The Banishing of Fear

Isa. 33:17.---' Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold a far stretching land.'

These words exhibit, in an imaginative and emotional way, two great deliverances which is brought to me: the one is from the disabling, depressing power of things present, and the other is from the anxious dread of things to come.

The story of the rout of Sennacherib's army had made so deep a mark on the mind of Israel that it is repeated three times over within the Old Testament, and it lies behind several of the noblest lyric pieces. On its human side it was an ugly record, for both king and people had betrayed an abject spirit. Hezekiah emptied the Temple treasure, and stripped its pillars and doors of gold to satisfy Sennacherib, and even so, he did not detain him. Without delaying the march of his main army, the conqueror detached a brigade or two to deal with Jerusalem, and the narratives are full of the insolent brutality with which the Assyrian generals showed their contempt for the king and people they had to deal with. But when the city lay helpless in their clutch, news arrived of an appalling outbreak of plague in the grand army; the camps were broken up, and the troops streamed off homewards, and Jerusalem was free. It was an amazing overturn, and the Hebrews were as men that dreamed.

One result of the experience appeared in some quarters in an increased somberness of temper. The frightful strain of these months, and then the limitless horror of the enemy's doom, had created in many a feeling of inward disquiet, such as the Lisbon and the Messina earthquakes awakened. Men were left with a grim sense of threat in the world. Even when life looked smooth and prosperous, there might, at any time, be a bursting forth of hidden fires, so that a man could never be at his ease. 'The sinners in Zion were afraid; tremblingly they asked, Who can dwell as guest with a God who burns like fire? Who can be inmate in His house who consumes and destroys?' And it is in correction of this mood that the text is introduced. Our God, says the prophet in effect, is a consuming fire. In His world there are many hard and ugly things, and yet the man who is right with Him can think of these without dismay. He lives as in a fortress inaccessible, with supplies drawn from sources unexhausted. His King is most unlike to Hezekiah in his hour of peril, with garments rent and sackcloth on his shoulders---'thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty,' a presence of comfort and of gladness: 'they shall behold a far-stretching land,' clear to the very edge. So comfort for today may be possessed by such a man, and all remoter fears be banished.

TODAYS PEACE.---These people had for weeks been living face to face with their doom. Their tempers had been fretted, their powers of resistance enfeebled, until they could see and think of nothing but their own impotence, and these gibbering foreigners who were insolently imposing their will. That savage preoccupation had narrowed their thoughts, and left them no room for joy, or hope, or life, or God. That is the way of human nature when it is shut up with any fretting pain or engrossing care.

It would be a real redemption if we could find a way of escape from this; and escape is the one first achievement of faith. To our Lord Jesus Christ is due the praise of those 'who gave us nobler loves and nobler cares,' for this is His work as the Redeemer. Instead of mean affections, tending always towards oneself, he gives to His friends the larger heart, and the interest in big things, and that love which rejoices in the truth. "Man's chief end," it is said, "is to enjoy God," which necessarily implies in him emancipation from what is near, or he would not be able to do justice to the grander objects beyond. Any one who has watched the compass in a ship knows how it is adjusted so as to swing absolutely free from what is round about it, and steadfastly to point to what lies out of sight. That is our parallel and our pattern. If we are to have eyes for the things of God and the larger interests of our fellows, we also must seek for this gift of detachment. There must be a lifting of care, something to sweeten and allay the bitterness of Nature and of circumstance; there must be the sense of a superintending Providence and of a Father's kindness. And these are offered us by Jesus Christ. What He bestows even now is nothing else than blessedness; it is the gift of a fuller life to men.

TOMORROWS FEARS.---In the world there are two unhappy conditions; the one is marked by preoccupation with the worries and disappointments of today to the exclusion of its beauties and its consolations, and the other is marked by a lack of courage to look beyond today---whether that be good or barely tolerable---for fear of what the future may contain. Many outwardly prosperous people have a shadow always lying in the background of their thinking; behind all their tasks and enjoyments there is a disconcerting sense of things they are afraid to face. What if health should fail, or business decline, or this security or that remove? Conscience does not always sleep, and when it wakes it hints at awful possibilities. Even if the ground about our dwelling is clear, and enemies and terrors are set at a distance; yet if in the background we see vaguely menacing figures, there can be no security of peace. Some have symptoms of disease they do not like to speak of, and some have inward disquiets and protests of conscience, and some through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage. But in almost every man the outlying regions of the mind are haunted places.

It is for such a mood that the prophet's words are intended: 'Your eyes shall see a land clear to the very edge.' Out to the limit of existence you can look and find nothing to affright you, no hint of a returning host, no threatening shadow. 'My God shall supply every need of yours,' said Paul, in whom this promise was fulfilled. 'I shall not want; by paths which take me somewhere [righteous paths] He leads me, and though I walk through the valley of the dark shadow I still shall fear no evil, for thou art with me.' That man had made the promise of the far-stretching land his own, and looking to the utmost edge of life, he was convinced that there could be nothing to disturb.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha