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Isaiah Chapter Six                            

 

Isaiah 6

Chapter Contents

The vision which Isaiah beheld in the temple. (1-8) The Lord declares the blindness to come upon the Jewish nation, and the destruction which would follow. (9-13)

Commentary on Isaiah 6:1-8

(Read Isaiah 6:1-8)

In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne. This vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ's glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. See God's temple, his church on earth, filled with his glory. His train, the skirts of his robes, filled the temple, the whole world, for it is all God's temple. And yet he dwells in every contrite heart. See the blessed attendants by whom his government is served. Above the throne stood the holy angels, called seraphim, which means "burners;" they burn in love to God, and zeal for his glory against sin. The seraphim showing their faces veiled, declares that they are ready to yield obedience to all God's commands, though they do not understand the secret reasons of his counsels, government, or promises. All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness. We are undone if there is not a Mediator between us and this holy God. A glimpse of heavenly glory is enough to convince us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Nor is there a man that would dare to speak to the Lord, if he saw the justice, holiness, and majesty of God, without discerning his glorious mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. The live coal may denote the assurance given to the prophet, of pardon, and acceptance in his work, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing is powerful to cleanse and comfort the soul, but what is taken from Christ's satisfaction and intercession. The taking away sin is necessary to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching; and those shall have their sin taken away who complain of it as a burden, and see themselves in danger of being undone by it. It is great comfort to those whom God sends, that they go for God, and may therefore speak in his name, assured that he will bear them out.

Commentary on Isaiah 6:9-13

(Read Isaiah 6:9-13)

God sends Isaiah to foretell the ruin of his people. Many hear the sound of God's word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it. But no humble inquirer after Christ, need to fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins. Let every one pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, that he may perceive how precious are the Divine mercies, by which alone we are secured against this dreadful danger. Yet the Lord would preserve a remnant, like the tenth, holy to him. And blessed be God, he still preserves his church; however professors or visible churches may be lopped off as unfruitful, the holy seed will shoot forth, from whom all the numerous branches of righteousness shall arise.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Isaiah

 

Isaiah 6

Verse 1

[1] 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.

I saw — In a vision.

The Lord — The Divine Majesty as he subsisteth in three persons.

His train — His royal and judicial robe; for he is represented as a judge.

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Stood — As ministers attending upon their Lord.

Seraphim — An order of holy angels, thus called from fire and burning, which this word properly signifies; to represent either their nature, which is bright and glorious, subtile, and pure; or their property, of fervent zeal for God's service and glory.

Covered — Out of profound reverence.

Verse 3

[3] And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Cried — Singing in consort.

Holy — This is repeated thrice, to intimate the Trinity of persons united in the Divine essence.

Glory — Of the effects and demonstrations of his glorious holiness, as well as of his power, wisdom, and goodness.

Verse 4

[4] And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

The posts — Together with the door itself. Such violent motions were commonly tokens of God's anger.

Smoak — Which elsewhere is a token of God's presence and acceptance, but here of his anger.

Verse 5

[5] Then said I, 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.

l am — I am a great sinner, as many other ways, so particularly by my lips. I am an unclean branch of an unclean tree; besides my own uncleanness, I have both by my omissions and commissions involved myself in the guilt of their sins.

Have seen — The sight of this glorious and holy God gives me cause to fear that he is come to judgment against me.

Verse 6

[6] 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:

Flew — By God's command.

A coal — Both a token and an instrument of purification.

The altar — Of burnt-offering.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

Laid it — So as only to touch my lips, and not to burn them; which God could easily effect.

Lo — This is a sign that I have pardoned and purged the uncleanness of thy lips.

Verse 8

[8] Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Who — To deliver the following message. The change of the number, I and us, is very remarkable; and both being meant of one and the same Lord, do sufficiently intimate a plurality of persons in the Godhead.

Verse 9

[9] And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

Perceive not — The Hebrew words are imperative; yet they are not to be taken as a command what the people ought to do, but only as a prediction what they would do. The sense is, because you have so long heard my words, and seen my works, to no purpose, and have hardened your hearts, and will not learn nor reform, I will punish you in your own kind, your sin shall be your punishment. I will still continue my word and works to you, but will withdraw my Spirit, so that you shall be as unable, as now you are unwilling, to understand.

Verse 10

[10] Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Fat — Stupid and senseless. This making of their hearts fat, is here ascribed to the prophet, as it is ascribed to God in the repetition of this prophecy, John 12:40, because God inflicted this judgment upon them by the ministry of the prophet, partly by way of prediction, foretelling that this would be the effect of his preaching; and partly by withdrawing the light and help of his Spirit.

Heavy — Make them dull of hearing.

Lest — That they may not be able, as before they were not willing to see.

Convert — Turn to God.

Verse 11

[11] Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

Lord — An abrupt speech, arising from the prophet's great passion and astonishment: how long shall this dreadful judgment last? Until - Until this land be totally destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Romans.

Verse 12

[12] And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

Removed — Hath caused this people to be carried away captive into far countries.

A forsaking — 'Till houses and lands be generally forsaken of their owners.

Verse 13

[13] But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

A tenth — A small remnant reserved, that number being put indefinitely.

Return — Out of the Babylonish captivity, into their own land.

Eaten — That remnant shall be devoured a second time, by the kings of Syria, and afterwards by the Romans.

Yet — Yet there shall be another remnant, not such an one as that which came out of Babylon, but an holy seed, who shall afterwards look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn over him.

When — Who when their leaves are cast in winter, have a substance within themselves, a vital principle, which preserves life in the root of the tree, and in due time sends it forth into all the branches.

The support — Of the land or people, which, were it not for the sake of these, should be finally rooted out.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Isaiah

 

06 Chapter 6

 

Verses 1-13

Isaiah 6:1-13

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord

The story of the prophet’s call--why inserted here

Why the narrative of the prophet’s call was not, as in the cases of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, allowed to occupy the first place in the book, is a question which cannot be certainly answered.
One conjecture is that chaps. 1-5 were placed first for the purpose of preparing the reader of the book for the severity of tone which marks the end of chap. 6, and of acquainting him with the condition of things in Judah which led to such a tone being adopted. Or, again, it is possible that chap. 6 may have been placed so as to follow chaps. 1-5, because, though describing what occurred earlier, it may not have been actually committed to writing till afterwards--perhaps as an introduction Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-7. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Why did Isaiah publish this account of his call?

Why was it needful to publish a private transaction between God and Isaiah? The only reason we can conceive of is that the prophet needed to give a justification of his public assumption of prophetic work. And that implies in the community a suspicion of prophetic men, and in the young prophet’s mind struggles and hesitation such as we can easily conceive. This picture of his call he holds up half before himself, as the answer to all the timid fears of his own heart, and half before his countrymen, as his reply to all the objections they might raise against his prophetic commission. This is strongly confirmed when we proceed to look at the message which the prophet is sent to deliver (verses 9, 10). (P. Thomson, M. A.)

The circumstances of the vision

Let us try, if we can, and present to our imaginations some idea of this extraordinary scene. The shades of evening are closing in, and all is still within the sacred precincts of the temple. The daily ritual has been duly observed, and priests and worshippers have withdrawn from the hallowed fane. The noise and stir of the great city, hard by is subsiding; a solemn hush and stillness pervades the place. One solitary worshipper still lingers within the sacred courts absorbed a reverie of prayer. He is a religions and devout man; probably a member of the school of the prophets, well instructed in the faith of his fathers, and familiar with the sacred ritual of the temple, and the lessons that it inculcated. There he is, looking forward possibly to a prophet’s career, yet feeling keenly the responsibilities which it will involve, and perhaps pleading earnestly to be fitted for his mission. He cannot be blind to the unsatisfactory condition of his people. Amidst much outward profession of religiousness and readiness to comply with the ceremonial demands of the faith, he cannot but discern the presence of barren formalism and hypocrisy, and of a latent superstition that might at any moment, were the restraints of authority removed, blossom out into open idolatry. And who shall say what heart searchings may have occupied his own mind as he knelt there in the temple all alone with God. Was he more spiritual than those around him? Was he sufficiently pure and devout to stand up in protest against a nation’s sins? One moment all is silence and stillness as he kneels in prayer; the next, and lo! a blaze of glory and a burst of song! Startled and awe-stricken, the lonely worshipper raises his head to find himself confronted with a sublime and dazzling spectacle. His bewildered vision travels up through ranks of light till it finds itself resting for a moment, but only for a moment, on an Object “too august for human gaze.” I saw also, the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Around that dread Presence the forms of vast and wondrous intelligences of glory, the attendant ministers of the Majesty Divine, seem bending in adoration, and the voice of their worship falls like the roll of thunder on his ear, shaking the very pillars of the temple porch with its awe-inspiring resonance, as they echo and re-echo with answering acclamations the antiphon of heaven--“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The vision

Isaiah might probably have said, as St. Paul did on a like occasion, “Whether I was in the body or out of the body I cannot tell,” but he would undoubtedly have confirmed the plain meaning of his words that the vision was a reality and a fact. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)

The Symbolism of Isaiah’s vision

There is a variety of opinion among the commentators as to the basis of the symbolism of this vision. Some assert that the imagery by which the prophet sets forth the wealth and splendour of the heavenly kingdom is taken entirely from the scenery and ritual of the temple; that when the worshippers had left, and the sacrifices had been offered, and only a few of the most devout remained for prayer and vigil, Isaiah, lingering with the few, unsatisfied and perplexed, beheld this vision, and consecrated himself to his prophetic activity: In this view the picture presented of the celestial world is the inner features and ritual of the temple idealised and expanded. Dr. Cheyne casts doubt upon this interpretation, and leans to the opinion that not the temple but the palace is the point from which the prophet’s inspired imagination takes its departure. The figures, the messengers, and the throne are from the court, not from the temple. It is impossible wholly to accept either of these views. There is no reason why we should not blend both in our exposition of Isaiah’s vision. There are certainly some references to the temple in the altar, the purging away of sin, and the smoke-filled house. In the throne and the train filling the temple there are suggestions of the court. As Isaiah was an attendant on both, it is probable that the ideas under which he sets forth the kingship of Christ, as priestly and yet regal, were drawn from his own observation of the centres of government and worship in his own country. Ideas of righteousness, and sympathy, and sacrifice unite in his conception of the invisible kingdom. (J. Matthews.)

Isaiah’s vision of God

Some of you may have been watching a near and beautiful landscape in the land of mountains and eternal snows, till you have been exhausted by its very richness, and till the distant hills which bounded it have seemed, you knew not why, to limit and contract the view; and then a veil has been withdrawn, and new hills, not looking as if they belonged to this earth, yet giving another character to all that does belong to it, have unfolded them selves before you. This is a very imperfect likeness of that revelation which must have been made to the inner eye of the prophet, when he saw another throne than the throne of the house of David, another King than Uzziah or Jotham, another train than that of priests or minstrels in the temple, other winged forms than those golden ones which overshadowed the mercy seat. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

The inaugural vision of Isaiah

The inaugural vision of Isaiah contains in brief an outline of his prophetic teaching. The passage besides this has a singular psychological and religious interest of a kind personal to the prophet. It consists of a series of steps, each one of which naturally follows upon the other.

I. There is first A VISION OF THE LORD, THE KING, surprising and majestic, with a singular world of beings and activities around Him (cars. 1-4).

II. THIS VISION OF JEHOVAH REACTS UPON THE MIND OF THE PROPHET and makes him think of himself in relation to this great King, the Holy One, whom he had seen; and one thought succeeds another, so that in a moment he lives a history (vats. 5-7).

III. Having passed through this history, the beginning of which was terror, but the end peace, AN ALTOGETHER NEW SENSATION FILLED HIS MIND, as if the world, which was all disorder and confusion before, and filled with a conflict of tendencies and possibilities, had suddenly, in the light felling on it from the great King whom he had seen, become clear and the meaning of it plain, and also what was his own place in it; and this was accompanied with an irresistible impulse to take his place. This is expressed by saying that he heard the voice of the great Sovereign who had been revealed to him proclaiming that He had need of one to send, to which he replied that he would go.

IV. Finally, there comes THE SERVICE WHICH HE HAS TO PERFORM, which is no other than just to take his place in the midst of that world, the meaning of which his vision of the Sovereign Lord had made clear to him, and state this meaning to men, to hold the mirror up to his time and declare to it its condition sad its tendencies, and what in the hand of the great King, God over all, its issue and the issue of all must be (verses 8-13). (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. We have to contemplate A REMARKABLE MANIFESTATION OF GOD.

II. WHAT WAS ITS EFFECT ON THE PROPHET?

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE PENITENT PROPHET WAS PURIFIED.

IV. THE CALL OF THE PROPHET.

V. HIS COMMISSION. (T. Allen, D. D.)

Realising God

A man’s realisation of the character of God does not depend altogether on his religious experience; it depends also on original capacity, temperament, and on suitable physiological conditions both of body and of mind. (T. Allen, D. D.)

An anticipation of the Incarnation

This vision was an anticipation of the Incarnation of our Lord. St. John tells us distinctly that the glory which the prophet saw was the glory of the Redeemer. “No man hath seen God at any time.” God is a spiritual being, and therefore He does not appeal to sense. He reveals Himself to faith, to conscience, and to love. But sense is an avenue through which the soul is reached and influenced, and Almighty God, in revealing Himself to man, has not overlooked this constitutional fact. The Incarnation was a tribute of respect paid to our senses. What the prophet saw only in symbol we realise in the form of a glorious historic Presence. (T. Allen, D. D.)

Vision and service

I. THE PROCESSION OF THE DEAD FROM EARTH BRINGS US FACE TO FACE WITH THE ETERNAL KINGDOM. We cannot look upon any visible forms, and note their changefulness and yet the permanence of the ideas they illustrate, and not infer the existence of the world of thought, and law, and reality from which they proceed. But while all life is based on the unseen, and witnesses to its presence ever, the procession of the generations of men on the earth more powerfully still reveals the higher kingdom. Think of the populations that have lived in this planet, and received their first schooling and drill here. After a brief preparation and teaching in the knowledge of the laws and facts of existence, they depart. The procession into the pale kingdoms is endless and crowded. The majority the other side becomes greater each day. It is impossible to think of that succession and deny the celestial world. The law of continuity suggests a life beyond. The principle which secures the completion of all great work rightly begun, speaks of it. Our sense of the justice at the heart of things assures us of a realm of compensation for unrequited labour and unexplained sorrow. The union with God that begins here must be consummated elsewhere. Such facts as these would be forced upon the thought of Isaiah as all Israel mourned the death of their leader and king.

II. THE SUPREME FACT OF THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM IS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CHRIST. After John’s statement (John 12:41) that Isaiah saw His glory, and spake Of Him, there can be no question with any Christian mind as to the Messianic reference of the manifestation. Isaiah may not have known of the sacrifice and resurrection by which that throne was gained, but the general outlines of the mediatorial kingdom are fully recognised here. “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up.” All else in heaven was subordinated to that central fact.

1. The supremacy of our Lord’s rule over heaven and earth, over angels, monarchs, events, the great and the little, the present and the future.

2. The absorbing attraction of that rule. For as prophet, and angels, and men, discern the glory of His love, and mercy, and power, they are constrained to praise.

3. The perfect serenity and sufficiency of His rule are indicated here. Beneath is storm and tumult. He sits above the flood.

4. The universality of His rule is clear. His train fills the temple. Those who went before, and those who came after, cried Hosanna!

5. The design of Christ’s rule on earth is to bestow pardon and purity.

6. The King who confers cleansing and peace demands service.

7. He does not hesitate to discipline His unfaithful servants until their loyalty is assured.

III. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION OF CHRIST’S LORDSHIP ON THE BEHOLDER.

1. A deep sense of personal sinfulness.

2. A deep sense of insufficiency for the work of God.

3. The vision that humbles, clothes with power, fills with certitude, directs our steps, inspires with invincible heroism, and makes us partakers of its glory and its resources. (J. Matthews.)

The vision of God

No truth is more familiar than that God cannot be seen by mortal eye. But God has so manifested Himself that we may say, without impropriety or mistake, that we have seen Him. He did so--

I. OCCASIONALLY, BEFORE THE CHRISTIAN ERA. We have illustrations of this in the case of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22), of Moses on the mount of God (Exodus 34:1-35), of Micaiah, the Hebrew prophet (1 Kings 22:1-53), and in that before us in the text. In such experiences, each one of which may have been unlike the others, a very special privilege was granted to these men; so special and peculiar that they felt, and had a right to feel, that they stood in the very near presence of the High and Holy One Himself.

II. PERMANENTLY, IN THE TEMPLE. The religion of the people of Israel differed from that of the surrounding nations in that there was not to be found in their sacred places any image or statue or visible representation of God. If any such were found it was a marked violation of law, a distinct apostasy. Only one visible indication of the Divine presence was permitted, and that was as immaterial as it could be, and was only beheld by one man once in the year--the Shechinah in the Holy of holies. Once a year the high priest might use the words of our text; for when he entered within the veil, on the great day of atonement, he stood in the presence of manifested Deity.

III. ONCE FOR ALL IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. All previous historical manifestations were lost in the presence of the Son of God. He manifested the Divine so that those who saw Him did in truth see God. They saw nothing less than--

1. Divine power, including control over the body and the spirit of man, over the elements of nature, over disease and death.

2. Divine wisdom, reaching to all those truths that concern the nature and will of God, and also the character, life, and destiny of man.

3. Divine purity, shown in an absolutely blameless life.

4. Divine love, shining forth in tender, practical sympathy with men in all their sufferings and sorrows; showing itself in compassion for men in their spiritual destitution (Mark 6:34); culminating in the agony of the garden and the death of the Cross. Well might the Master say that His disciples were privileged beyond kings and prophets, for as they walked with Him they “saw the Lord.” Conclusion--We can see God in nature, in history, in the outworkings of His providence, in the human conscience and human spirit. But the way in which to seek His face is by acquainting ourselves with, and uniting ourselves to, Jesus Christ, His Son. (W. Clarkson B. A.)

The empty throne filled

I. THE VISION ITSELF. The centre truth is that the Lord of hosts is the King--the King of Israel

II. THE MINISTRATION OF LOSS AND SORROW IN PREPARING THE VISION. If the throne of Israel had not been empty, the prophet would not have seen the throned God in the heavens. And so it “is with all our losses, with all our sorrows, with all our disappointments, with all our pains; they have a mission to reveal to us the throned God.

III. THE TEXT SUGGESTS THE COMPENSATION THAT IS GIVEN FOR ALL LOSSES. The one God will become everything and anything that every man, and each man, requires. He shapes Himself according to our need. The water of life does not disdain to take the form imposed upon it by the vessel into which it is poured. The Jews used to say that the manna in the wilderness tasted to each man as each man desired, of dainties or of sorrows. And the God who comes to us all, comes to us each in the shape that we need; just as He came to Isaiah in the manifestation of His kingly power, because the throne of Judah was vacated. So when our hearts are sore with loss the New Testament manifestation of the King, even Jesus Christ, comes to us and says, “the same is my mother and sister and brother,” and his sweet love compensates for the love that can die, and that lass died. When losses come to us He draws near, as durable riches and righteousness. In all our pains He is our anodyne, and in an our griefs He brings the comfort; He is all in all, and each withdrawn gift is compensated, or will be compensated, to each in Him. So let us learn God’s purpose in emptying heart and chairs and homes. He empties that He may fill them with Himself. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The rectal and mediatorial dominion of God

I. PECULIARITIES OF THIS DOMINION.

1. The law of belief, or what we may otherwise phrase, the law of intellectual humility. Revelation was never intended to be a revelation to our comprehension or to our reason. The revelation of the Bible is made to faith.

2. The law of evangelical faith.

3. The law of holiness. You will find a great difference between the nature of the obedience which God in the Gospel requires and that which earthly governments require.

4. The law of disciplinary suffering.

II. EXCELLENCIES OF THIS DOMINION.

1. It is a spiritual government.

2. It us a mediatorial government--a government, therefore, of mercy.

3. The supremacy of this dominion might be adverted to. It is a “throne high and lifted up” above all the thrones and dynasties of the earth. Let this comfort the people of God.

4. It is eternal. (W. M. Bunting.)

The dead king; the living God

Israel’s king dies, but Israel’s God still lives. From the mortality of great and good men we should take occasion, with the eye of faith, to look up to “the King eternal, immortal, invisible.” (M. Henry.)

Government human and Divine

I. THE CHANGE IN CIVIL SOCIETY TAKE PLACE UNDER THE DIRECTION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD.

II. THE PERMANENCY OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT AFFORDS A STRIKING CONTRAST TO THE FADING CHARACTER OF EARTHLY GOVERNMENTS.

III. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PROCEEDS WITH MAJESTIC PROGRESS NOTWITHSTANDING, AND EVEN BY MEANS OF, THESE VARIOUS CHANGES. (R. Winter, D. D.)

Seeing God

Isaiah saw God: do men see Him today? Was He any nearer to Jerusalem than He is to London and New York? Did that old Hebrew possess faculties different from ours?

1. God can be seen and known. He has been seen and known. Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Paul, John--all saw Him. He has been seen and known in all lands and among all religions.

2. What do we mean by seeing and knowing God? A spirit cannot be seen with physical eyes. We mean that we are so convinced of the nearness and reality of God that our thinking and living are all determined by that conviction--so sure of Him that we live as if we saw Him by physical sight.

3. But have not men seen their own imaginings, and thought that those were God! Is not a perfect God the noblest work of man! It has not been proved that any have actually known God. It would, in the nature of things, be impossible to demonstrate that to anyone who did not himself possess the same knowledge; but it has been proved that these whom the world always heeds when they speak concerning other things have believed that they had this knowledge; and that faith has been the inspiration of dauntless heroism, most patient endurance, and most sacrificing service.

4. How is God known! Many answers are given. Probably all are partially correct. As each individual sees natural objects from his own standpoint, so must he approach the highest knowledge. We are not asking whether men have known about God, but whether they have known Him. We know about Caesar, but we do not know him; we about the Mikado of Japan, but we do not know him. Many know about God who show no signs of knowing Him. I think that no one has been able to tell how this knowledge is attained: Some say, “We are conscious of Him”; others, “We see Him with the inner eye”; others, “Reason leads to Him”; and others still, “He is seen and known in the things which are made.” But after all, the most that any can say is, “I know Him.” Isaiah said, “I saw the Lord,” but all is hazy and indistinct when he comes to detail

5. All who have learned to love man in the spirit of Christ never can fail of coming to the knowledge of God, “for whosoever loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” Love is the new life; and love secures knowledge.

6. When we want to know about God we stand before the majesty of an ocean in a storm, before the terrible splendour of Alpine crests and glaciers, beneath the host of the heavens that in solemn silence thread the mazes of the sky, and say: “Behold the greatness of God!” We study the movement of history, and see how the dispersion of the Jews sent true spiritual ideas into all lands; how the triumphs of Alexander gave a common language to the world; how the supremacy of Rome made nations one; how the carnival of blood called the “French Revolution” overthrew more abuses than it worked; how the American Civil War ended in the proclamation of freedom, and we say, God is revealing Himself in history. We read the story of the life and death of Jesus, and say, if that is a revelation of God, then He is the One for whom our souls long. But all these revelations may be accepted without personal knowledge. The Father, who is a Spirit, comes to us in spirit; speaks in a still voice in the chambers of memory, conscience, aspiration; and we know Him and yet may not be able to explain “that knowledge to those who do not have it. I know my Father; He knows His child.” That is the highest human experience. That is eternal life.

7. If eternal life is not a question of dates, of the succession of months and years, but knowing God, then no question is more imperative than, “Is it possible for me to know Him?” It is a great thing to claim that knowledge. It should never be done irreverently or lightly, but always humbly and with great joy. The mission of the pulpit and the Church is primarily to help men to know God. How, then, may we know Him? However many answers are possible, only one need be given. All who follow Jesus Christ are sure, sooner or later, to realise that, like Him, they, too, are sons of God. (Amory H. Bradford, D. D.)

Removing the veil

1. A king must die! There almost seems to be something incongruous in the very phrase. The very word “king” means power. The king is the man who can--the man who is possessed of ability, dominions, sovereignty; and the shock is almost violent when we are told that the range of kingship is shaped and determined by death. How the one word suffices for all sorts and conditions of men! The registrar deals with us very summarily! We look through his books. His vocabulary is very limited. He has two words, “born” and “died,” and between the two he Can fit in all mankind; there is no exception to disturb his little printed form; we all take our place in it, prince and peasant, emperor and slave. And all this irrespective of character.

2. As kings went in those days, Uzziah had proved himself an admirable king, a wise ruler, a good man. He was distinctly a progressive man, a man of action and enterprise. His energies were not absorbed in merely foreign affairs, nor shaped by the lust of mere dominion. He proceeded upon the principle that a successful foreign policy must be based upon a wise domestic policy; that an efficient and stable rulership must begin at home. I like the way in which the chronicler sums up the king’s motives and gives us the very spirit of his home policy, “he loved husbandry?” “He loved husbandry,” and therefore you find him hedging his people about with security as they go about their daily life. He “digged many wells,” he attended to the requirements of irrigation, he laid the hand of protection and favour upon husbandmen and vine dressers, and in every way he showed that he regarded agriculture as the fundamental and primary pursuit of national life. Upon that home policy he built his foreign policy. If you have peace, security, and contentment at the centre it is easier to extend and widen the bounds of your circumference; and with order and prosperity at home, Uzziah was able to enlarge the borders of his empire. He could raise from his devoted people an army of mighty power. The limits of his kingdom were being continually expanded. “His name spread far abroad. He was marvellously helped, till he was strong.” Such was the nation’s king; loved by all his people, feared by all his foes. Is it, then, any wonder that King Uzziah--skilled organiser in home affairs, subtle strategist in foreign affairs--became the pillar of the nation’s hopes, the repository of her trust, the ultimate security of her prosperity and permanence?

3. Now, there is a strange tendency in human nature to deify any person who gives evidence of possessing any kind of extraordinary power. We place them on the heart’s throne--the throne on which are centred the soul’s hopes and which carries with it the ultimate sovereignty and apportionment of life. Extraordinary power of any kind appeals to the godlike within us, and upon the object evincing the extraordinary power we too often fix our trust. Watch the principle in the narrative before us. Here is Isaiah. Before his call and consecration he had lived on the political plane of life. His thought was ever moving among the forces of diplomacy and statecraft. How intensely absorbed he was in the game of national politics! The national problem was to Isaiah a political problem. The ultimate foundation of national prosperity was stable government. The wise handling of political forces was the one essential for the continuity and grandeur of the nation’s life. That was the plane of thought and life on which Isaiah moved, and on that plane he must find his heroes. He found the hero in Uzziah. What then? He had won Isaiah’s admiration. Next, he won his confidence, next his love, next his devotion; then Uzziah became Isaiah’s god! Uzziah filled the whole of Isaiah’s vision. How now did Isaiah’s reasoning run? Thus--“What will become of the world when Uzziah dies? When the master of statecraft is gone, in whose hands will the rulership rest? When the political nave is removed, will not all the spokes of the national wheel be thrown into the direst confusion?” That was Isaiah’s fear, begotten by his hero worship. Well, Uzziah died. What then! Says Isaiah, “In the year that King Uzziah died”--what?--“All my worst fears were abundantly realised”? No, no! “In the year that King Uzziah died I had my eyes opened; I saw there was a greater, kingdom with a greater King--I saw the Lord.” The hero died to reveal the hero’s God. What, then, did the revelation do for Isaiah? It gave him an enlarged conception of all things. It gave him a new centre for his thoughts and life.

It taught him this, that the ultimate security for all national greatness is not kings and crowns but God. It taught him this, that big armies, and walled cities, and quiet husbandry, and subtle diplomacy, and complex civilisations am not the fundamental forces on which mankind rests. The eternal centre of all true life, the centre which time cannot weaken and which death cannot corrupt, is not diplomacy, but holiness--not Uzziah, but the Lord. The earthly king had come between Isaiah and his God, and it was only when the earthly king was taken away that Isaiah saw the King of kings. “I saw the Lord high and lifted up”--a limited interest replaced by a larger one, a low standard supplanted by a loftier one, a loom monarch stepping aside to reveal the universal King.

4. This teaching has a most pertinent application to the life of today. Which is the most prominent in English national life today--King Uzziah or King Jesus, the representative of diplomacy or the representative of holiness? Which are we most concerned about--the science of politics or the science of holy living? What are the forces on which we are chiefly depending for the continuity of our national supremacy? The eternal forces are not material, but spiritual, proceeding not from the earth, but coming down from heaven. Material forces must be kept secondary, because they are transient; spiritual forces must be primary, because they are eternal. What is the conclusion of the whole matter? Don’t let us lay the stress and emphasis of life upon secondary things--not upon Uzziah, but upon the Lord. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The “Uzziahs” of history and the Lord

History tells us the stories of nations who have looked no further than King Uzziah, and who have been accustomed to use the temporal and earthly forces which Uzziah represents. And how has it fared with them? Ancient Phoenicia looked no further than King Uzziah. She built her national temple upon the foundation of commerce, and the only binding force among her people was the relationships of trade. Ancient Greece looked no further than King Uzziah. She raised a palatial national structure upon the foundation of literature and art, and the structure was exceeding beautiful, the wonder and admiration of all time. Ancient Rome looked no further than King Uzziah. She raised an apparently solid masonry, compact and massive, upon a political foundation, and all the stones in the building were clamped together by a tie of patriotism, such as the world has elsewhere never known. Now what has become of them--Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome! How has it fared with the nations so constituted, the houses so built? This is the record. They stood for a time, proud, august, radiant with imperial splendour, fair with the smile of fortune, and reflecting the sunny light of the prosperous day. But “the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon” those nations, and they fell, and great was the fall of them! Surely that is a lesson for today, that national foundations must not be laid by Uzziah but by the Lord. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The material fleeting: the spiritual enduring

I spent a little time in the old castle at Stifling, and in one of the rooms of the tower were two curiosities which riveted my attention. In one corner of the room was an old time worn pulpit. It was John Knox’s pulpit, the pulpit from which he used to proclaim so faithfully the message of the King: In the opposite corner were a few long spears, much corrupted by rust, found on the field of Banncokburn, which lies just beyond the castle walls. John Knox’s pulpit on the one hand, the spears of Bannockburn on the other! One the type of material forces, forces of earth and time; the other the type of spiritual forces, forces of eternity and heaven. The spears, representative of King Uzziah; the pulpit, representative of the Lord. Which symbolises the eternal? The force and influence which radiated from that pulpit will enrich and fashion Scottish character when Bannockburn has become an uninfluential memory, standing, vague and indefinite, on the horizon of a far distant time. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Gain through loss

God puts out our little light that we may see Him the better. When you are looking out of the window at night, gazing towards the sky, you will see the stare more clearly if you put out your gaslight. That is what God has to do for us. He has to put out the secondary lights in order that we may see the eternal light. Uzziah has to die, in order that we may see it is God who lives. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The compensations of life

I know a little cottage which is surrounded by great and stately trees, clothed with dense and massy foliage. In the summer days, and through all the sunny season, it just nestles in the circle of green, and has no vision of the world beyond. But the winter comes, so cold and keen. It brings its sharp knife of frost, cuts off the leaves, until they fall trembling to the ground. There is nothing left but the bare framework on which summer hung her beauteous growths. Poor little cottage, with the foliage all gone! But is there no compensation? Yes, yea Standing in the cottage in the winter time and looking out of the window, you can see a mansion, which has come into view through the openings left by the fallen leaves. The winter brought the vision of the mansion! My brother, you were surrounded by the summer green of prosperity. It had become your king. There your vision ended. But the Lord wished to give your thought a further reach. He wanted your soul to see “the mansion which the Father hath prepared” for them that love Him. So He took away your little king. He sent the winter and stripped your trees; and “in the year that the little king died you saw the Lord.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Isaiah’s call

I. THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH IT WAS GIVEN A VISION. Why was it recorded? Not to indulge the conceit of the prophet, nor even chiefly to certify him to the Jews; but because of the messages to them which it so vividly conveys, and the representative interest of the experience to all spiritual minds.

II. THE STATE OF MIND THE VISION PRODUCED. (verse 5.) Fear, dejection, self-humiliation. Both personally and as representative of the Jewish nation he was convicted of sin is the invariable result of close intercourse with God. Our inborn sin is brought to light and rebuked. And the more Christlike we are the more will our brothers’ sin likewise weigh upon our hearts. It is in this very experience that our preparation for service begins.

III. HOW THIS WAS DEALT WITH. The fact of sinfulness is not denied by Him to whom it is confessed. It is tacitly confirmed by what takes place. Yet how tender and considerate is the silence of the Judge of all the earth! At once He institutes and sets in operation a mediatorial agency. Such guilt and impurity no water can cleanse: fire is needed, fire from the Consuming Fire.

IV. THE CALL.

I. Couched first in a universal question,--“Whom shall I send?” etc.

2. After the prophet’s response the call is more direct and personal: “Go, and tell this people,” etc the more general call to us consists, as it did to Isaiah, in the sense of our neighbours’ need and our own duty with regard to supplying it. But if a Christian It in earnest, and willing to surrender himself to the commandment of his Lord, more specific direction will not be wanting.

V. THE RESPONSE. (verse 8) “Then said I, Here am I send me.” A sacrifice and a petition. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE INEFFABLE MAJESTY OF GOD.

1. His Supreme authority. “Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted ups” He is the high and lofty One. He ruleth over all, matter and mind, the evil and the Good.

2. His magnificent upset. “His train filled the temple.” This is an allusion to the flowing robes of Oriental monarchs, which signalise their stately grandeur, What is the costume of the Infinite? “Thou clothest Thyself with light as with a garment.” The flowing robes of His majesty filled the temple of immensity.

3. His illustrious attendants. “Above it stood the seraphim.” Eastern monarchs had numerous princes and nobles as their attendants; but these fiery ones are the ministers of the eternal King.

4. His absolute holiness. “One cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” The repetition indicates the intensity of their conviction.

II. THE LOFTY SERVICES OF CELESTIAL INTELLIGENCES. Their services are--

1. Reverential.

2. Alert. They do not move with a tardy reluctance in the service of their Lord; but with wings expanded they stand ever ready to execute His behest.

3. Individual. “One cried unto another.” Each was intensely alive to his own responsibility and duty.

4. Harmonious. After the separate cries there was a blending of all in one grand chorus, “The whole earth is full of His glory.”

5. Enthusiastic. As the peal of a majestic organ sometimes shakes the cathedral, the voice of one worshipper in heaven is represented as moving the posts of the door. The grand solo sends a tremor through the temple.

III. THE AMAZING CAPACITY OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Isaiah saw all this, not with the outward eye, but with the eye of his mind. Unlike all other creatures on this earth, man has a capacity to see God. He can see God enthroned in the universe.

1. Sin has injured this capacity. Whilst all men have the power to see God, few men do.

2. The Gospel restores this capacity. It opens the spiritual eye, sweeps away the carnal atmosphere, and shows God filling the temple. (Homilist.)

The Trinity in unity

(for Trinity Sunday):--

I. AS TO THE UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE OF BELIEF IN THE DOCTRINE. The doctrine of the Trinity has always been one of those things, to use the language of St. Luke, which have been most surely believed among us.

II. THE SCRIPTURAL PROOF OF THE DOCTRINE. It underlies the whole Bible, and is inextricably interwoven with its fabric and its structure.

III. THE NATURE OF THIS DOCTRINE. We grant at once that it is mysterious, and that it is inexplicable. We walk by faith, not by sight. This great doctrine in its inner being is hidden from us; but it presents a countenance to us full of beauty and loveliness, the features of which are discerned by the eye of faith. It is a golden casket, containing a most precious jewel; locked, if you like, which we cannot open, but enriching us nevertheless. It is a song in a strange language, the meaning of it in a great degree unintelligible, but the melody most exquisite. Practical application of the doctrine--

1. It is bound up with our duty to God. We have duties to pay to each of the three Persons if we would perfectly know our glorious God, if we would worthily magnify His holy name.

2. It is bound up with our hope of salvation.

3. It is bound up with the fulness of Gospel blessings. Take the apostolic benediction; what more can you conceive of spiritual life and blessing than is contained within that? (R. W. Forrest, M. A.)

The command and encouragement to communicate the Gospel

The communication of the will of God to others is connected with the manifestation of the excellency of all the perfections of the Deity, but appears in the passage before us in more especial relation to the glory of the Divine holiness.

I. THE REVELATION WHICH GOD HAS MADE TO HIS INTELLIGENT CREATURES MANIFESTS HIS SUPREME AND PERFECT HOLINESS. The great lesson which the vision taught was the holiness of Jehovah, and that by the manifestation of this the whole earth was to be filled with His glory. This, if not the source and end, has always formed a part, and has often been preeminent in the manifestations God has made to His intelligent creatures. Although inseparably blended with the infinite benevolence and perfect rectitude, we find this perfection more frequently associated with the name, and employed to qualify the attributes of Jehovah, than any other. The arm of the Lord, the emblem of His power, is called His holy arm; His eyes, emblems of omniscience, the eyes of His holiness; His presence, Holy of holies; His majesty, the throne of His holiness; His name, the holy name; Himself, the Holy One. This is equally applicable to the Father, Holy Father,--the Son, Holy Child,--the Spirit, Holy Ghost. All the manifestations God has ever made of Himself, so far as our limited and imperfect knowledge extends, have been those of His holiness. He is holy in all His works. It was because they beheld a new impress of the moral image of Jehovah that the sons of God shouted together for joy. The Divine holiness was also exhibited, under a new aspect, to all orders intelligent creation, in the contrast between the state of the first human pair and that of fallen spirits. All the manifestations which, since the fall the Divine Being has condescended to make to our race, either of His dominion over the affairs of men, the intimations of His will, or the operations of His grace and Spirit on the soul, have been revelations of the Divine holiness. In the human nature of Christ, the glory of Divine holiness was enshrined in a temple more pure than that in which the Shekinah had appeared; here was an altar that sanctified both the giver and the gift; a sacrifice in which Omniscience saw no imperfection; a Priest who needed not to offer sacrifice for His own sins, for He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. The purity of God had been shown in the creation; in the consequences of the fall: the destruction of the old world; and the giving of the law: but on Calvary, though softened by the veil of humanity through which it was revealed, it beamed forth with an intensity and effulgence which rendered it at once the most stupendous and sublime display of the Divine equity and holiness that ever has, or, we have reason to believe, ever will take place. The design of the sacrifice displays more vividly this glorious perfection. It was not simply to redeem from sin, but to redeem to holiness. The dispensation which terminated with the return of the Redeemer to the bosom of the Father, has been followed by another, less imposing, but equally clear and more extensive, manifestation of the Divine holiness, the descent of the Holy Spirit. The volume of inspiration is a revelation of the Divine holiness; all its precepts and promises are holy. With what superiority in moral excellency does this view of the connection between the diffusion of the Gospel and the glorious holiness of Jehovah invest this sacred cause; what impressive instruction does it impart to all engaged in its varied departments, at home or abroad; and how imperative its requirement, that, on every order of agency in its support, direction, and application, holiness unto the Lord should ever be distinctly inscribed!

II. THE COMMUNICATION TO OTHERS OF THE REVELATION WHICH GOD HAS MADE, IS ENJOINED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY. Whatever motives may engage the people of God to communicate to others what He has revealed to them, the Divine command constitutes the foundation, augments the force of every other, and must give vitality and efficiency to all This commission has been either special or ordinary; but the authority has been the same in all, and the obligation equal.

III. KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE WILL, AND EXPERIENCE OF THE DIVINE MERCY, DEMAND AND ENCOURAGE PROMPT AND CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE. This is strongly and beautifully shown in the vision of the prophet. Many of the communications of the Divine will appear to have been preceded by peculiar manifestations of the Divine glory. Thus Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; the disciples, after the resurrection, and on the mountain in Galilee; Saul, on his way to Damascus; and the beloved disciple in Patmos, were favoured. This was probably designed to strengthen their minds with vivid and solemn impressions of the greatness and majesty of that God whose message they were to declare, and to encourage their fidelity. It is a humiliating fact, that, with authority equally distinct, motives more numerous and strong, and facilities greater than at any former time, discouragements and difficulties still keep many at home, who ought to be on the broad plains of moral death, pointing the nations to “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” These difficulties principally arise from the views which are taken of the nature of the work and the qualifications it requires.

1. Physical unfitness.

2. Deficiency of natural or acquired abilities.

3. Moral unfitness.

4. Attachment to home, and the privations and perils of the work.

5. The magnitude and importance of the work.

Let us glance at the encouragements to obedience.

1. The dominion and omnipotence of the Redeemer.

2. The grateful import of the message.

3. The measure of success, though not the rule of duty, is cheering.

4. The spirit of the times and the aspect of the world. (W. Ellis.)

The idea of God

I. ISAIAH’S VISION OF GOD. This was, in all probability, the greatest incident in his whole life, and it left an indelible mark on his thinking, lust as the thinking of St. Paul, and, in fact, his whole activity, sprang out of what happened to him on the way to Damascus. That day he saw God. That is his own account of the matter. Now, as he prophesies through three reigns after the death of Uzziah, Jotham’s, Ahaz’s, and Hezekiah’s, and probably lived sixty years after this date, he must at the time have been a very young man, and I am strongly inclined to think that this was not only the commencement of his activity as a prophet, but the beginning of his own religious life. It was what, in modern language, would be called his conversion. He says that he “saw the Lord,” and what better account could anyone give of the crisis by which real religion commences? Before this, Isaiah had heard plenty about God, because he seems to have been the son of a wealthy family living in Jerusalem; but, as another eminent Old Testament writer indicates, there is a vast difference between hearing about God and seeing Him. “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sooth Thee.” It is really just the transition from the religion of tradition to the religion of experience. Religion comes to us all first as a tradition. It is the tradition of our home, the tradition of our Church, the tradition of our country, and so on; but as long as it is merely that, it is vague, unreal, and remote. But some day this God of whom we have heard is realised by us to be here; and this Christ, of whom we have heard that He has saved others, comes seeking for entrance into our own soul; and if we let Him in, our religion passes into an entirely new stage. Now, this was what happened to Isaiah.

II. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION ON HIS WORK. One of the seraphim cried to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” That is to say, two attributes of God overawed and overwhelmed these supernal beings--His holiness and His omnipotence. The one of these is the inner glory of God; the other is the outer glory. He is holy, holy, holy inwardly--that is perfectly, unspeakably, uncompromisingly holy; and then outwardly, the whole earth is full of His glory; or rather, to put it quite literally, the fulness of the universe--that is to say, all the variety of suns and stars, of heaven and earth, of land and sea--all that is His glory, or the garment by which He is made visible. We are wont in secular things to say that the child is father of the man, and if any man does anything very remarkable in the world it will usually be found that he has seen by the instinct of genius very early what he was intended to do. And this is true of Isaiah in the spiritual sphere. What he saw that day in a moment it took a whole lifetime to write out. Manifold as is the truth in the Book of Isaiah, it may all be deduced from these two things--the holiness of God and the omnipotence of God. The one half of his prophecies may be summed up in this word which I borrow from one part of his writings: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” The book opens with an extraordinary description of the sins of the nation, and this theme occurs all through. And what is all that but just an echo of holy, holy, holy? If God is what the seraphim said that day He was, then sin must be such as Isaiah represents it to be. Then, the other great note of his writings is that which is expressed in the first verse of the opening of the second part of the book: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.” Isaiah is among all the prophets the prophet of comfort. He was indeed a prophet of calamity, and perhaps in no other book of the Old Testament do we see so clearly as in his the cruel and the irresistible might of the great world monarchs by which the people of that age were surrounded; but mighty as these were, a Mightier was known to Isaiah; One to whom they were just like the dust; One that could call them like dogs to His feet, and wield them as the woodman in the woods wields his axe; and therefore those people whose God is the Lord do not need to fear these great monarchs; let them only trust and hope. That was the Gospel of Isaiah, and who does not see that it is merely an echo of what he heard the seraphim say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For these two ideas about God, Isaiah has two names that recur all through his writings. To denote the holiness of God, he calls Him the “Holy One of Israel”; and to denote His omnipotence he calls Him the “Lord of hosts.”

III. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION ON HIMSELF. The revelation made to him that day about God, namely, that He is the Holy One, had an immediate and transforming effect on himself. My idea is that up to this time Isaiah was a man of the world, perhaps indulging in the vices which the young nobility of Jerusalem of that day were famous for; but now, in a moment, in the light of God, he sees the error of his ways and the putridity of his heart, and hence there bursts from him the exclamation: “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.” You see he felt his sin chiefly on his lips--i.e., it was sins of speech he became conscious of. I should think that few will doubt that when he says, “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” he means to refer to a prevalence of profanity amongst his companions. Well, is it not the most natural explanation to believe that he had in his previous life given way to that sin, and now that is the sin that burns in on his conscience? But he learned at this point also something very precious about the holy God. As soon as he had confessed his sin, one of the seraphim, doubtless obeying a secret hint from Jehovah, flew to the altar, and, seizing the tongs, lifted from the altar a hot stone, and laid it on the lips of the prophet--on the place where his sin was. The meaning was that his sin was burned away. And this became to Isaiah the cause of one of the greatest features of his work as a prophet in his subsequent life. There is no writer in the Bible that in language more tender and convincing speaks about God’s willingness to forgive. And where did Isaiah learn that! He learnt it that day when the seraph laid the burning stone upon his own lips and burned his sin away. The other half of the revelation, the omnipotence of God, had its immediate practical effect also. But it was the Maker of Isaiah that was playing on his mind on this occasion for His own purpose. He was playing as an artist might play on an exquisite instrument, and in point of fact the mind of Isaiah was one of the most exquisite instruments that have ever existed in this world. There has hardly ever been a mind in this world, in its native structure, so perfect, and the Maker of it was now touching it to splendid issue. He was needing a messenger to that generation, and He had fixed on Isaiah to be His messenger, and He was making him ready. Isaiah had just realised that God was the Omnipotent, to whom all creatures and he himself belonged, and now that the relief and joy of forgiveness were thrilling through him, he realised in a still higher sense he belonged absolutely to the God who had pardoned. (James Stalker, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision in the temple

God often prepares His servants for special work by special grace.

I. The views with which this vision furnishes us concerning GOD.

1. His sovereignty.

2. His holiness.

3. His mercy.

II. The views with which this vision furnishes us concerning ANGELS.

1. Their humility.

2. Their obedience.

3. Their devotion.

III. The views with which this vision furnishes us respecting MAN.

1. His sinful condition.

2. His gracious recovery.

3. His exalted calling. (G. T. Perks, D. D.)

Preparation for the Lord’s work

I. SPECIAL PREPARATION IS NECESSARY FOR A SPECIAL WORK OF GRACE, WHETHER IT BE IN THE INDIVIDUAL HEART, OR IN THE CHURCH.

II. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE WORK WILL BE LARGELY PROPORTIONED TO THE CHARACTER AND DEGREE OF THE PREPARATION. (J. Sherwood.)

The three-fold vision

I. A VISION OF GOD. This can only come to us in our present state indirectly, parabolically, or as here, symbolically. It will include a conception of God’s--

1. Authority: “a throne high and lifted up.”

2. Glory: “His train filled the temple.”

3. Holiness: seraphic action and seraphic tones proclaimed Him as the Thrice Holy.

II. A vision OF SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE. Just as the prophet came to understand that there was a vast spiritual universe behind and beyond the material, and of which the material was but the hint and type, so must we. He saw in the seraphim a revelation of the existence of spiritual beings.

III. A VISION OF SELF. There is a vision of his--

1. Own individuality. The right use of the pronouns “I” and “me,” is a lesson worth learning, he finds.

2. Relationship to others: “I dwell among a people,” etc.

3. Sinfulness. To this--

4. Possible purification. Here we have--

5. Life mission. Here we note--

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE VISION WHICH THE PROPHET BEHELD (verses 1-4).

1. Of the Divine supremacy.

2. Of the Divine attendants. Their name signifies “fiery ones.” There is a remarkable analogy between what is said here, and what is stated of the mysterious beings in the Book of Revelation--“They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” The holiness of God is the great burthen of the celestial songs.

3. The vision connects holiness with the Divine greatness--“The whole earth is full of His glory.” All His creatures speak His praise.

4. A remarkable effect is stated to have been produced by this celebration of the Divine majesty and holiness--“The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” This may be intended to show the terrors of the Divine holiness, when it is kindled and brought into exercise by human transgression. Smoke is connected in Scripture with the tokens of rising wrath in the Almighty. Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalms 18:7-8; Revelation 15:8.) And the sequel informs us that He had determined to “waste the cities, and depopulate the habitations, until there should be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” Observe from the vision here granted to the prophet, how necessary it is that those who go out on the work of the Lord should have a vision of His glory and greatness that they may have a proper sense of the work in which they are engaged. How can he speak of the glory of God, who has not seen it? Or how can he speak of the holiness of God, of the terrors of me Almighty, who has himself no true idea of either?

II. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS VISION PRODUCED UPON THE PROPHET’S MIND. “Then said I, Woe is met for I am undone.” etc. The vision of the glory of God which he beheld, became the means of filling him with reverence, humility, and fear. The prophet was filled with an awful sense of his own depravity in two respects--

1. As a man. Why are the lips mentioned! Not because the depravity, is merely superficial, or resting on the surface; but because the depravity of the heart rends and rages without, and finds vent in the tongue. The vision of the Divine holiness is the best way of impressing our minds with a sense of our own defects and vileness.

2. As an intended messenger of God. He saw how unworthy he was to receive messages from God and go out to the people. If private Christians should feel their depravity and unworthiness, how much more should those who are ministers. He who has not been humbled under a sense of his own unworthiness before God has no right at all to go out to speak to others.

III. THE SUSTAINING VISITATION WHICH WAS MADE IN CONNECTION WITH THE EFFECT PRODUCED. To prevent the prophet from sinking into despair, Divine consolation was given. Notice--

1. The agent sent. “One of the seraphim.” These are often employed in messages of goodness to man. Observe his celerity--he “flew.” These celestial beings take an especial interest in the fulfilment of the designs of God.

2. The assurance communicated. “Thine iniquity is taken away,” etc.

3. The manner in which the assurance is testified. “Then flew one,” etc. Fire is symbolical of purity. The Spirit’s influence is compared to fire. This transaction signifies--

IV. THE COMMISSION WHICH, IN CONNECTION WITH THIS VISITATION, WAS PROPOSED AND ACCEPTED. “Whom shall I send,” etc. Observe--

1. That the messenger who goes out, God sends by His own power.

2. Such messengers are fully devoted to God. They may indeed say “Corban” with respect to all they have. What an honourable work is this! It is also a work of responsibility.

3. The messenger of God must proceed without debate as to the object of his mission. (J. Parsons.)

Isaiah’s vision

The scene is Messianic. Christ is in it.

I. WHAT THE PROPHET SAW AND HEARD. There is no special stress to be laid on the term Lord, as used here. It is not the incommunicable name of essence, Jehovah; but the title of dominion, of mastership and ownership. The awe of His appearance is in the circumstances or surroundings.

1. He is upon a throne, high and lifted up. It is the throne of absolute sovereignty; of resistless, questionless, supremacy over all.

2. He is in the temple, where the throne is the mercy seat, between the cherubim, over the ark of the Covenant, which is the symbol and seal of reconciliation and friendly communion. And He is there in such rich grace and glory that the whole temple is filled with the overflowing robe of His redeeming majesty.

3. Above, or upon, that ample overflowing train of so magnificent a raiment stood the seraphim. These are not, as I take it, angelic or super angelic spirits, but the Divine Spirit Himself, the Holy Ghost; appearing thus in the aspect and attitude of gracious ministry. In that attitude He multiplies Himself, as it were, according to the number and exigencies of the churches and the individuals to whom He has to minister. He takes up, moreover, the position of reverential waiting for His errand, and in an agency manifold, but yet one, readiness to fly to its execution. The cherubim are on almost all hands admitted to be representative emblems of redeemed creation, or of the redeemed Church on earth. And I cannot think it wrong to give to the seraphim in this, the only passage in which the name occurs, a somewhat corresponding character as representative emblems of the active heavenly agency in redemption. Nor is the plural form any objection. I find a similar mode of setting forth the multiform and multifarious agency of the Spirit in the opening salutation of the

Apocalypse--“the seven Spirits which are before His throne” Revelation 1:4). It is the Holy Ghost, waiting to go forth from the Father, to apply and carry forward the threefold work of the Son, as Prophet, Priest, and King; and to do so as if He were becoming seven Spirits in accommodation to the seven churches; as if each church was to have Him as its own; yes, and each believer, too.

4. With this great sight, voice and movement are joined. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” It is not necessarily the voice of the seraphim, though that is the ordinary I would rather take the words abstractly and indefinitely. There is an antiphonic cry or song. It is not said among whom. Of course, the readiest reference is come seraphim. But the text does not require that; it is literally “this cried to this.” And the attendance of an angelic choir, of all hosts of heaven, may be assumed. Assuredly Christ is here. He is here as revealing the Father. And He is here, not merely outwardly, in outward manifestation; but inwardly, in the deepest inward contact and converse of the soul with God.

II. HOW THE PROPHET FELT (verse 5). It is a thorough prostration.

III. HOW THE PROPHET’S CASE IS MET. Lo! an altar; the altar of propitiation, on which lies the ever freshly bleeding victim. One of the seraphim--the Holy Spirit in one of His varied modes of operation--flies, as if in haste, with what is as good as the entire altar and its sacrifice to apply it all effectually. And the effect is as immediate as the touch. Nothing comes in between. There is no waiting, as for a medicine to work its cure; no bargaining, as if a price were to be paid; no process to be gone through; no preparation to be made.

IV. THE SUBSEQUENT OFFER AND COMMAND (verses 8, 9). Two things are noticeable here.

1. The grace of God in allowing the prophet, thus exercised, to be a volunteer for service. The Lord might issue a peremptory command. But His servant has the unspeakable privilege of giving himself voluntarily to the Lord who willingly gave Himself for him.

2. The unreservedness of the prophet’s volunteering. It is no half hearted purpose conditional on circumstances; but the full, single-eyed heartiness of one loving much, because forgiven much, that breaks out in the frank, unqualified, unconditional self-enlistment and self-enrolment in the Lord’s host, “Here am I, send me.” Hence, accordingly, the crowning proof and pledge of his conversion, his cleansing, his revival, his commission. He now learns for the first time, after he has committed himself beyond the possibility of honourable retraction or recall, what is the errand darkly indicated by the heavenly voice, Whom shall I send? At first there may be secretly the feeling that any mission on which such a master may send me must have in it the elements of intrinsic glory and assured triumph. But as it turns out it is far otherwise than that. The case is altogether the reverse. The mission is to be a mission of judgment. But what then? Does the freshly quickened volunteer withdraw his offer? or qualify it? or raise any question at all about it? No; he simply asks one question; a brief one; comprised in three words--“Lord, how long?” It is a question indicating nothing like reluctance or hesitation; no repenting of his offer; no drawing back. For himself he has nothing more to say. It is only in the interest of his people, and out of deepest sympathy with them, that the irrepressible cry of piety and of patriotism bursts from his lips--“Lord, how long? how long?” (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE LIGHT IN WHICH THE SON OF GOD APPEARS TO THOSE WHO ENJOY AN INTIMATE UNION WITH HIM AND A NEAR CONTEMPLATION OF HIM. He is represented--

1. As seated on a lofty throne.

2. As attended by celestial spirits.

3. As receiving their homage and praise.

II. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS INTIMATE UNION AND NEAR CONTEMPLATION WILL PRODUCE.

1. Humility. It is ignorance of God that is the parent of pride. True knowledge of Him tends to humility. Qualities are never seen so clearly as by contrast. The application of a straight rule marks the obliquity of a crooked line.

2. Purification.

3. Self-devotion. As eyes dazzled by the sun see not the glittering of drops of dew upon the earth, so the glory of worldly objects ceases to interest a soul that is taken up with the contemplation of God; while he will be led, by a regard to Him whose word has been the instrument of his purification and encouragement, to devote himself unreservedly to His will. (R. Brodie, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision of God’s glory

I. The first view of the Divine glory in the text is that of RULE AND DOMINION. The Lord is King--this is the first character under which to approach Him whenever we engage in worship.

II. The second view of the majesty and glory of God is that IN HIS NATURE AND PERFECTION HE IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

III. The third view of the Divine Majesty is HOLINESS.

IV. The fourth view is that of A PENITENT, ABASED MAN SINKING BEFORE THIS OVERPOWERING MANIFESTATION.

V. The fifth view we have is that of THIS HUMBLE, SILENCED MAN OBTAINING MERCY. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision of Christ’s glory

He who “sat upon the throne” Isaiah saw is none other than God Himself. But in his Gospel (John 12:41) John tells us, “these things said Esaias, when he saw Christ’s glory, and spake of Him.” It is the throne of Jesus. Let us examine the manner in which they who actually saw the vision were affected by it, and this will best show us at once its consummate splendour and the sentiments it should awaken.

I. It was seen by ANGELS AND THE “SPIRITS OF THE JUST MADE PERFECT,” AND HOW WERE THESE AFFECTED.

1. They were astonished.

2. They were filled with joy. Because God’s grace runs in the channel of justice.

3. They celebrate it with songs.

4. They were ready to advance the cause of redemption, for with their wings they were ready to fly.

II. Let us understand from the experience of Isaiah HOW BELIEVERS ARE AFFECTED BY THE VISION OF OUR TEXT.

1. Isaiah was overwhelmed at the first. He sees in himself nothing but the dry stubble of guilt, and in God an insatiable fire, approaching to devour it. He sees no fitness for heaven, either in himself or those he loved.

2. But he is immediately revived.

3. Then called to active duty.

III. We would now consider HOW THE WORLD IS AFFECTED BY THE VISION THAT ISAIAH SAW. Isaiah preaches the Gospel, but his message is rejected. So now. (J. J. Bonar.)

The enthroned Lord

The Lord is always upon a throne, even when He is nailed to the Cross; this Lord and His throne are inseparable. There are dignitaries that have to study how to keep their thrones; but the Lord and HIS throne are one. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision of God

I. THE OCCASION OF THE VISION. The emptied throne is the occasion for the manifestation of the true King. God’s purpose in all His withdrawals is the same as His purpose in all His gifts, that we may be led to see Him more clearly as the one foundation of all things, the anchor of our lives and the hope and stay of our hearts. The text not only teaches us the purpose of all withdrawals, but comes to us heavy-freighted with the blessed thought that God is able to fill every place that He empties. This King of Judah was followed by another, a decent enough young man in his way, who on the whole went straight and did God’s will. But that was no comfort to the prophet’s heart. It did not avail to show him a Jotham behind an Uzziah. What he needed, and what you and I need, to fill the empty places in our hearts and lives, is the vision that flamed upon his inward eye; and the conviction that the Lord, the King Himself, had come when the earthly shadow passed away.

II. THE CONTENTS OF THE VISION. The temple here is, of course, not the mere earthly house, but that higher house of the Lord, of which the temple of earth is a shadow. Isaiah’s vision was none the less objective, none the less distinguishable from an imagination of his own, none the less manifestly and marvellously, a revelation from God, because if we had been there we should have seen nothing, any more than the Sanhedrim shared in the vision of the opened heavens which gladdened Stephen’s dying eyes. Mark, how there is no word of description here of what the prophet saw in the centre of the light. But if we listen to the description given to us, there are two great thoughts in it. “I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up”--the infinite exaltation of that Divine nature which separates Him from all the lowness of creatures, and makes Him the blessed and incomprehensible infinite foundation of good and of blessedness and the source of life. Correspondent and parallel to this thought of the sovereign exaltation is the song that is put into the mouth of the seraphim. The same idea is expressed by “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,” as is expressed by “high and lifted up.” The holiness of God means the infinite separation of the infinite nature from the finite creature; and that separation is manifest both in the incomprehensible elevation of His being and in the perfect purity of His nature. But whilst thus a great gulf is fixed between us and Him, and we, like the seraphs, have to veil our faces that we see not, and our feet that we be not seen, there is another side to the thought, “His skirts filled the temple,” and that is paralleled with the other number of the seraphs’ song, “the whole earth is full of His glory.” For the glory of God is the manifestation of His holiness. And just as the trailing skirts of that great robe spread over the whole floor of the temple, so through the whole earth go flashing the manifold manifestations of His glory. These twin thoughts, never to be separated from each other, of the infinite separation and the immeasurable self-communication of our Father-God, are all as true for us today as they ever were. That vision is as possible to us as it was to Isaiah. It was no prerogative of the prophet’s office. Our eyes too, if we will, may behold the King in His beauty. It is Christ that explains to us by His Incarnation how it ever came to pass that to man’s inward or outward eyes there was granted a manifestation of Deity in the form of humanity as here; and His permanent revelation of God to us puts us more than on a level with any of those of old to whom were granted the foreshadowings of that historical fact of God manifest in the flesh. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

III. THE EFFECTS OF SUCH A VISION ON THE LIFE. A man that sees God will know his own impurity. Where there is a sense of sin roused by the sight of God there will come the fiery coal from the altar that purifies; and where there is a sense of sin, and the taking away of it, by the sacrifice not brought by the prophet, but provided for the prophet by God, there will follow the glad surrender of self for all service, and any mission. “Here am I, send me.” So this vision of God is the foundation of all nobleness of life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Isaiah a typical prophet

This is not a story of individual experience only. Isaiah was a typical prophet with special duties, and, consequently, with special qualifications for their right discharge. But in many respects he is also representative of the faithful preacher of the Gospel and worker for Christ. In its inspirations, its aims and motives, its responsibilities and difficulties, the prophet’s office was like that of Christ’s servant everywhere, and from this record we may gather lessons of universal application.

1. The prophet must be a man whose soul is possessed with God, to whom God is a reality, not an abstraction, a living and present Friend, not a distant and unknown Ruler. There must be visions of God in the glory of His holiness as well as in the tenderness of His condescension, or there will be neither desire nor capacity to testify of Him. It is the pure in heart who thus see God, and even as Isaiah needed that the live coal from the altar should touch his lips and he should be cleansed from all iniquity, so must Christ’s messenger know for himself the blessedness of that salvation which he preaches to others. This does not supersede the necessity for intellectual qualifications for the work. Impulse, however pure and noble, cannot fit a man for even the humblest work, much less for the noblest, the most difficult, the most responsible of all. God does lay His hands upon some whom the wisdom of this world would pronounce incompetent for the work. As in the case of Bunyan, the working of His grace in the heart may develop gifts of fancy or of eloquence which might else have lain dormant.

2. Of the special gift of inspiration which Isaiah enjoyed suffice it to say that if that is to be reduced to a “genius for righteousness” which he shared in common with the rest of the Jewish race, the unique character and supreme authority of the Bible are gone. Define inspiration how men will, it must, at all events, imply that God revealed His will to these prophets and seers by whom the Sacred Volume was penned, as He did not to the great poets and writers of the world, or this Book has no distinctive value.

3. The prophet must be a consecrated servant--one who lives not to do his own pleasure, but to glorify God. (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

The making of a prophet

1. The experience that made Isaiah a prophet took the form of a vision. It happened in a period of distressing perplexity and gloom. Wrestling passionately with the darkness, craving wistfully for light, the yearning to see God in the man’s soul became so intense and sensitive, that the great Heart in heaven answered the longing of the heart on earth, and aspiration leapt into realisation, and faith flashed into vision That sight of God--the living, holy, loving God--made Isaiah a prophet. Preachers and teachers of today! if we are to be prophets, we need lust such a sight of God.

2. The vision of God made Isaiah a prophet; but the immediate result was something different. The first effect of contact with God was to produce in his soul an intolerable sense of sin. Had Isaiah been Pharisee, he would have seized the opportunity of his sudden vicinity to the Almighty to direct the Divine attention to his virtues and superiority over other men. Had he been one of those philosophers in whom the heart has been overlaid by the intellect, he would have calmly proceeded to make observations of the Divine for a new theory of the absolute and unconditioned, in sublime insensibility to the deepest problem of existence, the awful antithesis of human sin and of Divine holiness. Because Isaiah was a good man, his new proximity to God woke within him a crushing horror of defilement and undoneness. And it was so, precisely because, he had never been so near to God before, and had never felt himself of so much importance. Away down here, sinning among his fellow men, the blots and blemishes of his soul seemed of little moment. But up there, in the stainless light of heaven, with God’s holy eyes resting on him, every spot of sin within him grew hot and horrible, every defiling stain an insult and a suffering inflicted on the sensitive holiness of God. These two things are linked together, and no man can divorce them--the dignity of humanity and the damnableness of sin.

3. The ethical process by which, in the imagery of the vision, Isaiah’s sense of sinfulness came home to him, is finely natural and simple. It was at his lips that the consciousness of his impurity caught him. “I am a man of unclean lips.” That, judged by our formulas and standards, might seem a somewhat superficial conviction of sin. We should have expected him to speak of his unclean heart, or the total corruption of his whole nature. But actual conviction of sin is very regardless of our theories, and is as diverse in its manifestations as are the characters and records of men. Sin finds out one man in one place, and another in a quite different spot, and perhaps the experience is most real when it is least theological.

4. Isaiah, in the presence of God, felt within him the pang of that death, which must be the end of unpardoned sin in contact with the Divine holiness. He felt himself as good as dead, yet never in all his life had he so longed to live as now, in sight of God and heaven and holiness. He did not ask to escape. He was too overwhelmed to pray or hope. But to God’s heart that cry of despair was an infinitely persuasive prayer for mercy. Pagan sages and Christian saints alike unite in proclaiming the overmastering strength of sin.

5. Is there, then, no possibility of recovery? no way of cleansing? One there is, and one alone. Aye, if only God so loves our sin-stained race as that His stainless purity enters really into our humanity, and wrestles with our impurity in a contact that must be suffering to the Divine holiness, and is sin cleansing to us--that were salvation surely; that were redemption. But is it a reality! Jesus Christ has lived, and died, and lives again, and we know that His Holy Spirit dwells in us and in our world. That, and that alone, is salvation; not any theories nor any rites, but God’s Holy Spirit given unto us.

6. It was at Isaiah’s lips that the sense of sin had stung him, and it was there that he received the cleansing. He, too, might now join in heaven’s praise and service; no more an alien, but a member of the celestial choir and a servant of the King. That act of Divine mercy had transformed him.

7. He was a new creature, and instantly the change appeared. The voice of God sounds through the temple, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And the first of all heaven’s hosts to offer is Isaiah A moment before, he had shrunk back, crushed and despairing, from God’s presence, feeling as if the Divine gaze were death to him. Now he springs forward, invokes God’s attention on himself, and before all heaven’s tried and trusty messengers proposes himself as God’s ambassador. Was it presumption! was it self-assertion? I think, if ever Isaiah was not thinking of himself at all, and was conscious only of God and goodness and gratitude, it was then, when his heart was running over with wonder, love, and praise for God’s unspeakable mercy to him. It was not presumption; it was a true and beautiful instinct that made him yearn with resistless longing to do something for that God who had shown such grace to him. (Prof. W. G. Elmslie, D. D.)

Christian missions

I. WHAT ISAIAH SAW.

II. WHAT HE SAID. “Woe,” etc.

III. WHAT HE FELT. The assurance of pardon.

IV. WHAT HE HEARD. The pardoned sinner is all ear, all eye. “I heard the voice of the Lord,” etc.

V. WHAT HE DID. He made consecration. (Richard Knill.)

Isaiah’s vision

1. Inasmuch as sitting upon a throne implies a human form, we are inclined to agree with those expositors who speak of Isaiah’s vision as a vision of Jehovah-Jesus.

2. The vision rebukes those who entertain the notion that, so far as Divine superintendence is concerned, the universe is in a state of orphanage.

3. The vision likewise rebukes those who picture God as absorbed in the contemplation of His own excellence, and as existing in solitary grandeur. God is of a social nature. Like earthly kings He has a court, as much superior to theirs as He is Himself above them.

3. Isaiah’s vision further teaches us, that the creatures referred to, and represented by the seraphim, possess such a knowledge of God, are in such sympathy with Him, and have such confidence in Him, that their lives are spent in an element of worship.

4. The vision was designed to qualify Isaiah for the fulfilment of his course as one of the prophets of Judah; and nobly it answered its purpose. (G. Cron, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision

(for Trinity Sunday):--We have here the proper inauguration of the great evangelical prophet to his future work; and one which, in its essential features, resembles very closely the inauguration which other eminent servants of God, alike under the Old Covenant and under the New, obtained;--Moses (Exodus 3:6); Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:6-9); Paul; Joshua (Joshua 1:1); Gideon ( 6:12-24); Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3); Peter (Luke 5:4-10). God’s messengers go mot until they are sent, and presume not to deliver a message which they have not received directly from the Sender.

1. And, first, he gives the date of the vision. What meaning may there sometimes be in a thing which seems so simple as a date! What significance, what solemnity may it sometimes have, as surely it has here. How simply and yet how grandly are earth and heaven here brought together, and the fleeting phantoms of one set over against the abiding realities of the other.

2. But if God’s throne is in heaven, the skirts of His glory reach even to the earth: “His train filled the temple.”

3. The glimpse afforded here to the Church of the elder dispensation of that great crowning mystery which the Church of the newer dispensation throughout all the world is celebrating today. In this Trisagion we have, it is true, no more than a glimpse of the mystery; even as in the Old Testament more is nowhere vouchsafed. More, in all likelihood, the Church could not then, nor until it had been thoroughly educated into a confession of the unity of the Godhead, with safety have received; while yet it was a precious confirmation of the faith, when, in a later day, this mystery was fully made known, to discover that the rudiments of it had been laid long before in Scripture.

4. But what is the first impression which this glorious vision makes upon the prophet? His first cry is not of exultation and delight, but rather of consternation and dismay. “Woe is me,” etc. Even the heathen, as more than one legend in their mythology declares, could apprehend something of this truth. If Jupiter comes to Semele arrayed in the glories of deity, she perishes, consumed to ashes in a brightness which is more than mortality can bear. So, too, it must have fared with Moses, if to him, still clothed in flesh and blood, that over-bold request of his, “Show me Thy glory,” had been conceded; if it had not been answered to him, “Thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me and live.” “We shall perish, for we have seen the Lord of hosts,” was the ever recurring cry of those saints of old; and even such is the voice of the prophet here.

5. Yet that moment with all its dreadfulness is a passage, in some sense the only passage, into a true life. And such the prophet found it. Observe the manner in which sin, the guilt of sin, is here, as evermore in Holy Scripture, spoken of as taken away by a free act of God, an act of His in which man is passive; in which he has, so to speak, to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord; an act to which he can contribute nothing, save indeed only that Divinely awakened hunger of the soul after the benefit which we call faith.

6. Behold in the prophet the fruit of iniquity taken away, and sin purged. Behold the joyful readiness with which he now offers himself for the service of his God. (Abp. Trench.)

The triune Name a call, a message, a chastening

The contemplation of the majesty of God is the source of the largest hope for all His creatures. For beings pure and holy that vision is the call to unfaltering adoration and limitless faith; for men “of unclean lips”--sin-stained, and labouring in a sin-stained world--it is the reassuring call to the prophet’s work

I. The vision of God THE CALL OF THE PROPHET.

1. Nowhere is the thought presented to us in the Bible with more moving force than in this record of Isaiah’s mission. The very mark of time by which the history is introduced has a pathetic significance. It places together in sharp contrast the hasty presumption of num and the unchanging love of God. The king died an outcast and a leper because he had ventured to take to himself the function of a priest in the house of God; and in close connection with that tragic catastrophe an access to God, far older than that which the successful monarch had prematurely claimed, was foreshown to the prophet in s heavenly figure. Isaiah, a layman, was, it a appears, in the heavenly court, and he saw in a trance the way into the holiest place laid open. The veils were removed from sanctuary and shrine, and he beheld more than met the eyes of the high priest, the one representative of the people, on the one day on which he was admitted, year by year, to the dark chamber which shrouded the Divine presence. For an eternal moment Isaiah’s senses were unsealed. He saw that which is and not that which appears. For him the symbol of God dwelling in light unapproachable, was transformed into a personal presence; the chequered scene of human labour and worship was filled with the train of God; the marvels of human skill were instinct with the life of God. The spot which God had chosen was disclosed to his gaze as the centre of the Divine revelation; but, at the same time, he was taught to acknowledge that the Divine presence is not limited by any bounds, or excluded by any blindness, when he heard from the lips of angels that the fulness of the whole earth is His glory. Now, when we recall what Judaism was at the time--local, rigid, exclusive--we can at once understand that such a revelation taken into the soul was for Isaiah an illumination of the world. He could see all creation in its true nature through the light of God.

So to have looked upon it was to have gained that which the seer, cleansed by the sacred fire, was constrained to declare. Humbled, and purified in his humiliation, he could have but one answer when the voice of the Lord required a messenger: “Here am I send me.”

2. Isaiah’s vision and call are for us also, and they await from us a like response. When he looked upon that august sight, he saw Christ’s glory; he saw in figures and far off that which we have been allowed to contemplate more nearly and with the power of closer apprehension. He saw in transitory shadows that which we have received in a historic Presence. By the Incarnation God has entered, and empowered us to feel that He has entered, into fellowship with humanity and men. As often as that truth rises before our eyes, all heaven is indeed rent open, and all earth is displayed as God made it. For us, then, the vision and the call of Isaiah find a fuller form, a more sovereign voice in the Gospel than the Jewish prophet could know

3. What does “the mystery,” the revelation “of God, even Christ” Colossians 2:2), mean, the mystery of which we are ministers and prophets, the mystery which brings the eternal within the forms of time, the mystery which shows to us absolute love made visible in the Incarnate Word? It means that the outward, the transitory, is a yell woven by the necessities of our weakness, which half hides and half reveals the realities with which it corresponds; that the changing forms in which spiritual aspirations are clothed from generation to generation and from life to life, are illuminated, quickened, harmonised in one supreme fact; that beyond the temples in which it is our blessing to worship, and beyond the phrases which it is our joy to affirm, there is an infinite glory which can have no local circumscription, and an infinite Truth which cannot be grasped by any human thought; that man, bruised and burdened by sorrows and sins, was made for God, and that through His holy love he shall not fail of his destiny; that all creation is an expression of God’s thought of wisdom brought within the reach of human intelligence; that God’s Spirit sent in His Son’s name will interpret little by little, as we can read the lesson, all things as contributory to His praise; that we also, compassed with infirmities and burdened with sins, may take, up the song of the redeemed creation, the song of the unfallen angels, and say, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the fulness of the earth is His glory. It means this, and more than this.

II. The vision of God THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHET. It is this vision which the prophet has to proclaim and to interpret to his fellowmen, not as an intellectual theory, but as an inspiration of life. The prophet’s teaching must be the translation of his experience. The Gospel of Christ Incarnate, the Gospel of the Holy Trinity in the terms of human life, covers every imaginable part of life to the end of time, and is new now as it has been new in all the past; as it will be new, new in its power and in its meaning, while the world lasts. True it is that such a vision of God--Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier--entering into fellowship with the beings whom He has made, “gathering up all things to Himself,” “making peace through the blood of the Cross,” shows life to us, as Isaiah saw it, in a most solemn aspect: that it must fill us, as it filled Isaiah, with the sense of our immeasurable unworthiness in the face of Christ’s majesty and Christ’s love: that it must touch us also with something of a cleansing power. And because it is so we can take heart again. For such emotion, such purification of soul, is the beginning of abiding strength.

III. The vision of God THE CHASTENING OF THE PROPHET. In the fulfilment of our prophetic work we need more than we know the abasing and elevating influences which the vision of Isaiah and the thoughts which it suggests are fitted to create or deepen. In the stress of restless occupation we are tempted to leave too much out of sight the inevitable mysteries of life. We deal lightly with the greatest questions. We are peremptory in defining details of dogma beyond the teaching of Scripture. We are familiar beyond apostolic precedent in our approaches to God. We fashion heavenly things after the fashion of earth. In all these respects then for our strengthening and for our purifying, we must seek for ourselves aria strive to spread about us the sense of the awfulness of being, as those who have seen God at Bethlehem, Calvary, Olivet, and on the throne encircled by a rainbow as an emerald: the sense, vague and imperfect at the best, of the illimitable range of the courses and issues of action; the sense of the untold vastness of that life which we are bold to measure by our feeble powers; the sense of the majesty of Him before whom the angels veil their faces. If we are cast down by the meannesses, the sorrows, the sins of the world, it is because we dwell on some little part of which we see little; but let the thought of God in Christ come in, and we can rest in that holy splendour. At the same time let us not dare to confine at our will the action of the light. It is our own irreparable loss if in our conceptions of doctrine we gain clearness of definition by following out the human conditions of apprehending the Divine, and forget that every outline is the expression in terms of a lower order of that which is many-sided; if in our methods of devotion we single out the human nature of the Lord, or rather the manifestation of His unascended manhood, as the object of our thoughts, and forget that He leads us to the Father; if we rest in things visible and do not rather strive to read ever more clearly the spiritual lessons to which they point; if we concentrate our worship in isolated rites and fail to bear to the world of daily thought and action the teaching and the promises of sacraments. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Uzziah and Isaiah: George III and John Wesley

The year in which King Uzziah died must have appeared a very noteworthy one to the Jewish contemporaries of Isaiah, most of whom, in all probability, regarded the death of one king and the accession of another as the most important events which occurred in it. Yet to us, who know that this was the year in which Isaiah was called to the prophetic office, these occurrences shrink into insignificance when compared with the last named fact, although that would take place without attracting the notice of any one besides the prophet himself . . . In the year 1738, on May 24 th, the prince was born who was afterwards known as George III. The event would soon be proclaimed all through England. On the evening of the same day, in a quiet meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, another event took place, known only to one man: John Wesley “believed to the saving of the soul,” and obtained assurance of sins forgiven. In a few years George III will become to all but a few a name, and nothing more; but John Wesley will become more illustrious, and the influence of his work will be more widely felt, as the ages roll on. (B. Hellier.)

The elevating presence of God

How well I remember when first I visited Switzerland that my bedroom window, perched in Les Avants, looked across the blue of the Lake of Geneva towards that noble line of snow-capped mountains that border its southern shore. It seemed for the brief fortnight that I lived there as though the spell of that mighty vision held me enthralled. I slept and awoke and wrote and conversed as one on whom a new dignity had fallen. Could I ever be mean or selfish in the presence of that mystery of purity and solemnity? This and much more shall be the temper of the soul which by the grace of the Holy Spirit has learnt habitually to recognise and cultivate the presence of God as revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verses 1-13

Isaiah 6:1-13

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord

The story of the prophet’s call--why inserted here

Why the narrative of the prophet’s call was not, as in the cases of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, allowed to occupy the first place in the book, is a question which cannot be certainly answered.
One conjecture is that chaps. 1-5 were placed first for the purpose of preparing the reader of the book for the severity of tone which marks the end of chap. 6, and of acquainting him with the condition of things in Judah which led to such a tone being adopted. Or, again, it is possible that chap. 6 may have been placed so as to follow chaps. 1-5, because, though describing what occurred earlier, it may not have been actually committed to writing till afterwards--perhaps as an introduction
Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-7. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Why did Isaiah publish this account of his call?

Why was it needful to publish a private transaction between God and Isaiah? The only reason we can conceive of is that the prophet needed to give a justification of his public assumption of prophetic work. And that implies in the community a suspicion of prophetic men, and in the young prophet’s mind struggles and hesitation such as we can easily conceive. This picture of his call he holds up half before himself, as the answer to all the timid fears of his own heart, and half before his countrymen, as his reply to all the objections they might raise against his prophetic commission. This is strongly confirmed when we proceed to look at the message which the prophet is sent to deliver (verses 9, 10). (P. Thomson, M. A.)

The circumstances of the vision

Let us try, if we can, and present to our imaginations some idea of this extraordinary scene. The shades of evening are closing in, and all is still within the sacred precincts of the temple. The daily ritual has been duly observed, and priests and worshippers have withdrawn from the hallowed fane. The noise and stir of the great city, hard by is subsiding; a solemn hush and stillness pervades the place. One solitary worshipper still lingers within the sacred courts absorbed a reverie of prayer. He is a religions and devout man; probably a member of the school of the prophets, well instructed in the faith of his fathers, and familiar with the sacred ritual of the temple, and the lessons that it inculcated. There he is, looking forward possibly to a prophet’s career, yet feeling keenly the responsibilities which it will involve, and perhaps pleading earnestly to be fitted for his mission. He cannot be blind to the unsatisfactory condition of his people. Amidst much outward profession of religiousness and readiness to comply with the ceremonial demands of the faith, he cannot but discern the presence of barren formalism and hypocrisy, and of a latent superstition that might at any moment, were the restraints of authority removed, blossom out into open idolatry. And who shall say what heart searchings may have occupied his own mind as he knelt there in the temple all alone with God. Was he more spiritual than those around him? Was he sufficiently pure and devout to stand up in protest against a nation’s sins? One moment all is silence and stillness as he kneels in prayer; the next, and lo! a blaze of glory and a burst of song! Startled and awe-stricken, the lonely worshipper raises his head to find himself confronted with a sublime and dazzling spectacle. His bewildered vision travels up through ranks of light till it finds itself resting for a moment, but only for a moment, on an Object “too august for human gaze.” I saw also, the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Around that dread Presence the forms of vast and wondrous intelligences of glory, the attendant ministers of the Majesty Divine, seem bending in adoration, and the voice of their worship falls like the roll of thunder on his ear, shaking the very pillars of the temple porch with its awe-inspiring resonance, as they echo and re-echo with answering acclamations the antiphon of heaven--“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The vision

Isaiah might probably have said, as St. Paul did on a like occasion, “Whether I was in the body or out of the body I cannot tell,” but he would undoubtedly have confirmed the plain meaning of his words that the vision was a reality and a fact. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)

The Symbolism of Isaiah’s vision

There is a variety of opinion among the commentators as to the basis of the symbolism of this vision. Some assert that the imagery by which the prophet sets forth the wealth and splendour of the heavenly kingdom is taken entirely from the scenery and ritual of the temple; that when the worshippers had left, and the sacrifices had been offered, and only a few of the most devout remained for prayer and vigil, Isaiah, lingering with the few, unsatisfied and perplexed, beheld this vision, and consecrated himself to his prophetic activity: In this view the picture presented of the celestial world is the inner features and ritual of the temple idealised and expanded. Dr. Cheyne casts doubt upon this interpretation, and leans to the opinion that not the temple but the palace is the point from which the prophet’s inspired imagination takes its departure. The figures, the messengers, and the throne are from the court, not from the temple. It is impossible wholly to accept either of these views. There is no reason why we should not blend both in our exposition of Isaiah’s vision. There are certainly some references to the temple in the altar, the purging away of sin, and the smoke-filled house. In the throne and the train filling the temple there are suggestions of the court. As Isaiah was an attendant on both, it is probable that the ideas under which he sets forth the kingship of Christ, as priestly and yet regal, were drawn from his own observation of the centres of government and worship in his own country. Ideas of righteousness, and sympathy, and sacrifice unite in his conception of the invisible kingdom. (J. Matthews.)

Isaiah’s vision of God

Some of you may have been watching a near and beautiful landscape in the land of mountains and eternal snows, till you have been exhausted by its very richness, and till the distant hills which bounded it have seemed, you knew not why, to limit and contract the view; and then a veil has been withdrawn, and new hills, not looking as if they belonged to this earth, yet giving another character to all that does belong to it, have unfolded them selves before you. This is a very imperfect likeness of that revelation which must have been made to the inner eye of the prophet, when he saw another throne than the throne of the house of David, another King than Uzziah or Jotham, another train than that of priests or minstrels in the temple, other winged forms than those golden ones which overshadowed the mercy seat. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

The inaugural vision of Isaiah

The inaugural vision of Isaiah contains in brief an outline of his prophetic teaching. The passage besides this has a singular psychological and religious interest of a kind personal to the prophet. It consists of a series of steps, each one of which naturally follows upon the other.

I. There is first A VISION OF THE LORD, THE KING, surprising and majestic, with a singular world of beings and activities around Him (cars. 1-4).

II. THIS VISION OF JEHOVAH REACTS UPON THE MIND OF THE PROPHET and makes him think of himself in relation to this great King, the Holy One, whom he had seen; and one thought succeeds another, so that in a moment he lives a history (vats. 5-7).

III. Having passed through this history, the beginning of which was terror, but the end peace, AN ALTOGETHER NEW SENSATION FILLED HIS MIND, as if the world, which was all disorder and confusion before, and filled with a conflict of tendencies and possibilities, had suddenly, in the light felling on it from the great King whom he had seen, become clear and the meaning of it plain, and also what was his own place in it; and this was accompanied with an irresistible impulse to take his place. This is expressed by saying that he heard the voice of the great Sovereign who had been revealed to him proclaiming that He had need of one to send, to which he replied that he would go.

IV. Finally, there comes THE SERVICE WHICH HE HAS TO PERFORM, which is no other than just to take his place in the midst of that world, the meaning of which his vision of the Sovereign Lord had made clear to him, and state this meaning to men, to hold the mirror up to his time and declare to it its condition sad its tendencies, and what in the hand of the great King, God over all, its issue and the issue of all must be (verses 8-13). (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. We have to contemplate A REMARKABLE MANIFESTATION OF GOD.

II. WHAT WAS ITS EFFECT ON THE PROPHET?

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE PENITENT PROPHET WAS PURIFIED.

IV. THE CALL OF THE PROPHET.

V. HIS COMMISSION. (T. Allen, D. D.)

Realising God

A man’s realisation of the character of God does not depend altogether on his religious experience; it depends also on original capacity, temperament, and on suitable physiological conditions both of body and of mind. (T. Allen, D. D.)

An anticipation of the Incarnation

This vision was an anticipation of the Incarnation of our Lord. St. John tells us distinctly that the glory which the prophet saw was the glory of the Redeemer. “No man hath seen God at any time.” God is a spiritual being, and therefore He does not appeal to sense. He reveals Himself to faith, to conscience, and to love. But sense is an avenue through which the soul is reached and influenced, and Almighty God, in revealing Himself to man, has not overlooked this constitutional fact. The Incarnation was a tribute of respect paid to our senses. What the prophet saw only in symbol we realise in the form of a glorious historic Presence. (T. Allen, D. D.)

Vision and service

I. THE PROCESSION OF THE DEAD FROM EARTH BRINGS US FACE TO FACE WITH THE ETERNAL KINGDOM. We cannot look upon any visible forms, and note their changefulness and yet the permanence of the ideas they illustrate, and not infer the existence of the world of thought, and law, and reality from which they proceed. But while all life is based on the unseen, and witnesses to its presence ever, the procession of the generations of men on the earth more powerfully still reveals the higher kingdom. Think of the populations that have lived in this planet, and received their first schooling and drill here. After a brief preparation and teaching in the knowledge of the laws and facts of existence, they depart. The procession into the pale kingdoms is endless and crowded. The majority the other side becomes greater each day. It is impossible to think of that succession and deny the celestial world. The law of continuity suggests a life beyond. The principle which secures the completion of all great work rightly begun, speaks of it. Our sense of the justice at the heart of things assures us of a realm of compensation for unrequited labour and unexplained sorrow. The union with God that begins here must be consummated elsewhere. Such facts as these would be forced upon the thought of Isaiah as all Israel mourned the death of their leader and king.

II. THE SUPREME FACT OF THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM IS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CHRIST. After John’s statement (John 12:41) that Isaiah saw His glory, and spake Of Him, there can be no question with any Christian mind as to the Messianic reference of the manifestation. Isaiah may not have known of the sacrifice and resurrection by which that throne was gained, but the general outlines of the mediatorial kingdom are fully recognised here. “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up.” All else in heaven was subordinated to that central fact.

1. The supremacy of our Lord’s rule over heaven and earth, over angels, monarchs, events, the great and the little, the present and the future.

2. The absorbing attraction of that rule. For as prophet, and angels, and men, discern the glory of His love, and mercy, and power, they are constrained to praise.

3. The perfect serenity and sufficiency of His rule are indicated here. Beneath is storm and tumult. He sits above the flood.

4. The universality of His rule is clear. His train fills the temple. Those who went before, and those who came after, cried Hosanna!

5. The design of Christ’s rule on earth is to bestow pardon and purity.

6. The King who confers cleansing and peace demands service.

7. He does not hesitate to discipline His unfaithful servants until their loyalty is assured.

III. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION OF CHRIST’S LORDSHIP ON THE BEHOLDER.

1. A deep sense of personal sinfulness.

2. A deep sense of insufficiency for the work of God.

3. The vision that humbles, clothes with power, fills with certitude, directs our steps, inspires with invincible heroism, and makes us partakers of its glory and its resources. (J. Matthews.)

The vision of God

No truth is more familiar than that God cannot be seen by mortal eye. But God has so manifested Himself that we may say, without impropriety or mistake, that we have seen Him. He did so--

I. OCCASIONALLY, BEFORE THE CHRISTIAN ERA. We have illustrations of this in the case of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22), of Moses on the mount of God (Exodus 34:1-35), of Micaiah, the Hebrew prophet (1 Kings 22:1-53), and in that before us in the text. In such experiences, each one of which may have been unlike the others, a very special privilege was granted to these men; so special and peculiar that they felt, and had a right to feel, that they stood in the very near presence of the High and Holy One Himself.

II. PERMANENTLY, IN THE TEMPLE. The religion of the people of Israel differed from that of the surrounding nations in that there was not to be found in their sacred places any image or statue or visible representation of God. If any such were found it was a marked violation of law, a distinct apostasy. Only one visible indication of the Divine presence was permitted, and that was as immaterial as it could be, and was only beheld by one man once in the year--the Shechinah in the Holy of holies. Once a year the high priest might use the words of our text; for when he entered within the veil, on the great day of atonement, he stood in the presence of manifested Deity.

III. ONCE FOR ALL IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. All previous historical manifestations were lost in the presence of the Son of God. He manifested the Divine so that those who saw Him did in truth see God. They saw nothing less than--

1. Divine power, including control over the body and the spirit of man, over the elements of nature, over disease and death.

2. Divine wisdom, reaching to all those truths that concern the nature and will of God, and also the character, life, and destiny of man.

3. Divine purity, shown in an absolutely blameless life.

4. Divine love, shining forth in tender, practical sympathy with men in all their sufferings and sorrows; showing itself in compassion for men in their spiritual destitution (Mark 6:34); culminating in the agony of the garden and the death of the Cross. Well might the Master say that His disciples were privileged beyond kings and prophets, for as they walked with Him they “saw the Lord.” Conclusion--We can see God in nature, in history, in the outworkings of His providence, in the human conscience and human spirit. But the way in which to seek His face is by acquainting ourselves with, and uniting ourselves to, Jesus Christ, His Son. (W. Clarkson B. A.)

The empty throne filled

I. THE VISION ITSELF. The centre truth is that the Lord of hosts is the King--the King of Israel

II. THE MINISTRATION OF LOSS AND SORROW IN PREPARING THE VISION. If the throne of Israel had not been empty, the prophet would not have seen the throned God in the heavens. And so it “is with all our losses, with all our sorrows, with all our disappointments, with all our pains; they have a mission to reveal to us the throned God.

III. THE TEXT SUGGESTS THE COMPENSATION THAT IS GIVEN FOR ALL LOSSES. The one God will become everything and anything that every man, and each man, requires. He shapes Himself according to our need. The water of life does not disdain to take the form imposed upon it by the vessel into which it is poured. The Jews used to say that the manna in the wilderness tasted to each man as each man desired, of dainties or of sorrows. And the God who comes to us all, comes to us each in the shape that we need; just as He came to Isaiah in the manifestation of His kingly power, because the throne of Judah was vacated. So when our hearts are sore with loss the New Testament manifestation of the King, even Jesus Christ, comes to us and says, “the same is my mother and sister and brother,” and his sweet love compensates for the love that can die, and that lass died. When losses come to us He draws near, as durable riches and righteousness. In all our pains He is our anodyne, and in an our griefs He brings the comfort; He is all in all, and each withdrawn gift is compensated, or will be compensated, to each in Him. So let us learn God’s purpose in emptying heart and chairs and homes. He empties that He may fill them with Himself. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The rectal and mediatorial dominion of God

I. PECULIARITIES OF THIS DOMINION.

1. The law of belief, or what we may otherwise phrase, the law of intellectual humility. Revelation was never intended to be a revelation to our comprehension or to our reason. The revelation of the Bible is made to faith.

2. The law of evangelical faith.

3. The law of holiness. You will find a great difference between the nature of the obedience which God in the Gospel requires and that which earthly governments require.

4. The law of disciplinary suffering.

II. EXCELLENCIES OF THIS DOMINION.

1. It is a spiritual government.

2. It us a mediatorial government--a government, therefore, of mercy.

3. The supremacy of this dominion might be adverted to. It is a “throne high and lifted up” above all the thrones and dynasties of the earth. Let this comfort the people of God.

4. It is eternal. (W. M. Bunting.)

The dead king; the living God

Israel’s king dies, but Israel’s God still lives. From the mortality of great and good men we should take occasion, with the eye of faith, to look up to “the King eternal, immortal, invisible.” (M. Henry.)

Government human and Divine

I. THE CHANGE IN CIVIL SOCIETY TAKE PLACE UNDER THE DIRECTION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD.

II. THE PERMANENCY OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT AFFORDS A STRIKING CONTRAST TO THE FADING CHARACTER OF EARTHLY GOVERNMENTS.

III. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PROCEEDS WITH MAJESTIC PROGRESS NOTWITHSTANDING, AND EVEN BY MEANS OF, THESE VARIOUS CHANGES. (R. Winter, D. D.)

Seeing God

Isaiah saw God: do men see Him today? Was He any nearer to Jerusalem than He is to London and New York? Did that old Hebrew possess faculties different from ours?

1. God can be seen and known. He has been seen and known. Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Paul, John--all saw Him. He has been seen and known in all lands and among all religions.

2. What do we mean by seeing and knowing God? A spirit cannot be seen with physical eyes. We mean that we are so convinced of the nearness and reality of God that our thinking and living are all determined by that conviction--so sure of Him that we live as if we saw Him by physical sight.

3. But have not men seen their own imaginings, and thought that those were God! Is not a perfect God the noblest work of man! It has not been proved that any have actually known God. It would, in the nature of things, be impossible to demonstrate that to anyone who did not himself possess the same knowledge; but it has been proved that these whom the world always heeds when they speak concerning other things have believed that they had this knowledge; and that faith has been the inspiration of dauntless heroism, most patient endurance, and most sacrificing service.

4. How is God known! Many answers are given. Probably all are partially correct. As each individual sees natural objects from his own standpoint, so must he approach the highest knowledge. We are not asking whether men have known about God, but whether they have known Him. We know about Caesar, but we do not know him; we about the Mikado of Japan, but we do not know him. Many know about God who show no signs of knowing Him. I think that no one has been able to tell how this knowledge is attained: Some say, “We are conscious of Him”; others, “We see Him with the inner eye”; others, “Reason leads to Him”; and others still, “He is seen and known in the things which are made.” But after all, the most that any can say is, “I know Him.” Isaiah said, “I saw the Lord,” but all is hazy and indistinct when he comes to detail

5. All who have learned to love man in the spirit of Christ never can fail of coming to the knowledge of God, “for whosoever loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” Love is the new life; and love secures knowledge.

6. When we want to know about God we stand before the majesty of an ocean in a storm, before the terrible splendour of Alpine crests and glaciers, beneath the host of the heavens that in solemn silence thread the mazes of the sky, and say: “Behold the greatness of God!” We study the movement of history, and see how the dispersion of the Jews sent true spiritual ideas into all lands; how the triumphs of Alexander gave a common language to the world; how the supremacy of Rome made nations one; how the carnival of blood called the “French Revolution” overthrew more abuses than it worked; how the American Civil War ended in the proclamation of freedom, and we say, God is revealing Himself in history. We read the story of the life and death of Jesus, and say, if that is a revelation of God, then He is the One for whom our souls long. But all these revelations may be accepted without personal knowledge. The Father, who is a Spirit, comes to us in spirit; speaks in a still voice in the chambers of memory, conscience, aspiration; and we know Him and yet may not be able to explain “that knowledge to those who do not have it. I know my Father; He knows His child.” That is the highest human experience. That is eternal life.

7. If eternal life is not a question of dates, of the succession of months and years, but knowing God, then no question is more imperative than, “Is it possible for me to know Him?” It is a great thing to claim that knowledge. It should never be done irreverently or lightly, but always humbly and with great joy. The mission of the pulpit and the Church is primarily to help men to know God. How, then, may we know Him? However many answers are possible, only one need be given. All who follow Jesus Christ are sure, sooner or later, to realise that, like Him, they, too, are sons of God. (Amory H. Bradford, D. D.)

Removing the veil

1. A king must die! There almost seems to be something incongruous in the very phrase. The very word “king” means power. The king is the man who can--the man who is possessed of ability, dominions, sovereignty; and the shock is almost violent when we are told that the range of kingship is shaped and determined by death. How the one word suffices for all sorts and conditions of men! The registrar deals with us very summarily! We look through his books. His vocabulary is very limited. He has two words, “born” and “died,” and between the two he Can fit in all mankind; there is no exception to disturb his little printed form; we all take our place in it, prince and peasant, emperor and slave. And all this irrespective of character.

2. As kings went in those days, Uzziah had proved himself an admirable king, a wise ruler, a good man. He was distinctly a progressive man, a man of action and enterprise. His energies were not absorbed in merely foreign affairs, nor shaped by the lust of mere dominion. He proceeded upon the principle that a successful foreign policy must be based upon a wise domestic policy; that an efficient and stable rulership must begin at home. I like the way in which the chronicler sums up the king’s motives and gives us the very spirit of his home policy, “he loved husbandry?” “He loved husbandry,” and therefore you find him hedging his people about with security as they go about their daily life. He “digged many wells,” he attended to the requirements of irrigation, he laid the hand of protection and favour upon husbandmen and vine dressers, and in every way he showed that he regarded agriculture as the fundamental and primary pursuit of national life. Upon that home policy he built his foreign policy. If you have peace, security, and contentment at the centre it is easier to extend and widen the bounds of your circumference; and with order and prosperity at home, Uzziah was able to enlarge the borders of his empire. He could raise from his devoted people an army of mighty power. The limits of his kingdom were being continually expanded. “His name spread far abroad. He was marvellously helped, till he was strong.” Such was the nation’s king; loved by all his people, feared by all his foes. Is it, then, any wonder that King Uzziah--skilled organiser in home affairs, subtle strategist in foreign affairs--became the pillar of the nation’s hopes, the repository of her trust, the ultimate security of her prosperity and permanence?

3. Now, there is a strange tendency in human nature to deify any person who gives evidence of possessing any kind of extraordinary power. We place them on the heart’s throne--the throne on which are centred the soul’s hopes and which carries with it the ultimate sovereignty and apportionment of life. Extraordinary power of any kind appeals to the godlike within us, and upon the object evincing the extraordinary power we too often fix our trust. Watch the principle in the narrative before us. Here is Isaiah. Before his call and consecration he had lived on the political plane of life. His thought was ever moving among the forces of diplomacy and statecraft. How intensely absorbed he was in the game of national politics! The national problem was to Isaiah a political problem. The ultimate foundation of national prosperity was stable government. The wise handling of political forces was the one essential for the continuity and grandeur of the nation’s life. That was the plane of thought and life on which Isaiah moved, and on that plane he must find his heroes. He found the hero in Uzziah. What then? He had won Isaiah’s admiration. Next, he won his confidence, next his love, next his devotion; then Uzziah became Isaiah’s god! Uzziah filled the whole of Isaiah’s vision. How now did Isaiah’s reasoning run? Thus--“What will become of the world when Uzziah dies? When the master of statecraft is gone, in whose hands will the rulership rest? When the political nave is removed, will not all the spokes of the national wheel be thrown into the direst confusion?” That was Isaiah’s fear, begotten by his hero worship. Well, Uzziah died. What then! Says Isaiah, “In the year that King Uzziah died”--what?--“All my worst fears were abundantly realised”? No, no! “In the year that King Uzziah died I had my eyes opened; I saw there was a greater, kingdom with a greater King--I saw the Lord.” The hero died to reveal the hero’s God. What, then, did the revelation do for Isaiah? It gave him an enlarged conception of all things. It gave him a new centre for his thoughts and life.

It taught him this, that the ultimate security for all national greatness is not kings and crowns but God. It taught him this, that big armies, and walled cities, and quiet husbandry, and subtle diplomacy, and complex civilisations am not the fundamental forces on which mankind rests. The eternal centre of all true life, the centre which time cannot weaken and which death cannot corrupt, is not diplomacy, but holiness--not Uzziah, but the Lord. The earthly king had come between Isaiah and his God, and it was only when the earthly king was taken away that Isaiah saw the King of kings. “I saw the Lord high and lifted up”--a limited interest replaced by a larger one, a low standard supplanted by a loftier one, a loom monarch stepping aside to reveal the universal King.

4. This teaching has a most pertinent application to the life of today. Which is the most prominent in English national life today--King Uzziah or King Jesus, the representative of diplomacy or the representative of holiness? Which are we most concerned about--the science of politics or the science of holy living? What are the forces on which we are chiefly depending for the continuity of our national supremacy? The eternal forces are not material, but spiritual, proceeding not from the earth, but coming down from heaven. Material forces must be kept secondary, because they are transient; spiritual forces must be primary, because they are eternal. What is the conclusion of the whole matter? Don’t let us lay the stress and emphasis of life upon secondary things--not upon Uzziah, but upon the Lord. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The “Uzziahs” of history and the Lord

History tells us the stories of nations who have looked no further than King Uzziah, and who have been accustomed to use the temporal and earthly forces which Uzziah represents. And how has it fared with them? Ancient Phoenicia looked no further than King Uzziah. She built her national temple upon the foundation of commerce, and the only binding force among her people was the relationships of trade. Ancient Greece looked no further than King Uzziah. She raised a palatial national structure upon the foundation of literature and art, and the structure was exceeding beautiful, the wonder and admiration of all time. Ancient Rome looked no further than King Uzziah. She raised an apparently solid masonry, compact and massive, upon a political foundation, and all the stones in the building were clamped together by a tie of patriotism, such as the world has elsewhere never known. Now what has become of them--Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome! How has it fared with the nations so constituted, the houses so built? This is the record. They stood for a time, proud, august, radiant with imperial splendour, fair with the smile of fortune, and reflecting the sunny light of the prosperous day. But “the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon” those nations, and they fell, and great was the fall of them! Surely that is a lesson for today, that national foundations must not be laid by Uzziah but by the Lord. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The material fleeting: the spiritual enduring

I spent a little time in the old castle at Stifling, and in one of the rooms of the tower were two curiosities which riveted my attention. In one corner of the room was an old time worn pulpit. It was John Knox’s pulpit, the pulpit from which he used to proclaim so faithfully the message of the King: In the opposite corner were a few long spears, much corrupted by rust, found on the field of Banncokburn, which lies just beyond the castle walls. John Knox’s pulpit on the one hand, the spears of Bannockburn on the other! One the type of material forces, forces of earth and time; the other the type of spiritual forces, forces of eternity and heaven. The spears, representative of King Uzziah; the pulpit, representative of the Lord. Which symbolises the eternal? The force and influence which radiated from that pulpit will enrich and fashion Scottish character when Bannockburn has become an uninfluential memory, standing, vague and indefinite, on the horizon of a far distant time. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Gain through loss

God puts out our little light that we may see Him the better. When you are looking out of the window at night, gazing towards the sky, you will see the stare more clearly if you put out your gaslight. That is what God has to do for us. He has to put out the secondary lights in order that we may see the eternal light. Uzziah has to die, in order that we may see it is God who lives. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The compensations of life

I know a little cottage which is surrounded by great and stately trees, clothed with dense and massy foliage. In the summer days, and through all the sunny season, it just nestles in the circle of green, and has no vision of the world beyond. But the winter comes, so cold and keen. It brings its sharp knife of frost, cuts off the leaves, until they fall trembling to the ground. There is nothing left but the bare framework on which summer hung her beauteous growths. Poor little cottage, with the foliage all gone! But is there no compensation? Yes, yea Standing in the cottage in the winter time and looking out of the window, you can see a mansion, which has come into view through the openings left by the fallen leaves. The winter brought the vision of the mansion! My brother, you were surrounded by the summer green of prosperity. It had become your king. There your vision ended. But the Lord wished to give your thought a further reach. He wanted your soul to see “the mansion which the Father hath prepared” for them that love Him. So He took away your little king. He sent the winter and stripped your trees; and “in the year that the little king died you saw the Lord.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Isaiah’s call

I. THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH IT WAS GIVEN A VISION. Why was it recorded? Not to indulge the conceit of the prophet, nor even chiefly to certify him to the Jews; but because of the messages to them which it so vividly conveys, and the representative interest of the experience to all spiritual minds.

II. THE STATE OF MIND THE VISION PRODUCED. (verse 5.) Fear, dejection, self-humiliation. Both personally and as representative of the Jewish nation he was convicted of sin is the invariable result of close intercourse with God. Our inborn sin is brought to light and rebuked. And the more Christlike we are the more will our brothers’ sin likewise weigh upon our hearts. It is in this very experience that our preparation for service begins.

III. HOW THIS WAS DEALT WITH. The fact of sinfulness is not denied by Him to whom it is confessed. It is tacitly confirmed by what takes place. Yet how tender and considerate is the silence of the Judge of all the earth! At once He institutes and sets in operation a mediatorial agency. Such guilt and impurity no water can cleanse: fire is needed, fire from the Consuming Fire.

IV. THE CALL.

I. Couched first in a universal question,--“Whom shall I send?” etc.

2. After the prophet’s response the call is more direct and personal: “Go, and tell this people,” etc the more general call to us consists, as it did to Isaiah, in the sense of our neighbours’ need and our own duty with regard to supplying it. But if a Christian It in earnest, and willing to surrender himself to the commandment of his Lord, more specific direction will not be wanting.

V. THE RESPONSE. (verse 8) “Then said I, Here am I send me.” A sacrifice and a petition. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE INEFFABLE MAJESTY OF GOD.

1. His Supreme authority. “Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted ups” He is the high and lofty One. He ruleth over all, matter and mind, the evil and the Good.

2. His magnificent upset. “His train filled the temple.” This is an allusion to the flowing robes of Oriental monarchs, which signalise their stately grandeur, What is the costume of the Infinite? “Thou clothest Thyself with light as with a garment.” The flowing robes of His majesty filled the temple of immensity.

3. His illustrious attendants. “Above it stood the seraphim.” Eastern monarchs had numerous princes and nobles as their attendants; but these fiery ones are the ministers of the eternal King.

4. His absolute holiness. “One cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” The repetition indicates the intensity of their conviction.

II. THE LOFTY SERVICES OF CELESTIAL INTELLIGENCES. Their services are--

1. Reverential.

2. Alert. They do not move with a tardy reluctance in the service of their Lord; but with wings expanded they stand ever ready to execute His behest.

3. Individual. “One cried unto another.” Each was intensely alive to his own responsibility and duty.

4. Harmonious. After the separate cries there was a blending of all in one grand chorus, “The whole earth is full of His glory.”

5. Enthusiastic. As the peal of a majestic organ sometimes shakes the cathedral, the voice of one worshipper in heaven is represented as moving the posts of the door. The grand solo sends a tremor through the temple.

III. THE AMAZING CAPACITY OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Isaiah saw all this, not with the outward eye, but with the eye of his mind. Unlike all other creatures on this earth, man has a capacity to see God. He can see God enthroned in the universe.

1. Sin has injured this capacity. Whilst all men have the power to see God, few men do.

2. The Gospel restores this capacity. It opens the spiritual eye, sweeps away the carnal atmosphere, and shows God filling the temple. (Homilist.)

The Trinity in unity

(for Trinity Sunday):--

I. AS TO THE UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE OF BELIEF IN THE DOCTRINE. The doctrine of the Trinity has always been one of those things, to use the language of St. Luke, which have been most surely believed among us.

II. THE SCRIPTURAL PROOF OF THE DOCTRINE. It underlies the whole Bible, and is inextricably interwoven with its fabric and its structure.

III. THE NATURE OF THIS DOCTRINE. We grant at once that it is mysterious, and that it is inexplicable. We walk by faith, not by sight. This great doctrine in its inner being is hidden from us; but it presents a countenance to us full of beauty and loveliness, the features of which are discerned by the eye of faith. It is a golden casket, containing a most precious jewel; locked, if you like, which we cannot open, but enriching us nevertheless. It is a song in a strange language, the meaning of it in a great degree unintelligible, but the melody most exquisite. Practical application of the doctrine--

1. It is bound up with our duty to God. We have duties to pay to each of the three Persons if we would perfectly know our glorious God, if we would worthily magnify His holy name.

2. It is bound up with our hope of salvation.

3. It is bound up with the fulness of Gospel blessings. Take the apostolic benediction; what more can you conceive of spiritual life and blessing than is contained within that? (R. W. Forrest, M. A.)

The command and encouragement to communicate the Gospel

The communication of the will of God to others is connected with the manifestation of the excellency of all the perfections of the Deity, but appears in the passage before us in more especial relation to the glory of the Divine holiness.

I. THE REVELATION WHICH GOD HAS MADE TO HIS INTELLIGENT CREATURES MANIFESTS HIS SUPREME AND PERFECT HOLINESS. The great lesson which the vision taught was the holiness of Jehovah, and that by the manifestation of this the whole earth was to be filled with His glory. This, if not the source and end, has always formed a part, and has often been preeminent in the manifestations God has made to His intelligent creatures. Although inseparably blended with the infinite benevolence and perfect rectitude, we find this perfection more frequently associated with the name, and employed to qualify the attributes of Jehovah, than any other. The arm of the Lord, the emblem of His power, is called His holy arm; His eyes, emblems of omniscience, the eyes of His holiness; His presence, Holy of holies; His majesty, the throne of His holiness; His name, the holy name; Himself, the Holy One. This is equally applicable to the Father, Holy Father,--the Son, Holy Child,--the Spirit, Holy Ghost. All the manifestations God has ever made of Himself, so far as our limited and imperfect knowledge extends, have been those of His holiness. He is holy in all His works. It was because they beheld a new impress of the moral image of Jehovah that the sons of God shouted together for joy. The Divine holiness was also exhibited, under a new aspect, to all orders intelligent creation, in the contrast between the state of the first human pair and that of fallen spirits. All the manifestations which, since the fall the Divine Being has condescended to make to our race, either of His dominion over the affairs of men, the intimations of His will, or the operations of His grace and Spirit on the soul, have been revelations of the Divine holiness. In the human nature of Christ, the glory of Divine holiness was enshrined in a temple more pure than that in which the Shekinah had appeared; here was an altar that sanctified both the giver and the gift; a sacrifice in which Omniscience saw no imperfection; a Priest who needed not to offer sacrifice for His own sins, for He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. The purity of God had been shown in the creation; in the consequences of the fall: the destruction of the old world; and the giving of the law: but on Calvary, though softened by the veil of humanity through which it was revealed, it beamed forth with an intensity and effulgence which rendered it at once the most stupendous and sublime display of the Divine equity and holiness that ever has, or, we have reason to believe, ever will take place. The design of the sacrifice displays more vividly this glorious perfection. It was not simply to redeem from sin, but to redeem to holiness. The dispensation which terminated with the return of the Redeemer to the bosom of the Father, has been followed by another, less imposing, but equally clear and more extensive, manifestation of the Divine holiness, the descent of the Holy Spirit. The volume of inspiration is a revelation of the Divine holiness; all its precepts and promises are holy. With what superiority in moral excellency does this view of the connection between the diffusion of the Gospel and the glorious holiness of Jehovah invest this sacred cause; what impressive instruction does it impart to all engaged in its varied departments, at home or abroad; and how imperative its requirement, that, on every order of agency in its support, direction, and application, holiness unto the Lord should ever be distinctly inscribed!

II. THE COMMUNICATION TO OTHERS OF THE REVELATION WHICH GOD HAS MADE, IS ENJOINED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY. Whatever motives may engage the people of God to communicate to others what He has revealed to them, the Divine command constitutes the foundation, augments the force of every other, and must give vitality and efficiency to all This commission has been either special or ordinary; but the authority has been the same in all, and the obligation equal.

III. KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE WILL, AND EXPERIENCE OF THE DIVINE MERCY, DEMAND AND ENCOURAGE PROMPT AND CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE. This is strongly and beautifully shown in the vision of the prophet. Many of the communications of the Divine will appear to have been preceded by peculiar manifestations of the Divine glory. Thus Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; the disciples, after the resurrection, and on the mountain in Galilee; Saul, on his way to Damascus; and the beloved disciple in Patmos, were favoured. This was probably designed to strengthen their minds with vivid and solemn impressions of the greatness and majesty of that God whose message they were to declare, and to encourage their fidelity. It is a humiliating fact, that, with authority equally distinct, motives more numerous and strong, and facilities greater than at any former time, discouragements and difficulties still keep many at home, who ought to be on the broad plains of moral death, pointing the nations to “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” These difficulties principally arise from the views which are taken of the nature of the work and the qualifications it requires.

1. Physical unfitness.

2. Deficiency of natural or acquired abilities.

3. Moral unfitness.

4. Attachment to home, and the privations and perils of the work.

5. The magnitude and importance of the work.

Let us glance at the encouragements to obedience.

1. The dominion and omnipotence of the Redeemer.

2. The grateful import of the message.

3. The measure of success, though not the rule of duty, is cheering.

4. The spirit of the times and the aspect of the world. (W. Ellis.)

The idea of God

I. ISAIAH’S VISION OF GOD. This was, in all probability, the greatest incident in his whole life, and it left an indelible mark on his thinking, lust as the thinking of St. Paul, and, in fact, his whole activity, sprang out of what happened to him on the way to Damascus. That day he saw God. That is his own account of the matter. Now, as he prophesies through three reigns after the death of Uzziah, Jotham’s, Ahaz’s, and Hezekiah’s, and probably lived sixty years after this date, he must at the time have been a very young man, and I am strongly inclined to think that this was not only the commencement of his activity as a prophet, but the beginning of his own religious life. It was what, in modern language, would be called his conversion. He says that he “saw the Lord,” and what better account could anyone give of the crisis by which real religion commences? Before this, Isaiah had heard plenty about God, because he seems to have been the son of a wealthy family living in Jerusalem; but, as another eminent Old Testament writer indicates, there is a vast difference between hearing about God and seeing Him. “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sooth Thee.” It is really just the transition from the religion of tradition to the religion of experience. Religion comes to us all first as a tradition. It is the tradition of our home, the tradition of our Church, the tradition of our country, and so on; but as long as it is merely that, it is vague, unreal, and remote. But some day this God of whom we have heard is realised by us to be here; and this Christ, of whom we have heard that He has saved others, comes seeking for entrance into our own soul; and if we let Him in, our religion passes into an entirely new stage. Now, this was what happened to Isaiah.

II. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION ON HIS WORK. One of the seraphim cried to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” That is to say, two attributes of God overawed and overwhelmed these supernal beings--His holiness and His omnipotence. The one of these is the inner glory of God; the other is the outer glory. He is holy, holy, holy inwardly--that is perfectly, unspeakably, uncompromisingly holy; and then outwardly, the whole earth is full of His glory; or rather, to put it quite literally, the fulness of the universe--that is to say, all the variety of suns and stars, of heaven and earth, of land and sea--all that is His glory, or the garment by which He is made visible. We are wont in secular things to say that the child is father of the man, and if any man does anything very remarkable in the world it will usually be found that he has seen by the instinct of genius very early what he was intended to do. And this is true of Isaiah in the spiritual sphere. What he saw that day in a moment it took a whole lifetime to write out. Manifold as is the truth in the Book of Isaiah, it may all be deduced from these two things--the holiness of God and the omnipotence of God. The one half of his prophecies may be summed up in this word which I borrow from one part of his writings: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” The book opens with an extraordinary description of the sins of the nation, and this theme occurs all through. And what is all that but just an echo of holy, holy, holy? If God is what the seraphim said that day He was, then sin must be such as Isaiah represents it to be. Then, the other great note of his writings is that which is expressed in the first verse of the opening of the second part of the book: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.” Isaiah is among all the prophets the prophet of comfort. He was indeed a prophet of calamity, and perhaps in no other book of the Old Testament do we see so clearly as in his the cruel and the irresistible might of the great world monarchs by which the people of that age were surrounded; but mighty as these were, a Mightier was known to Isaiah; One to whom they were just like the dust; One that could call them like dogs to His feet, and wield them as the woodman in the woods wields his axe; and therefore those people whose God is the Lord do not need to fear these great monarchs; let them only trust and hope. That was the Gospel of Isaiah, and who does not see that it is merely an echo of what he heard the seraphim say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For these two ideas about God, Isaiah has two names that recur all through his writings. To denote the holiness of God, he calls Him the “Holy One of Israel”; and to denote His omnipotence he calls Him the “Lord of hosts.”

III. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION ON HIMSELF. The revelation made to him that day about God, namely, that He is the Holy One, had an immediate and transforming effect on himself. My idea is that up to this time Isaiah was a man of the world, perhaps indulging in the vices which the young nobility of Jerusalem of that day were famous for; but now, in a moment, in the light of God, he sees the error of his ways and the putridity of his heart, and hence there bursts from him the exclamation: “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.” You see he felt his sin chiefly on his lips--i.e., it was sins of speech he became conscious of. I should think that few will doubt that when he says, “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” he means to refer to a prevalence of profanity amongst his companions. Well, is it not the most natural explanation to believe that he had in his previous life given way to that sin, and now that is the sin that burns in on his conscience? But he learned at this point also something very precious about the holy God. As soon as he had confessed his sin, one of the seraphim, doubtless obeying a secret hint from Jehovah, flew to the altar, and, seizing the tongs, lifted from the altar a hot stone, and laid it on the lips of the prophet--on the place where his sin was. The meaning was that his sin was burned away. And this became to Isaiah the cause of one of the greatest features of his work as a prophet in his subsequent life. There is no writer in the Bible that in language more tender and convincing speaks about God’s willingness to forgive. And where did Isaiah learn that! He learnt it that day when the seraph laid the burning stone upon his own lips and burned his sin away. The other half of the revelation, the omnipotence of God, had its immediate practical effect also. But it was the Maker of Isaiah that was playing on his mind on this occasion for His own purpose. He was playing as an artist might play on an exquisite instrument, and in point of fact the mind of Isaiah was one of the most exquisite instruments that have ever existed in this world. There has hardly ever been a mind in this world, in its native structure, so perfect, and the Maker of it was now touching it to splendid issue. He was needing a messenger to that generation, and He had fixed on Isaiah to be His messenger, and He was making him ready. Isaiah had just realised that God was the Omnipotent, to whom all creatures and he himself belonged, and now that the relief and joy of forgiveness were thrilling through him, he realised in a still higher sense he belonged absolutely to the God who had pardoned. (James Stalker, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision in the temple

God often prepares His servants for special work by special grace.

I. The views with which this vision furnishes us concerning GOD.

1. His sovereignty.

2. His holiness.

3. His mercy.

II. The views with which this vision furnishes us concerning ANGELS.

1. Their humility.

2. Their obedience.

3. Their devotion.

III. The views with which this vision furnishes us respecting MAN.

1. His sinful condition.

2. His gracious recovery.

3. His exalted calling. (G. T. Perks, D. D.)

Preparation for the Lord’s work

I. SPECIAL PREPARATION IS NECESSARY FOR A SPECIAL WORK OF GRACE, WHETHER IT BE IN THE INDIVIDUAL HEART, OR IN THE CHURCH.

II. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE WORK WILL BE LARGELY PROPORTIONED TO THE CHARACTER AND DEGREE OF THE PREPARATION. (J. Sherwood.)

The three-fold vision

I. A VISION OF GOD. This can only come to us in our present state indirectly, parabolically, or as here, symbolically. It will include a conception of God’s--

1. Authority: “a throne high and lifted up.”

2. Glory: “His train filled the temple.”

3. Holiness: seraphic action and seraphic tones proclaimed Him as the Thrice Holy.

II. A vision OF SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE. Just as the prophet came to understand that there was a vast spiritual universe behind and beyond the material, and of which the material was but the hint and type, so must we. He saw in the seraphim a revelation of the existence of spiritual beings.

III. A VISION OF SELF. There is a vision of his--

1. Own individuality. The right use of the pronouns “I” and “me,” is a lesson worth learning, he finds.

2. Relationship to others: “I dwell among a people,” etc.

3. Sinfulness. To this--

4. Possible purification. Here we have--

5. Life mission. Here we note--

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE VISION WHICH THE PROPHET BEHELD (verses 1-4).

1. Of the Divine supremacy.

2. Of the Divine attendants. Their name signifies “fiery ones.” There is a remarkable analogy between what is said here, and what is stated of the mysterious beings in the Book of Revelation--“They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” The holiness of God is the great burthen of the celestial songs.

3. The vision connects holiness with the Divine greatness--“The whole earth is full of His glory.” All His creatures speak His praise.

4. A remarkable effect is stated to have been produced by this celebration of the Divine majesty and holiness--“The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” This may be intended to show the terrors of the Divine holiness, when it is kindled and brought into exercise by human transgression. Smoke is connected in Scripture with the tokens of rising wrath in the Almighty. Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalms 18:7-8; Revelation 15:8.) And the sequel informs us that He had determined to “waste the cities, and depopulate the habitations, until there should be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” Observe from the vision here granted to the prophet, how necessary it is that those who go out on the work of the Lord should have a vision of His glory and greatness that they may have a proper sense of the work in which they are engaged. How can he speak of the glory of God, who has not seen it? Or how can he speak of the holiness of God, of the terrors of me Almighty, who has himself no true idea of either?

II. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS VISION PRODUCED UPON THE PROPHET’S MIND. “Then said I, Woe is met for I am undone.” etc. The vision of the glory of God which he beheld, became the means of filling him with reverence, humility, and fear. The prophet was filled with an awful sense of his own depravity in two respects--

1. As a man. Why are the lips mentioned! Not because the depravity, is merely superficial, or resting on the surface; but because the depravity of the heart rends and rages without, and finds vent in the tongue. The vision of the Divine holiness is the best way of impressing our minds with a sense of our own defects and vileness.

2. As an intended messenger of God. He saw how unworthy he was to receive messages from God and go out to the people. If private Christians should feel their depravity and unworthiness, how much more should those who are ministers. He who has not been humbled under a sense of his own unworthiness before God has no right at all to go out to speak to others.

III. THE SUSTAINING VISITATION WHICH WAS MADE IN CONNECTION WITH THE EFFECT PRODUCED. To prevent the prophet from sinking into despair, Divine consolation was given. Notice--

1. The agent sent. “One of the seraphim.” These are often employed in messages of goodness to man. Observe his celerity--he “flew.” These celestial beings take an especial interest in the fulfilment of the designs of God.

2. The assurance communicated. “Thine iniquity is taken away,” etc.

3. The manner in which the assurance is testified. “Then flew one,” etc. Fire is symbolical of purity. The Spirit’s influence is compared to fire. This transaction signifies--

IV. THE COMMISSION WHICH, IN CONNECTION WITH THIS VISITATION, WAS PROPOSED AND ACCEPTED. “Whom shall I send,” etc. Observe--

1. That the messenger who goes out, God sends by His own power.

2. Such messengers are fully devoted to God. They may indeed say “Corban” with respect to all they have. What an honourable work is this! It is also a work of responsibility.

3. The messenger of God must proceed without debate as to the object of his mission. (J. Parsons.)

Isaiah’s vision

The scene is Messianic. Christ is in it.

I. WHAT THE PROPHET SAW AND HEARD. There is no special stress to be laid on the term Lord, as used here. It is not the incommunicable name of essence, Jehovah; but the title of dominion, of mastership and ownership. The awe of His appearance is in the circumstances or surroundings.

1. He is upon a throne, high and lifted up. It is the throne of absolute sovereignty; of resistless, questionless, supremacy over all.

2. He is in the temple, where the throne is the mercy seat, between the cherubim, over the ark of the Covenant, which is the symbol and seal of reconciliation and friendly communion. And He is there in such rich grace and glory that the whole temple is filled with the overflowing robe of His redeeming majesty.

3. Above, or upon, that ample overflowing train of so magnificent a raiment stood the seraphim. These are not, as I take it, angelic or super angelic spirits, but the Divine Spirit Himself, the Holy Ghost; appearing thus in the aspect and attitude of gracious ministry. In that attitude He multiplies Himself, as it were, according to the number and exigencies of the churches and the individuals to whom He has to minister. He takes up, moreover, the position of reverential waiting for His errand, and in an agency manifold, but yet one, readiness to fly to its execution. The cherubim are on almost all hands admitted to be representative emblems of redeemed creation, or of the redeemed Church on earth. And I cannot think it wrong to give to the seraphim in this, the only passage in which the name occurs, a somewhat corresponding character as representative emblems of the active heavenly agency in redemption. Nor is the plural form any objection. I find a similar mode of setting forth the multiform and multifarious agency of the Spirit in the opening salutation of the

Apocalypse--“the seven Spirits which are before His throne” Revelation 1:4). It is the Holy Ghost, waiting to go forth from the Father, to apply and carry forward the threefold work of the Son, as Prophet, Priest, and King; and to do so as if He were becoming seven Spirits in accommodation to the seven churches; as if each church was to have Him as its own; yes, and each believer, too.

4. With this great sight, voice and movement are joined. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” It is not necessarily the voice of the seraphim, though that is the ordinary I would rather take the words abstractly and indefinitely. There is an antiphonic cry or song. It is not said among whom. Of course, the readiest reference is come seraphim. But the text does not require that; it is literally “this cried to this.” And the attendance of an angelic choir, of all hosts of heaven, may be assumed. Assuredly Christ is here. He is here as revealing the Father. And He is here, not merely outwardly, in outward manifestation; but inwardly, in the deepest inward contact and converse of the soul with God.

II. HOW THE PROPHET FELT (verse 5). It is a thorough prostration.

III. HOW THE PROPHET’S CASE IS MET. Lo! an altar; the altar of propitiation, on which lies the ever freshly bleeding victim. One of the seraphim--the Holy Spirit in one of His varied modes of operation--flies, as if in haste, with what is as good as the entire altar and its sacrifice to apply it all effectually. And the effect is as immediate as the touch. Nothing comes in between. There is no waiting, as for a medicine to work its cure; no bargaining, as if a price were to be paid; no process to be gone through; no preparation to be made.

IV. THE SUBSEQUENT OFFER AND COMMAND (verses 8, 9). Two things are noticeable here.

1. The grace of God in allowing the prophet, thus exercised, to be a volunteer for service. The Lord might issue a peremptory command. But His servant has the unspeakable privilege of giving himself voluntarily to the Lord who willingly gave Himself for him.

2. The unreservedness of the prophet’s volunteering. It is no half hearted purpose conditional on circumstances; but the full, single-eyed heartiness of one loving much, because forgiven much, that breaks out in the frank, unqualified, unconditional self-enlistment and self-enrolment in the Lord’s host, “Here am I, send me.” Hence, accordingly, the crowning proof and pledge of his conversion, his cleansing, his revival, his commission. He now learns for the first time, after he has committed himself beyond the possibility of honourable retraction or recall, what is the errand darkly indicated by the heavenly voice, Whom shall I send? At first there may be secretly the feeling that any mission on which such a master may send me must have in it the elements of intrinsic glory and assured triumph. But as it turns out it is far otherwise than that. The case is altogether the reverse. The mission is to be a mission of judgment. But what then? Does the freshly quickened volunteer withdraw his offer? or qualify it? or raise any question at all about it? No; he simply asks one question; a brief one; comprised in three words--“Lord, how long?” It is a question indicating nothing like reluctance or hesitation; no repenting of his offer; no drawing back. For himself he has nothing more to say. It is only in the interest of his people, and out of deepest sympathy with them, that the irrepressible cry of piety and of patriotism bursts from his lips--“Lord, how long? how long?” (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision

I. THE LIGHT IN WHICH THE SON OF GOD APPEARS TO THOSE WHO ENJOY AN INTIMATE UNION WITH HIM AND A NEAR CONTEMPLATION OF HIM. He is represented--

1. As seated on a lofty throne.

2. As attended by celestial spirits.

3. As receiving their homage and praise.

II. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS INTIMATE UNION AND NEAR CONTEMPLATION WILL PRODUCE.

1. Humility. It is ignorance of God that is the parent of pride. True knowledge of Him tends to humility. Qualities are never seen so clearly as by contrast. The application of a straight rule marks the obliquity of a crooked line.

2. Purification.

3. Self-devotion. As eyes dazzled by the sun see not the glittering of drops of dew upon the earth, so the glory of worldly objects ceases to interest a soul that is taken up with the contemplation of God; while he will be led, by a regard to Him whose word has been the instrument of his purification and encouragement, to devote himself unreservedly to His will. (R. Brodie, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision of God’s glory

I. The first view of the Divine glory in the text is that of RULE AND DOMINION. The Lord is King--this is the first character under which to approach Him whenever we engage in worship.

II. The second view of the majesty and glory of God is that IN HIS NATURE AND PERFECTION HE IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

III. The third view of the Divine Majesty is HOLINESS.

IV. The fourth view is that of A PENITENT, ABASED MAN SINKING BEFORE THIS OVERPOWERING MANIFESTATION.

V. The fifth view we have is that of THIS HUMBLE, SILENCED MAN OBTAINING MERCY. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision of Christ’s glory

He who “sat upon the throne” Isaiah saw is none other than God Himself. But in his Gospel (John 12:41) John tells us, “these things said Esaias, when he saw Christ’s glory, and spake of Him.” It is the throne of Jesus. Let us examine the manner in which they who actually saw the vision were affected by it, and this will best show us at once its consummate splendour and the sentiments it should awaken.

I. It was seen by ANGELS AND THE “SPIRITS OF THE JUST MADE PERFECT,” AND HOW WERE THESE AFFECTED.

1. They were astonished.

2. They were filled with joy. Because God’s grace runs in the channel of justice.

3. They celebrate it with songs.

4. They were ready to advance the cause of redemption, for with their wings they were ready to fly.

II. Let us understand from the experience of Isaiah HOW BELIEVERS ARE AFFECTED BY THE VISION OF OUR TEXT.

1. Isaiah was overwhelmed at the first. He sees in himself nothing but the dry stubble of guilt, and in God an insatiable fire, approaching to devour it. He sees no fitness for heaven, either in himself or those he loved.

2. But he is immediately revived.

3. Then called to active duty.

III. We would now consider HOW THE WORLD IS AFFECTED BY THE VISION THAT ISAIAH SAW. Isaiah preaches the Gospel, but his message is rejected. So now. (J. J. Bonar.)

The enthroned Lord

The Lord is always upon a throne, even when He is nailed to the Cross; this Lord and His throne are inseparable. There are dignitaries that have to study how to keep their thrones; but the Lord and HIS throne are one. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Isaiah’s vision of God

I. THE OCCASION OF THE VISION. The emptied throne is the occasion for the manifestation of the true King. God’s purpose in all His withdrawals is the same as His purpose in all His gifts, that we may be led to see Him more clearly as the one foundation of all things, the anchor of our lives and the hope and stay of our hearts. The text not only teaches us the purpose of all withdrawals, but comes to us heavy-freighted with the blessed thought that God is able to fill every place that He empties. This King of Judah was followed by another, a decent enough young man in his way, who on the whole went straight and did God’s will. But that was no comfort to the prophet’s heart. It did not avail to show him a Jotham behind an Uzziah. What he needed, and what you and I need, to fill the empty places in our hearts and lives, is the vision that flamed upon his inward eye; and the conviction that the Lord, the King Himself, had come when the earthly shadow passed away.

II. THE CONTENTS OF THE VISION. The temple here is, of course, not the mere earthly house, but that higher house of the Lord, of which the temple of earth is a shadow. Isaiah’s vision was none the less objective, none the less distinguishable from an imagination of his own, none the less manifestly and marvellously, a revelation from God, because if we had been there we should have seen nothing, any more than the Sanhedrim shared in the vision of the opened heavens which gladdened Stephen’s dying eyes. Mark, how there is no word of description here of what the prophet saw in the centre of the light. But if we listen to the description given to us, there are two great thoughts in it. “I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up”--the infinite exaltation of that Divine nature which separates Him from all the lowness of creatures, and makes Him the blessed and incomprehensible infinite foundation of good and of blessedness and the source of life. Correspondent and parallel to this thought of the sovereign exaltation is the song that is put into the mouth of the seraphim. The same idea is expressed by “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,” as is expressed by “high and lifted up.” The holiness of God means the infinite separation of the infinite nature from the finite creature; and that separation is manifest both in the incomprehensible elevation of His being and in the perfect purity of His nature. But whilst thus a great gulf is fixed between us and Him, and we, like the seraphs, have to veil our faces that we see not, and our feet that we be not seen, there is another side to the thought, “His skirts filled the temple,” and that is paralleled with the other number of the seraphs’ song, “the whole earth is full of His glory.” For the glory of God is the manifestation of His holiness. And just as the trailing skirts of that great robe spread over the whole floor of the temple, so through the whole earth go flashing the manifold manifestations of His glory. These twin thoughts, never to be separated from each other, of the infinite separation and the immeasurable self-communication of our Father-God, are all as true for us today as they ever were. That vision is as possible to us as it was to Isaiah. It was no prerogative of the prophet’s office. Our eyes too, if we will, may behold the King in His beauty. It is Christ that explains to us by His Incarnation how it ever came to pass that to man’s inward or outward eyes there was granted a manifestation of Deity in the form of humanity as here; and His permanent revelation of God to us puts us more than on a level with any of those of old to whom were granted the foreshadowings of that historical fact of God manifest in the flesh. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

III. THE EFFECTS OF SUCH A VISION ON THE LIFE. A man that sees God will know his own impurity. Where there is a sense of sin roused by the sight of God there will come the fiery coal from the altar that purifies; and where there is a sense of sin, and the taking away of it, by the sacrifice not brought by the prophet, but provided for the prophet by God, there will follow the glad surrender of self for all service, and any mission. “Here am I, send me.” So this vision of God is the foundation of all nobleness of life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Isaiah a typical prophet

This is not a story of individual experience only. Isaiah was a typical prophet with special duties, and, consequently, with special qualifications for their right discharge. But in many respects he is also representative of the faithful preacher of the Gospel and worker for Christ. In its inspirations, its aims and motives, its responsibilities and difficulties, the prophet’s office was like that of Christ’s servant everywhere, and from this record we may gather lessons of universal application.

1. The prophet must be a man whose soul is possessed with God, to whom God is a reality, not an abstraction, a living and present Friend, not a distant and unknown Ruler. There must be visions of God in the glory of His holiness as well as in the tenderness of His condescension, or there will be neither desire nor capacity to testify of Him. It is the pure in heart who thus see God, and even as Isaiah needed that the live coal from the altar should touch his lips and he should be cleansed from all iniquity, so must Christ’s messenger know for himself the blessedness of that salvation which he preaches to others. This does not supersede the necessity for intellectual qualifications for the work. Impulse, however pure and noble, cannot fit a man for even the humblest work, much less for the noblest, the most difficult, the most responsible of all. God does lay His hands upon some whom the wisdom of this world would pronounce incompetent for the work. As in the case of Bunyan, the working of His grace in the heart may develop gifts of fancy or of eloquence which might else have lain dormant.

2. Of the special gift of inspiration which Isaiah enjoyed suffice it to say that if that is to be reduced to a “genius for righteousness” which he shared in common with the rest of the Jewish race, the unique character and supreme authority of the Bible are gone. Define inspiration how men will, it must, at all events, imply that God revealed His will to these prophets and seers by whom the Sacred Volume was penned, as He did not to the great poets and writers of the world, or this Book has no distinctive value.

3. The prophet must be a consecrated servant--one who lives not to do his own pleasure, but to glorify God. (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

The making of a prophet

1. The experience that made Isaiah a prophet took the form of a vision. It happened in a period of distressing perplexity and gloom. Wrestling passionately with the darkness, craving wistfully for light, the yearning to see God in the man’s soul became so intense and sensitive, that the great Heart in heaven answered the longing of the heart on earth, and aspiration leapt into realisation, and faith flashed into vision That sight of God--the living, holy, loving God--made Isaiah a prophet. Preachers and teachers of today! if we are to be prophets, we need lust such a sight of God.

2. The vision of God made Isaiah a prophet; but the immediate result was something different. The first effect of contact with God was to produce in his soul an intolerable sense of sin. Had Isaiah been Pharisee, he would have seized the opportunity of his sudden vicinity to the Almighty to direct the Divine attention to his virtues and superiority over other men. Had he been one of those philosophers in whom the heart has been overlaid by the intellect, he would have calmly proceeded to make observations of the Divine for a new theory of the absolute and unconditioned, in sublime insensibility to the deepest problem of existence, the awful antithesis of human sin and of Divine holiness. Because Isaiah was a good man, his new proximity to God woke within him a crushing horror of defilement and undoneness. And it was so, precisely because, he had never been so near to God before, and had never felt himself of so much importance. Away down here, sinning among his fellow men, the blots and blemishes of his soul seemed of little moment. But up there, in the stainless light of heaven, with God’s holy eyes resting on him, every spot of sin within him grew hot and horrible, every defiling stain an insult and a suffering inflicted on the sensitive holiness of God. These two things are linked together, and no man can divorce them--the dignity of humanity and the damnableness of sin.

3. The ethical process by which, in the imagery of the vision, Isaiah’s sense of sinfulness came home to him, is finely natural and simple. It was at his lips that the consciousness of his impurity caught him. “I am a man of unclean lips.” That, judged by our formulas and standards, might seem a somewhat superficial conviction of sin. We should have expected him to speak of his unclean heart, or the total corruption of his whole nature. But actual conviction of sin is very regardless of our theories, and is as diverse in its manifestations as are the characters and records of men. Sin finds out one man in one place, and another in a quite different spot, and perhaps the experience is most real when it is least theological.

4. Isaiah, in the presence of God, felt within him the pang of that death, which must be the end of unpardoned sin in contact with the Divine holiness. He felt himself as good as dead, yet never in all his life had he so longed to live as now, in sight of God and heaven and holiness. He did not ask to escape. He was too overwhelmed to pray or hope. But to God’s heart that cry of despair was an infinitely persuasive prayer for mercy. Pagan sages and Christian saints alike unite in proclaiming the overmastering strength of sin.

5. Is there, then, no possibility of recovery? no way of cleansing? One there is, and one alone. Aye, if only God so loves our sin-stained race as that His stainless purity enters really into our humanity, and wrestles with our impurity in a contact that must be suffering to the Divine holiness, and is sin cleansing to us--that were salvation surely; that were redemption. But is it a reality! Jesus Christ has lived, and died, and lives again, and we know that His Holy Spirit dwells in us and in our world. That, and that alone, is salvation; not any theories nor any rites, but God’s Holy Spirit given unto us.

6. It was at Isaiah’s lips that the sense of sin had stung him, and it was there that he received the cleansing. He, too, might now join in heaven’s praise and service; no more an alien, but a member of the celestial choir and a servant of the King. That act of Divine mercy had transformed him.

7. He was a new creature, and instantly the change appeared. The voice of God sounds through the temple, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And the first of all heaven’s hosts to offer is Isaiah A moment before, he had shrunk back, crushed and despairing, from God’s presence, feeling as if the Divine gaze were death to him. Now he springs forward, invokes God’s attention on himself, and before all heaven’s tried and trusty messengers proposes himself as God’s ambassador. Was it presumption! was it self-assertion? I think, if ever Isaiah was not thinking of himself at all, and was conscious only of God and goodness and gratitude, it was then, when his heart was running over with wonder, love, and praise for God’s unspeakable mercy to him. It was not presumption; it was a true and beautiful instinct that made him yearn with resistless longing to do something for that God who had shown such grace to him. (Prof. W. G. Elmslie, D. D.)

Christian missions

I. WHAT ISAIAH SAW.

II. WHAT HE SAID. “Woe,” etc.

III. WHAT HE FELT. The assurance of pardon.

IV. WHAT HE HEARD. The pardoned sinner is all ear, all eye. “I heard the voice of the Lord,” etc.

V. WHAT HE DID. He made consecration. (Richard Knill.)

Isaiah’s vision

1. Inasmuch as sitting upon a throne implies a human form, we are inclined to agree with those expositors who speak of Isaiah’s vision as a vision of Jehovah-Jesus.

2. The vision rebukes those who entertain the notion that, so far as Divine superintendence is concerned, the universe is in a state of orphanage.

3. The vision likewise rebukes those who picture God as absorbed in the contemplation of His own excellence, and as existing in solitary grandeur. God is of a social nature. Like earthly kings He has a court, as much superior to theirs as He is Himself above them.

3. Isaiah’s vision further teaches us, that the creatures referred to, and represented by the seraphim, possess such a knowledge of God, are in such sympathy with Him, and have such confidence in Him, that their lives are spent in an element of worship.

4. The vision was designed to qualify Isaiah for the fulfilment of his course as one of the prophets of Judah; and nobly it answered its purpose. (G. Cron, M. A.)

Isaiah’s vision

(for Trinity Sunday):--We have here the proper inauguration of the great evangelical prophet to his future work; and one which, in its essential features, resembles very closely the inauguration which other eminent servants of God, alike under the Old Covenant and under the New, obtained;--Moses (Exodus 3:6); Jeremiah Jeremiah 1:6-9); Paul; Joshua (Joshua 1:1); Gideon ( 6:12-24); Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3); Peter (Luke 5:4-10). God’s messengers go mot until they are sent, and presume not to deliver a message which they have not received directly from the Sender.

1. And, first, he gives the date of the vision. What meaning may there sometimes be in a thing which seems so simple as a date! What significance, what solemnity may it sometimes have, as surely it has here. How simply and yet how grandly are earth and heaven here brought together, and the fleeting phantoms of one set over against the abiding realities of the other.

2. But if God’s throne is in heaven, the skirts of His glory reach even to the earth: “His train filled the temple.”

3. The glimpse afforded here to the Church of the elder dispensation of that great crowning mystery which the Church of the newer dispensation throughout all the world is celebrating today. In this Trisagion we have, it is true, no more than a glimpse of the mystery; even as in the Old Testament more is nowhere vouchsafed. More, in all likelihood, the Church could not then, nor until it had been thoroughly educated into a confession of the unity of the Godhead, with safety have received; while yet it was a precious confirmation of the faith, when, in a later day, this mystery was fully made known, to discover that the rudiments of it had been laid long before in Scripture.

4. But what is the first impression which this glorious vision makes upon the prophet? His first cry is not of exultation and delight, but rather of consternation and dismay. “Woe is me,” etc. Even the heathen, as more than one legend in their mythology declares, could apprehend something of this truth. If Jupiter comes to Semele arrayed in the glories of deity, she perishes, consumed to ashes in a brightness which is more than mortality can bear. So, too, it must have fared with Moses, if to him, still clothed in flesh and blood, that over-bold request of his, “Show me Thy glory,” had been conceded; if it had not been answered to him, “Thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me and live.” “We shall perish, for we have seen the Lord of hosts,” was the ever recurring cry of those saints of old; and even such is the voice of the prophet here.

5. Yet that moment with all its dreadfulness is a passage, in some sense the only passage, into a true life. And such the prophet found it. Observe the manner in which sin, the guilt of sin, is here, as evermore in Holy Scripture, spoken of as taken away by a free act of God, an act of His in which man is passive; in which he has, so to speak, to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord; an act to which he can contribute nothing, save indeed only that Divinely awakened hunger of the soul after the benefit which we call faith.

6. Behold in the prophet the fruit of iniquity taken away, and sin purged. Behold the joyful readiness with which he now offers himself for the service of his God. (Abp. Trench.)

The triune Name a call, a message, a chastening

The contemplation of the majesty of God is the source of the largest hope for all His creatures. For beings pure and holy that vision is the call to unfaltering adoration and limitless faith; for men “of unclean lips”--sin-stained, and labouring in a sin-stained world--it is the reassuring call to the prophet’s work

I. The vision of God THE CALL OF THE PROPHET.

1. Nowhere is the thought presented to us in the Bible with more moving force than in this record of Isaiah’s mission. The very mark of time by which the history is introduced has a pathetic significance. It places together in sharp contrast the hasty presumption of num and the unchanging love of God. The king died an outcast and a leper because he had ventured to take to himself the function of a priest in the house of God; and in close connection with that tragic catastrophe an access to God, far older than that which the successful monarch had prematurely claimed, was foreshown to the prophet in s heavenly figure. Isaiah, a layman, was, it a appears, in the heavenly court, and he saw in a trance the way into the holiest place laid open. The veils were removed from sanctuary and shrine, and he beheld more than met the eyes of the high priest, the one representative of the people, on the one day on which he was admitted, year by year, to the dark chamber which shrouded the Divine presence. For an eternal moment Isaiah’s senses were unsealed. He saw that which is and not that which appears. For him the symbol of God dwelling in light unapproachable, was transformed into a personal presence; the chequered scene of human labour and worship was filled with the train of God; the marvels of human skill were instinct with the life of God. The spot which God had chosen was disclosed to his gaze as the centre of the Divine revelation; but, at the same time, he was taught to acknowledge that the Divine presence is not limited by any bounds, or excluded by any blindness, when he heard from the lips of angels that the fulness of the whole earth is His glory. Now, when we recall what Judaism was at the time--local, rigid, exclusive--we can at once understand that such a revelation taken into the soul was for Isaiah an illumination of the world. He could see all creation in its true nature through the light of God.

So to have looked upon it was to have gained that which the seer, cleansed by the sacred fire, was constrained to declare. Humbled, and purified in his humiliation, he could have but one answer when the voice of the Lord required a messenger: “Here am I send me.”

2. Isaiah’s vision and call are for us also, and they await from us a like response. When he looked upon that august sight, he saw Christ’s glory; he saw in figures and far off that which we have been allowed to contemplate more nearly and with the power of closer apprehension. He saw in transitory shadows that which we have received in a historic Presence. By the Incarnation God has entered, and empowered us to feel that He has entered, into fellowship with humanity and men. As often as that truth rises before our eyes, all heaven is indeed rent open, and all earth is displayed as God made it. For us, then, the vision and the call of Isaiah find a fuller form, a more sovereign voice in the Gospel than the Jewish prophet could know

3. What does “the mystery,” the revelation “of God, even Christ” Colossians 2:2), mean, the mystery of which we are ministers and prophets, the mystery which brings the eternal within the forms of time, the mystery which shows to us absolute love made visible in the Incarnate Word? It means that the outward, the transitory, is a yell woven by the necessities of our weakness, which half hides and half reveals the realities with which it corresponds; that the changing forms in which spiritual aspirations are clothed from generation to generation and from life to life, are illuminated, quickened, harmonised in one supreme fact; that beyond the temples in which it is our blessing to worship, and beyond the phrases which it is our joy to affirm, there is an infinite glory which can have no local circumscription, and an infinite Truth which cannot be grasped by any human thought; that man, bruised and burdened by sorrows and sins, was made for God, and that through His holy love he shall not fail of his destiny; that all creation is an expression of God’s thought of wisdom brought within the reach of human intelligence; that God’s Spirit sent in His Son’s name will interpret little by little, as we can read the lesson, all things as contributory to His praise; that we also, compassed with infirmities and burdened with sins, may take, up the song of the redeemed creation, the song of the unfallen angels, and say, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the fulness of the earth is His glory. It means this, and more than this.

II. The vision of God THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHET. It is this vision which the prophet has to proclaim and to interpret to his fellowmen, not as an intellectual theory, but as an inspiration of life. The prophet’s teaching must be the translation of his experience. The Gospel of Christ Incarnate, the Gospel of the Holy Trinity in the terms of human life, covers every imaginable part of life to the end of time, and is new now as it has been new in all the past; as it will be new, new in its power and in its meaning, while the world lasts. True it is that such a vision of God--Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier--entering into fellowship with the beings whom He has made, “gathering up all things to Himself,” “making peace through the blood of the Cross,” shows life to us, as Isaiah saw it, in a most solemn aspect: that it must fill us, as it filled Isaiah, with the sense of our immeasurable unworthiness in the face of Christ’s majesty and Christ’s love: that it must touch us also with something of a cleansing power. And because it is so we can take heart again. For such emotion, such purification of soul, is the beginning of abiding strength.

III. The vision of God THE CHASTENING OF THE PROPHET. In the fulfilment of our prophetic work we need more than we know the abasing and elevating influences which the vision of Isaiah and the thoughts which it suggests are fitted to create or deepen. In the stress of restless occupation we are tempted to leave too much out of sight the inevitable mysteries of life. We deal lightly with the greatest questions. We are peremptory in defining details of dogma beyond the teaching of Scripture. We are familiar beyond apostolic precedent in our approaches to God. We fashion heavenly things after the fashion of earth. In all these respects then for our strengthening and for our purifying, we must seek for ourselves aria strive to spread about us the sense of the awfulness of being, as those who have seen God at Bethlehem, Calvary, Olivet, and on the throne encircled by a rainbow as an emerald: the sense, vague and imperfect at the best, of the illimitable range of the courses and issues of action; the sense of the untold vastness of that life which we are bold to measure by our feeble powers; the sense of the majesty of Him before whom the angels veil their faces. If we are cast down by the meannesses, the sorrows, the sins of the world, it is because we dwell on some little part of which we see little; but let the thought of God in Christ come in, and we can rest in that holy splendour. At the same time let us not dare to confine at our will the action of the light. It is our own irreparable loss if in our conceptions of doctrine we gain clearness of definition by following out the human conditions of apprehending the Divine, and forget that every outline is the expression in terms of a lower order of that which is many-sided; if in our methods of devotion we single out the human nature of the Lord, or rather the manifestation of His unascended manhood, as the object of our thoughts, and forget that He leads us to the Father; if we rest in things visible and do not rather strive to read ever more clearly the spiritual lessons to which they point; if we concentrate our worship in isolated rites and fail to bear to the world of daily thought and action the teaching and the promises of sacraments. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Uzziah and Isaiah: George III and John Wesley

The year in which King Uzziah died must have appeared a very noteworthy one to the Jewish contemporaries of Isaiah, most of whom, in all probability, regarded the death of one king and the accession of another as the most important events which occurred in it. Yet to us, who know that this was the year in which Isaiah was called to the prophetic office, these occurrences shrink into insignificance when compared with the last named fact, although that would take place without attracting the notice of any one besides the prophet himself . . . In the year 1738, on May 24 th, the prince was born who was afterwards known as George III. The event would soon be proclaimed all through England. On the evening of the same day, in a quiet meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, another event took place, known only to one man: John Wesley “believed to the saving of the soul,” and obtained assurance of sins forgiven. In a few years George III will become to all but a few a name, and nothing more; but John Wesley will become more illustrious, and the influence of his work will be more widely felt, as the ages roll on. (B. Hellier.)

The elevating presence of God

How well I remember when first I visited Switzerland that my bedroom window, perched in Les Avants, looked across the blue of the Lake of Geneva towards that noble line of snow-capped mountains that border its southern shore. It seemed for the brief fortnight that I lived there as though the spell of that mighty vision held me enthralled. I slept and awoke and wrote and conversed as one on whom a new dignity had fallen. Could I ever be mean or selfish in the presence of that mystery of purity and solemnity? This and much more shall be the temper of the soul which by the grace of the Holy Spirit has learnt habitually to recognise and cultivate the presence of God as revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verse 2-3

Isaiah 6:2-3

Above it stood the seraphim

The seraphim

The first question that arises is, Who, or what were the seraphim?
They belong to this vision only, and must stand in vital relation to the condition and circumstances of the seer at the time. It is to be noted, further, that the time was that of the greatest crisis in the life of the greatest prophet of the ancient world. It was the time when he was struggling through the portals of spiritual agony into the temple of prophecy. Such visions have no room for superfluous adornment. If ever a picture had a meaning that is worth knowing, it is surely Isaiah’s picture of the seraphim. In the whole vision, as I have said, there is no sign of drapery. It throbs in all its parts with the struggles and revelations and hopes of the prophet’s heart. What, then, was that crisis in the prophet’s life in the light of which the vision will become interpreted? It is pregnantly indicated in the first verse of this chapter--“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up.” These words indicate the battleground of Isaiah’s soul. Around this King Uzziah, who was now dead, unusual hopes had gathered. In him many deemed that the Saviour of Israel had at length appeared. He feared God, and waxed mighty in his kingdom. On every hand he extended the realm of Judah, and made the foemen of God’s people lick the dust. But when Uzziah waxed mighty, he revealed that he was but flesh. He became arrogant, as though the strength and prowess of his own right hand had accomplished all this, Then, forgetting the fear of the Lord, he presumed to carry the sacred censer into the sanctuary, and to usurp presumptuously the holy functions of God’s anointed priesthood. Then the mighty hand of Jehovah that had upheld him so long struck him, and he fell. And with his fall a thousand hopes were shattered, and a nation’s faith fell headlong to the ground. This was a critical moment for the young Isaiah. Now his faith must either die or be reborn with a new and more glorious birth. Now it shall be seen whether everything falls for him with the fall of the great Uzziah. The vision is the answer. When Uzziah died, the young prophet saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The collapse of the Jewish monarch revealed the King Eternal. Now, beyond Uzziah’s shattered throne, the young seer beholds the throne of God towering high in eternal majesty and splendour. The part that the seraphim play in this new consciousness is not far to seek. They are obviously an express contradiction of the attitude of Israel as typified and exemplified in the self-confident and presumptuous king. They represent the attitude which Israel ought to learn in contradiction of the attitude in which it was now found. They represent the prophet’s own new ideal. Henceforth he will strive to make the attitude and the message of the seraphim his own.

So the seraphim have probably no actual existence as celestial beings. They are here the symbol of a human ideal, wrought out of the struggling heart of a prophet. From the moment that his lips are touched with the glowing stone from the altar, Isaiah also becomes one of the seraphim. So the picture of the seraphim still, remains as an ideal, not only for the ministers of the Word of God, but also for me whole Church of Jesus Christ. Let us, therefore, consider their attitude and their message.

I. In relation to THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE SERAPHIM, it seems to me that the name by which the prophet designates them is very significant. These seraphim are simply the “burning” ones. They stand around (not above) the throne, and partake of its burning glory. In this participation in the fires of God the seer sees the starting point of the new way that he is about to mark for himself and the nation of Israel and the peoples of the earth. He, too, will learn to stand in the presence of the glory of God until every fibre of his life is aflame with the same glory. He will learn to be a seraph, one of God a fiery ministers, one or His glorious ones. For such the true prophet must be. “He was a burning and a shining light,” said our Saviour concerning John the Baptist. It is not enough to be rejectors of a higher light; we must become burners, and have a veritable fire of our own. There is a vaunted morality which is only a cold reflection of the life of Christ, in which the glory of the Christ is made nothing more than a chiselled model. The Christian man should be all on fire, yea, on fire to his very fingertips. Such must be our response to the glory of God’s throne. We must receive it into our life until we catch fire, and respond to Heaven with a glory like unto its own. Note, in the next place, the perfect reverence which is here pictured: “Each had six wings. With twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet.” Of six wings, four are utilised for the purpose of doing reverence to the majesty of the eternal God. Here lies the central and most emphatic rebuke of the spirit of the Jewish people. Uzziah had no doubt rightly re]presented the prevailing spirit of the people when he dared presumptuously to invade the sacred offices of the temple of the Lord. Prosperity had made them arrogant, and arrogance had made them irreverent. In their own growing splendour they forget to do due homage to the glory of me Lord. The bulking throne of Uzziah had hidden the throne of Jehovah from view. The glory that made the seraphim veil their faces was not felt by the heart of the people. So as Isaiah gazes upon the veiled faces of the seraphim he passes from what is to what ought to be. Reverence is the mark of those that stand in the highest place, and henceforth will take a primary position in the life of Isaiah,. In reverence power begins. The vision of the seraphim with veiled faces and feet is sorely needed again in our day. There are those that make their boast in desecrating the sacred things of life, and in defiling the vessels of God’s temple. Yet you may be assured that all irreverence is essentially impotence. It have its little day of loud presumption, and then the Spirit of the Lord shall blow upon it, and it shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take it away as stubble. The covering of the feet as well as the face is a striking picture. It is difficult to carry the spirit of reverence into the smaller, minuter, and obscurer details of life. There are many that remember to cover the face before God, yet that forget to cover the feet. We are on our guard on great occasions and in great things. In the sanctuary, with its atmosphere of worship, we bend our into reverent homage, but we forget that the cottage and the villa, the workshop and the office, are also holy ground. There we often walk unveiled. And the world sees us uncovered, and thinks there is no God. The Christian Supper of Communion we treat as holy, but the daily meal is reduced to commonplace. The seraphim teach us also self-effacement. The prophet sees the glory that they send forth, and hears the message that they utter in never-ceasing music, but the seraphim themselves are hidden from view, covered from head to foot with their own wings. They sing the message and flash the glory, but they completely efface themselves. Here again the attitude of the Jewish people as manifested in their king is challenged and contradicted. Uzziah, instead of effacing himself before God, had thrust himself ostentatiously forward, as though his own wonderful presence were necessary to bring glory to the land. If he had learnt to efface himself, he might have done great things for God and His people. But he gave glory to himself, and the Lord smote him. Self-effacement is no easy task, but is one of the fundamental lessons that must be learnt by the prophet of the Lord. There is no sight more contemptible on earth than that of a man parading his own marvellous personality when he has the message of the Lord to proclaim. To reverence and self-effacement the seraphim add readiness for service. “With twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” “What a mistake!” says Mr. Modern Shallowbrain. “These seraphim are provided with six wings, yet they waste two pairs of them in reverence, and reserve only one pair for service, if they would only give up that other-world sort of thing which is called worship and reverence, and use all their six wings for service, what an increase of good there would be accomplished on the earth.” So some simpletons talk, and act upon their own shallow creed, and for awhile you see nothing but the dust of their wings, as though they were turning the world upside down. Then they disappear, wings and all, and for all their labour nothing but a cloud of dust remains And even that God’s whirlwind soon sweeps away. With the seraphim is the secret of power. The wings that fly have the strength of ten, because face and feet are veiled by the others. Out of unceasing worship spring forth the currents of power and the energies of service. Four things go together in the life of the seraphim, and they must be found in every good and strong life--participation in God’s burning glory, profound reverence, self-effacement, and readiness for service. To divide them is disaster.

II. The message of the seraphim is important, because it is clearly A MESSAGE FOR ISAIAH’S OWN HEART, the message that is henceforth to be the keynote of his own teaching. The strain is two fold. The first part is, “Holy, holy, holy, Jehovah of hosts.” Some would have us eschew all metaphysical conceptions of God, yet Isaiah must needs begin with one, and a very profound one too. If there is to be any conception of God at all, it must be metaphysical. That the standpoint we adopt should be an ethical one does not in the least lessen its metaphysical character. The problem of the Infinite is essentially a metaphysical one, and the question that remains is simply one of little or much. Shall our conception of God be little or great, clear or obscure, definite or indefinite, true or confused? These are the alternatives. We cannot move a step in the sphere of true religion without some conception of God, and the fuller and richer that conception is, the nobler and stronger will be our religious and ethical life. Isaiah, like every true prophet, begins, not with the service of man, but with the nature of God. The source of all inspiration for him lies in the profound conception that the heart of the Infinite and Eternal is holiness, and such a conception has vast unfoldings. The Old Testament “holy” is a very beautiful term. George Adam Smith appears to say that its primary meaning as applied to God is simply “sublimity.” If he will change that into “moral sublimity,” I agree with him. But if not, I must dissent. I do not believe that the word, whatever its origin, is ever applied to God in the Old Testament except with a moral signification. The “high” place and the “holy” place do not mean precisely the same thing. “Jehovah of hosts” is a mark of sublimity. But the thrice “holy” involves an ethical view of the nature of God. The source of all inspiration for him lies in the profound conception that the heart of the Infinite and Eternal is holiness, and such a conception has vast unfoldings. The Old Testament “holy” is a very beautiful term. George Adam Smith appears to say that its primary meaning as applied to God is simply “sublimity.” If he will change that into “moral sublimity,” I agree with him. But if not, I must dissent. I do not believe that the word, whatever its origin, is ever applied to God in the Old Testament except with a moral signification. The “high” place and the “holy” place do not mean precisely the same thing. “Jehovah of hosts” is a mark of sublimity. But the thrice “holy” involves an ethical view of the nature of God. But there is another implication in “holiness,” which the careful student of the Old Testament cannot fail to observe, namely, that of self-communication. That which seems at first an impassable barrier reveals itself as a yearning heart and stretched out hands. “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” is a golden chain of link within link. Such a conception of God leads to the inspired and inspiring response, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Or, to put the song of the seraphim more accurately, “The fulness of the whole earth is His glory.” These words mean one of two things, and perhaps they mean both. They mean that everything that is of any value on the earth is a ray from God’s glory. All the fulness of the earth, everything of beauty and of joy, all the products of thought and organisation and energy and life, all the love of human hearts, and all the achievements of the human will, everything, in fine, that is lovely and of good report, belong to Him whose glory fills the heavens, are flaming sparks from the anvil of His brightness. Akin to this, though not identical, is the other signification. The words may mean that the earth can find its fulness only in and through the glory of God. This earth wants filling, for there is now in it many a gaping void; and nothing but the glory of God can fill it. We have now a larger term for the glory of the Lord than Isaiah had, and so can give his words a higher reading. For what is the highest reading of God’s glory? Here it is: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.” Only in Him can the world receive its power, and The desert places of the earth blossom as the rose. In Him only all fulness dwells. (J. Thomas, M. A.)

The worship of the seraphim

Three times over in Holy Scripture is heaven so opened to us, and the blessed spirits shown to us adoring; in this sixth chapter of Isaiah, in the first of Ezekiel, and in the fourth of the Revelation. In each passage the vision of Godhead occurs as an introduction to the prophecy that follows. It forms the prophet’s warrant and commission for his work. It is his strength and preparation for entering on his ministry. The lesson is of universal application. It is when we have shut ourselves up with God; when we have cast down our sins before His throne; when we have called up the vision of His glory--from such a trance of devotion we go out into the world, indifferent to the opinions of mankind; raised above the temptations of the flesh; with grace and power to control the little tempers that arise, and to hold them in submission to our work.

1. Learn, first, to veil our eyes when we approach the glory of the Lord. We must put off curious thoughts at prayer; we are not come to inquire, but to adore, and must strive to be absorbed in the sense of the Presence. Nay, in our studies, too, of the mysteries of religion, the nature of sin, the necessity of atonement, the punishment of eternity, or the Trinity in unity--here often must we restrain our curiosity, limit our speculations. A rayor two of light is all our capacities can receive; the full naked orb of truth is often more than we can bear.

2. Our weakness will teach us to veil our eyes, and our sins to veil our bodies and our feet.

3. “With twain they did fly.” They exhibit to us the due union of meditative and active piety. Devotion in the temple without labour in the vineyard is not the worship of angels and is not to be the religion of men. While, on the other hand, to engage in the Church’s work without a habit of earnest prayer, is to sink one’s self into a toiling slave and run the danger of becoming a self-conceited religious busybody.

4. The seraphim are our pattern for common praise and prayer. They nave suggested the antiphonal chanting of the Church, voice against voice, alternately.

5. Observe, too, that holiness is the attribute upon which they dwell, not the goodness or the greatness, but the holiness of the Lord whom they adore. There are pseudo-philanthropists who prefer to dwell entirely upon the goodness of the Lord, and would run up all His nature into benevolence. There are natural philosophers, again, who are lost in contemplation of the stupendous forces of nature and the vastness of the universe, and from them alone they draw their conceptions of the greatness of the Godhead. The Architect of all things, the Almighty, the Supreme, these are the names they know Him by and talk mostly of worshipping their Maker. But it is not Great, great, great, nor Good, goes, good which is the angels’ song, but Holy, holy, holy. It is in the character of moral Governor and a Judge that we are to contemplate our God.

6. The earth is full of the glory of the Lord, but the temple shakes at the proclamation of His name. The living temples are penetrated with emotion and with awe before the glory of the Most High and the sense of His presence.

7. The prophet is himself moved and disturbed before the glory of God’s presence, and under the sense of his own unworthiness. Here is the test of a genuine revelation from above. It dazzles not with vanity; it humbles to the dust under the burden of unmeetness for so great a favour from the Lord. Isaiah mentions his own sin first, and then the sin of his people. Let us always accuse ourselves the first.

8. But the sin that is thus deeply felt is thoroughly cured. The light that discovers to us our impurities is a sacred fire as well to burn them out. (C. F.Secretan.)

Who are the Seraphim?

Canon Cheyne’s answer in the “Polychrome Bible” is almost as grotesque as it is uncanny,--“mythical beings, adopted instinctively by Isaiah from the folklore of Judah”! On no other ground, apparently, than a disputed etymology, he sees in them only mythical, treasure guarding, serpent-like spirits, erect, gigantic, connected in some inexplicable way with the snake worship of Egypt! Wiser, more consonant with the facts as related by the seer himself, and in stricter accord with the genius of the Hebrew religion and temple service, is the suggestion of the late Professor Maurice, that they represent, not slimy, treasure-loving, serpentine worldliness, but “those Divine energies and affections of which the zeal, devotion, and sympathy of man are counterparts.” This is the only place in the Bible whore they are mentioned. Their Hebrew name stands for burning radiancy, and in its adjective form may apply to “fiery” serpents, or “glowing” angelic appearances, or kinsmen “burning” dead bodies, or iconoclastic kings who destroy objects of idolatry by “fire.” Though the visual shapes of these heavenly powers were symbolical, they clearly are not merely symbols, but “living intelligent creatures, who perform acts of unceasing worship,” and were actual agencies in conveying the prophetic inspiration to the receptive soul of the prophet. (F. Sessions.)

The service of the seraphim, contemplative and active

That perfect prayer, which our Lord bequeathed to His disciples, sets forth to us angelic service as a model which we shall do well in our services to copy. Not that the services we are called upon to render are the same with those assigned to angels. No, the sphere in which they live is heaven; ours for the present is the earth; and each of these spheres has its distinct and peculiar duties appropriate to the nature and faculties of its occupants.

I. THE TWO-FOLD LIFE OF A SERVANT OF GOD, WHETHER HUMAN OR ANGELIC, IS HERE VERY BEAUTIFULLY EXHIBITED TO US. The seraphim are represented as veiling their faces and feet with their wings while they stand in adoration before the throne of God. But though engaged in ceaselessly adoring the Divine perfections, they lead not a life of barren contemplation. The words “with twain he did fly” intimate to us that they are also engaged in the active execution of those errands with which God has charged them.

1. Consider, first, the devotional branch of the Christian’s life, that branch of it which is withdrawn from the eyes of the world, and opened only to the inspection of Him who seeth in secret. In the exercises of the closet and of the sanctuary are to be found the springs of the Christian’s exertions in his Master’s cause. The Christian’s life, like that of the seraphim, branches out into the two great divisions of contemplative devotion and active exertion. It is the life of Mary, who sat at our Lord’s feet and heard His word, combined with that of Martha, who busied herself in outward ministrations to Him. If even the energies of angels (excelling as they do in power) would be certainly impaired unless they were ever and anon renewed by an adoring gaze on the Divine perfections, how certainly shall ours languish and die if we stir them not up by the diligent and persevering use of all those means of grace which God has put into our hands!

2. The Christian life, although as to its springs and sources hid with Christ in God, yet has an outward manifestation, discernible by the world. Care must be taken not only that the lamp shall be filled with a due supply of off, but also that there shall be a light shining before men. Here is a reproof of what may, without injustice, be termed the monastic principle--a principle which in former ages was deemed correct, and accordingly adopted into the practice of many. It is as if, in the case of animal life, a man should content himself with taking supplies of repose and nourishment, without exhibiting and improving the strength thus gained by the exercise of his limbs.

II. Having thus opened the subject generally, LET US SEEK TO ENTER MORE INTO ITS DETAILS, as the text brings them before us.

1. Let us learn from the seraphim a lesson as to the spirit which should pervade all true devotion.

2. Let us follow the Christian’s steps as he descends from the mount, on which he has held communion with God, once again to grapple with the difficulties and trials of time, and to bear the burden and heat of the day amidst the engagements of the vineyard. “Son, go work today in My vineyard.”

(a) His providence has called almost all of us to a definite sphere of duty, and assigned to us a certain position in life. Every such position involves its peculiar responsibilities, its peculiar snares, its peculiar occupations.

(b) But besides the fulfilment of the duties of our station, the Christian has many indirect opportunities offered to him--opportunities which as a Christian he cannot but arrest, and many of which we miss for lack of being on the watch for them--of promoting the cause of God in the world. (Dean Goulburn.)

The vision of God the essence of true worship

I take it that in the veiling of the head and the feet, the source of conception, the source of action, is represented the act of homage in which all true worship begins. I take it that in the outburst of song is represented the result of all the worship. All worship is meant to bring us nearer to God, and God near to us, so that if we worship truly, to us, as to them, there shall be a revelation of God’s nature and God’s truth The object of all worship is not to please God, not even to cave our own souls, though these may be incidents of worship; the object of worship is that, coming into His presence, we may be transformed into His image, as we learn of His ways and work. (Brooke Lambert, M. A.)

Commerce and science acknowledging God

The vision of Isaiah shall yet receive another fulfilment. Commerce and science shall yet bow their heads before the great Power from which they derive their true energy. And when they do, as with twain of their wings the seraphs flew, bowing the while before the Presence, there shall be an advance in knowledge and material prosperity such as the world has never known. Religion, which did stimulate the arts and the sciences to the creation of works which, with all our knowledge, we cannot rival religion, which did permeate action in days of which history tells us, and stirred men to mighty deeds, shall yet again become a mighty power. And when through the world there goes up the chant, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory,” there will be days such as the world has not yet known. (Brooke Lambert, M. A.)

The cry of the seraphim

I. The first thing that strikes us respecting the seraphim is THEIR REDUNDANCE OF WINGS. They each had six, only two of which were used for flying; the others, with which they shrouded their faces and their feet, were, apparently, quite superfluous. Why should they have had them when there was no fit employment for them? Was it not sheer waste to be possessing wings that were merely employed as covering, and never spread for flight? And yet, perhaps, without this shrouding of their faces and their feet they might not have answered so well high Heaven’s purposes, might not have swept abroad with such undivided intentness and such entire abandonment on their Divine errands. We meet sometimes with these seemingly wasted wings in men, in the form of capabilities, knowledges, or skills, for the exercise of which there is no scope or opportunity to their lot. To what end, we ask, have they been acquired? or what a pity, we say, that the men could not be placed in circumstances in which a field would be offered them! And yet, a knowledge or skill gained may not be really wasted, though it be left without due scope and opportunity. The best, the finest use of it does not lie always in what it accomplishes, but often in what has been secretly added to us, or wrought into us, through gaining it; in the contribution which the gaining it has been to our character or moral growth.

II. THE APPARENT CONTRADICTION HERE BETWEEN THE COVERED FACES OF THE SERAPHIM AND THEIR TEMPLE-SHAKING SHOUTS. Feeble, muffled sounds are the most we should have expected to proceed from them. Fancy the posts of the Lord’s house quivering, and the prophet’s heart stirred to its depths beneath the cries of those whose heads were bowed and hid behind their wings! Here, however, is an adumbration of much truth. Great, penetrating, inspiring utterances like the utterances of the seraphim of Isaiah’s vision--are they not always connected with some deep, still inwardness, with some profound withdrawal and retirement of soul? No one speaks with quickening energy, to the rousing of his fellows, who has not dwelt apart, who has not had his moments, his hours, of dumb absorption, with bent brows and folded hands, when thought and feeling have weighed upon him heavily, and held him bound. There is no life of noble activity and influence which does not rest on, and issue from, some inner, hidden life of careful self-discipline and quiet self-communion; which is not fed and sustained from behind with cherishings of faith and contemplation of ideas.

III. THE UNINTENTIONAL, UNPURPOSED EFFECT produced by the seraphim; the much commotion they created without in the least aiming at or meaning it. What were they doing, because of which the vestibule of the temple shook, and the prophet awoke to an overwhelming conviction of his unworthiness? Simply crying one to another, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” They were conscious of no audience, were making no appeal, but were entirely absorbed in adoring together, in exchanging with each other their Divine thoughts and emotions. Yet see the deep agitations they caused, the deep stir in a human breast. It reminds me of the incidental effects of intense enthusiasm; how, in pursuing its object, in accomplishing triumphantly what it contemplates and desires, it will often overflow upon spectators, disturbing the idle with new dreams of work, rousing the lethargic, reanimating the faint and weary, moving some to attempt as they had not done, or to feel aspirations which they had not felt; how sometimes, one and another standing by, dull and inert, are caught by and swept on with it, and begin, themselves, to glow!

IV. And now, concerning THE ASPECT, THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THESE BURNING ONES who proclaimed the glory of the Lord, and were such moving powers. They were creatures with six wings: “with twain they covered their face, with twain they covered their feel and with twain they did fly”--in which composition of them we may see imaged three things which are always involved in real greatness of character, without which no real nobility is attained. “They covered their face”--it was the expression of humility, the humility of awe and worship, of those who were admiringly conscious of a splendour and majesty, a sublime strength and perfection, in the presence of which they felt their own littleness, their poorness and infirmity. And no lofty excellence is ever reached where there is nothing of this. They only grow fine and do finely who know what it is to kneel in spirit, to have visions before which their heads are bowed. “They covered their feet”--renouncing the use of these, though they had them, because it was theirs to fly. Meaning to be wholly “winged” ministers of the Lord, they wrapt up their feet. And, devotion to some chosen life purpose involves always some resolute self-limiting in relation to things lawful enough, but not expedient, and always impels to it. “With twain they did fly”--swift, so swift, to execute the errands of Jehovah; and faithful velocity, instantaneous and vivid movement in obedience to the voice of the Lord within you, action that drags not, nor halts, that is never reluctant or slow when duty is seen, when conviction speaks, but flashes forth at once in quick and bright response--this is the third of the three essentials to real greatness of character and nobility of life which Isaiah’s seraphim suggest. (S. A. Tipple.)

The six wings

I. THE WINGS THAT COVERED THE FEET. When we see the seraph spreading his wings over the feet, there comes a most useful lesson--the lesson of humility at imperfection. The brightest angels of God are so far beneath God that He charges them with folly.

II. THE WINGS THAT COVERED THE FACE. Another seraphic posture in the text. That means reverence Godward. How many take the name of God in vain, how many trivial things are said about the Almighty! Not willing to have God in the world, they roll up an idea of sentimentality and humanitarianism and impudence and imbecility and call it God. No wings of reverence over the face, no taking off of shoes on holy ground! Who is this God before whom the arrogant and intractable refuse reverence? Earthly power goes from hand to hand, from Henry I to Henry II and Henry III from Louis I to Louis II and Louis III but from everlasting to everlasting is God; God the first, God the last, God the only. Oh! what a God to dishonour! The brightest, the mightiest angel takes no familiarity with God. The wings of reverence are lifted. “With twain he covered his face.”

III. THE WINGS OF FLIGHT. The seraph must not always stand still. He must move, and it must be without clumsiness. There must be celerity and beauty, in the movement. A dying Christian not long ago cried out, “Wings, wings, wings!” The air is full of them, coming and going. You have seen how the dull, sluggish chrysalid becomes the bright butterfly, the dull and the stupid and the sluggish turned into the alert and the beautiful. Well, in this world we are in the chrysalid state. Death will unfurl the wings. See that eagle in the mountain nest. It looks so sick, so ragged-feathered, so worn out, and so half asleep. Is that eagle dying? No. The ornithologist will tell you it is the moulting season with that bird. Not dying, but moulting. You see that Christian, sick and worn out, on what is called his deathbed. The world says he is dying. I say it is the moulting season for his soul--the body dropping away, the celestial pinions coming on. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

The seraphim

The seraphim are not angels; they are rather the expressions of the forces of the universe waiting there beside the throne of God. They are titanic beings, in whom is embodied everything of strength and obedience which anywhere, in any of the worlds of God, is doing His will. Since man is the noblest type of obedient power, these majestic seraphim seem to be human in their shape; but, as if further to express their meaning, there are added to each of them three pairs of wings, whose use and disposition are with particularity described. If the highest attitude of any man’s life is stand waiting for what use God will choose to make of him, then we have a right to seek for something in the fullest life of consecrated manhood--of manhood standing by the throne of God--correspondent to each indication of temper and feeling which Isaiah shows us in the seraphim. How shall man stand, then, in a world where God sits in the centre on His throne? We gather so many of our impressions of humanity from poor stunted human creatures--poor wingless things who strut or grovel in their insignificance--that it will surely be good if we can turn for once and see the noblest image of consecrated power, and say to ourselves, “This is what man is meant to be. This it is in me to be if I can use all my powers and let God’s presence bring out in me all that it really means to be a man.” (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The wings of the seraphim

Each of the three pairs of wings has its own suggestion. Let us see how they represent the three qualities which are the conditions of a complete, effective human life.

I. With the first pair of wings, then, it is said that the living creature, standing before God, “COVERED HIS FACE.” There was a glory which it was not his to see. There was a splendour and exuberance of life, a richness of radiance coming from the very central source of all existence which, although to keep close to it and to bathe his being in its abundance was his necessity and joy, he could not search and examine and understand. There was the incomprehensibleness of God! We talk about God’s incomprehensibleness as if it were a sad necessity; as if, if we could understand God through and through, it would be happier and better for us. The intimation of Isaiah’s vision is something different from that. It is the glory of His seraphim that they stand in the presence of a God so great that they can never comprehend Him. No man does anything well who does not feel the unknown surrounding and pressing upon the known, and who is not therefore aware all the time that what he does has deeper sources and more distant issues than he can comprehend. I know, of course, how easily corruptible the faculty of reverence has always proved itself to be. The noblest and finest things are always most capable of corruption. I see the ghosts of all the superstitions rise before me. I see men standing with deliberately blinded eyes, hiding from their inspection things which they ought to examine, living in wilfully chosen delusions which they prefer to the truth. I see all this in history; I see a vast amount of this today; and yet all the more because of this, I am sure that we ought to assert the necessity of reverence and of the sense of mystery, and of the certainty of the unknown to every life. You can know nothing which you do not reverence! You can see nothing before which you do not veil your eyes! But now take one step farther. All of the mystery which surrounds life and pervades life is really one mystery. It is God. Called by His name, taken up into His being, it is filled with graciousness. It is no longer cold and hard; it is all warm and soft and palpitating. It is love. And of this personal mystery of love, of God, it is supremely true that only by reverence, only by the hiding of the eyes, can He be seen. Isaiah says of the seraphim not merely that their eyes were covered, but that they were covered with their wings. Now the wings represent the active powers. It is with them that movement is accomplished, and change achieved, and obedience rendered; so that it seems to me that what the whole image means is this--that it is with the powers of action and obedience that the powers of insight and knowledge are veiled. The being who rightly approaches God, approaches Him with the powers of obedience held forward; and only through them does the sight of God come to the intelligence which lies behind. The mystery and awfulness of God is a conviction reached through serving Him. Behold, what a lofty idea of reverence is here! It is no palsied idleness. The figure which we see is not flung down upon the ground, despairing and dismayed. It stands upon its feet; it is alert and watchful; it is waiting for commandments; it is eager for work; but all the time its work makes it more beautifully, completely, devoutly reverent of Him for whom the work is done.

II. Let us pass on to the second element in Isaiah’s image of a strong and consecrated life. With twain of his wings, he says, each of the seraphim “COVERED HIS FEET.” The covering of the feet represents the covering of the whole body. As the covering of the face means not seeing, the covering of the feet means not being seen. It signifies the hiding of one’s self, the self-effacement which belongs to every effective act and every victorious life. Here is a man entirely carried away by a great enthusiasm. His heart and hands are full of it. What is the result? Is it not true that he entirely forgets himself? Whether he is doing himself credit or discredit, whether men are praising him or blaming him, whether the completion of the work will leave him far up the hill of fame or down in the dark valley of obscurity, he literally never thinks of that,. He is obliterated. Consider your own lives. Have you not had great moments in which you have forgotten yourselves, and do you not recognise in those moments a clearness and simplicity and strength which separates them from all the other moments of your life? The man who forgets himself in his work has but one thing to think of, namely, his work. The man who cannot forget himself has two things to think of--his work and himself. There is the distraction and the waste. Efface yourselves; and the only way to do it is to stand in the presence of God, and be so possessed with Him that there shall be no space or time left for the poor intrusion of your own little personality. Here, as before, it may mean something to us that the feet are not merely covered, but covered with the wings. The meaning is that the thought of one’s self is to be hidden and lost behind the energy and faithfulness and joy of active work. I may determine that I will not be self-conscious, and my very determination is self-consciousness; but I become obedient to God, and try enthusiastically to do His will, and I forget myself entirely before I know it.

III. “WITH TWAIN HE DID FLY.” Here there comes the simpler, and, perhaps, the healthier thought of obedience purely and solely for itself--the absolute joy and privilege of the creature in doing the Creator’s will. There are two extremes of error. In the one, action is disparaged. The man says, “Not what I do but what I am is of significance. It is not action. It is character.” The result is that character itself fades away out of the inactive life. In the other extreme, action is made everything. The glory of mere work is sung in every sort of tune. Just to be busy seems the sufficient accomplishment of life. The result is that work loses its dignity, and the industrious man becomes a clattering machine. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Reverence, an element of power

It is not only a pleasing sentiment, it is a necessary element of power--this reverence which veils its eyes before something which it may not know. What would you give for the physician who believed that he had mastered all the truth concerning our human bodies, and never stood in awe before the mystery of life, the mystery of death? What would you give for the statesman who had no reverence, who made the State a mere machine, and felt the presence in it of no deep principles too profound for him to understand What is more dreadful than irreverent art which paints all that it sees because it sees almost nothing, and yet does not dream that there is more to see; which suggests nothing because it suspects nothing profounder than the flimsy tale it tells, and would fain make us all believe that there is no sacredness in woman, nor nobleness in man, nor secret in nature, nor dignity in life. Irreverence everywhere is blindness and not sight. It is the stare which is bold because it believes in its heart that there is nothing which its insolent intelligence may not fathom, and so which finds only what it looks for, and makes the world as shallow as it ignorantly dreams the world to be. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Reverence should be universal

To make the sentiment of reverence universal would be the truest way to keep it healthy and pure. It must not seem to be the strange prerogative of saints or cranks; it must not seem to be the sign of exceptional weakness or exceptional strength; it must be the element in which all lives go on, and which has its own ministry for each. The child must have it, feeling his little actions touch the infinite as his feet upon the beach delight in the waves out of the boundless sea that strike them. The mechanic must have it, feeling how his commonest tools are ministers of elemental forces, and raise currents in the air that run out instantly beyond his ken. The scientist needs it as he deals with the palpable and material which hangs in the impalpable and spiritual, and cannot be known without the knowledge of the mystery in which it floats. Every true scientist has it; Newton or Tyndal pauses a moment in his description of the intelligible, and some hymn of the unintelligible, some psalm of delight in the unknown, comes bursting from his scientific lips. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

A seraph’s wings

This is the only mention in Scripture of the seraphim. I would notice, before I deal with the specific words of my text, the significance of the name. It means “the flaming” or “burning ones,” and so the attendants of the Divine glory in the heavens, whether they be real or imaginary beings, are represented as flashing with splendour, as full of swift energy, like a flame of fire, as glowing with fervid love, as blazing with enthusiasm. That is the type of the highest creatural being that stands closest to God. Cold religion is a contradiction in terms, though, alas! it is a reality in professors.

I. THE WINGS OF REVERENCE. He covered his face, or they covered their faces, lest they should see. As a man brought suddenly into the sunlight, especially if out of a darkened chamber, by an instinctive action shades his eyes with his hand, so these burning creatures, confronted with the still more fervid and fiery light of the Divine nature, fold one pair of their great white pinions over their shining faces, even whilst they cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!” And does not that teach us the incapacity of the highest creature, with the purest vision, to gaze undazzled into the shining light of God? I, for my part, do not believe that any conceivable extension of creatural faculties, or any conceivable hallowing of creatural natures, can make the creature able to gaze upon God. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” But who is the “Him”? Jesus Christ. And, in my belief, Jesus Christ will, to all eternity be the medium of manifesting God. “No man hath seen God at any time,” nor can see Him. But my text does also suggest to us by contrast the possibility of far feebler sighted and more sinful creatures than these symbolical seraphs coming into a Presence in which God shall be manifest to them; and they will need no veil drawn by themselves across their eyes. God has veiled Himself, that “we, with unveiled faces, beholding His glory, may be changed into the same image.” So the seraph, with his white wings folded before his eyes, may at once stand to us as a parallel and a contrast to what the Christian may expect. We can see Jesus, with no incapacity except such as may be swept away by His grace and our will. There is no need for you to draw anything between your happy eyes and the Face in which we “behold the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.” All the tempering that the Divine lustre needed has been done by Him who veils His glory with the veil of Christ’s flesh, and therein does away with the need for any veil that we can draw. But, beyond that, there is another consideration that I should like to suggest, as taught us by the use of this first pair of the six wings, and that is the absolute need for the lowliest reverence in our worship of God. It is strange, but true, I am afraid, that the Christian danger is to lose the sense of the majesty and splendour and separation of God from His creatures. What does that lofty chorus that burst from those immortal lips mean: “Holy, holy, holy!” but the declaration that God is high above and separate from all limitations and imperfections of creatures? We have need to take heed that we do not lose our reverence in our confidence, and that we do not part with godly fear in our filial love.

II. THE WINGS OF HUMILITY. “With twain he covered his feet.” The less comely and inferior parts of that fiery corporeity were veiled lest they should be seen by the Eyes that see all things. The wings made no screen that hid the seraph’s feet from the eye of God, but it was the instinctive lowly sense of unworthiness that folded them across the feet, even though they, too, burned as a furnace. The nearer we get to God the more we shall be aware of our limitations and unworthiness. And it is because that vision of the Lord sitting on “His throne, high and lifted up,” with the thrilling sense of His glory filling the holy temple of the universe, does not burn before us that we can conceit ourselves to have anything worth pluming ourselves upon. Once lift the curtain, once let my love be flooded with the sight of God, and away goes all my self-conceit, and all my fancied superiority above others. Get God into your lives, and you will see that the feet need to be washed, and you will cry, “Lord! not my feet only, but my hands and my head!”

III. THE WINGS FOR SERVICE. “With twain he did fly.” That is the emblem of joyous, buoyant, easy, unhindered motion. It is strongly, sadly contrary to the toilsome limitations of us heavy creatures who have no wings, but can at best run on His service, and often find it hard to walk with patience in the way that is set before us. But service with wings, or service with lame feet, it matters not. Whosoever, beholding God, has found need to hide his face from that Light, even whilst he comes into the Light, and to veil his feet from the all-seeing Eye, will also feel impulses to go forth in His service. For the perfection of worship is neither the consciousness of my own insufficiency, nor the humble recognition of His glory, nor the great voice of praise that thrilled from those immortal lips, but it is the doing of His will in daily life. Some people say the service of man is the service of God. Yes, when it is service of man, done for God’s sake, it is so, and only then. Now, we, as Christians, have a far higher motive for service than the seraphs had. We have been redeemed, and the spirit of the old Psalm should animate all our obedience: “O Lord, truly I am Thy servant.” Why? The next clause tells you. “Thou hast loosed my bonds.”

The seraphs could not say that. The seraphim were winged for service even while they stood above the throne and pealed forth their thunderous praise which shook the temple. May we not discern in that a hint of the blessed blending of two modes of worship which will be perfectly united in heaven, and which we should aim at harmonising even on earth? “His servants serve Him and see His face.” There is possible, even on earth, some foretaste of the perfection of that heavenly state in which no worship of service shall interfere with the worship of contemplation. The seraphs sang “Holy, holy, holy!” but they, and all the hosts of heaven, learn a new song from the experience of earth, and redeemed men are the chorus leaders of the perfected and eternal worship of the heavens. For we read that it is the four-and-twenty elders who begin the song and sing to the Lamb that redeemed them by His blood, and that the living creatures and all the hosts of the angels to that song can but say “Amen!” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The use of faculty

Is it not strange, that of those parts of an angel’s figure which seem as if they were made only for action, four out of six are used for an entirely different purpose? It is to teach us, that it is not every power which we have--and which we might think given us for public service, and for the outer life--which is really intended by God for that use. Never think that large faculties are fitted only for large enterprises, and that all your endowments are to be spent on that which is to meet the general eye. Remember that of six wings an angel uses only two to fly with. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Why is an angel so very humble?

1. An angel is very great, and therefore he grows humble.

2. An angel is always conversant with the great things of God.

3. An angel knows and is sure that he is loved. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)


Verse 3

Isaiah 6:3

And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts

The holiness of God

We consider holiness as essential to the very being of God.
Holiness is originally in God. If angels are holy, God made them so. If believers are holy, God made them so. But the holiness of God is not derived; it was eternally, originally and unchangeably in Him. Let us now produce some evidence of this truth.

1. The holiness of God appears from the positive, uniform, repeated testimony of the sacred writers.

2. We refer to the original state of all rational and immortal beings. When formed by God they were holy.

3. Consider the nature of the law, originally given to man in paradise, and, long after, renewed at Sinai. It is “holy and just and good.”

4. Let us take a view of the holiness of God as awfully displayed in His anger against sin and sinners.

5. But we must visit Calvary if we would behold at once the most awful and the most engaging display of the Divine holiness. It was because He was infinitely displeased with sin that the Lord was pleased to bruise His Son and put Him to grief.

6. The holiness of God appears in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and in all the means appointed for that purpose.

Practical inferences--

1. Is God so holy? then how base and sinful is the hatred of holiness!

2. Is God so holy? then what cause is there for humiliation!

3. Is God holy? then let us also be holy. (G. Burder.)

The holiness of God

I. THE SUBLIME REPRESENTATION WHICH IS MADE OF THE HOLINESS OF JEHOVAH. Holiness is the glory of God’s nature, and that which entitles Him to the supreme love, confidence, and worship of all His creatures. We may view the holiness of God more particularly--

1. As that which He has Himself declared and made known in the sacred Scriptures.

2. As that which is displayed in the representations given us of the heavenly world.

3. As exhibited in the punishment of rebellious angels and lost spirits in hell.

4. As made known to the inhabitants of earth in the moral law and in the glorious Gospel.

II. THE EFFECTS WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF IT SHOULD PRODUCE ON US. It has been revealed for our benefit, and in proportion to its importance and glory should be its influence on our minds and characters. With what feelings of adoring reverence and humility was it beheld by the holy inhabitants of heaven! What was the effect which the vision of it had on the prophet Isaiah? “Then said I, Woe is me!” etc. A similar impression was made on the mind of Job. (Job 42:5-6) If such impressions were made on the minds of these eminent saints by the discovery of Jehovah’s holiness, what effects should it produce on us? It should lead--

1. To the deepest humiliation and contrition of soul.

2. To an immediate application to the blood of sprinkling.

3. Such a believing view of the character of God will produce love to holiness and earnest desire to possess it. The contemplation of the holiness of God should lead--

4. To earnest supplications for the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit.

5. To active efforts for the diffusion of His glory. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

The holiness of God

God has been pleased to declare to mankind His views as to what constitutes a holy or an unholy action; consequently, when we say that God is holy, we mean that He is both by nature and character originally, essentially, and infinitely inclined to the approbation and performance of those actions which He has Himself thus pronounced to be holy; and, by converse, that He is originally, essentially, and infinitely removed from the approbation