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Naomi was a woman of strong mind, and her piety was of no equivocal character. Her faith shines brightly throughout this history, and warrants our conclusion that she maintained a conversation worthy the religious feeling she professed. Her example, though in the midst of an idolatrous people, who looked on her religion with an unfriendly aspect, was highly commendable, nor was her influence unfelt. On the community around, such a holy light could not fail to shed a happy reflection and on both her daughters-in-law, the effect was marked. Orphah, it is true, returned, but carried back with her such impressions of the truth and excellency of piety, as afforded an adequate guide in seeking eternal life for herself, and impressions of such a character as could not be readily effaced.
But in the case of Ruth, how blessed-the gain of one soul, who could calculate. And if all her influence beside was lost, this one soul won to piety was a compensation of untold value for all her anxiety. The pious and devoted John Newton has remarked that if he were the instrument of the conversion of one soul, it would be a reward infinitely exceeding the toils of his whole ministry. And who that estimates the soul as our Divine Lord did, can think his judgment incorrect?
Naomi is a single one, of a host whom God has thus blessed, and whose success affords the richest encouragement to exert our influence to the utmost in behalf of the salvation of our friends and others. It may be that much time may elapse before we shall see the desired effects-it may be that some great crisis, as in the case of Ruth, may, for the first, make fully apparent what God has accomplished by us; yet this we know, our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Many undervalue their influence, and esteem themselves from want of gifts, unfitted to accomplish anything. The truth is, however, every professor has a moral power in the circle in which he moves, of which he is not conscious, and consequences flow from his every day course, which he cannot see in their full importance and extent, until the judgment day. Then he will wish that his influence had in all respects been a consecrated influence. The Christian has only to live up to his religious profession and he will do good. Let us then remember, my brethren, that each one of us has a work to do for our Master. us attend to it now, while the opportunity is afforded us. Here is our encouragement: Naomi rejoicing over Ruth consecrating herself to God. I pray it may not be lost on any of us, but that we may appear with many, especially our children, given to our prayers and efforts.
BY THE REV. ELBERT S. PORTER, D. D.,
WILLIAMSBURGH, L. I.
THE VISION OF ISAIAH.
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high, and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
"Then said J, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."—ISAIAH vi. 1-8.
THE Visions recorded in the Sacred Word were not fantasies of distempered or overwrought imaginations. The holy Seers to whom it was granted to behold things concealed from grosser minds, were selected as fit channels through whom the Invisible chose to reveal his existence and his attributes. Thus these visions of old had as much reality in all their parts, as a picture which correctly represents the originals from which the painter draws. From the lonely waste of Padan Aram, the patriarch Jacob, with a stone for his pillow and the sky for the curtain of his sandy couch, saw that august procession of angels, from which he learned, and all who have succeeded him have also learned, how near Heaven is to Earth, in its ministries of love. So, too, on the plains of Uz, far back in the dim twilight of uncertain history, the venerable Job, when wearied with the fruitless arguments of his friends, was suddenly summoned into audience with God. A spirit passed before him; he saw, as it were, the face of the Eternal unveiled. The hair of his flesh stood up in terror, and he heard with reverence and fear. And ages after, on the Midian hills, among the scorching sands and broken frowning mountains of Arabia, a burning bush, bright but unconsumable, revealed to Moses the presence of Jehovah, while from its flame issued his commission to become the deliverer of his brethren from Egyptian bondage. Again this same man, anointed now as the lawgiver and leader of the Israelitish hosts, stands on the rug
ged and thunder-scarred brow of awful Sinai, and while the huge mountain shook beneath the overshadowing presence of Divinity, Moses heard the law and saw the pattern of that majestic temple which, with all its sacred rites, afterward stood the joy of the whole earth, upon the stately brow of Moriah.
So, too, Elijah, when sad in heart and broken in spirit on account of the bold and triumphant wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel, was led up into Horeb," and behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice. And when Elijah heard that, he wrapped his face in his mantle, and stood silent, bowed and reverent in the presence of his God.
Many visions, theophanies, or divine manifestations, either for instruction, comfort or warning, were granted to men in those ages, when as yet the glory of the Divine had not been revealed in the person of an incarnate Christ. None of these visions were dim, ghostly shadows flitting through the vapory gloom of a rayless night. They were rather the real shapes of immortal truth, shining through the gross materialism of man's nature, and disclosing, as in a transparency, the great realities of that higher and vaster world which enwraps our own. Thus in a day of dark and cloud, when green fields and sturdy mountains rest under a vapory eclipse, the sun will sometimes break through for an instant, and light up the landscape with the smile of a passing benediction. So these visions of the Divine did in ancient times pierce the thick canopy of human ignorance, and let down upon the world some of the splendors of the celestial.
Of all the visions recorded for our instruction, none possessed elements of greater sublimity, none disclose truths of greater magnitude than that which Isaiah saw in the year that Uzziah died.
We shall try to contemplate it. But we all need the touch of sacred fire, to kindle our hearts as we attempt to climb to the height whereon the prophet stood, when wrapt in extasy divine he descried the majestic throne, with its attendant train of seraphim. To open this vision, I feel the need of more than human help. For the grandeur of the theme human speech is powerless without the quickening aid of the Holy Spirit.
"Oh, Thou! my voice inspire
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire."
I. The scene.
The scene of this vision was in the Temple. In that sacred edifice, whose costly materials had been gathered by the pious
diligence of David, and reared under the direction of Solomon, his most illustrious son. In itself the Temple was a master-piece of oriental architecture. Its polished stones, and porphyry pillars, and cedar carvings, and tapestries beautiful as though embroidered by angels from celestial patterns, its profusion of silver and gold, all combined with an exquisite skill, rendered the Temple, from foundation to dome, the fairest and the noblest structure that then stood on earth to greet the sun in his daily course. But the structural magnificence of the Temple was as nothing compared with the throng of holy associations which sanctified it in the eye of every pious Israelite. To him it was the monument of national deliverance. His forefathers had carried the tabernacle in the wilderness when searching for the promised land. But the tabernacle had been superseded by the permanent Temple, which now stood as a silent but eloquent witness of the mighty signs and wonders, among which the bondmen of Egypt had been compacted into a nation. It embodied the nation's history. Within its sacred ark were Aaron's rod, the dread symbol of God's miracles in the land of Pharaoh; and manna, preserved as a precious memorial of the divine care; and the book of the law received on Sinai by the ministry of angels. It embodied not only the history of the divine dealings, but the promises of God also. It stood the prophet of immortality, as the material model of that spiritual temple which in future ages would be builded upon Jesus as the chief corner stone, whose walls would consist of living stones, lustrous in the rays of the Divine truth, and polished by the Holy Spirit.
To every sincere worshipper it was the house of God and the gate of heaven. Everything in the temple spoke of man's defilement and Heaven's mercy. The sacrificial blood that streamed from its altars, uttered its testimony against human guilt, while the fragrant incense that went up from its golden censors, assured the suppliant that God would hear his prayer. There was the High Priest, his breast-plate "ardent with gems oracular," acting in the character of a mediator, and serving only as a type and a forerunner of the great High Priest who was to come.
From the mercy-seat within the veil streamed the dazzling rays of the Shekinah, which rested there as the symbol of the Divine presence, while bending reverently over the sacred ark, might be seen the cherubim, as if to show the devout attitude of the heavenly host, who worship in the temple not made with hands eternal in the heavens.
Into the court of Solomon's Temple, thousands had come and gone, without seeing anything more than the material beauty of the structure and the religious pomp of the priesthood. As thousands now enter our churches without seeing anything beyond the wood, and brick, and mortar, and paint which compose them, so, doubtless, had many a Jew failed to perceive the high signifi
cance of the Temple, in which he vainly thought to render his formal worship.
There are minds so dull that they never look, for they never try to look, below the mere surface of the material things around them. These are stupid minds, earthly and sensual, if not devilish, that never search for the meaning of anything beyond its superficial uses. They see no splendor in the grass, no glory in the flower. To men and women of this stamp, a church is only a place of social convocation, where some come to be seen, others to see, where music and preaching and the softness of the cushion are all rated according to the amount of sensuous comfort they afford to the poor mortal, whose soul lies buried in his body, deaf to every resurrection peal of truth, blind to every glory that streams out from the circumambient heavens.
But so, too, there are men whose quick and cultured minds find an oracle in every stone. Place a piece of common quartz in the hands of a Hugh Miller, and he will read from it the histories of those ages when the world was heaving in the throes of a partu rition that has brought forth our present globe. Show a Humboldt a branch from a tree that grows in some distant clime, and he will tell you its place in the vast cosmos of creative skill. Or let a Cuvier glance at some fossil, dug from meadows over which generations have tramped onward to the grave, and he will declare to what species and genus of animals the bones once belonged. Newton saw an apple fall; millions had seen apples fall before, but to Newton's mind it was a key to unlock the mysteries of the stellar world. All things have their order, and each thing, when seen in its right place, and interpreted aright, becomes an Apocalypse, from whose oracular speech may be learned the mysteries of the universe.
Now, the Temple was an Apocalypse; but until Isaiah entered it, none had been able to open its seals. As John in after times was led to Patmos, there to see the heavens opened and trace the future progress of the Christian church, so Isaiah was led by the Spirit of God into the Temple, his eyes opened, his ears unstopped, that he might behold and hear what the Temple itself was intended to symbolize.
There can be no room to doubt that the vision of the prophet, strictly speaking, was a transfiguration of the Temple itself. The symbol opened before him its transcendent, spiritual significance. To his vision the material edifice was suddenly transformed into a transparent crystal, through which he saw the Lord on his august throne, with all the circling seraphim, who cried one to another, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.
Foremost in this vision was the throne.
II. Whose throne was this? It was none other than the throne