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Rend your Heart, not your Garments

[Jo. II.

12. Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning : 13. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. This is what the Lord desires, the turning and rending of the heart.

Outward expressions of shame and sorrow must not be wanting, but it is the love of God touching the heart that is the spring of true repentance. Yes, God has been good; I have been vile and foolish. In His light I see myself, and am ashamed at the sight. Rending the garments as a sign of grief was the practice of Jews ; but Christians have greater mercies to tell of, enjoy more proofs of God's love, and have therefore greater reason to deplore their ingratitude. If the Old Testament Revelation of God (Exodus xxxiv. 6) declared Him 'merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth,' shall not I who know the Gospel history have still better thoughts about Him, more humble thoughts about my own unworthiness?

14. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him ; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God ? I come humbly, not knowing how far God's mercy will reach. As

for the temporal punishment of sin, God at one time remits it, at one time inflicts it ; let me but use for His honour what prosperity He restores me. When the offering of fine flour and the drink offering of wine

were restored to the Temple service, they seemed like signs of God's reviving mercy. Have I not the Blessed Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood continually offered in His Church as a token that God remembers His crowning act of love and accepts us for it !

15. Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts : let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them : VER. 20.]

The Oppressor removed

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wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? This general call to repentance, this appeal to all ranks and con

ditions, reminds me of John Baptist's cry that went before our Saviour's appearance. In the Prophet Joel the people complain of the scarcity of the literal crops, and deprecate their shame as a land brought low and accursed by God; but John Baptist requires 'fruit meet for repentance,' speaks of the axe ready to fell the unfruitful tree, and the floor that would separate wheat from chaff. He looks for crops of righteousness and love ; awakes men to their inward need, so as to lead them to Him Who alone can supply it. Priests who are amazed at the lack of religion among their people have also to marvel at the coldness of their own intercessions for the people. There is a great share of blame they ought to take to themselves for their people's sad condition.

18. Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. 19. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: O news of mercy! God remembers His heritage. The pest departs, the fresh crops spring up, joy and hope return.

God grant a second spring to those

souls whose youthful days were ravaged by vice and folly, who had their first verdure of grace corrupted ! May He find in their later life fruits of grace to gather in for His eternal store! Let their sense of grief for old follies win them ever new mercies!

20. But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. The host of locusts were borne into the sea, and perished, or they lay

on the land and died in heaps. All the task now was joyfully to get rid of their hateful remains. So it was with Sennacherib's invading host that were cut off in a night (2 Kings xix. 35). So it is with the soul's enemies when God gives victory to His servants. Then the evil spirits are driven forth into the deep. Then God and good angels enter in and dwell. Then the hatefulness of sin is made manifest. Be it mine to see how shameful and vile was that bondage from which I am now set free by God's grace !

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A Rain of Grace

[Jo. II.

21. Fear not, 0 land; be glad and rejoice : for the Lord
will do great things. 22. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the
field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree
beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their
strength.
Here is doom reversed. Before this the inhabitants of the land are

bidden to tremble; now the word is ‘Fear not, O land, be glad
and rejoice.' Before this the enemy did 'great things,' trusting
in his own might; now the Lord does 'great things' in over-
throwing him. Before this the beasts 'groaned' and 'were per-
plexed' because the pastures were burnt up as by fire; now they
are encouraged by the reviving grass. Before this the fruit trees
were withered and stripped ; now they are loaded with their
riches. Glory be to Thee, O Lord, Who sendest joy after sorrow,
mercies and comforts after Thy chastisements ! But what are
all these transitory blessings but shadows and tokens of our
Home? These mercies pass, but do not exhaust God's eternal
promises.

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23. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed God for Israel, that

when they had been plagued with drought and had repented, He would teach them the right way wherein they should walk' (1 Kings viii. 36), as well as give them the longed-for rain. So here this actual rain implies a dew of heavenly grace, a teaching of God's good ways. This land which is bidden to 'fear not'is the 'good ground of an honest heart. These beasts that rejoice in their pasture are Christ's flock. These harvests of wine and oil, these fruitful years, are the return which God reaps from the seed of His holy Word, the inward growth which His mercy has brought to maturity. These mighty insect hosts, now overthrown and swept away, are the evil passions which once made us wretched, but now are brought to nothing by the power of grace. Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who alone overcomest evil and makest us overcome in Thy strength! Thou canst make our latter years better than the former.

VER. 31.]

The Holy Spirit comes

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26. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. 27. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else : and my people shall never be ashamed. Strength, blessing, and peace; honour instead of shame. O yes,

because God is here. Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name. But if the indwelling of God in ancient Israel could be so glorious and so helpful to His people, what ought not we to win from the abiding grace of Christ Jesus, God and Man in one Person ? He dwells in our hearts, prays in our prayers, suffers in our pains, wins victory through our weak efforts. Our God is not a God afar off, but one ever present by His Spirit, intimately knit with humanity. O Lord, if I suffer shame for my faults, let me profit by the salutary confusion. It is but for a moment; better that than be ashamed in the Judg. ment Day.

28. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions : 29. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. Not literal rain upon the crops, but God's Spirit upon human hearts.

Not on the chosen people only, but widely over the earth. Not on a few wise and eloquent seers, but upon young and old, servants as well as masters. The Holy Ghost strengthens, enlightens, purifies believing hearts; teaches them to discern God's ways and to influence their brethren for good. This is the privilege of the Christian Church, to enjoy the presence and aid of God's Spirit, which Christ the Lord poured out abundantly from on high. S. Peter quotes these verses at length (Acts ii. 17-21), and applies them to the outpouring of Pentecostal grace, but their meaning has not yet been exhausted for us. O Lord, revive this gift in Thy present Church. Give us prophecy to discern Thy working and our duty. Let our old men dream dreams' of peace, our young men see visions' of honour and duty. Let working people, and the poor, claim for themselves a share in highest transports, devoutest prayer. Such was Thy Church in its best days.

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30. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31. The sun

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Wonders of Wrath and of Love

[Jo. III.

shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. What, after mercies, do signs of wrath come again? What, is this

blood, this fire, this darkness, this great and terrible day just when the life-giving Spirit of God has been poured freely forth? Plainly, judgments come along with mercies, a world judged with a world saved. Plainly, if some hearts are set at peace, others are stirred up to war. What is light to some, is darkness to others. The Lord's terrors here foretold in the next breath after the Prophet has spoken of His abundant gifts, may shadow forth the rejection of God's ancient people, the darkness that filled their minds, the wrath that closed over them, when they had refused the Gospel. Seers say that at the end of the world such times will be repeated, that portents in nature and a forsaking of Divine Truth will immediately precede the Judgment Day. But God will keep His own who trust Him safe through whatever

terrors come.

32. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. Here is mercy again, after wrath. Those Jews who turned to Christ

found safety in His holy Church, while all around tottered. And in the evil days before the end of the world, when love has grown cold, prayer will still find an answer, the gates of the Holy City will still welcome fugitives from the world. Those call on the Lord whom He calls; for prayer is not of our own devising, but is the work of God's grace in us. If the faithful seem but a remnant scattered here and there, yet let them realise that they are citizens of God's Holy City, let them rejoice to be safe there whatever storms rage without. O holy mountain of God, O blessed Jerusalem, let me discern thee even amidst the corruption and coldness of thy nominal children! Let me cling fast to thee and to thy treasure of sacred truth !

CHAPTER III

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TOR, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall

bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, This was a captivity long before the general captivity of the people;

but God followed with His care those members of His people who, in that age of incessant warfare, had been carried off into slavery.

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