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THE DESOLATIONS OF THE LORD, THE CONSOLATION OF
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, APRIL 28, 1858, BY TIE
“Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. Ho maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire."-Psalm xlvi. 8, 9.
It seems that everything Christ-like must have a history like that of Christ. His beginnings were small--the manger and the stable. So with the beginnings of that society which we love, and which we believe to be the very incarnation of the Spirit of Christ. Its beginnings also were small; but its latter end shall doubtless greatly increase, -for, hath not the end of Christ become exceedingly glorious ? He hath ascended up on high; he sitteth at the right hand of God, our Father, and doubtless this agency which God now employeth for the conversion of the world, shall have its ascension, and God shall greatly magnify it, But as Christ was called to suffer, so must everything Christ-like suffer with him. The Christian who is the most like his Master will understand the most of the meaning of that term, “ fellowship with him in his sufferings;" and inasmuch as the Missionary Society is like Christ, and hath Christ's heart and Christ's aim, it also must suffer like Jesus. This year we have been made to sip of that cup. The blood of our martyrs has been shed; our confessors have witnessed to the faith of the Lord Jesus ; at the hands of bloodthirsty and cruel men they have met their fate, and again the seed of the church has been sown in the blood of the martyred saint.
I felt that in addressing you this day it would be far from me to offer you any advice or counsel, when I am but as the youngest among you all, but that I miglit be permitted, as sometimes the child doth comfort its parents, to utter some few words of consolation, which might cheer you in the present distress, and nerve your arm for future combat with the great enemy of souls. And upon what subject could I address you, which couid be more full of consolation than the present? “ Come, behold the works of the Lord.” Turn ye from man's bloodshed, and behold your God at work; and from the desolations of rebellion, and carnage, and anarchy, turn your eyes here to the desolations which the Lord hath made in the earth. You see how, though the battle-bow still doth twang with the arrow, and though the spear is still imbrued in the heart's blood of men, yet he breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder, and burns the chariot in the fire.
We shall regard this text this morning, first, as a declaration of what has happened, and secondly, as a promise of what shall be achieved. No. 190.
Penny Pulpit, No. 2,941.
1. First of all, we shall look upon it as A DECLARATION OF WHAT HAS ALREADY
Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth."
1. And now let us commence the discussion of this part of our subject, by inviting you to the sad spectacle of the desolations which God in his providence has in different ages brought upon divers nations. As it is said of man, that he is full of trouble, so it is with nations; they also are full of sorrows, and some of them exceeding bitter. Wars have devastated countries; plagues have thinned our populations; all kinds of evil have swept athwart the most potent empires, and many of them have been compelled, at last, to yield to the destroying angel, and they slumber with the mighty dead. Doubtless there hath a wail gone up from the face of the earth, when the invasions of barbarians have put an end to the promise of civilisation-when cities, renowned for the culture of the arts and sciences, have suddenly become sacked and burned -when nations that had made great advances in knowledge have been carried away captive, and the sun has been made to go back many a degree on the dial of the earth's history.
But I beg you now turn your eyes, and read the page of history, and mark the various catastrophes which have happened to this world; and I appeal to you, as persons who have understanding, and who can trace the Lord's hand in these matters-have not all these things worked together for good? and hitherto, have not the revolutions, the destructions of empires, and the falls of dynasties, been eminent helps to the progress of the gospel? Far be it from us to lay the blood of men at God's door. Let us not for one moment be guilty of any thought that the sin and the iniquity which have brought war into the world is of God; but, at the same time, as firm believers in the doctrine of predestination, and as firmly holding the great truth of a Divine providence, we must hold that God is the author of the darkness as well as of the light—that he creates the providential evil as well as the good-that while he sendeth the shower from on high he also is the father of the devastating storm. Oh! I say, then, come and see the Lord's hand in “ Aceldama, the field of blood.” Come ye, and behold the Lord's hand in every shake of the pillars of the constitutions of the monarchies of earth. See the Lord's hand in the crumbling of every tower and the tumbling down of every pinnacle which had aspired to heaven. For he hath done it-he hath done it! God is present everywhere.
And now, I again say, can you not see in all these things a gracious, as well as a terrible God? Can you not feel that everything that as yet happened to the world, has really been for its good? Wars, confusions, and tumults, are but the rough physic where with God will purge the diseased body of this earth from its innumerable ills. They are but a terrible tornado with which God shall sweep away the pestilence and fever that lurk in the moral atmosphere; they are but the great hammers with which he breaks in pieces the gates of brass, to make a way for his people; they are but the threshing wains, with which he doth thresh the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills as chaff, that Israel may rejoice in the Lord, and that the sons of Jacob may triumph in their God. As it hath been in the beginning, so it shall be even unto the end. The noise and the tumult of war in India shall produce good; the blood of our sisters shall be avenged, not by the sword, but by the gospel. On India's blood-red gods, the arm of the Lord shall yet be felt; the might of him that sits upon the throne shall be acknowledged by the very men, who, first in the fray, have blasphemed the God of Israel. Let us not fear, let us not tremble; the end of all things cometh at last, and that end shall certainly be the desired one, and all the wrath of man shall not frustrate the designs of God. The past troubles assure us for the present, and console us for the future. “Come behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth."
2. But now, turning from this somewhat dreary subject, I must invite you next to look at some desolations which will ever be fair in the eye of the follower of Jesusthe desolations of false worship. What a pleasant theme! Oh, that we had but power truly to enlarge upon it! Will you turn your minds back to the origin of idolatry, and tell me, if you can, what were the names of the first gods whom men profanely worshipped ? Are they known? Are not their names blotted out from history? Or, if any of them be mentioned, are they not a bye-word, a hissing, and a reproach? What shall we say of idolatries which are of later date-those which have been noted in Holy Scripture, and therefore handed down to infamy?
Who is he that now bows before the god of Egypt ? Hath the sacred Ibis now a worshipper? Do any prostrate themselves before the Nile, and drink her sweet waters, and think her a deity ? Hath not that idolatry passed away; and are not the temple and the obelisk still standing,~“the desolations which the Lord hath made in the earth ?” Talk we of the gods of Philistia ? Do we mention Baal and Dagon? Where are they? We hear their names ; they are but the records of the past; but who is he that doth them homage? Who doth now kiss his hands to the queen of heaven? Who boweth himself in the grove of Ashtaroth, or who worshippeth the hosts of heaven, and the chariots of the sun? They have gone ! they have gone! Jehovah still standeth, “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” One generation of idols hath passed away, and another cometh, and the desolations stand,-memorials of the might of God.
Turn ye now your eyes to Assyria, that mighty empire. Did she not sit alone ? She said she should see no sorrow. Remember Babylon, too, who boasted with her. But where are they, and where are now their gods? With ropes about their necks they have been dragged in triumph by our discoverers; and now in the halls of our land, they stand as memorials of the ignorance of a race that is long since extinct. And then, turn ve to the fairer idolatries of Greece and Rome. Fine poetic conceptions were their gods; theirs was a grand idolatry, one that never shall be forgotten. Despite all its vice and lust, there was such a high mixture of the purest poetry in it, that the mind of man, though it will ever recollect it with sorrow, will still think of it with respect. But where are their gods? Where are the names of their gods? Are not the stars the last memorials of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus ? As if God would make his universe the monument of his destroyed enemy! Where else are their names to be found? Where shall we find a worshipper who adores their false deity? They are past, they are gone! To the moles and to the bats are their images cast, while many an unroofed temple, many a dilapidated shrine stands as memorials of that which was, but is not, -and is passed away for ever.
I suppose there is scarce a kingdom of the world where you do not see God's handiwork in crushing his enemies. It is to the shame of the idolater that he worships a God that his fathers knew not. Although there be some hoary systems of iniquity; in most cases the system is still new-new compared with the giant mountains, the first-born of nature-new compared with those old idolatries that have long since died away in the clouds of forgetfulness. It seems to me to be a very pleasing theme for us to speak of these desolations that God has made. For mark this-again we say it-as it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be.
The false Gods shall yet yield their sway; the temples shall yet be unroofed; their houses shall be burned with fire, and their names shall be left for a reproach; their dignity shall not be honoured, neither shall homage be given unto their name. Oh! thou that fearest for the ark of the Lord; thou that tremblest at the firmness with which falsehood keeps its throne; look thou on these desolations and be of good cheer; God hath done mighty things, and he will do them yet again. One can never pass, even in our own country, a ruined abbey, or a destroyed priory, or an old broken down cathedral, without a sweet satisfaction. They are fair ruins, all the fairer because they are ruined, because their inhabitants are forgotten, because the monk no longer prowls our streets, because the nun, though she is here and there to be found, yet is no more honoured, because the apostate church to which they belong has ceased to have power among us, as once it had. We will, therefore, seek to honour God, and in all our journeyings we will think of this text“ Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth."
3. And now, in the next place, let me ask you to remember what desolations God has made with false philosophies. As for stones and timbers, they are things that must decay in the common course of nature, and one might be apt to think that some of the desolate temples we behold were rather the trophies of the tooth of time, than of the hand of God; but thought is a lasting thing; a bold philosophy that shapes into words the wandering thoughts, which have taken possession of the hearts of men is an enduring thing; and how have some philosophers believed that they were writing books which would be read for ages! They believed that their philosophy most certainly was eternal, and that to the last day their disciples would be had in reverence. Let any classical student remember how many systems of philosophy have passed away before the progress of the kingdom of Christ. The mighty Stagyrite, once the great master of all minds, who even held in sway
many a Christian spirit, at last lost his empire before a purer truth. But I forbear to mention these things; I would rather allude to the passing away of false systems of philosophy in modern times; for there are some of our fathers here, whose hairs have but just turned grey, who can remember the rise and fall of some seven or eight theories of infidelity. You can look back, and you can remember when it was a cursing obscenity with Tom Paive, having just also been the leering, scowling thing that Voltaire made it. You remember how it was the soaring, airy, speculating, scheming thing of Robert Owen; and then you recollect how it became the base, grovelling thing, called Secularism. Men have trembled at that, and have thought it will last. I believe I shall live to see the last Secularist buried, and that at the funeral, there will be attending the leader of some new system of infidelity, who, despite his hatred to God, will have to say over the tomb, out of very spite against the one who precedes him, “ Here lies a fool, yclept a Secularist.” You need not be afraid of these things; they live such a very little while. A new moon brings a new phase of the system. The thing that they have fashioned with the utmost diligence, and which they deliver with the most earnest declamation, wbich they think they have proved with the sureness of logic, which they have built, as they think, upon a rock, against which the gates of heaven shall not prevail, how soon it is crumbled to dust, and not a vestige of it is left-scarce a remembrance of it-but all is past away and gone. And even so shall it be. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be. “Every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.” The words of the wise are like the leaves of the tree of life, and they fade not; but the words of the wicked are like the autumn leaves, all withered, soon to become skeletons, and be blown away by the blast, to be heard of no more.
Planted by the rivers of water, the tree of the church still groweth, like a young cedar, fresh and green. But these things are like the heath in the desert: they see not when good cometh; from carth itself they fail to draw their nourishment, and heaven denies to the cursed thing its genial shower, and therefore soon it dies, and without a memorial it passeth away. Be of good cheer, beloved! It matters not where the enemy attack our intrenchments, they have been, and they shall be routed. We tell the enemies of Christ to look to the thousand defeats that they have suffered beforehand; we warn them of their folly in attack. ing us again. Woe unto you! woe unto you! Though ye quit yourselves like men, ye Philistines, ye must, ye shall be servants unto Israel. Woe unto you, for the voice of a king is in our midst! Your fathers felt our might. Remember who it was that cut Rahab and wounded the dragon. Your sires have trembled before us; our fathers put ten thousand of your sires to flight, and we will do the same with you, and when we have done it we will say of you, “ Aha, aha, aha,” and will make you a bye-word with our children, and a proverb with our menials for ever.
4. But my text has a special reference to war-the desolation of war. Have you not noticed how magnificently peace winneth its reprisals at the hand of war? Look through this country. Methinks if the angel of peace should go with us, as we journey through it, and stop at the various ancient towns where there are dismantled castles, and high mounds from which every vestige of a building has long been swept, the angel would look us in the face, and say, “I have done all this: war scattered my peaceful subjects, burned down my cottages, ravaged my temples, and laid my mansions with the dust. But I have attacked war in his own strongholds and I have routed him. Walk through his halls. Can you hear now the tramp of the warrior? Where now the sound of the clarion and the drum?” The sheep is feeding from the cannon's mouth, and the bird builds his nest where once the warrior did hang his helmet. As rare curiosities we dig up the swords and spears of our forefathers, and little do we reck that in this we are doing tribute to peace. For peace is the conqueror. It hath been a long duel, and much blood hath been slied; but peace hath been the victor. War, after all, has but spasmodic triumphs; and again it sinksmit dies; but peace ever reigneth. If she be driven from one part of the earth, yet she dwelleth in another; and while war, with busy hand, is piling up here a wall, and there a rampart, and there a tower, peace with her gentle finger, is covering o'er the castle with the moss and the ivy, and casting the stone from the top, and letting it lie level with the earth.
I think this is a fine thought for the lover of peace; and who among us is not ? Who among us ought not to be? Is not the gospel all peace ? And do we not believe, that when the gospel is fully preached, and has its day, wars must cease, to the end of the earth? I therefore say, beloved brothers and sisters, may we not console ourselves, under all the recent outbreaks of a most bloodthirsty and cruel massacre, in the fact, that God hath made desolations, even in war. He hath made desolations in the earth; and, as it hath been, so shall it be even unto the end. There is not now a rampart, which shall not be scaled by peace. Oh! ye hoary bastions! ye shall yet be destroyed ; not by the cannon ball, but by something mightier still. Charged with love, this day we shoot against you the great guns of the gospel of Christ, and we believe that they shall move and shake you to your deep foundations, and ye shall crumble; or if ye stand, ye shall be uninhabited, except by the owl and the bittern. I have a fond belief that the day is coming, when Nelson, on the top of his monument, shall be upset, and Mr. Whitfield set there, or the apostle Paul. I believe that Napier, who stands in the square there, will lose his station. We shall say about these men, “They were very respectable men in the days of our forefathers, who did not know better than to kill one another, but we do not care for them now!" Up goes John Wesley, where stood Napier ! Away goes some one else, who was an earnest preacher of the gospel, to occupy the place high over the gate where another warrior rides upon his horse. All these things, the trickery of an ignorant age, the gewgaws of a people who loved bloodshed despite their profession of religion, must yet be broken up for old iron and old brass ; every statue that stands in London shall yet be sold, and the price thereof cast at the apostles' feet, that they may make distribution as every man hath need. Wars must cease, and every place where war reigneth and hath now its glory, must yet pass away, and fade and wither. We give all honour to these men now, for these are the days of our ignorance, and God in some degree winketh at us; but when the gospel spreads we shall then find, that when every heart is full of it, it will be impossible for us to tolerate the very name of war; for when God has broken the bow, and burned the chariot, we shall break the image and dash the sculpture into a thousand atoms. We shall think, when the trade is done, the men that did it may well be forgotten.
II. I think there is enough to cheer our hearts, and nerve us all for the great battle of Christ. The desolations of the past should lead us to hope that, there shall be the like, and greater in the future. And now I am to look upon my text, (and very briefly) AS A PROPHECY WHICH IS TO BE FULFILLED.
I should only needlessly occupy your time, if I were to go over all my heads again, because really every person will be quite as competent as I am to discern how what hath been, shall be, in a yet higher sense. But we must observe once more, in noticing this as a prophecy, the figure of our text. It was usual, after a great battle, and especially if peace was then firmly established, for the conquerors to gather up the arms of the vanquished into one great heap, and then setting fire to it all, as Israel did to the spoils of Jericho, everything was consumed. One of these days, when Christ shall come in his glory, or when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,-(not to say anything which would look like proclaiming the second coming here to-day, although I most firmly believe it, and am sorry that we should ever have allowed in any of our missionary meetings any discussion upon a point which involves the faith of a great proportion of us, who hold this to be as dear and precious a doctrine as any other in the Word of God, and we therefore think it unfair that we should at any time have anything said against this, when we meet together in the common bond of union for the spread of the gospel of Christ; we think it a sore thing that we should be attacked then;-however, leaving all that, whether it be by a spiritual or by a personal coming-we believe that one of these days we shall be roused from our beds by one, who shall say to us, “ Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth;" and when we arrive at the spot appointed, it may be, as the old Ephesians brought out all their books and burned them in the street, we shall see our soldiers marching rank and file, and lay down their arms, and all that they have of murderous implements, piling them into one heap; and happy is that mother's child who shall be there to see it! · But see it some one shall, when it shall be truly said, as the fire is kindled over all these things, “lle braketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the file."
Happy the day, when every war-horse shall be houghed, when cvery spear shall become a pruning hook, and every sword shall be made to till the soil which once it stained witli blood. It is of that my text prophecies, and niy text naturally