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LECTURE 1431. That the tidings of God's judgment are glad tidings. It is evident that the prophecy of Nahum against Nineveh is a solemn announcement of what the Lord had resolved to bring to pass; not like Jonah's preaching to the same people, a warning, to which if they would give heed, they might avoid the threatened woe. Indeed' whilst Jonah's words were addressed, by God's direction, to the Ninevites themselves, it does not appear that Nahum's prophecy was ever uttered in Nineveh at all. Rather it seems to have been proclaimed to God's people in the land of Judah, for their comfort and encouragement, as well as for their warning, to assure them of the destruction of their enemies, to prove to them that God would not spare the wicked. The reasons of this dreadful doom are here set down at length, together with the particulars of the sentence to be executed. The city was full of falsehood, and robbery, and bloodshedding, and the pollutions of idolatry. It was moreover active in propagating the abominations of idol worship, in the nations round about. Such were its crimes. Its sentence is defeat, and slaughter, and disgrace, to be made a gazing stock to its former admirers, to be desolate, even as No, a populous city in Egypt had become, to be cut off in the midst of drunken festivity, to seek help but to obtain none, to find its strong holds worthless, its men feeble as women, its gates no barrier to the enemy, its multitude no strength, its merchants no support, its princes no defence, its wound incurable, its utter ruin unavoidable. What an amount of human suffering is summed up in this lively description of the overthrow of a great city and great empire! What sufferings of body! What anguish of mind! Strange that these should be thought glad tidings to bring to Judah, and their report the publishing of peace! See Ch. 1. 15. But so it is when the angel in the book of Revelation preaches “the everlasting gospel,” it is in terms full of terror to the wicked, “ Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.” Rev. 14. 6, 7. The Gospel does indeed proclaim pardon to the penitent. This is that which makes it such joyful news. But it also reveals, on the same warrant, the certainty of death, eternal death, eternal misery, awaiting those who refuse to repent. And as these are the chief enemies of Christ and of his church, the tidings of their doom cannot but be glad tidings unto Zion. And welcome will be the day of its accomplishment unto Zion's children; because thenceforth there will be for them no more temptation, no more sins, no more evil communication with sinners, no risk of being made partakers of their plagues.
Lord, may thy kingdom come; Lord, may thy will be done. Whether it be to spare or punish, whether to save or to destroy, be it but done according to thy holy will, and all, we feel assured, all must be for the best.
The prophet deploreth the prosperity of evil dopis. i The burden which Habak- gather the captivity as the sand. kuk the prophet did see. 10 And they shall scoff at the
2 O Lord, how long shall I kings, and the princes shall be cry, and thou wilt not hear! a scorn unto them: they shall even cry out unto thee of vio- deride every strong hold; for lence, and thou wilt not save! they shall heap dust, and take it.
3 Why dost thou shew me ini- 11 Then shall his mind change, quity, and cause me to behold and he shall pass over, and ofgrievance ? for spoiling and vio- fend, imputing this his power lence are before me: and there unto his god. are that raise up strife and con- 12 Art thou not from everlasttention.
ing, O LORD my God, mine 4 Therefore the law is slacked, Holy One? we shall not die. O and judgment doth never go Lord, thou hast ordained them forth for the wicked doth com- for judgment; and, O mighty pass about the righteous; there- God, thou hast established them fore wrongjudgment proceedeth. for correction. 5 Behold ye among the hea- 13 Thou art of purer eyes than then, and regard, and wonder to behold evil, and canst not marvellously : for I will work a look on iniquity: wherefore work in your days, which ye will lookest thou upon them that not believe, though it be told you. deal treacherously, and holdest 6 For, lo, I raise up the Chal- thy tongue when the wicked dedeans, that bitter and hasty na- voureth the man that is more tion, which shall march through righteous than he? the breadth of the land, to pos- 14 And makest men as the sess the dwellingplaces that are fishes of the sea, as the creeping not theirs.
things, that have no ruler over 7 They are terrible and dread- them? ful: theirjudgment and their dig- 15 They take up all of them nity shall proceed of themselves. with the angle, they catch them
8 Their horses also are swifter in their net, and gather them in than the leopards, and are more their drag: therefore they refierce than the evening wolves : joice and are glad. and their horsemen shall spread 16 Therefore they sacrifice unthemselves, and their horsemen to their net, and burn incense shall come from far; they shall unto their drag; because by fly as the eagle that hasteth to them their portion is fat, and eat.
their meat plenteous. 9 They shall come all for vio- 17 Shall they therefore empty lence: their faces shall sup up their net, and not spare contias the east wind, and they shall nually to slay the nations ?
LECTURE 1432. The wickedness of vunity. The holiness of God. No good man can fail to feel a lively indignation at the oppression of the righteous by the wicked. “And under the dispensation of the Law, such feelings would naturally be mingled with surprise and perplexity, because of the expectation held out therein, that the Lord would give prosperity to the righteous, and adversity to evil doers. In the prophets we find this perplexity frequently expressed; and no where with more force, and anxiety for satisfaction, than in this opening chapter of Habakkuk. And as he speaks with the utmost reverence towards God, as one fully convinced that God's dealings must be just and good, whether we can apprehend their intent or not, we may regard his words as prompted by the Holy Ghost, on purpose to set forth one of the chief difficulties then pressing on the minds of the faithful, with a view to pave the way for the inspired answer which is given in the chapter following:
There are two distinct cases of prosperous iniquity here brought before the view. First the prophet deplores the grievances abounding amongst God's own people, the strife and contention, the spoiling and violence, commonly practised, and the inadequate execution of those laws, which ought to enforce justice and secure peace. Then straightway he sees in vision the invading host of the Chaldeans, and forcibly describes their incredible success, the swiftness of their march, their cruelty and pride, the strength which God would give them for the chastisement of his people, and their folly in ascribing their success to themselves and to their vain idols. But upon seeing this, he is so much the more perplexed to think, that the people of the Lord, however wicked, should be given, like fish in a net, into the hands of a people so altogether godless and inhuman. He compares the holiness of the Almighty, with the selfishness, arrogancy, and treachery, of those whom he sees employed as his instruments; and he wonders how One who is from everlasting, and of purer eyes than to behold evil, can use such means of correction as these, and can impart even a temporary prosperity to a people so wicked and so vain, as that “they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag;” or in other words, idolize their own might and majesty. Whilst we wait with the prophet, and watch for the solution of this difficulty, see ch. 2. 1, let us observe what great wickedness is implied in such vanity as is here described. And let us observe further, how high is the standard of God's holiness, as here set before us. To be vain is not only foolish, but it is also selfish; it is not only selfish, it often leads to the must inhuman cruelty, and to the most gross self idolatry. And this is seen and known by God, even when it is harboured secretly in the heart. And yet He is One so pure that He cannot look on iniquity. At bis beholding it, either the sin must fade away before the gracious aspect of his mercy, or the sinner must be consumed and perish beneath the withering look of his indignation.
God's government of the world is shewn to be just. i I will stand upon my watch, that he may be delivered from and set me upon the tower, and the power of evil ! will watch to see what he will 10 Thou hast consulted shame say unto me, and what I shall to thy house by cutting off many answer when I am reproved. people, and hast sinned against
2 And the LORD answered me, thy soul. and said, Write the vision, and i For the stone shall cry out make it plain upon tables, that of the wall, and the beam out of he may run that readeth it. the timber shall answer it.
3 For the vision is yet for an 12 Woe to him that buildeth a appointed time, but at the end town with blood, and stablisbeth it shall speak, and not lie : a city by iniquity! though it tarry, wait for it; be- 13 Behold, is it not of the cause it will surely come, it will Lord of hosts that the people not tarry.
shall labour in the very fire, and 4 Behold, his soul which is lift- the people shall weary themed
up is not upright in him: but selves for very vanity ? the just shall live by his faith. 14 For the earth shall be filled
5 Yea also, because he trans- with the knowledge of the glory gresseth by wine, he is a proud of the LORD, as the waters cover man, neither keepeth at home, the sea. who enlargeth his desire as hell, 15 Woe unto him that giveth and is as death, and cannot be his neighbour drink, that puttest satisfied, but gathereth unto him thy bottle to him, and makest all nations, and heapeth unto him drunken also, that thou him all people :
mayest look on their nakedness! 6 Shall not all these take up a 16 Thou art filled with shame parable against him, and a taunt- for glory : drink thou also, and ing proverb against him, and say, let thy foreskin be uncovered: Woe to him that increaseth that the cup of the Lord's right hand which is not his ! how long? and shall be turned unto thee, and to him that ladeth himself with shameful spewing shall be on thy thick clay!
glory. 7 Shall they not rise up sud- For the violence of Lebadenly that shall bite thee, and non shall cover thee, and the awake that shall vex thee, and spoil of beasts, which made them thou shalt be for booties unto afraid, because of men's blood, them?
and for the violence of the land, 8 Because thou hast spoiled of the city, and of all that dwell many nations, all the remnant therein. of the people shall spoil thee; 18 What profiteth the graven because of men's blood, and for image that the maker thereof the violence of the land, of the hath gravenit; the molten image, city, and of all that dwell therein. and a teacher of lies, that the
9 Woe to him that coveteth an maker of his work trusteth thereevil covetousness to his house, in, to make dumb idols ? that he may set his nest on high, 19 Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb at all in the midst of it. stone, Arise, it shall teach! Be- 20 But the Lord is in his holy hold, it is laid over with gold temple: let all the earth keep and silver, and there is no breath silence before him.
Of living by faith in things unseen. A solution of the perplexing question, set forth in the previous chapter, was supplied to God's people of old in the prophetic passage before us.
And it amounts to this. They must exercise a patient waiting of the understanding; and in due time there would be a more full revelation. Meanwhile, if they would listen humbly, they might get some glimpse of that which would be brought to light hereafter. Conceit in the wisdom supplied by their own senses would make their difficulty insuperable. To walk by faith, and not by sight, in reliance on God's power and goodness, this would give them light and life. Let them be assured then, by faith, that the proud, and covetous, and sensual conqueror, however high he might seem to be exalted, would speedily have so much the greater fall. Let them in all things look forward to the end not yet in sight. This would prepare them for understanding, that prosperity and adversity on earth are of no account, when compared with the retribution of eternity. The covetous, the cruel, the drunken, and they, who besides doing such things, entice others to do them, are reserved for a woe, of which the most terrible calamities on earth can give but a faint conception. Let this be believed; and then the thriving of the wicked for the present, or their being used in their prosperity as the instruments of divine providence, would be seen to be no impeachment of God's justice in the government of the world that now is. And this would be clearly known and understood, it is here prophesied, and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord very generally extended amongst all nations, in a dispensation that was to come. All which being borne in mind, what does the temporary prosperity of the wicked amount, if it is the way to eternal misery? What do the makers and worshippers of idols gain, if notwithstanding that they do not like to retain God in their knowledge, they must hereafter answer unto Him for all their evil deeds? Who would envy the wicked their brief impunity in evil, on terms so awful for eternity? Nay, who that walks by faith, and not by sight, would dwell on any such questions as these at all, except so far as God has been pleased to raise them, in order to explain and answer them? Who would not rather silently adore his might, his wisdom, and his love, than venture to express the slightest doubt, that all which now is, in this world of his, is well, and all will be hereafter shewn to have been always best?