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last visitation of God's afflictive judgment; and it is on this account he suffers their subsequent depression, and brings upon them the times of the last invader, in which their chastisements prove heavy indeed. At any rate, they appear not as yet to have entered into the new-covenant relations with their God. If they have “remembered ” “ Horeb,** they have not thought on Calvary.
We discover this to be their character from the fiftieth Psalm. The great God is there described as coming to judge the world of living men—not at the last day of judgment, after the general resurrection of the dead; in that judgment, there are no “living arraigned ;-but to "judge the nations upon earth." Three classes and descriptions of persons are contemplated, as standing before him : “his saints,” -“beloved ones”—or “the objects of his grace"these are first commanded to be gathered. They stand in that everlasting covenant, which the sacrifice of the death of Jesus has consecrated; these consist of true believers of all nations, “redeemed out of mankind," "a kind of first fruits of his creatures, “and the heavens declare his righteousness, for God is judge himself.” +
But, besides these, there are two other classes of men, Israel, his acknowledged people ; # and “that wicked,” “who hateth instruction,” and casteth “God's words behind him,” and yet presumes “to declare his statutes,” and “take his covenant in his mouth.” This last, I doubt not,
Malachi iv. 4.
+ Ver. 5, 6.
Ver. 7, &c.
§ Ver. 16, &c.
is that great apostate and antichrist of the Christian Church—“that wicked,” “whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”* With respect to his people Israel, the reproof of the Righteous Judge plainly discovers their religious character to be such as we have supposed; very zealous in the external profession of their religion ; but offering sacrifice at their restored altar, with thoughts not more elevated nor more discerning of the spiritual intent of the worship, than if they thought that God “would eat bull's flesh and drink the blood of goats !” +
They are called upon to offer thanksgivingthey are reminded that vows are upon them. This seems to bespeak deliverance from calamities which had recently brought them to convictions and reflections, more “meet for that repentance" to which “the goodness of God was now leading them.” * A time of trouble is again intimated, when they must call again upon their God; who promises, “I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” ||
Again, in the last chapter of Isaiah you have a people dwelling at Jerusalem, when just going to receive her final blessedness, as appears from verse 6, &c. who are expostulated with in language directly parallel with that of the Psalm.
“ Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye
* 2 Thessalonians ii. 8.
+ Ver. 7-13. || Ver. 15.
build unto me? and where is the place of my rest ?” God hath only respect, it follows,“ to the man that is of an humble and contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word.”* Their boast, as it had been in former ages, was evidently, “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these!” But all their sacrifices which they, in their misguided zeal, were offering, were in the holy eyes of the Lord, as the greatest abominations, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man ; he that sacrifices a lamb as if he cut off a dog's neck,” &c. f The bulk of this first restored Israel, our inference was, would be of this base and abject character, most offensive in the eyes of God, and exposed to his indignation, as the fourth verse states. But it appears from the fifth verse that there were amongst them a people that did “tremble at his word;" that they were “hated" and “cast out” for his sake, by their brethren; while these persecuting zealots, however, said, “Let the Lord be glorified.” The issue would be: “But he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”
This is certainly at the eve of the final deliverance and manifestation of glory, as appears from the remainder of the chapter. And in what circumstances this deliverance is brought to the city Jerusalem, is plainly described by another prophet:
Zeph. iii. 11, &c. “In that day thou shalt not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee, an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth, for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
* Ver. 2.
+ Ver. 3.
This prophecy, also, as appears from the sequel, relates to the times immediately antecedent to the manifestation of the king of Zion.
These passages, with others which may be compared with them, will serve to afford us some idea of the character and condition of the people first restored to the land of their fathers. To a great degree the national character is the same as when the sword dispersed them; they are as senseless formalists, and blinded bigots, as when they crucified the Lord of glory. And it is for this cause that, though finally delivered, we see Jerusalem and her people partakers of so large a share in the judgments of the last dreadful times : but still we find there is a remnant in the midst of them, whom their God will chasten, and purify, and make ready as a people prepared for the Lord. And here I would place the ministry of Elijah the prophet “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes ;” conceiving it to be a dispensation which concerns mainly Israel and their land.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Jehovah; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth” or land "with a curse.”—Malachi iv. 5, 6.
The mission of John the Baptist, preceding the first advent, prefigured and symbolized this, “and many
of the children of Israel did he turn unto the Lord his God.” But the general rejection of the meek and lowly Saviour, and his betrayal and murder at that time brought a curse and not a blessing upon the land, under which it lies to this day. But still Elijah shall come first “ before the great and dreadful day” “and restore all things,” shall bring back the hearts of parents and children together, and arrange the survivors of Israel, a people prepared for their appearing Messiah, as Moses arranged them at Mount Zion, when Jehovah descended and the people entered into the first covenant. And this I believe to be " the times of the restitution of all things,” mentioned Acts iïi. 20, 21; compare Matthew xvii. 11; Mark ix. 12; and remark that the same term is used in the original.