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ISAIAH Ixii. 1.
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake
I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
THE prophet, in the commencement of this chapter, breaks forth into the mos sublime eulogy, and indulges in the liveliest anticipation of the future glory of the Church of Christ. He predicts the arrival of the period, when all nations should have cause to rejoice in her. “ The Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all Kings thy glory." He bestows upon her no fulsome or vain panegyrick. “ Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” He describes the final prosperity, which is to attend her. “ Thou shalt no more
6 be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for," and he here gives the signification of these terms, “ for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” He foretells the ardent love, which should be borne her by the ransomed of the Lord, and the Lord himself. “For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” He unfolds the future anxiety of her ministers to extol and glorify her and her bridegroom Christ, until she become the praise of all the earth. “ I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night.” “ The Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsa
These however, Brethren, are predictions, that as yet, are only in part fulfilled. The bridegroom has indeed come, and with him his bride, the Church. She has put on her beautiful garments and furnished abundant evidence, that she is “all glorious within." And still the world lieth in wickedness, still the great mass of mankind know nothing of the spouse of Jesus, they have not come to the wedding supper of the Lamb, they have not penetrated into her bridal chamber, her more brilliant triumphs, her more extended conquests over the hearts of the sons and daughters of men have yet to ensue. They have yet to bow before her shrine, and enable her as a chaste bride to present unto her Lord,“ the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession."
When these glorious things, which are spoken of her, the city of the living God, are to be fully realized, I know not. I pretend not to unravel that web of prophecy, which completely shuts out the future from the ken of mortal eyes, so far as precise dates, and times, and seasons are concerned. But this I know, that in confident expectation of these things, such confidence as was produced by divine inspiration, Isaiah looked down the long track of intervening ages to their accomplishment, and even at the remote period, in which he lived, determined with the most ardent zeal to contribute all in his power to effect it ; all in his power to hasten. as it were, the approach of that truly auspicious era, when all from the greatest to the least should be pervaded with the knowledge of the Lord, and be able to " say unto Zion, thy God reigneth." Hear his own solemn and impassioned vow. " For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”
And I require no better authority to justify a similar vow on the part of the present watchmen upon the walls of the Church, the present Stewards of the manifold grace of God. The lapse of time should inflame rather than cool their ardour in a cause, so holy and so good. As every day brings us nearer and nearer the consummation devontly imp!ored by the faithful in Christ Jesus, when
the full-orbed splendour of the Sun of Righteousness shall, shine upon the nations, and bring them out of darkness into marvellous light; so should there be greater and greater anxiety to be count. ed of God worthy of this calling, to fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power.
As one of the most important preparatory steps, I have ever con: sidered a closer union and harmony among Christians to be eminently desirable. For a long, long time they have exhibited to the wondering eye of angels a sad and melancholy spectacle. Their divine Lord and Master enjoined, that they should love one another; but no people wrangle more. It was his counsel, that they should attend to the weightier matters of judgment, mercy, and faith; but no Jews were more tenacious of the mint, anise, and cumin of the law. It was his command, that they should learn of him to be meek and lowly in heårt; that they should not judge, lest they be judged; but no Pharisee could have looked down upon a publican with greater disdain and self complacency, than the disciples of Jesus now do, upon each other's attainments in the graces of religion. “I am holier than thou,” is their most prominent motto; the spirit it engenders enters into all their actions, and furnishes but too much reason to the enemy to blaspheme and say,
66 See those Christians, how they hate one another.”
And now I ask you for the cause ? The leading cause of this strange and unnatural antipathy existing among those professing the same faith, having the same common Master, and looking to him alone for the mercy of God unto eternal life? You will reply, that it is to be traced to the region of the heart, to its still proverbial corruption, its wonderful inclination to retain something of its original taint; as if it were possible to be too wise, too holy, and too happy here below. And I acknowledge the justice of that reply; I have no idea of attempting to controvert it. “Out of the heart," says our Saviour, "proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, for: nications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man."
And yet it is apparent, that as in the natural, so in the moral world, secondary causes are continually producing their good and their bad effects. And in this point of view, was the question already suggested, proposed to me, I should and I do answer, that the immediate active cause of all that dissention and disunion, 60 pre
valent among Christians, is to be referred to gross departures frore primitive, Apostolick, and therefore divine institutions. They have proved the fruitful source of all errour in doctrine, and all errour in life and practice. They have made the multitude wiser than God, and the Christian part thereof wiser than Christ. How often, for example, do we hear natural religion preferred to revealod, by men who have found out, that while nature never contradicts herself, the scriptures, in the mouths of their warmest advocates, are made to speak variant doctrines and to inculcate opposing practices ! How often do we hear it asserted by men, of whom better things might be hoped, that the separation of Christians into different denominations is decidedly favourable to the advancement of religion, and the spread of the Redeemer's kingdom! I agree to the sincerity of their belief. I am far from intending to charge them with wilfully entertaining opinions hostile to the enlarged prosperity of Zion. But where do they get them? Where have they thus found out the mind of God ? To the law and the testimony: Show me some authority from them, and I may be induced to credit what I am now forced to consider visionary fancies and unfounded assertions. Show me, that God approved the separation of the ten tribes from those of Judah and Benjamin, and the establishment of a new Church, in which the priests of the house of Levi had no office and ministry. Show me, that Christ highly applauded the divisions subsisting between the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and other Jewish sects during his eventful life. Show me, that the Apostles commended the schism of the Gnosticks, the Nicolaitans, and those, who in their time perished in the gainsaying of Core, Show me this, and I will bow with reverence to the word of inspiration; I will rejoice in the countless multitude of religious sects, which exist in the present age.
But every attempt to point out such commendation would be utterly fruitless and vain, It is no where to be seen in the sacred volumes it is no where by anticipation applied to the future, to a state of things resembling our own. Christ Jesus our Lord never says, Divide ye yourselves, my Brethren, into divers parties and denominations. In this way, ye shall the more successfully build up my Church, and add to it daily of such as shall be saved. On the contrary, he tells them, that "there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” He directs this prayer to heaven in their behalf,
46 Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” He submits this strong and conclusive argument to prove the necessity of union and concord, “ Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”
Nor did the Apostles inculcate different sentiments. When they went about evangelizing the world, they did not set up, as our modern reformers, the Church of John, the Church of Peter, the Church of James, and from these names bestow distinct appellations upon their several disciples. All these things have been the result of a new flood of light, unknown to them, as it was to the Master whom they served. They rather discountenanced all schism with as much zeal as they discountenanced all heresy. Ye cannot fail to remember how solemnly St. Paul, in particular, remonstrated with the Corinthians on this subject. How affection. ately and earnestly he delivered unto them this counsel; “Now, I beseech you, Brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my Brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?" And in a subsequent chapter he rebukes them in these terms;
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
And do you desire better evidence than this, brethren, to convince you of the danger of schism, and the extreme fallacy of imagining that our numerous Christian sects have a happy tendency in promoting the interests of religion? Paul does not condemn those Corinthians for imbibing unsound and heretical doctrines; such as are contrary to the true faith of Christ in the judgment of the modern orthodox. He speaks of them as believers. He says to them “ All things are yours. And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” But for this he does condemn them. For this he does call