« PreviousContinue »
an account of his thoughts of his people of old: “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people,” Deut. vii. 7. God made no reckoning of numbers; he chose that people that was fewest of all. He esteemed well of them, when they were but "a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers," Ps. cv. 12. You know what it cost David in being seduced by Satan into the contrary opinion. He thought the glory of his people had been in their number, and caused them to be reckoned; but God taught him his error, by taking off with a dreadful judgment no small portion of the number he sought after. There is nothing more common in the Scripture, than for the Lord to speak contempt of the multitude of any people, as a thing of nought; and he takes pleasure to confound them by weak and despised means. Is it in their wisdom and cour sel, their understanding for the ordering of their affairs? Is that their glory? Why, see how God derides the prince of Tyrus, who was lifted
up with an apprehension hereof, and counted himself as God upon that account, Ezek. xxvii. 3-6, &c. The issue of all is, “ Thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slays thee.” God will let him see, in his ruin and destruction, what a vain thing that was which he thought his glory. Might I dwell upon it, I could evince unto you these two things :
1. That whereas the end of all human wisdom in nations, or the rulers of them, is to preserve human society in peace and quietness, within the several bounds and allotments that are given unto them by the providence of God, it so comes to pass, for the most part, through the righteous judgment and wise disposal of God, that it hath a contrary end, and bringeth forth contrary effects throughout the world. Do not the inhabitants of the earth generally owe all their disturbance, sorrow, and blood to the wise contrivance of a few men, not knowing how to take the law of their proceedings from the mouth of God, but laying their deep counsels and politic contrivances in a subserviency to their lusts and ambition? And what glory is there in that, which almost constantly brings forth contrary effects to its own proper end and intendment?
2. That God delights to mix a spirit of giddiness, error, and folly in the counsels of the wise men of the world; making them reel and stagger in their way like a drunken man, that they shall not know what to do, but commonly, in their greatest concernments, fix upon things as devoid of true reason and sound wisdom as any children or fools could close withal. “He taketh the wise in their own crafti. ness;
and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong,” Job v. 13, 14;—50 at large, Isa. xix. 11-14. And now where is their glory? I could give instances of both these, and that plentifully, in the days and seasons that have passed over our own heads. The like also may be said of the strength, the power, the armies of any people,-if their number and wisdom be vain, be no glory; their strength, which is but the result or exurgency of their number and wisdom, must needs be so also. But you have all this summed up together, Jer. ix. 23, 24, “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD.” It is neither wisdom, nor might, nor riches, that is our glory; but our interest in Jehovah only.
This, I say, is in the presence of Christ only.
(1.) In respect of the dispensation of his gospel amongst them, the profession of it, and subjection to the ordinances thereof. The gospel of Christ is a blessed gospel,—a glorious gospel in itself, and unto them that embrace it. But yet this profession, separated from the root from which it ought to spring, is not the glory of any people; Christ is not their glory who are his shame. Empty profession is the shame of Christ in the world, and shall not be others' glory. The apostle tells us that this may consist with a litter of unclean lusts; making them in whom it is abominable to God and man, 2 Tim. iii. 4, 5. If the bare profession of the truth would render a nation glorious, oh, how glorious were this nation! So would have been the people of old, who cried, “The temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord !" But when men profess the truth of Christ, but in their hearts and ways maintain and manifest an enmity to the power of that truth, and to all of Christ that is in reality in the world,—this is no glory.
(2.) Christ is present with a people in and by his Spirit,—dwelling in their hearts by his Spirit and faith, uniting them to himself. I do not distinguish this from the former, as inconsistent with it; for though the former may be without this, yet where this is there will be the former also. Profession may be without union; but union will bring forth profession. There may be a form of godliness without power; but where the power is, there will be the appearance also. Now, when Christ is thus present with a people,—that is, (when) they are united to him by his Spirit,—they are members of his mystical body; --that is their glory. Be they few or many in a nation that are so, they are the glory of that nation, and nothing else: and where there is the most of them, there is the most glory; and where they are diminished, there the glory is eclipsed.Christ mystical, the head and his body, is all the glory that is in the world. If any nation be glorious and honourable above others, it is because of this presence of
Christ in that nation. Christ is the glory of his saints, Isa. iv. 2,in him they glory, Isa. xlv. 25; and the saints are Christ's glory, 2 Cor. viii. 23. They are the glory of Christ, and he glories in them; as God of Job, to Satan: “Hast thou considered my servant Job?" chap. i, 8. He doth, as it were, glory in him against the wickedness of the world; and Christ in them, and they in him, are all the glory of this world. So Zech. ii. 8, Christ was in the pursuit of the collection of his people from their dispersion. What seeks he after, -what looks he for? He goes " after the glory;" even to find out them who are God's glory in the world.
Now this is the glory of any people, upon a threefold account.
[1.] This alone makes them honourable and precious before God. So says God of them, Isa. xliü. 1, "I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine;"—those are they of whom I spake. What then? Verse 4, “ Thou art precious in my sight, thou art honourable, and I have loved thee." How doth God manifest his valuation of them? Verse 3, Why, he will give all the world, — the greatest, mightiest, wealthiest nations, for them; verse 5, all is as nothing in comparison of them who are his portion, and the lot of his inheritance. The Lord keep this alive upon your hearts, that that may be in your eyes the glory of this nation, on the account whereof it is precious to God, and honourable in his sight.
[2.] Because this presence of Christ makes men comely and excellent in themselves, with what eye soever the world may look upon them. The whole world, out of Christ, lies in evil, -under the curse of God and defilement of sin. In all the glittering shows of their wealth and riches, in the state and magnificence of their governments, the beauty of their laws and order (as they relate to their persons), they are, in the eye of God, a filthy and an abominable thing,—a thing that his soul loatheth. Curse and sin will make any thing to be so. But now Christ is to them, and in them, beautiful and glorious, Isa. iv. 2. Christ is so in himself, and he is so unto them, and makes them to be so. There is through him beauty, and excellency, and comeliness, --every thing that may make them lovely and acceptable. That the world looks not on them as such, is not their fault, but the world's misery. It looked on their master-Christ himself, the brightness of his Father's glory, who is altogether lovely, the chiefest of ten thousand—with no other eye, Isa. liii. 2. They are so in themselves, and are so to Christ. Being exposed, indeed, to many temptations, oftentimes they are made black and sully (sullied] by them; but yet they are comely still, Cant. i. 5. The ways whereby they are made black, for the most part we have expressed, verse 6; when the sun shines on them, and they are made keepers of the vineyard, it comes upon them. Prosperity and public employment oftentimes so sully them, that they
are made black to the reproach of the world; but yet to Christ, who forgives and washes them, they are comely. Yea, this is all the excellency that is in the world. Sin, with honour, with wealth, with power, with wisdom, is a deformed and contemptible thing :-it is grace only that is beautiful and glorious; it is the gracious only that are excellent in the earth, Ps. xvi. 3.
[3.] This alone makes any truly useful unto others; and that either for preservation or prosperity. 1st. Here lies the preservation of any nation from ruin. Isa
. Ixv. 8, “Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.” This is the blessing in the cluster, the hidden and secret blessing, for the sake whereof the whole is not destroyed. The “remnant" left by the Lord of hosts, Isa. i. 9,—that keeps the whole from being as Sodom or Gomorrah. If Elisha, a servant of the Lord, told the king of Israel, in his distress, that if he had not regarded the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, he would not so much as have spoken to him; how much more will the Lord himself let a people know, in their distress, that were it not for the regard he hath to his secret ones, he would not take the least notice as to relief of them, or their concernments ! Sodom could not be destroyed until Lot was delivered. The whole world owes its preservation and being to them, whom they make it their business to root out of it. They are as the foolish woman, that pulls down her own house with both her hands. It is not your councils,-you know how they have been divided, entangled, ensnared; it is not your armies, as such,—what have they been, to oppose against the mighty floods that have risen up in this nation? and they also have been as a reed driven to and fro with the wind (mankind is no better; John the Baptist says it of himself);- but it is this presence of Christ in and with his, that hath been the preservation of England, in the midst of all the changes and revolutions that we have been exercised withal, Mic. v. 5.
2dly. Not only preservation, but prosperity is from hence also. Mic. v. 7, “And 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 tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.” It is the remnant of Jacob of whom he speaks; that is, this people of Christ, with whom he is so present, as hath been manifested. And where are they? They are in the midst of many people, in their inside,—in their bowels. They are woven, by their relations and employments, into the bowels of the nations; and on that account, there is neither this nor any nation about us, but shall spin out their mercies or their misery from their own bowels. Their providential
fates lie in them; as is their deportment towards this remnant, such will their issue be. But what shall this remnant do? Why, it shall be “ as dew from the LORD," and "as showers on the It shall be that alone which makes them fruitful, flourishing, and prosperous. It may be, it will be so, provided there be good assistance, counsel, and strength, to carry on their affairs: yea, blessed be God for councils, and for armies; he hath made them useful to us. But the truth is, the blessing of this dew depends not on them; it tarrieth not for man; it waiteth not for the sons of men. It will be a blessing, let men do what they will; it depends not on their uncertain and unstable counsel,-on their weak and feeble strength. This remnant is as the ark in the house of Obed-edom, as Joseph in the house of Potiphar,—all is blessed and prospered for their sakes. It is not the glorious battlements, the painted windows, the crouching antics that support a building, but the stones that lie unseen in or upon
the earth. It is often those who are despised and trampled on that bear up the weight of a whole nation. All the fresh springs of our blessings are in Zion.
It were easy to manifest, that in all our late revolutions we have turned on this binge. According as the presence of Christ with his people, in the power of his Spirit, hath received entertainment in these nations, so hath our state and condition been. For many years before the beginning of these troubles, the land had been full of oppression; I mean, in respect to the people of God. Poverty, imprisonment, dangers, banishment, reproaches, were their portion. God was long patient. At length the height of their adversaries came to this, that they set not themselves so much against their persons or ways, as against the Spirit of Christ in and with them: that was made their reproach, that the by-word wherewith they were despised in the mouths of their adversaries, and the profane multitude. When things were come to this, that the very presence of Christ with his people was made the direct object of the hatred of men, the Lord could bear it no longer; but sware by himself that time should be given them no more. In this very house he raised up saviours and deliverers on mount Zion, to judge the mount of Edom. And how did he carry on this work? Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, as Zech. iv. 6; even by that very Spirit which had been reviled and despised. Give me leave to say, the work of judging this nation was carried on by the presence of the Spirit of Christ with his in faith and prayer. It was not by prudence of councils, or strength of armies above that of our enemies, that we prevailed; but by faith and prayer: and if any one be otherwise minded, I leave him for his resolution to the judgment of the great day, when all transactions shall be called over again. The adversaries themselves, I am sure, acknowVOL VIII.