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appearance, the valleys
smiling on every side with renovated and augmented verdure. Thus the Jews desired, that the ravages made in their now desolated country might be soon repaired, and that, through the influence of their almighty Guardian, their efforts might be crowned with speedy and complete success. ]
We forbear to dwell upon the event itself, that we may enter somewhat minutely into, II. The more glorious deliverance that was typified
by itThe event before us is undoubtedly to be regarded as shadowing forth that infinitely greater deliverance which is wrought for us by the Lord Jesus Christ a. And the correspondence between the two is particularly striking. "Observe, 1. The deliverance itself
(Grievous as was the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, it was nothing in comparison of that sorer bondage to which we are subjected by the power of sin and the wiles
of Satan. All indeed have not the same work assigned them; but all are walking after the imagination of their own hearts, “ being taken in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will."
The promised Deliverer however has arrived; has entered into the conflict with our great adversary, and utterly subdued him. Jesus, foretold by name hundreds of years before his advent in the flesh, has accomplished the work for which he was raised up: and, having now " ascended up on high and led captivity captive," he has sent his heralds to“ proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” This is the very first use he makes of his newly-acquired power. Nor is it an empty proclamation, without any facilities afforded for carrying his gracious purposes into effect: he gives us back for the use and honour of Jehovah all those vessels of which we had been despoiled, and which, though originally formed for the service of God alone, have, through the influence of our great adversary, been prostituted and debased to the vilest uses: yes, all our faculties and powers are now restored by him to their proper office; and the allsufficient aid of his Spirit is promised to us throughout all our dreary pilgrimage. Our almighty Deliverer has gone further still, and issued his commands to all throughout his vast empire, to succour us in our work, and to impart to us whatsoever we may stand in need of® : the very angels in heaven are enjoined to attend us in all our way, to encamp round about us, to hold us up lest at any time we dash our foot against a stone, and to minister to us in all that our necessities may require.
d Compare Isai. xl. 3—5. with Luke iii. 3—6. or Isai. lii. 7. with Rom. x. 15.
e Ezra i. 1-11.
All this too is offered to us as a free act of mercy on the part of our great Deliverer. It was one of the most extraordinary parts of the Jews' deliverance from Babylon, that Cyrus should liberate them without any remuneration : but how does it exalt beyond all estimate the value of our redemption, that it is offered to us freely, "without money and without price!"] 2. The effects produced by it
[When first a soul that has been sinking under a load of sin and guilt is made to hear the tidings of a free and full deliverance, they seem to him “as an idle tale:” he can scarcely believe it possible that such mercy should be vouchsafed to him, and that one who has been all his days a willing captive should be delivered: and, when the joys of this salvation burst upon his soul, he appears to himself to be, as it were, in a dream; so far does the deliverance exceed all that he could previously have conceived. Then his mouth, which was but lately filled with lamentations and complaints, is "filled with laughter, and his tongue with singing?” Nor is the surprise confined to him alone: his friends and neighbours behold with astonishment the change that has taken place in him : they now see the whole course of his life changed: they behold the chains with which he was tied and bound, now loosed; the sins that once had dominion over him, now mortified; and the griefs, which they interpreted as symptoms or forerunners of derangement, now turned to joy, and “thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” So great is the change in their eyes, that though they love it not, they are constrained to admire it, and to acknowledge the hand of God in it; “The Lord hath done great things for them :” and, though they may deride it in public, they envy in their hearts the lot which they affect to despise. As for those who experience the happy change, they thankfully adore their heavenly Benefactor; “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad!” – - They take their harps that have been so long suspended on the willows, and sing with inexpressible delight the songs of Zion.
But the more they have experienced, the more they desire to possess all the fulness of the blessings prepared for them. Gladly would they, if it were possible, have all the remains of sin purged out from their hearts, and all conflicts with it for ever terminated. They pant for the full attainment of the Divine image ; and cry with fervour to their God, “Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south!" Still however, not discouraged by the length of their journey, or the difficulties to be surmounted, or the toils which they must undergo,
f Isai. xxxv. 10.
before they shall attain the full object of their desires, they set out in humble dependence on their God, assured of final and complete success. They are willing to "sow in tears, confident that in due time they shall reap in joy."] ADDRESS
1. To those who have experienced some measure of this deliverance
[You have heard the parallel drawn between the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, and that of which you are the happy subjects. It remains for you to carry it yet further, and to realize it in its utmost extent. Of all the multitudes who set out on their journey towards Zion, there was not one who was not sensible of the cruel bondage from which he had been delivered ; not one who did not feel his obligations to Cyrus as his great deliverer; not one, who did not see that his provision by the way, and his succours at the close of his journey, were the fruits of that same grace that first proclaimed the deliverance: moreover, all of them without exception would feel a consciousness that they were not yet arrived at the place which their souls longed after ; but that they were daily proceeding towards it: they felt no inclination to rest satisfied with any thing they met with in the wilderness; but looked forward to the enjoyment of God's ordinances in Jerusalem as the consummation of their bliss. Now then let it be so with you. Never for a moment lose the remembrance of your former captivity, or of your obligations to the Lord Jesus Christ, who "by his own death has destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and hath delivered those who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” Never for a moment forget that you are on a journey towards Zion, and that all your fresh springs are in that adorable Saviour, who has redeemed you by his blood. Never for a moment cease to press forward in your heavenly way; but, forgetting what is behind, reach forward, like coursers, to the destined goal. Let all your hopes, and all your happiness be in heaven. In a word, be exactly in the state and habit of your minds, what the liberated captives were in their journey towards Zion. Then will you have attained the perfection of Christian pilgrims, and will in due time possess in all its fulness your destined inheritance.]
2. To those who are yet the bond-slaves of sin and Satan
[This is the state of every man by nature. It is to little purpose to say, that we are not addicted to any gross iniquity; for as the whole world lieth in wickedness," or, " in the wicked one :" and if the Captain of our Salvation have not rescued us from the hands of " the strong man armed,” our very peace is a VOL. VI.
sufficient evidence of our bondage. If you are yet strangers to the experience above described, you are yet in bondage to the great enemy of Zion
But we are authorized to declare that this adversary is cast down; that our Cyrus has prevailed over him; and that liberty is now given to every captive in Babylon to return to Zion. Behold, as a herald of our adorable Saviour, I now announce to you these glad tidings. O! be ye not like too many of that ill-fated nation, who preferred their ease to toils, their bondage to liberty, their dwellings in Babylon to their inheritance in Jerusalem.
Put yourselves under the guidance of the true Zerubbabel, before whom “the mountains shall become a plain.” If you meet with difficulties, know that he has issued his proclamation to all his creatures, to afford you all necessary aid : and if, instead of aiding, they endeavour to obstruct you, he has engaged that all things shall work together for your good. Come out then from Babylon, every one of you ; and let this be the one harmonious proposal of you all, “Come, let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God.” Fear not but that the object, when attained, will richly recompense all the difficulties of your way. Even in this world your joys shall be unspeakable and glorified :" but who can conceive the joy that awaits you in the Zion above? How will your mouth then be filled with laughter, and your tongue with singing! How will you then, in concert with all the heavenly hosts, exclaim,“ The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad!” Be content then to go on your way weeping, bearing precious seed, knowing assuredly that at last you shall come again with rejoicing, bearing your sheaves with you.”]
SOWING IN TEARS.
THIS seems to be a general truth founded on the experience of those who returned from the Babylonish captivity, and the correspondent experience of all who return from the bondage of sin and Satan. The Israelites, like Peter liberated from his prison, were so astonished at their deliverance, that it seemed to them more like a dream than a reality. The very heathens themselves wondered at it, and ascribed it to the influence of Jehovah, as also the Israelites did with joy and gratitude, taking occasion from it to implore the speedy and perfect restoration of all their tribes“. Such also are the wonder and joy occasioned by the conversion of a soul to God; and such are the desires which instantly vent themselves in fervent petitions for complete deliverance. But as among the captive Jews, so in the enslaved soul, a season of sorrow precedes the time of emancipation. Nevertheless it shall be found universally true, that they who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Let us inquire, I. What we are to understand by sowing in tears ?
“ The sorrow of the world worketh death;” and therefore cannot be that to which the promise is made. To sow in tears implies, , 1. A painful recollection of past sins-
[We all are sinners from our earliest youth: and every sin we have ever committed, is as fresh in the remembrance of the Deity as if it had been committed this very hour. Nor should we think the less of our sins because they have been long passed : on the contrary, we should view them with all the
shame and sorrow that they excited in our bosoms the very instant that our consciences first accused us. Like God's people of old, we should be bowed down greatly in the recolIection of them, and earnestly entreat, with David, that God would not call us into judgment for them.] 2. A penitent concern for present infirmities
[The very best of men has much within him to mourn over. It is but in part that any of us are renewed. Many are the corruptions that yet work within us; and the very imperfection of our prayers and praises is enough to make us go mourning all the day long. "St. Paul found so much conflict in his soul by reason of his indwelling corruptions that he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am !" and groaned earnestly for death as the season when he should be freed from all the imperfections of his nature, and serve, as well as enjoy, God with unabated ardouro. Thus should we also“ go softly before God in the bitterness of our souls," and lothe ourselves before him in dust and ashes 8.]
a Ver. 1-4. The rain which descended in torrents on the southern or hilly country of Judea, often filled the vallies with rapid streams, which quickly passing away as soon as the rain ceased, the rivers were suddenly transformed into verdant fields. Thus sudden and perfect the Israelites desired their restoration to be.
Ps. xxxviii. 3—8. Jer. xxxi. 19. and iii. 25. Ezek. xvi. 63. c Ps. xxv. 7. d Rom. vii. 14-24. e 2 Cor. y. 4. f Isai. xxxviii. 15. & Job xl. 4. and xlii. 6.