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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 60

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 1


Isaiah 60:1.—Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

THE prophetic style is wonderfully sublime: its figures are so bold, its transitions so quick, its descriptions so animated, that all the most admired compositions of Greece and Rome sink in our estimation when compared with the sacred oracles. The writings of Isaiah in particular justify this remark; and both the chapter, and the very words, before us, are worthy of notice in this view. The prophet had just foretold the advent of the Redeemer [Note: Isaiah 59:20. That the passage refers to Christ, and not merely to the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, will be seen by comparing Isaiah 9:2. with Matthew 4:16.]; and instantly, passing over an interval of seven or eight hundred years, he sees his prediction, as it were, accomplished; and calls upon the Church, in terms of joyful congratulation, to approve itself worthy of so great a blessing—

In discoursing on his words we shall consider,


The tidings here announced—

Christ is the fountain of light to the whole universe—
[He is “the Lord” Jehovah, “in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.” Though as the Son of man, he laboured under all the sinless infirmities of our nature; yet, as the Son of God, he was “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” From him proceeds a lustre, as from the sun in the firmament; but though “he shines in the darkness, the darkness does not apprehend his light [Note: John 1:5.].” It is the Church alone that truly receives him. That, like Goshen in the midst of Egypt, is light, whilst all around it is in gross darkness [Note: Exodus 9:26; Exodus 10:21-23.]. If any have the Light of his word, they cannot profit by it, unless their eyes be opened by his good Spirit. Hence the prophet, speaking of him to the Church, says emphatically, “Thy light is come.”]

This light is risen upon the Church of God—
[Under the Jewish dispensation “the day began, as it were, to dawn; and in the hearts of some the day-star had arisen [Note: 2 Peter 1:19.].” But at the incarnation of Christ, and in the days of his ministration upon earth, the sun arose above the horizon. In the apostolic age it shone in its meridian splendour; and, through the goodness of God, it has at last visited these distant regions [Note: Malachi 4:2.Luke 1:78-79; Luke 1:78-79.]. In some respects it shines clearer upon us than even on the Apostles themselves; since they, for several years after our Lord’s ascension, did not see that the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles was to be broken down: whereas we, who are Gentiles, not only know this truth, but are “graffed on that stock, from which the Jews themselves have been broken off.”]

These tidings are indeed joyful: but, that they are to have a practical effect upon us, we see by,


The exhortation grounded upon them—

In the margin of our Bibles the word “shine” is translated “be enlightened.” This translation suggests so important a thought, a thought so naturally arising from the tidings announced, that we may well give it a distinguished place in this part of our subject. The exhortation may then be considered as two-fold;


“Arise, and be enlightened”—

[Notwithstanding “the true light now shines,” the greater part even of the Christian world are covered with gross darkness [Note: ver. 2.]. We set before them the light, but they “love darkness rather than light,” and desire that we would “make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before them [Note: John 3:19. Isaiah 30:11.].” But we should come forth from our dungeons, and behold the Sun of Righteousness [Note: Isaiah 49:9.]. We should beg of God to bring us “out of darkness into his marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.],” and to “shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.].” If we continue blind it is our own fault: we take part with Satan against Christ, and, as the recompense of our wickedness, “the god of this world is permitted to blind us [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.],” and we are given over to a delusion to believe a lie [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:11.]. Since then “the day-spring from on high hath visited us,” let us no longer “sit in darkness and the shadow of death,” but improve the mercies we enjoy, that “our feet may be guided into the way of peace.”]


“Arise, and shine”—

[The sun in the firmament irradiates the stars, which shine with a lustre derived from him. Thus we are also to “shine as lights in the world [Note: Philippians 2:15.],” and, to reflect the light of the Sun of Righteousness. As the face of Moses, when come down from the mount, shone, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold him [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:13.], so should all of us, though with a less dazzling lustre, shine in our proper orbit. The stars indeed can shine only when the sun is withdrawn; but the brighter the Lord Jesus shines, the more shall we reflect his image. Let us then “walk in the light as God is in the light [Note: 1 John 1:7.];” and let “our path be as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day [Note: Proverbs 4:18.].]


Those who, though living in the midst of the light, have never yet seen it—

[Such are without excuse. God would “make the scales to fall from our eves,” if we would but call upon him. But our rejection of the light will be the occasion of our more aggravated condemnation. “If Christ had not come and spoken unto us we had not had sin; but now we have no cloak for our sin [Note: John 9:41; John 15:22.].” Let us then cry to him, like those of old, “Lord, open my eyes.” Then shall we no longer walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life [Note: John 8:12.Ephesians 5:14; Ephesians 5:14.].]


Those who, though they have had some views of Christ, are yet in darkness—

[The sun in the heavens is sometimes obscured by intervening clouds: thus also “the Sun of Righteousness” is sometimes veiled; and we are left to walk many days without any cheering views of his countenance. If this be the case with us, let us tarry his leisure, and wait patiently for his return. Let us not say, “My sun is set to rise no more;” but rather, “When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me [Note: Micah 7:7-9.].” Thus in his light you shall see light [Note: Psalms 36:9.]; “the light that is sown for you shall in due time spring up [Note: Psalms 97:11.];” yea, your light shall rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon-day [Note: Isaiah 58:10.].]


Those who are enjoying the light of the Redeemer’s countenance—

[Jesus is the light and glory, not of the church militant only, but also of the church triumphant [Note: Revelation 21:23-24.]: and to “behold his glory as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father [Note: John 1:14.]” is an anticipation and foretaste of heaven itself. “In his favour is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.” Let the enjoyment then of so rich a mercy stir you up to glorify his name; that so, while you behold his glory, you yourselves may be changed into his image from glory to glory [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.], and, by making your light to shine before men, may stir up others to glorify him also [Note: Matthew 5:16.].]

Verse 8


Isaiah 60:8.—Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?

THERE is much spoken in the Holy Scriptures respecting the glory of the latter day. This whole chapter is occupied with the subject. The predictions contained in it have never yet been verified. Great as was the spread of the Gospel in the apostolic age, it was nothing in comparison of that to which we are taught to look forward at a period that is now fast approaching. The prophet, whilst occupied in the contemplation of that day, saw it, as it were, already commenced, and the whole Gentile world flocking to Christ, even as doves to their windows. The language in which he depicts that day is suited to the time at which he wrote. Jerusalem was then the centre of union to all the tribes. Thither all the males went up thrice a year: there the sacrifices were offered: and thither all Gentile proselytes also came to present their offerings to the Lord. But all these things were typical of the Christian Church, which shall be established on the face of the whole earth, and of the spiritual sacrifices which all who come up to our Zion shall offer there.
I propose to consider our text,


In reference to the millennial period—

The question is evidently the language of surprise and joy: and the answer to it is given in the whole context. Let us attend to,


The prophet’s own description of that day—

[Then shall light burst forth, almost as at the first creation, when “God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” The gross darkness which at present covers the whole earth will be dispelled by the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, and “all flesh will see the salvation of God [Note: Luke 3:6.].” “The Gentiles, from one end of the earth even to the other, will then come to Zion’s light, and kings to the brightness of her rising:” and with them they will bring whatsoever they have whereby they may glorify their God; their whole land, as it were, being covered with their retinue. “The multitude of camels shall cover thee,” says the Lord, “the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah: all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense: and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord [Note: ver. 2–6.].” The very cattle shall feel, as it were, impressed with a holy zeal to honour God, and come up voluntarily, ambitious of the honour of being offered in sacrifice upon his altar: “All the flocks of Keder shall be gathered together unto thee; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar; and I will glorify the house of my glory [Note: ver. 7.].” All this Jehovah revealed to the prophet, and made to pass, as it were, before his eyes; assuring him, that the isles of western Europe should take the lead in this glorious work: “Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, (O that our happy isle might have this distinguished honour, and employ her shipping in this glorious cause!) to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee [Note: ver. 9.].”

And in what manner shall this event take place? Shall it resemble any thing that has ever yet existed in the world? No: it will infinitely surpass any thing that occurred even in the apostolic age. Then indeed there was one day, the day of Pentecost, when God’s power was revealed, and three thousand were converted to the faith of Christ: but at the period to which we are looking forward, “a nation will be born in a day [Note: ver. 22. with 66:8.].” A Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit will be a daily occurrence; and not in one place only, but in every part of the globe: so that the converts will come “flying” in inconceivable numbers, “like a cloud,” and with the ardour and celerity of “doves flying to their windows.”

Certainly this description of the Millennium is highly figurative: yet we conceive it to be fully justified by,]


The testimony of other prophets respecting it—

[All the prophets, with more or less clearness, testify of this day. David speaks very fully and strongly respecting it. He tells us, “that the utmost ends of the earth are given to Christ for his possession [Note: Psalms 2:8.];” that “all kings shall fall down before him,” and “all nations shall serve him [Note: Psalms 72:11.];” and that “the whole earth shall be filled with his glory [Note: Psalms 72:19.].” The prophet Daniel repeatedly declares, that “the stone which has been cut out without hands shall break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, and become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth,” and “stand for ever [Note: Daniel 2:34-35; Daniel 2:44.];” and that “all people, nations, and languages, shall serve” our adorable Redeemer; and that “his dominion should never pass away [Note: Daniel 7:14.].” Habakkuk assures us, that “the knowledge of the Lord shall in that day cover the earth, as deeply and extensively as the waters cover the sea [Note: Habakkuk 2:14.].” Zechariah also, who delights to dwell on this glorious subject, asserts, that “the Lord shall be King over all the earth; that in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one:” and that “from that time there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts [Note: Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:21.].” Thus, without multiplying passages to the same effect, we see, beyond a doubt, that a blessed season is approaching, when God will, as it were, “create all things new [Note: Isaiah 65:17.],” and there shall be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness [Note: 2 Peter 3:13.].”]

It will not be unprofitable to consider our text,


In reference to the present time—

But here we must notice it rather with regret

[Though so many centuries have elapsed since the delivery of this prophecy, we are, though not in time, yet in appearance, almost as far as ever from its accomplishment. There is not one sixth of the human race that have ever so much as heard of the Lord Jesus Christ; and of those who are called by his name, the great mass are as far from any spiritual knowledge of him as the heathen themselves. Look through Europe, or through our own highly-favoured kingdom, or even through our own immediate neighbourhood, and say, Whether you see, or hear of, any thing resembling the description in our text? Where do we find that ardent desire after God; that flocking of multitudes to Mount Zion; that surrender of themselves to God as living sacrifices; that determination to lose no time, but to press forward with increasing ardour, till they have found their rest in Christ? Here and there an individual may be found that is inquiring the way to Zion: but what appearance is there of a cloud, borne forward by the breath of the Almighty; or of a flock winging their way to Zion, with a zeal that regards no obstacle, and a rapidity that suffers no delay? I may rather ask, Where is the place in which the great mass of the inhabitants would not regard such zeal as an enthusiasm that was to be repressed, rather than as a piety deserving imitation? Instead therefore of saying, Who are these? we must rather say, “Where are there any, who fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” If some there be; still, in comparison of the bulk of nominal Christians, they are but as “the gleanings of the olive, two or three upon the topmost bough.”]

Yet we may also in some degree notice it with joy

[I bless God, there are some, and some also in this place, who do seek their rest in Christ, and do fly towards it with unabated ardour. Yes, and with surprise also, as well as joy, may I ask, “Who are these?” They were once as far off from God as the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah, and as unlikely to devote themselves to God as the flacks of Kedar, or the rams of Nebaioth. Their education, their age, their associates, their habits, all rendered such a change highly improbable; and give us a decisive evidence, that He who has wrought so effectually in them, can accomplish the same blessed change over the face of the whole earth. We therefore do rejoice, both for the individuals whose zeal is so kindled, and for those who are provoked to emulation by the example that is set before them. And we pray God that their numbers may be increased a thousand-fold; and that in this place, as well as in the world at large, “a little one may become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. May the Lord hasten it in his time [Note: ver. 22.]!”]


To those who have begun their flight—

[Let me say, Suffer nothing to retard you, nothing to divert you from your purpose. If, instead of having a cloud, or a flock, to accompany you, you are but a solitary individual, let not that discourage you. Your object is not less praiseworthy on that account. Lot was not the less right in maintaining his love for piety, because all around him were confederate in evil courses; nor was Noah the less approved of God, because the whole world agreed in loading him with derision. If many will join you, be thankful for it: but, if there be not another in all the cities of the world that will flee with you to the mountain, go out of Sodom, and stop not in all the plain. The judgments which are coming on every unbelieving soul, will amply vindicate your honour, whilst your personal safety will abundantly repay your toil.
Yet go not alone, if you can by any means induce others to accompany you in your heavenly flight. Yea, be zealous and active in hastening forward the day that is spoken of in our text. Though the work itself is God’s, yet it is to be accomplished by human means. If salvation be through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through him alone, he must be made known to the benighted heathen: for “how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher [Note: Romans 10:14.]?”

I thank God that means are now using by different societies to diffuse the Holy Scriptures throughout the world, and to send forth missionaries to instruct both Jews and Gentiles. Aid these societies then with all your power. It is particularly said in the verse following my text, that those who wait upon the Lord, “bring their silver and their gold with them.” Let not this be forgotten by you. Let your property be consecrated to this holy service: account this its best and most appropriate use: and, instead of giving grudgingly or of necessity to so good a work, regard it as your highest honour to contribute oven in the smallest degree to the salvation of your fellow-creatures, and to the establishment of the Redeemer’s kingdom upon earth.]


To those who have no such blessed object in view—

[What shall I say? I would take up a lamentation over them; and, in the language of surprise and grief, say, “Who are these who do not fly as a cloud, or as the doves to their windows?” What! have they never heard what a Saviour there is? or, are they ignorant how much they stand in need of mercy through him? Dear Brethren, be persuaded that there is no refuge for you but in Him: to him you must come, if you would ever find rest unto your souls. I beseech you, therefore, flee to him as your only hope: be in earnest: let not the doves flying to their windows outstrip you in your course. And bring to him all that you are, and all that you have. So shall the angels in the presence of God rejoice over you: so shall the Church of Christ also be edified through you: and so shall you be meet for the Church above, whither a whole cloud of witnesses are gone before you, and where you shall soon unite with them for ever in the service of your God.]

Verse 13


Isaiah 60:13.—The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee; the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary: and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

WHILST we admire, as of necessity we must, the richness and diversity of the imagery which is employed to depict the beauty of the Christian Church, we must be careful to seize the truths which are so exhibited: for in this the sublime descriptions of the prophets differ materially from the poetic flights of other authors; they declare what actually exists; whereas the poetical representations of uninspired men are for the most part either mere fictions, or truth rendered fictitious by the high colouring that is given to it. The description here given of the glory of the latter day is exceeding grand. The whole creation, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, contribute to it according to their several ability. Not men only, but even flocks and herds, are spoken of as coming voluntarily to consecrate themselves to the Lord; and in my text, the woods of Lebanon yield their produce, to adorn the Church, and to glorify their God.
The particular expressions in my text lead me to set before you,


The constitution of the Church of Christ—

From Lebanon the wood was brought for the erection of Solomon’s temple [Note: 2 Chronicles 2:16.]: and all the glory of Lebanon shall be brought to our Zion also, to build an habitation for our incarnate God. By “the fir-tree and the pine,” I understand the great and mighty of the earth; whilst “the box” represents the poor and humble, whether in respect of civil rank, or intellectual capacity. Both the one and the other of these shall be employed as constituent parts of God’s spiritual temple. For each a suitable place shall be found, and for each an appropriate use.

The high and mighty shall be brought on a level with the lowest—
[Christianity does not at all interfere with distinctions in civil life: they are the appointment of God himself; and are necessary to the well-being of mankind. But in a spiritual view, the greatest monarch upon earth must be brought on a level with the meanest of his subjects. The axe must be laid to the root of all his pride and self-sufficiency, and he must be felled by the operation of the word and Spirit of God. Every man is a sinner before God; every man must be made to feel and acknowledge his guilt; every man must seek for mercy through the blood and righteousness of that Divine Saviour who died for him. Every man must live altogether in a state of dependence upon God, not merely as a God of providence, but especially as a God of grace; and must receive continually fresh supplies of grace and strength out of the fulness that is treasured up for him in Christ. This is not the work of the poor only, but of the rich also: the most learned philosopher must in this respect feel himself on a par with the most illiterate of the human race. All must equally be taught of God; and all “be saved equally by grace through faith in Christ.”]
The poor, on the contrary, are raised to an equality with the highest—
[There is not a blessing which the poorest may not obtain, to the full extent that it can be enjoyed by the rich and great. The Apostles themselves were not selected from the higher or more intelligent classes, but from the lowest walks of life. A few poor fishermen were raised up to be the teachers of the whole world. And if it be thought that this was a peculiar case, and that the poor by reason of their disadvantages are greatly inferior to the rich, I must say, that, for the most part, the very reverse of this is true; and that God yet daily, in ten thousand instances, “reveals to babes the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.].” The very circumstance of the poor having so little in this world lends them more simply to depend on God; and their conscious want of human knowledge leads them to implore more humbly and more earnestly the teaching of God’s Spirit: and hence by coming to God “hungry, they are filled with good things, whilst the rich are sent empty away [Note: Luke 1:53.].” Thus does God still “take the beggar from the dunghill, to set him among the princes [Note: 1 Samuel 2:8.]:” and it is still daily seen, that “the box” occupies a place in the Church of God which the loftiest cedar in Lebanon might envy.

That this is the constitution of the Church of Christ, is not left to be inferred from the figurative language of my text: it is expressly stated by St. James, who save, “Let the brother of law degree rejoice, in that he is exalted; but the rich, in that he is made low [Note: James 1:9-10.].” Here, I say, the whole of what I have asserted is stated plainly, and without a figure.]

I now proceed to notice,


The excellence of that constitution—

In our text, this particular constitution is set forth,


As ornamental to the Church itself—

[Let any one view the Church as so constituted. Let the loftiest “firs and pines” be viewed in union with the humble “box;” the kings and princes of the earth assembled at the footstool of the Divine Majesty in concert with the lowliest classes of mankind: all there are bowing their knees together before their common Lord and Master: the same confessions, how humiliating soever they may be, proceed equally from the lips of all: the same petitions for grace, for mercy, for peace, for strength, are urged by all, with equal and united importunity: the same devout acknowledgments are poured forth by all for blessings received: the word delivered to them all is pronounced with the some authority, and entire submission to it required from them all under the same awful sanctions: the same invitations and promises are held forth to all: and the same glorious inheritance assured to all who receive and obey the word. View them all as then sitting down together at the table of the Lord, as guests equally invited; and equally accepted, by the great Master of the feast; all eating of the same bread; all drinking of the same cup; and all receiving into their souls the same heavenly communications; and all returning to their homes refreshed and strengthened for their future labours. Say, is not this lovely? Is it not a very emblem of heaven itself, where a poor Lazarus, whose very sores the dogs but lately licked, because he had not a friend to bind them up, now sits down with all the Prophets and Apostles of the Lord at the heavenly banquet, his head reclined in the very bosom of Abraham himself? Yes; thus it is in the Church below: “The rich and the poor meet together; and the Lord is the Maker of them all,” the Father of them all, the portion of them all [Note: Proverbs 29:13.]. Amongst them all, there is no room either for contempt or envy; the honour and the happiness of all being wholly independent on worldly circumstances, and dependent only on the access to God which each obtains for himself, and the consequent manifestations of God’s love which he is privileged to enjoy. Their degree of usefulness to the Church may indeed be affected by the situations which they severally occupy in civil life, and the qualifications with which they are endowed: but, as in the natural body, so in Christ’s mystical body, though one member may have a higher office than another, none can dispense with the services of the rest: “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor can the head say to the feet, I hare no need of you.” Every member has its proper place, and its proper office: and, if one were wanting, the whole body would be defective, and deformed. But in Christ’s body not one member is wanting: every place is occupied; God having assigned to every member the situation adapted for it: and in the perfect adaptation of each to its proper ends, and the harmonious exercise of all for the general good, the beauty of the whole consists [Note: See 1 Corinthians 12:12-22.]. In truth, it is “for the beautifying of the place of God’s sanctuary” that this assemblage of the high and low, “the pine and the box, is ordained: and we cannot but acknowledge, that in this view “Zion is beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth [Note: Psalms 48:1-2.].”]


As honourable to God—

[To this point God himself calls our particular attention. “I will plant,” says he, “in the wilderness, the cedar, the shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and the box-tree together; that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it [Note: Isaiah 41:19-20.].” Now why, I would ask, does he lay such peculiar stress upon this, but because it reflects peculiar lustre on his character, and displays in a most endearing point of view his glorious perfections? Truly “this does make the place of his feet glorious;” because it shews, that, whilst he is “Lord of all, he is equally rich in mercy to all who call upon him [Note: Romans 10:12.].” In his regards, there is no difference between one and another: “there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ, that is, the image of Christ upon the soul, is all, and in all [Note: Colossians 3:11.].”

Let us suppose for a moment that there were the same kind of partiality in him as he complains of in many of his professing people: “If there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and become judges who reason ill [Note: James 2:2-4.]?” I say, let us suppose such a partiality in God; and how unamiable would he appear! But “there is no such respect of persons with him [Note: Acts 10:34.]:” the humblest shrub in all the woods of Lebanon is as dear to him as the loftiest cedar there: yea, the weaker they are in themselves, the more tenderly he watches over them for good, that he may “display in them the excellency of his own power [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:7.],” and “perfect his own strength in their weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” Even the least and meanest of them all he regards as “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord; and in them he is, and will be, glorified [Note: Isa 61:3].”

In this then God acts altogether worthy of himself, and shews, that, as he is the Maker of all, so is he the Father, and the Friend of all.]


Such being the constitution of the Church,


Let us all seek to become members of it—

[Are there here any of the higher orders? I would say, give yourselves to the Lord, to serve him with your whole hearts. This is what you must do, if ever you would be happy; for in the very words before my text you are told, that “the kingdom and nation that will not serve his Church shall perish.” Do not imagine that your elevation among men can procure for you any exemption from your duty to God; your distinctions only render your way to heaven more difficult. For persons elevated in society to be humbled and brought upon a level with the poorest of mankind, is no easy matter: but it must be done — — — O beg of God to accomplish it for you, by the mighty working of his power! — — —

To you who are of the lower classes I would say, Rejoice, that whilst your fellow-creatures perhaps are ready to despite you on account of the disadvantages under which you labour, God loves you, and made it a distinguishing feature of the Messiah’s kingdom, that “the poor should have the Gospel preached to them [Note: Matthew 11:5.].” Whatever the rich may imagine, you of the two are more favoured of God than they: for whilst “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” “God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: James 2:5.].” Labour then to secure this privilege: and, though you have none of the external recommendations of “the pine and fir,” you need not fear but that God will accept your services, and make you “pillars in his temple that shall go no more out [Note: Revelation 3:12.].”]


Let us all endeavour to promote the establishment of it in the world—

[Low as the state of the Church at present is, it shall one day, like the stone which Nebuchadnezzar saw, “become a mountain, and fill the whole earth [Note: Daniel 2:35.].” “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains; and all nations shall flow unto it [Note: Isaiah 2:2.].” The stateliest trees shall then be as ambitious of contributing to its glory, as those of the humblest growth.” Let us then, in an assured prospect of that day, send forth workmen to Lebanon, to fell the lofty firs, and to bring in the humble box [Note: If this were the subject of a Mission Sermon, the thought of heathens and savages in every quarter of the world flocking to Christ, “as doves to their windows,” (ver. 8.) might here he opened to advantage.] — — — So shall the sanctuary of God be enlarged and beautified, and his name be glorified throughout all the earth.]

Verses 15-16


Isaiah 60:15-16. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

THE Church of God, previous to our Saviour’s first advent, looked forward to that event with eager expectation: and with the same holy feelings ought we to look forward to that advent of which the Scriptures so largely speak, when he shall take to him his great power, and establish his kingdom over the face of the whole earth. That such a period will arrive, there can be no doubt; and that it is fast approaching, seems clearly intimated in the prophetic writings. It is not necessary for us to fix the dates of prophecy with such accuracy as to mark the precise year, when this great event shall commence, or be accomplished: an obscurity necessarily hangs over such predictions: it is not the design of God so entirely to make known the designs of his providence, as to put us into complete possession of them before they have occurred; but only so to reveal them, that, when they shall have occurred, we may know them to have been foreordained by him, and to have fulfilled his eternal counsels. The chapter before us is altogether a description of that event. As for any thing which took place at the return of the Jews from Babylon, or even in the apostolic age, it is altogether out of the question, as a fulfilment of this prophecy. It is agreed, on all hands, that the events here predicted remain to be accomplished. And what those events are, I will endeavour more fully to explain.
Let us consider then,


To what these words refer—

Good men, especially in later ages, have been so fond of spiritualizing the Scriptures, that they have, in many instances, totally overlooked their primary meaning. The chapter before us, for instance, they have applied to the Gentile Church, and have almost entirely lost sight of the Jews as comprehended in it. And I cannot but think, that the grievous neglect of which the Christian Church has been guilty, in relation to the welfare of the Jews, is very greatly to be attributed to ministers themselves, who have either kept out of sight the prophecies altogether, or interpreted them in an erroneous way. The chapter before us relates to the Jews; nor can any person with an unprejudiced mind put any other sense upon it.

Hear St. Paul’s explanation of it—
[To understand it aright, we must take into our view the two last verses of the preceding chapter: “The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord.” To whom now do these words refer? Consult the Apostle, when citing them, in his Epistle to the Romans [Note: Romans 11:25-28.]: “I would not have you ignorant of this mystery,” says he, “that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. Does any doubt remain on the mind as to the Apostle’s meaning? His next words will dispel it utterly: “As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” There can be no doubt, therefore, but that the Apostle understood the prophet as speaking altogether of the Jews.]

Examine the entire contents of the chapter—
[The chapter is a continuation of those words which the Apostle has cited and explained. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together; and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows! Surely the Isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought: for the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow down themselves at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” Then come the words of my text, “Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated;” and so on.

Thus have I cited the whole preceding context, to shew, that it is all one continued address to the Jewish Church; and that, from beginning to end, there is not one syllable that can warrant the application of it to the Christian Church. You will observe, that the Jewish Church is spoken of in terms not at all applicable to the Christian Church; (for it is the Jewish, and not the Christian Church, of whom God says, “In my wrath I smote thee; but in my favour have I had mercy on thee:) and you will further notice, that throughout the whole of it, the Gentiles and their kings are contrasted with the Jewish Church, to which they minister. And all this is the rather to be noticed, in order that you may see how little ground there is for that perversion of the passage which they are guilty of, who pass over the Jewish Church, and apply the whole of it to the Gentiles: and at the same time, that you may learn to read the Scriptures with an unprejudiced eye, and to expect the fulfilment of them according to their true import.]

Having ascertained the just application of the words before us, let us consider,


The glorious prospects which they hold forth—

The Jewish Church was forsaken and hated at the time of the Babylonish captivity: and still greater hatred and contempt has she endured since the degradation inflicted on her by the Romans. To have any connexion with her is judged a reproach, throughout the whole world [Note: See Lamentations 2:15-16. sadly descriptive of the treatment to which they have been, and still are, subjected even in the Christian world.] — — — But there is a time coming, when she shall be again honoured, both by God and man: yea, “she shall be made an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.” She shall be honoured,


In the number and dignity of her converts—

[Bold and beautiful are the figures here used by the prophet, for the purpose of describing this event. The whole Gentile world, together with their kings, are viewed as a nursing-mother, who administers to her infant offspring what God has given her for its support. In the first instance, they join the Jewish Church, as her children; but, having done this, they themselves assume the office of a parent, accounting all that they possess as valuable only in proportion as it may minister to the Church’s welfare. This is more plainly declared in another chapter, where God says, “I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders; and kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers [Note: Isaiah 49:22-23.].” Having already brought before you the whole chapter, I forbear to notice it again, any further than to say, that, whilst the accession of converts to the Jewish Church is there depicted in such vivid colours, that you see it, as it were, actually taking place before your eyes, it is particularly said, that “they bring their silver and their gold with them [Note: ver. 9.],” so anxious will every true convert be to advance the Church’s welfare, and the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom throughout the world. We must not however forget, that God is honoured in the conversion of the poor, as well as of the rich; of the meanest beggar, as well as of a monarch upon his throne. When the “glory of Lebanon shall come unto the Church,” not only shall the noble “fir” or the majestic “pine” be seen, but the low and humble “box;” and equally shall they all, in their places, contribute to “beautify the place of God’s sanctuary, and to make the place of his feet glorious [Note: ver. 13.].”]


In the special favour of our God—

[In former days, God had shewn himself to be the Friend and Protector of his people: in Egypt, in the Wilderness, in Canaan, by numberless manifestations of his power and grace. And in days that are yet future, shall there be such evidence of his presence with them, as will leave no doubt on their minds, or in the minds of others, that “God is with them of a truth:” for in the very next chapter it is said, “All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed [Note: Isaiah 61:9.].” Nor need we look for miracles to establish this. There is, in the very work of God upon the soul, abundant evidence that it is his work. This is well described by the prophet, in the words following my text: “For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron. I will make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall be no more heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise [Note: ver. 17, 18.].” Here, under the figure of temporal prosperity, such as obtained in Israel under the reign of Solomon [Note: 2 Chronicles 9:20.], is set forth the piety of Zion’s converts; none exercising any more their corrupt propensities, or resting any longer in the possession of mere moral worth; but all exhibiting the brightest virtues, and abounding in the sublimest graces; “their very brass becoming gold; their iron, silver; their wood, brass; and their stones, iron.” Such was the change wrought on the converts on the day of Pentecost: and who could be at a loss to find the Author of it? The creation itself does not more loudly proclaim its divine original, than this work does, whereever it is wrought: and to the person’s own conscience it bears witness, “I, the Lord, am thy Saviour and thy Reedemer, the Mighty one of Jacob.”]

Let me now call your attention to,


The interest which the whole world has in the accomplishment of them—

Look at the present state whether of the Jewish or Gentile world—
[Truly, wherever we turn our eyes, we see nothing but sin and misery. “All the foundations of the earth are out of course [Note: Psalms 82:5.].” In private life, how little of God is seen! In communities, what “oppression, what violence, what wasting and destruction,” fill the world! Say, Is there not a call for such a change as has been described? Methinks “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together,” till it be accomplished [Note: Romans 8:22.].]

Contemplate, on the other hand, the predicted change—
[Our prophet beautifully describes it in another place: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking-child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea [Note: Isaiah 11:6-9.].” This exactly accords with the representation which we have been considering. Peace and holiness will pervade the whole Church: yea, such peace will the Church enjoy, that it shall need no walls or gates for its protection: “her walls shall be salvation, and her gates be praise.” With such a fulness of blessings, too, shall she be enriched, that no created comforts shall be wanted by her to administer their light: neither “sun nor moon” can add to her; for “the Lord himself will be a light unto her, and her God her glory.” Nor shall this blessedness be transient, as in former days: “the Lord shall be to her an everlasting light; and the days of her mourning shall be ended.” At all former periods there have been tons of Belial to dishonour and afflict her: but in that day “her people shall be all righteous, even trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, in whom he shall be glorified.” Such a state of things, it may be said, is impossible; there being scarcely so much as an appearance of any such thing upon the earth. But that which is at present but “a little one, shall become a thousand; and a small one, a strong nation: Jehovah himself will effect it: the Lord shall hasten it in his time [Note: ver. 19–22.].”

O, what a different world will this then be! Should we not pray for this happy time? Should we not labour to bring it forward? What exertions should we not make, if, peradventure, we may but collect a few of the stones with which this temple shall be built!]

Learn from hence,

What should be our own personal state before God—

[We see what the Church is to the whole world: such should we individually be, in our respective circles; an excellency and a joy to all who behold us; a source of good to all connected with us; objects of complacency even to God himself. O Brethren, let us not contemplate these things in the millennial Church, and forget that they should characterize the Church in all ages I We deceive ourselves grievously in this matter. We think that such and such things became the primitive saints, but are unsuited to us; or that they will be proper for the millennial period, but are not so for the present hour. Religion is the same in every age: nay more, the assistances for attaining it are the same in every age. The Holy Spirit should be poured out upon us, if we sought his influences as we ought: “if we have not, it is because we ask not; or because we ask amiss.” Prayer has the same power as ever; and, if we were instant in it, would prevail with God so to fill us out of his own fulness, that we might “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”]


What we should do for the benefit of the world—

[We should labour especially to extend the knowledge of Christ, which alone will prevail for the diffusion of holiness or happiness throughout the world. More particularly we should labour for the conversion of the Jews; seeing that they are God’s appointed instruments for the conversion of the world. It is to their light that the Gentiles shall come; and “on their skirt that the Gentiles shall lay hold, saying, We will go with you, for we perceive that God is with you of a truth.” Some are apt to imagine, that a zeal for the welfare of the Jewish people argues somewhat of indifference for the Gentiles. But, if we had no personal regard for the Jews at all, yet, for the Gentiles’ sake, we should labour for their welfare; because it is through them that salvation is to come to the whole Gentile world. Not that we are to set the two in opposition to each other: there is ample scope for exertion amongst them both; and we may hope to be partially useful to them both. But the great period to which we are looking forward, when “the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ,” will be introduced by the conversion of the Jews; “the receiving of whom shall be as life from the dead, to the whole world [Note: Romans 11:15.].”

This, then, I say to you; Begin the work, which kings and queens are destined to carry on: draw forth, if I may so say, the breast to them; and let all the affections of your souls be deeply engaged in administering to their wants. Bring, as the converts of the latter day will do, “your silver and your gold with you;” and know, that you can never expend it more beneficially to the world, or more honourably to your God, than by promoting that good work, of which the prophets have so largely spoken, and for the ultimate attainment of which the Saviour himself poured forth his soul unto the death.]

Verses 19-20


Isaiah 60:19-20. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

AS there are many passages in the prophets which admit of a mystical, as well as literal, meaning, so there are many which must be interpreted altogether in a mystical sense. There was nothing in the state of the Jews after their return from Babylon that could in any wise be called an accomplishment of the chapter before us. The whole passage can relate to nothing but the future prosperity of the Christian church. There is a time coming when the Church shall exchange its despised, impoverished, persecuted state for a state of felicity and honour; when its spiritual blessings in particular shall be both permanent and abundant, as an earnest of that infinite and everlasting happiness which its members shall enjoy in a better world.
The text may be understood as referring,


To the millennial period—

The terms here used, import that the prosperity of the Church shall one day be,


Exalted in its degree—

[The shining of the sun and moon may well be understood as expressing the greatest temporal happiness. But we are not to suppose that there will be a total privation of temporal blessings from the Church: (on the contrary, there is reason to expect that its prosperity, in respect of outward things, will be greatly increased.) The positive declarations must here, as in many other passages, be understood in a comparative sense [Note: Hosea 6:6.], and as implying, that the spiritual state of the Church will be so exalted as altogether to eclipse the greatest of earthly comforts: they shall be lost as it were, in the enjoyment which the saints shall have of God. This is beautifully represented us though the sun and moon hid their heads through shame [Note: Isaiah 24:23.]; and it is even now realized in the experience of those who enjoy much of the light of God’s countenance. What “glorying in God” there will be in that day we may conceive, if we only suppose every member of the Church adopting the sentiments and language of “the sweet singer of Israel [Note: Psalms 145:1-12.]” —]


Lasting in its duration—

[As the shining of the sun and moon imports prosperity, so does the withdrawing of their light imply the heaviest calamities. That the Church will have no mixture of bitterness in her cup, we do not suppose: but, as, by means of her intimate communion with God, her earthly joys will be no joys, so, by the same means, her earthly sorrows will be no sorrows: they will be all forgotten, as it were, in the abundance of her exalted happiness. This effect has often arisen from fellowship with God: Paul and Silas, notwithstanding their backs were torn with scourges, and their feet were fastened in the stocks, sang praises to God at midnight [Note: Acts 16:23-25.]: and many, far inferior to them in gifts, have also been enabled to “glory in tribulation.” How much more then shall this be the case when God shall take to him his great power, and reign on earth, and the graces of all his people be proportionably increased! Surely “their days of mourning shall be ended;” or, if a cloud occasionally intervene for a moment, their sun shall never set, their moon shall never be withdrawn; yea, the very clouds themselves shall only occasion the light to burst forth again with greater splendour [Note: Isaiah 60:20.].]

The text however will not receive its full accomplishment till we come,


To the eternal state—

Then the figurative expressions in the text will fall short of, as much as now they seem to exceed, the truth. The happiness of the Church shall then be,


In God only—

[There will be no room for carnal enjoyments in heaven: there “they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God.” While we are on earth, God communicates much happiness to us by means of his creatures: but in heaven we shall no more drink water from such polluted cisterns, but go to the fountain-head itself [Note: Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5. “They have no need of the sun,” &c.]. There we shall “see him face to face,” and behold all the brightness of his glory. There all the mysteries of his love will be opened to us, and its incomprehensible heights and depths be made plain to our shallow capacities. O what shouts of praise shall we then utter! What glorying in God shall we then express [Note: Revelation 5:12-13.]! — — —]


In God continually—

[Here the very necessities of our nature required an intermission of our joy: the body itself needed to be recruited with intervals of rest: but there we shall “not rest day nor night.” Our days of mourning will be so entirely ended, that we shall never have our light obscured for one single moment. There will be nothing from without to trouble and perplex us; nothing from within to furnish matter of distress [Note: Compare Isaiah 49:10. with Revelation 7:15-17; Revelation 21:4.]. We shall bask in the unclouded beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and enjoy one eternal day. Then not only our carnal, but even our spiritual, joys that we tasted below, will appear as nothing: glorious as the present state of believers is, it has no glory by reason of that which excelleth [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:10.]: here our best frames have an alloy of sorrow, and are of short continuance: but there our happiness will be without mixture, intermission, or end.]

This subject cannot fail of suggesting such reflections as follow:

How evidently is religion a source of happiness!

[It is intolerable that men should asperse religion as a source of melancholy. What if men’s sins, or mistakes, or bodily infirmities make them melancholy; is this to be imputed to religion? Is Reason to be decried because all persons do not exercise it as they ought; or the sun in the firmament to be abhorred, because all do not make a just improvement of its light? If they who despise religion would seek to attain it in their hearts, they should soon find that all creature-comforts are, in comparison of it, but as the taper before the meridian sun. As for the benefits arising from it in the eternal world, we forbear to mention them: for if it will not make men happier, even in this present state, than any thing else can do, we will be content that it shall be utterly abandoned. But we have no fears on this head: and the very people that deride it, know, that they envy in their hearts the happiness of the saints. O that all would seek their happiness in God, in God supremely, and in God only!]


What a different world will this be when the promised period shall arrive!

[So eminent and universal will the piety of mankind then be, that it will appear as if all the holy martyrs were risen from the dead, and brought to live again on earth; and as though Christ himself were come down again from heaven to reign visibly in the midst of them [Note: Revelation 20:4.]. Instead of such a general neglect of God as now obtains, a supreme regard to him will universally prevail, and a holy glorying in him be heard on every side. Surely the saints will then enjoy a heaven upon earth. Nor do we apprehend this period to be very distant. O that God would hasten it! O that we could see the dawn of that glorious day! But, if it be not permitted to us to see it, let us hope that we shall be still better employed, and be reaping the full harvest of what they will gather only the first-fruits. Let us in the mean time set our affections on things above, and, in reply to that question, Who will shew us any good? let us be ever ready to answer with the Psalmist, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us [Note: Psalms 4:6-7.].]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/isaiah-60.html. 1832.
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