« PreviousContinue »
principle maintained and established, that is here laid down,—and the just rights of the nation laid in a way of administration, suited unto its preservation and furtherance, I shall not easily be cast down from my hopes, that amongst us—poor, unprofitable, unthankful creatures as we are—we may yet see the fruit of righteousness to be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for
For those, then, who shall cast their eye on this paper, I would beg of them to lay aside all those prejudices against persons or things, which their various contexture in our public affairs may possibly have raised in them. I know how vain, for the most part, expectations of prevailing in such a desire by naked requests are; but sick men must be groaning, though they look for no relief thereby. Wherefore, committing it into that hand wherein lie also your hearts and mine, I shall commend it, for your use, unto the sovereign grace of Him, who is able to work all your present works for you, and, which is more, to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified. So prays
Your Servant in the work of
Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel,
THE GLORY AND INTEREST OF NATIONS PROFESSING THE
“ Upon all the glory shall be a defence.”—Isa, iv. 5.
The design of this chapter is to give in relief against outward perplexing extremities, from gospel promises, and the presence of Christ with his people in those extremities. The next intendment of the words in the type seems to relate to the deliverance of the people of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the presence of God amongst them upon their return;—God frequently taking occasion from thence to mind them of the covenant of grace, with the full ratification and publication of it by Christ, as is evident from Jer. xxxi. and xxxii., and sundry other places.
As to our purpose, we have considerable in the chapter,—the persons to whom these promises are given; the condition wherein they were; and the promises themselves that are made to them, for their supportment and consolation.
First. The persons intended are the remnant, the escaping, the “evasion of Israel,” as the word signifies, verse 2,—they that are left, that remain, verse 3,—who escape the great desolation that was to come on the body of the people, the furnace they were to pass through. Only, in the close of that verse they have a farther description added of them, from the purpose of God concerning their grace and glory; they are written among the living, or rather, written unto life;—“Every one that is written,” that is, designed, unto life in Jerusalem.
As to the persons, in themselves considered, the application is easy unto this assembly. Are you not the remnant,—the escaping of England? Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Are you not they that are left,—they that remain from great trials and desolations? The Lord grant that the application may hold out, and abide to the end of the prophecy!
Secondly. The condition that this remnant, or escaping, had been in, is laid down in some figurative expressions concerning the smallness of this remnant, or the paucity of them that should escape, and the greatness of the extremities they should be exercised withal. I cannot insist on particulars. It may suffice, that great distresses and calamities are intimated therein; and such have the days of our former trials and troubles been to some of us.
Thirdly. The promises here made to this people, thus escaped from great distresses, are of two sorts :
-Original or fundamental; and then consequential thereon.
1. There is the great spring, or fountain-promise, from which all others, as lesser streams, do flow; and that is the promise of Christ himself unto them, and amongst them, verse 2. He is that “ branch of Jehovah” and that “fruit of the earth” which is there promised. He is the bottom and foundation, the spring and fountain, of all the good that is or shall be communicated unto us; all other promises are but rivulets from that unsearchable ocean of grace and love that is in the promise of Christ;-of which afterward.
2. The promises that are derived and flow from hence may be referred unto three heads:-(1.) Of beauty and glory, verse 2; (2.) Of holiness and purity, verses 3, 4; (3.) Of preservation and safety, verses 5, 6.
My text lies among the last sort; and not intending long to detain you, I shall pass over the others, and immediately close with that of our present concernment.
Now, this promise of verse 5 is of a comprehensive nature, and relates to spiritual and temporal safety or preservation. Godliness, though it be not much believed, yet indeed hath the promise of this life and that which is to come.
I shall a little open the words of the verse, and thereby give light to those which I have chosen peculiarly to insist upon. It is, as I have said, safety and preservation, both spiritual and temporal, that is here engaged for; and concerning it we have considerable,
[1.] The manner of its production. I will create it, saith God. There is a creating power needful to be exerted for the preservation of Zion's remnant. Their preservation must be of God's creation. It is not only, not to be cuced out of aliy other principle, or to be wrought by any other means; but it must, as it were, by the almighty power of God, be brought out of nothing ;—God must create it. At least, as there were two sorts of God's creatures at the beginning, that dark body of matter, whose rise was merely from nothing; and those things which from that dark, confused heap, he made to be other things than what they were therein,-it is of the last sort of creatures, of not of the first. If the preservation of this remnant be not out of nothing, without any means at all, yet it is for the most part from that darkness and confusion of things which contribute very little or nothing towards it. I will create it, saith God; and whilst he continues possessed of his creating power, it shall be well with his Israel
[2.] For the nature of it;—it is here set out under the terms of that eminent pledge of the presence of God with his people in the wilderness, for their guidance and protection in the midst of all their difficulties and hazards, by a pillar of cloud and a flaming fire. This guided them through the sea, and continued with them after the setting up of the tabernacle in the wilderness forty years. The use and efficacy of that pillar, the intendment of God in it, the advantage of the people by it, I cannot stay to unfold: it may suffice, in general, that it was a great and signal pledge of God's presence with them, for their guidance and preservation; that they might act according to his will, and enjoy safety in so doing. Only, whereas this promise here respects gospel times, the nature of the mercy promised is enlarged, and thereby somewhat changed. In the wilderness there was but one tabernacle; and so, consequently, one cloud by day, and one pillar of fire by night, was a sufficient pledge of the presence of God with the whole people. There are now many dwelling-places, many assemblies of mount Zion; and in the enlargement of mercy and grace under the gospel, the same pledge of God's presence and favour is promised to every one of them as was before to the whole. The word we have translated “a dwelling-place,” denotes not a common habitation, but a place prepared for God; and is the same with the assemblies and congregations in the expression following. The sum of all is, God, by his creating power, in despite of all opposition, will bring forth preservation for his people; guiding them in paths wherein they shall find peace and safety.
Only ye may observe the order and dependence of these promises; --the promise of holiness, verse 4, lies in order before that of safety, verse 5. Unless our filth and our blood be purged away by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning, it is in vain for us to look for the pillar and the cloud. If we are not interested in holiness, we shall not be interested in safety;-I mean as it lies in the promise, and is a mercy washed in the blood of Jesus; for as for the peace of the world, I regard it not. Let not men of polluted hearts and defiled hands once imagine, that God cares for them in an especial man
If our filth and our blood, our sin and our corruption, abide upon us, and we are delivered, it will be for a greater ruin; the way unto the cloud and pillar is by the spirit of judgment and burning.
The words of my text are a recapitulation of the whole verse, and are a gospel promise given out in law terms; or a New Testament mercy under Old Testament expressions.
I shall, then, briefly show you these two things:-1st. What is here expressed as to the type and figure; 2dly. What is here intended as to the substance of the mercy promised.
1st. For the figure; by the “glory” and “defence," a double consort, or two pairs of things seem to be intended ;—the ark and the mercy-seat; the tabernacle and the pillar of fire.
For the first,—the ark is oftentimes called the "glory" of God, Ps. lxxviii. 61, “He delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand;"--where he speaks of the surprisal of the ark by the Philistines; which when it was accomplished, Phinehas's wife called her son Ichabod, and said, “ The glory is departed,” 1 Sam. iv. 21. The word which we have rendered “a defence,” properly signifies" a covering;” as was the mercy-seat, the covering of the ark. So that, "Upon the glory shall be a defence," is as much as, Unto you the mercy-seat shall be on the ark; or, You shall have the mercy represented and intimated thereby.
The tabernacle and cloud, or pillar of fire, are also called to mind. So the words are expressive of that figure of God's gracious presence with his people which we have recounted, Exod. xl. 34, " Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” So it continued: the glory of God was in the tabernacle, and the cloud upon it, or over it, as the word here is;
upon all the glory there was a defence.” 2dly. I need not stay to prove that all those things were typical of Christ. He was the “ end of the law,” represented by the ark, which did contain it, Rom. x. 3, 4. He was "the mercy-seat,” as he is called, and said to be, Rom. iii. 25; 1 John ii. 2,-covering the law from the eye of justice, as to those that are interested in him. He was the tabernacle and temple, wherein dwelt the glory of God, and which was replenished with all pledges of his gracious presence.
Apply, then, this promise to gospel times, and the substance of it is comprehended in these two propositions:-1. The presence of Christ with any people, is the glory of any people. This is the glory here spoken of; as is evident to any one that will but read over the second verse, and consider its influence unto these words: branch of the LORD shall be to them beautiful and glorious;” and, “Upon all the glory shall be a defence.” II. The presence of God in special providence over a people, attends the presence of Christ in grace with a people. If Christ, the glory, be with them, a defence shall be upon them; what lies else in allusion to the mercy-seat, not drawn forth in these propositions, may be afterward insisted on.
I. For the first: What, I pray, else should be so? This is their glory, or they have none. Is it in their number, that they are great, many, and populous? God thinks not so, nor did he when he gave