Lexington, Ky., Jan., 1859.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - While on my visit to the associations and Old School meetings in the east last spring and summer, several brethren desired me to write on certain passages of scripture. I penciled them down, but have not now access to my notes. One request, however, I recollect, which was made by brother Schoonover and others while in the vicinity of the Chemung Association, which was that I should give my views on the 4th verse of the 10th chapter of Zechariah. It reads as follows:
"Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle-bow, out of him every oppressor together."
I am but a poor commentator, but will do the best I can. In the first verse of the chapter the Lord's people are told to ask of him rain, and that he will make bright clouds and give showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. This is figurative language. None can command the clouds and rain, but God. So it is with the spiritual gifts that he can bestow upon his people. "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth." - Isaiah lv. 10, 11.
Verse 2. For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain, therefore they went their way like a flock, they were troubled because there was no shepherd. Nothing is more likely to give the flock trouble, nor to turn them to their own way, and away from the Lord, than those false dreamers. Therefore the Lord says in the 3rd verse, "Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats; for the Lord of hosts hath visited his flock, the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle." Next comes the text: "Out of him came forth the corner."
It will be observed here that the personal pronoun him has for its antecedent, Judah; consequently this Corner came forth out of Judah. In Hebrews vii. 13,14, it is said, "For he of whom these things are spoken, pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar." "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah," &c. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation," &c. In the 22nd verse of Psalm cxviii, it is said, "The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner." See also Matt. xxi. 42; Mark xii. 10; Luke xx. 17; Acts iv. 11; 1 Peter ii. 7. Here then is the Corner that came forth out of Judah. In Eph. ii. 19,20, the apostle says, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord." This Corner, then, constituted the foundation of the apostles and prophets, as well as the saints at Ephesus, and all the faithful in Christ Jesus, so that whatever may be the dimensions, extent or capacity of the building, there needs no other than this chief corner-stone to support it; and as the building is fitly framed together in the Lord, (the foundation,) the same corner-stone may be considered continuous up the entire building, until it becomes "the head-stone of the corner," thus serving as a wall round about it, and also the glory in the midst; for it is built for an habitation of God; for "the Lord dwelleth in Zion." "God is in the midst of her; he will help her, and that right early." Built upon, surrounded by, and overtopped with this one character, this "man shall be an hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Then hell may rage from beneath, "The eternal God is her refuge, and underneath her are the everlasting arms."
She is therefore sufficiently guarded from that quarter; earth with her sweeping tempests may assail her from its cardinal points; Sinai from above with her threatening wrath, her bellowing thunders, her angry storms, and arrows dipped in vengeance, may all hurl the fury of their ire toward her,
"The Lord is still her dwelling place,
She's there secure from all their rage;
This mighty rampart reared by grace,
Her safety seals from age to age."
"Out of him the nail." This is but another figurative expression by which our Lord and Savior is portrayed. The nail, as well as the corner, came out of Judah. In the 22nd chapter of Isaiah it is said, commencing with the 22nd verse, "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open. 23 - And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and he shall be for a glorious throne to his Father's house. 24 - And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father's house, the offerings and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. 25 - In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in a sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off, for the Lord hath spoken it."
What a glowing description of our Redeemer! What language could more strikingly exhibit his sufferings and death for our sins, and their removal, and the glory that should redound to his name as the legitimate consequences that should follow? "Even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory." In order to his bearing the glory of that temple a burden was to be laid upon him (the nail). That nail was fastened in a sure place, to be removed, cut down, and fall, and the burden that was upon it cut off. Isaiah says, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." And again, "He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken." He was led to Calvary by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, as a lamb to the slaughter; there the whole burden of our sins were hung upon him; there he was cut down; there did he fall, and there was the burden cut off, never to hang upon him more, never to be charged upon his people; for the Lord said, "I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." How wonderfully is the counsel of God in his own language displayed here! I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place. How forcibly is brought to view the immutable purpose of God in laying the sins of his people upon Jesus, whom he sent into the world at his appointed time, and who was led to the definite place where two ways met; where the law by virtue of his identity and unity with his people should rigidly demand a full remuneration for our sins; where the sword of justice should smite the Shepherd, whose life was cut off from the earth as the final requisition of that law; and where Satan and his ministers from beneath should crown him with thorns, nail him to the cross, ply the Roman scourge, and finally plunge the fatal dagger to his heart with wicked hands, but according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. There was no evading that place. Heaven's decree had unchangeably fixed the whole matter, for that decree thus ran: "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself." It was then for his people he was cut off; "for the transgression of my people was he stricken," saith the Lord.
Although he delighted to do the will of his Father, yet this was a case of necessity. The justice of the righteous law of heaven required it at his hand, and as soon would the throne, the imperial throne of the eternal Judge, have crumbled to ruin under him, as would one jot or one title of that law pass, till all was fulfilled. "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Truly, then, he was fastened as a nail in a sure place.
"But see the wonders of his power,
He triumph'd in his dying hour,
And though by Satan's rage he fell,
He dash'd the rising hopes of hell!"
"Out of him the battle-bow." The battle-bow is an implement of war, and its efficacy in battle depends upon the strength of the bow, and the power and skill of him who uses it. It is important too that the arrows used be of the right kind of material and properly prepared. Then if the bow be sufficiently strong, he who uses it powerful and skillful, and the arrows when ejected of good quality and properly made, we may reasonably expect efficacy in the warfare. Let us see whether we have not such a warrior, such a bow, and such arrows.
In the chapter preceding the one in which our text stands, commencing with the 10th verse, the Lord says, I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the heathen; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. As for thee, also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee; When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man."
In the first place it is said that the chariot and the horse is to be cut off from Ephraim and Jerusalem. Psalm xx. 7 says, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;" but Ephraim and Jerusalem are not to use them, the battle-bow will afford a better weapon for them. But the battle-bow was to be cut off, yet this was not to impair his power nor impede his reign, for he shall speak peace to the heathen by the overthrow of their enemy, and his dominion shall be universal, when by the blood of his covenant the prisoners were to be sent out of the pit, and turn to the stronghold; and the Lord says he will render double unto them, when He has bent Judah for him, and filled the bow with Ephraim.
From the foregoing connection it appears clearly that Judah [the Lion of the tribe Judah] constitutes the battle-bow in our text, the God of battles with his omnipotency, bends and fills that bow with Ephraim. From the same connection, it appears that Ephraim constitutes the sons of Zion who is made as the sword of a mighty man, and are to be raised up against the sons of Greece.
The Greeks were very ostentatious of their wisdom and erudition. The apostle had to encounter them, and we find that with all their boasted wisdom and literature they could not know God, and the preaching of Christ crucified was foolishness to them. We have amongst us, even in our day, those who rely upon their Grecian or literary attainments; they are not permitted to preach unless they are Greek scholastics. But how lamentably ignorant they appear to be of God and of his righteousness, while they go about to establish a righteousness of their own. Their bow is bent by their own strength, their arrows are of their own manufacture, and made generally in times of great excitement, and many of them very ill-favored, indeed very crooked. What has Judah and Jerusalem to fear from such enemies as these? Though a host should encamp against them they need not fear. They may appropriately say with the Israelites of yore, "Be strong and courageous, be not afraid, nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him, for there be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." - 2 Chron. xxxii. 7, 8. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He is our munition of rocks, our refuge from the storm, our dwelling place, and
"There, though besieged on every side,
Yet much beloved and guarded well;
From age to age she has defied,
The utmost rage of earth and hell."
While we thus have the scriptural testimony that we are sustained from beneath, and are guarded from above, as well as encircled by this chief corner-stone, the burden of our sins, cut off when Jesus fell, and that he arose and reigns, and as the man of God's right hand, whom he made strong for himself, flings terror and consternation abroad amongst our enemies, as the battle-bow with quiver filled with arrows of his own preparation, let us never cease to remember with heart-felt gratitude the wondrous victory achieved by him for us, and at the same time look humbly to him for a suitable preparation of the heart, and answer of the tongue, that we may speak of the glory of his kingdom, and talk of his power.
I suppose that the latter clause of the text, "Out of him every oppressor together," has reference to the oppressive kings of Judah, and shall offer no further comment thereon, as I have perhaps been too tedious already.
If the foregoing remarks should afford either comfort or instruction to the brethren who made the request, or any others of the household of faith, I shall feel fully remunerated for the time spent in writing. And in conclusion, I desire that grace, mercy and peace may abound with the Zion of God.
Your brother, I trust, in ties inseverable,
J. F. JOHNSON.