“THOU shalt not see a fierce people; a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.”
The whole of this Scripture culled from the prophecy of Isaiah, of which we have here quoted the nineteenth verse, is the language of faith looking forward beyond the things then seen to the things yet to be made manifest in the gospel heavens several hundred years from the time in which the prophet was then living. This is one of the many internal evidences found within the Bible that prove its being inspired from a source outside of man himself, for how else could the Old Testament be so full of prophecies accurately foretelling what should afterward come exactly to pass as foretold, except that the authorship of the Bible be in One who is endowed with infinite comprehension and absolute foreknowledge? Isaiah is enabled here by faith to look beyond the law and legal Israel to the kingdom of Christ, then in the future, and to the glorious position in which this gospel kingdom stands. Thus, in describing the inhabitants of this new kingdom, he says they are not a fierce people. fierceness, savagery, carnal bravado and courage, human boldness and egoism, are not characteristic of the new creature in Christ Jesus who lives in that Jerusalem from above, the mother of us all. On the other hand, humility and meekness, gentleness and peace and brotherly love are by grace infused into these regenerated subjects of the gospel kingdom, so that “thou shalt not see a fierce people.” Right here, we must not confuse the visible organization of the gospel church with the church as it is in Spirit, which is the way Isaiah is having it revealed to him there. True, the church in its visi ble organization here in the world has always had its troubles and divisions, has at different times been troubled with men seeking their own ends, and having not an eye single to the glory of God. These contentions have at times waxed fierce, but we must remember that such contentions are of the flesh, and do not affect at all the quietude and humility of the church in the Spirit. However much the surface of the ocean of vital unity may be disturbed by storms and winds, its deep subterranean mysteries are all undisturbed and peaceful. This people dwelling in the new heavens at which the prophet is looking, is not of a deeper speech than he can perceive, nor of a stammering tongue that cannot be understood. To be sure, the world cannot understand the language of the people of God, and to the wisdom of this world they do seem to stammer, but to those of like precious faith the speech of the spiritual rings clear as a bell, giving a certain sound, and that which the world calls stammering is eloquent with power to the spiritual ear.
“Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” The church is the city of the solemn things of the redeemed host. In the old, or typical Zion under the law, were the temple with all its furnishings fraught with such wonderful meaning and the priesthood of the Aaronic line, with all its vestments and incense, offerings and sacrifices, rituals and ceremonies. Here, in the temple, were the singers and the instruments of strings, the cornet and the organ. Here were the solemn feasts kept and the holy days observed. Here echoed and reechoed the songs of triumph when all went well, here resounded the plaints and walls when adversity overtook them. Here, too, in secrecy behind the vail in the temple was the holy of holies, where was the ark of the covenant upholding the seat of mercy overshadowed by cherubim, and containing the tables of the law, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s budded rod. All these, and many other things, made the Zion of old a blessed and holy place to the Jew, and all these were shadows of things vastly more wonderful in the spiritual Zion, “the city of our solemnities,” appearing to the faith of Isaiah. The church of God is a solemn place; not that it is especially a sad place, but a place filled with the reverence and adoration of the Highest, a place where all the transactions are in the Spirit, and have to do with eternal verities. This makes it a solemn place. Here dwells the Lamb of God, the one and only sacrifice for sin which does not have to be offered every year, but was offered once in the end of that legal world to perfect forever those whom God had sanctified in his covenant of election before time began. The efficacy of this atonement pervades the whole solemn city. All the inhabitants are solemn, for they remember the pit whence they were digged and the rock whence they were hewn, so that with sorrow for sin they reverently contemplate the great price paid by their Redeemer for their safety eternally. This is not a temple made with hands, but a habitation builded through the Spirit for the honor and glory of God, a temple builded of living stones: sinners quickened through the operation of the Spirit and raised up together to sit in the heavenlies. From these living tabernacles arises unto God the sweet savor of Christ, the holy incense of prayer and praise kindled in the hearts of all the saints for his wonderful mercy to the children of men. This Zion of our God is a “quiet. habitation,” for the dwellers therein are resting in the finished work of Jesus, observing that Sabbath day which shall never end. They have ceased from their works, as God did from his, and have entered into rest from all the labor of legalism which they were formerly so heavily laden with. There is no going about to save souls, for Jesus has done all that work, and finished it centuries ago. Nothing do these Zion-dwellers have to do but rest in his love. This is “a tabernacle that shall not be taken down.” Under the old covenant, the tabernacle all through the wilderness had to be taken down and moved from place to place, its stakes had to be moved and its cords loosed, but that holy city coming down from God out of heaven, the new Jerusalem, shall never be taken down, it shall not fall nor decline. Its life is the same as the life of God, and as God cannot be moved, so shall not this city he moved, founded as it is in his immutable wills and shalls. Omnipotence upholds it, omnipresence secures it. The stakes shall never be moved. Paul says that whom God foreknew he also did predestinate unto conformation to the image of his Son; whom he did predestinate them he also called, whom he called them he also justified, whom he justified them he also glorified. Here in a short sentence in his letter to the Romans Paul gives us the “stakes:” foreknowledge, predestination, effectual calling, justification and glorification. These stakes can never be removed. These eternal principles contingent upon God alone are too high for man to amend or to erase. Were the safety of the church contingent upon our doing this or that, were it hinged upon duties which we had to perform, it would not be a tabernacle not to be taken down, and it would certainly fall, for man has been nothing but a failure in himself from the beginning, and everything man has ever done has been a failure. But resident as it is in the eternal principles of God and his holiness, not one of the stakes shall ever be removed, nor shall any of the cords thereof be broken. Cords are used to fasten the tent to the stakes. There are certain cords which bind the “city of our solemnities “ to the immovable stakes above mentioned. In other words, the experience of grace in the inhabitants furnishes the cord which binds them to the doctrine which furnishes the stakes. The doctrine of God our Savior never has any attraction for any one until that one has the experience of the doctrine within himself. Experience is the personal intercourse of God with the individual, and in this intercourse, which is through the operation of the Holy Spirit within the subject of grace, is revealed the doctrine of God. There can be no right knowledge of doctrine except through experience. This is the way (by experience) that God instructs his people and indoctrinates them in the principles of godliness. These cords shall never be broken. Nothing can ever prevent the communication of God with his people. Earthly intercourse is often interrupted. Death severs us from our friends, so that we cannot communicate with them (spiritualism notwithstanding), wars intervene and disturb intercourse between nations, telephone and telegraph lines go wrong and no messages can be sent, but nothing can ever sever the cords that hold the Zion of our God, nothing can break or discontinue the intercourse of God with his people, the experimental work of the Spirit. Godly sorrow for sin, repentance, peace that passeth understanding, love shed abroad in the heart, faith, temperance, and so on, are all the experience of God’s people. These things bring the doctrine home to them, these cords bind them to the stakes, and these cords cannot be broken.
“But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.” The “glorious Lord” is the risen Lord, the resurrected Christ, the victorious conqueror of all the enemies of righteousness. The “glorious Lord” is the Lord at the right hand of God, the Lord that said to David’s Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The risen Christ is a place of broad rivers and streams to the city of God. His life waters the city and makes it fruitful in every good word and work. Time and space forbid us to tell all that Christ’s resurrection means to his people. Indeed, it is a river so broad that human language cannot adequately deal with it. By Christ’s being glorified in his ascension unto the Father he becomes her glorious Lord. Thus is he Zion’s living head, sending down to and through her the stream of his living word, which makes her clean every whit, and which blesses her with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. These heavenlies are, first, the nature of Christ; whereas she was in Adam made a partaker of the carnal nature, now by the life of her glorious Lord she is quickened from that death in Adam, and made a partaker of the divine nature, so that she bears about in her mortal body the dying of the Lord Jesus to make manifest the life of Christ, thus bearing the image of the heavenly. This being made a partaker of the very nature of Christ is the result of being watered by her glorious Lord, watered with and in a living stream. Second, the life. The life this city lives is by the faith of the Son of God, old things are passed away and all things become new; and whereas in time past they walked according to the course of this world, and in the lusts and appetites of this world, now this city lives not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, for the righteousness of the law is being fulfilled in her. Thus, is this a new life, a life spent in God’s service and to his honor and glory. Third, relationship. Whereas in nature all relationship is sexual, and based on marriage, in the resurrection life there is no male or female, no marrying or giving in marriage, so that the relationships in this Zion of our God are all new, based on an entirely new foundation, that of the Spirit, so that instead of there being husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, all are brethren in Christ Jesus; only one husband there, and that is Jesus; only one bride there, and that is the church; only one father there, and that is God; only one mother there, and that is the new Jerusalem. Fourth, service. Every one in this new city is the servant of the other, all are servants one of another, no one lives to himself alone in this wonderful Zion and no one dies to himself alone, for as Jesus loved them and gave himself for them, so they do after his Spirit and in his likeness, because they love one another, serve one another, and inasmuch as they do it unto one of the least of these, they do it unto their Lord. fifth, suffering. These inhabitants are called not only to believe on Christ, but to suffer for his sake; the world hated him, and will hate these; they desire to live godly in Christ, and so they suffer persecution; they are crucified with Christ unto the world, and the world is crucified unto them. Sixth, inheritance. They have an inheritance not of this world, an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for them. Seventh, future glory. The fullness is not here in time, but hereafter; the city waits for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of “our” body. We have here just hastily noted seven heavenlies in which the Zion of God is blessed. A whole sermon could be preached from any one of them. We simply list these things here to try to show how the glorious or risen Lord is a place of broad rivers and streams to his church. Whereas in nature, streams flow into and help to swell a river, in grace, the river is first and the streams flow out from the river. Things in grace are the opposite of things in nature, so that it was said of the apostles: These are they that turn the world upside down.
We must not forget to mention those ministering gifts which the glorious Lord gives to the city for its edification and comfort. He gave apostles, pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, helps, governments, &c., unto his church, and these are streams that flow from the one “place” (the glorious Lord), and these water the garden. No galley with ears is in these streams. No human instrumentality is employed here, none of the usual modes of travel or of transportation are in vogue in the city of God. The Spirit is the message-bearer binding all in one and communicating with each and all. No noise or evidence of the world’s commerce, of its hustle and bustle, of its rush and work, are seen upon the bosom of these placid streams. In olden times criminals used to be sentenced to serve a term in the galleys, so that the galleys were mostly manned by the condemned. This thought is doubtless in the mind of the writer here when he says: “Wherein shall go no galley with oars,” to convey the idea that in this Zion of God there is no condemnation, no convict serving a sentence, but all are the Lord’s freemen. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Also, “Neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.” None of the gallantry of earthly pride is in evidence here. No room here for the pride and boastfulness of men. All have become nothing that Christ may be all in , all. All glorying, if glory there be, is in the cross of Christ the Lord.
We have written this at the request of Mr. Walter F. Stafford, R. 1, Greenfield, Tenn., whom, we take it from his letter, is not a member of the Old School Baptist Church, but an inquirer after truth. This is a most beautiful portion of Scripture to have impressed upon the mind of any one, but especially so upon the mind of one as yet unbaptized. We believe if our friend is made to realize the force and beauty of this text, he will be so allured by the attractiveness of the “city of our solemnities” as not to be able to refrain from following his Lord and Savior in baptism. His letter to us breathes a sincere devotion to the truth, but he says it is not meant for publication. May the Lord be with him and guide him in the way of the ordinances of His house. Such thoughts as we have here written upon this text; in Isaiah are very meagre indeed, as they must necessarily be owing to limited space, but we hope our readers will be able to meditate beyond what we have written, and thus fill up the gaps. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 12.
June 15, 1916