Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

some form at the time of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and the slaughter of mankind was their great business through every subsequent stage of their career. There is scarce a great plain from the Indus to the Atlantic that has not been the scene of battles; there is scarce a vale that has not heard the clash of arms, and resounded with the shouts of the victors and the groans of the vanquished. There is scarce a city that has not been sacked and strewn with the carcasses of its inhabitants, and made a ruin. The earth has been drenched, the streams have been dyed by them with blood.

On subjugating a people to their power, they claimed the right to dispose of their persons and their property as they pleased. The Babylonians and Persians forced large bodies of those whom they conquered to quit their country and migrate into distant regions. The Greeks and Romans sold vast multitudes of those whom they vanquished into slavery, and their exile generally was marked by violence and inhumanity. Unnumbered myriads of the helpless were put to death in cold blood. Unnumbered millions were reduced to misery and despair by merciless oppression and barbarous cruelty. Pity, forbearance, benignity, were unknown to their iron hearts. Their sway throughout has been a crushing despotism that made everything—no matter at what expense of blood, and tears, and miseries to their fellow-creatures-subservient to their will.

These despots have not only been unjust and cruel towards their subjects, but, as a body, have been eminently debased, malign, and vile in their whole character; and have demoralized and degraded their subjects by their evil examples. The populations over which they have reigned, instead of being raised from rudeness to culture, from debasement to virtue, and from misery to happiness, have, with scarce an exception, sunk along with their rulers from one depth of demoralization and misery to another, till they have finally perished. Not a trace remains of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Syrians, Tyrians, Egyptians, or ancient inhabitants of Asia Minor. Scarce a trace of the Greeks or Romans. The races that domineered so long, perished at length by luxury, vice, and the sword of new conquerors. Persia, Babylonia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Asia Minor, Northern Africa, are little better than a waste. And Italy, Spain, Portugal, have sunk to decrepitude. Slaaghter, misery, debasement, extermination, have been the main and almost only work of these gigantic tyrannies.

Not contented with domineering over man thus, in his relations to man, they have arrogated dominion over him in his relations to God. The Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman conqnerors claimed the right of determining what deity their subjects should worship, as well as what monarchs they should obey; and compelled them to pay homage to the false gods whom they honored; thus, in effect, arrogating jurisdiction over the prerogatives of Jehovah, and a right to debar his creatures, if they pleased, from allegiance to him. And on the fall of paganism in the Roman empire, the emperors and kings still assumed the right to dictate to their subjects whom they should adore, and with what rites, and compelled them for ages to receive the false creed, and offer the superstitious and idolatrous worship of the Romish church : and that arrogation of dominion in religion is in the main continued by them to the present hour. By these impious means they have prevented the worship of Jehovah, and driven or-led their subjects, generation after generation, to endless destruction. This war ont he worshippers of Jehovah has not been confined to mere prohibition, but, soon after the promulgation of Christianity, became a war of extermination, that raged for fifteen centuries, swept milHions to death, and exhausted every species of repression, obstruction, and torture, to drive those who escaped the gibbet and the stake, to apostasy. Had it been in their power, the religion of Christ would long since have been struck from the earth, and a senseless and impious counterfeit substituted in its place.

And finally, instead of having become indisposed to war and conquest from the cruel slaughters and boundless miseries of near two thousand five hundred years of strife and oppression, the governments of the west of Europe were never more belligerent and eager, apparently, to deal to each other destruction than now. Never before did they keep such vast armies ready for the field; never before had they such fleets for defence and onset; never before were they expending such sums in the fortification of their great ports and capital cities ; never were they armed with engines of sneh terrible power; never were they exhansting the resources of their subjects by such oppressive taxation; never were they animated with deeper suspicions and jealousies of one another, or inflamed with more eager desires of revenge ; while their armies seem as necessary to keep their own subjects in subordination, as to defend them from assaults from one another. False faiths, moreover, false worships, and blank irreligion, were never more prevalent than now.

Such has been the career of these usurping and tyrannical powers ; such the spectacle of lawless ambition, immeasurable pride, ferocious passion, and daring impiety they have exhibited; such the exemplification they have presented to the universe through so many ages, of what fallen man is, when possessed of power, towards his fellow man. The worlds that have gazed at the scene, have seen in it selfishness, injustice, cruelty, mercilessness, malice, and audacity and lawlessness in evil, on a scale they could scarcely have conceived possible had not this dreadful tragedy been acted. And this demonstration of what man is will serve not only to exemplify to them more clearly from what baseness, what malevolence, and what ferocity he is recovered when restored to the image of God ; but to show more impressively the necessity of his being delivered from the rule of fallen man, and placed under the sway of a higher order of beings and the immediate rule of Christ, in order to his redemption from sin. He must not only be exempted from the power and presence of Satan; he must be released, also, from the sway of beings like himself, and put under the dominion of kings and priests who bear the perfect image of Christ in intelligence, sanctitude, and love; and are meet to reign with him in the new heavens and new earth he is to create at bis second coming. And how else could they fully comprehend what lost man is, and what the power, wisdom, and grace are that recall him from the blight of sin to the image of God; from death to immortal life?

It will, by the contrast also, show them more clearly the beauty of the righteousness and truth, and grace and blessedness, of Christ's rule over the race, when he redeems it in full from the dominion of sin, and raises it to the bliss of an unfallen realm " the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out? Who could have thought these fearful permissions were to subserve such gracious ends ;—that the reign of sin and death in these terrible forms is in order to their final extinction here, the elevation of the endless generations that are to follow and under the sway of Christ to perfect holiness and immortal life!

ART. VI.-DESIGNATION AND EXPOSITION OF THE FIGURES OF

ISAIAH, CHAPTERS LVIII. LIX. AND LX.

CHAPTER LYII. The prophet is commanded to show the people by prediction, the sins of which they were to be guilty, vs. 1. They were to make great professions of delight in God's service, and of desire to understand what he required of them in regard to one another; and express surprise that he did not indicate his approbation of their fasts and humiliations, vs. 2, 3. But it was to be because their professions would be merely formal, and leave their selfishness, avarice, and tyranny over their dependents unchecked, vs. 3, 4. Such a mere heartless abstinence from luxury, and assumption for a moment of the air of sorrow, is not the fast God requires, vs. 5. He demands abstinence from evil affections, injustice, oppression, mercilessness to the suffering. He requires compassiou, sympathy, generosity, that manifest themselves in relieving the wants and soothing the sorrows of the wretched, vs. 6, 7. If God's people should cherish and display those affections, he would soon reveal him. self to them as their covenant God, restore them to prosperity, and enable them to rebuild their desolated cities, vs. 8–12. If they should keep the Sabbath in the manner he requires, he would bestow on them all the great blessings promised to Israel, vs. 13, 14.

1. Apostrophe to the prophet. “Cry with the throat, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins," vs. 1. It is the prophet who is addressed, and the command is from Jehovah. To cry with the throat, which is the rendering in the margin of the common version-is to cry with strength and earnestness, in contradistinction from speaking with the mere lips.

The announcement the prophet was to make to them of their transgressions was prophetic of the character they were to exhibit in ages then future, as well as descriptive of the demoralization and impiety of the generation he addressed. This is seen from the fact that the wickedness which he ascribes to them is to continue, it is foreshown Chapter lix. vs. 12–21, till Jehovah comes to take vengeance on his enemies, at the final redemption of Israel from exile and from sin. The prophet was not to spare the people out of reluctance to disturb the false repose into which they were to sink, or to wound their pride. He was to be faithful, how. ever unwelcome his message might be to them.

2. Hypocatastasis in the use of lifting up the voice, a movement in space, to denote the use of the loud and sharp tones which must be employed to canse the careless and drowsy to listen, and excite an earnest attention.

3. Comparison of the voice to be used, to a trumpet; loud, sharp, resounding through the scene where it was uttered, and rousing every hearer to attention and alarm. As a trumpet was blown as a warning, and as a summons, so he was to speak in tones that should awaken the feeling that the message he was uttering was of the most serious moment; and what he was to proclaim with such earnestness and emphasis was the transgression of God's people, and the sins of the house of Jacob. This implies that they were, and were to be, unconscious of them; that they were to misjudge their own character; that they were to lose sight of the demands of his law, and need to be roused by a voice from heaven from their delusions.

4. Metonymy of house for the descendants of Jacob.

5. Comparison of the people to a rigliteous nation : “Yet they seek me day by day, and desire the knowledge of my ways, like a nation which has done right, and has not forsaken the judgment of its God. They ask of me righteous judgments, and desire to approach to God. Why have we fasted (they ask) and thou hast not seen (noticed it); afflicted our soul, and thou hast not known it?” verse 2, 3. The

« ÎnapoiContinuați »