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'There are Three that bear record in heaven; the FATHER, the WORD, and the HOLY
GHOST : and these Three are One." 1 John v. 7.
"Earnestly contend for tha faitb which was once delivered unto the saints,* Jude 3.
(For the Spiritual Magazine.)
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed tne to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."— I*a. Ixi. 1, 2, 3.
1 Shall shew you how our text is introduced. It is an ancient tradition, that at the end of six thousand years of the world of sin, there will be one thousand years rest from sin, which will be a sabbath; and that during that time Satan will be chained, and the free will to sin that he brought into the world with him, and put it into the hearts of every man and woman, will be chained with him; for " righteousness shall cover the earth, as waters do the seas." St. Barnabas, a great christian writer in the first century, thus says; ' God made in six days the works of his hands, and he finished them on the seventh day, and rested in it.' 'This,' he says, 'signifies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, " for a day with him is as a thousand years." And he rested the seventh day; this signifies that he will abolish the season of the wicked one a thousand years.' Lactantius, at the latter end of the third century is very copious upon this subject. He saith, 'because all the works of God were finished in six days, it is necessary that the world should remain in this state six ages, that is, six thousand years.' And again, 'because having finished the works, he rested on the seventh day, and blessed it. It
Vol, VIII.—No. 88.] K
is necessary that at the end of the six thousandth year, all wickedness should be abolished out of the earth, and justice should reign one thousand years. At the same time, the prince of devils shall be bound with chains, and shall be in custody the thousand years of the heavenly kingdom, lest he should attempt any evil against the people of God.' He then saith, 'when the thousand years of the kingdom shall be near at an end, Satan shall be loosed again for a short season, and at the end of the seven thousand years the world will be at an end.'
That this one thousand years reign of Christ upon the earth is plain from Daniel, and from all the prophets, as well as of St. John —that " the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High"—that " Christ shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession"—that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas"—that " the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved;" this is the express language of the scriptures. But when the time will be exactly, is not known; as we are at no certainty respecting our date of the years.
The chapter before this out of which our text is taken, also this, and the two following chapters, are chiefly prophetical of this thousand years' millenium, or reign of Christ upon earth, which I would have you read at your leisure. In the two last verses in the chapter before my text it is written, "Thy people shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation; I the Lord will hasten it in his time." Then followeth the words of our text.
There can be no doubt but these words are prophetical of Christ. None but Christ can bind up the broken-hearted, nor proclaim liberty to those that are bound down with sin; nor can any other but Christ make the vile righteous.
I beg your attention while I speak from the words in the order as they arise. The words before us are designed for and only belong to God's people in all ages. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," saith Christ, "because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." Nothing can be clearer than that this is prophetical of Christ, though it was spoken more than seven hundred years before Christ appeared in this world. It is usual in prophetic writings, in things relating to God, to speak of things past and future in the present tense; because things present, past, and future are all present with him; he has them all in his eye, at all times, and in all places; he is omnipresent, he fills all times and all places. Christ says in our text, that, " The Father hath sent me," although this was spoken almost eight hundred years before he did come. And it is said in another place by the prophet, and about the same time, that " his reward is with him, and his work before him ;" and in the time appointed he will come, and did come, with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. His reward was with him from before the foundation of the world. All that the Father then gave him shall come to him in his own appointed time, and not one of them can be lost; for Christ says, "he will in no wise cast them out." Note the strength and plainness of the words, "they shall come ;" and not all the powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, shall be able to hinder them from coming.
These are the people whom Christ delighted in before the world was made; they are God's elect; chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world; their names are recorded in heaven, and witnessed by Father, Son, and Spirit; as it is written, " There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." Christ says, " I am ons that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me;" and it is clear that the Holy Ghost is another distinct witness, which God hath given to them that obey him, "he that believeth hath this witness in himself." It is written, that all whose names were not written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world, shall be cast into a lake of fire;" consequently, all God's chosen people was there written from the foundation of the world, because no others are admitted into heaven. These were the reward (for Christ suffered for them) that the prophet said is with him, always was with him, and always will be with him; and his work was always before him. He came into the world and fulfilled all righteousness for them, and gave himself a sacrifice for their sins; with this and nothing else was or could God's justice be satisfied. These he called his sheep, (the goats did not belong to him) and he still feeds his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, (not they gather themselves with their own arm, as some foolishly say) and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. These are the servants and heritage of the Lord; and " their righteousness is of me," saith Christ.
Well, but who did Christ come to preach good tidings to? Not to the self-sufficient, the self-righteous, who thinks he can do something, if not do all for himself. No—it is to the meek. Christ said, when here on earth, "blessed are the meek;" not such as are naturally so: fleshly meekness, or natural compassion and pity, has nothing but flesh and blood in view; and is often attended with haired to God. This is not the meekness meant in the text. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh;—corruption cannot inherit incorruption." Natural effects are corrupt, and so is all meekness that flows from them. Nor does this meekness consist of a few crocodile tears, such as Esau might pour forth; or such as those shed who howled upon their beds, and yet assembled by troops in harlots' houses. But the meekness meant in our text is a fruit of the Spirit, and is produced under his operation, when he has convinced the sinner, convicted him, brought him in guilty by the word of God, and stopped his mouth, and made him tremble. It is felt when the sinner ceases to kick, to murmur, to complain, to resist, and to rebel; when the heart is broken, and all human efforts are found to be useless; when the soul is resigned and submissive, and lies passive, viewing the justice of God and confessing the justice of the sentence, sensible it can urge no plea in its own defence, nor make any reply against the expected execution. This is real meekness and quietude: come life, come death, come heaven, come hell, such a soul appears as if he should no more resist.
The Saviour who was meek and lowly; and of whom we are all to learn, exercised this grace in the highest, when he said, " not my will, but thine be done!" This is the last stage at which the awakened sinner arrives before the blessing comes. This brings him sensibly into the way of life ; " the meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way." With meekness the ingrafted word is received, and a meek and quiet spirit in the sight of God is of great price. Christ's blood bought it;' this meekness is of the Spirit of God ; " the fruit of the Spirit is meekness, temperance," &c. This grace comes with the Spirit from the fulness of the Saviour, and is called his; "I beseech you by the meekness of Christ." It is a grace exercised to him, under his hand, and in his cause; and is, always attended with self-dislike, with lowliness of mind, and with quietude of heart. This is the meekness in our test, and can be found in no others than God's people.
Christ saith, "the Father hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted." This is not to be understood of a worldly sorrow: great numbers have that, who know nothing of a sorrow for sin,—no, this broken-hearted means a sorrow for their numberless sins, and a hatred to them too. It is a mourning over the dreadful consequence that sin has involved them in. God by his Spirit in their hearts hath now given them eyes to see, and a sense of feeling to feel the weight of their sins; not that they are now greater sinners than they were before, but their sins then lay still, the devil lulled their natural conscience to sleep, and so it continued until the Lord by his Spirit roused it, and keeps it awake ; nor can it ever rest there again. They now feel themselves captives to sin ; they find themselves all sin, and nothing but sin; they are sensible that they are bound in Satan's prison ; and they can find nothing in themselves that can discharge the smallest mite of the immense debt of sin that appears against them.
Here is room enough for a broken heart and mourning; but blessed be God for that he hath sent Christ into this world, and anointed him to preach good tidings to these meek ones; he hath sent Christ to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty unto all those who are in captivity, and bound down in Satan's prison with the chains of their sins; he came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; that is, to shew them the way of salvation that God hath provided to save all those who mourn over their sins; "he hath appointed unto them that mourn in Zion—note, not the mourning of worldlings— "them that mourn in Zion; to give them beauty for ashes; the oil of joy instead of mourning ; and the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness." This is the way God leads his children to him; he arraigns them at the bar of his justice, and brings them in guilty before him : the law, his word, and their own conscience, all appear against them, and clearly convict them; they then, and not before then, see and feel themselves justly condemned; then, and not till then, they neither will nor can look out for a reprieve; then Christ is shewn to them as their only surety, wisdom, righteousness, justification, sanctification, and redemption, that God has provided to save poor sin-sick souls in; this makes them hunger and thirst after these things; they are enabled by the Spirit (all their prayers before were without the Spirit) to pray as Paul did after his conviction, "behold (saith God) he prayeth!" Thus he is both under the blessing and promise ; " blessed are they that doth hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Thus they become trees of righteousness; not their own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them; he is their righteousness, justification, sanctification, and redemption, and there is no other, and .they are made sensible of it; "for there is no other name given among men whereby they can be saved."
These in our text are called " trees of righteousness;" and the Lord says, they are of his planting, that he might have all the glory. What does Christ say to these characters mentioned in our text, the broken-hearted, those bound down with the fetters of their sins, and the mourners for them? They may all be rightly called mourners; and Christ says, "blessed are they that mourn, (that is, for their sins,) for they shall be comforted." Let us take a little view of this mourning. Blessed are they that mourn under a sight and sense of their own sin and sinful state; sensible of their rebellion against God; who look at the Saviour whom they have pierced, and mourn with inward regret and contrition, with self-despair, self-abhorrence, and self-loathing; who mourn at the abominations of a sinful world, and at the dreadful insults that are hourly offered to the Majesty of heaven; — these shall be comforted, saith Christ. Their mourning shall be turned into rejoicing; their sackcloth shall be put off, and they shall be girded with gladness ; " beauty shall be given for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The tenderness, the affection, the loyalty of such a pious mourner, shall be made manifest; and a sense of everlasting love shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit, shall satisfy such a soul of the approbation of heaven. Enlargement of heart, and unutterable love; faith in exercise, and hope in vigour; heavenly smiles, and pregnant promises; inward feelings, and distant views; all these are the operations of the Spirit, and shall make such