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to the case of their captivity in Babylon, we cannot but be struck by its literal fulfilment in the instance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; of whom it is testified, that upon their bodies “the fire had no power,” and who, though cast down bound into the furnace, were seen "loose, walking in the midst of the fire,” and with them one of whom it was said, “ the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Dan. 3. 25, 27.
In the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon God speaks of giving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, for their ransom. That is to say, He would give these nations into the hands of Cyrus the Persian, who had let the Jews go free. This He mentions, as one proof of that unchangeable regard, which He had from the first shewn towards his people. And thence He would have them take courage and comfort, under the afflictions of much longer continuance, which were to follow on their rejecting the Messiah ; and after which, He assures them, that He would again gather them together into one, for the glory of his holy name. Such at least seems to be the event chiefly pointed out in these gracious promises. For though they might have a primary fulfilment in the return from Babylon, we cannot confine to an event like that such terms as these, “ I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth ; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have found him; yea, I have made him.”
And hereupon God calls on all mankind to observe his dealings with his people. And especially He challenges the long benighted Gentiles, to say whether any such divine protection was afforded, or any such divine foreknowledge manifested, by those whom they held for gods. And He addresses his own people as his witnesses, who could testify from what they had experienced when they obeyed his will, and had no other gods but Him, how mighty He is to save, how irresistible when He purposes to destroy. And is not this same people even now a witness unto us of these very attributes of God? Is not their present actual condition, agreeing as it does so beyond all question with God's prophetic word, and with his assertion of his own omnipotence, is not this one of the most striking proofs we can conceive, that He is the one only true and eternal God?
How much more, when their state shall be renewed, and their dispersion cease, and when the remnant that has survived all their calamities shall be reestablished in the favour of the Lord, how much more will they be witnesses to the word of God, so unexceptionable, and undeniable, as to compel the most reluctant to “hear, and say, It is truth!”
The calling of the Gentiles, on the defection of the Jews. 14 Thus saith the Lord, your for myself; they shall shew forth redeemer, the Holy One of Is- my praise. rael ; For your sake I have sent 22 But thou hast not called to Babylon, and have brought upon me, O Jacob; but thou down all their nobles, and the bast been weary of me, O IsChaldeans, whose cry is in the rael. ships.
23 Thou hast not brought me 15 I am the LORD, your Holy the small cattle of thy burnt One, the creator of Israel, your offerings; neither hast thou hoKing.
noured me with thy sacrifices. 16 Thus saith the Lord, which I have not caused thee to serve maketh a way in the sea, and a with an offering, nor wearied path in the mighty waters; thee with incense.
17 Which bringeth forth the 24 Thou hast bought me no chariot and horse, the army and sweet cane with money, neither the power; they shall lie down last thou filled me with the fat together, they shall not rise: of thy sacrifices: but thou hast they are extinct, they are made me to serve with thy sins, quenched as tow.
thou hast wearied me with thine 18 Remember ye not the iniquities. former things, neither consider 25 I, even I, am he that blotthe things of old.
teth out thy transgressions for 19 Behold, I will do a new mine own sake, and will not thing ; now it shall spring forth; remember thy sins. shall ye not know it? I will 26 Put me in remembrance: let even make a way in the wilder- us plead together: declare thou, ness, and rivers in the desert. that thou mayest be justified.
20 The beast of the field shall 27 Thy first father hath sinned, honour me, the dragons and the and thy teachers have transowls : because I give waters in gressed against me. the wilderness, and rivers in the 28 Therefore I have profaned desert, to give drink to my peo- the princes of the sanctuary, ple, my chosen.
and have given Jacob to the 21 This people have I formed curse, and Israel to reproaches.
LECTURE 1152. Duties accompany the privileges of God's people. In proof of the regard which He felt towards his people, God here appeals to their deliverance from captivity in Babylon; speaking of a thing future as though it were already past; it being sure, when his word had spoken it. He appeals also to that which He had done in redeeming them from the land of Egypt, making for them a pathway through the sea, and overwhelming their enemies, with their chariots and horse, in the mighty waters. But marvellous as were these acts, He here speaks of them as scarcely worth remembering, compared with a new thing which He would now next perform, a redemption which He would bring to pass, far exceeding all others that He bad ever wrought, and for a people who would “shew forth his praise.” This also is to be a chosen people, a people formed by God for himself, foreknown, called, justified, glorified; a people taken from them that were no people, gathered from among the wild inhabitants of the wilderness, in which God would make the rivers of his goodness to flow, and wherein the most unlikely and unpromising of his creatures would be found willing to give honour to his name.
This prophecy, of the Church to be gathered from among the Gentiles, seems designed to provoke the Jews to a holy emulation, and godly jealousy. See Rom. 11. 11. For it is straightway followed by a severe expostulation with the children of Israel according to the flesh, for neglecting to worship God as they ought to do, and for being weary of serving Him according to his will. They are charged with not offering the appointed sacrifices; instead of honouring God, rather burdening Him with their sins. In aggravation of their sinfulness, they are reminded, how often He had forgiven their transgressions, they are assured how willing He is ever to forgive. They are invited to put God in remembrance, if they could think of any one thing that would excuse their misdeeds, that' so they might be justified. They are told “ Thy first father hath sinned;” which words perhaps allude to Jacob's guile in obtaining Isaac's blessing. And it is added, “thy teachers have transgressed against me," as it is likewise testified in Jeremiah, “ The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means.” Jer. 5. 31. And for these things, God declares, that He has resolved to give up to profanation his sanctuary, and them that minister in it; yea, to deliver over the whole people to the curse and to reproaches.
Awfully was this divine purpose fulfilled when first their temple was levelled to the ground, after many a long intermission of the sacrifices appointed in the Law. And when in later times this people obstinately refused to acknowledge the fulfilment of the Law in the Gospel, and to honour God and worship Him accordingly, these words were still more awfully fulfilled once more. Let us then, who have been chosen in their place, “be not high minded, but fear.” Rom. 11. 20. In succeeding to their privileges, we have also succeeded to their duties. And surely we shall succeed to their judgments also, if instead of shewing forth God's praise we do dishonour to his name, if instead of rendering Him our devoted service with a willing heart, we do as far as in us lies cause Him to serve with our sins, and weary Him with our iniquities.
God encourageth his people ; denounceth image worship. i Yet now hear, O Jacob my not profit; and they are their servant; and Israel, whom I own witnesses ; they see not, have chosen :
nor know; that they may be 2 Thus saith the LORD that ashamed. made thee, and formed thee 10 Who hath formed a god, or from the womb, which will help molten a graven image that is thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my profitable for nothing? servant; and thou, Jesurun, 11 Behold, all his fellows shall whom I have chosen.
be ashamed: and the workmen, 3 For I will pour water upon they are of men: let them all him that is thirsty, and floods be gathered together, let them upon the dry ground : I will stand up; yet they shall fear, and pour my spirit upon thy seed, they shall be ashamed together. and my blessing upon thine off- 12 The smith with the tongs spring:
both worketh in the coals, and 4 And they shall spring up as fashioneth it with hammers, and among the grass, as willows by worketh it with the strength of the water courses.
his arms: yea, he is hungry, and 5 One shall say, I am the his strength faileth: he drinketh LORD's; and another shall call no water, and is faint. himself by the name of Jacob; 13 The carpenter stretcheth and another shall subscribe with out his rule; he marketh it out his hand unto the LORD, and with a line; he fitteth it with surname himself by the name of planes, and he marketh it out Israel.
with the compass, and maketh 6 Thus saith the LORD the it after the figure of a man, acKing of Israel, and his redeem- cording to the beauty of a man; er the Lord of hosts; I am the that it may remain in the house. first, and I am the last; and 14 He heweth him down cebeside me there is no God. dars, and taketh the cypress and
7 And who, as I, shall call, and the oak, which he strengtheneth shall declare it, and set it in for himself among the trees of order for me, since I appointed the forest : he planteth an ash, the ancient people ? and the and the rain doth nourish it. things that are coming, and shall 15 Then shall it be for a man come, let them shew unto them. to burn: for he will take there
8 Fear ye not, neither be a- of, and warm himself; yea, he fraid : have not I told thee from kindleth it, and baketh bread; that time, and have declared it? yea, he maketh a god, and worye are even my witnesses. Is shippeth it; he maketh it a there a God beside me? yea, graven image, and falleth down there is no God; I know not thereto. any:
16 He burneth part thereof in 9 They that make a graven the fire; with part thereof he image are all of them vanity; eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and their delectable things shall and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I image: he falleth down unto it, am warm, I have seen the fire: and worshippeth it, and prayeth
17 And the residue thereof he unto it, and saith, Deliver me; maketh a god, even his graven for thou art my God.
LECTURE 1153. The prevalence of idolatry ought to humble us. Fresh assurances of safety and prosperity are here given to God's people, founded on his own purpose in electing them; in virtue of which He had formed them, and fitted them to glorify his name, and would continue to give them his protection. In the worst of their backslidings, and under the heaviest of their calamities, there would always be, as St. Paul says there was when they rejected the Messiah, “a remnant according to the election of grace.” Rom. 11. 5. And there would be periods of renewal and conversion unto God, in which his Spirit being largely poured out upon his people, they would flourish in faith, and zeal, and love; and would glory in being called by his name. A gracious promise ; fulfilled to no small extent on the return from the captivity in Babylon; though doubtless yet more largely to be fulfilled, when the time shall come, of which St. Paul writes in the same chapter to the Romans, when “all Israel shall be saved;" Rom. 11. 26; when the Jews throughout the world shall become converts to the Gospel.
In confirmation of these promises, God declares, that He, " the King of Israel,” is “the first,” and “the last,” that is to say, from eternity to eternity, the God besides whom there is no other. Denying that there is any other to foretel the future, and bring it to pass, as He did, He would have his people hence derive the most full confidence in his promises, and the most implicit reliance on his protection. And in order to strengthen this impression, He points out to them most powerfully the vanity of idol gods, and the infatuation of those who worship them; giving a description of the way in which an idol is fabricated, and putting in a most striking point of view the gross foolishness of those, who worship that which their own hands have made. Humbled be the pride of human reason, at this awful account of practices, into which far the greater part of mankind have fallen, when left to their own devices in religion. Low be our esteem of our own understanding, when we consider that in all probability such would have been now our worship, such our gods, had not the Most High revealed to us the truth. Thanks be to Him for revealing it! Thanks be to Him for choosing us, and calling us to the knowledge of Himself, in Christ Jesus! Ever may we be faithful witnesses, in his behalf, against all manner of image worship, against every kind of false religion; ever faithful witnesses to his truth, ever devout doers of his will !