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    I. OUR DUTY TO GOD

    “Come, let us return unto the Lord;” and, “If we follow on to know the Lord.” Here is the whole duty of man, as clearly described as any crystal could make it. Repent, believe, and obey are clearly inculcated. What better words could an orator make use of to excite the minds of men to noble deeds of daring, than are here used by the prophet? “Come” - he invites - “let us” - he will go with them - “return.” Ah! what a word - return! Traveller, have you ever wandered far from home, in a cold, unfeeling world, among strangers, among robbers, enemies, thieves, and hard-hearted worldlings? Have you been sick and weak, wounded and torn, spoiled and robbed, smitten and cheated, hated and reviled, and this too for days, months, or years? Have you at last “returned” to your family, your friends, your native land? Do you remember those familiar objects, as you returned - the way, the mountain, the hill, the valley, and the plain - the grove, the turn, the house, and the brook? Do you remember the tree, the rock, the barberry and bush, the gate and the post, the door-way and latch? O, yes, say you; I remember, too, my beating and palpitating heart, and the falling tear, which I stopped to wipe away from my blanched cheek, while my hand was on the latch. I remember how I listened to hear the loved ones breathe, although it was then in the dark watches of the night.MWV3 46.1

    Thus tells the wanderer the tale of his “return;” and in like manner could all the wandering sons of Zion speak of their “return.” You, then, who have experienced these things, can realize the value of the word, “return.” And from my soul I pity the wanderer that never has returned “unto the Lord;” to him that loved us, to him who died for us - more, vastly more than mortal friends could ever do - he died. And so, say you, can fathers die for children, and mothers for their sons; children can give their lives, though rare the gift, to save the life of parents; husbands, and wives, and friends have fallen, to save each other from death. All this is true. But here is love greater than these: “for while we were enemies Christ died for us.” Yea, more: he left his Father’s presence, his glory, and that heaven where angels dwell; where he, the brightest star in all the upper world, stood highest; where seraphim and cherubim in glory cast down their crowns, and worshipped at his feet. “He became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.” Again; he bore our shame, and by his stripes we are healed. He was buffeted for our offences, and despised by mortals, for whom he suffered in the flesh. He rose from death for our justification, and ascended on high, to intercede for sinners, and has sent down his Spirit to bring us wanderers home.MWV3 47.1

    “For he hath torn.” True, he suffers our sins to tear us, and those earthly powers in whom we trust, to break our proud hearts, and therefore tears away our vain supports. He tears our affections from earthly things, that he may place them on a more enduring substance. He tears our hearts from idol gods, that he may place them on God supreme. He tears our soul from the body, that we may no longer live in the flesh to sin, but depart in the spirit and be with Christ.MWV3 48.1

    “And he will heal us.” Yes, he will heal us from all our backslidings, and love us freely for his own name’s sake. He will heal us from sin, by showing us its deadly nature. He will heal us from worldly affections, by placing our affections in heaven. He will heal our hearts of idolatry, by the taking possession of them himself. He will heal us from death, by the resurrection from the grave.MWV3 49.1

    “He hath smitten.” God has so ordered in his providence, that his children cannot have intercourse and associations with men of the world, and with the kingdoms of this earth, but that persecution, or loss of Christian character, is sure to follow. The prophet is showing the present state of the church, while the tares and wheat are growing together. The children of God shall be smitten - meaning they shall be chastised, persecuted, ruled over. See the Roman power, from the days of their connection with the Jews until the present time, ruling over, persecuting, and trampling under foot the church of God. Our text is not only showing us our duty to God, but it teaches us the sufferings of the church, the dealings of God with her, and her final redemption; the first and second coming of her Lord, her final deliverance from death and all enemies, and her glorified reign. It teaches us the manner of Christ’s coming, and the time when all these things will be fulfilled. We are therefore now showing the sufferings of the church, and God’s special care and providential dealings with her.MWV3 49.2

    “And he will bind us up:” which is a promise of God, that, although the church should be torn and smitten, yet he would heal them, and bind them up. In due time he would gather them into one fold, he would bind up all their wounds, and heal them of all their maladies. He would visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes; but his loving-kindness he would not take from them. These promises are brought to view in this part of our text.MWV3 50.1

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