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Isaiah 12:1-6 - Homilies By E. Johnson

A hymn of praise.

Some critics say that the language and the tone of thought are so different here from that of Isaiah, that the hymn cannot be from his pen. The theory seems probable enough that a copyist or reader, who beheld with joy a fulfillment of the words in Isaiah 11:15 , Isaiah 11:16 , on the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, supplemented the oracle with these jubilant words."

I. THE FULL HEART SEEKS RELIEF IN RELIGIOUS SONG . If burdened with the sense of guilt, it must have its litany of grief and deprecation. Pain in the mind, the sense of lonely suffering, readily translates itself into the image of the anger of God. As Madame de Stael justly remarks, "When we suffer, we easily persuade ourselves that we are guilty, and violent griefs carry trouble even into the conscience." And when the suffering ceases, it seems as if a cloud had passed from the sky, and the anger of God were allayed. He who had been the Judge now appears as the Savior; the heart that had been trembling as the bruised reed is now strong as if the feet were based on eternal rock. Awhile dejected in the extreme, "writing bitter things against itself," presently it is filled with boasting and triumph in the sense of possessing God, nay, of being possessed by God. There is a long gamut of religious feeling; in critical moments the heart may run through every tone in the scale. In the simple life of feeling the religious spirit expatiates. The habit of flower, of bird, of child, opening to the sun, singing in the spring-time, is the reflection of that of the soul. We do not suffer our memories of a long and dreary winter to mar our enjoyment of the genial breath, the odors, sights, and sounds of spring-time. Nor should the sense of the long struggles, doubly wintry seasons of the hiding of God's face from the soul, linger in those moments when the Sun of righteousness returns with healing in his wings, and salvation is for the present a fact, no longer a hope.

II. THE FITNESS AND BEAUTY OF THANKSGIVING . To withhold thanks from an earthly benefactor, whose hand has extracted us from a state of peril or need, is to show a deformed soul. To seal the fount of joyous religious expression, is the way to have presently nothing to express. For if expression follows naturally on feeling, so the cultivation of religious expression tends to form and to enrich the feeling itself. Nothing artificial is recommended; but it is well to recognize that sentiment, no less than thought, remains poorer than it need be without training and tillage. This psalm probably belongs to the period to which the last section of the psalter belongs; they are songs of deliverance, songs of return from exile, as those which immediately precede them refer to the dispersion. If the latter soothe us by the profound insight into suffering and sympathy with the soul in its seeming loneliness and exile from God, no less, maybe, the psalms of the return educate us in hope, reminding us that we are on our way to God, that our spiritual exile draws to its close, and "every winter yields to spring."—J.

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