« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
God setting His Seal that all is true. To the Christian, to the man whose blind eyes have been opened by the Covenant, the Elect, the Gift of God our Great Father to us Gentiles, to see the mystery of God, these parabolas are invaluable; and the treasures of Heavenly Wisdom communicated thereby, are prized above all that earth can give. Quickened by this Divine Spirit, the language of his soul is, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."
"And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people." The angel that came to the prophet by night, during the colloquy, after the prophet had seen two olive trees, and inquired concerning the "two olive trees," received for answer, "These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth." (Zech. iv.) In chapter 13th, when "the fountain shall be opened," etc., "for sin and for uncleanness," a man is interrogated in the parabola-"But he shall say, I am no prophet, [I am rejected of men,] I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. [Christ degraded by the Jews, here takes the stand for his pretensions on an equality with the heads of the twelve tribes, as a shepherd. See Gen xlvii. 1-6.] And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts; smite the shepherd, [the keeper of cattle, or sheep,] and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones."
Here the crucifixion of Christ is predicted, in the dark saying. Look at the consequences to Judah and Israel, as immediately declared: "And it shall come to pass, [as part and parcel of the events of the ending aionos,] that in all the land, [Judea and Canaan,] saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die [a complete political negation!] but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire," etc. The two tribes that, with the dwellers in Judea from the ten tribes, constituted in magnitude one-third of the whole people. And the two parts that die, the ten tribes that are for ever lost, politi cally, having become amalgamated with the Gentiles. (See Sermon xvi. pp. 405, 406.)
Now look at the parabola of Paul and Christ: And first,
Paul, of the two olive trees, that were anointed, and holy, etc. (See Vol. I. Sermon viii. pp. 153-155, and Rom. xi. 17-24.; Jer. xi. 11-17.; Rev. xi. 4.) Paul compares the whole house of Israel to the native olive tree, and the Gentiles to the wild olive tree. In the purpose of God, the mystery of his will, as contained in the parabola of the prophet, both Jews and Gentiles are made one in Christ; and finally, the prophet beholds "two olive branches emptying golden [pure] oil out of themselves;" signifying, the indwelling of the Spirit of God, in both Jew and Gentile, purifying them from all sin.
Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away," etc. (John xv. 1, 2.) Isa. v. 1-7, represents the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, as the vineyard of the LORD of hosts. Jesus, (Matt. xxi. 33—43,) takes the figure of the prophet, and exhibits the Jews in their true character, as his murderers; and predicts the consequences to them, that God will cast them off, and destroy them, etc.
Our text points to this very issue. Jesus Christ, the staff, Beauty, is cut asunder-crucified and slain by the Jews, all the people, designated in the parabola of the prophet, as those with whom God had made a covenant, under the law; of which covenant Paul says, "because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the LORD." (Heb. viii. 9.) The figure of a staff, is very appropriate, as used in the parabola of the prophet; for as a man that needs support, leans on, and is supported by a staff, so the covenant of the law, which was first made in an especial reference to God's Elect Son; depended on him; the cutting the staff asunder, the covenant falls as a consequence. The law was in Christ's hand, as Mediator. The covenant expired with him on the cross. (See Vol. I. Sermon xxiii.) It therefore follows, that no covenant exists, during the Mediatorial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, between God and the rejected Jews. Their condition is precisely that of the beggar Lazarus, while, during his lifetime, he was laid outside the gate. That is, the Gentiles, while the Jews were the chosen and peculiar people of God. And the time designated when another and a new covenant shall be made with them, is, when, and not until the Deliverer shall come out of Zion, where he reigns as Mediator; to complete the subjection of all to his dominion and rule, by the sal
vation of the blind, lost house of Israel. Therefore, Paul represents, that the time when God shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel, is, when God shall write his law in their hearts, and take away their sins. (Heb. viii.) For, be it remembered, God's Elect was given as a covenant of the Gentiles, and not of the Jews; until, according to God's purposes of mercy, the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, when all Israel shall be saved by the Messiah of the Jews. (See Rom. xi.)
There is another staff mentioned, in the connexion of our text-but, of the staff Beauty, at the time of breaking the covenant with all the people, a price is named, "And I said unto them, [Judas is predicted making his bargain with the Pharisees, or the priests,] If ye think good, give me my price; [for betraying my Master,] and if not forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD [JEHOVAH] said unto me, [You have betrayed innocent blood, Judas, repent, ye.] Cast it unto the potter: : a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Then I [the LORD] cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel." How completely has this brotherhood been broken, between Judah, i. e. the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the ten tribes of Israel, with Ephraim's head Samaria! Not a soul remains of the ten tribes of Israel, to claim affinity with Judah!!!
How graphic is the prophet! (chap. ix. 9.) "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, Ó daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass!"
Wonderful to relate, the remnant of the blind Jews, who rejected their King, have, to this hour, cherished and preserved, as a sacred deposite, the mysterious Parabola that prefigured their blindness; their rejection by God, for the rejection of His Son; and their dispersion among all the nations of the earth!
How emphatically true is Paul's declaration, of the parabola of blinded Israel! "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto them which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." AMEN.
THE SPIRITS IN PRISON.
"For Christ a'so hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison." 1 PETER iii. 18, 19.
THE passage I have selected for examination, is one that has been classed with the difficult and obscure passages of the Sacred testimony. Some persons have fastened on this declaration of Christ's disciple Peter, as a sort of forlorn hope. They have imagined that this testimony is full to the point, to prove that sinners, after death, after becoming the recipients of a spiritual existence in another world beyond the grave, are the subjects of punishment. Then the same morbid imagination that conceived the first absurdity, makes but one step more to endless misery in a future hell. This, it must be confessed, possesses the merit of brevity in the comment; if there is no testimony for proof, or reason in the argument. These expeditious commentators, probably, are not aware that there is another chapter in Peter's first epistle, that follows immediately in connexion; and that Peter continues the subject of the spirits in prison into his fourth chapter; the cutting up of his epistle into chapter and verse to the contrary notwithstanding.
The reason assigned by Peter in the 6th verse of his fourth chapter, etc., hangs like an incubus upon the absurd dogma I have mentioned, viz: "For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." It appears, therefore, that the spirits in prison were dead. And the gospel is preached to dead men in another world, who then have a spiritual life or existence; for the benevolent purpose of enabling them to be judged precisely as though they were alive in the flesh, in this world; and, in addition to this, for the further benevolent purpose, that they should live according to God in the spirit! It is cer
tainly a fair presumption, that those who preach the gospel in another world, to spirits in prison, are good, sound, eloquent, and logical preachers. And it is also a fair presumption, that such preachers, having such hearers, viz: spiritual hearers, will make converts of the whole of them. Indeed, Peter says this is the very intention, viz: "That they should live according to God in the spirit." A literal understanding of the passage, is just what I have exhibited above, reader; and I appeal to you, and ask, whether I have not presented a fair, true, and candid statement, fully sustained by the imagery and declarations of Peter, provided his account is to be understood literally?
But there is one fact that should be specially noticed, viz: The spirits, if men, are dead; and the reason assigned for preaching to these dead spirits or men, is, that they should, in the future tense, live; and live according to God, when they become living spirits. And another particular-Peter says not a word about these dead spirits being punished, or suffering pain or misery from any cause whatsoever! Neither does Peter say that their prison is a hell; or, either, an unpleasant, or an uncomfortable place of residence. All these particulars should be kept in view.
I will now request the reader's very candid and close attention to certain particulars that I will notice in the connexion.
First-Peter immediately adds, (chap. iv. 7,) "But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." Peter made this declaration about 1800 years ago!* Also, (verse 5th,)" Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." Here Peter refers to the coming of Christ, agreeably to Christ's declaration that the generation to whom he had spoken, should not pass till all be fulfilled, &c. And Peter makes the judgment commence at Christ's coming; saying, in his time, and in the then present tense. "who is READY to judge the quick and the dead."
Second-In verses 17, and 18, Peter affirms, "For the
* It should be specially noticed, that Peter's Epistle is addressed "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." His own countrymen, or Jews, unquestionably; as the inhabitants of those places would not be called strangers, scattered, etc. See p. 252 note. Compare Matt. xxiv. 34; Luke xxi. 22, 32, 36, with Peter's declaration.