« PreviousContinue »
FEAR OF GOD IS TAUGHT BY
ness of a putrid human carcase was made to express the odiousness of the whole nation in God's sight, on account of sin, so here the foul consequences of drunkenness, “ vomit and filthiness," are put to express the hatefulness, in His holy eyes, of the delusion in which these religious rulers, "the priests and prophets,” are “taken and snared.” The persons denounced are not only mentioned under their official characters of "priest and prophet, but they are addressed in ver. 14 as those that“ rule this people which is in Jerusalem.” In chap. xxix. 9, it is declared of certain persons that “they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not through strong drink.” Now no persons to whom these expressions can possibly be applied, have been mentioned in this chapter : therefore, to interpret Scripture by Scripture, it is absolutely necessary that these two chapters be taken together, and then the meaning is perfectly lucid. It is therefore clear beyond question, that it is religious teachers who are the special objects. The next question then, is the nature of their delusion. Now, they are not only not infidels, not only professors of religion, but really and truly persons who " fear” God, and “ draw near” to him (xxix. 13). The nature of their delusion is, that THEIR THE PRECEPT OF MAN : therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work, and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.". The sin of leaning upon human teachers, is one which is ever described as peculiarly hateful in God's sight, and drawing down His severest judgments. The first charge in the black catalogue of offences for which the Apostle finds fault with the Corinthians, is, that one called himself by the name of one teacher, and another by the name of another teacher. In Jer. xvii. 5, we read, “ Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord : for he shall be like heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh ; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited.” This judgment is analogous to all God's judgments. The forms of the services of the outward acts of devotion are good, but the man who trusts to them, and who does not use them merely to lead him to God, is destroyed by them. The Jews did not look to Him whom all their ceremonies pourtrayed, and therefore their table became a snare, as it is to this day. The rulers and guides of the people in the Christian church, have leaned upon human learning, eloquence, and argument, to lead them to the knowledge of God, and not exclusively upon His Spirit; and therefore this learning, eloquence, and argument is now leading both priests and people astray.
The figure of drunkenness is often used by the prophets for those who are intoxicated by false doctrine. In Micah ii. 11, it is written, “ If a man walk with the wind, and lie falsely, saying, I will prophesy to thee of wine, and strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people :” the invariable characteristic of the false prophets being, that they foretold peace, and not judgment, and declared that “God had forsaken the earth.” and would not interfere in the ordinary concerns of men; exactly analogous to the reports of all modern religious societies, which prophesy the peaceful conversion of the world, and the introduction of a reign of blessedness, by their means ; declaring, moreover, that the politics of nations are things in which God does not intermeddle. In Jer. xiii. 13, God threatens to fill the inhabitants of Jerusalem with drunkenness, so that, when intoxicated with error, they shall destroy each other by civil war: “Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness; and I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the Lord; I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.”
The cause of the delusion of the rulers and teachers of religion to the people, is leaning upon human wisdom : the effect of their delusion is, that they “ scorn” and “mock” (xxviii. 14, 22; xxix. 20) at the work of the Lord which He in mercy works, in order to deliver them from it. Their delusion has brought them into such a state that they cannot understand the plain meaning of the plainest words. The religious guides in these days are precisely in that predicament: they say, "man
man” does not man,” but another being without any of the properties of manhood; that “ Jerusalem means Christendom;", that “ the throne of David ” means men's hearts ;” that “ the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven,” means man dying and going up into heaven.” Thus the Bible is become perfectly unintelligible to them :" The vision of all, is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed : and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I am not learned” (xxix. 11). Their "stumbling," and their "error in judgment,” having arrived to such a height, it is obvious that all ordinary means of addressing their consciences are no longer of any avail.
avail. When words have lost their meaning, argument is useless : accordingly, God, in the excess of loving kindness, mercy, and ingenuity, devises a new way of speaking to men, as His last pleading with them before He brings upon them their final doom. “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon pre
cept; line upon line, line upon line ; here a little, and there a little ; for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” We are at no loss to understand what this method of speaking is, for the Apostle (1 Cor. xiv. 21) applies it to “ the speaking with tongues and prophesying” which took place in the Corinthian church, and which, belonging to the whole dispensation, we have seen revived in these days before our own eyes, after a long absence.
While a few of the poor are brought back by these means to trust in the Lord, and to rely upon the teaching of His Spirit, the “ rulers” and teachers become “ mockers and scorners of the work : wherefore, the work further continues for a double end: first, in order to deliver the flock, whom these mocking guides are destroying; and secondly, in order that these scorners
might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” A fearful judgment is pronounced against them: “The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes : the prophets and your rulers, and the seers, hath he covered.” “The bands of the mockers are thus made strong :" instead of shaking off their incapacity to understand plain words, that incapacity is increased. There is an example of similar incapacity befalling the Jews at the time of our Lord's first advent; as we learn from Luke (xxiii. 31), when Jesus said to them, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the Prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished : for he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death : and the third day he shall rise again.” Now nothing can be clearer than the meaning of these words of our Lord, taken in their plain and ordinary sense : yet it is added, “And they understood none of these things; for this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” The things spoken by our Lord did not coincide with their pre-conceived notions about Messiah: their heads were full of the scheme which their Rabbis had taught them, and they had lost the faculty of understanding plain words : nor does it appear that the disciples ever understood their Prophets, and Moses, until they had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
There is another mark given of these mocking and scorning leaders in religion, which we also see verified in the present days: they are described as “watching for iniquity, making a man an offender for a word, laying a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turning aside the just for a thing of nought.” It is difficult to suppose that those who are "mocking at” and “scorning" the present manifestations of the "speaking with another tongue,” were not before the Prophet in vision, when he wrote this chapter. These men extract words out of works, and say they bear a meaning contrary to the whole tenor of the book, contrary to the line of argument in the con text from whence the words have been filched, and contrary to the reiterated assertions of the author. If ever this passage were to have full accomplishment-and not a tittle of the sacred volume shall pass away until it be accomplished, the slanderers of many of the faithful servants of God are fulfilling it to the very letter. It is not possible to have a more perfect example of the accomplishment of this prediction, than the course which has been pursued by the enemies of Mr. Irving. Sentiments have been imputed to him by the anonymous libellers who write for some of our religious periodical publications, contrary to the object of the writer, contrary to the argument of his book, contrary to the argument of the particular passages from which the words complained of are taken, contrary to the Declaration of the whole church of which he is the pastor : but no; the words, the words, are that for which they make him an offender; and they persevere in their reiterated slander. Alas, these slanderers are your guides, O ye people of England and Scotland ! these slanderers are your priesthood, O unhappy church! these slanderers are those who call themselves your most religious portion, O deluded nation ! O deliver yourselves from the guides and teachers that make a man an offender for a word, for they are leading you headlong into perdition.
In the following chapter (xxx.) the leaning upon human wisdom is further denounced in the words, " Woe to the rebellious children, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit ; that they may add sin to sin : that walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt." The punishment pronounced is similar to that which we before observed ; namely, that it shall be produced by the fault itself:“therefore shall the strength of Egypt be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.”. In like manner, all who will persevere in leaning now upon the vain babblings of 'modern sermonizers, upon commentators, upon human authorities of any kind and form, and who will not trust the Lord for teaching by His indwelling Spirit, without human instrumentality, shall be destroyed by those means in which they trust. A minister who leads bis congregation to look to any other teacher than the Holy Ghost, is leading them directly away from Christ. Many are doing this ignorantly ; and are snared under the deception that they are only seeking for helps and aids, still to be used in subserviency to the teaching of the Spirit. Into this point, however, we do not now mean to enter. The object of the prophecy
is to inform us, that at the time of the Lord's return to the earth the whole body of religious teachers will be leading the people astray, having trusted to human learning; the consequence of which has been, that they have lost the faculty of understanding the meaning of the plainest words ;--that God mercifully at this time comes Himself into the midst of his church, giving as a sign of his so doing, the speaking in a tongue known only to Himself, and speaking also in prophesying; but that the teachers mock and scorn it. Mockery and scorn at God's work is the last and completest form of apostasy: it is placed as the climax of the characteristics of apostates in Psalm i. 1, and in Prov. i. 22, and many other places. This scorning is now universal, through every rank, from the more exalted bishop down to the lowest sectarian : they do not think the report that God is speaking Himself in the midst of the church as worthy of being inquired into, as they would the report of some new wonder brought from a distant land: while another party of teachers band themselves together in one tissue of slander, vituperation, and falsehood.
THE VOICE OF GOD.
The greatest proof of the extent to which the image of God has been obliterated from His church ; of the depth of alienation of the spirit of the redeemed from the Spirit of the Redeemer; of the want of conformity to Jesus in His brethren; is found in the difficulty which the most spiritually minded and conscientious among them experience in determining, when they hear a miraculous voice, whether it be the voice of their Preserver or of their destroyer, of God or of the devil. Infidelity, whether secular or ecclesiastical as readily cuts this knot now, as it did Anno Domino 33: not so, however, the disciples of the Lord.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber; but he that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep: to him the porter openeth, and THE SHEEP HEAR HIS voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him : FOR THEY KNOW his voice; and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers. Again, the Lord said, “ Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and THEY SHALL HEAR MY voice.” To this the greater part of those who heard him said, “ He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?" To certain questioners on this matter, he replied, " Ye believe not, because