« PreviousContinue »
nounced a heavy calamity to come upon Israel under the name of Ephraim, he comforts those of Judah under the name of the residue of his people. They not being so grossly corrupted as the others were, he stays them with this promise ; In that day, saith he, when the other shall be overwhelmed as with a deluge, the Lord of Hosts shall be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.
The promise is made up of three benefits, yet the three are but one ; or rather, one is all the three to them: The Lords of Hosts, it is he that shall be their bonor, wis. dom, and strength; He shall be for a crown, &c. But a word first as to the circumstance of time, In that day.
That sovereign Lord who at first set up the lights of heaven to distinguish times and seasons by their constant motion, and likewise, by his supreme providence ruling the world, hath fixed the periods of states and kingdoms, and decreed their revolutions, their rising, ascending, and their height, with their decline and setting, hath by a special providence determined those changes and vicissitudes that befal his Church. That which the psalmist speaks in bis own particular, Psal. xxxi, 15, holds of each believer, and of the church which they all make up in all ages and places; I said, Thou art my God; my times are in thy handma sure and steady hand indeed,
and therefore he builds bis confidence upon it, ver. 13, They took counsel against me, but I trusted in thee. And upon this, he prays in faith, that the face of God inay shine upon him, and the wicked may be ashamed.
Thus then, as many of you as are looking after a day of mercy to the church of God, pray and believe upon this ground, that the time of it is neither in the frail hands of those that favor and seek it, nor in the hands of those that oppose it, how strong and subtle soever they be, but in his almighty band, who doth in heaven and earth what pleaseth him. If he have said, Now and here will I give a day of refreshment to my people who have long groaned for it, a day of the purity and power of religion—if, I say, this be his purpose, they must have somewhat more than omnipotence, who can hinder it. When his appointed time comes to make a day of deliverance dawn upon his church, after their long night either of affliction, or of defection, or both, they who contrive against that day-spring are as vain as if they would sit down to plot how to hinder the sun from rising in the morning; and they who let go their hopes of it, because of great apparent difficulties that interpose betwixt their eye and the accomplishment of that work, are as weak as if they should imagine, when mists and thick vapors appear about the horizon in the morning, that these could hinder the rising of the sun, which is so far out of their reach, and comes forth as a bridegroom, and rejoices as a mighty mun to run his race. Those mists may indeed hinder bis clear appearance, and keep it from the eye for a tine; but reason tells us even then, that they cannot stop his course.
And faith assures us no less in the other case, that no difficulties can hold back God's day and work of mercy to his people. But you will say, All the difficulty is, to know whether the appointed time be near or not. It is true, we have no particular prophecies to assure us; but certainly, when God awakes his children and makes them rise, this is a probable sign that it is near day. I mean, when he stirs them up to more than usual hopes, and prayers, and endeavours, it is very likely that he intends them some special good. But yet more, when he himself is arisen, as it pleaseth him to speak, that is, when he has begun to appear in a more than ordinary manner of working by singular and wonderful footsteps of providence, this is no doubt a sign that he will go on to show remarkable mercy to Sion, and that the time to favor her, yea, the set time is come.
Howsoever then, let the wonderful workings of the Lord move those of
you that have any power and opportunity, to be now, if ever, active for the greatest good both of the present age and of posterity. And you that can be no other way useful, yet you shall be no small helpers if you be much in prayer. Yet both your hopes and your fears serve to sharpen your prayers. Be not too much dejected with any discouragement, neither be ye carnally lifted up with outward appearances; for the heart of him that is lifted up, is not upright in him ; but live, as the just do, by your faith. And if the deferring of your hopes
should sicken your hearts, as Solomon speaks, yet stay and comfort them with the cordial of the promises. This you are sure of, you have God's own word engaged for it, that in those latter days Babylon shall be brought to the dust, and the true church of Christ shall florish and in
And this vision is for an appointed time ; as Habakkuk
says of his ; at the end it shall speak, and not lie ; though it tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not tarry.
In that day ; that is, in the day of Ephraim's or Israel's calamity denounced in the former verses ; which, as most do conceive, was when the Assyrian oppressed them, and in the end led them captive in the reign of Hosea, as you have the history of it, 2 Kings xvii ; at which time Hezekiah was king of Judah, as you find in the following chapter: and in that notable reformation wrought by bim, with those blessings that followed upon it, is found the accomplishment of this promise to Judah, In that day, &c. The parallel of God's different dealing with these two kingdoms at the time here specified, does afford divers lessons, which might be here not impertinently taken notice of.
Though Judah also had its own corruptions when Hezekiah came to the crown, yet it pleased the Lord to. spare them and work a peaceable reformation, making Israel's punishment their warning. Truly that nation with whom the Lord deals thus graciously, is vilely ungrateful if they observe it not with much humility and thankfulness, and with profit too. If the Lord should answer your desires and hopes with a reformation in a peaceable way, and should yet lengthen out your long continued peace, and should make this little past shaking of it cause it to take root the faster-if he should, I say, do this, where would ye find fit praises for such a wonder of mercy ?-especially considering, that in the meanwhile he hath made other reformed churches fields of blood, and made, as it were, the sound of their stripes preach repentance to us. But certainly, if the hearing the voice of the rod prevail not, we shall feel the smart of it, as this people of Judah did afterwards, because they were not so wise as to become wiser and better by Israel's folly and calamity. We are expecting great things at our Lord's hands, and our provocations and sins against him are great; yet there is no one of them all puts us in so much danger of disappointment, as impenitence. Were there more repentance and personal reformation amongst us, we might take it as a hopeful forerunner of that public reformation which so many seem now to desire.
The Lord of Hosts. This style of his, you know, is frequent in the prophets in their predictions of mercy and judgment; intimating both his greatness and majesty, and his supreme power for accomplishing his word. No created power can resist him; yea, all must serve him. The most excellent creatures can have no greater honor : the greatest are not exempted, nor the meanest excluded from serving Him. In Acts xii, 23, you find one of the noblest creatures, and a number of the vilest, made use of at the same time in the same service. Because Herod did accept of the sacrilege of the people, and gave not back to this Lord of Hosts his own glory, the angel of the Lord smote him, and the vermin devoured him. And you remember the employing of the destroying angel in Egypt, and what variety of hosts this Lord of Hosts did employ to plague them. What madness, then, is it to oppose and encounter this great General !—even in doubtful cases to run on blindly, without examining, lest peradventure a man should be found a fighter against God! And on the other side, it is great weakness to admit any fear under his banner. If a man could say, when he was told of the multitude of the ships the enemy had, “Against how many
reckon me?" how much more justly may we reckon this Lord of Hosts against multitudes of ene. mies, how great soever! They are to him as the drop of a bucket, and the small dust of the balance. It is ignorance and mean thoughts of this mighty Lord, that makes his enemies so confident; and it is the same evil, in some degree, or, at the best, forgetfulness of his power, that causeth diffidence in his followers. I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord, thy Maker, Isa. li, 12, 13. Now this same Lord of Hosts, you know, is likewise called the God of Peace. He is in
deed great both in peace and war. The blessing of peace and the success of war are both from bim; and to him alone is due the praise of both.
Shall be for a crown of glory. He shall dignify and adorn them by his special presence; to wit, in the purity of bis ordinances and religion amongst them: the profession and florishing of that shall be their special glory and beauty; for, as the other two benefits concern their civil good, justice forishing within and wealth and opulency from without, so doubtless this first, this glory and beauty, is religion, as the chiefest of the three, and the other two are its attendants. In Psalm xxvi, 8, the sanctuary, the place of their solemn worship, is called the place where God's honor dwelleth, or the tabernacle of his honor, and, Psalm xcvi, 9, the glorious sanctuary, or the beauty of holiness. And the ark of God, you know, was called the glory. The glory is departed from Israel, (said the wife of Phineas,) for the ark of God is taken, i Sam. iv, 21. Pure religion and a pure worship is the glory of God amongst his people, and consequently their glory. Now referring this prophecy to Hezekiah's time, the accomplishment of it is evident in that work of refor: mation whereof you have the full history, 2 Chron. xxix,
If it be thus, that the purity of religion and worship, is the crown and glory of a people, and therefore, on the other side, that their deepest stain of dishonor and vileness is the vitiating of religion with human devices, then to contend for the preservation or the reformation of it is noble and worthy of a Christian. It is for the crown of Jesus Christ, wbich is likewise a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty to them, he being their head. It is indeed the true glory both of kings and their kingdoms. Labor then for constancy in this work. Let no man take your crown from you. You know how busy the emissa: ries of the Church of Rome have been to take it from us, or, at least, to pick the diamonds out of it, and put in false, counterfeit ones in their places. I mean, they stole away the power of religion, and filled up the room with shadows and fopperies of their own devising. It is the vanity of that church to think they adorn the worship of God Div. No. VIII.