Page images

it; and while we forget the depth of providence, if at any time we look towards it, we judge rashly and think amiss of it. If this be true of that general providence whereby God rules the world, it is more true of his special provi dence towards his church. This is both the most excellent piece of it, and therefore best worth the reading; and also the hardest piece, and therefore it requires sobriety in judging. Above all other things, he that suddenly judges in this makes haste to err. To have a right view of it, it must be taken altogether and not by parcels. Pieces of rarest artifice, while they are making, seem little worth, especially to an unskilful eye, which, being completed, command admiration. Peter Martyr says well, "There is no judging of the works of God before they are finished." There is a time when the daughters of Sion embrace the dunghill and sit desolate in the streets, as Jeremiah hath it in his Lamentations; and at that same time the voice of Babylon is, I sit as a queen, and shall see no sorrow. All is out of order here. But if we stay awhile, we shall see Sion and Babylon appointed to change seats, by the great Master of the world: Come down, says he, and sit in the dust, O daughter of Babylon, Isa. xlvii, 1 ;-and here to Sion, Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. It is an entire catastrophe; both parties find a notable alteration together. The same hand that exalts the one, ruins the other. When the sun rises upon the church, her antipodes must needs be covered with darkness; as we find it in the next verse to the text; Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

The prophet, elevated by the Spirit of God to a view of after ages as clear as if they were present, seems here to find his people sitting under the dark mantle of a sad and tedious night, and having long expected the sun's return in vain before its time, they give over expectation when it is near them, and desperately fold themselves to lie perpetually in the dark. Now the prophet, standing, as it were, awake upon some mountain, perceives the day approaching, and the golden chariots of the morning of deliverance hasting forward, and seems to come speedily

with these glad news to a captive people, and sounds this trumpet in their ears, Arise, shine, for thy light is come. The very manner of expression is sudden and rousing, without a copulative; not, Arise, and shine, but, Arise, shine.

The words have in them a clear stamp of relation tò a low posture and obscure condition: they suppose a people lying or sitting without light. Deep distress is that dark foil that best sets off the lustre of marvellous deliverances; and among many other reasons of the church's vicissitudes, why may not this be one? The Lord is more illustrious in the world by that deep wisdom and great power that shines when he raises and restores her from desperate afflictions, than if he had still preserved her in constant ease. He seems sometimes careless of her condition and regardless of her groans; but even then is he waiting the most fit time to be gracious, as our prophet speaks. And when it is time, out of the basest estate he brings her forth more fresh, strong, and beautiful than before. Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold, Psal. Ixviii, 13. Do with the church what you will, she shall come through, and that with advantage. "Sink her in the deep, she will come out more beautiful," as one said of Rome. Keep the Church seventy years captive, yet after that she shall arise and shine more glorious than ever.

But surely the strain of this evangelic prophecy rises higher than any temporal deliverance; therefore we must rise to some more spiritual sense of it, not excluding the former. And that which some call divers senses of the same scripture, is indeed but divers parts of one full sense. This prophecy is, out of question, a most rich description of the kingdom of Christ under the gospel. And in this sense, this invitation to arise and shine is mainly addressed to the mystical Jerusalem, yet not without some privilege to the literal Jerusalem beyond other people. They are first invited to arise and shine, because this sun arose first in their horizon: Christ came of the Jews and came first to them. The Redeemer shall come to Zion, says our Prophet in the former chapter. But miserable Jerusalem knew not the day of her visitation, nor

the things that concerned her peace; and therefore are they now hid from her eyes. She delighted to deceive herself with fancies of I know not what imaginary grandeur and outward glory, to which the promised Messiah should exalt her, and did, in that way particularly, abuse this very prophecy; so doating upon a sense grossly literal, she forfeited the enjoyment of those spiritual blessings that are here described. But undoubtedly the people of the Jews shall once more be commanded to arise and shine, and their return shall be the riches of the Gentiles; and that shall be a more glorious time than ever the church of God did yet behold. Nor is there any inconvenience, if we think that the high expressions of this prophecy have some spiritual reference to that time, since the great doctor of the gentiles applies some words of the former chapter to that purpose, Rom. xi, 29. They forget a main point of the church's glory, who pray not daily for the conversion of the Jews.

But to pass that, and insist on the spiritual sense of these words, as directed to the whole church of Christ, they contain a powerful incitement to a two-fold act, enforced, as I conceive, by one reason under a two-fold expression, neither of them superfluous, but each giving light to the other, and suiting very aptly with the_two words of command; Arise, for the glory of the Lord is risen, and Shine, for thy light is come.

I will not now subdivide these parts again and cut them smaller, but will rather unite them again into this one proposition-the coming and presence of Christ engages all to whom he comes, to arise and shine. In this proposition may be considered the nature of the duties the universality of the subject-and the force of the


1. The nature of the duties, what it is to arise and shine. Arising hath reference either to a fall, or to some contrary posture of sitting or lying, or to one of those two conditions which are so like one another, sleep or death; and to all these, spiritually understood, may it here be referred. This is the voice of the gospel to the sous of Adam, Arise; for in him they all fell. The first sin of that first man, was the great fall of mankind. It

could not but undo us; it was from so high a station. Our daily sins are our daily falls, and they are the fruits of that great one. Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity, says the Lord to his people. As for those postures of sitting and lying, the scripture makes use of them both to signify the state of sin. Says not St. John, The world lieth in wickedness? Are not the people said to sit in darkness, Matt. iv, 16?which is directly opposite to arise and shine. In the darkness of Egypt, it is said, the people sat still; none arose from their places. In the gross mist of corrupt nature, man cannot bestir himself to any spiritual action; but when this light is come, then he may and should arise.

Now for sleep and death, sin is most frequently represented in holy writ under their black vizors. To for bear citing places where they are severally so used, we shall find them jointly in one; Ephes. v, 14, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; which place seems to have special allusion to this very text.

The impenitent sinner is as one buried in sleep; his soul is in darkness, fit for sleep, and loves to be so. That he may sleep the sounder, he shuts all the passages of light as enemies to his rest, and so, by close windows and curtains, makes an artificial night to himself within: not a beam appears there, though without the clear day of the gospel shines round about him. The senses of his soul, as we may call them, are all bound up, and are not exercised to discern good and evil, as the apostle speaks. And his leading faculty, his understanding, is surcharged with sleepy vapors, that arise incessantly from the inferior part of his soul, his perverse affections. Nor hath his mind any other exercise in this sleepy condition, than the vain business of dreaming. His most refined and wisest thoughts are but mere extravagancies from man's due end, and his greatest contentments nothing but golden dreams. Yet he is serious in them, and no wonder ; for who can discern the folly of his own dream till he is awake? He that dreams he eateth, when he awakes, finds his soul empty, and not till then. Now while he thus sleeps, his great business lies bye; yet spends he his hand-breadth of time as fast while he is

fast asleep, as if he were in continual employment. Judge then if it be not needful to bid this man arise.

Lastly this voice may import, that man is spiritually dead. God is the life of the soul, as the soul is of the body. While he dwells there, it is both comely and active; but once destitute of his presence, it becomes a carcass, where, besides privation of life and motion, there is a positive filthiness, a putrefaction in the soul, unspeakably worse than that of dead bodies. And as dead bodies are removed from the sight of men, dead souls are cast out from the favorable sight of God, till Christ's saying Arise revives them. The ministers of the word are appointed to cry Arise indifferently to all that hear them; and Christ hath reserved this privilege and liberty, to join his effective voice when and to whom he pleases. A carnal man may show his teeth at this, but who is he that can, by any solid reason, charge absurdity upon this way of dispensing outward and inward vocation? I will not here mention their idle cavils. The scripture is undeniably clear in this, that man is naturally dead in sin. The gospel bids him arise, and it is Christ that is his life, and that raises him.

Thus we see, in some measure, what it is for men to arise. Now, being risen, they must shine, and that two ways-jointly and publicly, as they make up visible churches and likewise personally, in their particular conversation. First then, what is the shining of the true church? Doth not a church then shine, when church service is raised from a decent and primitive simplicity, and decorated with pompous ceremonies, with rich furniture and gaudy vestments? Is not the church then beautiful? Yes, indeed; but all the question is, whether this be the proper, genuine beauty or not; whe ther this be not strange fire, as the fire that Aaron's sons used, which became vain, and was taken as strange fire. Methinks it cannot be better decided, than to refer it to St. John in his book of the Revelations. We find there the descriptions of two several women, the one riding in state, arrayed in purple, decked with gold and precious stones and pearl, ch. xvii; the other, ch. xii, in rich attire too, but of another kind, clothed with the sun, and

« EelmineJätka »