WE come now to offer some remarks on Isaiah lxv. 17-25, which is the next scripture in the order proposed for consideration. However clearly this portion of the scriptures may describe, to our more enlightened brethren, what they call the millennium, or one thousand years' personal reign of the Messiah, either before or after the conflagration of the earth, we are unable to perceive that these scriptures relate to any such period. To us these scriptures seem to speak of the dissolution of the legal or typical heavens, and the introduction, rise and progress of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the commencement of this chapter, Jehovah speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, a nation which were not called by his name as were the Jews, and a people that had not sought after him. He had spread out his hands all the day, (or throughout the dispensation of the old covenant,) to a rebellious people, to national Israel; a people that provoked him to anger continually, which remained among the graves, and lodged in the monuments. This was and is peculiarly the case with the carnal Jews. The graves where Ezekiel saw them in his vision of the dry bones, and lodge in the monuments, or legal rites, ordinances and ceremonies which were figurative of good things to come, but which are now abolished. The day of their retribution is announced; but "As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it; so, saith the Lord, 'will I do for my servants' sake, that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains; and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there." This language appears to us to relate to the separation which took place when the Redeemer set up his kingdom. As the new wine is in the cluster, so God had a spiritual people in the family of Israel; and for what that nation contained it was preserved until the execution of the word of the Lord, until his seed was brought out of Jacob, and the Inheritor (Christ) was brought out of Judah; (for it is said that our Lord sprang out of Judah) then was the name of carnal Israel left for a curse, and the spiritual people called by another name, even a name which is better than that of sons or daughters. In connection with these declarations of our God, he says, "For behold I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Can a doubt remain that this new created heaven is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that its constituent members embraced that seed which came out of Jacob, as a remnant according to the election of grace? In this new heaven, the Inheritor of God's mountain is the Sun and Fountain of all spiritual light, whose cheering rays are reflected through all the inferior lights with which he has bespangled the new heaven which he has made. The stars which he has marshaled, and whose revolutions he governs, are such as John saw in the right hand of One like unto the Son of man. The clouds that constitute this spiritual firmament are those that the prophet Zechariah said the Lord would make "bright clouds" in the time of the latter rains, and anti-typical of that cloud which led Israel through the wilderness, and those out of which his doctrine should distill as the dew, and come down as the rain; as the small rain upon the herb, and as showers upon the grass. "The former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." The gospel church is in all respects distinct from the old Jewish order, so that those who inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem, come not unto the mount that might be touched; but unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the First Born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. The former shall be erased from memory, completely abrogated, rolled together and laid aside.
"But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create, for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy." This prediction was not applicable to that Jerusalem which was destroyed, and which was defined in the apostle's allegory as Hagar, the bond-woman, cast out, disowned, and not permitted to participate in the divine inheritance with the children of the free-woman. This spiritual heaven is not only the creation, but also the formation of our God: "This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise." Time and space would fail us to notice particularly every expression in the prediction. This new heaven is the New Jerusalem, the holy city, the perfection of beauty out of which God has shined, and the inhabitants are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. By their offspring we are not, however, to understand their natural or fleshly offspring, but their spiritual children, such as Peter spake of in his discourse on the day of pentecost, saying, For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and unto all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call; or in other words, "The generation to come, and the people which shall be created."
The third and last passage on which we are requested to remark is Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16: "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." In this psalm we understand David to be a lively figure of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to personate him in connection with his mystical body, particularly in the text under consideration.
"My substance was not hid from thee." The substance of which David's natural body was composed, and all the members of his body were undoubtedly present to the omniscient eye of his Creator, before they were brought into development. But understanding, as we do, this figure to relate to the body of Christ, we derive still greater beauty and instruction from the passage. Substance is frequently spoken of in the scriptures meaning property, and certainly the seed of the blessed were his property. "The Lord's portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." But in this case, by substance we are to understand that of which his body is composed; and it is expressly declared in the record of truth that the church is his body, and members in particular. In its application to the church of the Redeemer, this subject harmonizes with the general tenor of the word; for as it is here declared that his substance was not hid from God, when he was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, so it is declared that "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And if he knows them now, he always knew them, for there is no mutability in him. He knew them well when he created them in Christ Jesus before the world was made. He knew them when he chose them in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. He also knew them when he curiously wrought them, in their existence in Adam, or in the lowest parts of the earth. He knew them well when in their embryo state he saw them embodied in the family of ancient Israel, as the new wine in the cluster. Before this nation was born in one day; before John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness; before the gospel kingdom was set up. Yet being unperfect. It was in embryo, but destined to perfection. Viewed as existing in the Adamic nature and under the law, degraded with pollution and sin, in the lowest parts of the earth; even in this state the eyes of God were upon his people.
"He saw them ruined in the fall,
Yet loved them notwithstanding all;
He saved them from their lost estate;
His loving kindness, O how great!"
"But God who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus." - Eph. ii. 4-7.
"And in thy book all my members were written." In the book of life, in the volume of God's decrees, in that book that was sealed, and on which there were none found worthy to look or able to open, until the Lion of the tribe of Judah appeared, who has broken the seals and disclosed the contents. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." - Heb. x. 5-7. What was written concerning Christ in God's book, was written in reference to his body, and that body was known in all its members, and all were written there. Nothing was left upon uncertainty, nothing was left to depend on contingencies or fortuitous events; all the members being definitely known, were accurately defined in the rec6rd of eternity.
Which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. Not only did the fixed purpose and recorded decrees of God embrace all the election of grace as members of Christ's body, of his flesh and of his bones, but the precise fashion of that body was determined, the precise place which every member should occupy in the body. This was necessary to prevent confusion if all the members were an eye, where would be the hearing "and if all were an ear, where would be the seeing."
In the vision of the prophet, bone came to its bone, and in the development of that perfect body described in the eternal promise of Jehovah, the building is fitly framed together: "Holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God." - Col. ii. 19. As the pattern of the tabernacle was with God in the Mount, even so the form, connection, symmetry, and fashion of the church as the body of our Lord Jesus was in continuance with the Lord, when as yet no part of that church or body was brought forth into distinct church order. The harmony of such a body as that of the church of Christ required that its curiously wrought workmanship should be the result of infinite wisdom, and almighty power and grace. Were the members of the church of God thrown together, as the arminian doctrine of this world would represent, leaving men to put their powers in requisition, and by force or fraud to huddle together as many as they have power or art sufficient for, how confused would be the body, made up of such chance materials. But not so the perfect body of our adorable Redeemer. In continuance it was fashioned, and of that fashion, form and pattern, it must be, or it cannot answer the design of God.
We do not read that the fashion was commenced, but continued - implying that although in God's immutable mind there is no beginning; yet all his thoughts are firmly settled and unchangeably fixed, so that whatever is the result of his will, is and ever must be in continuance. No unforeseen events can possibly alter the purpose, or cause the Lord to forego his purpose, or in the very smallest degree to alter the arrangement of the plan or fashion of the body. Not even so much alteration can be admitted as to place one sinner in the situation which God designed for another, any more than we could have an eye placed in a perfect body, where a nose should be, or a hand where a foot should be. When the mother of Zebedee's children requested that her two sons should occupy some particular places in the body, she was informed that the arrangement was already and unchangeably made. It is not mine to give, said Jesus, but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared of my Father. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ; for by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles; whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit; for the body is not one member, but many; if the foot shall say, because I am not the head, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? But now hath God set the members, every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him." - 1 Cor. xii. 19 16 and 18. If, therefore, every member of the church of God is set in the body of Christ, precisely as it hath (in the past tense, for in continuance this body was fashioned when as yet there was none of the members developed) pleased him, then nothing has been left for the members, the world, nor the devil to arrange; nor shall they be suffered to derange this body, by disposing of the gifts of God for him differently from his eternal design. It is his province, not ours, to set them. He does not require of us to make an ear of a hand, nor an arm of a leg, nor a foot of an eye, nor a minister of a deacon, nor a deacon of an apostle, nor an apostle of an elder, for he has set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.
Whether it has pleased us or not, is not the important thing; God's own pleasure has been consulted, and his counsel shall stand and he will do all his pleasure. "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." - Ephesians iv. 8-13.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
Dec. 15, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 364 - 371