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wilderness and solitary place" to sow.
"The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth," having first been carefully sown, " before all the nations."
The terms denote, as is usual in this prophet, the doctrine of Messiah's kingdom; the main blessings of the gospel; God's method of justifying man through the merits and obedience of Messiah, which is "righteousness ;" and the returns of gratitude and holy obedience, which constitute our " praise" for the gift.
The word "righteousness" is frequently used in this enlarged and prophetical sense. Thus in the verse before the text, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord," saith the Church, "my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness;" where the one term is evidently equivalent to the other; righteousness is no other than the salvation of Messiah. The like explication occurs in the forty fifth chapter, "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring forth together;" and yet more expressly in the close of the same chapter, because the word is more directly applied to man's justification, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength; in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
In fact, this is no other than that great blessing of the free remission of sins and acceptance before God as righteous, which is the peculiar glory of the gospel. And therefore the great apostle of the Gentiles, taking up the language of our prophet, employs and further explains the very same term; "The righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, is upon all and unto all them that
believe;" where the instrumental cause of justification is distinctly stated to be faith in Jesus Christ, that is, the humble reliance of the penitent sinner on the promises of God in Christ Jesus for pardon, and acceptance before him as righteous. Thus, he is justified by faith and has peace with God;" being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus ;" and "God being just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus;" "for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Here then we begin. This is the doctrine which we scatter as the good seed. No fruit of holiness and salvation can spring from any other. The gospel comes and addresses man as a sinner; and then pro poses to him God's wonderful method of forgiveness in the righteousness of his only-begotten Son. The guilt and demerit of man must first be felt. The evil and defilement of sin, as committed against the great and glorious and good Lord and Sovereign of our bodies and souls, must first be acknowledged; sorrow and penitence follow. The renunciation of our own righteousness which is of the law," is the next step. Then the doctrine of the text is the appropriate and only source of consolation; that to "him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
When this first great blessing of the remission of sins is received into the heart, then the second, which is praise, follows. "The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth;" righteousness to his people, praise to himself: righteousness, the gift bestowed, praise, the acknowledgment of it made. And so in the verse before the text already cited, you will observe, that so soon as the Church is "clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness,” she “greatly
rejoices in the Lord and her soul is joyful in her God;" that is, praise for the gift of righteousness follows that great blessing. In like manner, in the sixty second chapter, the prophet speaks of the Church being made a praise in the earth;" and in the sixtieth, when he has named "her walls salvation," he immediately calls "her gates praise." And thus the Lord declares generally, in another passage, of Messiah's subjects, "This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise ;" to which the apostle probably refers, when he exhorts us "to show forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
Under this expression, therefore, is included all the gratitude of the humble penitent for the gift of justification, all the peace flowing from that great act of mercy, all the effect and fruit of love to God and man, all that "work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope," and general obedience to the moral law, which the influences of the Holy Ghost within us, produce, by his renewing and sanctifying of our nature; even as the preceding term comprehends all the meritorious sacrifice of Christ without us, received and trusted upon for our justification before God.
The two produce and constitute a Christian, in the proper sense of the expression. A holy, cheerful, benevolent life of praise to God, follows on the due reception of the gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus.
This doctrine, then, is the seed of salvation, this is the truth which revelation scatters as the element of eternal life, wherever she penetrates. And as there is the strictest connection in the natural world between the seed sown and the ultimate produce, so is there in the spiritual. No seed but truth, the truth of Messiah's righteousness and praise, can spring up with the fruits of real Christianity. False doctrine will produce a false religion, as bad seed an im
perfect harvest; superstitious doctrine will produce a superstitious religion; antinomian doctrine will produce an antinomian religion. As, therefore, the agriculturist spares no pains in obtaining the finest and purest seed-corn, so should the missionary and minister be above all things careful that his seedcorn be good, his doctrine the fine, pure, unadulterated word of inspiration itself.
Let us now proceed to compare the natural and spiritual vegetation,
II. As to the extent of ground to be brought under cultivation; "As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations;" the world itself therefore is to become this garden of the Lord. The earth, in every part is to push forth her bud. All nations and tongues and people are to see the spiritual cultivation springing up before their eyes.
It is thus that the nature and extent of the blessings of the gospel are frequently depicted by our prophet; "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose ;" "I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together."
The sowing began at the Resurrection of our Lord. The commission was no sooner given, than the apostles" went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them." Then an immortal seed was sown, which is still multiplying, and will multiply, till it "fill the face of the world with fruit.”
It is important for us however, here, to pause and inquire into the Scriptural grounds of our expectation that the doctrine of righteousness shall be sown over the whole world. At present, the earth is so far from being the garden of the Lord, that it is a wilderness filled with briers and thorns. It is so far from putting forth generally the buds of life and grace, that it is overgrown with "the vine of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah." The narrow confines of nominal Christianity hitherto, and the yet narrower of heartfelt and pure Christianity, together with the apparently slow progress of missions, may well make us stop to ask whether the general current of the prophecies and promises of Scripture agree with the import of the text, in holding out to us the hope of the ultimate conversion of the world.
1. Numerous passages, then, seem to settle at once the question. What can be understood of such texts as the following, if the universal spread of the gospel be not intended, "All the ends of the world shall remember themselves and turn to the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him." "All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name." "The earth shall be full of the know, ledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." "Thou hast given him," Messiah, "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people and nations and languages should serve him." "From the rising of the sun, unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles." "The seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
2. The commission for the propagation of the gospel, which we lately considered, seems to point at the same extent, as the language of the above pro