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house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” The expression of “the sons of the stranger,” means the Gentiles; therefore this refers to the dispensation during which the Gentiles were to be called. We may also remark that, “ joining themselves to the Lord, -serving him,-loving his name,-and being his servants,” are put in apposition to “ keeping the sabbath and taking hold of his covenant.” We may also remark that, “keeping the sabbath,” and “ taking hold of his covenant,” are here connected together; and the covenant here mentioned being connected with the calling of the Gentiles, must mean the Abrahamic covenant, the original and everlasting covenant, which Isaiah, in another place, liv. 10, and Ezekiel xxxiv. 25, call a “Covenant of Peace,” that is, the Gospel. And the sabbath being so connected with it must be coëval with it, and consequently continue under the Christian dispensation.
Any candid person reading the above quotation, and those which follow below, will consider the sabbath as the grand instrument and support of religion, - of the Christian religion; and not as a mere shadow of some future good, which was itself to be abolished ;—and seeing in the above quotation the sabbath so connected with the prophecy that the temple shall be “the house of prayer for all people," he cannot but conclude that the sabbath was intended still to continue the instrument and means of the promotion of the love and service of God, when that time should come when all nations should unite in prayer to God.
“ Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God.” The word ovola does not always signify a bloody sacrifice. The verb Ovw, from whence it is derived, is applied by Homer to the custom of throwing a small quantity of food and wine into the fire as a sacrifice to the gods at the beginning of a meal or feast.- Iliad ix. 219, 220.
In the Old Testament the word sacrifice is frequently applied in the same way as in the above quotations from the Epistles. Ps. iv. 5; xxvii. 6 ; li. 17 ; cvii. 22; cxvi. 17. Jer. xxxiii. 11. Amos iv.5. Deut. xxxiii. 19.
But in chapter lviii. the importance of the sabbath, not as a shadow of some future and expected blessing, but as the present, and permanent, and perpetual promotive cause and means of genuine religion, is strongly portrayed. But first, I must remark, that the leading part of the exhortation contained in this chapter, in ver. 3—7, affords a key to the whole; it gives a rule to show the difference between unprofitable ordinances, which were useless per se, for their own sakes, and ought to be observed in the spirit and not in the letter, and those ordinances which were to continue to be observed, as in themselves highly beneficial. He condemns the fastings used by the Jews, which they considered as in themselves meritorious and deserving of reward. " Wherefore have we fasted (say they) and thou seest not; wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge.” The prophet, on the other hand, directs them to a more spiritual and more practical religion of the spirit and not of the letter. "Is it such a fast as I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord ? Is not this the fast that I have chosen ? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou coyer him, and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh.” But when he comes to speak of the sabbath, he speaks in a very different manner, as we shall see presently.
· Heylyn, the most learned of the opponents of the sabbath, was so overcome by the force of truth on 'reading the prophecy of Isaiah lvi. 2, “ Blessed is the man," &c. quoted above, and so satisfied that it related to the Christian dispensation, that he was compelled to acknowledge that it proved that there was to be a Christian sabbath. But how does he get out of the difficulty ?-wby truly in such an ingenious way as would have broken the bars of all difficulties asunder; viz. by a perversion of the meaning of the remainder of the sentence,—“who keepeth his hands from doing evil.”
And instead of considering, from this expression, that the sabbath was to be the instrument and means of keeping him from doing evil, he says, that “to abstain from evil and to rest from sin," was to be the Christian sabbath! He has forgotten, however, to tell us on what day of the week this rest was to be observed as a sabbath.
But if this were Isaiah's meaning, would he not, after having corrected the Jewish errors as to fasting, have also corrected their errors as to the sabbath, and have shown the true way in which it was to be understood. But instead of this, he uses every expression he can find to increase their reverence for it, and their love and delight in it. He endeavours to evangelise it, and fit it for that true and pure religion of which he was the herald ; and whilst he is employed in preparing and making ready' the way, he exalts and purifies and spiritualises the sabbath, as one great instrument for the maintenance and preservation of that religion.
Does he describe it as one of the statutes by which they should not live-as a law which was not good, -as'a yoke
oo heavy to be borne,—as only deserving to be abolished on the establishment of that new era which filled his mind,as the hand-writing of an ordinance which was to be nailed to the cross? O no! very different is the view of the sabbath, and the regard and feeling for it which he endeavoured to recommend. Hear his words, (lviii. 13,)“ If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath,” (from trampling on its) “from doing thy pleasure on my holy day,” (in gratifying human wishes and desires,) and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him; not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” Surely this seems much more like one of the statutes which enlighten the eyes, convert the soul, and rejoice the heart, which are sweeter than-honey and the honey-comb, more valuable than gold, yea than much fine gold, in keeping of which there is great reward, which are true and righteous altogether, and to endure for ever, and by which the servants of God are taught.
Can any one, after reading the above description of an institution, holy of the Lord and honourable in his sight, on which human ways and works and pleasures were to be suspended, and the works and ways of God, and things pleasing in his sight, were to form the subjects of our contemplation, and by constant practice be rendered so habitual, so interwoven with the purified texture of the mind, so harmoniously responding to the sweetest, sympathies of a converted heart, as to render the day itself a delight, to make us “ willing in that day of his power,” not speaking our own worldly carnal words, but the words of God, and the language of heaven, until it should lead us to the highest degree of excellence and enjoyment of which our fallen but converted and renewed nature is capable,-“to delight ourselves in the Lord;" (and all this is included in Isaiah's description ; (can any Christian suppose that such an institution was but a shadow, and to be abolished at the very time when it would have been most necessary, most practical, and most pleasing? If a man have no Christian sympathetic feelings in his heart to claim kindred with such an institution, to see written over its holy portals, *** this is the narrow way which leadeth unto life, walk ye in it;"_--still if he have a mind capable of judging and reasoning, let him decide from the language and context of the prophecies with which this description is mixed up, whether the sabbath were not to make a part of the kingdom and dispensation of the Messiah, with the everlasting and widespreading and comprehensive glories of which these prophecies encircle this description.
Abundant as are the prophecies relating to the Redeemer's person, and character, and sufferings, and atonement, and kingdom, throughout the book of Isaiah, yet they shine out with peculiar lustre in the last eighteen chapters, (xlix.--lxvi.) commencing with a proclamation to the Gentiles, for whom they were in a great measure intended, and to whom they were addressed, -opening with “ Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far;” and occasionally breaking forth, “ Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth, for the Lord hath comforted his people ;—Behold I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set'up my standard to the people ;-Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye' to the waters ;-I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness ;-And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousa ness, and all kings thy glory ;--Behold the Lord hath proclaimed to the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh.”
These expressions show that this noble prophecy was particularly addressed to the Gentiles, and peculiarly applies to the Christian dispensation. I beg of the reader