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meet for any work?" The description here given of the "vine" as being burnt at two ends, and its middle on flame, represents the state of the Jewish people at this moment. Ten of their tribes had been carried away into Syria, and the other two were in distress, and exposed to danger. Unless the "vine" produce grapes it is more worthless than most other trees of the forest. You cannot manufacture furniture out of it, construct ships, or build houses; unless it grows grapes it is fit for nothing but the fire. If the Jews were not religious, they were contemptible as compared with other nations. In antiquity of origin, extent of territory, abundance of resources, attainments in arts and sciences, they were not to be compared with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Babylon. If professors of religion are not fruitful in good works, they are the most worthless men in society. We infer

and seduously trained. First: This was the case with the Jews. They are frequently compared to the vine. (Deut. xxxii. 32 ; Isa. i.; Psa. lxxx.; Jer. ii. 21.) Secondly: This is the case with Christendom. Thirdly: This is especially the case with Great Britain.

We infer

II. That those sections of the race under special culture


Whether they prove fruitful or unfruitful they are distinguished. First: If fruitful, they are distinguished by valuableness. They are a "vine"-a tree producing rich clusters of choicest and most delicious fruit,-fruit which yieldeth wine to "cheer the heart of God and man." What on earth is of higher value than a godly life? "The price of religion is above rubies," &c. Secondly: If unfruitful, they are distinguished by worthlessness. "What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it

III. That the distinction between those under special culture and those who are not


RECOGNISED AND RETRIBUTED BY GOD. God sees the difference between the fruitful and unfruitful vine, and between the unfruitful vine and the other trees of the forest. And God marks the difference in his


judgment. "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God; As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord God." This menace had a terrible fulfilment in the history of the Jews. The doom, however, that befell them is but a faint picture of the doom that awaits a godless professor. "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand," &c.-Matt. vii. 26-27.



"Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort."-Psa. lxxi. 3.

THIS is a very brief but very significant prayer. It implies two things:

I. A SENSE OF THE SOUL'S NEED. The soul needs a "habitation." It is a homeless wanderer. First, it wants a

home for protection. It requires a protector from the scorching of the sun, from the fury of the storm, from the assaults of the enemy. How exposed is a guilty soul! Secondly, it wants a home for comfort. Home is the scene: of comfort. But the guilty soul is comfortless. It lacks the comforts of nourishment, shelter, society, &c. Thirdly, it wants a home for settledness. It is a restless wanderer. It is wearied of its pilgrimage. It craves for a settlement. The prayer implies,

II. A FAITH IN GOD'S SUFFICIENCY. God is just the "habitation" which the soul wants, affording security, comfort, and permanent residence. First, God is an accessible habitation. The doors of infinite love are ever open to welcome all who come. This habitation is ever near to us. Secondly, God is a secure habitation. Those who are in Him are safe from all dangers and all foes. "God is our refuge and strength." Thirdly, God is a blessed habitation. In Him is found infinitely more than all we want to perfect us in everlasting bliss. Fourthly, God is an enduring habitation. "The eternal God, is our refuge," &c. Return, O prodigal, to thy Father's house.

TWO ASTOUNDING EVILS. "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jer. ii. 12, 13.

of course, mean departure from his presence, that is, utterly impossible; nor an exit from his rule, that is equally impossible; but it means an apostacy of heart, a moral alienation of soul. Now, these two evils in men are most astounding. They are enough to fill the universe with consternation. "Be astonished, O ye heavens," &c. This is a noble instance of bold and impassioned prosopopeia similar expressions we have elsewhere. (Isa. i 2; also Deut. xxxii. 1.) It is language that expresses feelings of immeasurable depth and burning intensity. There are three things in the perpetration of these two evils that may well fill the universe with amazement.

IN this chapter, Jeremiah is charged to remind the Jews of their metropolis, of the consecration with which they had served Jehovah in the early part of their history, and the consequent protection which they enjoyed. Jehovah then appeals to them in a most forcible way, as to whether any reason for dissatisfaction in his service had been found in Him, and whether, on the contrary, He had not loaded them with his benefits. He then describes their base ingratitude, and denounces punishment. The text implies that their conduct was so unexampled in wickedness that it was fitted to fill the universe with absolute consternation. "Be astonished, O ye heavens," &c. The two astounding evils at which the heavens are to be "amazed and horrified," are a departure from the true source of blessedness and a fruitless toil for worthless enjoyments. The former involves the latter-forto forsake God is to plunge into futile endeavours after happiness. To forsake God does not,

I. THE FORCE OF HUMAN FREEDOM. Is not man's power to break away from the eternal Fountain of his being truly wonderful? The mightiest rivers cannot break away from their source, nor the greatest planets from their centre, but man has the power to break away from the Centre and Fountain of his being. God deals with his moral creatures according to the principles of freedom with which He has endowed them. He does not bind them by force to Himself. They are left free to stand or fall.

First This freedom is a matter of personal consciousness. All men feel that they are uncoerced and free. This is the invincible and ultimate argument in favour of the doctrine of human responsibility. Secondly: This freedom invests human existence with transcendent importance. It links men to moral government, and renders them responsible for all their activities. It makes them members of the great moral empire of the universe.

Another thing in the perpetration of this evil that may fill the universe with amazement is

II. THE ENORMITY OF HUMAN WICKEDNESS. What an amount of the grossest iniquity is involved in these two evils. First: What ingratitude. Kindness, by the law of gratitude, should always bind man to the benefactor. What kindness God has always shown to man. What especial kindness to the Jews; but still more wonderful kindness to us. Secondly: What injustice. Every principle of justice requires them to keep themselves in close and loyal fellowship with Him. This is demanded on the ground of proprietorship and love. Thirdly : What impiety. What a daring hardihood is involved in the effort to turn away from God. "Be asto

nished, O ye heavens, at this."

The last thing in the perpetration of these two that may well fill the universe with amazement is


III. THE EGREGIOUSNESS OF HUMAN FOLLY. See the folly. First In withdrawing from the satisfying, to toil for the unsatisfying. God is the "fountain of living waters." All the blessedness of the universe streams out from Him. He is a fountain inexhaustible; ever flowing, always free, the only fountain of happiness. Now, this fountain is left-what for? To toil for the unsatisfying drops of earthly pleasure. "They have hewed for themselves out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." The reference is here to receptacles which were common in the East for holding rainwater. Springs and fountains were scarce there, but cisterns abounded. But the cisterns here are "broken cisterns." The drops that fell into them would run off, and these broken cisterns they had to hew for themselves. What worthless toil! Yet this is what sinners are doing in all their efforts for happiness apart from God. Secondly: In withdrawing from the abundant, to toil for the scanty. Leaving the "fountain" for the "cistern" the broken

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cistern too, in which there is but little water, and that impure and fast running


Well may the heavens be astonished and wonder at the freedom, iniquity, and folly which they witness every age and every day, developed in the history of our race.


"And this is the victory that Overcometh the world, even our faith.-1 John v. 4. THESE words contain three points of thought.

I. THE MIGHTY AGGREGATE OF HUMAN EVIL, "THE WORLD." The world here does not mean the physical world, the scientific world, the commercial world, the artistic world, but the word is frequently employed in the New Testament for all that is morally bad on earth. It stands for the grand assemblage of all evils of all kinds moral, social, political, religious, evils in thought, feeling, habit, in institutions and systems - evil everywhere in all forms. This is the "world."

II. The mighty aggregate of human evil OVERCOME. A "victory" over it is attained. The whole world of evil is to be destroyed; its "heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and its elements melt

with fervent heat." The mighty Colossus shall be struck and shattered, and the winds of the divine Spirit shall bear away every vestige, so that there shall be found


no place for it." All the errors, selfishness, impieties, &c., of this earth will come to an end.

III. The mighty aggregate of human evil OVERCOME BY FAITH. Does "faith" here not mean subjective, but objective? In other words, does it mean personal belief in the Gospel, or the Gospel itself? This Gospel is, indeed, the weapon. It is the stone cut out of the mountain that is to shiver the Colossus-it is the executioner that is to crucify the world-nail it to the cross, &c.-the Gospel, not legislation, not philosophy, not natural religion, not priestly ritualisms. But it is the Gospel as believed by human souls. It is not the Gospel in print, not the Gospel in theologies, but the Gospel in living men the Gospel "made flesh," that it is to do the work.*

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"And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the

*See HOMILIST, series 1, vol. i. : "Wants of the World and the Weakness of the Church.”

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