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SERMON ON ISAIAH, LV. 10, 11.

Isaiah, lv. 10, 11.-As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

posed by God himself, in the verses preceding the text, as an encouragement to induce sinners to forsake their evil ways, and return unto him with their whole heart. "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." He then assures them, in the words of the text, that the blessings which he will convey to them through the medium of his word, shall be as free, as certain, as abundant, as those which he imparts to the earth by means of the rain and snow. "For as the rain cometh down," &c.

In attempting to illustrate this beautiful comparison, we shall endeavour to trace the striking_resemblance between the word of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and the rain or snow. First, in their origin.

IT is of the utmost importance that we should form correct notions concerning the perfections of God; for the more just and accurate views we obtain on that awful subject, the more firm and enlarged will be our expectations from him. But we are too apt to distrust his mercy and love, because, like those of old, we foolishly judge him to be such a one as ourselves. When we presume to measure him by this incompetent standard, we must of necessity commit the most serious errors; since nothing can be more absurd and presumptuous than to compare the " High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind," to the frail children of men, "dwelling in houses of clay, I. We remark this resemblance whose foundation is in the dust in their origin. The "rain and who are but of yesterday, and snow come down from heaven," know nothing, because their days formed by the Almighty Architect are but a shadow. Whereas, on whose fiat called the world into the other hand, if we considered being. We hear, indeed, from how infinitely remote his ways and travellers who have explored the thoughts are from ours, we should interior of Africa, that among many repose the most unlimited confi- of her savage tribes there exists a dence in him, and have every fear certain personage called a “ rainswallowed up in the contemplation maker," to whom the deluded naof his power and grace. We should tives pay great deference, believexperience what the Psalmist felt ing that he has the power of causwhen he exclaimed, "Surely good- ing rain when and where he pleases. ness and mercy shall follow me all But we, whose happy lot has been the days of my life, and I will by a kind Providence cast in a dwell in the house of the Lord for more favoured land, know that this ever." notion is a gross and abominable These considerations are pro- superstition; a delusion invented

Secondly, in their operation.

by "the father of lies;" and that the united efforts of the whole world would never be able to produce a single drop of rain, a single flake of snow. It is God who forms the clouds with his mighty hand, and, when he pleases, condenses their moisture, and causes it to descend in copious streams to nourish and fertilize the earth; and to him alone must our acknowledgments be paid for every refreshing shower that falls.

Of this truth, we are frequently reminded in the sacred writings; and the gods of the heathen are challenged, if they can, to exert a similar power, and thus prove their divinity, and establish their right to the honours ascribed to them by their infatuated votaries. "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain; or can the heavens give showers? Art not thou he, O Lord our God?"

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immediate superintendance and direction: his Holy Spirit enlightening their understanding, calling all things to their remembrance, and guiding them into all truth," and wholly precluding the possibility of error.

As the Gospel came in this manner from God originally, even so, when faithfully preached, it is at this very time also from God. It is he who instructs his servants, qualifies them to declare his truth, and authorizes them to make known his gracious purposes of mercy towards fallen man. He teaches every faithful preacher what to say, and affords him every necessary assistance in the delivery of his message. As an ambassador of God, he speaks in the name of his divine Master, and beseeches sinners "to be reconciled unto him." In this character, he is warranted in addressing each of his auditors in the words of Ehud to Eglon, the King of Moab; " I have a message from God to thee"-a message whose purport is " peace on earth, good will towards men," eternal salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus. This leads to the consideration of the next particular, in which the resemblance between the word of God and rain or snow is yet more strongly marked, viz. II. In their operation.

The

In like manner the word of the Gospel comes down from heaven; for it is said in the text, it " goeth forth out of God's mouth." It proceeded from God originally, as St. Peter observes; "Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." And though we had not this express testimony of an inspired writer, no reasonable doubt could be enter-earth owes all its fertility to the tained on this point, did we consider how minutely a vast variety of Scripture prophecies have been accomplished, even many ages after their delivery; and reflect on the utter incapacity of the human mind to pry into the hidden events of futurity. But it is not only the prophetical part of the sacred volume that is of divine origin, but also all the rest; as we learn from St. Paul's second Epistle to Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." By which we may understand, that the sacred penmen wrote the whole of them under his

moisture which it receives from the
bountiful hand of God-to" the
rain and snow which watereth it,
and maketh it to bring forth and
bud, that it may give seed to the
sower and bread to the eater." In
this happy temperate clime, we
have but a comparatively slight
specimen of the destructive conse-
quences arising from long conti-
nued drought: but were we to visit
the parched plains of the torrid re-
gions during a season of dryness,
what a fearful spectacle should we
behold-" the heaven over
head like brass, the ground under
our feet like iron:" the kindly fruits

our

of the earth destroyed by the scorching blast; famine and despair depicted in every countenance! Then should we be able to comprehend the force of the prophet's description-"Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languisheth: they are black unto the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. And the nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty, they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the ploughmen were ashamed, and covered their heads: yea the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it because there was no grass." Yet, even in our own land, we occasionally experience such a scarcity of rain as sufficiently teaches us its inestimable value. If it be withheld but for a few weeks in summer time, what calamitous consequences frequently ensue! But when it descends in genial streams to refresh the thirsty earth, her prolific powers are revived, and abundance of vegetable produce for the sustenance of man and beast rapidly springs from her humid bosom; affording, not only "bread for the eater," an ample supply of food for present consumption, but also a sufficiency of "seed for the sower," in order to the production of a future crop. The bounty of the Lord in sending his rain, and its fertilizing effects upon the earth, are beautifully described by the royal Psalmist: "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water; thou preparest them corn when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof; thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof: thou crownest the

year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness."

As God thus gives fertility to the earth by means of the rain and snow; so likewise, by the instrumentality of his word, does he fructify the souls of men, and cause them to bring forth the fruits of righteousness and peace. By the agency of his divine word, he accomplishes many gracious ends. Sometimes he sends it to quicken the dead, those who are dead in trespasses and sins; and then, accompanied by the influences of his Holy Spirit, it animates even those who are as void of spiritual life as the dry bones seen by Ezekiel in the valley. Again, he sends it to comfort the afflicted penitent, whose spirit is bowed to the earth by a sense of his transgressions; and it performs this gracious errand, by descending into his soul like the dew and the small rain upon the tender herb. It is poured into the broken heart like precious balm, and is effectual in extracting the agonizing sting from the wounded conscience. So efficacious is this sovereign remedy, that the most distressed cannot withstand its energy. When the believer is tossed by the tempestuous ocean of trouble, and the billows of affliction roll like mountains over his head, then let him cry unto the Lord, and he will save him from his distress; he will send his word and deliver him from despair. At other times, he sends his holy word to

sanctify the polluted sinner, spotted all over with the leprosy of sin. Under its purifying influence, his most inveterate habits are broken up and discontinued-sins, which have been as precious in his estimation as his "right hand or right eye," are cast away with the utmost abhorrence: the " stony heart" is taken away, and " heart of flesh" is given instead; his whole soul becomes renovated, and transformed into the image of

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him who so loved his church that he gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. And thus is he rendered

a meet partaker of that holy place, where nothing "that defileth" can ever enter. Finally, by the various operations of his word, God determines to save the lost, to rescue miserable sinners from eternal ruin-to ransom their souls from justly-merited perdition. To effect this mighty work, it went "forth from his mouth," and behold it stops not short of his purpose, but "accomplishes that which he pleases, and prospers in the thing whereto he sent it." In no instance was it ever known to fail; but, when cordially believed, becomes the power of God unto salvation”

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a lamp to our feet, and a lantern to our path," which will guide us into the way of everlasting life.

In one respect, however, there is a difference between the effects of the word of God, and those produced by the rain and snow. Though the latter may water the earth, and cause it so to bring forth and bud as to promise an abundant harvest, yet an easterly wind, the destructive insects, or some other cause, may in a short time counteract all its beneficial effect; the tender crop is blighted, and the sanguine hopes of the husbandman totally overthrown. But it is far otherwise with the word of God. Weak as it may appear when it is delivered by sinful man, it is nevertheless quick and powerful; sharper than any two-edged sword-piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit;" it "casts down" every thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God; the heart that would resist its power, it renders obedient unto Christ; and though all the

powers of hell were leagued against it, they would never be able to defeat the purposes of God. Never could they in the slightest degree counteract those merciful designs, for the furtherance of which he sent forth his heavenly word, and which, for our everlasting comfort, he has declared "shall not return unto him void, but shall accomplish that which he pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto it was sent."

The three following useful lessons may be learned from this beautiful comparison. The importance of attending the preached word.-The danger of despising it. -The benefit of praying over it.

1. We learn the importance of attending the preaching of God's word. However faithfully this word may be preached, it will never produce any saving effect until God sends it home to the heart by the power of his Holy Spirit. Therefore, as we know not when it may please him thus to impress our hearts with the importance of his word, we should always be found waiting upon him in the way of his appointment. Let us remember the declaration of the Apostle, that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God;" that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Let us imitate the conduct of the impotent man who was healed by our blessed Lord at the Pool of Bethesda. He had for many years attended that place in expectation of a cure; and though annually disappointed, in consequence of his forlorn situation, his patience was not exhausted-he still hoped to obtain what he sought, and still

continued to visit the pool. But often as he had attended, it would have been all in vain if he had been absent on the day that Jesus came to the place; as he would, in that case, have missed the blessing which he received from him, and had so long expected from the miraculous power of the waters. However long, therefore, we may have attended at the house of God, apparently in vain, it becomes us still to tarry the Lord's leisure, and patiently expect the showers of his grace in due season. For our further encouragement, it is recorded in his word, that " they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint," for "blessed are all they that wait upon him."

2. We learn the danger of despising the word of God. The text, though often interpreted as comprehending God's judicial purposes, does not properly relate to them; for as the rain is not spoken of as deluging the earth, but only rendering it fruitful, so the parallel between the Gospel and the rain should be drawn only as relating to mercies, and not to judgments. Nevertheless, we may notice in this place, that as God sent his miracles to harden Pharaoh's heart, so he may and often does send his word to blind and harden the hearts of proud opposers. This was the end of the commission given to Isaiah, when the Lord said to him, "Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed." And although it was not the primary intent of Christ, when he preached to the people in parables, yet we learn from his own declara

tion, that it constituted a part of his design in relation to the proud, cavilling, and incorrigible Pharisees; and upon several occasions he quoted the above prophecy, and applied it to his own conduct. And, though not primarily intended, the same end is accomplished in respect to thousands of infidels in every age. They despise and reject that word which is sent to soften, to renovate and fertilize the heart, and therefore it becomes their condemnation. In it, God speaks from the throne of his awful majesty; and all who refuse to hearken, do so at the peril of their souls. If the ancient Israelites, who despised the word of Moses, died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy who, by despising the word of God, despise God himself, trample upon his eternal Son," and count the 'blood of the covenant an unholy thing?" Let all such beware, lest God take them in their own craftiness: for whether they receive his word or not, it will not go forth in vain if it be not a savour of life unto life, it will prove a savour of death unto death.'

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3. Lastly, We learn the benefit of praying over this holy word. It is not in the power of man to command a blessing on the word of God, and to make it profitable to his soul; this can be effected by Him alone who sent it forth. vain, therefore, does a Paul preach or an Apollos water, except He give the increase; for, "neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God, that giveth the increase." But if we pray to God, he will send us such a word as shall be suited to us suited to all our wants and spiritual necessities; such a word as shall make us ready to think, that the minister has received private information respecting us; and make us almost ready to exclaim with the Samaritan woman, “Come,

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