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The glory of the church in the abundant access of the Gentiles, and the great blessings after a short affliction.
Before Christ 698.
THE state of the church is here exhibited in a perfection which approaches nearest to the divine, the most beautiful and glorious imaginable; though we are yet to seek where or when the true exemplar of it may or shall be found. The prophetic company here addresses a certain society, under the figure of the city of Jerusalem, the true and spiritual Sion, Isa 60:14 which is supposed to sit sorrowful, and exhorts her to arouse and shew herself in all her beauty, now that her salvation, so long wished and hoped for, is at hand, and the divine glory is about to rise upon her, and illuminate the nations and people who had hitherto sat in thick darkness. The section may be divided into two parts: in the first part we have the general proposition, concerning this glorious and desirable state of the church, which is simply exhibited, Isa 60:1 and confirmed, Isaiah 60:2-3. In the second, we have the declaration of that proposition; wherein the privileges of this state of the church are particularly enumerated and celebrated: first, the amplification of this city, from the nations hastening to it on all sides, bringing great abundance of every thing which they esteemed most dear and precious. This is described simply and universally, Isa 60:4-7 particularly with respect to a certain nation, Isaiah 60:8-9.—From the kings themselves, who should join themselves to it, and serve it with all their power, destruction being denounced upon those who should do otherwise, Isaiah 60:10-12.—From all the more solid and durable eminence which is in the world being transferred to the church, Isaiah 60:13.—From the enemies, which had heretofore afflicted it, becoming subject to it, and their kings nourishing and cherishing it, Isaiah 60:14-16. Secondly, the remarkable ornaments of the church, from a wonderful change of all things for the better, from the sanctity and peaceableness of its ministers and rulers, are described, Isaiah 60:17. Thirdly, its security from the evils and afflictions which it had sustained, Isaiah 60:18. Fourthly, the great brightness of the divine glory illuminating it, and the perpetuity of that blessing, Isaiah 60:19-20. Fifthly, the integrity and wonderful increase of its citizens, Isaiah 60:21-22. A short clause is added concerning the certainty of the completion of this prophesy, which, says Vitringa, is certainty too august to be applied to any state of the church which has yet been seen in the world. We have the best interpretation of it in the Revelation of St. John, ch. 20 where we are taught that this illustrious state of the Christian church shall not exist till after the destruction of the beast and Babylon; and, indeed, the whole series of this third discourse of the last part of Isaiah's prophesy, which sets forth the state of the church through a course of ages, proves that this conclusion must pertain to some perfect state of the church which should follow after it had weathered the afflictions and difficulties above predicted.
Isaiah 60:1. Arise, shine— "Arise from your state of darkness and mourning, and enter into a state of light and happiness; that thou mayest be able to enlighten others: shew thy native beauty; suffer thyself to be so strongly illuminated by the glory of the Lord, that thou mayest be a light to others." For this is what is soon after added; and the Gentiles shall walk in thy light. See 1 Peter 4:4. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the author and procurer of all light, happiness, and salvation to his church.
Isaiah 60:2-3. For, behold, &c.— The design of the Holy Spirit in this clause seems to be, to describe the state of the nations of the world at the time when God should illuminate the church with this light, as a new advent of his Son, and a repeated manifestation of his divine kingdom. Many have thought from this passage, that almost all the world should be found in a similar state of darkness, wherein the Son of God found it at his first coming: but I hope not. I trust that vital godliness will increase, however formalism and antinomianism be overthrown and swept off the face of the earth, till the Messiah comes to reign with his ancients during the great millennium.
Isaiah 60:5-7. Then thou shalt see, &c.— Then shalt thou fear, and overflow with joy; and thy heart shall be ruffled, and dilated, &c. Lowth. The prophet here shews first, that the nations who were to be added to the church should not come empty-handed, but prepared to give not only themselves but all their possessions to the church of God; and he teaches that the inhabitants of the isles, and the seas, should be the first to do this, Isa 60:5 then the orientals, who inhabit and wander over the extensive countries of Asia and Arabia; Isa 60:6-7 and the prophet's discourse is so formed, that every one must immediately perceive that it is spiritually to be understood. Then the prophet signifies that this wonderful increase of the church shall excite in the minds of the pious the different affectations both of fear and joy, as is common in unusual cases. The sudden transports of their joy should produce astonishment, like that which arises from the impressions of fear. Kedar and Nebaioth were two sons of Ishmael, who dwelt or were fixed in Arabia. By the gold and incense, and other riches here spoken of, are meant spiritual riches; the eminent and best gifts of divine grace. See Rev 3:18 and Colossians 3:16.
Isaiah 60:8-9. Who are these that fly? &c.— Vitringa understands by this new crowd of believers hastening to the church, the Greeks and Asiatics, and those of the west, groaning under the Ottoman empire, who, having long sat in a state of ignorance and superstition, at this period shall be freed from their yoke, and hasten to the enlightened church in multitudes like a cloud, and with zeal and impetuosity, like doves to their cotes or holes, when once made acquainted with the wonderful change of things and the mighty works wrought by God for the deliverance of his people. The flight of doves, especially when they return to their cotes, is remarkably swift and precipitate, as Bochart has observed. Hieroz. pars ii. lib. i. c. 2. See also Hos 11:11 and Vitringa. Instead of unto the name, and to the Holy One, &c. Isaiah 60:9. Bishop Lowth reads, because of the name of JEHOVAH thy God, and of the Holy One of Israel, &c.
Isaiah 60:10-12. And the sons of strangers, &c.— The discourse here rises, and will continue to rise, till the end of the section, that the blindest may discern spiritual things involved in these corporeal figures and emblems. It is not sufficient that the nations only, with their wealth and possessions, shall be added to the church, and perform all requisite offices towards it; but kings and princes also shall come: nor shall they come alone; a great retinue shall attend them; nor shall instances of their approach be few and rare, but common and frequent; insomuch that the gates of the city shall be always left open to receive this continual accession of kings and people; nor shall there be any danger from those gates being thus perpetually open, since every enemy to the city shall be utterly destroyed, Isaiah 60:12. Vitringa reads the last words of Isaiah 60:11, And kings with their retinue.
Isaiah 60:17. Thy officers— Thine inspectors. Lowth.
Isaiah 60:19-20. The sun, &c.— Every body must perceive that this sublime passage is to be understood metaphorically; and the meaning is, that at the period here spoken of, the church shall be illuminated much more brightly by the divine Glory and Majesty, than the sun and moon illuminate and adorn with their lustre the whole theatre of nature. Vitringa, however, gives a more copious exposition of the text. "It shall come to pass (says he), that the felicity and prosperity of the church, at this period, shall not depend upon those external causes, which procure to earthly states and kingdoms peace, tranquillity, and an abundance of temporal good things; for God shall cause his church to know that he is peculiarly present with it, by his immediate providence and glory," ch. Isaiah 49:10. There shall be also at this time such an abundance and efficacy of divine instruction, and such an exuberance of knowledge in divine things, that the church shall be satisfied with the teaching of God, and the particular care and discipline of Jesus Christ: that if the church, under the oeconomy of the external and typical covenant, saw a temporary light, and underwent various changes of its state; at this time it shall rejoice for a long period with a perpetual and unchanged light, in a much more constant and happy state. See ch. Isaiah 30:26. Jesus Christ is the eternal sun and light of his church, illuminating and sanctifying it by his Spirit, filling it with his glory, and prospering its whole state by his providence, for the end of eternal joy; so the Spirit, speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, says, For the glory of the Lord doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof; that Lamb, who is the true God: for thus he explains himself, ch. Isaiah 22:5. There shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the LORD GOD giveth them light.
Isaiah 60:21-22. Thy people also shall be all righteous— It was proper that the prophetic discourse, big with such excellent promises, should set forth the quality of the citizens of this blessed and fortunate city; for so many and excellent privileges cannot belong to any but the most faithful through divine grace. The prophet, therefore, teaches that the inhabitants of this city should be all righteous or just; where there can be no doubt that the righteousness of faith is meant; of living faith purifying the soul, sanctifying the affections, abounding in charity, and never separated from true holiness: so that they who are called righteous here, are the same who are elsewhere called holy. The following passages of our prophet are parallel to this; chap. Isa 4:3 Isa 33:24 Isaiah 35:8 Isaiah 52:1. See also Zechariah 14:20-21. The last clause of Isa 60:22 should be rendered, I the Lord will hasten it in its due or proper time. The meaning is, "that God would effect all these remarkable promises without delay, without impediment, by his own mighty power, contrary to all expectation, and would wisely provide all proper means for that end; like the child inclosed in the womb, at the destined time these great events should—burst forth." See ch. Isaiah 66:7. Vitringa closes his comment on this part of the prophesy with some excellent remarks, tending to prove the reference of this chapter particularly to some future and glorious state of the church after the conversion, of the Jews to the Christian faith, and the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles; and he concludes thus, "However, all our care and endeavours should be, to behave ourselves worthy of so high a hope; and we should so form our lives and our manners, as rather to regard things present than future; neglecting no duty of a true citizen of the heavenly and spiritual Jerusalem, whereof we now profess ourselves members; that the expectation of the future may not deprive us of those blessings and privileges which God offers at present to all those who seriously and sincerely seek for his grace: in the mean time humbly and earnestly interceding with God, that his kingdom may come. Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The glory and increase of the church of Christ are here beautifully represented.
1. Great light and glory are bestowed on her: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, the light of the Gospel illuminating a benighted world, wakening up sinners from the sleep of spiritual death, and turning their misery into joy and gladness; for, the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, Christ, the sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings, manifesting, in the most transcendant manner, the glory of God, in the pardon and salvation of the faithful. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; either when this light should break forth, it would be the more welcome and surprising, because of the darkness, ignorance, idolatry, and superstition, which every where prevailed; or it speaks the distinguishing privilege of those to whom the Gospel was preached, who, like Israel in Goshen, had light in their dwellings, while the rest of the world, to whom it has not come, or who have rejected it, are, like the land of Egypt, covered with darkness which may be felt, living under a most dark dispensation; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee, as it relied on the tabernacle in the pillar of a cloud and fire, not only protecting his church safely, but making her appear beautiful and glorious, the joy of the whole earth. Note; (1.) Without the light of the Gospel, the highest attainments of human wisdom are but folly and darkness. (2.) They who have seen Christ arising upon their souls in his glory, are bound to shine to his praise, and let their light appear before men, that they may take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus.
2. A great increase of the church is promised. Allured by the Gospel word, and struck with the bright examples of believers, the Gentiles shall become converts, and bow down before Christ the Sun of Righteousness. On every side, behold, they flock together, as children to their parents, to be nursed with the sincere milk of the word. With pleasing surprise the church will behold this strange accession, and, in a transport of joy, receive the multitude of mariners, and armies of Gentile soldiers, that among others should be converted unto the truth. From Midian and Ephah they shall come in vast companies, riding on camels and dromedaries. From Sheba they shall bring gold and incense, see Mat 2:11 and shew forth the praises of the Lord, for his mercy in calling them to himself. The inhabitants of Kedar and Nebaioth, in Arabia, whose riches chiefly consisted in their flocks, shall offer up themselves and their substance to God, and through Christ their spiritual sacrifices shall be accepted, and God glorified in their conversion. As a cloud before the wind, and as the doves flying to their windows, so thick, unanimous, openly and eagerly, shall the Gentiles hasten into the church of God, while, with wonder and delight, the saints welcome them to their rest. Note; (1.) When our souls, like the dove, are weary with wandering, or pursued by our spiritual enemies as birds of prey, we must fly to Christ for shelter, and under the shadow of his wings shall be safe, and find a pleasing resting-place. (2.) It is among the chief delights of a soul that loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, to behold his kingdom established, and many converted unto him.
2nd, The same subject is here pursued as in the foregoing verses.
1. The church shall gain vast accessions of strength and wealth. The distant isles shall wait for, and welcome the Saviour; the ships of Tarshish readily convey the sons of God to Zion, the spiritual church, with all their riches, willingly offering themselves, and all they have, to be employed in his blessed service, as the grateful return for the grace and glory that he hath provided for them. The sons of strangers, such as were the Gentile nations, shall now greatly contribute to build up the church, and kings minister in the blessed work; as when Constantine, and other Christian emperors and kings, espoused the cause of truth, and as will be more eminently the case in the days to come. For in my wrath I smote thee; which may refer to the days of Pagan persecution, or to the prevailing power of antichrist, permitted for the coldness, formality, corruptions, and divisions, among God's professing people: but in my favour have I had mercy on thee; as when under the Christian emperors the church enjoyed rest; and as will be the case when Christ, having subdued the oppressors of his people, will set up his kingdom universally in the world; and great will be the glory of it. As the cedars of Lebanon, and every beautiful tree, contributed to the splendor of the temple: so shall all those who by the Gospel are called into the church, by the purity and holiness of their lives, adorn their profession, and bring glory to God. Note; (1.) When the heart is truly given up to God, we shall liberally employ our wealth and influence in support of his cause. (2.) The highest honour of kings is to be ministers of good to Christ's people.
2. Many of the enemies of the church shall become converts. Those who despised and afflicted the people of God shall be brought in deep humiliation to acknowledge their sin, and highly respect those whom they before insulted and abused. Thus the sufferings of the martyrs often confounded their persecutors; and many who have with bitter enmity opposed the Gospel, have been at last convinced by the word, and joined the people whom they had before reviled. And this will be more especially the case in the expected day of power and grace, when many Papists, Pagans, and Mahometans, will be turned from darkness unto light, and make open profession of the Gospel.
3. The gates of the church are open night and day continually; all are welcome to enter, and multitudes are daily coming in of all ranks and degrees: and this denotes the security in which they dwell, for none shall be suffered at this time to disturb their repose. Note; The gate of mercy in Christ is ever open, and sinners of every rank and degree are sure of admission into the city of God, whenever in faith and prayer they return to him.
4. Those who obstinately refuse the proffers of grace, and persist in their impenitence, must rue it. They will perish, and be utterly wasted, be they never so many, never so mighty. Note; They who bow not before the calls of grace, must be broken under the iron rod of vengeance. 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
3rdly, What honour and respect should be paid to the church by those who were once enemies and persecutors, has been intimated above; and now we see what just reason there would appear for it.
1. Her excellence and beauty are gloriously established by the power and grace of the Saviour. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated; to appearance, deserted of God, and the object of the world's enmity; so that no man went through thee; a place unfrequented, like the ruins of Jerusalem, whither none went to worship: I will make thee an eternal excellency, to be had in the highest esteem, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, brighter than robes of wrought gold; shining with gospel-light; beautiful in discipline, and in the dignity, decency, simplicity, and order of her worship: a joy of many generations; as long as time shall last, so long shall this church—this blessed work of God—be the joy of all its members on earth; and to eternity its glory will extend, when in heaven the collected body of the faithful redeemed shall for ever shine with their exalted Head; and this shall be done, that all the saints of God may acknowledge the power, grace, faithfulness, and love of the Lord their Saviour and Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. Note; Despicable as the church of Christ and her poor members may now appear, they will shortly be seen in a different point of view, when all those who despised and hated them will wonder and perish.
2. Her riches will be great. Thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles, and the breast of kings; their richest treasures shall be offered to serve the interests of the church of Christ. The most precious metals shall be so plentiful that gold and silver will be as common as brass and iron, and iron and brass become as wood and stones; which some refer to the excellence of the Gospel dispensation above the Mosaical; and others, to the glory of the latter day, when in spiritual gifts and graces, and in purity of doctrine and discipline, the church will as much exceed its present state, as gold and silver do the baser metals.
3. The governors, whether civil or ecclesiastical, shall be men of justice and uprightness. No oppression will be committed, no injustice patronized; but the officers shall be men of peace, who seek to heal all differences, and accommodate every dispute; and the exactors, the tax-gatherers, who used to fleece the people, shall be righteousness, approve themselves with the greatest honesty and integrity.
4. All wars and rumours of wars shall cease, and persecution be at an end; and the most uninterrupted peace and prosperity will be established. Salvation, stronger than walls and bulwarks, shall keep the people of God safe from every enemy. All their gates, the places of concourse, shall be called praise, their assemblies continually resounding with songs of triumph for redeeming love; a state of bliss and happiness to which the church has never yet arrived.
5. God will be the everlasting light and glory of his faithful followers. And here the prophet seems to rise from the happy days of the church on earth to the consummation of her bliss in heaven, where they shall need neither sun nor moon, but shall enjoy the infinitely brighter presence of God, their everlasting light and glory. No clouds shall ever interrupt the blissful vision; no darkness of affliction, desertion, or temptation, for a moment intervene; but blessedness, abiding and eternal as the source from whence it flows, be the portion of these glorified saints. Thy sun shall no more go down, but shine with unclouded splendor through the ages of eternity; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; never will there be the least diminution of their bliss; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light; when this bright sun plucked from his sphere shall be extinguished, and this pale moon in darkness hide her head, with infinitely transcending brightness shall the eternal God shine on his saints, and everlasting as his being shall be their joy and glory. And the days of thy mourning shall be ended; a period put to all their sorrows, every tear wiped from their eye, and the cause of all, sin and suffering, be for ever banished from the place. O Lord, thy kingdom come!
6. They shall be perfected in holiness. Thy people also shall be all righteous, sanctified wholly by the Holy Spirit, in body, soul, and spirit, and made meet for the inheritance among the saints in light. They shall inherit the land for ever, the heavenly Canaan; the branch of my planting, ingrafted into Christ, and, after flourishing on earth, these faithful souls shall be transplanted with him to the paradise of God; the work of my hands, the whole of salvation, from beginning to end, will in heaven be evidently seen and acknowledged to be God's own work, to the glory of his free and rich grace towards all that submit to his way of salvation; that I may be glorified, as he will then be, in and by all his saints.
7. They shall be an innumerable multitude. A little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation: few and feeble as the saints of God have been comparatively in every age and place hitherto, when collected they will appear numerous and formidable, a host like the host of God. I the Lord will hasten it in his time; however difficult it may appear, or long as the final salvation of the faithful may seem to be delayed, the event is sure, and in God's appointed season it shall be accomplished. May we with faith and patience wait for it!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany