<< Isaiah 2: The Mountain of the Lord’s House >>
2And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. ISAIAH II. 2-5.
The last days — the last days — what can be the meaning of these expressions ? The common reader has long been accustomed to associate with them the end of all things ; the resurrection of men’s dead bodies, and the burning of the world. They have been words of terror and dread ; yet nothing can be plainer than that they are here the words of hope, and peace. The emblem presented to the mind is that of a glorious temple placed upon a mountain towering above all others — a point of beauty and glory to which every eye should look, every heart should turn. The nations of the earth flocking towards it, and cheering each other by the way. These being taught how to walk, to obey, and to judge, they should return to practise the arts of peace alone, and make universal light, the constant attendant of universal integrity and love. ” O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
One thing is quite certain : this prophecy is quite incompatible with the idea of the destruction of the world preached by many, and so it is with a large number of others. The prophet speaks of the highest worship of the Lord, and of the most fervent love to Him. But men have been taught to sonsider the last days as the period of apostacy, vice, and delusion. The prophet speaks of the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of men ; of peace, virtue, and wisdom, as then being the practice of mankind. There is no room here for ” the wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.” Which is the truth? Let us investigate.
And, firstly, let me remark, that the heart-cheering view of the world’s progress to a final state of regenerated excellence and happiness, is not confined to this passage ; it is the crowning disclosure of every prophecy, and of the whole Book of God. The wonder is, that this has been so completely overlooked.
In the eleventh chapter, the prophet speaks of a period when “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” — Ver. 9. The sixtieth and succeeding chapters to the end of the prophecy, unfold an era of light, and love, and righteousness, which has never yet been realized, and when brought to pass, would undoubtedly supply the best reason for the world’s continuance.
The latter chapters of Ezekiel are the description of a renovated world. The prophecy of Daniel, after describing the different dispensations of religion under the images of the different parts of the great image which the king saw, from the head of gold, to the feet partly of iron and partly of miry clay, declares : “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall NEVER BE DESTROYED : and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it SHALL STAND FOREVER.” —Chap. ii. 44. In a succeeding prophecy, it is said of the Son of Man, when brought to the Ancient of Days, representative of the Son and the Father being no longer divided in human minds, but united as one Divine Person, “And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages, should serve him : his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which SHALL NOT PASS AWAY, and His kingdom that which SHALL NOT BE DESTROYED.” — Chap. vii. 14.
The prophet Joel, after describing the glorious state of the last days under the images of Judah and Jerusalem restored, says : ” But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.” — Chap. iii. 20. Zechariah says : ” In that day there shall be one king over all the earth : in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name One.” — Chap. xiv. 9.
In the New Testament there are similar declarations. Thus in the Book of Revelation: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven saying. The kingdoms of THIS WORLD are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and he shall reign for EVER AND EVER.” — Chap. xi. 15. The last two chapters are entirely taken up with a description of the church, under the image of a magnificent city of gold and pearls, the New Jerusalem, which should descend from heaven, and bless the earth, and there the vision ends, leading certainly to the inference that this would be the last and permanent in the earth’s career ; this was the crowning work of Divine Providence; the discipline of ages had all prepared for it, and it would endure for ever.
We shall certainly arrive at the same conclusion if we consider the condition of the earth, or of the human mind. Who that knows anything of the discoveries of science can suppose that the earth is exhausted as a worn-out thing, or that such exhaustion is possible? Look at the new revelations of the earth’s which knowledge has brought forth in the last fifty years, the wonders of steam, of chemistry generally, of electricity, of light! It is as if new worlds had been discovered in the former one, and no one who knows anything upon the subject dreams that we are more than just entering into these grand avenues of intelligence. We have only recently begun fairly to know something of this earthy house of our Father ; and is this the time, as some have vainly surmised, for Him to destroy it? Nay, we now know that knowledge is infinite, and each fresh discovery enlarges our view of the greatness, goodness, and wisdom of the Divine Maker. ” The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work.” Can we then suppose that the scene of these wonders shall cease ? Surely, the conclusion is far more rational, which implies that if the Divine Mercy has continued the earth’s existence, through ages of cruelty, darkness, and folly, that now when lights have been opened to guide man to higher views of all things, of himself, of the world he inhabits, and of the God who made both. He will continue it, in these its nobler conditions, to be a training-place for heaven. And, indeed, we may surely ask, Why destroy the earth at all? what evil has it done? It is a glorious world. It is full of beauty, full of wisdom. Let us but do our duty, and we shall find the world a scene of comfort and peace, of abundance and blessing, such as we now but faintly anticipate.
The same conclusion will come back to us if we regard the human race in its past and present conditions. It started well, but soon began to decline. Since this declension began, the race has multiplied, and spread in all directions. Through weary ages experience of all kinds has been gained, but chiefly experience of the bitter fruits of wrong. Now, however, all feel and confess that a new influence has set in; a new age commenced. The multitudes are being taught, and they are thinking. The appliances of science, and the goodwill of the leaders of men, are operating to bring the blessings of each to the door of all. The cheapening, and thus the extension of literature, and the purity and elevation of its tone ; the unexampled supply of Bibles as the head of all the means of real progress; the yearly increase in the number of schools, and the constantly more urgent efforts of the promoters to obtain greater efficiency; the means of travel, brought by the rail within reach of every one ; these, and a thousand other influences are incessantly at work assailing ignorance, prejudice and brutality everywhere, and saying practically to every one, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee ; for darkness has covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, but the Lord has arisen upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.”
But can we for a moment suppose, that these new and wonderful operations of Divine Providence would have been begun, unless they were to be carried out to completion ? Can we imagine that these blessings will, after all, never reach the great mass of mankind, who are equally endowed with faculties for improvement with those who already are generally enlightened ? Is not God the Father of all, and must He not will the elevation and blessing of all. We think so. Will He then arrest and extinguish the daily widening circle of light and love, while yet it is in its infancy ? Surely not. All rational reflection points to the probability, and even certainty of the fulfilment of the sacred promise concerning the Messiah, ” Of His dominion and peace there shall be no end.”
But, again, comes the question, What then is meant by the “last days?” The answer is at hand. The last period of a dispensation is its ”last days.” When one religion is near its end, and another and a purer has begun to spread itself, then is the time meant by “the last days,” and kindred expressions. The last days of the Jewish religion were when the Christian began. This is evident from a number of passages. The apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost said, ” This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel : And it shall come to pass in the last days saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Here, the apostle describes those as the last days, although they were nearly two thousand years ago. Paul speaks in the same manner : ” God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” In the flame style, he calls that period the end of the world : ” For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world : but now once in the end of the world hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” — Heb. ix. 26.
Again: ”Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” — 1 Cor. x. 11. John speaks in the same style. He says, ” Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists ; whereby we know that it is the last time.” —1 John ii. 18. From these instances it is easy to perceive that the phrases ” last days,” “end of the world,” ” last time,” and others, have no reference to the termination of the material globe, much less of the entire universe, but only to the end of the Church — the the moral world. It comes to its last days, when unbelief and hypocrisy so far prevail, that its genuine principles are no longer operative. The only power that can check evil among mankind, is the power of religion. Faith grounded in love conquers sin ; nothing else will. But when faith itself has become corrupted, and no longer speaks out its Master’s will, but becomes an excuse for disobedience and worldliness, then the Church in which this has fully taken place becomes worthless and expires. This is the end of that world. When, however, one church is expiring, the Lord always provides another. When the old world is passing away, the new world is coming in. In the ” last days” a sham religion expires, but a new religion is born; hence, then, in some places of the Scriptures, the ” last days” are spoken of as a time of ruin; a period of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven ; while, on the other hand, they give us glowing descriptions of the brightness, the freshness, the order, and the blessings which are the attendants of the new time. The one class relates to the expiring church, the other to the rising church; neither to the natural, but both to the spiritual order of things.
The prophet Isaiah, then, looking onwards through the vista of ages, describes the character of the New Church, which would appear in the last days of the old one. Let us endeavour to ascertain that character.
In the first place, it is distinguished by THE LORD, or Jehovah, dwelling in a house. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established at the top of the mountains.” And yet it is said of the New Jerusalem, “I saw no temple therein.” The solution of the two probably is, that the house of Jehovah in the New Church is not in the church, nor of the church, but is the humanity of God Himself far above the church, “For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” —Rev. xxi.22. In the New Church, the proper temple of Deity, is no place on earth, nor is any one place, as a place, holier than another, or more than another, the dwelling-place of the Most High. Places of instruction and prayer there will be, but these will not be more hallowed than places where labour is performed from holy motives. The presence of Jehovah would not be confined to certain spots as His dwelling-place. His spirit would pervade the whole. Justice and judgment would be the habitation of His throne. Wherever these were, there would He be. But the House of His Supreme Abode would be His own Humanity. “The Lamb would be the Temple.”
The truth now opening upon us from the text is a most important one. May the Lord enable us to see it correctly. Send out thy Holy Spirit, adorable Saviour, to guide us on this subject into all thy truth.
Before the Lord’s incarnation. He manifested himself only by angels to the spiritual sight of men, and flowed through angels in His communications to the human race. He was God in first principles, infinite Love and Wisdom in essence. He dwelt in light inaccessible, which no man had seen, nor could see. He was the Father whose voice no one had heard, and whose shape no one had seen (John v. 37).
In such circumstances God may be the object of awe and reverence, but not of clear knowledge and ardent love. The imperfect revelation of God, which could take place under such arrangements, could only be answered by imperfect love and imperfect worship. Jehovah, to the Jews, was necessarily rather a dreadful God than a loving one. And, as that people sank lower, God seen through the states of their own souls, He would seem more and more awful and terrible. The real nature of God, as a Father, could not be known. The extent and absolute character of His tender and saving love could not be appreciated until He assumed our nature, and presented Himself as ”God manifested in the flesh.” Then, as this Humanity was the Humanity of God the Father, it was called His Son; and though it was, externally, in all respects like another Humanity, still it was the proper Human Form of “The Everlasting Father.” And, because of there being no human father, even in the humanity, there was an interior nature, making it capable of being glorified and perfected, so as to become God of God. Therefore, says the apostle, ”Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” — Heb. i. 8, 9. This glorified Humanity is, therefore, the house of Jehovah, the temple of the Father, in it He has perfectly revealed Himself as Divine Love Incarnate. His words, His works. His sufferings, His death. His resurrection, all reveal love to His creatures, and love to the uttermost. In this way the Son brought the Father to view. The Father was in the Son. Thus, only, could men honour the Son as they honour the Father (John v. 23), and not be guilty of idolatry. For He is the outward person of the Father. “He and the Father are one.” — John x. 30.
The dimness and deficiency of all former churches arose from their having no perfect revelation of God. They saw Him only through mediums more or less perfect. What He was in Himself they could but surmise. And their surmises would be certain to have much in them taken from themselves. ” Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself,” it is said in the Psalms (l. 21). And when the Deity a person worships is a reflexion of his own passions and principles, he cannot rise to a higher standard. Man never dreams of becoming better than his God.
The churches before the incarnation were then necessarily imperfect and weak, and incapable of bringing the human race to a high standard of heavenly excellence. And even the first Christian Church, as it saw the truth, that Christ was God Himself in the flesh, with some degree of faintness, in consequence of its being so great and so strange to men at that time, they lost hold of it, and framed the doctrine of three divine persons, leaving the Father out of the Son, and in an incomprehensible majesty distant from, and above the Son. Then came the play of human fancy and feeling. The revealed God they knew, and knew that He was love itself, and mercy itself. The other God they framed after their own imagination, and conceived Him to be awful, swift to anger, and terrible in His wrath. And thus room was made for those fearful dogmas which have issued from Rome and Geneva, of the different modes to be pursued to allay the wrath of this God out of Christ .
In the new dispensation, however, ” God in Christ, Jehovah in His temple, the temple of His body ” (John ii. 21), would be the great failure, the distinguishing glory. The mountain of the Lord’s house, or Jehovah’s house, should be at the top of the mountains, and above all the hills.
This revelation of Jehovah in His Humanity meets precisely the interior demands of the soul. The heart asks for a Divine Man. Hence the tendency, so manifest in every age, to deify heroes and heroines. The incomprehensible gives no comfort. We want an Immanuel, God with us. In becoming incarnate, then, and glorifying His Humanity, the Eternal for ever met this want.
“Amazing mercy! love immense!
Surpassing every human sense !
Since time and sense began !
That man might shun the realms of pain.
And know and love his God again,
His God became a man.”
The Humanity then became the Way, the Truth, and the Life, to the human race. ” No man could come to the Father but by Him.” He is the grand vine, from which all Christians should, as branches, receive their life. ” He is the head of all things, and by Him all things consist.” — Col. ii. 10. ” In Him dwells all the FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY.” — Col. ii. 9. The glorification of the Humanity, so that it became fully a divine Human Form, is the peculiar doctrine of the Lord’s New Church. The Sabellians, and many early bodies of Christians, probably the great majority, maintained that the Father Himself was incarnate in the Lord Jesus, because, as they believed in one God the Father, and that God became incarnate to them, it followed that Jehovah Himself became incarnate. This has occasioned it sometimes to be said that, in reference to the Deity, the doctrine of the New Church was but a revival of Sabellianism. But this is a mistake. The Sabellians knew nothing of the glorification of the Lord’s Humanity, so that it also became divine. And this constitutes the especial glory of the New Church doctrine. In the changes which the Humanity underwent during the Lord’s life upon earth, analogous to those man goes through during his regeneration, we see the reason for all those varied utterances of the Saviour which have so much perplexed the uninformed reader. Sometimes, the Lord speaking of being able to do nothing of Himself : at others, as having all power : sometimes praying to the Father ; at others, saying, ”that he who sees Him sees the Father.” Crying to God as if He had forsaken Him on the cross, and suffering Thomas to hail Him as God and Lord afterwards. These changes, precisely similar to those which man undergoes in the trials of regeneration, are all explained by the doctrine of the Lord’s glorification, which accounts for them all, and enables the thoughtful Christian to have a view embracing all that the Scriptures teach respecting God ; and all that the soul needs. While in the glorified Human the Godhead stands forth comprehensible, fully revealed, and fully known. We have no God anywhere out of the Lord Jesus. There is, there can be, no further or superior revelation of the Father, since He was the Father in person. The prophecy is fulfilled. “A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest ; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land ; and the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.” — Isa. xxxii. 2, 3.
A Man, who at the same time is divine, alone can fulfil these gracious promises.
O if we would only attend to the sublime doctrine of Jehovah drawing near to us, and becoming a man to connect us to Himself, what a light it would throw over the whole of the divine dealings with us, and over the history of man ! Either Jesus is God, or that which was intended to be the clearest revelation of God by Him, has led to the most stupendous and inveterate idolatry. But no ; the prophecies declared that Jehovah would come into the world ; that God would manifest Himself to man ; that the knowledge of the Lord would cover the earth ; and these predictions were surely to be fulfilled : and the Man who could call Himself the Bread of Life, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Light of the World, the Resurrection, the First and the Last, the root and the offspring of David, the possessor of all power in heaven and on earth, must be a Divine Man. If Jesus Christ were not God, the more He drew men to Himself the more He drew them from God. But it cannot be. Christ is the wisdom of God, the power of God revealed and accommodated to men. ” The glorified Son must all the angels of God worship.” — Heb. I. 6. ” He is God over all, blessed for ever.” The Deity the soul needs and seeks is found in Him. Love unutterable is there. Wisdom unimpeachable is in Him. Power ever present, ever potent, ever flowing from mercy, is in Him and from Him. He is at once the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, “the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.”And when once the soul embraces Him as the All in All, a sweet calm comes over it. A holy clearness and confidence, which results from having formed an Almighty Friend. The Humanity made divine beams with every blessing for us, and the heart rises in in grateful adoration to the Everlasting who has who has revealed Himself in the Prince of Peace. “The mountain of the Lord’s house rises above the top of the mountains, and above all the hills.”
The mountain here, as elsewhere, in a good sense, corresponds to love to the Lord, the highest love of the soul. The mountain of the Lord’s house particularly represents the love of the Lord in His Divine Humanity. This is said to be above the mountains, because these correspond to the affections we have for the Lord in His general character. We love Him as Creator, as Ruler of the Universe, as Provider, as God of all mankind; but when we know Him as Jesus our Saviour, in that character He is dearest of all. He is brought near to us ; as tenderly caring for us ; as stretching out His arms of protection and invitation to all who are weary and heavy laden, and saying, ” I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” What would creation have been to us without redemption? And what would redemption for the world haVe been without our individual salvation ? The love of Him as our Saviour must tower above every other love, whether to the Lord or to our neighbour, whether mountain or hill.
The correspondence of mountain, the highest part of the earth, to the love of the Lord, the highest principle of the mind, yields lessons of the utmost interest and importance when we are reading and learning the Word. In the opposite sense, however, we must bear in mind it represents self-love, with all its heights of pride, vanity, and ostentation.
How beautiful is the lesson taught, when we are assured that the Lord will provide, — Jehovah-jireh, will be seen in the mount of the Lord, to this day (Gen. xxii. 14). He who has this mount of the Lord within him will always find there, in every trial and every sorrow, as if in golden letters, written, ” The Lord will provide.” Of Zebulon it is said, ” They shall call the people unto the mountain ; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness : for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.” — Deut xxxiii. 19. Happy are they who always offer their sacrifices of worship and adoration from the mountain of love. The mountains which bring peace (Ps. lxxii. 3), and the mountain in which none shall hurt nor destroy, refer to the same holy affections. And the mountains of the latter-day glory which shall drop down with new wine (Joel iii. 18), are also beautifully emblematic of the celestial affections of love to God, yielding the new wine of cheering wisdom in abundance; the new wine of the Father’s kingdom to exhilarate, to encourage, and to bless. Happy is he who in trial can say, like David, “Lord, by Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong”— Ps. xxx. 7. Let our mountain of the Lord’s house rise above the mountains and hills, or, in other words, let the love of the Lord Jesus, the Divine Man, rise above all other affections, either to God or our neighbour, and we shall be certain all safety and of every blessing. ” He who came from above is above all.”— John iii. 31.
Do we ask tor spiritual nourishment? He is the Bread of life. Do we seek for illumination ? He is the True Light. Do we ask for power to overcome our evils ? He says, ” I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy : and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” — Luke x. 19. Do we seek for peace in death ? He gives it. And do we expect safety and joy in eternity ? From Him we shall gain these blessings. ” Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” — Rev. ii. 10.
To this mountain it is said all nations shall flow, and many people shall go and say, ”Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.”
And surely the time is coming when all good men, tired of looking to an incomprehensible, unrevealed, mysterious God, will rejoice to hail the Divine Saviour as the Fountain of every blessing. ” Thy Maker is thy husband ; the Lord of hosts is His name ; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel ; the GOD OF THE WHOLE EARTH shall He be Called.” — Isa. liv. 6.
But they will not only acknowledge the supreme government of Him who is God, and Christ (Rev. xi. 15), ”And he shall reign for ever and ever ;” but they will say. He will teach us of His, and we will walk in His paths. When the Lord opens His Word to the mind, He teaches us of His ways ; and when we bring our increased light into practice, we walk in His paths.
A sad world this has been since men adopted the religion of faith only, and neglected the religion of walking. No amount of looking, wishing, dreaming, or intending, could bring us from the far-off state, in which we are by nature, to the golden city of our God without walking. And yet, too many acted on and professed the maxim, that walking had no relation to salvation ; on the contrary, all the practical religion of even good men was filthy rags. They were uninstructed in the real ways of heaven. In the beautifully simple language of our text, however, it is written, “He will teach us of his ways.”
To trace the ways of Divine Mercy and Providence is one of the most salutary exercises of mankind, and here we are taught that there shall be the fullest opportunity for it in the New Church. “He willteach us of His ways.” While the early records of the Word of God were not understood, through the science of correspondence having been lost; and while no one had been allowed to open to us the laws and scenes of the inner world, and thus the inner principles of man’s existence could only be vaguely guessed at, the ways of God could only be imperfectly taught; but are assured that in the latter days the Lord will teach us of His ways. And He has done so. We can now trace the operations of eternal Love and Wisdom with our first parents, leading them step by step, in freedom, from the innocence of ignorance to the happy state represented by the Garden of Eden. Then we have unfolded to us the progress of the fall, from man’s first incipient uneasiness under the divine leading to his settling down into that carnal external state meant by spiritual death, in which he eats the fruit of his own tree of knowledge, and forfeits and quits the blessed trees of Eden. We learn, too, how the persistence in evil, and the prostitution of the early wisdom of mankind, brought those malignant floods of impiety, from which only a few were saved by the ark of a new religion. We are brought down the stream of time, and see the people of the Noatic period, who also, after a time,began to forget their danger and the divine mercy, becoming infatuated with the spiritual knowledge with which they had been gifted, and drunk with self-conceit. Still,however, were they watched over, their evils checked, and provision made for restoration again and again; and when no real spiritual church could exist among men, a representative of a church was formed, which could continue and preserve the connexion between heaven and earth, until the wonderful period when God Himself should become a man, and unite, for ever, all things in Himself. He shall teach us of His ways ; and men will learn that all His works have been done in truth. He will teach us of His ways in the Christian dispensation. How He drew men to as full an acquaintance with Himself as their dark and heathen state would permit, but there were many things to say unto them which they could not then bear (John xvi. 12). He saw that they would again fall away; that the love of many would wax cold, and iniquity would abound (Matt. xxiv. 12). But yet this falling away would terminate in a free state of the spirits of men, in which all old superstitions and prejudices would lose their hold; and the reason of mankind unshackled, would be ready to try all things, and hold fast that which is good with a vigour and fulness unknown before. Then the eternal Saviour would make all things new (Rev. xxi. 5). Then He would show mankind plainly of the Father (John xvi. 25). Then would the golden city, the New Jerusalem descend. Then would all good things of all ages, old and new, be gathered together, and be understood in beautiful clearness. Then would the ways of God shine with a lustre unknown before, and the nations of them which are saved would walk in the light of the holy city. The Bride, the Lamb’s wife, would be adorned for her Divine Husband with a beautiful clearness and splendour of truth, for which all ages are prepared, and which would open to man the laws, the light and the peace, which compose angelic bliss. Men would be led to live on earth as they are to live in heaven. “He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.”
As a consequence of this unfolding of the wisdom of heaven, and the reception of the laws of love, it is said, the Lord ” shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.”
When nations and people bring their faults under the light of divine principles they need no other judge. In the days that are gone, selfishness was the supreme motive of nations, and the ways by which its ends could be secured, their greatest wisdom. He who could aggrandize his country, at whatever cost to others, was the national hero. The greatest plunderers became often the nation’s pride. Hence,
” Man’s inhumanity to man
Made countless thousands mourn.”
But in the new age it shall not be so. The Lord shall be the judge, the Lord shall be the lawgiver. He shall save us. It will be a fixed principle, that, what is wrong in itself can never lead to right. The Divine Love shall be the supreme law, and its expression is undeviating justice. What are the rights of others, as well as what are our own ? will be the inquiry. If there be a fallacy among the people, let it be rebuked. Let us not be swift to mark the evils and errors of others, and slow to notice our own ; but let Him who knows the secrets of all hearts judge us both, for He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.
Thus will wars be extinguished; ”They shall beat their words into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” All conflicts arise from the lust of dominion. Oh! that the time would come, when nations would cast the idea of making war upon others away from them as a thought too shocking to be entertained for a moment. War is the complex of all that is horrible; it transforms men into fiends; substitutes destruction for production ; violates the fair face of nature and civilization, and bedews the earth with blood and tears. The time, however, will come, when our prophecy will be fulfilled, despite the sad experience of late years; despite the awful troubles of the present ; principles are now revealed, which in their spread, will assuredly make wars to cease, even to the ends of the earth. When men and nations have a profound conviction that evils, and especially, the loves of self and the world themselves, are the supreme curses, and entail their chief miseries upon the doers, they will shun them as they would shun serpents. We shall not then seek to impose our evils upon others, and make war to enforce them ; but rather, work, pray, agonize, to extirpate them from ourselves. We shall know that a man’s foes are they of his own household. A vigilant watch over these internal enemies, the lusts of our unregenerate nature, will subdue them in their strongholds, instead of allowing them to go out to ravage and destroy. “The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den : they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”
There are also controversial wars, which must also cease. Discussion is good ; but the wars of angry religious dispute cannot be too much shunned. The effort of every inquiry should be, not to detect another’s error, but to help him in the spirit of love to see the truth. Hence, the sword should be oiled when we use it, and as soon as may be, it should be converted into a ploughshare. The spear will be much more serviceable as a pruning-hook, than it ever was as an instrument of assault. They are, in other words, the truths which have detected and vanquished evils and errors, when used as swords and spears.
The sword to assail the head, and the spear to aim at the breast, represent such truths as attack the false views and the evil affections which are opposed to the Lord’s kingdom. But, as soon as may be, even these should be transformed into truths to increase what is good, and to strengthen the right in those who have opposed us. To unite with others for good objects, is far better than to differ with them for matters of sentiment, which, perhaps they will outgrow; to plough with them, rather than to fight. To help them to prune their vine, by agreeing as much as possible with the truth they do possess, is much worthier than to be rigid upon points of disagreement may the time rapidly hasten when Christians may all see that to manifest their religion by works of use, by exertions of charity, kindness, integrity,and a loving performance of duty, is the true mode of setting forth its excellence to others. That religion which does this best, is the best and truest religion : “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” ” O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Jacob was Israel’s name in the early part of his career ; before he struggled and conquered in the night of temptation. The Christian is of the house of Jacob, while he has the knowledge of religion and faith in its doctrines, but has not yet exalted them to be the ruling principle of his life. The invitation to the house of Israel, ” Come ye,” is an appeal to all such to come into states of love to the Lord : ” Come ye to the mountain.” Strange as such an invitation would be in the letter, how beautiful and important it is in the spirit. To have a temple built upon a mountain overtopping all other mountains on earth, would be to make it inaccessible. It would be far above the regions of perpetual snow. ”Come ye,” in such case, would be no invitation to a blessing. But in the spiritual sense it means, come to that holy love which is the highest Christian grace, the end of all religion. Love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. x. 10). Charity is the end of the commandment (1 Tim. i. 5). Come, then, O house of Jacob, elevate your hearts. Love the Lord your God above all things. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is arisen upon thee.
All our affections are now centred upon One Glorious Being, and He is One whom we can know, comprehend, and adore. Jesus, that is the name round which all glory centres. ” At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth ; and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”— Philip, ii. 10.
Come then, love Him as your Creator, Saviour, Regenerator, King, in one Divine Human Person. Let this hallowed affection be exalted above every other. Crown Him, Lord of all.
” Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” All progress depends on walking. ” Walk in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” Only by living according to heavenly principles, do we incorporate them into ourselves. However long we may keep virtuous and holy principles in the memory, they do not become ours, and us. But, whatever truth we know, let it be lived, and it becomes interwoven with the very fibres of our existence. Day by day, under the name of habits, do the influence of what we live spread over our whole being. They pervade both spirit and flesh so that they form the mind; they make the life. If we have walked daily in heavenly principles, their opposites are irksome, and at length hateful. Sin in any of its forms becomes an abhorrence. ” Let as then walk in the light of the Lord.”
The hope of a glorious future for the earth is well-grounded, since it is ever the theme of prophetic announcement. All these bright pictures of a world governed by justice, wisdom, and peace, cannot be illusions. Humanity yearns after perfection. From its inmost heart there is a welcome given to every aspiration which breathes brotherhood and kindness to all. All the tendencies of society are upward and onward, though obstructed by ten thousand hindrances. The time must come when our text will be realized, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. But this time may be distant And no doubt it will, for nothing grand is ever produced, except by slow degrees. Yet come it assuredly will, and it will be the crown of all the operations of Divine Providence. For this all other ages have existed, and into it they will merge. The whole world will one day, no doubt, be a grand collection of nations, regarding the Lord Jesus as the universal Lord, and so living as to produce glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, goodwill towards men.
But the text has an individual as well as a general application. And, in this sense, we need not wait for a remote fulfilment. It will be fulfilled in our own experience. In us the love of the Lord Jesus can be elevated above every other affection to the supreme government of our hearts. We may make it the source of every joy, and of every good we do. We can awaken every affection and thought to the recognition of this blessed reign within. We can make the Lord the judge of every affection, the director of every thought. His law of love out of Zion, and His Word opened and understood from Jerusalem, may be the grand principles to which we bow. And, if this be realized, the spirit of love and usefulness will pervade our whole being. We shall, for ourselves, “beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning-hooks ; and not loam war any more.” We will constantly have before us the things which make for peace : the cultivation of our hearts, the rectification of our thoughts, ploughing the one and pruning the other, will be our daily employ, and we shall find the blessed result, in heaven already realized on earth, and prepared for, in the eternal world.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)