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Expositions Of Holy Scripture H by Alexander Maclaren

LIGHT OR FIRE?

'And the Light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.' -- ISAIAH x.17.

With grand poetry the prophet pictures the Assyrian power as a forest consumed like thistles and briers by the fire of God. The text suggests solemn truths about the divine Nature and its manifestations.

I. The Essential Character of God.

Light and Holiness are substantially parallel. Light symbolises purity, but also knowledge and joy. Holiness is Separation from Creatures, but chiefly from their Evils.

II. The Different Attitudes which Men assume to that Character.

'Light of Israel': 'His Holy One.'

God becomes ours, and we have an interest in that radiant Personality if we choose to claim it by faith, love, and obedience. We are free to accept God as ours or to reject Him.

III. The Opposite Aspects which that Character accordingly assumes.

(a) The self-same divine Character has two effects according to the character of the beholder.

To those who respond to God's love it is -- heaven. To those who are indifferent or alienated it may be pain, and will harm them if they see it and do not yield to it.

God's holiness is not retributive justice but moral perfectness, which to a good man will be joy, and to a bad man, intolerable.

The light which is gladsome to a healthy eye is agony to a diseased one.

(b) All the manifestations and operations of that divine Character have a twofold aspect. Christ is either a stone of stumbling or a sure foundation. Men are either the better or the worse for Him. The Gospel is the savour of life unto life or of death unto death. The tremendous 'either -- or.' The Cross rejected harms the moral nature, hardens conscience, deepens condemnation.

All divine operations are necessarily on the side of God's lovers and against those who love Him not. They are contrary to Him, therefore He is so to them. 'With the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward.'

The final Judgment will be either rapture or despair, like the coming of a bridegroom, or the fiery rain that burnt up Sodom.

The very dew of Heavenly Bliss would be corroding poison to a godless spirit.

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