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The danger of lying still, and keeping long silence, respecting any remarkable work of God.
There are many things in the word of God, showing that when God remarkably appears in any great work for his church, and against his enemies, it is a most dangerous thing, and highly provoking to God, to be slow and backward to acknowledge and honour God in the work. Christ’s people are in Scripture represented as his army; he is the Lord of hosts, the Captain of the host of the Lord, as he called himself when he appeared to Joshua, with a sword drawn in his hand, Joshua v. 13-15. the Captain of his people’s salvation; and therefore it may well be highly resented, if they do not resort to him when he orders his banner to be displayed; or if they refuse to follow him when he blows the trumpet, and gloriously appears going forth against his enemies. God expects that every living soul should have his attention roused on such and occasion, and should most cheerfully yield to the call, and heedfully and diligently obey it. Isa. xviii. 3. “All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye when he lifteth up an sign on the mountains; and when he bloweth the trumpet, hear ye.” Especially should all Israel be gathered after their Captain, as we read they were after Ehud, when he blew the trumpet in mount Ephraim, when he had slain Eglon king of Moab, Judges iii. 27, 28. How severe is the martial law in such a case, when any of the army refuses to obey the sound of the trumpet, and follow his general to the battle! God at such a time appears in peculiar manifestations of his glory; and therefore, not to be affected and animated, and to lie still, and refuse to follow God, will be resented as a high contempt of him. Suppose a subject should stand by, and be a spectator of the solemnity of his prince’s coronation, and should appear silent and sullen, when all the multitude were testifying their loyalty and joy with loud acclamations; how greatly would he expose himself to be treated as a rebel, and quickly to perish by the authority of the prince that he refuses to honour!
At a time when God manifests himself in such a great work for his church, there is no such thing as being neuters; there is a necessity of being either for or against the king that then gloriously appears. When a king is crowned, and there are public manifestations of joy on that occasion, there is no such thing as standing by as an indifferent spectator; all must appear as loyal subjects, and express their joy on that occasion, or be accounted enemies. So when God, in any great dispensation of his providence, remarkably sets his King on his holy hill of Zion, Christ in an extraordinary manner comes down from heaven to the earth, and appears in his visible church in a great work of salvation for his people. When Christ came down from heaven in his incarnation, and appeared on earth in his human presence, there was no such thing as being neuters, neither on his side nor against him. Those who sat still and said nothing, and did not declare for him, and come and join with him, after he, by his word and works, had given sufficient evidence who he was, were justly looked upon as his enemies. Matt. xii. 30. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.” So it is when Christ comes to carry on the work of redemption in the application of it, as well as in its revelation and purchase. If a king should come into one of his provinces, which had been oppressed by its foes, where some of his subjects had fallen off to the enemy, and joined with them against their lawful sovereign and his loyal subjects; I say, if the royal sovereign himself should come into the province, and should ride forth there against his enemies, and should call upon all who were on his side to come and gather themselves to him; there would be no such thing, in such a case, as standing neuter. They who lay still and staid at a distance would undoubtedly be looked upon and treated as rebels. So in the day of battle, when two armies join, there is no such thing for any present as being of neither party, all must be on one side or the other; and they who are not found with the conqueror in such a case, must expect to have his weapons turned against them, and to fall with the rest of his enemies.
When God manifests himself with such glorious power in a work of this nature, he appears especially determined to put honour upon his Son, and to fulfil his oath that he has sworn to him, that he would make every knee to bow, and every tongue to confess to him. God hath had it much on his heart, from all eternity, to glorify his dear and only-begotten Son; and there are some special seasons that he appoints to that end, wherein he comes forth with omnipotent power to fulfil his promise and oath to him. Now these are times of remarkable pouring out of his Spirit, to advance his kingdom; such is a day of his power, wherein his people shall be made willing, and he shall rule in the midst of his enemies; these especially are the times wherein God declares his firm decree, that his Son shall reign on his holy hill of Zion. And therefore those who at such a time do not kiss the Son, as he then manifests himself, and appears in the glory of his majesty and grace, expose themselves to perish from the way, and to be dashed in pieces with a rod of iron.
As such is a time wherein God eminently sets his King on his holy hill of Zion, so it is a time wherein he remarkably 381 fulfils that in Isa. xxviii. 16. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” Which the two apostles Peter and Paul (1 Pet. ii. 6-8. And Rom. ix. 33.) join with that prophecy, Isa. viii. 14,15. “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” As signifying that both are fulfilled together. Yea, both are joined together by the prophet Isaiah himself, as you may see in the context of that forementioned place, Isa. xxviii. 16. In ver. 13. Preceding, it is said, Isaiah 28:13 “But the word of the Lord was unto them, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” And accordingly, when Christ is in a peculiar and eminent manner manifested and magnified, by a glorious work of God in his church, as a foundation and a sanctuary for some, he is remarkably a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, a gin and a snare, to others. They who continue long to stumble and to be offended and ensnared in their minds, at such a great and glorious work of Christ, in God’s account, stumble at Christ, and are offended in him; for the work is that by which he makes the stone that the builders refused, to become the head of the corner. This shows how dangerous it is to continue always stumbling at such a work, for ever doubting of it, and forbearing fully to acknowledge it, and give God the glory of it. Such persons are in danger to go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken, and to have Christ a stone of stumbling to them, that shall be an occasion of their ruin; while he is to others a sanctuary, and a sure foundation.
The prophet Isaiah (Isa. xxix. 14.) speaks of God’s proceeding to do a marvellous work and a wonder, which should stumble and confound the wisdom of the wise and prudent; which the apostle in Acts xiii. 41. Applies to the glorious work of salvation wrought in those days by the redemption of Christ, and that glorious outpouring of the Spirit to apply it which followed. The prophet in the context of that place in Isa. xxix. Speaking of the same thing, and of the prophets and rulers and seers, those wise and prudent whose eyes God had closed, says to them, ver. 9. “Stay yourselves and wonder.” In the original it is, “Be ye slow and wonder.” I leave it to others to consider whether it be not natural to interpret it thus, “Wonder at this marvellous work; let it be a strange thing, a great mystery that you know not what to make of, and that you are slow and backward to acknowledge, long delaying to come to a determination concerning it.” And what persons are in danger, and are thus slow to acknowledge God in such a work, we learn from the apostle in that forementioned place, Acts xiii. 41. “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
The church of Christ is called upon greatly to rejoice, when at any time Christ remarkably appears, coming to his church, to carry on the work of salvation, to enlarge his own kingdom, and to deliver poor souls out of the pit wherein there is not water. Zech. ix. 9, 10, 11. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation:—His dominion shall be from sea to sea.—As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” Christ was pleased to give a notable typical or symbolical representation of such a great event as is spoken of in that prophecy, in his solemn entry into the literal Jerusalem, which was a type of the church or daughter of Zion; probably intending it as a figure and prelude of that great actual fulfillment of this prophecy, that was to be after his ascension, by the pouring out of the Spirit in the days of the apostles, and that more full accomplishment that should be in the latter ages of the Christian church. We have an account, that when Christ made this solemn entry into Jerusalem, and the whole multitude of the disciples were rejoicing and praising God, with loud voices, for all the mighty works that they had seen, the Pharisees from among the multitude said to Christ, Master, rebuke thy disciples; but we are told, Luke xix. 39, 40. “Christ answered and said unto them, I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Signifying, that if Christ’s professing disciples should be unaffected on such an occasion, and should not appear openly to acknowledge and rejoice in the glory of God therein appearing, it would manifest such fearful hardness of heart that the very stones would condemn them. Should not this make those consider, who have held their peace so long since Christ has come to our Zion having salvation, and so wonderfully manifested his glory in this mighty work of his Spirit, and so many of his disciples have been rejoicing and praising God with loud voices?
It must be acknowledged, that so great and wonderful a work of God’s Spirit, is a work wherein God’s hand is remarkably lifted up, and wherein he displays his majesty, and shows great favour and mercy to sinners, in the glorious opportunity he gives them, and by which he makes our land to become much more a land of uprightness. Therefore that place, Isa. xxvi. 10, 11. Shows the great danger of not seeing God’s hand, and acknowledging his glory and majesty, in such a work; “Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. Lord, when they hand is lifted up, they will not see; but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.”
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