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VER. 13.]

Alas! alas /

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conjunction with a profession of faith in Israel's God. They came to the marriage feast, yet without the wedding garment. So they were cast out' with scorn when the king came in to see the guests' (S. Matt. xxii. 11). It was a love for ‘strange apparel' that ruined Achan (Joshua vii. 21), and the Prophets speak of it as a frequent temptation to Israel (Ezekiel xxiii. 12). Christians should be clothed with Christ Jesus ; should put on bowels of mercy, kindness, long-suffering'; should present themselves before God wrapt in the merits of Christ Jesus, not in their own self-confidence. How can I satisfy the King's searching eye unless He sees in me something of His dear Son's likeness? I have too often rent and stained my baptismal robe. It needs to be renewed

by repentance. 9. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. 10. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills. 11. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down ; all they that bear silver are cut off. Pride, violence, and deceit turn into misery; shrieks and laments

replace busy traffic. The city of God is found defenceless, her strength and glory are laid aside, the foe enters on every hand. What is this army that beleaguers the house of my God, and triumphs easily over the feeble defenders ? It is the host of evil spirits who surround the soul. When prayers grow cold and watch is neglected, they rush in and dwell there, to our utter ruin. Let us watch now, while militant days last. Security belongs to heaven, not to this earth.

12. And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil. 13. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation : they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof. Life may pass in the opinion that we are well enough, that there is

no need for us to reform. We are satisfied with our own goodness; but it is human respect or mere habit or the love of our own ease that make us keep in good repute. This thick veil which hides us from ourselves God will one day tear asunder, and we shall see ourselves as we are. I desire that His candle shine 144

The Day of Wrath

[ZEPH. I.

into my heart now while I can walk by it, that His hand stir roughly (if need be) my slothful ease now while there is time to work for Him. Let me put my whole confidence in eternal things, for they alone last. Money in the bank, landed property, popularity with my fellows, an able brain or hand, are not the true riches. They cannot endure God's judgment, or deliver in the day of trial.

14. The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. 15. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16. A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. 17. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord : and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. If I live in peaceable days, and such terrors and miseries seem far

off, still let me remember the transitoriness of all my wealth. Adversity may soon fall on me, as it did on the Jewish state in the prophetic age. When trouble comes to my own door I will acknowledge that it is God's day, His doing, His righteous sentence; I will humbly confess my own share in the sins which bring down judgments. One day, I know well, I shall have to stand before God and give an account for my life.

'In that dread day

When heaven and earth shall flee away,' I shall be alone before God. How can I endure that prospect but for Him Who became Man to help me? He once, just like His Prophet here, wept over coming destruction (S. Luke xix. 43). He foresaw the walls of Jerusalem and the dwellers within them, alike laid low. He saw the besieging foe, the city left desolate. Give me, Lord, a due fear of Thy judgments, tempered by a strong confidence in Thy mercy.

18. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath ; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land. The news of this wrath of God, this consuming fire, this speedy end,

was received in humble awe by believers like King Josiah. It II. 3.]

A safe Hiding-place

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made them watch and pray, repent of their own faults, try to amend what was amiss. They prepared for the evil day by a repentant heart, a careful walk. When it actually came, it brought to them healing and pardon, even with sorrow. But others scoffed at the news, or went deeper into sin (Jerem. xliv. 18), or opposed to God's thunders a dull, insensible heart.

CHAPTER II

GATHER zupurselves together

, the agerther together he nation the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you. Come and listen to the great judgments of God. Come and gather

yourselves together in prayer before Him. Collect your thoughts, compare His mercies with your ingratitude, compare the service you should have paid Him with the feeble and poor returns you have actually made. Such gathering of sacred lessons, such gathering of good resolutions, is a fit preparation against the day of wrath. It disposes us, by a sincere repentance, to prevent God's judgments. O Lord, I know that all that I lean on here will soon give way: all the fabric of my pride and skill will fall into dust. Let me gravely consider what I am, and where; and learn to suit my proud, self-willed thoughts to my true condition.

3. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may

be
ye

shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger. What hiding-place can I find in the day of the Lord's anger? I look to Christ's sacred Wounds. To them I cry

Portals ye are to that dear home

Wherein the wounded soul may hide,
Whereto no angry foe can come,

The Heart of Jesus crucified.

Seeking Him I seek for righteousness and meekness, for I see in myself no sign of these graces. From God's deserved anger I fly to His mercy which is especially made known to me in the Person and the Passion of Christ. This is my absolutely inexpugnable refuge. From this no malice of Satan, no failings of my own, no pressure of outward calamities, can drive me.

K

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A Sentence on Pride

[ZEPH. II.

4. For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation : they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. 5. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites ! the word of the Lord is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. 6. And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. 7. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah ; they shall feed thereupon : in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening : for the Lord their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity. This land was included originally in the territory which God gave

Israel. The Philistines were intruders and should have been expelled from it, but they had held their own for many centuries. God would now make room there for His own people; they should dwell there and live at peace. So shall false Christians be one day cast out from God's heritage. They but usurped a place there, usurped Scriptures and Sacraments to which they had no right. The war they stirred up against God's true servants shall end ; everlasting peace shall succeed it. O God, hasten that day!

8. I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. 9. Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation : the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. 10. This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts. This foretold desolation which falls upon those who blasphemed

the true God comes true in deeper senses. That soul which lived in pride, sufficient for itself, rejoicing in its own liberty, despising Divine help, becomes at last a slave to foul desires, a weariness to itself and to others. It is a land unwatered and untilled, where evil beasts and serpents dwell, where grows no useful herb. How different is such a state from the condition of those who commit themselves to a Divine Friend! He is their abiding refreshment. Even their faults are overruled by Him to a good end, a peaceful end full of humble trust,

VER. 15.]

Carved Work broken down

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11. The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. Here is true religion spreading through the world. Here are false

gods brought to nothing and the true God worshipped in every land. His worship, as spoken of here, is not limited to one nation or one city, but is paid in every place and by all nations. The Prophets, speaking of temporal victories, are led on to think of truth victorious over falsehood. That is the conquest they look for at last ; they speak of Gospel days. It is for us, by supporting Christian missions with prayer and self-sacrifice, to bring about this triumph of Divine truth. This prophecy does not come true unless the Lord's messengers take courage to proclaim His Name,

His worship, invade dark lands and hearts.

set up

12. Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. Ethiopia and Egypt were the treacherous allies on whom Israel

leant to its own harm. Often and often in their later history they trusted to Egypt and were deceived. God will overthrow this resource and prove its vanity. May we, O Lord, defend Thy Church in Thy way and by Thy methods ! All Church defence' that does not rest on conversion, self-sacrifice, devotion of heart, is like Ethiopian succour which failed in the day of trial.

15. This is

13. And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria ; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. 14. And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations : both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows ; desolation shall be in the thresholds : for he shall uncover the cedar work. the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand. Here is mighty Nineveh become a ruin. Its gardens are waste and

dry, its streets overgrown with grass ; the lintels or capitals of the proud columns lie on the ground for unclean creatures to rest in; the wind whistles through its bare walls; its cedar panelling is torn off; the passer-by mocks at the desolation. How different is this from the true Jerusalem, whose walls remain firm, whose streams ever flow, whose citizens live in peace, whose harmonious praises ever rise, whose King is ever visible in grace and truth!

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