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is the season in which God is pleased to write disappointment on their hopes, and to fend desolation upon their land. This remarkable circumstance ought to animate us, who profess to be his people, to hope in his mercy, and to trust in his providence.
32 What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
The servants of the Most High are here directed, what answer to give those who might be sent to inquire into the causes which contributed to asford them lasety, whilst destruction laid waste the powerful kingdoms of the earth.- The prophet, having foretold
the overthrow of the Assyrian empire, and the desolation of the land of Palestine, naturally supposes, that messengers would be sent from some of the surrounding nations, either of Moab or Ammon, Egypt or Tyre, to learn, whence it came to pass that Judah was preserved, even when neighbouring kingdoms conspired their destruction? and why they, in their turn, were not also overthrown. The inquiry is both natural and curious, and deserves a proper reply. Inform us, might they fay to the men of Judah, whence it is, that you are safe and secure at home, and renowned abroad, whilst many powerful kingdoms are razed to their foundations? To inquiries of this sort some might be instigated by envy, which is a turbulent, inquisitive passion, accompanied with anxiety and jealousy. This remark was exemplified in the transactions which passed between Sanballat the Horonite, and Nehemiah the Tirshatha *. The inquiries which are made concerning the welfare of the church, doth not always proceed from affection, and a tender solicitude for their prosperity. In some cases, they arise from envy and vexation at the felicity and exal
* Sec Nell. iv. I.
tation of those who are contemned and despised by the world around them, who wish nothing more than
their subversion and ruin. Others might be
prompted by timidity. Fear, which is ever solicitous and inquisitive, is always anxious to be acquainted with every circumstance relative to its object: though it is often increased by the information it receives, it cannot refrain from diligent search. Timorous dispositions generally incline them who act under their influence, minutely to inquire into the condition of those of whom they are afraid. When God brought forth his people out of the land of bondage, that he might settle them in a comfortable state, the tents of Cushan were in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble #. When their mouth was filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing, then said they among the Heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them: they saw them, so they marvelled, they were troubled, they hasted away: fear took hold upon them there f. Thus envy and fear induce men to search into the condition of the churchy of God.
What shall one then answer the messengers sent on this errand? What ought one to reply, in such an emergency? The words stand in the form of an interrogation, which seems intended to give them peculiar force and energy j and to intimate, that a proper answer ought always to be in readiness for thole who aik information on this subject. Consider what reply you ought to give to>hose who may inquire concernT ing the dispensations of divine providence and grace, in which you are deeply interested. Though to us, many of God's ways of righteousness and mercy are unsearchable, yet ignorance, inattention, and folly, are frequently the causes to which we may ascribe the obscurity of our apprehensions concerning them. Illfounded prejudices, and disordered affections, unhap
* Sec Hab. iii. f See Psol. xJvIiT.
pily perplex our minds; and often hinder us• from forming just sentiments respecting divine dispensations, and from giving proper answers to those who interrogate us on these subjects. Happy had it been for king Hezekiah, and his posterity, had that prince given the messengers, sent to him from Babylon, to congratulate him on his recovery, a suitable reply,
and then dismissed them. The following words
suggest a proper answer to this inquiry:
The Lord hath founded Zion, he. He established upon its basis the literal mount Zion, wherein the so* lemn exercises of his worship were anciently performed, so that it can never be removed. He hath also founded the spiritual Zion of his church, comprehending the holy nation, the peculiar people, the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, whom he hath set apart for himself. The church is as firmly founded upon Jesus Christ, the Rock of ages, as Zion is established upon the broad basts on which it stands. The gates of hell, the adverse powers of this earth, stall never prevail against it: the raging of the Heathen, and the moving of the kingdoms, shall not be able to overthrow it. The Lord, who is wonderful in counsel, mighty in strength, and excellent in working, hath laid the foundations thereof; the Highest hath himself established them. God is in the midst of this great, spiritual building; he is the refuge and strength thereof: Jesus Christ is the sure foundation which God hath laid, whereupon it is supported, and theresore it shall never be moved. It derives stability from the promises of him who is faithful and true; and the arm of Omnipotence hath formed around it an impregnable defence. This is the proper answer to give to the messengers who inquire into the causes of the preservation, security, and perpetuity of the church of God. No mention is made of human power and prudence: nothing is ascribed to the wisdom and strength of man, to riches, armies, local situation, ot any such circumstances. All thtir safety is attributed to Jehovah, whose dispensations of providence are all designed to promote the establishment of his church. Doth a wicked nation prosper? their prosperity sits them for being a rod, to chasten his people for their sins, or for affording them shelter from their enemies. Is a nation weakened or destroyed? by this judgment, they may be recompensed for the controversy which they had with Zion. Indeed the preservation of the people of God, that they may serve and glorisy him in the world, is the great aim of providential dispensations.
And the poor of his people Jhall trust in it. The persons spoken of, are described as poor, on account of their mean external condition in the world, their internal poverty of spirit, and lowliness of mind. For these reasons, this character is often given them in scripture: thus faith the Lord, by the prophet Zephaniah, ' I will leave in the midst of thee an asflicted * and poor people, and they shall trust in the name 'of the Lord *. Concerning persons of this description, it is foretold, they shall trust in it; or, as the Hebrew word signifies, and is translated in the margin of some Bibles, they shall resort or retreat, they shall betake themselves to it. This is the obvious meaning of the word, in Psal. xxxvi. 7. where the inspired writer affirms, that, on account of the excellency of God's loving kindness, ' therefore 'the children of men put their trust under the sha'dow of thy wingsthither they resort for protection and comfort. From these remarks, we may learn the import of the expression before us. Since the Lord hath sounded Zion, and always continues to support and maintain the interests of his church, the poor and needy, among his people, ought for ever to confide in his power and faithfulness, who hath done this great work, to acquiesce in all his dispensations, and to build their faith, hope, and joy, on the sure
* Zeph. iii. 12.
foundation foundation which is laid by the Lord God Omnipotent. Since then Jehovah hath thus founded Zion,
and taketh care of the indigent among his people, let us trust in him for direction and protection, for liberand peace, with every needful blessing. Amidst the changes and revolutions which bury in ruins nations and empires, the church of God shall endure throughout all ages. No weapon that is formed against it shall ever prosper. It is a city founded and protected, not by human, but by divine power and providence: its builder and maker is God. It is prepared, by infinite wisdom and love, for the reception of all who love God's salvation, who are poor in spirit, and flee thither for protection from impending calamities, that they may enjoy desirable tranquillity, sacred liberty, and permanent felicity. * Open to me 'the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, 'and 1 will praise the Lord *.'
* Psal. cxviii. 19.