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II. 3.1

The Sentinel on his Watch

133

beyond sight and sense? There is a land of righteousness, though we do not find it here.

15. They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag : therefore they rejoice and are glad. 16. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. 17. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations ? Keep Thy servants from imitating this world's Prince. If they are

successful in Thy work, let them not bow down to their own talents or eloquence. Let those who are prospered by Thee return all glory at once to Thee. And keep us, by Thy mercy, from the snares laid by the dread Fisher of Souls. Šatan baits his hook for us, casts his net round us. He would fain devour all that is precious in our souls. Let us be able to say at last with a thankful heart, "The snare is broken and we are delivered.'

CHAPTER II

I

and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. The Prophet stands and looks out into the darkness. He is charged

with the care of God's people. He looks out for an answer to the difficulties which beset faith. He watches for a gleam of light, Give us, Lord, such guards as this, to sound the trumpet when danger is near, to discern signs of the times, to persevere in their watch through all weathers. We are in much darkness, and subtle foes are at hand, therefore we need a sentinel. In their day Prophets and Psalmists exercised the sentinel's office; nor does God ever leave His people quite destitute of an eye to discern, a voice to warn.

2. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie : though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. I learn humbly to wait God's time. I remember that He has all

eternity in which to work out His plan. The believer waits 134

The Just shall live by Faith

[HAB. II.

patiently for persecution to end, waits till the oppressors pass by and the Church has time to breathe. Nay, he waits patiently for this baffling world of sense to give way to somewhat further. Soon time's shadows will be gone, and eternal righteousness, undimmed truth, will be revealed. “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.' Let your gaze be set toward the future. Trust in what is not yet made manifest. Be certain that God will not deceive those who trust Him. Yes, I draw a cheque on Him, readily, confidently, humbly; and I know that He will honour it. 4. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. This is the motto of Saints ; this is the watchword of faith under

both covenants; this is the message to be written out plainly and shown for ready readers. Pride seeks for a present recompense, seizes greedily on whatever pleasure or advantage the world exhibits, relies on the deceitful show of things here. But faith is content to trust in the unseen and to wait, though it have to wait long. Grant us, Lord, a firm confidence in Thy righteous government. This will sustain us in great trials, keep us from despair, make us pray, give us tenderness of heart. Thus prosperity will not upset us, adversity will not crush us; we shall keep a straight course, leaning on Thy Hand. This glorious verse, by his fidelity shall the righteous live,' is thrice quoted by S. Paul, who was indeed an example of it. He teaches us to put sense aside and trust our unseen Divine Friend Who wrought a mighty work for us and will bring it to a good end.

man.

5. Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people: Wine raises unreal glories in the toper's mind, makes him fancy he is clever, great, daring. Just so ambition deceives the covetous

He follows a shadow, eagerly pursues a phantom of universal empire, but he cheats himself no less than he plunders his brethren. What if he devoured others, will not Death speedily devour him ? What if his glory was manifested in revel and state (like Belshazzar's, in Daniel v.), is there not a warning word to say, * Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided '? To do good, to help the poor, to pray and love in humility, here is a true and worthy object of life. Those who follow it are not deceived ; all

else is vanity. 6. Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that VER. 14]

Stones crying out

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increaseth that which is not his! how long ? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! 7. Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? 8. Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee ; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. The spoiler owes his turn of retribution. The day of payment will

certainly come. He has had his brother's share of this world's goods, but must give reckoning for it to Eternal Justice. When Socialist writers speak in such terms as these of those who have accumulated wealth, when they endeavour to prove that the wealth rightly belongs to the artisans who have produced it, not to the capitalist who enjoys it, I have much to find fault with in their logic, but I confess that there is something in the spirit of their words which touches me. Those rich men alone who hold wealth as a trust for their brethren escape from the condemnation. By good works and alms they deprecate doom.

9. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil ! 10. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul. 11. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. The builder has constructed his palace by oppression and robbery.

The very stones and timbers in it cry out against him. Remember, dear friend, that souls alone last. The most durable-seeming palaces will soon crumble away ; whereas souls comforted, taught, reclaimed, enter as living stones into the eternal Temple of our God. O may the mighty Architect employ my humble means to erect such a lasting, living Temple out of frail humanity!

12. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13. Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity ? 14. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. The glorious monarch sets forth his magnificence by endless ex

pense in enriching his city, but he is working for the coming conflagration. The Lord's Kingdom alone, His Name alone, endure. Much of our labour (so, too, Jerem. li. 58) will be 136

A Contrast between God and Idols [HAB. II.

found to have been spent on 'very vanity,' will not endure 'the fire' which shall try it. Yet what we do for God's glory and to carry out His designs for souls is safe.

'What though the pile were doomed, Love will abide the fire; her gift is unconsumed.'

15. Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16. Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered : the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory. 17. For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. The false foe professes friendship and alliance that he may subvert

his ally and triumph over his weakness. At last he covers him with shame, makes him drink to the dregs the cup of adversity, laughs at his sad condition (just as Noah's ungrateful son treated the Patriarch when drunk, Gen. ix. 22). He himself in turn shall drain the cup, shall lose his senses in the bitter draught, shall become a theme of mockery. Reading these verses, I remember how my Saviour had to taste wine mingled with myrrh,' a bitter draught ; how He was overwhelmed with confusion, scorned as an impostor, and I see

that those who scorned Him were but preparing ruin for their own Church and nation.

18. What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it, the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols ? 19. Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. 20. But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. The idolater makes dumb metal or stone into a fancied source of

grace and guidance. What folly to compare such with the Living God whom Israel worships ! In these days and lands we are not tempted to worship material idols. No, but clever men erect systems of their own to take the place of Christ's Gospel, Christ's Holy Law. They adore their own inventions, despising Christ's teaching. Be sure that nothing which is invented merely by man III. 5.)

Habakkuk's Prayer

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can stand in the day of trial. The Holy Gospel lasts. It is a
touchstone to all else. False teachers are dumb when we cry to
them to account for, or remedy, our condition.

'The music breathed by Love alone
Can ease the world's immortal pain.'

CHAPTER III

A

of the

PRAYER of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.

2. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid : O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst years

make known ; in wrath remember mercy. This is the prayer of Saints at all times. They entreat for a speedy

manifestation of God's mercy. They have heard of coming judgments, and their hearts sink within them; they see a long space of years in which the wicked triumph. Therefore they long for God's mercy to shine forth speedily and relieve His servants. They say, 'Thy kingdom come'; they cry, 'How long, O Lord, Holy and True?' Let me join my prayers to theirs ; let me recognise that God's work still goes on amidst this world's winter; let me await the hour of its manifestation. The eternal spring will cause to revive what seems lifeless and forgotten now. God's mercy lasts on, though it be for a while obscured by clouds of wrath. In this grand hymn the Prophet recalls God's interpositions of old time as pledges that He still lives and reigns and vindicates His servants.

3. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand : and there was the hiding of his power. 5. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

*But when He came the second time,

He came in power and love.' God was hidden indeed in our poor humanity, yet with some flashes of glory breaking forth and discerned by the believing eye. On Christmas night believers saw the glory, heard the praises. The piercèd Hands on the Cross had no visible radiance (such as proceeded from Moses' face), but they exercised a hidden power to move the world. Nothing could seem more unlike, at first sight, than the majestic Theophany at Sinai (so often referred to by Jewish writers) and the veiled homely appearance of the Redeemer.

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