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overwhelming nature. Such were the troubles of the Jewish nation at the time referred to in my text. The Syrians had entered into a league with the ten tribes of Israel to dethrone Ahaz, King of Judah, and to establish a king of their own appointment upon his throne: and the prospect of this event spread such dismay amongst the Jewish people, that they were “ all moved by it as trees of the wood before the winda.”. But the prophet was sent to shew them where their strength lay, and to assure them, that, if they would but trust in God, they had nothing to fear, since Omnipotence itself would interpose for their deliverance. In the message which the prophet was instructed to deliver to them, we see, I. A word of reproof
To the people of that day was a reproof most justly due
[They all were alarmed at the confederacy that had been formed; and each, by expressing his own fears, helped to spread a panic through the land. But the prophet was ordered to discountenance this, both by precept and example, not by any means joining in the general cry, or suffering himself to participate in the people's fears.
Somewhat of a similar consternation prevailed occasionally among the Apostolic Churches: on which account St. Peter, plainly referring to the very words of my text, bade the Christians of his day not to be troubled about the menaces of their adversaries, but to follow the advice here given b.
And are there not many amongst ourselves who give way to needless fears, on account of the number and inveteracy of their enemies? “We wrestle, not with flesh and blood only, but with all the principalities and powers of hell:" and at times our hands are ready to hang down, and our hearts to faint in utter despondency. It was thus with David when he said, “I shall one day perish by the hands of Saul.” And more especially was it thus with Asaph, when he questioned with himself, " Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?" In fact, by the recital of our own doubts and fears, we often contribute to create the same painful feelings in others, and to diffuse amongst our brethren apprehensions, which ought rather to be discountenanced and withstood. We know what discouragement the spies occasioned through the whole camp of Israel by their representations of the promised land, and of the difficulties which must be overcome, before it should be possessed 4. We know also the commendations given to Caleb and to Joshua for their manly opposition to such degrading fears. This shews us of what spirit we should be, whatever confederacies may be formed against us, or whatever difficulties we may have to encounter: we should dismiss all fear from our own hearts, and strengthen to the uttermost the hands of our timid and desponding brethren.]
a Isai. vii. 1, 2, 6.
bi Pet. ii. 14, 15.
c Ps. lxxvii. 7-9. d Numb. xiii. 28–33. and xiv. 1. e Numb. xxxii. 10–12.
To his reproof the prophet adds, II. A word of counsel
[Surely it became the Jews, whose whole history was one continued record of miraculous interpositions, to “encourage themselves in the Lord their God,” and to expect at his hands all needful support. But more particularly were they taught in this place to look unto their Messiah, whose advent had just been predicted in express connexion with these very events'. That he is the person here designated by “the Lord of Hosts himself," is evident; because, whilst he is spoken of as “a Sanctuary" to some, it is declared that he shall be “ A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” to others. Now, says the prophet, “Sanctify him in your hearts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” And precisely the same advice does the Apostle Peter give to timid and desponding Christians in his day, “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your heartsh.” To "sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts," is, to regard him as possessing all power in heaven and in earth, and as exercising it for his people's good. This is the true antidote to all distressing fears, from whatever quarter they may arise. For, supposing a confederacy of all the men on earth and all the devils in hell, what device can prevail against infinite wisdom, or what efforts against Almighty power? If “the Lord's eye be over us for good," it matters not what eye is upon us for evil. “No weapon formed against us can prosper," when both the smith who formed it, and the man who holds it, were created by him and are under his controuli. Protected by this Saviour, we can have no cause for fear. Our minds may be peaceful in the midst of the most troublous scenes ;* confident, though meDaced by the most inveterate foes!; and assured, though in circumstances, in which no power less than that which is infinite could uphold us m. This then is the counsel which I would give to every drooping and desponding soul: “Fear none except the Lord of Hosts himself.” Him you can never fear too much : “Let him therefore be your fear and your dread.” But, having him for your Protector, you need fear none else: for “ if He be for you, who can be against you?”]
Isai. vii. 7-14. & Compare ver. 14. with Rom. ix. 33. h 1 Pet. iü. 14, 15. i Isai. liv. 15–17. k Ps. xlvi. 1-3. | Ps. xxvii. 3–5. m Rom. viii. 35--39.
Hear ye then as from God himself, III. A word of encouragement
[To his people of old this adorable Saviour was “a Sanctuary:" and such he will be to us. You remember that when the Man-slayer had once got within the city of refuge, he was safe: the pursuer of blood could not touch him. So, when once you
" have fled to Christ for refuge,” you are out of the reach of every enemy;
“ Your life is hid with Christ in God:" nor can all the powers of darkness ever destroy it. It is not by power only that you are protected, but by love, and truth, and faithfulness. The Lord Jesus Christ has pledged his word, that none shall ever pluck you out of his hands ":" yea, and Jehovah has "confirmed his word with an oath, on purpose that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, you may have the stronger consolationo.” What then have you to do but to repose your confidence in him, assured, that “heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail?" Know ye then for your comfort, that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; and that if you run to, and take refuge in it, you are safe," safe from every enemy that would assault you; safe in time, and safe in eternity.] And now I APPEAL to you whether the true believer
be not the happiest person upon earth ?
[I grant, he may be an object of the most inveterate hostility both to men and devils. "But he has " horses of fire and chariots of fire all around himq;" yea, " the Lord Jehovah is himself a wall of fire round about him",” for his protection. Compare the state of Ahaz and all his people at this time with that of those who believed the prophet's word. Who were the happier, those who feared the confederacy, or those who feared the Lord ? See also the state of Hezekiah's mind at the time of Sennacherib's invasion : “ The virgin, the daughter of Israel, hath laughed thee to scorns”
“ The Lord will put a hook in thy nose, and a bridle in thy jaws, and turn thee back by the way by which thou camest*." This is the effect of a realizing sense of God's providence. The man who fears the Lord has nothing else to fear: and the man who “sanctifies the Lord,” may be assured, that under all circumstances God will preserve him even as the apple of his eye.
n John x. 28, 29.
o Heb. vi. 17, 18.
p Prov. xviii. 10.
But take eternity into the account, and how happy is the Believer then. O what a sanctuary is the Lord to him from the terrors of a guilty conscience, and from the fears of God's wrath! The Believer, and he alone, understands the true import of these words, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on me, because he trusteth in meu.” Yes, even at the day of judgment may the Believer stand before the Lord with great boldness", whilst the unbelieving world are "crying to the rocks and to the hills to fall upon them, and to hide them from his wrath.” Make then the Lord Jesus your sanctuary here, and he will be your portion for evermore.] u Isai. xxvi. 3.
1 John üïi. 21. and iv. 17.
BELIEVERS ARE FOR SIGNS AND WONDERS. Isai. viii. 18. Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord hath
given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts which dwelleth in Mount Zion.
FROM the time of Cain and Abel to the present moment, there have existed upon earth two classes of men, essentially distinct from each other, and indeed opposed to each other, even as light and darkness: the one of these consists of men « born after the flesh only; the other, of persons born after the Spirit also.” Unhappily, it is to the former of these classes that the great majority of mankind have at all times belonged: the latter class has been composed of only a small remnant, who, on that account, have been to all the rest of the world, objects of reproach and contempt. The Prophet Isaiah complains of this, in his day: and from his complaint I shall take occasion, 1. To confirm his statement
There is, in the special case before us, a reference probably to the prophet's own family at that time
[The prophet had two sons; to whom, by God's special direction, he gave very peculiar names. The name of one was “Shear-jashuba;” the name of the other was “Maher-shalalhash-baz b." These names were given for the purpose of a Isai. vii. 3.
b Isai. viü. 3.
declaring to that people God's intentions respecting them; and the children were therefore both signs of what God had purposed respecting the land, and pledges that he would carry that purpose into effect. The ungodly people of that day, not believing the purposes of God, turned both the prophet and his children into objects of contempt and ridicule. And this seems to be the literal import of our text.]
But the prophet had some followers also, who, having been converted by his ministry, were regarded by him as “his children"
[These also, as being witnesses for God against their ungodly neighbours, were, together with the prophet, regarded as objects of popular reproach.
These, too, were honoured by the Lord as his peculiar friends and favourites; or, rather, as his own children, to whom he stood in the relation of a Father. In this respect the prophet was a type of the Messiah; who, being the spiritual Parent of these persons, acknowledged them as members of his mystical body; yea, as "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones."
Now this rendered them still more obnoxious to the ungodly world; who always hate the saints, in proportion as they bear the divine image, and appear to be objects of God's peculiar loved. And this I conceive to be the precise import of the prophet's words. He has, in the first place, an oblique reference to his own sons; but he more especially alludes to his pious followers, whom, through the instrumentality of his word, the Lord himself had brought into the nearest possible union with himself. Of these he says, that they were for signs and for wonders in Israel."]
In the same light have the saints in all ages been regarded
[In the days of the Apostles, the children of God were looked upon “as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all thingse : " and to this very hour are they, as the prophet Zechariah expresses it, men wondered atf." There is no one thing which will render persons more universally despised than a profession of real godliness. Every description of men, the moral and the immoral, the proud Pharisee and the scoffing Infidel, are alike hostile to the true Christian. The whole world will hate a follower of Christ. To the whole world, he himself was a butt of contradiction: and all who designated him Beelzebub, will be sure to find some name sufficiently
c Heb. ii. 13. with Eph. v. 30. f Zech. iii. 8.
d John xv. 19. e 1 Cor. iv. 13. & Luke ii. 31. The Greek.