O GOD, who in the beginning didst cause the light to shine out
of darkness, be pleased at this time to shine in our hearts, to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face
of Jesus Christ. Let our prayers proceed from hearts purified by
Thy Spirit from all hypocrisy and guile, and come up with
acceptance before Thee, through the merits of Thy Son. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm cxix. 169-175.
O MAY my heart, by grace renew’d
Be my Redeemer’s throne!
And be my stubborn will subdued
His government to own!
Let deep repentance, faith, and love,
Be join’d with godly fear;
And all my conversation prove
My heart to be sincere!
Preserve me from the snares of sin
Through my remaining days;
And in me let each virtue shine
To my Redeemer’s praise.
Let lively hope my soul inspire;
Let warm affections rise;
And may I wait, with strong desire,
For bliss above the skies!
2 CHRONICLES XXIV. 1-2, 9-22.
JOASH was seven years old when he began to reign; and he reigned
forty years in Jerusalem: his mother’s name also was Zibiah of
Beer-sheba. 2. And Joash did that which was right in the sight
of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 9. And they
made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to
the Lord the collection that Moses, the servant of God, laid
upon Israel in the wilderness. 10. And all the princes, and all
the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest,
until they had made an end. 11. Now it came to pass, that at
what time the chest was brought into the king’s office by the
hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much
money, the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and
emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to his place
again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in
abundance. 12. And the kings and Jehoaida gave it to such as did
the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and hired
masons and carpenters to repair the house of the Lord, and also
such as wrought iron and brass to mend the house of the Lord,
O GOD, in whose hand our breath is, we render thanks unto Thee
for life and health and for all the varied blessings which we
enjoy. Not a moment passes over our heads in which we are not
partakers of Thy goodness; for in Thee we live and move and have
our being. With shame and contrition we acknowledge that we have
not only failed to requite Thy kindness by yielding a grateful
and loving homage unto Thee; but we have forgotten the God who
made us, and lightly esteemed the Rock of our salvation. For Thy
mercy’s sake, O God, hide Thy face from our sins, and give us
grace to love Thee more, and to serve Thee better than we have
yet done. May the remembrance of our manifold shortcomings in
the past, or the numberless sins of which our own consciences
accuse us, of the duties which we have failed to perform, of the
opportunities of doing good to ourselves and to others, which we
have allowed to slip away unimproved, lead us to humble
ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and to seek earnestly of
Him that grace wherein alone we can stand.
Grant, O gracious Father, that this day we may enter upon a
course of new obedience. May the Spirit of Him who is Lord of
the sabbath quicken our faith in Thee, and our love to Thee. May
He beget and sustain in us the frame and temper of spirit suited
to that day which Thou hast specially consecrated to Thy
service. May every unholy feeling and principle be repressed in
our minds; above every influence which causeth to err may we be
raised; may our souls follow hard after Thee, whose right hand
upholdeth us; may each one of us, wrestling with Thee in earnest
supplication, say with him of old, who as a prince had power
with God, and prevailed, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou
bless me;” and in the strength of the grace thus imparted may we
glorify Thee in our bodies and in our spirits, which are Thine.
Bless the children of God, of every kindred and tongue, who are
scattered abroad throughout the earth, and gather them together
in one. May Thy servants this day preach the word in simplicity
and godly sincerity, and may all who hear it receive it gladly.
May the careless and the scorners be moved by Thy grace to think
upon their ways, and to turn their feet unto Thy testimonies.
Bless those in the dwellings of Jacob who, through unavoidable
causes, are prevented from waiting upon Thee in the gates of
Sion; and graciously hear these our prayers for Christ’s sake.
THE CHURCH IN THE HOUSE.
O LORD, when the righteous perisheth, and merciful men are taken
away, give us wisdom to lay it to heart. While we have them with
us, dispose us to esteem them very highly in love for their
work’s sake; and grant that we may neither by word nor by deed
weaken their influence or hinder the success of their labours in
Thy cause. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm lxxiii. 23-26.
JESUS! my redeeming Lord!
In the hour of death be near;
Let thy smile of love afford
Full relief from all my fear.
Firmly trusting in thy blood,
Nothing shall my heart confound;
Safely I shall pass the flood --
Safely reach Immanuel’s ground.
When I touch the blessed shore,
Back the closing waves shall roll;
Death’s dark stream shall never more
Part from thee my ravish’d soul.
Thus, O thus, an entrance give
To the land of cloudless sky!
Having known it, ‘Christ to live,’
Let me know it ‘Gain to die.’
MICAH VII. 1-13.
WOE is me! for I am as when they have gathered the
summer-fruits, as the grape-gleanings of the vintage: there is
no cluster to eat; my soul desired the first ripe fruit. 2. The
good man is perished out of the earth; and there is none upright
among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man
his brother with a net. 3. That they may do evil with both hands
earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward;
and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they
wrap it up. 4. The best of them is as a brier; the most upright
is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy
visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity. 5. Trust ye
not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the
doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. 6. For the
son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her
mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s
enemies are the men of his own house. 7. Therefore I will look
unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God
will hear me. 8. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I
fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a
light unto me. 9. I will bear the indignation of the Lord,
because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and
execute judgement for me: he will bring me forth to the light,
and I shall behold his righteousness. 10. Then she that is mine
enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto
me, Where is the Lord thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now
shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets, &c.
“THE RIGHTEOUS PERISHETH, AND NO MAN LAYETH IT TO HEART: AND
MERCIFUL MEN ARE TAKEN AWAY, NONE CONSIDERING THAT THE RIGHTEOUS
IS TAKEN AWAY FROM THE EVIL TO COME.” -- Isa. lvii. 1.
THE connection of this verse with the preceding is striking and
significant; for the prophetic division, or section, or song, of
which both of them form a part, properly begins at chapter
lvi.9; it is manifestly there that the prophet “changes his
hand.” He has just closed a bright and joyous strain; full of
gracious invitations and glorious prospects. Abruptly, as usual,
he “checks his pride.” He opens at once a very different dirge.
He speaks of sin and woe. He seems emphatically to intimate,
that both the free grace and the full glory he has been
celebrating must, as to their complete development and
accomplishment, stand over, unfulfilled, until a course of guilt
and wrath be run. And as it is the gospel grace and the gospel
glory, ushered in by God manifest in the flesh, and completed at
the second coming of the Lord, that the Spirit doubtless has in
view, in the cheering revelation that is there ended; so it is
evidently, in the first instance, that degeneracy of manners,
which, after the restoration from Babylon, went on increasing
till the era of the cross and the destruction of Jerusalem, that
is graphically and ominously described in the picture which
follows. In that picture, the fact recorded in the text stands
prominently out. “The righteous perisheth:” “merciful men” (men
of kindness or godliness) “are taken away.” And this feature,
let it be observed, comes in at an early stage of the melancholy
decline here traced; and it comes in, moreover, as, at that
stage, the almost single and solitary harbinger of evil.
There are but three or four verses of the preceding description,
immediately before the text. The low spiritual state of the
nation and of the church is touched in a single sentence. The
watchmen are blind and ignorant, dumb and loving to sleep,
selfish and self-seeking. That of itself is a sore calamity; and
it is the cause, as well as the sign, of calamities still sorer.
But it is not very palpable and apparent. It is consistent with
much comfortable plausibility of profession in the church, and
much indifference and secure unconcern in the world. Even the
people of God, ready always to hope the best, which usually is
alike their duty and their safety -- for, alas! if they ever
become desponding! hope against hope -- sanguine, trustful hope
-- being under God their strength -- the people of God,
generously confident, are, as it would seem, imposed upon. They
think they see a great deal of earnestness and energy in the
age, and they look for indefinite progress in the right way. And
the world, too, says that all is, or that all soon will be,
well. Temporary disasters and drawbacks on the advancing career
of prosperity, will soon be over. “Come ye, say they, I will
fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and
tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.”
In the midst of this treacherous calm, so apt to deceive both
the church and the world, when all that can be charged against
the church is the somewhat relaxed watchfulness of her shepherds
-- a collapse probably, or an exhaustion, not unnatural after
great excitement -- and when the world sees no serious obstacle
in the way of its continued anticipation of prosperity, one only
omen stands out, “The righteous perisheth, and merciful men are
The fact itself that the “righteous perisheth, and merciful men
are taken away,” is awful enough. But the explanation of it is
more awful still. Well might the world lay to heart the
perishing of the righteous man, if they would only consider that
the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.”
For the Lord speaks here by the prophet, as he were reduced to
straits, and brought to a stand. He does not willingly take the
righteous away. There is, if we may dare so to speak, a conflict
in the Divine Mind. Evil is coming, irremediable and inevitable
evil. For the sake of the righteous, mingled with the wicked,
the Lord would fain avert the evil; that he might avert the
evil, he would fain leave the righteous among the wicked. For
ten righteous, he would have spared Sodom; and to spare Sodom,
he would have left the ten among its inmates. But the limit of
forbearance is passed. Eight souls only are found in Sodom to be
saved. Evil must come. But before it comes, the righteous must
be taken away from it. “Haste thee,” says the Lord, with his
flaming hand stretched out over Sodom, as he points Lot’s way to
the little city of refuge, “haste thee, escape thither, for I
cannot” -- as if now impatient to have his strange work of
judgment over, now that the righteous is taken away from it --
“I cannot do anything till thou be come thither.”
I. There is a natural and very discernable connection, in the
removal of the righteous and the progress of evil: the two
things mutually act and re-act upon one another, and are
mutually cause and effect to one another. Thus --
1. The advancing tide of evil tends of itself to sweep the
righteous off the stage. An evil generation becomes impatient of
what is good and holy; and the good and the holy, becoming weary
of contending with a degenerate age, retire from the public view
to mourn in private, or broken-hearted, quit the field by death.
What examples has the world seen of men’s perverse ingratitude
and infatuation in their treatment of the excellent of the earth
-- the very salt that preserves the earth for them to tread on
and pollute! And they whom men have put away from among them,
have been not the sterner and more rigid upholders of
righteousness merely, but the meek, the gentle, the amiable, the
lovely. “The righteous man perisheth” -- “merciful men are taken
The two qualities that form a perfect man are here associated
together; the same two qualities that are distinguished and
contrasted in that saying of the apostle, “Scarcely for a
righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some
would even dare to die.” For the term “merciful,” or kind,
pious, godly, implies generally the possession of that sweet and
serene benignity of temper which springs from a heart right
first of all with God, and right also with men. It is the
superadded grace and beauty of what is “pure, lovely, and of
good report,” engrafted on the firmer stem or stock of what is
“true, and venerable, and just.” But even the combination, in
their highest perfection, of both of these elements of holy
virtue, will not always make the righteous and the merciful
tolerable to an evil age. Nay, it would almost seem as if, not
unfrequently, it was this very feature of mild benignity and
kindliness of disposition, that disqualified its possessor for
coping with the perverse generation of his fellows.
Hence, perhaps, an illustration may be drawn of the wisdom and
goodness of God, in raising up, for critical times, men not
destitute at all of the genial quality, nay possessing it in
ample measure -- for none ever did good without it -- but yet
distinguished in the eyes of men rather for hardier and more
rugged features. It was Luther, and not Melancthon; it was
Calvin at Geneva, and Knox among ourselves; and at a later era,
it was not Leighton, with all his holy beauty, but such men as
Henderson, and Rutherford, and George Gillespie, that the Great
Head of the Church raised up and fitted, for doing is hard work,
fighting his desperate battle, and maintaining His persecuted
cause. True, these worthies were, one and all of them, men of
large heart and fine feeling, as well as of indomitable courage
and resolution. But in their own times, and to their own
contemporaries, in the church as well as in the world, they
stood out as sternly righteous rather than merely kind and good
-- to be feared, rather than to be loved; and this very
impression contributed to their success: they persevered when
souls less resolute would have given in; they commanded awe,
where others might have been contemned.
And yet, is not this very thing a proof of the evil of the age
that has them -- that no soft voice will win its ear, that sons
of thunder must be sent to shake it, that if God has any good
work to do in it, it must be by men with nerve enough to make
all softer sentiments give place to the stern defiance of the
patriot, the confessor’s bold front, and the martyr’s tearless
eye? Ah! they are indeed the meek and the merciful of the earth
-- they whom an evil age will not tolerate, and on whom, as it
hastens to get rid of them, it would fain try, for its own
apology or defence, to fasten the imputation of violence and
severity. It was when Stephen was in the very act of crying,
“Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” that, buried beneath
the shower of stones, he fell asleep. And in the case of a
greater than Stephen, even of Him who alone is, by way of
eminence, the Righteous Man -- when He perished, it was with the
accents lingering on his lips, “Father forgive them; for they
know not what they do.”
It was thus, with their own hands, that the Jews weeded out from
among them the righteous and the merciful. Beginning with the
Lord of glory himself, who “came unto his own, and his own
received him not,” they “denied the holy One and the Just, and
desired a murderer to be given to them.” Thereafter “the blood
of his martyr Stephen was shed;” and at that time “there was a
great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and
the disciples were all scattered abroad.”
O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and
stonest them that are sent unto thee! Couldst thou not suffer
that wholesome leaven of the infant church but a little while
within thy bosom? And even of the apostles remaining behind,
must James be slain with the sword to please thee, and Peter be
cast into prison? Alas! alas! It is to be thy policy to the end.
The righteous pass from within thee -- merciful men are taken
away -- and so far thou gainest thy desire. But evil comes more
and more. Crimes, disorders, and dissensions increase. Yes! and
soon the Roman armies are round about thee: the roman eagle is
in the holy place. But of the righteous, of the merciful, there
are some that are still with thee; even yet thou hast believers
in Jesus in the midst of thee. But all in vain. Still the evil
comes more and more; every man’s hand is against his brother;
lawless lust reigns; blood is spilt like water; there is great
tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world
till this time, no, nor ever shall be: when, lo! As at a signal
from above, warned by their Master’s prophecies, the last
remnant of the Christians pass out and pass away. And as they
enter their city of refuge, on a hill apart -- suddenly, in a
moment, the final ruin descends; Jerusalem is a desolation, and
“the righteous have been taken from the evil to come.”
Surely these things are written for our learning. It may not be
by violence that the age now seeks to get rid of the righteous
and the godly. Ay, but there are other ways of thrusting them
aside; yes! and of so crushing their spirits that they feel as
if they had nothing for it but to sigh and cry in secret, or to
droop and pine away and die. Examples may be found in abundance
in society, both in private and in public life, to illustrate
this natural law, so to speak, of action and re-action between
the removal of the righteous and the advance of evil.
We might illustrate the principle as applicable to the family,
to the social circle, to the church in its several branches and
congregations, to the state, the senate, the cabinet, the
council-board and election-room, everywhere throughout the
kingdom. Thus Isaiah denounces “the rebellious people which say
to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us
right things; speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”
Jeremiah also exclaims: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the
priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it
so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?” And Paul predicts
concerning hearers of the gospel, that “the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts
shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Thus, also, Ahab sent Micaiah to the prison, and Zedekiah
consigned Jeremiah to the pit. It is a common expedient of all
bodies of men, to put away, whether by fair means or by foul,
what disturbs and reproves their doings Thus under various
pretences and by various contrivances, society contrives to
exclude from its entertainments and its ordinary transactions of
business, the name and the spirit of Christ. Thus a church
contrives to rid herself of the presence of the best and holiest
of her ministers and people, because the standard set up by them
is too high, and their attachment to their only Head and King is
too uncompromising. In all such instances, the parties taking
this course may gain their end; they may have their reward. The
more sensitive and timid may shrink from the rude strife, and
even the boldest may seem to stagger. And when the day is won,
when the righteous and the godly are silenced and removed, evil
may come as it pleases -- iniquity may rush in as a flood. The
only tolerated watchmen will be “the blind, the dumb, the
sleepers who lie down longing to slumber, the greedy who can
never have enough;” and men at last rejoicing in having the
field all to themselves, exulting in their unbroken and
undisturbed impunity, may cry to one another, “Come ye, I will
fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and
to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.”
Before leaving this view of the subject suggested by the text,
two practical remarks may be made: --
1. The righteous and the merciful or meek themselves should be
aware of accepting too soon or too easily their dismissal from
the arena -- their discharge from the stern strife of principle
and duty. The righteous perisheth at his post -- he does not
quit it: merciful men are taken away -- they go not willingly,
at their own discretion or by their own choice. It may be a
weary and irksome task, to persevere in forcing our intimacy on
a reluctant friend, or our warning on undutiful children, or
domestics, or neighbours, or our testimony on a declining
church, or our remonstrance on societies that treat us and it
alike with contumely and scorn. It is a thankless toil, to
continue plying with holy means and influences an age and
generation that will neither appreciate our endeavours, nor
repay them; and often, very often, may the man of spiritual
taste and refinement long to shrink into himself, and bury in
the calm repose of a meditative or domestic quietude the
vexations and disappointments of his active struggle with the
world’s sin and woe. “Oh! that I had wings like a dove, that I
might flee away, and be at rest.” But if we consider that our
retirement will be just the signal for evil coming -- that our
retreat will only precipitate the impending ruin -- we will not,
we cannot, turn and flee. And let us not say that our presence
can do but little, that our co-operation is a small matter, that
we, from our insignificance, will scarcely be missed at all.
That is not the question. The righteous, however weak, stands
till he perisheth. Merciful men, however little they can do,
wait upon the doing of it till they are taken away. Would we
have the coming of evil hastened? Is the chariot of sin moving
too slowly? If not, then be up and doing: whatever our hand
findeth to do, let us do it with our might: and let no
provocation, however irritating; no resistance, however
obstinate; no ill-success, however protracted; no
disappointments, no reproaches, no coldness of friends, or
violence of foes, ever tempt us to the sin of spiritual suiced
or self-murder, by making us weary of well-doing, or prevnting
us from continuing “stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the
work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour is not in
vain in the Lord.”
2. To those who may be putting away from themselves, or
contributing to put away from society, and from the influence
they ought to have in society, the righteous and the merciful, a
single word of expostulation may be addressed. It is surely a
serious matter to trifle with one of God’s best gifts to an evil
world. Others we have always with us -- of the profane and the
ungodly there will always be enough in the world -- but these we
have not always. Oh! remember, how precious on this earth is the
influence of a righteous man; and how precarious! A single
whisper of calumny, a breath of suspicion, may cause it to
perish for ever; a hasty word of passion, a careless smile of
ridicule, a jest, an idle story, may take from the character,
the example, the testimony of a man of God, all their power to
move or to melt the hearts of his fellow-men. Ah! do Christians
never thus destroy or mar one another’s means of doing good?
Alas! are good men so plentiful in the world that the cause can
afford to sacrifice the reputation of any one of them? The
righteous will perish soon enough without our casting a stone at
him. Merciful men will not tarry too long for our good or the
world’s. There are men enough to kill the prophets, though we
hold our hand -- to kill their characters, though we hold our
II. But there is more in the text than an ordinary rule, or law,
or principle of human affairs: there is in it a very special
providence of God; and it is that providence that the Spirit
would have us to lay to heart; it is the reasons of that
providence that he would have us to consider when he speaks of
the righteous perishing and merciful men being taken away.
In the first place, this perishing of the righteous, and taking
away of the godly, is evidently a dispensation of mercy to
themselves: they are taken from the evil; they rest from their
labours; they fall asleep in Jesus; they depart to be with
Christ; they go to be where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest. It is true they are taken from the good,
as well as from the evil to come: and hence they may often be in
a strait betwixt the two, having a desire to depart and to be
with Christ, while, nevertheless, to abide still in the flesh
may, for some good end, be needful. Nay, in ordinary
circumstances, the people of God are represented in scripture as
loving many days, and desiring life, that they may see good.
“Truly, the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the
eyes to behold the sun. I said, O my God, take me not away in
the midst of my days. O spare me, that I may recover strength
before I go hence and be no more.” This is almost the invariable
language of the saints in scripture. Early death is deprecated
as a calamity; prolonged life is anxiously, importunately, and
well-nigh impatiently, solicited as a boon (Isa. xxxviii.) Nor
is this strain of thought peculiar to the Old Testament; there
are traces of it also in the New. Aged Simeon, indeed, gladly
sings, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according
to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou
hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten
the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” But, at all
events, he had already seen a good old age; and it is simple
acquiescence and contentment, not by any means vehement desire,
that his hymn expresses. Paul, again, speaks of its being “far
better” -- and of his “desire -- to depart and to be with
Christ;” but not to speak of his entire willingness to remain,
even in suffering and bonds, and of the state of absolute
indifferency to which he ultimately brings his mind -- “To me to
live is Christ, and to die gain” -- we must remember the trying
circumstances of the church and of the times, which might well
recall to Paul’s mind the very privilege of our text, and make
him wish to be taken from the evil to come. On the other hand,
John, narrating the Lord’s saying to Peter concerning him, “If I
will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow
thou me;” and the impression which, in consequence, went abroad
that he was not to die, seems to represent such a destiny as an
object of envy; and Paul himself tacitly recognizes a certain
advantage in being alive and remaining unto the coming of the
Lord, when he thinks it necessary, as it were, to counterbalance
that advantage by the assurance that such as enjoy it shall not
prevent, or have the start of, the buried saints, for “the dead
in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the
Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
But, however this may be, and however even believers may
naturally and lawfully desire length of days, their removal at
any stage of their pilgrimage can never be untimely. They
perish; their mortal bodies rest in the gloomy grave, they go
the way of all flesh; we have taken our last look at the beloved
face, we have heard the last accents of the familiar voice, we
have received the latest sigh of the departing spirit, he whom
we loved sleepeth -- Lazarus is dead. But the dust in the tomb
is still united to Christ; and the free soul has gone to the
Saviour's bosom. Would we bring back the lost one to this weary
world? Has he entered into rest too soon? Too soon, alas! for
us; but surely not too soon for himself! Could we have the heart
to wish him here again? Good he might have seen -- good he might
have done -- in the land of the living. But the evil -- oh! the
evil he might have had to witness and endure, especially in
these ominous times on which we have fallen! Yea, Lord, thou
doest well to take away the righteous from the evil to come. He
had his own share of the evil that has come already: he had his
own share of the common sin and sorrow, and his own share also
of his Master’s cross. It was time for him to depart; he was
ripe for rest and glory. Yes! Our sorrow is neither joyless nor
hopeless when it is the righteous that perisheth, and the
merciful men that are taken away. In their case, there is an
ample compensation and equivalen for what we lose in what they
gain. Even as to the work and service for which we might most
have wished them to be spared, they may really be taken from the
evil to come. They might have lived to see their fondest hopes
of usefulness blighted, and their best and fairest plans
disconcerted. They might have lived to endure the contradiction
of sinners against themselves, to be vexed and wounded by the
inconsistent profession and unsteadfast walk of the people whom
they sought to guide in the right way. They might have lived to
go on sowing in tears, without ever sensibly reaping in joy.
They might have lived, still all day long to stretch forth their
hands to a gainsaying and perverse generation.
For such to be taken away is a blessing indeed. The righteous,
the merciful, are ready to go. But what shall we say of the
ungodly and sinners? where shall they appear? They, too, are
taken away prematurely, and, in a sense, they are taken from the
evil to come: from seeing many of the fruits and consequences of
their sin, from many a broken heart and many a ruined soul, from
degradation, disease, and slow decay, inevitable had they been
spared -- they are suddenly and abruptly taken away. But, alas!
from all good also they are taken away for ever -- from their
corn and wine and oil; from a preached Christ, a striving
Spirit, a waiting God, from all means of grace and hope of
glory, they are taken away for ever. Oh! that they were wise,
that they would consider this, that they would remember their
latter end! Blessed are they who are taken only from the evil to
But, secondly, the pith and substance of the lesson in the text
is the solemn and mysterious announcement implied in it, that
evil is to be expected when the righteous is taken away. And
when at any time, and in any circumstances, the removal of the
righteous becomes more than ordinarily frequent, the coming evil
may be apprehended as likely to be all the greater. It may be
evil of a temporal kind -- such as visitations of disease and
famine as God has sometimes suspended over us, in these lands,
for anxious months or years; or it may be spiritual evil -- such
as the evil of faithless watchmen, and a secure and carnal and
contented people. We profess not to prophesy, we presume not to
guess; we merely note the fact of the righteous perishing, and
merciful men being taken away. And, in conclusion, if these
things be signs of coming evil; if the falling of our
standard-bearers is, indeed, judicial and ominous; if darker
trials and harder struggles are before us; or if spiritual
deadness threatens us: is this a time for lethargy or
supineness? Are we to fold our hands in helpless and desponding
inactivity? Nay, rather to your tents, O Israel. Let us ply the
throne of grace; let us ply the hearts of men. If the fall of
our champions and captains is to be the signal for a fiercer
onset of the foe -- if the taking away of the righteous is the
presage of coming evil -- then let us, as the forlorn hope, if
need be, cast ourselves into the breach; and if we perish, we
perish taken ourselves from the evil; while if we altogether
hold our peace, then shall there enlargement and deliverance
arise from another place, but we shall be destroyed. -- R. S.
CANDLISH, D. D.
THE CHILDREN’S SERVICE.
HOW PAUL CAME TO BE SENT TO ROME.
SOME five days after Paul had been brought to Caesarea, his
enemies followed him for the purpose of accusing him before
Felix the governor. They brought an orator down with them, and
he made a swelling speech full of big words, and charged Paul
with being a very bad man indeed. But the apostle told Felix the
truth so calmly and clearly, that the governor would not condemn
him, but put the case off till Lysias should be able to come
down to Caesarea. So he gave Paul in charge to a centurion, but
said he was to have every freedom that could be given him, so
that he was kept safely. All his friends that pleased were to be
allowed to see him, and do him any kindness they had in their
power. The governor even sent for him often, and talked with
him. One day especially, his wife, who was a Jewess, was with
him, when Felix asked Paul to tell him about the faith in
Christ. And when Paul was speaking, and setting before his two
hearers the great truths and duties of Christianity,
particularly when he talked solemnly about being just and
temperate, and about the future judgment, the governor began to
tremble, and said, For this time, Paul, leave me; when I have
leisure I will send for you again. He did call him often, but I
do not think that he ever found the hour convenient for hearing
Paul on the same subject. He rather had a thought that perhaps
the apostle would offer him money, to bribe him to let him go
free, and so liked frequently to see him. Two years passed in
this way, and then one Festus came into the room of Felix; and
Felix, wishing to please the Jews when leaving his place, left
Paul a prisoner.
The new governor having gone to visit Jerusalem, the high priest
and chief Jews went to him, and told him about Paul, and asked
him to bring him up to Jerusalem to be judged. They intended to
kill him by the way. The governor, however, said No: he would
keep him still at Caesarea; he would himself very soon be
returning to that town, and he would lose no time in hearing the
case. He bade them therefore go down as many of them as could,
and say there what they had against him. Festus returned to
Caesarea in about ten days, and number of the Jews also went
down. The very next day, Paul was brought to trial. A great many
complaints were brought against him; but he answered clearly,
and showed that he had done his enemies no wrong, neither had he
committed any offence against the Roman power. After a time,
Festus asked him if he would go up to Jerusalem, and be judged
there. Paul said at once he would not go. He said he had done no
hurt to the Jews, and that Festus must know that quite well. He
was quite ready to be tried if he had been guilty of any crime,
but, being innocent, he would not agree to be given up to his
foes. He said he was at Caesar’s judgment-seat, and he would not
go to any other tribunal. Then knowing that if he appealed to
the emperor himself the governor durst not lawfully send him to
any other place than Rome, he said, I appeal unto Caesar. Festus
talked with his counsel for a little, and then answered, You
shall go to Caesar; I will make preparations to send you. But
before an opportunity came, an interesting thing happened.
There was a Jewish ruler, called Agrippa, who had succeeded his
father as king, not over all his dominions, but a part of them,
and had been acknowledged by the Roman emperor, and had also
been appointed to look after the temple in Jerusalem, with the
right of naming the high priest. He knew very well about the
laws and customs of the Jews. He was one of the family of the
Herods. One day, not long after Paul had appealed to Caesar this
King Agrippa, with his wife, came to pay Festus a visit. They
stayed with him a long time, and no doubt there was a great deal
of feasting and pomp. At last Festus thought he would speak to
Agrippa about Paul. So he told the story, and Agrippa was so
much interested that he said he would like himself to hear a man
like that. You shall hear him to-morrow, said Festus. Next day,
accordingly, there was a gathering of the chief men of the
place, and Roman officers, in a great hall; and King Agrippa and
his queen came in great state, and Paul was brought out and set
before them. Festus made a little speech to Agrippa and all
around, saying that, not knowing very well what to write to his
master the emperor about this prisoner, he had brought him here
to-day, that he might be fully examined before them all,
especially the king, in order by their help to find out what
should be said to Caesar. King Agrippa, on hearing that, said to
Paul, You are allowed to speak and tell us all about yourself.
The good and brave apostle held out his hand -- while a chain
hung from his arm, by which he was fastened to a soldier
standing by -- and began his speech. He said he was happy to
answer for himself before the king, because he knew him to be
well acquainted with what the Jews believed and practised. He
went on to say, that he was now found fault with on account of
his believing in what all their fathers hoped for. He asked,
looking at all around, Why should you think that God is not able
to raise the dead? And then he went on to tell the story of his
own conversion. He told it so clearly, so earnestly, so
powerfully, that every one hearing him was struck. Festus could
not understand his story, or his zeal in telling it. He called
out at the end, You are beside yourself, Paul; your great
learning has made you mad. No, no, said Paul, I am not mad, most
noble Festus; every word I speak is the simple, sober truth. The
king knows about these things; for they were not done in a
corner, and I speak, therefore, boldly before him. He then
looked straight to the king, and said right out, King Agrippa,
do you believe the prophets? I know you do. Agrippa was much
moved, and said, Paul, in a little you would persuade me to be a
Christian. Some people think he said this with a sneer; some
think he was quite in earnest. Paul answered as if he took his
words to be in earnest. He said, I would to God, that not only
you, O king, but all that are here to-day and have heard me
speak, were in a little or a longer time just what I myself am,
except for these bonds. With that he showed again his chained
arm. As he did this, speaking so fervently, the king rose up,
and the governor and all the rest followed his example. We do
not know whether any of them did become Christians, but we may
hope that Paul the prisoner did not preach in vain that day. At
all events he produced an impression on mens’ minds, that he was
no criminal deserving of punishment. For when those who had
heard him had gone aside to talk among themselves, the common
opinion was that he had done nothing deserving death or
imprisonment. Agrippa said to Festus, You might have set him at
liberty without the least hesitation, if it had not been that he
has appealed to the emperor. So it turned out that Paul’s own
words came to settle the matter of his going to Rome. The
providence of God was bringing it it about; for there was work
waiting for the apostle in the great city, and after that, rest
from his work by martyrdom.
A short time after these things, it was resolved to send Paul
off to Italy, and a centurion with a company of soldiers took
him in charge, and embarked aboard a ship that was going to set
sail. But there were changes and dangers to be gone through
before he should reach the Roman capital. The next story will be
about storm and shipwreck.
QUESTIONS FROM THE BIBLE STORY.
1. What was the name of the orator that was taken by the Jews to
Caesarea, for the purpose of making a speech against Paul?
2. Where in the Gospels, do we meet with the story of a pious
centurion, whom Jesus commended greatly?
3. Where do we read about a pious centurion that lived in
Caesarea, and was much favoured by God?
4. Who was it that often heard a preacher and prisoner gladly,
and did much that he bade him, but ended by putting him to death
in his prison?
5. Can you tell how many rulers of the family of Herod are
mentioned in the new Testament?
6. What was the name of Agrippa’s queen?
7. Where do we read of the preaching of the Saviour producing
astonishment among his hearers, for the power it possessed?
8. Where do we read of the preaching of an apostle piercing a
great many hearts?
9. What two persons appeared before kings to explain things that
had perplexed them, and were rewarded with chains of gold?
10. When were two good men set at liberty when they were
prisoners, by the magistrates coming and entreating them to go
free, and leave the place?
11. When, and by whom, was Christ supposed to have gone out of
12. By what little word are we enabled to know that Paul had
some companion when he sailed away from Caesarea to Italy?
13. Where does Paul himself refer to his coming martyrdom?
14. What other apostle refers beforehand to his approaching
15. When did Jesus foretel the manner of that other apostle’s
ANSWERS to these questions will be found in the following
chapters. -- Acts xxiv.; Matt. viii.; Acts x.; Mark vi.; Matt.
ii., Luke iii., Acts xii. and xxvi.; Acts xxv.; Matt.vii.; Acts
ii.; Gen xli. and Dan. v.; Acts xvi.; Mark iii.; Acts xxvii.; 2
Tim. iv.; 2 Pet. i.; John xxi.
O GOD, who hast said that it is pleasing to Thee that Thy people
should pray for all men, for king and all in authority, hear us
when we ask Thee to bless our beloved Queen, and all the members
of her royal family. Bless also, we pray Thee, all judges and
magistrates in our land, all governors of our colonies, and all
that in any way are called to be rulers over our
fellow-subjects. Bless all rulers on the earth, emperors, kings,
presidents, and make them just and good. Bless all that may be
prisoners for conscience’ sake. If Thine eye sees them in
prison, or brought before the judgment-seat of men, because they
love that which is right, help Thou them to be faithful and
true, and deliver them from their foes. Pity those who are in
prison for their crimes. Lead them to think upon their sins, and
to repent. Bring them to Him who saved the thief dying on the
cross beside Him. Lord, we thank Thee for the protection of laws
in our own and other countries. May the laws of men be more and
more made to be just and right, like thine. We thank Thee that
if Thy children suffer for good deeds, Thy judgment will put all
to rights. Lord, help us to bear in mind that we must all stand
at the judgment-seat of Christ. In view of this may we always be
found on the watch, since we know neither the day nor the hour
in which the Son of man cometh. May we earnestly strive to do
the work which God requires of us, that we may hear our great
Saviour and Lord at last say to us, Well done, good servants,
enter into the joy of your Lord. All we ask is for His sake.
THE EVENING SERVICE.
ALMIGHTY and gracious Father, Thou art rich in mercy, and
infinitely more wise in giving than we are in asking. Grant us
now the Spirit of wisdom to guide us, that so we may not fail of
receiving because of our asking amiss. Thou knowest what is
truly good for us, and that we humbly beseech Thee to bestow,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm xxiii.
DREAD Sov’reign, let my evening song
Like holy incense rise;
Assist the offerings of my tongue
To reach the lofty skies.
Through all the dangers of the day
Thy hand was still my guard;
And still to drive my wants away
Thy mercy stood prepared.
Perpetual blessings from above
Encompass me around;
But O how few returns of love
Hath my Creator found!
Sprinkled afresh with pard’ning blood,
I lay me down to rest,
As in the everlasting arms
Or on my Saviour’s breast.
LUKE XXIII. 8-46.
AND when Herod saw Jesus he was exceedingly glad: for he was
desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many
things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by
him. 9. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he
answered him nothing. 10. And the chief priests and scribes
stood, and vehemently accused him. 11. And Herod with his men of
war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a
gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. 12. And the same
day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they
were at enmity between themselves. 13. And Pilate, when he had
called together the chief priests, and the rulers, and the
people, 14. Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as
one that perverteth the people; and behold, I, having examined
him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those
things whereof ye accuse him; 15. No, nor yet Herod; for I sent
you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.
16. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. 17. (For of
necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) 18. And
they cried out all at once saying, Away with this man, and
release unto us Barabbas: 19. (Who for a certain sedition made
in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) 20. Pilate
therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. 21.
But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. 22. And he
said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I
have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise
him, and let him go. 23. And they were instant with loud voices,
requiring that he might be crucified, and the voices of them and
of the chief priests prevailed. 24. And Pilate gave sentence
that it should be as they required. 25. And he released unto
them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom
they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will. 26. And
as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian,
coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that
he might bear it after Jesus. 27. And there followed him a great
company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and
lamented him. 28. But Jesus, turning unto them, said, Daughters
of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for
your children. 29. For, behold, the days are coming, in the
which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that
never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30. Then shall
they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the
hills, Cover us. 31. For if they do these things in a green
tree, what shall be done in the dry? 32. And there were also two
others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 33. And
when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there
they crucified him, and the malefactors; one on the right hand,
and the other on the left, &c .
O GOD, we thank Thee that unto us hath come this great mercy
once again, to hear the blessed invitations of Thy gospel: at
the table of our Father’s bounty we have received the children’s
bread. For the cold hearts with which we have heard of Thy
mercy, and the hardened pride with which we have hearkened to
Thy faithful warnings; for the wandering thought and the
rebellious desire that filled our souls when our lips were
opened in praise and prayer -- we entreat Thy pardon, O God of
all compassion. Thou willest not the death of the sinner; Thou
hast no profit in them that go down into the pit; and we now
therefore beseech Thee, O God of our salvation, to deliver us
and purge away our sins for Thy name’s sake.
We render Thee thanks for all the proofs of Thy tender mercy
that Thou hast given us. Thou compassest our path and our lying
down. By Thy unceasingly fatherly care we have been preserved in
peace and in safety through this day. Let us not be forgetful of
Thee who hast guided us, and guarded us, and fed us, but help us
to look up unto Thee in every hour of every day for present
blessings, and for their everlasting fruit in the good of our
souls. Help us day by day to cherish gratitude for Thy mercies,
that have been bestowed on us the unthankful and the evil; which
have come to us when we looked not for them yea, although our
hearts were regardless of Thy love, and our minds were estranged
from Thy truth, and our strength was given to the cares and
vanities of the present world.
Above all, make us deeply thankful for the gift of Thy Son,
through whom thou art reconciling the world unto Thyself, not
imputing unto men their trespasses. We are persuaded that God,
who spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all,
will with Him also freely give us all things. O that we could
realize Him as Thy best gift unto the children of men, and thank
Thee with all our hearts, that the things which even the
prophets and wise men of old desired to see and have not seen,
and to hear but have not heard them, our eyes have seen and our
ears have heard. We know that in Christ Jesus all fulness
dwells; and we beseech Thee to put it into our hearts to draw
largely on those supplies of grace He is ever ready to impart,
so that we may grow up unto Him in all things.
Grant, O Lord, that those who have heard Thy word this day may
be doers of it, and may show their faith by their works. Make
our native land a habitation of mercy, showing unto the darkened
nations of the earth how blessed are the people whose God is the
Lord. Prepare for their departure those who are drawing near to
death. Have mercy on the fatherless and the widow; preserve all
lawful travellers by land and sea; and every where make the
dealings of Thy providence speedily to compass the great ends of
Thy grace, in the coming of Thy kingdom of righteousness and
peace. To these our prayers send a gracious answer for Jesus’
MORNING AND EVENING MEDITATIONS.
For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s
sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth
as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy
glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth
of the Lord shall name.
Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and
a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land
any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah,
and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy
land shall be married.
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken: and thou shalt be called,
Sought out, A city not forsaken.
Isa lxii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 12.
For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land; a land of
brooks of water, of fountains, and depths that spring out of
valleys and hills.
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the
Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein
were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was
no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers
knew not; that he might humble thee, and that he might prove
thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.
Deut. viii. 7, 10, 15, 16.
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne
chastisement, I will not offend any more:
That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I
will do no more.
For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is
Look upon mine affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.
Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they
are preserved for ever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut
Job xxxiv. 31, 32. Ps. xxv. 11, 18. Ps. xxxvii. 27, 28.
Thou God seest me.
There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of
iniquity may hide themselves.
For he will not lay upon man more than right, that he should
enter into judgment with God.
He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set
others in their stead.
When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he
hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done
against a nation, or against a man only.
Gen. xvi. 13. Job. xxxiv. 21, 22, 23, 24, 29.
He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which
he hath made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity
consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to
the end that man should find nothing after him.
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of
water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but the Lord
pondereth the hearts.
Isa. xxvii. 8. Eccles. vii. 13, 14. Prov. xxi. 1, 2.
Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day
may bring forth.
For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not
any thing neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of
them is forgotten.
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now
perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any
thing that is done under the sun.
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Prov. xxvii. 1. Eccles. ix. 5, 6. Num. xxiii. 10. Ps. cxvi. 15.
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of
For these things I week: mine eye, mine eye runneth down with
water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far
from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.
Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from
the Father, he shall testify of me.
Jer. ix. 1. Lam. i. 16, 17. John xv. 26.
Arise, cry out in the night; in the beginning of the watches
pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord:
lift up thy hands toward him.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine
eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord;
and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Lam. ii. 19. Ps. xxx. 5. Jer. xxxi. 16. Ps. cxxvi. 5.
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in
the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself, and discover not a
secret to another.
Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are
in the city.
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and
Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear
thy servant curse thee:
For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself
likewise hast cursed others.
Prov. xxv. 8, 9. Eccles. vii. 19, 20, 21, 22.
I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my
tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding; but he that
is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein
is a breach in the spirit.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice,
blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man
with his deeds.
Ps. xxxix. 1. Prov. xiv. 29. Prov. xv. 3, 4. Col. iii. 8, 9.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of
the Lord is.
Whoso keepeth the commandments shall feel no evil thing; and a
wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your
fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and
rain righteousness upon you.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent
ye, and believe the gospel.
Eph. v. 15, 16, 17. Eccles. viii. 5. Hos. x. 12. Mark i. 15.
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea the time cometh,
that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
And these things will they do unto you, because they have not
known the Father, nor me.
But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath
filled your heart.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that
I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come
unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
John xvi. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7.
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