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did the prophet in his day see it realized before his eyes, and shall not we, now that the time is so nearly come? Dear Brethren, you may already see" a stir among the dry bones, through the whole valley of vision: and it is yet but a very little time, and the Spirit of God shall breathe upon them, and they shall live, a whole armyn.” Yes, I can confidently say, “ It is now but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest.") 3. To quicken our exertions
[In every age has God carried on his work, through the instrumentality of men. What were the Prophets or the Apostles, but Ministers, by whom he accomplished the purposes of his grace? And so, at this time, he appeals to us respecting the ignorant and ungodly world, “ How shall they hear without a preacherp?” You will say, perhaps, “ We cannot all be preachers.” True; but there is much which may be done by every one amongst us. We may all comply with that direction of the prophet, “ Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” Yes, we may all "pray for the peace and welfare of Jerusalem.” In fact, we are commanded, not only to pray, but to give God no rest, till he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” We may also contribute, each according to his ability, to further those means which are employed, of circulating through the world the Scriptures of truth, and of sending Missionaries also to instruct mankind. The command given by our Lord was, “ to go forth into all the world, and to preach the Gospel to every creature.” But how can persons go at their own cost? If a warfare against a hostile nation be determined, we never think of men going to maintain it at their own cost. Nor is it to be supposed that now persons should wage war against all the powers of darkness, and go forth to rescue the millions whom they hold in bondage, if they be not aided in their efforts by the contributions of their brethren. In this way, then, all may exert themselves in the common cause: and if our blessed Lord gave up himself to the most cruel death for the salvation of the world, methinks we, who have been partakers of his mercy, should use our efforts, in every possible way, to extend the knowledge of Him through the world; and never to rest, till “ all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest,” and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God."]
n Ezek. xxxvii. 7-10. p Rom. x. 14.
o Isai. xxix. 17. 9 Isai. lxii. 6, 7.
PROFANE SCOFFERS INSTRUCTED.
Isai. xxi. 11, 12. The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out
of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night. If ye will inquire, inquire ye : return, come.
THIS portion of holy writ is justly considered as very obscure; and the more so, because we are not aware of any records of history that will reflect light upon it. The learned Vitringa conceives the scope of the prophecy to be this: that, on occasion of some heavy calamity inflicted either on the Assyrians or Chaldeans in common with the Jews, an inhabitant of Edom inquired of the prophet what the duration of the trouble should be: and then he supposes the prophet to answer, that, as far as respected the Jews, a morning of relief was at hand: but that to Edom there was coming a night of long and heavy affliction. But on such an interpretation, the severe answer of the prophet seems uncalled for. I should rather confine the whole subject to Idumea : and then the question of the Edomite, and the answer of the prophet, will be natural, and perfectly consistent. It is well known that the Prophet Isaiah foretold the fate of Edom, as well as of all the other nations around Judea; and that he predicted the heaviest calamities to them all. Now, I suppose an Edomite unbelievingly and contemptuously to ask, “ Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” that is, ' You, as placed on a watch-tower, presume to declare what shall befall our nation: tell me how long is it before these calamities, which you predict, shall come upon us ?' To this question the prophet answers, You will have yet a “ morning” of prosperity: but, I can assure you, it shall be succeeded by a long “night” of heavy adversity. If you really desire to be informed, in order to avert, by penitence, the threatened calamity, follow up your inquiries in a becoming spirit: “return” to God, whom you have forsaken; and “come” to Him, from whom you have deeply revolted. Then there may yet be hope both concerning you and your nation.'
In this view of the prophecy, we see,
The spirit shewn by the inquiring Edomite is precisely that which has obtained in every age, and which the Apostle Peter teaches us to expect as still more prevalent in the latter days: “ There shall come, in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things.continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” This, I apprehend, was the way in which the predictions of Noah relative to the deluge were treated by the scoffers in the antediluvian world : and persons of a similar spirit abounded in Isaiah's days; whom he describes as teeming with atheistical defiance, and saying, “Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know itb.” To such an extent did this impiety prevail in the time of Ezekiel, that God speaks of it as actually passed into a proverb : “ Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth ?” And it is worthy of particular observation, that the answer which Ezekiel was commanded to give to the scoffers of Israel, is precisely to the same effect with that which Isaiah had given to the Idumean inquirer: “ Tell them, thus saith the Lord God; I will make this proverb to cease; and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel: but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision."
Thus it is that men treat the Divine testimony at this day: they speak of it,
1. With unbelieving indifference
[As God's ambassadors to a guilty world, we are constrained to denounce his judgments against impenitent transgressors
a 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4. b Isai. v. 19. c Ezek. xii. 22, 23.
But how is our testimony received by them? Have we not reason to take up the lamentation which was first uttered by the Prophet Isaiah, and was afterwards repeated both by the Lord Jesus Christ and his servant Paul, “ Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed a ?" It is in vain that we bring forth either the declarations of Jehovah, or positive instances of their accomplishment: the prevailing idea is, that men, however they may live, have nothing to fear; for that God is too merciful to inflict punishment on them, and especially the punishment of everlasting torments, which no actions of ours can be reasonably supposed to merit. Full of this erroneous conceit, they become settled on their lees, and say, in their hearts at least, if not also with their lips, “ The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil e."] 2. With contemptuous levity
[This, I apprehend, was the real feeling expressed in those interrogations, “ Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" In the same manner was the Apostle Paul regarded as a “ babbler,” unworthy of any thing but derision. His discourse, which almost converted King Agrippa to the faith, brought to Festus no other conviction than this: “ Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad?”. And even the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who " spake as never man spake,” was considered as unfit for any person of respectability to hear: “He hath a devil, and is mad: why hear ye him?" Is it to be wondered at, then, if those who faithfully preach the Gospel be still at this day branded with opprobrious names, and their message be considered only as "a cunningly devised fable ?” It must be so, as long as there shall be a carnal man on earth: for “ the things of the Spirit are foolishness to him;" and those who live only to proclaim and propagate those things, can appear to him in no other light than fools. If, like Ezekiel, we have boldness to deliver God's messages to men, we shall be sure to have applied to our ministrations the same contemptuous observation as was made on his, “ Ah! Lord God, doth he not speak parablesh ?”]
The prophets answer to his scoffing inquirers shews us, II. In what way they themselves should be treated
It is good, in many cases, to "answer a fool according to his folly.” But there are cases (and particularly where the eternal interests of men are at stake,) in which we should “not answer a fool according to his
d Isai. lüi. 1. John xii. 37, 38. Rom. x. 16. e Zeph. i. 12. f Acts xxvi. 24. & John x. 20.
h Ezek. xx. 49.
folly,” but should give him such counsel and admonition as his necessities require. Mark the conduct of the prophet on this occasion:
1. His admonition
[He tells the inquirer, that, though his countrymen should yet have a season of prosperity, a night of fearful adversity awaited them. And this is the answer which I must make to the profane scoffer, or the careless unbeliever: You may go on prosperously for a season; you may have riches in the world; you may account yourselves happy, and be so accounted by all your carnal friends: but, though your day may be bright and long, as in the height of summer, a night, a long and fearful night, will come at last. O! how terrible will be that night, which shall never be irradiated with so much as a single gleam of hope! Yet such is the state that awaits you: for, for you “is reserved the blackness of darkness for everk.”' seem at present to be at a great distance; but every day and hour brings it nearer to you; and at the appointed hour it will commence. Yes: St. Peter tells us, that “now of a long time your judgment lingereth not, and your damnation slumbereth not?." Whilst men
“refuse to turn, God whets his sword, and bends his bow, and ordains his arrows against them” for their destruction m. And the very interval that is allowed them is only given that they may “fill up the measure of their iniquities,” and have “his wrath come upon them to the uttermost.” Their present prosperity is only like the rich pasture to flocks and herds, whereby “they are nourished for the day of slaughter." Happy, happy is the brute creation, which, if taken in an unexpected hour, survives not the stroke that takes them hence ! But let us reflect a moment on that hour when a profane scoffer, or a careless unbeliever, shall open his eyes in the eternal world. He has buoyed himself up with the hope that he should see the face of his God in peace : but how will he shrink back at the sight of an angry God! What a shriek will he utter, that shall be heard through the vast expanse of hell; when, instead of a listless and unobservant Deity, as he had pictured to himself, he shall see a holy God filled with wrath and fiery indignation, and prepared to execute all the judgments which he had denounced against him! must, I must warn you, my beloved Brethren, that these are indeed the true sayings of God; and, whether believed or not, they shall be verified ere long: for “God will be true; and every man,” that contradicts him, "will be found a liar."]
2. His counseli Prov. xxvi. 4, 5. k Jude, ver. 13. 1 2 Pet. ii. 3. m Ps. vii. 12, 13.
n Jam, v. 5.