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who is called by the prophet the strong hold. "Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare, that I will render double unto thee."
Now, let us first inquire, how the Saviour may be called a strong hold; secondly, to whom the prisoners of hope allude; and lastly, let us enforce the exhortation contained in our text.
A strong hold implies a place of safety or security, and was metaphorically applied to Christ. The Psalmist called him his castle, his fortress, his tower of defence, the rock of his might-doubtless impressed with the security afforded to the weak, who can cleave unto him. Few terms can be more forcible, than the one contained in our text; but we must feel our weakness to appreciate its force. We must feel the necessity of our having a strong hold to turn unto. When man is in the pride and lust of life, and in the full vigour of his strength, he may flatter himself, that he hath no need of a strong hold that his own power is sufficient for him; but if chance, or change, misfortune,
accident, or death, approach him, and the weakness of humanity prostrate his vigour, he will seek for that which before he despised-he will turn to that superior power, that he before rejected, and grasp at any thing like hope, that he may be saved in the day of his distress or in the hour of his need. What will the despairing man not seize? One sinking will grasp at a straw, one falling will stretch out his hand to a rotten staff, that has but the outward appearance of strength; and the wicked man, in the agonies and struggles of death, will turn unto God to receive his prayer, and to implore mercy of him, from whom alone mercy cometh. It is thus, that men look for support in the hour of danger or in the day of death. A man, who has passed all his days in sin, unconscious of that Almighty power, that has always been with him, unmindful of the protection and care, that he has received from above-will, in his last hour, or in the day of misfortune, turn unto God-he will flee to a stronger hold, than his own resources afford-he will look from himself to his Creator-he
will turn from his own depravity to his Redeemer. Thus is it, that we find out the strong hold. God visits us by various means; he takes many opportunities to convert us. At one time he lays us upon the bed of sickness; at another misfortune and calamity come upon us;-at another he takes from us those, whom we love, in order to shew to us our entire dependence upon him, and the necessity of our fixing our hearts and affections upon heavenly, and not upon earthly and perishable, things. "Before I was afflicted," says the Psalmist, "I went astray, but now have I kept thy statutes." But we should turn to the strong hold, before these things come upon us, that when the evil hour approaches, we may be prepared. It is impossible for any of us to pass through the world without visitations ; and as we know not their nature, their duration, or their severity, we should always be ready to receive them, whensoever it may please heaven to send them upon us.
But let us consider the second point of our text: "Turn you to the strong hold,
ye prisoners of hope." This evidently applies to the whole world. When Adam sinned, he became a prisoner-a slave to sin, and to evil passions. And this slavery he entailed upon all his children. We are tied and bound with the chains of our sins; they are a heavy weight upon our souls, and they keep us grovelling upon earthly things. Bring my soul," says the Psalmist, "out of prison, that I may praise thy name." And the prophet Isaiah describes us as prisoners: "I will give thee as a covenant to the people, for a light to the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house; and thou shalt say to the prisoners, Go forth and to them that are in darkness, shew yourselves!" It is then the office of Christ to release the prisoners, who are
This has a clear allusion to the promises of the Messiah, and to the incorporation of the Gentiles into his kingdom; it points from the deliverance of the people from tribulation to the full redemption effected by Christ, and to the liberty of the sons of God, of which St. Paul speaks. Compare Isaiah xl. 2. lxi. 7.
bound down to the earth by sin; whose hearts are set upon things of low estate, and whose affections are dried up. It is the evil nature of man, that holds him bound -that withers the germ of life-that destroys all the energies and divine flowings of the soul—that throws a chain upon the creature, which holds him down, so that he cannot get free. He looks around, and finds his spirit willing indeed, but his flesh weak. His eyes feast upon the glories and privileges of the children of God; but even while they gaze, they become dimmed and darkened by that deadly mist, that is always rising within him. The prospect of the promised land lies stretched out before him; happiness and eternal bliss are seen in the distance; but they afford him no comfort; he is a prisoner, and cannot rise unto the glorious liberty of light. To him the sun that was placed above for his happiness loses its glory-the moon refuses to shed her light, and the stars dwindle into nothingness, and appear as unmeaning specks in the heavens. The beauties of creation lose their lustre, and