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VEXATION OF FALSE RELIGION.
ISAIAH xxviii. last of 19.
“And it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.”
The prophet, in this chapter, contemplates the house of Israel in a state of great seeming security, into which they had introduced themselves, by making a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, and by preparing for themselves a refuge of lies.
As is perfectly natural with those, who, by their own wisdom, frame for themselves partial systems, this peuple exulted in their confidence, and raised their expectations of seeing the destructions and calamities, from which they fancied themselves secure, fall like an overflowing scourge on those who had neglected to enter into their covenant, to avail themselves of their agreement, and to take shelter in their refuge.
According to their confidence and expectation they said ; "We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall
pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.”
Thus an overflowing scourge was expected; but it was to come on others, they were safe. They had made due preparations for security, and had nothing to anticipate but their own safety and the destruction of others, who had neglected to get an interest in their means of defence.
But the wisdom of man is foolishness with God. When he thinks himself secure, and is looking out for the destruction of others, he is frequently subjected to
the vexation of seeing his confidence fail, his hope expire, and his expectations die.
Such was the lot of that people whom the prophet 19 addressed in this chapter. For in reply to their boasting, the Lord says ; " Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone; a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line. and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge od alt shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by the la it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and
thal by night, and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man čan stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower terech than that he can wrap himself in it." This was widely different from their expectations. All their calculations failed. Their covenant with death disannulled; their agreement with hell dissolved; and the waters overflowed the hiding-places composed of lies. The bed prepared for repose is found to be too short; and the covering designed for defence from the cold, is too narrow. Thus their labor is kost: and
I. in room of security they find trouble, and in room of beholding the destruction of others, they are vexed with the report of their own.
That the spirit of prophecy spake in this chapter concerning Christ and the gospel day seems evident from the 16th verse, which has been quoted. 5 Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, à
ILL tried stone; a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste.” Compare this with the following words of St. Peter; * Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded." Also Acts iv. 11. « This is the stone
which was set at nought by you builders, which is
By the light shed on our subject, by this comparison of scripture testimony, we are assisted to make the following conclusions.
I. The doctrine and religion of the old Jewish church, were represented by the prophet, as a covenant with death, an agreement with hell, and a refuge of lies.
II. The Messiah, his doctrine and religion, are represented by a precious corner stone, judgment laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and to hail and to waters forming an overflowing scourge, by which the covenant with death is disannulled, the agreement with hell destroyed, and the refuge of lies overflown. And
III. The vexation which the report of the doctrine, religion, and things of Jesus would cause his enemies, in the day of the manifestation of his power and grace.
The doctrine and religion of the old Pharisees, the most religious sect among the Jews, being the natural fruits of their carnal evil hearts, were very justly represented by a covenant and an agreement with death and hell. St. Paul says, “ To be carnally minded is
death." And Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, said; “O generation of vipers ! how long can ye, being evil, speak good things ? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man, out of the good treasures of his heart, bringeth forth good things ; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things.'
There never was but two sorts of religion in the world, the true and the false. True religion is the natural growth of a good heart; and false religion is the spontaneous production of an evil heart. There never was but two doctrines in the world, the true and the false. The true doctrine is the offspring of the wisdom which is from above ; and the false is the vain imagination of the wisdom which is from beneath. “ The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy;” but the wisdom which is from beneath is directly the reverse; it is impure, contentious, unkind, inexorable, unmerciful, full of evil fruits, partial, and hypocritical
This last was the doctrine of the Pharisees. It was that leaven which had, in a great degree, leavened the whole Jewish nation. It rendered the Pharisees and the people in general so inimical to Christ and his gospel.
This doctrine, which is represented by a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell
, may always be known by its enmity. Put it into whatever dress you may, call it by whatever name you please, represent it as the most precious of all treasures, all this does not alter its nature. Call it, if you will
, the apostolic faith, the holy catholic, the evangelic, the Calvinistic, the Arminian, or the orthodox; if there be partiality, if there be an unmerciful spirit
, and if there be an implacable wrath in it, it is a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell. This doctrine may be taught by a renowned Gamaliel, it may have and command the influence of colleges and eminent professors, it may be decorated with gowns and bands, but it remains the same.
6 Wo unto you,
Lies and hypocrisy are its refuge. In his faithfulness to his adversaries, our Saviour did not fail to point out their hypocrisy, and the methods by which they deceived the people. He said ; “ Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widow's houses, and for a pretence make long prayer. All such prayers were falsehoods; they were mere pretences, designed to deceive the people. For this species of hypocrisy, Jesus told them, that they should receive the greater damnation.
Again, the Saviour said ; "Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and, when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves.” This must have been done by falsehood and deceit.
“Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and ex
This again is all deceit. scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.” All this was designed to point out their hypocrisy, in appearing to be righteous when they were full of iniquity.
Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." All this again was hypocrisy, which proved them to be the children of those who killed the prophets. The Saviour further said to his enemies; “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! how can ye escape the damnation of hell ??
Speaking to his disciples concerning the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said ; " All their works do they to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the