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God in His Church even in dark Days (ZEPH. III.

Let me in my life and doings ever abide a loyal citizen of that Holy City, even while I live on earth, so that one day I may occupy a home there for ever.

CHAPTER III

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TOE to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing

city! 2. She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction ; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God. 3. Her princes within her are roaring lions ; her judges are evening wolves ; they gnaw not the bones till the

4. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons : her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. 5. The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity : every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame. Contrast this account of the Holy City with Psalm lxxxvii. : 'Her

foundations are upon the holy hills : the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Very excellent things are spoken of thee: thou City of God.' Such is the difference be. tween the Jerusalem of God's design and that which men's sins have corrupted. And do not think that this woful deflection from the ideal applies only to the literal Sion of the Old Testament. Of the Christian Church, the new Jerusalem, more richly endowed, more gloriously built, than was the Jewish, Saints have said terrible things. But yet in the Church of to-day as in that of old time (only still more graciously) God is to be found. He dwells there ; He speaks to those who will heed ; He guides amidst the seeming confusion. Do not hastily despair of the Church, or doubt God's presence in her. In spite of worldliness, unbelief, profanation,

'Thine holy mother's shade Rests yet upon thine ancient home.' 6. I have cut off the nations : their towers are desolate ; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant. 7. I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction ; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them : but they rose. early, and corrupted all their doings. God appeals to believers to scrutinise the course of His Providence.

He has wrought judgments abroad that His Church may behold

VER. 13.)

The pure Language of Divine Love

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and profit. Look, O Christian, upon the state of the East and of Africa! What wide realms once were Christian where now the false Prophet rules! Contrast the actual empire of Satan in our great cities with our empty claim to be a Christian land. Be humbled, beholding the judgments of God, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.' Do not, by a stubborn mind, draw down at last God's vengeance without remedy.

8. Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger : for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. 9. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. 10. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering. These judgments are to purify ; this fire is to produce refined gold.

Here is God's purpose in sending judgments. Pure prayers, united obedience, worship in spirit and in truth, all earth become holy, a flood of offerings accepted on God's Altar, all this the Prophet sees as the fruit and result of present trials. It is then well worth while for sorrow and pain to come first. Out of the disorder of the world and of the Church, God designs to produce better things than we yet know of.

11. In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me : for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. 12. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies ; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. In the renewed Sion there will be peace and full trust in God's

mercy. Humility will be there, and innocence, and truthful speech. Such are the fruits of trial. For such ends did God send His judgments. And if this ideal is above the condition of the literal Jerusalem after the captivity was over, if even the professing Church of Christ has fallen away from it, yet believers look up to 150

The Divine Bridegroom

ZEPH. III.

this standard and compare their own condition with it regretfully. They desire to be numbered with that poor and humble people that trust and pray. They are heirs of the Saints. They repre. sent to God their own unworthiness, and plead the ancient mercies and promises, trusting that He will repair what has been lost.

14. Sing, o daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel ; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee : thou shalt not see evil any more. Here is reason to rejoice, for curses are gone, foes are gone, fears

are gone, the King is come. Here is a threefold invitation to joy ; God's Church is bidden to sing, to shout, to be glad in her new-found blessings. The Heavenly King dwells among His people; they possess His life-giving presence; all that was hateful to Him is done away. Not on earth could God's city enjoy all these blessings, and the Prophet looks on beyond this world to a peace and purity which this life can never retain. Yet the presence of Christ with His people in the first days of His Church brought unutterable gladness, perfect peace, absolute fearlessness. Such has been the position of Saints already, even while they lived here, as a foretaste of somewhat further. They began to experience what these verses meant, and went on to find their full meaning elsewhere.

16. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not : and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. In these verses the Marriage of the Lamb is come. The Lord is a VER. 20.) Pain and Shame become Peace and Praise

17. The

mighty One, able to save ; but He is also a tender and loving Friend. He has for the soul unutterable tenderness, breaks out over her into transports of joy. When I read this amazing passage, I behold the King passing from battlefield or from judgment throne into His inner apartments, where only His intimate friends have access. There He lays aside stress of business and storms of wrath, He is wholly occupied in loving and being loved, His spouse meets Him there and enjoys His gracious countenance. On passages like this faith lives ; hence prayer takes courage, hope conceives a great future. If God is such as this to those who trust Him, will not all earth's contrarieties give way at last to some. what better?

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18. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. 19. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee : and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out ; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. 20. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you : for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord. This gracious promise is for them who have been sorrowful, have

been put to shame, have been oppressed. For a while they were despised and outraged ; but they committed their cause to Him Who judgeth righteously,' and He does not forsake them. O happy Jerusalem where God replaces them, where songs of praise arise, where is security for evermore! Only let tried and tempted souls keep fast to their unseen Divine King. They may be exiled from His solemn assembly, clouds may hide His face now, the present time may be full of confusion for them ; but God is able to keep that which they have committed to Him, and to restore it safe at the Great Day.

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HAGGAI

CHAPTER I

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in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2. Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. It was summer-time ; harvest was over, but a poor and blighted

harvest. And the Jews were not independent, as in old time; they were now under the power of the mighty Persian king, though he had indeed set one of the House of David to be their governor. They were but few, among hosts of enemies or the indifferent. They had no resources, no strength, to build a temple to God. The foundations, indeed, had been laid fifteen years before, with mingled joy and tears (Ezra iii. 10-13); but nothing more had been done, and the people were beginning to reconcile themselves to being without a House of God. So it seemed, but God has His time for speaking and His messengers by whom to speak. Here is one who comes forward on God's behalf. 3. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4. Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste ? We leave God's business and care for our own; His house, His

poor are forsaken, while we make our own gains. His spiritual temple within human hearts has all fallen to ruin ; other gods are worshipped there; foul creatures haunt it; strains of evil are heard there ; while we, God's professed servants, stand idle and make no attempt to repair the ruins and enshrine our God there again. If it was grievous to faith to behold the literal Temple a wreck, is it not much worse when a Christian's soul and body, God's true temple, are alienated from Him, and enslaved to sin ?

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