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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Hosea 11



Verse 4


‘I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.’

Hosea 11:4

The great principle of all God’s works is attraction. We all know how the law of attraction governs the material world. We call it by different names, but the thing itself is everywhere the same.

And is not the natural world in this, as in everything else, a great picture-book? Morally, just as much as physically, it is the will of God that everything should be done by attraction. Therefore, first, God makes Himself so exceedingly attractive. Everything that we know of the beautiful goes to make God’s nature. He is ‘love.’ Therefore, He has made His Son in all the tendernesses of a man; in all the sympathies of a sufferer; that He may be winning to a man’s mind. Therefore the Holy Spirit does His work of comforting. And therefore He has willed it, and decreed it, that all our operations, one upon another, should all be done by attraction—by gentleness.

We know, indeed, that as the attracting magnet has also a repelling end which drives, so He, Who is the great fountain and centre of attraction, does sometimes drive a soul; but then, He never drives or repels a soul but in order to place that soul again in the sphere of attraction. The fact is, the habit is as universal as the promise is absolute—‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ That means, that as the sun, when it rises in the heavens, and rules its course by a secret law of nature, makes all vegetation to turn upwards to that its spring of light and life, so that ascended Saviour moves our world by His providence, and His works, and His grace; and, as He moves, He exercises an essentially attracting power, which no living man can help to feel.

We do anything effectually according to the degree we imitate God’s method of doing it. His method we have seen is this, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.’ Oh! God forbid that a poor fellow-worm should ever weave ‘cords’ or ‘bands’ of a harder texture than his great Creator and Father is pleased to do!

I. And now to return to God’s ‘drawings.’ I do not believe that there is a man that breathes and walks this earth who has not had them!—It sometimes falls to a minister to be able to put this to a test. He visits upon their sick beds those who, in their gay career, might have seemed, of all others, to have been the least likely to be the subjects of those inward experiences, which we call God’s ‘drawings.’ I believe every minister would bear witness to the fact that he never met a single person, however thoughtless and however dissipated he may have been, who, in those hours of honest speaking and true confession, when a man lies upon his sick and perhaps his dying bed, is not ready to acknowledge that, more times than he could remember—from his infancy, and all through, at least, the earlier stages of his wrong courses,—he had been conscious of secret impulses and invisible actings upon his soul, which he felt, all the while, however he treated them, to be nothing else but the hand of God. Now, ‘man’ is a rational creature, and no ‘cords’ could be rightly framed to ‘draw man’ unless they were framed to act upon a ‘man’s’ reason; and the Gospel of God does fit into a man’s reason. It is true that there are features of our religion which soar far above reason. But then, God never demands of us to believe anything until He has first made it a reasonable thing that we should go into the chamber of faith and believe it.

II. For example, reason ‘draws’ us, by the strictest process, unto the inspiration of the Bible, and that once established, it becomes actually reasonable to believe all that that Bible contains, however unfathomable and however inexplicable some of it may seem to our little minds! Surely it is reasonable that, in a communication from a God to His creatures, there should be many things which should baffle man’s understanding? But let us remember that the Gospel always invites the investigation of the intellect, and always praises most the men who have brought their minds to bear upon it. Those gigantic minds, the most gigantic we have ever known, such as Paul, or Sir Isaac Newton, or Lord Bacon, responding to that call of the intellect, have afterwards declared that they were ‘drawn’ by that very ‘cord of a man,’ reason, to the faith which they have embraced. Is not it the purest reason, in any order of the world, that this world should be a world of probation? There must be in it sin and virtue, misery and happiness. Is not it pure reason that a good and righteous God should provide some way whereby the sinner may be saved, and He be justified in His truth while He saves him? The Father’s wisdom and justice go out in marvellous unity, and yet every guilty and unhappy man can be brought again to his Father’s bosom, and live, for ever and ever, in a perfect felicity! I say, shall we not be right in alleging that there is nothing in all philosophy that so addresses itself to, and fits, a man’s highest intelligence as the simple Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?

III. But again, ‘man’ is also characterised by a heart; he has affections.—We wanted, then, a motive adequate to the very work which was to be done in man, which was nothing less than the transformation of the whole ‘man.’ No other motive could do that but ‘love.’ To awaken ‘love’ the whole dispensation was planned. God, freely and absolutely, for Christ’s sake, forgives, and ‘loves,’ and invites, and blesses, a poor wretched, miserable sinner! This is the first act—the foundation stone of everything. The Spirit comes, and, having first shown that man his miserable need, then makes him delightful—shows him that all his guilt is pardoned, and that heaven is open to him. And, if he really believes that fact, can he help to give himself now—body, soul, and spirit—to seek, and serve, and love that God to Whom he owes everything?

IV. But ‘man’ is characterised by will, and therefore, in the will, God works mightily.—He might have done otherwise. All praise be to His mercy! that, when He might have studied only His own glory, He has made that glory to consist with our happiness; so that it is our own self-interest to know, and love, and obey God. Though there is a great deal of trial in being a Christian; though the cross is sometimes very heavy, it is a sweet thing to be a child of God! It is the most blessed thing that ever entered into the heart of man to think of! There is nothing gives peace like that! There is nothing satisfies a man like that! There is nothing opens to man a future like that!

V. And yet, once more, a very great part of a man is imagination.—It is a poor character that has no imagination. What is imagination? The conception of the unseen. Now, see how God works upon the imagination. He sanctifies it, and raises it, and gives it object. He is always presenting the unseen to the man. Unheard words are to be believed; an unseen Saviour is to be trusted; an unseen world is to be sought. And thus, brethren, from hour to hour, ever since you were born, and at this very moment—through outward calls and inward echoes,—by the ten thousand springs of nature in the world, and ten thousand ‘bands of love”—God is ‘drawing’ that complex heart of yours. He Who made the heart plays over it His own sweet music, and every note He strikes is a ‘cord.’ Lean yourself to that hand; let Him tune you, and He will bring out such hidden melodies as will enable you to mingle for ever in the anthems of the blest!

Rev. Jas. Vaughan.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Hosea 11:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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