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"the people of Israel, were gathered together, to "do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel deter"mined before to be done." These concluding words are well worthy of our notice, as they illustrate the plan of divine providence in the government of the world. We are apt to wonder that wicked men should be permitted to triumph as they often do not considering that the Lord employs even rebels to fulfil his righteous purposes; and that, contrary to their own intention, they are made the executioners of his vengeance, or used as his chastening rod. Even atheists and infidels, yea, the haughtiest and most self-willed of his enemies, are permitted to prosper, till they have inflicted condign punishment on sinners, perhaps less criminal than themselves, and then they are consigned to more tremendous vengeance. Nay, the Lord even makes use of wicked men to accomplish his designs of mercy to the church. Thus the Jewish rulers and priests, with Herod, Pilate, and the people of Israel, though before at enmity with each other, combined together against the Saviour of the world: they thought evil against him and his church, "but the Lord meant it for good." And they could only do what "his "hand and his counsel had determined before to "be done."
"The kings of the earth stood up, and the "rulers took counsel together against the Lord, "and against his anointed," or his Messiah; saying, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." All the power and
Acts iv. 25-28.
2 Gen. 1. 20.
policy of man seemed to be leagued together, with a fixed determination to destroy Jesus and extirpate his doctrine. His numerous and formidable enemies unanimously resolved that "they would "not have this man to reign over them." The priests and rulers excited the people to demand his crucifixion, with unrelenting vehemence. They aimed to blot out the remembrance of him and his spiritual dominion from the earth, that they might have no authority but that of the magistrate. "We have no king but Cæsar: whosoever maketh "himself a king speaketh against Cæsar." Observe, my brethren, what was their principal objection to the religion of Jesus, and whence it arose. They hated the law and government of God; and therefore they rebelled against the kingdom and authority of his Son. Thus men still reject the gospel, because it magnifies and honours the law and justice of God, condemns all their former transgressions, and, with the proposal of a gracious pardon, implies an obligation to obedience in future; and in this respect the same part is acted over and over again, from generation to generation.
But mark what follows: " He that sitteth in the "heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them "in derision." He looks down with contempt and disdain upon their puny attempts to subvert his kingdom and counteract his sovereign purposes. -"Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, "and vex them in his sore displeasure." Let us see how this prophecy was fulfilled. The Jews crucified the Lord Jesus for declaring that he was
the promised Messiah, the Son of God. But, behold, he demonstrates himself to be that glorious Redeemer! He dies, indeed, but he rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, takes possession of his exalted throne, and sends forth his Spirit upon his apostles, that they may be empowered to establish his religion in the world. The Jewish rulers and people, however, having blasphemed his miracles, and condemned him to the cross, persist in their enmity, oppose his ambassadors, and persecute his harmless disciples. But what is the consequence? The gospel rapidly gains ground; persecution drives believers into remote regions, to convey the glad tidings to mankind; the dying martyrs, confirming their testimony by their harmless lives and patient sufferings, shew the excellency of their principles, and expose the odious cruelty of their adversaries. At length the day of vengeance arrives: "He that sitteth in the heavens" had poured contempt upon his impotent foes, and triumphed gloriously, notwithstanding their feeble, though determined opposition; but now
speaks to them in his wrath, and vexes them in "his sore displeasure." Jerusalem is surrounded by the Roman legions, the executioners of the sentence which had been pronounced; miseries till then unknown are inflicted on the devoted nation; cleven hundred thousand persons perish in the siege; the survivors are sold for slaves, till no more purchasers can be found; the city and temple are entirely destroyed, and the sacred hill of Zion given up, to be henceforth "trodden under "foot of the gentiles," according to another
memorable prophecy, which hath now been fulfilling for nearly one thousand eight hundred years! An apostate emperor 2 attempts, in defiance of Christ, to rebuild the temple and restore the Jews; but his design is frustrated by earthquakes and the signal interposition of heaven: while the Jews themselves, scattered through all nations, and almost every where oppressed, are reluctant witnesses to the truth of the scriptures, and monuments of divine vengeance on the despisers of the gospel.
The Roman emperors also exerted their extensive and absolute authority in opposing the establishment of Christianity; and it is remarkable, that several of those, who are celebrated for virtue, were the most determined persecutors. But what was the event? From that time this mighty empire was undermined, and at length Christianity was established, as it were, upon its ruins!
It would not be a difficult task to shew, from the history of succeeding ages, that God has fulfilled his promise, in maintaining his church against the most virulent rage of her numerous and powerful enemies; according to the next words of this
phecy, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy
" hill of Zion:" and the event will be the same with all other rulers and nations who set themselves to oppose the kingdom of Christ. For a season they may prosper, boast, and blaspheme ! and say, with Sennacherib, to the servants of the Lord, "Let not your God in whom you trust de"ceive you, saying, Ye shall not be delivered into
my hands. Behold, ye have heard what I have " done unto all lands, and shall ye be delivered?" But God will answer them as he did the proud Assyrian, " I know thy abode, and thy going out, "and thy coming in, and thy rage against me: "because thy rage against me, and thy tumult is "come up into my ears; therefore I will put my "hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips; and "I will turn thee back by the way by which thou cam"est. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this ;" for he hath said, and he will accomplish it, "Yet "have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion."
But the prophecy still further expands itself: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said "unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I be"gotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee "the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utter"most parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou "shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt "dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be "wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye
judges of the earth." The counsel is addressed to kings, because monarchy was the more general kind of dominion: but all invested with authority are evidently meant, by whatever titles they may be distinguished. They are "the judges of the "earth," whose judgment is submitted to in all the secular concerns of mankind. These dignified personages are admonished to be wise, and to welcome instruction; especially in respect of the kingdom which the Lord has established under the govern
'Isa. xxxvii. 10, 11, 28-38.