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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Isaiah 54

 

 

Verse 5

DISCOURSE: 977

OUR MAKER OUR HUSBAND

Isaiah 54:5. Thy Maker is thine Husband: the Lord of Hosts is his name.

IN circumstances whether of personal or public difficulty it is well to bear in remembrance, that there is one who ordereth all things according to his own sovereign will, and who will never fail those who trust in Him. Doubtless the Jewish Church, at the time that the Prophet Isaiah wrote, and especially in the prospect of the Babylonish captivity which he predicted, was at a low ebb: but the prophet calls upon her to take comfort, in the sure and certain hope that God would fulfil to her all his promises, and enlarge her borders by the accession of unnumbered converts from among the Gentiles, who, in due season, should be received into her bosom, and aggrandize her in the eyes of the whole world. She might be assured of this; because, notwithstanding the bill of divorce which God had given her, he still considered himself as her husband; and because He, who was her God, was also “the God of the whole earth.” In this promise we are interested, both as it respects ourselves and the world at large. I will therefore endeavour to unfold it to your view; and, for that end, will consider,

I. The general idea here suggested—

There is a peculiarity in the original which does not appear in the translation, which yet it is of great importance to observe. In the original it is, “Thy Makers are thine husband.” It must be remembered, that, at the first creation of man, it was said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness [Note: Genesis 1:26.].” In that passage it seems as if the formation of man was a matter in which the Three Persons of the Godhead concurred: and the same idea is evidently suggested in the passage before us. The same peculiarity occurs also in the Book of Ecclesiastes; where it is said, “Remember thy Creators in the days of thy youth [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:1.].” Now, though these expressions mark a plurality of Persons in the Godhead, I should not think them of themselves sufficient to establish the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity: but when I find that doctrine so fully declared in other portions of Holy Writ, I cannot but regard these as very strongly confirming it. I feel that I can then account for, and explain, these peculiarities; which, without such a solution, must be utterly inexplicable.

But, not to dwell on the mere words, I will call your attention to the great subject contained in them: which indeed deserves the more attention, because there is not any one image in which our relation to God is more frequently or more strongly marked, than in that of marriage.

Look at it as stated in general terms—

[Both the Old Testament and the New alike abound with this figure. God declares, that he was the Husband of his Church in the wilderness [Note: Jeremiah 31:32.]. And, after he had put her away for her adulteries, he recalls her to him, saying, “Return unto me; for I am married unto you [Note: Jeremiah 3:14.].” When our God incarnate came, even our Lord Jesus Christ, his forerunner, John the Baptist, pointed him out as the Bridegroom of his Church [Note: John 3:29.]: and our Lord himself also assumed it as a title which he bore, and a character he sustained: “Can the children of the bridechamber fast whilst the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them: and then shall they fast in those days [Note: Matthew 9:15.].” St. Paul enters into the subject at large, drawing a parallel between the duties of the marriage relation, as subsisting amongst men, and those which we owe to Christ as the Husband of the Church: and lest we should confine our attention exclusively to the former, which appeared to be primarily, if not solely, in his contemplation, he particularly adds, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and his Church [Note: Ephesians 5:32.].” But, to dwell on particular passages is needless; because a defection from God is, throughout the whole Scripture, called “adultery;” it being an alienation of heart from Him, whose right to it, as the Husband of his Church, is unalienable and universal.]

But look at it as move minutely and distinctly marked—

[Not to enter too minutely into a subject of such delicacy, we may notice his first choice of us, in order to the forming of this connexion with us. Verily, God’s choice of us was altogether the result of his sovereign will and pleasure, without the slightest measure of respect to any goodness or worthiness in us [Note: Deuteronomy 7:7-8.]. Having made us the objects of his choice, he “betrothed us to himself, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: yea, he even betrothed us to himself in faithfulness [Note: Hosea 2:19-20.],” engaging, that “he would be for us only and exclusively, as we also should be exclusively for him [Note: Hosea 3:3.].” We have a further account of the very nuptials, and the feast attending them [Note: Matthew 22:2; Matthew 25:10.], and the consequent union consummated and confirmed [Note: Song of Solomon 2:4.]. Further, the end of this union is declared; “We are married to Christ, that we may bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:4.].”

All this is spoken of as commenced on earth: but it is yet further represented as completed in heaven; “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come:” (and, “Blessed are they which are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 19:7; Revelation 19:9.]:”) and, “Come hither, and I will shew thee the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife [Note: Revelation 21:9.].”]

I conceive that this is sufficient to shew how largely this subject is treated of in the Holy Scriptures; and, consequently, how much we are concerned to investigate,

II. The important particulars contained in it—

Of course we shall confine ourselves to those great and leading particulars which will best mark the dignity and importance of the subject. The relation, then, of Jehovah as a Husband to his Church, may be considered as comprehending,

1. His union with us—

[By the constitution of marriage, as formed by God himself in Paradise, the husband and wife were declared to “be one flesh [Note: Genesis 2:24.].” So, by virtue of this relation, as subsisting between Christ and his Church, we are not only one flesh with him, (for “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones [Note: Ephesians 5:30.],”) but we are one spirit with him; as it is written, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.].” Now this is an union far closer than any other that can subsist on earth. Indeed it most resembles that which subsists in heaven between the different persons of the Godhead: as our Lord Jesus Christ has said; “I pray for them, that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” . “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one [Note: John 17:21-22.].” There is between him and them a mutual indwelling, such as no language can describe, and no finite imagination can conceive [Note: John 6:56.].]

2. His interest in us—

[Persons united in the marriage-bond have a mutual property in each other, and a mutual interest in every thing belonging to them. And thus it is between Christ and his believing people. The believer is Christ’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:23.]: and every thing which he possesses is Christ’s. “In no respect whatever is he his own [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19.]:” from the moment of his union with Christ by faith, he was altogether “in spirit, soul, and body, sanctified unto the Lord [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].” The Lord Jesus Christ, also, has given himself over to the believing soul. The very weakest believer is authorized to say, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his [Note: Song of Solomon 2:16.].” Yes, verily, so it is; for “God is not ashamed to be called our God [Note: Hebrews 11:16.].” In truth, all that the Lord Jesus Christ is, and all that he has, becomes the property of the believing soul, and is all employed for his benefit. The wisdom, the power, the grace of the Lord Jesus are exerted in regulating the whole universe for his people’s good [Note: Ephesians 2:22.]. Yea, “the very glory which his Father gave to him, he gives to them [Note: John 17:22.]:” his throne is their throne, his crown their crown, his kingdom their kingdom [Note: Revelation 3:21.]: they are in every thing “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ [Note: Romans 8:17.].”]

3. His feelings towards us—

[Not only will love be exercised by a husband in a way of fond endearment, but it will shew itself in all its diversified operations, according as circumstances shall arise to call it forth. Thus will the Lord Jesus Christ evince his love to us in every possible way. Not only will he “delight in us,” und “rejoice over us to do us good [Note: Jeremiah 32:41.];” but he will sympathize with us in all our troubles [Note: Hebrews 4:15.], being himself afflicted in all our afflictions [Note: Isaiah 63:9.],” no less than participating in all our joys [Note: Zephaniah 3:17.]. Certainly I feel, that, in speaking these things, there may appear to be a danger of exceeding the bounds of sobriety and truth: but God himself has taken the very image, and drawn the very parallel; and that so strongly, that we are in danger rather of falling short by reason of our ignorance and unbelief, than of exceeding through an over-heated imagination. “Thou shall no more be termed, Forsaken; neither shall thy land be any more termed, Desolate: but thou shall be called. Hephzi-bah; and thy land, Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee [Note: Isaiah 62:4-5.].”]

Address—

1. Those who, through grace, have been brought into this relation to the Deity—

[What terms can ever express the congratulalions that are due to you? Would it be deemed a just ground of congratulation, if you were united in the nuptial bond to an earthly monarch? How then must I felicitate you on having for “your Husband, your Maker,” “the Lord of hosts,” “the God of the whole earth [Note: ver. 5.]?” O! what honour has been conferred on you! and what blessings await you, both in time and in eternity! Remember what ye were when first he chose you: “Verily, your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite: and in the day of your nativity you were cast out in the open field to the lothing of your person, in the day that you were born. And when he passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, he said to you, Live: and then he entered into covenant with you, and made you his [Note: Ezekiel 16:3-8.].” Think, too, how often you have given him occasion to put you away for your unfaithfulness towards him, and by a bill of divorce to dismiss you for ever from his presence. But he is “a God of all grace,” and, for his own great name’s sake, has borne with you even to the present hour [Note: Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:22.]. Now, therefore, prepare to fulfil your duties towards him, and to walk before him in newness of heart and life. Whilst you reflect on your privileges, be mindful also of your duties. And be careful never more to “grieve his Holy Spirit,” or to “provoke him to jealousy,” by even the appearance of evil. Remember what even a creature expects from her to whom he is joined in these sacred bonds; and let your every action, every word, and every thought, be such as shall approve itself to Him “who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins.” In a word, be ye altogether his, even as ye would that he should be wholly and altogether yours.]

2. Those who know him not yet under this endearing character—

[O that I could prevail on every one of you to accept his gracious offers this day! Did Abraham send his servant to seek a wife for his son Isaac? Methinks I bear a similar commission from the God of heaven unto you. St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.].” And this is the object of my address to you this day. O that ye knew who it is that often himself to you by my voice; and that ye considered how worthy He is of your affections! What is there that any one of you would desire in a husband? Do you admire wisdom? The Lord Jesus Christ is “the wisdom of God himself [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:24.].” Would you wish for beauty? “He is fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely [Note: Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16.].” Have riches or honours any attractions in your eyes? “His riches are unsearchable [Note: Ephesians 3:8.];” and “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in him bodily [Note: Colossians 2:9.].” What is there in the whole creation that can vie with him? What is there that is in any degree worthy to be compared with him? Behold, it is “He who now stands at the door of your hearts, and knocks [Note: Revelation 3:20.],” and seeks admission into them. Know ye then the clay of your visitation. “Refuse not Him who now speaks to you” by my voice [Note: Hebrews 12:25.], and says, “Give me thine heart [Note: Proverbs 23:26.].” This only he requires, that you should renounce all others, and “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.” These are his very words, by which he now addresses you: “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear: forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him [Note: Psalms 45:10-11.].” Accept his offers, beloved friends, and give yourselves unreservedly to him: so shall the very angels in heaven clap their wings with joy [Note: Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10.], and all the glory of heaven be made over to you as your everlasting inheritance.”]


Verses 6-10

DISCOURSE: 978

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS COVENANT ENGAGEMENTS

Isaiah 54:6-10. The Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go ever the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

THE covenant of grace, as securing to the believer all the blessings of time and eternity, is not considered by any means so much as the importance of it demands. There is in the minds of the generality, a jealousy respecting it, so that they can scarcely bear to hear the subject stated as it is in the Holy Scriptures. But we must not conceal any thing; and least of all should we keep back from you that which is the fountain and foundation of all the other blessings which you either have or hope for. Certain it is that there is a covenant, called in my text, “The covenant of God’s peace;” the provisions of which are here set before us with singular force and clearness.

The whole passage may be considered,

I. In reference to the Jewish Church—

[To them it primarily refers. The Jewish Church is hero represented as a repudiated wife, put away for her unfaithfulness to her Maker, who calls himself “her husband [Note: ver. 5.].” Great and manifold were her offences against him: and most justly did she merit the displeasure with which on different occasions she was visited. In the days of the Judges she was often delivered up to her enemies, who oppressed her with the heaviest yoke of bondage: at last she was sent into captivity in Babylon: and at this hour is Jerusalem a desolation, having for eighteen centuries been trodden down of the Gentiles, and left without a temple, or priest, or sacrifice, or any ordinance whatever.

Yet is she not finally cast off. Her Divine Husband yet remembers his covenant-engagements, though she has forgotten hers; and his oath will he fulfil, though she has violated hers in ten thousand instances. His wrath against her, though so richly merited, is “small and transient;” whilst the mercies which he has prepared for her are “great” and “everlasting.” “He has yet thoughts of love and peace towards her;” and will in due season restore her to her former privileges; yea, and load her with benefits far beyond any which she ever before enjoyed. The very “sun shall be ashamed, and the moon confounded,” in the day that he shall visit her with his mercies; so utterly will all creature enjoyments be swallowed up and annihilated by the manifestations of his love [Note: Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 30:26. See the glories of that period described in ver. 11, 12. compared with Isaiah 60:13-22.] — — —

Of this he graciously assures her, by a two-fold representation; first, in a way of comparison, and then in a way of contrast. At the time of the deluge, God promised with an oath to Noah, that he would no more deluge the earth: and appointed the rainbow itself (which, as being a reflection of the rays of the sun from the drops of rain, marked the actual descent of rain at the time) to be a pledge that he would fulfil his word. In like manner, says God, “I have sworn to thee, that I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee” to thy utter ruin: and thou mayest regard the very afflictions with which I visit thee, as a pledge of thy future restoration: for “I will not make a full end of thee; though I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished [Note: Jeremiah 30:11.].” Again: Of all things which may be deemed stable upon earth, the hills and the mountains may be regarded as the most firm and immovable: but, says God, the hills and mountains have been, and shall be, removed: but it shall not be so with you; for “the covenant of my peace shall never be removed.”

The manner in which God speaks of himself, whilst announcing this determination, is yet further worthy to be noticed: for he does not call himself by any name that would inspire fear and terror, but by names importing the most tender love: not “The Lord” thy Creator, thy Governor, thy Judge; but, “The Lord thy Redeemer,” “the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”

Now it is this view of the covenant which encourages us in all our efforts for the conversion of the Jews: for we know infallibly, that they are not cast off for ever; that they are still beloved of God for their fathers’ sakes; and that in due time they shall be engrafted in again upon their own olivetree, and experience, Doth in a temporal and spiritual view, such prosperity as they never yet enjoyed even under Solomon himself. Our trust is, not in any efforts of man, but in the power and fidelity of God. And though in their present condition they are as dry bones, very dry, reduced to dust, and scattered over the face of the earth, yet are we sure, that, by the simple preaching of the Gospel to them, they shall arise, a whole army [Note: Ezekiel 37:1-2; Ezekiel 37:10.]. Yes, “the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this:” as we are assured by many similar declarations of the prophet Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 31:35-37; Jeremiah 33:23-26.] — — —]

But the passage must also be explained,

II. In reference to the Christian Church—

We do not approve of limiting to the Church of Christ a multitude of prophecies which belong primarily to the Jewish Church. On the other hand, we must not rob the Christian Church of that interest which she has in them. It is observable, that the very first verse of this chapter is cited by St. Paul as applicable to the Christian Church [Note: Galatians 4:26-27.]: and at the close of the chapter all the rich promises contained in it are said to belong to her: “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord (whoever they may be); and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord [Note: ver. 17.].” Now,

The Christian Church stands in the relation of a Spouse to Christ—

[So it is represented through the whole Book of Canticles. So it is declared by the Psalmist [Note: Psalms 45:10-11.]. The same is affirmed by our Lord himself [Note: Matthew 9:15.], and by all his Apostles [Note: John 3:29. Ephesians 5:32. Revelation 21:9.] — — —]

But too often does she provoke the Lord to hide his face from her—

[How often have the Church at large, and every member of it in particular, alienated their hearts from God, and adulterously placed on the creature those affections which were due to him alone! — — — Too true is that accusation which he brings against us, that “we have played the harlot with many lovers [Note: Jeremiah 3:1.]” — — —

What then might we not expect, if God should deal with us according to our iniquities? What, but that he should cast us off, and swear in his wrath that we should never more be received into his favour?]

Yet still does “God remember his covenant” towards her—

[“He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever.” He will not break his covenant, though we have broken ours: nor will he violate his oath, though we have violated ours times without number. “He will visit our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquity with stripes:” (and, if the chastening us with whips will not suffice, he will “chastise us with scorpions, even seven-fold more, for our sins [Note: 1 Kings 12:11. Leviticus 26:18.]): “nevertheless his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: his covenant will he not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips: for once he has sworn by his holiness that he will not lie unto David [Note: Psalms 89:33-35.].” He knew what we wore, and what we should be also, if left to ourselves, before he chose us: yet did he bid us live, and spread his skirt over us, and entered into covenant with us [Note: Ezekiel 16:6; Ezekiel 16:8. Isaiah 48:8.]. It was on this very account that he in his covenant undertook to do for us all that related either to the pardoning of our guilt, or to the sanctifying of our nature [Note: Jeremiah 31:11-12.]: and engaged, not only never to depart from us, but never to leave us to depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:39-41.]. Of all this he has assured us by promise and by oath, on purpose that by “these two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have the strongest consolation, if we have fled for refuge to the hope that is set before us [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.].” If our continuance in his favour had depended altogether on our stability, who would ever be saved at last? (It is of the grounds of our security that we are now speaking, and not of the means; of them we shall speak in another place.) Our final stability must be the work of his grace, as much as our first inclination to serve him: all our good works from first to last must be wrought in us by him [Note: Isaiah 26:12.]: and when he chose us, he chose us to the end, and to the means; or rather to the end by the means [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.]: and “his gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.].” Our security then rests upon the unchangeableness of our God [Note: Malachi 3:6.], “whose compassions fail not [Note: Lamentations 3:22.],” and “with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning [Note: James 1:17.].” I again repeat, that he may hide himself from us, and for a long period too, as it may appear to us; for it is both his right and his property to do so [Note: Isaiah 45:15.]: but “his anger” will endure but for “a little moment;” and though our “weeping may endure for a night, joy shall come to us in the morning [Note: Psalms 30:5.].”]

In a review of this subject,

1. Let none, however desolate their condition may be, indulge despair—

[This is the true use to be made of this important subject. Let not Jews despair of being restored to the favour of their God; but let them plead with God, as their forefathers did [Note: Isaiah 63:15-16.] — — — and accept the invitation which God himself has given them to return unto him [Note: Jeremiah 3:12-14.].

Nor let Christians who are under the hidings of God’s face despond. Let not any of you ask, like David, “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? This were only to betray your own infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.],” and to shew your utter ignorance of God [Note: Isaiah 40:28-31; Isaiah 49:14-16.] — — —

You will say then, What shall we do? I answer, Lay hold on God’s covenant, and look to him to fulfil every part of it. Approach your God with penitential sorrow, as the Church of old did; “We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. Yet do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory; remember, break not thy covenant with us [Note: Jeremiah 14:20-21.].” See how David pleaded under similar circumstances [Note: Psalms 27:9.]: and resolve, as the Prophet Isaiah teaches you, “I will wait upon the Lord that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him [Note: Isaiah 8:17.].”]

2. Let none, however confident of their state before God, be guilty of presumption—

[Of the book of God’s decrees we know nothing, but as it is made visible by facts. Respecting any man’s election to eternal life, we can judge only by his works. One thing is clear; that “he who committeth sin is of the devil;” and “he that doeth not righteousness is not of God [Note: 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10.].” Hence, if we are living in the wilful commission of any one sin, or habitual neglect of any one duty, we have no ground whatever to imagine that we are of the number of God’s elect. To fancy therefore that a work of grace has been begun in us, and to conclude from thence that God will carry it on unto the end, whilst daily experience proves that it is not carrying on, but that we are the willing slaves of sin and Satan, is only to deceive our own souls, and to surrender up ourselves an easy prey into the hands of our great adversary. Our wisdom is, to seek an union with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith; and not to be dreaming of privileges which we do not possess: for, as it is certain, on the one hand, that no man can be saved who lives in any allowed sin, so it is equally certain, on the other hand, that no one can ever perish who flees to Christ for refuge, and relies altogether upon him for “wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” This then must be our daily work: and so far is the covenant of grace from superseding this duty, that it affords us our greatest encouragement to perform it; because it assures us, that we shall “never seek God’s face in vain,” and that “they who trust in him shall never be confounded.” Whilst therefore I would say to the trembling Believer, Look to “the covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.],” and expect God to fulfil all the promises of it to your souls; to the Unbeliever I would say, Look to the Lord Jesus Christ, to wash you from your guilt, and to renew you by his Spirit. Respecting the provisions of the covenant trouble not yourselves, till you have an evidence in your own souls that you desire deliverance from sin as much as freedom from condemnation: and get your souls well instructed in a thorough experience of the first principles of repentance and faith, before you presume to build your hopes either on the secret decrees of heaven, or on any fallacious arguments deduced from them.]


Verse 13

DISCOURSE: 979

PEACE THE FRUIT OF DIVINE TEACHING

Isaiah 54:13. All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

THE Jewish Church was often in a state of great distress, under the judgments of Almighty God. In Babylon especially was she at the lowest ebb of degradation and misery. But there was consolation provided for her in a prospect of glorious times, when her light, and peace, and joy, and purity, should far exceed any thing which she had ever experienced in her most prosperous state; and the whole Gentile world also should be made partakers of her blessedness.

In the words before the text, the Jewish Church is represented as a tent or tabernacle torn and “tossed by the winds,” and reduced to a most desolate condition: and a promise is given to her, that God will build her as a palace, every part of which shall be composed of precious stones; her foundations being of sapphires, her windows of agates, her gates of carbuncles, and even her borders, or outward walls, of pleasant stones [Note: ver. 11, 12.].” In her former state, her whole service consisting of rites and ordinances; she was forced to receive her instructions from men, whose peculiar duty was to ascertain and execute the will of God in every one of his appointments: and in the performance of these burthensome rites there was but little satisfaction to the soul. But in the state to which she was encouraged to look forward, a different system was to prevail: the instruction that was to be conveyed was spiritual; and a compliance with it was to be attended with much delight. Hence it was said to her, “All thy children shall be taught of God: and great shall be the peace of thy children.”

The promises here made to the Church relate to the two things which were chiefly wanted under that shadowy dispensation; namely,

I. Divine illumination—

This is a blessing which every human being needs—

[We may obtain from men and books a speculative knowledge of religion, as well as of any other science: but a spiritual discernment can be given us by God alone. This is declared by an inspired Apostle; “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.].” In like manner our blessed Lord testifies: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him [Note: Matthew 11:27.].”

How far this is true or false, it is in the power of every man to ascertain, by his own experience. Let it be tried. Of the lending truths of the Gospel we may suppose the generality of persons to be convinced: they know, that they are sinners; that they need a Saviour; that a Saviour has been provided for them; that a promise of salvation is given to all who will believe in him; and that on those who reject his overtures of mercy the guilt of all their sins must rest for ever. Now then let any man sit down to consider these truths; let him call in the aid of all the most competent instructors he can find: and let him see whether he can, by any efforts of his own, bring himself to a spiritual perception of those truths, that is, to such a view of them as shall produce a suitable impression on his mind, and a corresponding effect upon his heart and life. Let him labour as long as he shall see fit: and, after the fullest possible trial, let him declare, whether he has been able to produce in his soul the feelings which were excited in the bosoms of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost; and in his whole spirit and temper the same permanent change. If one single person in the universe be found that can effect this, then we are content to acknowledge, that our assertions on this subject are erroneous, and that man does not need the teachings of God’s Spirit in order to a spiritual perception of divine truth. But it no such instance ever was, or can be, found, then may we be assured, that “flesh and blood cannot reveal these things” to our souls, and that we can know them only by the teaching of God himself [Note: Matthew 16:17.].]

This however is promised to us in the Gospel—

[The Spirit of God has undertaken to impart it to our souls. His particular office in the economy of Redemption is, “to testify of Christ [Note: John 15:26.],” and “to glorify Christ by taking of the things that are his, and shewing them unto us [Note: John 16:14.].” And in the execution of this office he “convinces the soul of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment [Note: John 16:7-11.];” and so convinces of these things as to produce in the soul all the diversified sensations which they are suited to create.

If it be asked, What evidence does any one give, whereby it may be ascertained, whether this promised influence be a reality or a delusion? I answer, This also may be brought to a visible test, by which the whole world may judge of it.The man who truly experiences this teaching, immediately comes to Christ as a sinner, and with deep humiliation and contrition seeks salvation through him alone. This our blessed Lord himself affirms; and affirms it too with an express reference to the words of our text: “It is written in the Prophets,” says he, “They shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me [Note: John 6:45.].” There is no exception under heaven: the effect of this teaching is invariable and universal. Nay more, it produces a holy energy and determination of mind to come to Christ at all events, and to disregard all the consequences that such a step can possibly involve. This may be seen in the conduct of the Apostle Paul, who says, “When it pleased God, who called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood [Note: Galatians 1:15-17.],” but proceeded to adopt such measures as I judged most calculated to advance his glory.

This teaching therefore, though invisible in itself, even as the wind, is yet, like the wind, visible in its effects: and “all the children of Zion” are privileged to experience it in their souls. The weakest person in the whole creation shall enjoy it, if he will but seek it in faith and prayer. Yes: “what God has hid from the wise and prudent, he will reveal unto babes; even so, because it seemeth good in his sight [Note: Matthew 11:25.].”]

Connected with this blessing is,

II. Heavenly peace—

Men, without any Divine teaching, possess what they call peace: but it is a state which does not deserve the name of peace, seeing that it is nothing but a stupid insensibility, issuing from a forgetfulness of all their spiritual concerns. Speak to them of death, and judgment, heaven and hell, and their peace vanishes in a moment; and they are ready to desire, like Satan, that they “may not be tormented before their time [Note: Matthew 8:29.].” But the peace which Christ bestows, and which he emphatically calls his [Note: John 14:27.], is of a very different kind: it is a positive sense of acceptance with God, and a rest of the soul in God. This the Believer experiences,

1. In the view of all his past sins—

[So far is he from being appalled by a sight of his sins, that he desires to have them set before him in all their malignity, and with all their numberless aggravations. He feels that a sense of his disease is necessary to an enjoyment of the remedy: and the more he sees his own guilt and helplessness, the more he glories in Christ as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour. The very impossibility of being saved in any other way than through the blood and righteousness of Christ, constrains him to look altogether to Christ, as “the very chief of sinners,” who shall to all eternity be held forth as a specimen of what the grace of God could effect [Note: 1 Timothy 1:16.]. The thought that the extent and riches of redeeming love will be pre-eminently displayed in him, perfectly reconciles him to the idea of having all his sins exposed before the assembled universe; since the Saviour will be most glorified in those whom he has redeemed from the deepest death. Let me not however be mistaken. The believer is not indifferent to his past sins; (for he mourns over them to his dying hour:) much less does he think it a desirable thing for a person to commit great sins in order that Christ may be magnified in the forgiveness of them; (for that would be to make Christ himself “a minister of sin [Note: Galatians 2:17.]:” but seeing that his sins have been great, he derives consolation from the thought, that “where sin has abounded, the grace of Christ shall much more abound; and that, as sin has reigned unto death, even so shall grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 5:20-21.].”]

2. In the view of all his present infirmities—

[These would quite overwhelm his spirits, if his eyes were not opened to see on what “a Mighty One help had been laid for him [Note: Psalms 89:19.].” He could not hope to maintain his peace one hour, but that he knows he has an Advocate with the Father, ever ready to intercede for him; and that that very “Advocate is also a propitiation for all his sins [Note: 1 John 2:2.].” In Christ too he beholds a fulness of grace treasured up for him; of grace ever ready, and all-sufficient for him, in his greatest necessities. Hence, so far from being discouraged by a sense of his weakness, he even derives consolation and encouragement from it; just as St. Paul did, who says, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.].” The thought that “the strength of Christ will be made perfect,” and manifested to be perfect, “in his weakness,” turns the sense which he has of his weakness into a ground of joy, and makes him even to “glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].”]

3. In the view of the final judgment—

[The bar of judgment is no longer an object of dread and terror to his soul. “He knows in whom he has believed; and is persuaded that he is able to keep that which he has committed to him [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].” He has no fear that God will forget his promises, or that the Saviour who bought him with his blood, and furnished him with continual supplies of grace, will give him up to that destroyer, from whose power he has rescued him at so great a price. He looks on that day as the time appointed for his complete deliverance. He knows that then the body, which has here been such a clog to his soul, shall be made a partaker with the soul in all the glory and felicity of heaven. He looks forward therefore to it with joy. It is as much the object of hope to him, as the first advent of the Saviour was to the Jewish Church. How delightful is it to him to contemplate the wonders of that day; to behold the Saviour coming in all the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him; to behold him seated on his judgment-seat, and, ordering to either hand the sheep and the goats; to hear him pronounce the sentence upon each: and then to ascend with him in sweet anticipation to the realms of bliss; to be seated on his throne; to behold his glory in all its brightness; to hear his voice, to taste his love, to participate his glory; and to spend eternity in songs of praise! All this is delightful to the believer’s soul; and in the anticipation of it he already possesses a foretaste of the heavenly bliss.

With these views “his peace is great:” yes verily, he has “a peace that passeth all understanding [Note: Philippians 4:6.]:” and “rivers of it flow into his soul [Note: Isaiah 48:17-18.],” being “filled with all joy and peace in believing, and abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost [Note: Romans 15:13.].”]

See then, Brethren,

1. What blessings are treasured up for you in the Gospel—

[It is to “Zion’s Children” that these blessings are limited: and how are you to be brought into that relation to her, but by the Gospel?, Know that, if you submit yourselves truly to the voice of God in his word, all these blessings are yours: you shall have that “unction of the Holy One that shall teach you all things [Note: 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.];” and you shall possess the consolations of the Spirit, which are neither few nor small [Note: Job 15:11. Jeremiah 30:19.]. But remember, that “God will be inquired of,” before he will impart them to you [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.]: it is by the holy violence of prayer that they must be brought down from heaven; and by the appropriating energy of faith that they must be made available for your salvation — — —]

2. How injurious are the workings of unbelief—

[Unbelief puts far from us the promises of God, under an idea that we have no title to them; and deprives the soul of all the happiness which it is privileged to enjoy. In vain does God say, “All” thy children shall be taught of God: for unbelief has found out some reason for an exception in this or that particular person. In vain has God said, “Great shall be the peace” of thy children: for unbelief suggests, that trouble and fear are more suited to the case of this particular individual. I do not mean to say, that wilful and habitual sin is not a bar both to the teachings and consolations of the Spirit: for that will assuredly cut off all gracious communications from us; as it is said, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God [Note: Isaiah 59:2.]:” but, if we truly turn to God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, no past iniquities are any bar to our acceptance with him; nor are any present infirmities a ground for desponding fears; seeing that there is a sufficiency in Christ for all our wants; and our very necessities afford him a more glorious occasion for magnifying himself in our support. Dismiss then all doubts and fears respecting your right to apprehend the promises of God, or your title to expect his promised blessings. Only “be strong in faith, giving glory to God [Note: Romans 4:20.];” and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you [Note: Matthew 9:29.].”]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 980

THE SAINT’S HERITAGE

Isaiah 54:17. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

THE Scriptures uniformly suppose men to be, not only in a state of sin, but, to a certain degree, in a state of misery also, being more or less agitated with “fightings without, and fears within.” The very people of God themselves are not exempt from this common lot. The difference between them and others consists not in a freedom from trouble, but in consolations and supports which they alone enjoy. They have a God to go to; a God who tenderly sympathizes with them in all their troubles, and “in all their afflictions is himself afflicted [Note: Isaiah 63:9.].” From Him they receive the most consolatory promises, and generally in language that precludes a possibility of their doubting to whom those promises are made. Are they under the actual pressure of the deepest sorrow? He addresses them as in that very state, and characterizes them by the very tribulations which they endure. “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted,” behold, I will interest myself in all thy concerns; and “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”

These words will lead me to set before you,

I. The heritage of God’s servants—

Three things are here specified as their unalienable portion;

1. Protection from danger—

[From the very beginning, they have been objects of hatred both to men and devils, who have combined their efforts for their destruction. From the days of Cain, the followers of Abel’s piety have been persecuted by their envious and malignant brethren; whilst “Satan, as a roaring lion, has gone about, seeking to devour them” — — —

But we need not fear the assaults of either: for God has engaged, in reference to his Church at large, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [Note: Matthew 16:18.];” and, in reference to every individual believer, that “none shall pluck them out of his hand [Note: John 10:28-30.].” “It is not his will that one of his little ones should perish [Note: Matthew 18:14. Luke 12:32.].”]

2. Vindication from calumny—

[What efforts have been made to destroy the character of God’s people may be seen in the account given of them by Haman to Ahasuerus: “There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people, in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed [Note: Esther 3:8-9.].” They still, as formerly, are a sect that is everywhere spoken against; nor is there “any manner of evil which will not be laid falsely to their charge [Note: Matthew 5:11.],” But God does often, in a wonderful way, interpose for them, to the vindicating of their character, and the confusion of all their enemies [Note: 1 Samuel 24:17.]. Indeed, the very people who most bitterly traduce them, often venerate them in their hearts; even as “Herod feared John, from an inward conviction that he was a just and holy man [Note: Mark 6:20.].” But, however God may suffer his people to be treated “as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:13.]” even to their dying hour, there is a time coming when he will appear in their behalf: and, if man have his day, God will have his day also [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3-5. See the Greek.]; and will bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day [Note: Psalms 37:5-6. Isaiah 66:5.].”]

3. Justification from all sin—

[In two ways will God justify his people: the one is, by an authoritative attestation from the mouth of their Judge; the other, by putting upon them that very righteousness whereby they shall be justified. The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, has wrought out “a righteousness which shall be unto all and upon all them that believe [Note: Romans 3:22.]:” and when they are arrayed in this, “God sees in them no iniquity [Note: Numbers 23:21.],” because he has “blotted it out from the book of his remembrance,” and “cast it all behind him, into the very depths of the sea [Note: Micah 7:19 and Isaiah 38:17.].” “If it be sought for ever so diligently, it cannot be found [Note: Jeremiah 50:20.];” for they are before God without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, yea, holy, and without blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:27.].” “This is the blessed heritage of all God’s servants;” and all of them in due time shall possess it.]

That we may the better estimate their felicity, let us notice,

II. Their security for the possession of it—

It is altogether “of God,” as our text declares; and all the perfections of God are pledged for their ultimate possession of it. It is secured to them by,

1. The power of God—

[Respecting this, there is particular mention made in the preceding context. God warns his people that they must expect persecution from an ungodly world. “Behold! they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee, shall tall for thy sake.” But how shall the conspiracy of God’s enemies be defeated! How? God himself tells us: “I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth his instrument for his work: and I have created the waster to destroy.” Has He then created both the man who made the weapon, and the man that uses it; and can he not controul both the one and the other, so that the weapon shall effect only what he sees fit to permit? Let the servants of God, then, consider this: their enemies are all in the hands of God, even of their God; and “they can have no power whatever, except that which is given them from above.” What need then have the saints to fear? Who can get access to those whom God “hides in the secret place of his tabernacle?” or, “Who can, with any effect, be against them, when He is for them?” “His name is a strong tower; and the righteous, who have run to it, are safe.”]

2. The goodness and veracity of God—

[They have given themselves to him, as “his servants:” and will he forget them? Will He who “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” refuse protection to those who have exposed themselves to sufferings for his sake? He has promised to them, that “he will render to them according to their works:” and “has He said, and will he not do it? has He spoken, and will he not make it good?” He would even account himself “unrighteous, if he were to forget their works and labours of love, which they have shewed towards his name [Note: Hebrews 6:10.].” We may be sure, therefore, that, if tried in the fire, they shall “come out of it purified as gold; and that, however tempted, “they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.”]

Now let me ask,

1. Who, besides the saints, possesses any such heritage as this?

[If we had crowns and kingdoms, they were not worthy to be compared with this — — —]

2. Who ever confided in this promise, and was disappointed of his hope?

[Your fears may have been great, and your conflicts severe: but were you ever forsaken of your God? No: you must all bear testimony to his fidelity, even as Israel did of old; for “ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you: all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof [Note: Joshua 23:14.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 54:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/isaiah-54.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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