ISAIAH

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

Isaiah 1:2-3

DISCOURSE 856

GOD'S COMPLAINT AGAINST HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 1:2-3. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib: but Israel does not know, my people does not consider.

IT is the Lord God Almighty that now speaks respecting us. Let every ear attend; let every heart be humbled in the dust before him. He has a controversy with us, and a complaint against us: and he summons both Heaven and earth to attest the truth of his charge, and the equity of his judgment. Though he is a Sovereign, and amenable to none, yet he does frequently make his appeal to the whole creation, and constitute his creatures judges between himself and us Micah 6:2. In this charge we behold,

I. The evil we have committed—

The charge is doubtless in the first place uttered against the Jews—

God had truly "nourished them, and brought them up as children." He had chosen them to himself, as his peculiar people; he had brought them up out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and an out-stretched arm: he had fed and supported them forty years in the wilderness; he had given them a revelation of his mind and will; and he had planted them in that good land which he had promised to their fathers. In all this he had acted towards them with all the care and tenderness of a most affectionate Parent Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:9-12.

But how had they requited him for all his kindness? From the very beginning did they show themselves a rebellious and stiff-necked people Deuteronomy 9:24. They were always murmuring under every succeeding trial, and distrusting God in every difficulty, and in heart going back again to the flesh-pots of Egypt. They were often ready to stone those servants of God who had been the instruments of their deliverance; they retained their idols which they had worshiped in Egypt; and even made a golden calf, as the representative, or rather, as the rival and competitor, of Jehovah. In their history we find some seasons of amendment; but, on the whole, they were "a rebellious and gainsaying people."

But this is no less applicable to ourselves—

Certainly we are quite as much indebted to the Lord as ever the Jews of old were: for though we have not had such visible interpositions in our favor, we have been no less the objects of his paternal care: and, in that which constituted their "chief advantage," we greatly excel them Romans 3:2." "To them were committed the Oracles of God:" but to us is given the Gospel of his dear Son; in comparison of which the Law, glorious as it was, had no glory at all; being eclipsed as a star before the meridian sun 2 Corinthians 3:7-11.

And what has been our conduct towards him? Have we been sensible of the benefits conferred upon us; and have we endeavored to render to him the recompense that was due? Alas! we have been unmindful of his kindness, and regardless of his authority altogether. It has never entered into our hearts to say, "Come, let us serve the Lord, who has done such great things for us Jeremiah 2:5-6; Jeremiah 5:23-24." While we have violated his holy laws, we have "puffed at his judgments," saying in our hearts, "God sees not, neither regards what we do." If called to obey him, we have replied, in spirit, if not in word, "Who is the Lord, that we should serve him? We know not the Lord, neither will we obey his voice Job 21:14-15. Exodus 5:2." "Our lips are our own: Who is Lord over us Psalm 12:4?" In truth, we have lived "without God in the world Ephesians 2:12;" and have practically said, "There is no God Psalm 14:1."

Not content with charging upon us our multiplied rebellions, God proceeds to set forth,

II. The extent of our criminality—

The brute creation demean themselves, for the most part, in a way suited to their several capacities—

The ox and the donkey are among the most stupid of the brute creation: yet have they some knowledge of their master, and some sense of their dependence on him. Though fed only for their master's benefit, and used only to subserve his interests, they often express themselves with a kind of grateful acknowledgment towards him.

But we, notwithstanding our superior advantages, act more irrationally than they—

We live from year to year on the bounty of our heavenly Father, and yet feel no sense of gratitude towards him. We "do not even consider" our obligations to him. We "do not consider" either what he has done for us; (though it is so great, that neither the tongues of men or of angels can ever worthily declare it:) or, what he requires of us: (though that should be the subject of our unceasing contemplation:) or, what return we have hitherto made to him; (though on that our eternal happiness depends: or, what account we shall hereafter give to him; though we know not but that before the expiration of another hour we may be summoned into his immediate presence.) In a word, God's testimony respecting us is, that "he is not in all, or any, of our thoughts Psalm 10:4." Of the brute creation there are many that act with a degree of foresight and wisdom Proverbs 6:6-8. Jeremiah 8:7; but we, who are endued with reason, act a part more irrational than they: and hence are justly reproached by God as more brutish and sottish than even the ox and donkey Jeremiah 4:22; Jeremiah 5:21. How humiliating is this view of our state, and especially in relation to persons who have been redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son! Truly there is not one among us who has not reason to blush and be confounded under the accusations that are brought against us.

In conclusion, we will,

1. Inquire what plea you can offer in your own behalf?

We know that the young, the old, the rich, the poor, have all their appropriate excuses: but what plea have they that will avail them at the bar of judgment? Will any deny the charge! Alas! alas! Where is there one among us that has not been a rebel from the womb? Where is there one among us that has ever equaled the ox or donkey in their attachment to him who feeds them, and their willing submission to his yoke? We must confess, every one of us, that we have not so much as considered our obligations, or our duties, or our interests, or our true happiness in any respect, unless we have been renewed in our minds by the Spirit of God himself. Let us then put away all our vain pleas and excuses, and adopt, each of us for himself, the language of Agur; "I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man Proverbs 30:2." If we feel not the depth of our depravity, and refuse to humble ourselves before God, we do in fact "make God a liar," and provoke him to execute upon us the judgments we have deserved.

2. Suggest a plea which you may offer with safety to your souls—

Vile as we are, Christ died for us; and his death shall avail even for the chief of sinners. Hear with what confidence it was pleaded by the Apostle Paul: "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ that died." Does any one imagine that he is unworthy to hope that this plea shall ever avail for him? God himself, at the very time that he most fully expatiates on our guilt, puts this plea into our mouths, and declares that, if we offer it before him, it shall avail for our justification in the last day Isaiah 43:22-26. Let us then rely simply on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and plead his merits at the throne of grace: then, if Heaven and earth do testify our desert of eternal condemnation, they shall testify also our affiance in the Divine "promises, which in Christ are yes, and in him Amen, to the everlasting glory of our offended God 2 Corinthians 1:20."

 

 

Isaiah 1:4-5

 

DISCOURSE 857

THE SINFULNESS AND INCORRIGIBLENESS OF THE NATION

Isaiah 1:4-5. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters! they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more.

THE end for which God inflicts punishment upon his people, is, to bring them to repentance, and thereby prevent the necessity of punishing them in the eternal world: and when this end is not answered, he leaves them to themselves, to follow the imaginations of their own hearts, and to bring upon themselves an accumulated weight of wrath. But before he utterly abandons them, he sends them many solemn warnings, if that by any means he may prevail upon them to turn unto him. Extremely solemn is the reproof which he gave the Jews in the passage before us: he summons Heaven and earth to hear his controversy, and to judge between him and his people: and then, in a way of affectionate expostulation, he threatens to cease from visiting them with parental chastisements, and to leave them to fill up the measure of their iniquities.

The words of our text, accommodated as they may be to our present circumstances A time of war and of great national calamity, naturally lead us to set before you,

I. Our sinfulness—

The general description given of the Jews is equally suitable to us—

We are a "nation" extremely and universally "sinful:" we are "laden with" every species of "iniquity": We are "a seed of evil-doers:" all ranks and orders of men among us are depraved: the transgressions of individuals are indeed exceeding various; but sin of some kind is the delight of all, yes, it is the very element wherein we live: Nor are we merely corrupt, but "corrupters" of each other, laughing religion out of the world, and hardening one another in the commission of sin.

Nor is the particular charge that is brought against them less applicable to us—

It is lamentable to see what a general dereliction of religious principle obtains among us. Men do not indeed formally renounce Christianity; but "they forsake the Lord" as unworthy of their love or confidence: and, by an inward "apostasy" of the heart. "provoke the Holy One of Israel to anger." We might adduce a great variety of charges in confirmation of this; but we will notice only one, namely, our dependence on our fleets and armies, rather than on God Instead of this, might be specified, our not seeing and acknowledging the hand of God in his judgments. This is peculiarly provoking to the Deity, because it is a virtual denial of his providence, and an excluding of him from the government of the world See Isaiah 22:8-11 and Jeremiah 17:1.

But besides these things, there is a further charge to be brought against us, on account of,

II. Our incorrigibleness—

What improvement have we made of our late chastisements?

Almost every kind of plague, as war, famine, and pestilence, has been lately sent us by God This, of course, must be accommodated to existing circumstances; and what are we profited by them? What national sin has been put away? I might almost ask, What unregenerate man has laid to heart his transgressions, and turned to the Lord? Does not sin reign among us as much as ever? Are we not like the incorrigible Jews Jeremiah 5:3-5; or rather like King Ahaz, who had a brand of infamy set upon him on this very account, that "he trespassed yet more in his distress 2 Chronicles 28:22."

What reason then have we to hope that our present troubles will be sanctified to our good?

From past experience we have reason to fear, that we shall still remain a perverse and rebellious people, and only "revolt more and more." And, if God foresee that this will be the case, what can we expect, but that our present troubles should be sent, not for our correction, but for our utter destruction? What can we expect, but that he should execute upon us the vengeance he has threatened Ezekiel 24:13-14, and that "his wrath should now come upon us to the uttermost?"

Advice—

1. Let us adore our God for the patience he has long exercised towards us 2 Peter 3:15. Romans 2:4.

2. Let us tremble at his judgments now impending over us How soon may we find those threatenings fulfilled! Leviticus 26:27-28; Leviticus 26:36-37.

3. Let us take encouragement from his present dealings with us, to turn unto him See Jeremiah 18:7-8 and Judges. 10:15-16.

 

 

Isaiah 1:10-17

 

DISCOURSE 858

THE SERVICE WHICH ALONE IS PLEASING TO GOD

Isaiah 1:10-17. Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? says the Lord: I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you: yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well: seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless; plead for the widow.

THOUGH tenderness and compassion are essential requisites for a Christian minister, yet is fidelity also indispensable for a due discharge of his duties. If even a young minister, like Timothy, was to "reprove and rebuke with all authority," it must become every servant of God, especially when dealing with hypocritical professors or hardened sinners, to "use great plainness of speech." It is true, a minister in this day has not the same license as was given to the prophets of old: we should not altogether think him justified in calling his audience "Rulers of Sodom, and people of Gomorrah:" but, when speaking in Jehovah's name, we must expostulate with all, even with the greatest of men, and declare to them, as the prophet does, the only way in which they can please and serve God. With this view the prophet used the language in our text; and in prosecution of the same end, we shall now declare,

I. The inadequacy of ritual observances—

The Jews were prone to rest in a compliance with the ceremonial law: and our text is, as it were by anticipation, an answer to their self-justifying remarks. They are supposed to have said, 'How can you justly complain of us? We have served God with the most commendable zeal: we have offered him sacrifices—yes many—and of the best kind—and in the appointed manner—and with great reverence—and we have abounded in spiritual services also, no less than in carnal rites.' But, in answer to all this, God indignantly replies, that, instead of being pleased with these services, he loathed and abhorred them; since, in the midst of all their boasted regard for him, they held fast their besetting sins verse 10–15. The particular expressions throughout this whole passage are very emphatical, and worthy of attentive observation.

The Jewish ritual being abolished, it may be thought that this address is inapplicable to any of the present day: but it may justly be applied,

1. To self-righteous formalists—

There is still, as Solomon expresses it, "a generation that is pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness." There are many whose whole religion consists in a performance of outward duties. Among the Papists this is an acknowledged fact: but it is also true of us Protestants, though to a less extent than it was a century ago. A regular attendance on all the public ordinances; a strict observance of the fasts and feasts of our Church, particularly of the time of Lent; a daily reading of the Psalms and Lessons for the day, and a recital of certain prayers; a rigid adherence to some particular forms, with an uncharitable censuring of all who are not equally strict in their attention to them; these, and other similar habits, form the ground of their hopes, and of a self-complacent confidence towards God. But, with all these apparently religious habits, their views, desires, and pursuits are altogether earthly: their friends and associates are men of this world: and vital godliness, together with all who possess it, is regarded by them with suspicion and dislike.

Now, whatever such persons may think of themselves, they are by no means in a state acceptable to God. Instead of looking with humility and contrition to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, they are ready to claim Heaven as the reward of their good deeds: and instead of loving, for the Redeemer's sake, every member of his mystical body, they are among the foremost to despise and persecute his believing people. While therefore they, in effect, say, "Stand off, I am holier than you," they are, as God declares, "a smoke in his nose Compare Isaiah 65:5 with Luke 18:9; Luke 18:14."

2. To many who make a profession of vital godliness—

Many there are whose views of the Gospel are correct, but who are far from experiencing all that it is designed to teach them. Their zeal for the Gospel is great and ardent: they will go miles to hear it faithfully proclaimed: they will lose no opportunity of attending their favorite minister: their very life seems to be spent as it were in hearing sermons. They will subscribe largely for building places of worship, especially for the use of those who are of their own sect and party. They are fond of prayer-meetings, and religious societies; and perhaps of showing forth their own talents too in exposition or prayer. But, instead of using these things as means to a farther advancement in holiness, they regard them only its sources of present gratification, and as evidences of a pious mind; while at the same time they are destitute of all those tempers and dispositions, which are the chief ornament of religion, and the surest evidences of its existence in the soul. We read of Ezekiel's hearers, that they attended his ministrations with great delight, and listened to him as persons fond of music would to a great proficient in that science; and laid claim to superior piety on that account: but, "though they heard his words, they would not do them; for their heart went after their covetousness Ezekiel 33:31-32, See also Isaiah 58:2." Now this is an exact description of the persons we refer to: they are conceited of their own knowledge and attainments, uncharitable towards those who differ from them, contemptuous towards those who are less instructed than themselves, regardless of the prejudices of others, and indifferent about the effect of their conduct upon them: they often make religion a cloak for idleness in their respective callings: they are headstrong and intractable, and insolent towards their superiors: they often cannot be depended on, even for truth in their words, or honesty in their dealings. What shall we say of such professors as these? Are they in a state pleasing unto God? No truly: they are an offence both to God and man; and their very best sacrifices are no better than "the cutting off of a dog's neck, or the offering of swine's blood Isaiah 66:2-3."

While our text thus forcibly declares the insufficiency of outward duties to please God, it sets forth in the strongest terms,

II. The necessity of moral attainments—

In relation to these, two things are required;

1. A renunciation of accustomed sins—

Every person has some sins which more easily beset him, and which he is in a more especial manner called to mortify. We will not speak of gross open sins, as swearing and drunkenness, and such like: for no man who reflects at all, can suppose it possible to please God, while he is guilty of such flagrant abominations. But one man is naturally addicted to anger and passion; another to discontent and envy; another to lewdness and impurity; another to sloth and idleness; another to covetousness: one is filled with conceit and vanity; another with skepticism and infidelity; another with unbelieving fears: in a word, however the conduct of men may differ as to the immediate line which they pursue, they all, in their natural state, affect pleasure, or riches, or honor, and feel abundantly more satisfaction in the things of time and sense, than they do in the service of their God. Now every man is concerned to find out what his besetting sin is: for if we must all without exception become "new creatures in Christ Jesus," if "old things must pass away, and all things must become new," then is it necessary that we all should experience this change, and have an evidence of it in our own souls.

Earnestly would we press this thought upon the minds of those who have been externally blameless in their conduct: for it is common for persons of this description to be satisfied with a change in their sentiments, when they have never experienced any change in their hearts and lives. We all have, though certainly in different degrees, a need of that exhortation, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes." It is possible that very little change can be needed by us that is visible to man; but there is no natural man under Heaven, who does not need to be greatly changed in the sight of God: and to him it is that we must approve ourselves, if ever we would be accepted in his sight.

2. A performance of neglected duties—

True piety will not consist with any allowed sin, whether of commission or of omission. But if we look back to our unregenerate state, how many duties are there, both to God and man, that we have neglected! By nature we are satisfied with doing acts of kindness when they come in our way: but to live for God, and our fellow-creatures, we know not: we do not search out occasions for the exercise of our benevolence, nor do we redeem our time in order to effect the greatest good within our reach. But, if we would please end honor God, we must imitate him who "went about doing good:" our time, our talents, our influence must all be put forth for the relief of the needy, the comfort of the afflicted, the supporting of the oppressed, and for the spiritual, as well as temporal, benefit of all. We must also cultivate every kind of grace: not only putting off what is evil, but putting on what is good. In particular, "as the elect of God, we should put on affections of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us Colossians 3:8; Colossians 3:12-14." These are the things which God prefers to all the sacrifices that can be offered Psalm 50:8-14. Micah 6:7-8; and without these, all that we can possess is in his estimation lighter than vanity itself 1 Corinthians 13:1-3."

From hence then we may see,

1. The nature of true religion—

That there are many who greatly mistake its nature, is evident from our text: but, when duly received into the heart, it neither insists on spiritual exercises to the neglect of moral virtues, nor on moral virtues to the neglect of communion with God: it has equal respect to both the tables of the Law. Let not any then attempt to put asunder what God has so inseparably joined. Let not any trust to their moral virtues on the one hand, nor to their spiritual exercises on the other; but let it be the endeavor of all to "have respect unto all the commandments," and to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

2. The danger of self-deceit—

We think it evident, that the persons here addressed as "Rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah," had by no means formed a just estimate of their own character. And we all see among those around us many who lie under a similar delusion: the conceited professor sees the blindness of the Pharisee, while the Pharisee notices with equal clearness his vain conceit. Professors too notice each other's failings, and often, with too much reason, stand in doubt of each other. But all are blind to their own failings: they make far too much allowance for their own evils; and sometimes glory in them as virtues: and so confident are many, of their own acceptance before God, that they will almost at the bar of judgment challenge Heaven as their desert Matthew 25:44. But, while they remain under the power of any allowed sin, "their religion is vain James 1:26," and their Judge will disclaim all knowledge of them Matthew 7:22-23; yes, their unmortified lust, whatever it be, will plunge their souls into everlasting perdition Matthew 5:29-30. We say not this to discourage the sincere, but to put all upon their guard, and especially to bring to self-examination those who are most confident that all is well with them. For it is certain that "the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath," and "tearfulness will surprise them" in the day of judgment Isaiah 33:14. .

3. The excellency of the Gospel—

The Gospel not only teaches us these things Titus 2:11-12, but shows us where pardon for all our transgressions may be obtained, and how strength may be acquired for the discharge of all our duties. Even under the law, these views were revealed; for, in the words following our text, God told his people, that their scarlet sins should, if mourned over and forsaken. "become white as snow:" and in other places he promised his Spirit to "write his laws upon their hearts," and to "cause them to keep his statutes Ezekiel 36:27." But under the Gospel dispensation, the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood to "cleanse from sin," and of his grace to renew the heart, is declared in the strongest terms 1 John 1:7; 1 John 1:9. Hence then, when it is said, "Wash you, make you clean," there is no room to say, "I cannot;" for "the grace of Christ is sufficient" for all, and "we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us Philippians 4:13." Seek then to be washed in his blood, and to be sanctified by his Spirit, and then the smallest of your offerings, even a cup of cold water, shall be an acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God 1 Peter 2:5.

 

Isaiah 1:18

 

DISCOURSE 859

CRIMSON SINS MADE WHITE

Isaiah 1:18. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

MAN is a rational being; and, though prone to abuse his reason for the vindication of his own evil ways, is capable of judging, when sound argument is proposed for his consideration. Hence God addresses himself to our reason, and makes his appeal to the whole creation, when our pride or obstinacy prevent us from acknowledging the truth of his assertions. The chapter before us exhibits a judicial process: Heaven and earth are called as witnesses against Israel; the charge against them is opened verse 2, 3, and their vindication of themselves is duly considered Their reply is not set down at length; but it may be gathered from the answer given to it by God. They plead that they have offered sacrifices, yes, many, and of the fattest of their flocks; that they have done this themselves, before God in the temple, with great reverence; that they have presented other offerings also; that they have observed the stated feasts; and that, instead of resting in carnal ceremonies, they had joined with them the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. God follows them through their objections, and leaves them not a word to add, verse 11–15. Having convicted them of their iniquities, God invites them to come and reason with him, and shows them a better way of pleading for themselves.

It is by his ministers that he now condescends to reason with mankind. We therefore propose to you on this occasion in God's stead, and will argue with you upon, the two most important of all points, the necessity and the efficacy of a religious life:

I. The necessity of a religious life—

The common reasonings of men on this subject are extremely futile and erroneous—

We are too apt to "confer with flesh and blood," and to be misled by the suggestions of our own evil hearts. The world around us, and our own corrupt nature, unite in asserting, that a life of devotedness to God is not necessary, not desirable, not practical. 'How can it be imagined,' say these objectors, 'that God should require all persons to live in such a holy self-denying way as the first Christians did? It might be proper for them in the infancy of Christianity to set such an example; but it cannot be necessary for us in these times to follow it. And to suppose that all who do not give up themselves to God as they did, are doomed to eternal misery, would be to make God a cruel tyrant, and to rob him of his noblest attributes of goodness and mercy. Nor is it to be wished, that religion should operate now as it did then: for how could the affairs of nations be conducted, or the common offices of life be performed? There would be an end to trade, and to all the refinements of civilized society; and men must be brought back again to the simplicity and vacuity of the Patriarchal age: In short, it cannot be effected now. A few visionaries and enthusiasts may experience something, and pretend to a great deal more: but to eradicate from the breast the love of sin, and to raise the soul above all the things of time and sense, and to bring it into a state of habitual communion with God, is impossible; unless we were all to be set apart to the work of religion, just as the Apostles were, and had nothing else to attend to.

Such are the reasonings of flesh and blood. But here is little else than mere unfounded assertion, which is contradicted by every page of the Holy Scriptures, and by the actual experience of thousands.

Let us now, in God's name, reason with you on the same subject—

Has not God done enough to merit all the services that you can possibly render him? Think of what he has done for you in creation and providence, and, above all, in the work of redemption, and then say, whether there "be anything which he could have done for you more than he has;" or whether, if he had permitted you to ask whatever you would as the price of your services, you could have ventured to have asked a thousandth part of what he has already done for you? Could you have dared to make such a request as that he would give you his dear Son to die for you, and his Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify you?.

Has he not promised you assistance for the performance of everything he has required of you? We acknowledge your impotency for that which is good: but that is no excuse for your disobedience, while he says, "My grace shall be sufficient for you," If his grace wrought effectually in the saints of old, it cannot but be as sufficient for you as for them.

Will not his love and favor amply compensate for all that you can either do or suffer for him? I might ask this question in reference to the tokens of his favor which he would give you now; but how much more hereafter! Can it be imagined that one saint in glory ever had the thought pass through his mind, that his reward was an inadequate recompense for his former labors?.

Will not all of you at a future period wish that you had dedicated yourselves unreservedly God? Many begin to express that wish on their dying bed; though many are so insensible even to the last, as to feel no regret upon the subject. But what does the soul of every man wish, the very instant it is separated from his body? If we could hear it speak then, we can have no doubt what its language would be. If it had not been convinced before, we have no doubt it is convinced then, that former reasonings were vain and delusive.

Much more we might easily urge in God's name; but this is sufficient to convince any one who is open to conviction, that an entire surrender of ourselves to God is a good and "reasonable service."

From the latter clause of the text we are led to reason more especially with you respecting,

II. The efficacy of a religious life—

Men, driven from the false refuges of presumption, are ready to run into the contrary extreme of despondency; and, when convinced of the necessity of a holy life, to doubt, whether any efforts on their part will succeed for the attainment of eternal happiness.

Here, as before, let us briefly consider the reasonings of flesh and blood—

Many, under a sense of their past transgressions, will say, that it is too late for them to turn to God; that they have sinned away their day of grace; that they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit; and that God has already sealed them up to final impenitence, and to everlasting condemnation.

But here, as in the former instance, is nothing but assertion, founded on unwarrantable surmises and groundless fears. We know that such persons will appeal to Scripture: but by what authority do they apply to themselves passages that have no real reference to their state, and make use of those passages to invalidate the plainest assertions of Holy Writ? If only they desire to come to God, they have an express assurance from God, that "he will in no wise cast them out."

Let us again, in God's name, oppose these reasonings by others that are more substantial—

Is not God a God of infinite mercy and compassion? Search the Scriptures: see the representations which he gives of himself: how often is it said, "His mercy endures forever!" If then "he delights in mercy," who are we that we should presume to limit him in the exercise of it towards ourselves?.

Do not his promises extend to all the sins that you have ever committed? You know that he has said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." Moreover, read the words of our text; and doubt if you can. But, perhaps, you will reply, that the sin against the Holy Spirit is excepted; and that that is the sin which you have committed. To that we answer, that if you desire to repent and turn unto God, it is not possible that you should have committed it; because, if you had committed it, you would have arrived at such a degree of obduracy, that you would glory in your shame, and never wish to repent at all.

Have not the vilest of sinners already found acceptance with God? Look at the character given of the Corinthians; and see whether you can be in a worse state than they: yet "they were washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God 1 Corinthians 6:9-11." If you are alarmed about backslidings after conversion, see whether you have been worse than David and Peter: yet they were restored to the divine favor as soon as ever they repented themselves of their iniquities. And myriads of others, once as vile as they, are at this very moment around the throne of God, rejoicing and triumphing in redeeming love. What bar then can there be to your acceptance through "him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood?".

We forbear to urge other considerations, because if you can withstand these, there is no hope that any others could be urged with effect.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who still hold out against God—

We call Heaven and earth to witness against you, that you are most unreasonable creatures. The ox and the donkey are indeed more rational than you are in relation to your souls. They seek their true interests, and acknowledge their benefactor: would to God that you might be brought to do the same!

2. Those who are convinced by his reasonings—

Beware how you listen to the dictates of flesh and blood. You know how you have been deceived; be on your guard against fresh deceits. Regard not the laughter of a blind infatuated world. They may call you mad; but they, and they only, are "come to themselves," who have been brought to say, "I will return and go to my Father."

 

 

Isaiah 1:25

 

DISCOURSE 860

GOD PURIFYING HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 1:25. I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin.

IN the Holy Scriptures, judgment is often denounced, and mercy promised, with such peculiar force and emphasis, as might lead one to imagine that it was almost a matter of indifference to Jehovah which of the two were called into exercise towards his offending creatures. But we know that "judgment is his strange act," to which he is utterly averse Isaiah 28:21; and that "mercy is the attribute in which he supremely delights Micah 7:18." In the passage before us, however, he speaks as if he contemplated vengeance with a degree of pleasure and satisfaction: "Thus says the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel; Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of my enemies." On the other hand, in the words which I have just read, he expresses no less satisfaction in the thought of conferring benefits on his chosen remnant, whom he has determined to restore and save.

From them I shall be led to consider,

I. The work which God will accomplish in all his chosen people—

The whole passage primarily refers to the Jews; whom God will, at no distant period, restore to their own land, and elevate in the rank of nations; making them no less conspicuous for piety than in the most favored seasons of their former prosperity verse 26, 27. In the promise made to them, we see what God will do for all his chosen people; cleansing them from their sins, and thereby fitting them,

1. For his service on earth—

God's people must be "a holy people," dedicated unreservedly to him. He will not accept "a divided heart Hosea 10:2." He will not behold with satisfaction any one that retains a bosom sin, though it be dear as a right eye, or useful as a right hand Mark 9:43-48. However loud such persons' professions of attachment may be, he will say to them, "Why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say Luke 6:46." The very "prayers of such persons are an abomination to him Proverbs 28:9." The hypocrite is, beyond all other persons, an object of his abhorrence Job 36:13; "He requires truth in the inward parts Psalm 51:6;" and, to please him, "we must be Israelites indeed, in whom there is no deceit John 1:47."

2. For his presence in a better world—

"God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, or to look upon iniquity Habakkuk 1:13;" much less could he admit into his presence in glory any soul that was not purged from its sins Ephesians 5:5. Revelation 21:27; nor, in truth, could a soul that was polluted with sin be happy in Heaven, even if he were admitted there. The holiness of God would utterly confound him: nor could he have any communion with the saints and angels that are around the throne. His want of resemblance to them would make his deformity hateful, even in his own eyes; while their employment would be so distasteful to him, that he could not join in it for a single hour. Indeed the inhabitants of Heaven could not endure the presence of such a hateful being; but would all unite in "thrusting him out Luke 13:28." As it is said of King Uzziah: When he was struck with leprosy in the Temple, the priests rose up to thrust him out, "yes, himself also hastened to go out 2 Chronicles 26:20;" so I doubt not but that an unholy soul would of itself hasten out of Heaven, because of the shame and misery it would feel in a place so unsuited to its dispositions and desires.

Hence, then, God engages for his elect, that he will "turn his hand upon them, purely to purge away their dross, and to take away all their tin;" so that they may be "meet for the inheritance of Heaven Colossians 1:12," and "vessels of honor, meet for their Master's use 2 Timothy 2:21."

Nor are we at any loss to declare,

II. The means by which it shall be effected—

God says, "he will turn his hand upon them, to purge them from their dross:" and this he will do,

1. By the visitations of his Providence—

Gold is put into a furnace, to purge it from its dross: and, in like manner, God has told us that he will subject his people to afflictions, "in order to purify them, that they may offer to him an offering in righteousness Malachi 3:3-5." In this way shall God's ancient people be cleansed from their corruptions, and be made holy, "when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning Isaiah 4:3-4." So also shall his people, in every age, be purified. In truth, the experience of multitudes resembles that of David, when he says, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept your word Psalm 119:67." It is by means of affliction that God brings us to consider our ways: by means of it, also, he humbles us before him, and prepares us for the manifestations of his love and mercy to our souls. Hence it is that he promises correction to those who are the objects of his love Psalm 89:30-34, and teaches us to regard our trials as tokens of his paternal care and tenderness Hebrews 12:5-11. He will, indeed, accommodate his dispensations to our necessities; "sitting by us as a refiner and purifier of silver," and watching the process for our good. He has told us, that he will "debate with us in measure, staying his rough wind in the day of his east wind: and that by this shall the iniquity of his people be purged; and this shall be the fruit to take away their sin Isaiah 27:8-9."

2. By the communications of his grace—

Affliction, of itself, would only harden; as in the case of Pharaoh; and of those also who gnash their teeth, and blaspheme their God, in Hell Revelation 16:9-11. But when divine grace is given to accompany and to sanctify the dispensation, then its end is answered, and the afflicted sinner returns in penitential sorrow to his God. It was thus that Manasseh's most enormous wickedness was purged: "God took him among the thorns; and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon: and when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and so God was entreated of him, and heard his supplication 2 Chronicles 33:11-13. In fact, "without the grace of Christ we can do nothing John 15:5;" it is "by his Spirit alone that we can mortify the deeds of the body Romans 8:13," or "bring forth any fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory Philippians 1:11." But to all his chosen people God will "give more grace James 4:6," even "grace sufficient for them 2 Corinthians 12:9," whatever their necessities may be; and will thus "fulfill in them all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power 2 Thessalonians. 1:11."

Let me now address myself,

1. To those who are trembling through fear of God's displeasure—

Among those whose destruction God contemplated as a source of ease to his own mind, there was yet a remnant, towards whom he was "filled with thoughts of love." And why may not you be among that happy number? Certainly, if you have begun to "tremble at the word of God, that very circumstance is a proof that "the Spirit of God is striving with you," and that you are not given over to a reprobate mind. Perhaps God has already said, "I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin:" and who can tell but that this may be the very hour fixed, in his divine counsels, for the accomplishment of this blessed end? Lift up your heart to him; and beg him now to work effectually upon you, that, being created of him anew, and transformed into his image, you may serve him worthily on earth, and participate in his glory in a better world.

2. To those who are desiring to experience the full work of God's grace upon their souls—

Limit not God to any particular mode of acting; but be as clay in the potter's hands; and let him deal with you as, in his unerring wisdom, he shall see fit. If he be pleased to put you into a furnace, complain not of it; but say, 'This he has done to purge me from my dross.' You cannot but know that there is an abundance of dross within you. You cannot but be conscious that every thing which you do is very imperfect; your very prayers and your praises being little better, for the most part, than a cold and formal service. Will you not, then, have reason to bless his name, if, by any means, he purge you from your corruptions, and assimilate you to his divine image? This, then, I say to you: If God send you any affliction, whether personal or domestic, "hear the rod, and Him that has appointed it Micah 6:9." Entreat of God to show you what sin it is that he would correct, or what grace it is that he would confirm and perfect within you. In a word, desire not deliverance from affliction, but a sanctified improvement of it to your soul. Thus shall all the purposes of his grace be accomplished; and when the end shall come, it shall be no grief to you, that "through much tribulation you entered into the kingdom of your God."

 

 

Isaiah 2:5

 

DISCOURSE 861

EXHORTATION TO A HOLY WALK

Isaiah 2:5. O house of Jacob, come you, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

MANY prophecies there are which are not yet accomplished, especially among those which are to be fulfilled "in the last days." The last days were understood even by the Jews themselves as relating to the days of the Messiah; and they comprehend all the time from his first advent in the flesh to the period when his kingdom shall be fully established upon earth. Hence the prophecies relating to that period must have different degrees of accomplishment; being partly fulfilled in the first triumphs of the Gospel, but having a further and more entire accomplishment when all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus it is that we are to understand the prophecy contained in the preceding context. "The mountain of the Lord's House," that is, the Gospel Church, was established on the top of the mountains in the apostolic age, when it triumphed over heathen idolatry and Jewish superstition; and myriads of converts encouraged one another to serve and glorify their God: but we have not yet seen the time when "swords have been beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, and nations have ceased to learn and practice the are of war." That time however will come: and we should long, and labor to the utmost of our power, to hasten it forward. We should even now anticipate it; yes, we will anticipate it: "O house of Jacob, come you, and let us walk in the light of the Lord!"

Let us walk in the light,

I. Of his truth—

His truth now shines in its meridian splendor—

"The darkness is indeed past; and the true light now shines 1 John 2:8." "The day-star has arisen 2 Peter 1:19;" "the day-spring from on high has visited us Luke 1:78-79." "the Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2." shines forth in his brightness: and the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer is now so plain, that "no wayfaring man, though a fool, can err therein Isaiah 35:8.": "On the face of Moses there was a veil, that they who received the law should not see its full import: but if the Gospel be hid, it is from those only whom the God of this world has blinded;" since "we may all with open (that is, unveiled) face behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:13-18."

Let us then walk in it—

Having the light, we should "believe in the light, that we may be the children of light John 12:35-36." We should embrace with all thankfulness the way of salvation revealed in the Gospel. We should "come to Christ," as the appointed Savior of a ruined world Matthew 11:28; we should "look to him," as dying upon the cross for us Isaiah 45:22; we should "build upon him, as our only foundation 1 Corinthians 3:11;" and "cleave unto him with full purpose of heart Acts 11:23;" and "determine to know none but him 1 Corinthians 2:2," and to "glory in nothing but the cross of Christ Galatians 6:14.": "Arise then, and be enlightened, for the light is come; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you Isaiah 60:1. The marginal reading."

While confiding in God as reconciled to us by the blood of the cross, we should endeavor to walk in the light,

II. Of his countenance—

This is the privilege of a true believer—

So it is declared to be, by one who experienced it richly in his own soul Psalm 89:15. God presents himself to us in the Gospel under the endearing relations of a Father and a Friend, to whom we may carry every want, every trial, every difficulty; and from whom we may expect a supply according to our need. He will be not only "our God," but "a God unto us 1 Chronicles 17:24," putting forth all his wisdom, all his love, and all his power, to make us truly blessed. He will engage in this work "with his whole heart and with his whole soul Jeremiah 32:41;" so that it must be utterly our own fault if we be not as holy, and as happy, as our hearts can wish.

Let us then enjoy our privilege—

Let us "walk with God," as Enoch did; and "glory in him as the God of our salvation." See what holy joy David found in communion with him Psalm 63:1-5 and Psalm 145:1-12 and Psalms 150; and shall we who live under a so much nobler dispensation experience less? Shall not we, who have so much clearer views of Christ, "rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified?" O let us "delight ourselves in God", and have even now, "in the secret of his presence" and the consolations of his Spirit, a pledge and a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance Psalm 31:20. Ephesians 1:13-14.

But we shall in vain hope to enjoy his presence, if we walk not also in the light,

III. Of his commandments—

These are given by him "as a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths"—

Without them we should not "know how to walk and to please God;" but by them we are fully informed in all things that are needful for us to do Proverbs 6:23. They do not indeed descend to every particular circumstance in which we can be placed; but they afford principles which are universally applicable, and which are quite sufficient for our direction when duly applied. The duty of "doing to others as we would be done unto," is so comprehensive as to embrace every part of our social duty, while it is so simple that it may be comprehended and applied by every one who desires to please God.

Let us then make these the one rule of our conduct—

Let us not attempt to reduce them to the standard of the world, but endeavor rather to raise our conduct to the standard of God's revealed will. Let us treasure up in our minds the most exalted precepts, and "hide God's word in our hearts, that we may not sin against him;" for "then shall we not be ashamed, when we have respect unto all God's commandments".

In addressing "the house of Jacob," we must speak to,

1. Those who are nominally so—

It is but too true, that "all are not Israel, who are of Israel:" and those who are only of the house of Jacob by name and profession, may know it by their walk and conversation. Consider, I pray you, in what light you have walked: Is it not manifest, that the generality who call themselves Christians are influenced only by the things of time and sense; and that their principles and pursuits are altogether earthly? Know then, you lovers of this present evil world, that, if God's word may be depended on, you are deluding yourselves to your eternal ruin Isaiah 50:11. You "sow the wind, and you shall reap the whirlwind Hosea 8:7." When will you begin to see, that "one thing," and one thing only, "is needful?" When will you learn to say, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of you?" That you should seek present, as well as eternal, happiness, we grant: but you should seek it where David did; "Who will show us any good? Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us; and that will put more gladness in my heart than any increase of corn, wine, and oil can ever do Psalm 4:6-7."

2. Those who are really so—

You have found that God in Christ is "a fountain of life; and in his light you have seen light Psalm 36:9." You therefore are "children of the light and of the day." But if you are so highly distinguished in your character, think how distinguished you should also be in our conduct Ephesians 5:8. 1 Thessalonians. 5:5-6. The eyes of all are upon you: they will look particularly to see whether religion is such a source of happiness as you profess. O show them that "you need neither the sun to lighten you by day, nor the moon by night, since the Lord has been a light unto you, and your God your glory Isaiah 60:19." Show them that even in the greatest troubles you have a fountain of consolation to go unto; and that "when you walk in darkness, the Lord is a light unto you Job 29:3. Micah 7:8." And, as it is eminently characteristic of Gospel times to encourage one another in the ways of God, see that you do so, "speaking one with another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts unto the Lord." Then, from enjoying God in his courts below, you shall be taken to serve him in his temple above, where your largest desires shall be satisfied, and your utmost capacities be filled Revelation 21:22-23. Psalm 16:11.

 

 

Isaiah 3:10-11

 

DISCOURSE 862

FINAL STATE OF MAN

Isaiah 3:10-11. Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

THE Ministers of the Gospel are "stewards of the mysteries of God," whose office it is "rightly to divide the word of truth," and to "give every one his portion in due season." They are to "take forth the precious from the vile, and to be as God's mouth to all," declaring their true character, and their proper doom. Their commission is sealed in the words before us, and the very message they are to deliver as God's ambassadors, is recorded for their direction to the end of time. In complying with the duty here enjoined, we shall,

I. Describe the characters that are to be addressed—

There are but two classes of men in the world; "the righteous" and "the wicked."

However diversified men's states may be in some particulars, they all must be ranked under the one or the other of these heads. In distinguishing them, therefore, we must include in the first class, not merely the more eminent saints, but the least and meanest of God's people; seeing that there are in God's household "babes, and young men, as well as fathers 1 John 2:13." And in the second class we must comprehend all those persons, who, however admired by an undiscerning world, are reputed wicked in the sight of God.

I may say then, they are "righteous" who have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, and are following after universal holiness; and they, on the other hand, are "wicked," who are still in a carnal unregenerate state, and render only a formal and partial obedience to the divine law.

But that I may put this in the clearest possible light, I will say, They are "righteous," who make religion the great business of life, and prosecute it upon the principles of the Gospel; and all others without exception must be numbered among "the wicked." Of course, I must not be understood to say that worldly business is to be neglected. On the contrary, it must be attended to with all diligence: but it must be followed in subserviency to the concerns of the soul. It must occupy, not the first, but the second place in our esteem. The heart must be God's, and God's alone Proverbs 23:26.

Now to these distinct classes does God send a separate message; and therefore it is of great importance that we should ascertain to which we belong. Let us then, before we proceed to the consideration of God's message, inquire seriously to which of these classes we belong?

Can we truly appeal to God, that, in the estimation of our minds and in the habit of our lives, the salvation of our soul is regarded as the one thing needful? If our conscience bear witness to the truth of this, then I must proceed yet further to ask, whether we prosecute the concerns of the soul upon the principles of the Gospel? The Pharisees of old engaged with great ardor in religious duties: but they were not "righteous" in God's sight, because they sought by their religious observances to establish a righteousness of their own instead of submitting to the righteousness which God had provided for them Romans 9:31-32; Romans 10:2-4. So it is with the Papists, who observe with great strictness many religious rites, in the hope of recommending themselves thereby to the Divine favor. But the religion of the Gospel is altogether different from this. It requires us to seek for acceptance solely through our Lord Jesus Christ, and to cleave unto him as "all our salvation, and all our desire." Say, then, Brethren, whether as before God this is your experience from day to day? Say whether you are washing daily in the fountain of his blood, and clothing yourselves with his unspotted righteousness, and, from a sense of his redeeming love, endeavoring in all things to fulfill his holy will?.

This, if carefully inquired into, will give a clear line of demarcation for us all: and we entreat all to arrange themselves, as it were, before God in that particular class to which conscience tells them they belong; and to attend with solemn awe, while we,

II. Deliver God's message to each of them—

God commands his ministers to "warn the wicked Ezekiel 33:7," but to "comfort his people Isaiah 40:1." In obedience to him we will address,

1. The righteous—

That I may not "break any bruised reed," or "make sad the heart" of any one that is truly upright, let me say, that in the first stages of the Christian course we must judge rather by our desires than by our actual attainments: not because our attainments should be less the objects of scrutiny than our desires, but because in reference to our desires we have a complete consciousness; while the defectiveness of our attainments makes us doubtful of our real integrity.

Taking this into consideration, I am aware that some, on account of the smallness of their attainments, may be saying, "I fear it will go ill with me at last." But God says, "It shall be well with you:" and, in despite of all your fears (if only you press forward in the ways of righteousness) it shall be well with you, in life, in death, and to all eternity. We cannot promise you affluence, or exemption from pain and trouble; but we can promise, in the name of God, that your trials, whatever they be, shall work for good Romans 8:28; that your latter end shall be peace Psalm 37:7; and that you shall have a crown of righteousness and glory at the instant of your departure from the body 2 Timothy 4:8.

These are the things which you labor to attain: and you shall surely "eat the fruit of your doings." Dismiss then your unbelieving fears: for this is the word of your faithful God, whom neither the subtlety of Satan can deceive, nor his power be able to withstand.

2. The wicked—

Glad should we be, if we could say, It shall be well with you. But if we should dare to deliver such a message, the falsehood of it must immediately appear Put it into language, and how horrible will it sound; Against you, God sends us to denounce woe: "Woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him." You, under the influence of presumption, may be saying, "I hope, notwithstanding what is spoken in the Bible, that it will fare well with me at last." But, if there be any truth in God, it must be ill with you. Even in the midst of all your boasted enjoyments we defy you to say, that you have any solid peace Isaiah 57:20-21; and in your dying hour, if you are not insensible as beasts, you will be full of regret and terror Ecclesiastes 5:17; and, after death, you will lie down in everlasting burnings Revelation 21:8.

Nor is this unjust, since you reap only what you sowed: You chose the world as your portion; and you have nothing beyond it: you "would have none of God Psalm 81:11;" and you have none of him: you said to him, "Depart Job 21:14; Job 22:17;" and he says to you, "Depart Matthew 25:41." In your banishment from God and Heaven, "the reward of your own hands is given to you."

Painful it is to deliver such a message; but we must deliver it at the peril of our souls Ezekiel 33:8; and whether it be credited by you, or not, it shall be confirmed and ratified in Heaven Matthew 18:18.

We cannot conclude without recommending to your notice,

1. The equity of the future judgment—

The decision of the Judge will be grounded entirely on our works. No man that was righteous in this world, shall perish; nor shall any man that persisted in his wickedness, be saved. The reward indeed that will be given to the righteous, will be the gift of grace for Christ's sake: whereas that which will be given to the wicked, will be the just wages of their iniquity Romans 6:23. Still however, the quality of every person's works will determine his state; and the happiness or misery of each will be proportioned to his improvement or abuse of the talents committed to him. You all know, if you see one man industrious, sober, frugal, and another idle, dissipated, extravagant, what must in process of time be the difference between them. Each of them is laying up for himself a treasure which in due season he must reap: nor are you at all surprised when you see the one enjoying the fruits of his industry, and the other reaping the bitter fruits of his folly. Such will assuredly be the issue of our conduct in reference to religion. Let every person therefore remember, that he is daily and hourly treasuring up for himself that which shall be delivered to him again at the day of judgment Galatians 6:7-8; and that, if he perish forever, he will have none to blame for it but himself.

2. The importance of preparing for our great account—

If the declarations in the text proceeded from man, they might well be disregarded. But they are the words of God; and are as truly spoken to us by him, as if they were now uttered by an audible voice from Heaven. Should we not then take warning? Should not the wicked inquire how they may become righteous; and the righteous increase their diligence to hold on in God's holy ways? Would to God this effect might now be produced! how gladly should we set Christ before you as an all-sufficient Savior! and how joyfully should we proclaim the promises of God, both to sincere penitents Isaiah 55:7, and to humble believers Job 17:9. Let all stir themselves up without delay, and prepare in earnest to meet their God.

3. The use and benefit of divine ordinances—

In the world, we may pass days and years, and never once hear the sentiment, That "it shall go ill with the wicked." On the contrary, we shall hear ten thousand assertions that encourage a directly opposite opinion. And, if a friendly monitor attempt to undeceive us, he is accounted rude, harsh, fanatical. But in the house of God we may venture to speak with plainness, and to declare the determinations of Heaven. God sends us for this very purpose, that we may draw aside the veil of futurity, and open to your view the things that shall be hereafter. We are to show you "the righteous shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," and the wicked "lifting up their eyes with unavailing wishes in the torments of Hell." Let the ordinances then be reverenced with humble gratitude, and improved with unwearied assiduity If this were the subject of an Assize Sermon, this third remark might be to this effect; The use and benefit of human judicatories; which are intended to distribute justice, as far as possible, in this world, as God himself will distribute it in the world to come.

 

 

Isaiah 4:5

 

DISCOURSE 863

GOD THE PROTECTOR OF HIS CHURCH

Isaiah 4:5. The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud, and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense.

THE Church of God is frequently represented as hated both by men and devils, and exposed to their united assaults. But it is protected by an invisible and almighty Agent, who keeps it alive, as a spark in the midst of a tempestuous ocean. His watchful eye is ever over it for good: He considers it as his glory, and will therefore himself be its defense. This is promised to the Church in the words before us; in which we are told,

I. The Church is God's glory—

Mount Zion is a name given to the Gospel Church Hebrews 12:22; and a strict attention to the text will show, that it is here considered as "the glory" of God "The glory" evidently relates to the "dwelling-plates," etc. before mentioned; by which term its members also are expressly designated by God himself Isaiah 46:13.

1. The various "dwelling-places of Mount Zion" are his glory—

Wherever Christianity has gained its full ascendant over any family, God will most assuredly be worshiped and served by every member of it. The master will say with Joshua, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord;" and, in order to carry this resolution into effect, he will, like Abraham, command his children, and his household after him Joshua 24:15. Genesis 18:19. His house will be a temple in which he himself officiates as priest; and, as far as he can prevail, he will cause every heart to be an altar to the Lord, that they may daily offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Such a family will be like a beautiful garden, filled with "trees of righteousness of the Lord's planting, that he may be glorified Isaiah 61:3;" and while God calls himself "their God," he will dignify them with the exalted appellation of "his people," and "his servants in whom he will be glorified Jeremiah 31:1. Isaiah 49:3."

2. The "assemblies of Mount Zion" also are his glory—

As the Israelites came up thrice every year to worship God at Jerusalem, so on every Sabbath do his people assemble for the exercise of social and public worship. In those holy convocations does every one speak of his glory Psalm 29:9; and his ministers in particular, who are "the glory of Christ 2 Corinthians 8:23," proclaim the riches of his grace and mercy. In these God vouchsafes his more peculiar presence; for "he loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob Psalm 87:2." "He comes down as in the days of old Exodus 40:34-35. 2 Chronicles 7:1, and fills the place with his glory;" he pours out his Spirit in a more abundant measure; and by communicating the blessings of grace and peace, he "glorifies the house of his glory Isaiah 60:7."

While they are thus highly esteemed by God, they are favored with his peculiar care; for,

II. God is his Church's guardian—

The Israelites, when coming out of Egypt, had a cloud with them as a symbol of the Divine presence Exodus 13:21-22. Nehemiah 9:19. This was intended both to guide them in their journeys, and to protect them from their enemies. And in reference to it God promises to his Church to be,

1. Her guide—

The cloud went before the people in all their journeys, moving or resting when it was proper for them to move, or rest Exodus 40:34-38. Thus will God direct the concerns of his Church. Though he will not interpose in the same visible manner, yet he will manifest the same attention to its interests, and guide it with the same unerring hand. Nor is it to the Church at large only that God extends his care; he will regard "the dwelling-places of Mount Zion" no less than "her assemblies;" and consult the welfare of the meanest individual as much as of the largest community Isaiah 66:2. Does any one look up to him for direction? He says, "The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:9;" "He shall have an unction of the Holy One that shall teach him all things 1 John 2:20;" and so plainly shall his path be marked, that, "though a fool, he shall not err therein Isaiah 35:8." Is he involved in any peculiar difficulty? He shall hear a voice behind him, saying, "This is the way, walk you in it Isaiah 30:21." And though his path may often appear dubious, yet he shall find at last that he has been "led in the right way to the city of habitation Psalm 107:7."

2. Her defense—

The cloud on one occasion went behind the Israelites, and wore a dark and threatening aspect to their enemies, while it gave light to them Exodus 14:19-20. Thus will God give salvation for walls and bulwarks to his Church Isaiah 26:1. No weapon that is formed against it shall prosper Isaiah 54:17; God will not only go before it, but be its rear-ward Isaiah 58:8; nor shall the gates of Hell ever prevail against it Matthew 16:18. Never for one moment will he intermit his care Isaiah 27:3; his protection shall be as effectual as that of lofty mountains Psalm 125:2, or an impassable river Isaiah 33:21, or a wall of fire Zechariah 2:5. And its preservation shall be seen to be evidently his work, as much as the "creation" itself; so that all who behold it shall say, This has God wrought Job 12:9. Isaiah 41:4.

3. Her glory—

It was the presence of God with Israel of old that marked them as his peculiar people. They were feared on this account, so that "all the inhabitants of Canaan melted because of them Joshua 2:9; Joshua 2:11," as also terror was diffused through the whole camp of the Philistines 1 Samuel 4:7. Thus it is with the Church at this time; it is the presence of God in it that renders it the joy of the whole earth Psalm 48:2. It is God's glory that is seen upon it, which brings kings to the brightness of its rising Isaiah 60:1-3. There is often a power in the ordinances that evidences the presence of the Deity, and constrains his most inveterate enemies to submit themselves to him, and to unite themselves to his Church 1 Corinthians 14:25. And it will be in consequence of that more abundant manifestation of his presence which shall be given to the Church at a future period, that all the nations of the earth shall seek with eagerness an interest in its privileges, and a participation of its blessings Zechariah 8:23. Persons of all ranks, from the lofty "fir-tree" to the humble "box," shall come together to the Church, of which it will be said, "The Lord is your everlasting light, and your God your glory Isaiah 60:13-16; Isaiah 60:16."

To improve this subject, let me entreat you,

1. To give yourselves up to God as his people—

The whole of this subject refers, as you have seen, to Israel as God's redeemed people. To such alone were these promises made; and by such alone were they experienced. To the Egyptians the cloud was as darkness, while to the Israelites it was a pillar of light: and the sea, which afforded to Israel a path of safety, was to the Egyptians without exception a fatal grave. So to those only who give up themselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are the blessings of redemption fully known: to them the Gospel is "a savor of life unto life, while to others it is only a savor of death unto death:" to them is Christ a sanctuary, while to others he is only a stumbling-block and a rock of of offence." What then shall I say unto you? This I will say: Imitate the Israelites on the occasion referred to. Cast off your bonds, and put yourselves under the guidance of "that Prophet, whom Jehovah has raised up unto you, like unto Moses." Go forth from Egypt in dependence on your God: rely upon him for everything during the time of your sojourning in this dreary wilderness: and look forward to your possession of the promised land as your sure and abiding portion. "Follow the Lord fully," as Joshua and Caleb did; and rest assured that, like them, you shall in due season enjoy the promised inheritance.

2. To glory in God as your God—

Tell me one promise that ever failed those who trusted fully in their God. If Joshua, after forty years of conflict, could make this a matter of appeal to Israel, be sure that none of you shall ever be disappointed of your hope. With Jehovah for your guide and defense, you have no ground for fear: for "if God be for you, who can be against you?" Your enemies may be great in might, and many in number: but "they are all but bread for you." In your conflicts with them, you may endure much: but your trials shall be only as "the spirit of judgment and of burning to purge and to purify you from your filth verse 4," and to call forth those exertions from God, which he has promised to you. Whatever difficulty obstruct your way, say to it as God has taught you, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain." Only "be strong in faith, giving glory to God." "Only hold fast your confidence, and the rejoicing of your hope;" and "not so much as one jot or tittle of God's word shall ever fail."

 

 

Isaiah 5:3-5

 

DISCOURSE 864

GOD'S APPEAL TO MAN'S DECISION

Isaiah 5:3-5. O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.

MERCIES are obligations to obedience, and aggravations of the guilt of disobedience. This is declined under the similitude of an unfruitful vineyard. The parable in the text foretold the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Our Lord applied it in reference to the approaching dissolution of their ecclesiastical and civil polity by the Romans Matthew 21:33; Matthew 21:41; Matthew 21:45. It is applicable also to the Church of God in all ages. In this solemn address of God to his Church and people are contained,

I. His appeal to them—

Many and great are the temporal blessings which we enjoy—

In our civil capacity, we possess civil and religious liberty. In our social relations, our privileges and comforts are many If this were the subject of a Commemoration Sermon, the peculiar advantages belonging to the Society should be enumerated. In our personal concerns, we may all find abundant cause for gratitude.

But our spiritual advantages are greater still—

We have infallible directions respecting the way of salvation John 10:9; John 14:6. 1 Corinthians 3:11. Acts 4:12. We are urged by the strongest motives to walk in it Not only our hopes and fears, which are the grand springs of human activity and vigor, are excited, Romans 2:6-10, but the love of Christ is set before us as the most irresistible of all motives, 2 Corinthians 5:14. Sufficient assistance also is provided for us Luke 11:13. Every Christian may adopt the apostle's words, Philippians 4:13. We have the religion of Christ established in the land The Establishment has been "the pillar and ground of the truth" ever since the reformation. Its liturgy is pure and scriptural: its articles and homilies are a barrier against the intrusion of error: and, were its institutions observed as they ought to be, there would be no minister in its communion who was not orthodox in his opinions and holy in his life; none could undertake the office of a teacher, who was not himself taught of God, and "moved by the Holy Spirit."

In the name of God then we call you to judge between God and your own souls See the verse before the text; which, stripped of the figure, may be considered as comprehending the two questions contained in this bracket.—

What obstructions to our fruitfulness has he not removed? What means of promoting it has he not employed Could superstition obscure the light? its clouds have been dispelled by the revival of literary and religious knowledge. Could prejudice pervert our judgment? a liberality of sentiment prevails beyond the example of former ages. Could guilt dismay our hearts? God has sent his own Son to die for us. Could a sense of our weakness discourage us? God has promised the aid of his Spirit. Could persecution alarm our fears? we "sit every one under his own vine and fig-tree." Could erroneous teachers misguide us? care has been taken, as far as human foresight could prevail, to exclude them. What, then, has not God done that could be done?? We appeal to you, and make you judges in your own cause.

Happy were it for us, if, while we reflect on the advantages God has favored us with, which are greater far than those which were enjoyed by his people of old, there were not the same reason as formerly for,

II. His expostulation with them—

The fruit which God requires, is suitable to the pains he has bestowed upon us—

He expects that we follow his directions, and live by faith on his dear Son, and that we feel the influence of the motives he has set before us, and, that we go forth against all the enemies of our souls in a humble dependence on his promised aid.

But very different is the fruit which the greater part of us have brought forth—

We have substituted in the place of Christ some self-righteous methods of acceptance with God. We have been actuated chiefly by earthly, carnal, and selfish principles. We have gone on in the strength of our own resolutions, instead of looking up continually for the assistance of the Spirit. Alas! our fruit has been only as "the grapes of Sodom, and clusters of Gomorrah How great the difference between him that produces good fruit, and him that "brings forth only wild grapes!" The one makes Christ all his salvation and all his desire; the other exalts himself into the place of Christ, and wishes to become, in part at least, his own Savior: The one regards eternal things us a reality; the other is scarcely more affected by them than if they were a fiction: The one conquers sin and Satan in the strength of Christ; the other is, either openly or secretly, led captive by them both. In a word, the one is a compound of humility, heavenly-mindedness, and zeal; and the other of pride, worldliness, and indifference.

But that God is displeased with our unprofitableness, will appear from,

III. His menace—

Under the figure of "laying waste" a vineyard verse 5, 6, God warns us what he will do to us if we continue unprofitable servants:

1. He will bestow no more pains upon us—

He who by "pruning and digging" has labored incessantly for our good, will abandon us at last to our own hearts' lusts Hosea 4:17. Psalm 81:11-12. He who has "commanded the clouds to rain down rain upon us," will cease to guard us by his providence, or assist us by his grace Genesis 6:3.

2. He will withdraw the advantages we now enjoy—

He will "take away the candlestick" when we exclude or abuse the light Luke 8:18. Revelation 2:5. Or if he cause not "a famine of the word," he will make his Gospel "a savor of death to us rather than of life 2 Corinthians 2:16."

3. He will expose us to the heaviest calamities—

We may easily conceive how the wild boar of the field will desolate a vineyard, when its fences are all removed;" and we know, from the instances of Peter and of Judas, what Satan will effect, if he be suffered to execute his will upon us; yet we can expect nothing but to be "delivered over to Satan for the destruction both of our bodies and souls," if we "bring forth only wild grapes" after all the culture bestowed upon us Hebrews 6:7-8. Luke 13:7, and John 15:6.

APPLICATION—

What reason have we all to be ashamed of our unfruitfulness, and to tremble lest God should execute upon us his threatened vengeance!

No words can more forcibly express his fixed determination to execute it, than the concluding words of our text. Let us be thankful that the execution of it has been so long delayed; let the "forbearance exercised towards us, lead us to repentance Romans 2:4;" and let us henceforth seek to resemble the primitive Christians Romans 6:22.

And what reason can be assigned that shall justify our bringing forth only "wild grapes" under such circumstances.

Has there been any want of care on the part of the gardener? Has there been anything defective in the means he has used? Could he, consistently with his plans of government, have done more for us than he has done! Can we at all excuse ourselves, and cast with propriety the blame on him? "Judge you" whether the fault be not entirely in yourselves?

 

 

Isaiah 5:20

 

DISCOURSE 865

THE SINFULNESS OF CONFOUNDING GOOD AND EVIL

Isaiah 5:20. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.

THAT man in his present state is a corrupt and sinful creature, is too plain to be denied: the whole tenor of his conduct proves it beyond a doubt. But the generality give themselves credit for meaning well at the very time that they are doing ill. In this, however, they are mistaken. There is in all a far greater consciousness of the evil of their conduct than they are willing to allow. But they wish to quiet their own minds, and to approve themselves to the world: and therefore they change the names of things, "calling good evil, and evil good, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." By these means they succeed in allaying their own fears, and in commending themselves to each other; but their guilt before God is thereby greatly increased: for our Lord says, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." There is in their hearts a rooted aversion to what is good, and a consequent determination to decry it: there is also an inveterate love of evil, and a consequent desire to justify it. Hence arises that conduct which is so justly reprobated in the text; the prevalence and evil of which we shall proceed to lay before you.

We will endeavor to point out,

I. The prevalence of this conduct—

The more we examine the principles and actions of men, the more shall we find that this system obtains among them both in theory and practice.

Inspect their views of religion; and it will appear that they consider it as a superficial thing, consisting in a bare assent to certain notions, and a formal observance of certain rites. If they have been baptized in their infancy; if they have some general views of Christianity, together with a persuasion of its divine authority; if they attend regularly on public worship, and occasionally communicate at the Lord's supper; and finally, if they are not guilty of any gross and scandalous violations of their duty, they think they have all the religion that they need.

But they substitute the shadow for the substance. Religion is widely different from this: it is a conversion of the soul to God; it is a resurrection from the dead: it is a new creation. Religion, as it exists in the soul, is a heaven-born principle, that pervades all its powers, and operates in all its faculties. It is to the soul what the soul is to the body. It restrains our passions, corrects our appetites, purifies our affections. It enters into all our motives, and subjects everything to itself. It will endure no rival: it will make a truce with no enemy: it will reign absolute over the whole man. Its avowed object is to bring man to God as a redeemed sinner, and to restore him to a fitness for that inheritance which he has forfeited by his transgressions: in order to accomplish this, it casts down every high and towering imagination, brings its votary to the foot of the cross, constrains him to walk in the steps of his divine Master, and progressively transforms him into the image of his God.

Compare this with the slight and worthless thing which men in general call religion, and it will appear that they use the term without any just apprehension of its true import.

Again; as religion is esteemed a superficial thing, so it is also deemed a melancholy thing. When true religion is described, the generality of men are ready to exclaim against it as incompatible with social happiness: 'If we must repent of our past sins, and enter on a course of mortification and self-denial; if we must renounce the pleasures of sin, and the society of the ungodly; if we must converse familiarly with death and judgment, and spend our lives in preparation for eternity; what remains for us in this world but gloom and melancholy?' So they think.

But is this the light in which the Scriptures speak of religion? or are these notions justified by experience? We allow the premises to be correct; but is the conclusion just? Suppose for a moment that the whole life of a person who appeared religious, were a scene of melancholy: must that melancholy be imputed to religion? Must it not rather be imputed to his former wickedness, and to his present want of more religion? If pain arise to the body during the cure of an inveterate disorder, is that pain to be imputed to the medicine, or the disease? to the disease, no doubt: to that therefore must be ascribed all the pain of sorrow and contrition, even supposing it to be ever so great, and ever so long continued. As for religion itself, we need only ascertain what it is, and we shall immediately see the absurdity of calling it a source of misery. What; is it melancholy to walk with God, to enjoy God, to glorify God? Was our Lord melancholy? Were his Apostles melancholy? Are the angels in Heaven melancholy? Then shall we be melancholy in proportion as we resemble them! But if "the ways of religion be ways of pleasantness and peace," and they who believe in Christ be privileged to "rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified," then are they perverse who deem religion melancholy; "they call evil good, and good evil, they put darkness for light, and light for darkness, they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."

To complete their perverseness, men go farther still, and actually represent religion as contemptible. What is there under the sun more despised than this? With what opprobrium has it not been stigmatized? We appeal to all, whether terms of reproach are not universally assigned to religious characters, and whether the name given them do not universally convey the idea of a weak contemptible enthusiast? Is not their very profession considered as a just bar to their preferment? Yes, are they not so odious in the eyes of the world, that none but those infected with their mania will venture to associate with them, or to acknowledge them as their friends? The drunkard, the whoremonger, the Sabbath-breaker, the infidel, shall find a more favorable reception than they; and solely on account of their religion.

But does religion deserve this character? What is there in it that is so contemptible? What is there in it that to an impartial judge would not appear lovely, great, and venerable? Is the subjugation of the passions a contemptible attainment? Is a superiority to all the pleasures of sense, and the interests of the world, a worthless acquisition! Is there anything mean in love to God, and benevolence to man? Is the aspiring after Heaven a low and pitiful ambition? Viewing at a distance the conduct of the Apostles, we call it magnanimity: but when we see it exhibited before our eyes, we call it preciseness, enthusiasm, hypocrisy. Ah! when will men "cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord," and to brand that with infamy, which he prescribes and approves?

Hitherto we have noticed only men's conduct in respect of theory; let us now behold it as it is manifest in their practice.

1. In the first place they magnify beyond all reasonable bounds the pursuits of time—

From our earliest infancy we hear of little but getting forward in the world. To be rich, to be great, to be honorable, this is the chief good of man. All are aspiring after a higher place than they possess, and conceive that they shall catch the phantom of happiness when they have reached a certain point. Moreover, all are applauded in proportion us they succeed in this race; and no period but that of their departure from the body is thought a fit season for prosecuting their eternal interests.

But are the concerns of time really of such importance? When we have got forward in the world, what have we more than food and clothing, which we might have possessed with half the trouble! We do not mean to discourage industry; that is truly becoming in every person, and highly advantageous in every state. But if all our time and labor be occupied about this world, and the concerns of the soul be subordinated to those of the body, then is our conduct precisely such as is reprobated in the text.

2. In the next place, men extenuate sin as trivial—

There are some crimes which degrade human nature, or greatly disturb the happiness of society, which are therefore very generally reprobated and abhorred. But a forgetfulness of God, a neglect of Christ, a resistance of the Holy Spirit, an indifference about the soul, with ten thousand other sins of omission or of commission, are considered as light and trivial, and as affording no ground for sorrow and contrition. If the outward conduct have been decent, it is no matter what has been harbored within, or how much God has been disregarded and despised.

But is this the light in which the Scriptures teach us to regard sin? What was it that cast angels out of Heaven? the sin of pride. What drove our first parents from Paradise, and brought a curse on all their posterity? one single transgression; and that a breach, not so much of a moral precept, as of a positive institution. Whom is it that according to God's declaration he will cast into Hell? "the wicked, and all the nations that forget God." Does sin appear a light matter when we are told, that nothing but the sacrifice of the Son of God could make atonement for it? Or will it appear a light matter to ourselves, when we are suffering the vengeance due to it in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone? Surely, they are "fools who make a mock at sin," and blind, who doubt of its malignity.

3. To adduce only one instance more, they persuade themselves that their eternal state is safe—

Men living in a direct violation of God's commandments, and in a perfect contrast with the example of Christ, imagine that they have nothing to fear: "they have done no harm; and God is very merciful; and if they were to perish, what must become of all the world?" These, and such like arguments, are considered as sufficient to invalidate every word that God has spoken, and to justify their hopes of eternal happiness.

But darkness and light are not more opposite than these sentiments are to the declarations of God. Where will they find one single passage that will warrant such expectations as these? They must indeed make "evil good, and good evil, and must change bitter to sweet, and sweet to bitter," before they can have the smallest ground of hope in such a state as theirs.

We might easily prosecute this subject in a great variety of views: but enough has been spoken to elucidate the words before us: and we trust that no doubt can remain upon your minds, but that all who consider religion as superficial, melancholy, or contemptible, together with all who magnify the pursuits of time, and extenuate sin as trivial, and at the same time persuade themselves that their eternal state is safe, are indeed obnoxious to the censure in the text.

We shall pass on therefore to show,

II. The evil of this conduct—

But where shall we find words sufficient to declare its great enormity?

1. It is in the first place, a contemptuous rejection of God's truth—

God has clearly marked the difference between good and evil in his word: and if the eyes of our understanding be not blinded by prejudice or passion, we may discern it as easily as we can discern by our bodily senses, light from darkness, or sweet from bitter. But when an appeal is made to the sacred records, their testimony is considered as of no account. Who has not seen the contempt with which God's word is treated, when it is brought forward to oppose some fashionable practice, some favorite lust? One would suppose that its import should be candidly examined, and carefully ascertained. One might expect that they who heard it, should act like mariners sailing by the compass; that they would endeavor to proceed, us much as possible, in the right direction; that they would deliberate, if at any time they had reason to think that they were out of their proper course; that they would be thankful for any information that might tend to rectify their mistakes: above all, they would not madly steer in direct opposition to the compass, and at the same time discard all doubts about their safe arrival at the place of their destination: that were a folly of which no man in his senses is capable. Yet this is the very manner in which men act with respect to the Scriptures. There is no other directory than that; and yet they will not only not follow it, but will go on in willful opposition to it, and still affirm that they are in the way to Heaven. Do we speak too harshly of this conduct if we call it a contempt of God's truth? It is the very expression used by our Lord himself: "He who hears you, hears me; and he who despises you, despises me; and he who despises me, despises him that sent me." Indeed, the inspired writers speak in yet severer terms: they do not hesitate to affirm, that whoever acts thus, makes God a liar; "he who believes not God, has made him a liar." What horrible iniquity is this! If an avowed infidel disregard the admonitions of the Scriptures, he acts consistently, because he does not acknowledge them to be of divine-authority. But if we despise them, we who profess to regard them as inspired of God, we who expect to be judged according to them in the last day, what can be said in extenuation of our guilt? Even "Sodom and Gomorrah may well rise up in judgment against us."

2. In the next place their conduct is a willful deluding of those around them—

Every man, whether he design it or not, has a considerable influence on his friends and neighbors. The rich and learned in particular, and more especially they who minister in holy things, are looked up to as examples; and their conduct is pleaded both as a precedent, and as a justification of those who follow it. 'Can such learned men be deceived? Can they who have entered into the service of the sanctuary, and solemnly undertaken to guide us in the way of peace, can they be wrong? Can they be "blind, who are leaders of the blind?" If then they, who from their education, their office and profession, ought to understand the Scriptures better than we, if they do not approve, either in theory or practice, the things which appear to be enjoined in the Bible, doubtless they have good reasons for their conduct: they would not proceed in a way which they knew to be wrong; we therefore may safely follow them.

By this mode of arguing, all persons lull themselves asleep in their evil ways. Every one upholds his neighbor in the sentiments he has embraced, and in the path he has marked out for himself: and all, instead of condemning themselves for not obeying the divine commands, unite in condemning the obedient as needlessly singular and precise.'

Now we cannot but know that, though an individual has not this extensive influence, the collective body of individuals has; and that every member of society contributes his share according to the conspicuousness of his station, and the sanctity of his profession. Yet we persist in calling good evil, notwithstanding we know that, by so doing, we encourage others to do the same. And is this no aggravation of our guilt? Are we not responsible to God for stirring up, according to our ability, an universal rebellion against him: and for contributing thus to the eternal condemnation, not of those only with whom we associate, but of thousands also whom we have not known!

Doubtless Jeroboam contracted peculiar guilt in "establishing iniquity by a law:" but did not exceeding great guilt attach also to those, who "willingly ran after his commandment!" Did not every one of them countenance idolatry, and render an adherence to the true God more difficult! They however might plead obedience to an established law: but there is no law, except the imperious law of fashion, to mislead us; and that we establish, while we follow it: we bind others, while we ourselves yield obedience to it. Would to God that men could consider their conduct in this view, as discouraging, and perhaps turning aside, the weak; as rendering odious the godly; and as hardening the wicked! Surely they would not then say, What harm have I done? but would be ready to confess themselves the very chief of sinners.

III. Lastly, the confounding of good and evil is an awful trifling with our eternal state—

We profess to believe that there is "a day appointed of God, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained:" and that "every one of us shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ to receive according to the things done in the body, whether they have been good or evil." Now in that day we shall not be judged by the opinions of men, but by the word of God. It will be no excuse to any one that such or such maxims were generally received, or that such practices were sanctioned by custom: there will be one standard to which every principle and every action will be referred. The sacred volume will be open before the Judge: and every erroneous sentiment be confronted with the dictates of inspiration. The Judge himself will know no other rule of judgment: everything that accorded with the Scriptures will be approved; and everything that contradicted them will be condemned. To what end then is it to impose specious names on things, when they will so soon appear in their true light? Will God call evil good, and good evil, because we have done so? Can we convince him that light was darkness, and darkness light, because we persuaded ourselves and others that it was so? What infatuation is it so to trifle with our eternal state! If our error could be pleaded before God in extenuation of our fault, then indeed we might have some reason for persisting in it: but how can we excuse ourselves before him, when we had the means of information in our hands, and followed our own surmises in preference to his commands?

Let us then remember that we are acting now for eternity; and that in a little time everything will appear, not as we wish it, but as it really is. And, if we think it of any importance what our condition shall be in the invisible world, let us desist from our self-deception, which, however pleasant or fashionable it may be, will most unquestionably issue in our eternal ruin.

Before I conclude, suffer me to address a word of exhortation both to those who are deceiving their own souls, and to those who desire to regulate their conduct according to truth.

To the former I beg leave to propose one solemn question: God has said, Woe unto them that call evil good, etc. Can you change that woe into a blessing! Can you prevail on God to retract his word? Can you make void that sentence, when God shall come to execute it upon you in the last day? Yes, will you not then curse your folly, for using such pains to deceive yourselves and others, and for involving yourselves in everlasting misery, when, if you had not so "rebelled against the light," you might have been heirs of everlasting glory? Permit me then to address you in the words of the Apostle, "Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." Begin to weigh both sentiments and actions in the balance of the sanctuary. Begin to "judge righteous judgment." Begin to view things, as you will surely view them when you shall stand at the tribunal of Christ. Bear in mind, that in your present state God has denounced a woe against you. Remember too, that it will be small consolation to you to have others involved in the same misery with yourselves: it will rather be a source of more intense misery to all, by reason of their mutual execrations, for having so greatly contributed to each other's ruin. If the word of God be intended for "a light to our feet, and a lantern to our paths," then make use of it; study it, as it were, upon your knees: meditate upon it day and night: and beg of God "to open your understandings that you may understand it," and to sanctify your hearts that you may obey it.

To those who are of a better mind I would say, Be strong, and dare to stem the torrent of iniquity, that would bear down all before it. Be not ashamed to call good and evil by their proper names; and to show by the whole tenor of your lives, that you know how to distinguish them. Let not too great weight be given to the opinions of men. Bow not to the authority of fashion and custom; but "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." Bring your advisers to "the law and to the testimony: for if they speak not according to that, there is no light in them." In matters of duty or of discipline indeed you cannot be too diffident, you cannot be too submissive. In those things obedience is your highest honor. But when men presume to think for you in the concerns of your souls, it is high time to inquire, whether they will also perish for you? If you perish, you must perish for yourselves; and therefore it behooves you to think for yourselves, and to act for yourselves. The self-deceiving world cannot remove the woe from their own souls; much less can they from yours. "Walk not then according to the course of this world:" "follow not a multitude to do evil." Look not at your neighbors, but at Christ and his holy Apostles. Let the Scriptures regulate your every sentiment, your every act. And, without concerning yourselves about the misrepresentations which blind and ungodly men will give of your conduct, "be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

 

 

Isaiah 6:5-7

 

DISCOURSE 866

ISAIAH'S VISION OF CHRIST

Isaiah 6:5-7. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched your lips, and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.

PREVIOUS to the full revelation of himself in the Gospel, God was pleased to communicate his mind and will to men by dreams and visions, which, since the completion of the sacred canon, are no longer to be expected. But we must not therefore imagine that the revelations so made are less interesting to us, than those which proceeded more immediately from the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit. The same importance must be attached to everything which God has spoken, so far at least as the instruction which is intended to be conveyed is itself important. For instance, the vision of Isaiah seems to have been a peculiar favor given to him: but still it contains many instructive lessons for us: and in this two-fold view we will consider it,

I. As a peculiar favor given to him—

That we may have a more distinct view of it, we shall notice in succession,

1. The vision given—

The place where the prophet was supposed to be, was the outer court of the temple; from whence, the veil which separated it from the sanctuary being drawn aside, he beheld Jehovah seated on his throne, and his train, like that of eastern monarchs, filling the temple. Had no additional light been cast on this vision in the New Testament, we should not have thought of inquiring more minutely about the glorious object whom he saw, and who is here so repeatedly designated by titles peculiar to the one supreme God; but we are authorized to declare, that the person whom he saw, was the Lord Jesus Christ, even our "Immanuel, God with us John 12:41."

Around the throne were "the seraphim," the holy angels, like flames of file Psalm 104:4, in a posture of devout adoration. Each of them had six wings; with two of which he covered his face, as unworthy to behold the Deity; and with other two, his feet, as unworthy to serve him: while with the remaining two he flew with all possible activity to fulfill his will. In themselves they were perfect and spotless creatures: yet, conscious of being as nothing in the sight of a pure and holy God, they were filled with profoundest awe, and served him with reverential fear.

In their worship of him they celebrated, in alternate and responsive songs, the holiness of his nature, and the wonders of his grace. Whether, in the repetition of the word "holy," there be any reference, as some have thought, to the Three Persons of the Godhead, we undertake not to determine: but they evidently regarded the holiness of the Deity as that attribute, which constitutes the glory and perfection of all the rest: and indeed it is that attribute in which he is more especially glorious Exodus 15:11, and at the remembrance of which the whole universe should give thanks Psalm 30:4. Together with this glorious subject they evidently combined the wonders of redeeming love. It is in that view alone that "the earth" can be said to be "full of his glory." In the whole creation indeed there is a marvelous display of wisdom and power; but in redemption alone are seen the mercy, and truth, and faithfulness of our God. And though the seraphims are not interested in that work as we are, yet, as exhibiting the full radiance of all the divine perfections in united splendor, they admire it, they sing of it, they, glorify the Lord Jesus on account of it Compare Psalm 72:17-19. where the same person is spoken of, and the some subject pursued.

At the sound of their voices the doors of the temple were shaken, and the house was filled with smoke. It is possible that this was designed to express the approbation of the Deity, and his delight in that work which was the subject of their praise 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 2 Chronicles 6:1. But we rather suppose, that it was intended to intimate the future abolition of the temple worship, when the time should have arrived for the complete establishment of the Christian dispensation Amos. 9:1 with Hebrews 12:27.

2. The fear excited—

In all the manifestations of God to men, the sight of his majesty has excited alarm and terror Judges. 13:22. Daniel 10:6-8. Revelation 1:17. A measure of this feeling we behold in the prophet on this occasion. But together with this, there was also a deep sense of humiliation and contrition. As Job, on a similar occasion, was led to exclaim, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes Job 42:6," so the prophet, viewing himself, and all around him, in the light of God's holiness, accounted himself a leper in the midst of a leprous world. Whatever he might have judged of himself before, he now was dumb; as indeed every human being must be in the presence of a holy God Romans 3:19; since "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6." From the apprehension and terror we are freed by the Gospel: but the humiliation and self-abasement should rather increase in proportion to the more exalted privileges we enjoy Ezekiel 16:63.

3. The consolation administered—

Instantly did one of the seraphim fly to him, to declare, that his iniquities were all blotted out as a morning cloud, through the atoning blood of Christ. This was emblematically represented to him by a coal taken from off the altar of burnt-offering, and applied to his lips. Doubtless the performance of this office was a delightful service to the Seraph, who would willingly forego for a season the more immediate vision of the Deity himself, for the honor of executing his will as a messenger of mercy to sinful man.

But we hasten from this more restricted view of the subject, to consider it,

II. As an instructive lesson to us—

While we acknowledge that such visions are not to be expected by us, we may contemplate this with great advantage to our souls.

We may learn from it,

1. That a sight of Christ is the highest privilege we can enjoy—

What is it that constitutes the felicity of Heaven? What is it that is the great source of happiness to the seraphim around the throne? It is a sight of Christ enthroned in his glory. Yet was that sight afforded to the prophet in a vision: and afterwards to Paul, by an immediate admission to it in Heaven. And is there no such vision to be enjoyed by us? To our bodily eyes indeed there is not; nor to our imaginations will any such view of him be presented: but to the eye of faith the Lord Jesus is clearly visible; and the eyes of every believer may even now "behold the King in his beauty Isaiah 33:17." In the Gospel he is fully revealed to us: there he appears as "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person:" and we may "behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." We need not envy the prophet himself; for we may have even brighter views of Jesus than he ever enjoyed. We are told that John was greater than all the prophets; and yet that "the least in the Kingdom of Heaven," that is under the Gospel dispensation, "is greater than he Luke 7:26-28." How did he excel all others?. Others prophesied of Christ; but he pointed him out: "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world!" And wherein do we excel him? He beheld Jesus when he came to accomplish our redemption: and we behold him after its accomplishment, seated on his throne of glory, and actually applying to millions of his people the full benefits of that redemption. Let those who embrace the Gospel know their high privilege. Let the poor especially rejoice and be glad. It is not to human learning or to strength of intellect that this discovery of Christ is made, but to faith: and if we search the sacred records with a believing eye, then will "God shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

2. That the more lowly we are in our own eyes, the richer communications we shall receive from him—

Behold how speedily the angel was sent to comfort the mind of the dejected prophet! This was a faithful representation of the care which Jesus takes of all his afflicted people, especially when humbled in the dust before him. "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, until he bring forth judgment unto victory." Though he is "The High and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, yet will he dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the Spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2." Does not his word universally attest this blessed truth, that "while he who exalts himself shall be abased, the man that humbles himself shall be exalted?" Be not afraid then, you who feel your own unworthiness: give not way to despondency; say not, "Woe is me! I am undone:" follow not the unbelieving example of Peter, saying, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord Luke 5:8." But know that, if you feel yourselves lost, it was precisely such persons that he came to seek and save Luke 19:10; and that, "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound Romans 5:20-21;" and if, like Mary, you are enabled to go behind him, and wash his feet with your tears, he will before long say to you, "Your sins, which are many, are forgiven you." Indeed it is in this way that he is daily acting by the ministry of his word: he sends his servant to take his promises, and apply them to the hearts and consciences of his people 1 Thessalonians. 1:5, and thus to fill them with "a peace that passes understanding," and with "joy that is unspeakable and glorified."

3. That a sense of his pardoning love should animate us to an unreserved surrender of ourselves to him—

See the effect which was instantly produced on the prophet's mind. God designed to send his messages of love and mercy to the Jews, notwithstanding he knew beforehand that they would prove ineffectual for their conversion. To carry such messages was a painful task; but yet, when God asked, "Who will go for us?" the prophet hesitated not one moment to offer his services, saying, "Here am I, send me verse 8." Thus should we also manifest our gratitude to God for all the mercies given unto us through the Son of his love. We should not inquire whether the office be pleasant; or, whether it will advance our credit in the world. It should be sufficient for us to know what the will of the Lord is; and then we should account it our honor to do, or suffer it. Especially does this observation apply to those who minister in holy things: if God say, Who will go for me, to carry my Gospel to the heathen? we should not stand to inquire, Whether the office be lucrative or not; or, whether the climate to which we are to go be more or less salubrious. No: we should stand forth and say, "Here am I;, send me." O that we all felt this holy zeal, and that we did not so lamentably "confer with flesh and blood," when, if called to it, we should leave even the vision of God himself, to execute his will towards sinful man! This is a fit subject for Missions. But, in whatever line of life we move, we should be actuated by the same spirit; and so feel the constraining influence of Christ's love, as to live no longer to ourselves, but altogether unto Him who died for us, and rose again 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

 

 

Isaiah 6:8

 

DISCOURSE 867

A MISSIONARY SPIRIT DESCRIBED

Isaiah 6:8. I heard the nice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

IN former ages, God was well pleased to reveal his will to men, sometimes in dreams, and sometimes in visions, and sometimes by an audible voice, like that of a man conversing with his friend: and these methods were more especially given when he was about to devolve on them any particular office, or to employ them on any extraordinary service. It was God's intention to send the Prophet Isaiah on a painful errand; such as, if he consulted his own feelings only, he would be very averse to execute. But to prepare him for it, God given to him a vision of the glory and felicity of the heavenly world. The scene of the vision was, the temple, in which Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was worshiped. An assurance, at the same time, was given him of qualification for his work, and of acceptance in it: and by this he was brought to such a state, that, at the very first proposal from God to send a messenger to his people, he offered himself for the service, willing and desirous to undertake anything whereby his God might be honored, and his Savior glorified.

Respecting the vision itself, I forbear to speak. The points to which I shall call your attention, are,

I. The proposal made

In the first instance, the proposal referred solely to a mission which God intended to send to his people. And, in this view, it may justly be applied to any call which may be given to undertake the ministry of the Gospel, either in our own country or in foreign parts Here somewhat of a parallel may be drawn between that particular occasion and any other which presents itself for more especial consideration.

But we may consider the call as given to every one of us, not to undertake the office of the ministry, but to serve God in a way of general obedience: "Who is willing to fulfill my will, and to consecrate himself to me?": This honor God is ready to confer on all who are willing to accept it: and, if we be really desirous to engage in His service, he will make us lights in the world, and monitors to all around us.

Such offers as these are common in the Holy Scriptures: and we may suppose it as now made to us, in the name, and by the command, of God himself.

To the proposal so made, let us consider,

II. The answer given—

This also we may regard, in the first instance, as an acceptance of the prophetic office. And we cannot but admire the conduct of Isaiah in relation to it, when he offered himself to God without hesitation and without reserve. Here were no inquiries made, what the particular office was, or what would be the difficulties attending the execution of it. It was sufficient for this holy man that he should be employed in doing the will of God; and he was willing to devote to that service all his faculties and all his powers Here, if the subject of Missions be treated of, it would be proper to show, that every Candidate for the office of such a Ministry ought to possess the very disposition which was here evinced.

But, taking the proposal as made to us in general to serve our God, we may here see what a spirit we should cultivate. We should offer ourselves to God to serve him,

1. Instantly—

There should be no delay; no looking for a more convenient season. We should not be questioning, whether we shall be able to do all that is required of us; but should expect assuredly, that God will enable us to perform whatever we undertake for him, and will give a successful issue to our endeavors.

2. Without reserve—

We should not draw back from any labor, nor hesitate to make any sacrifice. The loss of life itself should be regarded as no loss, yes, rather as a grain, in such a cause: To live for God, or die for God, should be deemed equally desirable, if only God's will may be done in us, and the Lord Jesus Christ be magnified Acts 20:24. Philippians 1:20-21.

But the point to which I would move particularly draw your attention, is,

III. The peculiar obligation which lies on us to follow the prophet's example—

You will find in the vision, that the prophet was favored with a bright manifestation of the glory of Christ: for John, referring to it, says, "These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him John 12:41," that is, of Christ. You will see, also, that assistance in his work was promised him: for the putting of the live coal upon his mouth seems to have been designed to assure him of it Compare Jeremiah 1:9 and Acts 2:3. In addition to all this, a sense of God's pardoning love, through the Redeemer's sacrifice, was applied to his soul: for the live coal, being taken from the altar of burnt-offering, marked clearly the connection between the atonement offered for him, and the pardon given unto him. But in no respect do we full short of the favors conferred on him: yes, rather, we may be considered as having,

1. More glorious discoveries of Christ—

Bright as that vision was, it was far inferior to that which is given to us in the Gospel. There we behold Christ as "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3;" yes, we see all "the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Corinthians 4:6."

2. More abundant communications of the Spirit—

Whatever measures of grace were imparted to some highly-favored individuals under the Law, as to David, Isaiah, Daniel, and others, the effusions of the Holy Spirit were very small and partial in comparison of those which are given to the Christian Church: so that none of us need to draw Sack from the greatest work; since the weakest of true Believers may say, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthened me Philip. 4:13."

3. More certain assurances of the forgiveness of our sins—

Doubtless the vision, and that one promise given him in it, were sufficient to satisfy his mind. But in the New Testament we have promises without number, "exceeding great and precious promises;" so "great," that they comprehend every possible state that can be imagined; and so "precious," that they bring us into a participation of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4, and "fill us with all the fullness of God Ephesians 3:19." I can have no hesitation in saying, that were an alternative offered to any true Christian, to receive for his comfort the personal, and particular promise that was given to the prophet, or to have given him for his dependence the broad and general promises of the New Testament, he would do well to rest on those broad promises, which engage that "all manner of sin shall he forgiven unto men," and that "all who believe shall be justified from all things."

Say, then, whether we be not bound to imitate the prophet, in his surrender of himself to God?

Doubtless, if mercies given are motives to obedience, we, who have received such transcendent mercies, ought to "present our whole selves as living sacrifices unto God; which, as it is a holy and an acceptable, is also a most reasonable, service Romans 12:1."

It may be proper, in conclusion, to reply to a question which will probably be asked, How shall I know whether any particular call to any special service is really from the Lord?

I readily grant, that that is a point very difficult to be determined. There is no difficulty et all in determining that we are every one of us called to devote ourselves to God. The difficulty lies in reference to those particular acts which are required only of few. And here I must say, that no rules can be given which shall apply to all cases; nor perhaps any rules that shall be perfectly satisfactory to every mind. And probably, instead of giving a direct answer to the question, the best answer will be, to suggest a caution against those workings of mind which render the full solution of the case so difficult. Moses, we know, was called to go to Pharaoh, and to bring the Lord's people out of Egypt. Now, in opposition to this call, he urged his own unworthiness of such an office Exodus 3:11; the improbability of succeeding in his attempt Exodus 4:1; his own utter unfitness for the work assigned him Exodus 4:10;" and his desire that it should be transferred to someone else Exodus 4:13." Nay, he further adduced his own experience of disappointment in less arduous labors, as a certain ground for apprehending that he must of necessity fail in a matter of so much greater difficulty Exodus 6:12. N.B. Cite all these passages from Exodus; because they are, in fact, the very excuses which a false humility invariably suggests. But what were all these objections? They were, in truth, only so many excuses, urged to cover his own backwardness to undertake the work. Had he been in the frame of mind which the prophet manifested in my text, all these difficulties would have vanished; and he would have engaged in his work as Paul did, who was "not disobedient to the heavenly vision," but "preached at once the faith, which, until that moment, he had labored to destroy." To any one, therefore, who desires an answer to the question that has been proposed, I say, Get your soul filled with love to Christ: and that will answer ten thousand difficulties, and constrain you to engage in anything whereby the kingdom of the Redeemer may be advanced in the world. You will depend on your Lord and Savior for "grace sufficient for you 2 Corinthians 12:9," and expect that "strength shall be given you according to your day Deuteronomy 33:25."

As to excuses for withholding or delaying a general surrender of ourselves to God, they are lighter than vanity itself. Think not that they can stand one moment, when you come before your God. To serve God instantly, and with Our whole hearts, is the duty of every child of man: and therefore, to the proposal which God at this moment makes by my voice, let every individual among you reply, "Here am I: send me."

 

 

Isaiah 8:12-14

 

DISCOURSE 868

GOD THE ONLY PROPER OBJECT OF FEAR

Isaiah 8:12-14. Say you not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear you their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he shall be for a sanctuary.

RELIGION, under any circumstances, is of incalculable advantage: but its benefits are most seen and felt when we come into trials of a complicated and overwhelming nature. Such were the troubles of the Jewish nation at the time referred to in my text. The Syrians had entered into a league with the ten tribes of Israel to dethrone Ahaz, King of Judah, and to establish a king of their own appointment upon his throne: and the prospect of this event spread such dismay among the Jewish people, that they were "all moved by it as trees of the wood before the wind Isaiah 7:1-2; Isaiah 7:6." But the prophet was sent to show them where their strength lay, and to assure them, that, if they would but trust in God, they had nothing to fear, since Omnipotence itself would interpose for their deliverance. In the message which the prophet was instructed to deliver to them, we see,

I. A word of reproof—

To the people of that day was a reproof most justly due—

They all were alarmed at the confederacy that had been formed; and each, by expressing his own fears, helped to spread a panic through the land. But the prophet was ordered to discountenance this, both by precept and example, not by any means joining in the general cry, or suffering himself to participate in the people's fears.

Somewhat of a similar consternation prevailed occasionally among the Apostolic Churches: on which account Peter, plainly referring to the very words of my text, bade the Christians of his day not to be troubled about the menaces of their adversaries, but to follow the advice here given 1 Peter 3:14-15.

And are there not many among ourselves who give way to needless fears, on account of the number and inveteracy of their enemies? "We wrestle, not with flesh and blood only, but with all the principalities and powers of Hell:" and at times our hands are ready to hang down, and our hearts to faint in utter despondency. It was thus with David when he said, "I shall one day perish by the hands of Saul." And more especially was it thus with Asaph, when he questioned with himself, "Will the Lord cast off forever? and will he be favorable no more Psalm 77:7-9." In fact, by the recital of our own doubts and fears, we often contribute to create the same painful feelings in others, and to diffuse among our brethren apprehensions, which ought rather to be discountenanced and withstood. We know what discouragement the spies occasioned through the whole camp of Israel by their representations of the promised land, and of the difficulties which must be overcome, before it should be possessed Numbers 13:28-33; Numbers 14:1. We know also the commendations given to Caleb and to Joshua for their manly opposition to such degrading fears Numbers 32:10-12. This shows us of what spirit we should be, whatever confederacies may be formed against us, or whatever difficulties we may have to encounter: we should dismiss all fear from our own hearts, and strengthen to the uttermost the hands of our timid and desponding brethren.

To his reproof the prophet adds,

II. A word of counsel—

Surely it became the Jews, whose whole history was one continued record of miraculous interpositions, to "encourage themselves in the Lord their God," and to expect at his hands all needful support. But more particularly were they taught in this place to look unto their Messiah, whose advent had just been predicted in express connection with these very events Isaiah 7:7-14. That he is the person here designated by "the Lord of Hosts himself," is evident; because, while he is spoken of as "a Sanctuary" to some, it is declared that he shall be "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence" to others Compare verse 14, with Romans 9:33. Now, says the prophet, "Sanctify him in your hearts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." And precisely the same advice does the Apostle Peter give to timid and desponding Christians in his day, "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts 1 Peter 3:14-15." To "sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts," is, to regard him as possessing all power in Heaven and in earth, and us exercising it for his people's good. This is the true antidote to all distressing fears, from whatever quarter they may arise. For, supposing a confederacy of all the men on earth and all the devils in Hell, what device can prevail against infinite wisdom, or what efforts against Almighty power? If "the Lord's eye be over us for good," it matters not what eye is upon us for evil. "No weapon formed against us can prosper," when both the smith who formed it, and the man who holds it, were created by him and are under his control Isaiah 54:15-17. Protected by this Savior, we can have no cause for fear. Our minds may be peaceful in the midst of the most troublous scenes; Psalm 46:1-3. confident, though menaced by the most inveterate foes Psalm 27:3-5; and assured, though in circumstances, in which no power less than that which is infinite could uphold us Romans 8:35-39. This then is the counsel which I would give to every drooping and desponding soul: "Fear none except the Lord of Hosts himself." Him you can never fear too much: "Let him therefore be your fear and your dread." But, having him for your Protector, you need fear none else: for "if He be for you, who can be against you?"

Hear you then as from God himself,

III. A word of encouragement—

To his people of old this adorable Savior was "a Sanctuary:" and such he will be to us. You remember that when the Man-slayer had once got within the city of refuge, he was safe: the pursuer of blood could not touch him. So, when once you "have fled to Christ for refuge," you are out of the reach of every enemy; "Your life is hid with Christ in God:" nor can all the powers of darkness ever destroy it. It is not by power only that you are protected, but by love, and truth, and faithfulness. The Lord Jesus Christ has pledged his word, that none shall ever pluck you out of his hands John 10:28-29;" yes, and Jehovah has "confirmed his word with an oath, on purpose that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, you may have the stronger consolation Hebrews 6:17-18." What then have you to do but to repose your confidence in him, assured, that "Heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail?" Know you then for your comfort, that "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; and that if you run to, and take refuge in it, you are safe Proverbs 18:10," safe from every enemy that would assault you; safe in time, and safe in eternity.

And now I appeal to you whether the true believer be not the happiest person upon earth?

I grant, he may be an object of the most inveterate hostility both to men and devils. But he has "horses of fire and chariots of fire all around him 2 Kings 6:14-17;" yes, "the Lord Jehovah is himself a wall of fire round about him Zechariah 2:5," for his protection. Compare the state of Ahaz and all his people at this time with that of those who believed the prophet's word. Who were the happier, those who feared the confederacy, or those who feared the Lord? See also the state of Hezekiah's mind at the time of Sennacherib's invasion: "The virgin, the daughter of Israel, has laughed you to scorn Isaiah 37:22.": "The Lord will put a hook in your nose, and a bridle in your jaws, and turn you back by the way by which you came Isaiah 37:29." This is the effect of a realizing sense of God's providence. The man who fears the Lord has nothing else to fear: and the man who "sanctifies the Lord," may be assured, that under all circumstances God will preserve him even as the apple of his eye. But take eternity into the account, and how happy is the Believer then! O what a sanctuary is the Lord to him from the terrors of a guilty conscience, and from the fears of God's wrath! The Believer, and he alone, understands the true import of these words, "I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me, because he trusts in me Isaiah 26:3." Yes, even at the day of judgment may the Believer stand before the Lord with great boldness 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:17, while the unbelieving world are "crying to the rocks and to the hills to fall upon them, and to hide them from his wrath." Make then the Lord Jesus your sanctuary here, and he will be your portion for evermore.

 

Isaiah 8:18

 

DISCOURSE 869

BELIEVERS ARE FOR SIGNS AND WONDERS

Isaiah 8:18. Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord has given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts which dwells in Mount Zion.

FROM the time of Cain and Abel to the present moment, there have existed upon earth two classes of men, essentially distinct from each other, and indeed opposed to each other, even as light and darkness: the one of these consists of men "born after the flesh only; the other, of persons born after the Spirit also." Unhappily, it is to the former of these classes that the great majority of mankind have at all times belonged: the latter class has been composed of only a small remnant, who, on that account, have been, to all the rest of the world, objects of reproach and contempt. The Prophet Isaiah complains of this, in his day: and from his complaint I shall take occasion,

I. To confirm his statement—

There is, in the special case before us, a reference probably to the prophet's own family at that time—

The prophet had two sons; to whom, by God's special direction, he gave very peculiar names. The name of one was "Shear-jashub Isaiah 7:3;" the name of the other was "Maher-shalalhash-baz Isaiah 8:3." These names were given for the purpose of declaring to that people God's intentions respecting them; and the children were therefore both signs of what God had purposed respecting the land, and pledges that he would carry that purpose into effect. The ungodly people of that day, not believing the purposes of God, turned both the prophet and his children into objects of contempt and ridicule. And this seems to be the literal import of our text.

But the prophet had some followers also, who, having been converted by his ministry, were regarded by him as "his children"—

These also, as being witnesses for God against their ungodly neighbors, were, together with the prophet, regarded as objects of popular reproach.

These, too, were honored by the Lord as his peculiar friends and favorites; or, rather, as his own children, to whom he stood in the relation of a Father. In this respect the prophet was a type of the Messiah; who, being the spiritual Parent of these persons, acknowledged them as members of his mystical body; yes, as "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones Hebrews 2:13 with Ephesians 5:30."

Now this rendered them still more obnoxious to the ungodly world; who always hate the saints, in proportion as they bear the divine image, and appear to be objects of God's peculiar love John 15:19. And this I conceive to be the precise import of the prophet's words. He has, in the first place, an oblique reference to his own sons; but he more especially alludes to his pious followers, whom, through the instrumentality of his word, the Lord himself had brought into the nearest possible union with himself. Of these he says, that they were "for signs and for wonders in Israel."

In the same light have the saints in all ages been regarded—

In the days of the Apostles, the children of God were looked upon "as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things 1 Corinthians 4:13;" and to this very hour are they, as the prophet Zechariah expresses it, "men wondered at Zechariah 3:8." There is no one thing which will render persons more universally despised than a profession of real godliness. Every description of men, the moral and the immoral, the proud Pharisee and the scoffing Infidel, are alike hostile to the true Christian. The whole world will hate a follower of Christ. To the whole world, he himself was a butt of contradiction Luke 2:34. The Greek; and all who designated him Beelzebub, will be sure to find some name sufficiently opprobrious, for the purpose of characterizing his faithful disciples.

This statement being still as true as in the prophet's days, I will proceed,

II. To point out its aspect on the parties concerned—

Truly its aspect is very different,

1. On those who account the saints to be "for signs and for wonders"—

They, alas! only betray their own ignorance. Methinks, if they exercised any sound judgment, they would rather account themselves "signs and wonders;" and stand amazed that ever they should have been capable of acting so irrational a part as they have, throughout their whole lives. What! "gaze strangely at persons, and speak evil of them, merely because they will not run to the same excess of riot" as the ungodly world are pursuing 1 Peter 4:4. The Greek. Is this consistent—I will not say, with piety, but with common sense? But, in fact, these very persons, in the midst of all their profane jests or acrimonious proceedings, cannot help venerating, in their hearts, the servants of Christ, and wishing at least to "die their death," even though they will not endeavor to live their life. And assuredly the time is coming, when they will condemn their present conduct as bitterly as now they inveigh against the conduct of the Lord's people. Now they call the saints "the troublers of Israel;" and complain of them, as wishing "to turn the world upside down:" but in a little time their voice will be changed; and they will bemoan themselves, saying, "We fools accounted their life madness, and their end to be without honor: but now, how are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints! Therefore have we erred from the way of truth .…but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it."

2. On those who are so accounted—

Be it so, that you are and must be, despised and "hated, of all men, for Christ's sake." But shall I condole with you on this account? No: I will rather congratulate you; for the whole tenor of Scripture pronounces this to be a ground of joy Matthew 5:10-12; Is it a ground of joy, that "the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you? and that you are conformed to your Savior's image? and that he is glorified in you 1 Peter 4:12-14. Then I bid you rejoice. Again; Is it aground of joy that the work of God's grace is advanced in you 1 Peter 1:7, and an accumulated weight of glory is preparing for you 2 Corinthians 4:17. Then, again I say, Rejoice. But particularly bear in mind what was before spoken respecting our blessed Savior's acknowledgment of those who thus serve him with fidelity: even in the presence of his Father will he confess them, as partakers of his nature, and as heirs of his glory Hebrews 2:13. I say, then, be content to be signs and wonders for a little season; that you may answer the designs of God respecting you in this world, and be partakers of his glory forever in the world to come.

 

 

Isaiah 8:19

 

DISCOURSE 870

SEEKING AFTER GOD

Isaiah 8:19. Should not a people seek unto their God? The extreme simplicity of this subject renders any further elucidation of it superfluous. THE appeals which God makes to men in the inspired volume are exceeding forcible: they make men judges in their own cause; and cannot fail to carry conviction to every mind. Who could resist the appeal of Nehemiah to the usurious and oppressive Israelites: "Ought you not to walk in the fear of God Nehemiah 5:9." So I doubt not but that all of you will readily acknowledge the obligation which lies upon you, while I,

I. Make the appeal to you—

Nothing can be conceived more just or simple than the question here proposed for your consideration. For,

1. Who among us does not stand in need of help?

Who has not many sins to be forgiven?: and many wants, temporal as well as spiritual, to be supplied?.

2. Who but God can supply our wants?

We have "not in ourselves a sufficiency even for a good thought 2 Corinthians 3:5.": nor is there a creature in the universe able to render us any effectual assistance Psalm 49:7.

3. Is not God both able and willing to do for you all that you can possibly desire?

Suppose your sins to be as great as those of Manasseh, can he not pardon them 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. or your necessities to be as great as those of Israel in the wilderness, can he not supply them Psalm 78:12-16. Ephesians 3:20. Search the annals of the world, and find one, if you can, "who ever sought his face in vain Isaiah 45:19."

4. Will it not, hereafter, be to you a ground of bitter self-reproach, if you neglect to seek him?

Our Lord will surely say to you at the last day, "How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not Matthew 23:37." The fault is all your own: "you would not come to me, that you might have life John 5:40." And the conviction of this will be the bitterest ingredient of that cup which shall then be given you to drink to all eternity.

Assured that you cannot but have felt the force of this appeal, I will,

II. Found upon it some suitable advice—

What shall I say? Seek the Lord:

1. With understanding—

You must seek God as reconciled to you in Christ Jesus 2 Corinthians 5:19-21. In Himself he is "a consuming fire Hebrews 12:29." It is in Christ alone that any sinner in the universe can gain access to him John 14:6. Hebrews 10:19-22.

2. With earnestness—

It is not by any formal services that you can hope to succeed. You must "not only seek but strive Luke 13:24." "The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence; and the violent must take it by force Matthew 11:12."

3. With speed—

There may come a time, even in this life, when God may give you over to a reprobate mind, and Heaven may be shut against you forever Psalm 81:10-12. Romans 1:28. Isaiah 55:6; At all events, death may quickly terminate all your hopes. In the eternal world, however loudly you may cry, you will "not be able to obtain one drop of water to cool your tongue."

4. With constancy—

To the latest hour of your life must you continue to seek help from God, as much as at the present moment. If at any period you draw back from him, you will "draw back unto perdition Hebrews 10:38-39." You must not "be weary in well-doing;" for "he only who endures to the end shall be saved Matthew 10:22."

 

 

Isaiah 9:2-4

 

DISCOURSE 871

BLESSINGS IMPARTED BY THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 9:2-4. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. You have multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before you according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For you have broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

THE dispensations of God in this world are never so afflictive, but there are some alleviating and consolatory circumstances to cheer us under them. The judgments with which he threatened to punish his apostate people were very tremendous Isaiah 8:19-22; yet he comforted them in the mean time with prospects of the Messiah's advent. Whatever reference the words of my text may have to the deliverance of the Jews from Sennacherib's army, we are sure that they refer to Christ, and to the blessings that should issue from the ministration of his Gospel. Matthew quotes them in this view Matthew 4:12-16; and the very words themselves are far more suited to a spiritual subject than to any temporal occurrence The first verse of the chapter is inexplicable, according to our version. Bishop Lowth translates it differently, and thereby makes the sense of the whole passage clear. "There shall not hereafter be darkness in the land which was distressed. He formerly debased the land of Zebulon and Napthali, but in the latter time he has made it glorious, even the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. For the people, etc," The meaning is, that as the northern part of Galilee had been particularly afflicted by the incursions of the Assyrians, so it should be particularly honored by the ministry of Christ.

We notice then in the text three rich blessings resulting from the ministry of Christ, and of his servants in all ages; namely, light, joy, and victory. The first which the Christian receives, is,

I. Light—

Men are everywhere "sitting in darkness and the shadow of death"—

This was the case with the Jews, notwithstanding they were God's professing people, and had continual access to the word and ordinances of God. And it is the case with us, notwithstanding we are called Christians, and have the word and sacraments administered among us. We are like persons immured in a dungeon, or bereft of sight: light is shining all around us, but we see it not: we are as much in darkness as if there were no light at all. The Scriptures uniformly represent us thus; and experience abundantly confirms their testimony. How ignorant are men of their own hearts; of God; of the way of acceptance with him; and indeed of the whole circle of divine truth! Nor is this ignorance confined to the illiterate: it obtains as much among the great and learned, as among the poorest and meanest of mankind.

But by the Gospel the eyes of their understanding are opened—

All were not enlightened by the preaching of Christ and his apostles; nor are all instructed now by the word they hear: but they whose eyes are opened, do attain by the Gospel a wonderful insight into "the truth as it is in Jesus:" they discover the depth of their own depravity: they behold "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ:" a thousand other things, "which the natural man cannot receive," are open to their view: "they are brought out of darkness into marvelous light 1 Peter 2:9;" "neither do they from thenceforth walk any more in darkness, because they have the light of life John 8:12."

Together with light, the Christian is filled with,

II. Joy—

That which in the text we read "You have not increased the joy," is in the margin translated, "You have increased to it the joy," namely, to the nation of saints that are multiplied. This seems to be the more proper rendering of the words, and to agree best with the context; for all who are illuminated with divine truth, have,

1. A sacred joy—

Whatever joy a carnal man partakes of, let him only be brought into the divine presence, and it vanishes at once. To speak to him of God and Heaven and Hell, is to make him melancholy. But the Christian's joy is a holy sacred joy: "he joys before God." It was appointed under the Law that the people at the beginning and end of harvest should bring their first-fruits and their tithes to the temple, and, feasting upon them with their friends, rejoice before God Deuteronomy 16:9-15. Thus the Christian brings his temporal comforts into the divine presence, that he may enjoy God both in and with them. By religion, all his joys are greatly enhanced; nor does he ever enjoy his food or his friends or any blessing in life so much, as when he is led to God by them, and glorifies his God in them. But the most delightful seasons are those wherein he can go to his God in secret, and pour out his soul before him. One hour spent in communion with his Lord is more to him than a whole life of carnal joy: it is a feast of fat things, an foretaste of Heaven.

2. An exalted joy—

The Christian's joy is compared to that of a successful gardener, and a victorious warrior. In every age, the in-gathering of the harvest has been an occasion of joy Isaiah 16:9-10; the seizing also of the spoil from a vanquished enemy has ever been considered as a ground of triumph. There is indeed on both these occasions too much of what is merely carnal: still however the spirits of the people are raised far beyond their usual pitch. In this respect the Christian's joy resembles theirs. When he begins to see the fruit of his painful labors and his dubious conflicts, he cannot but rejoice that he has not labored in vain, or fought in vain. Yes, his soul is joyful in his God, and "he rejoices with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified."

To this the Gospel contributes, by crowning its converts with,

III. Victory—

As natural men are blind, so are they also under sore bondage—

The Egyptian or Babylonish yoke was light in comparison of that which Satan has imposed on all the human race. He holds them fast in his chains, and "leads them captive at his will".

But through the Gospel they are effectually delivered from it—

When the Jewish nation was oppressed by the Midianites, God raised up Gideon to effect its deliverance. But how was the deliverance wrought? by arms? No: God would not suffer him to employ the army he had raised, but first released all of them except ten thousand, and then dismissed all of those except three hundred. And how were those three hundred armed? with sword and spear? No: but with earthen pitchers, and lamps, and trumpets: and with this little army so accoutred, he put to flight the whole host of Midian: they brake their pitchers, held forth their lamps, and blew their trumpets; and the enemies were put to flight Judges. 7:19-21. Thus, precisely thus, does the Christian triumph over his enemies: unable to accomplish anything by his own arm, he, by the mere light and sound of the Gospel, vanquishes his foes. When indeed the rout commences, he summons all his powers to destroy them; nor ceases from the pursuit, until he has effectually subdued them all. Behold a man who was lately enslaved by the world, the flesh, and the devil; see him at once throw off the yoke, behold him trampling on the world, crucifying the flesh, and bruising Satan under his feet! Is this a dream? No; it is a reality, that may be seen now as much as it was on the day of Pentecost, or on the day that the blood-thirsty Saul became a preacher of the faith he had once destroyed. "Such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord:" they all are conquerors, and "more than conquerors, through Him that loved them."

Infer,

1. How strangely do men misconceive of the nature and operation of the Gospel!

That which Christ and his apostles preached, is deemed fanaticism, and is supposed to lead to melancholy and licentiousness. But how opposite is this sentiment to that which is contained in the text! Only let the Gospel be searched into with candor and diligence, and we will venture to affirm that it shall approve itself as light, and become a source of joy, and lead to certain victory. Whatever remains of darkness, grief, or bondage, shall be gradually banished, and the felicity of Heaven be enjoyed, in proportion as the soul is subjected to the dominion of Christ.

2. How much do the saints of God live below their privileges!

If we look at the first converts, we shall be ready to think that they were of a different species from us; so far are we below them in spiritual attainments. But is not the Gospel the same as it was in their day? Does it not require as much of us as it did of them? And will it not operate as powerfully on our hearts as it did on theirs? O let us not be satisfied with such indistinct views of the mysteries of God: let us not be contented with such scanty measures of joy and triumph: let us not think it enough to gain some small advantages over our spiritual enemies: let us look for greater things, and expect more signal displays of the Divine power and goodness! We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves: let us only be strong in faith; and "according to our faith it shall be unto us."

 

 

Isaiah 9:6

 

DISCOURSE 872

CHRIST'S INCARNATION AND CHARACTER

Isaiah 9:6. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

THERE is no true peace or happiness in the world except that which arises from the Gospel of Christ; for God himself testifies that there is no peace to the wicked. But where the Gospel truly prevails, peace and joy immediately spring up as its proper fruits. Such a change as this the prophet describes in the preceding context; and then, in the words before us, traces it to its real source. From the words themselves we shall be led to consider,

I. The advent of Christ to take the charge of his kingdom—

Though given to us by God, he came in an obscure and humble form—

He was a little "child, born" in as helpless a state as others, and subject to all the sinless infirmities of our nature. He was indeed in a more especial manner the gift of the Father's love John 3:16; the most invaluable gift that God himself could bestow. He was the Child, and the Son, of whom all the prophets spoke, the offspring of a virgin, "Emmanuel, God with us." But as the end of his coming was to redeem our fallen race, he came in such a way, as was best suited to the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose and grace.

Yet, notwithstanding his mean appearance, he came to assume the government of the Church—

As the Creator of the universe, he must of necessity have also been the governor of it before his incarnation. But now he came to administer the government as mediator; for all judgment was committed to him, not only as the Son of man, but because he was the Son of man John 5:27. The Church, in a more especial manner, is subjected to him in this view; and he is the head of it, as well for the purpose of communicating his influence to the members, as of managing its concerns Ephesians 1:22. And so entirely is everything under his control, that not so much as a hair falls from the head of any of his people without either his express command, or righteous permission. As in the days of his flesh he exercised the most unlimited authority over diseases, devils, and the very elements, so now everything, whether designedly, or against its will, fulfills his unerring counsels.

We shall the less wonder at his elevation to a throne, if we consider,

II. His qualifications for the regal office—

His being called by any name, imports that He really is what he is called. He is therefore,

1. A wonderful Counselor Those are by many considered as two distinct titles; but, if we unite them, each title will have its proper attribute.—

He, in concert with the Father, formed the stupendous plan of man's redemption, a plan in which are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge Colossians 2:3. Moreover in executing this plan, he has not only defeated all the plots and devices of Satan, but has invariably overruled them for the accomplishment of his own designs. His people too he endues with "wisdom from above," enabling them to discern things hidden from the carnal eye, and guiding them in the way to Heaven, so that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein Isaiah 35:8. Who that has known ever so small a part of his ways, must not exclaim with amazement, How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

2. The mighty God—

Angels and magistrates are sometimes called gods in a subordinate sense; but He is "The mighty God," "God with us," even "God over all, blessed forever." The dispensations, both of his providence and grace, manifest him to be a "God, wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." Indeed, if he were not God, he never could bear upon his shoulder the government of the universe. He must be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or else he never could hear the supplications, and supply the wants, of all his people at the same instant. However strange therefore it may seem, He who was a little child, was at the same time the mighty God; it was "the Lord of glory that was crucified;" it was "God who purchased the Church with his own blood 1 Corinthians 2:8. Acts 20:28."

3. The everlasting Father—

This title respects not his relation to the Deity (for with respect to that, he is the Son and not the Father) but rather his relation to his spiritual seed, whom he has begotten by his word and Spirit. But perhaps the words should rather have been translated, "The Father of the everlasting age." The Jewish dispensation was intended to continue but for a limited time; but the Christian dispensation was never to be succeeded by any other: hence it is called "the last times;" and may be considered as "the everlasting age." Of this Christ is the author; it owes its existence to him as its parent; it is preserved by his guardian care; and the whole family in Heaven and earth who participate its blessings, both bear his image, and inherit his glory.

4. The Prince of Peace—

In all which Christ has done, whether in planning or executing the work of redemption, he has consulted the peace and welfare of his people. It was to purchase their peace that he became incarnate and died upon the cross. It was to bestow on them the blessings of peace, that he assumed the reins of government, and undertook to manage all their concerns. Peace was the legacy which he left to his Church when he was just departing from the world; and, on his ascension, he poured it down like a river on myriads of his blood-thirsty enemies: yes, at this very hour does he dispense it according to his own sovereign will, and impart it, with royal munificence, to all the subjects of his kingdom.

This subject furnishes us with abundant reason,

1. For admiration—

If all Heaven was filled with wonder at the sight of their incarnate God, and if the "Angels yet desire to look into" that "great mystery of godliness," how marvelous should it appear in our eyes! Let us then adore with reverence what we cannot comprehend; and exclaim with profoundest wonder, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift 2 Corinthians 9:15."

2. For gratitude—

Has the mighty God become a little child for us, and shall we regard his condescension with indifference? Is he governing and overruling everything for our good, and shall we feel no sense of his kindness? Let us rather say, What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?

3. For devotedness to God—

If the government be upon his shoulder, we should show ourselves willing to have it there, and submit ourselves cheerfully to his authority. In vain shall we regard him as the source and foundation of our peace, unless we yield ourselves to him as the governor of our lives.

 

Isaiah 9:13

 

DISCOURSE 873

OUR IMPENITENCE UNDER THE DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS

Isaiah 9:13. The people turns not unto him that smites them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.

RICH as God is in mercy to repenting sinners, he is full of indignation against the impenitent. Hence his most gracious invitations and promises are often intermixed with the most awful threatenings Matthew 11:20-21; Matthew 11:28. He had just before declared his intention of sending the Messiah to his chosen people. He now threatens them with utter excision for their impenitence Compare verse 6, 7 with verse 11–15. The grounds of his displeasure are no less visible among ourselves than among the Jews. We are at this time suffering under his chastising hand. But few, if any, of us are suitably affected with his judgments.

The solemnity of this day The Fast-day, March 1798. leads us to inquire,

I. What is the end for which God chastises us?

He does not ever afflict his people willingly and without a cause. Sin is the ground of the controversy that he has with us. It is for the removal of this that he sends afflictions,

1. Upon individuals—

His most highly favored people are not exempt from chastisement: while they have any sin unmortified, God will not leave them altogether unpunished Jeremiah 30:11. Even the upright Job had much dross which was to be purged in the furnace of affliction Job 23:10. David also found much benefit arising from his trials Psalm 119:71; and acknowledged them to have been tokens of God's love and faithfulness Psalm 119:72. Under the New Testament dispensation God has had the same end in view: He "delivered the incestuous man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus 1 Corinthians 5:5;" and visited with bodily sickness many of those who had profaned the Lord's supper, in order that they might not perish with the ungodly world 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 11:32. Nor can we doubt but that our troubles are sent for the same benevolent purpose; of whatever kind they be, they are intended to purge away our sin, and bring us nearer unto God Hebrews 12:10.

2. Upon nations—

When a nation is altogether ripe for ruin, God executes vengeance without any view to their reformation; but until then he will continue to correct them with much long-suffering and forbearance. The ten successive plagues of Egypt were sent to overcome their obstinacy. The Israelites, both in the wilderness and in Canaan, were continually informed of the distinct offences for which their various punishments were inflicted; and even their captivity in Babylon was intended for their good Jeremiah 24:5. We cannot precisely say what are the peculiar enormities by which we have provoked the Majesty of Heaven. But it is certain that God is visiting us for sin: the calamities we this day deplore, are tokens of his displeasure Isaiah 42:24-25; nor can we expect a removal of them, until the end, for which they are sent us, is accomplished.

It should be the business of this day to inquire—

II. What effect his chastisements have produced upon us?

The rod, which is now held over us, has a voice, if we have ears to hear it Micah 6:9. It calls us to repent of all our evil ways. But what change has hitherto been produced,

1. In the nation?

Every reform is talked of, except a reform of our hearts and lives. What order of men among us has duly improved this awful crisis? Is not dissipation as prevalent among the higher ranks as ever? Is there a reformation begun among those who ought above all to be examples to the flock Those whom God particularly notices in the text, are "the ancient and honorable, and the prophet that teaches lies."? Are the watchmen, whose office it is to warn others, as earnest and faithful as the occasion requires Ezekiel 33:6-8. Are evils of any kind put away from among us? Or is there, even at this hour, any serious appearance of turning unto God? Are not our very fasts a mere formal and hypocritical lip-service? May they not even be numbered among our greatest sins? Alas! what shall the end of these things be? The generality are altogether regardless of God's displeasure: because they do not feel in their own persons the stroke of his rod, they are indifferent about the calamities of others Isaiah 57:10. Many, like Ahaz, have even increased in their iniquities since the commencement of our present troubles 2 Chronicles 28:22. They have hardened their hearts and refused to receive correction; nor will they cry when God binds them Job 36:13. Nor is this peculiar to any one order of people more than another Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 5:4-5; some are presumptuously boasting of our power to withstand the arm of God verse 10; others, of whom better things might have been hoped, refuse to unite even in the outward services of this day. (Have these men never done anything to increase our national guilt, that they refuse to deprecate our national judgments? Or have they no occasion to implore mercy for themselves?) To none was the prophet's complaint ever more applicable than to ourselves at this juncture Isaiah 1:4-6.

2. In individuals?

Some there are, we trust, who "weep between the porch and the altar." Some are "grieved for the affliction of Joseph Amos. 6:6, but these are few in number; nor are they by any means so deeply affected as they ought to be. But where shall we find any that have been humbled under the divine chastisements? Who among us is truly "turning unto him that smites us?" Who is "seeking the Lord of hosts?" Who have been mourning over their sins this day in secret? Who have put from them their idols and their abominations Ezekiel 20:7. Who have cried for mercy as perishing sinners? Or stood in the gap to intercede for their distressed country? Happy they whose personal troubles have wrought this blessed change! But we fear that few, if any, have so laid to heart the public calamities, as to have experienced from them such a beneficial effect.

We shall conclude our inquiries with some suitable and important observations—

1. God will surely overcome at last—

He is now maintaining a controversy with us. Nor can we expect that he should lay aside his rod until it has accomplished his will. If we continue to walk contrary to him, no doubt he will continue to walk contrary to us. If the scourging us with rods will not suffice, he will scourge us with scorpions 1 Kings 12:11. He will repay us seven-fold more for our sins Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:27-28. Four times are we warned that his hand is stretched out still Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21; Isaiah 10:4. Let us then cease from the unequal combat Ezekiel 22:14. Isaiah 10:3, and turn to him, before the measure of our iniquities be completely filled.

2. If we turn to God with our whole hearts, he will cease from his anger—

We have most abundant evidence of this delightful truth. The repentance of Nineveh is a standing encouragement for all nations. Jon. 3:10. Even the temporary humiliation of Ahab prevailed to defer the impending judgments 1 Kings 21:29. What then should not be effected if this whole nation turned to God in sincerity? God would sooner send an angel to deliver us, or open a passage for us through the sea, than suffer our enemies to prevail against us Exodus 14:22 with Isaiah 51:10 and 2 Kings 19:35 with Psalm 34:7. His promise to this effect is absolute Jeremiah 18:8. Let this consideration lead us to repentance; and let the prophet's advice to mourn, and fast, and weep, be followed without delay Joe. 2:12-13.

3. If we return not to God, our present miseries will he only a pledge of far greater miseries in another world—

God punishes men in this world in their national capacity; but in the future world every individual shall answer for his own sins. Nor are we left to doubt what will be the doom of the impenitent Luke 13:3. In comparison of that, temporal calamities are of no account. Oh! who can dwell with everlasting burnings Isaiah 33:14. Let me beseech you then by the terrors of the Lord. It would be terrible indeed to fall into the hands of man; but woe be to those who fall into the hands of the living God Hebrews 10:31. Let the exhortation of Christ then sink deep into your hearts, "Fear not man, who can only kill the body, but God, who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. I say unto you all, Fear him Luke 12:5."

 

 

Isaiah 10:12-17

DISCOURSE 874

PRIDE AND DOWNFALL OF THE ASSYRIAN MONARCH

Isaiah 10:12-17. It shall come to pass, that, when the Lord has performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks: for he says, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have rubbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: and my hand has found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathers eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that hews therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shakes it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning, like the turning of a fire: and the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.

THE doctrine of an all-disposing Providence is most consolatory to the mind of man. If everything were left to chance, or were at the disposal of mortal men, we should have nothing to cheer us in adversity, or to moderate our overweening conceit in prosperity. But the thought, that all things are directed by an all-wise Being, who "does according to his will in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth," and "whose counsel," whatever the designs of men may be, "shall surely stand," preserves our minds composed and equable, in every situation, and in every condition. The situation of Jerusalem at the time when the prophet wrote this was very afflictive: but by God's command he addressed them thus, in a few verses following our text: "O my people that dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite you with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt (at the Red Sea): for yet a very little while, and (as in the case of Pharaoh and his host) the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction verse 24, 25." To the same effect does he speak also in the text itself; which we shall consider,

I. As fulfilled in Sennacherib—

Sennacherib was a proud and haughty monarch—

The Assyrian empire was the most powerful at that time existing in the world: and Sennacherib was dignified with the title of, the Great King 2 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 18:28. He himself too conceived that he was omnipotent, a rival of Jehovah, or rather, his superior 2 Kings 18:33-35 with Isaiah 14:13-14.

Strange it is that mortal man should entertain such wild conceits: but such is frequently the effect of power: it altogether intoxicates us worms of the earth, and makes us forget that we are men Ezekiel 28:2 and 2 Thessalonians. 2:3-4.

But God brought him down in a most awful manner—

In one single night was his power broken by the sword of a destroying angel, who slew 185,000 of his troops: and, not very long after, was he himself assassinated by two of his sons, while worshiping in the house of Nisroch his God 2 Kings 19:35-37. And thus it is that God has often humbled his proud blaspheming creatures Ezekiel 28:3-10; yes, and more such instances of vengeance yet remain to be accomplished 2 Thessalonians. 2:8.

This subject, so interesting of itself, is yet far more interesting,

II. As illustrated at this time Thanksgiving-day, Jan. 13, 1814.—

The resemblance between Sennacherib, and that powerful enemy with whom we have been contending now so many years, is very striking. We will point it out in a few particulars:

1. His unconscious agency—

The great object of Sennacherib's ambition was, to subdue as many nations as he could, and bring them under subjection to himself. This was his object in warring against Judah. But God had another object in view. God raised him up to punish his offending people the Jews, and thereby to bring them to repentance. No such thought as this entered into the mind of Sennacherib. He went on with a view to his own aggrandizement; but God made use of him as "the rod of his anger, and the staff of his indignation verse 5–7."

Thus it has been with him who has for so long a period desolated every part of Europe Bonaparte, Jan. 13, 1814. He has been instigated only by his own ambition, and a desire after universal empire: but God has been using him to punish the nations, who, though "naming the name of Christ, had scarcely anything of Christianity except the name!" As God's instrument he has effected a very great change in Europe: he has given a death-blow to Popery, and has liberated the minds of men from those shackles with which they were held in a worse than Egyptian bondage. He has also, though quite unintentionally on his part, rooted out those principles of infidelity towards God, and of insubordination towards man, which were the means of placing him on his high eminence, and which he himself labored as much as any one to disseminate. Nay more, by the very miseries which he has inflicted on the human race, he has occasioned a spirit of humiliation and of piety, which, unless at the Reformation and in the apostolic age, never before obtained in Europe to the extent it now does. True it is, "he never meant these things, nor did they ever enter into his mind;" but still he has been an instrument in God's hand of effecting them.

2. His great success—

Nothing could stand before Sennacherib verse 9–11; and until lately, nothing has been able to withstand this proud oppressor, whom we are comparing with him. Nation after nation has he subjugated; so that what Sennacherib said may be justly said by him also, "Are not my princes altogether kings verse 8." While he raised his generals to the rank of kings, he made the old established kings his vassals. And truly one part of Sennacherib's commission he executed to perfection: if he had believed himself "charged by God, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread men down like mire in the streets verse 6," he could not have fulfilled his mission with more fidelity or with less remorse. He truly regarded the wealth of all the countries which he invaded, as "eggs found in a nest;" and he transported to his own capital everything that was valuable, that the seat of his empire might become the center of all that was great and glorious in the world. Yes, not content with acting thus towards the nations that opposed him, he exercised the same rapacity towards neutral and unoffending states The Hanse Towns especially; and, while he was "gathering all the earth, there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped verse 14," or dared even to remonstrate with him, and much less to oppose by force, his tyrannical proceedings. In a word, he "removed the bounds of nations," apportioning them according to his own pleasure, and "robbed their treasures verse 13," compelling all of them to augment and support his armies; and, with the exception of our favored land, he exercised in every country a most despotic sway; and, if he could but have placed any bounds to his tyranny, and been content with consolidating instead of extending his dominions, he would have been the uncontrolled governor of Europe at this hour.

3. His atheistic pride—

The Assyrian monarch took to himself all the glory of his conquests: "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent verse 13." And how astonishingly striking is the resemblance between our great enemy and him in this particular! His official reports have been one continued boast from beginning to end. Never once has God been acknowledged by him an the disposer of the different events. We wonder not that a heathen should vaunt himself in this manner: but that a man professing himself a Christian should do it, and that too in the face of the whole Christian world, only shows to what a height his pride and impiety have risen. Well is the folly, as well as the impiety of such conduct exposed in our text: it is, in fact, "the axe boasting itself against him that hews with it; and the saw magnifying itself against him that shakes it: it is the rod shaking itself against him that lifts it up, and the staff lifting itself up against its Master verse 15." Presumptuous man! "Know that the Lord is greater than all gods; and that wherein soever they deal proudly, he is, and will be, above them Exodus 18:11."

His sudden fall—

In one single night was Sennacherib overthrown. So completely was that prediction verified, "The Light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day." And taking the day for a prophetic day, it has been almost as literally accomplished in our great adversary. It was very little more than a year, between the time when he was in the plenitude of his power, and the time when he was reduced to his present state of weakness and degradation. There is a remarkable correspondence too in the very terms in which the destruction of the Assyrian monarch was foretold, and the means by which the destruction of the modern Sennacherib was effected. "God himself was for a fire and a flame," to burn him out of that city, where he had hoped to rest his army during the winter season. God put it into the heart of the people themselves to reduce their own houses to ashes, rather than to let them prove an asylum to their barbarous invader. This it was that necessitated him to measure back his steps "by the way he had come 2 Kings 18:28; 2 Kings 18:33;" and this retreat was attended with the loss of all his army. Another desperate effort has he made to retrieve his fortunes; but that also was defeated in one single battle; which has left him more naked and destitute than Sennacherib himself; his own more immediate territory, which he had proudly deemed inviolable, being now invaded on every side, and his regal power being probably near the close of its existence. We pretend not ourselves to prophesy: but the time is probably very near at hand, when Ezekiel's description of the character and end of the Tyrian monarch will be accomplished in him in all its parts: "Will he then say before him that slays him, I am God? No: he will be a man, and not God, in the hand of him that slays him Ezekiel 28:3-10."

Our text is yet further worthy of attention,

III. As speaking to men in all ages—

Divested of all those particular circumstances which give it more than ordinary interest at this time, it suggests many lessons of great, and general, and perpetual utility. It teaches us,

1. To receive afflictions as from the hand of God—

The Jews probably ascribed their troubles to the insatiable ambition of the Assyrian monarch: as we also have traced ours to the ruler of France. But God has told us, that, in the triumphs of Sennacherib, he himself was "performing a gracious work upon Mount Zion, and on Jerusalem:" and we know that Nebuchadnezzar also, and Cyrus, in their victories, were nothing more than "God's sword" and "battle-axe Jeremiah 25:9. Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 45:1 with Jeremiah 51:20." In this light then we should view all our public calamities. By whoever they may be occasioned, they come from God himself, and are sent by him for our good. As the Jews were sent by him into captivity in Babylon "for their good Jeremiah 24:5," so are our severest losses and defeats intended to humble us, and to bring us to the footstool of our God. The same may be said also of our personal afflictions. When the Chaldeans and Sabeans plundered all the property of Job, and the elements conspired to augment and complete his misery, Job saw in every part of his trials the hand of God: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord Job 1:13-21." And afterwards he prayed, "Show me why you contended with me Job 10:2." This is precisely what the text teaches us also to do in every affliction. We should receive it as from God; and, having done so, we should "hear the rod, and him that appointed it." Were we but attentive to God's voice in afflictive dispensations, we should say to the instruments of our trouble, as Joseph did to his brethren, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God:" and, instead of quarreling with second causes, we should kiss the hand that smote us, and say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him."

2. To acknowledge God in our successes—

Certainly the interposition of God in the destruction of Sennacherib could admit of no doubt: it was as clear as that of Pharaoh, who was brought into the Red Sea for that very purpose verse 24 with Exodus 14:17. And scarcely less visible was his agency in the destruction of our great adversary. God allured him into the heart of the Russian empire, and inclined him to continue there, until his retreat was become impracticable: and to a still further infatuation did he give him up; for, instead of retreating with his forces entire to the confines of his own kingdom, where he might, humanly speaking, have defied all the efforts of the allies, he madly retained an untenable position, until he was reduced to the necessity of risking all upon a single battle. In these errors of his we see him given up to judicial blindness in order to his destruction, precisely as the enemies of Zion were in the days of old: "Many nations," says the prophet Micah, "are gathered against you, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion Micah 4:11-13." Indeed, notwithstanding the backwardness of men to "consider the operation of God's hands," there is scarcely a thoughtful person to be found, who does not see it, and acknowledge in the present instance, that he gathered them together in both those places as sheaves into the floor.

But we must not think that God interposes only in great concerns, such as the fate of empires: he equally interests himself in all the events that are daily and hourly occurring: and from him does our success flow, even in the most trivial matters. Have we succeeded in business? It is "he who has given us power to get wealth Deuteronomy 8:17-18." Have our agricultural labors been followed with an abundant increase? Not the abundance only, but the skill we exercised, was altogether from "God, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working Isaiah 28:23-29." Have we prospered in our spiritual course, and gained the victory over our spiritual adversaries? We must say with Paul, "He who has wrought us to the self-same thing is God 2 Corinthians 5:5;" "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 2 Corinthians 2:14." Whatever evil we escape, or whatever good we enjoy, God must be regarded as the true, the only source of all. "In him are all our fresh springs Psalm 87:7;" and "of him is our fruit found Hosea 14:8;" and all the glory must be his alone Isaiah 45:5-7.

3. To look to the final issue of everything—

Who that saw the issue of Sennacherib's invasion, would not prefer the beneficial trials of Jerusalem before the short-lived triumphs of the proud Assyrian? and who that considers aright, does not now congratulate the yet bleeding countries of Europe, especially those who have derived spiritual benefit from their afflictions, and look with pity on the fallen oppressor, laden as he must be with an intolerable load of conscious guilt, and the curses and execrations of half the human race? We may have been stumbled for awhile, just as David was, at the sight of prosperous wickedness; but, if with him we enter into the sanctuary, and contemplate the end of these men, or if we look at their end as exemplified in our fallen adversary, we shall know how to judge of such mysterious dispensations Psalm 73:3-14; Psalm 73:16-20. In like manner we may learn how to judge of everything, whether prosperous or adverse, in our own affairs. Let us look to the final issue. What will prosperity benefit us, if it draws us from God, and leads us, like the rich fool, to fix our happiness on things below? On the other hand, what reason can we have to complain of afflictions, if they be sanctified to our spiritual and eternal good? Has the stone reason to complain that it receives many strokes, when it is thereby fitted for a conspicuous place in the Temple of the Lord? or the vine, even granting it to be fruitful, that it is "pruned, when it is made thereby to bring forth more fruit?" or the vessel, that it is put into the furnace, when it is thereby rendered meet for the Master's use? Be not then so much concerned to get rid of present trials, as to have them made subservient to the good of your souls. Only beg of God, that "his whole work may be performed upon you;" and leave the means of accomplishing that work to Him, who orders everything with unerring wisdom and unbounded love. You will then see, before long, that "he has abounded towards you with all wisdom and prudence;" and in all future trials you will say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

 

 

Isaiah 11:2-3

 

DISCOURSE 875

CHRIST'S QUALIFICATIONS FOR HIS OFFICE

Isaiah 11:2-3. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.

THE richest promises which God has given to the Church, are generally introduced after some awful threatening denounced against his enemies. The prophet has been predicting the utter ruin of the Assyrians, as of a tree cut down to the very stump. He then contrasts the state of the Church, to which the Messiah should come, springing like a tender sucker from the root of Jesse, after that his family should have been reduced to the lowest state of degradation. He then, in reference perhaps to what he had before spoken respecting "the anointing Isaiah 10:27," shows who this anointed person should be, and what was that unction with which he should be consecrated to his office.

From the words of the text, which beyond all doubt refer to Christ, the Son of David, we shall be led to consider,

I. His qualifications for his office—

The same Spirit that formed Christ's body in the virgin's womb Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20, endowed also his soul with all the faculties requisite for the discharge of his high office—

Jesus Christ, as a man, needed to have his mind enlightened, and his heart sanctified, even as other men: nor could he have been qualified for his mediatorial work, if he had not been anointed in a superabundant measure, by the Holy Spirit Psalm 45:7. God therefore anointed him Acts 10:38, and caused the Spirit to rest upon him John 1:32, not merely for a time, and for a limited purpose, as he had done to others Numbers 11:25-26, but in an immeasurable fullness John 3:34, and for every end for which he could possibly need it Luke 4:18-19.

The Spirit came upon him as a "Spirit of wisdom and understanding Vitringa thinks that the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit are here enumerated. See Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:6. but we rather suppose that each couplet (not each expression) is to be taken separately, as declaring, in a comprehensive manner, the operations of the Holy Spirit." He gave to Jesus a full and comprehensive view of all the mysteries which from eternity had been hid in the bosom of the Father John 8:28; and enabled him also to discern the most secret recesses of men's hearts Matthew 9:4; so that nothing, either in Heaven or in earth, was concealed from him John 21:17.

The Spirit, as "a spirit of counsel and might," instructed him how to conduct himself in all those situations of difficulty and danger into which he was continually brought: and endued him with such undaunted courage, unwearied activity, and invincible patience, that through the whole course of his ministry he never yielded to discouragement, or erred by inadvertence Isaiah 42:2; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 50:7.

The Spirit further enriched his soul with "the knowledge (or rather, with the love See Vitringa in loc.) and fear of God." Through his incessant operations, he was enabled to maintain a continual sense of the divine presence John 8:29, and to act in all things with a view to his Father's glory John 7:18; John 8:30. Under the influence of this divine principle He was carried on in one steady course, like the sun in its orbit, causing its light to shine with unclouded splendor through the whole period of his sojourning on earth John 8:46; John 17:4.

By these means Jesus attained the most consummate holiness—

The terms whereby the prophet expresses the quickness of Christ's spiritual perceptions, are taken from that power of smelling, which some animals possess, and which admirably represents the exquisite sensibility which our Lord possessed with respect to everything that was right and fitting to be said or done. His enemies of every description, Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees, endeavored to ensnare him. Sometimes they tempted him with questions, which, in whatever way they should be answered, would give them occasion against him: but he invariably replied with such consummate wisdom as defeated their purposes, and filled them with admiration Matthew 22:16-21; Matthew 22:23-40. Sometimes they sought opportunity to entrap him by means of his actions: but still he was proof against their malice, and always turned their efforts to their own confusion John 8:3-9. Luke 6:6-11. He knew on all occasions how to vary his conduct, so as ultimately to answer best the purposes of his mission. And so nice was his discernment, so unsearchable his skill, that, whether he denounced judgments or proclaimed mercy, whether he maintained silence or "witnessed a good confession," he invariably combined majesty with meekness, and fidelity with love.

Nor (to carry on the metaphor) was he less earnest in following, than he was acute in discerning, the path of duty. If he had spent the night in prayer, he still prosecuted by day his labors of love, until he was exhausted with fatigue, and his friends declared that his zeal transported him beyond the bounds of reason Mark 3:21; so fully was that prophecy accomplished in him, "The zeal of your house has even consumed me John 2:17."

Such being his qualifications, let us consider,

II. Our interest in them—

This is by no means a speculative subject, since it serves to show us,

1. Christ's sufficiency for his work—

The work which Christ had to do for us, was exceeding arduous. He was to obey the law without deviating from it in the smallest point, in thought, word, or deed. If therefore he had been turned aside by any obstacle, or had erred through any inadvertence, or fallen short through any weakness, or exceeded through any temptation, he would have been a violator of the law; and, instead of being a Savior to us, would have needed a Savior for himself. But by these rich endowments which were communicated to him by the Holy Spirit he was enabled to maintain an unspotted purity even to the last: and, having fulfilled the law in its utmost extent, he has "brought in an everlasting righteousness," which "shall be unto all and upon all them that believe."

Besides this, he has a work to do in us. He is exalted to be "head over all things to the church Ephesians 1:22-23 ," in order that he may instruct his people in divine knowledge, and counsel them in their difficulties, and strengthen them in their trials, and maintain in them a superlative regard for God. And how should he effect all this, if he himself did not possess an inexhaustible treasure, out of which he might impart to every needy suppliant? But we need not fear, since we are assured, that in him all fullness dwells Colossians 1:19, and that out of his fullness we may all receive, even grace for grace John 1:16. We may therefore safely glory in him as made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and complete redemption 1 Corinthians 1:30.

2. The blessings we expect at his hands—

That holy oil which was poured upon the head of our great High-priest, was to descend to the skirts of his clothing, and to the very meanest of his members Psalm 133:2. Nor are his people called Christians merely as being followers of him, but also as being partakers of the same divine unction 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27. As soon as he was seated on his throne of glory he poured out his Spirit upon his waiting disciples for the very ends and purposes for which he himself had received it Acts 2:33. Galatians 5:22. Instantly they were filled with a "wisdom and understanding," which exceeded that of the greatest philosophers. They were endued with such "counsel and might," that none could withstand their words, or shake their resolution. And to such a degree were their hearts filled with the "love and fear of God," that all sublunary things were divested both of charms and terrors, and the service of God became, as it were, the very element in which they breathed.

Thus may the most ignorant among us have "the eyes of his understanding enlightened" by him: to every one of us will he approve himself a "wonderful counselor Isaiah 9:6;" he will "strengthen us with might in our inward man:" he will fill us with a most affectionate and reverential regard for God: he will give us both an exquisite discernment of what is right, and a supreme delight in it Colossians 1:9-11; and, in a word, he will "transform us into his own image in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:24." However different these gifts may appear, and however unequal the capacities of those who are to receive them Matthew 11:25. Isaiah 35:8, they shall be imparted to all according to their measure of faith Ephesians 4:7. Matthew 9:29; and the Spirit that Jesus will bestow, shall work them all, and in all 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:11.

APPLICATION—

It has been seen that Christ "ascended up on high on purpose that he might fill all things Ephesians 4:10;" moreover he has assured us that, if we ask for the gift of his Spirit, we shall not ask in vain Luke 11:13. Now we cannot but acknowledge that we need the influences of the Holy Spirit in all the preceding particulars. In consequence of our not habitually weighing all existing circumstances with due care and impartiality, we are extremely apt to err, and, by injudicious conduct, to give offence I wish religious professors to pay particular attention to this hint. But it is both our duty and our privilege to "walk wisely before God in a perfect way." The Holy Spirit is promised to us for this very end. Let all then direct their eyes unto him. Let the ignorant, the doubting, the weak, and all who desire to have the divine life carried on and perfected in their souls, apply to him. Nor let any rest satisfied with low attainments, since Christ is both able and willing to enlarge our faculties, and to increase our sanctity, and to bring us to the measure of his own perfect stature. Ephesians 4:13.

 

 

Isaiah 11:6-9

 

DISCOURSE 876

THE CHANGE TO BE WROUGHT BY THE GOSPEL IN THE LATTER DAY

Isaiah 11:6-9. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

THE happiness and prosperity of kingdoms depend much on the wisdom and equity of those who govern. Yet the best of rulers cannot always secure their people either from the turbulence of faction, or from assaults of foreign enemies. Thus it is with the kingdom of Christ on earth. He, the Lord and Governor of all, is endowed with every qualification for the discharge of his regal office verse 1–4, and executes that office with consummate equity and wisdom verse 5; yet, through the infirmities of his subjects, and the malice of his adversaries, his kingdom is far from enjoying the full advantages of his administration. There will, however, be a time, when his dominion shall be extended over all the earth, and perfect peace shall reign throughout all his empire.

The prophecy on which this observation is grounded, will naturally lead us to show,

I. The change that shall be wrought on men in the latter day—

Men in their fellowship with each other too much resemble the brute creation—

It is indeed humiliating to compare men with venomous and ferocious beasts: but there is scarcely any beast, however savage, to which God himself has not compared us He likens us to foxes, Song of Songs 2:15; serpents and vipers, Matthew 3:7; Matthew 23:33; wolves, Matthew 10:16; wild donkeys, Jeremiah 2:24; wild boars, Psalm 80:13; wild bulls, Isaiah 51:20, etc. Nor is it by figurative representation only, but by plain and express declarations, that God has marked the evil dispositions of our fallen nature Romans 1:29-31. 2 Timothy 3:2-4. And if we either look around us, or within us, we shall see that his descriptions are by no means exaggerated. Let any one observe the proud and envious, the wrathful and malicious, the selfish and covetous workings of the heart, and he shall soon perceive that, if man were unrestrained by human laws, he would prey upon his fellow-man with as much ferocity as the beasts themselves.

But in the latter day universal harmony shall prevail—

Then this beautiful description shall be fully realized. Men shall dwell together as the beasts in the ark, none attempting to hurt or destroy another: or rather, they shall dwell together as the beasts in Paradise: none having so much as n disposition to hurt: but all filled with gentleness and love.

This event is foretold in other passages of Holy Writ Isaiah 65:25; and it shall surely be accomplished at the appointed season: "The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this."

To confirm our expectation of this universal change, let us consider,

II. The means by which it shall be effected—

It is beyond the power of any human efforts to accomplish it—

However civilization may have changed the manners of men, it is but too evident that their hearts are the same as ever. In proof of this we need only appeal to the bloody wars which nations wage with each other: to the duels which are fought on account of the most trifling injuries or insults: and to the execrable traffic in slaves, which, to the disgrace of the Christian name, yes, to the disgrace of humanity itself, is justified and carried on among us, in spite of all the efforts that have been made for its abolition. If further proof were necessary, we may all find it very abundantly in the various circles in which we move: for there is scarcely a society, or even a single family, in which feuds, dissensions, quarrels, do not frequently arise: yes, the very relatives most interested in cultivating love and harmony, are often most at variance. Does not this show how untamed we are, notwithstanding the restraints of wholesome laws, and the instructions given us in the word of God?

But the Gospel of Christ, when universally received, shall soon effect it—

Men continue like wild beasts, because "they know not the Lord 1 Samuel 2:12." The knowledge of Christ, and of his salvation, would produce a wonderful change on their spirit and conduct. Behold, what it wrought as soon as ever the Gospel was preached! Thousands of blood-thirsty murderers were transformed into the most lovely and loving of the human race Acts 4:32. And, wherever it is received, its tendency is the same. It is the rod of God's strength, which brings down every adverse power, and accomplishes for man the salvation of his soul Psalm 110:2. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. Romans 1:16. It renews all after the same image Colossians 3:10; brings all into the same family Ephesians 2:19. 2 Corinthians 6:18; unites all in the same interests Ephesians 4:4-5; and forms all into one mystical body 1 Corinthians 12:20-21; 1 Corinthians 12:25; 1 Corinthians 12:27; how then can it fail of producing harmony and love? This knowledge shall at a future period be universally diffused Habakkuk 2:14; and these effects shall as universally result from it Isaiah 2:4 and Titus 2:11-12.

Let us learn from this subject,

1. The nature of true conversion—

Conversion does not consist in embracing any tenets, however scriptural, or important. The knowledge of Christ is indeed, as has been before observed, the means of converting us; but conversion itself consists in a thorough change in all our tempers, dispositions, and conduct, and in a renewal of our souls after the divine image 2 Corinthians 5:17. Ephesians 4:22-24. The lion must become a lamb: we must "become as little children, if ever we would enter into the kingdom of Heaven Matthew 18:3."

2. The excellency of the Gospel—

In vain is the moral fitness of things insisted on; yes, in vain are the demands of the law and the terrors of Hell displayed, for the conversion of men: nothing but the knowledge of Christ crucified can ever operate on the soul of man, so as to produce in it a radical and universal change Romans 8:3. But, where Christ is known aright, there the whole man will assume a new character: and in proportion as his glory is seen by us, we shall be assimilated to his image 2 Corinthians 3:18. Let not the Gospel then be despised as fanatical, or be defamed as licentious; but let it be revered and embraced with our whole hearts.

3. The blessedness of those who know the Lord—

It is to be lamented that the knowledge of Christ does not produce in these days the full effects that were visible in the Apostles. But the fault is in us, and not in the Gospel. Nevertheless there are many, who, even in this age of vice and infidelity, are monuments of the power and grace of Christ; and who, from having been as despiteful towards each other as Jews and Gentiles, are living in the sweetest communion with each other, and with their God. Happy they, whose views are thus rectified, whose passions are thus subdued, and whose lives are thus regulated by the Gospel of Christ Deuteronomy 33:29. They have indeed a paradise below; and shall soon enjoy uninterrupted harmony in Heaven 1 John 1:3; 1 John 4:16-17.

 

 

Isaiah 11:9

 

DISCOURSE 877

THE MILLENNIUM

Isaiah 11:9. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

THE generality of mankind ascribe a far greater degree of moral influence to civilization, than the state of the heathen world in its most refined ages will justify. We are willing however to admit, that some good effects are to be traced to this cause. But to renew and sanctify the heart is far beyond its power: this is the province of religion, even of that religion which is revealed to us in the Gospel. The prophet has been describing in most beautiful language the change that shall one day be wrought on the face of the earth; and he traces it to the propagation of the Gospel, and the extension of divine knowledge, as its true and only source; "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb," etc. for "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord."

In these words he shows us,

I. Wherein true religion consists—

It cannot be more justly or comprehensively described than in these words, "the knowledge of the Lord"—

Many indeed, even of those who call themselves Christians, suppose that religion is altogether comprehended in doing to others as we would be done unto. But, though it must be acknowledged that this is an important branch, yet it is far from being the whole, since it relates only to the duties of the second table, and leaves out all the duties which we owe to God. We must rather say, that the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus is the sum and substance of religion: because in this is contained that vital energy which puts forth itself in all the fruits of righteousness. It is in this light that the scriptures continually represent it. The Prophet Isaiah says, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many Isaiah 53:11." Jeremiah cautions us against "glorying in anything, but in the understanding and knowing of God" as displaying justice and mercy in the person of Christ Jeremiah 9:23-24. Our Lord himself affirms that, "to know God, and Jesus Christ as sent by him, is life eternal John 17:1." And Paul, in his nervous mode of expression, "counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord Philippians 3:8."

But by "the knowledge of the Lord" we must of necessity understand a practical and experimental knowledge of him—

Were a speculative knowledge sufficient, Balaam, and even the devils themselves, might vindicate their claim to religion; since he could boast, that he "knew the knowledge of the Almighty," and indeed prophesied of Christ in very exalted terms Numbers 24:16-17; and they could say to Christ, "We know you who you are, the Holy One of God Luke 4:34." But the only knowledge that can be considered as constituting religion, is that which the apostle so emphatically described and so earnestly desired; "I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ, and know him in the power of his resurrection, in the fellowship of his sufferings, and in a conformity to his death Philippians 3:10." John, with a simplicity peculiar to himself, confirms this truth, saying, "Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments: he who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him 1 John 2:3-4."

Painful as the general want of this religion is at present, we shall be comforted in considering,

II. In what manner it shall hereafter prevail—

The comparison, which the prophet makes between the diffusion of true religion and the waters of the unfathomable and boundless ocean, leads us naturally to observe, that the knowledge of the Lord in that day will be,

1. Universal in its extent—

Improbable as this event may appear, there is scarcely any other so frequently and so plainly foretold in the prophetic writings as this. David, in a Psalm where he not only speaks of Christ, but even personates him, says, "All the ends of the earth shall remember themselves and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him; for the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among the nations Psalm 22:27;" and, in another Psalm, which is altogether on this subject, he says, "Christ shall have dominion from sea to sea: all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him Psalm 72:8; Psalm 72:11; Psalm 72:17." To cite what Isaiah speaks to this effect, would be to repeat whole chapters See Isaiah 49, 60. Jeremiah, confirming at the same time the truth we have before insisted on, that true religion consists in the knowledge of the Lord, says, "In that day they shall no more teach every man his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, says the Lord Jeremiah 31:34." Daniel assures us, that "the kingdom which God himself will then erect, shall break in pieces all adverse powers, and fill the whole earth Daniel 2:44." Zechariah tells us, that "Holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the very bells of the horses; that the most common things in every place shall be consecrated, as it were, to God in their daily use: and that there shall then be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts Zechariah 14:20-21." The apostles also, and our Lord himself, add their testimony; Paul affirms, not only that "the fullness of the Gentiles shall be brought in," but that "the Jews shall be again engrafted on their own olive-tree Romans 11:24-25;" and our Lord says, that all, Jews and Gentiles, "shall be one fold under one shepherd John 10:16;" and John, passing over the intermediate space of time, represents the angels in Heaven as already rejoicing in the accomplishment of this event, and saying, "The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever Revelation 11:15."

2. Deep in its degree—

The knowledge which the Jews enjoyed was very contracted: ours, since the completion of the canon of Scripture, is considerably enlarged; insomuch that the least of true Christians is, in respect of knowledge, greater than even John the Baptist, who was himself the greatest of all the prophets Matthew 11:11. But in that day the light will shine far brighter; and the knowledge of all true converts will be, in comparison of ours, as the ocean's depth to a shallow stream. This also is declared with very abundant evidence in the prophetic writings. "The veil that is spread over all nations, is then to be taken away Isaiah 25:7." Nor are any, whose eves are opened, to have an indistinct view of the truth: the Prophet Isaiah says, "the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken; the heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly Isaiah 32:3-4." In another place the prophet supposes men to have received a stroke or wound upon their eyes, and that, by the healing of that wound, a vast increase of light shall shine into their minds; "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound Isaiah 30:26." To mention no more passages, the same prophet represents the saints in that day as seeing Christ, not as in a shadow, like the Jews, nor as in a mirror, like us, but eye to eye, and face to face; "Then shall they see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion Isaiah 52:8."

Infer,

1. What a glorious period will the millennium be!

The time referred to in the text is often called the millennium, because it is to last a thousand years. And how blessed will be the state of the world during that period! How will the whole face of the earth be changed! The description of it in the preceding context, figurative as it is, will be almost literally accomplished: men, savage as the most ferocious animals, will be transformed into meek and lowly followers of the Lamb. No more wars, no more enslaving of our fellow-creatures, no more public feuds or private animosities; all will be love; "there will be none to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain verse 6–9." O that the day were already come! O that "God would hasten it in his time!" But, if we cannot be privileged to see it, let us at least help it forward by every means in our power: let us diffuse the savor of the knowledge of Christ in every place; and exert all our influence to send the light of the Gospel to the heathen world, until "Ethiopia herself shall stretch out her hands unto God."

2. How thankful should we be for that little knowledge, with which God, in his mercy, has favored us!

Surely God has not left himself without witness among us, but "has given testimony to the word of his grace," and evinced its quickening, transforming efficacy. Doubtless there are some among us, whose dispositions and habits were once as adverse to the Gospel, as the wolf is to a lamb, or the leopard to a kid, who now harmoniously unite with the saints of God, and approve themselves to the world as new creatures. Until they knew the Lord, nothing could effectually tame their spirits, much less transform them into the divine image: but since the light of divine truth has shined into their hearts, they have enjoyed the peace, and exercised the love, and maintained the purity of God's dear children. Let such then be thankful fur the distinguished mercies given unto them: let them remember that "all things, which pertain unto life and godliness, are communicated to us through the knowledge of Christ 2 Peter 1:3;" and let them seek to "grow both in grace and knowledge," until from "beholding Christ only as in a glass darkly," they shall "see him as they are seen, and know him as they are known 1 Corinthians 13:12."

 

 

Isaiah 11:10

 

DISCOURSE 878

CHRIST A STANDARD FOR THE GENTILES

Isaiah 11:10. In that day there shall be a not of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

IN the Scriptures, you frequently see a particular period referred to under the designation of "that day." This term very generally marks the season of the Messiah's advent; of which season the prophet speaks in the words before us. In the preceding chapter he has predicted the total destruction of the Assyrian empire, which, having already brought into captivity the ten tribes, now menaced, with every prospect of success, the other two tribes, which had been reduced to the lowest ebb of weakness and misery: "The Lord, the Lord of hosts shall lop the bough with terror; and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled: and he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron; and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one." Then, in the beginning of this chapter, he declares, that, while Assyria should be destroyed to rise no more, the Messiah should rise from the family of David, when it should have sunk to a state of utter insignificance: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." He mentions the stem of Jesse, rather than of David; because David was a powerful monarch; whereas Jesse, his father, was but a private individual of low rank. Then, in my text, he repeats that same prophecy, saying, "In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious," Now that this refers to Christ there can be no doubt; since an inspired Apostle, speaking of Christ as having come in order "that the Gentiles should glorify God for his mercy," quotes this very passage; "Again Isaiah says, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust Romans 15:12,"

With this inspired explanation of my text for our guidance, we may proceed to consider,

I. The advent of Christ as here announced—

We are told, that "He shall stand for an ensign of the people." Now what is "an ensign?" It is a standard raised by the authority of a monarch, inviting his subjects to flock unto it, and to fight under his guidance against his enemies,

Now such an occasion existed before Christ came into the world, and still exists in every quarter of the globe—

Behold, the whole universe has risen up in rebellion against "the Lord and his Christ." I confidently ask, Who among you has not been a rebel against God? Who has not trampled on his laws, and set at defiance his authority?: Who has not said, respecting the Lord Jesus Christ in particular, "We will not have this man to reign over us?" Who has not ranged himself under the banners of Beelzebub, and executed his will in direct opposition to Christ's? It is not for nothing that Satan is called "The God of this world;" for "he works in all the children of disobedience," and "leads them captive at his will".

To meet that occasion, Christ is come into the world—

He "comes to effect deliverance for the captives." He erects his standard in the world. He bids us to throw down the weapons of our rebellion, and to join his ranks against the common enemy. He gives us armor from head to foot; and offers to discipline us for the warfare; and assures us of final victory. Nor is it to those only who are in full vigor of life, and among the lower ranks of society, that He sends his invitation; but to those of every rank, and every age. There is with him no preference of age or gender: all are equally called to fight his battles; and are assured of ultimate success. Nor is it in this, as in common warfare, that they who fight endanger their lives: and they who stay at home consult their safety: on the contrary, they who fight shall both conquer and live forever; but they who decline the combat shall assuredly and eternally perish.

Though Christ's advent, in this view of it, appears formidable, we shall rejoice in it, if we consider,

II. The blessedness arising from it—

To all who view it aright, shall this blessedness be sooner or later given. For,

1. The whole Gentile world shall in due time be subdued before him—

"To him shall the Gentiles seek." Thousands and millions were converted to him in the apostolic age. The whole Roman empire was, within the space of a few years, filled with those who had flocked to his standard. And still is his kingdom advancing in the world. In the very place where we are, I trust, there are not a few whom "God has brought from the kingdom of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." But the time is near at hand when "all kings shall fall down before our Lord, and all nations shall serve him:" yes, "all the kingdoms of the world will be subdued to him," and become a part of his universal empire. Now there are kings many and lords many: but "in that day there shall be but one Lord to all the earth, and his name One."

Only then contemplate the change which has taken place in any one regenerate soul, and then say, whether this reign of Christ over the whole race of man be not an event greatly to be desired.

2. "His rest" after all these conflicts shall be "glorious"—

Here is no change of metaphor, as a superficial observer would imagine. When this Mighty Warrior went to deliver his people from their captivity in Egypt, he "brought them forth with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm." And, when he subdued their enemies in Canaan, he abode by the ark (the symbol of his presence) even for five hundred years, "between curtains" in the tabernacle, moving about from place to place, But David then prepared for him a settled habitation on Mount Zion, and said, in reference to it, "Arise, O Lord, into your rest, you and the ark of your strength. For the Lord, having chosen Zion, and desired it for his habitation, has said, that is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have derived it Psalm 132:8; Psalm 132:13-14." Such was David's testimony: and similar expressions did Solomon also use, when he had deposited the ark in the sanctuary of his temple 2 Chronicles 6:41. But since Christ has come, he has a far nobler rest, even in the bosoms of his obedient people; a rest, in comparison of which the temple of Solomon in all its glory was perfectly contemptible Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 66:1-2. Truly this rest is glorious indeed: for here he vouchsafes far brighter manifestations of his glory, and incomparably richer communications of his grace. The glory that filled the temple, so that the priests could no longer stand to minister there, infinitely excelled all that the temple itself contained: but, in comparison of the discoveries which God vouchsafes to his believing people, it was darkness itself. See the Lord Jesus as "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person;" see the glory of God beaming in his face, and all the divine perfections shining with harmonious and united splendor in the work he has accomplished, and you will readily perceive, how far brighter are the discoveries of Christ now made to the believing soul, than all that ever were given to men before his advent. The grace, the mercy, the peace, the joy, the strength, which animated some highly favored souls before this time, were indeed very abundant: but as a general communication to his Church of old, these gifts were but as a drop before the shower: for "the Spirit was not then given, because that Jesus was not then glorified." So truly does he now "glorify the house of his glory, and make the place of his feet glorious Isaiah 60:7; Isaiah 60:13."

We may see from hence,

1. What improvement we should make of the preached Gospel—

The preaching of the Gospel is, in fact, the raising of this standard before the eyes of men: it is the setting forth of Christ crucified, and the calling of man to enlist under his banners. What then have we to do, but to flock around him; to give up our names to him, that they may be inscribed on his list; and to gird ourselves for the combat at his command? Let us then vie with each other in zeal for his service: and let us willingly "endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ," that, being more than conquerors, we may receive a crown of righteousness at the hands of our righteous Judge 2 Timothy 4:8.

2. The blessedness of those who improve it aright—

Whoever complies with the invitations of the Gospel, and unites himself to the army of saints, the Church of God, he instantly becomes a distinguished favorite of Heaven; his heart is the temple of the Deity; he is God's residence, he is God's rest: and more glorious is he, than if all earthly dignities were centered in him: more happy, than a combination of all earthly comforts could make him. Let us then aspire after "the good of God's chosen, that we may rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance Psalm 106:5."

 

 

Isaiah 12:1-2

 

DISCOURSE 879

THE BELIEVER'S SONG

Isaiah 12:1-2. In that day you shall say, O Lord, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. Behold. God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

GLORIOUS prospects are open to our poor benighted world. The time is coming, and we trust it is not far distant, when "all the kingdoms of the world, whether of Jews or Gentiles, shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ." "The Root of Jesse," the Lord Jesus Christ, does already "stand as an ensign to the Gentiles;" and though but few, comparatively, have flocked to his standard yet, he shall "gather to him all nations" before long, and "his rest shall be glorious Isaiah 11:10." His ancient people, too, shall return to him, and experience at his hands mercies similar to those with which they were favored in the day that they came forth put of the land of Egypt Isaiah 11:11-16. For them all, and especially for the latter, is this song prepared; and it shall be sung by them with most exalted joy. But we need not wait until that day: for every redeemed soul is authorized to adopt it, as expressing his own feelings in the contemplation of the blessings given unto him.

To assist you in the attainment of this heavenly frame, I will show,

I. That praise is the proper employment of the whole intelligent creation—

When God first called forth the universe into existence, he made everything for the glory of his own great name: and to this hour "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handy-work." While these inferior works unconsciously proclaim his praise, his intelligent creatures more especially engage in this delightful work; and, so far as they are restored to their original state, account it their highest happiness to glorify their God Psalm 145:10. Conceive of our first parents in Paradise: how, may we suppose, were their minds occupied, while they retained their primeval innocency? No doubt they contemplated, with incessant admiration, the perfections of Him to whom they owed their existence, and the obligations conferred upon them above all the rest of the creation, the angels alone excepted. Now, what reason is there why our employment should not accord with theirs? Be it granted, that we have cares and labors, to which they, in their state of innocence, were strangers: after their fall, they were no strangers either to the one or to the other: yet we cannot doubt out that they endeavored to blend these holy feelings with their daily occupations; and, instead of complaining of religion as a task, they found in the exercise of it their richest solace and support. In this, all the most eminent saints have resembled them. David, especially, was in the habit of praising God, as it were, "all the day long," and of putting forth all the powers of his soul in that holy exercise Psalm 35:28; Psalm 103:1-2. Doubtless it is necessary for us to pour out also our supplications before the Most High: yes, we should "pray without ceasing:" but yet should we also "in everything give thanks; for this also is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us 1 Thessalonians. 5:17-18." The perfections of God are still the same as ever, and our obligations to him are the same; or rather, they are infinitely increased; inasmuch as the gift of his only dear Son to die for us, is, in comparison of all other gifts, as the radiance of the sun when compared with the twinkling of a star. I say not then too much, when I affirm, that "praise is lovely for the upright Psalm 33:1;" and that it is no less our happiness than our duty to abound in it, every day, and all the day long. In truth, this is the felicity of Heaven: for all the hosts, whether of saints or angels, are engaged continually in this one employment of singing praises unto God: the one, for all the wonders of redeeming love; and the other, for the blessed experience which they have of it in their own souls Revelation 5:8-13.

That you may enter upon this blessed work without delay, I proceed to show,

II. What abundant occasion for it there is to the redeemed soul— The mercies given to every true convert are here set forth,

1. In a way of simple acknowledgment—

With every soul of man has God been angry, seeing that there is not one of all the human race that has not violated his holy laws: But, when we seek for mercy at his hands in his Son's name, "he turns away from us his anger," and "sheds abroad in our hearts a sense of his love".

Say now, whether one so "comforted" has not reason to bless and adore his God? See the soul when trembling through dread of his displeasure: see it when first the light of God's reconciled countenance is lifted up upon it: see it when the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is sent forth to dwell in it as his temple, and to manifest unto it all the riches of redeeming grace—Has such an one no ground for praise and joy? Truly, "if he should hold his peace, the very stones would cry out against him."

2. In a way of exultation and triumph—

"Behold, God is my salvation!" says the believing soul. How wonderful a truth! Methinks, if it were not uttered by the voice of inspiration, one would be almost ready to call it blasphemy. What! Is God, even the Most High God, our salvation? Yes; and not our Savior only, but salvation itself; inasmuch as He dwells in us, and abides in us, and "works all our works in us." Hence the believing soul further adds, "The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation." This is blessing not future, but present; not hoped for, but actually possessed. The Lord God, Almighty himself has undertaken for us. Yes, our Savior is no other than the Deity incarnate, "God with us," "God manifest in the flesh," and "purchasing the Church with his own blood." Everything that was necessary for our reconciliation with God, He wrought for us on the cross: and everything that is necessary to make us meet for our inheritance He works in us, by his Holy Spirit: so that, while he is "our strength, he is also our song" from day to day.

I ask then, Is here no cause to praise our God? The wonder is, that any person, thus favored, can find time for any other employment, or have any inclination to utter a word which has not a direct reference to these mercies.

In our text, we further see,

III. What is that frame of mind with which our praise should ever be accompanied—

Many will be the trials of a Christian, notwithstanding all that he is privileged to enjoy—

Still will he have many conflicts with his in-dwelling corruptions; and be constrained, at times, to cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?": Satan, too, that meat and subtle adversary of God and man, will doubtless assault him with all manner of temptations; insomuch, that, if God were not to uphold him, he could never stand: Nor will he find light difficulties even from his fellow-creatures, who will exert themselves to the uttermost, both by fraud and violence, to obstruct his way.

But, in the midst of all, his heart will be stayed upon the Lord—

"I will trust, and not be afraid," is the continued language of his soul. He knows in whom he has believed; and that his God is "able to keep that which he has committed to him;" yes, and pledged also, to "save to the uttermost all that come to him in his Son's name." Hence he says, "The Lord is my strength and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid Psalm 27:1." "If God be for me, who can be against me?" Thus is "his heart fixed, trusting in the Lord;" and he goes forth to his daily conflicts assured of victory, yes, assured that he shall be "more than conqueror through him that loved him."

And now let me,

1. Take up a lamentation over those who have never yet seen this day—

How many of us are there who are not even sensible that God is angry with them, or that, consequently, have never cried to him in earnest to turn away his displeasure? Let each consult the records of his own heart, and say whether this be not his unhappy condition? Yes, truly, there are many among us, it is to be feared, who have never, in their whole lives, shed one tear for their sins, nor ever uttered one cry to God for the remission of them. And what must I say to you? I have no wish to lay upon you more guilt than you have contracted: but you all are sinners before God, and as sinners, are obnoxious to his wrath. You all therefore need to repent of your sins, and to implore mercy at the hands of your offended God, in the name and through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ: and if you have not done this in sincerity and truth, you are at this moment "under condemnation, and the wrath of God abides on you John 3:18; John 3:36." As to the consolations of God's Spirit, you are as much strangers to them as if no such blessings ever were given to mortal man. Were you to hear one speaking of the manifestations of God's presence to his soul, and of a sense of God's love shed abroad in his heart, you would account it all enthusiasm and delusion. Say, then, whether you be not in a most deplorable condition? For, if God's anger be not turned away from you here, do you suppose it shall be in the eternal world? No, indeed: you will there have to endure his frowns to all eternity, and to "drink of the cup of his indignation forever and ever." The Lord avert from every one of you this fearful doom! But remember, that until your experience accord in good measure with that described in my text, you have not any scriptural hope of happiness in the realms of bliss. It is in vain to think that you shall spend eternity in songs of praise, when you have never had your hearts tuned to them in this present life.

2. Offer my congratulations to those with whom this day has commenced—

Though, as far as respects God's ancient people and the world at large, this day is yet distant, to the real Christian it is already come; as many of you, I trust, can attest. And what terms can I find sufficient to express the congratulations due to you? Carnal friends will congratulate you on the acquisition of wealth and honor: but if crowns and kingdoms had been given you, I should account them of no value in comparison of the blessings which you enjoy. Pardon of sin, peace with God, the consolations of his Spirit, and the prospect of his glory—what on earth can be added to you? The things of this world, in comparison of all this, are but as the small dust upon the balance. I ask not, whether you possess any earthly comfort: if God be yours, what can you want? If "God be your strength, your song, and your salvation," truly you have Heaven already begun in your souls. Know, then, your blessedness, and estimate it aright: and not only "say, O Lord, I will praise you," but do it: do it with your whole hearts; do it with your whole souls; and do it, not only with your lips, but in your lives; by giving up yourselves to His service, and by walking before him in righteousness and holiness, without ceasing, and without reserve.

 

 

Isaiah 12:3

 

DISCOURSE 880

THE WELLS OF SALVATION

Isaiah 12:3. With joy shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation.

WE wonder not that the Scriptures are read with so little interest by the generality: for, until persons know somewhat of their lost estate, and of the way of salvation provided for them, the Bible is to them a sealed book. But let them once experience a taste of the Redeemer's love, and instantly they will find in the inspired volume mines of wealth. Such a storehouse is that blessed book to the godly in this day: and such will it be to the Jewish Church, when once they shall be converted to the faith of Christ. "In that day they will say, O Lord, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me." (Such will be the reflections at the time of their first discoveries of God's mercy to them in Christ Jesus. Then they will advance farther to express their full confidence in God.) "Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." (Then will they be fully prepared to derive the richest benefit from the Scriptures: and) "therefore shall they draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation."

That we may form a just estimate of their privilege, let us consider,

I. The character by which the Scriptures are here designated—

The expression, "wells of salvation," is supposed by many to be spoken of Christ: and doubtless it may be very fitly applied to him. But I rather understand it of the Scriptures, from whence, as from an inexhaustible fountain, all true comfort flows. They eminently deserve that name,

1. As containing in themselves all the blessings of salvation—

The whole of salvation, as planned in the Divine counsels from all eternity, as executed for us by the Lord Jesus Christ in his incarnate state, as still carrying on by him at the right hand of his Father, and as offered through him to every child of man, is there fully contained. "This mystery of Godliness was indeed kept secret since the world began; but now it is made manifest; and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith Romans 16:25-26."

Now let any one contemplate this mystery, and endeavor to explore the wisdom, the love, the mercy, and the grace contained in it: how surpassing all finite comprehension will they be found! Truly, the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of this mystery, and of the wonders contained in it, are utterly unsearchable; and the blessings flowing from it are a plenteous and perennial spring, for the refreshment of all on earth, and of all in Heaven.

2. As revealing them for our use—

In the whole world besides, there is not to be found one drop of water to satisfy a thirsty soul. Where can one look that is oppressed with a sense of guilt? Where, one who is mourning over the corruptions of his nature? Go to those who have not the Scriptures: go to even the wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome; and see how vain were all their expedients for pacifying a guilty soul, or purifying a polluted soul. But in the Scriptures we find all that a sinner can desire; an atonement sufficient for the sins of the whole world; and an Almighty Agent ready to dwell in the hearts of all who seek him, and engaged to transform into the divine image all who commit their souls to him. In them are promises suited to every condition incident to our fallen nature; as suited to refresh the soul, as water is to allay our thirst. Conceive of every want with which a sinner can be oppressed, and the appropriate relief will there be found.

3. As actually imparting them to our souls—

As a spring pours forth its waters, so do the Scriptures impart life, and peace, and strength, to all who go to them as God's appointed channel of communication to their souls. They have within themselves a life-giving virtue John 4:10; so that, when brought home and applied by the Spirit of God, they quicken the dead, and give a vital energy to all our powers. They are able, not only to "make men wise unto salvation 2 Timothy 3:15," but to impart salvation itself; being "like fire" to consume dross, and "a hammer to break the rock in pieces Jeremiah 23:29," and "a two-edged sword to pierce the very inmost soul Hebrews 4:12." and "a weapon to destroy every enemy 2 Corinthians 10:4-5." They have a power to enlighten the darkest mind Psalm 19:7-8, and to sanctify all on whom they operate aright John 15:3; John 17:19; and so to sanctify them, as to prepare them for the perfect fruition of their God Ephesians 5:26-27.

Think then of,

II. The blessedness of having access to them—

Truly we should never contemplate them but with joy, on account of,

1. The freeness with which we may approach them—

There is no prohibition to any creature under Heaven. About wells that have been dug for a supply of common water, there have been the fiercest contentions Genesis 26:18-21; but these are public property, and equally accessible to all: none have to "pay for this water," as Israel had Numbers 20:19; it is to be had "without money and without price Isaiah 55:1." True indeed it is that there are many, Protestants as well as papists, who would bar our access to them: but God has given to all an equal right to come to them: for his invitation is, "Let him that is athirst come; and whoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely Revelation 22:17."

2. The ease with which we may draw from them—

There are those who think it in vain for the poor to come to them, seeing that "the wells are deep, and they have nothing to draw with John 4:11." But be it known, that however valuable learning may be for the attaining of a critical acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, it is not at all necessary for a spiritual perception of their truths. It is faith, and not learning, that is wanting for that end. All the learning in the universe will not impart to us a spiritual discernment, any more than it will furnish us with any corporeal organs. It is faith alone that will avail us here. That discerns the things which are not visible to mortal eyes; and will go to the very bottom of these wells, and draw from thence the most refreshing consolations.

3. The abundance that we may receive out of them—

When the rock was struck by Moses, the waters gushed out in such abundance, that the whole camp of Israel, with all their cattle, could drink thereof. And, if all the sinners in the universe will go to these wells, they shall find no lack for the supply of their most enlarged necessities. Our Lord says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water John 7:37-38." Indeed, the more intense and ardent your thirst is, the more abundant shall be the blessings which you shall derive from them.

4. The perfect satisfaction that we may find in them—

"Whoever drinks of other waters will thirst again: but whoever drinks of these wells, will never thirst: for the water which he has received will be in him as a well of water springing up into everlasting life John 4:13-14, Isaiah 49:9-10." I may appeal to all, whether the most copious draughts of carnal pleasure ever satisfied? Solomon, who drank as deep of it as a human being could do, pronounced it all to be vanity and vexation of spirit. "The eye was never yet satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." But he who has obtained the knowledge of Christ, and drunk deep of the promises of the Gospel, has no longer any relish for earthly vanities, nor any desire after them. Give him all the world, and he feels empty: give him the presence of God, and he desires no more.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are going to broken cisterns—

What is the creature but "a broken cistern that can hold no water?": And will you for this forsake "the fountain of living waters Jeremiah 2:13." Let me prevail on every one of you to go to God as your reconciled God in Christ Jesus, and to say with David, "All my fresh springs are in you Psalm 87:7.

2. Those who are drinking from "the fountain of life Psalm 36:9."—

Say whether you have not "a joy with which the stranger intermeddles not?" Say whether the fountains do not richly supply you; and whether, even on the highest places, which, according to human apprehension, are inaccessible to rivers, the rivers do not follow you Isaiah 41:17-18. Yes, until you arrive at Heaven itself, the streams shall never fail; and even there shall they run beside you for your comfort to eternal ages Revelation 7:17.

 

 

Isaiah 12:3-6

 

DISCOURSE 881

THE BELIEVER'S SONG

Isaiah 12:3-6. With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall you say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he has done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, you inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of you.

THE restoration of the Jews, and their union with the Gentiles under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ, is foretold so plainly by the inspired writers, that we have no doubt at all but that it shall be accomplished in due season. The prediction contained in the foregoing chapter is peculiarly full and express. It relates not to Judah only, but to the ten tribes also; who shall be brought from Assyria, as the other two tribes once were from Babylon. The ensign to which they will flock, is that of the Son of Jesse, the Lord Jesus Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:12; and the joy excited in their breasts will be like that which their fathers felt at their deliverance from Egypt, when they beheld all their enemies dead upon the sea-shore.

The chapter before us is a song, which shall be sung on that occasion by the whole assembly of the Lord's people: and in it we see,

I. Their high privilege—

The learned prelate to whom the world is so much indebted for his translation of the Prophecies of Isaiah, renders the first verse of our text, not, "Therefore you shall draw," but, "When you shall draw;" which all will do in the day to which our text refers. But,

There are wells of salvation now open unto us—

Often is our blessed Lord and Savior represented under the image of a well or fountain Psalm 36:9. Zechariah 13:1. Another view of the subject is here taken, different from that in the preceding discourse. As the precise import of the "wells" is not determined in Scripture, it may be taken either way; And he himself, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, assumed, as it were, that title John 4:6-14. Moreover, the very passage from whence our text is taken was applied by him to himself.

At the feast of Tabernacles a custom obtained, which will fully illustrate our text. The people on the last day of that feast used to go in procession, and draw water from the pool of Siloam, and then to mix it with wine, and pour it on the sacrifices. There was no direction for this in the law of Moses; but the custom was instituted by the Jews themselves after their return from the Babylonish captivity, with a reference to this prophecy which we are now considering. On the day of this ceremony, Jesus stood in the place where the procession was passing, and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink John 7:37-40;" as if he had said, 'I am the person spoken of by the Prophet, and the person whom you profess to expect: and, if you will believe in me, I will give you my Holy Spirit in such abundance, as shall be effectual for your present peace, and your everlasting salvation.' Indeed, his person, (as God-man,) his work, (even his whole obedience unto death,) his offices, (as our Great High Priest that makes atonement for us, our King that rules over us and in us, and our Prophet that guides us into all truth,) may all be considered as so many wells from whence our salvation flows: Yes, his word also, and ordinances, may be considered in the same light, because from them we draw all the instruction, the grace, the consolation, that we stand in need of.

From these we may draw water with joy—

Truly there is nothing which can conduce to our salvation, which is not to be found in Christ. The water that he will give us will cleanse us at once from all the guilt and defilement of sin: it will purify our very nature, so that we shall be renewed after the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness." From him all may draw. Not a sinner in the universe is so unworthy, but that he may come to Christ, and by faith receive from him whatever he stands in need of. The invitation is given to "all who thirst:" no qualification is required on their part, except a pledge desire, and a humble faith: they may take as much as they can wish freely, "without money and without price Isaiah 55:1." They are not in the situation of Hagar, who when she relieved her son's thirst from the small vessel that she had taken, grudged, as it were, every drop that was expended, because she knew not where to obtain enough to satisfy his returning wants, which would speedily arise: they may come and draw "with joy," knowing that the supply is inexhaustible, and perfectly commensurate with all their wants. The very first taste of this water shall so invigorate their souls, that they shall feel "like a giant refreshed with wine:" and every successive draught shall "strengthen them with might in their inner man," and "fill them, as it were, with all the fullness of God Ephesians 3:19."

But the true virtue of this fountain will be best seen in,

II. Their heavenly employment—

There is a remarkable difference between the two parts of this divine song: in that which precedes our text, the expressions relate entirely to the case of the individual himself; but, in the text, the individual rises to the concerns of others, and becomes, as it were, a preacher to all around him. Hence then we see the employment of all true Christians:

1. They glorify God themselves—

The first thought of their hearts is that of humble gratitude for the unspeakable mercy of reconciliation with God. They look back, and see the innumerable offences whereby they have excited the displeasure of Almighty God, and how justly they might have been made monuments of his wrathful indignation. They contemplate the state of those who have died in their sins, and wonder that they themselves are not now taking their portion with them. They then contrast the happy state to which they themselves are brought through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus: they behold God as reconciled to them through the blood of his cross; and with inexpressible comfort are enabled to address him by the endearing name of Father. In the view of these things they exclaim with profoundest adoration, "O Lord, I will praise you: for though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me."

From thence they proceed to glory in God with unshaken affiance: for, What can they want, who have God himself for their salvation? "If God be for them, who can be against them?" "Jehovah himself is their strength," "dwelling in them," "working in them mightily," and "enabling them always to triumph in Christ." Shall he not then be "their Song?" Yes; "they know in whom they have believed:" they know his power, and love; his faithfulness and truth: and therefore, though on the field of battle, they assure themselves of victory, and anticipate with joy unspeakable the final issue of their conflicts. Not that they are blind to the difficulties which they have to encounter, or ignorant of the enemies they have to contend with: but they see Jehovah himself engaged for them by covenant and by oath; and in the confidence that he will never leave them nor forsake them, they say, "I will trust and not be afraid;" "being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6."

They stir up others to glorify him also—

Having a light kindled in their souls, they "do not put it under a bushel, but set it on a candlestick," that others may see their light. They burn with zeal for God, and would gladly extend the knowledge of him to the ends of the earth. They are filled with love also to their fellow-creatures; and would not have one to perish, if by any means they might be instrumental to the salvation of his soul. Towards the household of faith in particular they feel an ardent desire to promote their advancement in all that is "lovely and of good report." Hence they exhort one another to abound in praise and thanksgiving to their common Lord and Savior: they urge one another to "call upon him," to "declare his name," to make known his love, to commend him to the whole world. They would have all to "sing unto Him" "with thanksgiving and the voice of melody." They cannot endure the thought that "an inhabitant of Zion" should be silent; they would have every believer to cry out and shout," so that, were it possible, the whole universe might hear.

They remind each other of the great things which the Savior has done, and is yet doing, for his Church and people. They delight to speak of "the excellent things" which he has done, in assuming our nature, and dying in our stead, and working out for us a free and full salvation: and they rejoice no less to contemplate, how "great the Holy One of Israel is in the midst of them," and how certainly he will put clown all their enemies, and "bruise Satan himself under their feet."

These are things which are the daily subject of their thoughts, their conversation, and their praise: and in proportion as any are endued with his grace, they will infallibly abound in these holy exercises.

Learn then from hence,

1. How great a matter is the salvation of the soul—

Many think of it as a matter of course: but not so the person who has been taught of God: he sees that it is a miracle of mercy that any child of man is saved. That he himself has obtained mercy, is to the true Christian a source of wonder and amazement. That God should ever look upon him, and pardon him, and save him! he knows not how to express his sense of such amazing love. He would have "the rocks and hills to break forth into singing, and all the trees of the wood to clap their hands with joy." And if we have never thus been penetrated with a sense of God's unbounded love, we are yet strangers to the salvation he has wrought out for us.

2. How precious is Christ to all who know him—

Mere nominal Christians can think and speak of him without emotion; but not so the persons who "have tasted of his grace:" they can never find words whereby to express their love and gratitude to their adorable Benefactor. They are ashamed that they can ever think or speak of anything else. "To them indeed he is precious;" and, if they could have their desire, they would love him, and serve him, and glorify him, on earth, even as the glorified saints are doing it in Heaven. Is this your experience, my beloved Brethren? Does the whole universe appear to you but "as a broken cistern," and is Christ the only fountain from whence you desire to draw? O that you may be able more and more to say, "All my fresh springs are in you Psalm 87:7."

3. How happy is the Christian's state—

Doubtless there is a great diversity in men's attainments: there are babes, and young men, and fathers in the family of Christ. But in this there is a resemblance among them all: they are full of gratitude to their incarnate God: and all their hope is in his power and grace. They are also active in diffusing the knowledge of him. They will not spend their time in disputing about matters of doubtful disputation, whether relating to doctrines, or to sects and parties, but will labor to promote the glory of their God. Whether they be ministers or not, they will all be priests in their own families, and all be anxious to guide their friends and neighbors to the knowledge of the truth. Having experienced the life-giving virtue of that fountain, will they see their neighbors perishing with thirst, and not point it out? No: they will desire that others should "receive out of the fullness that is in Christ," and would have "all flesh to see the salvation of God."

 

Isaiah 14:2

 

DISCOURSE 882

THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE

Isaiah 14:2. They shall take them captives whose captives they were, and they shall rule over their oppressors.

IN the midst of the prophecies relating to the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, we shall find many expressions which necessitate us to look forward to some other event for their full accomplishment. The destruction of Babylon is undoubtedly the subject of this and of the preceding chapter. The whole forms one prophecy, abounding with the most beautiful imagery, and, in point of composition, equaling, if not excelling, the most admired poems of antiquity. But if we could confine the preceding part of this verse, and the verse before it, to that event, (which yet we cannot with any propriety,) what must we do with the words before us? they were never accomplished at that period: the Jews did not carry the Babylonians into captivity; nor at any subsequent period did they rule over them. But if we understand these words as looking forward to another redemption, then will they be easy; and their accomplishment will be seen, not only in the Church at large, but in every individual member of it. The grace of Christ triumphed over all its opponents in the apostolic age; and will, in a yet more extensive manner, in the millennial period. The peculiar way in which his grace triumphs, is a subject worthy of our more particular attention: and the words of our text afford us a fit occasion for setting it before you. We shall,

I. Trace a work of grace on the souls of men—

Taking such a view of it as is suggested by our text, there are four distinct states in which the Christian will successively be found:—a state,

1. Of captivity—

This is the state of every man, before the grace of God enters into his heart. The Jews in Babylon were not more enslaved than we are by nature. Our principles and actions are altogether in bondage to the world. Nothing appears so free as the mind: yet, in our natural state, we are so shackled with prejudice, that we cannot exercise it aright: we cannot apprehend truth, when it is proposed to us: "the things of the Spirit of God appear even foolishness to us; neither can we receive them," because our faculties are pre-occupied by the current sentiments of the world. Our ways too are under the same constraint. Custom has prescribed the paths in which we shall walk; and we dare not violate its arbitrary laws. Let us even see the light of a bright example set before us. we feel not ourselves at liberty to follow it. As far as fashion authorizes a holy life, we will go: we may perform a round of religious duties; but to cultivate real piety is contrary to our inclination, and beyond our power.

As the world by its maxims, so sin by its allurements, fetters and controls us. So interwoven with all our faculties is sin, that we cannot resist its influence. Sooner might an Ethiopian change his complexion, or a leopard his spots, than the natural man break forth from the dominion of sin. Though he do not yield to it in a gross and shameless way, yet his thoughts and desires are altogether vitiated by it; nor is so much as one inclination or affection free from its malignant taint. A principle of evil resides within him, and dictates every imagination of his heart Genesis 6:5.

We may observe also, that Satan maintains a tyrannic sway over the natural man, as over his rightful vassal. How he works upon our minds, we cannot exactly say: (for we know not how our own spirit operates upon our material body; and therefore we must not wonder if we cannot declare how that wicked spirit operates on our spirits:) but he certainly does "work in all the children of disobedience," and "lead them captive at his will." And when the grace of God first comes into the soul, it finds us altogether under the power of "that strong man armed."

2. Of conflict—

The first entrance of grace into the soul stirs it up immediately to break its bonds, and assert its liberty. The person who is once enlightened to see what masters he has served, and what will be his recompense, is filled with indignation against himself for so long submitting to such ignominious bondage. He first probably begins with efforts made in his own strength: but when he finds how unavailing they are, he will betake himself to prayer, and implore help from above. Now the sins to which he once addicted himself are resisted; and the very inclinations to them are bitterly bewailed. Now he cannot be satisfied with taking his notions of sin and duty from the world, or with conforming himself to the standard which the world approves: he inquires what God's will is, and determines to renounce whatever is inconsistent with it. Difficulties he meets with, innumerable difficulties, in his new course: his indwelling corruptions, like a stream obstructed by a dam, threaten to bear down all before them: and Satan exerts himself, by various wiles and devices, to divert him from his purpose: and the world, Satan's best advocate and co-adjutor, labors, by menaces or allurements, to keep him under its dominion: but he gathers strength from opposition, and courage from defeat; and resolves, that nothing but victory or death shall put an end to his warfare.

3. Of victory—

No person will long continue to oppose his spiritual enemies, without reaping the fruit of his exertions in victory and triumph. After he has once learned to use the armor which God has prepared for him, he finds, to his unspeakable comfort, that none of his enemies can stand before him. The world, that was once so formidable, has lost its power: and neither sin nor Satan can deceive him, as they once did. The grace of Christ is now found sufficient for him: and though he still is violently assaulted with various temptations, he is enabled to repel them "by the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit." Sometimes indeed he is ready to exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" but soon he recollects himself, and adds, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

4. Of dominion—

This is that state of which the text particularly speaks: and doubtless it is a state to which many attain. That the warfare will ever cease in this world, we have no reason to expect; but that our progress will be more easy, and our victory more certain, in proportion as we become habituated to the contest, there can be no doubt. As there are babes, young men, and fathers in the family of Christ, so are there among his army some, who have not only gained the victory, but are dividing the spoil. The world is crucified to them; sin is mortified, and Satan bruised under their feet. They are filled with a peace that passes all understanding, and a joy that is unspeakable and glorified. The prize is, by anticipation at least, already in their hands. They enjoy already the earnest of Heaven in their souls; and they are looking forward with delight to the happy hour, when they shall cease from their warfare altogether, and rest forever in the bosom of their Lord.

Though doubtless many variations will be found in the duration or degree in which the different parts of this experience exist in different persons, yet this, on the whole, is the experience of every true believer, he emerges from his natural bondage, and comes forth into the liberty of God's children. Such, I say, is the work of divine grace in the soul: and we shall now proceed to,

II. Make some observations upon it—

We remark then that this work is,

1. A stupendous work—

None but God is equal to it. None but an Almighty Being could have created the universe out of nothing: nor can any other Being create anew the souls of men. Every good soldier of Jesus Christ must say, "He who has wrought us to self-same thing, is God." The power exercised in this work is compared, by Paul, with that which was put forth in the resurrection of Christ, and his establishment on his throne, above all the principalities of Heaven or Hell Ephesians 1:19-21. Let all then who have within themselves an evidence that they are the subjects of it, rejoice: let them magnify their God in the energetic language of the Psalmist Psalm 35:10; and let them "go forth, and show what great things the Lord has done for them."

2. An effectual work—

We wish not to discourage those who find difficulties in their warfare: but yet we must say, that God does not do his work by halves (if we may so express it). If he begin a good work in any soul, he will not suffer Satan to defeat his purpose. "He will give more and more grace," until it prove effectual to the end for which it is given. Grace that is not sufficient, (I mean, that does not finally prevail,) is not true grace. We know, that if a judgment be formed from the actual attainments of the religious world, we shall be ready to think that piety and carnality, and victory and bondage, can consist together. But they cannot; and those who with a religious profession unite an habitual subjection to any one sin, will feel themselves grievously disappointed in the issue. "They may dream of plaudits from their Judge; but he will say to them, "I never knew you, you workers of iniquity." "The weapons of our warfare are sufficiently powerful to cast down all the strong-holds of Satan," and to bring even "our thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ:" the soldier therefore that yields to any one of his spiritual enemies, betrays his Lord; and for submitting to the chains of sin, will be bound "in chains of everlasting darkness."

3. A work of which none need despair—

A more desperate state than that described in the text, can scarcely be conceived: they were captives, and captives in a state of grievous oppression: yet they are not only delivered, but made to "rule over their very oppressors." Who then has any reason to despair? We may say perhaps, that our enemies are more powerful than those of others; that by our own consent they have acquired an indisputable right over us; and that therefore we cannot hope for deliverance. But God states, and answers, this very case Isaiah 49:24-26. And, not content with this, he makes his readiness to relieve such persons a prominent feature in his own character: as if he were especially to be known by it Amos. 5:9. He makes his promises too to this very description of persons Psalm 72:4; Psalm 72:12-13, as though he counted himself most glorified, when the weakness of his people has given the most scope for the exercise of his almighty power 2 Corinthians 12:9. To the weakest then, and to the most desponding, we would say with the prophet, that though "without God the strongest of men should bow down under the prisoners, and fall under the slain Isaiah 10:4. Jeremiah 37:10," yet "with him you shall be able to do all things Philippians 4:13;" even "the lame shall take the prey Isaiah 33:23," and "the feet of the poor and of the needy shall tread down their mightiest enemies Isaiah 26:5-6."

 

 

Isaiah 14:27

 

DISCOURSE 883

IMMUTABILITY OF GOD'S COUNSELS

Isaiah 14:27. The Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

IT is common with the Lord, when predicting distant events, to confirm men in the expectation of them by the accomplishment of something near at hand. Thus when God foretold the incarnation of his own Son by the Prophet Isaiah, he foretold also the speedy destruction of the ten tribes, that the fulfillment of the one might excite in their minds an expectation of the other Isaiah 7:14-16; and when to Hezekiah he promised an addition of fifteen years to his life, he caused the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz to recede ten degrees, as a sign that his life should certainly be prolonged to the period that had been fixed Isaiah 38:7-8. Thus, in the chapter from whence our text is taken, and in that which precedes it, a very full and minute prophecy of the destruction of Babylon, and of the consequent restoration of the Jews to their own land, is given two hundred years before it was to be accomplished. But there was another event of great importance speedily to take place, namely, the destruction of the Assyrian army before Jerusalem: this therefore is introduced, not merely as an independent prophecy, but as a near event, which would assure to them the accomplishment of those which were more remote. It is in reference to all these events that the immutability of God's purpose is so strongly declared in our text, but more especially to those events which constitute the main subject of the prophecy.

The immutability of God's decrees is confessedly a very deep and mysterious subject, which we would not enter upon but with fear and trembling. We do not approve of bringing it forward on every occasion, and making it, as some do, the great subject of our ministrations: but we do not feel at liberty to pass it over as if we were afraid of it, or as if we thought the inspired writers had erred in ever bringing it before our eyes. Now that it lies clearly in our way, we will proceed to give it the attention it deserves. We will consider it,

I. In a general view—

The Scripture continually represents God as having ordained everything from before the foundation of the world—

St. James, before the whole college of apostles at Jerusalem, declared this as a truth unquestionably acknowledged by them all; "Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world Acts 15:18." But, if they were known to him, they must be certain: and, if they were certain, it must be because he had ordained them so to be. Hence even the salvation of his people is said to be in consequence of his having elected them in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and predestined them to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself. In this he is represented as acting solely according to his own sovereign will, for the praise of the glory of his own grace, in conformity with his own eternal counsels: and all who finally obtain an inheritance in Heaven, are said to have been "predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will, that they should be to the praise of his glory Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11-12."

Now to conceal, or to explain away, such expressions as these, is certainly not right. That they involve many difficulties, is true; but there are difficulties also on that side of the question which denies the existence of God's decrees: and it is far safer and better to receive with humility the declarations of God which we cannot fully comprehend, than to set ourselves determinately against them, and to impose on them a sense which they were obviously not intended to bear. The man that receives them with childlike simplicity, cannot doubt their general import, though he may doubt respecting inferences which may appear to be deducible from them.

His decrees, to whatever they relate, are unchangeable—

This also is plainly and strongly declared in the Holy Scriptures. He has confirmed his word with an oath, on purpose that "the immutability of his counsel may be known Hebrews 6:17." If his purposes were changed, it must be either through the inward operation of his own mind, or through the outward operation of something else upon him: but in his own mind he is altogether unchangeable; as he has said, "I the Lord change not Malachi 3:6;" and James says, that "with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning James 1:17." Nor can he be wrought upon by anything from without: he cannot be deceived by subtlety; for "there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord Proverbs 21:30;" nor can he be constrained by force; for "he does according to his will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; nor can any stay his hand, or say unto him, what do you Daniel 4:35." In a word, "He is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent: has he said, and shall he not do it? has he spoken, and shall he not make it good Numbers 23:19." Yes, "His counsel shall stand; and he will do all his pleasure Isaiah 46:10;" "He is in one mind, and who can turn him Job 23:13." "His counsel stands forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations Psalm 33:11."

Whatever difference of opinion may exist about the abstract question of the immutability of God's decrees, there will be found little difference about it,

II. In reference to the particular points specified in the context—

It is the practical use of this subject that renders it so interesting to the Church of God: and it is in that view only that we wish to impress it on our minds. It is introduced by the prophet in reference to two points:

1. The deliverance of God's people—

The state of the Jews in Babylon was as hopeless as could well be conceived: but God foretold their deliverance from it, and their restoration to their own land: and that, though captives, and grievously oppressed, "they should take them captives whose captives they were, and should rule over their oppressors verse 1, 2." This God declared to be irreversibly decreed.

Now the same is true respecting the deliverance and salvation of all the Lord's people, in every age and quarter of the world. As the Jews were his elect, so is there now "a remnant according to the election of grace Romans 11:6;" a people whom he has given to his Son John 17:6; John 17:9, and to whom, as viewed in him, he gave a "promise of eternal life, before the world began Titus 1:2." Now these he will search out, wherever they are, even among the remotest Gentiles John 10:16; and in due time he will call them by his grace Ezekiel 34:11-13, and bring them to the saving knowledge of his truth Isaiah 65:1. These also will he keep, and not suffer so much as one of them ever to be lost John 17:12. For their full and complete salvation God has made abundant provision in his word. If ever they should perish, it must be through their own departure from him, or through their being wrested out of his hands, or by his casting them off: but on all these heads he has revealed his immutable purpose and decree. Is it apprehended that they will depart from him? He will "put his fear in their hearts, that they may not do so Jeremiah 32:40." Is it feared that either men or devils may wrest them from him? He assures us that "none shall pluck them out of his hands John 10:27-29," or "separate them from his love Romans 8:33-39." Is it supposed possible that he himself may cast them off and forsake them? He gives the fullest possible assurance to them all, that he will not do so 1 Samuel 12:22. Hebrews 13:5-6. The Greek; that "not one of his little ones shall perish Matthew 18:14;" and that, however sifted, "not the smallest grain among them shall ever fall to the ground Amos. 9:9." Their state may appear distressing, and even desperate, for a time; but God will not abandon them to themselves Isaiah 54:7-10; for "all his promises to them are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus 2 Corinthians 1:20."

2. The destruction of his enemies—

Babylon, just previous to its destruction, seemed capable of defying all its enemies: but it was destroyed, precisely at the time, and in the manner, and by the person, that had been foretold two hundred years before. Thus, how secure soever God's enemies at this day may think themselves, they shall assuredly perish at the appointed time.

Of the people of God we have spoken as God's elect: but we are not therefore to imagine of God's enemies, that they have from eternity been doomed to destruction. No: though we maintain, and have not a doubt about, the doctrine of election, we do not believe the doctrine of absolute reprobation. It is true, we do not know where to draw the line so as to answer all the questions that may be asked. We acknowledge that we are ignorant, and contentedly ignorant, of many things relating to this mysterious subject: but, in our apprehension, God's oath, "that he wills not the death of any sinner, but rather that he should turn and live," is a satisfactory proof, that he has "not ordained any to wrath," except as the fruit and consequence of their own wickedness. We apprehend that the true distinction between the elect and non-elect is marked with admirable precision by the Apostle Peter; who speaks of the elect, as saved purely in consequence of God's eternal choice; but of others, as perishing purely through their own obstinate unbelief, to which God has irreversibly decreed a sentence of eternal condemnation 1 Peter 2:7-9. The words in italics, verse 8. should be omitted, and the word Ï be translated These. Then the contrast observable in that whole passage will be complete. There is a double antithesis. This is sufficiently plain, that, if God be true, the unrighteous, and unregenerate, can never enter into the kingdom of Heaven 1 Corinthians 6:9. John 3:3; John 3:5. We are ready to think, that God will rescind his decrees in relation to this matter; but he will not: he will not from pity; for however we may knock, and cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" he will not open the door; nor, when "weeping and wailing and gnashing our teeth" with anguish, will he grant us so much as "a drop of water at our request to cool our tongue." Nor shall any be able to resist his will: for when he shall say, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire," we cannot maintain our ground one moment; nor, if we call on the rocks and mountains to fall upon us, can they afford us the desired aid. Even in this life the infliction of punishment is sometimes irreversibly decreed; and much more shall it be in that day, when God will only laugh at our calamity, and execute upon us all the judgments which he has denounced against us Proverbs 1:24-31. Ezekiel 24:13-14.

Reflections—

1. On what a slender foundation are the hopes of the generality fixed!

A strange idea pervades the great mass of the Christian world, that God will relax somewhat of his demands, and forbear to act agreeably to the strict tenor of his word: and, when we urge upon their consciences the strictness of his precepts, or the awfulness of his threatening, they reply, 'God is too merciful to act thus; we have no fear, but that he will relax somewhat of these things in the day of judgment.' Thus they hope that God's purposes shall change; and they contentedly rest their everlasting salvation on this ground. What an amazing infatuation is this! O, beloved, think well, before you determine to venture your everlasting happiness on such a presumption as this. Know that, in so doing, you absolutely bar Heaven against yourselves; and render it impossible for God himself to save you. True, he can work faith in your hearts; but he can never save you in unbelief: "he cannot deny himself:" and if you will not seek him in his appointed way of faith and holiness, there "remains nothing for you but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, to consume you Hebrews 10:26-27."

2. On what an immoveable foundation does the believer stand;

You are fixed upon a rock, against which the gates of Hell shall never prevail. We suppose indeed that you are not affecting to trust in God, while you are negligent in the use of his appointed means: (that would be to trust, not in God, but in a presumptuous unfounded conceit of your own:) but, if you are "fleeing to Christ for refuge," then are you safe in God's everlasting arms; and he desires that you should be assured of this: yes, it is for this very end that he has confirmed his promise with an oath, even that you might be assured of the immutability of his counsel, and be filled with the stronger and richer consolation Hebrews 6:17. If a sense of your own weakness and unworthiness discourage you; then know that "God is able to perform all that he has promised," and that the consideration of his power and faithfulness is the very antidote which he himself has provided for all your fears Isaiah 49:24-25.

 

 

Isaiah 14:32

 

DISCOURSE 884

GOD'S CHURCH AND PEOPLE SECURE

Isaiah 14:32. What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord has founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it,

GOD is for the most part overlooked in the government of the world: and hence arise an overconfidence among some, and an undue timidity among others. But, if we viewed God as ordering and overruling everything, even to the falling of a sparrow, we should undertake nothing ourselves without a direct reference to him; nor fear what was undertaken by others, while we had him for our protector. This is the great lesson which we are taught in the passage which we have now read. The context contains a prophecy respecting the fate of Palestine. The Philistines had been invaded and conquered by King Uzziah 2 Chronicles 26:6; but in the days of Ahaz, Uzziah's son, they had regained their cities, and made reprisals on the provinces of the Jewish monarch 2 Chronicles 28:18. At the accession of Hezekiah to the throne of Judah, they hoped to make yet further inroads on the Jewish territory: and the Prophet Isaiah was inspired to foretell, that they should not only fail in their attempts, but be utterly vanquished by him, whom they so fondly thought to subdue and subjugate.

Read the passage in this view, and the whole address will appear extremely spirited and beautiful. "Rejoice not you, whole Palestine, because the rod of him that smote you is broken;" (I. e. because you have triumphed over Uzziah's son:) "for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, or adder; and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." (Uzziah bit you only as a common serpent: but his grandson Hezekiah shall inflict a wound as fatal as an adder; and prove as irresistible as a fiery flying serpent.) "And the first-born of the poor (Jews, whom you have so oppressed) shall feed, and the needy (whom you have so terrified) shall lie down in safety: while your root shall be destroyed by famine, and your remnant with the sword." (Instead then of rejoicing, "Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you whole Palestine are dissolved: for there shall come from the north (Judea) a smoke (and dust of an army in full march:) and none shall be alone (or decline serving in this army) at the appointed time." (In the mean time,) "what shall one then answer the messengers of the nation," (when they come, full of alarm and terror The general interpretation of their being foreign ambassadors sent to congratulate Hezekiah, enervates the whole force of the passage, and is in opposition to the text itself, which speaks of them as the messengers of the nation, and not of foreign nations, announcing your preparations to invade the land of Judah?) Answer, "that the Lord has founded Zion: and the poor of his people shall trust in it;" and that no weapon ever formed against them shall prosper.

The words thus explained we shall consider as proclaiming,

I. An unquestionable fact—

"God has founded Zion"—

He has founded it in his eternal counsels; and he has founded it also in his covenant engagements. He determined from all eternity that he would have a Church and People from among the sinners of mankind; and that he would get glory to himself from the introduction of sin into this lower world. For this end he entered into covenant with his co-equal, co-eternal Son; and engaged, that if he would become a man, and "make his own soul an offering for sin," he should have from among our fallen race, a people, who should be his purchased possession, and should forever show forth his praise Isaiah 53:10. This covenant being made, he gave to his Son "a multitude, whom no man can number, out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues;" and agreed to accomplish in them all his good pleasure, and to bring them in due season to the full possession of that glory, which by their transgressions they had lost. To this the Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly refers, declaring, that he was invested with "power to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him John 17:2;" and under this character the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for them John 17:9, and committed them into the Father's hands to be kept for him John 17:11, and declared his assured expectation of having them, in due time, as the trophies of his grace, and the partners of his glory John 17:24.

"The poor of his people also shall trust in it"—

God never leaves his chosen people to trust in themselves: he never has done it: he never will do it. From the beginning he has made them to feel their need of a Savior; and has caused them to build on "that foundation which he has laid in Zion." The institution of sacrifices even in Paradise (for we doubt not but that the beasts, with the skins of which our first parents were clothed by God himself, had been offered in sacrifice to God) taught them from the beginning to rely, not on themselves, but on a sacrifice which should in due time be offered: and his grace has invariably wrought to the production of this one effect, according to that declaration of the prophet, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; and he who believes shall not make haste, or, as Paul interprets it, shall not be ashamed Isaiah. 17:16 with Romans 9:33."

But in the text there is also contained,

II. An instructive lesson—

It teaches us,

1. That our trust must be on God alone—

To none can we look, but to our Covenant God and Savior. There is no other foundation, but that which God has laid 1 Corinthians 3:11; nor any other name whereby a human being can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ Acts 4:12. Hence his invitation, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth Isaiah 45:22." Hence also that solemn declaration, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me John 14:6." To confide in the creature, is to entail only a curse upon ourselves Jeremiah 17:5. Whence was it that the Jews, with all their earnestness in following after righteousness, could never attain it? It was, because they would rely upon themselves, and not seek it by a simple exercise of faith on the Lord Jesus Christ Romans 9:30-32. So it will be with us also, if our reliance be not altogether on the providence and grace of God: for what God said to his people respecting the Egyptians, he says to us; "The creature shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still Isaiah 30:7."

2. That confidence in him shall never be disappointed—

When it is said in our text, "The poor of his people shall trust in it." the meaning evidently is, that by so doing they shall be secure. And certain it is, that "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; and that the righteous runs to it and is safe." Find in the whole annals of the world one person who, when trusting in God, was disappointed of his hope. Did Manasseh rely on the mercy of God? He. even he, obtained pardon. Did Asa, or Jehoshaphat, or Hezekiah, rely on the power of God? No enemy could withstand them. Did Abraham believe in the truth and faithfulness of God? The long-expected seed was given to him, that became "as the stars of Heaven for number, and as the sands upon the sea-shore innumerable." Thus shall every one be blessed who puts his trust in God: "he shall be firm, and immoveable as Mount Zion itself, which cannot be removed, but abides forever Psalm 125:1." The question, "Who ever put his trust in God and was confounded?" never has been, and never can be answered, but in a way of universal negation.

The text should be yet further viewed as,

III. A consoling truth—

It is unspeakably consoling,

1. In reference to the Church at large—

Many are the enemies of the Church at this day, as well as in former times: nor were the Philistines half so envious at the prosperity of Zion, as millions of Christians, so called, are at this very hour. But when the Church was in its infancy, and had all the power and policy both of Jews and Gentiles combined against it, it stood as a rock, that defies all the efforts of the tempestuous ocean. The waves that menace its existence are dashed in pieces at its feet. So shall it still be to the end of time: whatever confederacies are formed against the Church shall come to nothing: for "it is founded on a rock; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

2. In reference to the poorest and weakest of its members—

The chief of its members are characterized as "a poor and afflicted people, who trust in the name of the Lord Zephaniah 3:12; and their conscious weakness often proves to them a source of great discouragement. But how consoling is the truth, that they are pre-eminently destined to receive the benefits of Christ's heavenly mission Isaiah 61:1-3, and to be the objects of his peculiar care Isaiah 40:11. It is under the very character of persons poor and weak and destitute, that they are designated as triumphing over all their enemies; ("the foot shall tread them down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy Isaiah 26:6;") and their weakness is described as carried to the utmost extent than can be imagined, even as resembling that of persons wounded, and captive, and dead: and yet in that very state is success insured to them; for "though lame, they shall take the prey Isaiah 33:23." "though captives, they shall take those captive whose captives they were, and shall rule over their oppressors Isaiah 14:2;" and though slain, they shall rise mid overcome, and "their enemies shall fall under the slain Isaiah 10:4." Hence the weakest among them all, "knowing in whom he has believed," may adopt the triumphant language of the prophet, "The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me? Let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me: who is he who shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as does a garment; the moth shall eat them up Isaiah 50:7-9."

APPLICATION—

Look then, Brethren, to the Scriptures, to see what God has done in former ages: See what instruction is to be gathered from those records, for your own conduct: And know, that God is as ready to "perfect his own strength in your weakness," as he has been in any instance from the foundation of the world: Only realize the thought of his universal agency in the government of the world, and of his watchful care over the interests of his peculiar people; and then "you need not fear, though the earth be moved, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea Psalm 46:2." See David's composure amidst such troubles as drove his friends to despair: "In the Lord," says he, "put I my trust: how say you then to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain; for, lo! the wicked bend their bow; they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart; and, if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" What? "The Lord is in his holy temple: the Lord's throne is in Heaven:" and that is ample security for me Psalm 11:1-4. Such composure may you also, even the least and weakest of you, enjoy, if you confide in God: for "there is no wisdom nor counsel against the Lord Proverbs 21:30;" but "his counsel shall stand; and he will do all his will Isaiah 46:10."

 

 

Isaiah 19:20

 

DISCOURSE 885

CHRIST A GREAT SAVIOR

Isaiah 19:20. They shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and He shall send them a Savior, and a great One, and he shall deliver them.

GOD usually vouchsafes his mercies when we are reduced to the greatest straits. This is manifest in his most remarkable dispensations of providence and of grace. In the greatest extremity God promised to send a deliverer to Egypt In this view it seems applicable to the angel who slew 185,000 of Sennacherib's army: for, though that deliverance was more immediately given to the Jews under Hezekiah, yet in its consequences it extended to Egypt. Sennacherib had before conquered and ravaged Egypt; and it was most probable that if he had taken Jerusalem be would have again proceeded thither with his victorious army, and reduced that already desolated kingdom to the lowest ebb of misery. But perhaps there may be a further reference to some other deliverers. But there is a further reference to Christ as the Savior of the Gentile world This appears from the whole context, verse 18–25; and it is in seasons of heavy dejection that He reveals himself to them: to him therefore we must look as the Savior foretold in the text.

I. In what respects He is "a great Savior"—

It is justly said by the Psalmist that "his greatness is unsearchable Psalm 145:3; nevertheless we may, not unprofitably, endeavor to illustrate it.

He is great when considered in his own person—

He has a name above every name either on earth or in Heaven. He is exalted to be a Prince that can give repentance and remission of sins Acts 5:31. The voice of inspiration calls him, "the great God and our Savior Titus 2:13." He speaks of himself in terms of similar import Isaiah 45:22; nor can anything be more glorious than the description given of him by the prophet Isaiah 9:6. This Savior, "though a man, thinks it not robbery to be equal with God Philippians 2:6." He is "God manifest in the flesh 1 Timothy 3:16," even "God over all blessed forever Romans 9:5."

He is also great in respect of the salvation he has wrought out for us—

Who can count the number of the sins from which he has delivered us?: or estimate the misery from which he has redeemed us?: Through our whole lives we have been heaping up treasures of wrath Romans 2:5. Yet is there no condemnation to us if we be interested in him Romans 8:1; besides, he has purchased for us an eternal inheritance in Heaven. Who can estimate all that is there enjoyed?: We must know all the glories of Heaven and the horrors of Hell, before we can fully appreciate the greatness of his salvation.

But before we speak peace to ourselves, it becomes us to inquire,

II. For whose deliverance he is sent—

Great as his mercy is, it will not indiscriminately extend to all. They, for whose relief he comes, are "oppressed" with the burden of sin—

The generality, alas! are well contented with their bondage. If he should offer to deliver them, they would thrust him from them, as the Israelites of old did their Savior Moses Acts 7:37; Acts 7:39. But there are some who mourn like the saints of old Isaiah 6:5. Romans 7:24. They desire nothing so much as to be delivered from their corruptions: For these Jesus came down from Heaven, and died upon the cross: Nor, though they be lawful captives, will he leave them in the hand of their enemies Isaiah. 48:24. 25.

They at the same time "cry earnestly to the Lord" for deliverance—

There are some, it must be confessed, who are uneasy in their sins, yet do not with fervor and constancy implore his mercy Psalm 32:3-4. Hosea 7:14; Such therefore, notwithstanding their uneasiness, obtain no help from him. His mercy is promised to those alone who seek it with importunity Matthew 7:7. Ezekiel 36:37. But humble and believing suppliants shall never be rejected by him: They shall find him a great, compassionate, and all-sufficient Savior.

APPLICATION—

Are any among you unconcerned about their sins? O! reflect on your state. Would God have sent you such a Savior, if your condition had not required it? Or, will you take occasion from this stupendous grace, to live more securely in your sins? O! consider that your cries, however available now, will soon, if delayed, become of no effect Luke 16:24-25.

Are others of you conflicting with sin and Satan? Lift up your heads with joy. However desperate your state may seem, your redemption draws near, nor shall all the powers of darkness rescue you from your Redeemer's hands John 10:28.

Are there here any who have experienced deliverance? Adore your Lord, and go on, "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Only commit yourselves entirely to him, and you shall join in eternal Hallelujahs to God and to the Lamb.

 

 

Isaiah 19:24-25

 

DISCOURSE 886

THE CONVERSION OF JEWS AND GENTILES

Isaiah 19:24-25. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

THERE is among God's ancient people an idea. that, so far from their nation being converted to Christianity, the whole world is, in due season, to be converted to Judaism. Nor do we wonder much that this error should obtain among them; since, in the prophetic writings, the change which is to be wrought upon the Gentiles is very generally described in terms taken from the Jewish Law. This is peculiarly observable in the passage before us, where Assyria and Egypt, the representatives of God's enemies in all ages, are spoken of as "raising an altar to the Lord," and "offering sacrifices thereon;" and "making vows unto the Lord," and "swearing by his name;" and as "raising up to him a pillar," such as the Israelites formed after their passage through Jordan, "to be a sign and a witness to the Lord" that they were his redeemed people, and that he alone was their God See these different expressions, verse 18–21. But a more thorough knowledge of their prophecies would convince them, that they are to enjoy a far different dispensation from that of Moses—a dispensation, not of works, but of grace; a dispensation, suited not to one small nation only, but to Egyptians and Assyrians, and to every people under Heaven. In fact, though legal terms are here used to express the piety which shall characterize the latter day, it is of that day that my text speaks, when "all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ;" and it is in this view that God expresses such satisfaction in it.

Let us consider,

I. The event in which God expresses such delight—

It is the conversion of the whole world to God—

Egypt and Assyria, and the whole Gentile world, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be erected as a standard in the midst of them, shall flock to it from every quarter; and, together with the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah, form one universal Church, "one fold under one Shepherd Compare verse 23, 24 with 11:10–12, 15, 16." "With Assyria and Egypt shall Israel be a third, even a blessing in the midst of the land." Hitherto, "the Israelites have only been a curse in the different countries over which they have been dispersed Zechariah 8:13;" for while they have been universally execrated, they have been a snare to their enemies, and an occasion of greatly aggravating their guilt. But "in that day will they prove a blessing" to all among whom they dwell: they will prove a blessing, as examples "whose conversion will be as life from the dead to the whole world Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15;" they will prove a blessing, too, as instruments, who, being themselves converted, "will declare God's glory among the Gentiles," and, like the priests of old, present thousands and millions of them as free-will offerings upon God's altar Isaiah 66:19-21. We all know of what use the showers are which descend upon the face of the earth, wherever God is pleased to send them: and precisely that office are the Jews, now dispersed over the earth, in due season destined to perform Micah 5:7. The whole process is well described by the Prophet Zechariah, who says, that "many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, every one of them taking hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you Zechariah 8:20-23."

In this event God will greatly rejoice—

To this effect he has said, "I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy: and I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people Isaiah 65:18-19." The expressions in my text are peculiarly striking to this effect: "The Lord of Hosts shall bless all his converts, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." All will be regarded by him with peculiar affection, while yet his people Israel shall possess their original and distinctive honor, as "his peculiar people," the lot of his inheritance Deuteronomy 32:9." But when God pronounces these "blessed," he makes them so: he makes them blessed by the richest communications of his grace, his mercy, and his peace: and in due season he will consummate their blessedness in the fullest possible enjoyment of his presence and glory. Such is the blessedness prepared for all who believe in Christ, whatever may have been their former state. We may have been as hostile to Christ as the superstitious Jews, or as far from him as the idolatrous Gentiles; and yet, if we embrace and obey the Gospel, this blessedness shall be ours.

And is this event now fast approaching? Let us then consider,

II. The effect which the prospect of it should produce on us—

Surely we should not be insensible to it. No: it should prevail,

1. To enlarge our philanthropy—

We are, for the most part, very narrow and contracted in our regards for our fellow men. Rarely do we feel much for any, except our own immediate neighbors, or those in whose welfare we have some personal interest. And even then, it is for their temporal, rather than their spiritual welfare that we are chiefly concerned. But we ought to extend our regards to the whole family of man dispersed throughout the earth; and, above all, to feel for their eternal interests. Behold how Jehovah expresses himself in our text. One would have thought that the great oppressors of his people, Egypt and Assyria, might have been excepted from his benevolent regards; but we find he contemplates their return to him with the utmost delight and delight. Thus, then, should it be with you. You should be like-minded with God in this holy feeling. The whole world, whether Jews or Gentiles, should be objects of your deepest solicitude. To see them ignorant of God and his Christ, should fill you with pain: and to have a prospect of their conversion, should excite in you the liveliest joy. Let me not be mistaken: I would not have your neighbors overlooked, either in relation to their temporal or their eternal interests: but I would have your hearts expanded, even us God's is, to embrace the whole family of man: and, as the conversion of their souls to God is, beyond all comparison, the most important object, I would have that to occupy the chief place in your minds.

2. To raise our expectations—

We think it almost impossible to enlighten the minds of the idolatrous Gentiles; and we quite ridicule the idea of converting the bigoted and superstitious Jews. But the work shall be done: for the prophet says, "If this be marvelous in your eyes, should it also be marvelous in my eyes? says the Lord of Hosts Zechariah 8:6." Beloved Brethren, not only is this event certain, but it is also near. Between two and three thousand years ago, the Prophet Isaiah had such clear views of it, that he saw it through this long vista, exhibited as it were before his eyes: "Lift up your eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to you. As I live, says the Lord, you shall surely clothe you with them all as with an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does .…You shall say in your heart, Who has begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone: these, where had they been Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 49:21." "Who are these that fly as doves to their windows Isaiah 60:8." Now, did the prophet in his day see it realized before his eyes, and shall not we, now that the time is so nearly come? Dear Brethren, you may already see "a stir among the dry bones, through the whole valley of vision: and it is yet but a very little time, and the Spirit of God shall breathe upon them, and they shall live, a whole army Ezekiel 37:7-10." Yes, I can confidently say. "It is now but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest Isaiah 29:17."

3. To quicken our exertions—

In every age has God carried on his work, through the instrumentality of men. What were the Prophets or the Apostles, but Ministers, by whom he accomplished the purposes of his grace? And so, at this time, he appeals to us respecting the ignorant and ungodly world, "How shall they hear without a preacher Romans 10:14." You will say, perhaps, "We cannot all be preachers." True; but there is much which may be done by every one among us. We may all comply with that direction of the prophet, "Lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left." Yes, we may all "pray for the peace and welfare of Jerusalem." In fact, we are commanded, not only to pray, but to give God no rest, until he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth Isaiah 62:6-7." We may also contribute, each according to his ability, to further those means which are employed, of circulating through the world the Scriptures of truth, and of sending Missionaries also to instruct mankind. The command given by our Lord was, "to go forth into all the world, and to preach the Gospel to every creature." But how can persons go at their own cost? If a warfare against a hostile nation be determined, we never think of men going to maintain it at their own cost. Nor is it to be supposed that now persons should wage war against all the powers of darkness, and go forth to rescue the millions whom they hold in bondage, if they be not aided in their efforts by the contributions of their brethren. In this way, then, all may exert themselves in the common cause: and if our blessed Lord gave up himself to the most cruel death for the salvation of the world, methinks we, who have been partakers of his mercy, should use our efforts, in every possible way, to extend the knowledge of Him through the world; and never to rest, until "all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest," and "all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

 

 

Isaiah 21:11-12

 

DISCOURSE 887

PROFANE SCOFFERS INSTRUCTED

Isaiah 21:11-12. The burden of Dumah. He calls to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire you: return, come.

THIS portion of holy writ is justly considered as very obscure; and the more so, because we are not aware of any records of history that will reflect light upon it. The learned Vitringa conceives the scope of the prophecy to be this: that, on occasion of some heavy calamity inflicted either on the Assyrians or Chaldeans in common with the Jews, an inhabitant of Edom inquired of the prophet what the duration of the trouble should be: and then he supposes the prophet to answer, that, as far as respected the Jews, a morning of relief was at hand: but that to Edom there was coming a night of long and heavy affliction. But on such an interpretation, the severe answer of the prophet seems uncalled for. I should rather confine the whole subject to Idumea: and then the question of the Edomite, and the answer of the prophet, will be natural, and perfectly consistent. It is well known that the Prophet Isaiah foretold the fate of Edom, as well as of all the other nations around Judea; and that he predicted the heaviest calamities to them all. Now, I suppose an Edomite unbelievingly and contemptuously to ask, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" that is, 'You, as placed on a watch-tower, presume to declare what shall befall our nation: tell me how long is it before these calamities, which you predict, shall come upon us?' To this question the prophet answers, 'You will have yet a "morning" of prosperity: but, I can assure you, it shall be succeeded by a long "night" of heavy adversity. If you really desire to be informed, in order to avert, by penitence, the threatened calamity, follow up your inquiries in a becoming spirit: "return" to God, whom you have forsaken; and "come" to Him, from whom you have deeply revolted. Then there may yet be hope both concerning you and your nation.'

In this view of the prophecy, we see,

I. In what way men treat the Divine testimony—

The spirit shown by the inquiring Edomite is precisely that which has obtained in every age, and which the Apostle Peter teaches us to expect as still more prevalent in the latter days: "There shall come, in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation 2 Peter 3:3-4." This, I apprehend, was the way in which the predictions of Noah relative to the deluge were treated by the scoffers in the antediluvian world: and persons of a similar spirit abounded in Isaiah's days; whom he describes as teeming with atheistical defiance, and saying, "Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know it Isaiah 5:19." To such an extent did this impiety prevail in the time of Ezekiel, that God speaks of it as actually passed into a proverb: "Son of man, what is that proverb that you have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision fails?" And it is worthy of particular observation, that the answer which Ezekiel was commanded to give to the scoffers of Israel, is precisely to the same effect with that which Isaiah had given to the Idumean inquirer: "Tell them, thus says the Lord God; I will make this proverb to cease; and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel: but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision Ezekiel 12:22-23."

Thus it is that men treat the Divine testimony at this day: they speak of it,

1. With unbelieving indifference—

As God's ambassadors to a guilty world, we are constrained to denounce his judgments against impenitent transgressors: But how is our testimony received by them? I Have we not reason to take up the lamentation which was first uttered by the Prophet Isaiah, and was afterward repeated both by the Lord Jesus Christ and his servant Paul, "Who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed Isaiah 53:1. John 12:37-38. Romans 10:16." It is in vain that we bring forth either the declarations of Jehovah, or positive instances of their accomplishment: the prevailing idea is, that men, however they may live, have nothing to fear; for that God is too merciful to inflict punishment on them, and especially the punishment of everlasting torments, which no actions of ours can be reasonably supposed to merit. Full of this erroneous conceit, they become settled on their lees, and say, in their hearts at least, if not also with their lips, "The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil Zephaniah 1:12."

2. With contemptuous levity—

This, I apprehend, was the real feeling expressed in those interrogations, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" In the same manner was the Apostle Paul regarded as a "babbler," unworthy of anything but derision. His discourse, which almost converted King Agrippa to the faith, brought to Festus no other conviction than this: "Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad Acts 26:24." And even the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who "spoke as never man spoke," was considered as unfit for any person of respectability to hear: "He has a devil, and is mad: why hear you him John 10:20." Is it to be wondered at, then, if those who faithfully preach the Gospel be still at this day branded with opprobrious names, and their message be considered only as "a cunningly devised fable?" It must be so, as long as there shall be a carnal man on earth: for "the things of the Spirit are foolishness to him;" and those who live only to proclaim and propagate those things, can appear to him in no other light than fools. If, like Ezekiel, we have boldness to deliver God's messages to men, we shall be sure to have applied to our ministrations the same contemptuous observation as was made on his, "Ah! Lord God, does he not speak parables Ezekiel 20:49."

The prophet's answer to his scoffing inquirers shows us,

II. In what way they themselves should be treated—

It is good, in many cases, to "answer a fool according to his folly." But there are cases (and particularly where the eternal interests of men are at stake,) in which we should "not answer a fool according to his folly Proverbs 26:4-5," but should give him such counsel and admonition as his necessities require. Mark the conduct of the prophet on this occasion:

1. His admonition—

He tells the inquirer, that, though his countrymen should yet have a season of prosperity, a night of fearful adversity awaited them. And this is the answer which I must make to the profane scoffer, or the careless unbeliever: 'You may go on prosperously for a season; you may have riches in the world; you may account yourselves happy, and be so accounted by all your carnal friends: but, though your day may be bright and long, as in the height of summer, a night, a long and fearful night, will come at last. O! how terrible will be that night, which shall never be irradiated with so much as a single gleam of hope! Yet such is the state that awaits you: for, for you "is reserved the blackness of darkness forever Jude. 1:13." ' It may seem at present to be at a great distance; but every day and hour brings it nearer to you; and at the appointed hour it will commence. Yes: Peter tells us, that "now of a long time your judgment lingers not, and your damnation slumbers not 2 Peter 2:3." While men "refuse to turn, God whets his sword, and bends his bow, and ordains his arrows against them" for their destruction Psalm 7:12:13. And the very interval that is allowed them is only given that they may "fill up the measure of their iniquities," and have "his wrath come upon them to the uttermost." Their present prosperity is only like the rich pasture to flocks and herds, whereby "they are nourished for the day of slaughter James 5:3." Happy, happy is the brute creation, which, if taken in an unexpected hour, survives not the stroke that takes them hence! But let us reflect a moment on that hour when a profane scoffer, or a careless unbeliever, shall open his eyes in the eternal world. He has buoyed himself up with the hope that he should see the face of his God in peace: but how will he shrink back at the sight of an angry God! What a shriek will he utter, that shall be heard through the vast expanse of Hell; when, instead of a listless and unobservant Deity, as he had pictured to himself, he shall see a holy God filled with wrath and fiery indignation, and prepared to execute all the judgments which he had denounced against him! I must, I must warn you, my beloved Brethren, that these are indeed the true sayings of God; and, whether believed or not, they shall be verified before long: for "God will be true; and every man," that contradicts him, "will be found a liar."

2. His counsel—

Not even the scoffer should be dismissed without such counsel, as, if duly received, may operate a saving change upon his soul. The prophet here says to the inquiring Edomites, "If you will inquire seriously, inquire you; returning" from your evil ways, and "coming" humbly and believingly to your God. So say I to you. If there be among you any who really desire to know the purposes of Heaven, come; and, as God's watchman, I will, to the best of my power, instruct you. And this in particular will I declare to you, that if only you will return to God, your past iniquities shall not be your ruin." Hear what God himself said to the Prophet Jeremiah: "Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, you backsliding Israel; and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you .…Turn unto me; for I am married unto you .…Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." And the very instant that they replied, "Behold, we come unto you; for you are the Lord our God;" the prophet was commanded to say, "If you will return, O Israel, says the Lord, return unto me Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1." This fully explains the words, "Return, come." In all the Scriptures there is not a single word that tends to the discouragement of a returning sinner. No: the whole sacred volume says, Come, come, come: "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come: and let him that hears say, Come: and whoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely." And lest we should suppose that any sin whatever shall prove a bar to the acceptance of a returning penitent, our blessed Savior expressly says, "Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out." This counsel, then, I would affectionately give to you, "Inquire; Return; Come."

But that this counsel may be better understood, I will now, in conclusion, address you more at length.

1. Be serious in your inquiries into the truth of God—

Inquire after nothing in a light, contemptuous manner: "Be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong." Nor make any inquiry with indifference; like Pilate, when he asked of our Lord, "What is truth?" and never waited to receive an answer. But set yourselves diligently to "search the Scriptures;" for in them alone will you find the whole truth, without any mixture of error. Inquire, too, into the state of your souls before God. Bring them to the true and proper touchstone, the word of God: examine yourselves by it; and beg of God to search and try you; that, if there be any hidden evil in your heart, it may be disclosed to you, and be purged away by the blood and Spirit of Christ.

2. Be assured that God's word shall take effect—

Presume not to sit in judgment on it, or condemn it. You are not called to judge, but to submit. If you see not the reason of God's declarations, do not therefore conclude that they are not founded in wisdom or goodness or truth: but say, "What I know not now, I shall know hereafter." If the word of God hold forth a threatening, tremble at it, and beg of God that it may never be executed upon you. If, on the contrary, it set forth a promise, lay hold of it, and rest upon it, and expect the accomplishment of it to your soul. And be fully satisfied in your minds, that the final states of the whole world shall be in exact agreement with it, and happiness or misery be awarded to all according to its unerring dictates.

3. Let the final issue of things be the great object of your concern—

It matters little whether your present portion resemble morning or night. If you enjoy all the prosperity that the world can afford, of what value will it be when night comes? On the other hand, if you experience here one continued night of affliction, it will soon pass away, and no more be remembered, when once the bright morn of everlasting day shall have arisen upon you. Learn then to despise the pleasure of sense, and to endure with fortitude the troubles of life. Fear not to make sacrifices, or to sustain any afflictions, in the cause of Christ, "in whose favor is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life itself." Set eternity before you, and keep it ever in your view: and then, though your night be long, the day shall soon arise upon you, when "your sun shall no more go down:" but "the Lord shall be an everlasting light unto you, and your God your glory."

 

 

Isaiah 22:12-14

 

DISCOURSE 888

THE UNCONCERN OF MEN AMIDST GOD'S CALLS TO REPENTANCE

Isaiah 22:12-14. In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, until you die, says the Lord God of hosts.

TRUE religion is equally abhorrent from an atheistical contempt of God's providence, and a presumptuous reliance on it. It teaches us neither to "trust in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we Jeremiah 7:4;" nor, on the other hand, to trust in human devices, to the neglect of him, who "works all things after the counsel of his own will."

It was for the latter of these sins, that the Jews were reproved in the words before us. The Assyrians had invaded their country, and were coming against Jerusalem itself: and the Jews, instead of crying to God for help, contented themselves with fortifying their city; and lived as securely as if no danger were at hand. This greatly incensed God, and caused him to denounce against them his heaviest judgments.

The words before us will lead us to consider,

I. The duty to which God calls us—

The terms used in the text were intended to express repentance—

The shaving of the head, and cutting of the beard, and putting on of sackcloth, were used among the Jews as indications of sorrow Ezekiel 27:30-31. Of themselves indeed, neither those nor any other actions, however significant, had any value before God: they were even hateful to him, if used without correspondent dispositions of heart Isaiah 1:13-14; Isaiah 66:3; but, when accompanied with inward contrition, they were pleasing and acceptable in his sight 1 Kings 21:27-29.

This is the duty to which God calls us at this time—

He spoke to the Jewish nation by the dispensations of his providence Micah 6:9. Awful visitations were always considered in that view, Judges. 20:25-26, and the voice of his prophets Joel, Isaiah, etc. And is he not calling us to repentance at this time, by the calamities of the nation, by the command of our rulers, and by the voice of all his faithful ministers The particular circumstances of the nation should be here stated. Yes; he says aloud, "Turn you to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning Joe. 2:12."

But how little attention we pay to him will appear, if we consider,

II. The state in which we continue—

The evils of which the prophet complained, are, alas! too descriptive of our state:

1. We confide in our own preparations without looking to God—

So often has God prospered our naval exertions, that we almost universally overlook his providence, and ascribe our success to our own superior skill and valor. Our hopes also of future conquests are founded wholly on our own prowess. We are active enough in making preparations; but are as unmindful of God, as if we needed not his aid, nor were at all dependent on his will. For the truth of this assertion we appeal to the public prints, and to the expressions of all with whom we converse This statement must of course be adjusted to the existing circumstances, but with a clear reference to the preceding context, verse 7–11.

2. We still live in our usual habits of conviviality and dissipation—

It is not intemperance and excess that is the object of the prophet's reprehension, but an unsuitable gaiety of mind, at a time when it became them to be humbling themselves in dust and ashes. And is not this the case with us among all ranks and orders of the community? Doubtless the pressure of the public burdens must impose restraints on many: but still the change in them is not the effect of a voluntary humiliation, but the reluctant fruit of irresistible necessity.

3. We, in too many instances, turn the very warnings of Jehovah into contempt and ridicule—

The Jews were warned of the near approach of their destruction: and they, to ridicule the idea, said, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die." We indeed, having no information from God respecting the issue of public affairs, cannot imitate, with respect to them, the impiety of the Jews. But, in relation to infinitely more important matters, there is as much profane scoffing among us, as among them: the declarations of God's word are set at nothing; and they, who most faithfully denounce God's judgments against sin and sinners, are, for the most part, regarded either as hypocrites or fanatics.

Let us then, as it becomes us, proceed with all fidelity to show,

III. The evil and danger of such a state—

What can be more unsuitable to our condition?

What should we think of a child or servant that should manifest such a spirit under our rebukes? Does such conduct then become us towards God, when he is contending with us, and chastising us for our sins? Yes, are we not as devoid of humanity as of piety, while we feel no sympathy with the thousands of our suffering fellow-creatures? Well says the prophet on a similar occasion, "Should we then make mirth Ezekiel 21:9-10; Ezekiel 21:12." Surely it becomes us rather to "cry and howl" for the miseries that are come upon us, or at least impending over us.

What can be more offensive to God?

The word "surely" is equivalent to an oath Hebrews 6:13-14; and is it a light thing which causes Jehovah to swear by his own life and immortal perfections? Is it a small matter that causes "the Lord God of hosts This title, being thrice repeated, is very emphatical." to shut up his tender mercies, and to swear that the guilt of such or such an action shall "never be purged away?" Must not that be beyond measure offensive to him, that can fill his breast with such "fiery indignation?" The sins that have brought down his chastisements are doubtless great; but an obstinacy under those chastisements which are intended to reform us, is but too probably a forerunner of our utter excision Jeremiah 7:12-16. Such also is the import of that threatening, Amos. 4:12. the ground of which five times repeated from verse 6. to 11,

What can be more destructive in its consequences?

The nation cannot be delivered but by means of a national repentance: nor can any individual escape the eternal wrath of God, but by means of his own personal repentance Luke 13:3. If there be only one impenitent transgressor in the whole kingdom, "God will search him out with candles," in order to punish him Zephaniah 1:12." Even in his present dispensations God will put a difference between those who mourn for sin, and those who are at ease in Zion Amos. 6:1; Amos. 6:3-7. Ezekiel 9:4-5; but much more in his decisions at the day of judgment Isaiah 5:11-12; Isaiah 65:12-14. Whether therefore we consider our national or our personal danger, it becomes us instantly to put away our unbelief and impenitence, and to turn to God with the deepest contrition.

ADDRESS—

It may be thought that the injunctions given to the Jews, had respect to them rather than to ourselves. Let an apostle then be heard in confirmation of the prophet; and let us depart with a determination through grace to obey his voice; "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; and he shall lift you up James 4:9-10." The very Gospel itself, with all that Christ has done and suffered for us, will do us no good, if we remain impenitent. The command is, "Repent, and believe the gospel." We must "sow in tears, if ever we would reap in joy."

 

 

Isaiah 22:24

DISCOURSE 889

ELIAKIM A TYPE OF CHRIST

Isaiah 22:24. They shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father's house.

IN the various changes that take place in human governments, or in the persons who are to be entrusted with the supreme authority, the hand of God ought to be continually acknowledged: whoever be the instruments, or whatever be the means, of effecting those changes, we must look through the second causes to God, as the first great Cause, who orders all things after the counsel of his own will, and makes use of men as his agents, to convey blessings to a nation, or to inflict his just judgments upon it. But, in his dispensations towards the Jews, there was often some mystery concealed, where we should have observed nothing but an ordinary occurrence. This was the case with respect to the deposition of Shebna, and the substitution of Eliakim in his place, as first minister of state under Hezekiah. Eliakim seems to have been raised as a type of Christ: the agreement between him and Christ is strongly marked in the passage before us,

I. In the authority committed to him—

The appointment of both was of God To put the audience in full possession of the subject, read distinctly from verse 15. to the end: and observe that verse 25. refers, not to Eliakim, but to Shebna. Shebna was a proud, vain-glorious man, far more intent on aggrandizing himself and his family, than on executing the arduous duties of his station. God therefore moved Hezekiah to dismiss him, and inspired Isaiah, not only to predict his degradation, but to foretell the elevation of Eliakim to his post and office. Thus was our Lord appointed to succeed the governors of the Jewish nation, who, both in the civil and ecclesiastical departments, had abused their trust, and rendered themselves unworthy to be continued in it. Humiliating in the extreme are the descriptions which the prophet gives of the rulers both in church and state Isaiah 1:5; Isaiah 56:10-12; and the time was coming, when God would fulfill his word, in "raising up in their place a faithful priest, who should do all his will, and another king who should reign over the house of David forever 1 Samuel 2:30; 1 Samuel 2:35 and Jeremiah 23:2; Jeremiah 23:5." "With their robe was He to be clothed, and with their belt was he to be strengthened; and their government was to be committed into his hands Compare verse 21 with Revelation 1:13. Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 9:6;" and this too, not only according to the commandment of God, but by the immediate agency of his overruling Providence As this was marked in the case of Eliakim, (verse 19–21.) so in that of Christ by the raising him from the dead, and utterly destroying the Jewish polity.

The authority with which they were invested was supreme—

To mark his office, Eliakim was to have "the key of the house of David laid upon his shoulder, and then to exercise the the most unlimited authority:" nor was he ever to be removed, like Shebna; (whoever boasted security would soon fail him;) but he was to be "a nail fastened in a sure place."

Now our blessed Lord applies to himself the very words here used in reference to Eliakim Revelation 3:7; thereby showing that Eliakim was indeed a type of him; and that what was spoken of Eliakim only in a figure, was really, and in the strictest sense, applicable to himself; the power of both being uncontrollable and unalterable. "All power in Heaven and in earth is committed unto Christ Matthew 28:18;" in everything that relates to the kingdom of nature or of grace, "he opens and no man shuts, and shuts, and no man opens." None are exalted, or disgraced, either in this world, or the world to come, but agreeably to the orders which he issues: nor can any, even in the smallest degree, resist his will: "He does according to his will in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; nor can any stay his hand, or say to him, What do you?" Nor will the lapse of ages effect any change on him: "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8;" "He is a nail fastened in a sure place." Seated on his holy hill of Zion, He laughs at the impotent combinations of men and devils, and has all his enemies in derision Psalm 2:1-4. "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed Daniel 7:14."

II. In the benefits resulting from his administration—

A wise and righteous governor is a rich blessing, as well to the prince who appoints him, as to the people whom he governs. Such was Eliakim; who was most probably of the royal seed; since it would not otherwise have been any virtue in him to seek with so much diligence the exaltation of his father's house.

But in what an infinitely higher degree do the benefits of Christ's administration appear!

Was Eliakim "a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah?" What a blessing is Christ also to the world at large! As, in a state, all are benefitted by a wise administration, though many are insensible to the blessings they enjoy; so the world is much indebted to the revelation which Christ has given us, and to his wise government of the universe, though they deny his providence, and despise his grace.

Was Eliakim "a nail, on which all the vessels of his father's house hung" in safety? What security does Christ afford to his dependants in particular! The various orders and degrees of Christians are elsewhere compared to vessels of various kinds 2 Timothy 2:20-21; and every one of them, from the greatest to the least, hangs upon him: were He to fall, they would perish; but as long as He stands, they shall be upheld: "because He lives they shall live also John 14:19.

Was Eliakim "a glorious throne to his father's house?" Jesus also, by his righteous administration, advances the glory of his heavenly Father. In ascribing to Jesus the power and dominion over all, we do not derogate from the Father's honor, but add to it Philippians 2:11. His mediatorial office he holds from the Father, and improves it, in every instance, for his glory. Whether he open or shut, whether he kill or save alive, every perfection of the Deity receives brighter luster from the dispensation: and gives reason for unbounded thankfulness to God, for having "committed all judgment to his Son," and "laid our help upon One so Mighty Psalm 89:19."

We cannot improve this subject better, than by learning from it,

1. To renounce all creature-dependence—

Great as the power of Shebna was, both he, and all his dependants, were brought down in God's appointed time; and the vanities in which he had gloried, became monuments of his shame, and means of perpetuating his disgrace verse 18. Thus will it be with all who trust in an arm of flesh. God has denounced a curse against them Jeremiah 17:5; and though, through the forbearance of God, it may be awhile delayed, it will surely come at last; and all, wherein we trusted, will turn to our confusion: our wisdom will become folly; our strength, weakness; our righteousness, as filthy rags 1 Corinthians 1:19. Isaiah 64:6. We may dream of being "as a nail fastened in a sure place;" but if we rely on anything of our own, our hopes will be disappointed, and our expectations will perish. Let us not then lean to our own understanding, or depend on our own strength, or trust in our own righteousness: we must be empty in ourselves, if we would be filled by God; for it is "the hungry alone whom he fills with good things; the full and the rich he will send empty away:" "He will resist the proud; and give grace only to the humble Luke 1:52-53. James 4:6."

2. To trust in the Lord with our whole hearts—

Jesus is indeed "a nail fastened in a sure place;" and able to bear the weight of the whole universe. He is exalted by the hand of God himself on purpose that He may "be a Prince and a Savior" unto us. And, if we rely on him, he is "able to save us to the uttermost." Only let our trust in him be entire, (exactly like that of a vessel on a nail,) and we may rest assured, that all, who so hang on him, shall be "the glory of his Father's house." As there is no other support for sinful man, so neither is there any fear of disappointment to those who trust in him. Let none then imagine themselves so great as not to need his support; or deem themselves so insignificant, that they shall not obtain it; or think themselves in such perilous circumstances, that He cannot uphold them. "Every vessel, from the largest flagon to the smallest cup," must owe its preservation to him alone; and by him shall all be saved, if they do but "cleave to him with full purpose of heart."

 

 

Isaiah 24:23

 

DISCOURSE 890

THE REIGN OF CHRIST GLORIOUS

Isaiah 24:23. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients, gloriously.

THE chapter before us seems to refer to the destruction of the Jewish Church and polity by the Chaldeans. But it looks forward, also, to their restoration, and to the establishment of the Messiah's empire consequent upon it. Of that period it is delightful to speak: for, in fact, the glory of it far exceeds all that language can express, or the most enlarged imagination can conceive.

To give you some idea of the Messiah's advent, as it is here described, I will endeavor to set before you,

I. The nature of his kingdom—

It differs widely from all other kingdoms. Other kings have dominion over the persons and the property of their subjects; but his empire is over their souls: The laws of other kingdoms are almost entirely restrictive: his, however restrictively expressed, are not prohibitory only, but preceptive; and intended to call forth into exercise every power of the soul. The substance of them all is contained in these two sayings, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength; and your neighbor as yourself." Nor does any one fully approve himself to him as a faithful subject, unless "every thought of his heart be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5."

II. The extent of his dominion—

Never was there a kingdom like unto His. At present, indeed, His is very limited: but, at the period mentioned in my text, it will be absolutely universal: "All kings shall bow down before him, all nations shall serve him Psalm 72:11," and "the utmost ends of the earth shall be his possession Psalm 2:8." "There will then be but one Lord over the face of the whole world, and his name one Zechariah 14:9." Nor will there be any who yield him only a forced or partial obedience; for in that day "all will be righteous Isaiah 60:21; "nor will there be any more a Canaanite in the land of the Lord of Hosts Zechariah 14:21."

III. The happiness of his subjects—

If the happiness of a people be estimated by their honors, their wealth, their enjoyments, never was there a kingdom to be compared with His. The most exalted person in any other kingdom is but a child of man: whereas the least and meanest of his subjects is a child of the living God. "Israel," says Jehovah, "is my son, my first-born Exodus 4:22." The wealth of earthly monarchs, however great, may be counted: that which is owned by the poorest of his subjects is "unsearchable Ephesians 3:8." "Though he have nothing (of an earthly nature), he actually possesses all things 2 Corinthians 6:10." In earthly kingdoms, a few only, and those of the higher ranks, have access to their king; and that only for a short season, on some particular occasions. But in Christ's yes, and has liberty to "ask whatever he will," with an absolute certainty, that (provided the gift will be beneficial to his soul) he shall obtain it John 14:13-14; John 15:7. In other kingdoms, the subjects are only subjects: but in Christ's kingdom every subject is himself a king Revelation 1:6, having a throne Revelation 3:21, a crown 2 Timothy 4:8, a kingdom Luke 22:29, for his unalienable and everlasting possession. The subjects of other kingdoms have their pleasures and their joys; but the subjects of Christ are "full of joy and peace in believing Romans 15:13," yes, "of joy unspeakable and glorified 1 Peter 1:8." Well might Moses say, "Happy are you, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellency Deuteronomy 33:29."

IV. The glory of his reign—

Truly, never did there exist among men such a kingdom as this. In this there will not be found one enemy unsubdued; one subject of the realm debased, or destitute, or unholy, or unhappy. Even at present, so far as Christ really reigns in the heart, this is found a truth: but in that day, when his power will be universally operative and effectual, it will be productive of these effects in every place and in every bosom. But, as the crown and summit of all, every soul will refer to Christ as the life, the peace, the strength, the joy, the glory of his whole Church. There will be stars differing from each other in splendor; but all will acknowledge him as the sun, from whence all their luster is derived, and to whom alone all the glory must be ascribed. In the reign of Solomon, so great was the prosperity of the Jewish people, that "silver was common as the stones," and "of no account" in the public estimation 1 Kings 10:21; 1 Kings 10:27. But that was poverty itself, in comparison of what shall be the portion of God's people in the millennial age: for then the very poorest among them shall be able to say, "All things are mine; for I am Christ's 1 Corinthians 3:22-23."

That there may be trials then, as well as now, I do not deny: but they will all be made subservient to the advancement of the people's happiness: seeing, that "as their tribulations abound, their consolations also by Christ shall much more abound 2 Corinthians 1:5."

See then, Brethren,

1. What you should affect on earth—

The sun and moon may well be considered as emblems of all that is great and glorious upon earth: but "glorious as they are, they have no glory, by reason of the glory that excels." Before the superior luster of the Redeemer's kingdom they must hide their diminished heads, "ashamed and confounded," as unworthy of regard, in comparison of Christ, and of the felicity that is enjoyed through him. Let this, then, be the one object of your desire, to become subjects of his kingdom. Truly, "to be a door-keeper in his house, is better than to dwell in the most magnificent and richly furnished tents of the ungodly Psalm 84:10." Seek to be able to say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his Son. 2:16;" and you can have no richer bliss out of Heaven.

2. What blessedness awaits you in the eternal world—

There you will "behold the King in his beauty Isaiah 33:17," yes, in the full effulgence of his majesty and glory. There, too, will you yourselves be freed from all your present infirmities: for there "the spirits of the just are made perfect Hebrews 12:23." There your powers will be enlarged, beyond all that you can now conceive; and you will be filled with bliss, to the utmost extent of your capacity to contain it. And what will you think of earthly honors and enjoyments then? Truly you will wonder how it was ever possible for you to be so enchanted with them as you once were. The sight of Christ "face to face 1 Corinthians 13:12." will swallow up every inferior object, even as the meridian sun eclipses and banishes the stars: and then your bliss will be complete, because there will no longer remain any object to distract your mind, or so much as a thought that does not emanate from, and center in, your Savior and your King. Methinks, in the anticipation of that day, I hear you already saying, "Hallelujah; for the Lord God omnipotent reigns Revelation 19:6."

 

Isaiah 25:4

 

DISCOURSE 891

CHRIST A SUITABLE AND ALL SUFFICIENT HELP

Isaiah 25:4. You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

IT is generally thought that no great comfort can arise from meditating upon God: and this is true, as far as it respects those who are determined to live in sin: but to those who desire to serve and enjoy God, there cannot be a richer source of consolation: a view of his attributes, as displayed in the works of his providence and grace, would soon elevate our minds, and turn our fears and sorrows into "thanksgiving and the voice of melody." We find the prophet breaking forth into rapture, "O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name:" but what was the foundation of this joy? It was, as he adds, "for you have done wonderful things verse 1;" and what those wonders were, he informs us in the words which we are about to consider, in which we may see,

I. What is here supposed respecting the Lord's people—

We forbear to mention the temporal calamities which God's people are called to suffer, because they are common to the wicked as well as to the righteous. But there are many and severe afflictions peculiar to the godly. They are often in great distress,

1. From a sense of guilt and danger—

When persons first begin to turn to God, they are often filled with horror at the sight of their past iniquities, and terrified with apprehensions of the wrath they have so justly merited. However "stout-hearted" any man may have been in the days of his ignorance, he no sooner sees what transgressions he has committed, and what a God he has defied, than, like Belshazzar at the sight of the hand-writing on the wall, his loins are loosed with fear, and his knees, as it were, smite one against the other Daniel 5:5-6. The jailor, it should seem, from his treatment of Paul and Silas, was of a very ferocious disposition; but, when God smote him with a sense of sin, how was his heart appalled! he "sprang in with trembling, end cried out before his prisoners, Sirs, What must I do to be saved Acts 16:29-30." Thus it is, in a greater or less degree, with all: and many in this state have even envied the beasts the privilege of annihilation.

2. From the persecutions of an ungodly world—

From the days of Cain, even to this present hour, they who have been born after the flesh have persecuted those who were born after the Spirit Galatians 4:29. 1 John 3:12. And the more eminent any have been for piety, the more have they been the objects of the world's hatred and contempt. With what astonishing cruelty were the saints of old treated! They, of whom God says, the world was not worthy, were made as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things Hebrews 11:36-38. 1 Corinthians 4:13. What though the same violence does not rage at present? is the enmity of the carnal heart slain? Does not the same aversion to religion exist now as in former times? and is it not still found in many instances that our "greatest foes are those of our own household?" Yes; and in many instances is this a source of deep affliction, even as "a terrible blast, and as a wintry storm."

3. From the temptations of Satan—

"Whoever will set himself to seek the Lord must prepare his soul for temptation." Satan will not lose any of his vassals without endeavoring to reduce them to their former state of subjection. For this end he will harass the soul with his temptations, which, as fiery darts, will inflame it with evil passions, and with a "venom will even drink up the spirits Ephesians 6:16. Job 6:4." How inexpressibly grievous these are to a child of God, may be seen by the bitter complaints of Paul respecting that thorn in his flesh, and his entreaties for deliverance from the buffetings of Satan 2 Corinthians 12:7-8. Never does a saint feel himself more "needy and distressed" than in circumstances like these; nor could any endure this "conflict with the principalities and powers of darkness," if not upheld by an invisible and almighty arm.

4. From the hidings of God's face—

God oftentimes, for wise and gracious ends, withdraws himself from his people, and suffers them to "walk in darkness for a season, and without light. And this is incomparably the most distressing of all the trials that can be endured in this world. Our blessed Lord, who never complained of the cruelties exercised upon his body, cried out with inexpressible anguish, by reason of the dereliction he experienced in his soul, "My God, my God! why have you forsaken me Matthew 27:46." Many too of his dearest children have mourned like him, and been ready to conclude that God had forsaken and forgotten them Isaiah 49:14. Psalm 77:7-9. To estimate aright the greatness of this affliction, it must be felt; for neither words can express, nor imagination conceive, the gloom and misery of a deserted soul.

Were we to view them in this light only, we should dread, rather than desire, to be of their number. But in the text, we see,

II. God's compassionate regard towards them—

God is never more concerned about his people than when they are "in heaviness through manifold temptations:" nor will he merely afford them support, but will himself be to them,

1. A suitable help—

As the trials of the saints are various, so, of course, must their necessities be also: but whatever it be that they need, they shall surely receive it out of the Redeemer's fullness. Is it a sense of guilt that oppresses them? God will "apply to their lips a live coal from the altar, and say, Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged Isaiah 6:6-7." Are they bowed down under a weight of persecution, and destitute of human aid? He will strengthen them in their inward man, that they shall even rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer for his sake Acts 5:41. 2 Timothy 4:17. Are they buffeted by Satan? He will clothe them with armor, whereby they shall be enabled to resist him manfully, and to bruise him under their feet Ephesians 6:11. And has he himself forsaken them? It shall be but for a little moment Isaiah 54:7-8, that they may learn when in darkness to stay themselves on him Isaiah 50:10, and rejoice with more exalted joy in the renewed expressions of his love. Thus it is intimated in the text itself, that whether it be strength or protection, or whatever else, that we want, he will surely impart it to us.

2. A seasonable help—

God may suffer his people to lie a considerable time under their afflictions: but in the very instant that he sees it best to interpose, he will come to their support. This is not only intimated in the parable of the Importunate Widow, but absolutely promised, as a deduction from that parable; "Shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? Truly I say unto you that he will avenge them speedily Luke 18:7-8," that is, in the very best and fittest season. And how remarkably was this exemplified in his conduct towards Abraham! That holy patriarch was made to go three days' journey to the mountain where he was to slay his son: he was permitted to take the wood, the fire, the knife, for the execution of the divine command; he was even suffered to bind his son, and lift up the knife that was instantly to inflict the fatal wound; and then it was that God stopped him by a voice from Heaven. Thus in ten thousand other instances has that proverb been verified, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen Genesis 22:14. And it is remarkable that the poor illiterate fishermen, who followed our Lord, were even ordered not to think beforehand what they should say, when summoned before their rulers, but to expect that the Holy Spirit should suggest to them at the moment what they ought to speak Matthew 10:19-20; and though their example does not justify a want of foresight and premeditation in us, yet the promise made to them warrants us to look to God as a help, a present, "a very present help in the time of trouble Psalm 46:1;" and to expect his interposition then, when "the storm" would otherwise overwhelm us.

3. A sufficient help—

However "needy and distressed" we be, God is able to support and deliver us. Though we be as "worms, yet will he enable us to thresh the mountains Isaiah 41:14-15. Deuteronomy 33:25." And though earth and Hell conspire against us, yet will he make us "more than conquerors." Our weakness is no ground of discouragement: for "his strength shall be perfected in our weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9." He has undertaken for us, and he will perform his engagements: and, sooner than not make us triumph over our enemies, he would cause "the very stars in their courses to fight for us Judges. 5:20," or the earth to open and swallow up our adversaries. Never has a child of God yet failed for want of his effectual aid; nor shall any one to all eternity: sooner shall Heaven and earth pass away than "one of his little ones shall perish Matthew 18:14."

From this subject we may clearly see,

1. The true nature of experimental religion—

The acknowledging of these things to be true does not constitute real piety: it is the experience of them in the soul that is the foundation, and indeed the very essence, of vital godliness. Our blessed Lord has said, "Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest Matthew 11:28;" and this comprehends all the whole work of God's grace upon the soul. To be heavy-laden with a sense of sin; to seek rest in Christ; and to be brought by the Lord Jesus to an entire rest in God as our Father and our Friend; this, I say, is true religion: and the experience of this on earth will lead assuredly to the everlasting experience of it in Heaven Revelation 1:5-6.

2. The true nature of practical religion—

"A form of godliness" may easily exist "without any of its power." Then only do we serve the Lord Jesus aright, when we are conformed to the image of Christ, and have learned to walk as he walked." "Love is the very fulfilling of the law!" and this love of Christ to us is the true pattern for our love to each other Ephesians 5:2. This is what becomes us "as the elect of God Colossians 3:12-14;" and this will be the test of our obedience in the day of judgment Matthew 25:34-36. "Let the same mind then be in you, as was in Christ Jesus Philippians 2:5.": And let this be the habitual exercise of it as far as your circumstances will admit If this be the subject of a Charity Sermon, this will be the place for opening the peculiar nature of the charity.

 

 

Isaiah 25:6-8

 

DISCOURSE 892

THE GOSPEL A SOURCE OF RICHEST BLESSINGS

Isaiah 25:6-8. In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees: of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord has spoken it.

MANY passages of Scripture, which, from the language, might be supposed to belong to the Jewish dispensation only, will be found to refer in a more especial manner to the times of the Gospel. The "mountain" so frequently mentioned in this place was Mount Zion, which was distinguished above all other mountains by being the peculiar residence of the Deity: and it should seem that all the great things which God promised to the world, were to be transacted upon that spot. But Mount Zion was a type of the Gospel Church, wherein God yet more eminently dwells: and it is in the Church of Christ that he bestows the blessings which are here promised. The Gospel, which is here promulgated, affords,

I. Food to the hungry—

The Gospel calls us to a luxurious feast—

The terms in which this feast is expressed, are evidently intended to raise in our minds the highest possible conceptions of its excellency. "A feast" is far more than a common meal, and conveys an idea of costliness and abundance: a feast "of fat things" imports that the choicest provisions are set forth: and the fat things being "full of marrow," suggests, that no expense is spared in procuring whatever can provoke the appetite of the guests, or afford them pleasure. But "wines" are also added; wines that have contracted a delicious flavor by being long kept "upon the lees;" and wines "well refined," that are bright as a ruby, that "sparkle in the glass," and that delight the eye while they gratify the palate. What are we to understand from this accumulation of ideas, but that, as the choicest viands administer nourishment and comfort to the body, so the Gospel provides everything which can exhilarate and support the soul. After all, this representation falls very far short of the truth: for the promises of the Gospel are infinitely sweeter to the hungering and thirsting soul than the most exquisite food can be to our taste. Let but a sinner, who pants after pardon, be enabled to apply to his soul that promise of Jehovah, That "crimson sins shall be made white as snow," or that word of Christ, That "whoever comes to him he will in no wise cast out;" what transports of joy will he not feel! how will he be "filled as with marrow and fatness, while he praises his God with joyful lips!" What strength did that word, "My grace is sufficient for you," administer to Paul under the buffetings of Satan! In the strength of that one meal he was enabled to go on, not for forty days only, but to the latest hour of his life In allusion to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:7-8. And such is the Gospel to all who cordially embrace it.

This feast has God himself prepared for all people—

It is none other than "the Lord of hosts" who has spread this table at his own expense. And he invites "all people," not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also; yes, the very vilest of the human race. He sends out his servants into the highways and hedges, to call the halt, the lame, and the blind, and orders them to take no refusal, but to compel them to come in Matthew 22:4. Luke 14:17; Luke 14:21-22." Yes, though in every succeeding age there have been myriads of guests brought in, yet his message to us is, that "yet there is room."

But, as this feast can be of no use to those who feel not their need of it, nor discern its excellency, the Gospel suits itself to our necessities, and offers,

II. Light to the blind—

There is a thick, impenetrable "veil" over the hearts of men—

The lusts and prejudices of men cast a film over their eyes, and incapacitate them from discerning spiritual things: and Satan by his subtle devices confirms their blindness 2 Corinthians 4:4. As the Jews, even while Moses was read to them every Sabbath day, were unable, by reason of the veil that was upon their hearts, to comprehend the great ends and purposes of the Mosaic dispensation 2 Corinthians 3:14-15, so thousands who live under the light of the Gospel are total strangers to its fundamental truths; or admit them only in theory, while they are destitute of any experimental knowledge of them in their hearts. "They have eyes, but see not; ears, but hear not; hearts, but understand not."

But God by his Gospel removes this veil—

"He who commanded light to shine out of darkness will shine into the hearts" of those who seek him. "The things which flesh and blood could never have discovered, he will reveal unto them Matthew 16:17." He will show them the evil of sin, the depravity of their hearts, the fullness and suitableness of Christ, the stability of the covenant, together with everything else which they need to know. He will not merely turn aside the veil, and give them a transient view of the holy of holies, but will "destroy" the veil, and "rend it in pieces from the top to the bottom." It is true, this clear knowledge of divine truth will not be imparted all at once; but it shall gradually increase, until they "see as they are seen, and know as they are known."

To complete the happiness of his people, God further promises,

III. Victory to the oppressed—

The former part of the text refers to the apostolic and millennial periods; but the latter will not be accomplished until the day of judgment. To that season in particular Paul applies the words before us 1 Corinthians 15:54. Taking him for our guide, we are in no danger of misinterpreting their import, while we say, that God will rescue us from,

1. The power of death—

Death is even now disarmed of its sting; and the king of terrors is made our friend. They who through the Gospel are enabled to live unto Christ, may justly account it "gain to die:" not life only, but even death itself, is numbered among their treasures Philippians 1:21. 1 Corinthians 3:22. Such is their victory over it, that it is an object of hope and desire rather than of terror and aversion Philippians 1:23; and when it comes, they are not so properly said to die, as to "fall asleep in Jesus." Nor will its apparent triumphs be of long duration; for that which swallowed up mankind with insatiable avidity, shall itself "be swallowed up in victory," and not a vestige of it ever again be found among the saints of God.

2. The sorrows of sin—

While we continue in the body there will be occasion for us to "go on our way weeping." But even now the sorrows of believers are widely different from the sorrows of the world: instead of corroding the heart, they bring a peace along with them; and the persons who are most affected with them, so far from wishing to get rid of them, desire to have them more deep and abiding. But before long they shall sully the face no more; but shall be "wiped away" by the hand of a compassionate Father, and be followed by a harvest of eternal joy Revelation 21:4; Revelation 7:16-17.

3. The reproaches of the world—

There is scarcely anything which an ungodly world will not say or do, to asperse the character of the godly, and to destroy their peace. But God in this world so far "takes away their rebuke," as often to manifest himself to them, and to interpose visibly on their behalf Exodus gr. Joseph, Daniel, the Hebrew Youths. etc. But in a little time "He will bring forth their righteousness as the noon day;" and they who were regarded "as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things," shall be openly acknowledged as the children of the living God.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are living at a distance from God—

Whatever you may promise yourselves from the enjoyment of this world, you in reality are feeding only on husks; and however you may boast of attainments in philosophy, there is a veil on your hearts that hides from you all spiritual knowledge. Besides, whatever satisfaction you feel, or whatever reputation you enjoy, death will speedily swallow up both you and it, and will consign you over to everlasting shame and misery. Say, then, whether you have not made a wretched choice, and whether the mourning and despised Christian be not in a far happier state than you? It is not however too late for you to repent: the invitations of the Gospel are sent to you as well as to others; and if you put away your vain excuses, and return to God as prodigals, you shall find a cordial welcome, and feast this very hour on the fatted calf. O that the "scales may fall from your eyes;" and that, being "brought from darkness unto light, you may be turned from the power of Satan unto God!"

2. To those who are come to God's holy mountain—

You find that the promises of the Gospel have not disappointed you. If you are not "satisfied with the plenteousness of God's house," it is not because the provisions are withheld from you, but because you want a better appetite for them. "Be not straitened in yourselves;" and be sure you never shall be straitened in your God: "open your mouth wide, and he will fill it." Above all things remember to feed continually on "the body and blood of your beloved Lord; for his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed John 6:54-55." And soon you shall be called to the banquet above, where "your Lord shall gird himself and come forth to serve you." Then shall these promises receive their full accomplishment; and you shall possess that "fullness of joy which is at God's right hand for evermore."

 

 

Isaiah 25:9

 

DISCOURSE 893

CHRIST'S ADVENT A GROUND OF JOY

Isaiah 25:9. It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

IF the benefits of Christianity were duly estimated by us, there would be no bounds to our attachment to it, or our delight in it. What an assemblage of images have we in the verses immediately preceding my text, to display the excellence of our holy religion! In truth, the human mind is scarcely capable of combining such a variety of ideas as are here presented to us, so as to reduce them to one common focus, and at one view to comprehend them all. But the common result of all will doubtless be that which is declared in my text. The whole Church of God, and every individual member of it, will be impressed alike with wonder and admiration at a discovery of our redeeming God, and will exclaim, "This is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation!"

Let us, then, consider this,

I. As the language of the Church at large—

The time spoken of in Scripture as "that day" sometimes refers to one period, and sometimes to another; and frequently comprehends several distinct periods, in which the things predicted shall receive a partial and progressive accomplishment. In the passage before us, the prophet may be considered as comprehending in his view,

1. The apostolic age—

For many hundred years had the Jews been waiting for the Messiah's advent: and at that precise time, when Jesus came, were they "expecting him, as the consolation of Israel," and "looking for redemption in Jerusalem." And no sooner was he born into the world, than an angel appeared to certain shepherds, to announce his advent; saying, "Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born, this day, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord Luke 2:10-11." As for the joy which these tidings excited, we may judge of it, not only from the exultation of the shepherds, but from the expressions of that aged saint, who, on taking the infant Savior in his arms, exclaimed, "Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation Luke 2:25-30."

2. The millennial period—

The Church is now expecting a second advent of our Lord, when he shall take to him his great power, and reign over the face of the whole earth. We truly believe that the time is near at hand, when "all kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him," and "all the kingdoms of the world become his undivided empire." And oh! what joy will his advent diffuse throughout the whole intelligent creation, both of Jews and Gentiles! Of that time the Prophet Isaiah speaks, when he says, "Rejoice you with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you that mourn for her: for thus says the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. And when you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like a herb Isaiah 66:10-14." And in the book of Revelation, the same event is thus announced: "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings; saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready Revelation 19:6-7."

But there will be yet a further accomplishment of our text at,

3. The day of judgment—

All that are in the graves are waiting for the Savior's advent: and when we consign any saint to the silent tomb, we do it in an assured expectation that, at the appointed hour, he shall rise again to "meet the Lord in the air." The very spirits that are before the throne of God are also waiting for that blessed day, when, by their re-union with the body, their bliss shall be complete, and their felicity entire. To that period we may conceive the Apostle refers, when he says, "The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body Romans 8:22-23." At all events, we are sure that it is that period which "the grace of God" teaches us to be "looking for, even for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ Titus 2:13." How will every saint, even from Adam to that very hour, then say, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him; this is the Lord; we have waited for him: we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation!" Then, indeed, will "death be swallowed up in victory, and all tears be wiped from off all faces verse 7. 8," and the Savior's advent be celebrated in this universal song.

But we need not wait for any distant seasons; for even now may our text be taken,

II. As the language of every individual believer—

Yes, now, at this present moment, does the believer thus express himself,

1. In the recollection of what is past—

Long has he waited upon God, that he might obtain mercy to his soul. To "win Christ, and be found in him," has been the supreme object of his desire. For this he has wept, and prayed, and labored, if by any means he might obtain it. And now, at last, Christ has revealed himself to him, as an able and all-sufficient Savior. Now, then, with grateful surprise, he exclaims, 'Lo, this is my God, for whom I have waited and prayed! this is my Lord, whom alone, and above all things, I have desired to behold. I once thought the time long; but now I regret not the troubles which I endured while seeking after him: had they been ten times as pungent, or had I endured them ten times as long, I should not now repine: one view of him as reconciled to me, and one hour spent in communion with him, is sufficient to repay me for a whole life of sorrow and suspense.' I will appeal to all, whether any man, who can say, "He has taken me out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay," does not find occasion also to add, "He has put a new song into my mouth, even thanksgiving to our God Psalm 40:1-3."?

2. In the anticipation of what is yet future—

Doubtless he looks forward to many conflicts with sin and Satan: he sees a host of enemies arrayed against him, enemies with whom he would be utterly unable to cope: but he knows in whom he has believed; and, in dependence on the Savior, he defies every adversary, saying, "In the Lord put I my trust: I will not fear what either men or devils can do against me Psalm 27:1." In answer to the remonstrances of a guilty conscience, he replies, "My Lord will save me:" and, if the number or power of his enemies be urged against him, he answers with confidence, "This Savior is my God: and if He be for me, who can be against me?" This is He for whom I have waited; and He will save me. "In his name I set up my banners;" and in reliance upon Him, I know that no enemy shall prevail against me, or "ever pluck me out of his hands." I give loose therefore to joy: yes, "I will be glad, and rejoice in his salvation Psalm 20:5;" and though I "see my Savior no otherwise than by faith, I will rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

APPLICATION—

What now shall I say, to commend this Savior to you?

1. Let your expectations from him be enlarged—

It is not possible for you to expect too much. If your sins were numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore, you might expect that he would "blot them all out as a morning cloud," or "cast them behind him into the depths of the sea." If he who has undertaken to save you be "God," what have you to fear? And if he have promised to be "a God unto you," it is not possible that you should ever want. You may stretch your requests to the utmost bounds of human language to express, or of human ingenuity to conceive, and they shall fall infinitely short of what you shall surely realize, if he himself be yours. "All things are yours, if you be Christ's Adopt the language of David, Psalm 62:5-8."

2. Let your joy in him abound—

Doubtless, while you are in the body, you will have more or less cause for sorrow. But methinks, if you were out of the body, you could scarcely have more ground for joy. Only reflect on him who has undertaken to save you, or on the salvation which he has engaged to bestow upon you; and your whole life will be one continued scene of joyful exultation and of holy triumph. It will be, in short, a very Heaven upon earth.

 

 

Isaiah 26:3-4

 

DISCOURSE 894

TRUST IN GOD RECOMMENDED

Isaiah 26:3-4. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you. Trust you in the Lord forever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.

IT was designed of God that under the Gospel dispensation his people should enjoy a state of very exalted happiness. The Jews had a spirit of bondage, as servants: we have a spirit of adoption, as sons. In conformity with this idea, the prophet, in the preceding chapter, speaks of the Lord as spreading a rich luxurious feast for all nations Isaiah 25:6; and, in the chapter before us, records "A song which should be sung" by all the guests verse 1. And well indeed may they sing, who are enabled to make such an appeal to God, as that which we have just read: well may they sing, who have the Lord Jehovah himself engaged to keep them in perfect peace.

May our hearts be tuned to join in this Divine anthem, while we,

I. Show what blessedness God will confer on his believing people—

It is said by the voice of inspiration, "The faithful man shall abound with blessings Proverbs 28:20;" and again, "God will bless his people with peace Psalm 29:11."

The unbeliever is an utter stranger to peace—

He may be stupid and insensible as a beast; but he can know nothing of real peace: even his apathy vanishes when once he begins to think of death and judgment. As his serenity resembles that of the irrational creation; so it arises from a similar source, a want of foresight or reflection in reference to the concerns of his soul. If he thinks of God, he is troubled, and will gladly have recourse to anything to banish such uneasy reflections from his mind. This is his state, even when in the midst of all that the world accounts good and great: but how utterly devoid of peace is he, when once he is awakened to a sense of his real condition! Then he is full of terror, like the three thousand on the day of Pentecost; and, if he do not think of suicide, like the affrighted Jailor, he would gladly exchange condition with the beasts, if only the dissolution of the animal life might put an eternal period to his existence.

We speak not of the tumultuous passions by which the ungodly are agitated; because there are some who by the mere force of philosophy are enabled in a very great degree to moderate their feelings. But none can reflect on an eternity beyond the grave, without being appalled at the thought of the doom that awaits them, if they are unprepared to meet their God: so true is that which is spoken by the prophet, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest: there is no peace, says my God, to the wicked Isaiah 57:20-21."

But God promises this blessing to the believer—

"The man whose mind is stayed on God, shall be kept in perfect peace." He shall have peace in relation to his pardon and acceptance with God. Often in the day of his flesh did our Lord assure persons that their sins, though numerous, were forgiven Matthew 9:2. Luke 7:47; and will he be less gracious to his people now? Though he will not give us that assurance by any audible voice, he will by the inward witness of his Spirit Romans 8:16. As once he sent "a Seraph to take a live coal from off his altar, and to touch with it the prophet's lips, and to say to him, Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged Isaiah 6:6-7," so will he now send his Holy Spirit, as a Spirit of promise, to apply the promises to our souls, and to be within us a pledge and earnest of our heavenly inheritance Ephesians 1:13-14.

The Believer shall have peace also in relation to his perseverance in the divine life. He "knows in whom he has believed, and that he is able to keep that which has been committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12." He knows that his Lord and Savior is "able to keep him from falling, and to present him faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy Jude, verse 24;" and while he contemplates Heaven as an "inheritance reserved for him, he has the comfort of reflecting that he also is kept for it, even by the power of God through faith unto everlasting salvation 1 Peter 1:4-5." Persuaded as he is that "He is faithful who has promised Hebrews 10:23," and "able also to perform" his word Romans 4:21, he is "confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in him will perform it until the day of Christ Philippians 1:6," and "will preserve him blameless unto his heavenly kingdom 2 Timothy 4:18."

He shall have peace also in relation to everything that may occur in his way to Heaven. Numberless things arise of a temporal or spiritual nature to disturb the minds of those who are weak in faith: but when once "the mind is stayed on God," all these distractions cease. God is acknowledged as the author of all that is done, whether good or evil: not a sparrow, or a hair of our heads, falls to the ground, but by his special permission: and from whatever quarter trials arise, whether from voluntary agents, or unconscious elements, he is regarded as their true and proper source Job 1:14-21, and that consideration reconciles the soul to the dispensation Psalm 39:9; yes, he acquiesces in it, assured that "all things shall work together for his good Romans 8:28." He is careful for nothing, because he "casts all his care on God 1 Peter 5:7;" and in humble prayer commits everything to his all-wise disposal: and thus in a measure enjoys as much tranquility, in relation to future events, as the birds of the air, or the lilies of the field Matthew 6:25-34.

This blessing God will bestow upon him, "because he puts his trust in him"—

There is nothing meritorious in faith, any more than in other graces: but there is in faith a power peculiar to itself: it engages the Most High God, and, if we might dare to use such an expression, we would almost say, binds him to exert himself in our behalf. When we lay hold on his word by faith, he feels his own honor pledged to fulfill our desire, and not to suffer us to be disappointed of our hope. Indeed, inasmuch as faith pre-eminently honors him, he delights to honor it: and to such a degree would he honor it, that, "if we had faith only as a grain of mustard-seed," that figure should be realized in our experience; we should be rooted up from this world, as a sycamore-tree from the earth; and though liable in ourselves to be tossed about by every wave, we should be fixed immovably amidst the most tempestuous billows Luke 17:6. This is strongly intimated in the very words of our text, where the literal expression, as pointed out in the margin, is, "You will keep him in peace, peace," that is, in peace indubitably certain, uninterruptedly abiding, and richly abundant. If only we cherished an "earnest expectation and hope" in God, truly "we should never be ashamed or confounded world without end Philippians 1:20. Isaiah 45:17."

Having thus shown what God has prepared for them that love him, we would,

II. Urge you to seek that blessedness in God's appointed way—

God calls us all to trust in him:

1. Consider what a God we have to trust in—

Consider what "exceeding great and precious promises he has given to us." There is not a situation or a circumstance wherein we can be placed, but God has given us promises exactly suited to it. It would be a highly profitable employment to extract from the Scriptures for ourselves the various promises contained in them, and especially those which apply more particularly to our own case; and then to spread them from time to time before our God in prayer. What sweet encouragement would this afford us, in all our addresses at the throne of grace; and what holy confidence would it create in us! If we have only a promise from a man like ourselves, it tends exceedingly to compose our minds: but how much more would this effect arise from apprehending the promises of a faithful God!

But consider also how able God is to perform all that he has promised to us. Truly "with him is everlasting strength:" "There is nothing impossible with him." "It is alike with him to save by many or by few." He can save with means, or without means, or against means. As for our weakness, or the strength of our enemies, it makes no difference to him. In the words following our text, it is said, "He will bring down them that dwell on high: the lofty city, he lays it low; he lays it low, even to the ground; he brings it even to the dust." Is it asked, By whom he will do this? it is added, "The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy verse 5, 6. See also ch. 14:2;" yes, "He will strengthen the spoiler against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress Amos. 5:9." The weaker we are in our own apprehension, the more strong we are in reality; because "his power shall rest upon us," and "his strength be perfected in our weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9-10."

Let us trust in him with our whole hearts—

There are persons who imagine they trust in God, when, in fact, they are trusting only in their own delusions Isaiah 48:1-2. There must be an express renunciation of every other hope Proverbs 3:5-6, and an actual committing of our way to him in prayer Psalm 62:8. There must be a direct exercise of faith in him, as able, and willing to effect whatever our necessities require; and a firm persuasion that he will do that which shall in the issue be best for us. This is implied in having "the mind stayed on him." We have a fine description of this state of mind contained in the prophecies of Isaiah: it is primarily indeed applicable to the Messiah; but is proper also to be realized in the experience of all the saints; since "all who fear the Lord" are extorted in seasons of the deepest darkness and distress to set it before them as a model, and, after his example, to stay themselves upon their God Isaiah 50:7-10; How important this duty is, may be inferred from the reiterated injunctions given us respecting it Psalm 115:9-11. Let us then "trust in God at all times." In times of ease and security, let us remember that we are in his hands, and not be saying with ourselves, "My mountain stands strong; I shall not be moved Psalm 30:7." In times of trouble and distress, let us "not stagger at the promises through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God." Let us, after the example of David, say, "My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation, and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God Psalm 62:5-7."

This is the kind of trust to which alone the promise is made. "If our faith waver, we shall receive nothing of the Lord James 1:6-7;" but if we commit our every concern to him, "our very thoughts," the most fluctuating of all things, "shall be established Proverbs 16:3," and "the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep (the affections of) our hearts and (the imaginations of) our minds, through Christ Jesus Philippians 4:6-7. See the Greek."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who know nothing of this blessedness—

Do not suppose that this peace is merely ideal; and that, because you do not experience it, it has no existence in the Believer's mind: for it is the legacy of Christ to all his people: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you John 14:27;" and it is indeed "a peace that passes all understanding." It is not a mere absence of feeling, but a positive sense of reconciliation with God, a sweet consciousness of being under his protecting care, and a humble, yet confident, expectation, that he will order everything for our eternal good. We cannot give a juster picture of it, than by referring you to the description given of it by the sweet singer of Israel Psalms 23. Nothing alarms him, or disturbs his rest, because he knows that "his God is for him, and that therefore none can, with any effect, be against him Romans 8:31." "His God gives him quietness; Who then can make trouble Job 34:29."

And will you be content to continue ignorant of this happiness? Why should you do so? Christ has purchased it for "those who are afar off, as well as those who are near Ephesians 2:17;" and he will confer it in rich abundance on all who call upon him Romans 10:11-13.

2. Those who through the weakness of their faith do not yet partake of it—

How dishonorable is your conduct, and injurious to that God who redeemed you by the blood of his only dear Son! Whom has he ever deceived, that you cannot rely upon his promises? In what instance has he ever shown himself deficient, either in faithfulness or power? What enemies also are you to your own happiness, at the time that you are so dishonoring him! "Has he not said to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God John 11:40." "Believe in the Lord, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper 2 Chronicles 20:20;" but, "if you will not believe, surely you shall not be established Isaiah 7:9."

3. Those who profess to enjoy that peace—

Well may we say with David, "O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you Psalm 84:12;" blessed is the man who with humble confidence can approach you, saying, "O God, you are my God." And are any of you brought to this happy state? O "cast not away your confidence, which has such great recompense of reward Hebrews 10:35;" for then, and then only, "are we partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end Hebrews 3:14." But, on the other hand, beware lest you abuse that confidence, and walk unworthy of your high calling: for, "if God has spoken peace" unto your souls, he especially enjoins you "never more to return to folly Psalm 85:8." Let it be seen then what is the genuine effect of saving faith: and, if you call yourselves sons of God, and profess to have your portion with him in the world to come, then remember, that "every one that has this hope in him, purifies himself even as He is pure 1 John 3:2-3."

 

 

Isaiah 26:13

 

DISCOURSE 895

HUMILIATION WITH ZEAL

Isaiah 26:13. O Lord our God, other lords besides you have had dominion over us: but by you only will we make mention of your name.

MANY devout songs are composed in Scripture for the use of God's Church and people in the latter day. But, amidst their praises for mercies given unto them, care is taken to keep up in their minds a remembrance of their former sins, and a sense of those duties which they owe to their heavenly Benefactor. On a review of the past, they are taught to acknowledge the evil of their ways; and in a prospect of the future, to consecrate themselves, with all due solemnity, to the service of their God. Now, at this season New Year's Day, I cannot do better than recommend to your adoption,

I. Their retrospective acknowledgment—

It is probable, that, in the words before us, respect is had to the civil bondage to which that nation had again and again been reduced on account of their iniquities 2 Chronicles 28:5-6. Nehemiah 9:36-37; But, considering for what period the song is prepared, we cannot doubt but that there is a reference also to the moral bondage in which they have been held by their corruptions. And in this sense, the acknowledgment well becomes us at this day; since we are told by an inspired Apostle, that "to whoever we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey Romans 6:16." And what has been our conduct through life?

The greater part of us have "served only our own lusts and pleasures Titus 3:3."—

Look at all around you: or, rather, look within your own bosoms; and say, to whom have your lives been devoted, to God, or Mammon?: Truly, there is but too much reason to confess, that "God has not been in all our thoughts Psalm 10:4."

Of those who have had some respect to God, still must this acknowledgment be required—

"Other lords besides God, have had dominion over you. The lip and the knee perhaps you have devoted to Jehovah in the observance of outward duties, both in the public assemblies of the Church, and in your own closets; but where has been the heart Isaiah 29:13. You "have had the form of godliness perhaps, but where has been the power 2 Timothy 3:5. Call to mind your prayers and your praises, how cold have they been! Have they not even frozen, as it were, upon your very lips? On the other hand, see with what ardor and delight you have followed your earthly pursuits, whether intellectual or corporeal, and whether for pleasure or honor or emolument: But God says, "Give ME your heart;" and in the want of this, all the services you have rendered him are no better than "the cutting off a dog's neck for sacrifice, or the offering of swine's blood Isaiah 66:3."

While I recommend the deepest humiliation before God in the review of your past lives, I cannot but urge for your adoption what is here suggested for,

II. Their prospective determination—

The Israelites were forbidden to make mention of the name of any of the gods which were worshiped in the land of Canaan Exodus 23:13. Joshua 23:7. By them no other name than that of Jehovah was to be uttered; because He, and he alone, was God. Hence "the making mention of his name was equivalent to an acknowledgment of him as the only true God, and was therefore considered as a just description of his peculiar people Isaiah 62:6. But this must be done in sincerity and truth; else it would be regarded only as an act of hypocrisy and profaneness Isaiah 48:1. It must comprehend all that attachment which is due to the supreme God, who is the only proper object of fear, or love, or confidence.

Now, then, I recommend this to you,

1. As your duty—

Who else is entitled to any of these regards, except in entire subordination and subserviency to Him?.

2. As your interest—

Who can so recompense your services, or so avenge the want of them?.

3. As your happiness—

Ask the most successful votaries of this world what they have ever gained? Ask them what solid satisfaction they have ever found in all that the world could give them? Then ask the servants of the living God, whether they have not found his service to be perfect freedom, and "his ways to be ways of pleasantness and peace?" As to the eternal world, it is almost superfluous for me to speak: for there are none so ignorant as not to know, that the pleasures of sense all "perish with the using," and that those only who seek their happiness in God can ever enjoy "the pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore": I therefore confidently say to all of you without exception, Let this be the determination of you all, that henceforth you will make no mention of any name in a way of fear, or love, or confidence, but "the name of Jehovah only."

Thus far I have spoken to you as men only. But what shall I say to you as Christians?

Tell me, whether, as "bought with the precious blood of Christ," you have any duty, any interest, any happiness, worthy of a moment's consideration, in comparison of his service, his honor, his glory 1 Corinthians 6:20..

Let me, in conclusion, submit to your consideration the following questions—

1. Who among you does not need to make this retrospective acknowledgment?.

2. What will the acknowledgment avail you, if you do not make, and carry into effect, the prospective determination?.

3. To what purpose will it be to begin well, if you ever "become weary in well-doing Galatians 6:9."

You must maintain "a patient continuance in well-doing, if ever you would attain eternal life Romans 2:7." If ever you draw back, whatever your attainments for a season may have been, "you will draw back unto perdition:" for "God's soul can have no pleasure in you Hebrews 10:38-39."

I must not, however, dismiss you without one most important and necessary caution—

The resolution which I have recommended must not be made in your own strength, but entirely in dependence upon God. This is very particularly intimated in my text: "By you only will we make mention of your name." In the very words before the text is it said, "You have wrought all our works in us." Yes, "our sufficiency is of God alone 2 Corinthians 3:5." The Apostle Paul himself was constrained to say, "By the grace of God I am what I am 1 Corinthians 15:10;" and if any of you confide for one moment in your own strength, you will fall Proverbs 28:26. On the other hand, if you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are assured, in this very Song, that your "strength shall be according to your day Compare verse 3, 4 with Jude. verse 24." "Be strong, then, in the Lord, and in the power of his might Ephesians 6:10;" and then let the Psalmist's resolution be yours, and his song be yours; "My mouth shall show forth your righteousness and your salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of your righteousness, even of your only Psalm 71:15-16."

 

Isaiah 26:20-21

 

DISCOURSE 896

THE ONLY REFUGE OF SINNERS

Isaiah 26:20-21. Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For behold, the Lord comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.

GOD has been pleased to manifest at all times such a tender concern for the welfare of his people, that he has scarcely ever done anything of importance, which he has not revealed to them beforehand by his servants the prophets Amos. 3:7. Did he determine to destroy the earth with a flood? he instructed Noah first to build an ark for the preservation of himself and his family Genesis 6:13-14. Was he about to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah? he could not execute his vengeance until righteous Lot had retired to a place of safety Genesis 19:22. Had he decreed to bring on Jerusalem such judgments as the world had never before seen? he warns his people to escape from it, and provides them a retreat in the neighboring mountains Luke 21:21-22. Thus he had decreed the destruction of Babylon; and the preceding part of the chapter contains a hymn of triumph, which should be sung by his people on that occasion. But, as there would be great danger of their being involved in the common calamity, he apprises them of his intention, and exhorts them to hide themselves, until the danger should be overpast. It is not, however, necessary to confine the words to this sense; because there are many other occasions on which God comes forth to punish mankind; and because the advice given, is suitable to all such occasions.

In discoursing on this passage, we shall call your attention to,

I. The warning here given—

Heaven is the habitation of God's holiness and glory Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 63:15. And from thence he is said to "come forth," when he manifests himself in any signal manner upon earth Micah 1:3. And, alas! how often do the iniquities of men necessitate him to come down and visit them with his sore judgments If this were the subject of a Fast Sermon, the particular judgments that are deprecated, should be specified here as the tokens of God's displeasure, and should be dwelt upon at some length. But there is one period in particular, when God shall come, not to punish one particular nation only, but all who shall have lived and died in sin, from the foundation of the world.

The day of judgment is called "the day of wrath," "the day of vengeance," "the day of the revelation of God's righteous judgments," "the day of the perdition of ungodly men Romans 2:5. 2 Peter 3:7." In that day the Lord Jesus Christ, "whom the heavens have received until the time of the restitution of all things Acts 3:21," "shall come in power and great glory:" and the express end of his coming will be "to reveal his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men Romans 1:18."

Now he winks, as it were, at men's iniquities Acts 17:30; and endures with much patience and longsuffering the vessels of wrath that are fitting themselves for destruction Romans 9:22; yes, to such a degree does he exercise forbearance towards them, that scoffers are ready to say, Where is the promise of his coming 2 Peter 3:3-4. But soon the time fixed for the exercise of his grace, shall come to an end, and all the dead shall be summoned to his tribunal, to receive at his hands according to their works Revelation 20:12-13.

Nor let any one think that gross iniquities only shall be noticed in that day; for God will "manifest even the counsels of men's hearts," and "bring every secret thing into judgment 1 Corinthians 4:5;" then a forgetfulness of God, or a rejection of his Gospel, shall as surely be punished with everlasting destruction, as any of those sins which are more reprobated and condemned by the world Psalm 9:17. 2 Thessalonians. 1:7-8.

The warning being of such universal and infinite importance, let us consider,

II. The advice accompanying it—

The exhortation in the text may simply import, that we should retire to our chambers to commune with our own hearts, and with our God Psalm 4:4. Matthew 6:6. In this view it recommends the duty, the indispensably necessary duty of secret prayer.

But by "chambers" we may understand God himself, who is often spoken of in this light Psalm 90:1; Psalm 57:1, and who is the sure refuge of all that flee unto him. Every perfection of his forms, as it were, a hiding-place whereto we may run for safety. His wisdom would be our guide, his power our defense, "his faithfulness and truth our shield and buckler."

To us, who are taught to view God in the person of Christ, the word "chambers" may convey a more immediate intimation respecting Christ himself, who is our refuge Hebrews 6:18, and whom this very prophet describes as "an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the storm Isaiah 32:2." His person, work, and offices are a security to his people, that "they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life."

To him therefore we should flee by faith, and hide ourselves from the impending judgments. As Noah entered into the ark Genesis 7:7, which was the appointed mean of delivering him from the deluge, and as the Israelites shut themselves up in their houses to escape the sword of the destroying angel Exodus 12:22; Exodus 12:28, so are we to take refuge, as it were, in Christ, that the sword of divine justice may not slay, or the deluge of God's wrath overwhelm us.

While we listen to the voice of God, we must not overlook,

III. The particular manner in which the advice is given—

Almost every word of this exhortation contains an argument for our compliance with it.

If we were bidden to hide ourselves in a pit or a dungeon, methinks, any place should be a welcome hiding-place from the wrath of God. But it is to our own "chamber," where everything is provided for our rest and comfort; yes, it is a pavilion Psalm 27:5, surrounded by guards, and furnished with royal dainties; it is even to the tabernacle Psalm 27:5. wherein God himself dwells, and where we shall have most intimate communion with him, that we are told to flee. Shall we need any inducement to yield to such advice?

If we cannot endure confinement (though surely we can have no reason to complain of that in such a retreat) we are told it is to be only for "a moment," yes, lest that should appear too long, it is said to be only for "a little moment." Did the Israelites think a single night too long, when they were to be screened from the destroying angel? and shall we think a moment, a little moment (for such in truth is the present life), too long to abide in Christ, that we may escape the wrath of an incensed God?

The certainty of success is another argument which may well induce us to follow this advice. Were there only a distant probability of obtaining deliverance from such unspeakable miseries, it were a very sufficient reason for our trying the experiment: but when success, as the text intimates, is certain to attend our efforts, shall we need any persuasion to exert ourselves?

On the other hand, the certainty that God's indignation must fall upon us, if we be not found in Christ, ought to operate powerfully on our hearts: for "who can stand before his indignation? who can abide the fierceness of his anger Nah. 1:6." The fate of those who despised the warnings of Moses, and sought not shelter from the storms of hail, shows us what we must expect, if we seek not refuge in Christ Jesus Exodus 9:19; Exodus 9:25.

Above all, the earnestness of the exhortation should overcome the reluctance of our hearts. To enter fully into its spirit, we should conceive a parent, seeing a savage beast running towards his heedless and unprotected child in order to destroy him. The affrighted father calls to him in the agony of his mind; "Come, my son, run into the house, shut the door, hide yourself until the danger be overpast." Thus, precisely thus, does God himself cry to each of us. He knows our danger; he sees our inadvertence; and, with all the anxiety of a parent, he calls to us. Must we not be more deaf than adders, more obdurate than rocks, if we will not obey his voice?

But there is one thing yet, which must on no account be overlooked. The language is intentionally changed from the plural to the singular; "Come, my people, enter you," etc. One it ready to think, that he has no need to fear the indignation of God: another thinks he is too unworthy to be admitted into the chamber to which others have fled. But God addresses both the one and the other of them; "Enter you;" for, however secure you may think yourself, there is no security but in Christ; and "you;" for unworthy as you are, it is "your" chamber; it was erected for such as you; and the more unworthy you are in your own estimation, the more ready admittance shall you find there; the more certainly also shall you enjoy in it everlasting security This section might not improperly form the basis of a particular application to the self-righteous Pharisee, and the self-condemning penitent.

Thus whether we consider the chamber to which we are to flee, the time we are to abide in it, the certainty of success, the danger of delay, or the earnest manner in which God addresses every one of us in particular, we should without hesitation follow the advice, and seek deliverance in Christ our Lord. None of us should indulge security; none of us should give way to desponding fears. But, rejoicing that the chamber is not yet barred against us, we should all hide ourselves in it; nor venture out of it one single moment, until the danger be forever past.

END OF VOL. VII.

 

 

Isaiah 27:3

 

DISCOURSE 897

GOD'S CARE FOR HIS CHURCH

Isaiah 27:3. I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.

GOD has provided abundant consolation for his Church in seasons of the greatest trial: and he calls upon her to enjoy her privileges and to celebrate them in "a responsive song Isaiah 27:2. should rather have been translated, "Sing you to the beloved vineyard a responsive song."," in firm expectation of safety, amidst the most awful and desolating judgments.

The first part of the song, which is begun by Jehovah himself, leads us to show,

I. Whence the Church derives her security—

The Church, like a vineyard, is set apart in order to a more careful cultivation—

This idea is elsewhere more fully opened by the same prophet Isaiah 5:1-2; and it well illustrates the care taken to separate the Church from the world at large, and the exertions made to render her fruitful in the fruits of righteousness.

At the same time she also resembles a vineyard, in that she is exposed to the assaults of many who would destroy her—

A vineyard, however carefully fenced in, may have its fences broken down, and its plants destroyed, if it be not watched and guarded Isaiah 5:5-6. Psalm 5:8-12. And the Church is open to the incursion of numerous and potent enemies, who would soon destroy her, if she were not protected from their assaults.

But she is preserved by an invisible, but almighty Protector—

Jehovah himself interposes on her behalf. He preserves her, as the bush in the midst of the flames, burning, but not consumed Exodus 3:2. He protects his Church in general, that "the gates of Hell may not prevail against her;" and he keeps all her members in particular, that none may be ever plucked out of his hand Matthew 16:18. John 10:29. Psalm 46:5.

Nor shall we tremble for her future welfare, when we consider,

II. What prospect she has of continued preservation—

The same Jehovah who says, "I do keep her," adds also, "I will." He promises (still keeping up the metaphor of a vineyard),

1. Culture—

In a country that had only periodical rains, pools or reservoirs of water were indispensably necessary for the preservation of the vines in a season of drought. The Church too, and all the plants that are in it, need to be watered by God's word 1 Corinthians 3:6. Deuteronomy 32:2, and Spirit Isaiah 44:3-4. Now God promises that he will take this care upon himself, and execute the work, as it were, with his own hands. Yes, inasmuch as we need fresh supplies of grace, not only every day, like a vineyard, but every moment, (as we need the light of the sun,) God suits his promise to our necessities, and tells us he will water us "every moment."

2. Protection—

Our care in cultivating a vineyard would be in vain, unless we also protected it from those who would destroy it. Thus the Church, and every individual believer, would in vain receive the culture, if it did not enjoy also the protection, of Heaven. But God promises to afford his people continual, and effectual protection. He will guard them "night and day" (for "he neither slumbers nor sleeps") and will keep them, not only from destruction, but from any real injury: "No weapon formed against them shall ever prosper Isaiah 54:17."

We learn from hence,

1. Where to look in the midst of national calamities This is proper for a time of war: and if it be not used, the latter head may be changed thus—We have here matter, 1. For grateful recollection—that we have been preserved amidst so many enemies: 2. For humble confidence—that, though God may prune us, no trial shall come, but what he judges necessary, 1 Peter 1:6 and shall work for our good, Romans 8:28.—

God has, in this laud, a remnant, over whom he watches with the tenderest care, and for whose sake we trust he will spare the whole nation. At all events we may be sure that he will provide a hiding-place for his Church; so that, whatever be the fate of others, it shall not be overwhelmed Isaiah 26:20-21. Let us not then trust in fleets and armies, but in the living God, who is omnipresent to behold, and almighty to defeat, the plots of our enemies: and let our supplications be made with increased frequency and fervor to him, whose past interpositions we have such abundant reason to acknowledge Psalm 124:1-6.

2. Where to look in the midst of personal troubles—

That which alone we ought to desire, is, that nothing may "hurt" us. As for the pruning, which may render us more fruitful John 15:2, it should be received with submission and gratitude. The evils that tend to our destruction, we may deprecate, with an assurance that our prayer shall be heard and answered. We need not fear the drought which occasions God to water us, nor the weapons that call forth his effectual interposition. Only let us render him fruits suited to the culture bestowed upon us; and nothing shall come upon us without necessity 1 Peter 1:6; nothing which shall not eventually work for our good Romans 8:28.

 

 

Isaiah 27:6

 

DISCOURSE 898

THE FUTURE PROSPERITY OF ISRAEL

Isaiah 27:6. He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.

OF all the people upon the earth, the Jews have been, beyond comparison, the most highly honored of their God. To no other nation did Jehovah ever manifest himself by such miraculous interpositions; nor was any other ever blessed with such rich and glorious communications. Even their present state, degraded as it is, evinces the peculiar interest which Jehovah takes in them: for, though scattered over the face of the whole earth, they still remain a separate people; and are reserved for higher honors, and more signal blessings, than their most favored ancestors ever enjoyed. The various nations that, in successive ages, have oppressed them, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Grecian, Roman, have all sunk beneath the yoke which their respective conquerors have laid upon them, and have been mingled with their invaders in one common mass. Not so the Jews: they, though more cruelly oppressed than any, have still been kept distinct from the people among whom they have dwelt: and to this remarkable event the prophet refers, in the words following my text: "Has God smitten him, as he smote those who smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?" No: "though God has made a full end of all other nations, he has not made a full end of them:" but he still has his eye upon them for good; and will, in due season, fulfill to them all his purposes of love and mercy: "He will yet cause them to take root, and blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit."

In these words we may see,

I. What the Jews are destined to become—

Their state, both political and moral, is at present as low as can well be conceived. Scattered as they are among all nations, they have never yet been affiliated with any, so as to be regarded on a par with other citizens, or to enjoy the rights belonging to all the other classes of the community. The possession of landed property has been, until of late, universally denied them; so that they could never "take root" in any place, or be established in any country under Heaven.

Nor have they been less degraded in their moral and religious character. Being despised of all, they have not been accustomed to respect themselves, or to affect that high sense of honor which elevates the characters of other people. In their religious assemblies they have not even the semblance of piety; so carnal are they in their spirit, and so irreverent in their whole conduct. Not "a blossom or a bud" of true godliness is to be seen among them: and so far are they from "filling the world with fruit," that they are altogether immersed in selfishness, and lost to everything but worldly gain.

But far other things are reserved for them. The time is coming when they shall be established in knowledge, fertile in piety, and abundant in usefulness throughout the world—

1. They shall be established in the knowledge of the true Messiah—

They shall yet, I doubt not, take root" in their own land. So plainly is their future restoration foretold, that, if I did not know that some pious persons entertain doubts respecting it, I should be ready to say, it is impossible for any one who believes the Scriptures to question it. But with this, the Society which advocates their cause has nothing to do. It is with their spiritual concerns alone that we are called to interest ourselves: and we are fully assured, that our labor, in this respect, shall not be in vain. They have hitherto been ever ready to run after false Messiahs. Indeed, they have never conceived aright respecting the character of the Messiah whom God has promised to them, nor of the nature of that kingdom which he will establish in the earth. But the time is coming, when the veil shall be taken from their hearts; and when they shall see, beyond a possibility of doubt, that Jesus is the Christ. They have in their own Scriptures that which will tend to their establishment far beyond any other people on earth: and we may well expect, that, when they shall be brought to the knowledge of Christ, they will "take root" in him with a firmness that shall never be shaken. They will see how the whole of their ceremonial law shadows him forth; and how the moral law also directs them to him. They will see that all the prophets, with one voice, point to him as the promised Messiah: and, from this weight of evidence, they will feel a conviction, which heathens can scarcely ever attain. Exceeding deep will be their insight into the truths of the Gospel, when God shall "reveal to them," as he has promised, "the abundance of peace and truth Jeremiah 33:6;" "The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord shall bind up the breach of his people, and heal the stroke of their wound Isaiah 30:26." When once "they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn," so clear will be their views, and so deep their convictions, that it will be as if they saw him face to face: as it is said, "They shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion Isaiah 52:8."

2. They shall be fertile in the fruits of piety—

As they are destined to "take root downward, so are they ordained also to bear fruit upward Isaiah 37:31." In that day shall be fulfilled that gracious declaration of Jehovah, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon: his branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell us Lebanon Hosea 14:4-6." Much, very much, is spoken in the Scriptures respecting the spiritual change that shall then be wrought in them: "God will give them a new heart, and a new spirit will he put within them; and he will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flush; and will cause them to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments and do them Ezekiel 36:26-27." In truth, the whole figurative language of prophecy, though primarily applicable to their temporal prosperity, has a further and far more important reference to their spiritual state: "Instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off Isaiah 55:13.

3. They shall be abundant in usefulness throughout the world—

"They shall fill the face of the world with fruit." Yes, truly, they are God's appointed instruments for the conversion of the whole world. This is one end for which God, in his providence, has scattered them over the whole earth. He has sent them, unconscious and uncalled-for, even as the clouds of Heaven, to pour out the blessings with which they are fraught, and to fertilize the desert places of the earth. The Prophet Micah speaks of them in these remarkable terms: "The remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, in the midst of many people, as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men Micah 5:7." It is thus that God has prepared the way for the conversion of the whole Gentile world. The Jews, in all the different countries of the earth, possess their own Scriptures, whereon Christianity is founded; and, being conversant with the languages of the people among whom they sojourn, they will be ready to proclaim the truth the very instant that the veil is removed from their own hearts. And that this is their destined office, we are sure; for God himself says respecting them, "They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles; and they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord Isaiah 66:19-20." They are the appointed reapers of the whole world. Precisely as, by the Jews, God, in the apostolic age, reaped the first-fruits of the Gentiles, so will he, in due season, gather in by them the whole harvest.

Here then we may also see,

II. What we ought now to be—

We are God's Israel, as much as ever they were; and heirs of all these blessings no less than they: for, "if we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise Galatians 3:29." Standing, then, in this relation to the Deity, can we doubt our obligation to serve and honor him? Surely it becomes all who "name the name of Christ,"

1. To take root in him—

This is expressly told us by the Apostle Paul: "As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving Colossians 2:6-7." We are, by our very profession, "plants of righteousness, of the Lord's planting;" and it is on Christ Jesus that we stand. Into him we must shoot forth our roots: and from him must we derive all the sap and nourishment, whereby we are to live, and to bring forth fruit to his glory. Nothing is to move us from him, even for a moment: nor must we entertain a thought of finding support from any other than him. It is "in him that all fullness dwells;" and "out of his fullness must we receive" all our supplies of grace and strength. Our whole life must be one continued exercise of faith in him; and we must "cleave unto him with full purpose of heart."

2. To bring forth fruit to his glory—

Christians must not be like the world around them, "barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord;" but abounding in the fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Would you form a perfect idea of this distinction, go and behold two trees, one laden with leaves only, the other covered with blossoms and buds which promise an abundant supply of fruit. No person, with these objects before him, doubts of their comparative value: no one doubts which of the two better answers the end of all the cultivation bestowed upon it, or which is the more acceptable to him on whose ground they stand. Know you then, my Brethren, that this is the evidence which you must give of a work of grace within you. You must, as David speaks, "be beautified with salvation:" the power of divine grace must display itself within you, by all those holy dispositions which were in Christ himself. Behold the Savior in his whole deportment towards God and man; how meek and lowly; how patient and forbearing; how superior to earthly things, and intent on the work assigned him! "His path was like the sun" in its course: and "such should yours be, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day:" yes, so clearly and constantly should it shine, that all who behold you should confess that God is with you, and should glorify him for the grace conferred upon you. It is in this way that we are to approve ourselves trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, "in whom he shall be glorified."

3. To extend the knowledge of him throughout the world—

"No one of us should live unto himself." From the moment that we are engrafted into Christ, we should begin to bring forth fruit to his glory, and should labor to diffuse to the utmost possible extent the benefits we have received. Our domestic circle should occupy our first attention; and then the neighborhood in which we live: and then we should go on further, to extend our efforts, until we have "filled the face of the whole world with fruit." This should be the ambition of every child of God: and, if facilities are afforded us for combined exertion, we should gladly avail ourselves of them, in order that our labors may be more useful, and that we may effect by union what cannot be wrought by individual exertion. In particular, we should look upon the state of the Jewish and Heathen world. We should lament to see in what darkness both the one and the other are lying: and, like the holy apostles, we should endeavor to advance the Redeemer's kingdom throughout the world. Like Paul, we should have great heaviness and continual sorrow in our hearts for those who are "perishing for lack of knowledge;" and, by all the means within our reach, we should labor, that "all the kingdoms of the world may become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ."

And now, let me further improve this subject,

1. In a way of reproof to ourselves—

How little of this piety is to be seen among us! Men are "rooted" indeed; but it is in the world, and not in Christ. And there is, to a certain degree, a form of godliness among us; but its power is sadly wanting. Nor is there altogether a want of benevolence; but it is displayed rather to the bodies than the souls of men; or, at all events, is exercised only towards those around us, instead of being extended to the whole world. Perhaps we may contribute towards the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, and the sending of Missionaries to the Gentiles, and to the work that is carrying forward among the Jews: but, if we examine how far our hearts are interested in these things, we shall have reason to be ashamed before God, and to acknowledge that we are very far from having attained that holy zeal which should animate our souls. We say indeed, as our Lord has taught us, "Your kingdom come:" but, as for our efforts for the establishment of it, they are as cold and partial as if the matter were of no importance. I pray you, Brethren, to lay this matter to heart. It is not in this way that our God ought to be served, and our Redeemer's interests promoted. We should be full of zeal in this sacred cause, even of such "a zeal" as has a tendency to "consume us." Our very life ought not to be dear to us, if that by any means we may advance the welfare of our fellow-creatures, and the glory of our God.

2. In a way of encouragement, as it respects the Jews—

We are apt to entertain desponding thoughts, as if it were impossible that the prophecies respecting that people should ever be accomplished. But is their state more desperate than it was in Egypt or in Babylon? Yet were the promised deliverances given from thence. On the self-same day that had been foretold four hundred and thirty years before, were they brought out from Egypt; and precisely at the termination of the seventy years from Babylon. What reason, then, is there to doubt of God's effectual interposition now? Has he forgotten his own word or promise? or, after so many centuries, "is his ear become heavy that he cannot hear, or is his arm shortened that he cannot save?" He has said, "I will cause" this: and be assured, that not all the power of men or devils shall prevent the execution of his purpose: nor shall one jot or tittle of his word ever fail." "Has he said, and shall he not do it? Has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" In engaging, then, in this cause, you have this consolation; that, though you should not live to see the work accomplished, it shall take place at the appointed time. The dispersed of Judah shall be brought back to God; and that event shall "be as life from the dead, to the whole world."

 

 

Isaiah 27:12-13

 

DISCOURSE 899

CONVERSION OF THE JEWS GRADUAL

Isaiah 27:12-13. It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and you shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the Holy Mount at Jerusalem.

THE conversion of the Jews has until of late occupied a very small portion of attention in the Christian world: and even at this moment a sad indifference towards it too generally prevails. Notwithstanding the prophecies relating to it are so clear, the subject is scarcely ever brought before a Christian audience; and notwithstanding it is inseparably connected with the conversion of the Gentile world, it is overlooked for the most part as an event in which we have no interest. Degraded as the Jews are, God still declares, that "they are beloved of him for their fathers' sakes:" but by us, who are indebted to their fathers for all the light that we enjoy, they are neglected and despised, as though their souls were of no value. This unconcern for their welfare is even justified by us, from a mistaken notion that God will in some miraculous way effect their conversion suddenly, and without the intervention of human means. But, while the prophecy before us serves to correct that error, it encourages us to exert ourselves in their behalf, and to expect that our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord.

In it we see,

I. The mercy reserved for the Jewish people—

That "they shall be gathered" from their dispersion, and "worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem," is certain: and,

1. It may well be thought that this shall be accomplished literally—

There are even among wise and good men some who doubt whether the Jews shall literally be restored to their own land; and therefore I would spook with diffidence respecting it: but I confess that in my opinion the declarations of God respecting it are so strong and numerous, that I should scarcely know what to believe on the authority of Scripture, if I did not believe that. I will however content myself with mentioning only two passages; which yet, I consider as clearly determining the point. Moses, in one of his last addresses to the Jews, tells them, that if by their iniquities they should provoke God to drive them out of the land of Canaan, and to scatter them among the nations, yet he would, on their repentance, "have compassion on them, and gather them from all the nations where they were scattered; yes, though they should be driven out unto the uttermost parts of Heaven, even from thence would the Lord fetch them, and bring them again into the land which their fathers possessed; and do them good there, and multiply them above their fathers Deuteronomy 30:1-5." This was never verified at their return from Babylon, since they were not brought "from the uttermost parts of Heaven," but almost exclusively from Babylon; nor did they ever afterwards become near so numerous, as they had been under David and Solomon. The other passage to which I will call your attention is taken from the Prophet Zechariah, who wrote after their return from Babylon. Extremely particular is the prophet in stating the populousness and prosperity of the nation at the period of their final return to their own land from their present dispersion: that "old men and old women should dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, every man walking with his staff in his hand for very age, while the streets should be full of boys and girls playing in them Zechariah 8:3-5." If it be inquired what period is there referred to, we are told, that it should be "when ten men out of all languages of the nations should take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you Zechariah 8:23." When, I would ask, was this ever fulfilled? When were the Jews ever so high in favor with all the nations of the earth? At no past period assuredly: but they shall be at a future season, even at that season when God shall interpose to reestablish them in the land from whence they have been driven out. But, however this may be,

2. It is confessed by all, that it shall be spiritually fulfilled—

The Christian Church is called "Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," to which all true believers are come Hebrews 12:22. And to it shall the Jewish people also come in due season. Scattered as they now are, and at the utmost possible distance from Christianity, the time is coming, when "the good Shepherd will seek and search them out, and bring them into his fold, and cause them to feed upon the mountains of Israel Ezekiel 34:11-14." Then, says God, "I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; and he shall feed them, and be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them: I the Lord have spoken it Ezekiel 34:23-24." Let this be compared with what the Prophet Hosea says to the same effect; and no doubt can remain, either respecting whom it is spoken, or at what period it is to be accomplished Hosea 3:5. Were we to take from the Old Testament all the passages which speak to the same purpose, we should transcribe no inconsiderable portion of the prophetic writings. But this is unnecessary, since there is not any one who believes the Scriptures, who does not believe that the Jews shall at a future period be converted to the faith of Christ, and acknowledge him as their Messiah. Yet we must on no account pass over the testimony of Paul, who occupies one entire chapter with this subject; assuring us, that there is yet among the Jews "a remnant according to the election of grace Romans 11:6;" that "they shall again be engrafted on their own olive-tree, from which for our sakes (though for their own transgressions) they have been broken off:" and that as their temporary rejection from the Church of God has been the means of introducing the Gentiles into it, so shall their restoration to it be an infinitely richer blessing to the Gentiles than ever their rejection was, being to the whole Gentile world "as life from the dead Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:19-20; Romans 11:24."

Regarding then the bestowment of this mercy to the Jews as certain, we proceed to state,

II. The way in which it shall be given to them—

This we will trace,

1. In its commencement—

The extent of territory originally assigned to them in God's covenant with Abraham, was that which is here specified in our text; it was from the river Euphrates to the Nile Genesis 15:18. But, having been driven from thence, they are compared to an olive-tree which has been stripped of all its fruit, except a few that were either hidden from the owner, or inaccessible to him, on the topmost boughs Isaiah 17:4-6. God, however, will send his servants to seek out this scattered fruit, and to "beat it off," or shake it off, from the tree, in order to gather it for him. The success that will attend their labors will not be great: the Jews will be gathered only, as if it were, "one by one." But to them it will be a joyful event, that they have not been left to be devoured by the birds, but have been collected for the Master's use. This is elsewhere described by the same prophet: "When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive-tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done: they shall lift up their voice; they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord; they shall cry aloud from the sea Isaiah 24:13-14." To the same effect, God speaks also by the Prophet Jeremiah: "Turn, O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family (or tribe), and I will bring you to Zion Jeremiah 3:14."

Such will be the effects produced upon the Jews at the commencement of the efforts that shall be made for their restoration to God. As it respects the mass of the dispersed, the first converts will be only a small remnant, a gleaning after the gathering has been made; as the prophet has informed us: "Though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant only shall return Isaiah 10:22;" but as it respects the complete in-gathering which shall ultimately follow, they will be as the first-fruits before the harvest, and the drop before the shower.

2. In its progress—

In due time "the great trumpet will be blown," and the Jews that are scattered to the utmost ends of the earth shall hear it. The trumpets were, by God's command, to be blown on different occasions; and especially, for the convoking of the people to the tabernacle in the wilderness; for the regulating of their journeys towards the Promised Land Numbers 10:2; and for the proclaiming every fiftieth year the year of Jubilee Leviticus 25:9. The Gospel is this trumpet, which will be "sounded out" through the whole world; and it will "come with power and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance 1 Thessalonians. 1:5; 1 Thessalonians. 1:8; 1 Thessalonians. 2:13," to "the outcast Israelites in the land of Egypt, and to those who are ready to perish in the land of Assyria." Then will that be fulfilled which is spoken by the Prophet Jeremiah, "The watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise you, and let us go up to Zion to the Lord our God. For thus says the Lord: Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish you, praise you, and say, O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child, and her that travails with child, together; a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born Jeremiah 31:6-14. Quote the whole of this." etc. etc; "Then shall the Lord set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people from Assyria, and from Egypt," etc; "and shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." "And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, etc; and there shall be an high-way for the remnant of his people which shall be left from Assyria, like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt Isaiah 11:11-12; Isaiah 11:15-16." Nor shall they come alone from the places of their dispersion; for vast multitudes will accompany them, insomuch, that "Israel shall be only as a third of the whole number, whom the Lord of Hosts will bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance Isaiah 19:23-25." Thus eventually "shall all Israel be saved: for this is God's covenant with them, when he shall take away their sins Romans 11:26-27."

3. In its consummation—

"They shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem:" and O what worship will then be offered in every place! the worshipers all so enlightened! (for "the light of the moon will then be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold, as the light of seven days Isaiah 30:26;") and their experience of heavenly things so deep! for "the knowledge of the Lord will then cover the earth, not in extent only, but in depth also, as the waters cover the sea Habakkuk 2:14;" and God revealing himself so gloriously in the midst of them! (for then "the sun will be no more their light by day, neither for brightness will the moon give light unto them; but the Lord will be an everlasting light unto them, and their God their glory Isaiah 60:19-21. Cite the whole, with suitable remarks.") Then will be realized (at least in its incipient state), that vision of the beloved disciple, who says, "I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God Revelation 21:2-3."

see then from hence,

1. How groundless is the objection which so many raise against the efforts that are making for the conversion of the Jews, that they are useless—

Many ask, not with grief and sorrow, but with a kind of malignant triumph, What good have you done? Your society has now been instituted several years, and what has been their success? I answer, that no person can reasonably expect to sow and reap on the same day. No other society has prospered at the first moment of its institution. Inquire of missions to the heathen; Have they prospered all at once? How much less then can it be expected, that the Jews, with all their deep-rooted prejudices, should in a moment lay them all aside, and, overcoming obstacles greater than can be conceived, become at once the disciples of the despised Nazarene? But the Christian world have conceived a notion, that the Jews are to be converted all in a day. This however is a mistake. What God may do at a future period I presume not to say. I do myself conceive, that in God's appointed time, when God's servants shall "prophesy unto them," and "the great trumpet be blown" throughout the earth, there will be a resurrection of the dry bones; and they will rise "a great army Ezekiel 37:9-10." But this is not to be expected at the first commencement of our endeavors, as you have already heard. We are not taught to expect, in the first instance, more than the gleanings of an olive-tree: and, if we get "one of a city, and two of a tribe," and gather them from different places, "one by one," we are to account ourselves richly recompensed fur our labors. How many, I would ask, did our Lord Jesus Christ, and his twelve apostles, aided by seventy other disciples, convert in the four years previous to the day of Pentecost? Yet they wrought miracles in confirmation of their word. Was the smallness of their success during that period any ground for saying, that they had lost their labor, and that it would be useless to prosecute their object any further, especially since they must do it at so great a risk to themselves, and to all who should embrace their religion? Thus then I say, that as many have been gathered as, considering the contracted scale on which the efforts have been used, and the total want of a proper medium of access to them which until lately we have experienced, could in reason be expected. We grant that the converts have hitherto been few, and that yet for a season they may continue to be only us slender gleanings; but is this a reason why we should not search them out, and endeavor with care and labor to beat the tree? If a house with only half-a-dozen persons in it should be on fire, and some were exerting themselves for their preservation, what would you think of the humanity of the person who should deride and damp their efforts, from the consideration that they could only hope to benefit a few? Look at the text, and see the description given of the Jews: are they not "outcasts," and "ready to perish?" And is not this a sufficient reason to seek their salvation, though we should save from destruction only "one or two?" They are called "the lost sheep of the House of Israel:" and has not our Lord taught us, that, if there be only one of a hundred gone astray, we should go after that one and seek to bring it home? Yes, has he not in this very connection told us, that "it is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish Matthew 18:12-14." Should not we then be like-minded with God, and determine, that not one shall perish, through any want of effort on our part to save him? Should we not all unite as one man to carry into effect the purposes of God's love towards them? Is there any hope that the few which invite our labors, shall be gathered in, if there be none to beat or shake the tree? or can there be a general convocation of them to the Lord, if there be none to go forth and sound the trumpet in their ears? Know you then, that we want instruments, active and zealous instruments, to do the Lord's work: we need financial aid also, that we may send forth missionaries to the ends of the earth, with the Gospel trumpet in their hands, and the love of God in their hearts, to make known to the Jews their Messiah, and to "bring them home as an offering to the Lord their God Isaiah 66:20." O that God would stir us all up to seek the welfare of the children of Israel, and make use of us to hasten forward the period of their complete redemption!

2. What we all need in order to our own salvation—

Let us not, in our zeal for others, forget ourselves. We are all, with the exception of a small remnant, in as bad a state as the Jews themselves. The only difference between us is, that they are ignorant of Christ, but "we profess to know Christ, yet in works deny him." As far as respects vital godliness, we are as far from God as they. "All we like sheep have gone astray; and, no less than they, do we need to return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls 1 Peter 2:25." It is true of us, as well as of them, that the truly pious are but a remnant. "The God of this world" has the harvest; and the God of Heaven nothing but "the gleanings." The Lord's people are but "a little flock;" and in comparison of the multitudes who go in "the broad road that leads to destruction," they are but "few" who "enter in at the strait gate, and walk in the narrow path." Forgive me, then, if with holy violence I endeavor to "beat you off" from the tree on which you are yet standing, and to "gather you" for the Lord. Let me sound in your ears the Gospel trumpet, which proclaims "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound:" and let me entreat you to "return (as the remnant will assuredly do) to the living God Isaiah 10:21," "to worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." We must be content, we fear, to "gather you one by one:" for, notwithstanding all the efforts that are made for the restoration of your souls to God, it is a melancholy fact, that we succeed but little better with you in the midst of all your advantages, than we do with the Jews in the midst of all their disadvantages. If we labor ever so much, and can reach only "two or three upon the topmost bough, and four or five upon the outermost bough," we are forced to be content, yes, and to think ourselves well repaid; so little power has the Gospel in the present day, and so sparingly is the Spirit of God poured out upon us. Know this however for your good. Whatever is necessary for the Jews, is necessary for us also. Must they believe in Christ? so must we. Must they give themselves up to him? so must we. Must they walk in his steps, and be conformed to his image? so must we. And sure I am, that the more we experience these blessings in our own souls, the more shall we labor to communicate them to the whole world, and more especially to those for whose sake God has imparted to us the superior blessings we enjoy Romans 11:30-31.

 

 

Isaiah 28:5

 

DISCOURSE 900

THE FELICITY OF GOD'S PEOPLE

Isaiah 28:5. In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of his people.

THE sublime expressions of Scripture frequently raise in our minds a pleasing sensation, while yet we entertain but very confused notions of the truths contained in them. It is scarcely possible to read the words of the text without being struck with wonder and admiration: but we cannot enter into their full import without a careful attention to the preceding context. Samaria was the capital of the ten tribes: it was situated on a high hill, and surrounded by fertile valleys, which were skirted with other hills: hence it was compared to a crown or chaplet; which, while it adorned the adjacent country, marked its pre-eminence above all the other cities of Israel. But for the pride and intemperance of its inhabitants, God denounced his judgments against it, declaring that this beautiful chaplet should be "a fading flower," and this boasted fortress, a desolation. He foretold that its wealth and beauty should but excite the avidity of its enemies, who, as soon as they came against it, should prevail over it, and greedily devour it, as one would devour a delicious piece of fruit which he unexpectedly found hanging on a tree. Then, to mark as strongly as possible, the contrast between them and his faithful people, he promises that He himself will be to his people a crown of glory that shall never perish, and a diadem of beauty that shall never fade—

This was fulfilled in the preservation of the two tribes under Hezekiah from the forces of the Assyrians, after they had destroyed Samaria and carried captive the whole kingdom of Israel. But its full accomplishment must be sought for in the blessings which God vouchsafes to his people under the Gospel dispensation. To illustrate it we must observe, that,

I. In the most degenerate times God has a remnant of faithful people—

There has been no season when God has not had some faithful adherents—

In the antediluvian world all flesh had corrupted their way, and it seemed as if the very remembrance of God had been effaced from the minds of his creatures: but yet there was one small family who maintained their steadfastness, and openly acknowledged the true God. Before God separated the Israelites for himself, the world was again reduced to a state similar to that before the deluge: yet even then there were found an Abraham, a Melchizedek, a Job, and perhaps a few others connected with them. The times of Elijah were extremely degenerate: yet then, though he thought himself the only servant of God in Israel, there were seven thousand others that had never bowed their knee to Baal. Though therefore the knowledge of God has frequently been almost extinct, yet there never has been a period when he had not some to be his witnesses in the ages in which they lived.

But at no time has he had more than a little remnant—

When first the twelve tribes were established in Canaan, piety prevailed among that nation more than at any other period: but there is no reason to imagine that the godly bore any proportion to the ungodly; nor, if their whole nation had been pious, did they bear any proportion to the world at large. There were many converted in the days of the Apostles; and religion flourished far beyond what it ever did before or since that time: yet Christians were even then "like the gleanings of the olive, one or two upon the topmost boughs." The name of Christ is indeed very widely spread; but if his professed followers be sifted, how little true wheat would be found in comparison of the chaff! Truly it is "a little flock," "a remnant according to the election of grace;" "though the nominal Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is only a small remnant that will eventually be saved Romans 11:5; Romans 9:27."

Their state however is peculiarly happy; for,

II. While they honor God, God greatly exalts and blesses them—

The terms used in the text import that God will be to his people a source of,

1. Honor—

A crown is the highest honor to which a human being can aspire in this world. But how poor and contemptible is such a dignity, when compared with that which God confers on his people! "He is not ashamed to be called their God:" He acknowledges them as "his sons and daughters:" they are the very "members of Christ's body," yes, they "are one spirit" together with him. While monarchs are surrounded by their nobles, the saints are attended by holy angels, who, as "ministering spirits, are sent from Heaven to minister unto them." When they go hence they have a crown of righteousness, and a throne of glory on which they shall sit with Christ at the right hand of God, in whose presence they shall "reign as kings and priests forever and ever." "Such honor have all his saints."

2. Beauty—

A crown is deemed the brightest ornament to the person that wears it; nor is anything wanting to it that can increase its splendor. This idea is particularly marked in that a crown is called "a diadem of beauty." But God puts a far brighter ornament around the head of his people: "He beautifies them with salvation." He encircles them, as he did Moses of old, with rays of his own glory, insomuch that "his own glory is seen upon them." A meek and quiet spirit is but a single grace out of many with which they are endued; yet that is "an ornament of great value even in the sight of God" himself; what then must be the constellation of graces that form their character? But what can God himself say more than this, that they are "renewed after his own image in righteousness and true holiness," and that they are progressively "changed into his image from glory to glory by the agency of his almighty Spirit?" Is the ornament of a glittering bauble worthy to be compared with this?

3. Happiness—

Men conceive that the possession of imperial honors must of necessity contribute greatly to their happiness: hence, if such a station be within their reach, there is nothing which men will not do to attain it. But supposing that all the satisfaction which men expect from their elevation were invariably attached to it, how much greater happiness does God impart to his chosen people! Their "peace passes all understanding;" their "hope is full of immortality;" their "joy is unspeakable and glorified." They are not indeed exempt from sorrows; but they have "joys with which the stranger intermeddles not." No tongue can declare the comfort they sometimes feel in a sense of the divine favor; nor can the heart of man conceive those joys which are prepared for them at the right hand of God.

4. Security—

The idea of security attaches to the condition of a king, because, the instant that he is in danger, there are thousands at his command to rally round the throne, and to expose their lives in his defense. But if "the Lord of Hosts himself be our crown," then are we secure indeed. And has he not said that "He stands round about his people;" that "their place of defense is the munition of rocks Isaiah 33:16;" that "He himself will be to them as a broad and rapid river that can neither be passed nor navigated Isaiah 33:21;" yes, that "He will be a wall of fire round about them Zechariah 2:5," not only to protect their persons, but to destroy all that would invade their peace? Has he not assured us that "neither the power nor the policy of Hell shall ever prevail against them?" and that "none shall ever pluck them out of his hand?" Having HIM, they have all. If "none can separate them from his love," their honor and beauty, their happiness mid security, are as firm and immovable as God himself.

INFERENCES—

1. How desirable is it to be found among the little remnant!

Look at the greatest monarch upon earth; and the condition of Lazarus is infinitely preferable to his, unless he be among the number of God's people. Created glory, like that of Samaria, is but "a fading flower;" but if we belong to God, we have a portion, substantial in its nature, and everlasting in its duration. Let us then seek this portion with all earnestness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

2. How little should we regard the scoffs and contempt of men!

It is indeed "a small matter to be judged of man's judgment." If God commend us as wise, we need not be concerned though men should account us fools. Time will show, who are the truly wise, they who through the love of the world or the fear of man displease their God, or they, who face the frowns of the world, and sacrifice its interests in order that they may please him. Indeed the ungodly themselves will soon alter their sentiments respecting these things. And, if a king upon his throne would not regard the ravings of a maniac who should conceit himself to be arrayed in royal majesty, so neither need we regard those who enjoy only the appearance of happiness, while we possess God himself for our crown of glory, and our diadem of beauty.

3. How are we bound in our respective spheres to honor and glorify our God!

Can we reflect a moment on such transcendent mercies, and not feel it our duty to walk worthy of them? If any ask, How shall I requite the Lord? We answer, "Be you a crown of glory and a royal diadem in his hand Isaiah 62:3." It is true, we cannot add to his honor, beauty, happiness, or security; but, as a diadem is that on which the prince looks with peculiar delight, so may we be objects of pleasure and delight in the hand of our God. Let us then endeavor so to walk that we may be his boast: so to shine, that it may be seen to whom we belong; and so to honor him, that he may acknowledge us as his in the day that he shall make up his jewels.

 

 

Isaiah 29:17

 

DISCOURSE 901

THE MILLENNIAL PERIOD FAST APPROACHING

Isaiah 29:17. Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

OUR blessed Lord reproved the Scribes and Pharisees of his day; because when, from particular appearances in the atmosphere, they could judge with considerable accuracy what the state of the weather would be, they could not discern, from the clear evidences before them, that their Messiah was indeed come Matthew 12:28 with 16:2, 3. We will not say that a similar reproof is due to those who see not the near approach of the Millennium now, because the evidences of it are by no means so clear and strong: but I think there is abundant ground for the appeal which the Prophet Isaiah made to the people of his day; "Is it not yet a very little while," and all the wonderful blessings of the latter day shall overspread the earth?

In confirmation of this sentiment, I will set before you,

I. The event anticipated—

The prediction in my text relates to one great event—

It is generally supposed to comprehend two events; namely, the conversion of the Gentiles, and the rejection of God's ancient people. But I feel no doubt but that it relates generally to the conversion of the whole world to Christ; and that its true sense is this: "In a little time the uncultivated forest of the Gentile world shall become a fruitful field; and that which would now be reckoned a fruitful field, namely, the Jewish Church, shall be esteemed as a forest," so incomparably more abundant shall its fruitfulness be in the latter day.

This accords best with the very words of my text; for it is not said that the fruitful field shall be turned into a forest, (as in the former clause,) but that it "shall be esteemed as a forest;" where the diversity of the words clearly marks the diversity of the sentiment contained in them.

This also well accords with the general strain of prophecy, which abounds in amplification, and, if I may so say, exaggeration. Thus this same prophet, speaking of this same period, says, "Behold, I create new heavens, and a now earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind …. . There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner, being an hundred years old shall be accursed," I. e. shall be considered as having died under a kind of judicial sentence, by reason of his being removed at so early an age Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 65:20.

This, too, is most clearly marked in the context Cite verse 18, 19; It is also strongly marked in the context in a following chapter; where the very same words are used, by the same prophet Cite Isaiah 32:15-18; And again the very same event, foretold, though not in the same, yet in nearly similar terms, is associated with the very same identical facts, expressive of the blessings which shall then abound over the face of the whole earth Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 35:5-7. All these passages must be distinctly cited, in order to justify the construction put upon the text, in opposition to Vitringa, Bishop Lowth, etc.

In a word; what the prophet here speaks respecting the state of the Church in his day, as compared with that which shall obtain in the latter day, is precisely to the same effect with that which Paul speaks respecting the Jewish and the Christian dispensations: "The former had a glory; but the latter far exceeded in glory; so that that which was made glorious had no glory, by reason of the glory that excelled 2 Corinthians 3:8-10."

And a most glorious event will this be—

The whole world, which is like a desolate wilderness, will have the seed of the Gospel cast upon it, and, through the showers of divine grace falling upon it in rich abundance, will bring forth fruit to the praise and glory of our God. We doubt not but that the most savage people upon the face of the earth, who, in point of civilization and knowledge, are at present scarcely superior to the beasts, will, through the preaching of the Gospel, "be turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." And where the light of the Gospel has already come, it will shine with incomparably greater splendor; according as it is written, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound Isaiah 30:26." In that day, the prophet tells us, "the people shall be all righteous Isaiah 60:21;" "holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the very bells of the horses Zechariah 14:20," that are used in agricultural pursuits; and "all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of the Lord and his Christ Revelation 11:15."

The appeal made to us respecting this blessed period leads me to show,

II. The evidence we have of its near approach—

The prophet judged it near in his day—

So certain and so clear were the views which the prophets had of the events which they were inspired to foretell, that they saw them already accomplished, as it were, before their eyes. "A thousand years were with them but as one day 2 Peter 3:8." It is now two thousand six hundred years since these events were revealed to the prophet, and yet Jehovah spoke of them as if they were already taking place: "Lift up your eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to you. As I live, says the Lord, you shall surely clothe you with them all as with an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does. Then shall you say in your heart, Who has begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? And who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone: these, where had they been Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 49:21." So again; "Who are these, that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows Isaiah 60:8." Now then, if the prophet spoke of this period as so near in his day,

Much more may we consider it as very near at this time—

And indeed, besides the lapse of so many centuries, we have much additional evidence of its approach. The general scope of prophecy, so far as it designates the period of which our text speaks, points, if I may so say, to this very age in which we live. The one thousand two hundred and sixty years of Daniel are, beyond all doubt, near to their completion: and consequently the reign of Christ on earth, as its universal Monarch, is near to its commencement.

Besides, among both Jews and Gentiles there is a general expectation that some great change is at hand, and that God will shortly interpose to bring all nations to such an unity in religious faith and practice as has never yet been seen upon earth.

The efforts which are making throughout the whole Christian world for the accomplishment of this object, by translating the Holy Scriptures into the different languages of the earth, by sending out missionaries also to instruct both Jews and Gentiles, and by instilling into the rising generation the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These efforts are altogether unprecedented, both in respect of energy and extent; and, while they show that God is with his people to call forth their exertions, they are a pledge to them that their labors shall not be in vain.

The actual commencement of a work of grace in many places, where nothing but darkness reigned until of late, justifies a hope that we already see the dawn of approaching day, and experience somewhat of the drops that precede the shower The state of the Turkish Empire (Dec. 6, 1827), and of Popery, were further touched upon, as possibly leading to great results in reference both to the Mohammedan and Popish delusions; the destruction of which is to precede the glory of the Latter Day.

APPLICATION—

1. Let us look forward with holy earnestness to this blessed time—

Did Abraham feel such delight in the prospect of our Savior's first advent! and shall not we, with similar emotions, look forward to the period when he shall come in his glory, and establish his kingdom over the face of the whole earth?: Even in Heaven is this a ground of joy Revelation 12:10-12; and much more should it be to us, who hope, "in a very little while," to participate in all the blessings which he is coming to bestow.

2. Let us pray to God to hasten this long-wished-for day—

We are taught to pray, "Your kingdom come." And it is in answer to prayer that "God will pour out his Spirit from on high, to effect that change which is promised in our text. It is by the Holy Spirit alone that this change can be wrought Isaiah 32:15; and through his almighty power shall Pentecostal conversions be effected, in every quarter of the globe.

3. Let every one of us, in our place, endeavor to help it forward—

God has promised that "seed time and harvest shall never cease," until the end of the world; but it is by the instrumentality of man that he effects his purposes: so also shall the diffusion of divine knowledge, and the increase of fertility throughout the whole earth, be effected by the instrumentality of man Matthew 9:38. But it is not by ministers only that God will pour out these benefits upon us, but by the agency of all who, in their place and station, endeavor to advance his cause in the world. Even in the Apostle's days, females had their department of labor, and labored too with good success, as well as men Romans 16:3-4; Romans 16:12; and at this time, also, there is a call for the exertions of every soul among us: and though we have in ourselves no more power or efficiency than rams' horns, yet will God by us demolish the strong holds of sin and Satan, and establish throughout the world the kingdom of his dear Son.

 

 

Isaiah 29:18-19

 

DISCOURSE 902

THE GOSPEL A SOURCE OF BLESSINGS TO MANKIND

Isaiah 29:18-19. In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness: the meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

THERE is a day frequently spoken of in Scripture under the emphatical title of "that day:" and it sometimes refers to the apostolic age, sometimes to the millennial period, and sometimes to the day of judgment. Commentators in general consider the first of these to be the time designated by that expression in the text. To this they are led by the interpretation of the preceding verse; which they understand thus: "In a very little while, Lebanon (the Gentile world, which has hitherto been a mere desert) shall be turned into a fruitful field (by means of the Gospel which shall be published); and the (hitherto) fruitful field (of the Jewish Church) shall be esteemed as a forest (or desert). And in that day (of the destruction of the Jewish Church and polity) shall the deaf hear the words of the book," etc. etc. But I should rather incline to consider the second period, namely, the millennial, as the time intended: because I have no conception of "Lebanon," which is constantly used in Scripture to characterize grandeur and fertility, being applied to designate a mere desert. I apprehend rather that in that verse there is a climax, descriptive of the state of the Church when the Jews shall be gathered into it: that then "Lebanon (which now is desolate) shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the fruitful field (such as it will then exist) shall be esteemed as a forest;" seeing that "the handful of corn cast upon the top of the mountains" will spring up so abundantly, that "the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon Psalm 72:16." This is the kind of climax which often occurs in relation to that very period, It may be seen in chapter 45:20. where it is said, in reference to the protracted age to which men will then live, that "a person dying at the age of an hundred years will die a mere child, and be accounted as one accursed," that is, cut off prematurely, under a stroke of judicial vengeance. In chapter 32:15. also, the very expressions of the text are again used in this precise view: "When the Spirit shall be poured from on high, (it is said,) the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest." Thus I understand the prophet as saying in our text, that "in a very little while" (it was but a little while even in Isaiah's days, but now it is just at hand,) the Jews shall be converted to the faith of Christ, in such numbers as to be like the woods of Lebanon; and THEN the poor benighted Gentiles also shall be gathered into the fold of Christ, in a way and to an extent altogether unprecedented from the first publication of Christianity to that very hour.

In this view of the passage it has an equally favorable aspect both upon Jews and Gentiles: on Jews, to show what blessings are in reserve for them, (and now just about to be poured out upon them;) and on Gentiles, who will by their means experience, as it were, throughout the whole world, "a resurrection from the dead Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15."

It is not however my intention to insist on this point: but, waving any further notice of the millennial period, I shall simply show,

I. What is that book to which the attention of all men shall be called—

It is here called "the book;" and must undoubtedly be, the book of revelation, in which all "the visions" of the seers, and the predictions of the prophets, are contained. This is the book in relation to which God had poured out upon the Jewish nation a spirit of deep sleep, and had closed their eyes, even the eyes of their prophets, their rulers, and their seers; insomuch that it was altogether as "a sealed book," which, "whether delivered to a learned or unlearned man," was equally unintelligible to him verse 10–12. So completely were its contents hidden from them, that "the wisdom of their wise men perished, and the understanding of their prudent men was hid verse 14."

From the New Testament we are able to speak more definitely on this point, and to say that this book is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: for this is the description which Paul gives of the Gospel, in reference to the very chapter before us. He says, that he was sent to preach the Gospel; but that it was to the great mass of his hearers "foolishness:" agreeable to what had been written; "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." "To the Jews," he tells us, "it was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who were called, whether Jews or Greeks, it was Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God 1 Corinthians 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24." This book contains the "hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world; which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory 1 Corinthians 2:7-8." Indeed "the natural man, whoever he be, cannot receive it; for it is foolishness unto him: neither can he know it, because it is spiritually discerned," and can be known only through the influence of God's Spirit upon the soul 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.

Thus, by comparing the account given of this book by an inspired Apostle, in reference to the very chapter before us, we may with certainty declare what book is here intended.

Now, as the Gospel is the book which the deaf are to hear, and the blind to see, it will be proper,

1. To enter a little into its contents—

It reveals to man a Savior. It declares that God, in tender mercy to our fallen race, sent his only dear Son into the world, to make an atonement for us, and to effect by his own obedience unto death, our reconciliation with him: The Old Testament revealed this as to be effected in due season; and the New Testament gives an account of it as already accomplished: The New Testament moreover sets before us all his invitations and promises, together with the promise of the Holy Spirit, to render the whole effectual for our complete and final salvation.

2. To show briefly, that this is indeed God's destined instrument for the salvation of the world—

It is that with which he wrought from the very beginning: for, though it was comparatively but obscurely revealed, yet it was to this that Adam looked, as holding forth a promise of the seed of the woman to bruise the serpent's head: and to this the faith of Abel had respect, when he presented the offering of a firstling to the Lord. To this also Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the patriarchs, and all the prophets, and all the saints and martyrs of the ancient Church, had respect; they viewed it through the medium of types and prophecies; and though they had not actually received the promised Savior, they were saved by him, just as we are who live so many centuries posterior to his advent Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39-40. There never was, nor ever shall be, "any other foundation" for a sinner's hope, or "any other name whereby a sinner can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ."

Having shown what "the book" is, we are led to notice,

II. Its transcendent excellency—

It comes to the whole world, and commends itself to all,

1. As suited to their wants—

It might be thought, that, whatever offers it made, it would be of no use, if men had not eyes to see it, or ears to hear it: but it engages that the deaf shall hear it, and that the blind shall see it out of obscurity and out of darkness. It not only presents to us things suited to our spiritual senses, but it gives us the very senses, whereby we are enabled to apprehend them. Now this is of peculiar importance; for there is no man by nature who has any spiritual discernment whatever: all are both deaf and blind: and, if any imagine that they are exempt from the general malady, they only prove the more strongly the universality of this truth. Under these two figures may be comprehended all the necessities of our fallen nature: for as a person who has from his birth been destitute of sight and hearing can possess no intellectual attainments, so those who are by nature cut off from all means of spiritual discernment must be destitute of spiritual good. Yet is there no spiritual good which the Gospel will not impart to those who seek it, because it will give both the blessing itself, and the faculty whereby it is to be enjoyed.

It were well if this matter were more generally considered; for it would cut off many sources of despondency, by which the people of God are discouraged. Nothing is more common than to consider a want of natural talent as an almost insurmountable obstacle to the attainment of divine knowledge; and more especially to regard long-contracted guilt as a ground for apprehending an utter exclusion from the hopes of the Gospel. But the Gospel meets the ignorant and the guilty with the same free offers of mercy as are presented to the possessors of learning and morality; and it takes occasion from their very discouragements to press on them in particular the acceptance of its benefits: "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst (a more desperate case can scarcely be painted); I the Lord will hear them; and will open for them rivers of waters in high places (the very reverse of what might naturally be expected), and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water Isaiah 41:17-18." Whatever then be any man's necessities, let him turn the greatness of those necessities into a plea, as David did; "Be merciful unto my sin, O God, for it is great!" and let him know, that the greater his necessities are, the more will God glorify himself in the supply of them.

2. As sufficient for their necessities—

Nothing is wanting to make the Gospel of Christ effectual. Human wisdom can add nothing to the teaching of God's Spirit. Man's righteousness can add nothing to the righteousness of Christ: nor can his strength add anything to the strength communicated from on high. On the contrary, the least reliance on anything human will invalidate everything that is divine: for God will do all, and have all the glory, or leave man to his own inadequate and unassisted efforts. Of itself, it is "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword;" and "mighty through God to the pulling down all the strong holds" of sin and Satan. If only it come in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, nothing can stand before it. It has already prevailed to a vast extent over the powers of darkness, and in God's good time it shall "subdue all nations to the obedience of faith."

One effect in particular it invariably produces, wherever it is received in spirit and in truth; it imparts "a joy with which a stranger to it intermeddles not." "The meek are they who will receive it; and they will increase their joy in the Lord: and the poor among men, for whose advancement it is preeminently designed, shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." Others may possess carnal joy: but these shall have a joy in the Lord, "a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory."

APPLICATION—

Why should not "that day" be already come? Whether it be come or not to Jews or Gentiles, there is no reason why it should not be come to you. How blessed would it be to see the commencement of that day among you! See what is said of it in another part of Isaiah's prophecies: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as an deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert Isaiah 35:5-6." Dear Brethren, implore help from God: and he will come now at last to give efficacy to his word, and to make it the power of God to the salvation of your souls.

 

 

Isaiah 30:7

DISCOURSE 903

CONFIDENCE IN GOD RECOMMENDED

Isaiah 30:7. Therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is, to sit still.

NOTHING is more strongly inculcated in the Holy Scriptures than trust in God. Nothing more dishonors him than the want of it: nothing more glorifies him than its unreserved exercise. Not that it supersedes the necessity of exertion on our part: for we are to "work out our own salvation," notwithstanding we know that all our will and power to do so must proceed from God Philippians 2:12-13. Yet there are occasions whereon we must forbear to act, and simply wait on God to effect for us what we have no hope of effecting for ourselves. Such was the occasion before us. The Assyrian monarch was about to invade Judea; and the whole Jewish people were for delivering themselves from his power. This was most displeasing to God, who sent his prophet to inform them, that "the Egyptians should help in vain, and to no purpose. Therefore have I cried," says he, "concerning this; Their strength is, to sit still."

The prophet, you will see, limits his assertion to that particular occasion: so that the passage requires me to show,

I. Under what circumstances activity is called for—

Certainly we are, in the general, to be "workers together with God:" more especially,

1. When we have to earn our temporal support—

Immediately after the Fall, God imposed upon us a necessity to labor for our daily subsistence; saying, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Genesis 3:19." He also determined what portion of our time should be given to it: "Six days shah you labor Exodus 20:9." In the Gospel he has renewed his injunctions, in the plainest terms: "Labor with your hands the thing that is good Ephesians 4:28." And, "If any man will not labor neither shall he eat 2 Thessalonians. 3:10." Even in subordinating our temporal engagements to those which are spiritual, he has shown that the temporal are not to be neglected. The command, "Seek you first the kingdom of God Matthew 6:33," implies, that the things of time and sense are to occupy an important measure of our time. And, indeed, on our exertions our temporal prosperity is made to depend: for it is "the diligent hand, and that only, that makes rich Proverbs 10:4."

2. When any good works are to be done—

In reference to them, a state of inactivity would be highly criminal. Our blessed Lord "went about doing good Acts 10:3;" and he expects that all his people should follow him in this respect: for "he has set us an example, that we should follow his steps 1 Peter 2:21." Indeed, our conformity to him in this respect will constitute a very principal subject of his inquiry at the last day, and a sure ground of his decision in the day of judgment Matthew 25:34-46. We are therefore instructed, expressly, "not to be weary in well-doing Galatians 6:9," but, "by patient continuance in it, to seek for glory and honor and immortality Romans 2:7." We must therefore abound in every good work 2 Thessalonians. 2:17;" and, "whatever our hand finds to do, we must do it with all our might Ecclesiastes 9:10."

3. When the salvation of the soul is concerned—

That salvation is the gift of God, is no reason why we should neglect to seek it. On the contrary, our Lord says, "Labor for the meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you John 6:27." All the images which are used to represent the Christian life imply great exertion on our part. We are to "run a race;" to "fight a good fight;" to "strive for the mastery:" but these things are not done without great exertion: so that, if in the hope and prospect of the heavenly prize, we were to sit still, we should insure to ourselves nothing but shame and loss. No election of God will ever save us, if we do not labor to save ourselves: "We must give all diligence to make our calling and election sure;" and must "add one virtue to another," without any partiality or reserve, if ever we would "have an entrance ministered unto us into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2 Peter 1:5-11."

Still, however, there are occasions where it is proper to forbear working, and where "our strength is rather to sit still:" in confirmation of which, I will show when activity may be suspended, and,

II. Under what circumstances it is to give way to confidence in God—

We may then "sit still,"

1. When, from the nature of the circumstances, activity can be of no avail—

When God commanded the paschal lamb to be slain, and all the Hebrews to sprinkle their houses with its blood, as the means of averting from them the sword of the destroying angel, to what purpose would they have put forth any efforts of their own? Could they ward off the stroke which inflicted death on all the first-born of Egypt? No: "their strength was to sit still;" and to confide in God, who had promised to deliver them. Again; When the Red Sea was before them, and mountains and morasses were on either side, and the hosts of Egypt in their rear, what could they do to ward off the destruction that menaced them? They were as incapable of resisting Pharaoh, as if they had been already bound in chains before him. Their only hope was in God, who opened a way for them through the sea; and made that, which was a path to them, a grave to all their foes.

Now the same line of conduct becomes us also, in reference to the redemption of our souls. God says to us, "Christ, your Passover is sacrificed for you 1 Corinthians 5:7;" sprinkle yourselves with his blood: rely on that for protection: and, though the curses of my law are following you, and all the powers of darkness are combined against you for your destruction, "yet shall you not perish, but have everlasting life John 3:16." If we will comply with this, our salvation is sure: but if we will have recourse to any efforts of our own, our doom is sealed: for we may as well hope, by our own power, to create a world, as by any works of ours to remove our guilt, and to obtain for ourselves the felicity of Heaven. "We must be saved by faith, and not by works Ephesians 2:8-9." Any attempts to save ourselves by works will only invalidate what Christ has done for us Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4. Every endeavor, therefore, of this kind must forever be relinquished: our whole strength, in relation to this matter, is only to "sit still."

2. When no means can be used, but such as are unlawful—

To Rebekah it had been promised, while her twin children, Esau and Jacob, were yet in her womb, that the "elder should serve the younger Genesis 25:23." But when Isaac, to all appearance, was dying, he called for Esau, in order to confer on him the honors and privileges of his birth-right. Rebekah, who had a partiality for her younger son Jacob, seeing this, and fearing that he would lose the honors which God had promised him, and having no prospect of turning Isaac from his purpose by any representations or remonstrances of hers, proposed and executed a most iniquitous device; by which she brought on herself and family a long series of afflictive dispensations Genesis 27:1-46. She should on no account have interposed to effect her wishes in such a way as this; but have placed her confidence in God, who was at no loss for means to accomplish his own decrees. Means were proposed to Daniel and the Hebrew Youths to avert the calamities with which they were menaced; but they acted as became them, and experienced from God the aid for which they relied upon him Daniel 3:6. And thus it becomes us also, when menaced by our enemies, to "cast our care on God 1 Peter 5:7." We are not, because of any conspiracies against us, to cry with desponding apprehension, "A confederacy, a confederacy! but to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and to make him our fear, and him only our dread Isaiah 8:12-13." We are never to betake ourselves to dissimulation, or any unworthy methods of deliverance; but to wait the Lord's leisure, and assure ourselves that "in the mount of difficulty he will be seen Genesis 22:14." The direction to all the Lord's people is, "He who believes, shall not make haste Isaiah 28:16."

3. When personal exertion will take the matter out of God's hands—

We admire the conduct of David, who, in his conflict with Goliath, would take nothing with him but a sling and a stone. Here, not in word only, but in deed also, he showed where his trust was, even in God, who had assured him of the victory 1 Samuel 17:39-47. On the other hand, King Asa, though on the whole a pious monarch, brought on himself the displeasure of the Most High, because "in a time of sickness he sought to the physicians rather than to his God 2 Chronicles 16:12." He was not to blame for applying to the physicians, as God's instruments for his relief: his fault was, in relying on their skill, rather than on God's power and grace. It is not every use of menus that violates the rule that is here prescribed: they may be used, if they are used simply as means: but our trust must be as entirely on God as if no means whatever were employed. The Apostles were directed, when brought before kings and governors for the Gospel sake, to "take no thought what they should say, in defense of themselves, or of the Gospel which they preached: they were told, that, in the precise time of need, they should be instructed by God what they should speak Matthew 10:19-20." That was necessary, in order to show that they spoke not of their own minds, but by inspiration of God. But if ministers, in their stated services, without any such call from God, were to neglect to prepare for their public addresses, they would only tempt the Lord; who authorizes none to "offer to Him that which costs them nothing." After all our preparation, our reliance must be on Him, "who alone can give the increase, even though Paul should plant, and Apollos water." The true distinction is, that "in the spirit of our minds" we are to sit still, whether we use any means or not: and, when God's agency will be more seen and known and acknowledged, and his glory be thereby the more advanced, then we are to forbear the use of means altogether, or only use them as the prophet did the lump of figs, to heal in Hezekiah a fatal disorder 2 Kings 20:7.

Let me now add,

1. A word of caution—

Doubtless this doctrine is open to abuse. In truth, there are many, who, when urged to seek after God for the salvation of their souls, will say, 'I have no fear; I trust in God.' But it is a desperate delusion to say, 'I trust in God,' when they use not the means which God himself has appointed for the attainment of the end. What would these persons themselves think of a man who should say, 'I trust in God for an harvest,' while he neglected to plough and sow his field? Yet this man would act as rationally as they Galatians 6:7-8. Be it so, that all depends on the election of God: but, if we are "elect of God the Father, it is through sanctification of the Spirit, and through sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 1:2." The means are ordained, as well as the end: yes, the end is ordained by and through the means: and if we will not go to Christ to "sprinkle our consciences with his blood," or apply to the "Holy Spirit to sanctify" our souls, we shall in vain hope to attain the end. I warn you therefore, Brethren, not to "pervert the Scriptures to your destruction 2 Peter 3:16," but to seek that conformity to them, in all things, which God requires.

2. A word of encouragement—

To you at this day, no less than to his people of old, does God say, "In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness und confidence shall be your strength verse 15." And is not this sufficient for you? Whom did God ever forsake? Who that ever trusted in him was confounded? Is he not the same God now as ever he was? "Is his arm shortened, that he cannot save? or is his ear heavy, that he cannot hear?" The tempest-tossed disciples were rebuked for entertaining a fear, when Jesus was embarked with them Matthew 8:24-26, though they had no specific promise in relation to that particular storm: but you have promises which relate to every danger to which a human being can be exposed. "Know then in whom you have believed, that He is able to save that which you have committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12;" and, under the darkest circumstances that can ever be imagined, "be strong in faith, giving glory to your God Romans 4:20."

 

 

Isaiah 30:26

 

DISCOURSE 904

BENEFITS ARISING FROM GOD'S RETURN TO THE SOUL

Isaiah 30:26. Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound.

THE dispensations of Providence, if rightly improved, are calculated to promote our spiritual welfare.

The Jews derived many instructive lessons from the dealings of God with them in Egypt and the wilderness. But God here promises them more abundant knowledge and joy by means of their deliverance from the Assyrian host That this is the literal import of the passage appears from verse 31. compared with verse 25, 26. The grandeur, however, of the words before us evidently shows, that the prophet had respect to more distant times, and to blessings which no temporal deliverance was able to convey. We must say of this promise,

I. That it is verified among us at this day—

It is fulfilled to us,

1. At the first reconciliation of our souls to God—

The convictions of an awakened conscience are as deep wounds to the soul. Sin, though it be honey in the mouth, becomes gall in the stomach: Peter, Judas, and David in particular, show what "wounds" it will make in the soul Psalm 32:1-6; nor can any one view it aright, without having his heart broken with a sense of its malignity.

But reconciliation with God heals these wounds. The blood of Christ is that "balm of Gilead," which never was applied in vain Jeremiah 8:22. It operates as the sight of the brazen serpent on the dying Israelites, to restore to life and vigor those, whose state seems altogether desperate John 3:14-15. David, after the foulest transgressions, declared his persuasion of its efficacy to cleanse even him Psalm 51:7-8. And all who are reconciled to God through Christ experience its full effects Luke 4:18. 1 Peter 1:8.

Now this is a season wherein the knowledge and joy of the soul are much enlarged. Until this great event is accomplished, the views of the soul are very contracted; nor is it acquainted with any joy but what is carnal: but no sooner has this taken place, than the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines into the heart, and all his perfections are admired and adored. Now also the excellency of the Gospel salvation is discovered; and the reasonableness of a life devoted to God is deeply felt. Now is a new and inexhaustible source of happiness opened to the soul: and its peace and joy flow down like a river; and all the pleasures that it ever enjoyed in the ways of sin, are no more in comparison of its present consolations, than the faint "light of the moon" to the invigorating rays of the meridian "sun." But this promise has a further accomplishment,

2. At any return of God to the soul after a season of darkness and desertion—

God finds it necessary sometimes to hide his face from his people, and thus to wound their souls afresh. How the loss of God's presence afflicts a pious soul, may be seen in the lamentations and complaints which the most eminent saints have uttered on such occasions. Job tells us, that God's arrows stuck fast in him, and that the poison of them drank up his spirit Job 6:4. And David even "roared for the disquietness of his heart." Nor are there wanting at this day many whose experience accords with the description which that eminent saint has given of his Psalm 42:3-4; Psalm 42:6-7; Psalm 42:9.

But the return of God binds up this breach. The deliverance from such a state is compared by our Lord to the joy that succeeds the pangs of childbirth John 16:21; nor can its effects upon the soul be more fitly represented than in the language of the Jews on their return from Babylon Psalm 126:1-3.

And this also is another season of peculiar instruction and comfort. By this the soul obtains much deeper discoveries of its own corruptions Job 42:5-6; and more encouraging views of God's power and faithfulness Isaiah 25:1; Isaiah 25:4; the depths of Satan's devices also are more clearly discerned, and, if its joys are less ecstatic than before, they are more pure and refined. The still fuller accomplishment of the text will take place,

3. At the hour of dissolution—

God never entirely withholds his chastening rod in this world. The whole of this life is a state of discipline: But at death there is an end of everything that is penal or painful. Whatever wounds may have pained us here, death will heal them all Revelation 21:4.

Then will this promise be fulfilled in its utmost extent. What amazing discoveries will be made to the soul on its first dismissal from the body! And with what inconceivable raptures will it be transported, as soon as ever it shall enter the gates of Heaven! Whatever it may have heard of the blessedness of the saints, it will surely say, that not a thousandth part had been declared to it. Then shall those descriptions given by the prophets all be realized Isaiah 60:19-20. As for the joys it experienced below, they shall appear as nothing in comparison of those it will then possess. What the saints tasted here was through the medium of ordinances, and mixed with frequent sorrows, and, at best of short duration; but what they possess in Heaven will be immediate, unmixed, and everlasting.

But the true import of the promise leads me to show,

II. That it shall hereafter be more abundantly verified among God's ancient people—

They shall be healed of their wounds at a period not far distant—

Certainly "their breach" is grievous, and "their wounds" are to all human appearance "incurable." So has God himself declared Jeremiah 30:12-15. Nevertheless God in due season will surely "restore health to them, and heal them of their wounds Jeremiah 30:16-17. The word therefore should here be translated "nevertheless."" Through the preaching of the Gospel shall this blessed consummation be effected Jeremiah 33:6, and happiness shall be restored, not to that nation only, but through them to the whole world Jeremiah 33:7-11 with Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15.

And oh! what light and joy and holiness will then abound!

Methinks, when it is said that "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea," we must understand it as predicting not the extent only of divine knowledge, but its depth also, and the blessedness arising from it: "the light of the moon will then indeed be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, as the light of seven days;" yes "the moon shall be confounded, and the sun itself ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and before his ancients gloriously Isaiah 24:23." This is beyond all doubt to be accomplished in due season; "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away Isaiah 35:10." Of the extent of their knowledge in that day, and the fullness of their joy, we at present can form scarcely any conception. What surprising views will they then have of the whole mystery of redemption, when they shall see all the prophecies fulfilled, and all the types and shadows realized in the person and work of Christ! Of that season, no less than of Heaven, it is said, "The city will have no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb be the light thereof. And ~there shall be no night there; and they need no light of the sun: for the Lord God gives them light; and they shall reign forever and ever Revelation 21:23-26; Revelation 22:5."

APPLICATION—

1. Let us look forward then to that blessed period—

We need not be distracting our minds, and the minds of others, with curious questions about the precise manner in which Christ and his saints will reign: still less is it expedient to dogmatize upon this matter, as some are doing at this day: but we should look forward to it with holy joy, and expect it with most confident assurance: and the 98th Psalm should express the habitual frame of all our minds Psalm 98:1-9.

2. Let us seek the foretaste of it in our own souls—

Why should we rest satisfied with low measures of holiness or of joy, when it is our privilege to "rejoice in Christ with joy unspeakable and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8." We are not contented with the light of the moon, when we can have the light of the sun, nor are we satisfied with the sun in its early dawn, when we can enjoy it in its meridian height. Let us, then, extend this desire to all spiritual blessings, and never be satisfied, until we are as holy and as happy as God himself can make us.

 

 

Isaiah 31:4-5

 

DISCOURSE 905

GOD THE PROTECTOR OF HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 31:4-5. Thus has the Lord spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.

THE first of the commandments is, "You shall have no other gods before me." And that is directly violated, when we alienate from God the confidence that is due to him alone, and place it on any creature in preference to him. This was the sin which the prophet reproved, both in this and the whole foregoing chapter. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, had come against Jerusalem with a powerful, and, humanly speaking, irresistible army. Many of the Jews, instead of looking to Jehovah for his gracious and merciful protection, applied to Egypt for help, and carried their wealth to Egypt, in order to obtain it. God, offended with this want of confidence in him, sent them word, that the Egyptians should help in vain, and to no purpose; and that their real strength was, to sit still, and to rely on God alone Cite Isaiah 30:1-7; and compare it with verse 1–3; If they would with real penitence and faith rely on him, He would afford them speedy and effectual deliverance. This assurance God delivered to them under the different images which are contained in my text; which show, not only what God would be to them, but what he will be to his Church and people in all ages of the world.

Let me, with a special view to these images, point out to you,

I. The protection which God will afford to his people—

We are told, that, "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever: and that they who trust in him shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever Psalm 125:1-2." But, as the emergency that existed at the time the prophet uttered my text was extremely urgent, so the images by which he was directed to encourage their affiance in him were precisely such as were suited to the occasion. God promised to protect them—

With the firmness of a lion—

A lion, growling over his prey, regards not the shouts of a multitude of shepherds: unmoved himself, he infuses terror into them; and would soon make them repent of their temerity, if they dared to approach him. And who shall prevail on Jehovah to relinquish his defense of Jerusalem? in reference to the Assyrian army, which God was determined to destroy, the prophet says, "The Lord of Hosts has purposed; and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out; and who shall turn it back Isaiah 14:24-27." The same also we may say in reference to the weakest of all his saints: "If God be for you, who can be against you Romans 8:31." "Who is he who shall harm you, if you be followers of that which is good 1 Peter 3:13." God is not only a tower of defense to his people to preserve them, but "a wall of fire round about them," that shall devour their assailants Zechariah 2:5. He may indeed suffer the enemies of his people to prevail for a season; and they may vaunt, as the Assyrians did, of all their conquests: but they are only as a rod in Jehovah's hands; and all which they effect is only as the axe or saw that accomplishes the will of him who uses it: but when they have effected his purpose, they themselves, who sought nothing but to gratify their own ambition, shall be made monuments of his righteous indignation: "The light of Israel will be to them for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 10:12-17." Yes, truly, "God's counsel shall stand, and he will do all his will Isaiah 46:10;" and "when He works, who shall let it Isaiah 43:13." "The Lion of the tribe of Judah Revelation 5:5." shall assuredly prevail, though all the powers of earth and Hell were combined against him.

2. With the tenderness of a parent bird—

A bird, though utterly unable to cope with a bird of prey which it sees hovering over its nest, will fly to protect its young; and, insensible to its own danger, will intercept its potent adversary, and rather perish itself than give up its offspring to the devourer. And, "for our miseries is Jehovah grieved Judges. 10:16;" yes, in all our afflictions, too, our God himself is afflicted Isaiah 63:9;" and whoever "touches us, touches the apple of his eye Zechariah 2:8." When Pharaoh had overtaken the Hebrews at the Red Sea, "the pillar of fire, which had hitherto led the fugitives, went and stood between the Egyptian camp and them; so that they came not near to his people all the night," during which period an opening was made for their escape Exodus 14:19-21. And in ten thousand instances has God interposed for his people in every age; nor is there any one, who, if he could review all the dealings of God towards him, might not find, in his own experience, some interpositions fully answerable to the image that is before us.

3. With the success of the attendant angel—

At the destruction of the Egyptian first-born, Jehovah, the Angel of the Covenant, accompanied the destroying angel; and, wherever he saw the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on the door-posts, immediately interposed, and constrained the destroyer to pass over that house: in remembrance of which marvelous deliverance, a feast was instituted, and was called "The Feast of the Lord's Passover Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27." To that the prophet, in my text, refers; saying, that "Jehovah, passing over Jerusalem, will preserve it." Now, so effectual was the Lord's intervention in that instance, that, while in every other house, throughout all the land of Egypt, the first-born both of man and beast was slain, in the houses of the Hebrews died not so much as one Exodus 12:29-30. And, when was so much as one true believer ever left to perish? We are expressly told, that "it is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perish Matthew 18:14." No: however sifted his people be, "not the smallest grain shall ever full upon the earth Amos. 9:9." Behold the Apostle Paul: no less than forty persons had bound themselves, by an oath, to murder him: and so well were their plans laid, that there did not appear the slightest chance for his escape. But God so ordered it, that Paul's own nephew overheard the plot, and, by a timely mention of it to the governor, defeated it: and thus was that valuable life preserved Acts 23:12-24. Peter too, according to all human appearance, was consigned to death, there being only a few hours to elapse before he was to be brought forth from prison for execution. But with irresistible power did God cause the irons, with which his servant was bound, to fall off; and the prison doors to open, as it were of their own accord: and thus was the stroke averted in the very instant that it was about to fall Acts 12:6-11. What dangers have awaited us, we shall never know until we stand before our God in judgment: but then it will be found, that God has been our shield from numberless assaults; and that, through the agency of his holy angels, we have "been kept, on ten thousands of occasions, from dashing our foot against a stone Psalm 91:11-12."

Such being the security promised to us, let us consider,

II. Our duty resulting from it—

This merciful care, which God vouchsafes to us, doubtless calls for corresponding feelings on our part. If he affords us such marvelous protection, we ought to surrender up ourselves to him in a way of,

1. Affiance—

The fault of the Hebrews was, that they leaned on an arm of flesh, instead of relying solely upon God. And we must be on our guard against this sad propensity. We are "not to say, 'A confederacy, A confederacy,' with them that say, 'A confederacy;' but to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and to make Him our fear and Him our dread Isaiah 8:12-13." The language of David should, under any emergency whatever, be the language of our hearts: "Shall I lift up my eyes unto the hills (to any earthly powers)? From whence then comes our help? Our help comes from the Lord, who (is not only above them all, but made them all, yes,) made Heaven and earth Psalm 121:1-2. Bishop Horne's translation." It is not possible for our confidence in God to be too strong, provided we leave to God the time and manner of fulfilling his promises. He may, as he did in the case of Jerusalem, suffer matters to proceed to the greatest extremity: but "the vision will come at its appointed time Habakkuk 2:3;" and, in a full assurance that it shall not tarry beyond that time, we should say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him Job 13:15." The well-known boast of the Apostle should be ours Romans 8:35-39; And in dependence upon God, we should hurl defiance on all our enemies, even as Hezekiah was taught to do in the very depth of his extremity Isaiah 37:22.

2. Gratitude—

"If the Lord had not been on our side, now may Israel f the Lord had not been on our side when men rose up against us, they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul Psalm 124:1-4." Never, until all the wonders of God's love shall be revealed, shall we have any idea of the deliverances that have been given unto us, and of our obligation to God on account of them. "Satan, that subtle adversary, who beguiled our first parents in Paradise, has, on thousands of occasions, sought to draw our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ 2 Corinthians 11:3;" yes, "as a roaring lion, also, he has been seeking to devour us 1 Peter 5:8." And is it owing to our own wisdom or strength that we have not fallen a prey unto his teeth? No: the Lord has interposed to screen us from his fiery darts; and has again and again rescued us from the snares which he had laid for our feet. See how David was kept from shedding blood 1 Samuel 25:32-33, and Peter from utter apostasy Luke 22:31-32. and who can tell what evils you might have perpetrated, and what your state might have at this moment been, if God had not "kept you as the apple of his eye," and "borne you, as on eagle's wings," throughout this dreary wilderness Deuteronomy 32:10-11. I tell you, Brethren, that his visible interpositions for his people of old have been only shadows of what he has invisibly done, and is at this moment doing, for you, if only you place your trust in him: and that David's acknowledgment is that which it becomes every one of you to make: "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him Psalm 37:39-40."

3. Fidelity—

Believing in God, we have nothing to fear, and nothing even to think of, but how we may best serve and honor him. Paul, when in daily expectation of a cruel death, said, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy, and fulfill the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus Acts 20:24." And I would ask, of all who believe the declarations in my text, Should not such "love constrain you to live unto your God 2 Corinthians 5:14." Realize the determination which he formed from all eternity, and from which not all the wickedness of our ruined world has ever been able to divert him, to save our souls from death by the sacrifice of his only dear Son in our stead. Realize the merciful interposition of the Lord Jesus Christ between us and the wrath of our offended God, and his actually becoming a curse for us. Realize his dying in our place and stead, and by his own obedience unto death effecting a reconciliation for us, and purchasing for us all the glory of Heaven. Realize, I say, the deliverances shadowed forth by those given to Jerusalem, and spiritually fulfilled in you; and what, think you, will be your feelings on the occasion, or your expression of them? Will there be any bounds to your love, any limits to your obedience, any intermission to your songs of praise? No: you will be "ready either to be bound or to die for His sake," who has "so loved you, and given himself for you;" and "you will be satisfied with no attainment, until you shall awake up after the likeness of his perfect righteousness Psalm 17:15."

 

 

Isaiah 32:2

 

DISCOURSE 906

SECURITY AND COMFORT IN CHRIST

Isaiah 32:2. A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

THERE is no greater blessing to a nation than a well-ordered government. The due administration of justice, together with the protection of our person and property, afford to any people a just ground of joy and thankfulness. Such a government did God promise to the Jews under Hezekiah; but a greater than Hezekiah is here. Under the figure of an earthly monarch, Christ is promised; and the text informs us,

I. What blessings we enjoy in and through Christ—

The metaphors, though four in number, suggest but two ideas:

1. Security—

We have very little conception of winds and tempests in this climate. But the wind that rent the mountains before Elijah 1 Kings 19:11, and the tempest that desolated the land of Egypt Exodus 9:23-25, may serve to show us how welcome a secure place must be to one who is exposed to such formidable dangers. Yet no storms on earth can fully paint to us the dangers to which we are exposed by reason of sin Psalm 11:6. But the Lord Jesus Christ affords us perfect security from them all. In him we have a Goshen where no hail can come, a mountain which the wind can never affect. The billows, which shall overwhelm the whole creation besides, shall not be able to destroy us. In Christ, we have an ark that can never perish.

2. Comfort—

We, in this quarter of the globe, know as little of excessive drought and heat, as of overwhelming storms and tempests. But the state of the Israelites in the wilderness Exodus 17:2-3, and of Jonah at Nineveh Jon. 4:8, may aid our conceptions. How delightful was the gourd to him, and how reviving to them were the streams that gushed from the rock! And does not a soul oppressed with sin or persecution, or fainting with desire after righteousness, experience as much distress as they? Behold then the preciousness of Christ! He will be not only as a shade or as water to the weary and thirsting soul, but as "rivers of water" that can never be exhausted, and a "shadow of a great rock" through which the beams of the sun can never penetrate. Many can attest his excellency in these respects. Nor shall any who seek refuge in him be ever disappointed of their hope.

But as these things are spoken of Christ as "a man," it will be proper to show,

II. How we enjoy them in him as "a man"—

Christ is truly and properly God, but he is God manifest in the flesh; and it is to him as incarnate that we stand indebted for these blessings.

1. As man, he died for our sins—

To his atonement we owe all our hopes of salvation. If he had not expiated our guilt we could never have obtained mercy. If he had not purchased for us the gift of the Holy Spirit, we never could have mortified our inward corruptions. But through his death we are freed from the apprehensions of wrath; and through his Spirit we are filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy Romans 14:17. Hence our song will ever be, To him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and honor Revelation 1:5.

2. As man, he intercedes for us in Heaven—

As our peace was effected by the death of Christ, so is it maintained by his intercession. Now it is as man that he appears in the presence of God for us; and lives on purpose to carry on this part of his priestly office. By virtue of this, our persons and services find acceptance with God, pardon is given us for our renewed transgressions, and strength is imparted to surmount our manifold temptations. Hence is our salvation justly ascribed, and that in a very peculiar manner, to his intercession for us Hebrews 7:25.

3. As man, he is our Head and Representative—

Christ is the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47. Our life is now treasured up in him, that it may no longer be exposed to the assaults of our great adversary Colossians 3:3. It has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and that out of his fullness all should receive, who shall ever be partakers of his grace, or of his glory John 1:16. Whether we want wisdom to guide us, righteousness to justify us, or sanctification to make us holy, we must look for all of it in and through Christ. As in Adam, our first covenant-head, all died, so in Christ, our new covenant-head, shall all be made alive 1 Corinthians 15:22.

4. As man, he shall judge the world in the last day—

All judgment is committed to him because he is the Son of man John 5:27. And what can tend more to our security and comfort than this? Will He, who shed his blood for us, give up what he has so dearly purchased? or He who both interceded for us, and supplied our wants, consign us over to perdition? Will he not rather bear testimony in opposition to our fierce accuser, and own the work he had wrought both for us and in us? Doubtless, if we should feel a degree of security and comfort in having a very dear friend for our judge on earth, much more may we rejoice in having for our judge in the last day, him who bought us with his blood and renewed us by his Spirit.

We do not mean to exclude his Godhead from this great work of redemption: it is that which gives efficacy to all which he did and suffered as man. But nevertheless it is as man, that is, as the God-man, that we feel our relation to him, and have access unto him as our sympathizing friend.

INFERENCES—

1. What objects of pity are they who have no interest in Christ!

They are exposed to all the wrath of a sin-avenging God: And where, where will they flee for safety? Where will they even procure a drop of water in that land of drought and misery, to which they shall be banished? Alas! there is no protection but in this city of refuge; there is no water but in this fountain. O that men would consider what they shall do in the day of their visitation; and flee for refuge to the hope that is now set before them Hebrews 6:18.

2. How highly privileged are they who believe in Christ

They are not exempt from occasional distress either of soul or body, but they have an almighty Friend to whom they can carry their distress: they go to him when heavy-laden; and find rest unto their souls. They feel themselves secure in their blood-sprinkled dwellings. But their privileges will not be fully seen until the last day. Then how happy in having a covert from the wrath that overwhelms the ungodly world! Then to have their Savior both for their witness and their judge! Let us all cleave to him with full purpose of heart; and desire to know him more and more as "our friend and our beloved."

 

 

Isaiah 32:16-17

 

DISCOURSE 907

THE WORK OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS PEACE

Isaiah 32:16-17. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

THROUGH the introduction of sin into the world, man was altogether despoiled both of holiness and happiness: and the design of God in sending to us his Gospel was, to restore both the one and the other to our fallen race. This in a former chapter is set forth under the image of the brute creation, which, having through the fall of man been reduced to a state of the greatest disorder, shall be restored once more to universal harmony and peace. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den: they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea Isaiah. 116–9." In the passage before us the same truth is set forth under a different image, namely, that of the vegetable creation; which, having been reduced to the condition of a wilderness through the curse inflicted on it, shall be rendered fruitful, even beyond the most fertile parts of Palestine in the most fruitful seasons.

That the passage really relates to the times of the Gospel, does not admit of doubt. In the beginning of the chapter it is said, "Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness; and princes shall rule in judgment: and a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land verse 1, 2." A season indeed of great desolation should intervene between the prophecy and its accomplishment verse 9–11; but at the appointed time "the Spirit should be poured out in such abundance from on high, that the wilderness should become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be so productive as to be counted for a forest."

In my text the metaphor is explained: and we are told in plainer terms what shall be,

I. The character of Gospel times—

By "judgment and righteousness," I understand not merely that which is called justice between man and man, but universal holiness. And this will certainly characterize the Gospel dispensation—

This is evident from the very metaphor before us. In other parts of this prophecy the metaphor is yet further opened and explained. Thus in the 35th chapter it is said, "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose: it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon: they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God …. . For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert …. . And an high-way shall be there, and a way; and it shall be called the way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it; but the redeemed shall walk there Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 35:8-9." The change itself also is described in appropriate terms: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off Isaiah 55:13." The works of the flesh are here contrasted with the fruits of the Spirit: and it is declared, that these latter shall abound on the face of the whole earth; and that, "as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations Isaiah 61:11."

This is yet further evident from the universal testimony of Scripture. If we look into the Old Testament, we find the prophet Ezekiel describing that period thus: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and you shall keep my judgments, and do them Ezekiel 36:25-27." In the New Testament the same thing is continually declared. Even before the birth of our Savior, Zachariah, speaking of him as about to visit and redeem his people, represents the end of his advent as being to "deliver his people out of the hands of their (spiritual) enemies, that they may serve him without fear in righteousness and holiness before him all the days of their life Luke 1:67-75." And Paul assures us, that "the grace of God which brings salvation, was designed to teach us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world Titus 2:11-12."

But it is not the occasional existence, so much as the abiding habit, of holiness, which is to distinguish this day—

"Judgment is to dwell, and righteousness to remain," in this our field. At all times, and under all circumstances, piety is to prevail. We are to be "fruitful in every good work Hebrews 13:21, and "filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God Philippians 1:11." Our blessed Lord told his disciples, that he "had ordained them that they should go and bring forth fruit, and that their fruit should remain John 15:16;" and through the whole world are they to be distinguished as "a holy nation 1 Peter 2:9," "a peculiar people zealous of good works Titus 2:14."

Now it is greatly to be desired, that this distinction should be visible among us. But, if a heathen were directed by this mark to find the Gospel ministered in its purity, would he fix on us, on us individually, on us collectively, as possessing that inestimable treasure? Would he, if he followed us to our respective places of abode, and beheld the whole of our deportment through the day, and witnessed our spirit and temper under circumstances of trial, would he say, "That is the garden of the Lord, and those are the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, in which he is glorified Isaiah 58:11; Isaiah 61:3.": O Brethren, look well to this matter, and take care that you "shine as lights in a dark world, holding forth the word of life," not by your profession merely, but by the whole of your conduct and conversation Philippians 2:15-16.

That you may be encouraged to these exertions, consider,

II. The fruit of Gospel experience—

"The fruit of righteousness is peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." To this also the whole Scripture bears witness: and it is confirmed by fact also, that happiness is the inseparable companion of true piety. It is an attendant on piety,

1. As the natural result of holy habits—

A man cannot commit sin, but he will find it sooner or later productive of pain. He may roll it as a sweet morsel under his tongue for a moment; but it will prove the gall of asps within him. There is no exception to that truth, "The way of transgressors is hard." But there is not a grace which can be exercised that does not tranquillize the mind. All imaginable graces, whether towards God or man, may be resolved into the one principle of love: and how sweet that is, we need not to observe: it carries its own evidence along with it. In truth, this is the very thing asserted in our text; "The fruit of righteousness is peace:" peace is the odor which that holy ointment invariably diffuses; as the Psalmist has said, "In keeping God's commandments there is great reward."

If it be thought that the duties of penitence and self-denial are rather of a painful nature, we appeal to all who know what penitence and self-denial are, Whether they have not found an exquisite joy in penitential sorrow, and a more lively satisfaction in the exercise of self-denial, than in all the gratifications which sin could possibly administer? We say again, without fear of contradiction, that there is no exception to this rule.

2. As bringing with it the testimony of a good conscience—

This is a source of unspeakable comfort: "Our rejoicing is this," says the Apostle, "the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world 2 Corinthians 1:12." It will not unfrequently happen that our principles and conduct may be misinterpreted; so that we may incur blame on account of those very things, which, if rightly viewed, would have entitled us to applause: but, if we have a consciousness that we have really endeavored to fulfill the will of God, we shall not lay much to heart the obloquy that is cast upon us, but shall say with the Apostle, "It is a small matter to be judged of you or of man's judgment; yes, I judge not mine own self: but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:3-4." In the hour of death more especially will peace and assurance fill the soul of one who has truly and unreservedly devoted himself to God. Not that he will be trusting in a well-spent life as meritorious in the sight of God, or as able to justify him at the bar of judgment: no man who knows anything of the Gospel can entertain such a delusive hope as that; for the whole Scriptures testify that Christ alone is the foundation of a sinner's hope, and that no man can be accepted of God but through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus: but still a consciousness that we have truly lived to God and for God, in holy obedience to his commands, will be to us an evidence of the truth of our faith, and the sincerity of our love; and will inspire us with confidence in reference to the future judgment: for John says, "Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him: for if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things: but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God 1 John 3:18-20." And hence we may say to the whole world, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace Psalm 37:37."

3. As being honored with tokens of God's special approbation—

God will "manifest himself unto his people as he does not unto the world." He will "shed abroad his love in their hearts;" and by the immediate influences of "his Spirit bear witness to, and with, their spirits, that they are his children." He will "seal, as it were, their souls unto the day of redemption," and give them already "the earnest and foretaste of their eternal inheritance." But who are these favored people? Are they those who live in a neglect of holy duties, and in the commission of any known sin? No: "If any man regard iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear him Psalm 66:18;" much less will he favor him with such communications as these. But "of his children, who keep his law, great shall be the peace Isaiah 54:13. Psalm 119:165," even "a peace that passes all understanding:" "they shall go forthwith joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before them into singing; and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands Isaiah 55:12."

Learn then from hence, Brethren,

1. How to approve yourselves Christians indeed—

"By their fruits you shall know them," says our blessed Lord: and again, "Bring forth much fruit; so shall you be my disciples:" "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me." You well know that it is in this way that you form your estimate of a field, or of a tree: and this is the only true way of estimating your own character. Your professions are of no value, any further than the truth of them is attested by your practice. You may say, Lord, Lord, with as much confidence as you will: but, if you do not the will of your heavenly Father, Christ will disown you, and cast you from him at the last day. You may now so resemble the wheat among which you grow, as not to admit of being easily distinguished from it by a human eye, or separated from it by a human hand. But in the last day the tares and the wheat will be infallibly separated from each other; the one for the fire of Hell, the other for the granary of Heaven Matthew 13:28-30; Matthew 13:40-43. I say then, bring yourselves to this test: and never be satisfied with any faith or any profession, that does not approve itself genuine according to the standard of God's unerring word.

2. How to be happy in your own souls—

It is not any earthly gratification that can make you happy. Our Lord does not say, Blessed are the rich, the mirthful, the respected; but, "Blessed are the humble, the pure, the meek, and those who are even persecuted for righteousness' sake Matthew 5:3-12. Luke 6:20-26." We grant, that this is far from according with the sentiments of the world at large; but it is not the less true on that account. They who have never sought for happiness in God, can have no idea of the happiness that is to be found in him. But the more any one knows of the world, the more will he see that "Vanity and vexation of spirit" is written upon everything that is in it. Seek not then your happiness, beloved, in "broken cisterns that can hold no water, but seek it in the Fountain of living waters Jeremiah 2:13," even in Him who is a source of blessedness to all his people Psalm 36:9. Then shall you here enjoy "a full assurance of hope," while you live Hebrews 6:11; "have an abundant entrance into Heaven" when you die 2 Peter 1:10-11; and sit down forever "at the right hand of your God, where there is fullness of joy for evermore Psalm 16:11."

 

 

Isaiah 33:6

 

DISCOURSE 908

THE USE AND EXCELLENCY OF TRUE WISDOM

Isaiah 33:6. Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of your times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.

THIS is spoken respecting Hezekiah, king of Judah. His country had been invaded by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, by whom all the fenced cities of Judah had been taken. To arrest his course, and to save Jerusalem itself, Hezekiah sent to implore forgiveness for having rebelled against Sennacherib (to whom King Ahaz had made the kingdom tributary), and to declare his readiness to submit to any terms which the conqueror should impose. A very heavy contribution in silver and gold, amounting to above 266,000/, was exacted of him; and he was constrained to send "all the silver that was found in the House of the Lord and in the king's house, and to cut off the gold from the doors of the Temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which he himself had overlaid," in order to satisfy the demand 2 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 18:16. Having thus paid the tribute, he hoped for peace. But Sennacherib soon violated his engagement; and, setting aside the treaty, sent his servant against Jerusalem, with an immense army, to besiege it verse 17. No hope now remained to Hezekiah, but from God himself; to whom he applied in fervent prayer 2 Chronicles 32:20. And, on that occasion, the Prophet Isaiah, who had joined with him in crying unto God, was inspired to denounce against Sennacherib this judgment: "Woe to you that spoil, and you were not spoiled; and deal treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with you! When you shall cease to spoil, you shall be spoiled; and when you shall make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with you verse 1." This was speedily and literally fulfilled: for a hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib's army being slain by an angel in one night, the remainder of them broke up the siege and retreated, leaving a great quantity of spoil behind them: and Sennacherib himself, on his return home, was "murdered by his own sons, while he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his God Isaiah 37:36-38." Thus did prayer effect what all the wealth of Hezekiah was unable to accomplish: and the reformation made among his subjects procured for him what all his armies had in vain endeavored to effect—a complete deliverance from his powerful and victorious enemies: "Wisdom and knowledge, accompanied with real piety, became to him the stability of his times, and the strength of salvation: and the fear of the Lord was his best and most effectual treasure."

Now, from this passage I will take occasion to show the influence of true wisdom: First, As promoting the stability of an empire: and, Secondly, As advancing the prosperity of the soul.

I. Consider wisdom as promoting the stability of an empire—

By "wisdom and knowledge" we are not to understand what we generally comprehend under the term "science;" for we do not apprehend that the Jewish nation, at that time, or indeed at any time, made any grout proficiency in that species of learning. By "wisdom and knowledge" is meant a conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God; a wisdom inseparably connected with "the fear of the Lord." This appears from the preceding verse, where it is said, "The Lord is exalted; for he dwells on high: He has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness: and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of your times, and strength of salvation: the tear of the Lord is his treasure." Indeed, it may be doubted whether what we call learning and science do at all necessarily advance the stability of an empire. They are doubtless of very extensive use to an empire, in a variety of views: but they are capable of great abuse; and, if separated from religion, may lead to the overthrow, as well as to the establishment, of an empire; as the recent history of a neighboring kingdom has evinced. But the knowledge of which my text speaks, is a security to a kingdom. That "knowledge" is thus described by the Prophet Jeremiah: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows ME, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lord Jeremiah 9:23-24." This explanation of the terms necessarily leads our minds to God as reconciled to us in the Son of his love: for it is in Christ Jesus alone that "the loving-kindness" of God has free scope for exercise towards fallen man; or indeed can be exercised at all, consistently with the demands of "righteousness and judgment:" and it is this knowledge alone which generates a filial "fear" in the heart of man.

Now, of this "wisdom and knowledge" it may be justly affirmed, that it tends to the stability of every empire in which it is found. So far as it prevailed at any time in the Jewish State, (for it was revealed to them, though darkly, in their ceremonial law,) they prospered: and whenever it was banished, they were delivered up into the hand of their enemies; as their whole history very clearly shows. The separation of the ten tribes, which proved such a permanent and fatal calamity to the whole nation, was appointed of God as a punishment for that iniquity which Solomon had introduced, and which had overspread the whole land. On the other hand, in consequence of the reformation introduced by Hezekiah, (which gave, as it were, for a time, a new character to his people,) the Prophet says, "Their place of defense shall be the munition of rocks; bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sure verse 16;" yes, "the Lord will be to them as a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein can go no galley with oars, neither can gallant ship pass thereby verse 21;" that is, while they were protected by the river, they should be inaccessible by vessels of any kind, the waters being too tempestuous for smaller boats, and too full of rocks and shoals to be navigated by larger ships; and thus, in the midst of hostile nations, should "Jerusalem be a quiet habitation, and a tabernacle that not all the power of their most inveterate enemies could move verse 20."

True it is, that we, at this day, are not to look for such visible interpositions of the Deity as were given to the Jews under what we may call their Theocracy. But God is still the Governor of the Universe, and does still deal with his people, in a measure, as in former days; punishing or protecting them, according as their iniquities are flagrant, or their piety profound. And I cannot but think, that though, for our abounding iniquities, God sorely chastened our nation in the last war, the prayers of thousands in this land prevailed to avert from us a vast pressure of calamity, to which all the rest of Europe was exposed. Certain I am, that "true wisdom and knowledge" have a proper tendency to promote our national welfare: as it is said, "Righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is the reproach of any people Proverbs 14:34." Mere science may be associated with everything that is evil: but piety, so far as it is true and genuine, will diffuse, through all ranks of people, a due attention to their respective duties, calling forth from Rulers equity and benevolence, and generating among subjects the habits of industry and content. Formed as human nature is, we cannot expect these things to be universal: but I hesitate not to say, that, in proportion as piety is the predominant feature of any people, there will be among them a patriotic ardor for the benefit of the community, and a simultaneous effort for the promotion of it.

But, to bring the matter more home to our own business and bosoms, I proceed to observe,

II. That "wisdom and knowledge, when attended with a fear of the Lord," will advance the prosperity of the soul.

"The fear of the Lord" is an essential part of true wisdom: as the Psalmist has said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom Psalm 111:10." And this is indeed "a treasure," an inestimable treasure, to every one that possesses it: it is, in fact, a mine of wealth, of intellectual wealth, of moral wealth, of spiritual wealth, and of eternal wealth.

It is a source of Intellectual wealth. However this wisdom may, by many, be reputed folly, and considered as an indication of a weak mind, it most assuredly enlarges the understanding, and elevates its possessor above his fellows; yes, and above others also, who in natural capacity, and in literary attainments, are far his superiors. If we set before us two persons, one illiterate, and the other versed in arts and sciences, we should suppose, of course, that there can be no comparison between the two in point of intellect: and this is true, so far as arts and sciences are concerned; but let the weaker of them be imbued with divine wisdom, and actuated by the fear of God, and he will have a far juster apprehension of all the things of time and sense than the man of learning has ever attained. David says, "I have more understanding than all my teachers; for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts Psalm 119:98-100." The mere worldly man, in his estimate of things, keeps eternity out of view: no wonder, therefore, that he "calls evil good, and good evil; and puts darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter Isaiah 5:20." But the man who is taught of God has learned to view things in their true light, even as God himself views them; and he speaks of them in accordance with the representation given of them in the inspired volume. The principle of piety which is implanted in his soul has corrected and rectified his judgment: and if the conversation of these two men, the learned and the unlearned, each with his fellows, for the space of one hour, were recorded, we should be perfectly amazed at the mass of error contained in the one; while truth, with perhaps scarcely any mixture of error, pervaded the other. In fact, if the most learned of unregenerate men were, in his daily conversation, to betray as much ignorance of philosophical truth as he does of moral and religious truth, he would, to say the least, stand very low in the estimation of all who knew him: so true is that declaration of our blessed Lord, that "God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes Matthew 11:25." I again therefore say, that the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus is that which alone deserves the name of "wisdom;" and that all other knowledge, though, in reference to earthly things, of the highest value, is yet, in reference to heavenly things, no better than learned folly; as the Scriptures have most pointedly declared: for it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world 1 Corinthians 1:19-20."

But next, this knowledge is a mine of moral wealth. A man imbued with divine "wisdom" has within himself an entirely new standard, whereby to judge of morals, and to regulate his life. Previous to the enlightening of his mind by the Spirit of God, and to his acquaintance with God as reconciled to him in Christ Jesus, he was satisfied with refraining from outward acts of sin: he took little notice of his inward inclinations: he thought little of the sensual look, or the angry word; though God himself tells us, that in his estimation, the one is adultery, and the other murder. He made little account, also, of what the Apostle calls "spiritual filthiness 2 Corinthians 7:1;" such as, pride, envy, discontent, covetousness, and the whole list of corruptions that reside chiefly in the soul. In a word, he was ignorant of the extent of the moral law, which requires a perfect conformity to God's mind and will in everything. But now he can be satisfied with nothing less than a perfect transformation into the divine image. He longs to "mortify the whole body of sin:" and his one continued labor through life is, to "put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and to put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:22-24."

Now, then, compare him with the unregenerate man in this respect also; and say whether he is not greatly enriched by his heavenly knowledge, and this fear of God? If it be true that man by sin was impoverished at first: then it is also true, that every man is enriched in proportion as he is sanctified. We may instance this in one single disposition, "a meek and quiet spirit;" respecting which I am authorized to affirm, that, in the sight of God, "it is an ornament of great price 1 Peter 3:4." Our Lord compares such graces to "gold tried in the fire;" and declares the possessor of them to be truly "rich Revelation 3:18." We say, then, in reference to all such moral attainments, that they are a rich "treasure;" since "godliness, with contentment, is great gain 1 Timothy 6:6."

I may further add, that this wisdom is a mine of spiritual wealth. Here I must bespeak your candor; because, in bringing forth "the deep things of God 1 Corinthians 2:10," I may be led into a field not commonly explored by the great and learned 1 Corinthians 1:26-28. But, without entering into this view of divine wisdom, I cannot do justice to my subject. I observe, then, that "the fear of God" opens, if I may so say, a new world to him in whom it is found. To speak of God as giving to his redeemed people a new sense, would doubtless be erroneous: for the spiritual man has no new faculty, but only a new application and use of the faculties he before possessed: but the Spirit of God, at the time of our conversion, does bring new objects to our senses; and enables us, through faith, to discern things which are altogether hid from the carnal man 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:14. Nor let this appear strange. We all know the power of glasses to bring to our view things which, on account of their diminutiveness or distance, are incapable of being clearly discerned by our unassisted organs. We know, too, the power of light, which can render even the motes in the air visible to the naked eye, yes, and visible to one man, while they are hid from another who is close at his side. Now, such is the power with which the Spirit of God invests us, when he imparts to us "a spiritual discernment 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:14." He brings to the eye of our minds "Him who is invisible Hebrews 11:27;" and reflects such a light upon spiritual objects, as to give us a clear apprehension of them, and to make us as certain of their existence as if we beheld them with our bodily eyes. For instance, the man who is truly taught of God, sees God himself upon his throne as a reconciled God and Father; and beholds also the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, perpetually interceding for him. He apprehends, also, the love of God beaming in the Savior's countenance; and "comprehends it too, so far as a finite creature can comprehend it, in all its breadth and length, and depth and height Ephesians 3:18-19." By the Holy Spirit, also, he is enabled to realize in his soul those divine impressions, "a spirit of adoption," "the witness of the Spirit," "the sealing of the Spirit," and "the earnest of the Spirit;" and by means of these impressions, he feels "the love of God shed abroad in his heart," and is filled with "a peace that passes all understanding," and "a joy that is unspeakable and glorified."

I am aware that I have here entered upon ground untrodden by the natural man, and therefore unknown to him, and despised by him. But "among them that are perfect," as the Apostle says, "we speak wisdom; not indeed the wisdom of this world, but the wisdom of God in a mystery," which yet is "revealed to all whom God instructs by his Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:6-7; 1 Corinthians 2:10." And now, I ask, What "treasure" in the universe can be compared with this 1 What is all earthly science in comparison of this? It is only as the twinkling of a star when compared with the splendor of the noon-day sun. This is well called "a treasure hid in a field:" to purchase which, every wise man will part with all that he possesses in the world Matthew 13:44.

But we can never appreciate this wisdom aright, until we regard it as putting us into the possession of eternal wealth. We are told, that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come 1 Timothy 4:8." Its value, if this world alone were considered, would be inestimable: but when eternity is taken into the account, "its riches are absolutely unsearchable;" so that if all the angels in Heaven were to exert their powers, they would never be able to compute them. Who shall say what it is to be admitted into the presence of the Most High; to behold the Savior face to face; to participate his throne, and to be joint-heirs of his glory? In attempting to bring before you such a subject as this, we only "darken counsel by words without knowledge." But all the glory and felicity of Heaven are ours, if only we truly fear God. Indeed, God himself tells us, that "his delight is in them that fear him." And what, I would ask, shall be done to those whom God delights to honor? Not even the angels around the throne are so blessed as they whom the Savior has washed in his own blood, and clothed in his own righteousness, and "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy Jude, verse 24;" for the saints are represented as standing immediately around the throne of God; whereas the angels are placed in an exterior circle round about the saints Revelation 7:9-11. And well it may be so, since the angels have but the righteousness of a creature; while the saints are clothed in the righteousness of Emmanuel, their redeeming God. I need not ask what the wisdom of this world can do for us in comparison of this? In the view of these things, it is mere "foolishness 1 Corinthians 3:19." It may edify and exalt us in this world; but it can do nothing for us in the world to come.

Enough, I think, has now been said to elucidate my text; and to show, that that "wisdom" which brings in its train "the fear of God" is the richest of all "treasures;" and that, though a man possess nothing else, "in having that, he really possesses all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

And now permit me to recommend this wisdom to your special attention. For the attainment of it, all our noble institutions were formed, and especially those which were established by our pious Founder Preached at the Commemoration in King's Chapel, on March 25, 1828; the first Founder's Day after the opening of the new Hall. And certainly our advantages, for the prosecution of it, are exceedingly great. Our freedom from earthly cares, and our seclusion from the world, afford us valuable opportunities for the acquisition of self-knowledge, and the knowledge of our God. Let us only be convinced that the pursuit of these is "wisdom," and that the possession of them is "treasure," and we shall have reason to bless our God for the peculiar benefits which we here enjoy. Let me not, however, be thought to undervalue science. I am far from wishing to detract from its merits. It is, as I have before said, of exceeding great value, both to the State, and to the person enriched by it. It has in the world a just pre-eminence above rank or wealth, and deservedly raises the possessor of it in the estimation of until around him. It is not the man of splendid title, or of great estate, that stands high in the esteem of his countrymen; but the man who, by his wisdom and knowledge, is enabled to explore the depths of philosophy, and to instruct mankind in the different departments of learning and science. I therefore would earnestly press upon my auditors, a diligent prosecution of knowledge in all those branches which are held in repute among us, and which administer to the improvement both of ourselves and others. But yet, its God, without intending to depreciate the sacrifices which he had enjoined, says, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice;" so, without intending to disparage human learning, I would say, "Wisdom, divine wisdom, is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom; and with all your getting, get understanding Proverbs 4:7." Follow David in this respect: "One thing have I desired of the Lord," says he, "which I will seek after, even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple Psalm 27:4." And, if for this you are called to make any sacrifice, learn from Paul to say, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord Philippians 3:7-8." I would further say, Spare no pains for the attainment of this knowledge. We well know what labor many endure in the prosecution of earthly knowledge; and shall we do less for the attainment of that which is divine? Nor let us be satisfied with a superficial view, and a slight experience, of these things; but rather, whatever we may have attained, let us, with Paul, "forget the things which are behind; and reach forth unto those that are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:12-14." We have enemies, greater than Sennacherib, to withstand, and difficulties greater than Hezekiah's to overcome. We have to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil: but the principle which prevailed in Hezekiah will prevail in us; and the victory which awaited him awaits us also, if we will betake ourselves to God in prayer, and place all our confidence in him alone. "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the strength of salvation" to us; and we shall be "more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

And well may such a victory be expected of us. We have long been, through the munificence of our Founder, and are now become, in a more especial manner, elevated to a very high degree of celebrity through the splendor of our outward appointments. Why, then, should we not be alike distinguished for our eminence in those moral excellencies which he wished us to aspire after; and which we are bound, by every consideration of gratitude and of duty, to display? He sought not to make us rich in this world, but "rich towards God:" and by the competence he has provided for us, he has cut off all excuse as arising from the pressure of conflicting duties. The world, then, may well expect this at our hands. And does not God expect it also? It is He, in fact, who has brought us hither, and invested us with these advantages. Yes, he has done infinitely more for us: he has given us his only-begotten Son, "who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich 2 Corinthians 8:9." Let us seek, then, "the true riches," even those which Christ has purchased for us on the cross, and which he freely offers to us in his Gospel. We must all admit, that these treasures have had but little attraction hitherto in our eyes, and that we have sadly misimproved the talent committed to us. But henceforth let us awake to our duty, and no longer hide our talent in a napkin. Let us remember, that "where much has been given, much will be required;" and that if we labor not for these riches, we only deceive our own souls: for "where our treasure is, there will our heart be also."

 

 

Isaiah 33:16

 

DISCOURSE 909

PROTECTION PROMISED TO THE GODLY

Isaiah 33:16. He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

WE cannot judge of men's moral state by the dispensations of God's providence towards them. Among the Jews indeed virtue was inculcated and enforced chiefly by temporal sanctions; and their national prosperity or adversity bore a very manifest reference to their national conduct. In some degree also the same observation will extend to individuals among them. But to us, under the Gospel, God has not bound himself to distinguish his favorites by any temporal advantages. Nevertheless, what the pious Jews enjoyed visibly in relation to their bodies, that the obedient Christian shall enjoy invisibly in his soul.

To enter properly into the subject before us, we must consider,

I. The character to whom the promise is made—

This appears clearly in the two preceding verses; in one of which it is implied, and in the other it is clearly expressed:

1. He is sincere in his profession of religion—

The greater part of the Jews were "sinners in Zion, and hypocrites;" and they had good reason to tremble for their approaching calamities. The person spoken of in the text is placed in direct opposition to them: he really belongs to Zion, and to Zion's God: he does not make religion a cloak for habitual and indulged lusts; or profess what he does not experience: if he implore mercy as a "miserable sinner;" and declare his trust in the mere "mercy of God through Christ Jesus;" and desire "that he may henceforth live a sober, righteous, and godly life, to the glory of God's holy name," he does not mock God with unmeaning words, or hypocritically assume a character which belongs not to him: he feels in his heart what he utters with his lips; and desires to fulfill his duties in Zion, as much as to enjoy her privileges.

2. He is consistent in the practice of it—

He has learned in a measure that important lesson, "Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good Romans 12:9." The whole tenor of his conversation is agreeable to the strictest rules of righteousness. In all his dealings he is both just and honorable, not taking advantage of the ignorance or necessities of others, but endeavoring to do as he would be done unto. Nor is he less observant of his words than of his actions: he not only "walks righteously," but "speaks uprightly:" he rigidly adheres to truth, and avoids every deviation from it, whether in criminating others, or exculpating himself.

As he thus "cleaves to what is good, so he abhors that which is evil." Could he gain ever so much by an act of oppression, or were he offered ever so great a bribe to bias his judgment und to violate his conscience, he would "despise the gain," and "shake from his hands the polluted gift" with utter abhorrence. Were he advised to do anything injurious or vindictive, he would "stop his ears" with indignation, and not allow the thought for one moment to dwell upon his mind. Did a contaminating object present itself to his view, or anything whereby his own corruptions might be stirred up, he would "shut his eyes," even like holy Job, who "made a covenant with his eyes that he would not look upon a maid Job 31:1."

We say not that the Christian is never drawn aside through the influence of temptation and corruption; (for then where shall we find a Christian upon earth?) but if at any time he be overtaken with a fault, he returns to God with deepest humiliation and contrition, and renews his course with increased vigilance and circumspection.

That this is indeed the character to whom alone the promise in the text is made, is evident from parallel passages in the Psalms Psalm 15:1-5; Psalm 24:3-5, and from the strongest possible declarations in the New Testament 1 John 3:6-10. O that all persons, whether professors of religion or others, would duly consider this!. Our conduct must be upright towards God and man: we must embrace the religion of the Gospel with sincerity, and adorn it by a holy conversation: nor can a person of any other character than this have any part or lot in the promises of God.

Let us now turn our attention to,

II. The promise itself—

To understand this, we must consider the occasion whereon it was delivered. The Assyrian army, that had overrun almost the whole of Judea, were now encompassing Jerusalem. The wicked Jews are given up to terror and consternation; but the righteous are encouraged with a promise of,

1. Protection—

A fortress situated on an eminence which no weapons can reach, and founded on a rock which no human efforts can shake, may be considered as impregnable. Such a place should Jerusalem be to God's obedient people.

To us, who are surrounded with spiritual enemies, the promise has a spiritual import. "The archers will shoot at us:" the world, the flesh, and the devil will combine against us to destroy us: but the true Christian "shall dwell on high," out of their reach; and "his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks" which cannot be undermined. If his enemies wound his body, they shall "not be able to kill his soul;" for that is "hid with Christ in God:" and he may say to his enemies, as Hezekiah said to the besieging and blaspheming General, "The virgin the daughter of Zion has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you 2 Kings 19:21."

2. Provision—

There are but two ways in which a fortress, which will not capitulate, can be taken; namely, by assault or famine. Against both of these God promised to guard his obedient people: for as their fortress should be impregnable, so it should be supplied with manna from Heaven, and with water springing out of the rocks on which they dwelt. To us also the promise may be applied with strictest propriety. Our enemies may deal with us as with Paul and Silas of old, who were cruelly scourged, and thrust into an inner prison, and their feet were made fast in the stocks: but, though there was no access to them for earthly friends, were the visits of their God intercepted? Could their supplies of strength and consolation be cut off? Did not rather their consolations abound as their afflictions abounded? Thus it shall be with us: "broad shall be given us" for the support of our souls, and "the Holy Spirit shall be within us a well of water, springing up" for our continual refreshment. Difficulties and dangers we may experiences but they shall issue only in the contusion of our enemies, and in brighter discoveries of God's power und grace.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who rest in presumptuous hopes—

The wicked Jews laughed at the judgments of God when they were at a distance, but were filled with horror at their approach, and cried out, "Who shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Similar consternation will before long seize on those who now slight the threatenings of the Gospel. The day of vengeance is hastening on apace, and God will then show himself to be "a consuming fire Hebrews 12:29." How will his enemies then stand appalled Psalm 73:19. How "will they cry to the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb Revelation 6:15-17." How terrible will the devouring fire then appear! How awful those everlasting burnings in which they will be doomed to dwell! Let the "sinners in Zion," the people who name the name of Christ without departing from iniquity, awake from their delusions; let "the hypocrites" also deceive themselves no longer. Let a holy fear possess all our souls: let us cry out, as on the day of Pentecost, "What shall we do to be saved?" and let us improve the present season of God's mercy and forbearance in "fleeing from the wrath to come."

2. To those who are agitated with unbelieving fears—

Many spend their time in anxious inquiries, Will God save me? Well would it be if we would leave God to do his part, and mind only our own. God's part is, to save us: ours is, to serve and glorify him. This is obvious in the passage before us, and in numberless other passages of Holy Writ. We have nothing to fear but sin. Let us be sincere in embracing the Gospel, and consistent in obeying it, and we need not fear the united attempts of men and devils. God is engaged to be the God of his believing and obedient people: and, "if he be for us, who can be against us?" He will "hide us in his pavilion Psalm 27:5," where we shall be surrounded with hosts of angels for our guard, and supplied with the richest viands for our support: and "in the floods of great waters they shall not come near us Psalm 32:6-7." Let us then dismiss our unbelieving fears, and look to him to "fulfill his promises, wherein he has caused us to put our trust."

 

 

Isaiah 33:20-22

 

DISCOURSE 910

THE CHURCH'S SECURITY

Isaiah 33:20-22. Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: your eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

IN times of national calamity or danger, if we do not immediately see the means of our preservation, "our hearts are apt to meditate terror," and to tremble even for the ark of God. But, though we ought to mourn for the desolations of Zion, and to desire its prosperity, we may safely leave the concerns of the church to him who has founded it on a rock, and who is incessantly engaged for its defense. God may purge his floor, and burn up the chaff; but he will not suffer one grain of pure wheat to be lost. This was the consolatory truth with which the prophet encouraged the godly, while he foretold the miseries which the Jewish nation should endure in the Babylonish captivity: and it is equally applicable to the church of God in all ages. In the words before us are contained,

I. The promise which God makes to his Church—

The Church is here compared to Jerusalem and the tabernacle, particularly with a view to its weakness and danger—

Jerusalem was "the city of their solemnities," where all the tribes went up at stated seasons to worship God: and the tabernacle was the place where God in a more especial manner revealed himself to his believing people. But though, in these points of view, they were objects of God's peculiar regard, they were at the same time peculiarly exposed to danger. Jerusalem was encompassed with enemies, who incessantly sought its destruction: and the tabernacle (which on this account is mentioned rather than the temple) was assailed by storms and tempests, in the wilderness, und in Shiloh, for many hundred years.

Thus the Church is that society of godly persons, to which all in every place unite themselves, as soon as ever they are converted to God: and it enjoys exclusively the manifestations of God's love and favor. But it is hated by the world with a deadly hatred: and is often menaced by all the powers of earth and Hell.

But God promises that, notwithstanding its weakness, it shall enjoy quietness and stability—

This was in part fulfilled in the preservation of the Jews at those seasons when all the males were withdrawn from the country, and collected in Jerusalem; none of their enemies ever being permitted to take advantage of their absence, and to attack their land at those times, It was also fulfilled in part, when the temple worship was restored after the Babylonish captivity. But its full accomplishment must be looked for in the apostolic and millennial periods. In the days of the Apostles the Church was assaulted on every side; but it defied the storms, and stood unmoved in the midst of all its enemies. Hypocrites indeed were cast down; but the Church itself stood; "not one of its stakes was moved, nor one of its cords broken." From the days of Christ to the latest period of time may it be said, with exultation and triumph, "Look upon our Zion;" though apparently defenseless, it stands secure; though fiercely assailed, it is "a quiet habitation;" though it be as a sycamore planted in the midst of the sea, it can never be rooted up. What our ears have heard, "our eyes have seen;" and we believe that it shall endure to all generations.

Nor will this appear improbable, if we consider,

II. The means of its accomplishment—

The way whereby this promise shall be fulfilled, is set forth,

1. Figuratively—

Jerusalem was despised as having no river to protect it, as the Church also is on account of its defenseless state. But God promises that "he himself will be to it as a broad and rapid river." But it may be said that if, in one view, a river defends a city, in another view it affords means of attacking it to advantage. But God fully obviates this by saying, that he will be such a river as shall not be navigated by vessels, either great or small: yes, that in protecting his Church, he will show himself to be "the glorious," the irresistible "Jehovah." Hence that triumphant language of the Psalmist, "Walk about Zion, and go round about her, tell the towers thereof; mark well her Bulwarks, consider her palaces, that you may tell it to the generation following; for this God is our God forever and ever Psalm 48:12-14."

2. Plainly—

The Church is under the immediate government of God, as Israel was of old. He is its Judge, its Lawgiver, and its King, who, while he requires the obedience of his people, is pledged by that very relation to afford them his protection. Men, standing in that relation to us, may be overcome; and we may fall together with them: but we are thrice reminded, that it is Jehovah who is our defense. Whom then can we have to fear, when the honor, the power, the veracity of Jehovah are pledged for our protection? How absurd is it to be alarmed on account of our own weakness, or of the power and malignity of our enemies! The answer which David gave to those who persuaded him to flee, is that which should be our solace in the most discouraging circumstances; "How say you to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain, for the foundations are destroyed, and what can the righteous do?" (Tell me not of the failure of earthly helps; for) "Jehovah is in his holy temple, Jehovah's throne is in Heaven Psalm 11:1-4."

INFERENCES—

1. Where we are to look for the continued enjoyment of our religious privileges—

It is a mercy to us, that, notwithstanding the enmity of the carnal mind against God is as great as ever, we are preserved by the laws from such persecutions as have been endured by the Church in former ages. But men are changing, and laws may change with them. Our safety therefore does not depend on man, but on God: and on him alone must we rely for the peace and prosperity of Zion. Let us trust in him; and "he will be a wall of fire round about us, and the glory in the midst of us Zechariah 2:5."

2. Where we are to look for the peace and stability of our own souls—

We should first take care that God be indeed the Judge, the Lawgiver, and the King whom we sincerely obey: for, if we refuse allegiance to him, it will be in vain to expect protection from him. But, if we have the testimony of our conscience that we devote ourselves sincerely to him, we may say with David, "I will not fear, though the earth be moved, and the hills be carried into the midst of the sea." We have an almighty Defender, who is interested in the welfare of his subjects, and is moreover pledged to us by promise and by oath. Let us then "believe his declaration; so shall we prosper; and believe his promises; so shall we be established:" "we shall be even as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but stands fast forever 2 Chronicles 20:20. Psalm 125:1."

 

 

Isaiah 33:23

DISCOURSE 911

ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE WEAK

Isaiah 33:23. The lame take the pray.

IT is impossible to read the Scriptures with attention, and not be struck with the amazing condescension of God, towards the poor, the weak, the desponding. I think we may say, that if God had permitted them to dictate to him what he should say for their encouragement, they could never have ventured to put into his mouth what he has really spoken; so inconceivably gracious and condescending are the promises which he has given them. Let us only look at one or two which are recorded by the Prophet Isaiah. Speaking of his enemies, who thought to injure his people with impunity, he says, "He brings down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he lays it low; he lays it low, even to the ground; he brings it even to the dust: the foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the feet of the needy Isaiah 26:5-6." And again: "Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain Isaiah 10:4;" that is, if there were not one of my people whom they had not imprisoned or slain, the prisoners should come forth from their dungeons, and the slain should arise from their graves, to crush and to destroy them. Indeed God assumes this as his very name whereby he is to be known: "The Lord is his name, that strengthens the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress Amos. 5:8-9." It is with this view that the words of my text were uttered. The Assyrians menaced Jerusalem with an immense, and, as they supposed, an irresistible army; and God comforted his people by an assurance, not only that their enemies should not prevail, but that they should flee, and leave an immense booty behind them; and that even "the lame among his people," who were scarcely able to walk, should yet go forth and "seize the spoil," and be enriched by it.

To mark the force of this expression, I will show,

I. How it was fulfilled on the occasion referred to—

So exceeding large and powerful was the Assyrian army that was besieging Jerusalem, that there seemed to be no hope of deliverance, but by means of some special interposition of the Deity himself Isaiah 36:1-22; As for Hezekiah and his people, they seemed to be in the situation of a travailing woman, who, not having strength to bring forth, was at the point of death Isaiah 37:1-3. But prayer was made by him and the Prophet Isaiah to the Lord: and "in one night an angel of the Lord slew no less than one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army:" upon which the rest of the army retired in haste, leaving all their property behind them; so that all the people of Jerusalem, like Samaria on another occasion, were enriched by it, and the very weakest among them seized his portion of the prey Isaiah 37:4; Isaiah 37:36-37. Thus was the promise in my text literally fulfilled; and a pledge was given to the Church, that neither men nor devils should ever prevail against those who should put their trust in Him.

The text, thus explained, may serve to show us, in a measure,

II. How it is fulfilling at this time—

Still are the weak triumphant, through the power and grace of God.

Are any weak in understanding?

Fear not: deep as the mysteries of our holy religion are, and infinitely as they surpass the powers of unassisted reason to comprehend, you shall comprehend them, if you look to God for the teaching of his good Spirit: yes, "you shall comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge Ephesians 3:18-19;" while the wise of this world shall "account them nothing but foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:23." So it was with the poorer classes of the community in the days of our blessed Lord: "they heard his word gladly," and received it thankfully; while the Scribes and Pharisees "rejected the counsel of God against themselves." Thus it was also in the Apostle's days. Paul appealed to those at Corinth: "You see your calling, Brethren, now that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence 1 Corinthians 1:26-29." And to all who come to Christ for instruction, it is promised that their eyes shall be opened to see the truth, since God had determined that "the things which were hid from the wise and prudent should be revealed unto babes Matthew 11:25." Thus is provision made, even for the weakest, to guide them into all truth; and an assurance is given, that "the way-faring man, though a fool, shall not err therein Isaiah 35:8."

Are any weak in grace?

They need not despond: for "it is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perish Matthew 18:14." "Christ will carry the Lambs in his bosom, and gently lead that which is with young Isaiah 40:11." Weakness, if felt and deplored, shall never prevent the ultimate success of any soul whatever. Indeed conscious weakness is, if I may so speak, a source of strength, since it will constrain a man to look unto Christ for strength; and "Christ will perfect his own strength in his people's weakness:" So true is that paradoxical expression of Paul, "When I am weak, then am I strong 2 Corinthians 12:8-10." When did we ever hear of one "who was plucked out of the Savior's hands John 10:28." We are assured by the prophet, that, however violently God's people may be sifted, "not so much as the smallest grain shall ever fall to the earth Amos. 9:9." The weakest person in the universe shall "be able to do all things, through the strength of Christ Philippians 4:13;" and however numerous his trials be, he shall be more than conqueror, through Him that loved him Romans 8:37."

Are any weak in faith?

This is the most discouraging state of all; because a person strong in faith cannot fail of obtaining all that he can desire Matthew 21:22; whereas a person of a wavering and doubtful mind has but little reason to expect such ready communications as his necessities may require James 1:6-7. Still, however, if our faith be genuine, it shall prevail; and though it be only as a grain of mustard-seed, yet shall it enable its possessor to pluck up a mountain by its roots, and cast it into the sea Matthew 21:21. "To him that believes, nothing shall be impossible Matthew 17:20." And it is worthy of observation, that salvation is promised, not to him that is strong in faith, but to him that believes. Our commission from Christ himself is, to declare, without any reserve, "He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved; and he who believes not, shall be damned Mark 16:15-16."

Thus, at this present time, is the text fulfilled to the least and weakest of God's people; not one of them, however lame, being so left as not ultimately to "take the prey."

But we are yet further to show,

III. How it shall be fulfilled in the millennial age—

To this period does the prophet apply the very same kind of language as that which I have already so copiously cited from him: "The Lord will have mercy on Jacob; and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors Isaiah 14:1-2." It seems impossible that the whole world of Jews and Gentiles should be so effectually combated, as to be turned to the worship of the true God, especially by such weak instruments as are now upon earth. But who spread our holy religion through the whole Roman Empire? A few poor fishermen. And what if the servants of God at this day be but few and weak; Is not God able to work by them? Has he not even "put his treasure into earthen vessels, on purpose that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of Him, and not of us 2 Corinthians 4:7." How did the walls of Jericho fall, but by the sound of rams' horns? and how were the host of Midian vanquished, but by the breaking of Gideon's lamps, and the vociferation of a few dispersed men? What effects, then, may we not expect from the preached Gospel at this day, if God be pleased to accompany it with his power from on high? It is as able at this day, as ever it was, to "cast down everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:4-5;" and in God's good time it shall run and be glorified throughout the whole earth 2 Thessalonians. 3:1." Unbelief, viewing the world as dead in trespasses and sins, is ready to ask, "Can these dry bones live?" But, in answer to this, I say, Yes, they both can and shall live: and at the time when God, in answer to the prayers of his servants, shall be pleased to pour out his Spirit upon them, they shall not only resume the human form, but "shall live, and stand up on their feet, an exceeding great army Ezekiel 37:1-10." "A nation shall be born in a day Isaiah 66:8;" and, by the simple preaching of a crucified Savior, "all the ends of the earth shall be brought to see the salvation of God Isaiah 52:10."

Behold then,

1. What encouragement is here given to serve the Lord—

No one need despond. There is no mountain of guilt that shall not be removed by the blood of Christ Isaiah 1:18; nor any inveteracy of corruption that shall not be subdued by the Spirit of Christ 2 Corinthians 12:9. Nor is there any confederacy, either of men or devils, that shall prevail to destroy the weakest saint upon the earth Matthew 16:18. "A worm shall thresh the mountains, and make them all like the dust of the summer threshing-floor Isaiah 41:14-15." But some, apprehending that there is somewhat peculiar in their case, are ready to ask, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? Yes: thus says the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children Isaiah 49:24-25." Be it known to all these, for their comfort, that "greater is he who is in them, than he who is in the world 1 John 4:4;" and that "it is not by might or by power that any one is to succeed, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts Zechariah 4:6."

2. What honor will be given to the Savior at the last day—

Every one, in that day, will bless himself as the most distinguished monument of mercy that is to be found in Heaven. When a saint looks back, and sees with what powers he has conflicted, and yet come off victorious, O! what thanks will he render to the Captain of his salvation, through whom alone he was enabled to maintain the conflict! and what songs of praise will he pour forth to God and to the Lamb forever! It was in proud self-confidence that the Jebusites defied David, saying, that "except he should take away the blind and the lame, (whom, if there were no others, they supposed capable of defending their impregnable fortress against him,) he should not come within their city 2 Samuel 5:6-8; but it is in dependence on Christ that we defy all our enemies, and say without fear, that "the blind and the lame shall repel them all." "His is the kingdom, and his the power; and his shall be the glory, forever and ever."

 

Isaiah 35:1-2

 

DISCOURSE 912

GLORIOUS PROSPECTS OF THE GOSPEL CHURCH

Isaiah 35:1-2. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God,

AS the planting of the Jews in Canaan was accompanied with the slaughter of the Canaanites, so in every age the establishment of God's Church on earth is represented as immediately connected with, and in a measure consequent upon, the judgments inflicted on her enemies. This appears, as in many other places, so especially from the words of our text; which are a continuation of the prophecy contained in the preceding chapter, or rather, a transition from one part of the subject to another part of the same subject. In the foregoing chapter, the destruction of the Edomites was predicted, as introductory to the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom. But the devastation of their country by Nebuchadnezzar did not by any means correspond with the strong expressions used to describe it; nor did the reformation under Hezekiah at all answer to the exalted terms in which the prosperity of Zion is set forth. The true sense of the passage must be found in events yet future. Edom is here considered as a type of all the Church's enemies, which at some future period will be fearfully destroyed; and then will the Church be enlarged and prosper, in a way that has never yet been seen upon earth. "For them," that is, for those judgments before spoken of, "will the wilderness and the solitary place be glad," because they will open a way for the accomplishment of God's gracious designs towards his Church and people.

The words, as thus explained, lead us naturally to contemplate,

I. The state of persons and places unenlightened by the Gospel—

Whatever advantages any place may possess, it is, if destitute of the Gospel, a dreary wilderness—

Let us suppose a place in point of beauty and fertility like Paradise itself; let it be the seat of arts and sciences, the emporium of commerce, the center of civilized and polished society; let it abound with everything that can amuse the mind, or gratify the taste; still, What is it without the Gospel? What does it afford that can nourish an immortal soul? No heavenly manna is found there: no wells of salvation are open to the thirsty traveler; none are at hand to point out the way to life: its only produce is thorns and briers, which entangle, and impede, and wound us, every step we take; and on every side are snares and temptations, which, like noxious animals, lie in wait for us, ever ready to accomplish our eternal ruin. The cities of Athens and of Rome must in this respect be viewed on a level with the most desolate spots upon the globe: for, whatever they might furnish for the edification or comfort of the carnal mind, they would afford no nutriment to him who was perishing for lack of spiritual food.

The same observations we must make in relation to the souls of men—

Whatever strength of intellect a man may possess, or however deeply he may be versed in every branch of human learning; whatever amiable qualities he may have to distinguish him from others; yes, whatever actual enjoyment he may receive from the riches, the honors, the pleasures of the world; yet is his soul "a wilderness," "a solitude," "a desert:" God is not there: the fruits of the Spirit are not found there: no heavenly consolations are ever tasted by him: he is without a track, with a guide, without a shelter in the day of trouble, and without any other prospect than that of falling a prey to enemies, or perishing with hunger. The unenlightened soul is compared by Jeremiah, not to a desert merely, but to "a heath in a desert, where no good ever comes Jeremiah 17:5-6." O that those who fancy themselves "rich and increased with goods, and in need of nothing, were made sensible, how wretched they are, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked Revelation 3:17."

Let us turn from this humiliating contemplation, to consider,

II. The state to which they are brought by the Gospel—

Beautiful is the description given by the prophet of the change that is wrought by the Gospel of Christ. The souls of men assume altogether a new aspect. In them is found,

The beauty of the rose—

Where there was but lately no appearance of life, now there arise a holy desire after God, a delight in heavenly exercises, a love to all the people of the Lord, and an ambition to resemble God in righteousness and true holiness. First, but a blossom appears; but gradually the rising foliage bursts from its confinement, and expands itself to the eyes of all, diffusing fragrance all around it. The believer, blessed in himself, makes the very place of his residence a blessing; according to that description given of him by the Prophet Ezekiel; "I will make them, and the places round about my hill, a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessings Ezekiel 34:26." Thus by the power of his Gospel "the Lord comforts Zion! he comforts all her waste places; he makes her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord: joy and gladness are found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody Isaiah 51:3."

The stability of the cedar—

The woods of Lebanon were proverbially grand: its cedars and its pines grew up to Heaven, and defied all the storms with which they could be assailed. This was "the glory of Lebanon:" and this glory shall be given to all who are "rooted and grounded in the Lord." Weak as the beginnings of grace are in the believer's soul, he shall "shoot forth his roots as Lebanon," and become "a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified Isaiah 61:3." Storms and tempests will beat upon him; but they shall only cause him to take deeper root, and to evince more clearly, in the sight of all men, that "God's strength is perfected in his people's weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9." In like manner shall the Church at large be kept;, and "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

The fruitfulness of the richest pastures—

Carmel and Sharon were famous for their pasturage and flocks: such excellency shall be seen wherever the Gospel is preached with life and power, How precious are the ordinances made! What pastures are laid open in the word of God! How strengthening and refreshing does that feast become, which the Lord Jesus Christ has prepared for us at his table! The souls, thus richly fed, "grow up as calves of the stall:" the trees, thus watered by "the river of God," abound in all manner of fruits, even in "the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God." Contemplate every "fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23;" and that is what is produced by "every plant which God's right hand has planted."

Unutterable joy as the result of all—

The expressions in our text fitly characterize the state of those who are brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel: they "are glad, and rejoice, and blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing." Let any one who has ever beheld a desert brought by cultivation to a fruitful field, and seen it "standing so thick with corn as to laugh and sing;" let him contemplate it awhile; and he will have a faint image, though a very faint one, of "a wilderness" place or person that is "made to blossom as the rose." O that we might behold the picture realized in this place, and that every one among us might have the image of it in his own soul!

But it is necessary that we should draw your attention to,

III. That particular view of the Gospel by which these effects are wrought—

It is not by a mutilated and perverted Gospel that these effects are produced, but by a simple exhibition of Christ crucified, and of the perfections of God as united and harmonizing in the work of Redemption.

To this it is uniformly ascribed in the word of God—

Look at the prophets, and you will find it is "the glory of the Lord" that they speak of, as revealed to men by the Gospel, and as seen by men in order to their conversion Psalm 102:16. Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 40:5 and Psalm 97:6. Habakkuk 2:14; Look at the Apostles, and the same truth is attested by them all; insomuch that they all "determined to know nothing in their ministrations, but Jesus Christ and him crucified:" the one object which they sought by all possible means to attain, was, so to preach, that "God might shine into his people's hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Corinthians 4:6;" and until they saw "Christ formed in them," they were satisfied with no change however great, no profession however confident Galatians 4:19. The commission given to them all, was to "say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God Isaiah 40:9." and this they all fulfilled, saying to their people from time to time, "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world John 1:29."

To this also must the effect be traced in the experience of all—

Who that hears a perverted Gospel, is ever brought effectually to God by it? We may represent the Gospel as a kind of remedial law, that supersedes the necessity of perfect obedience, and requires only sincere obedience in its stead; or we may represent the Gospel as proposing a salvation partly by Christ's righteousness, and partly by our own; but we shall never see such effects produced as are described in our text. Let this matter be scrutinized; and the more it is scrutinized, the more the truth of it will be confirmed. It is notorious, that in some persons, and some places, a great change is wrought: and it will be found to be owing to this one thing, that "Christ is preached," and he is received into the heart as "All in all Colossians 3:11." The people are made to "see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God;" and therefore do they rejoice, and consecrate themselves to the service of their God and Savior. Hence also is their stability; for they would rather die a thousand deaths, than renounce their hope in Him; and hence also their fertility, for they think they can never do enough for him, who has done and suffered such things for them. And this is expressly declared by the Apostle: "We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:18."

Observe,

1. What encouragement is here for those who minister in holy things—

Ministers, especially when invited to labor among un-enlightened heathens, are apt to draw back, under an idea that they can never hope to reap a crop in such a soil. But if God has promised that "the wilderness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," why should we despond? Is not his word as quick and powerful as ever? and can he not, by whoever, or to whoever it is delivered, make it "sharper than any two-edged sword," so that it shall be "the power of God to the salvation of men?" Only let "his Spirit be poured out from on high, and the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest Isaiah 32:15." Though the corn be but an handful, and cast on the summit of a barren mountain, its produce shall be great, and your harvest sure Psalm 72:16. Here would be the place to enlarge, if it were a Mission or a Visitation Sermon.

2. What encouragement also for those who are dejected on account of the state of their own souls—

When all your grounds of dejection are stated, they amount to no more than this, that your hearts are a very "desert." But "God's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, nor is his ear heavy that he cannot hear." Possibly you may feel additional ground of despondency, because you have backslidden from the Lord, and therefore fear that he will give you up to final impenitence. If so, then plead with him that promise which is made to persons in your very condition; and rest assured, that he will fulfill it to you, if you trust in him Hosea 14:4-7. You may wait long, as the gardener does, for the fruit of your labor; but you shall not wait in vain James 5:7-8.

 

 

Isaiah 35:3-4

 

DISCOURSE 913

ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE WEAK

Isaiah 35:3-4. Strengthen you the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.

OUR blessed Lord, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, has set an example to all inferior pastors, how to watch over their flock Ezekiel 34:11-16. Isaiah 40:11. And in the words before us he gives them special direction how to treat the weak and the diseased.

I. Consider the characters here described—

Among the people of God, all of whom are weak as sheep, there are many that, from their peculiar weakness and infirmities, are characterized rather as "lambs, or as sheep that are big with young." These are described in the text,

1. As feeling their weakness—

The "hands and feet" being those members of the body that are fitted for labor, they not improperly represent the active powers of the soul: and the feebleness which they experience through excessive fatigue, gives us a just idea of a soul weary with its labors, and heavy laden with its spiritual burdens. Many there are that are precisely in this state: they have been maintaining a conflict with sin and Satan; they have been enduring the pressure of many trials; and they scarcely know how to support their difficulties any longer: their "hands are so weak and their knees so feeble," that they are ready to give up in utter despair This may be illustrated by David's case, Psalm 38:2-8; Psalm 38:17.

2. As discouraged by reason of it—

Many are the misgiving thoughts that arise in the minds of God's tempted people. When they find their insufficiency to support their burdens, and to overcome their spiritual enemies, they have "great searchings of heart:" they begin to doubt whether they have not altogether deceived their own souls; and whether they may not as well cease from those contests which they have hitherto found so ineffectual. They fear that God has cast them off; that all their professions are mere hypocrisy; and that their renewed exertions will only issue in their greater disappointment Psalm 77:2-9. — —

If there be any present, whose experience accords with this description, we proceed to,

II. Deliver to them a message from the most high God—

God would not that his ministers should ever "break a bruised reed," or "despise the day of small things:" on the contrary, he says, "Comfort you, comfort you my people." "Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." But, because we should be at a loss to know what to say, and all that we could say would be to no purpose, if it were the mere offspring of our own imaginations, God himself has put words into our mouths; which therefore we may safely, and confidently, deliver.

Let the drooping and disconsolate now listen as to the voice of God himself; for it is God, and not man, that thus audibly speaks unto them.

"Be strong, fear not." This may appear a strange address to those who feel within themselves such reason for despondency: but it is God's message to them; and therefore in God's name we deliver it.

But in the text the grounds of this encouragement are stated: and, if duly applied to the soul, they are sufficient to comfort the most distressed, and to invigorate the weakest. "Behold then, your God will come:" yes, that God who, notwithstanding all your fears, is, and will be, your God. Think what is implied in this relation, and then say, whether you have not in this word alone an inexhaustible fund of consolation.

He will come "with vengeance" to your enemies, and "with a recompense" to you. He sees with indignation those evil spirits that assault you, and those ungodly men that despise and persecute you, and all those indwelling lusts that harass and defile you: and he has doomed them all to destruction; your lusts, by the operation of his grace, and your enemies, whether men or devils, by his avenging arm. But with respect to yourselves, there is not a tear, which he has not treasured up in his vial Psalm 56:8; nor a sigh, a groan Psalm 38:8-9, a purpose 1 Kings 8:18, a wish 1 Kings 14:13, a thought Malachi 3:16, which he has not noted in the book of his remembrance, in order to recompense it at the resurrection of the just.

In short, "he will come and save you." He is interested in your welfare; and suffers you to be thus tried, and tempted, only for your good 1 Peter 1:6. He knows "when your strength is gone," and will make your extremity the season of his effectual interposition Deuteronomy 32:36.

Notice the repetitions in this message; for they surely were not inserted thus for nothing. It is "God, even God," that will come for your relief: it is not a man, or an angel, but Jehovah himself, to whom all things are alike possible, and alike easy. Moreover, it is said, "He will come, he will come;" you need not doubt it, for it is as certain as that he himself exists. He may tarry long: but wait his leisure; and he will come at last Habakkuk 2:3 with 2 Chronicles 15:7.

Infer,

1. How anxious is God for the comfort of his people!

He charges all his servants to exert themselves for the relief of his people's minds: and expressly sends them a message of love and mercy under their multiplied afflictions. And, lest they should put away from them the word, as not applicable to themselves, he describes them, not by their attainments, but by their defects; not by their hopes, but by their fears, He describes them by the very terms which they themselves make use of to describe their own state. What marvelous condescension is this! Moreover, he sends them exactly such a message as they themselves would desire, if they were commissioned to declare beforehand what they would consider as an adequate ground of consolation. Can anything exceed this kindness?

Let us then entertain worthy conceptions of our gracious God; and learn never to doubt his love, or to distrust his care. And, instead of distressing ourselves with fears on account of our own weakness, let us look unto our Almighty Savior to "perfect his own strength by means of it 2 Corinthians 12:9."

2. How differently must ministers conduct themselves towards the different objects of their care!

That same divine Shepherd who says, "I will strengthen that which was sick," adds, "But I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment Ezekiel 34:16. before cited." Now there are many who perhaps will bless themselves, that they are strangers to the faintings and fears which are so distressing to others. What message then have we from God to them? Shall we endeavor to "confirm and strengthen" them? They need not our assistance; they would despise our offered help. Shall we say to them, "Be strong, fear not?" Alas! how "shall they be strong in the day that God shall deal with them Ezekiel 22:14 and Isaiah 10:3." They rather need to fear and tremble for the judgments that are coming upon them. "God is coming;" but he is not their God; for they have never chosen him for their God, nor given themselves up to him as his people. He is coming with awful "vengeance," and with a just "recompense" for all their neglect of him. He is coming not to "save," but to destroy them. Let them then hear the message of God to them 2 Thessalonians. 1:7-9, and tremble. They must be sick in order to know the value of a physician; and must feel themselves lost, if ever they would be interested in the salvation of Christ Mark 2:17. Luke 18:13-14.

 

 

Isaiah 35:5-7

 

DISCOURSE 914

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

Isaiah 35:5-7. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the fame man leap as an deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

THOUGH the truths which we have to proclaim lie in a very small compass, yet do they admit of an endless diversity of illustration; so that, though old and well known, they appear ever new. The figure under which the Gospel is here set forth is indeed frequently used in the Holy Scriptures: and well it may be, since it is peculiarly adapted to bring home to our very senses, as it were, the nature and operation of the Gospel, and to display its energy visibly before our eyes. We can conceive of a desert converted into a fertile garden; and we can form some idea of the multitudes who were healed of all manner of diseases by our blessed Lord. And under these images is the Gospel here exhibited to our view. In the words before us, we are led to contemplate,

I. Its miraculous establishment—

A desert is but too just a picture of the world at large—

In this country we have a very faint notion of a desert. In some parts of the world there are large tracts of country perfectly sterile, consisting only of burning sands, in which nothing will grow; and these are infested with all manner of noxious animals. Now certainly this appears, at first sight, to be a very exaggerated representation of human nature: and doubtless it would be so, if we took into the account only man's conduct towards his fellow-man. For it must be confessed, and we bless God for it, that man is not so fallen, but that there yet remain within him many traits of his original worth and excellency. Benevolence, integrity, a sense of honor, a feeling of compassion, are by no means eradicated from every breast; though, through the violence of temptation, they do not operate so extensively or so uniformly as they ought; and in many persons, through habits of wickedness, they are almost wholly effaced. But towards God there remains in us nothing that is truly and properly good. We are in this respect all upon a level: we all, without exception, are alike alienated from the life of God, without one spiritual affection towards him. To please him, to serve him, to honor him, we have no purpose, no desire whatever. Self has altogether usurped his throne, and is the only object of our solicitude: and if only self may be advanced and gratified, we are content to forget God, and to live "without him in the world." Thus, considering a desert to be a place destitute of all good, and full of all evil, we may, so far as our state before God is concerned, consider it as a just picture of our fallen condition.

But by the Gospel a wonderful change is effected in us—

Conceive of such a desert, as has been described, being, by the almighty power of God, filled at once with springs and rivers, and verdant hills and valleys: conceive of it as freed from all its venomous inhabitants, and covered with flocks and herds for the use of man: and then you will have some idea of what is wrought by the Gospel, wherever it is established. Let the day of Pentecost serve as a specimen. Certainly, if ever there were incarnate fiends, such were the great mass of those who put our blessed Lord to death. But see the change wrought on thousands of them in one hour! It would be deemed incredible, if we did not know that such was really the fact: "the Holy Spirit then poured out," in confirmation of the Apostle's word, "turned at once the wilderness into a fruitful field, so that the fruitful field might be counted for a forest Isaiah 32:15." What takes place at this day, upon a smaller scale, is not so visible, or so well authenticated, as that to which we have referred; but it is altogether of the same character: for when once "the waters break out in the wilderness, and the streams in the desert, the parched ground becomes a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; and in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, there is grass with reeds and rushes;" vegetation and beauty supplying the place of sterile deformity.

It is scarcely necessary to observe, that this must be the work of God. It far exceeds the power of man. It was the work of Omnipotence in the apostolic age: and, as such, it is here promised to be extended over the face of the whole earth. Jerusalem was indeed the primary seat of this glorious change: but it is to be extended, as the Lord has said: "Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God Isaiah 52:9-10."

In accordance with this change, will be found,

II. Its characteristic benefits—

At the introduction of Christianity, many glorious miracles were wrought by our blessed Lord, in confirmation of his word. These were predicted in the passage before us; and to these did our blessed Lord appeal, in proof of his divine mission. "John sent two of his disciples to him, to inquire, Are you He who should come; or do we look for another? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Go, and show John again those things which you do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them Matthew 11:2-5." But it is in a spiritual sense, chiefly, that these blessed effects are to be wrought. In a general, view these have been already described: but now we must notice them under a different image, and with a more minute attention to circumstances.

In all our faculties, and in all our powers, we are fallen—

It is worthy of observation, that, for the elucidation of this point, Paul collects a number of unconnected passages from the Old Testament, and strings them, as it were, all together, in order that, by their accumulated weight, they may bear down all opposition to his argument; which is, to prove that "men are all gone out of the way, and that there is none that does good, no, not one." "Their mouth," says he, "is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood Romans 3:12-15." Thus, in my text, it is intimated, that men's eyes are by nature shut against the light of divine truth; that their ears are deaf to the voice of God in his word; that their feet never move in the service of their God; and that their tongues are never employed in his praise. A very little acquaintance with what is passing in the world around us, or in our own hearts, will suffice to confirm this melancholy description: so true is it, that all of us, even every child of man, are "gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one Psalm 53:3."

But in all these respects, through the Gospel of Christ, we are renewed—

By the preached Gospel, when accompanied with the Spirit of God, "the eyes of the blind are opened;" so that, with different measures of clearness, they "see the things that are invisible" to mortal eyes, even the evil of sin, the beauty of holiness, and "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." By it, too, "the ears of the deaf are unstopped; so that they hear "the small still voice" of God to them, whispering peace to their souls, and "saying unto them, This is the way; walk you in it." By it, also, "the feet of the lame man are made to leap as an deer;" so that they not only walk, but "run in the way of God's commandments with enlarged hearts." Lastly, by it is "the tongue of the dumb made to sing the praises of Jehovah," and to anticipate, amidst all the troubles of this earthly state, the felicity of Heaven.

Now this is not a poetic fiction, but a plain and undeniable reality. This is the state of men wherever the Gospel of Christ produces its proper and legitimate effects. It is not among the rich only or the poor, the old or the young, that it operates in this way, but in persons of every age and every class. Wherever it is preached, "with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven," there it is "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," and becomes to multitudes the power of God to the salvation of their souls. The miracles wrought by our blessed Lord were but a shadow of what is wrought, and shall be wrought, by the preached Gospel: and, I thank God, there are millions this day upon earth who can bear witness to this blessed truth, that, in their own actual experience, they are become altogether "new creatures; old things having passed away, and all things being become new."

Observe then, from hence,

1. What little reason any person has to despond—

Can any one conceive himself to be in a worse state than that of a desert, destitute of all good, and filled with everything that is of the most malignant quality? Or, if he take humanity for his standard, can he conceive of himself as in a more deplorable condition than one blind, and deaf, and lame, and dumb? Yet these are the maladies which the Gospel is sent especially to relieve. It does not merely suffice for these things; but it is the prescribed remedy, which never did, nor ever can, fail. Instead therefore of being discouraged by any sense that we have of our own extreme want and wretchedness, we should take occasion, from our very necessities, to glorify God, and to enlarge our expectations of relief from him; assured, that "his strength shall be made perfect in our weakness," and his grace be magnified in our unworthiness.

2. What glorious prospects are before us—

We believe that these wonderful changes shall take place in God's appointed time, and that "all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ." The change from the dreary barrenness of winter to the verdure and fertility of spring, is pleasing to the sight: but, oh! what is it to see a place, where Christ was neither known nor thought of, filled with persons displaying in their souls all the wonderful operations of his grace! And what must it be, to behold those scenes spreading from city to city, from kingdom to kingdom, until "the whole earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea!" Well, certain it is, that this blessed period is fast approaching; and that "God will comfort, not Zion only, but all the waste places of the earth; making her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; so that in every place shall joy and gladness be found, and nothing be heard but thanksgiving and the voice of melody Isaiah 51:3." Let us look forward to this time; yes, let us help it forward to the utmost of our power: and if, but in a single instance, the blind, or deaf, or lame, or dumb, receive the relief which they stand in need of, we shall have no reason to complain that we have run in vain, or labored in vain If this were a Mission Sermon, it would be proper to open this part more fully.

3. What ground for gratitude has every believing soul—

Who is it that has made you to differ from others? Who is it that has healed the maladies of your souls, or that has made "your wilderness soul to blossom as the rose?" This, as we have before said, is the work of God, and of God alone: "He who has wrought us to the self-same thing, is God." And is this no call for gratitude? Look at heathen lauds, and see their people bowing down to stocks and stones. Or look nearer home, and see the multitudes around you as unaffected with the Gospel as if it had never visited this highly-favored country. Perhaps your nearest and dearest relatives are at this moment, in respect of spiritual things, as barren as the most dreary desert, and as destitute of perception as if they had never possessed the organs of sight and hearing. Learn to pity and to pray for them, while your souls are transported with joy and gratitude for the mercies given to you. And now show, by your fruits, what a change has been wrought within you, and, by the devotion of all your faculties to God, the healing virtue which you have received.

 

 

Isaiah 35:8-10

 

DISCOURSE 915

THE WAY TO ZION

Isaiah 35:8-10. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and coma to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

IN the volume of inspiration, the progress of the Gospel in the apostolic and millennial periods is often set forth as a counterpart of the redemption of Israel from the land of Egypt. The power effecting the conversion of men, and all the blessings attending it, are described in terms precisely similar to those which, in their literal sense, are applicable only to the deliverance of the Hebrews from their Egyptian bondage. The power exerted for its accomplishment is the same, as are also the blessings attendant on it. The Prophet Isaiah speaking of that day, when Christ, "the root of Jesse, shall stand for an ensign, to which the Gentiles shall seek," says, "the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry-shod. And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:15-16 and Micah 7:15." It is of the same periods, and the same events, that he speaks in the chapter before us, and especially in the words of our test; wherein he describes,

I. The way which is prepared for the redeemed to walk in—

Strange as it may appear, the text itself, if not taken in connection with other passages, may give us an erroneous notion respecting the way of life and salvation. The way is called, and justly called, "The way of holiness:" but we are not therefore to suppose that there is nothing necessary for our salvation but the performance of some good works: for the same prophet, who in our text calls the way to Zion "The way of holiness," tells us more fully, in another place, that it is the way of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Isaiah 62:10-12. To mark this, and to bear it ever in mind, is of great importance and indispensable necessity; since our Lord Jesus Christ himself assures us, that "He is the way, the truth, and the life; and that no man comes to the Father but by him John 14:6."

Bearing this then in mind, that the way to Heaven is solely by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ Ephesians 2:8-9, we observe respecting it, that it is,

1. A high and holy way—

As, in forming a highway, the stones are cast up, and the road is made above the level of the adjacent ground, so is this way far above the low and groveling paths which are trodden by the world around us: and they who walk in it are walking comparatively "in the high places of the earth." Raised above the miry clay of sin, it is a holy path: the faith itself is a "most holy faith Jude, verse 20;" and they who are brought to it, are "called with a holy calling 2 Timothy 1:9," and are themselves "a holy nation 1 Peter 2:9," "a peculiar people, zealous of good works Titus 2:14." Persons who are ignorant of the Gospel, are ready to suppose that the doctrine of salvation by faith only must be injurious to the interests of morality; but the very reverse of this is true: for they, and they only, who look to Christ for salvation, have either will or power to fulfill the high demands of the Gospel: they, and they only, desire to be "sanctified throughout, in body, soul, and spirit 1 Thessalonians. 5:23;" and that is the holiness, which alone is acceptable in the sight of God Hebrews 12:14. No latitude is allowed to any man: there is the same law for all: and every statute, every ordinance, every injunction in the whole Gospel has the same tendency to make us holy: the more the laws and regulations of Christ's family are scrutinized, the more it will appear, that "This is the law of the house; behold, this is the law of the house Ezekiel 43:12."

2. A strait and narrow way—

It is "not for the unclean, but for the redeemed alone." Not that there is any prohibition to any man to walk in it; but the ungodly have no inclination to walk in it: the work of mortification and self-denial is to them distasteful; nor have they any root in themselves from whence the fruits of the Spirit can proceed. But to the redeemed the whole work of holiness is delightful: it is the very element they delight to move in: so far from wishing to be left at liberty to commit any sin, they would gladly "have every thought of their heart brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5." They consider holiness as the very end of their now creation Ephesians 2:10, yes, the very end also for which they were elected Ephesians 1:4, and to which they were predestined, from all eternity Romans 8:29; and, if they could have the desire of their hearts, they would "be holy, as God himself is holy 1 Peter 1:15-16," and "pure, as God himself is pure 1 John 3:3." Justly therefore is it said by our Lord, that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there be that find it Matthew 7:13-14."

3. A plain and obvious way—

To those who have no experience of its power, the Gospel, both in its doctrines and precepts, is altogether foolishness 1 Corinthians 2:14; but it is so only because they are ignorant of its real nature: they are blinded by Satan and their own lusts 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; and, like the Syrian host, fancy that they are journeying to the heavenly city, when in truth they are going into the heart of an enemy's country, even to the regions of darkness and despair 2 Kings 6:19. But "what God has hid from the wise and prudent, he has revealed unto babes Matthew 11:25;" and to those whose eyes he has opened, the way is clear as the light itself. "The knowledge of it is easy to him that understands Proverbs 14:6;" for a light shines upon it; and "the Angel of the Covenant goes before them in the way, to lead them to the city prepared for them Exodus 23:20." Thus "darkness is made light before them, and crooked things straight Isaiah 42:16;" and if at any time they are perplexed with any important doubts, they need only look up to God, and they hear a word behind them, saying, "This is the way, walk you in it;" by which they are kept from "turning either to the right hand or to the left Isaiah 30:21." Nor is this the privilege of the learned only, but of all, even the meanest and the least, seeing "they have an unction of the Holy One that teaches them all things 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27;" and so direct is their way made, "that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." Of course, we must not be understood to say, that any person is infallible: but this we do and must affirm, that none, however weak, shall be left to mistake the path to Heaven, since God has pledged himself to us, that "the meek ho will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:8-9."

4. A safe and secure way—

It is probable that the strong expressions in our text may refer more particularly to the millennial state: for they exactly agree with what the Prophet Ezekiel has manifestly spoken with an immediate reference to that day Ezekiel 34:24-25. But they are true to a certain extent in every age: for though there are lions, and, above all, that "roaring lion, the devil, seeking to devour us," they are all either chained, that they cannot reach us, or restrained, that they cannot hurt us Daniel 6:22 with Psalm 76:10. Though therefore "the redeemed" appear an easy prey to their enemies, they walk at large without any anxious fear. By faith "they see horses of fire and chariots of fire round about them 2 Kings 6:15-17;" and they know that "they could have legions of angels sent them Matthew 26:53." at their request, if they stood in need of their protection. They are sensible indeed of the number, the power, and the malice of their enemies I but as persons traveling through places infested by wild beasts make a fire round them and are secure, so they feel themselves secure, because "God himself is a wall of fire round about them, and their glory in the midst of them Zechariah 2:5."

Such is the way to Zion: and O that God by his Holy Spirit may draw us, while we declare,

II. The happiness of those who journey in it!

"Happy indeed are you, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord Deuteronomy 33:29;" thrice happy they who walk in his ways! Inexpressibly happy are they,

1. Throughout all their journey—

Did Israel, when redeemed from Egypt, sing praises to their God Exodus 15:1. Much more do they who are redeemed from death and Hell: as soon as ever they are "brought out of the horrible pit, and have set their feet upon the King's highway, there is a new song put into their mouth, even praise unto our God Psalm 40:2-3." It is true they are represented by the prophet, even "the whole company of them, the blind and the lame, the women with child, and she that travails with child together, as coming with weeping and with supplication Jeremiah 31:8-9;" but this is so far from destroying their joy, that it is the very root from which it springs, the seed from which the harvest of joy proceeds Psalm 126:5-6. There is in the weeping of a real penitent a holy tenderness, which is no less grateful to his soul than the livelier ebullitions of joy itself: yes, so deeply does he feel his own unworthiness, that he would not wish to "rejoice, but with trembling: nor, if he were transported to Heaven itself, would he so exult, as to forget to cast his crown before the Savior's feet Revelation 4:10." Indeed this very mixture of sincere shame with triumphant exultation is intimated by the Prophet Jeremiah, who, immediately after representing the saints as "weeping," proceeds to paint their happiness as most sublime, not only on account of the deliverance they have experienced, but on account of the continued communications of all spiritual blessings to their souls Jeremiah 31:11-14. See also 33:11; And well may we expect them to "return with singing," when they consider from what paths they have been brought, and to what a glorious state they are "coming;" and, above all, by what a price they have been ransomed, even by the blood of God's only dear Son. Had they been "redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold," they could not but rejoice; but having been ransomed "by the? precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot 1 Peter 1:18-19," they are filled with wonder; and are ready almost to account it all a dream Psalm 126:1-2; like Peter, who, when delivered from prison, could scarcely credit his deliverance, but "thought ho saw a vision Acts 12:9." Doubtless this joyous frame does not exist in all alike, nor in any equally at all times: their remaining infirmities are sometimes called forth to the wounding of their consciences, and the clouding of their souls. Even Paul himself sometimes cried, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" But still, by renewed applications of the blood of Christ to their souls, their consciences are purged from guilt, and their joy in the Lord is revived. Thus, while they go through the valley of Baca, they find wells of salvation, from which they draw water with joy, and are refreshed; and thus they go on from strength to strength, until they appear before God in Zion Psalm 84:6-7.

2. At their journey's end—

It has been just observed, that "sighing and sorrow" occasionally interrupt the Believer's joy; and indeed they follow him at a greater or less distance all his journey through: but when once he arrives at the gate of Heaven, those blessed inhabitants, "joy and gladness," come forth to meet him; and "sorrow and sighing flee away." Then is his joy uninterrupted and unmixed; for he is introduced into "the presence of his God, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasure for evermore." Could we but get a glimpse of him in those sacred mansions, could we behold the raptures with which he tunes his harp to the praises of his God and Savior, truly, we should proclaim him blessed beyond all expression or conception. Let us then look into Heaven; (for so it is permitted us;) and let us listen to his voice. Methinks we hear the full chorus of the redeemed, singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing Revelation 5:9-13.": And, if we inquire concerning them, "Who they are? and Whence they came?" we shall be informed distinctly, not that they were innocent in themselves, or had done to many good works, but, that "they had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: therefore are they before the throne of God." And that which constitutes no small measure of their happiness is, an inward consciousness that it shall continue forever without any mixture, intermission, or end: "They shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat: for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes Revelation 7:9-17." What an amazing change is this, even from the best state that can be enjoyed here below I Well may it be said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;" for, while everything painful has forever passed away Revelation 14:13 with 21:4, they are unceasingly occupied in the immediate vision and complete fruition of their God.

Exhortation—

Permit me now to address myself to every individual among you. And what terms can we und move apposite, than those wherein Moses addressed his father-in-law? "We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you. Come with us, and we will do you good; for the Lord has spoken good concerning Israel Numbers 10:29. See also Micah 4:2." Consider, what a blessed way it is: it is "the good old way Jeremiah 6:16, wherein the Prophets and Apostles walked; yes, and wherein our blessed Lord himself walked, "leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps 1 Peter 2:21. 1 John 2:6." What way can the world point out that is comparable to this? Think too of the end to which it leads: shall not this thought engage you to come with us; and not only to begin with zeal, but also to "run with patience, the race that is set before you?": As for you who have commenced your journey heavenward, lift up your hearts to God, that he would enable you to "hold on your way Job 17:9," and "so to run that you may obtain the prize 1 Corinthians 4:9." Pray that you may never be weary, never halt, never turn back; but that your course may be uniformly holy I or rather, that "your light may shine more and more unto the perfect day Proverbs 4:18."

 

 

Isaiah 38:14

 

DISCOURSE 916

HELP FOR US IN GOD

Isaiah 38:14. O Lord, I am oppressed: undertake for me!

THE time of death is an awful season to every child of man: but it may be more or less terrible, according to circumstances. There may, in that hour, be such manifestations of God's presence given to the soul, and such bright prospects of a glorious immortality, as altogether to divest death of its sting, and to render it an object of intense desire. On the other hand, there may be such darkness of mind, or anguish of body, or such urgent considerations of a personal or domestic nature, as may exceedingly embitter the thoughts of approaching dissolution. The account which we have of Hezekiah's feelings on an occasion like this, fills us with deep commiseration. His disorder was so violent, that he expected every day to be his last; and God seemed to him like a lion, likely to break all his bones, and to devour him every instant. Hence "he mourned as a dove; and his eyes failed with looking upward:" and in utter despair of help, except from God, he poured out the prayer which we have just read, "O Lord, I am oppressed: undertake for me!" There were in his case some peculiar reasons for deprecating with more than common earnestness the impending stroke: for he was but in the middle age of life; and hoped to proceed with the work of reformation which he had successfully commenced through the whole nation. In the event of his removal too, he had no son to succeed him: and he feared that the people, just beginning to return to the Lord their God, would immediately relapse into all the idolatries, from which he had strenuously exerted himself to reclaim them. To this chiefly we trace the extreme desire which he expressed for the prolongation of his life, and the overwhelming agony with which, in the words before us, he committed his cause to God.

But here we see,

I. The privilege of God's people in seasons of deep distress—

They are at liberty to commit their every concern to God—

Of whatever kind their trials may be, they may spread them all before the Lord, with a confidence that he will afford them effectual relief. They may even "cast all their care on God himself," in an assured hope that he will "undertake for them," and take upon himself the entire charge of all their concerns, They may commit to him the directing of their path, the supplying of their wants, "the keeping of their souls," not doubting but that, as their Creator, their Governor, and their Redeemer, he will be faithful to his own engagements, and execute for them whatever in his unerring wisdom he sees best for them.

This is their most inestimable privilege—

They are not left to bear their burdens alone: if they were, they would utterly sink under them. We see in the case of Job how difficult it is to support affliction; (for even he at last cursed the day of his birth;) and daily experience shows us how unable any of us are, of ourselves, to bear up under the various trials of life. But we have a God to go unto; a God who says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you." As for spiritual trouble, we are no more able to endure it than Judas was, who, from a sense of guilt, took refuge in suicide. If "help were not laid upon One that is mighty," upon One who says to us, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" what hope could any one of us enjoy? But with such a Refuge, and such a Friend, we may well be satisfied: for "He is both a sun to enlighten us, and a shield to protect us; and he will give both grace and glory; and no good thing, cither in time or in eternity, will he withhold from us," if we humbly and sincerely commit our cause to him.

In Hezekiah's use of this privilege, we see,

II. The success that shall attend the exercise of it—

It is of little importance to inquire how far the application of a fig to Hezekiah's boil was an appropriate remedy for his disorder. Whatever its operation was, it was God alone that rendered it effectual: and the same divine power can give success to any means which shall be used for our good, either in a temporal or spiritual view. The imminence of our danger is no bar to God's interposition. All that he wants is, the prayer of faith: and that once offered, the deliverance, now difficult soever it may be, shall be given.

Only let us commit our cause entirely to God—

We must despair of help from the creature. God permits our trials to increase, in order to produce this very effect upon us. "We must have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead." While there is any mixture of self-dependence in us, God will not interpose: but when, like Peter sinking in the waves, we cry, "Save, Lord, or I perish!" he will instantly stretch out his almighty hand, and afford us the support we implore.

His intervention then shall bear upon it the evident stamp of his Divine agency—

In a multitude of instances in which he "undertook for his people" of old, his power was as evident as in the passage of the Red Sea, or in the ruin of the walls of Jericho. I say not that his interposition in our behalf shall be as visible to the eye of sense: but to the eye of faith it shall. Wonderful will be the support which he will give to the troubled spirit; insomuch that, while all outward circumstances remain the same, it shall have "the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Look at the 107th Psalm: it is realized every day. Such are the spiritual distresses of God's people, and such their deliverances in Answer to their prayers: If therefore there be any one that is now "oppressed" with any grievous affliction, let him go to the Lord Jesus Christ, and spread his wants before him, with confidence that he shall not pray in vain. Let the 143d Psalm be his pattern and his encouragement. David there says, "My spirit is overwhelmed within me, and my heart within me is desolate. But I stretch forth my hands unto you: my soul thirsts after you as a thirsty land. Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit fails: hide not your face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit: cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning, for in you do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto you Psalm 143:4-8." Spread your wants before your God in that way; and be assured, that "though heaviness may continue for a night, joy shall come to you in the morning." "God will not contend with you forever, lest your spirit should fail before him:" but "he will be with you in trouble," and "be to you a light in your darkness," and "give you songs in the night." "These things will he do to you, and not forsake you," until "he has turned your mourning into dancing, and put off your sackcloth, and girded you with gladness:" for "never yet failed he any one who trusted in him;" "nor said to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek you my face in vain."

 

 

Isaiah 38:17

DISCOURSE 917

FORGIVENESS KNOWN AND ENJOYED

Isaiah 38:17. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness; but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

IN all the Scriptures there is not anything more tender and pathetic than this "writing of Hezekiah after he had recovered from his sickness." In it he delineates all his feelings in the view of his expected dissolution. He could appeal to God that he had "walked before God with truth and with a perfect heart 2 Kings 20:2-3;" and yet in the prospect of death was more alarmed and agitated than any other person of whom we read. To account for this, commentators have supposed that he had respect only to the welfare of his Church and people, who by his removal would lose the benefit of all his past exertions for their good, and of those which he yet contemplated. But while we agree in ascribing much of his grief to this, we yet think that it by no means sufficiently accounts for many of his expressions, which evidently refer to his own personal concerns. In our text he complains that "for peace he had had great bitterness;" though from it he was now mercifully relieved. His "anguish being now changed So Bishop Lowth translates the first clause," he returned thanks to God, saying, "You have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back."

These words of his I shall,

I. Explain—

They may not unfitly be considered as referring to,

1. The recovery of his body—

Sickness and death were originally introduced by sin: and in many instances have they been inflicted in token of God's displeasure on account of sin. The leprosy of Miriam was a visitation on account of sin, as was that also of Gehazi. And the worms which preyed on the vitals of King Herod received their commission from an offended God. Even the Christian Church is exposed to the same kind of correction from the hand of an angry Father: for, on account of the abuses which obtained among the Corinthians at the Lord's supper, "many were weak and sickly among them, and many had fallen asleep 1 Corinthians 11:30." Not unfrequently were temporal judgments inflicted with an express view to prevent the necessity of inflicting far heavier judgments in the world to come 1 Corinthians 11:32. as also 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.

Now it seems evident that Hezekiah viewed his sickness in this light, namely, as a judgment sent from God on account of some iniquity which he had committed. As the enemies of David said in his sickness, "An evil disease, that is, a disease judicially inflicted, cleaves fast unto him Psalm 41:8;" and as the enemies of the Lord Jesus accounted him to be judicially "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted Isaiah 53:4;" so did Hezekiah judge respecting himself at that time: he thought that God was now "calling his sins to remembrance 1 Kings 17:18," and punishing him on account of them.

With such views as these, we cannot wonder that during the continuance of the affliction he should "have great bitterness;" and that in the removal of it he should find such an occasion of joy and gratitude. And it is worthy of observation, that the Psalmist speaks of the removal of temporal judgments from the people of Israel in terms exactly similar to those which Hezekiah uses in reference to his recovery from sickness: "Lord, you have been favorable unto your land: you have brought back the captivity of Jacob: you have forgiven the iniquity of your people; you have covered all their sin: you have taken away all your wrath: you have turned yourself from the fierceness of your anger Psalm 85:1-3."

This then shows us why the pious Hezekiah so grievously complained of his sickness, and so earnestly implored a restoration to health. This explains those words of his, "Like a crane or a swallow, so did I twitter; I did mourn as a dove: my eyes fail for looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me."

The state of his soul—

When he complains of God having, "like a lion, broken all his bones," it seems evident, that God had withdrawn from him for a season his usual consolations, and that he was much in the state of David, who, under the pressure of a dangerous illness, cried, "You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps: your wrath lies hard upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves Psalm 88:3-7." Whether there was any particular occasion for this dispensation, we are not informed, We know that Job, who was esteemed by God himself "a perfect man," was subjected to a similar trial for his good. And, if this dispensation had no other end than to counteract that propensity to pride which afterwards broke forth, and brought down upon Hezekiah the severest displeasure of the Almighty, it was justly and graciously ordained.

For deliverance from a state like this, we wonder not that Hezekiah should bless and magnify the Lord. Who can think of being delivered from the pit of corruption, and not rejoice? Who can contemplate God as having "cast all his sins behind his back," and not bless him from his inmost soul Psalm 103:1-4. Consider what is implied in this expression: it imports that "God will remember our sins no more." Once "he set our iniquities before him, and our secret sins in the light of his countenance Psalm 90:8;" but now he hides his face from them Psalm 51:9," "blots them out Isaiah 43:25." from the book of his remembrance, and "casts them into the very depths of the sea Micah 7:18-19," from whence they shall never rise to appear against us in judgment. Truly, if on the receipt of such a mercy as this "he had held his peace, the very stones would have cried out against him."

We must not omit to notice the source to which Hezekiah traces this great deliverance: it is to God's sovereign love and mercy. He does not say, "From a respect to my deserts you have done thus;" but, "in love to my soul" you have done it. And to this must all spiritual blessings be traced. Whatever mercy God has given to us, it is the fruit of "his great love with which he has loved us Ephesians 2:4," even of that love which knows neither beginning nor end Jeremiah 31:3.

The words thus explained, I shall now proceed to,

II. Improve—

There are two remarks which I will make upon them. They show us, in a very forcible way,

1. What should be our chief desire under any afflictive dispensation—

Our great concern usually is to get the affliction itself removed. But judgments may be removed in anger, as well as sent in anger Hosea 13:11; and God may cease to smite us, only because he is determined not to strive with us any longer, but to give us over to final impenitence Genesis 6:3. Isaiah 1:5. Our first object should be, to inquire of God "Why he contends with us Job 10:2." and then to seek the removal of that sin which God has visited with his displeasure. If we can fix on no particular sin, which has provoked God to anger, yet we know that there is an immense load of guilt upon our souls: and therefore we should pray as David did, "The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring you me out of my distresses! look upon mine affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins Psalm 25:17-18. Here a variety of sins may be pointed out, as subjects of self-examination.": Sin, even one single sin, being retained before God's face, will be the heaviest curse that can befall us: but, if our sins be "cast behind his back," the most accumulated trials shall only "augment our eternal weight of glory 2 Corinthians 4:17."

2. What exalted happiness we are privileged to enjoy—

Hezekiah spoke of the forgiveness of his sins as already granted, yes, and manifested also with full assurance to his soul. And this is the common privilege of all believers. As Isaiah had a live coal from off the altar applied to his lips, with this assurance, "Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged," so have we the promises applied to our souls at this day, "the Holy Spirit of promise sealing them upon our hearts Ephesians 1:13," and thereby becoming to us "a Spirit of adoption, and a witness of our being the children of God Romans 8:15-16." Doubtless there are marks by which these manifestations must be determined 1 John 5:13; 1 John 3:14; but it is not by the marks alone that we can attain the consolations here spoken of: these can be imparted only by Him who is emphatically called the comforter: but the assurance itself is, if not the attainment of all, yet certainly the privilege of all, who truly believe 1 John 5:20.

Live not then below your privileges. And, as God generally makes use of afflictions to prepare us for the enjoyment of them, learn to welcome any trials which it may please God to send Romans 5:3-5.

Only, if God cast your sins behind his back, be the more concerned to set them ever before your own face Psalm 51:3; that your own souls may be the more deeply humbled Ezekiel 16:63, and that the grace of God may be the more abundantly exalted 1 Timothy 1:12-14.

 

 

Isaiah 38:19

 

DISCOURSE 918

PRAISING GOD FOR HIS MERCIES

Isaiah 38:19. The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known your truth.

THIS is a part of a most pathetic record, written by Hezekiah after his recovery from a sickness which he had expected to terminate in death. The description which he gives of his feelings is certainly very different from what we should have expected from so good a man: but when we reflect on the particular situation in which he was placed, as a reformer of all his subjects; and the prospect that by his removal all his past efforts would be frustrated; we no longer wonder that he should express so great anxiety to live, and such a lively sense of his obligations to God, who, in answer to his prayers, and the prayers of the Prophet Isaiah, had promised to add fifteen years to his life. Indeed, under almost any circumstances, the living have reason to bless their God for the prolongation of their days: and the words which I have read will afford me a fit occasion to show the return which this mercy at all times calls for at our hands. It is the duty of every living man to glorify his God,

I. In a way of devout acknowledgment—

Such a return is called for,

1. From those who are yet unprepared for death—

Let them reflect a moment, where they would have now been, if they had been taken hence in their present state; let them consider how many have been removed, while they have been left; and what the feelings are of those who have been so taken into the presence of their God—and methinks they will need no exhortation from me to praise their God, they will find their souls penetrated with the devoutest gratitude, and will be saying, "The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day." Tell me, you who are here alive this day, have you not reason to bless your God for the space which is yet given you for repentance; for the opportunities yet afforded you of access to God through Christ; for the continued influences of the Holy Spirit, who yet strives with you to bring you to salvation ? Suppose one, who has been called to his great account, and doomed to the misery which his sins have merited, could be restored for a few days to the situation in which you stand; would he be insensible to the mercy given unto him, or lukewarm in improving his renewed advantages? No, truly; so great a blessing would not be despised by him; but he would instantly become an example to all around him, saying, "Bless you our God, as I do this day!" Do you then regard the blessing of a protracted life, as you would if so restored; and employ your every remaining hour in making that life a blessing indeed, even the means of securing everlasting blessedness and glory at the right hand of God.

2. From those also who are ready to meet their God—

It may be thought that these have the less reason to be thankful for life, because they are already prepared for death, which would be to them a door to everlasting happiness. But this was the state of Hezekiah, who could appeal to God, that he had "walked before him in truth and with a perfect heart, and had done that which was good in his sight verse 3;" and yet it was this holy man who uttered the thanksgiving in our text. It must be remembered, that there are many great and glorious ends of life, which are instantly and forever frustrated by death. The instant that we depart hence, there is no more opportunity of honoring God on earth, or of benefitting our fellow-creatures, or of advancing our own eternal interests: "The grave cannot praise you, death cannot celebrate you; they that go down to the pit, cannot hope for your truth:" these are things which the living only can engage in: and therefore the living are bound to estimate their high privileges aright, and to improve them with all diligence, as long as these advantages are continued to them. Doubtless, in the eternal world, the dead in Christ are happy. But is there a redeemed soul that does not desire to advance the honor of his God in this world? Is there one who does not long to promote the temporal and eternal welfare of his fellow-sinners? or is there one who does not wish to augment the talents committed to him, that in so doing he may find a greater measure of approbation from his God? I say, then, to every one here present, whatever be the measure of grace that you have attained, you are greatly indebted to God for the prolongation of your life; and it should be to you a subject of most ardent praise and thanksgiving.

But this gratitude should be expressed also,

II. In a way of affectionate commendation—

It is well to speak of God's mercies, whether they be general or special, public or personal; as it is said, "One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts: they shall abundantly utter the memory of your great goodness, and shall sing of your righteousness Psalm 145:4; Psalm 145:7." But it should seem that Hezekiah was peculiarly anxious to transmit to succeeding generations the knowledge of the true God, and of all the wonders which he had wrought for his people Israel. And this is the desire which every living man should feel; and especially under the dispensation under which we live, wherein the truth of God, in all the wonders of redeeming love, is made known to the children of men.

We ought to transmit to others the truth that has been revealed to us—

This was the command repeatedly given to Israel of old Deuteronomy 4:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; And the obligation to obey it was deeply felt by all the saints, who regarded God's Law as a sacred deposit, committed to them for the benefit of their children, and their children's children, even to the latest generations Psalm 78:2-6. For this very end it was that the Passover Exodus 12:25-27. and other rites Exodus 13:14-15. were ordained, and that memorials also were established Joshua 4:22-24; even that an inquiry might be excited, in every successive generation, into the things so exhibited to their view; and that the information contained in them might be transmitted and perpetuated to the end of time. The Lord's Supper is intended to answer the same end; for, in the administration of it, we show forth the Lord's death until he come 1 Corinthians 11:26."

And the hope of effecting this ought to make life regarded by us as an invaluable blessing—

What father would not wish to make known God's truth to his children; and account the prolongation of his life a rich mercy from the Lord, as giving further opportunities for the advancement of their eternal welfare? I may say, too, what pastor, who stands, as it were, in the relation of a father to his flock, would not adore his God for the strength whereby he is enabled to labor for their good? The Apostle Paul judged, so far as respected his own personal feelings, that it was "desirable rather to depart, and to be with Christ:" but yet, reflecting on the importance of his life to the welfare of the Church, he was willing to forego his own personal happiness, and to have a life of labor and of suffering prolonged to him, that he might still further advance the interests of God's people Philippians 1:21-25. Thus should the hope of benefitting others endear life to us; and every effort be made, as long as life shall last, to transmit to others the light which we ourselves have received.

And now, Brethren,

1. Let me call you to the performance of this duty—

It is a duty equally pertaining to all, (so far as they have an ability to discharge it,) to "render unto the Lord according to the benefits conferred upon them:" yes, all should strive to be, in this respect, patterns and examples to those around them. To those in like circumstances with ourselves, we should be able to say, "Let all of you praise God, as I do this day." But permit me to ask of the generality among us, What would be the state of things, if all were to take you for their pattern? Would God be glorified in any measure as he ought? or would his truth be diffused as it ought to be? Would not rather the mercies of God pass unacknowledged, and his revealed will be almost utterly forgotten? Do not think that a mere lukewarm engagement in God's service will suffice. If, indeed, the blessing of life call for nothing better at your hands than this, I will be content that you shall render him nothing better: but if life be of such importance as I have represented, then I call on every living soul to say with David, "Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; I will sing praises unto God while I have any being Psalm 146:1-2."

2. Let me urge it by that most appropriate consideration which occupied the mind of the grateful Hezekiah—

"The grave cannot praise God, nor can death celebrate him verse 18." This is the only time for serving and honoring God in this world. And how soon this opportunity may have passed away, who can tell? Another day, and all power to serve your God may have passed away forever. I must then say to you, "Work while it is day; for the night comes wherein no man can work John 9:4." Should your soul be required of you before you have given yourselves up to God, how painful will be your reflections to all eternity! But did ever any man think that he had begun to honor God too soon; or had too diligently engaged in that blessed work? Is there one in Heaven that regrets he began to serve his God so soon? or is there one in Hell that curses not his folly for neglecting to improve the advantages that were afforded him? I call you, then, to prevent those sad reflections which a neglect of God will occasion in a dying hour; and to secure now the eternal approbation of your God, by dedicating yourselves altogether to his service.

 

 

Isaiah 38:20

 

DISCOURSE 919

HEZEKIAH'S THANKSGIVING FOR HIS RECOVERY

Isaiah 38:20. The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments, all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord.

TO make public acknowledgments to God for national mercies is a duty so evident, that persons of all characters and denominations are forward to the performance of it. The very heathens thought that they had not properly testified their joy on account of any signal victories or deliverances, until they had made some public procession to the temples of their deities, or offered sacrifices to their honor. A greater cause for thankfulness than that which we are now assembled to commemorate, England scarce ever saw Preached on the occasion of the recovery of his late Majesty, George III. March 15, 1789. A sovereign, who, for his excellent qualities in domestic life, stands almost unrivaled; a sovereign, who is truly the father of his people; a sovereign, who is, if I may so speak, the idol of the nation which he governs, is restored to health from the most afflictive of all disorders, and to the government of his kingdom at the very moment it was to be transferred to other hands: what cause for joy and thankfulness is this! And indeed you have already in some measure testified your joy; and I would hope the reality was as universal as the appearance: but surely we should not rest satisfied with such demonstrations of joy; we should have our lamps trimmed and our lights burning within us: we should have a sacred flame kindled in our hearts; and we should endeavor to excite others to rejoice with us. When David was brought, as he tells us, into the dust of death, and, in answer to his prayer, was delivered from it, he said, "I will declare your name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you. You that fear the Lord praise him; all you, the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him all you the seed of Israel: for he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has he hid his face from him, but when he cried unto him, he heard: my praise shall be of you in the great congregation; I will pay my vows before them that fear him Psalm 22:22-25." Now such should be the desire of our hearts to glorify God for the king's recovery: not contented with offering up our praises in secret, we should say with him in the text, "the Lord was ready to save; therefore we will sing our songs in the house of the Lord."

In discoursing upon these words, we will consider,

I. The import of the words—

This will partly appear from the occasion on which they were uttered—

This chapter begins with a very affecting account of King Hezekiah's sickness: a message was sent to him from the Lord, to tell him that he should die of his disorder. These melancholy tidings no sooner reached his ears than he turned his face towards the wall and wept very sore. In the ninth and following verses we have a copy of what he himself wrote concerning the workings of his own mind under that affliction: "The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years: I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord in the land of the living; I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world: mine age is departed and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I have cut off, like a weaver, my life; he will cut me off with pining sickness, from day even to night will he make an end of me: I reckoned until morning that as a lion so will he break all my bones, from day even to night will he make an end of me: like a crane, or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove; my eyes failed with looking upwards! O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me."

Now it is possible enough that he was, in a considerable degree, under bondage to the fear of death; but yet we cannot suppose that all this grief originated from that one cause: no, he doubtless felt much for the glory of God and the prosperity of his people, both of which, as far as he could judge, would be very materially affected by his removal at that particular crisis. He was one of the best kings that ever governed the Jewish nation. No sooner did he come to the throne than he began to reform the abuses which had been introduced in preceding reigns. He threw down the altars that had been built; he opened and repaired the temple which had been shut up and left to decay; he restored the sacrifices which had been long neglected; he stirred up the people throughout all the kingdom to reform their lives; and he ardently longed to see these beginnings of reformation carried further into effect. He had very lately beheld the whole country overrun by Sennacherib's army, and Jerusalem itself reduced to the utmost distress and danger; and though he had seen a great part of the Assyrian army destroyed by the hand of God, yet he knew that the Assyrians were still a powerful enemy, and that if the Jewish nation should relapse into their former wickedness, they could not expect another miraculous interposition from God. He was aware also that having no son to succeed him, there would probably be internal divisions about a successor; so that if he were taken away at this time, the cause of religion would be neglected, and the whole Jewish nation be given over to suffer the consequences of their apostasy from God. That these reflections greatly contributed to his grief, seems plainly intimated in the answer which God gave to his prayer, as it is recorded both in 2 Kings 20:6, and in the chapter before us; in both of which places God not only promises to prolong his life, but to deliver the city out of the hands of the king of Assyria, and to defend it for his own name's sake. Afflicted with these gloomy prospects, he betook himself to the best of all remedies, prayer; and as we are expressly told that Isaiah joined with him in crying to Heaven on a former occasion, it is reasonable to suppose that, when he saw the king so overwhelmed with the news which he had brought him, he did not neglect this opportunity of joining with him in prayer for his recovery. Behold, their prayer prevailed; yes, so speedily did it prevail, that before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Tell Hezekiah, thus says the Lord; I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears, behold, I will heal you." God moreover commanded the prophet to make a plaster of figs, and to put it upon the boil, and to assure the king that in three days he should be well enough to go up to the house of the Lord. This was done to show that we ought to use means, while at the same time we look not to the means, but to God, for the desired success. Being restored to health he comes into the house of the Lord, and pours out his soul in pious and devout thanksgivings: knowing that, if he had died in his illness, he should never have had any more opportunities of glorifying God before men, he exclaims, "The grave cannot praise you, death cannot celebrate you, they that go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth; the living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day; the father to the children shall make known your truth:" and then he adds in the words of the text, "The Lord was ready to save me, therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord."

But we shall have a further insight into the meaning of the text, if we consider more particularly the words themselves—

They contain a thankful acknowledgment to God for his recovery, and a determination to glorify him for it as long as he should live. "The Lord was ready to save me," says the king. He does not blasphemously ascribe his recovery to his physicians, or to the means used, notwithstanding they were used according to God's own prescription; but he gives the honor, where alone it is due, to God. In disorders of any kind our eyes should not be so fixed upon the creature as they usually are; our expectation should be from God alone: it is "he who kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up." But that which Hezekiah seems to have been more particularly affected with, was the Lord's readiness to help him; "the Lord was ready to save me." This is a matter of astonishment to all who have ever tried the power and prevalency of prayer: God does not indeed bind himself to answer prayer immediately, at least not in the way in which we expect it to be answered; yet does he often with marvelous condescension grant the requests of his people as soon as they are offered up; he often visibly fulfills that precious promise recorded in Isaiah, "It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear." David mentions this as his own experience, and seems to have been struck with it as Hezekiah was; "I will praise you with my whole heart, O God; for in the day when I cried, you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul Psalm 138:1; Psalm 138:3. So Hezekiah in the text; "The Lord was ready to save me; therefore will we sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord." He determined that as the mercy given to him was a public benefit, so he would manifest his sense of it by public acknowledgments. He recorded this mercy and had it set to music, that all the nation might join with him in singing praises to God for it. Nor would he suffer it ever to be effaced from his memory: he made the recital of this mercy a part of his daily devotions; and determined he would continue to do so as long as he should live; judging very properly that his life, which had been so miraculously spared, should be spent wholly in the service of his God.

Nothing more being necessary to illustrate the meaning of the words, we shall pass on to notice,

II. The use we should make of them—

1. To excite our gratitude for the king's recovery—

There is a striking resemblance between the event which we are now met to commemorate, and that recorded in the passage before us. I will beg leave to point it out in several particulars.

It holds good in the persons who were ill. Hezekiah, you have heard, was one of the most illustrious kings that ever sat upon the Jewish throne: the glory of God and the welfare of his people were ever near his heart. He set a good example to all his subjects, and ardently desired to see them no less obedient to their God than loyal to himself: he published his edicts prohibiting whatever was offensive to God, and enforcing the observance of the divine laws: in short, if you would know his character, see it drawn by the inspired penman: "Thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good, and right, and truth before the Lord his God: and in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered 2 Chronicles 31:20-21." Now compare that of our gracious Sovereign: he has but limited power, and therefore cannot effect all he would; but what he would do if he were able, we see by the proclamation which was not long since issued. But this is a part of our subject on which it would not be proper to say much, nor is it needful that we should; for we trust his excellent qualities are too deeply engraved in all our hearts to need any repetition of them from this place—

But further—The resemblance holds good in the probable consequences of their illness—Hezekiah was sick near unto death, so that, until his recovery, he was utterly incapacitated for the business of the nation. If he had been left in the state he was, or had been taken away, his subjects would have suffered an irreparable loss. What they would have suffered we may judge in part from what they did actually suffer, when Manasseh the son of Hezekiah came to the throne: idolatry was re-established throughout the kingdom; and God, wearied as it were with the greatness of their provocations, gave them over, together with Manasseh their king, into the hands of their Babylonish enemies. What would have been the consequence if our Sovereign's illness had continued, none can tell. We mean not to cast reflections upon any person or party; we would abhor a party spirit either in religion or politics: but this we may say without a possibility of giving offence to any; that, however wisely the defect of an executive power might have been supplied, and however faithfully it might have been employed, still the nation would have suffered an almost irreparable injury; for the very sinews of government would have been cut asunder. This, we say, would have been the case, supposing that everything had been planned with the most consummate wisdom, and executed with the most unblemished integrity: but what might have happened, God alone knows: blessed be his name! he has delivered us now from the apprehensions of the calamities we have so earnestly deprecated, and so justly dreaded.

Again—The resemblance holds good in the means by which they were recovered from their illness. What was there in a plaster made of figs that could give so sudden a turn to a mortal disorder as to remove it in three days? Just as much as there was in the waters of Jordan to cleanse Naaman from his leprosy, or in the clay and spittle which our Lord used, to open the eyes of a blind man. It was prayer that healed Hezekiah; yes, prayer pierced the skies and entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. "I have heard your prayer, said God, and have seen your tears, and will heal you." And what has healed our gracious Sovereign? we answer without disparagement to any, prayer: a spirit of prayer has been poured out upon all God's people throughout the nation: all that have an interest in the court of Heaven, have cried day and night to God on his behalf. The prayers of the church prevailed for the delivering of Peter out of prison: so we doubt not but that the king's recovery is an answer to prayer; to the prayers of those very people who are yet too often hated, despised, and persecuted. It is true: God has used means; but what means? not the are of medicine, but repose and quiet. We mean not to detract from the merit of those who have assisted in his cure; they deserve well of the nation at large: and we shall rejoice to see them rewarded according to their desert: but the glory is God's, and his alone: the king's recovery is the gift of God; and that in answer to the prayers of his own people; and, we trust, that they will not discontinue their prayers for him even to the latest hour of their lives.

Once more—The resemblance holds good in the readiness with which God given the desired mercy. Hezekiah's and Isaiah's prayer was answered before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court; and in three more days the cure was effected. So has it been with respect to the cure given unto our Sovereign; it was withheld for a season, just to make all praying people earnest in their supplications. The rod impending over the nation seemed for some time ready to fall: yet was the stroke by various occurrences providentially delayed: and then at the very moment that it was expected to fall, behold! deliverance comes: so truly may the words of the text be applied to this event, "the Lord was ready to save." Surely that proverb has been again verified to us, that "in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen;" for God did not deliver Isaac more seasonably from the hand of Abraham, than he has done us from the calamities which threatened us.

Now if the occasions for joy and thankfulness are so similar, ought not our expressions of thankfulness to be similar also? Ought we not to render unto God according to the benefits he has conferred upon us? Yes, surely. Did Hezekiah then make his deliverance a matter of universal praise? let us stir up both ourselves and others to a devout and holy joy on account of the recovery of our king. Did he determine that he would make it a subject of public thanksgiving? let us do the same: and did he determine to remember it and sing of it all his days? let us endeavor to keep upon our minds a lively sense of this mercy, and not provoke God to withdraw it from us by our ingratitude.

2. To excite our gratitude for the mercies of redemption—

We all without exception are sick near unto death: what Isaiah says of the Jews is applicable to every nation upon earth: "the whole head," says he, "is sick;" that is, the kings and nobles, and all the governors in church and state, are infected with a mortal disease; "and the whole heart is faint," that is, the people at large, without any exception, are dying of the same malady: "from the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." Sin is this deadly disorder, and unless we be recovered from it, the consequence must be dreadful to us all. We are not left to conjecture what this may be; we know; we know for certain; we know that no temporal calamity whatever can be compared with it: we know that our disorder, if not speedily cured, must issue in everlasting death; in an everlasting separation of soul and body from God, and in an everlasting suffering of divine vengeance. But we are fully warranted to say with Hezekiah in the text, "the Lord is ready to save us." Of all the thousands and tens of thousands who came to our Lord for healing when he was on earth, not so much as one applied in vain: nor did ever any one call upon him for spiritual healing without experiencing his readiness to save. And is he not "the same yesterday, today, and forever?" Would Jesus ever have come down from Heaven, if he had not been ready to save? Would he have shed his precious blood for us, if he had not been ready to save? Would lie have sent his word, his ministers, and his holy Spirit, to invite and draw us to him, if he had not been ready to save? Has he not said, "As I live I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live; turn you, turn you from your evil ways, for why will you die?" And would he thus have sworn, invited, entreated, and expostulated, if he had not been ready to save? Beloved brethren, would to God that you would all put him to the trial! not one of you would then ever perish in your sins; he would cleanse you in his blood from all sin; he would restore your souls to health; and make them to flourish in immortal youth and beauty. Do you ask, How shall I obtain this blessing? We answer, just as the king of Judah, or the king of Britain, were restored to health: means were used for both; but the means were very inadequate to the end which was to be obtained: that which prevailed for both, was prayer; and that shall prevail for you. If you were like Jonah at the bottom of the sea in a whale's belly, the prayer of faith should deliver you. Still however you must use the means; attend to the word that is preached; and read the Bible in your closets: but do not imagine that these means can convert your souls: no; that is the Lord's work; and you will use all means in vain, if you do not beg of God to render them effectual. But if you pray, you will find the Lord far more ready to give, than you are to ask. To save sinners is his work, his office, his delight; it is "the joy which was set before him, in expectation of which he endured the cross and despised the shame:" yes, it is the import of his very name; for he was "called Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins." This is a perpetual ground of joy to all; it calls for our devoutest thanks and praises: it should make us all adopt the language of the text, and say, "The Lord is ready to save me; therefore will I sing songs to him all the days of my life, in the house of the Lord."

But if you have been restored to health; if you have experienced his salvation; if upon a review of your past life you can say with Hezekiah, "The Lord was ready to save me;" what ought to be the frame of your mind? how should you give thanks! the Psalmist says, "Let them give thanks whom the Lord has redeemed;" and if they will not, who will? The angels were not half so much indebted to him, as they for whom he shed his blood. "O then give thanks, give thanks unto our God; for it becomes well the just to be thankful:" "O come let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the God of our salvation."

An Analysis of The Foregoing Sermon

The Author had at one time thought of inserting a considerable number of short sketches; but he relinquished the idea, from an apprehension that they would not afford sufficient aid to those, whose more immediate benefit he consulted. The following Analysis is added as a specimen."

PUBLIC acknowledgments of national mercies are proper. The king's recovery is a just ground for them at this time.

I. The import of the words. In which observe—

1. The occasion of them. Here notice—

Hezekiah's illness, and dread of Approaching death. His character, as most concerned for God's glory and the national welfare. The probable consequences of his death. The means of his recovery: prayer—figs. His expressions of thankfulness for it.

2. The words themselves. These contain—

The grounds of his thankfulness; that God had restored him; and that he had been ready to do so. The expressions of it. He would give all the glory to God. He would do it publicly. He would have others to do the same. He would do it all his life.

II. The use we should make of them—

1. To excite our gratitude for the king's recovery—

The occasions are similar; as to the persons that were ill (compare Hezekiah, and the king): as to the probable consequences of their not recovering: as to the means used for their recovery, Prayer: and as to the readiness of God to comply with our requests.

Our gratitude should be similar; public—universal—fervent—perpetual.

2. To excite our gratitude for the mercies of redemption—

All are sick near unto death. The consequences of not recovering will be dreadful. The Lord is ready to heal us. Prayer is the grand mean of recovery. All should rejoice; the sick, that the Lord is ready to save; the recovered, that he was, and still is, ready.

 

 

Isaiah 40:1-2

 

DISCOURSE 920

THE SCOPE AND TENDENCY OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 40:1-2. Comfort you, comfort you my people, says your God. Speak you comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

THE ministerial office is fitly compared to that of a steward, who divides to every one his proper portion 2 Timothy 2:15. Luke 12:42. The execution of it calls for much wisdom and discretion, because there must be a diversity both in the matter and manner of our addresses corresponding with the different states of the people to whom we minister. To some we must of necessity proclaim the terrors of God's law, however painful such a discharge of our duty may be: but the great scope of our ministry is rather to comfort the Lord's people, and to "guide their feet into the way of peace." The commission here given to the servants of Jehovah, is very remarkable, being thrice repeated in one single verse. In this view of it I am led particularly to show,

I. How earnestly God desires the comfort and happiness of his people—

There are a people, chosen by the Father, redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit, who are eminently the Lord's people Deuteronomy 7:6. 1 Peter 2:9. And that God is peculiarly solicitous to promote their comfort, appears,

1. From the commission which he gave to his beloved Son—

He sent his Son into the world to execute his eternal counsels. And our Lord himself, in his first public address to the people, declared, that the comfort of mourners was a principal object of his mission Isaiah 41:1-3. Luke 4:17-19.

2. From the end for which he sends his Spirit into the hearts of men—

God sends his Spirit to testify of Christ John 15:26, to witness our adoption into his family Romans 8:15, and to seal us unto the day of redemption Ephesians 1:13-14. In performing these offices he comforts our souls. And he is, on that very account, distinguished by the name of "the Comforter John 16:7."

3. From the titles which the Father himself assumes—

He calls himself "The God of consolation Romans 15:5," and "the Comforter of all them that are "cast down 2 Corinthians 7:6." He compares his concern to that of a Father pitying his child Psalm 103:13, and to a mother comforting with tenderest assiduities her afflicted infant Isaiah 66:13. Yes, he assures us that his regards far exceed those of the most affectionate parent in the universe Isaiah 49:15.

4. From the solemn charge he gives to ministers—

He sends his servants "to turn men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God Acts 26:18." And he especially charges them to "strengthen the weak hands, to confirm the feeble Knees, and to say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you Isaiah 35:3-4." Thrice is that injunction repeated in the text: and in the execution of this duty we are justly called, "The helpers of your joy 2 Corinthians 1:24."

5. From the dispensations both of his providence and grace—

When he suffered his beloved Son to be tempted in all things like unto us, it was with a view to comfort us under our temptations Hebrews 2:18. And when he comforted Paul under his multiplied afflictions, he still consulted the comfort of his Church and people 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; yes, however he diversified his dispensations, he had invariably the same gracious object in view 2 Corinthians 1:6.

As a further proof of his regard for our comfort, we may point out to you,

II. What abundant provision he has made for it in his word—

The message which we are commanded to deliver to his people, contains in it the richest sources of consolation—

1. To God's ancient people—

To them primarily was this proclamation made. And it was verified in part, when they were delivered from the Babylonish captivity and restored to the enjoyment of their former privileges in Jerusalem. But it was yet further fulfilled, when, by the sending of their Messiah, they were delivered from the yoke of the Mosaic law, which imposed a burden which none of them were able to sustain. That, to those who received him as their Messiah, was a season of exceeding great joy; for they were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's clear Son, and from a state of insupportable bondage "into the glorious liberty of the children of God."

It will not however be fully accomplished, until they shall, in their national capacity, return from their present dispersion, and be re-united, Israel with Judah, in their own land. Then will their warfare be as much accomplished as it can be in this life: then will the tokens of God's displeasure be removed from them; and a state of prosperity be given to them that shall far exceed all the sufferings they have ever endured, and all the privileges they have ever enjoyed. At no time have they ever been punished beyond their deserts; (their severest trials have been far less than their iniquities deserved:) but in that day shall their blessings infinitely exceed all that they can now either contemplate or conceive.

2. To his believing people, in every age—

It is the true Christian alone who can form any just idea of the import of my text. "His warfare is accomplished!" so far at least, as that he is in a state of victory over the world, and the flesh and the devil. He can say, "Thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ." "His sins too are blotted out as a morning cloud," and "put away from him as far as the east is from the west." God has mercifully "forgiven him all trespasses;" and he stands before God "without spot or blemish." As for the blessings given to him, no words can possibly express them: his "peace passes all understanding;" and his "joy is unspeakable and full of glory." "He has even now entered into rest Hebrews 4:3," according to that promise given him by our Lord, "Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavy-laden; and I will give you rest".

See, then, Brethren,

1. What a wonderful difference exists between those who embrace, and those who disregard the Gospel—

Can that be said of carnal and worldly men, which is here spoken of the Lord's people? Are their chains broken? their sins forgiven? their comforts greater than any judgments that await them? No: they are yet in bondage to sin and Satan; their sins are all "sealed up in a bag" against the day of judgment; and the wrath of God is shortly coming upon them to the uttermost. Then it will appear how great a "difference there is between those who serve the Lord, and those who serve him not Malachi 3:18." Let not this distinction then be made a subject of profane ridicule, but a motive to seek the Lord, that we may be numbered with his people, and be made partakers of his benefits.

2. What inconceivable blessedness awaits the Lord's people in a better world!

Even in this life, as we have seen, their blessedness is exceeding great. But what will it be when once they shall lay down this mortal body, and enter into the joy of their Lord? Now conflicts remain even to their latest hour; and whatever victories they may gain, they must still remain girt for the combat. And, though "God has forgiven them all their trespasses," so that he will never frown upon them in the eternal world, they still have occasion daily to implore mercy at his hands on account of their short-comings and defects. But in the day that they shall be taken into the immediate presence of their God, O! who can tell us what they shall "receive at his hands?": Dear Brethren, do not think lightly of that joy; but be willing to sacrifice everything for the attainment of it. Think in what estimation it is held by all who have entered into the eternal world. What would tempt those in Heaven to part with it? or what would not they who are now in Hell, give to be made partakers of it? Be assured, that it will be fully commensurate with all your labors, though they had been a thousand times greater than they have; and that one single hour of it will richly recompense all that it is possible for any finite creature either to do or suffer in the Savior's cause.

 

 

Isaiah 40:6-8

 

DISCOURSE 921

THE IMMUTABILITY OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 40:6-8. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withers, the flower fades: because the Spirit of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever.

GOD does according to his own will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. When his time was come for the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, in vain did Pharaoh labor to retain them. Thus the prophet was inspired to declare the redemption of the Jews from Babylon, and the still greater redemption of the world from sin and Satan, in despite of all endeavors which might be used to thwart the divine purpose. This seems to be the immediate scope of the words before us. But they may also be taken as a general declaration respecting the instability of everything human, and the immutability of God's word.

I. The instability of everything human—

The comparison of man to grass is very frequent in the Scriptures; and it affords a just description of,

1. Our temporal comforts—

The grass in the early spring adorns and beautifies the face of nature; but, when parched by a burning sun or an eastern blast, it soon withers and decays: in the same manner the beauty and strength of youth are soon turned to weakness and deformity: the affluence and honor of the rich are quickly changed to degradation and want: and all our goodly fabrics of case and happiness are soon demolished. James illustrates this truth by the very comparison in the text James 1:9-11; and as Job experienced it in the days of old, so in every age may numerous instances be found of such vicissitudes.

2. Our spiritual comforts—

God is pleased to give rich consolation to his people: and, while they enjoy it, their faces are made, as it were, to shine, as the face of Moses did, when he descended from the holy mount. But these comforts are often of short continuance. When Peter thought of building tabernacles to protract his happiness, a cloud immediately overshadowed him, and he was called down to renew his conflicts with the world Mark 9:5; Mark 9:7; Mark 9:14. When David imagined his mountain so strong that he should never be moved, God hid his face from him and he was troubled Psalm 30:7. Thus it is also with all the people of God; whose manifold changes in this respect may well be compared with the diversified scenes of nature under the influence of kindly showers, or malignant winds Psalm 102:2-4.

3. Our very life itself—

In the midst of health we promise ourselves years to come: but, when God withdraws our breath, we instantly return to our native dust. Some look more mirthful and possess more "goodliness" than others; but they are only as the "flower of the field," which cannot survive the grass, and not unfrequently falls before it. In this view the inspired writers describe our state Job 14:1-2. Psalm 90:3-6. Psalm 103:15-16; and both observation and experience attest the truth of their representations: we must all confess, in the language of the text, "Surely, the people is grass."

But while everything human is thus frail and transient, we have a firm foundation whereon to stand, namely,

II. The immutability of God's blessed word—

The "word of God" here spoken of, may be understood as relating to Christ, who is often called by this name, and whose immutability is mentioned by the Psalmist in this very view Psalm 102:11-12; Psalm 102:26-27. But Peter informs us that the prophet spoke of the Gospel-salvation 1 Peter 1:24-25. Now

This "word" contains the most important and comfortable truths—

There is no want, which it is not able to supply, no disorder, for which it does not prescribe a remedy. It proclaims health to the sick, sight to the blind, liberty to the captives, and life to the dead. So extensive are its invitations and promises, that there is not a human being excluded from its provisions, nor is there any limit to the blessings which it will impart. It assures us, that sins of a crimson die may become white as snow; that the most heavy-laden soul may obtain rest; and that none, who come to Jesus, shall on any account be cast out Isaiah 1:18. Matthew 11:28. John 6:37.

Nor is it a small excellence in these truths, that they are as immutable as God himself—

How vain were the attempts of men and devils to stop the progress of the Gospel, and to make void the declarations of God respecting it! Equally vain shall be every endeavor to invalidate the promises which he has made to the believing penitent. Has he said, that "all manner of sin shall be forgiven; that he will cleanse us from all our filthiness and from all our idols; and that, where he has begun the good work, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ?" We may rest assured that he will fulfill his word: for "he is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent." But it may be said, "Though God changes not, yet we change, and therefore may forfeit our interest in the promises." True; if God should leave us, we not only may, but most undoubtedly shall, both fall and perish. But God has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you; so that we may adopt the confident declaration of Paul, "I know in whom I have believed, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him." We must be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Then, though difficulties may arise, and appear for a while wholly insurmountable, they shall surely be overcome; "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and we shall see the salvation of God."

We may learn from hence,

1. The folly of seeking our rest in earthly things—

The injunction given to the prophet to "cry," and to proclaim aloud that "all flesh is grass," and the frequent repetition of this comparison, are strong intimations of the extreme vanity of everything here below. And who among us has not found that the enjoyments he fondly anticipated, have either eluded his grasp, or deceived his expectation? Whatever then be our comforts in life, let us not set our hearts upon them, but "so use the world as not abusing it, knowing that the fashion thereof passes away."

2. The wisdom of embracing the Gospel-salvation—

They who trust in the word of God are sure of never being disappointed. However high their expectations are raised, they shall never be ashamed. The stronger their faith, the more abiding will be their comfort. Besides, their enjoyments, instead of cloying, will become more and more delightful; and, instead of bringing with them many inseparable ills, will produce nothing but good to their souls. But that which most of all must endear the Gospel to them is, that their happiness will then be consummated, when they, whose comforts were of an earthly nature, will want even a drop of water to cool their tongue. Let the word of God then be precious to our souls. Let Christ, as revealed in it, be the object of our faith, and hope, and love. Let us embrace the promises, assured that they shall all be fulfilled; and let us tremble at the threatening, knowing that they shall all be executed. Thus shall we be proof against the temptations of the world, and shall possess an eternity of glory, when the lovers of this present world will lie down in everlasting burnings.

 

 

Isaiah 40:9

 

DISCOURSE 922

THE MESSIAH'S ADVENT

Isaiah 40:9. Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God.

THE Gospel with all its sublime mysteries is regarded by the generality with coldness and indifference; whereas the most indistinct prospects of it were sufficient to fill the patriarchs and prophets with holy rapture. It was a view of its Divine Author which drew forth from the prophet this animated exhortation. He saw Jesus as it were already incarnate, and called upon the daughters of Zion and Jerusalem to proclaim and celebrate his advent It should be read as in the margin, "O daughter, that bring good tidings to Zion," etc. It was customary for women to celebrate the praises of God in public on remarkable occasions. See Exodus 15:20-21, and 1 Samuel 18:6-7. That, which he proposed to them as the subject of their song, is the one great subject also of our ministrations. To call your attention unto Jesus, to set him forth as crucified before your eyes, and, with an exalted voice, to cry, Behold your God! this is our commission. But before we proceed to execute it, we shall,

I. Show what is implied in this commission—

We cannot fail to observe, what the prophet so strongly intimates,

1. That Christ is God—

This is a fundamental article of our faith. The Godhead of Christ is that which stamps a value on his sufferings, and renders the whole of his undertaking so meritorious and efficient. It would be to little purpose to say with Pilate, "Behold the man," if we could not also add with the prophet, "Behold your God." But we are not left to doubt of this important truth: it is clearly established in almost every page of the sacred volume: we need go no further than to the writings of Isaiah; and we shall find it expressly asserted, that the person who was to be "a Child born, and a Son given to us," was the mighty God. Isaiah 9:6. He was therefore to be called Emmanuel, because he was God with us Isaiah 7:14 with Matthew 1:23. In the very chapter before us, his forerunner, John the Baptist, was commissioned to cry, Prepare you the way of the Lord (Jehovah) make straight in the desert an high-way for our God. verse 3. But we need not multiply words on this subject, since the voice of inspiration universally proclaims him to have been, "God manifest in the flesh," "God over all, blessed forever 1 Timothy 3:16. Romans 9:5."

2. That the knowledge of Christ is of universal importance—

It was through all "the cities of Judah," and with her "voice lifted up with strength," that the daughter of Zion was to celebrate the Messiah's advent. And whence the need of such zeal and labor, but on account of the universal importance of those glad tidings? Indeed there is no other thing which men so much need to be acquainted with as the work and offices of Christ. No attainments can save them, if they be ignorant of Christ; nor can any past sins condemn them, if they be truly acquainted with this divine Savior. "This," as our Lord himself tells us, "is life eternal, to know God as the only true God, and Jesus Christ John 17:3," as our Mediator and Advocate with the Father. So excellent is this knowledge, that Paul "counted all things but loss and dung in comparison of it Philippians 3:8." It is the one mean of obtaining reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, and deliverance from the power of sin 1 John 1:7. O that all were aware how deeply they are interested in receiving these glad tidings! We should proclaim them with infinitely greater pleasure, if we had not so much reason to complain, that "they are counted as a strange thing Hosea 8:12."

Taking for granted these fundamental and indisputable truths, we shall,

II. Endeavor to execute the commission—

The text does not limit us to any particular point of view in which we are to behold our God; we shall therefore direct your attention to him,

1. As descending from Heaven—

Lo! he comes from his bright abodes: but in what form does he appear? Does he descend in solemn pomp, attended with myriads of the heavenly host? Does he visit the palaces of the great, and assume our nature in its most dignified appearance? No: He is born of an obscure virgin, and has no better place for his reception than a stable. Go, look into his mean abode; see him wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and lying in a manger; look, I say, and behold your God! What marvelous condescension! how does it almost exceed belief, yet, incredible as it appears, we must again say, Behold your God!

2. As sojourning on earth—

Surely, no sooner could his incarnation be known, than all the world, like the eastern Magi, must flock to worship him Matthew 2:11. So one might reasonably hope; but what is that "weeping and lamentation" that we hear? The young child's life is sought. The children from two years old and under are massacred through the whole district, that no possibility may be left for his escape: and He is saved only by the special interposition of his heavenly Father Matthew 2:16-20. See his parents fleeing with him by night to a distant, a heathen, land, not daring to return to their native country until the death of their blood-thirsty persecutor! But this was only the beginning of sorrows. View him afterwards when he assumed his proper office as the Prophet of his church: no sooner did he open his commission, than the short-lived applause afforded him was turned into the most cruel indignation; and if he had not by an exertion of his own almighty power effected his escape, his very first sermon had proved his last Luke 4:28-30. But to pass over to the period of his death. Whom is it that we see prostrate on the ground, and bathed in a bloody sweat? Who is it that those cruel soldiers are mocking, buffeting, scourging? Who is it that is nailed to yonder cross, and that we see expiring under such an accumulated weight of shame and misery? To all this we answer, Behold your God!

3. As exalted to glory—

Hitherto we have witnessed nothing but his humiliation; but the shame of his cross was quickly rolled away. In vain were the stone, the seal, the watch: he burst the bands of death, and rose triumphant. Henceforth we are to view him ascending amidst myriads of exulting angels, sitting on the throne of his glory, dispensing blessings to the church below, and receiving the adorations of his church above. Sinner, lift up your eyes to Heaven, and behold your once crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer! Now he shines forth in all his glory, and says to you, even to you, "Behold me, behold me Isaiah 65:1." O that every eye might see him, and that all, who have pierced him by their sins, might mourn and be in bitterness, as one that mourns for his first-born son Zechariah 12:10. Soon indeed all shall see him: the time is shortly coming, when he will descend from Heaven again, not however to stand, as before, like a criminal at man's tribunal, but to execute judgment on the assembled universe; and then happy shall they be who have behold him here with suitable affection; they shall behold his face with inexpressible delight; and be the spectators of his glory, and the partners of his throne, to all eternity.

ADDRESS—

1. The careless—

Know you what the sins, which you commit so lightly, have occasioned? Go to Calvary and behold your God; and then judge whether sin be so light and trivial a matter as you are ready to imagine! The Jews and Romans were the immediate actors in that bloody tragedy; but your sins, and the sins of an ungodly world, were the real occasion of all that your God endured; and, while you continue in your sins, you "crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame." Ah! did David cast away the water, for which the lives of three men had been endangered, and will not you cast away the sins which have actually shed the blood of God 2 Samuel 23:16-17 with Acts 20:28. Let this thought induce you to put away the polluted cup from your lips; and and let "the love of Christ constrain you to live unto him who died for you and rose again."

2. The heavy-laden—

To you especially the Savior cries, "Look unto me, and be saved! "Come unto me, and find rest unto your souls!" Consider well, who it is that thus invites you; it is your Savior, and your God; there can be no want of efficacy in his blood, or of power in his arm: he is a strong rock, a sure foundation, an all-sufficient help. Trust then in him; and, as a sight of the brazen serpent healed the dying Israelites, so shall a view of your divine Savior prove an effectual remedy for all your wants. You shall soon, like Thomas, exclaim with holy rapture, "My Lord and my God!" or, in the language long since dictated to you by the spirit of prophecy, "Lo, this is Our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him: we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation Isaiah 25:9."

 

 

Isaiah 40:11

 

DISCOURSE 923

CHRIST'S CARE FOR HIS SHEEP

Isaiah 40:11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom; and shall gently lead those that are with young.

THE holy Psalmist, speaking of Jehovah's care of him, says, "The Lord is my Shepherd:" and then, from the union of the Godhead with the pastoral office, he infers, "Therefore I shall not want Psalm 23:1." The same incomprehensible union is mentioned by the prophet in the passage before us. The heralds that proclaimed the advent of the Messiah were commanded to draw the attention of men to them in these words, "Behold your God!" The person thus announced, is further described in the words preceding our text; "Behold! the Lord God will come:" and then it is added, "he shall feed his flock like a shepherd." Now when it is considered how prone the Israelites were to idolatry, it cannot be conceived that the prophet should speak of the Messiah in such exalted terms, if they did not properly belong to him. But the prophets generally, and Isaiah in particular, are very full and explicit in declaring, that Jehovah was to become incarnate, and by the sacrifice of himself to redeem and save a ruined world. It is not however of his person that we now propose to speak, but of his office; that being the particular point to which my text refers: yet it would be improper to pass over such a strong testimony to the divinity of our blessed Lord, because, in the judgment of all, but more especially of Jews, it must have the effect of silencing every doubt upon that important subject. And it adds no little interest to the description here given of him, when we know, that He who so condescends to minister as a Shepherd to the least and meanest of his flock, is the Most High God: according as it is written, "To us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and his name shall be called, The Mighty God Isaiah 9:6."

The words which form the ground-work of our discourse, will lead me to set before you,

I. A general view of our Lord as a Shepherd—

The character of a shepherd is frequently assigned to our blessed Lord, in the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament Ezekiel 37:24. Zechariah 13:7. Hebrews 13:20. 1 Peter 5:4; and every duty pertaining to that office is executed by him:—

1. He gathers them to his fold—

They are "wandering upon the dark mountains, in a cloudy and dark day Ezekiel 34:6;" "every one going in his own way Isaiah 53:6," and "after the imaginations of his own heart Jeremiah 23:17.": The paths of all, though differing from each other according as the age, the inclinations, and the diversified temptations of the different individuals may lead them: all agree in this, that they are far distant from the ways of God's commandments Romans 3:11-12. But "he searches for them, and seeks them out:" he follows them by the preaching of his word, by the dispensations of his providence, by the mighty working of his Spirit; and, having found them, "he apprehends them" by his pastoral crook Philippians 3:12, and "makes them willing" to return with him Psalm 110:3, and "carries them home upon his shoulders rejoicing Luke 15:5-6."

2. He provides for their wants—

O! how sweet are the pastures into which he leads them Ezekiel 34:14. Who can express the delight which a converted soul experiences in feeding upon the promises, "the exceeding great and precious promises" of his God?: In comparison of the food provided for the sheep of Christ, all else is but as "husks on which the swine exist Luke 15:16. Isaiah 55:2." This is set forth in Scripture under the image of a luxurious feast Isaiah 24:6; and truly it is "a feast of fat things" to all the saints; a feast, of which even the angels themselves might account it a privilege to partake Psalm 78:25.

3. He affords them his effectual protection—

Weak as they are, and beset with many enemies, they are preserved in perfect safety 1 Peter 1:5; He who laid down his life for them, will suffer "none to pluck them out of his hand John 10:11; John 10:28.": "They lie down beside the still waters Psalm 23:2," which are a just emblem of the tranquility of their own souls: "They are kept in perfect peace, because they trust in him Isaiah 26:3."

4. He administers to them according to their diversified necessities—

Among them there will be some who are sick, or diseased, or injured by some misfortune: but he knows all their particular cases, and imparts to them the relief which they severally need; "bringing buck those which have been driven away, binding up that which has been broken, and strengthening that which is sick Ezekiel 34:16." and never intermitting his care of them, until he has brought them to his fold above Psalm 23:5-6.

But our text requires us to take,

II. A more particular view of him as ministering to the weak and needy—

Let us notice then in a more especial manner,

1. His tenderness to the weak—

The lambs which have been but recently brought forth, may be supposed incapable of proceeding with the flock to any distant pasture. But these "he will gather with his arms, and carry in his bosom." "He will not despise the day of small things Zechariah 4:10." There is not one in all his flock so weak, but he will pay the most minute attention to its necessities. He who gave so particular a charge to Peter to "feed his lambs," and required this of him as a necessary proof of his love John 21:15, will not himself neglect his lambs; but rather will augment his tender assiduities in proportion as the weakness of the lamb calls for more peculiar care: he will even take it up, and "carry it in his bosom." In what an endearing view does this place the character of our blessed Lord!: How sweetly encouraging is this consideration to those who feel their weakness, and are ready to despond because of it!: Let us remember, that when his disciples would have kept persons from troubling him with their little children, he reproved them, and said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven Mark 10:14." Whether therefore you be children in respect of your natural or spiritual birth, fail not to come to him, assured, that he will bear with your infirmities, and "perfect his own strength in your weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9."

2. His compassion to the afflicted—

He will have respect to the state of his flock, even as Jacob had, who "would not overdrive them one day, lest they should all die Genesis 33:13-14." So our blessed Lord "will gently lead that which is with young." There are among his people many who are weary and heavy-laden with a sense of sin, and bowed down greatly by reason of the difficulties of their way. But to the former he sends a special invitation, with an assured promise of rest Matthew 11:28; and to the latter he authorizes us to declare, that "he will raise them up Psalm 146:8." In truth, he is pre-eminently distinguished by this, that "he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; but will bring forth judgment unto victory Matthew 12:20. Consider what is implied in these metaphors: a bruised reed is, according to human appearance, incapable of ever sending forth a melodious sound; and smoking flax has, as it were, but a hidden spark of fire, while it is sending forth whole clouds of corruption: yet will Christ fan the expiring spark to a flame, and attune the reed to send forth the most heavenly strains. Let none then despond, however destitute they may be of anything to encourage them from within; but let them "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might Ephesians 6:10."

Let me now add a few words,

1. In commendation of this good Shepherd—

Whence is it that all do not put themselves under his care? Is there any want of love, or tenderness, or power in him? God frequently, by his prophets, called on his rebellious people to testify against him, and to say, whether there had been any want of kindness or care in him: "O my people, what have I done unto you? and wherein have I wearied you? Testify against me Micah 6:3. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31." "What could I have done more for my people than I have done Isaiah 5:4." So do I now, in the name of this good Shepherd, call upon you all this day, to bear, if you can, your testimony against him. Whom did he ever neglect or despise? Whom that sought him did he ever refuse to receive? Whom that trusted in him, did he ever omit to supply according to his necessities?: If then no complaint ever was, or could be made against him from the world, let every heart appreciate his excellency, and every soul commit itself to its care: If this were a subject for an Ordination or Visitation Sermon, the Clergy should be urged to follow the example of this good Shepherd.

2. For the augmentation and encouragement of his flock—

You who have to this hour been going astray, and walking in the way of your own hearts, reflect upon your guilt and danger, and "return now without delay to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls 1 Peter 2:25.": As employed by him, I come now to search you out, and to bring you home to his fold Ephesians 4:11. Mark 16:15. Jeremiah 23:4; O think, how delightful it will be to "hear his voice calling every one of you by name John 10:3," and "going in and out with you" as long as you shall remain in this dreary wilderness John 10:9, and then performing the same office for you in the realms of bliss Revelation 7:17; "O listen not to the voice of strangers": but, follow him: that you may be one fold under one Shepherd forever and ever John 10:5; John 10:9; John 10:16.

 

 

Isaiah 40:27-31

 

DISCOURSE 924

THE DESPONDING ENCOURAGED

Isaiah 40:27-31. Why say you, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Have you not known, have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

THE human mind is prone to extremes. Before a man comes to the knowledge of himself, he is filled with presumption, and accounts himself as safe as if there were no judgments denounced against him: but, when he begins to feel his guilt and helplessness, he is ready to run into the opposite extreme of despondency, and to account his state as irremediable, as if there were not a promise in the Bible suited to his condition. Such were the feelings of the Jews before their captivity in Babylon, and under the pressure of the troubles which they experienced in their bondage. The prophet, by anticipation, views them us already in Babylon, and reproves the desponding apprehensions which there depressed their souls.

The words I have read, will afford me a fit occasion to set before you,

I. The discouragements which the Lord's people suffer—

It is really no uncommon thing for even pious souls to utter the complaint mentioned in my text. They do this on a variety of occasions:

1. Under a sense of unpardoned guilt—

Sin, which in an unenlightened state appears so small an evil, to an awakened soul appears "exceeding sinful," insomuch that he is ready to imagine it can never be forgiven. Hear David under these distressing apprehensions: "O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath, neither chasten me in your hot displeasure! for your arrows stick fast in me, and your hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of your anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me Psalm 38:1-4." Even good men will, at times, adopt the language of Cain: "Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven Genesis 4:13. See the marginal version." Nor is this to be wondered at: for when we view sin with all its aggravations, and especially as committed against the love of Christ and the strivings of his good Spirit, it does assume a character most odious, and justly deserving of God's heaviest indignation.

2. Under the assaults of indwelling corruption—

These continue long after a man is turned to the Lord. They have indeed received a check; but often, like water obstructed by a dam, they rise and swell the more for the opposition that is made to them. Paul's experience in this respect has kept thousands from utter despondency. How bitterly he complains of "the law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that was in his members!'" From hence, like a man bound with chains to a loathsome carcass, from which he cannot get loose, he cries, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death Romans 7:23-24." He indeed saw that deliverance was laid up for him in and through Christ. But many are driven almost to despair: their conflicts with sin and Satan are so frequent and so violent, and sometimes, in appearance at least, so ineffectual, that they are ready to imagine that God has given them up, and that it is in vain for them to contend any more. In this state they are strongly tempted to say, "There is no hope: I have loved strangers; and after them will I go Jeremiah 2:25."

3. Under the pressure of long-continued afflictions—

These will oppress and overwhelm the strongest man, if he be not succored from above with strength according to his day. Under these, David frequently complains, as if God had left him and forsaken him: "Lord, why cast you off my soul? Why hide you your face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer your terrors, I am distracted: your fierce wrath goes over me; your terrors have cut me off Psalm 88:14-16." The patient Job; Job 3:1; Job 27:2, the pious Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:1-18, the intrepid Elijah, all fainted through their troubles: the two former cursed the day of their birth; and the latter, scarcely less excusable, prayed impatiently to God to "take away his life," in order to liberate him from his troubles 1 Kings 19:4. Even the Savior himself, in his afflictions, adopted the language of the Psalmist, "My God, my God! why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring Psalm 22:1." And no doubt the hands of the strongest will hang down, and the heart of the stoutest faint, if God strengthen them not to drink the cup which men and devils concur to put into their hands.

But it would not be thus with them, if they used aright,

II. The antidote provided for them in the Scriptures—

In the Scriptures, Jehovah is represented as ordering and overruling all things; and as being a God,

1. Of almighty power—

There is nothing in the whole universe which did not derive its existence from his all-creating hand; nor is anything left to its own operations without his sovereign control. Be it either good or evil, it exists only through his permission; as God himself has told us: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things Isaiah 45:7." Even the murderers of our blessed Lord, though perfectly free agents in all that they did, "effected only what the hand und counsel of Jehovah himself had determined before to be done Acts 4:28." Be it so then: our guilt lies heavy on our souls; our corruptions work with almost irresistible force; our troubles of divers kinds threaten utterly to destroy us: but is there no power able to deliver? Cannot He who created all things by a word, and spoke them into existence, accomplish for us whatever our necessities require? "Is his ear heavy, that he cannot hear; or his arm shortened, that he cannot save Isaiah 59:1." Were we left to the uncontrolled power of our spiritual enemies, we might well despair: but while God is seated on his throne, we need never fear but that he will interpose for our relief, if only we cast our care on him. "If we cast our burden upon him, he will sustain us."

2. Of unerring wisdom—

Because God does not exert his Almighty power for us at the first moment that we implore his aid, we suppose "that our way is hid from him, and our judgment is passed over from him," or, in other words, that he has utterly cast us off. But we forget that he has gracious designs to accomplish; and that he accomplishes them in ways of which we have no conception, and which appear calculated only to defeat his ends. We measure his wisdom by the scanty line of our own reason; forgetting that "his ways are in the great deep," and "past finding out" by any finite intelligence: that "there is no searching of his understanding." Now let this be considered: let the afflicted saint contemplate Jehovah as ordering and overruling everything for the good of his people and for the glory of his own name; let him say, 'I have cried long, and not been heard: but perhaps the purposes of Jehovah are not yet ripe for accomplishment: there is more of humiliation to be produced in my soul; more of a preparation of mind for discerning; of his mighty hand; more depression to be caused in order to a more glorious exaltation.' Let him recollect the ways in which Joseph's dreams were realized; and bear in mind, that the same God sits at the helm, and directs the vessel amidst all the storms, "the very storms and winds all fulfilling his sovereign will and pleasure." This were abundantly sufficient to compose the mind under the most afflictive circumstances that can be imagined: for where there is unerring wisdom to direct, and Almighty power to execute, no difficulty can exist, which shall not be overruled for good Romans 8:28.

But let the text declare,

III. The happy state of those who duly improve this antidote—

To wait on God in prayer is necessary, in order to the obtaining of help from him—

He has said that "he will be inquired of, in order that he may do for us the things that he has promised Ezekiel 36:37." This is indispensable in every view: for without it there would be no acknowledgment of him on our part, nor any readiness to give him glory, when he had interposed for our relief. Nor is it only in a way of importunity that we are to wait upon him, but in a way of humble dependence also, and of meek submission to his will. We must leave everything to his all-wise disposal; "tarrying his leisure," and "waiting his time, however long the vision may be delayed Habakkuk 2:3." "He who believes must not make haste Isaiah 28:16."

To all who comply with this requisite, the most effectual relief is secured—

It is God's delight to support his people in the time of need: "He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increases strength." This, I say, is his habit and delight: and one great end of his delaying the communication! of his aid is, to make men more sensible of their dependence on him, and more thankful for his gracious interpositions. Until he grant his answers to prayer, all human efforts are vain; "even the youths will faint and be weary; and the young men, how strong soever they imagine themselves to be, will utterly fall:" but "they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength." Like the eagle, when molting, they may be greatly reduced; but in due season, like him, with his renovated plumage, they shall soar on high, above all the trials and temptations with which they have been oppressed. Their course may be yet long and difficult; the opposition which they may have to encounter may be exceeding violent; but, through the Divine aid, "they shall run and not be weary; they shall march onward Bishop Lowth's translation, and not faint."

ADDRESS—

1. In a way of tender expostulation—

Such a state of mind as God's people of old indulged, is approved by many, as characteristic of humility. But it is a mark of pride rather, and of unbelief; and it is calculated only to excite God's heavy displeasure. This appears from the manner in which it is here reproved. In fact, it argues a forgetfulness of all our principles as men acknowledging a Supreme Being. Have we not known, that there is a God who orders all things both in Heaven and in earth? Have we not heard, that "without him not so much as a sparrow falls to the ground?" How then can we imagine that he is inattentive to his suffering or conflicting people, or that he is at a loss for means whereby to effect their deliverance? Have we not heard that "he has given us his only dear Son to die for us? What, then, will he withhold from those who seek him?" Still further; Have we not heard that "he has made with us an everlasting covenant, a covenant ordered in all things and sure?" And is not a supply of all our wants there provided for? Be ashamed, then, my Brethren, that, with such principles, you can give way to any disquietude. You have only to "commit yourselves, and all your concerns, into his hands; and be sure that he will bring to pass" whatever shall eventually advance your best interests.

2. In a way of affectionate encouragement—

See to what all your fears are really owing. The pious Asaph was harassed with them, like you: but, on reflection, he said, "This is mine infirmity Psalm 77:7-10.": Be assured, that not all the powers of earth or Hell can prevail against you, if only, in the exercise of faith and patience, you wait on God. Take courage, then, and call yourselves to an account, as David did, for such unworthy fears and such unhallowed depression: "Why are you cast down, O my soul! and why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God Psalm 42:5; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5." If you need some specific promise for your support, take that which God has given to such as are in your very state: "Fear you not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness Isaiah 41:10." Rest on this, and you shall soon add your testimony to that of David: "I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and ordered my goings: and he has put a new song into my mouth, even praise and thanksgiving to my God Psalm 40:1-3."

 

 

Isaiah 41:10

 

DISCOURSE 925

THE WEAK BELIEVER COMFORTED

Isaiah 41:10. Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

OF the contest between Jehovah and the worshipers of idols, we who have never witnessed the madness of idolaters, have no conception: and, consequently, the pains taken by Jehovah to vindicate his exclusive right to the worship of his creatures appear almost superfluous. But the pertinacity with which idol-worship was upheld, not only among the heathen nations around Judea, but even in Judea itself, rendered every possible effort necessary to withstand its influence, and to suppress its growth. Power and authority were for the most part on the side of idolatry; in support of which the bitterest persecutions were set on foot against the adherents of true religion. But Jehovah promises to them his support, and assures them, that, however severely tried for a season, they shall triumph at last.

This is the primary import of our text. But, when we recollect, that there is a spiritual idolatry still prevalent, and that there still exists the same contest between Jehovah and the votaries of this present world, and that his faithful servants are still greatly obstructed in their ways, and painfully persecuted too for their fidelity to him, we shall see that the encouragement in our text is as needful for them, as ever it was for his people of old.

I propose then to set before you,

I. The grounds which the Lord's people have for fear—

The idea of guilt and unworthiness might well come into our view, if we were treating the subject without any reference to the context: but as the fear and dismay mentioned in our text originated only in the power of their enemies, their own inability to withstand them, and the fearful consequences of a defeat, we think it right to confine our observations to those topics.

The Lord's people then have many fears as arising from,

1. The number and power of their enemies—

It is well known that the world and all its votaries are in direct opposition to the children of God. As Gideon no sooner made a league with Joshua, than all the kings of Canaan confederated to destroy them; so no sooner does any one enter into covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ and submit to him, than the whole world account him a deserter from their cause, and use all their efforts to bring him back to their standard. Even our dearest friends will be the foremost in this warfare; and "our greatest foes be those of our own household." In confirmation of this assertion, we appeal, not to the Scriptures only, but to fact and experience. Let any man set his face to seek the Lord, and all around him will put themselves in array against him, and employ all the arts of persuasion, ridicule, expostulation, and menace, in order, if possible, to divert him from his purpose. Those who, when he was going on in the ways of sin, never uttered a single word of advice to induce him to flee from the wrath to come, no sooner behold him turning into the way of righteousness, than they express the deepest concern about his welfare, and labor to the uttermost to reclaim him from what they account the most egregious folly.

In league with them will both the flesh, and the devil be; the one striving by the violence of its in-dwelling lusts, and the other by the subtlety of his devices, to draw him back into that state of guilt and bondage from which he has just escaped 2 Peter 2:18.

Such enemies, so numerous, so subtle, so inveterate, the Christian scarcely knows how to encounter: and the thought of their combined and continued efforts to destroy him, fills him not unfrequently with terror and "dismay".

2. His utter inability to withstand them—

The Christian has no idea of the extent of his own impotency to that which is good, until he comes to exert himself in the ways of God. He then finds that "without aid from the Lord Jesus Christ, he can do nothing." This oftentimes greatly discourages him: "If," says he, "I have run with footmen, and they have wearied me, how shall I contend with horses Jeremiah 12:5." If I am not able to encounter the least of all my enemies, how can I withstand the united force of all? The discouragements arising from this source are the greater, because they so continually recur. The Christian cannot address himself to any duty, but he is constrained from painful experience to acknowledge, that all his sufficiency to do, or to will, or even to think what is good, is of God alone Philippians 2:13. 2 Corinthians 3:5; Truly, if it were not that he had hope in God, he would sit down in utter despair.

3. The dreadful consequence of a defeat—

Eternity is at stake; an eternity of bliss or woe; of bliss or woe unutterable, and inconceivable: and to those only who overcome will the prize of victory be assigned, even to those who maintain the conflict to the end, and overcome all the enemies of their souls. And how fearful the alternative! how dreadful the thought of dwelling with everlasting burnings! Can a man open his eyes to such a prospect, and not fear? Is it not sufficient to appal the stoutest heart? True indeed, some are borne up above all such fears, and are "assured, that, when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, they have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens:" but all are not so privileged; or rather, all do not so fully attain the enjoyment of their privileges: and to them a doubt or suspicion of their ultimate acceptance with God is a source of the most disquieting apprehension.

But however great be their fears, they may dismiss them all, when they are informed of,

II. The encouragement here afforded them—

Every difficulty that could harass their minds is obviated in our text, in which all their fears are anticipated, and their wants supplied. God promises them,

1. His presence—

Were we left in the power of our enemies without any friend at hand to help us, we might well fear. But God says to the trembling soul, "Fear not; for I am with you." Now if but a fellow-creature were with us in a season of difficulty, we should take courage, especially if we knew that he was competent to afford us the protection we desired. How much more then may we be satisfied if Almighty God be with us! In the contemplation of this, David says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, God is in the midst of us: we shall not be moved. God shall help us, and that right early. The Lord of Hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our refuge Psalm 46:1-2; Psalm 46:5; Psalm 46:7; Psalm 46:11."

But if it be said, God may be "with us" as an enemy, or as an indifferent spectator: therefore it is not a mere persuasion of his presence that will satisfy our minds; he further assures his people of,

2. His care—

Believers are "his people; and He is their God:" and in this character will he be with them in all their trials. A stranger may see a person injured, and not feel himself sufficiently interested to interpose for his relief: but a husband, or a father, will not so act: he will feel the injury as done to himself; and will make the cause his own. So will God do for his people, who are authorized in all their troubles to say to him, "Arise, and plead your own cause." "Whoever touches them, touches the apple of his eye:" and "his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of those who trust in him:" and every perfection that he possesses will he put forth for their preservation and protection.

Yet, as his people are required to exert themselves, and are apt to be discouraged on account of their extreme weakness, he promises them,

3. His support—

We are told that he will "put strength into his people Psalm 29:11," and "strengthen them with might by his power in their inward man." What then need they to fear, when "the arms of their hands are made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob Genesis 49:24." The weakest of them all may fearlessly adopt the language of the prophet, "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song: he also is become my salvation Isaiah 12:2." Yes; the truest stripling, with his sling and his stone, may go forth against all the Goliaths in the universe, assured of victory: for "he can do all things, through Christ who strengthened! him."

Yet, because the Christian's enemies are far too strong for an arm of flesh, and he is apt, notwithstanding the strength imparted to him, to be discouraged; God further engages to aid him with,

4. His cooperation—

Fear not; for "I will help you," says God: "I will help your infirmities Romans 8:26. See the Greek." In this expression there is something deserving of especial notice. The term used imports, that when our burden is so heavy and cumbersome that we cannot with all our exertions support it, God promises that he will take hold of it at the opposite end, and bear it together with us. Be it so then, that our burden is too heavy for us: but is it too heavy for him also? "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" "If he be for us, not all the powers of earth and Hell combined can with any effect exert themselves against us Romans 8:31."

Still, as long as anything depends on him, the trembling believer cannot dispel his fears: and therefore, to complete the consolation afforded him, God assures him of,

5. His effectual support—

"I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." What can the believer want more than this; to have the eternal God for his refuge; and to have "underneath him his everlasting arms?" "O! happy indeed are you, O Israel: who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of your help, and the sword of your excellency Deuteronomy 33:27-29." After this promise, we wonder not at the assurances added to our text, "Behold! all that are incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded; they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with you shall perish. You shall seek them, and shall not find them, even them that contended with you: they that war against you shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nothing. Fear not, you worm Jacob: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small as chaff, so that the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them verse 11–16."

And now, if, after this, any of you entertain unbelieving fears, let me expostulate with you, as God himself does—

"I, even I, am he who comforts you: Who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be as grass; and forget the Lord your Maker; and fear every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor Isaiah 51:12-13." Do not so dishonor your Lord and Savior: but believe him able, believe him willing, to afford you all needful support, and to "save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him".

Yet let me not conclude without adding a few words for the conviction of those who know nothing of such fears as these—

They who have never had a fear of their state, are at this moment destitute of any scriptural hope: for, What can they know of themselves? What can they know of the Christian warfare? What can they know of the Scriptures of truth? They are altogether in darkness even until now. Can it be supposed that God would use such efforts for the encouragement of his people, if they did not need encouragement? Why did Jehovah so tenderly chide his people of old for their fears, and give them such rich promises of aid, if their situation did not require such supports Isaiah 40:27-31. or why does our blessed Lord still say, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom Luke 12:32." Know of a surety, that the Christian life is attended with many difficulties: and that all the supports and consolations afforded to the believer in the Holy Scriptures, are no more than his necessities require: and, if ever you begin to serve the Lord in truth, you will find the promise in our text more precious to you than gold, and "sweeter to you than honey, or the honeycomb."

 

 

Isaiah 41:14-16

 

DISCOURSE 926

THE WORM JACOB THRESHING THE MOUNTAINS

Isaiah 41:14-16. Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, says the Lord, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff; you shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel.

TO comfort and encourage the weak is among the first duties of a minister. The command of God to all his servants is, to strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees, and dispel the fears of the desponding, with an assurance, that their God will come and save them Isaiah 35:3-4. This is an office executed by our blessed Lord, who "carries the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads them that are with young Isaiah 40:11." The delight which the Father himself also takes in raising up the drooping minds of his people, appears eminently in this, that he frequently addresses them in terms which they, through despondency, would use to characterize themselves; and then under those very characters assures them of his most favorable regards. This is particularly conspicuous in the passage before us, where, addressing his people, he declares,

I. Their character—

The name of a "worm" as applied to our blessed Lord, denotes his low and abject condition during his abode on earth Psalm 22:6; but, as applied to us, it rather represents our weakness and insufficiency for anything that is good. In this sense it does indeed most justly mark our character: for there is no creature less capable of active exertion than a worm, or less able to effect any material good: and certainly our inability to perform that which is good is extreme; for we not only cannot of ourselves do a good action John 15:5, but we cannot even speak a good word Matthew 12:34, or think a good thought 2 Corinthians 3:5. God himself must give us both to will and to do Philippians 2:13, and must work all our good works in us. As rational beings we have yet a considerable portion of the Divine image upon us; but as moral agents, "we are very far gone from original righteousness," and are altogether "dead in trespasses and sins;" nor have we any more power to renovate ourselves, than "an Ethiopian has to change his complexion, or a leopard his spots Jeremiah 13:23."

II. Their labors—

Notwithstanding our utter impotence, we have an immensely difficult work to perform: "the worm Jacob" is required to "thresh mountains," and to reduce them all to dust: though himself liable to be crushed beneath the smallest clod, he must address himself to this mighty task. There were to all human appearance insurmountable obstacles to the progress of the Christian Church, which yet it was destined to overcome: so are there mountains in the way of every individual, which yet he must remove, before he can arrive at the Promised Land. What almost insuperable difficulties does the world present to him! its pleasures, its maxims, its habits, its company, its friendship, its hatred, its fiercest opposition, must all be regarded as a thing of nothing: The flesh too, with all its affections and lusts, must be mortified and subdued: Yes, Satan himself, with all the principalities and powers of Hell, must be encountered and overcome Ephesians 6:12; Alas! who is sufficient for these things? Who that is informed of Demas turning aside through love of this present evil world, and of the great Apostle himself crying "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" must not tremble for himself? But such is the work assigned us; and the weakest among us must undertake and execute it, before he can receive from God the the promised recompense of reward.

III. Their successes—

Weak as they are, they all prevail at last. As the Jews, notwithstanding all the obstructions of the Red Sea, the wilderness, and the warlike inhabitants of Canaan, obtained at last the full possession of the promised land, and as the Christian Church triumphed at last over all the power of the Roman empire, so is every believer crowned with victory at last Compare Daniel 2:34-35 with the text; The hills and mountains are leveled through his unwearied exertions Isaiah 40:3-5; and he is "made more than conqueror through Christ who loves him." Through faith he overcomes the world 1 John 5:4; by the aid of the Holy Spirit he mortifies the deeds of the body Romans 8:13. Galatians 5:24; and by a steady and uniform resistance, he overcomes Satan, so that that wicked fiend is constrained to flee from him, and to yield him the palm of victory James 4:7. 1 John 2:14; 1 John 5:18. The full extent of the triumphs described in our text has never yet indeed been realized in the Church of Christ: we look to a period yet future, when "the mountains shall be as dust, and be scattered as by a whirlwind;" and possibly at that period the triumphs of individuals will be more complete: but even now, by a firm reliance on the promises, we may be enabled to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1." If we had but faith as a grain of mustard-seed, we might say to every mountain that is in our way, "Be you removed; and it should immediately be cast into the depths of the sea Matthew 21:21."

IV. Their triumphs—

With such weakness, and such labors, we might well expect the worm Jacob to sink in dejection and despair: but behold he triumphs and exults, "rejoicing in the Lord, and glorying in the Holy One of Israel." Here it must be remarked, that ho does not ascribe his successes to his own arm; he does "not sacrifice to his own net, or burn incense to his own drag;" he gives the glory to Him, to whom alone it is due, even to "Jesus, who is the author and the finisher of his faith Hebrews 12:2." The language of David in reference to his victories exactly suits the Christian in reference to his spiritual triumphs Psalm 18:29; Psalm 18:32-34; Psalm 18:37; Psalm 18:42. He readily acknowledges whence it is that the weapons of his warfare have accomplished such mighty things, namely, that they have been "mighty through God 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:10," who "has wrought all his works in him Isaiah 26:12," and "of whom all his fruit has been found Hosea 14:8." Hence, while he acknowledges that "he who has wrought him to the self-same thing is God 2 Corinthians 5:5," he shouts with devoutest gratitude, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 2 Corinthians 2:14."

Let us learn from hence,

1. The folly of unbelief—

We are apt to be discouraged by reason of our weakness. But, what if we be as weak as the meanest worm? is God therefore weak, or unable to effect the purposes of his grace? He characterizes us as "worms," on purpose that, "when weak in ourselves, we may be strong in him, and expect him to perfect his strength in our weakness." Instead therefore of being discouraged on account of our weakness, we should rather "rejoice and glory in it, that the power of Christ may rest upon us," and be glorified in us 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. We should not, like the unbelieving spies, contemplate the power of our enemies, but should, with believing Joshua, regard them all "as bread for us Numbers 14:3; Numbers 14:9;" and, hurling defiance at them all, we should say, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain: his hands shall surely finish the work he has begun Zechariah 4:7-8 with Philippians 1:6."

2. The need of constant exertions—

Our weakness is no excuse for inactivity; nor does God's promised aid supersede the necessity of our own exertions. On the contrary, it is that very promise that encourages our exertions Philippians 2:12-13. The mountains must be threshed by our arm: "the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent must take it by force Matthew 11:12." We must run our race, and fight our fight, and endure unto the end! for it is "to him only that overcomes, that the crown of glory will be given." Give not way then to dejection or sloth, but go forth in the strength of the Lord Jesus: and when difficulties appear to be absolutely insurmountable, then go to him, and remind him of his promise, "I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, yes I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness verse 10 with the text; and Amos. 5:9." Then you shall find, that "you can do all things through him strengthening you," and that "Satan with all his train shall be shortly and eternally bruised under your feet."

 

 

Isaiah 41:17-18

 

DISCOURSE 927

CONSOLATION FOR THE DESPONDING

Isaiah 41:17-18. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

THE word of God is an inexhaustible source of instruction and comfort: there are passages in it suited to persons in all states and conditions; but it is calculated more especially for the afflicted and contrite. The passage before us is peculiarly adapted to a desponding soul God, in verse 8. reminds his people of his relation to them; assures them of his presence, and promises them strength, verse 10; victory, verse 14, 15. ("you, a worm, shall thresh the mountains;") and triumph, verse 16. Not that they are to expect a continued series of prosperity: they may be reduced to great straits; but in their lowest state they shall still have ground for the richest consolation; in its primary sense it is an encouragement to the Jews to trust in God; in its spiritual meaning it extends to the Church of God in all ages.

I. An afflicted case described—

The people of God are for the most part in a low and afflicted state—

All men, if they knew their state, are indeed "poor and needy:" but the generality think themselves "rich and increased with goods." God's people, however, feel their poverty and need. They are deeply sensible how destitute they are of wisdom, strength, etc.

They ardently desire to be endued with holiness and comfort—

Water, as having a cleansing and refreshing quality, may well be understood to mean holiness and comfort; and these are the chief objects of a Christian's pursuit. They long to be "delivered from the body of sin and death." They desire to be walking always in the light of God's countenance. They leave no means untried for the accomplishing of their wishes.

But they often seem to be laboring in vain; "they seek water, and find none"—

They strive for victory, but the conflict remains: corruptions still at times harass and defile their souls; deadness and darkness still occasionally return upon them; and the blessedness they pant after seems as distant as ever.

Their frequent disappointments create much dejection of mind; "their tongue fails," etc.—

"Hope deferred makes their heart sick." They faint, as a traveler after a long and fruitless search for water. They begin to conclude that God will not hear their prayers. They fear that he "has forsaken and forgotten them." Such diligence, disappointment, and despondency were not unknown to David Psalm 42:1-3; Psalm 42:7; Psalm 42:9 and Psalm 88:1; Psalm 88:3; Psalm 88:6-7; Psalm 88:14.

But in the text we have,

II. Suitable consolation administered—

A desponding person could not dictate more suitable matter of consolation. The character here given of God is not without great force—

The desponding person thinks his case too hard to be remedied, and his sins too heinous to be forgiven. He is here reminded what a God he has to deal with. God is "the Lord" and with whom nothing is impossible Jeremiah 32:27, whose mercy is infinite Exodus 34:6, whose love is unchangeable Malachi 3:6. He is "the God of Israel This title is very significant: it is as though God laid 'Remember my servant Jacob, to what a distressing state he was reduced, how he wrestled with me all night in prayer, and yet did not prevail: remember, how I made as though I would leave him; yes, how I lamed him, and thus apparently increased his calamity. But he would not let me go, unless I blessed him. I therefore not only blessed him, but changed his name, and conferred a singular honor upon him by calling my church after his name. Thus did I show myself his God; and thus will I be, yes, thus I am the God of all who call upon me after his example.' Or perhaps it refers rather to Exodus 17:1-6. where his supplying of Israel with water is mentioned," who, however long he may try his people, will certainly bless them at last. Thus do these titles of God justify that consoling declaration Lamentations 3:32.

The promises here made by God are exactly suited to the case The subject of the soul's complaint is the very subject of God's promise. The soul laments 'God will not hear me; he has utterly forsaken me; it is absurd for me to cherish a hope; I might as soon expect to find rivers on a lofty mountain, as to possess grace and peace in my soul.'—

"I will hear:" what an encouragement to continue in prayer! "I will not forsake you:" what can the fainting soul desire more Here is a particular reference to the promise made to Jacob, Genesis 28:15. which he afterwards pleaded with God, Genesis 32:12 and which is renewed to us, Hebrews 13:5. "The most discouraging circumstances shall be no bar to my favors." "Apparent impossibilities shall be surmounted by me Though the heart be as a dry and barren wilderness, it shall be refreshed, "I will open rivers in high places."" "Nor shall my communications to you be either small or transient They shall be plenteous as "pools and rivers," und incessant as "springs and fountains.""

Every one who relies on these promises shall experience consolation from them—

David bears his testimony that his cries were not in vain Psalm 34:6; and all who plead like him, shall find reason to make his acknowledgments Psalm 30:8-11.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are unconcerned about the blessings of salvation—

The generality know but little of spiritual troubles; but their exemption from them is by no means to be desired. They at the same time have no interest in these precious promises: they taste not the rich consolations of the Gospel; and how will "their tongue fail for thirst" in the eternal world! Let all then seek to know their spiritual wants. Let them obey the invitation of our blessed Lord John 7:37-38. Let them take encouragement from that gracious offer Revelation 22:17.

2. Those who are fainting for want of them—

Many, eminently pious, have been in your state, but none ever waited upon God in vain. These promises cannot possibly fail of being accomplished. From them, as "from wells of salvation, you may draw water with joy." They shall certainly be fulfilled to you, both here Psalm 36:8, and forever Psalm 16:11.

 

 

Isaiah 42:3

 

DISCOURSE 1008

THE CHURCH A ROYAL DIADEM

Isaiah 42:3. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

IT was promised to our blessed Lord, that, "when he should have made his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed, who should prolong their days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands." These promises are to be fulfilled in the conversion of souls to him: and then only will they be fully accomplished, when all the kingdoms of the world are his, and when the entire Church, both of Jews and Gentiles, shall be "a crown of glory, and a royal diadem in his hand." In another part of his writings, the prophet says, that "Jehovah shall in that day be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of his people Isaiah 28:5." And that appears an expression suited to the occasion. But the language of our text seems altogether inexplicable. That God should be "a crown of glory" to us, as adding glory to us, and crowning us with loving-kindness and tender mercies, is conceivable enough; but that we should be a royal diadem to him, is utterly inconceivable. Yet so it is: and the declaration of it to us will lead me to show,

I. In what estimation God holds his Church and people—

To form a just idea of this subject, we must consider in what light an earthly monarch views his crown; and then transfer to Jehovah those feelings, as far as they will comport with the holiness of his Nature, and the dignity of his divine Majesty.

God regards, then, his Church.

1. As an emblem of his power—

Crowns and scepters are generally used as emblems of royalty, and as bearing witness to the power of Him who is invested with them. Now God's Church and people are precisely such "witnesses for him." The works of creation indeed testify of his eternal power and Godhead, and that in terms that are intelligible to all Romans 1:19-20; but the new creation of his people speaks no less strongly on this subject. By sin, they are fallen from the image in which they were first created, and are transformed into the very likeness of Satan himself. Now, to repair these ruins, to cancel, in consistency with God's perfections, the guilt that has been contracted, to purge away all the pollution with which the soul is defiled, to impress again upon it the divine image, and to render it meet for the enjoyment of God himself in Heaven, is confessedly a work which no finite imagination could ever have contemplated. But God has wrought it; he has wrought it for every individual of his Church and people: and this it is, which, in the judgment of the angelic host, brings "glory to God in the highest." It is this in which "the exceeding greatness of his power, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead," is pre-eminently displayed Ephesians 1:19-20. Perhaps in no book upon earth will there be found more energetic language than this is in the original; and this proclaims him, throughout the whole universe to be "King of kings, and Lord of lords."

2. As a monument of his love—

Nothing does a monarch behold with more delight than his crown. And with what delight does God behold his Church and people, whom he accounts "his peculiar treasure Exodus 19:5-6. Psalm 135:4," his most inestimable "jewels Malachi 3:17." "He has chosen them in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and predestined them to be to the praise of the glory of his grace Ephesians 1:4-6;" and he delights in them in that peculiar view; as says the Prophet Zephaniah: "The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty: he will save: he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over you with singing Zephaniah 3:17."

3. As an object of his peculiar care—

Were his crown menaced, and a confederacy formed to wrest it from him, a monarch would exert himself to the uttermost to defend it. And what will not Jehovah do for the preservation of his Church and people? He has declared that "neither the power nor the policy of Hell shall ever prevail against them Matthew 16:18;" that "none shall ever pluck them out of his hands John 10:28-29;" but that "they shall be kept by the power of God unto everlasting salvation 1 Peter 1:5." They are in the palm of his hand See Vitringa in loc, held fast by him, against all the efforts of their enemies. "Lest any should hurt them, he keeps them night and day Isaiah 27:3;" nor shall the least jewel of his crown be found wanting in it Amos. 9:9. How determined he is to keep them, may be seen by his own gracious declarations in the Prophet Jeremiah: "I will rejoice over them, to do them good; and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart, and with my whole soul Jeremiah 32:41." "They are to him for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory Jeremiah 13:11;" and he will never suffer so much as one of them to perish Matthew 18:14.

Seeing, then, that God esteems his people so highly, we may perceive,

II. The interest which we also, from this consideration, should take in their welfare—

They should undoubtedly be dear to us. We should take a lively interest in,

1. The Church at large—

We are taught, in our daily prayers, to make this a leading petition, "Your kingdom come." And we should not only desire it, but labor to promote it to the utmost of our power. We should labor in it for the world's sake. Who would not wish that the wretched bond-slaves of Satan should be rescued from his dominion, and be brought into the liberty of God's dear children? It matters not whether they belong to the civilized or uncivilized world; for with God "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all, and in all Colossians 3:11." The meanest Hottentot, who is brought to the knowledge of Christ, is made a jewel in the Redeemer's crown, and is not a whit less dear to him than the greatest monarch upon earth. And should we account any labor too great, if perhaps we may be instruments in God's hands to "pluck brands out of the burning," and to form them as pillars for the temple of our God; or to wrest jewels from Satan's crown, and polish them for the crown of our Redeemer? I say, the man who pants not to help forward such offices of love as these, has yet to learn wherein true love consists.

And should we not engage in this work for our Redeemer's sake? Has he left his throne in glory for us, and submitted to death, even the accursed death upon the cross, for us? and shall we feel no zeal for his glory; Shall we be indifferent, whether he ever "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied?" The prospect of bringing many sons to glory was "the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross and despised the shame, until he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God Hebrews 12:2." And shall we be indifferent, whether he ever attain that joy? Even the honor of having "men as our own joy and crown of rejoicing" in the latter day 1 Thessalonians. 2:19-20, might well be a sufficient stimulus to our exertion in their behalf: but, to gather them as jewels for the Redeemer's crown, jewels in whom he shall be glorified to all eternity, should be regarded by us as the most honorable office that can be sustained, the most delightful work in which it is possible to be engaged.

2. The Jewish Church in particular—

It is of them that the prophet speaks in the whole context, and to them chiefly that the words in my text refer. They were God's chosen people from the beginning; even from the moment that God called Abraham their father, and entered into covenant with him. It was to them that he revealed himself as their God in a more eminent and peculiar way than he was of any other people: and in them has he been more glorified than in the whole world besides. Though they are under his displeasure, scattered over the face of the whole earth, yet are they preserved in a way that no other people have ever been; and are kept for the express purpose, that his glory may again be displayed in them, far beyond what it has been at any former period of their existence. It is at the period of their destined conversion that they are to be "a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of their God." This is plainly declared by the Lord himself: "I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them as at the first: and I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them Jeremiah 33:7-9." Hence are we called to be fellow-workers with God in their conversion. For Zion's sake we should not hold our peace; and for Jerusalem's sake we should not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burns." To this period God himself looks forward, even as a bridegroom to the day of his nuptials; saving, "As a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons (who build up the families of their ancestors) marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you verse 1, 5." At that period, through the labors of God's people verse 10, shall the attention of the whole world be directed to them verse 11, and men "shall call them, The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, a people sought out, a city not forsaken verse 12." Say then, Brethren, whether we should not, both by secret prayers and public exertions, labor, all of us, according to our respective abilities, to hasten forward this glorious day, when "that people, hated and despised as they have been, shall become an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations," the branch of God's planting, the work of his hands, in which he shall be glorified Isaiah 60:15; Isaiah 60:21. Yes: "we should not hold our peace day nor night." "O you that make mention of the Lord," and profess to serve him, in the name of Almighty God I say to you, "keep not silence, and give God no rest, until he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth verse 6, 7."

As a further improvement of this subject, I wish you particularly to observe,

1. What obligations we are under to look well to our ways—

Every true Believer is a jewel in the Redeemer's crown. And does it become persons so honored to be regardless of their ways? Should we not rather be studious, "as sons of God, to be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining as lights in the world, holding forth in the whole of our conversation the word of life Philippians 2:15-16." I call upon you, Brethren, to remember what a conspicuous place you are ordained to fill to all eternity; and to "walk worthy of your high calling," yes, "and worthy of the Lord himself too, unto all pleasing:" and however bright you already shine, "let your path shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day."

2. What encouragement we have to labor for the Lord—

It is no worthless object that we have in view. What if we be not able to labor on an extended scale? If, in the course of our whole lives, we can add but one jewel to Jehovah's crown, we shall have effected, both for God and man, a work that is superior in value to the whole world. See, then, whether God may not enable you to effect this in behalf of a parent or child, a brother or sister, a friend or servant, a neighbor, or some person in a state of deep affliction. It is not human skill that is requisite, like that which is necessary to prepare stones for an earthly crown: the speaking of a word for God, and in dependence upon him, may, through his blessing, accomplish this glorious undertaking. And, O! how rich a recompense would one single instance of success be for the labors of our whole life! If, indeed, we are able to extend our labors to the very ends of the earth, let us account it our highest privilege to do so. Let us, "for the joy that is set before us, endure any cross, and despise any shame," even as our Lord and Savior did, if, perhaps, we may prepare "a crown of rejoicing" for ourselves Philippians 4:1, and "a crown of glory" for our God.

 

 

Isaiah 42:5-7

 

DISCOURSE 928

CHRIST'S COMMISSION

Isaiah 42:5-7. Thus says God the Lord, he who created the heavens, and stretched them out; he who spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he who gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the Lord have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, end give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of 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.

"HEAR, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! for the Lord speaks." In the preceding verses he speaks to us, and calls our attention to "his elect servant," whom he had appointed to the office of saving man, and qualified to execute it in a manner honorable to himself, and effectual for that end Compare Matthew 12:15-21. which shows that the whole of this passage relates to Christ. But, in the words of our text, we overhear the almighty Jehovah, the eternal Father, addressing his co-equal, co-eternal Son. Ineffable mystery! And what a stupendous privilege to be admitted thus into the council chamber of the Most High! Surely if Moses was commanded to put off his shoes because the place where he stood was sanctified by the Divine presence, it becomes us to express the profoundest reverence, while we listen to the God of Heaven giving his commission to his only dear Son respecting the redemption of a ruined world.

In this address to Jesus we see,

I. The commission given him—

Though Christ in his own nature is God equal with the Father, yet as man, and as Mediator, he acts as the Father's servant. In this capacity he received a commission,

1. To undertake the work of our salvation—

The first covenant which was made with Adam, being broken, it pleased God to make a new covenant; not so much with man, as with his own Son in man's behalf Galatians 3:17. Titus 1:2. Ephesians 1:4.

The terms of this covenant were, that Christ should make his soul an offering for sin, and that he should have the souls of men for his reward Isaiah 53:10-12.

Christ was not only a party in this covenant, but also the Mediator and Surety of it Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 7:22. He mediated between God and man; and became a surety, both for God to man, and for man to God. He engaged on man's part, that he should be renewed after the Divine image, and be made obedient to the Divine will; and on God's part he engaged, that his mercy should be extended to every believing penitent.

In this view Christ is said to be given "for a covenant;" because he alone fulfills the conditions of it, and because we, in laying hold on him, become partakers of all its benefits.

2. To perform it effectually in our behalf—

Man being blinded by Satan and enslaved by sin, it was necessary that he should be enlightened with divine truth, and liberated from the dominion of his lusts. Accordingly Christ undertook to bring him forth into light, and liberty. In execution of his office he illuminated the Jewish Church by the revelations made to Moses and the prophets; and since that period he has been "a light to the Gentiles" also, even to the very ends of the earth. Nor is it only by the outward manifestation of his truth that he instructs the world: he teaches men by his Spirit also: he "opens the eyes of the blind," and causes them to "see out of obscurity and out of darkness." By the same Spirit also he enables them to burst the chains with which they are bound, and to come forth from their dungeons in which they are immured. As in delivering Peter from his prison, where he lay sleeping on the night preceding his intended execution, he caused the light to shine in upon him, and his chains to fall off, and the prison doors to fly open of their own accord Acts 12:1-10; so now he delivers the souls of men, "turning them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God Acts 26:18."

All this is Christ's covenanted work: he performs it to consequence of his own engagements: and he will perform it as long as there shall continue one on whose behalf the mighty working of his power shall be necessary.

In the text we notice,

II. His ability to execute it—

We cannot doubt of this, when we are informed,

1. By whom he was called to it—

The Father gives in this place a glorious description of his own majesty, as the Creator of Heaven and earth, yes of man also, with his animal life, his rational faculties, and his immortal soul. Nor is this description without a very important meaning, as introductory to the commission given to his Son; because it shows us by what high authority his Son acted, and how certainly his undertaking shall be effectual for the end designed.

"Christ glorified not himself to become an high priest, but was called of God, as was Aaron." The Father "called him in righteousness." In execution of his own righteous purpose, and in accomplishment of his righteous promises, he gave him this commission. He called him when first he entered into covenant with him; and again, when he provided him a body for the discharge of his office; and again, when by an audible voice from Heaven he testified, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

From these repeated calls we are assured, that Christ was fully authorized to undertake our cause, and that in all that he did and suffered for us he was accepted of his heavenly Father.

2. By whom he was assisted in it—

The trials which Jesus met with from man, though exceeding great, might have been borne: but when he conflicted with all the powers of darkness, and sustained all the weight of his Fathers wrath, he must have sunk under the load, had not his almighty Father supported him. But never did he want effectual aid. He complained of dereliction indeed in his most trying hour: but this dereliction related only to the sensible presence of his Father, whereby he might have been comforted: that which was necessary for his support, was never withdrawn: the Father had said to him, "I will hold your hand, and will keep you;" and never for one moment was he forgetful of his promise.

But this promise was not confined to the period of Christ's existence upon earth: it includes also a concurrence with him in his work, even to the end of the world. What then can be wanting, when the Father and the Son are ever combining their efforts for the salvation of men? None, however blind, need to despair of beholding the light; none, however riveted in bonds, need despair of attaining liberty.

We cannot close this subject without suggesting some obvious reflections—

1. How deeply are we interested in the covenant of grace!

It is generally imagined, that the mysterious engagements between the Father and the Son are merely speculative points, in which mankind are little interested. But what can be conceived more interesting than the offices of Christ, or his ability to fulfill them? Would persons destitute of vision, or imprisoned and under sentence of death, feel no interest in the inquiry, whether they could find relief, or whether one professing to offer it were able to fulfill his word? On the covenant of redemption rests all our hope. If Christ be not authorized to save us, his good-will towards us will be to little purpose: if he be not qualified, his endeavors will be all in vain.

Let us then acquaint ourselves with the proper grounds of our hope. Let us consider the parties contracting, and the engagements which they have respectively entered into; and let us lay hold on that "covenant as all our salvation and all our desire 2 Samuel 23:5."

2. What encouragement have all to embrace that covenant!

Are any persons ready to apprehend that they are excluded from it as unworthy? Behold the provisions of the covenant itself! See for whose benefit it is particularly designed! Are we not only in darkness, but blind also? Are we enslaved, and so fast bound in prison that we cannot come forth? We then are the very persons for whose sake the Son of God became incarnate, and for whose relief both his and his Father's honor are mutually pledged.

Let none then listen to such unfounded apprehensions; but rather let every one remember, that Christ is given for a covenant to the whole Gentile world; and that the more desperate our condition be, the more will God be glorified in our acceptance of his offered mercy.

 

 

Isaiah 42:16

 

DISCOURSE 929

GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE OPENED

Isaiah 42:16. I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.

GOD has fore-ordained everything which he himself will do Acts 15:18; and he has been gradually unfolding his designs from the beginning. The restoration of the Jews from Babylon, and the calling of the Gentiles into the Church, were very wonderful events, but in them the prediction before us was fulfilled: it receives a further accomplishment yet daily. We may take occasion from it to observe,

I. God's dealings are mysterious—

The dispensations of his providence have been at all times dark—

How ill-judged (according to human estimate) was the direction given to the Israelites at their departure from Egypt Exodus 14:2-3. Yet it eventually led to their more complete deliverance Exodus 14:17; Exodus 14:23; Exodus 14:28. How strange do their long wanderings in the wilderness appear! Yet God conducted them by the right way Psalm 107:7. Deuteronomy 8:2. The present dispersion of the Jews shall enhance the mercy and the glory of their restoration. Their degradation shall issue in their fullness Romans 11:12; Romans 11:31.

The dispensations of his grace are equally inscrutable—

This is seen in the first quickening of men from their spiritual death—

God sets their sins in array before them. He charges home their guilt upon their consciences. He threatens them with his eternal wrath and indignation. Who would conceive that these were tokens of his love? How little did the three thousand, when pricked to the heart, imagine that joy was so near at hand Acts 2:37. How little could the jailor, when about to commit suicide, have supposed that his terror was the first dawn of mercy to his soul Acts 16:27-29. Thus are many still brought to Christ "in a way which they knew not" — —

It further appears in their subsequent spiritual life—

Men usually expect to be led on in a way of peace and joy. But God often leaves them to feel the depravity of their own hearts. He sometimes permits them to be "in heaviness through manifold temptations." He suffers also many heavy calamities to befall them. They seem, at times, as though they should be overwhelmed. They not unfrequently are brought to the borders of despair. Yet these are ways which God takes to humble and to prove them. Who could have thought that Peter's fall should be overruled for good? Yet perhaps nothing else would ever have purged out his self-confidence. The buffetings of Satan were earnestly deprecated by Paul 2 Corinthians 12:8; yet were they necessary to prevent the workings of pride 2 Corinthians 12:7. How true is that observation of the Psalmist Psalm 77:19. The more we contemplate his dealings with his people, the more shall we exclaim with the Apostle Romans 11:33.

In every dispensation, especially as it respects his people, we may say,

II. His intentions are merciful—

The perplexities of his people are often very great: but God has gracious designs in all Jeremiah 29:10-11. We may see this remark exemplified in the case of Job—

How heavy and accumulated were the trials that came on him! He himself, in his haste, accused God of cruelty Job 10:3; Job 10:16. But the end showed that God sent those trials in love Job 42:12-13 with James 5:11.

The case of Joseph also deserves attention in this view—

God intended to make him lord over his brethren Genesis 37:6-10. But, instead of being advanced, he was sold as a slave Genesis 37:28. Afterwards he was imprisoned as guilty of a capital offence Genesis 39:17-20. He was above twenty years without ever hearing of his brethren. Yet we see at last the designs of God accomplished by the very means which appeared most calculated to defeat them.

The same mercy is discoverable in God's dealings with all his afflicted people—

He suffers their path to be for a time dark and intricate. But he invisibly directs and manages their concerns. He gradually removes their difficulties, and clears up their doubts. If he shut them up under the law, it is that they may embrace the offers of his Gospel Galatians 3:23-24; If he prune them as a vine, it is to augment their fruitfulness John 15:2. If he refine them as with fire, it is to advance the purification of their souls Malachi 3:3. Thus he constrains them to acknowledge with the Psalmist Psalm 97:2.

They indeed are often ready to doubt his love. But,

III. His regards are permanent—

God did not forget his people when they were in Babylon, neither will he now "forsake" those who trust in him—

He may appear for a season to have forsaken them Isaiah 54:7-8. They may be left to complain as though he had quite forgotten them Isaiah 49:14-16. But his having made them his people is a reason why he will not recede from his gracious purposes 1 Samuel 12:22. The Apostle was confident that God would complete his works of grace Philippians 1:6.

He will continue firm and unchangeable in his regards to them—

The prophets declare this in the strongest terms Isaiah 54:9-10. Jeremiah 31:37; Jeremiah 32:40. Paul abundantly confirms their testimony Romans 11:29. He commends this truth to us as a ground of cheerful confidence in the most trying seasons Hebrews 13:5-6.

INFERENCES—

1. How careful should we be not to pass a hasty judgment on the Lord's dealings!

We are too ready under trials to exclaim with Jacob Genesis 42:36. Yet the trials we complain of may be, as in his case, the necessary means of our preservation. It is the part of a believer to wait with patience for the issue Isaiah 28:16."

2. How safely may we commit ourselves to God's disposal!

God alone knows what is best for us. He knows, too, how to accomplish his designs in the best manner. Let us therefore commit all our concerns to him Psalm 37:5. Lot us lie as clay in the potter's hands Jeremiah 18:6. In whatever distress we be, let us follow the prophet's direction Isaiah 50:10.

 

 

Isaiah 43:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 930

GOD'S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 43:1-3. Now thus says the Lord that created you, O Jacob, and he who formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for 1 have redeemed you; I have called you by your name: you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

IT is almost impossible for any one to read the Holy Scriptures with attention, and not to notice the very remarkable manner in which many of the richest promises are introduced. God seems, in them, determined to magnify his own grace; and to show, that "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound Romans 5:20." Let any one read the two last verses of the preceding chapter, and then pass on to the promise which I have just read; and he will see this illustrated in a very striking point of view: The Jews, to this day, experience the mercy and the faithfulness of God in his wonderful preservation of them, in order to a richer display of his goodness towards them than they have ever yet known verse 4–7. And all the servants of Jehovah, in every age, may be assured of similar protection, in order to their present and eternal welfare.

In opening the words before us, we will notice,

I. What is here supposed respecting the people of God—

It is taken for granted that they shall be a suffering people, according to what is spoken by the Prophet Zephaniah: "I will leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people Zephaniah 3:12." In a greater or less degree this is the state of all; they have to pass through deep waters, and even, as it were, through the fire itself, in the service of their God. Sometimes they are afflicted by persecution, and sometimes by temptation; for both to men and devils are they objects of inveterate hostility. From the days of Cain to this very hour, have "those who were born after the flesh persecuted those who were born after the Spirit Galatians 4:29;" nor can any "who will live godly in Christ Jesus hope to escape" their virulent assaults 2 Timothy 3:12. And where is there a child of God whom that great "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, does not labor to devour 1 Peter 5:8." There is not one who has not "some thorn in the flesh, some messenger of Satan to buffet him Psalm 91:15." Look at all the most favored servants of the Lord—at Job, and Heman, and Asaph, and David, and Paul—and you will find them all "chosen in the furnace of affliction, even as our blessed Lord himself, who was pre-eminently a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief Isaiah 53:3." Indeed there is a necessity for this; because there is in all the servants of God much dross, which needs the fire of affliction to purge it away; and it is in the furnace that they learn the evil of their own hearts, and the power and efficacy of divine grace: it is under tribulation chiefly, that they acquire "patience and experience, and a hope that shall never make them ashamed Romans 5:5."

But, however painful their state, they have abundant consolation in,

II. What is here promised to them—

God will be with his people under all their trials: as he has said, "I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." He will be with his people both by the manifestations of his presence and the communications of his grace; so that, under their severest afflictions, they shall have abundant support. Remarkable is that expression of the Psalmist, "You shall hide them in the secret of your presence Psalm 31:20." The man that is in the presence of his God, and has the light of his countenance lifted up upon him, is inaccessible to his enemies, and may laugh at all their assaults. See Paul and Silas in prison, under circumstances as painful as could well be inflicted on them; yet, behold, they are singing praises to God at mid-night. And see the Hebrew Youths in the furnace into which an infuriated tyrant had cast them: "not so much as a hair of their head was singed, or even the smell of fire had passed on them." Such are the interpositions of God in behalf of all his faithful servants, that "where their afflictions have abounded, their consolations have much more abounded 2 Corinthians 1:5." The very waves which desolated all the world besides, bore up the ark, and carried it to a place of safety. And so shall the sea itself afford a passage to all the "ransomed of the Lord to pass over," in the way to the land of promise Isaiah 51:10. But let not this be taken upon my word. Let David speak, from actual experience: "You, O God, have proved us; you have tried us, as silver is tried. You brought us into the net: you laid affliction upon our loins. You have caused men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out into a wealthy place Psalm 66:10-12."

Of the fulfillment of this promise we can entertain no doubt, when we consider,

III. The ground upon which the promise is made—

It is pleasing to observe with what satisfaction God contemplates the relation in which he stands to his people, and with what delight he expatiates upon it: "Thus says the Lord that created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel; Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Here is abundant security to us for the accomplishment of every word that God has spoken. For he takes an interest in his people, such as a man feels in reference to his dearest possessions. He puts them, we will say, into the furnace. But will he leave them there without any concern about them? No: "he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver," to watch the process, and to bring them forth the very instant that his gracious designs are wrought upon them; that so they may come forth "as vessels of honor, meet for their Master's use Malachi 3:3." Are they "a vineyard which his right hand has planted?" "he will keep it, and water it every moment: lest any hurt it, he will keep it night and day Isaiah 27:3.' No parent can sympathize with his afflicted child more tenderly than he did with his people under their trials: "In all their affliction he was afflicted: and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old Isaiah 63:9." In a word, they are his children; and therefore he enters so affectionately into all their concerns: "Is not Ephraim my dear son? is he not a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my affections are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord Jeremiah 31:20."

INFERENCES—

1. What consolation does the Gospel of Christ afford!

In the Old Testament we have those very promises of which we have spoken. But it is the Gospel which gives us the full insight into them. We behold in the Old Testament the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and their ultimate establishment in the land of Canaan. But these were a mere shadow of the redemption that has been wrought for us by Christ, and of those spiritual mercies which are given to us in our way to the Canaan that is above. These are, above all, to be noticed. These give us the true insight into the mystery of the burning bush Exodus 3:2. Not the Church at large only, but every true believer is that burning bush, in whom God shall to all eternity be glorified. "Tribulation is appointed for us as our way Acts 14:22;" but most glorious shall be our end Revelation 7:14-15.

2. How needful for us is it that we obtain an interest in Christ!

It is in Christ alone that these promises are made to us 2 Corinthians 1:20. If we are in him, the promises, and all that they contain, are ours 1 Corinthians 3:21-23." Let us be able to say with David, "The Lord is my shepherd:" and then we may safely add, "When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your (pastoral) rod and staff, they comfort me Psalm 23:1-4."

 

 

Isaiah 43:2

 

DISCOURSE 932

THE SAINTS ARE WITNESSES FOR GOD

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God.

GOD is a jealous God, and cannot endure that any other should be put in competition with him. Hence he takes frequent occasion to reprove the idolatry into which his people were ever prone to relapse. He shows them the folly of cutting down a tree, and kindling a fire with part of the wood, and roasting their food with it, and then fashioning another part of the same tree into the image of a man, and bowing down to it as a God. He challenges them and all the world to bring any single instance of such senseless idols having ever revealed things that were long past and forgotten, or of their having ever foretold future events, or effected for their votaries any signal deliverance. He appeals to them, that He had done these things for them; and that therefore they themselves were witnesses for him, that he was the only true God.

A similar appeal may properly be made to the people of God at this day. They have within themselves very convincing proofs of his exclusive right to universal adoration;

I. In what he has taught them—

He has given them such views of Divine truth as they could not possibly obtain from any other quarter. He has shown them,

1. The depravity of their nature—

Others may profess in words that they are fallen creatures; but who over learned, from more study, or the instructions of man, that his "heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked?" Who ever so learned it, as really to "abhor himself in dust and ashes?": But God does teach all his people this lesson: and all who have learned it, are therefore living witnesses of his almighty power and grace.

2. The excellency of Christ—

To compliment Christ with honorable titles is common enough. But who can open a man's eyes, so that he shall "behold the glory of God in his face?": Yet this is done for all the Lord's people. To every one of them "Christ is truly precious": In this respect therefore they are witnesses that their teacher is the omnipotent Jehovah.

3. The beauty of holiness—

However some particular virtues may be admired in the world, the holiness which the Gospel requires is odious in their eyes. Penitence is considered as melancholy; devotion, as hypocrisy: zeal for God, as enthusiasm; and a pledge expectation of glory, as consummate pride and presumption

DISCOURSE 932

THE SAINTS ARE WITNESSES FOR GOD

Isaiah 43; Isaiah 12. You are my witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God.

GOD is a jealous God, and cannot endure that any other should be put in competition with him. Hence he takes frequent occasion to reprove the idolatry into which his people were ever prone to relapse. He shows them the folly of cutting down a tree, and kindling a fire with part of the wood, and roasting their food with it, and then fashioning another part of the same tree into the image of a man, and bowing down to it as a God. He challenges them and all the world to bring any single instance of such senseless idols having ever revealed things that were long past and forgotten, or of their having ever foretold future events, or effected for their votaries any signal deliverance. He appeals to them, that He had done these things for them; and that therefore they themselves were witnesses for him, that he was the only true God.

A similar appeal may properly be made to the people of God at this day. They have within themselves very convincing proofs of his exclusive right to universal adoration;

I. In what he has taught them—

He has given them such views of Divine truth as they could not possibly obtain from any other quarter. He has shown them,

1. The depravity of their nature—

Others may profess in words that they are fallen creatures; but who over learned, from more study, or the instructions of man, that his "heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked?" Who ever so learned it, as really to "abhor himself in dust and ashes?": But God does teach all his people this lesson: and all who have learned it, are therefore living witnesses of his almighty power and grace.

2. The excellency of Christ—

To compliment Christ with honorable titles is common enough. But who can open a man's eyes, so that he shall "behold the glory of God in his face?": Yet this is done for all the Lord's people. To every one of them "Christ is truly precious": In this respect therefore they are witnesses that their teacher is the omnipotent Jehovah.

3. The beauty of holiness—

However some particular virtues may be admired in the world, the holiness which the Gospel requires is odious in their eyes. Penitence is considered as melancholy; devotion, as hypocrisy: zeal for God, as enthusiasm; and a pledge expectation of glory, as consummate pride and presumption. And who can alter their views? Not an Apostle, nor even an angel from Heaven. They might be silenced; but nothing less than Omnipotence can so change their sentiments, as to make them in love with a spiritual and heavenly life. But the Child of God sees that such a life is the perfection of bliss, a very Heaven upon earth: and herein also is a witness, that the God whom he serves is the only true God.

But the Children of God are also living witnesses of his power and Godhead,

II. In what he has done for them—

We acknowledge the creation to be an evidence that the Maker thereof is God: and so likewise is the work which God has wrought in his saints.

1. He has created them anew—

The change that takes place in conversion is not an outward and partial, but an inward and universal, change. It is "a new birth," a "renovation of the inward man after the image of God": But where is the power that can effect this? Let philosophy try her powers; let reason exert herself: "the old man," the corrupt principles of nature, will laugh at them, and defy their utmost exertions: But is not this change actually wrought in thousands? We grant, that in many who have professed to have experienced it, it is but very imperfectly produced; yes, and that many who think it has been wrought m them only deceive their own souls: but all the Apostles were not like Judas; nor are all professors of religion hypocrites. Take then the upright and consistent Christian, and tell me whether any power on earth can produce such a character?: if not, he is a witness for God, that HE alone is worthy of our hope and dependence.

2. He has elevated them above the world—

There is among the professors of religion so great a diversity of attainment, and we are so little able to judge respecting the secret experience of their hearts, that we cannot with any certainty form our estimate of the Christian character from what we see around us: we must go to the inspired volume, and take that as the only standard of Christian experience. Now we know that Christians are there represented as "not being of the world, any more than Christ himself was of the world:" and we see there examples of persons altogether "crucified to the world," to its cares, its pleasures, and to everything that is in it. That there are but few Christians in the present day who have arrived at the Scripture standard, we confess with grief and shame; and it will be well if many of them do not find themselves awfully mistaken, when they shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ: but the truth is the same, whether few or many experience it; and it is a certain fact, that every Child of God is delivered from the love of this present evil world: and the fewness of those, whose lives correspond with their professions, tends to prove, rather than to disprove, the point we have affirmed. For, where shall we find one person truly elevated above the world, unless among those who have been born of God? Some may be found who are dissatisfied with the world, and who from age or other circumstances find no relish for it: but if they were put into a capacity to enjoy the world as they once did, their love of it would be found as strong as ever. We defy the whole world to produce one, who by the mere powers of reason has been raised above the world; and this is a decisive proof that the deadness to the world which true Christians experience, is the work of an Almighty arm.

3. He has filled them with spiritual peace and joy—

The peace and joy which the unconverted man possesses, will vanish at the prospect of death and judgment: or if under the influences of deluded hopes they retain a confidence, the peace flowing from that confidence is as different from that which is "the fruit of the Spirit," as the ravings of a maniac are from the suggestions of sober reason: But the true Christian has "a peace that passes all understanding," and "a joy that is unspeakable and glorified": Whence does ho obtain this? Who but God can give it him? or who can take it away, when God has given it him? Here then again is he a witness for God, that his power and grace are infinite.

ADDRESS—

Those who idolatrously exalt the creature—

See the challenge given by God himself verse 8, 9; produce the people that have obtained from any but Jehovah, either this knowledge, or this experience. We defy the whole universe. "Bring forth your witnesses, that you may be justified: or else hear you, and acknowledge, that what we have affirmed is truth." the more you examine the pretensions of any who profess to have acquired these things by their own power, the more evidence you will have, that God alone can produce them in the souls of men.

2. Those who profess to be Christians indeed—

Remember that it is your duty and office to be "witnesses for God." You are to be "as lights in a dark world, and as a city upon a hill." Be then voluntary witnesses. Wicked men, and even the devils themselves, are in some sense witnesses for him: they attest, though against their will, that his representations of the human heart are true, and that he is a God of infinite patience, majesty, and power. But you are intentionally to make your light shine before men, and to convince them by the holiness of your lives that "God is with you of a truth." Be also steadfast witnesses. You will find many temptations to "put your light under a bushel;" but you must be resolute in glorifying God, whether by life or by death. Further, be also consistent witnesses. The world will judge, not by your words, but by your actions: and if they see these to be at variance with each other, they will rather harden themselves in their infidelity, and adduce your testimony as adverse to God. Look to it then that you walk in all things "holily, justly, and unblamably;" and "that they who are on the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."

Lastly, for your encouragement, think what witnesses you shall one day be for God in Heaven! How will you there proclaim and manifest his power and grace!: O blessed day! Look forward to it with joy; and prepare for it by increasing zeal in the service of your God.

 

Isaiah 43:4

 

DISCOURSE 931

THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN

Isaiah 43:4. Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you.

FEW have any conception how close the analogy is between God's dealings with his people of old, and his conduct towards his Church and people in the present day. In truth, we scarcely know how to admit that God will manifest such condescension to us as he did to them. But it can never be thought that the Christian Church is less privileged than the Jewish; or that God will manifest less grace towards those whom he has redeemed through the blood of his Son, than he did towards those whom he delivered from a mere temporal captivity. True, indeed, his interpositions may be, and in fact are, less visible; but they are not a whit less real than in the days of old. Connect this chapter with the last two verses of the preceding chapter; and you will see how God still magnifies his grace and mercy towards us, when we have reason to expect nothing but his wrathful indignation Examine the passage in this view; and compare it with verse 1. which marks distinctly how they came to be "precious in God's sight. So, in like manner, we may behold in the text itself to what an exalted state the true Christian is raised. We cannot but acknowledge the truth of God's appeal to them in the words which I have just read; and the same expressions are equally applicable to his people in every age and place. If we understand the passage aright, we may clearly see in it the rise and progress of the Christian's calling.

Let us notice,

I. The rise of the Christian's calling—

Whence and how were the Jews exalted to their unrivaled eminence?

Were they selected by God either for their number or their superior goodness? No: they were "the fewest of all people," and equal to any in depravity. It was altogether an act of sovereign grace when "God chose them, and set his love on them, and made them his peculiar people:" "He loved them, because he would love them See Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 9:4-6.": Hence he reminds them of their origin, under the image of a child just born into the world of Heathen parents, without any one to administer to its necessities: "Your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite. And as for your nativity, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you: you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied you, to do any of these unto you, to have compassion upon you; but you were cast out in the open field, to the loathing of your person, in the day that you were born. And when I passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you, when you were in your blood, Live; yes, I said unto you, when you were in your blood, Live Ezekiel 16:3-6." And by Isaiah he reminds them of this saying, "Look to the rock whence you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence you were dug: remember Abraham your father, and Sarah that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him Isaiah 51:2-3." Such was their state when God chose them to himself, "to be a peculiar people to him, above all upon the face of the earth;" and set them apart, as "his peculiar treasure Exodus 19:5-6," and "his jewels Malachi 3:17," and "his portion and inheritance Deuteronomy 32:9." Thus we see clearly whence their greatness arose; and how it came to pass that "they were exalted above all the nations of the earth, in name, and in honor, and in praise Deuteronomy 26:18-19."

And whence is it that any of us are "precious in God's sight?"

Is it on account of any superior goodness in us that God has chosen us? Surely there is not a man on earth so presumptuous as to affirm, or so ignorant as to imagine, that God chose him, in preference to others, on account of his own superior worth and excellence. I have said that there is, especially in reference to this matter, a strict analogy between the Jews and us; and Peter marks it with peculiar force, quoting the very words which I have before cited, as applied by Moses to the Jewish people, and applying them to Believers under the Christian dispensation: "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people 1 Peter 2:9." Beyond all doubt we are as much debtors to the sovereign grace of God as ever the Jews were; and it is wonderful that so many well-disposed people should be averse to acknowledge it. We see, readily enough, how predestination and election operated in relation to the Jews; and yet we find it difficult to acknowledge their operation in reference to ourselves. But "God has chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world;" and "has predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself Ephesians 1:4-5;" precisely as he chose them, and predestined them to the enjoyment of their privileges. To the grace of God alone we must trace it, if any of us be "precious in God's sight Ephesians 2:8-9;" we must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as "the Author of our faith, no less than the finisher Hebrews 12:2;" and "when the top-stone shall be brought forth, to complete God's temple in our hearts," we, like all the prophets and apostles that have been before us, must cry, "Grace, grace unto it Zechariah 4:6-7."

The rise of the Christian's calling having been pointed out, let us proceed to trace,

II. The progress of it—

The advancement of God's people now corresponds exactly with that of his ancient people;

1. In honor—

Since the Jews had been precious in God's sight, they were honorable, They were honorable in themselves, as being elevated to a higher character than any other people in the universe. What other people were ever distinguished with such a code of laws as they Deuteronomy 4:7-8. or in what other country under Heaven did persons attain to an equality with the Patriarchs in righteousness and true holiness? They were honorable also in God's sight: for they were watched over by him, as if there had not been any other people in the world; and were regarded by him altogether as the "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." In the sight of surrounding nations, also, they were honorable; for they all confessed that "God was with them of a truth; and every Jew could exult over them, saving, Their rock is not as our rock, our enemies themselves being judges Deuteronomy 32:31."

The same elevation is given to God's people, also, at the present day. In themselves, they are "made partakers of a divine nature 2 Peter 1:4," and are "changed into the Divine image Ephesians 4:24," and "shine as lights in a dark world Philippians 2:15." In God's estimation, they are "his dear children," the very spouse of his only-begotten Son, "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," preserved by him here "as the apple of his eye," and reserved for thrones and kingdoms in a better world. And in the eyes of an ungodly world, too, are they honorable. For though the world may treat them as "the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things," fit only to be swept away in the most ignominious manner from the face of the earth, and even to be sacrificed to devils, yet do they reverence them in their hearts; even as "Herod feared John, because he was a holy and just man Mark 6:20." An ungodly man feels restraint in the presence of a true Christian, and cannot give loose to his wicked propensities as he would do in his absence. However an ungodly man may hate and revile a true Christian, he has a secret wish in his heart that be could exchange conditions with him, especially in the eternal world. However averse a man may be to live the life of the righteous, there is no one who would not be glad to "die his death, and to have his last end like his." Say, then, whether this be not to be truly "honorable?" Truly, not a king upon his throne is so truly honorable as the man who is brought into vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and sanctified in his soul by the Spirit of the Living God.

2. In happiness—

"Happy are you, O Israel: who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your excellency Deuteronomy 33:29." If this was spoken of the Jews because of the love which God bare to them, what must be said of us, whom "he has loved, even as he loves his only-begotten Son John 17:23; John 17:26." Who can tell what it is to be favored with "the spirit of adoption?" or what to "have the witness of the Spirit witnessing with our spirit that we are the children of God?" Who can tell what it is to "have the love of God shed abroad in the heart," and to "be filled with the Spirit?" Truly, these things constitute "that white stone, on which is that new name written, which no man knows, saving he who has received it Revelation 2:17." It is, in fact, a pledge and foretaste of Heaven itself Ephesians 1:13-14. See how the love of God to his ancient people was displayed: how "God gave Egypt for their ransom, yes, and Ethiopia and Seba too Verse 3." Whole nations were of no more account with God than the dust of the summer threshing-floor, if they stood in the way of their welfare Isaiah 41:11-16. And so shall it be again, when they shall be restored to their own land: "the nation and kingdom that will not serve them shall perish; yes, those nations shall be utterly wasted Isaiah 60:12." And let it not be thought that God will do less for his Church and people at this day. No, truly: "the gates of Hell shall never prevail against them:" "no weapon formed against them shall ever prosper:" but every enemy, and "Satan himself at the head of them, shall be put under their feet shortly:" and so attentive will God be to their welfare, that every dispensation, whether of his providence or grace, shall be ordered with a view to it, and "all things, however unfavorable their aspect, be overruled to promote it Romans 8:28.

Two things, then, I ask of you, my beloved Brethren:

1. Endeavor to form a just estimate of your high calling—

St. Paul calls this "a holy calling 2 Timothy 1:9," a heavenly calling Hebrews 3:1," yes, "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:14;" and the least reflection on what has been already spoken must convince you, that "the riches of it" are inestimable, incomprehensible, "unsearchable Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:8." Christians live far below their privileges. They are too exclusively occupied (I do not say too intensely), in viewing their remaining imperfections, and the greatness of the work that still remains to be wrought in them. They do not soar in contemplating the wonders which God has already wrought for them, and those which he has pledged himself yet further to accomplish. Hence they are kept in a low state of bondage, instead of being "brought into the full liberty of the children of God." But read the Epistles of Paul, my Brethren: read, especially, his prayers, and see how he soars in his contemplation of God's unbounded mercies, and of the Christian's exalted privileges Ephesians 1:3-14. It is by such meditations that we shall rise above all our spiritual enemies, and by such views we shall "be filled with all the fullness of God Ephesians 3:18-19." O, Brethren, know your privileges as believers in Christ; and live in the sweet enjoyment of them: for there are no bounds to the honor and the happiness which God will confer on those who are "precious in his sight" as his redeemed people.

2. Endeavor, also, to walk worthy of it—

This was Paul's earnest entreaty to the Ephesian and Philippian Churches, when he was a prisoner at Home. He did not desire their interposition to get him liberated: all he had to request of them was, that "their conversation should be such as became the Gospel of Christ Ephesians 4 :l, Philippians 1:27." And indeed this was the great object of his ministry at all times: "You know," says he to the Thessalonian Church, "how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his children, that you would walk worthy of God, who has called you unto his kingdom and glory 1 Thessalonians. 2:11-12." In the same manner would I now entreat you; yes, as a father with his children, would I charge you, that you "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work Colossians 1:10," and "adorning the doctrine of God your Savior in all things Titus 2:10." Only reflect on your high privileges; and then say, "what manner of persons you ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness 2 Peter 3:11." I conclude with that inspired admonition, "As he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be holy; for I am holy 1 Peter 1:15-16."

 

 

Isaiah 43:20

 

DISCOURSE 933

GOD'S KINDNESS TO HIS PEOPLE

Isaiah 43:20. I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

THE mercies of God which are daily, and, as it were, hourly renewed, demand at our hands a constantly increasing tribute of praise and thanksgiving. Former benefits are not to be forgotten: yet it is allowable, and even proper, that those which have been recently given to us should so occupy the mind, as, for a time, almost to exclude from our minds the immediate recollection of those which have been formerly bestowed. The Prophet Jeremiah says, "Behold, the days come, that they shall no more say, The Lord lives, which brought up the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but the Lord lives which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them Jeremiah 23:7-8." Thus in the verses before our text, God says, "Remember you not the former things, neither consider the things of old: behold, I will do a new thing." The particular thing here predicted, is, the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, together with their preservation in the dry and barren wilderness, through which they must pass in their way to Judea. But that deliverance would never have been represented as so superior to that which they had experienced from Egypt, had it not typified a far more glorious redemption, which they were taught to expect through the intervention of the Messiah. This it is (even the spiritual redemption by Christ, together with the aids and consolations of the Holy Spirit) to which the text principally refers; and for which, not "the owls and dragons" of the wilderness, but the more stupid and ferocious Gentiles "shall honor God" forever.

In discoursing on these words, we shall consider,

I. The designation given to God's people—

The minds of many almost revolt at the very mention of the word "elect," or "chosen." But though we by no means approve of bringing forward the subject of election on every occasion, yet, as it is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, and strongly asserted in the Articles of our Church, we ought not to pass over it, when it comes plainly and unavoidably before us. The word "chosen" is used in the text,

1. As a term of distinction—

No one can doubt but that God's people are often spoken of by the term of "God's elect:" the only doubt is, what that term imports. Now all will confess that it imports a choice of nations to the enjoyment of national privileges. In this sense God chose the Jewish nation, and took them out from the midst of a people greater and mightier than they, and gave them his statutes and judgments, when all other nations were left to follow their own ways. And this he did, not on account of any merit in them, but purely on account of his own good pleasure, irrespective of any goodness in them, either seen or foreseen Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 9:4-6. It is no less clear, that the term is also applied to individual persons chosen to particular situations of trust and honor. Levi's appointment to the priesthood 1 Samuel 2:27-28, David's to the government of Israel Psalm 78:70-71, and Saul's to the apostleship Acts 9:15. Galatians 1:15-16, are unquestionable proofs of God's having exercised his own sovereign will in the selection of individuals to posts of temporal dignity; I may add too, of unspeakable spiritual advantage. These things being admitted, it seems strange that any one can doubt, but that the term "elect" denotes yet further a choice of particular persons to eternal life. The people of God are not merely called "elect," but are expressly said to have been "from the beginning chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth 2 Thessalonians. 2:13." And for them in particular is Heaven reserved; insomuch that "Jesus Christ himself cannot grant Heaven to any but those, for whom it was before prepared of the Father Matthew 20:23."

2. A term of endearment—

This seems the more particular view in which the name is given to God's people in the text. Just as, in reference to his dear Son, God says, "Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delights Isaiah 42:1," so he speaks of his people here, as feeling delight and delight in them. In many other passages also the term "elect" seems to be used as expressive of the peculiar interest which God takes in all that relates to his believing people: "Who will lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Shall not God avenge his own elect?" "For the elect's sake those days (of trouble to Jerusalem) shall be shortened." And, "God will send his angels (at the last day) to gather together his elect."

But, notwithstanding their dearness to God, we have but too much reason to consider,

II. The straits to which they may be reduced—

It is evidently implied, that as the Israelites in their journey from Egypt must have perished for want of water, if God had not miraculously interposed for their relief; so all his people coming through the wilderness of this world, are at times reduced to difficulties, from whence none but God himself can deliver them. This happens to them by means of,

1. Afflictions—

The people of God are, for the most part, "a poor and afflicted people." That they have peculiar supports and consolations, we shall soon show: but inasmuch as they have all the common feelings of humanity, they must find afflictions grievous to them, exactly as others do. Even the most eminent saints have at times been ready to sink under their burdens. Behold David on the death of his rebellious son, Absalom; how bitterly he bewailed his loss 2 Samuel 18:33. See Hezekiah under the pressure of what he supposed to be an incurable disease; how "he mourned like a dove, and his eyes failed with looking upward Isaiah 38:10-14." Thus it is with many under the loss of dear relatives, or the pressure of embarrassed circumstances, or the agonies of an acute disorder: they are ready to faint under their trials, and to be "weary even of life itself See Psalm 107:5; Psalm 107:10; Psalm 107:18; Psalm 107:26-27; Psalm 38:1-8; Psalm 42:7 and Job 10:1."

2. Persecutions—

Fitly is persecution compared to the scorching heat of the meridian sun, We are told what fatal effects it produces on those who have no root of grace in themselves Matthew 13:6; Matthew 13:21; and the most steadfast Christians are exhorted to "consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest they should be weary and faint in their minds Hebrews 12:3." Even the Apostle Paul himself was sometimes "cast down 2 Corinthians 4:8-9," and needed peculiar supports from Heaven Acts 18:9-10. See also Psalm 143:3-8. And though we are not now exposed to all those cruelties which the first Christians endured, yet there are many and heavy trials to be borne by "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus:" and he must be a faithful laborer, who supports without fainting "the burden and heat of the day."

3. Temptations—

It is not without reason that the weapons with which Satan assaults the believer are represented as "fiery darts;" for when injected into the soul, they set the whole man, as it were, on fire, and "the poison of them altogether drinks up our spirits Job 6:4." Who has ever known what it is to be haunted with atheistical and blasphemous thoughts; or what, to be harassed with doubts about the truth of Christianity, or what, to be tormented with apprehensions of having committed the sin against the Holy Spirit: who that has ever felt the almost irresistible impulses of corruption, aided by the dreadful workings of despair; who, in short, is in any respect acquainted with the wiles of Satan, and the depths of his own depravity; and has not been constrained to cry, "Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me!"?

But these troubles shall only bring them to the enjoyment of,

III. The mercies reserved for them—

As once God made the rivers and the sea to become dry land, so will he open rivers in the dry and thirsty wilderness. He will supply the wants of his drooping and dejected people: he has treasured up for them an inexhaustible fund of consolation,

1. In the promises of his Gospel—

What "wells of salvation" are opened in the holy Scriptures! and with what unspeakable joy do thirsting souls "draw water out of them!" A believing application of one single promise to the soul is more reviving, even in the most disconsolate state, than any cup of water can possibly be to one perishing with thirst. Let, for instance, that consoling declaration which was made to Paul, when he complained so bitterly of the thorn in his flesh, and of the buffetings of Satan; let that promise, I say, come home in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and the very same effects will instantly follow; our tears will be wiped away, and all our complaints be changed into triumphant exultations 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. See this further promised, Hosea 2:14-15 and exemplified, Psalm 32:2-7.

2. In the communications of his grace—

It is principally with a view to increase and strengthen their graces, that God permits his people to experience so many troubles. He "chooses them in the furnace of affliction," and by means of the fire he "purges away their dross," that they may come forth as gold. Blessed is the testimony which David bears to this truth Psalm 138:3; and every believer will esteem his trials most richly recompensed, when he finds that "they have wrought in him an increase of patience, experience, and hope Romans 5:3-4."

3. In the manifestations of his love—

Never does God grant such visits to his people, as when they are suffering for his sake, and in obedience to his will. "He will draw near unto them," and "manifest himself unto them as he does not unto the world," and will give them "the witness of the Spirit, as a pledge of their everlasting inheritance." Thus, if their "afflictions abound for Christ, their consolations are made to abound by Christ 2 Corinthians 1:5." Now "in the Lord's favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life:" when therefore a sense of his "love is shed abroad in the heart," it little concerns them by what means so great a blessing has been imparted: whatever they may have endured to prepare them for it, they will not hesitate to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted."

APPLICATION—

Is there any afflicted soul that cannot find consolation in God? He is only like Hagar, who had a fountain close to her, while she was expecting nothing but death Genesis 21:15-19; "let him therefore, though in darkness, stay himself upon his God Isaiah 50:10." Sooner or later, shall all who wait on God be refreshed and comforted Isaiah 40:27-31; Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 49:10.

 

 

Isaiah 43:22-26

 

DISCOURSE 934

THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S MERCY

Isaiah 43:22-26. You have not called upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel. You have not brought me the small cattle of your burnt-offering; neither have you honored me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with an offering, nor wearied you with incense. You have bought me no sweet cane with money, neither have you filled me with the fat of your sacrifices: but you have made me to serve with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare you, that you may be justified.

THE sinfulness of man, and the goodness of God, are subjects which mutually illustrate each other: neither can be viewed in its true colors, unless it be considered in its relation to the other: but both appear in perfection, when they are brought into immediate contrast together. This is the view in which they are frequently presented to us in the holy Scriptures, and especially in the passage now before us; in which we have,

I. A contrasted view of God's conduct towards us, and of ours towards him—

God has not required any oppressive services of us—

God, as the author of our being, has a right to all our time, and all our faculties: but he requires of us only one day in seven, to be spent in his more immediate service. The law, which he imposed upon the Jews, appeared indeed burdensome, through the infirmity of their flesh; though, when considered in its true light, it ought not to have appeared so It was necessary, in order to keep them separate from the heathen: it was the means of directing their attention to the Messiah, and of preparing them for the fuller light and liberty of the Gospel: it was also the means of their maintaining communion with the Deity, and of obtaining his richest blessings. As for us, we are wholly freed from that yoke, and have only two easy and significant rites to observe. Nor is the moral law burdensome; for the whole substance of it is, Be holy, and be happy Romans 7:12; and if a permission were given us to violate any one of its commands, it would be, in fact, a dispensation to make ourselves miserable.

But we have been backward to offer him any token of respect and love—

The Jews grudged to purchase a little calamus for the holy perfume and incense Exodus 30:23; Exodus 30:25; Exodus 30:34-35. Nor, if they brought any sacrifices, would they present the fat and good of their flocks, but rather, such as were lean and refuse Malachi 1:8. Thus have we been averse to "call upon him," being soon "weary" of that holy employment: or, if we have just waited upon God in his outward ordinances, we have withheld from him that which alone could render our services pleasing in his sight, the tribute of a humble, contrite, and grateful heart. To mortify our lusts, and exercise devout and heavenly affections, would have cost us more pain and labor than we have been willing to afford: we have therefore wholly declined such services, and contented ourselves with offering only the cheap sacrifices of external and occasional formalities.

Yes, instead of serving him aright, we have even "wearied him with our iniquities"—

How awful the charge, which God himself here brings against us! He, who might justly demand anything of us, has not required of us any great services, or wearied us with an intolerable yoke: but we, who are bound by every tie to please and honor him to the uttermost, have quite oppressed and wearied him by our long continued iniquities, until he is even "pressed under us, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves Amos. 2:13." There is scarcely an evil desire, which we have not harbored and indulged. Pride, envy, malice, revenge, covetousness, impurity, and whatever else is hateful unto God, have at all times found a ready admission into our hearts: and if an outward restraint has been imposed upon our actions, it has not proceeded from a fear of God Romans 3:18, or a hatred of sin, but from a regard to our characters among men, and to the temporal consequences which we dreaded. When we have known that our dispositions were offensive to God, we have not regarded him, any more than if he had been our slave, that was constrained to bear whatever we might impose upon him: we have altogether contemned him Psalm 10:4; Psalm 10:13. as unworthy of our notice, and lived as though there were no such Being in the universe.

Marvelous as this contrast is, we shall be yet more astonished, while we consider,

II. God's address to us, founded upon the foregoing representation—

The former part of God's address is a free and gracious promise of forgiveness—

What might such rebels have expected, but to hear God say, "Ah! I will ease me of my enemies Isaiah 1:24;" "I swear in my wrath, that they shall never enter into my rest Psalm 95:10-11;" "my fury shall rest upon them, and I will be comforted Ezekiel 5:13." But, behold, how different is his voice! 'I, even I, whom you have so insulted, degraded, wearied; I, who could in an instant cast you into Hell, us I did the rebel angels; I, who might be glorified in your eternal condemnation; even I, am ready to blot out all your transgressions, as a morning cloud: yes, I will blot them out through the blood of my dear Son; and, though I might well "seal them up in a bag," and bring them forth at a future day to your everlasting confusion, I will no more remember them; they shall be perfectly blotted out, even as if they had never been committed. I well know, that if I seek for anything in you to justify such an act of mercy, I shall never find it: there is nothing in you but what calls for wrath and fiery indignation: yet I will not on this account forbear to exercise mercy; I will pardon you for mine own sake, that I may be glorified in displaying the exceeding riches of my grace.'

How infinitely does this surpass our highest conceptions! and how obdurate must be the heart that can withstand these overtures of love and mercy!

The latter part of the address is an urgent invitation to accept of mercy—

It may possibly be understood as a rebuke to a proud self-justifying Pharisee. Many, instead of humbling themselves under the charge brought against them, will instantly reply, "Wherein have we wearied you Malachi 2:17." To such God may be considered as saying, 'Since you plead your innocence Jeremiah 2:35, and stand on your own defense, as though you did not need this offer of mercy, come, and "put me in remembrance" of your good deeds (for, if you have any to boast of, they have quite escaped my notice): Let us plead together, and see whether I am right in my charge, or you in your vindication of yourself: declare you the grounds of your dependence, that, if they will bear you out in your confidence, "you may be justified" before me.'

Alas! alas! that the offers of a free salvation should ever be despised through a vain confidence in our own goodness! O that we might not so despise our own mercies! Whatever sentence God shall pass upon us, "he will surely be justified in his saying, and be clear when he is judged Psalm 51:4." Let us not then provoke God to such a contest; for our hope will be only as a spider's web, that shall be swept away with the broom of destruction Isaiah 28:17.

But I understand it rather as a direction and encouragement to the repenting sinner. While some put away from them the word of life, because they feel not their need of mercy, others do the same, from an apprehension of their unworthiness to obtain mercy. But God is ever solicitous to encourage the humble, and says, "Put me in remembrance of this promise; come and plead it with me! declare you your affiance in it; and, unworthy as you are, you shall be justified." As our Lord given to Thomas the evidence of his senses, in order that his doubts might be effectually removed, so he here condescends to the infirmities of his people, in order to bring them to a full conviction of his love and faithfulness. Let this direction then be followed by every doubting, trembling soul. Let us take the Canaanite woman for our pattern Matthew 15:26-27; and our confidence shall before long be crowned with a rich reward Hebrews 10:35.

Reflections—

1. How averse is God to the perishing of an immortal soul!

What stronger comment can we have on that oath of Jehovah, "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel Ezekiel 33:11." Contemplate the text in that view, and say whether God does not desire that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth 1 Timothy 2:4." Truly "He delights in mercy;" and "judgment," on whoever it is exercised, "is his strange work," to which he is utterly averse.

2. How bitter will be the reflections of all who perish in their sins!

If there be one ingredient in the cup of a damned soul more bitter than another, it is this; "My God and Savior would have saved me, but I would not accept of his salvation Matthew 23:37. I would not come to him that I might have life John 5:40. I pray you, beloved, treasure not up for yourselves such bitterness as this: but improve the present opportunity of obtaining mercy, for the day of grace once lost, is lost forever. This, Brethren, is the accepted time: the Lord grant that it may prove unto every one of you the day of salvation 2 Corinthians 6:2."

 

 

Isaiah 44:1-5

 

DISCOURSE 935

THE OUT-POURING OF THE SPIRIT PROMISED

Isaiah 44:1-5. Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the Lord that made you, and formed you from the womb, which will help you; Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water-courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

THERE is a striking analogy between the things which take place in the natural and in the moral world. As, in addition to the genial warmth of the sun, the showers are necessary to promote the progress of vegetation, so, in addition to the rising of the Sun of Righteousness upon us, the influences of the Holy Spirit are necessary, to soften our hearts, to water the seed that has been sown in them, and to produce in us those "fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God." In this the office of the Holy Spirit consists. By his gracious operations on the soul, he applies to men that redemption which Jesus Christ has obtained for them; and by his sanctifying power he makes them meet for that inheritance which their Redeemer purchased for them by his blood. Whenever therefore we behold in the Scriptures a promise of the Holy Spirit, we should treasure it up in our minds, and seek not only to understand its import, but also to experience the accomplishment of it in our souls.

In discoursing on the words which we have just read, we shall consider,

I. The glorious promise here given us—

The manner in which the promise is introduced, is particularly deserving of our attention—

In the last verse of the preceding chapter, the state of Israel is represented as altogether desperate: they were "given up by God to the curse and to reproaches." Nevertheless God would not have any of them to despair; for, if they had but a desire to obtain mercy, he had mercy in reserve for them. He still regarded them as his "servants," whom he had "chosen and formed" for his peculiar people, whom he had helped hitherto, and was still ready to "help" on every occasion that should arise: he calls them by the endearing names of "Jacob, and Israel, and Jeshurun;" and bids them to dismiss their fears, and to expect from him all that their hearts could desire.

And is it not in the same way that he addresses us? Yes: notwithstanding all the judgments he has denounced against us for our sins, he says, "Yet hear now this, O Jacob my servant;" 'remember your relation to me; consider how free and rich has been my grace towards you, in that I have "formed you from the womb," and "chosen you" from all eternity, to be my most favored servant: put away your fears: entertain worthy thoughts of your best Friend: limit not my tender mercies: enlarge your expectations to the utmost extent of your necessities; and you shall never be disappointed of your hope.'

It is of great importance to notice the tender and affectionate manner in which God addresses his people; because it is from thence that we collect the most just conceptions of his condescension and grace, and derive the richest encouragement to wait upon him. It is also of great importance to observe what use God makes of the doctrine of election. Twice does he call them his "chosen;" because in that term is contained everything that is endearing and encouraging. Only let us reflect on the state we were in when he chose us, and we shall see that there is nothing too great for us to expect at the hands of such a gracious God Ezekiel 16:3-6.

But the promise itself is most glorious—

The gift of the Holy Spirit is that peculiar blessing which the Church in all ages was taught to look for under the Christian dispensation. A measure indeed of the Spirit was given to the godly at all times; but the fuller effusion was reserved for the times of the Apostles; as it is said, "The Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified John 7:39." If we go back as far as to the days of Abraham, we shall find, that the promise of the Spirit was made to him, not so much for his descendants after the flesh, as for his spiritual progeny among the Gentiles, to whom it was fulfilled in the Apostles' days Galatians 3:14. And the prophets taught the Jews, in every successive period, to look forward to the same time for the full enjoyment of this privilege. The prophet Joel in particular spoke strongly on this subject: and Peter refers to his words, as accomplished on the day of Pentecost Compare Joe. 2:28-29 with Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:16-18. Our blessed Lord also, both before and after his resurrection, instructed his disciples to expect a more abundant measure of the Spirit than had ever yet been given to the world; and to that very instruction of his did Peter refer, when the Spirit was first poured out upon the Gentiles Compare Matthew 3:11 and Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5 with Acts 11:15-16. The measure in which this blessing was to be imparted to the Church, is also particularly marked in the words of our text: "I will pour (not merely sprinkle, but pour) water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground;" even such abundance, as shall be sure to reach the roots, and produce, not a transient change, like that of grass upon the house-top, but a radical and permanent change, both of heart and life.

That we may estimate the change aright, we have it exhibited in two striking images; that of grass, growing up after a season of extreme drought; and that of willows, watered by perennial streams. Here are images familiar to every eye, and calculated to convey a just idea of the effects universally produced by the operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul. A new principle of life begins to show itself; and a new beauty and excellency to adorn the whole character: the appropriate fruits of every season, and of every condition, are brought forth, and the whole soul appears "as a well-watered garden." Partial changes may be produced by natural means: but the supernatural operation of the Spirit invariably causes a total surrender of the soul to God. The unconverted man in his best estate conceives himself to have some right over himself: but the true convert says, yes, and delights to say, "I am the Lord's:" 'I am his rightfully; I am his willingly and deliberately; I am his unreservedly and forever.' It is for this very end that the Spirit is promised; and these are its effects, wherever that promise is fulfilled.

Now then let all the house of Israel hear,

II. The duties and privileges resulting from it—

Every promise brings with it correspondent duties as well as privileges: and most assuredly this promise is replete with instruction and consolation,

1. To the Church at large—

Think of Israel when under "the curse" of God, and overwhelmed by the "reproaches" of their enemies: What comfort must the words of our text have administered to them, especially to all who believed the prophet's testimony respecting them! And shall it afford less comfort to us at this time? Certainly this is a season of lamentable drought, when compared with the apostolic age. Though God does not leave us altogether without witness, yet the effect of our ministrations is very small and partial. But we look forward to a period, yes, and we hope that the clouds are even now gathering, when the Spirit shall be poured out again, and "showers of blessings" descend upon our thirsty land Ezekiel 34:26. We look for the time, when the Church, which is now but as a slender plant, shall become a tree, in whose branches the "bird of every wing shall lodge Ezekiel 17:23. Mark 4:31-32." Then shall converts be "as the morning dew;" they shall fly in immense multitudes "as a cloud," and with the speed and velocity of "doves to their windows Psalm 110:3. Isaiah 60:8." The Church itself will be perfectly astonished at the vast increase, of her members Isaiah 49:18-21; for "a nation shall be born in a day;" the most dreary regions of the earth shall, equally with ourselves, participate the blessing; and "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." O what joy should such glorious prospects afford us! Did Abraham rejoice when he obtained but a glimmering view of the day of Christ; and shall not we, who have already seen him risen on our horizon, and behold him now rapidly advancing to his meridian height? Was the birth of Jesus announced by angels as "glad tidings of great joy to all people;" and shall not his universal reign, now speedily approaching, be hailed with joy? Yes; blessed be God! we not only "see the cloud of the bigness of a man's hand," but we behold the commencement of those showers, which shall refresh and fertilize the whole earth.

2. To the weak and disconsolate in particular—

What mercy can be in reserve for me, may one say, who am "given over to the curse of God, and to the reproaches" of my own conscience? Were I like "the earth that drinks in the rain, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, I might hope for a blessing from God: but bearing, as I do, only briers and thorns, 1 am rejected, and near unto cursing; and my end is to be burned Hebrews 6:7-8." But what room is there for such desponding apprehensions, when we contemplate the state of Israel as described in the preceding chapter Isaiah 43:28, and in the very words of our text? The "thirsty and the dry ground" is that to which the promise is made: and who may not find his character designated by those terms? But if these be not sufficiently humiliating, to warrant our hope of an interest in the promise, let us reflect on the description of persons for whom our blessed Savior, on his ascension to Heaven, received the gift of the Holy Spirit: it was "for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them Psalm 68:18." Surely the most self-condemning person in the universe may venture to place himself in that class, and consequently to expect under that character what he could not venture to hope for as promised to the righteous. And, if a very extraordinary measure of grace be thought necessary for us, more than for others, we may surely find a sufficiency in the "floods" which are contained in the promise before us. Fear not then, whoever you are; for God has said, that the poorest, even in the most destitute and desponding state, shall, on looking to the Savior, have floods and fountains of grace, unbounded in their measure, irresistible in their efficacy, and endless in their duration Isaiah 41:17-18.

3. To parents more especially—

The covenant made with Abraham, was made with him and with his seed Genesis 17:7-9 with Isaiah 59:21; and this very promise, which holds forth to us the chief blessing of that covenant, is expressly said to be "unto us, and to our children, and to as many as are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call Acts 2:38-39." Let not any then be satisfied with having it fulfilled to themselves alone: let all consider the interest which their children also have in it; let them plead it with God in behalf of their offspring: and let them remember, that, whatever measure of grace they themselves possess, it is given them, not for their own good only, but "for the good of their children after them Jeremiah 32:39." O Parents, bear in mind, that the gift of the Spirit is more to be desired in behalf of your children than thousands of silver and gold: let it be your daily prayer, that they may be endued with this precious gift: and, while you look for their growth in bodily nature and intellectual attainments, look to see them "growing up as willows by the water-courses," and manifesting to all around them, how richly they are watered by the grace of God. That there is a great neglect of these things among religious professors, is but too true; but if the grace of God really exist in us, it will show itself by an unwearied solicitude for the welfare of our offspring; as the prophet clearly intimates, when he says of the converts in the latter day, "They shall bring their sons in their arms, and their daughters (in litters) upon their shoulders Isaiah 49:22." O that every mother might be as Hannah, and every father as Abraham 1 Samuel 1:22-28. Genesis 18:19. and that none of you would "give rest unto your God Isaiah 62:7," until you have prevailed, like wrestling "Jacob Hosea 12:4," and constrained him, as it were, to "shed forth his Holy Spirit abundantly upon your offspring through Jesus Christ our Savior Titus 3:5-6."

4. To young people, above all—

Of whom is it said, that they shall, with such zeal and unanimity, devote themselves to God, and glory in the appellation of his people? Is it not of the young, who are springing up as willows by the water-courses? See then what is the first duty, and the highest privilege of the young! and see what all young people will do, as soon as they have "received the grace of God in truth!" And are there none among you who feel your obligations to God for the gift of his only dear Son to die for you? are there none so penetrated with his redeeming love, as to say in the fullness of your hearts, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" Come then to the table of the Lord, and surrender up yourselves to him there! Think it not too early to wait upon him in that ordinance: if you truly desire to be the Lord's, that is the ordinance at which in a more especial manner the surrender of yourselves to him should be made; and in that ordinance you may confidently expect that the Lord will more especially accept and bless you. In that ordinance too you form a closer union with the people of the Lord, who will delight to see you added to their society, and to help you forward by their counsels and their prayers. Come then, and "subscribe with your hand unto the Lord;" or rather, as soldiers, and slaves, and idolaters were used to inscribe on their flesh, in some indelible characters, the name of the general, or the master, or the idol, whom they served, so do you get inscribed on your heart, and on your arm, the name of your adorable Savior, and give yourselves up to him in "a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten Jeremiah 50:4-5, 2 Corinthians 8:5."

 

 

Isaiah 44:20

 

DISCOURSE 936

THE FOLLY OF SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY

Isaiah 44:20. He feeds on ashes: a deceived heart has turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

WE who have lived under the light of revelation, and have been instructed in the knowledge of the one true God, are amazed at the stupidity of the Heathen, who form idols of wood and stone, and worship gods which they themselves have made. But we do not consider, that it is not the forming of these images, but the trusting in them, that makes them gods: and that we ourselves are guilty of idolatry as much as the heathen themselves, if in any respect we "love and serve the creature more than the Creator Romans 1:25." This is the essence of idolatry; as the Apostle tells us; "Beware of covetousness, which is idolatry Colossians 3:5." And of persons addicted to sensual enjoyments, he says, they "make a God of their belly Philippians 3:19;" and Christians universally, being in danger of indulging an undue confidence in, or attachment to, the creature, are guarded against those evils in these very expressive terms, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols John 5:21." In speaking therefore of idolaters, it is not necessary that we carry you back to the prophet's days, or that we take you among Pagans of the present day: the language in our text is quite as applicable to us at this time as to any of them. With a view therefore to spiritual idolaters among ourselves, I will show you,

I. The folly of their ways—

Of every one among them it may truly be said, "He feeds on ashes:" for, whatever the things be with which he seeks to satisfy his desires, they are,

1. Unsuitable—

It is needless to say, how unsuitable ashes are for the food of the body: but they are not a whit less so than the things of this world are for the nourishment of the soul. The soul is a spiritual substance, and must be fed with that which is spiritual. It was formed for God: and nothing but what comes from God, and leads to God, can support it. The word of God, for instance, is food on which it may exist: and hence "the new-born babe desires the unadulterated milk of the word, that he may grow thereby 1 Peter 2:2." On this the saints of old subsisted: "Your words were found, and I did eat them: and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart Jeremiah 15:16. Psalm 119:103." The presence of God also is that which strengthens the believing soul: "for that it hungers and thirsts, even to see his power and glory, as they are revealed in the sanctuary: and, when a sense of his loving-kindness is imparted to it, the soul is filled as with marrow and fatness, and praises him with joyful lips Psalm 63:1-5." In a more particular manner the Christian is nourished by the flesh of Christ and the blood of Christ; on which he feeds continually, and which he finds to "be meat indeed, and drink indeed John 6:53-55." As for the things of time and sense, they are but as husks which the swine eat of: and to attempt to feed on them, is only to "feed upon the wind Hosea 12:1," and to "fill the belly with the east wind Job 15:2.

2. Unsatisfying—

To all who go to the creature for happiness, the prophet says, "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness Isaiah 55:1-2." In confirmation of the reproof here given, I will venture to appeal to all, even to those who have drunk deepest of the cup of pleasure, and feasted themselves most largely with carnal delights; 'Has anything that you have ever enjoyed, afforded you permanent satisfaction?' "Was your eye ever satisfied with seeing, or your cur with hearing?" or, "Was any man that loved silver, ever satisfied with silver Ecclesiastes 5:10." There is but one testimony on this head, from every child of man. Vanity is written upon all human enjoyments; and vexation invariably follows in the pursuit of them.

3. Injurious—

As ashes, if taken into the stomach, would soon injure the constitution of the body, so all endeavors to satisfy the soul with carnal enjoyments will of necessity deprave and vitiate all its faculties. Such food will indispose the soul for everything that is spiritual and divine: it will weaken all its energies; and debase all its powers; and reduce it to the lowest possible state of degradation, causing it to nauseate everything which God has ordained for its good, and to affect everything which will tend to its destruction. Every day that a man lives to himself and to this present world, he departs farther and farther from God, and renders himself more and more incapable of heavenly pursuits and heavenly enjoyments. He is "a sinner against his own soul Numbers 16:38;" and is fitly represented as "wronging his own soul, and loving death Proverbs 8:35-36."

But to what shall we look as,

II. The source of their errors—

It is not from any radical defect in their understanding that this idolatry proceeds: it comes from their heart: "a deceived heart has turned them aside." This is a point which is by no means duly considered. If the subject of idolatry be brought fairly before a heathen, he sees at once that his God cannot help itself, and consequently can much less afford any help to him. And in like manner the spiritual idolater, if only he will candidly examine the matter, must see, and be convinced, that a vain world can never satisfy an immortal soul. But,

1. His heart is deceived by Satan—

Satan is the great deceiver of mankind, He puts a gloss on everything; representing as desirable that which is in itself evil; and hiding the deformity of it; and assuring us, that no painful consequences will follow a compliance with his suggestions. Thus he beguiled Eve in Paradise: and thus he still deceives the children of men, over the face of the whole earth. "He was a lying spirit in all the prophets of Ahab 1 Kings 22:22;" and he has his agents in every place, who are ready by every possible means to forward his delusions. He can, and often does, "assume the form of an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:13-15;" and not unfrequently urges his temptations in so specious a way, as "to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect Matthew 24:24." In a word, so subtle are his devices, that to know them, and be aware of them, is a science which scarcely any human being is able to attain 2 Corinthians 2:11; so innumerable are his wiles, and so unsearchable his deceits.

2. His deceived heart turns aside his whole man—

The heart, beguiled thus, and vitiated with evil propensities, blinds his understanding, biases his will, and carries him forward in ways, which a more dispassionate view of things would lead him to condemn. This distinction clearly appears in the two verses preceding our text: "They have not known nor understood: for God has shut their eyes, that they cannot see, and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considers in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire, etc and shall I make the remains thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?" Then it is added, "He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside." The blindness in his understanding arises from a want of due and unbiased consideration in the heart. And, in fact, all evil will be found to originate here. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil Ecclesiastes 9:3;" and it is "deceitful above all things, as well as desperately wicked Jeremiah 17:9;" and, like a bias in a bowl, even when under any strong impulse a man has been going for a season in u right direction, it draws him gradually aside, and causes him to rest in a situation far distant from that at which he aimed. Who among us has not had abundant experience of this in his own soul? Who among us has not been drawn from complying with the dictates of a better principle, by the more powerful influence of an evil principle within him; and thus followed the less proper course, at the very time that he beheld and approved the better Romans 7:23. Thus it is with all the votaries of this world: they have an internal consciousness that their ways and their doings are not good: they therefore will not bring them to the test of God's revealed will: "they are afraid of coming to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved John 3:19-20;" yet, through the deceits of Satan and their own hearts, they say, "We shall have peace, notwithstanding we walk in the imagination of our own hearts Deuteronomy 29:19." Thus, I say, it is with them: they are "carried away by a spirit of whoredom Hosea 4:12;" "they are drawn away of their own lust, and enticed. Then, when their lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death James 1:14-15."

Hence we may easily account for,

III. The strength of their delusions—

"They cannot deliver their souls"—

Truly, as our Liturgy well expresses it, they "are tied and bound with the chain of their sins." The whole generation of ungodly men are "led captive by the devil, at his will 2 Timothy 2:26," and are "carried away to their idols, even as they are led 1 Corinthians 12:2." Among them all there are few, if any, who have not felt at times some desire to liberate themselves from their thraldom, and formed some purpose to turn unto their God. But they have not been able to effect it; their inward lusts have been too strong for them, and their deep-rooted habits too inveterate; so that "they could no more change their course of life, than an Ethiopian could change his skin, or a leopard his spots Jeremiah 13:23." Their good desires have perhaps been renewed from time to time; but have soon vanished again; "their goodness being only as a morning cloud, or as the early dew that passes away Hosea 6:4." In a time of sickness possibly, and at the expected approach of death, they may appear to have gained the victory over their corruptions. But no resolutions of theirs have been found sufficient. Returning health has brought with it renewed temptations; and these have borne down all their purposes, which have snapped asunder, as the cords or ropes with which Sampson was bound: and the poor devotees of this world have returned again to their idols, "as a dog to his vomit, and as a sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire."

"They cannot even say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

Even to consider their ways with any seriousness, is an effort beyond their power. I mean not that they are under any natural incapacity for this; but such is their moral weakness, and such the strength of their corrupt nature, that they cannot do what their better judgment would dictate. If they attempt to read or pray, their minds start aside from the employment, "even as a deceitful bow Psalm 78:57. Hosea 7:16;" and their thoughts quickly rove to the very ends of the earth. It is said of Satan, that, "as a strong man armed, he keeps his palace, and his goods are in peace Luke 11:21." And this is verified in experience: for he keeps his vassals from considering their bondage; he suggests to them that they will have some more convenient season for such unwelcome reflections; and he thus induces them to "think only of peace and safety, until sudden destruction come upon them 1 Thessalonians. 5:3," and they "perish without a remedy Proverbs 29:1." One would indeed scarcely conceive it possible that rational and immortal beings should be so insensible in the midst of their dangers, and against all the dictates of their better judgment: but so it is: they are willingly deceived, and are therefore "given over to a delusion to believe their own lie 2 Thessalonians. 2:11;" and so "vain are they in their imaginations, and so darkened in their foolish hearts Romans 1:21," that to bid them examine whether they have not a lie in their right hand, is as great an offence to them, as it would be to a poor, blind, infatuated heathen.

INFERENCES—

1. How thankful should we be for a Savior!

If God had not "laid help for us upon One that is mighty," who among us could ever be saved? Blessed be God, if there is "a strong man armed that has enslaved us, there is a stronger than he, that has overcome him, and taken from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divided his spoils Luke 11:21-22;" and at this moment sends his servants to proclaim, in his name, "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound Isaiah 49:9." The very first sermon which he himself ever preached on earth was to this effect Luke 4:18-19. In his name therefore I now "preach the acceptable year of the Lord," even the year of Jubilee, wherein every slave may assert his liberty, and claim the possession of his forfeited inheritance. Rejoice then, Brethren, in these glad tidings: and now "cast your idols to the moles and to the bats." Feed no more on ashes: let not a deceived heart any longer turn you aside: but deliver your souls; and come forth into the light and liberty of the children of God. If your cast idolatries have involved your souls in guilt, there is a sufficiency in the blood of Christ to cleanse you from it 1 John 1:7; if your corruptions appear so inveterate that you cannot hope to subdue them, "the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for you 2 Corinthians 12:9." Only seek henceforth your all in him, and "you shall be saved by him with an everlasting salvation: you shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end Isaiah 45:17."

2. How watchful should we be against the remains of our corrupt nature!

While we are in this world, we still carry about with us "a body of sin and death," and many corrupt propensities, against which we must be ever on our guard. We are but "in part renewed." "The flesh still lusts against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh Galatians 5:17." And Satan has still power to tempt us, yes, and "will sift us all as wheat," if our blessed Lord do not interpose for our help. We see in Demas, how prone the carnal heart is to relapse into the love of earthly things; and we know very little of ourselves, if we have not learned, by our own manifold backslidings, that we are yet in danger of "turning back unto perdition Hebrews 10:38-39," and of "losing all the things which we have wrought 2 John, verse 8." I would say then, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation Matthew 26:41;" "and take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand Ephesians 6:12-13."

 

Isaiah 44:22

 

DISCOURSE 937

THE WORK OF REDEMPTION A MOTIVE TO CONVERSION

Isaiah 44:22. Return unto me; for I have redeemed you.

ON occasions of public worship we generally expect a set discourse from man. But on the present occasion, I wish you to place man altogether out of the question, and to listen to a few words addressed to you by Jews Christ himself. It is he who is speaking in the passage before us, and who, addressing, as it were, every one of us by name, urges us by the most forcible of all considerations to return to him. True indeed the words in the first instance were delivered to the Jews, who, notwithstanding all that Jehovah, the only true God, had done for them, were prone to idolatry; and who were absurd enough to cut down a tree, and fashion it after the image of a man, and, after having roasted their food with a part of it, to worship the residue of it as a God. Yet, instead of denouncing his heaviest judgments against them, our Lord says, "O Jacob and Israel, you are my servant: O Israel, you shall not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed you." Now though we are not gross idolaters as the Israelites were, we may very fitly consider the words of our text as addressed to ourselves, since every one of us has lived in spiritual idolatry, "loving and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore."

Let us then consider,

I. The invitation, "Return unto me."

That we have all departed from God is evident from what the Prophet Isaiah says, "All we like sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way Isaiah 53:6." Thus though, as to the particular ways which we have pursued, we may differ, one having rushed into all manner of gross sins, while another has walked in a more moral and decent way, we are all alike in this, that we have lived to ourselves rather than unto God. This we all have acknowledged in the general Confession Cite it; and therefore we may all, without exception, consider the invitation as addressed to ourselves: "Return unto me;"

1. In penitence—

As sinners, we are all called upon to repent: nor can we ever be accepted of God, while we continue impenitent. The Prodigal Son, in his return, is a pattern to us all Luke 15:18-19; The Publican, and not the self-applauding Pharisee, was justified before God Luke 18:14. It is not the more notorious sinner only that is to "sow in tears, in order to reap in joy:" for "he who covers his sins, whoever he may be, shall not prosper: it is he only who confesses and forsakes them, that shall find mercy Proverbs 28:13." Hence the Savior would have the very best of men approach him with that penitential acknowledgment, "Behold, I am vile: I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes Job 42:6."

2. In faith—

We are not to come to the Lord doubting either his power or his willingness to save us Mark 9:22-23. Matthew 8:2, but fully confiding in him as able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him Hebrews 7:25; "If I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be whole Matthew 9:21." Our Savior would not have any doubts entertained in our mind. He reproved Martha for questioning the fullest possible accomplishment of his word: "Said I not unto you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God John 11:40." In our return to him he will make our faith the measure of the benefits he will confer upon us; "He says, according to your faith it shall be unto you Matthew 9:29."

3. In love—

He must have willing servants, or none. We must account "none of his commandments grievous 1 John 5:3," but regard "his yoke easy and his burden light Matthew 11:30." In returning to him, the language of our hearts must be that which he himself used, when first he undertook our cause: "Lo, I come; I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart Psalm 40:7-8." In fact, our readiness and determination of heart to obey his will is the only true test of our repentance, our faith, or our love. With whatever measure of penitence or faith we may profess to return to him, "it will be in vain to cry, Lord! Lord! if we do not the things which he commands Luke 6:46."

While we listen to our Savior's invitation, it will be well to consider,

II. The motive with which he enforces it.

He might well have enforced it with the most terrible denunciations of his wrath in the event of our refusal. But he rather reminds us of the great things he has done for us;

1. As a call upon our gratitude—

Think what I have done for you, in leaving my Father's bosom, in assuming your fallen nature, in bearing your sins upon the cross, and in effecting your reconciliation with your offended God. Does all this love call for such a return at your hands; and "is it right for you to requite" it as you are now doing? Is it well for you to abide at a distance from me, and to "trample upon my blood as an unholy thing," and to "crucify me afresh by continuing in your sins Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 10:29." Had I never shown such mercy to you, your wickedness in departing from me would have been comparatively light: but "now you can have no cloak for your sin John 15:22;" nay, you must stand utterly condemned in your own minds. But if you will duly contemplate the love which I have shown to you, it will surely generate in your hearts somewhat of a corresponding love to me, and "constrain you to live unto him, who has so lived and died for you 2 Corinthians 5:14."

2. As an encouragement under our fears—

In despite of all that the Lord Jesus has done and suffered for us, we are prone, under a deep conviction of our sins, to doubt whether he will receive such sinful creatures as we. But let us suppose, that, immediately after his resurrection, he had met many of his murderers, and told them, that the very blood which they had shed should cleanse them from the guilt of shedding it; could they have doubted his willingness to save their souls? Now it is in this very way that he meets us at this time. Our sins were the true cause of all his sufferings: and in his word he meets us at this very hour, and says to every one of us individually, "I have redeemed you; O return to me; for I have redeemed you." Dismiss then your fears, whatever you may have been, or whatever you may have done: for his blood will cleanse from all sin 1 John 1:7," nor shall any soul perish that believes in him John 3:16. Let the most unrighteous man in the universe only return to him in penitence and faith, "and He will have mercy upon him, and abundantly pardon all his multiplied transgressions Isaiah 55:7-8."

APPLICATION—

Let the careless sinner hear this. When you are in the midst of all your mirth and gaiety, call this to mind: 'My Savior is here with me; and in a still small voice he says to me, Return unto me from whom you have deeply revolted; "return unto me; for I have redeemed you." What has the world ever done for you, that it should be preferred to me? or what can it ever do, that shall compensate for the loss of my redeeming love?' Surely, my Brethren, one such thought as this will damp all your joys, and constrain you, like the Savior's look on Peter, to go forth from your scenes of dissipation, and weep bitterly Matthew 26:75.

Let the backsliding professor, in particular, consider himself as here addressed. To him our Savior says, 'What iniquity have you found in me, that you should so slight my love? Have I been a wilderness to you, and a land of darkness, that you should thus wickedly depart from me Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31. O remember, "It were better for you never to have known me, than thus to reflect dishonor un my name 2 Peter 2:21." Think, in what your declension must issue, if you return not to me with your whole heart.' And now, before it be too late, say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" "I will return unto my first Husband; for then it was better with me than now Hosea 2:7; Hosea 14:8.": Then shall you pour forth those joyous strains which follow my text; and, with David and Peter, unite forever in the loudest hosannas to your redeeming God.

 

 

Isaiah 44:23

 

DISCOURSE 938

REDEMPTION A GROUND OF JOY

Isaiah 44:23. Sing, O heavens; for the Lord has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

IF the word of God produced its full effect upon the hearts of men, this world would be very much assimilated to Heaven: there would be the same views, the same dispositions, the same exercises and employments among our fallen race, as are found among the angels, in the presence of their God. Let us only conceive that the subjects in the text universally occupied the minds of men; and that they were celebrated by all ranks of people with the ardor and affection suited to their importance; surely we should have a very Heaven upon earth! Permit me then to remind you, that,

I. "The Lord has redeemed his people"—

The redemption of the Jews from Babylon was a great and joyful event. The person who was to effect it was foretold by name. The manner in which he should take the city of Babylon (by turning the course of the Euphrates, and passing through the gates of brass), and the use which he should make of his triumph (by liberating the captive Jews, and ordering them to rebuild their city and temple), was all distinctly specified, above two hundred years before such a person as Cyrus existed in the world verse 26–28 and ch. 45:1–4. But, extraordinary as this event was, it was only a shadow of one infinitely more important,—the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. He has redeemed his people,

1. By price—

In a figurative sense, God may be said to have "given Egypt and Ethiopia as the ransom of Israel Isaiah 43:3." But what is the "ransom that he has found for us Job 33:24." What is "the price with which he has bought us 1 Corinthians 6:20." out of the hands of sin and Satan? Kingdoms and worlds were insufficient for the purpose. We could not be "redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but only with the precious blood of God's co-equal Son 1 Peter 1:18-19." Great as the price was, God did not hesitate to lay it down: "he purchased the Church with his own blood Acts 20:28." No longer can we now be detained in bondage, if we claim our liberty in the name of Christ. "The law cannot condemn us Galatians 3:13; Satan cannot lead us captive Luke 11:22; "sin cannot have dominion over us Romans 6:14." If we avail ourselves of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," we shall be "delivered from every kind of bondage, and be brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God Romans 8:21." "Being made free by Christ, we shall be free indeed John 8:36."

2. By power—

The deliverances given to the Jews of old were effected by "a mighty hand, and a stretched-out arm." And it is only "in the day of God's power that any are made willing Psalm 110:3." to embrace the salvation offered them in Christ Jesus. The "report of the Gospel is believed by those only, to whom the arm of the Lord is revealed Isaiah 53:1." To rescue a soul from the tyranny of sin and Satan, is a work of omnipotence. Easy as it may seem to persuade a person to believe in Christ, it far surpasses the ability of any created being. "God himself must bring us to this self-same thing 2 Corinthians 5:5;" and we are told, that, in the accomplishment of this work, he exerts no less power than he did when he raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, above all the principalities and powers, whether of Heaven or Hell Ephesians 1:19-21. The original in verse 19. shows that the Apostle labored to the utmost to express his ideas, which were too big for utterance. Having thus multiplied his terms to the uttermost, and pressed into his service the strongest word that the Greek language could afford him, he repeats it. What light does this cast upon the subject before us!. Redemption is prepared for us before we come into the world: but, in order to enjoy its benefits, we must, each in his own person, experience the mighty working of God's power: He who "spoiled principalities and powers upon the cross," must triumph over them in our hearts; and incline us, by the effectual operation of his Spirit, to embrace the salvation which he purchased with his blood.

God has not only thus consulted our happiness, but,

II. Herein "he has also glorified himself"—

Every work of God's hands bespeaks his wisdom, his power, and his goodness: but the work of redemption glorifies all his perfections. We might easily show how his justice and his holiness are illustrated by it, and how they are made to harmonize with truth and mercy: but we shall content ourselves with showing, that herein he has glorified,

1. His grace and mercy—

Consider only the state in which we were, when God sent his only dear Son to redeem us; and the state in which we are found, when he sends his Holy Spirit to apply that redemption to us; we were fallen after the example of the apostate angels; yet God passed by them, and delivered up his own Son for us; we are still "enemies to God in our minds by wicked works," and are actually fighting against God with all our might; and yet does he subdue us by "the rod of his strength," and make "his Gospel to be the power of God to the salvation of our souls." And must we not stand amazed at this difference which is put between us and the fallen angels? must we not adore that sovereignty which "chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world Ephesians 1:4," and in due season exalts us to thrones of glory; yes, which in many instances favors the vilest of publicans and harlots in preference to learned Scribes and self-applauding Pharisees Matthew 21:31; We are told indeed, that God designed by his Gospel to display "the exceeding riches of his grace Ephesians 1:6-7; Ephesians 2:7;" and this end is thoroughly accomplished: for wherever the Gospel is received, it invariably magnifies his grace in the eyes of men: 'Why did you choose me, Lord? Why was I made to comply with your invitations, while so many were suffered to decline them, and to perish in their sins?' Scarcely the gift of Christ himself will furnish matter for more admiration and gratitude in Heaven than this: or rather, I should say, the greatness of the gift, and the sovereignty with which it is bestowed, will be interwoven with each other in everlasting hallelujahs.

2. His truth and faithfulness—

The redemption given us in Christ was a subject of prophecy, as well as that which was given to the Jews through the instrumentality of Cyrus. And when Christ was sent into the world, the truth and faithfulness of God were most conspicuously displayed. Of these, the aged and inspired priest more particularly expressed his admiration; repeatedly blessing and praising God for "performing the promises made by the mouth of his holy Prophets, and remembering the oath which he had sworn to our father Abraham Luke 1:68; Luke 1:70; Luke 1:72-73." Nor is the truth of God to be noticed only in sending us a Redeemer: it is equally visible in applying redemption to our souls. There is not one that ever partakes of this redemption, but in consequence of his having been "given to Christ" before the foundation of the world John 17:6. 2 Timothy 1:9; nor is one brought finally to the complete enjoyment of it in Heaven, but his continued preservation through all his perils and conflicts is an accomplishment of that promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you Hebrews 13:5." Surely at the end of our journey we shall take the same review its Joshua did in his last moments; we shall adore the faithfulness of God and say, "Of all the good things which God has promised me, not one thing has failed Joshua 23:14."

Is the glory of God so blended with the happiness of man? Surely,

III. This is a ground of most exalted joy to the whole creation—

All, both in Heaven and earth, are required to rejoice in it—

Even the angels who never fell have reason to rejoice in this great event, because by means of it they have brighter discoveries of God's character, and more enlarged views of his perfections. Indeed they no sooner beheld its accomplishment in the incarnation of Christ, than they sang, "Glory to God in the highest!" and from the moment that Christ had completed his work, and was seated at the right hand of God, they commenced a new song, ascribing glory to the Lamb, as well as unto Him who sits upon the throne Revelation 5:12-13.

But it is to men more especially that the Gospel is "tidings of great joy Luke 2:10." They are the persons more immediately interested in it; nor is there "a tree in the whole forest" of the universe, "from the cedar to the hyssop," that ought not to "break forth into singing, and shout for joy." Let those who are most elevated in rank and dignity consider, what source of joy the whole world affords them in comparison of this. Do they admire wisdom? "In this are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge Colossians 2:3." Do they find gratifications in wealth and honor? What can ever enrich or ennoble them like the Gospel of Christ, by which they become children of God, and heirs of his kingdom? Let the poor also, who merely vegetate, as it were, in obscurity, let thorn remember, that they are "plants of the Lord's planting Isaiah 61:3," and that they are as much interested in redeeming love as any people upon earth. Methinks, the less they have of carnal joy, the more they should seek to rejoice in God. Indeed they are as much distinguished above the rich in respect of spiritual privileges, as the rich are above them in the vanities of this world James 2:5. What God therefore has chosen for them, let them choose also for themselves.

Moreover their joy should be proportioned to the occasion for it—

A cold or languid expression of gratitude would be utterly unsuited to the mercy given unto us. It calls for all the powers of our souls; yes, "all that is within us should bless God's holy name Psalm 103:1." If we would form a just idea of the state in which we should be, let us imagine ourselves, not merely condemned, but already "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire:" How should we then hear the tidings of redemption? How would the fallen angels rejoice to see the gates of Hell opened to them, and to have an offer of immediate restoration to the felicity of Heaven! How would every one break forth into singing! What shouts of joy would echo through the vast expanse of Hell! Precisely thus ought we to be affected with the deliverance that is proclaimed to us. We are told that when Titus Flaminius, the Roman general and proconsul, caused liberty to be proclaimed in the theater to the States of Greece, the people with one consent rent the air with their acclamations, extolling him as their greatest benefactor, and crying, A Savior! a Savior! How much more reason have we to exalt our adorable Benefactor, who has "redeemed us to God by his blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9." Let us then sing, and shout for joy. Let the "mercy and truth" which God has manifested in this redemption, be the especial subjects of our praise Psalm 98:3. This whole psalm is exactly suited to the occasion. Thus shall we be prepared to join the heavenly choir, and to sing hallelujahs to God and to the Lamb forever and ever.

 

 

Isaiah 45:8

DISCOURSE 939

THE EFFICACY OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah 45:8. Drop down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it.

IT is generally thought, that doctrines relating to God's sovereignty, and to the divine decrees, are chiefly, if not exclusively, dwelt upon by the Apostle Paul. But, if any one read the Old Testament, he will find these doctrines advanced in almost every page. The chapter before us will furnish us with an instance quite in point. God had determined to deliver his people from their Babylonish captivity above two hundred years before they were carried captive, or Babylon itself, as an empire, had any prominent existence in the world: he also named the person by whom it should be effected, almost three hundred years before he was born, and yet there had never been a king of that name; and even specified the means by which he should effect the conquest of Babylon, which was so fortified as to be, humanly speaking, impregnable verse 1–4; he declared, also, that that person, contrary to all reasonable expectation, should liberate them without fee or reward, and give orders for the rebuilding of their city and temple verse 13. Who does not see, in all this, Jehovah acting as a Sovereign, according to his own will and pleasure, and directing everything for his own glory? The Persians, over whom this Cyrus was to reign, had an idea that there were two separate and independent powers, represented under the emblems of light and darkness, who were the authors, the one of all good, and the other of all evil. To these they would be ready to ascribe their failure or success. But God told them, beforehand; "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things:" and, consequently, they must give all the glory of their success to him. Then he issues his command to the heavens and the earth to concur with him in this great event, and to produce among his people those blissful scenes which he had destined them to enjoy.

In this view, the words before us are, not a prayer, but a prophetic annunciation of an event which should assuredly, in due season, be accomplished. And, in our further explanation of them, I will mark,

I. The import of this prophecy—

Its primary reference is to the restoration of the Jews to their own land—

This is the subject treated of: and to this the words undoubtedly, in the first instance, refer. Certainly, by the decree of Cyrus, the Jewish people would be delivered from most cruel bondage: and, by their re-establishment in their own land, they would, together with an abundance of temporal blessings, again enjoy the blessedness of waiting upon God in the instituted ordinances of his worship. And, inasmuch as this would tend to the advancement of their souls in righteousness and true holiness, it might justify the language by which it was expressed. To the same effect the Prophet Ezekiel speaks: "I will make them, and the places round about my hill, a blessing: and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase; and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them Ezekiel 34:26-27."

But it is evident that the prophecy includes in it a more important event; and that

Its ulterior reference is to the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom—

Under similar emblems is the Messiah's kingdom frequently described. It is chiefly characterized by the outpouring of the Spirit upon God's Church and people, and the consequent production of the fruits of righteousness among them in rich abundance. Remarkable is that declaration of the Prophet Joel: "It shall come to pass, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit Joe. 2:28-29." Of the true meaning of those words we can have no doubt; because they were cited by Peter on the day of Pentecost, as fulfilled, when he and the rest of the Apostles were enabled by the Spirit to address their audience in the different languages of all the nations to which they belonged Acts 2:16-18. With a sanctifying efficacy also was this effusion of the Spirit accompanied, as Isaiah also had foretold: for "when the Spirit was to be poured out from on high, then was the wilderness to become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field to be counted for a forest Isaiah 32:15." This, I say, was to characterize the Christian, as David also had foretold: "He shall come down like rain upon the grass, as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures Psalm 72:6-7."

But my more particular object in this discourse is, to point out, not merely the sense of the prophecy, but also,

II. The peculiar beauty of the image under which it is conveyed—

We are no strangers to the benefits arising from the showers which water the earth: and the correspondence between those and the benefits accruing from an outpouring of the Spirit of God is obvious and intelligible to all. You will remember, that our text is a command to the heavens and the earth to perform their respective offices for the renovation of the world. And I wish you particularly to notice,

1. Their mutual dependence, as here intimated—

Every one knows, that in a season of drought the earth cannot send forth its fruits: it must be watered by the clouds, in order that free scope may be given for the exercise of its vegetative and fructifying powers. In like manner, the clouds, however liberally they may pour forth their stores upon the earth, can produce no fruits, unless they fall upon a fertile soil. On a sandy desert their gifts are wasted, altogether without effect.

I say not that the Spirit of God is equally dependent on the powers of man; for man has no power which he has not first received from God: but in the ordinary course of God's dealings with mankind there must be a similar exercise of powers on the part of man, to render effectual the gifts of God. However good the seed of the word may be, or however richly it may be watered by the Spirit of God, we see, by experience, that it springs not up when sown by the way-side; and that it then only produces fruit unto perfection, when it is sown in an honest and good heart Luke 8:15. I need not say how barren the heart of man is, it not watered by divine grace. He knows little of himself, who does not feel that "without" constant communications from the Lord Jesus "Christ he can do nothing John 15:5." Yet, at the same time, we must take care to improve the blessings conferred upon us. We must plough up the fallow ground, and harrow in the seed that is cast upon it; and endeavor to take out, from time to time, the weeds which spring up within us, and which, if disregarded, would soon obstruct the growth of the better principles within us. In a word, we must "work out our salvation with fear and trembling, notwithstanding all fruitfulness proceeds from God; yes, and because it is God who gives us both to will and do of his good pleasure Philippians 2:12-13."

2. Their united operation, as here described—

"Behold the heavens dropping down fatness upon the earth, and the skies pouring down righteousness:" Behold, at the same time, "the earth opening" to receive the benefits, and "righteousness and salvation springing up together." Behold this, I say, in the field of nature; what a change is wrought, almost instantaneously on the face of the earth! Behold it, also, in the field of grace. Behold a place thus visited: how blessed the change that takes place in the ordinances of religion, in the habits of the people, and in the different institutions which immediately spring up for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom in the world! Behold a soul thus highly favored: formerly it had not a disposition or desire but towards the things of time and sense: God, and all the wonders of redeeming love were out of sight; and eternity had but a slender influence on its decisions. But now the thoughts go forth with devout affection towards heavenly objects: prayer and praise, which formerly were no more than a mere outward form, are the sweet, I had almost said the natural, exercises of the mind. To fulfill the will of God, and to promote his glory I to enjoy his presence and to taste his love; to grow up into his image, and be made meet for his inheritance; these are now the great ends for which the soul desires to live, and the constant object of its pursuit; and all its tempers, dispositions, and habits, are brought into accordance with these new desires. Let any one, looking back upon his former life, compare with it his state since he has received the grace of God; and he will find, that his soul is become, comparatively, "like a well-watered garden;" and that the fruits of righteousness, of which it once was destitute, are springing up continually, to the praise and glory of his God. The union of the two is inseparable: wherever fruitfulness is, there has previously been the grace of God: and wherever the grace of God descends into the soul, there will immediately spring up the fruits of righteousness, as indications and evidences of its power. "Truth will assuredly spring out of the earth, when righteousness looks down from Heaven Psalm 85:11."

3. The true source and origin of all their efficacy—

In my text it is said, "I the Lord have created it." In the material world, all is of God, and of God alone. The whole universe combined could not make one shower, or give fertility to a sandy desert: nor can any power but God's effect the renovation of fallen man. Hence it is said of the regenerate soul, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:24." Whatever be the means used by God, the work is his alone. "Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God that gives the increase 1 Corinthians 3:6-7." To him must everything be traced, as much as the creation itself; even to his will, which ordains it; and to his power, which executes it: so that to him must all the glory be ascribed by every soul, both in this world and the world to come.

see now, from hence,

1. What a blessing the Gospel is—

No one needs be told what a blessing showers are to the thirsty earth. Precisely such is the Gospel to the souls of men: "As the rain and the snow come down from above and water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give bread to the eater and seed to the sower; so is the word which proceeds from God," when accompanied by the Spirit from on high Isaiah 55:10-11. I would that this were duly understood. Persons form strange notions about the Gospel, as though it were of no use but to produce dissensions in families, and enthusiasm in the soul: but its real and true use, as we may see from what took place at the first publication of it on the day of Pentecost, is to "make glad the wilderness, and to transform a desert into the garden of the Lord Isaiah 35:1-2. Let the soul, that has experienced its effects, say, whether any other principles can equal it in power, or any other fruits bear a comparison with those produced by it? Truly, "it brings forth fruit in all the world," and "is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe."

2. What is to be done, on our part, to render it effectual—

The earth is said to "open its mouth," to receive the early and the latter rain: and it puts forth all its powers to make a suitable return. Thus should we do: we should be looking up to God for the gift of his Holy Spirit; and open our very souls to receive his gracious communications; and then exert every faculty for a suitable improvement of the grace given. We are to "be workers together with God." We are not to be merely passive, in the receipt of his favors; but active, in employing them to the ends for which they are bestowed. What might we not hope for, if all our hearers came hither with such thirsting spirits, and went hence with such a determination to render unto God the fruits which he requires! be in earnest, Brethren; and we shall see more and more, that, "as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to bring forth, so will the Lord God cause righteousness and peace to spring forth among us" in richer abundance than we have ever yet been privileged to behold them Isaiah 61:11.

3. To whom we are indebted, if ever it has become effectual for our good—

I need not say to whom we are indebted, either for the fertilizing showers, or for the fruits produced by them If this be a Thanksgiving Sermon for Rain, or for a good Harvest, this idea may be a little enlarged. Nor need I say how cordially every well-instructed soul will acknowledge his obligations to the Lord, saying, "By the grace of God I am what I am 1 Corinthians 15:10." In ourselves we have no reason to glory over our more unprofitable neighbor; seeing that "it is God alone who has made us to differ from him 1 Corinthians 4:7." But, while we give all possible glory to God, from whose free and sovereign grace our blessings have proceeded James 1:17, we must so walk as to show us that "God is with us of a truth; and that all who behold us may acknowledge us to be "a field which the Lord has blessed."

 

 

Isaiah 45:9

 

DISCOURSE 940

STRIVING WITH OUR MAKER

Isaiah 45:9. Woe unto him that strives with his Maker!

GOD is a mighty Sovereign, greatly and exclusively to be feared. To show that those who were exalted as rivals to Him had no power, he challenged them all to foretell any future event; or, if they could not do that, to acknowledge his supremacy. As for himself, all things were naked and open before him, yes, and were done by him: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things verse 7." But, in despite of all the manifestations which he has given of his supremacy, men would still continue to rebel against him: and therefore he warns them of the terrible danger to which they exposed themselves: "Woe to him that strives with his Maker!"

To elucidate these words, I will point out,

I. The conduct reprobated—

It may be supposed impossible for men to strive with their Maker: but the fact is, that men may do it in a variety of ways:

1. By resisting his will—

He has made known his will in his written Law: But men will not obey it: Tell them that God has enjoined this, and forbidden that; and they will spurn at the restraint imposed upon them, and say, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord; neither will I obey his voice Exodus 5:2 and Psalm 12:4.": And what is this, but downright rebellion? Sure I am, that we should account it so, if we were so treated by our child or our servant: and no doubt God will impute it to us as a deliberate resistance of his will.

2. By murmuring at his dispensations—

God acts according to his sovereign will, in the dispensations both of his providence and grace. The rich and the poor owe to him their respective lots; as do also all who are appointed to health or sickness, life or death Deuteronomy 32:39. There is not any trial with which man is visited, but it proceeds from him. But where do we find one who, in a state of trouble, has not been ready to murmur and repine? And what is that, but striving with our Maker? So he construes it The text; and so it will be found in the last day 1 Corinthians 10:10. As to the sovereign exercise of his grace, that is still more offensive to our proud hearts. Though we claim for ourselves a right to dispose of our own property as we please, we refuse that right to him; as if, in benefitting others, he did to us an injury Romans 9:19-21. The very case is stated by Paul; who, having instanced, in the case of Pharaoh, and in the destinies of Jacob and of Esau, the uncontrolled sovereignty of God, states the feelings of an ungodly man: "You will say unto me, Why then does he find fault? for who has resisted his will?" To which he indignantly replies, "Nay, but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" Here, then, we see indisputably in what light God views all such instances of murmuring and complaint: for, in all circumstances whatever, our only wish should be, "Not my will, but your, be done."

3. By rejecting his Gospel—

God, in his Gospel, comes and entreats of man to accept of reconciliation with him through the Son of his love: But how do men treat this divine message? They reject it utterly; and say in their hearts, respecting the Lord Jesus Christ, "We will not have this man to reign over us." In the parable of the wedding-feast, "all who were invited began to make excuse": And thus it is with us. Anything is deemed sufficient to justify our refusal of God's gracious invitations: And from his sentence in reference to them, we know in what light he will regard us and in what way he will deal with us Luke 14:16-24.

The woe denounced against such conduct leads us to consider,

II. The evil of it—

It cannot possibly be painted in too strong colors: for it is,

1. Presumptuous—

In the words following my text, this is set forth by two very opposite illustrations. Let us conceive a piece of clay, dissatisfied with the form given to it by the potter, rising up against the potter, and accusing him of ignorance or injustice; should we not say, that it was presumptuous in the extreme? Or, let us suppose a child to rise up against his parents; and to ask the one why he did not beget, and the other why she did not bring forth, a more perfect being: should we not think that he arrogated to himself an authority which did not belong to him? Thus, then, it is with all who in any way strive with their Maker: they are altogether out of their place, and, in the whole of their conduct, are guilty of the most unwarrantable presumption.

2. Foolish—

Can any one suppose that he shall prevail against his Maker? As well might the clay hope to prevail against the potter, who can see nothing in his work but arrogance and folly. And so God has told us: "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand; and he will do all his pleasure Isaiah 46:10,".

3. Ruinous—

Vain, utterly vain, is such a contest as this. And so we are plainly warned. What would be the issue of a contest between briers and thorns and a devouring fire? Such will be the issue of the strife between God and his rebellious creatures: "Who would set briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, and burn them up together Isaiah 27:4." That pointed interrogation, "Who has hardened himself against God, and prospered?" must forever determine this question; and show, that to "strive with our Maker" is, to involve ourselves in inevitable and eternal ruin.

ADDRESS—

1. In a way of indignant proof—

Who among us has not been guilty of the crime here reprobated? Yes, whose life has not been one continued act of rebellion against God! Now, if it were "our Maker" only that had been so treated by us, no words would have been sufficient to declare the enormity of our crime. But our Maker has been our Redeemer also; yes, and has given his own life a ransom for us: yet have we "trodden under foot his blood" by our contemptuous indifference, and even "crucified him afresh" by our continuance in sin. Judge you, then, what we deserve at God's hands. And now let me ask, whether you intend to persist in this conduct? If you do, I can say nothing but what Paul said to persons of this character, "Your damnation is just Romans 3:8."

2. In a way of compassionate exhortation—

The Prophet Jeremiah, having stated the very argument before us, and shown that God might justly, as a potter, mar the work which had presumed to rise up against him, goes on to observe, that, notwithstanding all our past guilt, God is yet ready to forgive us, if only with penitent and contrite hearts we turn unto him Jeremiah 18:6-8. And happy am I to confirm this blessed sentiment; yes, and to declare, that not one, whatever may have been his guilt in past times, shall ever be cast out, provided he come in the name of Jesus Christ, founding his hope on His all-atoning sacrifice, and His all-prevailing intercession. As God's servant, then, I now announce to you these blessed tidings; and declare, in God's name, that "though your sins may have been red as scarlet, they shall be as snow: though they have been as crimson, they shall be as wool Isaiah 1:18." Only cease from strife on your part, and God will be reconciled to you, and be your God, forever and ever.

 

 

Isaiah 45:17

 

DISCOURSE 941

THE EXTENT AND CERTAINTY OF ISRAEL'S SALVATION

Isaiah 45:17. Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: you shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

AS in the dispensations of God's providence we behold a mixture of mercy and judgment, so in the records of his grace we see promises and threatenings continually interwoven. Declarations so opposite, standing in immediate contrast with each other, give to each other a double force and energy, more especially when, as in the passage before us, compared with the preceding verse, they are expressed in similar terms. In this view the promise in the text deserves particular attention. In considering it we shall show,

1. Who they are that are comprehended under the name "Israel"—

We are not to limit this name to the Jews; nor even to comprehend all the Jews under it; since "all are not Israel that are of Israel Romans 9:6;" it includes those,

1. Who worship God—

This name was originally given to Jacob by God himself on account of his having "wrestled all night" in prayer until he obtained the blessing he desired Genesis 32:24; Genesis 32:28. From him it passed to his natural descendants; but has in all ages more eminently characterized his spiritual seed, who, like him, "worship God in spirit and in truth." Our Lord, seeing Nathanael, called him an "Israelite indeed;" and, on finding how much Nathanael was surprised by such an appellation from a stranger, assured him that "he had seen him under the fig-tree John 1:47-48." Most probably Nathanael, supposing that no human eye beheld him, had been praying there to God: and our Lord, adverting to this circumstance as well as to his integrity, addressed him by a name that marked his character in both respects. Thus every true Israelite is frequent at the throne of grace; and God, who sees in secret, will testify of him, In such and such a place I saw you lifting up your heart to me, and imploring my blessing with your whole soul.

2. Who worship God alone—

There were some among the Jews who feared the Lord, and yet served other gods 2 Kings 17:33 and Zephaniah 1:5; so among ourselves there are many who would be thought to fear God, while they are endeavoring to reconcile the inconsistent services of God and mammon. But Israel stand directly opposed to such characters in the context verse 16; they not only will not make or worship idols of wood or stone, but they will harbor no idols in the heart: they will not provoke the Lord to jealousy by any hidden abominations Ezekiel 14:3, but labor to be "Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit."

Now since it is promised to such persons that they shall be saved, it will be proper to inquire,

II. In what way they shall be saved—

The Lord Jesus Christ is the person mentioned in the text as the author of their salvation Compare verse 23 with Romans 14:10-11; and they must be saved,

1. By the merit of his blood—

Whatever integrity of heart any man may possess, or however fervent ho may be in his supplications before God, he must be saved in the same way as any other sinner, and enter in at the same door with publicans and harlots. His very best services are polluted; and he needs to be cleansed from "the iniquity of his holy things" as much as from the vilest transgressions. Nor is there any other fountain opened for sin but that which was opened upon Mount Calvary: nothing but the blood of Christ can ever cleanse from sin: the holiest man that ever lived must be "accepted in the beloved;" "nor is there salvation for him in any other:" even Paul himself, notwithstanding all his legal and evangelical obedience, desired to be "found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Philippians 3:9." And "in the same adorable Lord must all the seed of Israel be justified, and must glory verse 25."

2. By the efficacy of his grace—

It is not by any efforts of their own that Israel are enabled to differ from others: "they are saved, not by the exercise of created power, but in the Lord their God Hosea 1:7." They must all adopt the same humiliating confession, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength verse 24." Are they strong? it is in the Lord, and in the power of his might Ephesians 6:10; do they gain the victory? they must thank God for giving it them through Jesus Christ our Lord Romans 7:25. "In him all their fresh springs are found;" "out of his fullness they receive continually grace for grace:" and if this lock were shorn, they would instantly become weak as other men Alluding to Judges. 16:17. Being fully assured of this, they evince that they are the true Israel, by worshiping God in the spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh Philippians 3:3.

For their abundant consolation God declares,

III. The extent and certainty of their salvation—

As to the certainty of their salvation, no words can more fully express it, than those which are now before us—

God absolutely declares that "Israel shall be saved:" lest we should limit our expectations to some temporal benefit, he assures us that the salvation he will afford them, shall be "everlasting:" and lest we should still be slow of heart to believe, he repents his assertion in terms as strong and energetic as language can afford, or imagination can conceive. The same truth is confirmed in every page of the sacred volume, and that too in the richest variety of expression, in order more effectually to engage our minds and establish our faith. And has God spoken all these things merely to deceive us? "Has he said, and will he not do it; has he spoken, and will he not make it good?" Let this then be received as an infallible truth, that whatever may become of others, "Israel shall be saved;" nor shall any difficulties, any dangers, or all the conspiracies of earth and Hell, ever make void this promise in any single instance to all eternity John 10:28-29.

Nor can anything be added to enhance the greatness of their salvation—

It shall be so perfect, that there shall be nothing wanting to complete it. Their "sins shall all be cast into the very depths of the sea." However high their expectations may be raised, they shall "never be ashamed;" nor, however strong their confidence may be, shall they "ever be confounded." They shall appear before God with holy boldness: they may even now, as they shall also at the bar of judgment, adopt the triumphant language of the apostle, "Who is he who shall lay anything to my charge? It is God that justifies: who is he who shall condemn? It is Christ that died." Yes, they may lay claim to all that God himself can give in time and eternity; and, neither in time nor in eternity, shall they be disappointed of their hope. Their felicity shall begin the very instant they believe in Christ; and shall be coeval with their own existence.

ADDRESS—

1. The idolatrous worldling—

It is not only "the maker of idols," but he who "sets up idols in his heart," that is an idolater in the sight of God: if we "love and serve the creature more than the Creator," we are as truly idolaters, as if we bowed down to stocks and stones; and do not the consciences of many testify, that their hearts are incomparably more set upon the world, than on God? If they compare their devotion before God with their zeal about earthly things, may they not see that they differ widely from the true Israel? Shall we then say to them, that they shall be "saved with an everlasting salvation? Should we not speak more truly if we were even to reverse the terms, and declare the judgments of God against them? Yes, indeed; for though they now will scarcely admit a doubt or a fear respecting their eternal state, God has warned them, in the very words before the text, that "they shall be ashamed and confounded, all of them; they shall all go to confusion together." But is there no way for their escape? Blessed be God, there is: if they believe in Christ, they shall yet be saved; for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus verse 22;" and his command to them is, "Look unto me and be saved Romans 8:1." Let them but prostrate themselves at the foot of his cross, seeking redemption through his precious blood, and they shall yet become monuments of his pardoning mercy, and his sanctifying grace.

2. The true Israelite—

"Happy are you, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord Deuteronomy 33:29." What a mercy is it to have God himself saying respecting you, Israel shall be saved! Possibly you may meet with many troubles in your way to glory; but you need not regard them, as long as you have the promise that you shall survive them all. Perhaps, like Paul and those who were with him in the ship, you may be so tossed with tempest, as to be brought almost to despair: but God had promised that not a hair of their head should perish; and though they suffered shipwreck, yet was his word fulfilled to them: for all of them, some on boards and others on broken pieces of the ship, got safe to shore Acts 27:34; Acts 27:44. Thus shall it be with you also. You may, as thousands have before you, suffer the loss of all earthly comforts; but God's word shall not be broken: he has promised; and he is not only able, but determined to perform. Look forward then with comfort to death and judgment, and know that that day which shall be to others the beginning of sorrows, shall be to you the commencement of eternal joy.

 

 

Isaiah 45:21

 

DISCOURSE 942

JEHOVAH A JUST GOD AND A SAVIOR

Isaiah 45:21. There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is mine beside me.

TO us, who have been habituated from our infancy to hear of none but the true and living God, it seems incredible that man should be so stupid and selfish as to bow down to stocks and stones, and to worship them as gods. But not only is mankind in general prone to idolatry, but even the people of God themselves, who had seen all the wonders wrought by Jehovah in Egypt, were ever ready to turn aside from him, and to worship the work of their own hands. Hence we see so much in the prophetic writings on the subject of idolatry, and in vindication of Jehovah as the only true God. In the passage before us, God has appealed to the evidence which he had given of his exclusive right to the regards of his people; in that he had foretold future events, which came to pass agreeably to his predictions; while none of the gods of the heathen had ever pretended to any such power. And in the words before us he maintains his own supremacy, by a further statement of his character as a just God and a Savior.

Let us consider,

I. The character of God as here stated—

We shall consider it,

1. As contrasted with that of all the heathen deities—

Whatever their poor deluded votaries might imagine, it was not in their power either to inflict or to avert evil. This is put in a striking point of view by the Prophet Jeremiah: "The customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with an axe. They deck it with silver and with gold: they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm-tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them: for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to good Jeremiah 10:3-5."

But Jehovah is alike able either to save or to destroy. See whether his justice be not marked in his conduct towards the fallen angels, whom he expelled from Heaven for their sin; and towards the antediluvian world, which, with the exception of a single family of eight persons, he destroyed with an universal deluge. See what is his indignation against sin, as marked in the judgments executed on Sodom and Gomorrah. See it, also, as demonstrated in the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, or of Ananias and Sapphira. But the instances are too numerous to be mentioned. No one can have read the Scriptures of truth, and not see that God is just in punishing iniquity; and that to those who live in sin, he is, and will be, "a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29."

On the other hand, he is a Savior also to all who put their trust in him. Behold his interposition in behalf of Noah and his family, while all the rest of the world were destroyed. Or see the deliverance he given to his people from their bondage in Egypt; or how he carried them through the wilderness, and established them in the land of Canaan. Or view the miracles wrought by our blessed Savior and his Apostles; and then say, whether there be any bounds to Jehovah's mercy or power.

But the comparison between Jehovah and the heathen deities would be utterly absurd, if it were not that the more than brutish stupidity of mankind called fur such illustrations, for the conviction of their minds.

2. As shining forth in his own proper and harmonious perfections—

It is in the union of these two perfections of justice and mercy that the glory of the Godhead is most fully seen. We must look at justice as exercised in a way of mercy, and mercy as displayed in a way of justice, if we would at all appreciate aright the character of our God. He, of his own unbounded love and mercy, determined to save our fallen race. But would he leave sin unpunished? No: he would punish sin, and yet save the sinner: and, in order to that, he gave his only-begotten Son to be the substitute of the sinful man, that in him sin might receive its just recompense, and by him a righteousness might be wrought out for man; that so God might be just, and yet the justifier of all who should believe in him. By this his justice shines forth more awfully than if he had executed vengeance on the whole human race; and his mercy more richly than if he had pardoned all without such an atonement offered for them. The gift of his only-begotten Son reflects a light on these perfections which can be seen in nothing else; and which infinitely exceeds any that can be found in a separate and disjointed view of them, as exercised towards our sinful world.

Let us then proceed to contemplate,

II. The regard due to him under that character—

This part of my subject is altogether inexhaustible. But I will confine myself to the mention of three effects, which such a view of the Deity as is here exhibited should produce:

1. Fear—

As for the Heathen deities, there is not one that merits the smallest possible regard. But who will not fear the Lord our God? This is the very improvement which the Prophet Jeremiah suggests, on instituting the comparison between the two: "Forasmuch as there is none like unto you, O Lord: you are great; and your name is great in might: who would not fear you, O king of nations Jeremiah 10:6-7." The same reflection is made by all the redeemed in Heaven, while singing the song of Moses and the Lamb: "They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of saints. Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you only are holy Revelation 15:3-4." It is of immense importance, Brethren, that you should duly estimate this thought. For many, from conceiving of God as "a Savior," forget that he is "just." But indeed he is a holy God, that "cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence of it Habakkuk 1:13;" and he has warned us, that, notwithstanding his great delight in mercy, "he will not clear the guilty Exodus 34:6-7." No indeed; "upon the wicked he will rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup Psalm 9:17; Psalm 11:6." I say, then, to every one of you, "Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell: yes, I say unto you, Fear Him Matthew 10:28."

2. Trust—

As persons, previous to the awakening of their souls, are ready to think of God as all mercy; so, after that they begin to be convinced of sin, they are prone to run to a contrary extreme, and to think of God as though he were averse to mercy, and intent only on the vindication of his injured Majesty. But know, Brethren, that mercy is that in which he chiefly delights: "judgment is his strange act," to which he never proceeds, until he has exercised forbearance towards us to the uttermost. Call to mind his exceeding great and precious promises; and then say, whether any sinner in the universe has reason to despond, provided only he desire mercy at the hands of God? Or rather, consider what God has done in giving his only dear Son to die for you: would he have done this, if he were backward to the exercise of mercy? Carry all your sins to him, without questioning for one moment his willingness to pardon; and know, that "if you go to him in the name of his dear Son, he will in no wise cast you out John 6:37."

3. Obedience—

This is due to him from you, as creatures: What then is it, as redeemed sinners? I will venture to ask, Is there one of you who believes himself obnoxious to his wrath, and yet a partaker of his grace, that would even wish to be released from his obligations to obey him? No: I am sure that every one who views God in his complex character, as "a just God, and yet a Savior," will desire to honor God with all his faculties and powers; and will consecrate himself to God as a living sacrifice, under a full conviction, that if this entire surrender of himself to God be a necessary, it is no less "a reasonable and delightful, service Romans 12:1." It is impossible to have any just views of "the love of Christ, and not be constrained by it to live altogether to His praise and glory 2 Corinthians 5:14-15."

 

 

Isaiah 45:22

 

DISCOURSE 943

LOOKING TO CHRIST

Isaiah 45:22. Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

MANY consider the Scriptures merely as a history of past events, and imagine that the declarations contained in it are to be confined to those persons, for whose immediate use they were written. But such an idea reduces the sacred volume to a dead letter, calculated indeed to amuse the curious, but not to awaken the secure, or comfort the feeble-minded. But there are numberless passages which, though originally applied to individual persons, are quoted by the Apostles as applicable to mankind in every age. Doubtless then, the invitation before us, though primarily addressed to idolaters, is intended to be sounded forth throughout all the world. Let us then consider,

I. The invitation—

The person, who is here speaking, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ; since the very words following the text are quoted by an inspired Apostle as issuing from his mouth Romans 14:10-11. Here,

1. He directs us what means to use in order to salvation—

"Looking to Jesus" is a figurative expression of the same import with many others used in Scripture, such as coming to him, fleeing to him, etc. Its meaning is obvious, especially when connected with salvation as the end to be attained by it. One immediately perceives the state of the cripple's mind, of whom it is said, that he gave heed to Peter and John, expecting to receive something of them Acts 3:4-5; nor can we be at any loss to ascertain the meaning of looking to Christ for salvation: it must import a humble sense of our lost estate, an ardent desire after his offered mercy, and a persuasion that he is able to impart the blessings we stand in need of. Without such views, such desires, and such a faith, we should no more look to him for salvation than a person in health would go to a physician, or make use of his prescriptions Mark 2:17; If anything can clearly exemplify the nature of this duty, it is the state of the wounded Israelites when they looked to the brazen serpent Numbers 21:7-9; they felt their wounds, they knew them to be incurable by human are, they were convinced that they must quickly perish if they did not use the appointed means, and they turned their eyes towards it in hope of experiencing the promised recovery. And exactly thus must we look to Christ, if we would be made partakers of his salvation John 3:14-15.

2. He promises that we shall not use those means in vain—

His words undoubtedly imply a promise, though they are not delivered in the form of one. They consider all as obnoxious to the wrath of God. They are not addressed to sinners of a peculiarly atrocious character, but to "all the ends of the earth." But while they thus insinuate that none can save themselves, they offer salvation to all without any distinction of character, provided they follow the direction given them. Such shall surely be saved from wrath: their sins, however great and manifold, shall be forgiven them. The infection that pervades their souls shall be healed. Yes, more, the favor of God, the beauty of holiness, and all the glory of Heaven shall be imparted to them. The salvation here spoken of is justly called, "The salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory:" and in the name of Christ we can promise it to all who comply with the terms on which it is offered to them.

Alluring as this invitation is, it derives additional importance from,

II. The arguments with which it is enforced—

That he may prevail on an ignorant and careless world, our blessed Lord reminds them of,

1. His all sufficiency to save them—

That Christ is God, is a truth on which our present and eternal happiness depends; nor is there wanting all that evidence for it which the most scrupulous or doubtful mind can require John 1:1. Romans 9:5. Indeed, if he were a mere creature, however exalted, we might well question his authority to issue such a command, or his ability to impart the promised blessing; but his Godhead at once enforces both his direction and his promise: '"Look unto me; for I am God," and enjoin you to do so at the peril of your souls. "You shall be saved; for I am God," and am therefore able to save you to the very uttermost. Were I a creature, you might be afraid to trust in me: but is not the blood of an incarnate God sufficient to make atonement for your sin? Is not the arm of God able to subdue your enemies before you? Or is there any "variableness or shadow of turning in me," that you should question my fidelity? Am I not "the God that changes not?" Know then that while my Godhead is your warrant fur looking to me, it is my pledge to you for the performance of my promise.' My Brethren, can you resist the force of such an argument?

2. The insufficiency of every other hope—

We are prone to look to every other being for help rather than to Christ; but he plainly warns us that "there is none else." Could we obtain salvation by any other means, the force of his invitation would be enervated: however the way prescribed by him might deserve a preference, we should feel ourselves, as it were, at liberty to disregard it. But in vain will be our utmost exertions, if we endeavor to save ourselves by any methods of man's device. We are "shut up unto the faith that is revealed." We may as well attempt to create an universe as to atone for sin, or to fulfill the strict commands of God's law. There is no remedy but that proposed, of looking unto Jesus: "there is no other name given under Heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ." Observe then the weight of this argument also: it is as though Jesus had said, "To whom will you go? I, and I alone, have the words of eternal life John 6:68; if you follow after righteousness in any other way, you will never attain unto it Romans 9:31-32; you have but one alternative, to look unto me, or to perish forever." The Lord grant that, if we be not drawn by love, we may at least be impelled by necessity, to accept his invitation!

We would yet further address this invitation to,

1. Those who are careless and indifferent about salvation—

How lamentable is it, that Jesus should thus invite sinners, and they be altogether inattentive to his voice! You careless and supine, consider Jesus as addressing you upon his first entrance into the world: 'Look unto me, and see how I have humbled myself for you: though I am God, yet have I taken upon myself your nature, that I might save your souls: I am come from Heaven to seek and save you; O let not such condescension and love be lost upon you.' Think again that you hear him speaking to you from the garden of Gethsemane: 'Look unto me, and behold how I am overcome with agony, and bathed from head to foot in a bloody sweat: this, sinners, is for you; it is your guilt that weighs me down, and your curse that I am now enduring: reflect a moment on the evil and danger of your state; for "if these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" if sin has so overwhelmed your incarnate God, how will you endure the punishment of it to all eternity?' Suppose him yet again calling to you from the cross; 'Look unto me, you perishing world; see what a multitude of sorrows encompass me; and how my heart in the midst of me is even like melting wax, so utterly is it consumed by the fire of divine wrath: see, how I am forsaken by my own Father, and am shortly to expire in the midst of all this shame and torment: but it is for you; to save you from everlasting death: and I shall be satisfied with all the travail of my soul, if only you will look to me for salvation: let me but have the joy of saving you, and I am content: but O, let me not pay the price of your souls for nothing.' Once more; view him seated on his throne of glory, and consider him as addressing you from thence; 'Look unto me; it is for your sakes that I am exalted to this throne; it is that I may impart that salvation to you, which once I purchased for you: as once I governed everything in my divine nature, so now in my mediatorial capacity is all power committed to me, that I may raise you also to a participation of my own glory: and all that I require of you is, to look unto me: O sinners, turn not a deaf ear to my entreaties; but let me save you with an everlasting salvation.'

Are there now any so obdurate as to disregard his voice? Say, beloved, is salvation so slight a matter, that you are indifferent whether you ever obtain it or not? Or are the terms, on which it is offered, so grievous, that you cannot bring your minds to submit to them? What easier terms can God himself propose than those, "Look and be saved?" O delay no longer, but say with the prophet, "I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me Micah 7:7."

2. Those who, through a sense of their unworthiness, dare not accept the salvation offered them—

Persons, who are deeply convinced of their guilt and misery, are apt to think themselves too unworthy to be the objects of divine mercy; and to exclude themselves from the number of those who are invited: 'Can it be true,' say they, 'that Jesus speaks to me: and that I have only to look unto him in order to ensure my everlasting salvation? Surely this invitation cannot be for such a wretch as I am: gladly would I accept it, if I dared; but I shall be only as a dog snatching at "the children's bread.'" But, Beloved, why should any of you exclude yourselves? Does not Jesus address himself to sinners of every description, even to "all the ends of the earth?" And did you ever hear of one whom he rejected? If none ever applied to him in vain for the healing of their bodies, shall any look to him in vain for the saving of their souls? When he gave this invitation, was he not aware how unworthy you were? Did he not know the extent and efficacy of his own atonement? Did he not consider whether there was anything in your case that was too hard for him to surmount; or did he issue this invitation only to mock and disappoint you? Let it be granted, you have some reason to doubt his power or his willingness to save you: yet, at least, put him to the trial, and see whether he will fulfill his word or not. Of this you are sure, that, if he cannot save, no one else can; and that, if he will not, you will, at least, lose nothing by accepting his invitation. But you need not fear; he is God; and "his mercy as far exceeds your sins, as the heavens are higher than the earth." Put away then your desponding thoughts, and "encourage yourselves in the Lord your God." Thus shall you be numbered with his redeemed; and spend eternity in singing, "Salvation to God and to the Lamb."

 

 

Isaiah 45:23-25

 

DISCOURSE 944

EXALTATION OF CHRIST

Isaiah 45:23-25. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men comet and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

TO those who know the infinite importance of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, it is delightful to see the irresistible evidence of it in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Who is it that in the two preceding verses says, "I am the Lord, I am God, a just God and a Savior; there is no God else beside me, there is none beside me, there is none else?" Is this a creature? Who is this that, in the text, presumes to swear by himself; that arrogates to himself universal dominion; and that so frequently appropriates to himself the incommunicable name, Jehovah? Is this a creature? Who is it that can fulfill the promises here made to his friends, or execute the judgments here denounced against his enemies? Is he a mere creature? No person that is not blinded by prejudice, or warped by controversy, can doubt one moment, but that it is the supreme God, who is speaking throughout the whole passage: yet this very passage does Paul expressly apply to Christ, affirming that it was a prediction of his final victory, and of the appearance of the whole human race at his tribunal Romans 14:10-11.

For the further elucidation of these solemn words we shall consider,

I. The subject-matter of the oath—

To comprehend this aright, we should notice particularly those very opposite circumstances which were appointed to take place, before the predictions in the text were to receive their accomplishment. Christ was to be insulted by his whole nation; and his claims of Messiahship were to be made the subject of profane ridicule: he was not only to be rejected, but to be crucified as a malefactor, and to die as one unable to save himself: his enemies were to enjoy a momentary triumph; and his followers to be disappointed, dejected, and confounded. But, that these things should not be a stumbling-block to any, it was here foretold that all these circumstances should be speedily reversed. In this view, the oath relates to four things:

1. The exaltation of Christ—

Christ, as King of kings, and Lord of lords, had a right to universal empire: every creature was bound to render him an unlimited and unreserved obedience. But it was foreseen that, instead of submitting to him, his creatures would rise up in rebellion against him, and cry out with one voice, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Christ, however, laughed them to scorn; and told them by his prophet, many hundred years before, that every knee should bow to him, and every tongue take an oath of allegiance to him as the only sovereign of the universe; at least, if they did not do this willingly, as an expression of their sincere subjection, they should do it, in effect, against their will, by suffering the punishment due to their rebellion.

2. The advancement of his kingdom—

While in the world, he was to be considered as vile, yes, as the vilest of mankind; and to appear weak as other men: but in due time he was to be regarded, not only as righteous and powerful, but as the only source of righteousness and strength to all his creatures. In themselves, all are "ungodly and without strength:" feeling therefore their guilt and helplessness they are to "come to him," each saying for himself, and each animating others to say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."

3. The confusion of his enemies—

Notwithstanding his unspotted innocence, and unbounded kindness, he was to be an object of utter abhorrence to his whole nation. But their triumph over him was to be of short duration: the time was soon to come, when they should "see him whom they had pierced, and mourn." Their violence was soon to be recompensed upon their own heads, unless by previous repentance and faith in his blood they obtained the remission of their sins. At all events, they should be "ashamed," whether penitent and pardoned, or impenitent and condemned. They should either be made to acknowledge with Paul, that they had been "blasphemers, injurious, persecutors, and the very chief of sinners, or to confess the justice of that sentence that consigned them over to everlasting misery.

4. The salvation of his people—

His enemies are the seed of profane Esau; but his friends are "the seed of Israel," whose prayers prevailed with God, and whose example they imitate. These were for a time to be as men disappointed of their hopes; but, before long, their expectations, founded on the word of Christ, were to be abundantly "justified" in the sight of men; and their persons too were to be "justified" in the sight of God; so that both before God and man they should have reason to glory in the name of Jesus. None of them should be left in their forlorn condition; but "all," all without exception, be made to triumph in him as the Rock of their salvation.

Such was the exaltation, and such the consequences of it to himself, to his enemies, and to his believing people, which Christ so long before predicted with a solemn oath: in confirmation of which we proceed to state,

II. The certainty of its accomplishment—

If God had simply asserted these things, it could not fail but that they must come to pass; for, "he is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent." But for our fuller conviction and assurance, he has sworn; and "because he could swear by no greater, he has sworn by himself:" his word is gone forth in righteousness and truth, nor shall it "return," until every jot and tittle of it be fulfilled. But,

1. It has already been accomplished in part—

At the hour of his death, his enemies thought that they had gained their end. He, whom they had arrayed in mock majesty, and crowned with a chaplet of thorns, and before whom they had bowed the knee in derision, crying, Hail, King of the Jews! had expired on the accursed tree, an object of universal execration and abhorrence: and his followers were scattered as sheep that have no shepherd. The leader being destroyed, it seemed as if this infant sect, like others that had preceded it, were crushed, and brought to nothing. It only remained, that Jesus should be proved an impostor, by watching his tomb for three days; and then their victory would be complete. But in vain were the stone, the seal, the watch: at the appointed hour he rose triumphant; and the affrighted guards fled to relate the wonderful event. Now began his exaltation, which speedily reversed the scenes that had been exhibited. His enemies already stood confounded; and propagated an absurd falsehood to conceal their shame. The hopes of his disconsolate people were revived by many infallible proofs of his resurrection. They conversed and ate with him, and beheld him in the very act of ascending into Heaven. It was but a few days afterwards, when, according to his promise, he sent down the Holy Spirit, and thereby completed the confusion of his enemies, and the triumph of his friends. Instantly no less that three thousand of