—Isaiah, I. II.
The Prophet Isaiah has a message for all. It is very significant how often we find the above expression in the sayings of the Prophets generally throughout the whole of the Scriptures. In Deut. XXXII. 1. Moses cries to the children of Israel, "Give ear, O ye Heavens, and I will speak, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." In the book of Jeremiah the Prophet II. 12 and VI. 19, we read "Be astonished, O ye Heavens"—"Hear, O earth"; and again in XXII. 29—"O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord!" Ezekiel cries to "The Mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities," to "hear The Word of The Lord." And so we learn that the "Word" is not spoken in secret, there is no mystery about it. The Law of the Universe is so plain that "he who runs may read." It is not the special revelation to a favorite few; it belongs not exclusively to any class or society. "Yes, verily their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world," and, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." It is not then that the World has not been spoken—It is not that the heavens and the earth have not been called upon to hear—but because men will not listen—will not lay these things to heart; as the Prophet later on complains, "My people do not consider"; and "l have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people." And listening not to the voice they hear not the Word; and hearing not the Word, they know not the way, "And therefore my people are gone into Captivity, because they have no knowledge." In the first chapter we have a picture of the result of man's disregard of the Law of God. How full of meaning is the expression, "laden with iniquity," or the "heaviness of iniquity!" And what a heavy burden it is—the burden of anger, selfishness, hatred, lust, and all that train of evil-doing which goes to make up the sin-smitten state of soul which the Prophet describes, when "The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint" with the wounds of iniquity, the bruises of sorrow, and the "putrefying sores" of uncleanness. Lonely and desolate, forsaken and burned with fire, besieged and overthrown—such is the graphic description given by Isaiah of the soul immersed in selfishness, and wandering from the way of Righteousness. The people were willing to do anything and everything but the one thing needful. They offered multitudes of sacrifices, the blood of innocent beasts ran down like rivers, man in his ignorance and blindness thinking that this wholesale slaughter of birds and beasts could atone for his sin, and leave him free to follow still the inclinations of his sinful heart. It was so easy to shed blood, to make "vain oblations" to burn incense, to set apart "holy days," to "appoint feasts" and call "solemn assemblies," to "spread forth the hands" and "make long prayers"—so easy to do all these things, but so hard to give up selfishness, to renounce sin, to "put away the evil," to "learn to do well." Is there not a great danger of the same mistake being made today? While paying so much heed to the externals of religion and worship, are we forgetting the inner life, neglecting the purifying of the heart,—missing the great truth that religion is a thing of life and conduct, and that all externals are but as the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal" unless accompanied by the life of purity and goodness. Jesus said to his followers, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom, but he that doeth the will of my Father." "If ye love me keep my commandments."
(To be Continued)
Of perfect service rendered, duties done
In charity, soft speech, and stainless days;
These riches shall not fade away in life,
Nor any death dispraise.
—Sir Edwin Arnold