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The fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
MORNING. Isaiah lvii. . 1 Tue righteous perisheth. To society at large, the death of
the righteous is a calamity ; espeand no man layeth it to
cially the death of righteous kings, heart : and merciful men are like Hezekiah and Josiah. To themtaken away, none considering selves, indeed, death is a blessing ! that the righteous is taken God grant to thee, O my reader ! the away from the evil to come. death of the righteous. He shall enter into peace : they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his upright- 3 In awful contrast are placed the ness. But draw near hither, wicked; slaves of the world and ye sons of the sorceress, the their own wills, cruel and licentious, seed of the adulterer and the making their sons and daughters whore. Against whom do ve pass the fire to Moloch. sport yourselves ? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks ? Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these ? Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed : even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice. Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance : for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them ; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 9 The nation is reproached for ° And thou wentest to the having striven to propitiate the kings king with ointment, and didst of Assyria and Egypt by a base subincrease thy perfumes, and
servience, instead of putting their
whole trust in the mercy of their didst send thy messengers God - courageously and unreserfar off, and didst debase thy- vedly*. self even unto hell. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not.grieved. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast
* They sent presents, which were conveyed by ambassadors. Yet their presents and their homage were as unprofitable as they were debasing. Indeed, even as to this life, a mean truckling to our worldly interests is ever false policy; whereas a bold pursuit of honour, under trust of the divine blessing, is fruitful alike of success and comfort.
lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not? I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works ; for they shall not profit thee. When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them : but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain ; and shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of 15 Blessed truth! He who inhabitmy people. For thus saith eth eternity will dwell in my heart, the high and lofty One that if I be lowly and contrite, and ready inhabiteth eternity, whose to welcome Him! What comfort in name is Holy; I dwell in my sorrow does that truth convey! the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his 18 O how placable is our God! True, ways, and will heal him : I He punished his erring people ; but will lead him also, and re- He will forgive, if they will return! store comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD ; and I will heal him. * But the wicked are like
20 The wicked are turbulent and the troubled sea, when it can
: unhappy-dissatisfied and envious. not rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
The humble and good seek peace, and ensue it. They envy not, they covet not ; they have found, that godliness, with contentment, is great gain. They patiently tarry the Lord's leisure. Heaven is their aim.
EVENING. Isaiah lviii.
'Cry aloud, spare not, lift Bear with your minister in his up thy voice like a trumpet,
of earnestness ; even though he some
times speak severe and painful truths. and shew my people their Hes
He speaks but as God commands him. transgression, and the house
2 The closest observance of outof Jacob their sins. ? Yet
ward forms in our fasts and other they seek me daily, and de
religious services profits not, unless light to know my ways, as a there be also a spirit of inward denation that did righteousness, votion. God requires heart-service. and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice ; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge ? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness : ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is it such a fast that I have 5 Devotion, to profit our souls, must chosen ? a day for a man to company us into active life, and inafflict his soul? is it to bow fluence us in the fulfilment of all down his head as a bulrush, our relative and social duties *. and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him ? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable 6 The true worshipper of God will day to the LORD ? Is not exercise every act of charity and this the fast that I have benevolence which circumstances chosen ? to loose the bands present to him, and his means can of wickedness, to undo the compass. heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it ; When we exercise compassion not to deal thy bread to the upon the poor and afflicted, are they hungry, and that thou bring no that thou bring not “our own flesh ?" As to rich
and poor, is not the Lord the Maker the poor that are cast out to of them all? “Have pity upon the thy house? when thou seest poor !" the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh ? Then 8 The happy effects of such sinshall thy light break forth as cerity shall be evident to all, like the morning, and thine health the bright and cheering light of shall spring forth speedily :
morning, when the shades of night
are past. The Lord will be always and thy righteousness shall go at hand, to help thee, and guide before thee; the glory of the thee, and walk with thee! He is LORD shall be thy rereward with thee now t. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer ; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: and the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones : and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. * Jezebel proclaimed a fast for strife and violence. 1 Kings xxi. 9.
+ He shall“ both prevent and follow you”-go before you and follow after as thy rereward.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places : thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. 13 If 13 To keep alive this religious spi. thou turn away thy foot from rit in active life, let us “ keep holy the sabbath, from doing thyth com doing thy the Sabbath,” by turning away from
y it every worldly affection *, and depleasure on my holy day; voting all our thoughts on that day and call the sabbath a delight, to the honour of our God. So shall the holy of the LORD, ho- his favour and blessing shadow us ! nourable ; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father : for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
MORNING Islah lix. 'BEHOLD, the Lord's hand i God is always the same, in power is not shortened, that it can- and in mercy, in love and in justice. not save ; neither his ear 2 Whether we would that He reheavy, that it cannot hear: ceive us in mercy, or punish us in * but your iniquities have se- power, must depend upon ourselves. parated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will s If we change from holiness to sin, not hear. For your hands He punisheth ; if from sin to holiare defiled with blood, and ness, He blesseth t. your fingers with iniquity ; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth : they trusted in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. * They hatch cockatrice' eggs, 5 The sinful soul conceiveth evil and weave the spider's web: thoughts, and bringeth forth ungod. he that eateth of their eggs liness ; and ungodliness, when it is
finished, bringeth forth death ; even dieth, and that which is
as the serpent its venomous brood. • What feet are to the body, affections are to the soul--agents which, if of a worldly stamp, conduct it to evil. From the Sabbath, therefore, we must turn away such affections: not pursuing on that day our usual pleasures, not following our usual occupations ; but delighting to make a distinction, which shall prove that we have in mind the honour of our God, and are then most happy, when we most honour Him.
+ The Jews were astonished that when, as his elect, they cried unto God in their calamities, He delivered them not. We learn, that election saveth not the disobedient. Profession is mockery without sincerity.
crushed breaketh out into a 6 Even the most subtle counsels of viper. 6 Their webs shall mere worldly wisdom, in civil or not become garments, neither social life, are weak as the spider's shall they cover themselves web; a breath may sweep them all with their works : their works away. are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood : their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8 A crooked expediency, and 3 * The way of peace they know selfish course of policy, whether in not; and there is no judg. public or in private affairs, lead to ment in their goings : they
ruin. There is only one safe path,
the straight and narrow road of have made them crooked Christian principle *. paths: whosoevergoeth there. The worldly wise wait for light, in shall not know peace. and behold the prospect becomes * Therefore is judgment far obscure and perplexing. Every from us, neither doth justice wicked man knows this. overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes : we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them ; in transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth ; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that 10 Since no man could save his own there was no man, and won- soul, much less the souls of others, dered that there was no in- God himself, in the likeness of man, tercessor: therefore his arm became our Redeemer and Interbrought salvation unto him. cessor; and Himself was revealed as and his righteousness, it sus. our Righteousness. tained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and
* The other roads are broad and smooth, and they who walk them, like bewildered travellers in the desert, fancy refreshing fields and bright streams, where in reality glaring sands await, to blind and overwhelm them in the darkness of death.