Page images
PDF
EPUB

a people of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen the

King, the Lord of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live

coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs

from off the altar : 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips ; and thine iniquity is taken away,

and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall

I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

God, the Father of our spirits, has an unlimited power over them. He can present to our minds objects which have no existence in nature, or impress upon our imaginations the images of things which are not present, with as much force and distinctness as though they were actually before our eyes. He frequently acted thus to his prophets and apostles: When they were to undergo some severe trial, or when some great truth was to be announced to the people, he often vouchsafed to his servants some symbolical representation, which was proper to console and instruct them: “ Hear now'my words, saith the Lord; if there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision.” (Numb. xii. 6.) This mode of communicating the divine will was so usual, that the prophets were for a long time distinguished by the name of

seers.

Isaiah, about to announce to the people some severe denunciations, is honoured by a vision that was well adapted to give him exalted ideas of God, and alacrity in the performance of his duty: We propose, in the ensuing discourse,

I. To explain the several parts of this rision ; and,

II. To show you the practical instructions that are to be derived from it.

Lord God Almighty, who, by the ministry of the seraphim, purified the lips of Isaiah, purify my lips, and instruct me in thy truth! And forbid, gracious Father, that this people, like the nation to which thy prophet was sent, should not understand with their heart, and be converted and healed ;" but do thou accompany this address by the power of the Holy Ghost, and in this place manifest that glory of which the earth is full.

I. We are to explain to you the nature and intent of this vision.

Isaiah is placed in vision by the altar of burntofferings, at the entrance of the temple: the veil separating the most holy from the holy place is removed, and God is seen seated upon his throne, above the ark, in the most holy place, appearing as a splendid monarch, whilst the train* of his robe, indicative of the overflowing of his glory, filled the temple.

St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his gospel, and forty-first verse, informs us that the Lord, whom Isaiah here saw, was the eternal Word, the second person of the Most Adorable Trinity, who afterwards became incarnate for our salvation; and through whom the divine glory is especially manifested, not only to men, but also to the angelic hosts.

*

Although the word train is equivocal in our language, and might here denote either a train of attendant spirits, or the train of a magnificent robe, yet the original (19590) confines it to the latter sense.

VERSE 2 The prophet proceeds in his description : « Above it stood the seraphims : each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did Ay." God is generally represented as attended by crowds of angels. The seraphim who here appear to Isaiah, surrounding the throne of the Most High, constitute one of the chief orders of these blessed spirits. The honourable name which they bear is derived from a word signifying to burn, and denotes the fervour of that zeal for the interests of their Lord, by which they are animated. They appear in human form, except that they have six mystic wings: with twain they cover their faces, not daring to look upon nor able to sustain the flashes of glory and brightness issuing from the throne of God; with twain they cover their feet, in token of their profound reverence for the king of heaven; and with twain they fly with rapidity and joy to execute the orders of God.

VERSE 3. And what is the occupation of these exalted beings, whilst they surround the throne of the Lord ? Are they employed in vain contemplations of their own perfections, or in eulogies on the endowments of each other? No! their thoughts and their praises are all directed towards God; their souls absorbed and lost in considering the immensity and glories of Jehovah, can rest on no other object.

And they cried one unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts : the whole earth is full of his glory." These words give us an exalted idea of the Lord, and were perfectly adapted to that end for which he manifested himself to his prophet. God appeared to Isaiah in order to give him a commission to the Jewish people, condemning them for theit idolatry and guilt, and warning them of the inevitable destruction that would overtake them if they persevered in sin. It was then proper to show them that this Being, whose laws they violated, was infinitely pure and holy, and could not therefore view their transgressions with indifference. And lest they should imagine that his threatenings would be without effect, and that he could not punish so many sinners, the seraphim add, that he is the Lord of Hosts, who has myriads of angels at his command, and whose glory and power appear not only in the temple where there were then such splendid manifestations of them, but also in all the earth. How then shall the guilty escape, if they persevere in their rebellion? The immaculate holiness of God will demand their punishment, and his power will execute, by a single word, all the decrees of his justice.

VERSE 4. The contemplation of the zeal and reverence of the seraphim, of the greatness and purity of the God whom they worshipped, had filled the prophet with humility; but when, in addition to these circumstances, “ the posts of the door moved at the voice of” the seraphim's “cry, and the house was filled with smoke,” he was overwhelmed with consterna: tion and terror; he immediately perceived, from these emblematical representations, that God now appeared as a Judge, and threatened to overturn the temple, which had been profaned, and to pour out his fury upon the people. That the shaking of the posts and the smoke were signs of the approaching judgments of God, is rendered probable by the two following texts, which we select from numbers

of similar import. Amos, representing the Lord ready to exercise his vengeance upon Judah and Israel, says:

" I saw the Lord standing upon the altar, and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake.”. (ix. i.) And David, recounting how God had utterly destroyed all his enemies, says: “ There went a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured.” (Ps. xviii. 8.) The shaking of the posts of the temple, and a cloud of smoke, are, then, prophetical emblems, indicative of approaching judgments. Isaiah, comprehending the sad signification of them, is filled with apprehension, and immediately cries out:

VERSE 5. 6 Wo is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.” The sight of the divine purity had penetrated the prophet with a deep sense of his own guilt, and of the guilt of the Jewish people, and he trembles lest he should perish with his criminal countrymen amidst the approaching desolation. 66 Wo is me, for I am undone,” if thou, Most Holy Lord, comest forth to punish transgression, as these signals of impending judgments assure me: '“ for I am a man of unclean lips;" I am far removed from that purity of heart and life which would render me perfectly conformed to thee, or conformed even to these seraphim; neither can I hope that thy judgments will be averted by the purity of my nation, “ for I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;" I know fully our deep guilt and desert of punishment, “ for I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts ;" and by contrasting our conduct with his holy cha

« PreviousContinue »