Page images
PDF
EPUB

land of God's people *. He no sooner sees them, than he declares that God shall rebuke them ; that they shall flee with precipitation and in dismay; and shall be chased, as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and as a rolling thing before the whirlwind f. Elated with this glorious scene the total rout of the apostate confederacy, he addresses his countrymen, in words of exultation and triumph: This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us .

“ Having thus, in general terms, predicted the final success and happiness of his nation, he proceeds, in the 18th chapter, to the description of visions, more parti. cularly declarative of the manner, and of the time, of their deliverance l.

And first the vision of the armies of Antichrist, at the close of the 17th chapter, is succeeded by a vision of the people who are destined to take the lead in converting and restoring one great division of Judah. Isaiah beholds their fleets rapidly approaching from far distant regions to Palestine; and describes them as possessing a powerful navy, as sailing with ease and expedition to remote parts of the world, and as being faithful worshippers of God: in short, they appear to be some great maritime nation,

innumerable. We will only cite an historian of our own, who says that Henry 111. always polled the Jews at every low ebb of his fortunes. One Abraham, who was found delinquent, was forced to pay 700 marks for his redemption. Aaron, another Jew, protested that the king had taken from him at times, 30,000 marks of silver, besides 200 marks of gold, which he had presented to the queen. And in like manner he used many other of the Fews. When they were banished in the reign of Edward 1, their estates were confiscated, and immense sums thereby accrued to the crown.” Bp. Newton's Dissert. VII. * Isaiah xvii. 12.

+ Ver. 13. # Ver. 14. Bp. Lowth confines all the first part of this prophecy to the taking of Damascus by Tiglath-Pileser, his overrunning a great part of Israel, and the conquest of that kingdom and the captivity of the people effected a few years after by Shalmaneser. Hence he is led to pronounce, that the three last verses of the 17th chapter have no relation to those which precede them, and have as little connection with what follows; but that they are to be referred solely to the invasion und overthrow of Sennacherib, But let only the first part of the prophecy be supposed to treat ultimately and indeed chiefly of the dipersion of the Fews by the Romans, and we shall immediately perceive the close connection of the whole. From the dispersion of the Jews, Isaiah rapidly passes to the overthrow of their last enemy Antichrist, and to their restoration by some great maritime power. In short, so far from these different predictions being wholly unconnected, they appear to me to be inseparably connected.

s Bp. Horsley's Letter on Isaiah xviii p. 100.

that shall possess the empire of the sea at the time when the 1260 years shall expire, and when the Jews shall begin to return into their own land. To this distant nation the prophet calls aloud, and summons them to receive their high commission from the Lord. ,

Go, swift messengers, unto a nation long apparently forsaken by God; a nation dragged away from their own country, and plucked ; a nation wonderful from their be. ginning hitherto; a nation perpetually expecting their promised Messiah, and yet trampled under foot ; a nation whose land the symbolical rivers of foreign invaders have for ages spoiled*.

“We have now heard messengers summoned. We have heard a command given to them, tu go swiftly with the message. We have heard the people described, to whom the message was to be carried. It might be expected we should next hear the message given to the messengers in precise terms. But in prophecy, the curtain (if the expression may be allowed) is often suddenly dropped upon the action that is going on, before it is finished ; and the subject is continued in a shifted scene, as it were, of vision. This I take to be a natural consequence of the manner, in which futurity was represented, in emblematical pictures, to the imagination of the prophet: and the breaks and transitions are more or less sudden, according to the natural turn of the writer's mind. In Isaiah, the transitions are remarkably sudden and bold; and yet this suddenness and boldness of transition is seldom, I think, if ever, in him a cause of obscurity. In the present instance, the scene of messengers, sent upon a message, is suddenly closed with this second verse, before the messengers set out, before even the message is given

* « Go swift messengers : you, who by your skill in navigation and your ex. tensive commerce and alliances, are so qualified to be carriers of a message to people in the remotest countries, go with God's message unto a nation dragged away, to the dispersed Jews ; a nation dragged away from its proper seat, and plucked of its wealth and power; a people wonderful from the beginning to this very time for the special providence, which has ever attended them and directed their fortunes; a nation still lingering in expectation of the Messiah, who so long since came and was rejected by them, and now is coming again in glory ; a nation universally trampled under foot; whose land, rivers, armies of foreign invaders, the Assyrians, Babylonians, SyroMacedonians, Romans, Saracens, and Turks, have overrun and depopulated." Letter on Isaiah xviii.

to them. But the new objects, which are immediately brought in view, evidently represent, under the usual emblems of sacred prophecy, other parts of the same entire action; and declare, with the greatest perspicuity, the purport, the season, and the effect, of the message. An ensign, or standard, is lifted up on the mountains a trumpet is blown on the hills—the standard of the cross of Christ—the trumpet of the Gospel*. The resort to the standard, the effect of the summons in the end, will be universal. A pruning of the vine shall take place, after a long suspension of visible interpositions of Provi- dencet, just before the season of the gathering of the fruits. A vine, in the prophetic language, is an image of the church of God; the branches of the vine are the members of the church; and the useless shoots, and unfruitful luxuriant branches, are the insincere nominal members of the church. And the pruning of such shoots and branches

* « The banner of the cross, to be lifted up more conspicuously than ever before ; the trumpet of the Gospel, to be sounded more loudly, than ever before, in the latter ages.” Letter on Isaiah xviii.

t“ This verse (Isaiah xviii. 4.) represents a long cessation of visible interpositions of Providence, under the image of God's sitting still ; the stillness of that awful pause, under the image of that torpid state of the atmosphere in hot weather, when not a gleam of sunshine breaks for a moment through the sullen gloom ; not a breath stirs ; not a leaf wags ; not a blade of grass is *shaken ; no ripling wave curls upon the sleeping surface of the waters ; the

black ponderous cloud, covering the whole sky, seems to hang fixed and motionless as an arch of stone ; nature seems benumbed in all her operations. The vigilance nevertheless of God's silent providence is represented under the image of his keeping his eye, while he thus sits still, upon his prepared habitation. The sudden eruption of judgment, threatened in the next verse, after this total cessation, just before the final call to Jew and Gentile, answers to the storms of thunder and lightning, which, in the suffocating heats of the latter end of summer, succeed that perfect stillness and stagnation of the atmosphere. And, as the natural thunder, at such seasons, is the wel. come harbinger of refreshing and copious showers ; so, it appears, the thunder of God's judgments will usher in the long desired season of the consummation of mercy. So accurate is the allusion in all its parts.” Letter on Isaiah xviii.

It may here be observed, how exactly Scripture corresponds with Scripture. The long cessation of the visible interpositions of Providence has led the members of Antichrist to deny that such interpositions ever took place : yet in this very denial they have unwittingly accomplished the prophecies, In the last days were to arise scoffers, walking after their own lusts, contemptuously asking where is the promise of God's coming, denying that the earth was ever overwhelmed by the deluge, and asserting that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. The Lord however hath already begun to shake both the political heavens and the political earth ; and, ere long perhaps, Infidelity may be constrained with unwilling eyes to behold the restoration of Israel amidst such signs and wonders, as she can neither contradict nor oppose.

[ocr errors]

of the vine is the excision of such hypocritical professors, at least the separation of them from the church by God's judgments. This verse therefore and the following clearly predict a judgment to fall upon the church for its purification, and the utter destruction of hypocritical professors of the truth*. The purification of the Christian church, by the awful visitations predicted in this passage, seems to be the proper preparative for the renewal of the call, to them that are near, the Jews; and to them that are yet afar off, the Gentile tribes not yet converted. Immediately after this purgation of the church, at the very time when the bird of prey with all the beasts of the earth, Antichrist with his rebel rout, shall have fixed his seat between the seas, in the holy mountaint, a present shall be brought to the Lord of hosts; the nation, described in ver. 2. as those to whom the swift messengers are sent, after their long infidelity, shall be brought as a present unto Jehovah. They shall be converted to an acknowledgment of the truth; and they shall be brought to the place of the name of Jehovah, to mount Sion : they shall be settled in peace and prosperity, in the land of their original inheritance f. : “ This then is the sum of this prophecy, and the substance of the message, sent to the people dragged about and plucked. That in the latter ages, after a long suspension of the visible interpositions of Providence, God, who all the while regards that dwelling place which he never will abandon, and is at all times directing the events of the world to the accomplishment of his own purposes of wisdom and mercy; immediately before the final

*God, in the latter ages, will purify his Church with sore but wholesome judgments. Compare John xv. 1, 2." (Letter on Isaiah xviii.) These judgments will probably be the troubles occasioned by incessant war.

t“ It was a prevailing opinion among the early fathers, that Antichrist is to possess himself of the Holy Land, and that there he is to perish.” (Letter on Isaiah xviii.) This opinion was manifestly founded on Dan. xi. 41, 45, not to mention other parallel prophecies.

$ “ When the present offered consists of persons, the offered, as well as the offerers, must be worshippers. For to be offered is to be made a worshipper ; or, in some instances to be devoted to some particular service in which the general character of a worshipper is previously implied, both in the person who hath authority so to devote, and in the devoted, as in the instances of Jephthah's daughter and the child Samuel. The people therefore, brought as a present to Jehovah to mount Zion, will be brought thither in a converted state.” Letter on Isaiah xviii.

od shallstical confede seeming

gathering of his elect from the four winds of heaven, will purify his church by such signal judgments, as shall rouse the attention of the whole world, and, in the end, strike all nations with religious awe. At this period, the apostate faction will occupy the holy land. This faction will certainly be an instrument of those judgments, by which the church will be purified. That purification therefore is not at all inconsistent with the seeming prosperity of the affairs of the atheistical confederacy. But, after such duration, as God shall see fit to allow to the plenitude of its power, the Jews, converted to the faith of Christ, will be unexpectedly restored to their ancient possessions. · The swift messengers will certainly have a considerable share, as instruments in the hand of God, in the restoration of the chosen people. Otậerwise, to what purpose are they called upon (Ver. 1.) to receive their commission from the prophet? It will perhaps be some part of their business to afford the Jews the assistance and protection of their fleets. This seems to be insinuated in the imagery of the first verse. But the principal part, they will have to act, will be that of the carriers of God's message to his people. This character seems to describe some Christian country, where the prophecies, relating to the latter ages, will meet with particular attention; where the literal sense of those, which promise the restoration of the Jewish people, will be strenuously upheld ; and where these will be so successfully expounded, as to be the principal means, by God's blessing, of removing the veil from the hearts of the Israelites

“In what people of the earth, of the eastern or the western world, the characters of the messenger people may be found, when the time shall come for the accomplishment of the prophecy, is hitherto uncertain in that degree, that we are hardly at liberty, in my judgment to conjecture. But I cannot but say, that it seems in the highest degree improbable, that the atheistical democracy of France should be the people, for whom the honour of that office is intended. The French democracy, from its infancy to the present moment, has been a conspicuous and principal branch at least of the western Antichrist. The messenger people is certainly to be a Christian peo. ple. For I think it cannot be doubted, that the messenger

« PreviousContinue »