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our religious meetings, however crowded in numbers, scriptural in behaviour, enthusiastic in spirit, are worthless ; with Him whatever else is absent, they are infinitely valuable.
Brothers, in our meetings, let our grand aim be to have Him present. It is not difficult to get crowds present. The "name" of some preacher, whose fluent audacities and pulpiteering tricks have gained him the popularity of the fleeting hour, will crowd your largest buildings to an overflow; but what boot such gatherings if Christ be not there? And He will not be there unless you meet together in His name.
Germs of Thought.
SUBJECT :-Divine Purposes and Human Agencies. “ Had Zimri peace who slew his master ?”—2 Kings, ix. 31.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Forty-eigbtb. THESE are not the words of the Spirit of God, but of that wicked witch Jezebel, wife of the idolatrous Ahab. Nevertheless there is a truth implied in them which it shall be our present business to expound and illustrate.
The story, out of which they grow, is briefly told. Ahab is dead, and the measure of the iniquity of his house is full. A messenger from the prophet Elisha, sent to Ramoth Gilead, has anointed Jehu to be King over Israel, and commissioned him to execute the vengeance of the Lord upon Jezebel and the sons of Ahab. Jehu, nothing loth, receives the dreadful trust; and with his usual impetuosity hastens furiously to its discharge.
There is neither peace nor truce with the enemies of the Lord. Joram is slain by an arrow from the strong bow of Jehu, and the painted Jezebel anticipates her doom. But the love of life is strong, and as Jehu enters the gates of her palace, in Jezreel, she accosts him from an upper window
“Had Zimri peace who slew his master ?" What did she mean by this? The answer is in the story of Zimri told in the 16th chapter of the 1st Book of Kings.
Elah, son of Baasha, has reigned over Israel but two years, when in a drunken revel, in the house of his steward, he is slain by Zimri, captain of half his chariots, and his throne usurped by the traitor who had thus shed his blood. But for Zimri there is indeed no peace; the seven days of his reign are days of terror and of blood.
Tirzah is speedily besieged by the army under Omri which hastens from Gibbethón; and when Zimri sees that his usurped power is gone, he betakes himself to the palace, where kindling a fire around him, he perishes in the midst of the flames.
“Therefore, O Jehu, be warned ; see what is the end of him who madly lifts his hand against the Lord's anointed!” “Had Zimri peace ?” But the parallel is imperfect-Zimri . had received no Divine commission-Jehu had. Jehu is also himself the anointed of the Lord ! But perhaps Jezebel means more than this—Jehu indeed may be the appointed instrument in the hand of the Almighty for the fulfilment of the terrible prophecy of Elijah concerning the bloody business of Naboth and his vineyard, but let him remember that the instruments of destruction are often in their turn destroyed; the ruin of the house of Baasha had been predicted as much as that of the house of Ahab—the prophecies must needs be fulfilled, but woe unto him by whom they are fulfilled. “ Had Zimri peace ? ” But here again this theme is truth in the general principle, though the particular application of it fails. Even as to Zimri himself, though the facts stated in Jezebel's question are correct, the inference she would draw from them is doubtful. Zimri slew his master; and Zimri had not peace; but that these two facts stand in the relation of cause and effect is not proven by the narrative; and from the 19th verse of 1 Kings xvi, the reverse seems rather to be implied. While as to Jehu, we find as a matter of history that the warning is altogether misplaced, for he
receives distinct commendation from the Lord, for the part that he has played in the fearful tragedy of Jezabel, and the sons of Ahab. (2 Kings, x. 30.) Nevertheless, though the particular application is wrong the general principle here suggested is right ; and to this now turn—It may be thus stated :
That Divine purposes are sometimes accomplished by wicked agents ; but that this in nowise excuses the agents themselves, or shields them from merited punishment. No one can read the Old Testament Scriptures, or the New, without finding this principle again and again enforced. The sword in the hands of cruel and ambitious tyrants is often used by the King of Kings as an instrument of His righteous wrath; yet “they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.” The smiter is smitten, the oppressor is oppressed, the spoiled is spoiled.
This may be illustrated :
I. BY MANY FACTS IN HUMAN HISTORY.
First: Look at facts in the history of nations. Consider how important a part the nations mentioned in Scripture played in the education, discipline, and chastisement of the chosen people. Take Egypt-its pride, its idolatry, its oppression, are under God, instruments of culture upon the soil of the Hebrew mind; indispensable, as we should say, to the fruitfulness afterwards attained.
Long before Joseph fled from Herod, with the child Jesus, into Egypt, there had been a fulfilment, at least in part of the prophecy—“Out of Egypt have I called my son.” But does Egypt stand excused because it thus executed divine purposes? In nowise, for an earlier prediction still had said that, that nation should afflict the Lord's people four hundred years, and afterwards, that nation“ will I judge said God.” Look at Babylon : it too, in the way of chastisement for sin, was used in the discipline of the house of Jacob, as certainly as the kingdom of the Pharaohs. It is remarkable that after the chastisement of the Babylonish captivity, the Jews no more relapsed into idolatry; so that the judgment of Babylon was a judgment of mercy. It wrought upon Israel a divine work. Yet it did it, in the wantonness and pride of its heart; and, what was said of Babylon ! “Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us,” &c. The judgment came : The handwriting upon the wall appeared—and Babylon, the Lady of Kingdoms, ceased to be a kingdom.
Rome too, with all its strength and influence, and blasphemy, was an instrument in the hand of the Great God for executing His judgments upon Jerusalem ;—where “ the carcass was, the eagles (vultures) were gathered together.” When Jerusalem had become a loathsome corpse, instead of a living body, poisoning the very air around, it had to be removed, and the Romans were the vultures that removed it; and when they in their turn had become only corrupt, God brought other vultures upon them; and though the destruction of Jerusalem was one means of spreading the Gospel yet the destroyer had to be destroyed. God used these nations for His purposes of judgment and of mercy, overruling even their sins to His ends, and when they had done their work, like a sword that is shivered as it pierces the foe, He fung them aside from His hand.
Secondly: Look at facts in the history of individuals. There is Jacob concerning whose relation to Esau the prophecy stands that “the elder shall serve the younger ;” yet how utterly detestable the means ;—the lies, the trickery, the fraud, by which the end is attained. For the purposes of God I have respect, and I know that they shall stand, but for the means used by Jacob and his mother, I have the utmost abhorrence and contempt. My sympathy as I read the narration is rather with Esau than with Jacob, and when I see the latter an-exile and wanderer-I see in this the chastisement of Heaven for his sins. When years afterwards, the deceiver is himself deceived and cheated by Laban, I see in this a righteous retribution, from which let no deceiver, or worker of any sort of iniquity, be the ends which he proposes what they may, flatter himself he shall escape. There again is the strange strange story of Joseph and his brothers, how wonderfully the various sins mixed up with their eventful history seem to form links in the great chain of Providence. The murderous designs and falsehoods of his brethren ; their wicked traffic with the Ishmaelites, in their own flesh and blood ; the lustfulness and lies of the wife of Potiphar; the oppression of the Pharaoh that knew not Joseph; all these become tributary to the present result. But are any of these sins to be excused ? Are the agents to go unpunished ? Had they peace ? Look at Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea ; look at the remorse and fear of Joseph's brethren ; and as for the wife of Potiphar, her ungratified passion, together with Joseph's exaltation, would gnaw like a vulture at her heart.
It is illustrated :
II. IN THE GREAT CENTRAL FACT OF CHRISTIANITY. I mean the crucifixion of the Lord. Here, the divinest purpose works itself out by the most satanic agency. The noblest deed of love ever wrought by the Great God of love himself, combines with the meanest, foulest, deed of hatred, ever wrought by man, in the great agony of the cross ! “ Him," says Peter,
being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”—And yet one step further-"I wot that through ignorance ye did it.” So that here the chosen channels through which divine wisdom and divine love pour themselves upon us are human ignorance and wickedness ! "O the depth of the riches," &c. And as the closing act of that great life, given for our life, illustrates our principle, 80 do all the steps which lead on to the great issue. Mark the plots, the conspiracies of pharisees, and priests, and elders. “ The Son of Man must suffer? -so says He and so say they! And here, I merely remark, that to the sentence which states the principle we are discussing, I might add another member :-viz., That if those wicked agents who,