Isaiah 9: 9-10.---'And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change theme to cedars.'

Throughout the long reign of Jeroboam II. the Northern Kingdom had enjoyed unexampled prosperity. She seemed peculiarly secure, not only in her own strength, but in an alliance with Syria, her nearest and most powerful neighbor and hitherto her chief adversary. But beyond Syria to the north-east lay Assyria, a new and greater danger. A common soldier called Pul had there risen to the top in the days of revolution. With the usual conqueror's appropriation of the Deity, he expanded his name to Tiglath-pil-eser, which means, the god Tiglath helps Pul. He proved something of a Napoleon and under his leadership Assyria took one of those military fervors which seem to make man and even women dream of nothing save war and conquest. On any pretext or none she fell on her neighbors, and, as Isaiah expresses it, gathered the nations as one gathers eggs. For the securing of the empire thus won military measures were resorted to. Transportation of whole peoples, excessive planting among them of aliens, tribute, wholesale robbery, rape, murder and slavery so terrorized the suffering peoples that even their religion became a ghastly fear of gods who could be appeased only by human sacrifice. And then the Assyrian, after thus turning the garden into a wilderness, boasted of it as the extension of civilization.

In face of such an experience, was it not true pride and real stoutness of heart in Israel to be able to say, 'The bricks have fallen, but we will build with hewn stone?' Is there not here an unconquerable buoyancy and native courage we must admire? Moreover, there was an element of faith in it as well as of pertinacity. The mass of the religious teachers said, we are God's chosen people; ours is a purer religion and a higher civilization; we were at peace, and our alliances were for defense and not for aggression; we were rich, but by peaceful commerce. And, though they were more concerned to say what was acceptable than what was true, they were not wholly mistaken. Yet there were a few men, scarcely more than one or two in a generation, man as unpopular as they were few, who spoke differently. While others were still living in undisturbed security, the prophets announced calamity; and continued to say, You will never rebuild the old edifice with any material. This attitude was the more amazing that they alone of all men were undismayed by the might of the foe. For them Assyria was a mere senseless axe in the hand of a Higher Power, doomed herself to destruction. This the prophets foresaw, not, as it has been of the fashion lately to maintain, by political foresight, but by religious insight into the principles upon which God determines the destinies of men and nations. They never wavered in their quiet hopeless outlook on the material situation; and they continue to say to their contemporaries, Not only is your self-confidence vain, but also your religious trust is the pride which goes before a deeper fall. Such a message naturally seemed to those who heard it both unpatriotic and irreligious; but, unfortunately for Israel, it proved to be true.

The basis of this judgment was quite simple. The bricks, the prophets said, fell from the weakness of the building, and not from the violence of the assault. With different spiritual conditions conquest might never have happened; and, in any case, nations do not crumble before mere conquest. The cause which made the disaster so utter was the turning of the nation's moral cement into sand. And it was irretrievable, because no amendment of men's individual ways was providing better mortar.

The meaning of the prophets is plain enough in what they say of men, but the peculiar quality of their judgment comes out even more definitely in what they say of women. Nothing marks so clearly there estimate of what is important and unimportant, strong and weak, as a peculiar value assigned to women's influence. Even in that remote age and in that oriental society, the prophets seemed to have thought that women have already arrived very mightily at power. The quantity of her influence they seem to have thought practically unlimited, but, being apparently that God made the women to match the men, they were less sure of the quality, taking the question of the use of power to be of character and not of sex. We shall not understand in the least what they say unless we realize first the reverence that was in them for true womanhood. The sternest of all is Amos, who speaks of the gentlewoman of Samaria as 'kine of Bashan' who crush the needy and say and to their lords, 'Bring let us drink.' Yet he speaks sorrowfully of Israel as a virgin; and the saddest things he knows is the fair virgin going into captivity. Isaiah calls his wife the prophetess, as if she freely and equally shared both the burden and the hope of his high calling, while Ezekiel's wife is described as the light of his eyes. No crime is greater to Micah than casting out the women of his people from their pleasant homes; and he cannot think of any figure for frustrated endeavor like the anguish or travail without the joy of motherhood. If we bear that sympathy in reverence in mind, we shall understand what Isaiah meant by his elaborate assault upon the finery which was carried with mincing steps and wanton eyes along the streets of his native city. Every detail of the offensive display burnt itself into his soul, because it seemed to him the final mark of the thoughtless selfishness which is the dissolution of society. But the callous luxury it of the women did not concern the women alone. It was the mark of false values in men and women alike, showing that the men also had lost faith in the Divine things of purity and tenderness, and in the beauty of holiness and inward peace. In both alike it proved loss of the justice and trust between man and man which alone can preserve any social structure from becoming a heap of ruins.

Compared with this decay of the spiritual mortar, the assault of the Syrian was a trivial incident. Israel might still be a highly religious nation in all that concerned creed and ceremonial, but God was not in all her peoples ways; and for the prophets, God and His requirements and purposes were the only realities in the world which might not, without disaster, be disregarded. And, so far as Israel at least was concerned, do they were not mistaken.

This is very ancient history, but is the nature of history to be constantly repeating itself. And a story of so long ago has the advantage over our present experience that it has been told to the end and its prophetic principles have been tested by the final issue. Wherefore, it may still shed some light for us upon what is truly strong in what is weak, upon what we purpose in faith and what we propose in mere pride of heart. Thoughtful people everywhere are troubled by the knowledge that all is not well today. And we are haunted by the fear of worse things to come. The nation's, or least their governments, have had so little faith in God's living word and in the sovereignty and triumph of moral and spiritual forces that they dare not take a single decisive step to honor and enthrone the Prince of Peace. They are skeptical of the power of moral and spiritual principles, and of the wisdom of applying these fearlessly in their national and international policy, with the result that they are drifting steadily once more towards a war which will prove to be as an inevitable as any World War was.

By proofs that have staggered humanity, a policy of national self-regard spells that national suicide. And yet all the nations without exception are acting in the teeth of this peremptory Word of God, and preaching and practicing 'economic nationalism.' Let it be granted that nationality is a precious possession, and that 'economic nationalism' may be a necessary phase in the development of a freer and friendlier trade relationships. It remains true, however, that all attempts to achieve national prosperity on a basis of national interest alone, however subtle and ingenious means employed may be, are so much ploughing the sand and beating the air. There is more sound political economy in the Golden Rule than all the economic theories ever framed.

The moral system on which modern society has hitherto been based and organized was essentially a system of covetousness and competition. It permitted the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of a few, and the exploitation and impoverishment of the many. Doubtless it was mitigated to some extent by private kindest and helpfulness, and by a widespread administration of philanthropy; but though whole system rested on a radically unchristian foundation. It might have served a purpose; but the predatory and exploiting type of character which it encouraged has always been unconsciously opposed to the spirit of Christ, and is now a dangerous anachronism.

Are the vast sacrifices of any war but to secure for us the old scurry and rivalry, the old driving of the weak to the wall, the old round of trivial distractions, the old marrying and giving in marriage for every reason except the love and mutual esteem, the old measuring of worth by possession, the old materialism and externality which has made us barren for so long in every field of original production, and which has made religion a mere buttress of respectability? Many are content to have it so. But possibly God meant it not so; and, though we have not thought much about His methods and purposes, they may, after all, be of consequence in the final issue.

Sooner or later the old system will be changed. Will the bricks of individual competition they replaceable by the hewn stone of organization, whether of socialism or of monopolistic trust? But what if the issue does not really concerned either, and if, as of old, the real problem of security is neither brick nor stone, the mortar? And what if that must be ethical and spiritual? What if our real strength and greatness depends more on how we spend than on what we get, or our homes than on our workshops, on the thoughts of our women than on the swords of our warriors? The old order may not pass without causing much suffering we rightly fear, and the loss of many blessings we rightly cherish. But if we can exchange pride and self-indulgence and lust of dominion and callous rivalry and vain activities and measureless discontent for peace of heart and brotherly relations and the simple and beautiful art of living, we shall be repaid both for suffering and for our loss.

Primarily, it is a question of what are life's best possessions. That is determined for us by the things unseen and eternal, which are according to man's soul and not according to his circumstances or visible belongings. Being thus simply human, they are not different for any of us, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, man or woman. For the most part, though so lofty in principal, they come down in practice to the plain issue of being ready in daily life to deny ourselves all good not justly and mercifully won, to seek, in contentment with such things as we have, the beauty of inward peace, to set above luxuries the purity of our homes and the sacredness of our affections;: in short, to value life itself above all its trappings.

In Christ, in this sense, there is neither male nor female. We must all alike be concerned to discover that love alone is mighty to bind men together in a more excellent fellowship, and that the things of love concern our moral valuation of persons and not our material valuation of things. And we shall need to devote ourselves to its service with high courage and devotion, if we are not to return to a primitive barbarism in which men fight and women toil.

In the end the matter is for all of us a question, not of resolve, but of faith. Unless we believe in God as the final might and the things of God, which are justice and sympathy and the spirit of peace and the service of love, as the final good, we shall none of us ever build to wiser, kinder, more spiritual and, therefore, lasting purpose, than in former days.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha