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strain do they all speak of those things! Many other things they speak of in men's usual language. But when they come upon this subject, what a joyful heavenly sublimity is there in the language they use about it! Some of them are very particular and full in their predictions of these things, and above all the prophet Isaiah, who is therefore deservedly called the evangelical prophet.
*He seems to teach the glorious doctrines of the gospel almost as plainly as the apostles did, who preached after Christ was actually come. The Apostle Paul therefore takes notice, that the prophet Esaias is very bold, Rom. x. 20; i. e., as the meaning of the word, as used in the New Testament, is very plain, he speaks out very plainly and fully ; so being “very bold” is used, 2 Cor. iii. 12, we use "great plainness of speech,” or “ boldness," as it is in the margin.
How plainly and fully does the prophet Isaiah describe the manner and circumstances, the nature and end of the suffering and sacrifice of Christ, in the 53d chapter of his prophecy! There is scarce a chapter in the New Testament itself which is more full on it. And how much, and in what a glorious strain, does the same prophet speak from time to time of the glorious benefits of Christ, the unspeakable blessings which shall redound to his church through his redemption! Jesus Christ, the person that this prophet spoke so much of, once appeared to Isaiah in the form of the human nature, the nature that he should afterwards take upon him. We have an account of it in the 6th chapter of his prophecy at the beginning : “ I saw also the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple,” &c. This was Christ that Isaiah now saw, as we are expressly told in the New Testament. See John xii. 39, 40, 41.
And if we consider the abundant prophecies of this and the other prophets, what a great increase is there of the light of the gospel, which had been growing from the fall of man to this day! How plentiful are the revelations and prophecies of Christ now, to what they were in the first period of the Old Testament, from Adam to Noah! Or to what they were in the second, from Noah to Abraham! Or to what they were before Moses, or in the time of Moses, Joshua, and the Judges! This dispensation that we are now speaking of, was also a glorious advance of the work of redemption by the great additions that were made to the canon of Scripture. Great part of the Old Testament was written now, from the days of Uzziah to the captivity into Babylon. And how excellent are those portions of it! What a precious treasure have those prophets committed to the church of God, tending greatly to confirm the gospel of Christ! and which has been of great comfort and benefit to God's church in all ages since, and doubtless will be to the end of the world.
From the Babylonish Captivity to the Coming of Christ. I COME now to the last period of the Old Testament, viz., that which begins with the Babylonish Captivity, and extends to the coming of Christ, being the greatest part of six hundred years, to show how the work of redemption was carried on through this period.
But before I enter upon particulars, I would observe, in three things, wherein
this period is distinguished from the preceding periods of the times of the Old Testament.
1. Though we have no account of a great part of this period in the Scripture history, yet the events of this period are more the subject of Scripture prophecy, than any of the preceding periods. There are two ways wherein the Scriptures give account of the events by which the work of redemption is carried on; one is by history, and another is by prophecy : and in one or the other of these ways we have contained in the Scriptures an account how the work of redemption is carried on from the beginning to the end. Although the Scriptures do not contain a proper history of the whole, yet there is contained the whole chain of great events by which this affair hath been carried on from the foundation, soon after the fall of man, to the finishing of it at the end of the world, either in history or prophecy. And it is to be observed, that where the Scripture is wanting in one of these ways, it is made up in the other. Where Scripture history fails, there prophecy takes place; so that the account is still carried on, and the chain is not broken till we come to the very last link of it in the consummation of all things.
And accordingly it is observable of this period or space of time that we are upon, that though it is so much less the subject of Scripture history than most of the preceding periods, so that there is above four hundred years of it that the Scripture gives us no history of; yet the events of this period are more the subject of Scripture prophecy than the events of all the preceding periods put together. Most of those remarkable prophecies of the book of Daniel do refer to events that were accomplished in this period : so most of those prophecies in Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, against Babylon, and Tyrus, and against Egypt, and many other nations, were fulfilled in this period.
So that the reason why the Scriptures give us no history of so great a part of this period, is not because the events of this period were not so important, or less worthy to be taken notice of, than the events of the foregoing periods; for 1 shall hereafter show how great and distinguishedly remarkable the events of this period were. But there are several other reasons which may be given of it. One is that it was the will of God that the spirit of prophecy should cease in this period (for reasons that may be given hereafter), so that there were no prophets to write the history of these times; and therefore God, designing this, took care that the great events of this period should not be without mention in his word ; and so ordered it that the prophecies of Scripture should be more full here, than in the preceding periods. It is observable,, that that set of writing prophets that God raised up in Israel, were raised up at the latter end of the foregoing period, and at the beginning of this, which it is likely was partly for that reason, that the time was now approaching, of which the spirit of propheuy having ceased, there was to be no Scripture history, and therefore no other Scripture account but what was given in prophecy.
And another reason that may be given why there was so great a part of this period left without an historical account in Scripture is, that God in his providence took care that there should be authentic and full accounts of the events of this period preserved in profane history. It is remarkable, and very worthy to be taken notice of, that with respect to the events of the five preceding periods, of which the Scriptures give the history, profane history gives us no account, or at least of but very few of them. There are many fabulous and uncertain accounts of things that happened before; but the beginning of the times of authentic profane history is judged to be but a little before Nebuchadnezzar's time, about a hundred years before. The learned men among the
Greeks and Romans used to call the ages before that the fabulous age ; but the times after that they called the historical age. And from about that time to the coming of Christ, we have undoubted accounts in profane history of the principal events ; accounts that wonderfully agree with the many prophecies that we have in Scripture of those times.
Thus did the great God, that disposes all things, order it. He took care to give an historical account of things from the beginning of the world, through all those former ages which profane history does not reach, and ceased not till he came to those latter ages in which profane history related things with some certainty: and concerning those times, he gives us abundant account in prophecy, that, by comparing profane history with those prophecies, we might see the agreement.
2. This period being the last period of the Old Testament, and the next to the coming of Christ, seems to have been remarkably distinguished from all others in the great revolutions that were among the nations of the earth, to make way for the kingdom of Christ. The time now drawing nigh, wherein Christ, the great King and Saviour of the world, was to come, great and mighty were the changes that were brought to pass in order to it. The way had been preparing for the coming of Christ from the fall of man, through all the foregoing periods : but now the time drawing nigh, things began to ripen apace for Christ's coming ; and therefore divine Providence wrought wonderfully now. The greatest revolutions that any history whatsoever gives an account of, that ever had been from the flood, fell out in this period. Almost all the then known world, i. e., all the nations that were round about the land of Canaan, far and near, that were within the reach of their knowledge, were overturned again and again. All lands were in their turns subdued, captivated, and as it were emptied, and turned upside down, and that most of them repeatedly, in this period ; agreeably to that prophecy, Isa. xxiv. 1, “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty; he maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof."
This emptying, and turning upside down, began with God's visible church, in their captivity by the king of Babylon. And then the cup from them went round to all other nations, agreeably to what God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah, xxv. 15—27. Here special respect seems to be had to the great revolutions that there were on the face of the earth in the times of the Babylonish empire. But after that there were three general overturnings of the world before Christ came, in the succession of the three great monarchies of the world that were after the Babylonish empire. The king of Babylon is represented in Scripture as overturning the world: but after that the Babylonish empire was overthrown by Cyrus; who founded the Persian empire in the room of it; which was of much greater extent than the Babylonish empire in its greatest glory. Thus the world was overturned the second time. And then, after that, the Persian empire was overthrown by Alexander, and the Grecian empire was set up upon the ruins of it ; which was still of much greater extent than the Persian empire: and thus there was a general overturning of the world a third time. And then, after that, the Grecian empire was overthrown by the Romans, and the Roman empire was established; which vastly exceeded all the foregoing empires in power and extent of dominion. And so the world was overturned the fourth time.
These several monarchies, and the great revolutions of the world under them, are abundantly spoken of in the prophecies of Daniel. They are represented in Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold, silver, brass, and iron; and Daniel's Vol. I.
of Daniel.' beasts, and the angelapter of Daniel ; at
interpretation of it, in the second chapter of Daniel; and then in Daniel's vision of the four beasts, and the angel's interpretation of it in the seventh chapter of Daniel. And the succession of the Persian and Grecian monarchies is more particularly represented in the 8th chapter in Daniel's vision of the ram and the he-goat, and again in the 11th chapter of Daniel.
And besides these four general overturnings of the world, the world was kept in a constant tumult between whiles : and indeed the world was as it were in a continual convulsion through this whole period till Christ came. Before this period, the face of the earth was comparatively in quietness : though there were many great wars among the nations, yet we read of no such mighty and universal convulsions and overturnings as there were in this period. The nations of the world, most of them, had long remained on their lees as it were, without being emptied from vessel to vessel, as is said of Moab, Jer. xlviii. 11. Now these great overturnings was because the time of the great Messiah drew nigh. That they were to prepare the way for Christ's coming, is evident by Scripture, particularly by Ezek. xxi. 27: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is, and I will give it him.” The prophet, by repeating the word overturn three times, bas respect to three overturnings, as in the Revelation, viii. 13. The repetition of the word wo three times, signifies three distinct woes; as appears by what follows, ix. 12, “ One wo is past;" and ix. 14, “ The second wo is past, and behold the third wo cometh quickly.”
It must be noted, that the prophet Ezekiel prophesied in the time of the Babylonish captivity; and therefore there were three great and general overturnings of the world to come after this prophecy, before Christ came; the first by the Persians, the second by the Grecians, the third by the Romans; and then after that, Christ, whose right it was to take the diadem, and reign, should come. Here these great overturnings are evidently spoken of, as preparatory to the coming and kingdom of Christ. But to understand the words aright, we must note the particular expression, “ I will overturn, overturn, overturn it ;" i. e., the diadem and crown of Israel, or the supreme temporal dominion over God's visible people. This God said should be no more, i. e., the crown should be taken off, and the diadem removed, as it is said in the foregoing verse. The supreme power over Israel should be no more in the royal line of David, to which it properly belonged, but should be removed away, and given to others, and overturned from one to another : first the supreme power over Israel should be in the hands of the Persians; and then it should be overturned again; and then it should be in the hands of the Grecians; and then it should be overturned again, and come into the hands of the Romans, and should be no more in the line of David, till that very person should come, that was the son of David, whose proper right it was, and then God would give it to him.
That those great shakings and revolutions of the nations of the world were all to prepare the way for Christ's coming and setting up his kingdom in the world, is further manifest by Haggai ii. 6,7: “ For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land ; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” And again, ver. 21, 22 and 23. It is evident by this, that these great revolutions and shakings of the nations, whereby the thrones of kingdoms, and armies were overthrown, and every one came down by the sword of his brother, were to prepare the way for the coming of him who is the desire of all nations.
The great changes and troubles that have sometimes been in the visible church of Christ, are in Rev. xii. 2 compared to the church's being in travail to bring forth Christ; so these great troubles and mighty revolutions that were in the world before Christ was born, were, as it were, the world's being in travail to bring forth the Son of God. The apostle, in the 8th of Romans, represents the whole creation as groaning and travailing in pain together until now, to bring forth the liberty and manifestation of the children of God. So the world as it were travailed in pain, and was in continual convulsions for several hundred years together, to bring forth the first-born child, and the only begotten Son of God. And those mighty revolutions were as so many pangs and throes in order to it. The world being so long a time kept in a state of war and bloodshed, prepared the way for the coming of the Prince of Peace, as it showed the great need the world stood in of such a prince to deliver the world from its miseries.
It pleased God to order it in his providence, that earthly power and dominion should be raised to its greatest height, and appear in its utmost glory, in those four great monarchies that succeeded one another, and that every one should be great and more glorious than the preceding, before he set up the kingdom of his Son. By this it appeared how much more glorious his spiritual kingdom was than the most glorious temporal kingdom. The strength and glory of Satan's kingdom in these four mighty monarchies, appeared in its greatest height : for those monarchies were the monarchies of the Heathen world, and so the strength of them was the strength of Satan's kingdom. God suffered Satan's kingdom to rise to so great a height of power and magnificence before his Son came to overthrow it, to prepare the way for the more glorions triumph of his Son. Goliath must have on all his splendid armor when the stripling David comes against him with a sling and stone, for the greater glory of David's victory. God suffered one of those great monarchies to subdue another, and erect itself on the other's ruins, appearing still in greater strength, and the last to be the stongest and mightiest of all; that so Christ, in overthrowing that, might as it were overthrow them all at once; as the stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, is represented as destroying the whole image, the gold, the silver, the brass, the iron, and the clay; so that all became as the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
These mighty empires were suffered thus to overthrow the world, and destroy one another : and though their power was so great, yet they could not uphold themselves, but fell one after another, and came to nothing, even the last of them, that was the strongest, and had swallowed up the earth. It pleased God thus to show in them the instability and vanity of all earthly power and greatness; which served as a foil to set forth the glory of the kingdom of his Son, which never shall be destroyed, as appears by Dan. ii. 44 : “ In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed : and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” So greatly does this kingdom differ from all those kingdoms; they vanish away, and are left to other people ; but this shall not be left to other people, but shall stand forever. God suffered the devil to do his utmost, and to establish his interest, by setting up the greatest, strongest, and most glorious kingdoms in the world that he could, before the despised Jesus overthrew him and his empire. Christ came into the world to bring down the high things of Satan's kingdom, that the hand of the Lord might be on every one that is proud and lofty, and every high tower, and every lofty mountain ; as the prophet Isaiah