DEAR BRETHREN: - I see in the Messenger for December 1, 1859, a request from sister Jane Luce, for my views on Isaiah 2:4. With your permission I will give such views as I have through your paper. The text reads thus, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
In verse 1, we are told that this is the word that Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Verse 2, “And 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,” &c.
The expression last days is used in the Scriptures repeatedly to denote the last or gospel dispensation, that is the coming and reign of the Messiah. See Acts 2:17, and context; and Heb.1:2. Hence as that whole dispensation is the establishing of a spiritual worship and the reign of Christ, is a spiritual reign, so this, that was to come to pass is spiritual. The Lord’s house is the spiritual house, the gospel church; and the top of the mountains in which it shall be established, is no other than the Rock on which the church is built, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Hence it is not said to be the tops of the mountains, nor the top of the mountain, but the top of the mountains, and above the hills. Christ is above all the mountains and hills of political and ecclesiastical governments, and the top of them all, having the entire control of them; for, “All power is given to him in heaven and in earth.” As Christ’s kingdom which is here spoken of, is not of this world, but is spiritual, and comes not with observation, but is within you; that is, internal in its influences and reign. See Luke 17:20,21. So we are not to understand in this 4th verse, that his reign, or religion, was to interfere with nations or civil governments. Christ, on a certain occasion, asks, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” Luke 12:14. One of the early corruptions that crept into the church was that of conforming the church and religion of Jesus Christ, to the national religion of the Jews, and hence the attempts to bring the natural seed of believers into the pales of the church, as also to connect the church with civil governments. Hence also the popular idea among national religionists, and all who receive their ideas, is that such texts as this 4th verse related to the nations of the earth as nations. And because they have not yet seen the event in that way accomplished among those nations and governments which profess to be christian, they have adopted the idea of a worldly Millennium, when these events will be fulfilled. Hence also the attempts to hurry in the Millennium, by peace societies for abolishing war, &c. Not only are the Protestants filled with such notions, but also the Friends or Quakers, who profess a religion that is altogether spiritual, to the exclusion even of the ordinances of the gospel, have run into the same error. The truth is, the spirit of their religion is too much of a fleshly spirit. Hence their making their Society or church a fleshly or national church by holding their children under the control of their Society, as much as do the Protestants. Hence their opposition to anything like war, and to oaths, &c., in cases relating to worldly governments.
But the New Testament does not authorize a belief that war will cease among the kingdoms of this world while they continue. Christ said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews;” thus showing that the order of the kingdoms of this world in relation to wars was not changed by his coming. John 18:36. Again he said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matt.10:34. The prophecies in the book of Revelations, in their fulfillment thus far, show clearly that by the sword in that declaration, our Lord meant wars and fightings.
Sister Luce will enquire, What is then intended by the prophecy under consideration? I answer, that in the first place it shows that the Judah and Jerusalem intended; that is, the kingdom of David’s Son, Christ, was to be extended and established among the Gentiles. Hence the declaration in verse 2, “And all nations shall flow unto it;” and in verse 4, “And he shall judge among the nations.” In the second place, it teaches, that this kingdom of the Messiah is not to be established and extended on the principle on which the national kingdom of David was established; that is, not by the sword and spear, but it is established and extended in the spirit of peace and good will toward men. The Lord compares the extending of his kingdom among the nations thus, “And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim,” &c. Isaiah 25:11. That is, as the swimmer takes the advantage of the weight of the water, by spreading out his hands, to press himself forward, yet as he passes leaves the water to return to its wonted level and smoothness, so our Lord is establishing his churches in the midst of the nations, whilst he takes of the citizens of those nations to form the subjects of his kingdom, or the members of his church, he does not overturn, nor interfere with the government or laws of those nations, nor take from them their citizens, but leaves the subjects of his grace as much subject and obedient to the governments under which they live as though they had not been brought into his kingdom. Hence if the government is at war, they are ready to bear their proper share of its burden. Whilst in spreading the gospel or extending the church of Christ, they will use no force of law, nor weapons of war, but simply the peaceful implements of the plough share and pruning hook, or the preaching of the gospel and bearing witness to its truth.
Again, the Lord compares his defending of Jerusalem or the church to birds flying. See Isaiah 31:5. Birds flying are different from beasts rushing upon their prey. The latter tread down and crush everything in their way. But birds destroy not the equilibrium of the air, leaving no wake behind them. So the Lord will appear for the defense of his church, his people, and his cause. He will defend them so that no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, no evil shall come upon them. Yet the Lord will not destroy their foes, nor crush the government that may persecute them, until his time comes to take vengeance on them, but he will overrule and so control all their machinations and rage as to cause the wrath of man to praise him, and to cause all things, which he determines to work together for good to them that love him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain. This is carrying out the absolute predestination of God as we hold it. Hence as the Lord is thus a sure defense to his people, and cause, hiding them under the shadow of his wings, they have no occasion to seek protection from laws against those who oppose, nor to take up weapons of war against those who persecute; but if they “smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee on the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also,” that is, for righteousness sake, or for thy faith in Christ. But if, as a citizen, we are injured in person or property, we have the same right to seek protection and redress from the laws of our country, as have other citizens, or even to defend ourselves, our family, or property. So in reference to oaths, or the direction swear not at all, if in our church relations, we have not sufficient love to, and confidence in one another, to let each other’s yea, be yea, without its being confirmed by an oath, it is time such church relations were dissolved. But in dealing with people of the world in worldly transactions, we are dealing with those, who at least, do not want to show any more confidence in us, on account of our religion, than we have in them; and we are dealing with them on the principle of human laws, which ought not to make any distinction between the disciples of Christ, and other citizens. Hence if in such cases an oath is necessary for confirmation, let us take it unhesitatingly.
I have thus attempted to illustrate what I believe to be the spirit of the text under consideration, without coming directly to the words of it. I will now briefly notice the words, in their order. 1st. “And he shall judge among all nations.” The he here must refer, for its antecedent, to the God of Jacob, named in the preceding verse. As the whole connection of our text shows that Christ is the personage brought to view, it is evident, that Christ is the God who declared himself to Jacob at Bethel, as the LORD GOD of Abraham, &c. See Gen.28:12-15. And he shall judge the nations – No; for he came not, in the view given of him in our text, to condemn the world, but for salvation. Hence it reads, “He shall judge among the nations.” That is, he shall judge his people that are among the nations, and he shall convict them of sin and just condemnation, and yet shall justify them by his blood. “And shall rebuke many people.” There are many, very many people who find a good deal of condemnation in their religion. Their religion is Adam or the natural man reformed. Hence when they can find any reformation in their lives, any religious excitement or zeal in their passions and feelings, they think it is commendable, and expect that God will commend them for it. But there are, and have been, many people who find nothing but rebukes to themselves in their religion. Whilst under the law, they found nothing but rebukes for their want of conformity to its holy and spiritual requisitions, until they became disheartened from all attempts to be accepted upon the ground of their obedience, and fell helpless and condemned at the feet of mercy. They hoped when faith was given them, to behold Christ as the way that they should so live, so walk in obedience, as to feel approved before God and their own consciences. But they have found nothing but rebukes against themselves from that day to this. They have been daily rebuked. They have been rebuked for the coldness of their love and zeal, for giving way to their appetites and passions, for the workings of corruptions within, and their proneness to yield to temptations, for their worldly mindedness, and for the mingling of the flesh or self in all their religious exercises and doings. Why is it so? Because Christ, who is in them, or the new man is holy as God is holy, whilst the old man is corrupt, and so of course are all its acts; hence the spirit or new man rebukes and abhors all its doings. No wonder that the people who are thus rebuked should be humbled and abased in their own eyes; and therefore esteem others better than themselves. Hence that instead of wishing to compel others to be conformed to themselves in religion, their great desire and effort should be to be in themselves more conformed to the image of Christ, and more anxious to show forth his salvation. Hence, that they should exchange the implements of destruction, for the implements of production and peace; the implements of war, for the implements of husbandry, which are implements for producing that which is good, to man.
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” The kingdom or church of Christ is composed of persons who are of different nations and owe allegiance to different governments; yet as subjects of Christ’s kingdom, they are a peculiar people, and a distinct and holy nation. Although the nations and religions of the world have repeatedly lifted up the sword against this nation, yet it has never lifted up the sword against them. And the subjects of this kingdom have no prejudices against one another because they are of different nations of the earth; but let them meet together, from different nations, and different parts of the earth, and as soon as they have seen in each other, that they are of the spiritual circumcision, they will embrace each other in their affections as brethren, and of the same family. And when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, as I think they will at the close of the Philadelphian church state, or after the destruction of the man of sin; then whilst under the influence of the spirit of the gospel, they will no more lift up the sword, nation against nation. But no human effort can bring this about, for the prophecies concerning the Beasts, and their destruction, must first be accomplished.
“Neither shall they learn war any more.” Under David, Judah learned war, but under Christ, the spiritual Judah, instead of learning war, learn to love one another, and to act from the principle of love, having the love of God shed abroad in their hearts.
Such are my views of this subject, and as such I give them.
Yours, I hope in love,
Fairfax C.H., Va., Jan, 2, 1860.