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others connected with them-The times of Elijah were extremely degenerate: yet then, though he thought himself the only servant of God in Israel, there were seven thousand others that had never bowed their knee to Baal-Though therefore the knowledge of God has frequently been almost extinct, yet there never has been a period when he had not some to be his witnesses in the ages in which they lived-]
But at no time has he had more than a little remnant
[When first the twelve tribes were established in Canaan, piety prevailed among that nation more than at any other period: but there is no reason to imagine that the godly bore any proportion to the ungodly; nor, if their whole nation had been pious, did they bear any proportion to the world at large
-There were many converted in the days of the apostles; and religion flourished far beyond what it ever did before or since that time: yet Christians were even then "like the gleanings of the olive, one or two upon the topmost boughs”—The name of Christ is indeed very widely spread; but if his professed followers be sifted, how little true wheat would be found in comparison of the chaff!-Truly it is "a little flock," "a remnant according to the election of grace;" "though the nominal Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is only a small remnant that will eventually be saved"a_]
Their state however is peculiarly happy; for
II. While they honour God, God greatly exalts and blesses them
The terms used in the text import that God will be to his people a source of
[A crown is the highest honour to which an human being can aspire in this world-But how poor and contemptible is such a dignity, when compared with that which God confers on his people!" He is not ashamed to be called their God:" He acknowledges them as "his sons and daughters:" they are the very "members of Christ's body," yea, they "are one spirit" together with him-While monarchs are surrounded by their nobles, the saints are attended by holy angels, who, as "ministering spirits, are sent from heaven to minister unto them". When they go hence they have a crown of righteousness, and a throne of glory on which they shall sit with Christ at the right hand of God, in whose presence they shall "reign as kings and priests for ever and ever"-"Such honour have all his saints"-]
a Rom. xi. 5. and ix. 27.
[A crown is deemed the brightest ornament to the person that wears it; nor is any thing wanting to it that can increase its splendour-This idea is particularly marked in that a crown is called "a diadem of beauty"-But God puts a far brighter ornament around the head of his people: "He beautifies them with salvation;" He encircles them, as he did Moses of old, with rays of his own glory, insomuch that "his own glory is seen upon them"-A meek and quiet spirit is but a single grace out of many, with which they are endued; yet that is "an ornament of great value even in the sight of God" himself; what then must be the constellation of graces that form their character?-But what can God himself say more than this, that they are "renewed after his own image in righteousness and true holiness," and that they are progressively "changed into his image from glory to glory by the agency of his almighty Spirit?" ornament of a glittering bauble worthy to be compared with this?-]
[Men conceive that the possession of imperial honours must of necessity contribute greatly to their happiness: hence, if such a station be within their reach, there is nothing which men will not do to attain it-But supposing that all the satisfaction which men expect from their elevation were invariably attached to it, how much greater happiness does God 'impart to his chosen people! Their "peace passeth all understanding;" their "hope is full of immortality;" their "joy is unspeakable and glorified"—They are not indeed exempt from sorrows; but they have "joys with which the stranger intermeddleth not"-No tongue can declare the comfort they sometimes feel in a sense of the divine favour; nor can the heart of man conceive those joys which are prepared for them at the right hand of God-]
[The idea of security attaches to the condition of a king, because, the instant that he is in danger, there are thousands at his command to rally round the throne, and to expose their lives in his defence-But if " the Lord of Hosts himself be our crown," then are we secure indeed-And has he not said that "He standeth round about his people;" that "their place of defence is the munition of rocks;" that "He himself will be to them as a broad and rapid river that can neither be passed nor navigated;" yea, that "He will be a wall of fire round about them," not only to protect their persons, but
to destroy all that would invade their peace?-Has he not assured us that "neither the power nor the policy of hell shall ever prevail against them?" and that "none shall ever pluck them out of his hand?"-Having HIM, they have all-If "none can separate them from his love," their honour and beauty, their happiness and security are as firm and immovable as God himself-]
1. How desirable is it to be found among the little remnant!
[Look at the greatest monarch upon earth; and the condition of Lazarus is infinitely preferable to his, unless he be among the number of God's people-Created glory, like that of Samaria, is but "a fading flower:" but if we belong to God, we have a portion, substantial in its nature, and everlasting in its duration-Let us then seek this portion with all earnestness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus-]
2. How little should we regard the scoffs and contempt of men!
[It is indeed "a small matter to be judged of man's judgment"-If God commend us as wise, we need not be concerned though men should account us fools-Time will shew, who are the truly wise, they who through the love of the world or the fear of man displease their God, or they, who face the frowns of the world and sacrifice its interests in order that they may please him-Indeed the ungodly themselves will soon alter their sentiments respecting these things-And, if a king upon his throne would not regard the ravings of a maniac who should conceit himself to be arrayed in royal majesty, so neither need we regard those who enjoy only the appearance of happiness, while we possess God himself for our crown of glory, and our diadem of beauty-]
3. How are we bound in our respective spheres to honour and glorify our God!
[Can we reflect a moment on such transcendent mercies, and not feel it our duty to walk worthy of them?—If any ask, How shall I requite the Lord? We answer, "Be ye a crown of glory and a royal diadem in his hand"—It is true, we cannot add to his honour, beauty, happiness, or security; but, as a diadem is that on which a prince looks with peculiar complacency, so may we be objects of pleasure and delight in the hand of our God-Let us then endeavour so to walk that we may be his boast; so to shine, that it may be seen to whom we belong; and so to honour him, that he may acknowledge us as his in the day that he shall make up his jewels-]
e. Wisd. v. 3-6.
f Isai. lxii. 3.
CLXX. CHRIST THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL.
Isai. xlvi. 12, 13. Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness. I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.
THEY who deny or roubt the existence of a supreme Being, may discover his eternal power and Godhead by the works of creation, and ascertain his infinite superiority above all false gods by the numberless predictions which he has given by his prophets, and the never failing ac complishment of them in their appointed season-To this last criterion God himself refers idolaters in the chapter before us, and challenges them to bring any of their false deities, who should be able to stand in competition with him-To us, who acknowledge his unrivalled glory, there is one thing which displays, in a wonderful manner, the transcendent riches of his grace; I mean, the freeness with which his offers of mercy are made even to the most abandoned of mankind-This remark obviously arises from the words of our text; and will be fully illustrated by considering
I. The characters addressed
The words, in their primary meaning, are intended to describe those who were unhumbled by the judgments inflicted on them in the Babylonish captivity, and unaffected with his promises of deliverance from it-As applied to us, they comprise two common characters
1. Those who feel no remorse for their past sins
[All must acknowledge that they have sinned against God, and that, as sinners, they ought to humble themselves before' him-But how many never call their past ways to remembrance, or say with themselves, what have I done! Their sins give them no uneasiness: instead of mourning over their offences, they palliate them; and, instead of imploring mercy at God's hands, they deny that they have any need to deprecate his wrath and indignation—And must not such people be called "stout-hearted?"-If God himself complains of those, who represent it as a vain thing to serve the Lord, That "their words are stout against him," surely the same complaint may
justly be made against those who practically declare his service to be a needless yoke, and an intolerable burthen-]
2. Those who are unconcerned about their eternal salvation
[Many, alas! are as improvident about the future as they. are unconcerned about the past-They will profess indeed that heaven is a desirable portion; but they will never enquire seriously whether they be in the way to attain it; nor ever exert themselves in earnest to secure it-If an empty wish, or a formal round of duties, will suffice for the acquisition of it, they will be content to pay the price: but if they are to run as in a race, and to fight as in a single combat in order to have it awarded to them, they do not think it worth the contestWhat now must we say of these, but that they are "far from righteousness and salvation?"-Surely, if they be far from a concern about these things, much more must they be from the attainment of them-]
When we reflect upon the characters here addressed, how shall we stand amazed at
II. The address itself
The prophet, in these words, foretold both the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the coming of their Messiah to save the world-To sinners of our day the text declares
1. That God has provided a Saviour for them
[Christ is undoubtedly that "salvation whom God has placed in Zion," and whom we are commanded to call," The Lord our righteousness"-Him has "God sent into the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”— — —Hearken to this, ye stout-hearted: though ye have despised your God, your God has not despised you; but has pitied your fallen state, and made provision for your restoration to happinessYes; for the angels that fell, he instantly "prepared" a place of unutterable and everlasting torment: but for you he prepared a Saviour, even his ouly dear Son-And shall not this make your obdurate hearts relent? Or will ye receive such stupendous grace in vain?-]
2. That God now offers salvation to them
[This salvation is nigh to all of us, and the tidings of it are now sounding in our ears- -It is placed in this our Zion as much as ever it was in Zion of old-Christ is now present in his ordinances according to his promise; and will be so even to the end of the world-At this very hour he "proclaims
c Matt. xxv. 41.