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increase. And this vision is for an appointed time; (as Habakkuk say of his;) at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not tarry.
In that day.) That is, in the day of Ephraim's or Israel's ealamity denounced in the former verses ; which, as most do conceive, was when the Assyrian oppressed them, and in the end led them captive, in the reign of Hosea, as you have the history of it, 2 Kings, xvii., at which time Hezekiah was king of Judah, as you find in the following chapter: and in that notable reformation wrought by him, with those blessings that
it, is found the accomplishment of this promise to Judah, In that day, &c. The parallel of God's different dealing with these two kingdoms at the time there specified, (in that day,) does afford divers lessons, which might be here not impertinently taken notice of. Only this:
Though Judah also had its own corruptions when Hezekiah came to the crown, yet, it pleased the Lord to spare them and work a peaceable reformation, making Israel's punishment their warning. Truly, that nation with whom the Lord deals thus graciously, is vilely ungrateful if they observe it not with much humility and thankfulness, and with profit too. If the Lord should
your desires and hopes with a reformation in a peaceable way, and should yet lengthen out your long continued peace, and should make this little past shaking of it cause it to take root the faster; if He should, I say, do this, where would ye find fit praises for such a wonder of mercy ? especially considering, that in the meanwhile He hath made other reformed churches fields of blood, and made, as it were, the sound of their stripes preach repentance to us.
But certainly, if the hearing the voice of the rod prevail not, we shall feel the smart of it, as this people of Judah did afterwards, because they were not so wise as to become wiser and better by Israel's folly and calamity. We are expecting great things at our Lord's hands, and our provocations and sins against Him are great ; yet there is no one of them all puts us in so much
danger of disappointment, as impenitence. Were there more repentance and personal reformation amongst us, we might take it as a hopeful forerunner of that public reformation which so many seem now to desire.
The Lord of Hosts.] This style of His, you know, is frequent in the Prophets, in their predictions of mercy and judgment; intimating both His greatness and majesty, and His supreme power for accomplishing His word. No created power can resist Him; yea, all must serve Him. The most excellent creatures can have no greater honour: the greatest are not exempted, nor the meanest excluded from serving Him. In Acts xii. 23, you find one of the noblest creatures, and a number of the vilest, made use of at the same time in the same service. Because Herod did accept of the sacrilege of the people, and gave not back to this Lord of hosts His own glory, the angel of the Lord smote him, and the vermin devoured him. And in Egypt, you know the employing of the destroying angel, and what variety of hosts this Lord of hosts did employ to plague them. What madness, then, is it to oppose and encounter this great General !—even in doubtful cases, to run on blindly, without examining, lest peradventure a man should be found a fighter against God. And on the other side, it is great weakness to admit any fear under His banner. If a man could
when he was told of the multitude of the ships the enemy had, Against how many do ye reckon me ? how much more justly may we reckon this Lord of hosts, against multitudes of enemies, how great soever! They are to Him as the drop of a bucket, and the smallest dust of the balance. It is ignorance and mean thoughts of this mighty Lord, that makes His enemies so confident; and it is the same evil, in some degree, or, at the best, forgetfulness of His power, that causeth diffidence in His followers. I, even I, am he that comforteth you : who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord, thy Maker. Isa. li. 12, 13. Now this same Lord of hosts, you know, is likewise called the God of peace : He is indeed, et pace et
bello insignis, splendid both in peace and war. The blessing of
peace and the success of war are both from Him; and to Him alone is due the praise of both.
Shall be for a crown of glory.] He shall dignify and adorn them by His special presence ; to wit, in the purity of His ordinances and religion amongst them : the profession and flourishing of that, shall be their special glory and beauty. For, as the other two benefits concern their civil good, justice flourishing within, and wealth and opulency from without, so doubtless, this first, this glory and beauty, is religion, as the chiefest of the three, and the other two are its attendants. In Psalm xxvi. 8, the sanctuary, the place of their solemn worship, is called the place where God's honour dwelleth, or the tabernacle of His honour, and, Psalm xcvi. 9, the glorious sanctuary, or the beauty of holiness. And the ark of God, you know, was called the glory. The glory is departed from Israel, (said the wife of Phineas,) for the ark of God is taken. 1 Sam. iv. 21. Pure religion and a pure worship, is the glory of God amongst His people, and consequently, their glory. Now referring this prophecy to Hezekiah's time, the accomplishment of it is evident, in that work of reformation whereof you have the full history, 2 Chron. xxix. 30, 8c.
If it be thus, that the purity of religion and worship, is the crown and glory of a people; and therefore, on the other side, that their deepest stain of dishonour and vileness, is the vitiating of religion with human devices ; then, to contend for the preservation or the reformation of it, is noble and worthy of a Christian. It is for the crown of Jesus Christ, which is likewise a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty to them, He being their head. It is, indeed, the true glory both of kings and their kingdoms. Labour then for constancy in this work : let no man take your crown from you. You know how busy the emissaries of the Church of Rome have been to take it from us, or, at least, to pick the diamonds out of it, and put in false, counterfeit ones in their places. I mean, they stole away
power of religion, and filled up the room with
shadows and fopperies of their own devising. It is the vanity of that Church, to think they adorn the worship of God when they dress it up with splendour in her service, which, though some magnify it so much, yet may most truly be called a glistering slavery and captivity. Then is she truly free and wears her crown, when the ordinances of God are conformable to His own appointment. It is vanity in man, I say, when they dress it up with a multitude of gaudy ceremonies, and make it the smallest part of itself; whereas, indeed, its true glory consists not in pomp, but in purity and simplicity. In the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, we find the Church, under the name of a woman, richly attired indeed, but her ornaments be all heavenly; the sun her clothing, and her crown, of twelve stars. Needs she then borrow sublunary glory ? No, she treads upon it: the moon is under her feet. There is another woman, indeed, in that same book, arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and precious stones, and having a golden cup in her hand, but that golden cup is full of abominations and filthiness, and she herself the mother of abominations. Apoc. xvii. 4. The natural man judges according to his reach; but to a spiritual eye there is a most genuine beauty in the service of God and the government of His house; and when they are nearest to the rule, the word of God, then is it, that the Lord himself is the crown and diadem of His Church.
A crown of glory.] Again : we may consider this personally, as belonging in particular to every believer. They are all made kings and priests unto God the Father. Apoc. i. 6. They are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, 1 Pet. ii. 9, how despicable soever to the world. This is their dignity: The Lord is their crown and diadem. He subdues their lusts, and makes them kings over their own affections, and more than conquerors over all troubles and persecutions. Whereas carnal men are continually hurried like slaves, unto base employments, still kept toiling in the ignoble service of their own lusts. They think, indeed, it is their liberty, but
that is a baseness of spirit, that complies so well with so vile and servile a condition. And whereas they judge the godly to be the refuse and dross of the earth, and the proper objects of contempt, this is because this their crown, though most glorious, is invisible to the eye of nature,
The Lord is a crown.
If they knew what this is, they would see enough in it to countervail their outward meanness and the reproaches the world cast on them : as the apostle St. Peter hath it, 1 Pet. iv. 14, If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on you. He is their crown.
And observe, how this crown is opposed to that blasted glory and fading crown of pride, spoken of in the former
Wo to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower.
Who is there that sees not, in daily experience, the vanity and inconstancy of worldly glory, and yet, how few are there that wean themselves from it, and learn to disdain it! Still men dote upon that which is not, upon a shadow, a nothing. But would you have a glory that fadeth not, a garland that cannot wither, make the Lord your crown and your glory; and if He be so, glory in Him, and in nothing else. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches ; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me. Jer, ix, 23, 24.
You that are noble, aspire to this crown, as being so far above your perishing honours and bounded powers. And you that are outwardly meaner and lower, see how little cause you have to complain of your condition, seeing you are not de barred from this best and greatest honour. And, that
you may discern it aright what it is, know that it consists in the renovation of God's image within you, which is in holiness and righteousness : so the Lord becomes your crown in the kingdom of grace. And by this you may discover, whether or no you have attained it: if you can yet delight to wallow in the