persuaded am I that this promise belongs to the Jewish Church. Among the natural descendants of the old HebrewPatriarch, the Lord has preserved to Himself a spiritual people. Glory be to His name, He has not cast off His people whomHe did foreknow! Even at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of Grace. Of the Jewish race thereis a certain number of disciples who are witnesses of the Truth of God, rejoicing in Christ Jesus and worshipping Him as theirMessiah! But the day as yet is dark for Israel. Thick clouds encompass her. The veil is still upon the hearts of her children.The converts gathered from her tribes are few in number compared with those from different branches of the Gentiles. Seemsit not as though her cup of sorrow were not yet drained? God has put the sons of Jacob for a while out of their place as apunishment for their great sin in rejecting Him, whom their own Inspired Prophets had foretold. But doubt not, Beloved, thattheir future is radiant with hope!
The day will come, and that day may come speedily, when the glory shall return to Zion and the excellence unto Ju-dah. Thefullness of the Gentiles, then, shall acknowledge the Lord when Jewish eyes shall behold and recognize Him, Messiah, Princeof Peace. Well may we look and long with eagerness for that happy era! If I rightly read the Scriptures, the lost tribes areto be converted, first, and gathered afterwards, while the people distinguished among us as Jews are to be restored to theirown land, and then convinced by seeing the Man whom they pierced, enthroned with honor and majesty. Here the world's historyreaches a majestic climax! Once with their day of fearful recompense came our day of grateful visitation. Yes, the Day-Springfrom on high has visited us! What next is unrolled in the scroll of dispensations? If the casting away of them became thereconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them again be but life from the dead? So let the people to whom thisgreat promise was originally spoken have all the good that was stored up for them in it!
May not, however, this rich consolation be applied to any Church that is passing through a time of depression? All the promisesof God are like minted gold, of sterling value and intended for circulation. The general principles of thepromises of Godmay be appropriated by those to whom they are appropriate. Let any faithful Church of Jesus Christ be passing through severetrial of persecution and declension, if there is a true likeness to Christ in it, the tempest and storm will eventually exhausttheir fury and accomplish their end and afterwards a time of establishing and building up shall follow. It is said of somepersons that they cannot fight losing battles. No such fatality need haunt us. We ought always to stand our ground, for whenwe have been worsted in the conflict, we have always before us the prospect that we shall at length be conquerors becauseour defeats are permitted for our discipline without peril to our destiny! "A troop shall overcome Gad, but he shall overcomeat the last." Where would be the honor of a victory which was gained without a struggle? Is not the prize more welcome whenit has been competed for with toil and strain? Do we not account any kind of success the sweeter for the toil expended andthe difficulties mastered in reaching it? Are we to expect honor without labor? Take heart, then, you afflicted Church, andfaint not in the day of adversity, for God has set over against it the day of prosperity when you shall be built up with allthe riches and treasures of His Grace and when your mouth shall be filled with laughter, and your tongue with singing! Andthen shall you say, "The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
If, now, my text thus stands good to the Gentile Church, and to the remnant of Israel, and if it may serve to cheer and encouragethe little Christian Churches, not only in our own land, but in all the regions of the earth where Christ is preached, mayit not in like manner be applied to the experience of individual Believers? And may we not find in it a rich draught of consolationfor ourselves? Depend upon it, Brothers and Sisters, our period of trial and suffering will come to a close and it will beoverruled in the gracious Providence of God to the promotion of our best prosperity and our highest interests! We may be afflictedand tossed with tempest, but for this very cause we shall ultimately have our foundations laid in sapphire and our stoneswith fair colors! I will endeavor to work out this one thought in respect to three kinds of distress which are known to raisea tempest in the Believer's soul.
The first is the great life storm in which we are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. The second,the common life storms in which divers afflictions befall us, and manifold temptations try our faith. And the third is thelast storm, which brings with it the wreck of our frail boat after all its tossing on the troubled sea of life, the deathof the body-then no more fatigue, no more distress-for we shall enter the haven of rest and enjoy an endless peace! Now, withregard to-
I. THE DAWN OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. Is it not true that well near every Christian is born of a storm? We are driven to Christthrough stress of weather. We look to Him because we have nowhere else to look for shelter. We drift to Christ, all of us,as mariners that are hard on rocks with all our righteousness wrecked, and all our other hopes gone to the fore. That firststorm with some of you may have lasted long. For months or years it may have threatened your destruction. You remember it,and you think of it, now that the tempest has spent itself, that the sky is clear and you have come to rest calmly in JesusChrist. Do you think that you lost anything by that storm? Do you not know that you gained much? You lost what it was goodfor you to lose! You gained the very blessings which you were most in need of. Do I speak to one who is at this hour in thevery midst of such a trial? He that sits in the heavens looks down upon you through this storm and says to you, "O you afflicted,tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors." You are afflicted with a sense ofsin, the direst and sharpest of all afflictions. The arrows of adversity are blunt in comparison with those of guilt! Afflictions,without sin to aggravate them, are as a knife without an edge-they do not cut deep. But when there is sin to whet the blade,then the knife cuts to the very bone. What are those sins which now wring your hearts with anguish, but the very same sinsthat once fascinated your hearts with delight? Feeling that God is angry with you, every incident or act of Providence seemsto you a token ofjudgment. Terrors haunt you in every gust of wind that blows and you seek in vain to extricate yourself fromyour present forlorn condition! Hold on, Man, Woman, do not despair! Better to be stricken with pain and suffer the smartpangs of a wounded conscience, than go on with giddy step, frothy song and frivolous talk to enjoy the pleasures of sin fora season, and then find out your mistake when it is too late because you are swept away like the chaff from the threshingfloor! Your afflictions, if they lead you to God, will prove the healthiest discipline and the happiest circumstances thatever happened to you! "O you afflicted one," says God, "I will lay your stones with fair colors," as if, in the bitternessof repentance, you did meet with the blessedness of remission and the brightest sunbeams shone upon you just when the darkestshadows crossed your path and the heaviest clouds loomed over your head! Fly to your God, O Sinner! Hasten to Jesus! Lookto His atoning
Sacrifice! For such an afflicted conscience as yours, Jesus bled, He came to bind up the broken in heart, and to proclaimliberty to captives such as you are!
Note the next word-"O you afflicted, tossed with tempest." Does this describe the heaving and flurry of your agitated breast?Are you tossed to and fro? Once you were at ease, becalmed aground, and you thought yourself as safe as you were quiet. Youhad a hope of your own and you said in your heart, "I shall never be moved." But that hope of yours was no sure anchorage.It served you not in any place when the clouds began to gather and the fierce winds began to blow. Then were you tossed hereand there. You have tried to find some stay, some anchor, but alas, you have sought it in vain! You are like a ship whichhas become the sport of the winds and waves and now your spirit sinks within you. You reel to and fro and stagger like a drunkenman, and you are at your wits' end. All your wisdom is swallowed up. You cannot lay hold of a promise! You cannot take comfortfrom any Providence! You see not your signs, and yet all this tossing and all this tumult, with the peril in which it placesyou, are meant for your good! So, indeed, it shall prove when you cry unto the Lord in your trouble and He brings you outof your distresses, for notice the prophecy which is spoken by the mouth of the Lord, and say if it should not inspire youwith confidence, "I will lay your foundations in sapphires." When you shall have a foundation of God's laying, it will be,verily, a safe foundation and, being of sapphire, this foundation is very precious! There will be no more sorrow and sadnessfor you, then, but a sacred satisfaction which it were beyond the power of any circumstance to mar! No more shall the buffetingof rough billows and rude breakers toss you to and fro, but throbs of deep joy, like waves of the mighty sea, shall swelltheir ceaseless anthem in your ears! Oh, how you will bless the Lord, then, that He ever drove you from your refuge of liesand drew you to a sure foundation upon which you might build, and be built up for eternity! You may be just now the sportof the tempest-high winds may rage within your breast-stormy passions may convulse your soul! Well do I remember when thatsame tempest howled through my spirit, sweeping away every fond hope and every fine conceit I had cherished. Before that Iwould gladly have contented myself with the world and the little ambitions it held out to my view. Ah, I would, but I couldnot! God's tempest howled through my soul and as for me, I was as a tiny leaf in a strong breeze, or as a ball before thewhirlwind! Are you passing through such an ordeal? Yield not to the misery and madness of despair-
"Though plunged in ills, and harassed, too, with care, ' Twere treason to your soul did you despair! When pressed by dangersand beset by foes, God will His timely succor interpose!"
When your present emergencies shall be gathered up into past experience, you will look back upon them as a meet preparationfor your better destiny. Every vestige of your own righteousness must be taken away in order that He may "lay your stoneswith fair colors, and build up your windows with agate, and your gates with carbuncles." Are not both in the promise-boththe agitation and the salvation? The Lord has promised both. Mark that word promised, how it is used by Paul. "Now He haspromised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also Heaven." Then observe the consequence. The removing ofthose things that are shaken makes way for another thing, namely, that those things which cannotbe shaken may remain! Thereforeit is that we who feel that everything earthly is drifting from under our feet are favored to receive a Kingdom which cannotbe moved! Ought not this to reconcile our hearts to trial? Will it not make us rejoice in it, if we have only faith to believethat it will certainly turn out for our good?
The other part of the description-after being tossed with tempest-is this, "not comforted." Is there nothing you can do toget out of this strait? Is there no solace to relieve the stress of your trial? Ah, poor Soul! No doubt you have been lookingfor light and, behold, there was darkness! While you have been seeking after relief, your sorrows have been aggravated. Didyou go to the world and ask sympathy of your neighbors or kinsfolk, the best comfort they could offer you would but woundyour feelings! Have you tried the merriments and gaieties of sin, as though you would forget the arrows of the Almighty? Lo,then, how visions ofjudgment to come should scare you!
Perhaps you feel you cannot be comforted on earth. Then you are in a fair way to get deliverance, for you shall be comfortedby the God of Heaven! If your sore is such that no plaster of man could ever cure it, glory be to God, for, blessed be Hisname, He delights to find those cases which baffle all human skill! There shall be seen the power of His Grace, and then willHe send His Word and heal you! Your extremity of anguish is a token for good-a token that God means to bless you! If yoursoul refuses to be comforted by man-if you are brought to a stand, in which you wait onlyfor God-then of you is it spoken,"I will lay your stones with fair colors and your foundations with sapphires." He will perform all things for you, and doon your behalf what you cannot do for yourself!
Every Christian will, I think, join with me in confessing that the dealings of the Lord with us have always baffled our ownunderstanding, until we have been brought to see the end of the Lord, as Job saw it-that the Lord is full of pity and of tendermercy. Our heaviest losses have thus enriched us with our choicest gains. The things which, as they happened, caused us themost terror, have fallen out to the furtherance of our best interests! And, in the same manner, I believe the more you feelthe burden of sin, the majesty of the Law of God and the inflexible claims of Divine Justice, the sweeter, afterwards, willbe your apprehension of guilt removed by the blood of Christ, of the Law fulfilled by His obedience and of Justice satisfiedby His Suretyship. Did you sink as low as Jonah sank, when he was in the fish's belly, and cried by reason of his afflictionunto the Lord, when, as he testifies, "Out of the belly of Hell cried I, and You heard my voice"? Then you might purge yourselvesof all false confidence, as Jonah did, saying, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." Then, too, withthe voice of thanksgiving, you would pay your vow as Jonah did, when he said, "Salvation is of the Lord." Take heart now,O you afflicted ones, tossed with tempest and not comforted! Pour no fresh bitters into your cup by murmuring against Godand repining at His dispensations! Rather cry mightily and pray earnestly that the God who has made your experience tallywith the first verse of the text may give you to realize the fullness of that recompense which is promised in the next verse!And so shall your sighs be turned into songs. So shall you sing with David, "You who has showed me great and sore troublesshall quicken me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness and comfort meon every side." Happy day, dear Soul, when you are delivered from this first storm! Yet there are-
II. OTHER STORMS OF LIFE WHICH THE CHILDREN OF GOD HAVE TO ENCOUNTER.
After we find Christ, we meet with many afflictions. We are "tossed with tempest, and not comforted." It seems to me thatthe Prophet has used a very remarkable metaphor. Suppose you have a home-a house rendered dear to you by a great many pleasantassociations. Into this cheerful abode, one night, there comes a fire. You stand with tears in your eyes and see it all ablaze,and you watch it as it goes, story by story, room by room, till all your precious treasures are consumed. You go away andsit down, and wring your hands in agony, for all is burnt up-nothing remains. But with the first dawn of the morning an angelappears to you and says, "Come with me to the place where your home once was." You go and find that all the stones that madeup your house have been turned into jewels-and all the lime and cement have been transmuted into bright lustrous colors, andthe pavement and flagstones have become sapphire! You go to the door, there are jewels-carbuncles! You look out of the windowsand instead of their being, as before, common sashes and sills, you find agates all sparkling! You are looking almost as ifyou had Aladdin's wonderful lamp, which transformed everything. Well, now, I think that is just the thought of this verse.Let us read it over again. "I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will makeyour windows of agate, and your gates of carbuncle, and all your borders of pleasant stones." "Well," you say, "that is thefact, and no fancy or dream to me, I have realized it. A fire kindled on me which raged in my soul till it reduced to ashesall the goods I prided myself in. My hopes were laid waste, and I was left desolate. My nights were sleepless and every bonein my body was full of pain-this have I proved. Then, all of a sudden, there has been worked in me a marvelous change! Mysoul has had such joy-such blessing-such nearness to Christ-such delight in His Word-such uplifting of a spiritual temple,far richer than all the palaces of Oriental imagination, springing up from a furnace of affliction as no common language woulddescribe." Let us just turn over these things, one by one, as they are painted to us by the tongue of Inspiration.
You are tossed and not comforted. Bear it patiently, knowing that good will come to you in a far better and richer shape.Observe how it begins with edification. "I will lay your stones in fair colors." In the time of trial we not only get theproof, but we get the profit of experience-and these results are laid in fair colors. Do you think it possible for me to relateto you all the salutary lessons that I have acquired in affliction? The truth is learnt, thus, after quite a different mannerfrom anything taught in the Sunday school! You may afterwards renounce all the credit you ever professed in the teaching,which stands merely on the authority of the teacher, but when God's affliction brands the Truth of God into your inmost soul,then you are bulletproof against all heterodoxy and it is not possible that the Doctrine in which you have been rooted andgrounded can ever forsake its hold upon you! It has found an entrance into your very soul-is not that a grand means of steadfastness?Such strong-holding cement binds the stones of which your spiritual temple is built,and by such personal experience your characterbecomes shaped and fashioned according to the Truths of the Gospel. Thus, as affliction is not sent without design, one benefityou are to expect from it is that a fundamental, solid groundwork shall be worked in you.
But, Brothers and Sisters, you will not fail to notice that while the Word of the Lord is addressed to the afflicted, thehand of the Lord is engaged very particularly on their behalf. "I will lay your foundations with sapphire." Times of publiccalamity try our foundation and so do all times of private affliction. When the natural emotions are violently excited, allthe beliefs and sentiments, all the hopes and aspirations to which men have clung in calmer days are put to the test. Andif they are not well and truly based, they can easily be shifted. This, therefore, is one of the salutary effects of sanctifiedaffliction-in the process of such discipline we get to have the foundation of our faith laid by a Divine hand. "I will layyour foundations." The Lord draws near to us and works in us after His own Sovereign good will, imparting to us the true faithand the ardent love which are consonant with the Truth of God. Then we have foundations hard as sapphire and as precious,as unbreakable, as Divine! We feel that now we have received the Truth, not in the mere abstract, but in its vital power,its moral influence and its spiritual beauty, as the foundation of our souls and as a foundation of our hope which can neverbe removed.
What a lovely change, too, is made in our outlook! "Your windows of agate!" Before I was afflicted I looked through the latticesof carnal sense. I was well contented, though the things of this life and the objects near at hand bounded my view. But nowI have been taught to look upwards and to long for the life to come and the land that is far off. Now my soul says, "Oh, thatI had wings like a dove, that I might fly away and be at rest." And as I open the window towards the new Jerusalem, I sing-
"Brief life is here our portion,
Sorrow and short-lived care.
The life that knows no ending,
The tearless life is there."
It is wonderful how affliction cleans the windows of the soul! I find the word, "windows," here might be much better translated"bulwarks," or, "defenses," as if to show the manner in which we are fortified against temptation and enabled to resist thedestructive force of those strange changes and perilous waves that are common to this stormy life. Have you learned, Beloved,to fly to the Rock for shelter? Have you come to hide behind the dying Savior? Do you know the tune of David's Psalm, "Blessedbe the Lord, my strength, which teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight, my goodness and my fortress; my high towerand my deliverer, my shield, and He in whom I trust" Then your godly sorrow has produced some happy results! Not in vain hasyour spirit been overwhelmed within you! This is a lesson to be acquired in the school of adversity whereby we are broughtto rest in the Lord more abidingly than we ever did before-and thus we prove that He has made our fortifications of agate.
Still further it is said, "I will make your gates of carbuncle," as if to intimate more close and intimate communion withGod. We come nearer to Christ, think more of Him, spend more time in meditation, get to understand more of His work and HisPerson, set our hearts more fully towards Him and the good things of His Grace after the tempest has spent its fury and theclear shining has followed. Surely, if affliction did nothing more for us, it would be a great gift! It takes away the doorsof iron and wood, and it gives us gates of carbuncle! And we say-
"Come, then, oh, you sweet affliction, Thus to bring our Savior near." Right sure I am that many of our tossing and buffetinghave produced a permanent benefit which has given tone to our character and shed a hallowed light over our whole career! Findme a Christian whose conversation is full of rich savor, whose judgment is tempered with charity, one whose fervent zeal isblended with the meekness of wisdom, and I will guarantee you, as a rule, he has seen much affliction! "They that go downto the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep." Physiciansoften recommend a sea voyage to their patients. Do you think it is merely for the fresh air they breathe? No, I can tell youthere is more than that in the prescription. It breaks the links that bind one to everyday life. There is a solitude on thatbroad expanse of waters which does not admit of the newspaper or the post office breaking in upon the stillness of your reflections!Your country, your office, your friends, your home are all at a distance. The communications you are known to hold with themare broken.
And is it not so with Christ's disciples, when He compels them to get into a ship and leaves them a while to be tossed withwaves in the midst of the sea? Do not they then feel a profound solitude which changes the hue of all their thoughts? Mindyou not what he said who was the saddest of all the old Hebrew Prophets-Jeremiah in his lamentations bears this witness-"Itis good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth. He sits alone and keeps silence because He has borne it upon him."There is no room to doubt it, Friends-sorrow is favorable! God's brightest gems have had the most polishing on the lapidary'swheels. The purest, cleanest wheat is that which has had the most winnowing. We grow in Grace, doubtless, in our times ofjoy, but I think it is slow work. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as precious fruits brought forthby the sun. Bright days would wither us if there were no shady nights to temper our gaiety. We are like the sycamore tree-unlesswe had trials, we would never come to spiritual perfection. Well, we have cause to be thankful if, speaking experimentally,we can say, "All the storms we have encountered up to now have been blessed to us-all our tossing and tempests have furtheredour good speed, and all the convulsions that have shaken our house have thus far contributed to its being built up with stoneslaid in fair colors upon a foundation of sapphire. And now, lastly-
III. THE SAME HAPPY ISSUE OUT OF ALL OUR AFFLICTIONS WILL HAPPEN, IN A GRANDER SENSE, WHEN THE LAST HURRICANE SHALL BLOW.
Then shall this frail tabernacle totter and fall! Then eyes, and ears, and hands and feet shall fail us. Then back to motherEarth shall this feeble flesh return. I know the earthly house of my tabernacle shall be dissolved. I expect it. I look forit. The affliction may take the form of grievous disease-the tossing to and fro on my couch may be distracting-it may be thatno medicine can relieve my pain or comfort me. But oh, the glory that is to follow! This very body of ours- who shall tellwhat it shall be like? We know that it shall be transformed and made like unto the glorious body of Christ Jesus, our Lord!We may patiently endure the cross, since we shall so soon receive the crown! We may placidly go down to the grave, since weshall so triumphantly come up from it! We may cheerfully take leave of our lodgings, here, since we have a home in prospectwhere our kindred shall all be gathered, and our Lord never absent! Brothers and Sisters, we are, as it were, in a ship atsea today, tossed with tempest, but we are to be in a palace before long! You observe how the figure changes, never tossedagain, never again put forth on a tempestuous sea. Like buildings and mansions, we shall be fixed and permanent. In that landof our inheritance is a mansion with its foundation of sapphire, with its windows of agate, with its gates of carbuncle! Whata sweet surprise for the sons of poverty on earth! Those jewels, since jewels are always connected with rank or royalty, aremeant to betoken the honors in the next world to those who are humble and faithful in their sacred calling here. You shallhave such palaces as Oriental extravagance could never emulate! Does it belong to kings to dwell in palaces? You shall bekings and priests unto God! A few more days of languishing with your faint hopes and fretting fears, your throbbing templesand feverish pulse before Christ bids you come! The Master calls for you! You must obey the summons! And what next? Foreverwith the Lord!
I think I hear you say, "Amen, so let it be." Do notice how three times, here, it is repeated, "I will," "I will," "I will."God has said it and He will do it! Believe and rejoice therein, therefore, for it is no fiction, but a fact! Yet a littlewhile and you shall leave your cottage for a mansion, your toil shall be exchanged for rest, your dishonor for glory, yourpain for infinite pleasure! You shall find new company and better in yonder world of the Light of God! Though you close youreyes on fair prospects, below, fairer scenes await you above. Be comforted! Notwithstanding any distress, the last tempestmay occasion you, depend upon it-"to die is gain." You shall lose nothing that it were worth your while to keep. You shallgain all your "capacious powers can wish, more than your imagination can paint." Press forward, Beloved, and may the confidenceof a joyous future make you bold to brave the tempest and the storm! Peace be with you!
Alas, then, if you are not in Christ, if you are not a child of God, this promise melts away before your eyes! You have nopart or lot in it. May God change your heart, renew your nature, lead you to receive Christ and believe in Him-then will Hegive you to be His sons and daughters and so shall your heritage be secure forever and ever! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: ISAIAH 54:1-16.
Try and suck all the sweetness that you can out of this Chapter while we read it. The personal application of a promise tothe heart by the Holy Spirit is that which is needed. The honey in Jonathan's woods never enlightened his eyes untilhe dippedthe point of his rod into it and tasted it. Try and do the same. This Chapter is the woods wherein every branch drips withvirgin honey. Sip and taste. Be satisfied.
Verses 1-3. Sing, O barren, you that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail withchild; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the LORD. Enlarge the place ofyourtent, andlet them stretch forth the curtains ofyour habitations: spare not, lengthen your cords, andstreng-then your stakes;For you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolatecities to be inhabited. You see they are called upon to praise God before the mercy comes. "Sing, O Barren," while yet barren!Sing, O desolate one, while yet desolate! And you who are narrowed and confined for space, thank God that He is about to enlargeyou! Begin, already, to stretch your cords and strengthen your stakes. We ought to act upon faith and sing upon faith. Thesongs which are made at the sight of mercy are very sweet, but the songs that are sung before the mercy comesare those whichare most acceptable to God! We may say of the sonnets of faith, "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed."
4. Fear not; for you shall not be ashamed: neither be you confounded, for you shall not be put to shame: for you shall forgetthe shame ofyour youth and shall not remember the reproach ofyour widowhood any more. The dark past, the dreary past shallbe so obliterated with abounding mercy that they shall forget it. Your memory of it shall not be painful. It shall only beas a foil behind the bright diamond of mighty mercy, if you remember it at all.
5. For your Maker is your Husband--Bound to you by the dearest, closest and most enduring ties 5-7. The LORD ofHosts is Hisname; andyour Redeemer, the Holy One ofIsrael; The God ofthe whole earth shallbe called. "For the LORD has called you as awoman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth when you were refused, says your God. For a small moment Not, "amoment," but "for a small moment."
7, 8. Have I forsaken you: but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment:but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you; says the LORD your Redeemer This belongs to the whole Church of God.I know we might refer it all to the Church in general, but I invite you tonight to remember that what belongs to the Churchas a body belongs to every member of that mystical body. Therefore, feast here. Be not afraid. Take these words as spokento you-even to you-by God the Holy Spirit!
9-10. For this is as the waters ofNoah unto Me: for as Ihave sworn that the waters ofNoah shouldno more go over the earth;so have Isworn that I wouldnot be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed,but My kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the Covenant of My peace be removed, says the LORD that has mercyon you. What more can He say than to you He has said? What surer pledges can He give? Oh, rest, rest, rest, sweetly rest onthis sure Word of Covenant love! Then let the mountains move. He told you they would. Then let the hills of your comfort sink.He told you they would. But even then, when the earth, itself, does reel, and the very pillars of the universe are snapped,He stands, still the same! "I have sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you."
11. O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay yourfoundations with sapphires. Built with jewels.
12. And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of carbuncles and all your borders of pleasant stones. They mustbe rare sights if the windows are so rare. If the windows are of agate, what are the sights that are seen through them? Andif the very gates and doors are carbuncles what must there be in the house of love within? If the very borders and the outsidefringes of the royal domains of Heaven are of precious stones, what must it be to be there? Remember that the best thing inthis world is trodden under feet in the world to come, for we are told that the streets are paved with gold. Men hunt afterit here and tread on it there, for they have nothing better, there, than this world can possibly afford them.
13. And all your children shall be taught ofthe LORD. It must be a greater privilege than windows of agates and gates of carbuncle,to see our children-to see all the children of God-taught by His own Spirit!
13. And great shall be the peace ofyour children. That is the most precious pearl of all, with its soft radiance, preciousto the soul.
14, 15. In righteousness shall you be established: you shall be far from oppression; for you shall not fear: and from terror,for it shall not come near you. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me. Enemies will come, but God willnot be with them.
15, 16. Whoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake. Behold, I have created the smith that blows thecoals in the fire. For he cannot blow any more than God lets him. He is God's creature. The Maker of the weapons of war isstill in the hands of God.
16, And that brings forth an instrument for his work: and I have created the spoiler to destroy. When he does his worst, heis only doing what I meant he should do. The Divine decree of God still, with its mighty circle, does encompass the worstdeed of man, and overrules it all for the good of His Church.