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And in quiet resting-places. — ISAIAH xxxii. 18.
\HIS prophecy was uttered in a time of unquietness.
The Assyrian was expected with his invading army. The cloud of war was gathering dark on the horizon. Every thing portended trouble and distresspossible captivity and destruction.
The people were looking eagerly for help, but it was the help of an arm of flesh. In this emergency the prophet-voice is heard
-“ Look not to Egypt but to God! The Assyrian will come, but his power shall be broken, and you shall still dwell in peace.” Then looking still farther in his vision he foresees the captivity in Babylon, but also the return from it, a peaceable resettlement in Jerusalem, a time of religious revival, and continued safety even amid surrounding troubles.
But it is impossible to doubt that the vision of the prophet was extended into a far more illustrious future; and that now and again in describing those nearer
scenes he obtains and reveals glimpses of a higher glory, and refreshes his readers and himself with anticipations of Messiah's times. The closing verses of the chapter are full of the gospel, penetrated with the very spirit of evangelical peace. Hardly in the New Testament shall we find more intense or more beautiful expressions, and we see in them the very process by which individuals and coinmunities now, are brought under the power of the truth, and into the enjoyment of spiritual rest—the pouring out of the Spirit from on high, the changing of wilderness into fruitful field, the workings of righteousness, the flowings of peace. “And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places." My people" seems to make the promise general, and to hold it out to us sealed with the “yea and amen” which is attached to every promise of God. “Shall dwell" seems to import some settled order of divine procedure; and, therefore, we are quite in the spirit of the text in asking what these resting-places are, where and how we may hope to find them, and how secure in them the promised sure abode.
Never perhaps has there been so much need of them in the world as now. If Solomon said in his day, “all things are full of labour," what would he say in ours ? For how has the tide of human life risen since then ? how has the stress of human toil increased ? What an energy there is in things now! What an eagerness in
the human face! How fierce and keen are the conflicts of life! At deep midnight the roar of the city hardly sinks into stillness. The surging of the multitudes by day makes the individual heart quail ; and hardly anywhere can one look or go to escape this fulness and fretfulness of life. The overflowings of the city swell up into mountain solitudes, the gaiety of the city is seen on summer days futtering on what was once the quiet seashore—and “ where shall rest be found; rest for the weary soul ?" only within this sacred ground, only in some of these quiet resting-places which God makes and keeps for his pilgrim people. He gives them no exemption from the outward strife. The sweat of toil is on their brow. They are covered with the dust of conflict. They rise early and sit up late. In all the labour of this unresting world they have a full share; but they have that inward calm which God gives them only to know. They have soul-quietness for city strife. They have heart-assurance to compensate for worldly fluctuations. In divine love and presence they find a “sure dwelling” even while moving without any stay through the days and scenes of their earthly history; and all along the way by which they go, be that way in itself rough or smooth, there are "quiet resting-places.”
In eastern countries, where the habit of hospitality is stronger than with us, the traveller is sometimes surprised and regaled by much-needed but unexpected wayside comforts. Yonder husbandman who is now a-field at his work was here in the early morning to leave by the wayside that pitcher of water that the passing traveller might drink. This clump of trees which makes a thick and welcome “shadow from the heat," was planted by one who expected neither fame nor money for his toil, and who now lies in a nameless grave. Hands now mouldering in dust scooped out this cool seat in the rock. Some Father Jacob gave us this well after drinking thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle." Travellers from the west are much affected by such instances of pure humanity and unselfish kindness. And yet these are but feeble types, mere dim shadows of divine thoughtfulness and care.
The heavenly benefactor comes down in preventing lovingkindness upon the earthly pathway of his people. He foreknows, forecasts, foreruns. We think of Jesus as forerunner of his people only “within the veil.” In a sense not less true he is their forerunner along the journey every day. We cannot be up so early that he has not been waking before us. We cannot run so fast that he has not far outstripped our speed. Our tomorrow is his yesterday. He is with us and yet before
He has said at one place and another, “they are to pass this way; I will leave these helps for them; I will smooth down the over-ruggedness of life, so that they shall get through; I will open rivers for them in high