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68

The Changes of God's natural Day

[Am. V.

faith in God.) s. Paul speaks in the same way of Christians (2 Cor. xi. 2), "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted.' What he feared has come to pass. Virgin souls are few. Christians are content to share their love and duty between God and the world. Once earnestness and devotion abounded where is now but a poor remnant of nominal prayers and empty observances.

4. For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: 5. But seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beer-sheba : for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Beth-el shall come to nought. 6. Seek the Lord, and ye shall live ; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Beth-el. Gilgal, where reproach was 'rolled away' (Joshua v. 9), shall itself

be rolledinto captivity. Bethel, which was 'God's House,' shall become 'nought.' Beersheba, where patriarchs worshipped of old, has no blessing for worshippers now. Dead idols could not give life, could not protect in the day of danger.) Here are pressing warnings, and yet we know they fell on deaf ears. Israel forsook her "Living Dread,' and so came to ruin. When God showed Himself in visible form, full of love, full of power and wisdom, were not ears as deaf then, warnings as unheeded ? O that I may in my day have ears to hear !

7. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, 8. Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night : that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name : 9. That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. Amos was a shepherd, accustomed to view the bright stars at night,

dawn gaining on darkness, shades of evening rising, rain-clouds gathering over the distant sea. (All this gave him great thoughts of God's Providential government. He contrasts it with the injustice and folly of those who lorded it over their brethren.) God's servants have stayed themselves in evil days by turning to the thought of His sovereign power, His infallible order. He will

VER. 16.]

A Counsel of Prudence

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cause right to triumph at last, will redress what is out of order in His moral world. Glory to His mercy when He raises up brave souls to vindicate right !

10. They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. II. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. 13. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time ; for it is an evil time.

It is an evil time when injustice rules, when the rich despise the

poor, when men live wastefully and forget their suffering brethren, Prudent men keep silence in such times lest they should get themselves into trouble ; but God's Prophet cannot but speak. Lord, if the days are evil,' all the more need for me to 'redeem'them. If selfish indifference to suffering, selfish enjoyment of comfort, prevail around me, let me take pains to keep a tender heart, let me live with particular regard to my brethren's needs.

14. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. 15. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate : it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. (Israel gloried in God's covenanted Presence, in the promises made to

patriarchs of old. Joseph's honours in the old days were reflected on his descendants. Alas! their national transgressions had driven away God's protection. He would not dwell with the unrighteous. Joseph did not recognise those who had lost his purity, his uprightness, his tenderness of heart. It seems strange to find the calf-worshippers boasting of Jehovah's presence with them. But there are many Christians equally inconsistent. They join a nominal profession of faith in Christ Jesus with a clear and plain rebellion against the requirements which Christ makes.

16. Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus ; Wailing shall be in all streets ; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the

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God's dread Day

[Am. V.

husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. 17. And in all vineyards shall be wailing : for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord. (Market-place, street, and field shall resound with lamentations.

Mourning women shall raise the funeral strain. Vintage joy shall turn to sorrow. )It will be as of old among the Egyptians when God 'passed through the land of Egypt' to execute wrath, and

there was a great cry' where He went. His people are now to lament as His foes did in that last great plague. To this will come all their recklessness, all their fancied security.). When my Lord came in to Jairus's house and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise' and 'them that wept and wailed greatly,' He stilled their passionate lamentations. He said, “Weep not’to the bereaved widow at Nain. He shared our tears, but it was to assuage their hopelessness.

18. Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. 19. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? The Day of the Lord' which they expected was to be a visitation from on high to bring judgment on the heathen and to restore the estate of God's people. His Day comes, they thought, to bring in His kingdom gloriously. Alas! they forgot to prepare themselves so as to get any good from that Day. Just so, when Christ Jesus came, the Jews generally had set their hearts on a kingdom that would bring glory to its followers, seats at the king's right hand, feasting and joy. The Passion seemed to them 'darkness and not light,' an incredible reversal of all their expectations. They found the Cross where they looked to find a triumph, and turned from it with abhorrence.

21. I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them : neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs ; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. Here are festivals held, sacrifices offered, psalms sung, in honour of

the true God. Plainly, after the destruction of Ahab's house,

VI. 2.]

Idolatry even in the Wilderness

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Israel had returned in great measure to the worship of God, though they venerated the golden calf also. What was wanting in their religious observances ? Obedience was lacking. They spoke of God and to God, but cared not to observe the justice and mercy that God commanded. This spoilt all. I fear, lest when God looks upon the assembly of Christians He discerns inconsistency as great-devout lips, bended knees, but a rebellious heart. God who requires the whole man will never be contented with mere hymns and sacrifices. 24. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Break off sin, do right, let truth and mercy be your unfailing spring

of conduct. God does not approve of intermittent service; obedience sometimes offered, sometimes denied ; acts of mercy that run upon impulse only. May He make our life like an unfailing brook, always flowing on in the same course, always refreshing those around, going on unchangeably to a good end. All human excellence is but a drop from God's bounty ; from that ocean of

goodness all our good flows. 25. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26. But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. 27. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is The God of hosts. Then during the desert journey, though the overshadowing cloud

hung over Israel and daily marvels marked their way, yet false gods were worshipped too. On one side was Jehovah's Tabernacle, on another the shrine or star of some idol. Evidently, the thunders of Sinai, the judgments on the disobedient, the visible signs of God's Presence, were not enough to win rebellious hearts.) Glory be to God Who has, in His holy Gospel, tried other means, sent His Son to exalt our nature by uniting it with Himself, put His Holy Spirit within our hearts ! If we despise these crowning mercies, what has He left in His store?

CHAPTER VI

OE to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the

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nations, to whom the house of Israel came ! 2. Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great:

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An Alarm for slumbering Souls

[Am. VI.

thence go down to Gath of the Philistines : be they better than these kingdoms ? or their border greater than your border ? (Consider, says Amos, the judgments of God on other nations. Look

eastward to Calneh (Ctesiphon on the Euphrates), or northward to Hamath, or southward to Gath. You will see that these nations have abused their prosperity and glory, and have been chastised accordingly. Has not God's people greater treasures, greater mercies to answer for? ) If these heathen nations have been punished as being unfaithful to their lesser knowledge of good, what reckoning have not we to give who possess the full truth, boast of the eternal promises? (Amos desires to awaken the indifferent, those who trusted in their wealth and security. He bids them consider their responsibility, shows them God's judgments at work.

3. Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near ; 4. That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall ; 5. That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; 6. That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments : but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. 7. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. Here is a selfish life, full of pleasure, full of ease, full of song. Care

is kept far away. Tears of sufferers find no approach. Alas! the Prophet hears rude cries of enemies breaking in, He sees these revellers carried

off as slaves to hopeless bondage. Under the old law God's judgments came thus visibly in this life, while they might yet awaken contrition ; but under the Gospel they are often postponed till this life is over. In our Lord's Parable the rich

was clothed with purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day'; nor did he awake from his dream of pleasure till he woke up in the other world, too late to change. Let it be mine, O Lord, to share Thy healing Cross. Let my brethren's sorrows be mine. Let death and judgment come into my thoughts ; so shall I be kept from a hard heart. I know what peril David came into, through over much ease and enjoyment. He was hardly delivered from it at the cost of much tears. It was affliction that saved him from utter reprobation. His son Solomon lived in unchanging prosperity, and fell utterly and without recall.

man

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8. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his

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