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communion with the saints, or sitting solitary as a partridge on the mountain ; whatever your trial, it is the lot of earth, it is the word of Jesus, “ In the world ye shall have tribulation ;' but ye shall reign as kings and priests in your glorified bodies, and Jesus shall be a Prince over the kings of the earth. We are now in an enemy's land, poor and afflicted, tried and chastened ; hidden jewels in thick clay ; scattered sheep among ravening wolves. Ye are a people preparing for the Lord; some sent forth to battle with all the powers of earth, sin, and Satan ; others tarrying at home in bitterness of soul, known only to themselves and their Lord ; some rejoicing, others sorrowing. Oh, that the blessed Spirit would be pleased to whisper peace to each sorrowing soul ; “ In me ye shall have peace;" and if our peace be derived from any other source but Jesus himself, it is a false peace; if resting on him, it is abiding. When looking at him, realizing him as our all in all, self and earth apparently sink into nothing ; but transient are these realizing moments, and not until Jesus comes a Prince to reign over the kings of the earth, shall we, can we, enjoy that ecstatic bliss which belongs not to creatures of clay. No, my brethren, this is not our rest; it is polluted; we are sons, but not kings; servants, and not priests; chosen, but not inaugurated ; adopted, but not proclaimed ; heirs, but not in possession. Nor shall we be until the Lord comes with power and great glory; until these vile bodies are made like unto his glorious body, and “ see him as he is." Then, and not till then, shall we be kings and priests unto God, and Jesus shall reign the Prince of the kings of the earth.
May God the Spirit bless these few words to the comforting of our souls, and to the establishment of our faith, and to the Eternal Three be all the glory.
TO THE HUSBANDMEN OF ISRAEL.
And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns; but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser
cattle.-Isa. vii. 25.. BRETHREN, ye know that one blessed command of our great Master to his disciples is this, “ What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” And in obedience to this precept I would now take my trumpet, and ascend the watch-tower, and there make known that which I have heard ; and I pray you judge if mine be a certain sound.
The times in which we live are indeed peculiar, and the men that know the signs, and can tell Israel what to do, are few; but these resemble "the first ripe grape,” being full of that wine which cheereth the heart of God and man; for these possess the “holy unction, the spirit of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus ;' and thus are qualified to make known the mind and will of Jehovah to his “poor and afflicted people," and to show them from the divine oracles what the judgments and mercies which lie immediately before us. To these men of God I now speak, and with these would I now
bear my feeble testimony. The words above contain a voice of direction and encouragement to the Lord's labourers; a word in due season for the present time; and may the Holy Spirit fully manifest their hidden blessings while we endeavour to comment on the same.
“And on all hills.” These hills undoubtedly signify the churches of the Lord scattered round about the “ hill of God," the true and one church, which " is a high hill, as the hill of Bashan.” Many of these hills sprang up in the apostolic day, and were most rapidly covered with vines, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” The planters planted them on the mountains, and eat them as common things ; and by looking back we can behold many “ thousand vines at a thousand silverlings," where now indeed is nothing but “ briers and thorns." Those churches of Galatia, where are they? And those seven of Asia, whose husbandmen were specially addressed by the great Master, and commended or reproved according to their works, where are they? How are these once fruitful hills now covered with desolation ! How are they crowned with briers and thorns! But while these have gone to ruin, others have sprung up in their stead; and these in their turn have become deserts, and others have succeeded them down to the present hour, in which we can look around and bebold many little hills under the sole management of foolish planters, who, entirely mistaking the nature of the true vine, plant their hills indeed with "pleasant plants," which, however, to the discerning eye, are nought but “strange slips,” struck from the old Adamic stem. In the day they make their plants to grow; and in the morning, with much legal zeal, they make their seed to flourish : but we know that " the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.” Fine churches and populous are no proof of divine favour ; but rather, in this dark day, constitute an argument against the pastors thereof, inasmuch as it bespeaks them the agents of antichrist, spreading out a carpet for his throne, and laying a foundation for his empire. And if so, most certainly in the trying moment, “the hour of temptation, their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust, and their hills and mountains shall be made low.”
" That shall be digged with the mattock.” This forms an exception to those hills at which we have glanced, for they are not digged with the “faithful word," which, in the hand of God, is an instrument for every work, if for war, it is called a sword; if for breaking up, it is called a plough; if for cutting down, it is called an axe; and if for correction, it is called a rod; but if it be for rooting out briers and thorns, nettles and thistles, it is called a mattock: and this implement of husbandry is put into the hand of a faithful ministry, and it may not be laid by, but used with severity; for the severity of truth is ever wholesome to the saints of God, and will surely, sooner or later, manifest itself “the savour of life unto life.” There is, we know, a ministry, whose language is, “I cannot dig, and to beg I am ashamed ;” but God's sent servants can dig, for he will not give them commission to go forth till they can, and that, too, through the walls of the heart into “ the chambers of imagery,” and there, by the light of truth, show a man all that ever he did ; so that the thoughts and intents of his heart being made manifest, he shall tremble at the piercing energy and power of God's holy word. But the severity of truth hypocrites and impostors cannot endure, as is plainly shown by the fact, that, when Jesus hewed his many followers with the doctrine of eternal election, they cried out against him, and said, “ This is a hard saying, who can hear it ? And they went back; they fell away from him ; and even the true vines were shaken by the blow; but he held them up by saying, “ Doth this offend you? Will ye also go away?” Just in proportion, then, as a man is faithful in the use of God's word, so is he as God's mouth, taking " forth the precious from the vile ;"“the bondwoman and her son" are cast out, as saith the apostle, “ They went out from us, but they were not of us; for had they been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." The faithful preaching of the word is sure to distinguish betwixt servants and sons; for the sons, being heirs of promise, obtain blessing from the Lord, and this provokes the servants to jealousy ; then they persecute, and go away, and thus show that they were only born after the flesh. Be faithful, then, “ ye ministers of my God,' and shun not to declare the whole counsel of God; and you will see briers and thorns witbering under your hand, and thistles and nettles “ twice dead, plucked up by the roots ;" while the genuine plants shall flourish and spring up around you “as among grass, and as willows by the water-courses ;' and these shall be your hire, your crown, your rejoicing in the evil day ; being in themselves, through the energy of the Holy Ghost, more precious than gold, yea, than the golden wedge of Ophir; and the Lord, therefore, will spare these from the judgments, “ as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." These are oliveberries blessed with holy oil, and shall be left by the sweeping storms; and though but two or three in the topmost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches, they shall be a comfort to a minister, because they shall be a proof that his whole work doth not suffer loss when tried by fire. Mind not, therefore, though these, by " treacherous dealers,” be counted as “ earthen pitchers;" for they are " the precious sons of Zion, and comparable to fine gold.” By faith, they are purer than snow; by atoning blood, they are whiter than milk; by true health, more ruddy than rubies; by grace, their polishing is of sapphires. Two or three precious plants planted by the hand of our heavenly Father, are better far than a thousand fine and flourishing gourds, which spring up in a night without trouble or soul-travail; for these shall perish in a night, when the never-dying worm of an evil conscience shall prey upon their root. Therefore, let us be content to dig about these few, and we shall find the promise true which saith,
" There shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns." This is a most blessed declaration. Its import is of the grandest kind; for, not only does it imply the absence of dominion by briers and thorns, but also a freedom from the judgments resulting from such dominion. We will speak of each separately. And, first, we know that where sin in a church is winked at by a pastor, that sin, in some way or other, will get the dominion over him, and he will be indeed weak, though anointed king, and though wearing the crown of government.* How many pastors and churches resemble the case of Eli and the Jewish church of old! It is true he held the mattock in his hands; he cried out against the sin of his sons; but did he exercise the duty of his office ? did he put forth the power of the word ? did he, by faithful dealing, chase them from him ? when they made themselves vile, did he restrain them ? Nay; he partook of other men's sins, and did not, as he ought, rebuke them before all, that others might fear; hence these briers and thorns were too hard for him, and, virtually, had the dominion over him. And, at this present time, how many churches may we not find where the hands of the priest are tied, both in doctrine and discipline, by the fear of man! Through fear of offending this friend, or losing that member, the edge of the sword is blunted, and the executive part of truth kept back; hence all things go on smoothly, and the church (so called) is in a flourishing condition. But who doth not perceive that the overgrown briers and thorns keep off both sun and rain from the few weakly plants beneath ? Who doth not see
* We beg the reader's attention to this remark. ---ED.
that this evil dominion is the cause that there are no showers of blessing ?
The wicked compasseth about the righteous, therefore wrong judgment proceedeth; the law is slacked from its true vigour; and right judgment never goeth forth. And, for this reason, such a church is “nigh unto cursing," whose end will be by the burning of divine jealousy. We have heard of that brier, Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence, getting hold of the dominion; but John was determined to go out and cut him down, that he might not be a curse to that church. The angel, or, husbandman of Ephesus also, we hear, was commended because he had tried those who said they were apostles, and were not, but had found them liars. In like manner Paul also delivered them over to Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.
'The fear, then, of briers and thorns is a great evil; but the consequence of that fear is an evil greater still. And what is that evil? How shall I utter it? How shall I make it known ? Fearful, dreadful, and grand in the extreme, the time would fail me to attempt to point out fully the mighty burden of prophecy on this subject. The valley of vision is full of it: the tongue cannot tell it, and the heart cannot fully conceive thereof. We have heard and seen a little of the power and dominion of the man of sin ; but the power and dominion that scatters the power of the mighty and the holy people, we have not seen. We have beheld the tyranny of the dragon that has kept the two witnesses prophesying in sackcloth; but the tyranny that shall make thein to lie dead for three days and a half, we have not beheld. We have witnessed the oppression thet holds militant Zion in the wilderness for a certain space; but the oppression that taketh away "the breath of her nostrils,” we have not yet witnessed. We have known of the doctrines of devils going forth through the agency of false prophets; but devils themselves going forth and working miracles, to gather the nations to the battle of Arinageddon, we have not known. But these things will surely transpire ; and very many figures are used in the Scriptures to point out this sweeping calamity, and our passage stands in connexion with one of them, and therefore stands linked with an awful prophecy. Letter preachers may laugh me to scorn when I tell them that the fly of Egypt, and the bee of Assyria, for which God will hiss (verse 18), are figurative of devils ; but such a laugh has no weight with me; for the "spirit of prophesy” most manifestly makes use of these insects, in common with those of the palmer-worm, the caterpillars, the cankerworm, the hornet, and the locust to set forth the ravaging, destroying, and consuming nature of that two hundred millions of devils yet to be let forth from that prison of darkness in which they are now in great measure held ; for, though their power is now great, yet not so great as it shall be when “ the consumption decreed shall overflow in righteousness," and the waters of Luciferian influence totally overspread the land of Immanuel, reaching even to the neck of the church, and immersing the lower parts of her body in one overwhelming tribulation, and the nations be universally sifted with the sieve of vanity which shall be in the hands of Apollyon; and be guided with the bridle of “strong delusion” into that wine-press where the KING OF KINGS shall “ tread them in his anger, and trample them in his fury.” And the letting loose of these furious agents is “the strange work” which God will do, but which the despisers will not believe, though a man declare it unto them. And who believes it now? Who can comprehend it ? The great bulk of professors ? Alas, no! for they shall still cry peace and safety till this remediless evil comes suddenly upon them. These spirits shall carry forth with power the drag-net of a delusive Gospel, and men shall be made as the fishes of the sea. Ye men of God, I pray you compare the prophecies of Joel and Habakkuk, and, by the aid of other spiritual things, you will find out their spiritual import, and perceive that, while letter men regard them
only as prophetic descriptions of things that are past, they contain "heavy tidings ” for the day immediately before us. The breaking forth of these spirits was typified by the fate of the Jewish nation through the Roman power; for the Saviour, when speaking of the return of the unclean spirit saith, “ So shall it be with this generation.” And so it came to pass ; for these spirits took possession of the Pharisaic zealots of the day, and they were hurried on, even to a degree of madness and fury, first to oppose each other, destroy their own provisions; and then to resist the Roman army, which was God's instrument to break that nation to pieces, and scatter it over the whole earth. Thus shall it come to pass in the present dispensation; for, by the light of the letter of the word, the unclean spirit is gone out of many, and they are become refined Pharisees, still retaining all the old enmity of the carnal mind against God , * hence the things of God are not received ; and presently, therefore, the unclean spirit shall return, with seven others worse than himself, and this shall produce that open “falling away" from all connexion with the true church, by which she shall be stript, like the tiel tree of its flowers, and the oak of its leaves ; and then all these falling ones will unite their strength in one common confederacy to scatter the power of the holy people, the substance of the church; yea, “they shall come out as a whirlwind to scatter her,” and to destroy God's poor, and shall thus show themselves to be the hired razor that is to pass over the body, and shave off everything that can well be spared ; and then Zion shall stand naked and destitute, and independent of any visible and temporal support.
Into the midst of this evil day, when corroding devilism shall generally obtain, does this divine promise carry us; and thus shows us that there shall be a most blessed exception in behalf of those churches where now the word is faithfully declared ; briers and thorns being kept under, when the fly and the bee shall rest upon them we shall not dread their influence, nor fear their power. Not that privileges will be still openly enjoyed, for the true ministry will, doubtless, be silenced, and the prudent man will count it his wisdom to hold his peace, and rest quietly in his chamber, like Noah in the ark, till the indignation be gone by. There will he stand and see the reward of the wicked, but it shall not touch him ; he shall dwell in the midst of the wide-sweeping pestilence, but it shall not affect him. Understanding the import of prophecy, he will behold the “evil spirits from the Lord” resting upon the Sauls of the day; and the lying spirits from God inspiring the many, many prophets of Baal ; but he will not be staggered thereby, but rather be confirmed, because he beholds thc fulfilment of the word of truth. He will perceive the entrance of the devil into Judas—the traitors in the church-and observe their willing reception of the mark of the beast in their foreheads, which, I humbly conceive, is the contrast of "the seal of the living God,” even the seal of reprobation, by which a man receives, not the Spirit of God to comfort, but the spirit of the devil to infuriate and torment. These he will behold acting as guides to bring the nations—the “multitudes, multitudes " into the spiritual Gethsemane-the Valley of Jehoshaphet—the valley of decision-the wine-press of the wrath of God, which (spiritually) lies betwixt Qlivet and Jerusalem; and then, in the set time, he will see the descent of his God upon Olivet, with all his saints in readiness to step forth upon the assembled nations, and stain his raiment in this Bozrah (i. e, tribulation) with the blood of the slain. And, beholding the scene of battle, he will foresee the victory and the glorious conquest over all the powers of the enemy, and Satan bound in that wondrous day, so that, for a time, he shall no more deceive the nations, nor provoke them to make war with the Lamb.
* Mark this, reader, we pray you ; it is a solemn fact.-ED.