Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE WORD OF GOD
Micah 2:7. Do not my words do good to him that walks uprightly?
GREAT and bitter prejudices are often entertained against the word of God; as though its only tendency was to pervert the judgments of men, and to disturb their repose. Hence, when the word is faithfully administered, many are offended at it; and say, as it were, to the messengers of Heaven, "Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits." But the real reason of their disgust is, that they will not part with those sins which the word condemns, or practice those duties which the word enjoins: "they love darkness rather than light: they hate the light, and will not come to it, lest their deeds should be reproved John 3:19-20." If they were willing to renounce their sins, they would find the word precious and delightful to them; for it is as full of consolation to the upright, as it is of terror to the hypocritical. To this effect God speaks in the passage before us. He represents the people as saying to the prophets, "Prophesy not." Then addressing himself to them, he asks, Whether the messages which he sent them proceeded from any want of love and mercy in himself; or whether they did not arise solely from their obstinacy in sin? "O you that are named the House of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings?" Then he appeals to them, whether his word would not be a source of unspeakable comfort to them, if they would turn to him aright? "Do not my words do good to him that walks uprightly?"
We propose to show,
I. Who they are whom the word benefits—
Certain it is, that all are not benefitted by the word. When it was dispensed by Him who "spoke as never man spoke," many made no other use of it than to cavil at it, and to form it into a ground of accusation against him. And when Paul labored at Ephesus for three months successively to establish the truth, many were only hardened the more in their prejudices and infidelity Acts 19:8-9. While in every age it has been "to some a savor of life unto life, it has proved to others a savor of death unto death 2 Corinthians 2:16." Those who alone are benefitted by it, are "the people who walk uprightly," or, in other words,
1. The unprejudiced—
If we come to the word of God with prejudices against any of the doctrines which it is supposed to contain, it is scarcely probable that we should receive any material good from it: for as soon as the truths which we hate are brought to light, we shall set ourselves against them, and exert all our endeavors to invalidate their force. The plainest and most fundamental doctrines of our religion are very commonly treated in this way. Men like not to hear of the depravity of the heart, the insufficiency of our best works to recommend us to God, the necessity of divine influences, and the impossibility of being saved without an entire dependence on the merits of Christ, and an unreserved surrender of ourselves to his service. But if, instead of reprobating these things as enthusiasm, we would lay our minds open to conviction, and submit to receive instruction from God, we should find a reality in these things which we never imagined, and an importance which we were not aware of. God has promised that "the meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:9."
2. The diligent—
Nothing is to be attained without diligence, in spiritual any more than in temporal concerns. If we read a portion of the Scripture in a superficial way, or hear it explained to us without ever reflecting on what we have heard, we cannot expect to get any good unto our souls. Our Lord has illustrated this by a man sowing seed by the way-side. Can any one doubt whether the birds will come and take it away? Thus will Satan take the word out of our hearts, if it be not harrowed in by meditation and prayer Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:19. Our Lord directs us to "search the Scriptures:" and Luke tells us, that saving benefit accrued to the Bereans from their diligence in this respect; "they were more noble than those of Thessalonica, because they searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so:" and then he adds, "Therefore many of them believed Acts 17:11-12." This indeed is agreeable to the established order of things throughout the world: for God has ordained, that while "the soul of the sluggard desires and has nothing, the soul of the diligent shall be made fat Proverbs 13:4."
3. The humble—
Pride and self-sufficiency are insurmountable obstacles to religious instruction. If the knowledge of divine truth were to be acquired merely by mental application, then indeed we might become proficients in it, notwithstanding our dependence were on our own exertions. But we are blind, and must have "the eyes of our understanding enlightened," before we can comprehend the mysterious truths of God: consequently, if we have not humility to pray for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we must remain in darkness, with respect to the spiritual import of the word, however carefully we may investigate its literal meaning 1 Corinthians 2:10-14. See also Proverbs 2:1-6. We must pray with David, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law Psalm 119:18. period;" We must confess ourselves fools, if we would be truly wise 1 Corinthians 3:18. When we are willing to learn with the docility of little children, then, and then only, shall "the things that are hid from the wise and prudent be revealed unto us Matthew 11:25."
4. The obedient—
We must have a disposition, yes, a determination, through grace, to obey the word, if we would receive any substantial good from it. If we have any secret lust which we will not part with, it is in vain to hope that the word, whether read or preached, can ever profit us. Our bosom sin will necessarily warp our judgment, and dispose us to reject whatever militates against the indulgence of it. Being determined not to obey its dictates, we shall be always ready to dispute its meaning or deny its authority. Hence our Lord lays so great a stress upon an obedient frame of mind: "If any man will do my will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God John 7:17." It is self-evident, that if a man be visited by the most skillful physician in the universe, he can derive no benefit from his prescriptions, unless he follow them. So it is in vain that the Scripture shows us infallibly the way to Heaven, if we will not forsake that path that leads to destruction.
The character of the persons whom the word of God benefits, being ascertained, let us inquire into,
II. The good which it does them—
But who can estimate this aright? Who can enumerate the benefits resulting from the sacred oracles when thus studied, and thus received? We must content ourselves with mentioning only a few of those blessings which will flow from the word:
1. It will teach us—
The inspired volume cannot fail of conveying information to every man that peruses it, whatever be the state and disposition of his mind. But there is instruction which none but those who "have an honest and good heart Luke 8:15." can receive; and in comparison of which all other knowledge is only as dross and dung. An insight into the deceitfulness and depravity of the heart; a discovery of the glory and excellency of Christ; a view of the devices of Satan, and of the way in which alone he can be successfully opposed; a sight of the beauty of holiness, and of all those glorious privileges that belong to the children of God, are among those invaluable acquisitions which will reward the labors of the humble inquirer.
2. It will comfort us—
They who disregard the Holy Scriptures, are often so overwhelmed with their troubles, as to seek refuge in death from the calamities of life. But the person who "draws water from those wells of salvation," finds in them an inexhaustible fund of consolation. He perceives that his trials are all appointed by infinite wisdom; that his Lord and Master drank of the very same cup before him; that tribulation is the way in which all the saints must walk toward the promised land; and that the storms which seem to menace his very life, shall only waft him to his desired haven. All the wonders of redemption also furnish him with additional grounds of consolation; and every promise is like the balm of Gilead to his wounded spirit. Such was the benefit which David experienced from the word in his trials Psalm 119:92; and such shall be experienced by all who "make it their delight and their counselor."
3. It will sanctify us—
The word of God is that which is made the means of our regeneration; and the same is useful for the carrying on of the good work within us. The Apostles were purified in an eminent degree: and our Lord ascribes their sanctification to that as its proper cause; "Now you are clean, through the word that I have spoken unto you John 15:3." And Paul tells us, that Christ still makes use of it for that end: "He gave himself for the Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word Ephesians 5:25-26." Indeed its natural tendency is to effect this, because it points out to us our sins; it makes us to see the guilt and danger in which they involve us; it directs our eyes to Him who will give us the victory over them; and it assures us, that, after we have vanquished all our spiritual enemies, we shall be partakers of endless glory and felicity. Having the precepts for our guide, and the promises for our encouragement, we shall "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1."
4. It will save us—
The word makes us not only wise, but "wise unto salvation." In this view Paul told the Corinthians that "he had preached the Gospel to them; and that they had received it, and were standing in it; by which also," says he, "you are saved 1 Corinthians 15:1-2." And O! how many myriads now in Heaven can attest its efficacy in this respect! How must they say, 'That word taught me, when ignorant; quickened me, when dead; comforted me, when afflicted; strengthened me, when weak; and enabled me eventually to overcome all my enemies!' And thus shall all of you say in due season, provided you "walk uprightly" in a diligent study of the sacred oracles, and in a humble obedience to the will of God.
In improving this subject, we shall,
1. Guard it against misconstruction—
It is possible that the foregoing statement may be misunderstood: we would therefore suggest some brief hints, by way of explanation.
First then, it is not the word that does the good; but the Holy Spirit, by the word. If the word itself wrought anything, its operation would be uniform and universal, or, at least, in a much greater degree than it now is, and people would be benefitted by it in proportion to the strength and clearness of their intellect. But the reverse of this is nearer the truth: for the poor and weak receive the Gospel, while the wise and noble reject it 1 Corinthians 1:28-30. And daily experience proves, that the word then only comes with power, when it comes in the Holy Spirit 1 Thessalonians. 1:5.
Next, it is not the knowledge of the word that benefits us, but the knowledge of Christ in the word. We might be able to repeat the whole Bible, and yet perish at last. Christ must be known by us; and that, not speculatively, but experimentally: for "there is no other name given under Heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ Acts 4:12."
Lastly, our "uprightness" is not the meritorious cause of the good we receive, but the qualification necessary for the reception and enjoyment of what is good. Nor is this a trifling distinction; for if we be not careful to disclaim all idea of merit, we shall make void the grace of the Gospel, and deprive ourselves of all the benefits to be obtained by it Romans 4:14.
2. Enforce it in a way of appeal to your consciences—
The text is an appeal, an appeal of God to the consciences of his enemies. We therefore boldly appeal to you, and defy any man living to answer in the negative; "Do not God's words do good to him that walks uprightly?"
Judge you, who have despised the word: look at those of your acquaintance who have obeyed the word; compare their lives with what you remember them to have been, or with what yours are at this present time; and say, whether the word have not done them good?.
But you, after all, are very incompetent judges: we therefore appeal rather to those who have received the benefit. You know what you have received: say then, whether you would exchange it for all that the world can give you? Reflect on the good you have obtained; the pardon, the peace, the strength, the holiness, the glory; and say, whether it do not exceed the powers of the first archangel to compute its worth?.
But we need not dwell on this: it admits not of any doubt: all that is requisite is, that you press forward for the attainment of more good. Let the ungodly world say, that the word has done you harm; but regard them not. Only let your growth in every thing that is amiable and praise-worthy confirm the truth in our text, and justify the appeal which God himself has made.
Micah 3:8. Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
TO all God's servants this command is given: "He who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully Jeremiah 23:28;" and "deliver it they must, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear Ezekiel 2:7." The prophets have set us a noble example in this respect: and the Prophet Micah in particular.
Let us mark,
I. What the sins were which he was commissioned to reprove—
Most grievous was the state of the Jewish people in his day—
All ranks and orders of men, from the highest to the lowest, were addicted to covetousness, and were ready to commit every species of iniquity for gain; princes, priests, judges, prophets, all were guilty of the grossest injustice, and made use of their respective offices only for the purpose of accumulating wealth. At the same time they professed a firm reliance upon God, and anticipated nothing but good at his hands verse 9–11. Cite the whole of this.
And there is but too much ground for similar complaints among us—
True, the conduct of our governors and judges is the very reverse of that which the prophet here imputes to the Jews. I suppose that greater integrity is not to be found on earth, than in those who hold the government, and dispense justice, and minister in holy things, among us; and we have abundant reason to bless God for the high tone of morals which prevails among them. But, if we descend to common life, we find all the same iniquities abounding in our land as were complained of by the prophet in his day. Covetousness and injustice prevail to a fearful extent among us, as do indeed the whole catalogue of sins forbidden in the Decalogue: And precisely the same self-delusion is cherished in almost every bosom. "We lean upon the Lord," just as the Jews did; and persuade ourselves that "no evil shall come upon us." "God is merciful," is a sufficient answer to every threatening contained in God's word. As for his justice, or holiness, or truth, no regard whatever is paid to them: all are superseded, all are swallowed up in the one attribute of mercy; and no room is left for the exercise of any perfection that shall interfere with the happiness of an impenitent transgressor. As to "be a child of Abraham" was with the Jews a sufficient security from God's wrath Matthew 3:9; so, among us, is baptism into the faith of Christ: we cannot perish, because we are Christians.
Let us however notice,
II. The manner in which he administered his reproof—
"He was full of power by the Spirit of the Lord:" for he and all the other "Prophets spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit 1 Peter 1:11 and 2 Peter 1:21." With judgment, too, and with might, was he filled; so that, in all his reproofs, he showed unquestionably that he was speaking under a divine impulse. And I too, my brethren, would execute my commission even as he did. With a mixture of tenderness and fidelity, "I pray you then, my brethren," bear with me, while, under the influence of God's Holy Spirit, I endeavor to show you the folly of your ways.
1. Can you impose on God?
You can, and do, deceive your own souls, and persuade yourselves that you have nothing to fear at the hands of an angry God. But if you make light of sin, can you convince Jehovah that it is so trivial a thing as you make it, or that you have not committed it to an extent to merit his displeasure?.
2. Can you prevail on God to cancel and reverse the threatenings of his word?
See if you can prevail on him to change day into night, or to alter for you any of the common laws of nature: and if you cannot prevail in things which would involve no contradiction, how can you hope to obtain a revocation of his word, which would involve in it a sacrifice of truth itself? For, I scruple not to say, that to hope for Heaven in an impenitent and unbelieving state, is to "make God a liar 1 John 5:10."
Can you, when your self-delusions have ruined you, come back again to rectify your errors?
Truly, between God and the soul that perishes in its sins, there is a great gulf fixed, a gulf that never can be passed. The soul that has once passed into the eternal world has its state forever fixed; and the man who dies impenitent will bewail his folly in irremediable and everlasting misery.
I ask then, Is it wise to continue in sin, saying, "No evil can come upon me?": Not that I would dissuade you from "leaning upon God;" but only from leaning upon him in a way which he has never authorized; and from expecting at his hands what he has never promised, and what he cannot give without violating his most solemn declarations. Repent of sin, believe in Christ, and obey the commandments of your God; and then let your confidence be as strong as you please. Then will I also assure you, that God shall be with you of a truth, and that to all eternity shall no evil ever come upon you.
UNIVERSAL ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRISTIANITY
Micah 4:1-4. In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken it.
THE Prophet Micah was contemporary with Isaiah; and most probably had seen his prophecies. The prophecy before us is almost word for word the same as that in the second chapter of Isaiah, except indeed the concluding part of it, which is peculiar to Micah. The mode in which the prophecy too is introduced is different. In Isaiah, it is the commencement of a new prophecy; but, in Micah, it is the continuation of a prophecy of a very different complexion. Micah was a man of singular fidelity and courage. He declared to all the elders of his nation, and in a way that made a deep impression upon all Jeremiah 26:18-19, that on account of their iniquities God would give up their city and temple, to be destroyed and "plowed up as a field." But, while he announced to the Jews God's determined purpose to punish them in this awful manner, he foretold also his intention at a future period to restore them to his favor, and to make them a source of blessings to the whole earth.
This is the substance of the prophecy before us; in elucidating which we shall notice,
I. The universal establishment of the Christian Church.
Here it will be proper to notice,
1. The prediction relative to it—
The temple of Solomon was built on a lofty hill: the altars also which were consecrated to false gods, were built on high places: hence the Christian Church is called by the prophet, "the mountain of the Lord's House," and by the Apostle Paul, "Mount Zion Hebrews 12:22." Of this Church it is said, that it "shall be established on the top of the mountains," that is, on the foundations of the Jewish Church, and on the ruins of all idol worship. It is the superstructure for which alone the foundations of Judaism were laid: and, when this edifice shall be complete, all idols shall fall before it, as Dagon before the ark. The period for its completion is in the last days, the days of the Messiah; a period yet future, though, we hope, not far distant. The terms of the prophecy are such as evidently to show, that the prediction has never yet been fulfilled, and consequently, that its accomplishment is yet to be expected by us in the appointed time.
2. The mode of its accomplishment—
"People," or, as Isaiah expresses it, "all nations," "shall flow unto it." Yes, this "mountain shall be established on the top of mountains," and all nations, like a majestic river, "shall flow unto it." By this metaphor, which is indeed a most extraordinary one, it is intimated, that all nations shall be united in one common sentiment and purpose; that their progress towards its completion shall be irresistible; and that the whole shall take place under a preternatural and divine influence; since the natural progress of a river is downward, whereas this shall be upward, to a mountain on the top of other mountains. What a grand idea does this convey! The natural propensities of all men checked in their course, and their affections directed into a channel, in which Omnipotence alone can uphold them!
But the mode in which this shall take place is more fully stated by the prophet himself. The people of different and distant lands shall suddenly become penetrated with one common principle, and shall call on one another to unite in one common cause, the cause of true religion. "Come," they will say, "let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, the House of the God of Jacob." Just as, in the days of old, the Jews from every part of their land went up thrice a year to worship at Jerusalem; so will the Gentiles in every quarter of the globe go up with one consent to the mountain of the Lord's House: "God will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear him forever."
The motives too by which they will be actuated are here distinctly specified. They will not go from regard to a particular ordinance which they feel constrained to obey, nor from a mere carnal partiality, such as the Jews evinced for their native land; but from a real desire to know, and do, the will of God. It is this which they will contemplate with such peculiar pleasure. In the Christian Church they will have an opportunity of becoming more deeply acquainted with that "great mystery of godliness, God manifest in human flesh," and dying for the sins of men; and they will have ampler means of knowing the whole extent of their duty, which it will thenceforth be their one labor to perform: to attain these things, I say, will be the one object of their ambition; and they will be alike filled with this one desire, to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."
This is the change which we expect assuredly to be wrought on the Gentile world in due time; and by this shall the predicted establishment of Christ's Church be fulfilled."
Yet simple, and as it might be thought weak, are,
II. The means by which it shall be effected—
The mere preaching of the Gospel is the appointed instrument which God will make use of for the attainment of this great end; "The law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
The Gospel is here called "a law"—
It is "a law," because it is authoritatively enjoined to be obeyed by every creature under Heaven. And it is so called by the Prophet Isaiah, who characterizes it as "God's judgment which he would make to rest for a light of the people (the Gentiles;) even as his righteousness (or method for making people righteous before him,) and his salvation, for which all the isles shall wait, and in which they shall trust Isaiah 51:4-5." Paul also calls it "the law of faith Romans 3:27."
And by the publication of that shall the great work be effected—
It was that which produced such wonderful effects in the apostolic age; and it is still a "weapon mighty through God to the pulling down of the strong holds" of sin and Satan. It is "the rod of God's strength which was to go forth of Zion," and by which all his enemies are to be subdued before him. If we look into the discourses of the Apostles, we shall find nothing of that high-wrought eloquence for which the orators of Greece and Rome were famed: we shall see little else than a simple exhibition of Christ crucified, and a solemn declaration, that there was "no other name given under Heaven whereby any man could be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ." This is the truth which still approves itself "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," and still is "made the power of God unto salvation" to many souls. This began to be preached at Jerusalem; and is from thence come forth; and will in due time be "preached unto all nations." No human power shall be called to its aid; no human policy shall cooperate with it: this alone, accompanied with power from on high, and "preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven," will do the work: conviction will flash upon the consciences of thousands, as on the day of Pentecost; conversion will instantly ensue: Christ being erected as "an ensign, all will flock to it," and "a nation will be born in a day." He shall be acknowledged by all as the "Shiloh that was to come: and to him shall the gathering of the people be." The doctrine of the cross being universally proclaimed, the universal flow shall take place, "and the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea."
From the work itself let us turn to the contemplation of,
III. The fruits that shall everywhere proceed from it—
The Lord Jesus Christ will reign in the hearts of all—
As judges of old swayed the scepter of Israel, so will the Lord Jesus rule over the whole earth; and whatever is contrary to his will, he will "rebuke" and subdue. Nothing will be able to withstand his power: "He will work, and who shall let it?" As in former days, when he brought his people out of Egypt, and planted them in Canaan, he made them triumphant over every enemy, so will he do in the day to which we are looking forward: he will "go on in the chariot of his Gospel, conquering and to conquer," until all his enemies and theirs be put under their feet.
Then shall peace and happiness universally prevail—
The distinctions between nations will then be no longer accompanied with rivalry and hate: all will be as children of one common Father, all as members of the same body. War will then no longer be a science, which even the most peaceful nations are constrained to learn for their own preservation: the cultivation of peaceful arts will be the one desire of all; "they will beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they will learn war no more." Then also personal and domestic peace will abound throughout the world: "every man will sit under his own vine and fig-tree," as in Patriarchal times, none attempting to molest him, and not so much as the fear of molestation existing in his mind Isaiah 32:16-18. Doubtless the internal peace which all will enjoy in their own heart and conscience is also to be included under this beautiful image: for the very character of Christ himself is, that he is the Prince of peace; and the character of his reign is, that it diffuses "an abundance of peace" throughout his whole empire, so that "the peace of all flows clown like a river." Blessed, blessed state! May "the Lord hasten it, in his time!"
From this subject we may clearly see,
1. What an unspeakable blessing the Gospel is—
Wherever the Gospel has come with power, these effects may be already in a measure seen. True it is, they are not seen to the extent that they will hereafter be, because real piety is at so low an ebb, even among the professed followers of Christ. But from what is partially seen, we may know what shall hereafter obtain throughout all the world. The hateful passions which produced so much hatred and contention in the world, are slain, wherever the Gospel has its due effect; and peace, and love, and every amiable disposition, have an habitual ascendant in the soul. O professors, judge yourselves in relation to this matter: see whether you be "putting off the old man, which is corrupt, with its deceitful lusts; and be putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness:" and look to it, that, in these and all other respects, you walk worthy of Him who has called you unto his kingdom and glory.
2. How we may ensure to ourselves all its glorious effects—
The Gentiles, in the latter days, may well be proposed as a pattern for us in the present day. Let an entire conformity of heart and life to God's revealed will be the one object of our pursuit. Seek knowledge, not for its own sake, but for its influence upon the soul: and seek grace, not for the aggrandizement of yourselves, but that God may be glorified in the whole of your conversation. If you come up to the House of God with such dispositions as these, you will find that there is a power in the word to enlighten and sanctify the soul; and, in proportion as you cultivate these dispositions, you will "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
It will also have a good effect to animate and encourage one another. This will characterize the Christians in the latter day: and the influence of social piety will be found most beneficial to your souls. Be careful, however, when exhorting others to come up to the House of the Lord, never to omit, in spirit at least, if not in word, "I will go also Zechariah 8:20-21."
3. What glorious times are hastening upon us—
We do hope that the times here spoken of are not far distant. Multitudes of us who are here present can remember when the Church was by no means what it now is: even twenty years have made an immense difference; so great, comparatively, has been the out-pouring of God's Spirit, beyond what it has been for centuries before. And we account it no small privilege to live in a day when some of the greatest Potentates upon earth are uniting, with their subjects of every denomination and description, to disseminate throughout the world the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. By this we may form some little judgment what to expect in that day, when, in every nation under Heaven, kings shall be the nursing-fathers, and queens the nursing-mothers, of the Church. O blessed times! May God accelerate them! and may we all exert ourselves, as his instruments, to accomplish his will, and to hasten forward these glorious events! If it be thought that these prospects are too good to be ever realized; let any one only compare Britain as it now is, with what it was before the banners of the Cross were erected on our shores; and then he will see no reason to despair of those nations that are yet "sitting in darkness and the shadow of death." But were the change far more beyond the reach of human probability than it is, there would be no reason to doubt of its ultimate accomplishment, since Omnipotence is pledged to effect it: It shall take place, "for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it."
THE WORLD'S AND THE CHRISTIAN'S GOD CONTRASTED
Micah 4:5. For all people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.
IT has been objected to Christianity, that it creates divisions in families, and in the world at large. But how should it not produce these effects, when the whole world is immersed in idolatry; and the direct end of Christianity is, to "turn men from idols, to serve the living God?" See the prophet's account of "the last days:" "It shall come to pass, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains; and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people, even all nations, shall flow unto it verse 1, 2." What can this import? What, but a general conversion to Christ; and, as far as that change shall extend, the determination here formed; "Every one will walk in the name of his God: and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever?"
Let us notice here,
I. The practice of the world—
Every unregenerate man is an idolater—
Idolatry may be found no less among the professed servants of Jehovah, than among the worshipers of stocks and stones. Idolatry, in fact, is "the loving and serving of the creature, rather than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore Romans 1:25." Now it is a fact, that every man, in his unregenerate state, is under the dominion of some lust, which leads him captive. All are not governed by the same lust: the desires and appetites of men differ among different persons, and in the same person at different periods of his life. In youth, we are chiefly impelled by a love of pleasure and sensual indulgence. In middle age, we aspire after honor and advancement in the world for ourselves and our children. In more advanced life, the love of money not unfrequently gains an ascendant over us; and, at all events, a love of ease and quiet. Now, wherever these, or any other dispositions, operate upon us more powerfully than the love of God, they become, in fact, our God. As the sensual man is said to "make a God of his belly Philippians 3:19;" and the covetous man to make an idol of his gold Colossians 3:5; so the votaries of any created being or enjoyment are, in reality, despisers of the one true God, and worshipers of idols.
Whatever be the supreme object of a man's affections, "in the name of that he walks"—
The young men are never weary in the pursuit of pleasure. Behold the mirthful, the dissipated, the voluptuous! From the nature of things, they cannot always be in a direct pursuit of their object: but it is never out of their minds, at least never so far removed, but they can revert to it with delight, and renew, in contemplation, the feelings which have already been indulged even to satiety. Of this the records of the whole world will testify: and he can know little of himself, who needs be told that it has been his own experience. The Apostles themselves confess this to have been once their own course Ephesians 2:3. Titus 3:3; nor has there been an exception to it, in the state of unconverted man, from the fall of Adam to the present moment.
In direct opposition to this is,
II. The determination of the true Christian—
He also has his God—
Yes, the Lord Jehovah is his God; and him alone is he disposed to serve. The Christian sees that Jehovah alone has any claim upon him. As his Creator, his Governor, his Redeemer, and his Judge, Jehovah demands of him all the affections of his soul, and all the services of his life: and he not only accedes to this demand, but accounts it his highest honor, and his truest happiness, to fulfill the duties imposed upon him.
And in the name of this God he walks—
This God he confesses before men; and for him determines to brave all the contempt and hatred of an ungodly world. He sees that the servants of Satan will cast every obstacle in his way: but he resolves, by the grace of God, to go forward, and to serve his God even unto death. Look at the saints of God in every age: they all united in devotion to one God, even to Him who made them, and to Him who redeemed them by his own most precious blood. The voice of every one of them was, in fact, "Whom have I in Heaven but You? and there is none on earth that I desire besides You Psalm 73:25." And in the name of this God they walk; proceeding continually from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from glory to glory.
And now, Brethren,
1. Choose you whom you will serve—
"You cannot serve God and mammon." "To whichever of the two you cleave, you must, of necessity, renounce and despise the other Matthew 6:24." And can you doubt whose you shall be, and whom you shall serve? What can the vanities of the world do for you?: On the other hand, what cannot, or will not, the Lord Jesus do for you?: Take him then as your God, and serve him faithfully with your whole hearts Joshua 24:15.
2. Be not out-done by the votaries of this world—
Are they constant? be also firm, uniform, unreserved. Let there not be a worldling in the universe so faithful to his God, as you to yours. Let the Apostle's counsel be the entire rule of your life: "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."
THE MESSIAH TO BE BORN AT BETHLEHEM
Micah 5:2. You, Bethlehem, Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto me, that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
IN estimating the degree of credit due to prophecy, we naturally ask, Of what kind the prophecies were? Were they numerous? Were the persons who delivered them unconnected with each other? Were the things which were foretold unlikely of themselves to be accomplished? or were they such as might easily, by the united efforts of interested persons, be brought to pass? If they were such only as might be the subjects of reasonable conjecture, or such as might by a confederacy of persons be easily devised and easily fulfilled, they would have but little weight; but if they were inconceivably varied, and absolutely incapable of being either feigned by impostors or fulfilled by friends, they will then carry proportionable evidence along with them. Such then were the prophecies relating to our blessed Lord: they were such as no deceivers could invent, and such as no confederacy whatever could cause to be fulfilled. Many of the most important of them were fulfilled by persons who sought to disprove the pretensions of Jesus to the Messiahship, and who unwittingly established what they labored to overthrow. Others were accomplished through the instrumentality of persons who could have no conception whatever of the ultimate consequences which their actions would produce. Of this kind was the prediction before us; it declared that the Messiah should be born at Bethlehem; not at the Bethlehem in the land of Zabulon, but at that which was in the land of Judah. This, as will be seen presently, was so generally known, that the parents of our Lord might have known it, if they had been at all anxious to make the inquiry. But so little did they advert to it, that they never thought of going up to Bethlehem, until they were compelled to it by a decree of Augustus Caesar. They were living at Nazareth, and would, if no such unforeseen edict had been issued, have continued there until the birth of Jesus. But the Scripture could not be broken; and God was at no loss to provide means for its accomplishment. He wrought therefore on the ambition of the Roman emperor, and prompted him to exercise his authority over the Jewish people, and to order that all of them should go and be enrolled in the different cities to which they belonged. This constrained Joseph (who was of the house and lineage of David) to go up to his own city, Bethlehem, to be enrolled there: and during his stay there (some unforeseen occurrences probably having necessitated him to continue there longer than he had originally expected), the time for Mary's delivery arrived, and, contrary to all human expectation, Jesus was born in the city which had been specified by the Prophet Micah seven hundred years before. Thus, while the decree of Caesar showed that "the scepter was now just departing from Judah," and, consequently, that the time for the advent of the heavenly "Shiloh was come," it unwittingly on his part caused the Messiah to be born in the very city which Micah had foretold.
The prophecy itself gives us such a glorious view of Christ, that we shall do well to enter more fully into it. It declares to us,
I. His advent in time—
Two things the prophet mentions respecting him;
1. The place of his birth—
Bethlehem was of itself but a small city, and of little importance when compared with many other cities in the land of Judah; but it was the place of David's nativity 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:11-13, and the place therefore which God ordained for the birth of David's Son, the Lord Jesus. The prophecy respecting it, we have before said, was generally known, especially among those who were at all conversant with the prophetic writings; so that when Herod sent to the chief-priests and scribes to inquire where the Messiah was to be born, they all with one consent declared that Bethlehem was the destined place, and, in confirmation of their opinion, they cited this very passage which we are now considering Matthew 2:3-6. And it is curious enough, that many years afterwards, when the enemies of Jesus insisted that, notwithstanding all his miracles, he could not possibly be the Messiah, they adduced this very passage John 7:41-42; which, if their premises had been correct, would have fully supported their conclusion; they knew that Jesus had been brought up at Nazareth; and they supposed he had been born there: and, if they had been right in this conjecture, he certainly could not be the Messiah; since it was ordained of God, that the Messiah should be born at Bethlehem.
This will account for the remarkable care which God in his providence took, that the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem should be placed beyond a possibility of doubt. Perhaps no other event, scarcely excepting either his death or resurrection, was marked with such a variety of evidence as this. First, it was enrolled in the public records of Bethlehem, in consequence of Caesar's edict. Next, it was attested by an angel announcing it to the shepherds as they were guarding their flocks by night. Next, this testimony was confirmed by a host of angels, who celebrated it aloud in the hearing of the shepherds. Next, it was marked by a star in the east, which conducted the Magi from a distant country to the very spot, and caused those wise men to carry the report of it back to their own land. Next, it was ascertained by the inquiries of Herod, and the united testimony of all the chief priests and scribes, that Bethlehem was of necessity to be the place. And lastly, it was marked by that most extraordinary act of cruelty, the slaughter of all the infants in and around Bethlehem, "from two years old and under;" which measure king Herod adopted, in order to ensure the destruction of Jesus, whom he dreaded as a future rival.
What a confirmation all this is of the Messiahship of Jesus, it is needless to observe.
2. The character in which he should appear—
He was to be "Ruler in Israel." If we look only at the external circumstances of his birth, we confess, he had not much the appearance of a "Ruler," seeing that his parents were in so low circumstances as to be able to get no better place for their accommodation than a stable, (though one would have thought that a person in Mary's situation would have found a thousand females ready to receive her into their houses;) nor any better receptacle for the new-born infant than a manger. Nor in his subsequent life did there appear what we should have expected in a "Ruler." To the age of thirty he wrought at the trade of a carpenter: and during the three years of his ministry, he went about as a poor man who "had not where to lay his head." Least of all, in his last hours, did he look like a "Ruler;" since he was treated with nothing but scorn, and put to death as the vilest of malefactors.
Yet even at all these periods, if we look more narrowly, we shall find circumstances that sufficiently declared his dignity. The songs of the heavenly choir at his birth, the miracles he wrought in his life, and the testimony borne to him by universal nature at his death, all proclaimed, that, under the veil of his humiliation, there was a character more than human, and that he was not only a "Ruler," but "King of kings, and Lord of lords."
The Jews, fixing their eyes only on his external appearance, deny that this prophecy was fulfilled in him. But we answer, that "his kingdom was never intended to be of this world:" it is a spiritual dominion that he was sent to exercise; and such a dominion as no mere creature ever can exercise. He came to establish his throne in the hearts of men, and to bring their very thoughts into captivity to his holy will. And this empire he has established over millions of the human race, even over the whole Israel of God, in every age, and every place. To all of them without exception his will is both the rule and reason of their conduct. If only a thing be declared to be his will, that is a sufficient reason for their doing it, though they should see no other reason: and, rather than not do it, they would all without exception lay down their lives. This dominion he is now exercising over a willing and obedient people: and though Satan's vassals are infinitely the more numerous at the present day, the time is coming, when "all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom" of this great Ruler, when "all kings shall fall down before him," and "all nations shall serve him," and "his name shall be great unto the ends of the earth."
For submission to this great "Ruler" the prophet prepares us, by declaring,
II. His existence from eternity—
The terms in which this is declared are as strong as the prophet could well use: they are equivalent to what the Psalmist says of Jehovah; "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God Psalm 90:2." That Jesus did exist from all eternity is abundantly declared,
1. In the Old Testament—
There is a remarkable passage to this effect in the book of Proverbs, where, under the name of Wisdom, Jesus is represented as having been, by the "Father, as one brought up with him, as being daily his delight, and rejoicing always before him Proverbs 8:22-31.": This passage is generally considered by the best commentators as relating to Jesus Christ; and its exact correspondence with the passage just quoted in reference to Jehovah, and with other passages in the New Testament, leaves no room to doubt, but that Jesus is the person there described. In the book of Psalms, we know infallibly that Jesus is the person spoken of, as "of old laying the foundations of the earth," and as continuing immutably the same to all eternity Psalm 102:25-27. We know this, I say, infallibly, because Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, assures us that it was spoken of, and to, the Son; whom the Father addresses also in these decisive terms; "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:10-12."
2. In the New Testament—
Our blessed Lord himself frequently speaks of his pre-existent state. To Nicodemus he speaks of himself as having come down from Heaven, and as actually existing in Heaven even while in his bodily substance he was on earth John 3:13. To the Jews who thought of him as a mere man like themselves, he says, "Before Abraham was, I am John 8:58." And, in addressing his heavenly Father, he prays, "Glorify you me with your own self, with the glory which I had with you before the world was John 17:5." His Apostles uniformly maintain the same language: "In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God: the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was nothing made that was made. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us John 1:1-3; John 1:14." This is the testimony of John: and that of Paul accords with it, that, while "according to the flesh Jesus was of the seed of David, according to the spirit of holiness he was by his resurrection declared to be the Son of God," even "God over all, blessed forever Romans 1:3-4; Romans 11:5." In the book of Revelations there is a remarkable passage, where, speaking of our blessed Lord, the beloved Disciple attests his character in these expressive words; "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty:" and then he introduces that same Jesus speaking personally to him, and saying, "Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am He who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; Amen; and have the keys of Hell and of death Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:17-18."
From all these testimonies then, we are prepared to welcome the advent of this august Ruler, in the language of the Prophet Isaiah; "To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace: and of the increase of his government arid peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even forever Isaiah 9:6-7."
That we may suitably improve this subject,
1. Let us adore this divine Savior for his condescension and love—
How wonderful is it that such love should ever be shown to the children of men! that the Son of God, "Jehovah's fellow Zechariah 13:7," who was "one with the Father," "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3," who "was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, should yet make himself of no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant, and be made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, should humble himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross Philippians 2:6-8." How wonderful, I say, is this! and scarcely less wonderful, that we, towards whom this stupendous effort of love and mercy has been exercised, should feel so little, even while we profess to believe it, and to make it the foundation of all our hopes. But let us muse upon it; let us muse, until the fire kindle, and we speak with our tongues the wonderful works of God. Nothing but this is heard in Heaven: and nothing but this should he heard on earth. Methinks there should be but one song heard among us day or night; "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing Revelation 5:12."
2. Let us submit to his government—
Do we look for salvation through our adorable Emmanuel? Let us not forget that he came to be "a Prince as well as a Savior," a "Ruler" as well as an Instructor. Let us willingly receive him in this character, and cheerfully dedicate ourselves to his service. Let us be his subjects, not in name, but in truth; not by an external profession only, but an internal surrender of our souls to him: let us do this, not by constraint, but willingly; not partially, but wholly, and without reserve. This is our first duty; this is our truest happiness; this is the way in which he expects us to requite him for all his condescension and love; and it is the only way wherein we can manifest our sense of the obligations he has conferred upon us. "He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works:" let him find in us such a people; and he will then "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied."
STABILITY AND EXTENT OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM
Micah 5:4. He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
OF whom the prophet speaks, there can be no doubt. The preceding context indisputably refers to the Lord Jesus Christ verse 2 with Matthew 2:6 and John 7:42; Until he should come into the world, the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah should never be re-united verse 3; but after he should have come, and finished his course on earth, he should establish his empire over the whole earth; and unite all, both Jews and Gentiles, in one body, as one fold under one Shepherd. Of this the prophet speaks in our text, even of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ: and he declares,
I. Its first establishment—
Christ is "the Shepherd of Israel." As such, he feeds and rules his people Matthew 2:6. The Greek. In his appearance, indeed, he was mean; but he established his kingdom with power. It was announced as at hand by his forerunner, John Matthew 3:2; and was declared by himself as already come Matthew 12:28. By all his words and actions he showed himself entitled to establish it John 5:22-29. Matthew 25:31-32. And at the judgment-seat of Pilate he confessed himself a King John 18:37. For this, indeed, he was put to death John 19:3; John 19:12-15; as the superscription on his cross proclaimed John 19:19. On the very cross he acknowledged himself a King, and promised to the dying suppliant a participation of his throne Luke 23:42. Indeed, it was upon the cross that he triumphed over his enemies, and established his kingdom Colossians 2:14-15. After his resurrection, he gave commission to his disciples to go forth in his name Matthew 28:18-19; on the day of Pentecost he subdued multitudes to himself; and from that day he has been enlarging his kingdom in every quarter of the globe. Through the whole of his ministry on earth, he acted with authority, as here foretold; "standing and feeding in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God."
From its first establishment, the prophet goes on to speak of,
II. Its subsequent preservation—
From the first instant that the establishment of Christ's kingdom was announced, it was assailed from every quarter. The question asked by the eastern Magi was, "Where is he who is born King of the Jews?" And instantly was Herod's jealousy moved to such a degree, that, to ensure the death of Jesus, "he sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding country, from two years old and under Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:16." From the time that he entered on his ministry, his life was sought; until at last his enemies accomplished their cruel purpose, unwittingly accomplishing, at the same time, the very end for which he came into the world. The same opposition has been made to his kingdom in every age and every place. The history of the Acts of the Apostles is one continued illustration of this fact. But greater was He who was in them, than he who actuated his malignant foes. In different places, indeed, his interests have been subverted, as in the Seven Churches of Asia; but if the candlestick have been taken from one place, it has been sent to another. The Church itself has stood, as a rock in the midst of the ocean, and has defied all the waves that beat upon it. Our blessed Lord said, that "it was founded on a rock, and that the gates of Hell should never prevail against it Matthew 16:18;" and this saying of his has been fulfilled: for though, like the burning bush, it has been continually immersed in flames, it never has been, nor ever shall be, consumed by them. "It shall abide," as the prophet has said The Text; "it shall break in pieces, and consume all other kingdoms; but itself shall stand for ever and ever Daniel 2:44."
My text yet further declares,
III. Its ultimate extension—
Its limits hitherto have been narrow and contracted; but the time is coming when they shall extend "to the very ends of the earth." Yes, indeed, "He shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high Isaiah 52:13." "All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him Psalm 72:11." All the kingdoms of the world shall be his Revelation 11:15;; and under the whole heavens "there shall be but one Lord, and his name one Zechariah 14:9. See, to the same effect, Psalm 2:8; Psalm 22:27."
1. Let the kingdom of our Lord be welcomed by you—
Truly his subjects are happy; for "his yoke is easy, and his burden light." Not so the subjects of sin and Satan. No: "they are in sore bondage: for the way of transgressors is hard." Submit you then, Brethren, to his scepter: "obey his voice; for God's name is in him Exodus 23:21;" and know assuredly, that if you still continue to rebel against him, the time is coming when he will say, "Bring hither those that were my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me."
Let his name be dear unto you—
"To them that believe, he is precious 1 Peter 2:7." And he deserves to be so: for he "delivers his subjects from the powers of darkness," and makes them kings like unto himself Luke 22:29. Revelation 1:6; Revelation 3:21. He will be dear, and his name will be great among all nations Psalm 72:17-19. O let him be so to you! Receive him into your hearts as your Savior and Redeemer, yes, and as your Lord and Governor.
CHRIST OUR PEACE IN TROUBLE Preached in July, 1803.
Micah 5:5. This man shall be the Peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land.
IT is of the very nature of prophecy to be dark and intricate: for, if it were perfectly plain, men would either labor to defeat the counsels of Heaven. or ascribe the accomplishment of them to second causes. Among the various things which tend to obscure the predictions of the prophets, we notice more especially their complicated allusions to things temporal and spiritual, present and remote. In the prophecy before us, considerable difficulties occur, because it is so expressed as to comprehend several distinct events, and to be accomplished in a variety of ways: nevertheless the general scope of it is sufficiently plain; and the truth which we shall deduce from it, is obvious and indubitable; it is none other than this, that Jesus Christ is the one source of peace to his people, under all their calamities, temporal or spiritual The meaning of the context seems to be this: the prophet foretells that the enemies of Judah should "besiege" them, and treat their governor with contempt and cruelty; which may be considered as relating to the times of Hezekiah, and Zedekiah. He then foretells, that in the little city of Bethlehem the Messiah shall be born: but that, notwithstanding that event, the Jews, as a nation, shall be given up, until the time when Zion shall travail in birth (Isaiah 66:7-8 with Galatians 4:27.) and all, both Jews and Gentiles, be converted to the Lord. In the mean time, however, the Messiah shall govern and protect his people, and be a source of "peace" and comfort to them under their heaviest calamities.
Christ then will be the peace of his Church,
I. Under all temporal calamities—
God may, for wise and gracious reasons, suffer his people to be reduced to the greatest straits and necessities; just as he did in the days of Hezekiah, when all Judea was subdued by Sennacherib, and the capital itself was besieged by the Assyrian army. We must not therefore conclude that God has given us up, even though we should see our land invaded, and many strong places taken, and the capital itself in the most imminent danger of being plundered and destroyed. God may suffer it, in order to wean us from confiding in our fleets and armies, and to glorify himself in our deliverance. Supposing such a calamity to come upon this land, Christ will be our peace,
1. Through the instrumentality of others—
In the words following the text, he promises to raise up for his people "seven shepherds and eight principal men," that is, an indefinite number Ecclesiastes 11:2. of eminent and useful men in all the departments of state, whom he would endue with wisdom and courage; and through whose instrumentality he would effect their deliverance. And is it not in this way that he has most marvelously interposed for us? Was there ever a period within our remembrance, when all ranks and orders of men were so unanimous as at the present? In the last war, some doubted whether we might not have avoided war; and others, whether we might not have terminated it long before. But is there a man in this whole kingdom who doubts whether our inveterate enemy would suffer us to be at peace; or whether if we were to make all the sacrifices that his ambition could dictate, he would not speedily find some fresh pretext for insult and exaction? No; we are unanimous in our conviction of the unavoidableness of war; unanimous too in our determination to maintain it with vigor, and to die rather than become the vassals of France: and this is a source of much peace and comfort to us in the midst of our impending dangers. And to whom can we ascribe this astonishing unanimity, but to Him who "has all hearts in his hand, and turns them wherever he will?"
2. Through his own immediate agency upon our minds—
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Governor of the Universe; and he makes his people to know, that their enemies derive all their power from his commission, the limits of which commission they cannot exceed, and the effects of which power shall be overruled for good. These are sources of unspeakable peace to their souls. Suppose "the Assyrian to be come into our land," and to be bearing down all before him, our murmurs will be silenced by that reflection, "Is there evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it Amos 3:6." The enemy is no more than "the axe with which he hews, or the saw with which he saws Isaiah 10:15;" "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good 1 Samuel 3:18." Suppose the enemy to be vaunting like the blaspheming Rabshakeh, and to be regarding the riches of the capital as a nest of eggs on which he is just going to lay his hands Isaiah 10:14; even then, if the plunder of the capital be not within his commission, "God will put a hook in his nose, and a bridle in his jaws, and will cause him to return to his own land" ashamed and confounded Isaiah 37:33-35. Suppose he be suffered entirely to prevail, yet if it be over-ruled for the good of immortal souls, and the glory of our God, no temporal trials, however great, can counterbalance the benefit derived from them. It was by sending his people to Babylon that he cured them of idolatry; and if he may but cure this nation of its manifold impieties, all will be well. In these views then Christ will surely be the peace of his people, yes, he "will keep them in perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on him Isaiah 26:3."
But these observations apply to us yet more forcibly,
II. Under all spiritual troubles—
There is not in all the sacred volume one single prophecy that more clearly speaks of Christ than that before us. It is repeatedly applied to Christ in the New Testament, as marking out with precision the very place where he should be born verse 2 with Matthew 2:6 and John 7:42. In explaining it therefore as referring to his spiritual kingdom, we cannot err.
The enemies of God's people of old were typical of those spiritual enemies with which his people have to contend in every age. And it is certain that the enemies of our souls may prevail for a season in a very alarming degree. But when sin and Satan make their fiercest assaults, even then will Christ maintain our peace,
1. By the merit of his blood—
This it is which enables us to behold all our guilt without terror or despondency: this it is which enables us to answer the accuser of the brethren, "Who is he who shall condemn, since Christ has died Romans 8:34." In this view especially is Christ called "our peace," since "he made peace for us by the blood of his cross;" and every one of us by believing in Him shall have peace with God Romans 5:1.
2. By the prevalence of his intercession—
The prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah were effectual for the peace of Jerusalem, even while the besiegers encompassed it Isaiah 37:22; and in answer to them, one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army were slain by an angel in one night Isaiah 37:36. What then may not be expected from the prayers of our adorable Redeemer? Shall not he prevail, seeing that "He ever lives on purpose to make intercession for us Hebrews 7:25." To this, as to an inexhaustible source of consolation, we are taught to look, under the conflicts which we are called to sustain; "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is also the atoning sacrifice for our sins 1 John 2:1."
3. By the sufficiency of his grace—
We may be reduced to a more perilous condition than even Jerusalem itself, and yet find peace in the consideration, that Christ is all-sufficient, and that "through him we shall be more than conquerors." We can scarcely conceive a more distressing experience than that of Paul under the buffetings of Satan: yet this word, "My grace is sufficient for you," was able to turn his desponding sorrows into joy and triumph 2 Corinthians 12:9. In like manner we also may go forth with confidence against all our enemies, saying with him, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:13."
4. By the inviolableness of his promise—
To all his people is that word addressed, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you Joshua 1:5." And can we find one instance wherein he has ever violated that blessed promise? May we not then adopt that inspired inference, and say, "I will not fear what flesh can do unto me Hebrews 13:5-6." If the Apostles, when almost overwhelmed in a storm, were blameworthy for entertaining fears while Christ was with them in the vessel Mark 4:38-40, much more must we be faulty, if we give way to discouraging apprehensions of ruin, when the word of Christ is pledged for our security. Relying on his word, we have an anchor which will keep us steadfast in the midst of all the storms and tempests that can assault our souls Hebrews 6:19.
Let every one then seek to know this "Prince of Peace." To "acquaint ourselves with him is the way to be at peace Job 22:21." If we know him not, we cannot flee to him for refuge: but if we "trust in him, he will keep us in perfect peace."
THE JEWS A BLESSING TO THE WORLD
Micah 5:7. The remnant of Jacob shall be 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.
IN this chapter we have as explicit a prophecy respecting Christ, as any that is to be found in all the sacred volume. His person is described in terms that can belong to none but Jehovah himself: "His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting verse 2." The place of his nativity is expressly foretold, and so plainly mentioned, that all the Scribes and Pharisees at the time of our Savior's birth considered it as an indisputable point, that their Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem; and not in the Bethlehem that was in the land of Zabulon Joshua 19:10; Joshua 19:15, but in Bethlehem Ephratah, which was in the land of Judah Matthew 2:4-6. The establishment of his kingdom over the face of the whole earth was farther predicted verse 4; and not only is the final restoration of the Jews to a participation of it declared verse 3, 6, but their agency in the conversion of the Gentile world is distinctly asserted The text. Whatever accomplishment the words of our text received in the apostolic age by the preaching of the Apostles and their immediate converts, they have respect to a period far remote from that age, a period yet future: they refer to a time, when Jehovah will gather his people from the four winds, and reign over them in their own land Micah 4:6-7; a time, when they shall vanquish all their enemies, as easily as a young lion prevails over a flock of sheep verse 8; but shall be as rich blessings to others, as the dew or rain is to the thirsty earth.
To place this subject in a proper point of view, it will be necessary to show,
I. The original design of God in their dispersion—
Once they were numerous as the stars of Heaven: but now they are reduced to a small "remnant;" and are scattered over the face of the whole earth. This judgment is designed of God,
1. To punish their iniquities—
Great and manifold were their transgressions, which caused them to be carried captive to Assyria and Babylon: but greater far has been their guilt in rejecting their Messiah, and "crucifying the Lord of glory:" and for that they have now been carried captive among all nations, and been reduced to the lowest state of degradation for the space of more than seventeen hundred years. The punishment inflicted for this crime is such as was foretold by Moses himself Leviticus 26:27; Leviticus 26:33. Deuteronomy 28:62-64, and such as our blessed Lord also warned them to expect Matthew 21:39-41. The Jews themselves see and acknowledge, that the hand of God is upon them on account of their sins: and it is God's intention that his dispensations towards them should be viewed in this light by every nation under Heaven Deuteronomy 29:24-28.
2. To bring them to repentance—
In this present world the judgments which God inflicts are all intended for good. It was "for their good" that God sent his people into captivity in Babylon Jeremiah 24:5 and Micah 4:10; and for their good he has now scattered them over the face of the earth. The punishment inflicted on Levi for his cruelty to the Shechemites, was, that he and his family should have no lot among the tribes of Israel, but be scattered among them all Genesis 49:5-7; yet was that overruled for their greater honor; they being appointed to minister in the sanctuary before the Lord; and pre-eminently honored, as having the Lord himself for their portion Numbers 18:2-24. In like manner, though the present dispersion of the Jews is a heavy judgment, God inflicts it, not as the sentence of an inexorable Judge, but as the correction of a loving Parent: and the very circumstance of his transferring his regards from them to the Gentile world, is a yet farther expression of his parental love, it being designed to provoke his deserted people to jealousy, and thus to bring them to a renewed enjoyment of their forfeited inheritance Romans 11:11. "They are cast off only for a season Romans 11:25-26;" and, "if they abide not in unbelief, they shall yet again be grafted on their own stem," from which they have been broken off Romans 11:23-24.
But in the prophecy before us, our attention is particularly called to,
II. The ulterior purposes which they are destined to accomplish—
The dew and rain are sent by God to fertilize the earth Isaiah 55:10; and in like manner are the Jews dispersed throughout the world,
1. As witnesses for him—
Whoever beholds a Jew, beholds a witness of the proper Deity of Jehovah. The whole of his history attests, that the Lord Jehovah is Lord of lords, and God of gods. Who among the gods of the heathen could ever have done for their votaries what Jehovah has done for his chosen people? Who among them could have predicted everything that should befall them during the space of many thousand years? Who could have preserved their worshipers, as Jehovah has preserved his, unmixed with the people among whom they are scattered, and as distinct from all other people as they were when embodied in the land of Canaan? Other nations, that have been subdued and carried captive, have been blended at last with the inhabitants of the countries where they sojourned; but the Jews still, as formerly, "dwell alone" in the midst of the earth, as it was foretold they should do Numbers 23:9. Hence they, above all people, are witnesses of his godhead. And in this view God himself appeals to them, yes, and appeals to the whole universe on the authority of their testimony Isaiah 43:9-12; Isaiah 44:6-9. We may say then of the Jews in every place throughout the world, that they are living epistles from God to man, yes, are "epistles known and read of all men;" so that, whatever be the language of the country where they live, they do unwittingly, yet most intelligibly and unquestionably, proclaim, "The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God 1 Kings 18:39."
They are witnesses also of all his glorious perfections. Who that sees a Jew can help seeing in him the power and love, which God manifested to his fathers in all the wonders of his grace; in their very origin from parents, who, according to the course of nature, could have had no children; in bringing them forth also out of the land of Egypt, and carrying them in safety to the promised land, and, in short, in all his other dealings with them to the present moment? Who can but see also the purity and holiness of Jehovah, as marked in the judgments inflicted on them? Is it not evident, that they are monuments of God's wrath; and that, though God may spare long, he will at last visit the offences of his rebellious people? Above all, Who that sees a Jew, does not see in him the truth and faithfulness of Jehovah? God promised, that for Abraham's sake he would not utterly cast them off: and, notwithstanding all their provocations, he still preserves them, in order to their future restoration to their own land, and their renewed enjoyment of his special favor. David, expatiating on all the glorious perfections of God, interrupts, as it were, his song by what appears, at first sight, to be an unsuitable and irrelevant observation; "He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel Psalm 103:7." But this one observation speaks more than the whole psalm besides; for it embodies all that is more particularly expressed, and gives, what we may call, a graphical exhibition, or picture, of the Divine character; and in the fewest possible words shows us, what will be God's conduct towards his people to the end of time. Precisely thus the sight of a Jew gives us a compendious view of all the Divine perfections, and sets God himself, as it were, almost visibly before our eyes.
2. As instruments in his hands to dispense his blessings to the world—
The dew that floats in the air, and the clouds that are carried over the surface of the globe, are unconscious of the end for which they are sent; but they perform the most invaluable offices for the sons of men. In like manner the Jews are scattered through the world, unconscious of any particular good which they are destined to perform: but God designs to use them as his instruments, and by them to communicate the blessings of salvation to the whole world. This is plainly intimated in our text, and expressly declared by the Prophet Isaiah; "They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles, and shall bring them for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations Isaiah 66:19-20." Then shall be fulfilled, in its utmost extent, that prophecy of Zechariah, "It shall come to pass, that as you were a curse among the Heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing Zechariah 8:13."
For this office they are fitted, having their own Scriptures in their hands, and understanding the language of the different countries where they sojourn: so that nothing is wanting but to have the veil removed from their hearts, and they are ready at this moment, each in his place, to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. And with what energy will they proclaim the Gospel, the very first moment that their eyes are opened! How deeply will they themselves be affected; and how much therefore will they affect others! How will they, when they "look on Him whom they have pierced, mourn, and be in bitterness, even as one that is in bitterness for his first-born Zechariah 12:10." And how ardently will they love, when they see how much has been forgiven them Luke 7:47. How will they emulate the example of their fathers, the Apostles, in their zeal to spread the knowledge of their Messiah! and, when they hear that their brethren in every country under Heaven are engaged in the same blessed work, how will they vie with each other in their endeavors to serve the Lord! With what effect too will they deliver their message! They are known everywhere to be the bitterest enemies to Christianity. They will not therefore be regarded, (as Christian preachers would be,) as a people endeavoring to propagate their own religion, but as people renouncing their own religion from conviction, and calling upon all other people to follow their example. This will create an interest which no other people could hope to excite: and the simultaneous efforts of their brethren in every quarter of the globe, accompanied as they will be by the operations of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men, will bear down all before them, like another Pentecost, and produce, as it were, a resurrection from the dead Ezekiel 37:10 with Romans 11:15. "Then shall the heathen fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth his glory Psalm 102:13-15. Mark the word "So.":" and then shall be literally fulfilled those words of the prophet, "A nation shall be born in a day Isaiah 66:8.'
Now in all this they will be, not as the canals which were made by man, to water the earth Deuteronomy 11:10-11, but as the dew or rain, "that tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men." As the clouds are not formed by man's device, or sent by the command of men, but owe both their original and their operations to God alone; so the Jews have gone to the ends of the earth, unsolicited, unsent, unconscious of their destiny; and in due time will exert such a genial influence on the souls of men, that "the wilderness shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose Isaiah 35:1."
From hence we may see,
1. In what light we should regard the Jews—
It cannot be but that God, in dispersing the Jews over the face of the whole earth, has designed, that we should gather instruction from his dispensations towards them, and subserve in some secret way his purposes towards them.
Wherever we see a Jew, we should regard him as an object from whom we are to derive good, and to whom we are to do good. There is no creature under Heaven from the sight of whom we may derive greater good than from the sight of a Jew. We have before said, that, whether intentionally or not, he proclaims to all, in the most convincing way, both the nature and the perfections of God. But there is one lesson in particular which we may learn from him, namely, the guilt and danger of neglecting the Lord Jesus Christ. It was for rejecting and crucifying their Messiah that God's wrath fell upon that whole nation; and that it has now abode upon them for the space of almost eighteen hundred years. They knew him not; for "had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory:" yet, notwithstanding their crime admits of this extenuation, it has been visited with a punishment unprecedented in the annals of the world. What guilt then must we contract, and of what punishment shall we be thought worthy, if we "crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame," by continuing in our sins! We profess to know him, and to honor him, and to expect salvation from him: our conduct therefore in pouring contempt upon him is aggravated in a ten-fold degree. O! how shall we escape? If such things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If such judgments have been executed on them, what must be the end of us, if we obey not the Gospel of Christ?: Brethren, I entreat you never to look upon a Jew, without recalling to your minds this beneficial and important lesson.
Yet be not content with deriving good from him, but put forth all your powers to do good to him. He, notwithstanding all the chastisements that are upon him, is still "beloved of God for his fathers' sakes. And, if he is beloved of God, should he not be beloved of you? If God have designs of love towards him, should not you seek to be an instrument in God's hands to accomplish towards him those gracious purposes? Can you think of the obligations which you are under to the Jews of former days, and not labor to requite them in their posterity? Or can you reflect on the purposes which are to be accomplished by the Jews in the present and future generations, and not endeavor to fit them for the work to which they are destined? If you have any love to the Gentile world, you should bestow all possible care on the instruction of the Jews, since it is by the Jews chiefly that the Gentiles will be brought into the fold of Christ. O! delay no longer to make this improvement of the circumstances before your eyes; but awake to all the calls of duty, of gratitude, and of love.
2. What ends we ourselves should endeavor to answer in our respective spheres—
Doubtless we should not live for ourselves, any more than they: we should all be inquiring, What can I do for God? or, what can I do for man? This is truly Christian; or, rather I should say, it is god-like. God himself is represented as resembling the rain Hosea 6:3, and being like the dew Hosea 14:5; and O! what glorious effects does his descent upon the soul produce Hosea 14:6. Would to God that we might live for the same ends, and produce, according to our measure, the same effects! Let every one know, that all his faculties, and all his powers, are the Lord's. Let all regard their time, their property, their influence, as talents committed to them by their God, to be improved by Him who has entrusted them to their care. If it be thought by any, that their talent is only as a single drop or two upon the barren ground, and too small to be of any use, let them remember, that a cloud is but an assemblage of drops; and that, if we only contribute according to our power, we may hope soon to see this "wilderness of become as Eden, and this desert as the garden of the Lord Isaiah 51:3." We look for such a season both among Jews and Gentiles: and may we not expect it also among ourselves? Yes surely: if we were all, ministers and people, to unite our efforts for this end, God would be with us; our labor should not be in vain Isaiah 55:11; children should be born to God in this our Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all Galatians 4:26-27;" her children should be numerous as the piles of grass Psalm 72:16;" yes, "the birth of her womb should be as the dew of the morning Psalm 110:3." May God give us to see such a season of revival in the midst of us, and throughout our whole land, for Christ's sake!
GOD'S CONTROVERSY WITH HIS PEOPLE
Micah 6:2-3. Hear you, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and you strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto you? and wherein have I wearied you? testify against me.
WHENEVER we call on men to serve the Lord, they have some excuses to offer, either for the deferring of their duty, or for the neglecting of it altogether. They will complain that the things required of them are too strict; that, by reason of the weakness of human nature, they are impracticable; or, at all events, that, under their present circumstances, it were better to postpone the observance of them. In these excuses, they do not intend directly to reflect on God: but, in reality, they do cast the blame of their iniquities on him: on him, I say, as a Lawgiver, that he has required too much of us; or on him as a Creator, in that he has formed us incapable of obeying his will: or on him as a Governor, who, in his providence, has assigned us a lot which does not admit of our fulfilling his commands. On these grounds God has a controversy with us; and appeals to the whole creation that he is greatly wronged by us. The whole process of his appeal is here stated.
We have here,
I. The court summoned—
Sometimes God makes his appeal both to Heaven and earth: "Hear, O heavens! and give ear, O earth; for the Lord speaks Isaiah 1:2." At other times he calls to the earth alone, as in the passage before us: "Hear you, O mountains, and you strong foundations of the earth!" But what amazing condescension is here, that he should summon his own creatures, to sit, as it were, in judgment upon him! He has a right to do whatever he shall please: and to presume to question anything that he does, is the height of impiety. Has not "a potter power over the clay, to make of the same lump a vessel unto honor or unto dishonor," as he shall see fit? Or has the "clay any right to say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus Romans 9:20-21." If the Maker choose to mar the vessel the very instant he has formed it, he has a perfect right to do so: nor would the vessel have any reason to complain. So has God exactly the same right over us Jeremiah 18:6. He has not injured us, because he did not make us of the highest rank of created intelligences: nor would he have done us any injury, if he had made us devoid of reason, like the beasts? If, when he endued us with reason, he had again bereaved us of it; or if he were at this moment to deprive us of all the advantages we enjoy; we should have no ground of accusation against him: he has "a right to do what he will with his own Matthew 20:15,;" nor is he called to "give an account to us of any of his matters Job 33:13." But when we arraign his conduct, he is willing to have his cause tried before a tribunal of his own creatures, and to place sinners themselves upon the seat of judgment. His permission, yes, his entreaty, to them is, "Judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard Isaiah 5:3."
Viewing now the court assembled, let us hear,
II. The pleadings opened—
Here is evidently an accusation implied; namely, God has both injured us, and even "wearied" us, by his oppressive conduct: and to this the Almighty, standing as a defendant before the court, answers, by challenging inquiry; and, with conscious rectitude, he says, in the face of his accusers, "Testify against me." Declare wherein I have injured you: "declare it, that you may be justified Isaiah 43:26."
Have I injured you by any undue strictness in my laws? Point out one that could have been dispensed with, or one that could have been lowered. They are all reducible to love: they require nothing, but that you should "love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength; and, that you should "love your neighbor as yourselves." Wherein could any abatement have been made? Point out, in any one particular, wherein these requirements are too strict; or whether they be not, in every respect, "holy and just and good Romans 7:12."
'Have I injured you at all in my providential dealings? You may not be so elevated in rank and affluence as others: but the human race is a body; and the body cannot be all eye, or all ear: it must have hands and feet; and every member must have its proper office: every member, too, must seek its happiness in the good of the whole; and be as willing to contribute, in its place, to the welfare of the rest, as to have its own welfare furthered by the rest. But it may be, that you have been peculiarly afflicted, in mind, or body, or estate. Be it so: but have you been afflicted beyond your deserts? "Can a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins Lamentations 3:39." Had you had your desert, you would long since have been "in Hell, without so much as one drop of water to cool your tongue:" and your sufferings are infinitely short of that; yes, and are mitigated also by numberless consolations. And are you aware of all the ends for which these afflictions are sent? What, if they have been sent to call you to repentance, and ultimately to save your soul? You should, then, be rather adoring me for them with the liveliest gratitude, than be complaining of them as injuries wantonly inflicted on you.
'Perhaps it is of the sanctions of my law that you complain: they disquiet you; they appal you; the dread of them makes your life a burden to you. But what less than Heaven would you appoint for the reward of my faithful servants? or what less than Hell for the punishment of those who rebel against me? The object both of the reward and of the punishment is the same—to make you flee from sin, the only true source of misery; and to make you follow after righteousness, which is a certain prelude to glory. Both sanctions are intended equally for good: the one, to operate on your hopes; the other, on your fears: and both together to secure your everlasting happiness. But it is of the threatening only that you complain: you think it hard that such a punishment as death, eternal death, should be annexed to one transgression of my law. But I have told you, that "the wages of sin is death Romans 6:23, the provisions given to the soldiery." The provisions which were the payment of a Roman soldier were surely no very extravagant remuneration for his services: nor is eternal punishment an undue recompense for sin: the penal evil of damnation does not in the least exceed the moral evil of sin. Only let it be considered what sin is, and against whom it is committed, and its turpitude and malignity will be found perfectly to justify the judgments denounced against it.
If there be any other matter which mine accuser has to lay to my charge, let him bring it forth: I am prepared "to plead with him:" let him "testify against me;" and let the court, before which we stand, judge between us.'
The charges being thus, for want of an explicit statement on the part of the accuser, inquired into, let us attend to,
III. The replication made—
As far as relates to a vindication of Jehovah, in reference to some particular points, an answer has been provided in the allegations themselves: and, as nothing more specific is stated as the ground of complaint against him, all further vindication of him is waved: and now the complaints on his side must be brought forward. This is done in another part of Scripture, where the very complaints which are preferred against God are retorted by him on his accusers. "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-offerings; neither have you honored me with your sacrifices. I have not (as you pretend) caused you to serve with an offering, or wearied you with incense; but you have made me to serve with your sins, and wearied me with your iniquities Isaiah 43:22-24." Thus, also, in the passage before us, God prefers his charge against his accusers: "I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of servants; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what Balak, king of Moab, consulted; and what Balaam, the son of Beor, answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that you may know the righteousness of the Lord verse 4, 5;" that is, 'Call to mind the mercies I have given to you, from the time I brought you out of Egypt, until your entrance into Canaan; and then say, whether you have cause to complain of me as acting unkindly towards you; or whether I have not rather reason to complain of you, for your base ingratitude, and your multiplied transgressions against me?' To the same effect may God well reply against us. 'You complain of me as acting oppressively towards you. Look at the redemption which I have given unto you; and not by power only, but by price, even the precious blood of my only dear Son; a redemption, too, not from a mere temporal bondage, but from sin and Satan, death and Hell. Look also at the counsels which your great adversary, the Devil, has given, and at the efforts which he has made for your destruction; and see how I have preserved you in the midst of all; "from Shittim," where the counsels were given, "to Gilgal," in the very land of your inheritance. Look at these things, and then say, whether your accusations against me are just; and whether there be any terms too strong wherein to state your baseness and impiety?
To this reply nothing is added. The truths contained in it being undeniable, not a word is spoken by way of rejoinder: the righteousness of Jehovah is admitted; and, by the consent of all parties, we have,
IV. The cause adjudged—
As in the case before us, so in all cases "will God be justified when he speaks, and be clear when he is judged Romans 3:4." Brethren, you may now offer your complaints as you please; and, while God is not permitted to be heard, you may have it all your own way: 'You are quite as good as you need to be; and God is unreasonable in expecting you to be better. The denunciations of his wrath are a mere fallacy: they will never be executed: he would be unjust, if he were to proceed in accordance with them: you have nothing to fear: you act in a very rational and justifiable way, while you live to yourselves and to the world, rather than unto him: and whatever he may have said to the contrary, "you shall have peace, though you walk after the imagination of your own hearts Deuteronomy 29:19," and trample under foot his holy laws.' Of all this you may he confident, while God is not heard: but let him be heard, and even you yourselves shall be judges in your own cause. Let him be heard, and not one of you will have a syllable to offer in your own defense, and much less in incrimination of your God. If the man that had not on the wedding-garment was silent (was muzzled, as the word means Matthew 22:12,) much more will you, if you will bring your matters to a trial here; and, at all events, when standing before the judgment-seat of Christ. Indeed I am persuaded, that the cause between you and your God is already adjudged, even in your own consciences: for, where is there one of you who will venture seriously to arraign the conduct of his God, and not acknowledge, that "God's ways are equal, and that it is his own ways only that are unequal Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29."
Conceiving then the cause terminated, I will offer a few words,
1. In a way of candid appeal—
Is there one among us that will still persist in "charging God foolishly Job 1:22." When God asks, "What iniquity have you found in me, that you have gone far from me Jeremiah 2:5." will any of you venture to accuse him as the cause of your miscarriages? When he further asks, "Have I been a wilderness to Israel? a land of darkness? Why say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto you Jeremiah 2:31." will any one among you dare to maintain the charge that is here supposed? No: you all know that the fault is altogether in yourselves. You know, that God is worthy to be loved and served; and that to consecrate yourselves to him is "a reasonable service Romans 12:1." You know well, that you can neither substantiate your own accusations against him, nor rebut his accusations against you. I will, therefore, proceed to address you,
2. In a way of beneficial advice—
Offer not excuses now, which will not avail you in the day of judgment. That time is quickly coming: and then God will be heard, whether you desire it or not. You will not then have to make your cause good against a man like yourselves, but against the Omniscient and Almighty God. Cease, then, to determine from your own statements alone. Let God be heard speaking to you in his word. Try your case fairly, according to that book which you have in your hands, and by which you will be judged in the last day John 12:48. Be candid in weighing both sides of the question, and in giving "judgment according to truth." Then you will surely acknowledge, that by the law you are justly condemned; and that "God is true, though every man be made a liar Romans 3:4." But need you, on that account, despair? No. "If you have sinned, you have an advocate with the Father, even our Lord Jesus Christ; who is also the atoning sacrifice for your sins l John 2:1." Put your cause into his hands; and though condemned by the law, you shall be acquitted by the Gospel: for through this Savior you shall have all your past "iniquities blotted out," and a righteousness given to you that shall be perfectly commensurate with all the demands of law and justice Romans 3:21-22. Then, in the presence of the whole assembled universe, shall you stand approved; and "God himself be just in justifying" and rewarding you Romans 3:25-26. To that day, so terrible to the impenitent and unbelieving sinner, you may look forward with confidence and joy: for though guilty in yourselves, you shall be "accepted in the Beloved Ephesians 1:6;" and, though in yourselves deserving of the heaviest condemnation, you shall receive "a crown of righteousness that fades not away."
THE SUM OF PRACTICAL RELIGION
Micah 6:6-8. With which shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
IN human judicatories, offenders are arraigned, witnesses examined, sentence passed, in order to the punishment of crimes. But God has raised a tribunal, to which he summons his offending creatures, in order that when their mouths are stopped, and they plead guilty before him, he may pardon their iniquity, and restore them to his favor.
We have, in the chapter before us, God bringing a charge against his people, and calling upon the hills and mountains to judge between them. He first challenges them to allege anything against him that can in any respect excuse their disobedience, or extenuate their guilt: and, when they are unable to do it, he proceeds to set forth his conduct towards them as the greatest aggravation of their guilt. He instances this in two particulars; in his exertions for them when he brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness; and in his kindness to them just when he was bringing them out of the wilderness into Canaan; when he overruled the evil purposes of Balaam, and constrained him to bless those whom he had been hired to curse. This having produced on some the desired effect, a repenting Jew is introduced, anxiously inquiring how he may be reconciled to his Maker, and serve him acceptably in future? and God, instead of inexorably consigning him over to the punishment he has deserved, prescribes to him the way wherein he must walk, and wherein he shall obtain the favor he desires.
Some have understood these words as proceeding from Balak and Balaam: but Balak had no such wish to please God: on the contrary, he wanted nothing so much as to destroy his people: and Balaam expressed no such solicitude to lead Balak to a holy life; but, on the contrary, taught him how to ruin the souls of God's people, by tempting them to an illicit fellowship with the daughters of Midian.
The view before given seems to be the more just: and agreeably to it we shall consider,
I. The inquiries of an awakened soul—
A person convinced of his lost estate, cannot but desire to obtain peace with God—
The most abandoned sinner, previous to the illumination of his mind by the Spirit of God, will be regardless of his state, and unconcerned about the account which he must give of himself at the judgment-seat of Christ. But, when once his eyes are opened to see his guilt and danger, he can no longer be indifferent about his eternal interests: he feels that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God; and, however hardened he may have before been, he will cry out with agony of mind, "What shall I do to be saved Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30.".
But the ways he devises for his restoration to the Divine favor are invariably erroneous and absurd—
The Jew, like all others of his own nation, first proposes a compliance with the ordinances of the ceremonial law; then, if that will not suffice, he will multiply them, so us to offer, if possible, thousands of rams instead of one, and "ten thousands of rivers of oil," instead of about one or three pints, prescribed for the meat-offerings Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:21. Exodus 29:40. If this be not of sufficient value, he is ready to offer even his first-born son; determined, that neither the heathen deities shall be more honored than Jehovah 2 Kings 17:16-17, nor Abraham himself perform a more self-denying act of obedience than he This idea will account for such a proposal in the mouth of a penitent Jew. Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:16.
Such are the means whereby men still hope to recommend themselves to the Divine favor. They will multiply rites and observances far beyond what God himself has required: they will very readily submit to penances, and mortifications, and all manner of painful discipline: but to part with their bosom lusts, and to obtain a thorough renovation of their souls, they have no wish: they rest in external services; and substitute them in the place of an inward change of heart, and a thorough conversion unto God. And though we are not shocked at such views, as we are at the proposals of the Jew, yet are they, in fact, as derogatory from the Divine honor, and as unsuitable to the end proposed, as the grosser conceptions that are expressed in the text. The inquiries may be considered as twofold; first, How shall I obtain reconciliation with God? and next, How shall I walk so as to please him? Now is there anything in external ceremonies, of whatever kind they be, calculated to answer either of these ends? Can superficial penitence, and ritual observances, worthless as they are in themselves, and still further debased by a presumptuous affiance in them, stand in the place of deep contrition, humble faith, and universal obedience?.
Their futility will appear from,
II. The answer of God to them—
God "has shown to every person what is good"—
It is true that God did require offerings and sacrifices under the law: but he did not require them in lieu of obedience Isaiah 1:10-17; nor in preference to obedience 1 Samuel 15:22; nor at all for their own sake Psalm 50:4-14. (Here is the same controversy as in the text,) and Psalm 51:16-17; when used in any of these views, they were even hateful in his sight Amos 5:21-24. Isaiah 66:3; and on account of the abuse made of them, he calls them "statutes which were not good Ezekiel 20:25." He had declared by Moses, that the thing which alone he required, and to which all the ceremonial ordinances were subservient, was, the obedience of a humble and devoted heart Deuteronomy 10:12-13.
And the things specified in the text have an exclusive title to that character—
Our blessed Lord, apparently referring to these words, throws the true light upon them Matthew 21:23. He shows that the Pharisees substituted ceremonial in the place of moral obedience: and that, while punctilious and exact in outward observances, they neglected those things which God principally required, "judgment, mercy, and faith." These are the very things mentioned in the text: for the "walking humbly with God" evidently implies a humble and believing dependence on him.
Behold, then, what the Lord our God requires of us. First, we must "do justly." It is in vain to think that we can ever please God, if we be not honest and just in all our dealings. Truth in our words, and integrity in our actions, are so essential, that a man may as well call himself an angel as a Christian, if he be allowedly defective in either. An adulterous Christian, or a murderous Christian, is not a greater contradiction in terms, than a lying Christian or a dishonest Christian. Hear this, you professors of religion; and examine whether in your several trades and callings a dependence can be placed upon your word; and whether you are careful to "keep a conscience void of offence towards God and man:" and let it never be said of you, "They will talk about religion indeed, but they will lie and cheat as much, and perhaps more, than other people: a man of the world is more to be depended on than they." O, if you give occasion for such a scandal as this, cast off your religion at once; or else get it purified from these base and damning defilements.
Next, We must "love mercy." Justice admits of no degrees: we must be just or unjust; and therefore we are told to do justice. But mercy has gradations that are of an unlimited extent: and therefore we must love mercy; or we shall never attain such a measure of it as will adorn our holy profession. Mercy includes every act and office of love, at least as far as relates to the distressed, the indigent, or the offending. And this disposition must be cultivated in all its branches with assiduity and delight. This constitutes the image of God upon the soul: and therefore we are exhorted to "be merciful, even as our Father which is in Heaven is merciful." Indeed if we shut up our affections of compassion from a needy brother, all pretenses to the love of God are vain and hypocritical 1 John 3:17. Hear then again, you who profess godliness; and bring your experience to the touchstone. See whether you are filled with tenderness and compassion towards the bodies and souls of your fellow-creatures? See whether you not only do a kindness when called upon, but whether you "devise liberal things," and deny yourselves with a view to the more extensive exercise of benevolence? Look at a professor that is hard-hearted, griping, covetous, vindictive; what a monster does he appear! How unlike to that adorable Jesus who laid down even his own life for his very enemies! Are there such people in the world? O "tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon."
Finally, We must "walk humbly with God." We have already shown the construction which our Lord puts upon these words, and that without any force, they include the most essential doctrines of the Gospel. Indeed this requisition comprehends all our duty to God, as the two foregoing do our duty to our neighbor. Now our duty to God is, to "walk with" him, as Enoch and Noah did; and to walk "humbly" with him in a believing dependence on his grace to help us, and his mercy to pardon our defects. Without this, our attention to relative duties will be of no avail. This chiefly distinguishes the true Christian from a proud self-righteous Pharisee. There certainly are people of the world, who are eminent for their honor and integrity, their benevolence and liberality: but when we inquire into their secret walk with God, they are found miserably defective; and especially with respect to the humiliation of their souls, and their exercise of faith on Christ. It is in the relative duties, that the hypocrite fails; and in the duties to God, that the defects of the moralist appear. But both of them, though in different ways, are departed from God, and in the high road to destruction. Examine yourselves, therefore, you decent and externally blameless characters; search and try how it is with you in your secret chambers; see whether you be not habitually and allowedly wanting in respect of brokenness of heart, and a steadfast cleaving unto Christ? And remember, that, while you cherish such pride and self-sufficiency in your hearts, you are as far from Heaven as the most abandoned profligate; for "God will resist the proud, and give grace only to the humble James 4:6."
We shall conclude with a word of caution,
1. To the careless and secure—
We hear this passage quoted by many, with a view to subvert all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity: 'Tell us not,' say they, 'about regeneration, or faith in Christ: this is my religion; "Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." ' But can it be supposed that the prophet intended to contradict every other part of the inspired writings, and to tell us that morality was all, and Christ nothing? It has already appeared, from the words of Christ himself (wherein he seems to have referred to the very passage before us,) that "faith is one of the weightier matters of the law;" and that an acknowledging of ourselves to be lost sinners, and a believing in Christ for salvation, are absolutely essential to a humble walk with God. Let not then this mistaken confidence deceive you. Rest not in such an interpretation of the text as directly opposes the whole tenor of Scripture. But, if you will persist in this perversion of God's word, inquire, Whether you have perfectly, and at all times, complied with these directions? and know, that if you have not, you shall be judged out of your own mouth, and be condemned by your own law.
2. To those who are concerned about their souls—
As you must shortly appear before God, it becomes you to inquire, "with which you shall come before him with acceptance?" and in answering this important question, there are two things against which you must guard with equal care, namely, a self-righteous dependence on your own works, and a presumptuous hope of salvation, while you live in any known sin, whether of commission or of omission. Nothing but Christ's obedience unto death can form a proper ground of your hope: yet nothing but a life wholly devoted to God can evidence your interest in Christ. If your faith be productive of good works, it is lively, and saving; if not, it is dead, worthless, delusive. Seek then a humble faith in order to a holy life. If you will offer sacrifices, let them be "those of a broken and contrite spirit:" if you will "give a first-born for your transgression," let it be God's First-born, yes, his only-begotten Son. But never forget that your duties to God and to your neighbor are of equal and immutable obligation; and that according to your performance or neglect of them you will be acquitted or condemned at the last day.
PRAYER OUR GREAT PRESERVATIVE
Micah 7:7. I will look unto the Lord; 1 will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
IF we mark the discriminating character of the Lord's people, we shall find, that from the beginning of the world it has consisted in this: The ungodly "call not upon God Psalm 14:4;" but the "godly are a people near unto him Psalm 148:14." Abraham, the father of the faithful, built an altar to God in every place where he abode. Moses, David, and all the saints, familiarized themselves with God, if I may so speak; and carried their every want to him, as their Father and their Friend. The Prophet Micah, in his own conduct, well illustrates this. The awful state of the world around him he declares in very pathetic terms; crying, in the view of it, "Woe is me verse 1." And having represented this with the fidelity that became him, he declares, with no common measure of delight, the manner in which he proposed to occupy his mind: "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me:" that is, the more others depart from God, the more will I seek his face.
From these words I shall take occasion to show,
I. In what circumstances the godly are placed—
St. John expresses in one word all that can be said: "We are of God; and the whole world lies in wickedness 1 John 5:19." To the same effect, the prophet here speaks of the godly, as living in a world,
1. Where iniquity abounds—
So universal was the reign of sin in Judea, that scarcely was a person of real piety to be found. And what is the state of things at this day? Is there not occasion for the same lamentation now? If you go into any place where the Gospel is not preached with power, and wish to refresh your spirit with the society of those who are truly alive to God, will you not find yourselves like a person in a vineyard after that the fruits have been gathered, where he can scarcely obtain a cluster to satisfy his longing appetite? There is nothing but a small remnant to which he can get access; and that, alas! of stinted growth, and destitute of the luscious flavor with which he had hoped to be regaled. If we look at Christians of more favored times, it seems as if "the good man had now almost perished from the earth;" so few are there who resemble the saints and martyrs of former ages verse 1, 2.
In the administration of the laws, I confess, we widely differ from the Jews of old. The rich cannot oppress the poor; nor could they, among us, find judges corrupt enough to pervert the laws for gain. But in every other species of iniquity all classes of the community will uphold each other; insomuch, that, whether we notice the more refined sensuality of the rich, or the more degrading habits of the vulgar, all have their advocates; all are declared innocent, or treated with indulgent connivance: and "so they wrap it up." Nothing is suffered to disgust us by its own proper character; but false names are imposed on everything, to hide from us its deformity, and to give it a title to our regard. Not even palpable wickedness goes unexcused: licentiousness is made to wear the garb of piety; and worldliness of prudence. The rich and the poor, the old and the young, all shall have their appropriate gratifications; and all agree to hold each other innocent. "So (I say again) they wrap it up verse 3."
And if we take persons of a better character, we shall find, that, however they may wear a good appearance at a distance, as a hedge of thorns or briers may do, the more closely you come in contact with them, the more you are pained by them; "the best of them proving as a brier, and the most upright of them as a thorn-hedge verse 4;" insomuch that he is really the happiest man who has least dependence on, or, except in a very distant way, communication with, his fellow-man. Such was the state of society in that day: and such, alas! it is at this very hour.
2. Where piety is discountenanced—
At different periods of the Jewish history, it was at the peril of a man's life to espouse the cause of the God of Israel; so entirely had idolatry superseded the worship of the one true God. At those seasons it was dangerous for a man to "trust his friend, or even the wife of his bosom," if he was inclined to serve the living God. "A son would rise up against his father, and a daughter against her mother; and a man's greatest enemies were often those of his own household."
It is remarkable, that our blessed Lord has cited this very passage, not only as applicable to, but as particularly characteristic of, the dispensation which he came to introduce: "The brother," says he, "shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes shall be those of his own household verse 5, 6 with Matthew 10:21; Matthew 10:35-36." Such times have been in the very country in which we live: and such they would be again, if popery were to regain its ascendant. Not that we need go back to times of popery for acts of intolerance in reference to religion; for the same hatred of piety exists at the present day: and it not unfrequently happens, that persons are obliged to conceal from their parents, or from those under whom they live, their attachment to the Gospel of Christ; knowing that a disclosure of it would infallibly expose them to hatred and contempt.
Such, then, are the circumstances under which the godly are placed: and, as they are confessedly arduous, it will be proper for me to show,
II. To what measures they should have recourse—
Here the prophet's example will point out to us the precise line which every Christian should pursue. Mark,
1. The determination of his mind—
Difficult as it was to maintain his integrity in such a time as that, he determined to spread his case before the Lord, and to look to him for "strength according to his day." And, if the Lord should not instantly impart all the support he could desire, he would "wait for the Lord," and tarry his leisure, and expect from him all that an indulgent Father can bestow.
Here is the line of conduct which all the godly must pursue. If they attempt to contend with these difficulties in their own strength, they must fail. The direction which God himself gives them is this: "Call upon me in the time of trouble; so I will hear you; and you shall praise me Psalm 50:15." What then should we do, but adopt, every one of us for ourselves, the determination of David, saying, "As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall hear me. Evening, and morning, and at noon-day, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice Psalm 55:16-17." Indeed David proposes himself to us as an example in this particular: "My soul," says he, "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. Trust in him at all times, you people: pour out your hearts before him: God is a refuge for us Psalm 62:5-8." In the New Testament, the directions to this effect are numberless: so that we may conclude, that humble, fervent, and persevering prayer is the true remedy for every saint, against all the evils which he either feels or fears.
2. The conviction of his soul—
There is something very imposing in that declaration of the prophet, "My God will hear me." He speaks not of God's assistance as a matter of hope, but as what he could not fail of obtaining: so great, so irresistible, was the efficacy of believing prayer. And what says the Apostle John on this subject? "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And, if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him 1 John 5:14-15." Nor is this a rash assertion: it is confirmed by actual experience. "I sought the Lord," says David; "and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Yes: this poor man cried; and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles Psalm 34:4; Psalm 34:6. See also Psalm 40:1-3." I hesitate not, then, to say to all of you, that this measure shall be crowned with the desired success. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass: he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noon-day Psalm 37:4-6." God may not indeed interpose precisely at the time, or in the manner, that our impatient minds may dictate: but, "though he tarry long, he will come at last Habakkuk 2:3;" and in the event will surely show himself "mighty to save." "Wait, then, on the Lord, every one of you; and be of good courage; and he will strengthen your heart: wait, I say, upon the Lord Psalm 27:14."
As a further improvement of this subject, learn,
1. The benefit of trials—
Trials of every kind are painful to flesh and blood: but they are, in reality, blessings in disguise. See the effect of them on the prophet's mind. Were they unserviceable to him? Neither shall they be unprofitable to us. I will suppose that they are heavy: yet, if they bring you to God, and God to you, tell me, Have you any cause to complain?: God deals with you as a skillful person does with a wheel and engine that is under his control. He lets down upon it so much water as will accomplish his own purposes; but whatever is superfluous, and would injure its movements, he turns off in another course. So does God deal with his people; permitting the wrath of man to prevail against them so far as shall be conducive to their best interests, but restraining the remainder, which would counteract his views Psalm 76:10. He has promised, that you shall not be "tempted above that you are able; but shall, with the temptation, have also a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it 1 Corinthians 10:13." And, "if you lose father or mother, houses or lands, for his sake, you shall receive an hundred-fold more in this life, to supply their loss; and in the world to come, eternal life Mark 10:29-30." To exchange the creature for the Creator, need never be to any a subject of regret.
2. The blessedness of those who have the Lord for their God—
The world know not where to go in a time of trouble: but the righteous have God himself for their refuge. Perhaps a person viewing the ungodly in their prosperity, and the poor persecuted prophet in his troubles, would be ready to envy the wicked, and to regard the persecuted saint as an object of compassion. But who that turns aside the veil, and beholds the saint in communion with his God, will be of that opinion? Who that should see God attending to the supplications of his afflicted child, and giving his angels charge concerning him, and sending down the Comforter into his soul, and preparing for him a weight of glory proportioned to his trials, would not rather congratulate the saint, and say, "Blessed is the man whose God is the Lord!" Seek him, then, as your reconciled God in Christ Jesus; and then all things are yours: "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's 1 Corinthians 3:21-23."
ADDRESS OF THE JEWISH CHURCH TO HER ENEMIES
Micah 7:8-10. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord your God? My eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
IT is a matter of general complaint, that the minor prophets are difficult to be understood: and this is true to a considerable extent: but we apprehend that it arises very much from our not sufficiently bearing in mind the subjects on which they wrote. We do right in looking for many things applicable to the Messiah, and to his Church and kingdom: but we err in not having more respect to the Jewish Church as it existed in the times when the prophets wrote; and as it shall exist at a period yet future, when that people shall be gathered in from their present dispersion, and be restored to their own land. We complain that we cannot unlock those Scriptures; but we neglect to take the key that alone will fit the wards. If we kept the Jews more in view, many of the difficulties would vanish; and innumerable beauties would be seen in passages that are now passed over as devoid of interest. We believe truly that the day is fast approaching, in which "God will show them marvelous things," not a whit inferior to those which he wrought for them when he brought them out of Egypt verse 15; and it is their privilege to be looking forward to that period, with earnest and assured expectation of the blessings prepared for them. In the prospect of that period, the Jewish Church is represented by the prophet as consoling herself with the reflections which we have just read: in our further consideration of which we shall notice,
I. The address of the Jewish Church to her enemies—
Bitter in the extreme was the enmity of many surrounding nations against the Jews; far more bitter, we apprehend, than in any of them against each other. The favors conferred upon the Jewish nation by Jehovah, and the entire separation of the Jews from all other people by the ordinances of their religion, tended to call forth this enmity, and to keep it, as it were, in continual exercise. In like manner at the present day, when they have ceased to exist in their national character, and are blended with the different nations where they dwell, they are still hated, and despised above any other people upon earth. This, no doubt, is a judgment inflicted on them for their murder of their Messiah: and under their present sufferings they may well adopt the language of our text. It is the language,
1. Of deep submission—
Great were the iniquities of the Jewish people at the time that the prophet wrote verse 2–6; and heavy were the judgments which God inflicted on them in Babylon on account of them. But far greater is the guilt which they have contracted in rejecting their Messiah, and in crucifying the Lord of glory. For this they have been punished now these seventeen hundred years, and been made a bye-word and a hissing among all nations. Under these circumstances, what will be the reflections of a pious Jew? He will say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him." Indeed, this, we apprehend, is, in words at least, the language of the Jews at this time generally, or perhaps universally, through the world. It is on account of their sinfulness that they suppose God has not yet sent them the Messiah that was promised to them so long ago, and who, but for their wickedness, would have come to them at the appointed time: and they submit to the dispensations of God towards them from this very consideration, that they are not yet in a state fit to receive his promised mercies. This is a favorable circumstance for their future conversion: and when this submission to the Divine chastisements shall be accompanied with suitable penitence and contrition, their deliverance will be speedily given.
2. Of patient hope—
As the Edomites, the Ammonites, and others, formerly exulted over Jerusalem, and rejoiced in her calamities, so at this time her enemies regarded her as forsaken by her God, and doomed to interminable degradation. But the believing Jew knows that God has not forgotten to be gracious; nor so far shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure, as to be merciful to him no more. He knows, that even in the midst of all his troubles God is able to support and comfort him, and that in due season he will interpose to rescue his people from their oppressors. Hence he "encourages himself in the Lord his God;" and comforts himself with the hope, that, though his night of sorrow may be long and dreary, there is a morning of joy awaiting him, when he shall "put off his sackcloth, and gird him with gladness."
3. Of joyful assurance—
The Scriptures everywhere denounce the heaviest judgments on those who oppress the Jews, and who shall labor to obstruct their future restoration. Their enemies will be as incapable of offering to them any effectual opposition, as Pharaoh and his armies were of preventing the departure of their forefathers from the land of Egypt. Their enemies will indeed gather together for the purpose of preventing their re-establishment in their own land: but they will be only as "sheaves" collected into the barn "to be threshed out by men, or trodden out" by oxen Micah 4:11-13. Before them their adversaries will be only as sheep before the devouring lion Micah 5:8-9. An universal terror will seize on them, such as filled the Canaanites when Joshua invaded and subdued their land verse 16. 17. Though they appear weak and contemptible as a worm, yet says God to them, "Fear not, you worm Jacob; you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and 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 Isaiah 41:14-16." To this period the believing Jew may look forward with confidence, assured that his present degradation shall be more than equaled by his future exaltation Isaiah 49:24-26; Isaiah 51:21-23.
But if we would improve this passage aright, we must consider,
II. The lessons it teaches to the Church of God in all ages—
The Church of Christ bears a strong resemblance to the state of the Jewish Church: it is hated and despised by an ungodly world: it is "a speckled bird; and all the birds round about are against her Jeremiah 12:9." All who truly follow the Lord Jesus, and "walk as he walked," are "for signs and for wonders;" "nor can they live godly in Christ Jesus without suffering persecution."
But from the address of the Jewish Church they may learn,
1. Submission to God's chastisements—
From whatever quarter our trials may come, we should view the hand of God in them, and receive them as from him. We must always however distinguish between the inflictions of judicial wrath, and the chastisements of paternal love. As a Father, God chastens his most beloved children: and they can never err in saying, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him." When Shimei cursed David, and Abishai desired permission to go and inflict on him the punishment he deserved, David would not suffer it, but with holy meekness submitted to the indignity, saying, "Let him alone; and let him curse: for the Lord has bidden him 2 Samuel 16:7-11." It is surprising what composure this will bring into the mind amidst all the sufferings that can be inflicted on us. The consideration that they are sent by a wise and gracious God will reconcile us to them: but the thought of their being chastisements for sin, and means of purifying us from our corruption, will make us to "kiss the rod, and to say, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good."Let us only see that he is "chastening us for our profit, and however we may, under the pressure of our anguish, deprecate the dispensation, we shall from our inmost souls refer ourselves to his all-wise disposal, saying, "Not my will, but your be done."
2. Hope in his mercy—
However severely God may see fit to chastise his people, there are two things which he gives them for their support; namely, a sense of his presence with them in their affliction, and the prospect of a happy issue out of it. They may, by reason of his dispensations, "sit for a time in darkness: but he will be a light unto them." They may, like Paul, be "troubled on every side; yet shall not be so distressed" as not to know what to do: they may be "perplexed; but shall not be in despair:" they may be "persecuted; but shall not be forsaken; and cast down, but shall not be destroyed 2 Corinthians 4:8-9." He will "hide them, as it were, in his pavilion," or rather, as it is yet more beautifully expressed, "in the secret of his presence;" so that, though in the fire, they shall not be burned; and though in the lion's den, they shall not be hurt. Besides, when his dispensations have produced their desired effect, he, as a refiner watching over the vessels which he has put into the furnace, will take them out, and show that they have been purified by means of it, and have lost nothing in it but their dross. Under our afflictions the ungodly are ready to triumph over us, and to conclude, that God is visiting us in anger for some iniquity, which, though hidden from men, has been seen by him: but he will appear for us in due season, and "bring forth our righteousness as the noon-day." Thus he did for David, under all his persecutions from Saul: thus he did also for his only dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when he raised him from the dead: and thus he will do for all who put their trust in him. If we only "humble ourselves under his mighty hand, he will in due season lift us up, to our greater comfort, and to the everlasting honor of his own name.
3. An assured expectation of final victory—
Even in this life the enemies of his people are often put to shame, and constrained, as Job's friends were, to confess that they had erred in judgment respecting us. But O! what shame will seize them in the last day, when they shall see those whom they once despised and persecuted for their religion, openly acknowledged by their Lord as good and faithful servants; and they themselves be bidden to depart from his presence, and to take their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone! Then will "their day come;" and "the righteous shall see it: they shall sit as assessors with Christ in judgment, and shall approve of the sentence denounced against them. Such is the honor reserved for all the saints. "No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper; but every tongue that rises against them in judgment shall they condemn Isaiah 54:17." Sooner or later will justice be administered both to the friends and enemies of Jehovah; and that which is spoken by the prophet, be verified in all its extent; "Behold, my servants shall eat; but you shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink; but you shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice; but you shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart; but you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit Isaiah 65:13-14." Well may this prospect compose the minds of all God's afflicted people; and well may they be contented to go on their way weeping for a season, when they have a prospect of such a harvest, and an assurance of bringing with them such sheaves into the garner of their God.
THE MERCY OF GOD
Micah 7:18-20. Who is a God like unto you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon its; he will subdue our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which you have sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
TO acquire the knowledge of God we must study his word; but we should mark also particularly his works: e.g. of creation, providence, and redemption. The passage, if taken separately, is grand; but with the context it is infinitely more sublime. The prophet has been contemplating the glory of the latter day, and it is with an especial reference to that that he breaks forth into these strains of grateful adoration.
Let us consider the words,
I. As uttered by the prophet in the prospect of the mercies that await his people in the latter day—
To enter fully into his views we must mark,
1. The dispensation which he has been contemplating—
He opens the subject of the Millennium, first, in a large and general view, (ch. 4:1–4.) He next shows the blessings of which the Jews shall partake in that day, (verse 6, 7.) This, though accomplished in part at Babylon, (verse 10.) is certainly posterior to Christ's advent, as the events (verse 11–13.) show. It is to take place under the Christian dispensation, (ch. 5:2–4.) At this time the Jews are destined to act an important part, as God's instruments for the conversion of the Gentiles, (verse 7.) and for the subjugation of all opposers, (verse 8, 9.) In the chapter before us, he represents, in moving terms, the Jews anticipating this period, (7:8–10.) Then, confirming this expectation as certainly to be fulfilled, (verse 11–13.) he prays for it, (verse 14.) To this prayer God returns a gracious answer, to the utter surprise and dismay of surrounding nations, (verse 15–17.)
2. The soliloquy in the contemplation of it—
Picture to yourselves the prophet, or any other Jew, contemplating this event. He breaks forth into a devout ascription of praise, in a general view of the dispensation, (verse 18.): in a view of the particular mercies that shall be given under it, (verse 19.): in a view of the great result, (verse 20.).
Now we may with propriety consider the words,
II. As uttered by a Christian in the review of his own daily experience—
Let us contemplate God in,
1. His mercy and loving-kindness—
His people are a remnant, (Romans 11:5.) Towards them he exercises most stupendous mercy, "passing by their transgression," "not retaining his anger," "pardoning their iniquities." He does so, purely because he "delights in mercy." To him judgment is a "strange act." He "waits to be gracious." He deliberates long before he casts off any, (Hosea 6:4.) He never casts off but with reluctance. (Luke 19:41.) If he prevail over any, he rejoices. (Luke 15.) How can we but exclaim, "Who, etc."
2. His power and grace—
He continues with astonishing forbearance. They are prone to backslide from him; but he leaves them not to eat the fruit of their misconduct. He "turns again," after hiding himself for a season, (Isaiah 54:7; Isaiah 57:16-18.) He restores to them the light of his countenance; nor does he pardon only, but "subdues their sins." His very hidings are with a view to embitter sin. He renews their strength when faint, (Isaiah 40:29-31.); and gradually "perfects the work he has begun." To complete all, he "casts their sins into the sea;" "all," without exception, into "the depths" of the sea. Who can survey all this, and not exclaim, "Who, etc."
3. His truth and faithfulness—
His promises, as made to Abraham and his seed, are "mercy." As confirmed to Jacob and his Church, they are "truth." They have been established with the sanction of an "oath." And they will be fulfilled "to all the seed." How will every glorified soul admire the Divine procedure in that day!: What energy will the sight of sins forgiven, of backslidings healed, of glory bestowed, give to the exclamation in the text!
Let the careless, consider against whom their sins are committed—
Will they never pause, and exclaim, as Joseph? (Genesis 39:9.
Let the penitent reflect on the description given of God in the Scriptures—
Nor let them judge of him by the dictates of sense. Isaiah 55:8-9.
Let the sincere believer apply to himself that congratulation (Deuteronomy 33:29.)
Let him get a becoming frame of mind; and let him adopt that triumphant boast. Isaiah 25:9.
Let all contemplate the joy that will be felt when Jews and Gentiles all join in this ascription of praise.
GOD'S MERCY, AS RESERVED FOR THE JEWS
Micah 7:18-20. Who is a God like unto you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities: and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which you have sworn unto our fathers from the days of old This Discourse is added to the foregoing, not only in order to elucidate it more fully, but especially in order to mark the connection of the text with the future restoration and conversion of the Jews.
TO acquire the knowledge of God, we must examine what is spoken of him in his word; and more especially the delineation which he has given of his own character, when, by an audible voice, he revealed himself to Moses Exodus 34:6-7. Yet we must by no means overlook his character, as it is embodied in his works. In the works of creation, of providence, and of redemption, all his perfections are displayed; and in such a way as to make the deepest possible impression on our minds. The passage which we have just read, if taken apart from the context, exhibits Jehovah in the most glorious colors: but if we take it in connection with the whole preceding prophecy, from which it results, it will present us with a view of the Deity surprisingly grand. It is evident that the prophet has been meditating on the Divine character as displayed in some stupendous acts of mercy, either already exercised, or designed to be exercised at some future period. Let us, then consider,
I. The dispensation which is here contemplated—
The Prophet Micah enters very fully into the subject of the Millennium, and opens it as circumstantially, especially as far as the Jewish nation are interested in it, as any prophet whatever. Let us hear what he says respecting it,
1. In the former part of his prophecy—
In the fourth chapter he opens the subject nearly in the same terms with the Prophet Isaiah: "In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not rise against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken it Micah 4:1-4 with Isaiah 2:2-4."
He then proceeds to show the blessings of which the Jews shall partake in that day: "In that day, says the Lord, will I assemble her that halts; and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted: and I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever Micah 4:6-7." This, he adds, shall be accomplished, in part, by their deliverance from Babylon Micah 4:10; but yet, in immediate connection with that, he foretells events which were not accomplished at that period, nor shall be until the time fixed for their future restoration to their own land: "Now, also, many nations 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 the sheaves into the floor. Arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs brass; and you shall beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth Micah 4:11-13." Nothing like this was effected at any time subsequent to the Babylonish Captivity: and therefore we must, of necessity, look to some future period for its accomplishment. But the prophet himself goes on to declare, that these glorious events were not to take place until after that the Messiah should have been born at Bethlehem: "You, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travails has brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he (the Messiah) shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they (the Jewish remnant) shall abide: for NOW shall he be great unto the ends of the earth Micah 4:2-4. This shall be the time for the universal reign of Christ: at which time the Jews are destined to act a most conspicuous part upon the theater of the world; being, on the one hand, God's instruments for the conversion of the Gentile world; and, on the other hand, his agents for the destruction of all who shall oppose his will: "The remnant of Jacob shall be 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. The remnant of Jacob shall also be among the Gentiles, in the midst of many people, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he go through, both treads down and tears in pieces, and none can deliver. Your hand shall be lifted up upon your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off Micah 5:7-9." Now, in this passage we have a complete summary of all that shall take place in that day. The whole world of Jews and Gentiles shall be converted to Christ; but the Jews shall lead the way, and be God's honored instruments for bringing in the Gentiles; by whom, in the first instance, they shall be fiercely opposed; but over whom they shall triumph with immense slaughter, and with the same facility as a lion triumphs over a flock of sheep.
Not less fully does the prophet speak also,
2. In the chapter before us—
He represents, in very moving terms, the Jew anticipating this blessed period: "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord your God? My eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down, as the mire of the streets verse 8–10." Then, after confirming this expectation as certainly to be fulfilled at the time appointed for the termination of their present sufferings verse 11–13, he himself cries to God in their behalf: "Feed your people with your rod, the flock of your heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old verse 14." And to this prayer God returns a most gracious answer; declaring, that he would interpose for them as wonderfully and effectually as he did for them at the time of their deliverance from Egypt, to the utter surprise and dismay of all surrounding nations: "According to the days of your coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvelous things. The nations shall see, and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf: they shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall move out of their holes, like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of you verse 15–17."
Thus it is that the words of my text are introduced: they arise altogether out of the foregoing subject, and ought to be considered in connection with it. Let us then next mark,
II. The soliloquy uttered in the contemplation of it—
The soliloquy may be regarded as proceeding from the prophet himself, or from any pious and believing Jew.
Picture to yourselves, then, a Jew contemplating this event—
He breaks forth into a devout ascription of praise to God: first, in a general view of the dispensation; then, in a view of the particular mercies that shall be given under it; and, lastly, in a view of the great result. Let us follow him in each successive step.
'Who is a God like unto you, O Lord, who deal thus with the remnant of your heritage? As your "heritage," we were bound to serve you: and as a "remnant" preserved from so many dangers, we were still more bound to manifest the greatness of our obligations to you. Yet have we been a rebellious people from the day that you called us. Our sins against you have been greatly multiplied: but most of all have we deserved your wrathful indignation for our rejection of your only dear Son, whom you did send to be our Savior and Redeemer. I am amazed that you should "pardon such iniquities," and "pass by such inconceivable transgressions." But I trace it to your own love of mercy. It would have been impossible but that you must have "retained your anger" forever, if it had depended on us to get it removed: but within your own bosom you have found motives which could have been found no where else: and I am beyond measure astonished that ever you should contemplate such mercy towards your offending people.
'The things which are so indispensable to our happiness, you have of your own mercy decreed to give. Though we have so provoked you to anger by our unparalleled iniquities, yet "will you turn again, and have compassion upon us;" subduing for us the sins which have led us captive, and "casting into the very depths of the sea" the sins which have subjected us to your displeasure. Once we saw our enemies subdued, and dead upon the sea-shore: and our sins, which are infinitely more formidable enemies, will you treat in the same way, making us happy monuments of your unbounded power and grace. O Lord, I look forward to that blissful period with eager expectation, and adore you from my inmost soul, that you have such blessings in reserve for us.
'Then shall all your promises to our nation be fulfilled in their utmost extent. To Abraham they were the fruits of "mercy," of free, unmerited mercy altogether: but to Jacob they were memorials of your "truth;" seeing that you had made them over to Abraham and his seed, by covenant and by oath. Then shall all that you have "sworn" receive its full accomplishment. Then shall the seed of Abraham possess, to a far greater extent than they have ever yet done, their promised inheritance; and, at the same time, "in him shall also all the nations of the earth be blessed." When I look forward to these glorious events, I am altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise.'
But, as we also are interested in this salvation, let us also contemplate God's perfections as displayed in it—
Here we may see distinctly marked, yes, written as with a sun-beam, his mercy and loving-kindness, his power and grace, his truth and faithfulness.
How greatly have we provoked him to anger, times without number! Yet "will he not retain his anger against us," but "will pass by our transgressions," yes, and "pardon them," and "blot them out as a morning cloud;" and solely "because he delights in mercy." It shall be in him altogether an act of sovereign love. Nothing have we ever done to merit it; nor is it possible for us, by anything that we ever can do, to merit it: but the motives which he cannot derive from us, he will find within his own bosom: "he will have mercy, because he will have mercy; and will have compassion, because he will have compassion."
And what is there that he will not do for us? Truly, there is no limit either to his power or grace. Has the guilt of sin subjected us to his heavy displeasure? and is it like a millstone around our necks, ready to sink us into the bottomless abyss of Hell? He will cancel it; and "put it away from us, as far as the east is from the west;" yes, "and cast it behind him irrecoverably into the very depths of the sea;" so that to us, no less than unto the Jews, shall that gracious promise be fulfilled, "The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve Jeremiah 50:20;" Nor is this all. He well knows that sin, if suffered to retain its power over us, would still be, as it were, a Hell within us, and infallibly plunge us into everlasting perdition: he therefore takes to him his mighty power, and, by the effectual operation of his grace, subdues it in us; so that we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and are "transformed into his image in righteousness and true holiness." Thus, while he delivers us from Hell, "he makes us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
And where is the person who ever laid hold on his covenant, and has not had it fulfilled to him in all its parts? No, truly: God has said, "I will never leave you; never, never forsake you:" and he is faithful to his word; nor has one jot or tittle of it ever failed. No, blessed Lord; to the final accomplishment of your promises we look with unutterable joy. And, when we are once arrived at that promised land, the heavenly Canaan, O! what wonders of truth and faithfulness shall we have to contemplate! We shall view the acquisition doubtless as "mercy," in the first instance; but we shall view it also as "truth:" for "you have sworn" to give it to your believing people: and you did "confirm your promise with an oath, on purpose that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for you to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to the hope that is set before us Hebrews 6:18." Lord, keep us unto that day; and "fulfill unto every one of us that word wherein you have caused us to put our trust!"
A reflection or two shall close our subject—
1. If such be the prospects of the Jew, in what a noble work are they engaged who are helping forward the attainment of them!
God sent a Moses and an Aaron to bring his people out of Egypt. And shall he use no means to gather them from their present dispersion, and to restore them to the enjoyment of his favor? The whole Scriptures attest the contrary; and assuredly, when the time draws near, he will find persons to send to them, and will bless to the intended end their benevolent endeavors. What then should be our state in reference to them? Should we not say with the Prophet Isaiah, "Here am I: send me?" It is much to be lamented, that the Christian world feel a backwardness to this work, far beyond any which they feel in reference to the Gentiles. But why is this? Has not God engaged to bring them to himself? And is he not as able to effect their salvation, as the salvation of the Gentile world? The truth is, that this backwardness is a remnant of that hatred and contempt which have subsisted against the Jews these eighteen hundred years, and have not even yet been dispelled by the kindlier offices of love. It is a scandal, however, to the Christian world, that this neglect of them should continue, in the midst of all the light which we now enjoy. It is a shame to ministers that they do not more unfold to their people the purposes of God respecting them; and to private Christians, that they never study the Prophecies relating to them. But I appeal to all of you: Is it not desirable that the glorious prospects of the Jews should be realized, and that Almighty God should receive the glory due unto his name? If, when Israel was saved from Egypt, they sang, "Who is like unto you, O God, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" should we not labor, that more elevated songs of praise should be poured forth to him on account of that infinitely greater deliverance reserved for them? I call upon you, then, to unite in this blessed work. I call upon you to anticipate the event with confidence, and to help it forward with zeal.
2. If such be the feelings of a Jew, in the mere anticipation of those promised mercies, what should ours be, who are in the actual possession of them?
Thanks be to God! we are in possession of them. We know what it is to have "our iniquities forgiven, and our sins covered:" yes, we know what it is to "have peace with God, and to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Greatly as God has been provoked by us, we know that "his anger is turned away from us, and that he has comforted us." True it is, that, at the period before referred to, these blessings will be enjoyed in a far higher degree; for, "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun 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 Isaiah 30:26." But still our privileges are exceeding great: and we should contemplate them, not with indifference or with some transient emotions of joy: no; we should feel ourselves altogether overwhelmed with a sense of God's goodness to us; and, in the spirit of our minds at least, if not in the audible expressions, we should be saying day and night, "O God, who is like unto you?" I must say, that, if this be not our state, we are far from appreciating God's mercy to us as we ought. And I call on all of you so to meditate on his kindness to you, that your present sense of it may be a foretaste of Heaven, and your songs of thanksgiving be a recital of those which you shall sing forever in the realms of bliss.
I know, indeed, that the trembling sinner feels it difficult to view God in this endearing light. But I would ask of any one, what evidence would you wish for of God's disposition to forgive sin? Can you have greater evidence of it than in God's promised return to his outcast people, even to that people who imbrued their hands in the blood of his only dear Son, and have for so many hundreds of years cast all possible odium upon his name? I say then, Hear the Jew speaking in my text, and adopt his language in reference to yourselves. And know, that, as God will return to the Jewish people in due season, so shall "mercy rejoice over judgment," in reference to you: and, as they shall yet become most distinguished monuments of his mercy and truth, so shall mercy and truth abound towards you, and God be glorified in you forever and ever. If there be here any one who is ready to suppose that the magnitude and long-continuance of his sins preclude a possibility of obtaining mercy, I would say to him, Though you had upon your own individual soul all the sins that ever were committed by the whole Jewish nation, if you had even murdered the Son of God himself, and persisted in your hatred of him eighteen hundred years; yet, on your desiring to obtain mercy, you should find God all that he is represented to you in the text. Let this saying sink down into your ears; and trembling as you are, your sorrows shall all be turned into joy.