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chosen men ; which loss the kingdom of Israel probably never in any measure recovered.
The ten tribes finally apostatized from the true God under Jeroboam, and the kingdom of Judah was greatly corrupted, and from that time forward were more generally in a corrupt state than otherwise. In Ahab's time the kingdom of Israel did not only worship the calves of Bethel and Dan, but the worship of Baal was introduced. Before, they pretended to worship the true God by these images, the calves of Jeroboam; but now Ahab introduced gross idolatry, and the direct worship of false gods in the room of the true God; and soon after the worship of Baal was introduced into the kingdom of Judah, viz., in Jehoram's reign, by his marrying Athaliah the daughter of Ahab. After this God began to cut Israel short, by finally destroying and sending into captivity that part of the land that was beyond Jordan, as you may see in 2 Kings x. 32, &c. And then after this Tiglath-pileser subdued and captivated all the northern parts of the land, 2 Kings xv. 29. And then at last all the land of the ten tribes was subdued by Salmaneser, and they were finally carried captive out of their own land. After this also the kingdom of Judah was carried captive into Babylon, and a great part of the nation never returned. Those that returned were but a small number, compared with what had been carried captive; and for the most part after this they were dependent on the power of other states, being subject one while to the king of Persia, then to the monarchy of the Grecians, and then to the Romans. And before Christ's time, the church of the Jews was become exceeding corrupt, overrun with superstition and self-righteousness. And how small a flock was the church of Christ in the days of his incarnation !
God, by this gradual decline of the Jewish state and church from Solomon's time, prepared the way for the coming of Christ several ways.
1. The decline of the glory of this legal dispensation made way for the in. troduction of the more glorious dispensation of the gospel. The decline of the glory of the legal dispensation, was to make way for the introduction of the evangelical dispensation, that was so much more glorious, that the legal dispensation had no glory in comparison with it. The glory of the ancient dispensation, such as it was in Solomon's time, consisting so much in external glory, was but a childish glory, compared with the spiritual glory of the dispensation introduced by Christ. The church under the Old Testament, was a child under tutors and governors, and God dealt with it as a child. Those pompous externals are called by the apostle, weak and beggarly elements. It was fit that those things should be diminished as Christ approached ; as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, speaking of Christ, says, “ He must increase, but I must decrease,” John iii. 30. It is fit that the twinkling stars should gradually withdraw their glory, when the sun is approaching towards his rising. The glory of the Jewish dispensation must be gradually diminished, to prepare the way for the more joyful reception of the spiritual glory of the gospel. If the Jewish church, when Christ came, had been in the same external glory that it was in, in the reign of Solomon, men would have had their eyes so dazzled with it, that they would not have been likely joyfully to exchange such great external glory, for only the spiritual glory of the poor despised Jesus. Again,
2. This gradual decline of the glory of the Jewish state, tended to prepare the way for Christ's coming another way, viz., as it tended to make the glory of God's power, in the great effects of Christ's redemption, the more conspicuous. God's people being so diminished and weakened by one step after another, till Christ came, was very much like the diminishing Gideon's army. God told Gideon, that the people that were with him, were too many
here was whewere, further diminishethem again by the first, by sending of hiyo
for him to deliver the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel should vaunt themselves against him, saying, "My own hand hath saved me.” And therefore all that were fearful were commanded to return; and there returned twenty and two thousand, and there remained ten thousand. But still they were too many; and then, by trying the people at the water, they were reduced to three hundred men. So the people in Solomon's time were too many, and mighty, and glorious for Christ; therefore he diminished them; first, by sending off the ten tribes; and then he diminished them again by the captivity into Babylon; and then they were further diminished by the great and general corruption that there was when Christ came; so that Christ found very few godly persons among them : and with a small handful of disciples, Christ conquered the world.—Thus high things were brought down, that Christ might be exalted.
3. This prepared the way for Christ's coming, as it made the salvation of those Jews that were saved by Christ, to be more sensible and visible. Though the greater part of the nation of the Jews was rejected, and the Gentiles called in their room; yet there were a great many thousands of the Jews that were saved by Christ after his resurrection, Acts xxi. 20. They being taken from so low a state under temporal calamity in their bondage to the Romans, and from a state of great superstition and wickedness, that the Jewish nation was then fallen into ; it made their redemption the more sensibly and visibly glorious.
I have taken notice of this dispensation of Providence in the gradual decline of the Jewish church in this place, because it began in the reign of Solomon.
XV. I would here take notice of the additions that were made to the canon of Scripture in or soon after the reign of Solomon. There were considerable additions made by Solomon himself, who wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, probably near the close of his reign. His writing the Song of Songs, as it is called, is what is especially here to be taken notice of, which is wholly on the subject that we are upon, viz., Christ and his redemption, representing the high and glorious relation, and union, and love, that are between Christ and his redeemed church. And the history of the Scripture seems, in Solomon's reign, and some of the next succeeding reigns, to have been added to by the prophets Nathan and Ahijah, and Shemaiah and Iddo. It is probable that part of the history which we have in the first of Kings was written by them, by what is said 2 Chron. ix. 29, and in chap. xii. 15, and in chap. xiii. 22.
XVI. God's wonderfully upholding his church and the true religion through this period. It was very wonderful, considering the many and great apostasies that there were of that people to idolatry. When the ten tribes had generally and finally forsaken the true worship of God, God kept up the true religion in the kingdom of Judah; and when they corrupted themselves, as they very often did exceedingly, and idolatry was ready totally to swallow all up, yet God kept the lamp alive, and was often pleased, when things seemed to be come to an extremity, and religion at its last gasp, to grant blessed revivals by remarkable outpourings of his Spirit, particularly in Hezekiah's and Josiah's time.
XVII. God remarkably kept the book of the law from being lost in times of general and long continued neglect of, and enmity against it. The most remarkable instance of this kind that we have, was the preservation of the book of the law in the time of the great apostasy, during ihe greatest part of the long reign of Manasseh, which lasted fifty-five years, and then after that the reign of Amon his son. This while the book of the law was so much neglected, and such a careless and profane management of the affairs of the temple prevailed, that the book of the law, that used to be laid up by the side of the ark in the Holy of Holies, was lost for a long time; nobody knew where it was. But yet God preserved it from being finally lost. In Josiah's time, when they came to repair the temple, it was found buried in rubbish, after it had been lost so long that Josiah himself seems to have been much a stranger to it till now. See 2 Kings xxii. 8, &c.
XVIII. God's remarkably preserving the tribe of which Christ was to proceed, from being ruined through the many and great dangers of this period. The visible church of Christ from Solomon's reign, was mainly in the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Benjamin, that was annexed to them, was but a very small tribe, and the tribe of Judah exceeding large; and as Judah took Benja. min under his covert when he went into Egypt to bring corn, so the tribe of Benjamin seemed to be under the covert of Judah ever after ; and though, on occasion of Jeroboam's setting up the calves at Bethel and Dan, the Levites resorted to Judah out of all the tribes of Israel (2 Chron. xi. 13), yet they were also small, and not reckoned among the tribes : and though many of the ten tribes did also on that occasion, for the sake of the worship of God in the temple, leave their inheritances in their several tribes, and removed and settled in Judah, and so were incorporated with them, as we have an account in the chapter just quoted, and 16th verse; yet the tribe of Judah was so much the prevailing part, that they were called by one name, they were called Judah : therefore God said to Solomon, 1 Kings xi. 13,“ I will not rend away all the kingdom ; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, which I have chosen," and so ver. 32, 36. So when the ten tribes were carried captive, it is said, there was none left but the tribe of Judah only: 2 Kings xvii. 18,“ Therefore the Lord was very wroth with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only." Whence they were all called Jews, which is a word that comes from Judah.
This was the tribe of which Christ was to come; and in this chiefly did God's visible church consist, from Solomon's time. And this was the people over whom the kings that were legal ancestors of Christ, and were of the house of David, reigned. This people was wonderfully preserved from destruction during this period, when they often seemed to be upon the brink of ruin, and just ready to be swallowed up. So it was in Rehoboam's time, when Shishak king of Egypt came against Judah with such a vast force ; yet then God manifestly preserved them from being destroyed. Of this we read in the beginning of the 12th chapter of 2 Chronicles. So it was again in Abijah's time, when Jeroboam set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men; a mighty army indeed. We read of it, 2 Chron. xiii. 3: “ Then God wrought deliverance to Judah, out of regard to the covenant of grace established with David," as is evident by verses 4 and 5; and the victory they obtained was because the Lord was on their side, as you may see, verse 12. So it was again in Asa's time, when Zerah the Ethiopian came against him with a yet larger army of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots, 2 Chron. xiv. 9. On this occasion Asa cried to the Lord, and trusted in him, being sensible that it was nothing with him to help those that had no power, ver. 11: “ And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with those that have no power.” And accordingly God gave them a glorious victory over this mighly host.
So again it was in Jehoshaphat's time, when the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir, combined together against Judah with a mighty army, a force vastly superior to any that Jehoshaphat could raise; and Jehoshaphat and his people were greatly afraid; yet they set themselves to seek God on this occasion, and trusted in him; and God told them by one of his prophets, that they need not fear them, nor should they have any occasion to fight in this battle, they should only stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And according to his direction, they only stood still and sang praises to God, and God made their enemies do the work themselves, and set thein to killing one another; and the children of Judah had nothing to do, but to gather the spoil, which was more than they could carry away. We have the story in 2 Chron. xx.
So it was again in Ahaz's time, when Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, conspired against Judah, and seemed to be sure of their purpose ; of which we have spoken already. So it was again in Hezekiah's time, when Sennacherib, that great king of Assyria, and head of the greatest monarchy that was then in the world, came up against all the fenced cities of Judah, after he had conquered most of the neighboring countries, and sent Rabshakeh, the captain of his host, against Jerusalem, who came, and in a very proud and scornful manner insulted Hezekiah and his people, as being sure of victory; and the people were trembling for fear, like lambs before a lion. Then God sent Isaiah the prophet to comfort them, and assure them that they should not prevail; as a token of which he gave them this sign, viz., that the earth, for two years successively, should bring forth food of itself, from the roots of the old stalks, without their ploughing or sowing; and then the third year they should sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them, and live on the fruits of their labor, as they were wont to do before. See 2 Kings xix. 29. This is mentioned as a type of what is promised in ver. 30, 31: “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah, shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall do this.” The corn's springing again after it had been cut off with the sickle, and bringing forth another crop from the roots, that seemed to be dead, and so once and again, represents the church's reviving again, as it were, out of its own ashes, and flourishing like a plant, after it had seemingly been cut down past recovery. When the enemies of the church have done their utmost, and seem to have gained their point, and to have overthrown the church, so that the being of it is scarcely visible, but like a living root hid under ground; yet there is a secret life in it that will cause it to flourish again, and to take root downward, and bear fruit upward. This was fulfilled now at this time; for the king of Assyria had already taken and carried captive the ten tribes: and Sennacherib had also taken all the fenced cities of Judah, and ranged the country round about, and Jerusalem only remained ; and Rabshakeh had in his own imagination already swallowed that up, as he had also in the fearful apprehensions of the Jews themselves. But yet God wrought a wonderful deliverance. He sent an angel, that in one night smote a hundred fourscore and five thousand in the enemy's camp.
XIX. In the reign of Uzziah, and the following reigns, God was pleased to raise up a set of eminent prophets, who should commit their prophecies to writing, and leave them for the use of his church in all ages. We before observed how that God began a constant succession of prophets in Israel in Samuel's time, and many of these prophcts wrote by divine inspiration, and so added to the canon of Scripture, before Uzziah's time. But none of them are supposed to have written books of prophecies till now. Several of them wrote histories of the wonderful dispensations of God towards his church. This we have observed already of Samuel, who is supposed to have written Judges and Ruth, and part of the first of Samuel, if not the book of Joshua. And Nathan and Gad seem to have written the rest of the two books of Samuel. And Nathan, with Ahijah and Iddo, wrote the history of Solomon, which is probably that which we have in the first book of Kings. The history of Israel seems to have been further carried on by Iddo and Shemaiah: 2 Chron. xii. 15, “ Now the acts of Rehoboam, first and last, are they not written in the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and Iddo the seer, concerning genealogies?” And after that the history seems to have been further carried on by the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani : 2 Chron. xx. 34,“ Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold they are written in the book of Jehu, the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel," as we find him to be, 1 Kings xvi. 1,7. And then it was further continued by the prophet Isaiah: 2 Chron. xxvi. 22, “ Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amos, write.” He probably did it as well in the second book of kings, as in the book of his prophecy. And the history was carried on and finished by other prophets after him.
Thus the prophets, even from Samuel's time, had from time to time been adding to the canon of Scripture by their historical writings. But now, in the days of Uzziah, did God first raise up a set of great prophets, not only to write. histories, but to write books of their prophecies. The first of these is thought to be Hosea, the son of Beeri, and therefore his prophecy, or the word of the Lord by him, is called the beginning of the word of the Lord, as Hosea i. 2: “ The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea ;" that is, the beginning or the first part, of the written word of that kind, viz., that which is written ir books of prophecy. He prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel. There were many other witnesses; for God raised up about the same time to commit their prophecies to writing, Isaiah, and Amos, and Jonah, and Micah, and Nahum, and probably some others; and so from that time forward God seemed to continue a succession of writing prophets.
This was a great dispensation of Providence, and a great advance made in the affair of redemption, which appears, if we consider what was said before, that the main business of the prophets was to foreshow Christ and his redemption. They were all forerunners of the great prophet. The main end why the spirit of prophecy was given them was, that they might give testimony to Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer, that was to come; and therefore the testimony of Jesus, and the spirit of prophecy, are spoken of as the same thing : Rev. xix. 10, “And I fell at his feet to worship him: and he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus : worship God : for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” And therefore we find that the great and main thing that the most of the prophets in their written prophecies insist upon, is Christ and his redemption, and the glorious times of the gospel, which should be in the latter days, according to their imanner of expression. And though many other things were spoken of in their prophecies, yet it seems to be only as introductory to their prophecy of these great things. Whatever they prophecy of, here their prophecies commonly terminate, as you may see by a careful perusal of their writings.
These prophets were set to writing their prophecies by the Spirit of Christ that was in them, chiefly for that end, to foreshow and prepare the way for the coming of Christ, and the glory that should follow. And in what an exalted