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Simeon's Horae Homileticae Horae Homileticae
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ shh/ zechariah-14.html. 1832.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
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THE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS—OUR ENCOURAGEMENT TO PROMOTE IT
Zechariah 14:7. It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
IN the writings of the prophets, there are, as might be expected, many things difficult to be understood. Yet, even when a passage, in respect of its full import, is involved in the deepest obscurity, there may be some things perfectly clear, and capable of an easy application, for the elucidating of points that are of great importance. The prophecy before us is of this kind. It is generally understood as referring, in the first instance, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies: it then, after some circumstances, which the events alone, when they shall have occurred, will enable us satisfactorily to explain, leads us forward to the period fixed in the Divine counsels for the conversion of the Jews to the faith of Christ; when “the Lord shall be king over all the earth, and when there shall be one Lord, and his name one [Note: ver. 9.].” The manner in which that day shall be introduced is particularly specified in the words immediately preceding my text: “It shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” By this I understand, not, as some do, that there shall be one continued day, in which there will be no darkness at all; for it is not of the Millennium itself that the prophet is speaking, but of the time when the Millennium shall be introduced: and that will be a time “neither perfectly clear, nor altogether dark;” “not entire day, nor entire night:” but a time like the evening, when, though there is some light remaining, it seems gradually drawing towards extinction. When the Church is so circumstanced, that shall be the period for God’s appearance in behalf of his people: and when, according to general expectation, increasing darkness might rather be expected to ensue, then shall light arise in God’s Church, and his purposes respecting it be accomplished.
For the purpose of confirming this interpretation of the passage, I will first consider the text in reference to God’s general dispensations; and then, in reference to the period more especially described.
Let us consider the text in reference to God’s general dispensations.
The more we examine the dealings of God with mankind, the more we shall see that he has, in all ages, permitted difficulties to arise, in order to make his people feel their dependence on him; and to display, eventually, in a more striking manner, his interposition in their behalf. In the 107th Psalm, this plan of the Divine government is illustrated in a great variety of particulars: Travellers “wandering in a wilderness [Note: Psalms 107:3-7.];” captives “sitting bound in affliction and iron [Note: Psalms 107:10-14.];” sick persons “drawing near to the gates of death [Note: Psalms 107:17-20.];” and mariners, in their tempest-tossed vessels, “at their wit’s end [Note: Psalms 107:23-30.];” all having been brought to the utmost extremity, are made to know, by happy experience, that there is a God who heareth prayer, and who is able to save, from every kind of danger, all those who call upon him [Note: Psalms 107:23-30.].
Nor is this his mode of dealing only in relation to temporal matters; it obtains equally in reference to men’s spiritual concerns. The parable of the Prodigal Son is not unfrequently realized amongst ourselves. How often have persons been left to run to the utmost excess of riot, till the very extremities of want and misery, to which they have reduced themselves, are made the occasions of suggesting to their minds that salutary reflection; “In my Father’s house there is bread enough and to spare, whilst I am perishing with hunger: I will return unto my Father.” And in this way they have found that mercy which their souls desired.
Nor is this process observed only at the first conversion of men to God. The saints are sometimes permitted, through the violence of temptation, to fall into the very depths of despondency. What can be conceived more distressing than the state of Asaph’s mind, as depicted in the 77th Psalm? “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?” In this extremity God mercifully interposed, to shew him that these fears were altogether groundless: and then the desponding saint acknowledged, that “this was his own infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.].” Multitudes of others also, in every age of the Church, are enabled to bear the same testimony; and to say with David, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry: he brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay; and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.].” In truth, this is what may be well expected under all trials, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature: for, from the days of Abraham to this present hour, has that proverb been verified, “In the mount the Lord shall be seen [Note: Gen 22:14].”
We must not, however, suppose that these dispensations are limited to individuals: they may be seen with equal clearness in God’s dealings with the Church at large. Let us go back to those two redemptions which his people experienced from Egypt and from Babylon. In Egypt they were reduced to the lowest ebb of misery [Note: Judges 10:16. with Acts 7:34.], and had their afflictions for a time augmented by the very means used for their deliverance; so that they were in utter despair [Note: Exodus 5:20-23.]: but then it was that God interposed with a mighty hand, and a stretched-out arm, to bring them out from their captivity. Yet there was not even then an end put to their troubles: on the contrary, their danger became speedily more imminent than ever. Though they went forth out of Egypt, they soon found themselves enclosed by mountains and morasses on either side of them; by the sea before them, and by the Egyptian army in their rear: now their fears rose as high as ever, and they regretted that they had come out of Egypt at all. “They said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness [Note: Exodus 14:11-12.].” Then did God open a way for them through the Red Sea; and complete their deliverance, by making a channel through the great deep a path to Israel, and a grave to Egypt.
The deliverance of Israel from Babylon, also, was scarcely more within the reach of reasonable expectation. It might possibly be hoped, that, after having kept them seventy years in a state of rigorous servitude, their Babylonish oppressors should relent, and suffer them to return to their own country. But who would have supposed, that the Persian conqueror of Babylon should confer on them so great a benefit? Yet was that very conquest the means of their deliverance; and Cyrus, as had been foretold three hundred years before, freely dismissed them to their own land, laden with the spoils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from them. How surprising this event was to them, may be seen in a psalm composed on the occasion; “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream [Note: Psa 126:1-3].” As Peter, when rescued from prison by an angel, could not believe the fact, but thought he saw a vision; so the people of Israel, when liberated by Cyrus, could scarcely believe that so great a mercy had been vouchsafed to them; so strange was it in itself, and so contrary to all human expectation.
But from the Jewish, let us turn our attention to the Christian Church; for in the establishment of that, also, we shall see the same truth illustrated with peculiar force. Behold the Founder of this Church riding triumphant into Jerusalem, amidst the acclamations and hosannahs of the multitude, and you will think the day of his reign had begun to dawn: but see him, in the space of four short days, apprehended, crucified, entombed, and his little band of followers scattered, without a ray of hope in their minds; and you will say, that all prospect of his reign has for ever vanished. Yet behold, within how short a space of time light rises up in obscurity, and the darkness becomes as the noon-day! On the third day he rises from the dead; and, after giving to his disciples many infallible proofs of his resurrection, he ascends to heaven, in the presence of no less than five hundred brethren; and then sends down the Holy Spirit to testify of him, and to confirm the word which his disciples should preach in his name. Here indeed it may be said, that “at evening time it was light:” and it is probable that at that period the prophecy before us received a partial accomplishment; for then did “the living waters go out from Jerusalem,” even those waters of salvation which have since, in a measure, flowed towards every quarter of the globe, and which in due season shall “cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
Thus we see how the text has already marked and characterized God’s general dispensations, as well towards his Church at large, as towards individuals in particular. And let not the time spent in this statement be grudged, as though it did not bear sufficiently on the main subject of our consideration: for when we have seen to what an extent the leading features of our text have been illustrated in the dispensations of God, whether general or particular, from the foundation of the world, we are more disposed to admit, that such a mode of procedure is likely to be adopted in the latter day, and consequently are better prepared to view the text,
In reference to the period more especially described.
The declaration, that “in that day the Lord shall be king over all the earth; and that there shall be one Lord, and his name One;” clearly shews, that the period referred to has not yet arrived. From the very time when the prophecy was delivered, to the present hour, there have been lords and gods without number, worshipped by the different nations of the earth. But the time is coming, when the Gospel shall be preached to all nations, and “all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of the Lord and his Christ:” and to that time the text clearly refers. The whole concluding part of the chapter also, whether literally or spiritually interpreted, manifestly determines our views to that period.
We have then, in our text, an intimation of the time when we may expect this great work to commence: it will be a time when it is “neither day nor night,” but, as it were, “the evening time,” partaking in a measure of both.
The conversion of the Jews to the faith of Christ is an event which every one who believes the Scriptures looks forward to as certain. But the time for it is supposed to be yet far distant; and all attempts to promote it are deemed visionary and absurd. Persons will say, ‘Look at the Jews: see in what a low degraded state they are; how deep and inveterate are their prejudices against the very name of Christ; how intrenched they are in their own forms and ceremonies; and how inaccessible to the Christian world: they will not suffer you to converse with them on the subject of Christianity: they will not read the books which you put into their hands. As for the Christian Scriptures, they will not look into them. Look at the efforts which have been made for their conversion; how vain and nugatory they have been. If some have professed to embrace the faith of Christ, it has only been for the purpose of advancing their temporal welfare: and they have no sooner gained their end, than they have proved themselves to be the most consummate hypocrites, and been an utter disgrace to the religion which they have professed to honour. What has the Society [Note: The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.], which has now existed a dozen years, effected in their behalf? There has been no want of zeal in them, or of liberality in the public; and what have they done, but waste the public money in unprofitable speculations? This is a clear proof, that the time for the conversion of that people is not come, and that there is no hope of effecting it by any human efforts.’
I hope it will be allowed, that I have stated with sufficient force what is urged by those who deride the efforts of the Society: and though I must declare, that these objections are by no means true, to the extent that they are urged, yet I willingly admit that they are true in part. I acknowledge also, that the difficulty of the work is great; and that the efforts, which have been already made, have not succeeded so far as might have been wished, or so far as persons of a sanguine temperament, and unacquainted with the difficulty of the undertaking, were induced at first to expect: consequently, I acknowledge, that, in relation to this great work, there is abundant evidence that it is not “day.”
But, if it be not “day,” must it therefore be “night?” Does not my text speak of a time when it shall be “neither day nor night?” Allowing, then, that it is not day, I ask, Is it night? Let any candid person hear and judge.
Consider the state of the Christian world. For eighteen hundred years, if we except a partial effort or two made in their behalf, the Christian world have been altogether asleep, as it respects this object: but now they have begun to awake to a sense of their duty, and to the necessities of this outcast nation. Societies have been formed in different parts of Britain, for the express purpose of aiding the efforts of persons whose time and attention are mainly fixed on this object: and a work has been accomplished, a work which one would have supposed should have been executed many centuries ago, but which has never before been attempted for circulation amongst the Jews—the translation of the New Testament into pure Biblical Hebrew. It is well known, that the Jews will not read the Christian Scriptures in the vernacular languages of the countries where they dwell; but it was hoped that they would read it in the language which they venerate as sacred; (and in this hope, as I shall shew presently, the Society has not been disappointed:) and thus have they opened a channel of communication with them, whereby all the most intelligent amongst them are rendered comparatively easy of access. Till this was effected, it was not to be wondered at that no great success attended the Society’s labours; but now they may hope to exert themselves with more effect. It is well known, that the long extant and widely-diffused translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek afforded great facilities for the spread of Christianity amongst the Gentiles; and it may well be hoped, that the translation of our Greek Scriptures into the Hebrew tongue will subserve, in no small degree, the reception of the Gospel amongst the Jewish nation. Add to this, the interest which many crowned heads in Europe have begun to take in the welfare of their Jewish subjects. It may be said, that this attention to them respects only their temporal advancement in the scale of society: still, it tends to remove that stumbling-block which has been so long laid in their way; and to diminish the odium with which they have ever regarded (yea, and too justly regarded) the Christian name. And if the generality of these monarchs have in view no higher object than that which is merely political, it is by no means so with one of them, at least; who, by providing an asylum for those who shall be persecuted for embracing Christianity, has rendered a most essential service to the Christian cause. Is this, then, I would ask, to be called “night?”
But consider, also, the state of the Jews themselves. We have sent forth a few missionaries amongst them, (others are now in a course of preparatory studies, in a seminary recently established for them,) and they have, in many instances, been most kindly received by the Jews; who, instead of rejecting the offer of the Hebrew Testament, as in the preceding objections is supposed, have most gladly and thankfully received it; and, indeed, have expressed the most ardent desire to obtain it. They have shown a great willingness, also, to be instructed in the knowledge of Christianity; and, to a very great extent, have they shaken off the yoke of Rabbinical tyranny and Talmudical superstition: so that, when we shall be able to send forth amongst them a larger number of well-instructed missionaries, there is every reason to hope that the light of Divine Truth will arise upon them, and “the word of the Lord have free course, and be glorified” among them.
Whilst, then, on the one hand, I readily acknowledge that it is not “day,” I think that any person of candour, who shall compare the present state of the Christian world towards them, and of the Jews themselves, with what it has been in past times, must admit that it is not “night.”
Is it then, “neither day nor night?” Methinks there is reason to hope that it is the very time fixed in the Divine counsels, even “the evening time,” wherein the prophet tells us “there shall be light.” Whether it be the full time for the calling in of the Jewish people generally, I presume not to determine; but that it is at least the proper time for our exertion, there can be, I think, no doubt. If a sign, whereby we may ascertain this fact, be demanded, I ask, What sign can any man reasonably require? He will not surely call for a gift of prophecy, or for a power of working miracles; but if, with the exception of these, he demand the same signs to mark the Messiah’s advent to convert his Jewish brethren as were given to mark his advent in the flesh, I am not sure but that we may venture to put the matter upon that issue. For what were the principal signs which marked his advent in the flesh? There was a general expectation of him amongst the Jews themselves; there were some more particularly “waiting for redemption” in Jerusalem, and ready to welcome his arrival; and there were some actually converted to the faith of Christ by the ministry of John the Baptist. And is there not a general expectation amongst the Jews at this time, that the Messiah is near at hand? Yes; and in a degree that has not existed before. Nor will I say this on mere report: for a prophet of their own, writing expressly against the Society, to correct their too sanguine expectations, has undertaken to fix the time; and, after giving it as the opinion of one great and eminent Rabbi, that there were only twenty-nine years more to the coming of the Messiah, he gives a calculation of his own, and says, “There are yet thirty-six years to the end of the jubilee of Israel; and before the end of these thirty-six years, Israel will be restored, and the Messiah will take possession of his empire [Note: Rabbi Crooll on the Restoration of Israel, pp. 48, 66.].” So that, according to these two Rabbins, the period now remaining at this time, (for that calculation was made eight years ago,) it is not more than twenty-one, or, at the utmost, twenty-eight years [Note: This Discourse was delivered before the University of Cambridge, 1820.]. As for the opinions, I lay no stress on the one or the other; but I adduce them, to shew that the Jews themselves, even those who are averse to the idea of his speedy advent, expect assuredly that their Messiah is, at no distant period, to appear.
That there are many, especially among the Christian world, ready to welcome the Messiah’s arrival and to advance his kingdom, is sufficiently evident, both in Europe and America: and that some of the Jewish nation have been truly converted to God, is a fact to which we can appeal with perfect confidence. Some are at this time employed as missionaries to their brethren; some, of whose piety we can no more doubt than we doubt the piety of multitudes amongst ourselves: and the New Testament, distributed amongst the Jews, is doing its work silently, but effectually; being “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds, and casting down imaginations, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Whether they shall all continue steadfast unto the end, I pretend not to say; for, after the most eminent saints recorded in Scripture have fallen, I know no man under heaven respecting whom a continued steadfastness can be certainly and unerringly predicted: but this I say, that, if there be genuine piety depicted in any human composition whatever, it is depicted in the experience of some who are at this moment in connexion with our Society: so that, if we cannot boast of Pentecostal conversions, we have seen some, the first-fruits before the harvest, the drop before the shower.
If, then, there exist at this time signs similar to those which marked the Messiah’s advent in the flesh, I think we have abundant evidence, that, whether the time for the national conversion of the Jews be come, or not, the time for our exertion is come; and we ought to “go forth to the contest with them, seeing that our God is gone out before us [Note: Judges 4:14. 2 Samuel 5:24.].” To prevent misapprehension, I repeat, that of “the times and seasons which God has reserved in his own power,” I presume not to speak: but of our duty I do speak, and that with confidence: and if the time for the light to arise be that of “evening-time, when it is neither day nor night,” then do I think, that at this hour we have all the encouragement to exert ourselves that we can reasonably desire.
But it is in vain to urge on men the performance of their duty, whilst so many objections lurk against it in their minds. Of the duty itself, I am well assured, nothing need be added to what I spoke in my former Discourse [Note: See Disc. on Jeremiah 30:17.]. I hope and trust, that, on that subject, there is but one feeling amongst us all. But, as I then observed, we too readily listen to objections; and perhaps feel somewhat of a pleasure in embracing any thing which may serve as a plea for postponing at least, if not altogether neglecting, our duty. Hence, on the last occasion, I observed, that, in the present Discourse, I would address myself somewhat more fully to this part of my subject. And if, in doing this, I should trespass somewhat longer than usual on your time and patience, I trust that the importance of the subject will plead my excuse, and be kindly received by you as an apology.
To the first and most common objection, that the time is not come, I need add little to what I have already said. If only it be borne in mind, that I am not speaking of the complete in-gathering of the Jews, but only of our duty to seek their conversion, I may reply to the objector, ‘When is the time not come? What period has there been, from the first establishment of Christianity to the present hour, when we were released from all obligation to fulfil this duty?’ And, if to this I add, that the present moment singularly accords with that which is described in my text, I conceive that the objection will be allowed by all to have no reasonable weight. If the fallacy of it was made apparent, when urged by the Jews for their delay in building the second temple [Note: Haggai 1:2-4.], much more will it be found altogether vain, when urged by us as an excuse for our neglect to re-edify his spiritual temple amongst the Jews. Some, indeed, have been led to this idea by that passage of Scripture, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in:” from whence they conclude, that the great body of the Gentiles must first be brought into the fold of Christ; and that then the conversion of the Jews is to commence. But what, then, is the meaning of those words in the very same chapter, “If the fall of them (the Jews) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?” And again: “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead [Note: Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:25.]?” Here we see that it is the fulness of the Jews that is ordained to be “as life from the dead” to the whole Gentile world. That there is no real opposition between these two passages, we may be well assured. The question is, how to reconcile them? In order to this, I would observe, that, in my apprehension, the word ‘fulness’ is not to be understood of a complete and universal change in either case, but only of the commencement of the two periods referred to. The commencement of a work amongst the Gentiles will introduce the in-gathering of the Jews: and in like manner, when once the Jews shall begin generally to be converted to the faith, they will be the means of awakening the great body of the Gentiles, and of bringing them also into the fold of Christ [Note: This interpretation makes the import of the word ‘fulness’ the same in both passages; and, in the author’s opinion, it is the most plain and simple.]. But, in many parts of the earth, the Gentiles, through the unprecedented dissemination of the word of God, and the multitude of missions established among them, are already beginning to experience the blessings of the Gospel; and therefore we may well conceive, that the period for the conversion of the Jews also is near at hand. And the man who most earnestly desires the salvation of the Gentiles ought, on his own principles, to be the warmest friend to the Jews.
An idea prevails with some, that the Jews are to be converted by miracle; and, that it is presumptuous in us to attempt so great a work. But this is altogether a mistake. They are to be converted precisely in the same way as they were in the first ages, and as the Gentiles also were; namely, by the ministration of the Gospel. Let any one examine the prophetic writings, and he shall find that there is no difference whatever between the conversion of the Jews and the calling-in of the Gentiles at the latter day; except, indeed, that the Jews shall be gathered in first, and be God’s instruments for the conversion of the Gentile world. The fulness, both of one and of the other, shall be brought in; and be, though not perfectly simultaneous, yet as nearly so as the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles were, at the first establishment of Christianity [Note: See Acts 13:46.]. That it is to be wrought by human means, and not by miracle, is clear from those injunctions which the Prophet Isaiah has given us: “Go through, go through the gates: prepare ye the way of the people: cast up, cast up the highway: gather out the stones: lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh [Note: Isaiah 62:10-11.].” Here it must particularly be observed, that the proclamation respecting the Messiah’s advent is not made by Jehovah himself, but by the Gentile world: “The Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion; ye Gentiles, deliver ye this message; Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh!” Here, then, our duty is clear: we are commanded by God himself to remove every obstacle out of their way; to prepare, with great labour and diligence, a path for them; and to direct them, by all possible means, to their Saviour and their God.
Some, however, who will not call it presumptuous, yet regard it as a hopeless task. But why should not the Jews be converted, as well as the Gentiles? Whatever blindness there may be in their minds, God is able to remove it now, as well as in former ages. Who is it that has wrought effectually for the Gentiles? Is his arm so shortened, that he cannot effect the same for the Jews? Shall we say, like those of old, “He has smitten the rock indeed, that the waters gushed out like a river; but can he give bread also, or provide flesh for his people [Note: Psalms 78:19-20.]? The same power is alike competent for both; and he who has engaged that his outcast people shall be restored, will be at no loss to effect it. St. Paul puts this matter beyond a doubt: “They, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in; for God is able to graff them in again. For, if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree, which is wild by nature; and wert grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive-tree [Note: Romans 11:23-24.]?”
If, notwithstanding these assertions, any one still think that the low estate of the Jews is a just cause for despairing of success in our efforts with them, be it known, that the lower their degradation is, and the more desperate, according to all human appearance, their condition, the more assurance we have that the season for their restoration is near at hand: for God’s express declaration concerning them is, “The Lord will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left [Note: Deuteronomy 32:36.].”
By many it is objected, that the labours of the Society are a mere party-matter, being not set on foot by authority; and prosecuted chiefly by a few, whose opinions and habits differ widely from those of the generality. But, with submission, I would ask, With whom did Christianity originate? or, with whom the Reformation? In reference to both, great stress was laid on the objection, that it was not supported by the rulers. But was either the one or the other less excellent in itself, or less worthy of support on this account? Supposing, then, that the objection were admitted as true, it would have no real weight. But it is far from true in reference to the Society of which we speak; for that is patronized by some, whose names would add weight to any cause: and I doubt not, but that, when the object itself shall be better understood, it will be more justly appreciated, and more universally espoused, amongst the higher orders, as well as amongst the community at large. As for its being advocated by persons of a peculiar class, if it were true, whose fault would it be? It is the duty of every Christian in the universe to seek the salvation of the Jews: and if any neglect to do it, the fault must rest with them. We invite all to unite in this good work. It does not belong to a party; it is the work of God, and the duty of all, without exception; and we would have all, of every rank, and every class, to co-operate with us in the performance of it [Note: It is a curious fact, that, whilst Churchmen urge this objection, it is equally alleged against the Society by Dissenters also, who, because the Society is now conducted by members of the Established Church, imagine that their great object is to enlarge and aggrandize the Establishment. But the object of the Society is to convert the Jews to Christianity; and not in Britain only, but in every part of the world; and this is a work in which every Christian under heaven, to whatever Church he may belong, may well join. For, whatever be men’s peculiar sentiments in relation to Church government, there can be no reason why they should not help forward the circulation of the New Testament amongst the Jews, and their conversion to the faith of Christ; this being a labour of love, which both requires and deserves the united efforts of all who “love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”].
Not very different from this is the objection arising from a disapprobation of some parts of the plan adopted by the Society. Some do not approve of the education of Jewish children; because, as they think, it operates as an inducement with parents to violate the dictates of their conscience, in permitting their children to be instructed in a faith which is contrary to their own. But to this I would say, that the same argument will hold equally against every missionary society for the conversion of the Gentiles; since the education of their children has uniformly constituted a very leading feature of such Societies: and, if we reflect from what a state of depravity and ignorance these children are rescued, and what attention is paid to their best interests, every benevolent mind must rejoice that so great a benefit is accorded to them. Some have thought that the children were collected by undue means; but none are admitted, except a written request be delivered in by the parents themselves; some of whom are altogether indifferent what religion their children embrace; whilst others would gladly inquire after Christianity themselves, if the fear of utter destitution did not constrain them to decline it.
Exceptions have been taken against the affording of temporal relief to such Jews as have embraced our holy religion, as though that operated with them as a bribe to profess what they did not believe. But this plan has been abandoned, in compliance with what appeared to be the general wish: though it may well be doubted, whether we have not thereby rendered the gate of heaven more strait than God ever designed it to be: for the first converts, when cast off by their former friends, were not left to perish with hunger, but were supplied with necessaries out of a common fund. One benefit, however, accrues from this; namely, that the funds of the Society, which are very inadequate to the objects we have in view, are by these means more entirely devoted to what may be called the primary and more important parts of the institution: and it is to be hoped that private benevolence will supply what necessity alone constrains us to withhold.
The objection which, perhaps, is urged with most confidence is, that the Society has spent much money, and effected but little, if any, good. That large sums have been spent, is certain: and that several of the plans first prosecuted were unsuccessful, must also be acknowledged. But the object was altogether new: and it is not to be wondered at, that, where the path was untrodden, the most perfect way should not be found at once. It must be confessed, also, that there was too little attention to economy among those who first established the Society. But the plans have since been simplified; every improvident scheme has been laid aside; and the utmost attention paid to economy in every part of the institution. As to that part of the objection, that little good has been effected, it is what I can by no means admit. It was to be expected, that the work of conversion amongst the Jews should be slow and gradual. Their prejudices are strong; and, till lately, they were almost inaccessible to us: but, since the publication of the New Testament in Biblical Hebrew, the effects have been as great as could reasonably be expected: for some, at least, have been truly converted to God; and vast multitudes have been stirred up to inquire after Christianity; so that I might almost say of different, parts, both of Germany and Poland, that “the fields are white already to harvest.” But, were it not so, shall it be said that little has been done, when a work has been sent forth into the world which, since the first promulgation of Christianity, was never before attempted; and which, of all the works that ever can be conceived, is the most likely to be effectual for the desired end? If we look forward to its ultimate results, as likely to be the one great means of qualifying the Jews in every quarter of the globe to become at a future period the instructors of the Gentile world, the importance of it can scarcely ever be duly appreciated. There are also many other things now in operation, which till lately could not be brought to bear: missionaries are sent out to different parts: others are receiving appropriate instruction in a seminary recently instituted for that special purpose: and a variety of other plans are now in full activity, and, I would hope, with good effect: so that it can by no means be said, that there is little doing, or little done. In point of efficiency, the Society will be found, especially since it came under the management of its present directors, to bear a comparison with other institutions of a similar nature. As to its progress, compare it with the Reformation: Was that wrought in a day? How long had Wickliffe protested against the abominations of Popery, before any considerable portion of the Church could be effectually purged from its corruptions? and how little has been done towards the diffusion of the Protestant religion in a neighbouring portion of the United Kingdom during the space of above two hundred years? Nay, let any one of us labour only in a single parish, with every possible advantage, for a number of years, and see how few are truly converted to God; and, of those few who profess to have received the word into their hearts, how very small a portion “bring forth fruit unto perfection,” and “endure unto the end!” Let us but judge candidly in this matter, and we shall see indeed but little reason for this complaint.
Regretting that I have been necessitated to detain you so long, I will mention but one objection more; and it is this: I will wait and see what others do, before I will commit myself as a friend and patron of this Society. But, if all proceed on this plan, how is any thing to be done? If the thing be good, we should aid it, even though no one else should either lead the way, or follow our example. Instead of hesitating or delaying, we should all vie with each other in this long-neglected duty, and labour to redeem the time we have lost. If any would still procrastinate, I would ask, Have not the Jews been neglected long enough? Will not seventeen centuries suffice to have left them in their perishing condition? Would we still leave generation after generation to die in the ignorance of that Saviour whom God has sent for them as well as us, and through whom we profess ourselves to have obtained eternal life? Have we not yet filled up a sufficient measure of iniquity by our neglect? Would we add yet more to all the inhumanity we have been guilty of? Would we carry on to an indefinite period our injustice and ingratitude towards them, and continue our impiety, till it is past a remedy? If the Jews have no claim upon us, let us acknowledge none: if the reproofs of God respecting our neglect are not deserving of attention, let us disregard them: if there be no excellency in love, let us forbear to exercise it: and if our own souls be of no value, let us continue to trifle with them, even unto the end. But if, as was shewn in our former Discourse, God will resent this apathy, and call us into judgment for it, let every one of us act for himself, and obey, without delay, the dictates of his conscience, and the commands of God. Let none think it beneath them to espouse the cause of that despised people. Let none suppose, that, because they stand pre-eminent for rank or learning, they should account themselves excused from this sacred work. I ask of all, Are the Jews at this day in a more desperate or degraded state than they were when labouring at the brick-kilns in Egypt? or are any amongst us more distinguished for rank or talents than Moses, who was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” and, in the first court at that time in the universe, was inferior only to the king himself? yet did he not merely condescend to patronize that injured people, but, at the peril of his own life, he espoused their cause, yea, and joined himself to them, that he might participate their afflictions; “esteeming even the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt [Note: Hebrews 11:24-26.].” To any such exercise of self-denial as this, I readily grant, we are not called. But to a zeal for God’s honour, and his people’s good, we are called: and I feel assured, that if, in this benevolent and holy cause, we do make some sacrifice, the time is coming when we shall not regret it. In the court of Pharaoh, it is highly probable that all those who were ignorant of the high principles by which Moses was actuated, regarded his condescension as folly, and his zeal as madness. But far different is the estimate that has been formed, both of the one and of the other, by the Christian, no less than by the Jewish, Church; amongst whom, from that very hour, it has been an acknowledged principle, that it is “better to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” This I say, in case it should please God to raise up amongst us men of piety and talent, who shall enter fully into this subject, and devote themselves to the arduous and long-neglected office of enlightening and converting the Jews. Of course, this can be expected of few, and of those only who feel themselves at liberty to consecrate their time and talents to this blessed work. But, after the statement you have heard, I hope I may be permitted to say, without offence, If you are convinced that the cause in which we are engaged is good, aid us by your patronage and your contributions: and let it be seen, that, whilst Monarchs are declaring before the whole world that such efforts ‘equally become the statesman and the friend of humanity [Note: See “Protocole”—
“Sιance Deuteronomy 21:0 Novembre, 1818.
entre les cinq Cabinets.
Capo d’Istria.”],’ we, in this seat of learning and religion, know what becomes the liberality of Britons, and the disciples of Christ.
CHRIST’S REIGN ON EARTH
Zechariah 14:9. The Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
UNDER the Jewish dispensation, the saints looked forward to the first coming of our Lord; at the prospect of which, though at the distance of two thousand years, Abraham exulted, and leaped for joy. Under the Christian dispensation, we look forward to his second advent: when he shall take to him his great power, and reign over the face of the whole earth. The near approach of this great event should make us more intent upon it, and fill us with delightful anticipations of the blessings which will then be diffused throughout all the world. The words which we have just read will furnish us with an occasion to consider,
The incalculable importance of this prophecy—
It is of importance,
To the world at large—
[At present, our blessed Saviour reigns over a very small part of the globe. By far the greater part of mankind are sunk in the grossest idolatry — — — But there is a time coming, when every Dagon in the universe shall fall before the ark, and Christ shall be King over all the earth. In every place under heaven shall men “cast their idols to the moles and to the bats,” and Christ be made the one object of supreme and universal regard.
The delusions of Mahometanism shall also then be banished; the worshippers of that false prophet shall be undeceived; and Christ be acknowledged as that Prophet of whom Moses spoke, as ordained of God to be supremely and exclusively the Teacher of the world.
God’s ancient people, too, shall then be brought to “look on Him whom they pierced, and mourn; and be in bitterness, as one that mourneth for his only son.” To him shall they submit, as King in Zion; and thus all, both Jews and Gentiles, shall become “one fold under one Shepherd.”
To all these things the Scriptures bear witness, in so plain and abundant a measure, that we must doubt altogether the inspiration of the sacred volume, if we can doubt that these things shall be fulfilled in their season [Note: Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:8; Psalms 22:27-28; Psalms 72:8; Psalms 72:11; Daniel 2:44-45.] — — —]
To the Church in particular—
[Even in the Christian world there is almost as little subjection to one Head as in the world at large. Both in the Roman Church and the Greek Church, superstition prevails to such a degree, as in a great measure to supersede the work and offices of Christ. And even among Protestants, the divisions which exist tend greatly to embitter their minds against each other, and to prevent that union which ought to subsist amongst the members of Christ’s mystical body. As, of old, the tribes of Judah and of Ephraim were in a state of most inveterate hostility against each other, even so it is now. But as, in reference to them, we are told that the two sticks in the prophet’s hand became one, as shadowing forth their future union [Note: Ezekiel 37:16-22.], “(Ephraim no longer envying Judah, nor Judah vexing Ephraim [Note: Isaiah 11:13.],” but both living together in harmony and love,) so we may assuredly expect, that, at the season predicted in my text, all will become, as at the day of Pentecost, “of one heart and one mind;” all, as it were, “being like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus; and all, with one mind and one mouth, glorifying God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 15:5-6.].”]
To every individual of mankind—
[Who amongst us has not reason to confess, that “other lords besides Jehovah have had dominion over us?” But at that time we shall all say, “By thee, and the influence of thy grace, will we henceforth make mention of thy name, even of thine only [Note: Isaiah 26:13.].” An entire subjection of the soul to Christ is a very rare attainment. But in that day there shall be none to “say, Lord, Lord, without doing the things which he commands.” Hypocrisy will then be banished from the world; and all who are called Israel, will be “Israelites indeed [Note: John 1:47.].” “All will be righteous in that day [Note: Isaiah 60:21.].” Every vessel in the Lord’s house, from the greatest to the least, will be holiness to the Lord: nor shall there any more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts [Note: ver. 20, 21.].”]
Is this the true import of the prophecy? How great then must be,
The blessedness of the period to which it refers—
Surely it will be a season of great temporal prosperity—
[There will then exist few, if any, of those calamities which now overrun the world. Do wars now rage, and desolate the earth? They shall then cease: “the swords shall be beat into plow-shares, and the spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more [Note: Micah 4:3.].” Do unfruitful seasons reduce men to great distress? There shall then be such fertility in the earth, that “every man shall sit under his own vine and figtree [Note: Micah 4:4.],” in the undisturbed possession both of peace and plenty. Do injustice and oppression prevail? Universal righteousness will then obtain; and neither fraud nor violence be suffered upon earth [Note: Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 60:17-18.]. Do diseases bring men to an untimely end? To such a degree shall the constitutions of men be strengthened, that a person at the age of a hundred years shall be accounted only a child; and if he die at that early age, he shall be judged as cut off prematurely by a judicial act of God’s displeasure. In truth, the whole system of things will appear like “a new creation;” “a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness [Note: Isa 65:17-20 and 2 Peter 3:13.].”]
Then, also, shall spiritual blessings most richly abound—
[Men’s knowledge of the Gospel shall then far exceed any thing that is possessed at this day: “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound [Note: Isaiah 30:26.].” At present, our views of Christ are obscure: we see him only as a shadow, or, at the best, only “as in a glass darkly:” but then “we shall see him eye to eye,” and, as it were, face to face [Note: Isaiah 52:8.]. The grace also that shall accompany this knowledge will be proportionably enlarged. Exceeding beautiful is the description which the Prophet Joel gives us of the state of things in that day: “It shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim [Note: Joel 3:18.],” a place proverbially dry and barren. In fact, so universal and abundant will be the prevalence of real piety, that it will seem as if all the saints that have ever died had risen again, and Christ himself were dwelling and reigning in the midst of them [Note: Revelation 20:6; Revelation 21:2-4.].]
Above all, it will be a season when God will manifest himself on earth, almost as he does in heaven itself—
[Some think that Christ will personally reign on earth, during the whole Millennium. But, without acceding to that opinion, I think it clear that he will manifest himself on some special occasions, as once he did upon Mount Tabor in his transfiguration: and so bright will be his glory, that the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously [Note: Isaiah 24:23.].” In fact, the city in which we shall dwell will have no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb will be the light thereof [Note: See Revelation 21:22-26.].” See the exultations of the saints in that day, as expressed in the prophetic writings [Note: Psa 98:1-9 and Isaiah 12:3-6.] — — — See them, also, as declared in the book of Revelation, where they refer expressly to the period when “the saints shall reign on the earth [Note: Revelation 5:9-10.]:” and, methinks, you will say that that season will be to every living man an earnest and a foretaste of heaven itself.]
Let me then entreat you, Brethren,
To seek the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in your own souls—
[If He is to reign over all at the period referred to, should not his kingdom be established in our hearts? O, let him not find a rival there! Let every thing that exalts itself against him be cast down; and every thought and desire of your hearts be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.]
To promote its establishment throughout the world [Note: Here may be an exhortation, suited to the occasion, and to the particular circumstances of the case at that time.]—
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
Zechariah 14:16-19. It shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whose will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
MANY passages of Holy Writ derive an interest from the plainness of their import, and the force with which they are expressed; and many attract our attention from the peculiarity of the subject, and even from the difficulty of finding the just interpretation of them. It is in this latter view that I propose to call your attention to the passage which I have now read. That vast importance is attached to the subject by the prophet himself, is evident: and therefore it should not be overlooked by us. But, whether the true sense of it has yet been ascertained, may well admit of doubt.
There are two points of view in which it may be considered:
As a prediction to be accomplished in due season—
[That the event which it refers to is yet future, can admit of no doubt. It is not to take place till the period shall arrive, when “the Lord shall be King over all the earth;” and when, instead of the multitudes of gods that are now worshipped, “there shall be but one Lord, and his name one [Note: ver. 9.].”
By the Mosaic law there were appointed three great feasts, for the observance of which all the males in Israel were to go up to Jerusalem: these were the feast of the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles; and they were all partly commemorative, and partly predictive. The Passover referred to the deliverance of the Hebrew first-born through the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb, when the Egyptian first-born were slain; the Pentecost reminded them of the giving of the law from Mount Sinai: and the feast of Tabernacles brought to their remembrance their dwelling in tents for forty years in the wilderness. The event predicted by the Passover was the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.]; and that predicted by the Pentecost was the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the fiftieth day after the deliverance by Christ’s death should have been effected, and the writing of God’s law by him upon our hearts [Note: Acts 2:1-4.]. But now comes the difficulty: What was the event predicted by the feast of Tabernacles? Commentators have mentioned two; namely, the incarnation of our blessed Lord, and the state in which all his people should live in this dreary wilderness. For the former of these, there appears some foundation in Scripture: for our blessed Lord’s advent was, in all probability, at that season of the year, the autumn; and not, as we generally imagine, in the winter: and the expression whereby his incarnation is designated by St. John seems to have a special reference to this feast; “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us [Note: ἐσκήνωσεν.].” And this being so wonderful an event, and withal so accordant with the other two, it may well be supposed that the expectation of it should be kept up by a particular feast instituted for that express purpose. But then there arises a great difficulty; Why should this be so particularly, and so exclusively, celebrated in the latter day? Why should such heavy judgments be denounced against those who should omit to celebrate this, whilst yet no notice at all is taken of the other two? This necessitates one to look for some other event, which is of sufficient importance to justify the appointment of a feast, and which demands that peculiar honour which is here exclusively reserved for it. As for the state in which all are to live under the Christian dispensation, there is nothing at all mysterious in that, nothing that calls for such a typical prefiguration, and nothing that is peculiarly appropriate to the latter-day. We therefore dismiss that altogether from our thoughts, as far as the prediction is concerned,
In order to discover what event there is, which the prophet had in view, and which, either by itself, or in connexion with Christ’s first advent, corresponds with the feast of Tabernacles, and which moreover calls for such distinguished honour in the latter day; we must examine the whole preceding context. The prophet is speaking respecting the future restoration and conversion of the Jews [Note: ver. 11.]. He foretells, that it will be opposed to the uttermost by the heathen nations: but that the Jews will triumph over all their enemies [Note: ver. 12–14. See also Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:6-9.], and having destroyed immense multitudes of them, will be the instruments of converting the rest to the faith of Christ [Note: Isaiah 66:14-16; Isaiah 66:19.]. Now, it is obvious, that the Jews, in going up to their own land, must dwell in booths made of the branches of trees; or, at best, in tents, such as soldiers use when they take the field. It is equally obvious, that, in appearance, they will be as likely to fall a prey to their enemies, as when they came out of Egypt to sojourn in the wilderness. Yet shall they be as miraculously preserved then as heretofore; not only through the destruction of their enemies, but by a supply of all their wants: and they shall have renewed to them all their former mercies under their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will then reign over them, and fix his Tabernacle in the midst of them, as their Head and King [Note: Ezekiel 34:23-24. with Revelation 21:3.]. By this blessed event, their surviving enemies will be convinced, and converted to the faith of Christ: and all who shall resist the evidence thus afforded them, and refuse to join them in the worshipping of the Saviour, shall be visited with plagues, which shall mark plainly the indignation of God against them. At the feast of Tabernacles they were wont to pray for the latter rain, which fell at that season of the year [Note: Joel 2:23.]: and God threatens, that they who should not unite with them in these holy exercises “should have no rain.” And whereas Egypt was independent of rain, their land being fertilized by the overflowing of the Nile, they should have some other plague equivalent to that inflicted on other disobedient nations [Note: ver. 18.]: for God would sorely chastise all who should refuse to unite in celebrating this wonderful event, and in honouring the Saviour who shall have brought it to pass.
Now, here we have an object worthy of such an ordinance to prefigure it: for it is the consummation of all the prophecies, relating either to the Jewish or Gentile world. And here we see why this feast is to be observed, not only in preference to, but to the exclusion of, the other two. And certainly, if we conceive, as many do, that the Lord Jesus Christ will then descend, and personally reign on earth, the connexion between his first and second advent will more strongly appear, and the authoritative injunction respecting the observance of that feast will be more fully accounted for. Could we make up our minds to this point, it must be confessed it would throw great light on the passage before us; because this feast would then have the same direct reference to Christ as is unquestionably found in the other two. But of his spiritual reign there can be no doubt: and that being then more glorious than ever, and over both the Jewish and Gentile world in one collective body, it may well be regarded as a renewal of his presence upon earth, and an accomplishment of the prophecy before us.
But there is yet further reason for supposing the conversion of the Gentile world to be the immediate subject of this prophecy: for the feast of Tabernacles was expressly called “the feast of in-gathering [Note: Exodus 23:16.];” and therefore it might well prefigure that second advent of “Shiloh, to whom shall the gathering of the Gentiles be [Note: Genesis 49:10.].” And, in fact, the whole current of prophecy seems to determine the point: for “at that period shall many people and strong nations come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem; and ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you [Note: Zechariah 8:22-23. See also Isaiah 60:10-14; Isaiah 66:13.].”]
Having endeavoured to throw light on my text as a prediction, I shall now proceed to notice it,
As a command, to be obeyed in all ages—
Beyond all doubt, that which is so authoritatively required of the whole world at a future period, must, in spirit at least, be required of the Church in all ages. Now, the spirit of the ordinance plainly inculcates,
A grateful remembrance of past mercies—
[This was indisputably one great end of the feast, as it was originally established: “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know, that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt [Note: Leviticus 23:39-43.].” In that state they were exposed to the want of every necessary of life, and to numberless dangers, both from men and beasts: yet were they preserved by the continued care of their Heavenly Protector. And have not we, also, similar mercies to recount? With respect to our bodies, what care has God taken of us, from the first moment that we came into the world! How many millions of the children of men have never attained to our age, or had such blessings multiplied to them as we! And if we speak of our souls, we must know all the devices of Satan himself, before we can estimate aright the care which we have experienced at the hands of our heavenly Father. There has not been an hour in which we should not have been destroyed, if God had permitted Satan to sift us, as he gladly would have done. It is through God’s unbounded mercy that “we continue to this day” following after God, and that we have not long since “turned back unto perdition.” If, through mercy, we can say, “My foot standeth fast;” it becomes us gratefully to add, “In the congregations will I bless the Lord [Note: Psalms 26:12.].”]
An humble dependence on God for future blessings—
[In the passage before cited, to shew that the ordinance was appointed for the remembrance of past mercies, it is added, “I am the Lord your God [Note: Leviticus 23:43.].” This taught the Hebrews to expect a continuance of those blessings at his hands. And to whom shall we look? Whither shall we go for blessings, either temporal or spiritual? If we lean on the creature, we shall find it a broken reed. We must rely on God alone. We must look to Him, as “our Sun and our Shield:” we must “rely on him both for grace and glory;” and rest assured, that “he will withhold no good thing from us, if only we walk uprightly before him;” “acknowledging him in all our ways,” and “committing” our every concern “into his hands [Note: Proverbs 3:6.].”
It is worthy of observation, that, on the last day of this feast, the Jews were wont to go to the pool of Siloam, and to pour out water with joy; referring, in their minds, to the promise, that at that time “living waters should go out from Jerusalem [Note: ver. 8.];” and to that particular song which the Prophet Isaiah had taught them, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation [Note: Isaiah 12:3.].” In the midst of that ceremony, our blessed Lord addressed the whole multitude, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. And this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive [Note: John 7:37-39.].” If only we look to Him, “we shall want no manner of thing that is good [Note: In the Church of England we have Rogation-days, for the express purpose of supplicating God’s blessing in reference to the fruits of the earth, and the out-pouring of his Spirit on the Church: and these begin the Sunday before Whitsunday.].”]
A self-denying surrender of our whole selves to God—
[It was no little act of self-denial, for the whole nation to leave their houses, and live in booths (not in tents of canvass, as we are apt to imagine; but in booths, made of the branches of trees) for seven days every year. In truth, this ordinance was so contrary to flesh and blood, that, from the days of Joshua, till after their return from the Babylonish captivity, the people never once observed it. But we must not draw back from any act of self-denial whatever. We must forsake all, and follow Christ: father, mother, houses, lands, yea, and life itself, must be hated by us in comparison of him. Though in the world, “we must not be of the world;” but “be crucified to it,” and “have our conversation altogether in heaven.” This is our duty: “we must live not to ourselves, but to Him who died for us, and rose again.” Nor must we account any thing hard: we should rather “rejoice, if we are counted worthy to suffer shame or loss for the Lord’s sake;” and “not count even our lives dear to us, if only we may honour him, and“finish our course with joy.” At the discovery of their long-neglected duty through the instructions of Ezra, the people, even all the congregation of those who were come out of captivity, made themselves booths, on the roof of their houses, and in their courts, and in the courts of the House of God, and in the street of the water-gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim: and there was very great gladness [Note: Nehemiah 8:14-17.].” O, that there were in us also such a heart! For I hesitate not to affirm, that the more self-denying readiness we manifest to obey the commands of God, the more solid joy shall we possess. Verily,“in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward.”]
A joyful anticipation of the period more especially referred to—
[Abraham, two thousand years before the Saviour’s advent, was filled with joy at the glimmering view of it which he beheld: and shall not we rejoice in the prospect of his second advent, when all the ends of his incarnation and death will be gloriously accomplished; and when all, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be gathered together as “one fold under one Shepherd?” “Woe be to us, if we are at ease in Zion,” and altogether insensible to these great events! Were “the Ammonite and the Moabite forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation, because they met not the Hebrews with supplies of bread and water, when they came out of Egypt [Note: Deuteronomy 23:3-4.];” what judgment, then, think ye, may we expect, if we help not forward, to the utmost of our power, this glorious consummation, of which their deliverance from Egypt was but a faint shadow! Truly, God calls us to enter into the subject with our whole hearts, and to help it forward with our whole souls. “Thus saith the Lord: Sing with gladness for Jacob: shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye; praise ye; and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel [Note: Jeremiah 31:7.]!” This is addressed to us: and if it was the duty of Gentiles five hundred years before the first coming of Christ, what must it be now that his second advent is so nigh at hand? Come, Brethren; rise to the occasion: prepare to keep the feast. If ye refuse to participate in this joy, no wonder “ye have no rain”upon your souls; no wonder ye are visited with plagues: but, if ye will enter fully into the design of this mystery, then shall ye “come with singing unto Zion, and with everlasting joy upon your heads.”]
THE MILLENNIAL GLORY
Zechariah 14:20-21. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.
THE period to which the text refers is yet future. If there be in the preceding context much that is difficult to be understood, there is much also that is plain. It is here plainly foretold, that the Jews shall be restored once more to their own land [Note: ver. 11.]: that those who oppose their settlement there, how numerous or powerful soever they may be, shall be destroyed [Note: ver. 12–15.]: that both Jews and Gentiles shall embrace the faith of Christ [Note: ver. 9.]: that those who refuse to do so, whether Jews or Gentiles, shall be visited with heavy plagues [Note: ver. 16–19.]: and that, amongst those who do turn unto the Lord, there shall be such high degrees of holiness as have never yet been generally found in the Church of God [Note: The text.].
By “the bells or bridles of the horses” may be meant the ornaments of horses, not merely of those used in war, but rather of those used for common purposes, whether of labour or pleasure. On them shall be inscribed “Holiness unto the Lord,”just as there was on the mitre of the high-priest [Note: Exodus 28:36.], in order to shew, that the owners of the horses consider them as consecrated to the Lord, and desire to glorify God in the use of them. By this I understand, that, in all the comforts and conveniences of life, God will be acknowledged, as much as he formerly was in the most sacred ordinances and appointments.
Every service then will be, in fact, a religious service. In the tabernacle and the temple were “pots,”both of earth and brass, for the use of the priests; and “bowls” of gold for the blood of the sacrifices, which was to be sprinkled according to the prescribed forms. These were more holy as being used in the more immediate service of God. But in that day, “the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar,” every meal being partaken of in the same devout spirit as a sacrifice, and every common office of life being performed as unto God himself. Nor will this obtain amongst the priests only, but amongst the people also, and that of every rank and order in society; for “every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord.” The seething of the flesh of the sacrifices in the pots formerly belonged only to the priests [Note: Leviticus 6:25-28.]: but under the Christian dispensation all are priests, even “a royal priesthood [Note: 1 Peter 2:9. Revelation 5:10.], “and are therefore entitled to “seethe therein;” “the people who sacrifice” being in this respect as the priests themselves.
So universal will holiness then be, that “there will no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord.” In the Promised Land the Canaanites retained a possession for many centuries, and were with great difficulty extirpated at last. At this time too there are in the Church many who dishonour their holy profession; nor can the tares be in any tolerable degree separated from the wheat; but at that day “Jerusalem shall be altogether holy [Note: Joel 3:17.],” and in the Lord’s highway no unclean thing or person shall be found [Note: Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 60:21.].
From the text thus explained, we may see,
The true character of the Gospel dispensation—
The law was holy; and not the moral law only, but the ceremonial law also: for though, in comparison of the Gospel, it consisted only of poor and “beggarly elements,” yet it tended to render sin odious, and to impress on the mind the fear and love of God. But the Gospel is yet more holy, being itself the substance of those things of which the law was only a shadow. The whole character of it is holiness:
It displays above all things the holiness of God—
[Sec what an atonement was offered for sin! nothing but the blood of God’s only dear Son could make satisfaction for it — — — What a holy God must he be, who required such a sacrifice! — — —]
It proposes to us no lower pattern than God himself—
[We are required by it to “be holy, as God is holy;” and “perfect, as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Far as we are from this, we must press forward for it, and rest in nothing short of it — — —]
The holiness which it requires of us, it promises to us—
[It makes not any one perfect in this life; but it delivers us from the dominion of all sin and transforms us into “the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness,” and that “from one degree of glory to another, even as by the Spirit of the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].” This it does for all who receive it aright: for “every one that has a good hope in Christ, purifies himself, even as he is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.]” — — —]
To illustrate this yet farther, we shall mark,
The effect which it produces, in proportion as its influence is felt—
“It bringeth forth fruit in all the world:” and that fruit is of the richest kind, even as the fruit of Paradise itself. In the last day it will operate in its full extent: and now, if we cordially embrace it,
We shall regard all that we have as consecrated to the Lord—
[Whatever we posssess, whether for use or pleasure, “Holiness unto the Lord” will be inscribed upon it. Our bodies with all their members, our souls with all their faculties, our time, our property, our influence, all will be considered as talents received from him, and to be improved for him [Note: Isaiah 23:18; Isaiah 63:9.].]
We shall perform our most common services in a religious manner—
[As the ungodly carry a worldly spirit into their most sacred duties, so, on the contrary, do the saints endeavour to do every thing for God. This is shewn us particularly in reference to religious servants, whose privilege it is in the most menial offices to serve the Lord Christ [Note: Ephesians 6:5-8.] — — — In like manner all of us are to regard “our pots and cups as the bowls before the altar,” and “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do it all for the glory of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].”]
We shall suffer no sin willingly to abide in our hearts—
[The Canaanite will be expelled, and no truce be made with him. “The right eye will be plucked out, and the right hand or foot will be cut off.” To the harbouring of one sin the penalty of “hell fire” is annexed: and no candidate for heaven will knowingly subject himself to this fearful alternative [Note: Mark 9:42-48.].]
Let none be ashamed of religion, which ought to shine before men—
Let none rest in any measure of religion short of that which will characterize the Millennial age — — —