‘And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.’
I. The coming of the locusts was a day of the Lord; a day of darkness and gloominess; a day of clouds and of thick darkness; a day of bustle and heartrending calamity, of which fathers would tell their children, and children to the generations yet unborn.—And as all things are double, one against another,—as the types of the physical have their antitypes in the spiritual world,—so is there not something of which the locusts are an emblem, and which is yet more terrible than they,—a mysterious something, at which in our healthy state we shudder, as though an evil spirit passed us by in the darkness? The fall of the first accursed locust on the smiling plain is not one-tenth part so awful as the first little cloud of evil that flung its shadow over the innocence of a still youthful life.
II. Thickly as the locust-swarms may be over our past years, utterly as they may have wasted a vain and misguided boyhood, or a passionate foolish youth, yet the very worst of us need not despair. For what cause is it that God gives us the gift of time, if it be not that we may repent therein? Once more sow the seed, and plant the vineyard in the furrows of the contaminated soil. Poor may be the aftermath, scant the gleaning of grapes upon life’s topmost branches, that may be left for thee, yet do thou thy best to redeem these from the locust-swarm. The Holy One Who inhabiteth eternity reaches to us out of His eternity the fingers of a man’s hand, and touches into green life again the years that the locust hath eaten. Even the memory of guilt He will alleviate. Sometimes, as we float down the river of life, memory flashes up from the hidden depths, and the dark wave is peopled with the innumerable faces of once-forgotten sins which menace us from the waters and prophesy of death. But God can enable us to gaze unshudderingly on these faces, and say with thankful emotion, ‘These sins are not mine; they were mine, but they are forgiven.’
‘Bishop Moule has said, “If your ‘years’ have lately proved bare and fruitless for the Lord, what does conscience denote as the cause? If this past year, perhaps, has been such, a year which you cannot help contrasting with the green and prosperous landscape of some previous years of your converted life, how has it come about? Seldom, if we seriously take the question up, shall we fail of an answer. I remember a time in my own life when a year of rich and well-remembered blessing, deep and solid, was followed by a very ‘lean’ year, sadly cold and barren. And I am perfectly conscious that the immediate cause was an undue, self-chosen, self-indulgent devotion of time to a certain mental interest, perfectly pure and good in itself, but out of keeping with God’s work for me just at that season. It so possessed the mind and interests that not only did prayer and Bible study suffer, but the common duties of life received a less thorough attention than was right. And so conscious love to Christ waned, and with it, inevitably, love to the souls of others. And many a secret advantage did the tempter take when he found that ‘the Prince Emmanuel’ was not in full residence in the ‘castle of Mansoul.’ It was a year that the locusts settled upon; the locusts of sin, and then of chastening trouble.” ’