תמונות בעמוד

the seller; as to the lender, so to the borrower; as to the creditor, so to the debtor. The earth has become wicked among its inhabitants, therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they who dwelt in it make expiation.” We observe that these severe calamities are not uttered in wrath. They are not maledictions; they are simply divine revelations to the gifted prophet, or logical deductions which the inspired statesman declares from incontrovertible facts. In this latter sense, all profound observations on the tendency of passing events partake of the nature of prophecy. A sage is necessarily a prophet. Men even prophesy rain or heat or cold from natural phenomena, and their predictions often come to pass. Much more to be relied on is the prophetic wisdom which is seen among great thinkers and writers, like Burke, Webster, and Carlyle, since they rely on the operation of unchanging laws, both moral and physical. When a nation is wholly given over to lying and cheating in trade, or to hypocritical observances in religion, or to practical atheism, or to gross superstitions, or abominable dissoluteness in morals, or to the rule of feeble kings controlled by hypocritical priests and harlots, is it presumptuous to predict the consequences ? Is it difficult to predict the ultimate effect on a nation of overwhelming standing armies eating up the resources of kings, or of the gen. eral prevalence of luxury, effeminacy, and vice ?

the rule

harlots, "ifficult

Isaiah having declared the judgment of God on apostate, idolatrous, and wicked nations ; having emphasized the great principle of retribution, even on nations that in his day were prosperous and powerful; having rebuked the sins of the people among whom he dwelt, and exposed hypocrisy and dead-letter piety, lays down the fundamental law that chastisements are sent to lead men to repentance, and that where there is repentance there is forgiveness. Severe as are his denunciations of sin, and certain as is the punishment of it, yet his soul dwells on the mercy and love of God more than even on His justice. He never loses sight of reconciliation, although he holds out but little hope for people wedded to their idols. There is no hope for Babylon or Tyre; they are doomed. Nor is there much encouragement for Ephraim, which composed so large a part of the kingdom of Israel; its people were to be dispersed, to become captives, and never were to return to their native hills. But he holds out great hope for Judah. It will be conquered, and its people carried away in slavery to Babylon, — that is their chastisement for apostasy; but a remnant of them shall return. They had not utterly forgotten God, therefore a part of the nation shall be rescued from captivity. So full of hope is Isaiah that the nation shall not utterly be destroyed, that he names his son Shear-jashuh, —"a remnant shall return.” This is his watchword. Certain is it that the Lord will have mercy on Jacob whom he hath chosen; his promises will not fail. Judah shall be chastised; but a part of Judah shall return to Jerusalem, purified, wiser, and shall again in due time flourish as a nation.

Isaiah is the prophet of hope, of forgiveness, and of love. Not only on Judah shall a blessing be bestowed, but upon the whole world. Forgiveness is unbounded if there is repentance, no matter what the sin may be. He almost anticipates the message of Jesus by saying, “ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” God's mercy is past finding out. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters !" So full is he of the boundless love of God, extended to all created things, that he calls on the hills and the mountains to rejoice. Here he soars beyond the Jew; he takes in the whole world in his rapturous expectation of deliverance. He comforts all good people under chastisement. He is as cheerful as Jeremiah is sad.

Having laid down the conditions of forgiveness, and expatiated on the divine benevolence, Isaiah now sings another song, and ascends to loftier heights. He is jubilant over the promised glories of God's people; he speaks of the redemption of both Jew and Gentile. His prophetic mission is now more distinctly unfolded. He blends the forgiveness of sins with the promised

Deliverer; he unfolds the advent of the Messiah. He even foretells in what form He shall come; he predicts the main facts of His personal history. Not only shall there “come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of its roots,” but he shall be “a man despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; who shall be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, brought as a lamb to the slaughter, cut off from the living, making his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death; yet bruised because it pleased the Lord, and because he made his soul an offering for sin, and made intercession with the transgressors.” Who is this stricken, persecuted, martyred personage, bearing the iniquity of the race, and thus providing a way for future salvation ? Isaiah, with transcendent majesty of style, clear and luminous as it is poetical, declares that this person who is still unborn, this light which shall appear in Galilee, is no less than he on whose shoulders shall be the government, “whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; of the increase of whose kingdom and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice forever.”

Only in some of the Messianic Psalms do we meet with kindred passages, indicating the reign of the Christ upon the earth, expressed with such emphatic clearness. How marvellous and wonderful this prophecy ! Seven hundred years before its fulfilment, it is expressed with such minuteness, that, had the prophet lived in the Apostolic age, he could not have described the Messiah more accurately. The devout Jew, especially after the Captivity, believed in a future deliverer, who should arise from the seed of David, establish a great empire, and reign as a temporal monarch ; but he had no lofty and spiritual views of this predicted reign. To Isaiah, more even than to Abraham or David or any other person in Jewish history, was it revealed that the reign of the Christ was to be spiritual; that he was not to be a temporal deliverer, but a Saviour redeeming mankind from the curse of sin. Hence Isaiah is quoted more than all the other prophets combined, especially by the writers of the New Testament.

Having announced this glorious prediction of the advent into our world of a divine Redeemer in the form of a man, by whose life and suffering and death the world should be saved, the prophet-poet breaks out in rhapsodies. He cannot contain his exultation. He loses sight of the judgments he had declared, in his unbounded rejoicings that there was to be a deliverance; that not only a remnant would return to Jerusalem and become a renewed power, but that the Messiah should ultimately reign over all the nations of the

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