« AnteriorContinuar »
single one, may be struck by the fact, that what
If there be any one soul in this place which breathes such a prayer, may God, who has given the desire for good, give also the labour and the watchfulness to obtain it; and may he give his blessing on the effort. Before another week, Christ may repeat
to the careless soul his own sorrowful words Luke xix., over Jerusalem. “If thou hadst known, at least
in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. Behold, thy house is left unto thee desolate : and verily I say unto thee, thou shalt not see me henceforth, till thou shalt say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
ISAIAH XI. 6.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard
shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together ; and a little child shall lead them.
Any one who is in the habit of reading the prophets, and especially Isaiah, must know how many passages are there to be met with like that which I have just been repeating : how many places there are in which a happy state of things is foretold, quite different from that which we now see around us. This picture of happy days to come is generally mixed up with prophecies of the time of Messiah's or Christ's kingdom; a great period in the history of the world, which has already lasted eighteen hundred years; and will last, through evil fortune and through good, till the world itself shall be destroyed.
It is plain, from the words of the text, that Isaiah was one of those prophets and righteous men, of whom I spoke in my last sermon, who desired to see and hear the things which Christ's disciples saw and heard. But it
be said, that he desired to see the kingdom of Christ, because he thought that it would bring with it a greater and happier change in the state of the world than it has done; because he looked forward to it as to a time when the wolf should dwell with the lamb, and the leopard should lie down with the kid ; that is, when there should be nothing but
where. What then are we to think of such passages as those in my text ? Did the prophet deceive himself with visions that were never to come to pass, saying, “ Peace, Peace,” when there was no peace ? or did he look forward to a time which will certainly come, but which is not come yet? or must we not understand his words to the very letter, but take them as a highly coloured picture of a state of things, which was indeed to be better than any which had gone before it, but yet not so glorious or so happy as he seemed to look for? The question is one which deserves to be answered, because unless we understand it, we must read very great portions of the books of the prophets with no benefit; and it may be useful also, to consider it as connected with our last Sunday's subject, in order to find out whether there be not more reality of happiness in the Gospel, than we are commonly inclined to give it credit for.
Now, it is not, perhaps, very easy to decide, whether we have a right to look forward exactly to such a state of things as that spoken of in the text; whether there will ever be a time when the earth shall be restored to the fruitfulness which it had before it was cursed for man's sin; and when the beasts shall cease to prey on one another, or to be fierce and mischievous to man. I
say, that we cannot quite tell whether such a great change will ever take place on earth or no, because the same sort of language is used in the Revelation, to describe the blessed state of things in Heaven; and what is merely spoken of Jerusalem in the Old Testament, is applied in the New, to that heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all-of all the true Israel of God. One thing we may feel very sure of; that if mankind, at Christ's first coming, had listened to his call, and had become his followers in deed, and not in word only; or, if ever they should do so hereafter, and were to become every where really Christians, that then the curse passed upon the earth would be taken off; and the prophecy, that instead of the briar should come up the fig-tree, and instead of the thorn should come up the myrtle-tree, would be fulfilled to the very letter. Thus much I think we may say with certainty; but whether men ever will be so good, and, therefore, whether the earth will really ever enjoy such a state of blessing, is a much more difficult question to answer confidently. At any rate we know, that there will be a time and place where there will be none but the holy and the good dwelling together; and where, therefore, every blessing of every kind will be poured richly forth upon them. And, as our main hopes as Christians are turned towards the life that is to come hereafter, rather than to that which now is, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the prophets were directed to use words which should refer also to the life beyond the grave; and, that while speaking of the kingdom of Christ, the Holy Spirit showed to them visions of its future well-doing, which should relate to the last and unchangeable period of its final triumph in Heaven. But we want to see whether there is not a great good also offered to us in the Gospel, in this life: to show the truth of the Apostle's words, that godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come: to see whether there