(LOOK UNTO THE ROCK WHENCE YE ARE HEWN, AND TO THE HOLE OF THE PIT WHENCE YE ARE DIGGED)
Dear Brother Beebe: There is one more text which has been on hand for some time, for my views through the at the request, by letter, of an esteemed sister, on which I now wish to offer some remarks, if agreeable to you to publish them. I had hoped that this would have been the last request of the kind made of me; not that I am unwilling to give such views as I have of any text of Scripture, or that it is not a satisfaction to me to express them when I feel like writing; but I apprehend that the infirmities of mind incident to old age must begin to show themselves in my writing. These infirmities are much sooner discovered by others than one's self. And there are younger and much abler writers for the on whom brethren may call for expositions.
The text above referred to, on which my views are requested, is Isaiah 51:1, "Hearken to me ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the rock whence ye are digged." The connection shows that Zion's members are here addressed, and that the design of the address throughout is to encourage and comfort them under all their discouragements and distresses. It is true that Paul represents Israel as following after the law of righteousness, and the Gentiles as not having followed after righteousness Rom.9:30-31. The Jews follow after the law of righteousness, but do not attain to it because they seek it, as it were by the works of the law, that is, being ignorant of God's righteousness they go about to establish their own righteousness, and therefore never attain to it, nor to an obedience to the law. But the Gentiles, while in a state of nature, do not follow after righteousness, they do not know it. Believers do know it, hence in the 7th verse of the context they are characterized as knowing righteousness. And such know where their righteousness is, that it is only in Christ; that He alone is the righteousness of His people. They are satisfied with it as being abundantly sufficient for their justification; hence they want no other, or are filled, as Christ said, those who hunger and thirst after it shall be Mt. 5:6. Yet it is a true characteristic of believers that they follow after righteousness. They even feel their need of it, as the ground of their acceptance in appearing before God, and therefore ever wish to be grasping it by faith as their plea. Not only this, but they are following after it, that they may grasp it more strongly by faith, and bring it more closely and more assuredly to themselves as theirs. Again, they want to find righteousness in themselves, and they follow after it (for they love the law), with the desire to attain to it in their works and in their thoughts.
Believers also are they who seek the Lord. They seek Him in that they desire to know more of Him. They seek Him because they constantly desire to have His presence with them, and to enjoy the tokens of His love. In these points of view He often appears to be hidden from them, hence they seek Him. Again, they seek the Lord in seeking to show forth His salvation, in seeking to honor Him, and be conformed to His word.
But the main points on which my views are requested are the rock and the hole of the pit. In preaching from this text some years since, I considered both expressions as having reference to that state of nature from which the people of God had been taken by grace. The rock as representing the hardness and impenitency of man in a state of nature, and both figures as representing their entire incapacity in a state of nature, their entire destitution of life or any principle of action by which they could sever themselves from their relations to the world as living in wickedness and under the curse of the law. Although I probably preached correct doctrine and experience, I am now satisfied that I gave a wrong construction to this part of the text and the import of these figures. In the first place, although the heart is represented as stone, yet God says He will take it away and give a heart of flesh. Whereas the hewing a piece of sculpture, or a block, from a rock does not alter the nature of that which is hewn out, it remains rock still. Although Peter represents the saints as "lively stones built up a spiritual house," &c., yet this representation of them as "lively stones," evidently refers to the new man in the believer, and not to the old man, for the old man would not form a spiritual house. In the second place, mankind is not in Scripture represented by a rock or anything solid, but by dust and ashes, by the grass of the field, &c., as light and vain. On the other hand, our God, or God in Christ, is represented in Scripture as a rock, as is also Christ in His mediatorial person abundantly represented as a rock or stone, as in Deut.32:4-31; Ps.18:46; I Cor. 10:4, and in other places. Hence, in being governed by the testimony of Scripture, I feel bound to consider Christ as the rock spoken of in this text. Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn. This probably will appear as a strange idea to many that Zion in her members should be represented as hewn out of Christ. But it is no more strange than that Eve, in her distinct existence, should have been formed of Adam, and after her distinct formation remain bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. The term hewn is here used to denote the distinct manifestation of the church and her members in conformity to the figure of a rock as used. It brings clearly to view, in conformity with other testimony of Scripture, the existence of the saints or the church in their spiritual life in Christ before their distinct manifestation. In the art of sculpture, the statue lay in its substance in the block of marble before it ever received its distinct formation. The sculptor only brought it to view in its distinct form and features by the use of his chisel. Its substance was there before and it still remains, though it may be a statue of Washington, the same marble rock it was before. So the church and saints remain in their distinct manifestation as saints, the same Christ, the church being His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all Eph. 1:23. And the church collectively is called Christ I Cor. 12:12. Christ is in them the hope of glory, and is their life. Well, therefore, may the saints amidst all their difficulties, under all their persecutions, and their being dwindled down by divisions, and amid all their individual conflicts, be directed to the Rock whence they were hewn, or of which they are hewn, for the whence is a supply by the translator. And surely the rock of those who would worry and waste us by opposition and divisions, &c,is not like our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges. Our Rock is the Almighty, the only wise God, He is ever with and in the midst of His people, is and ever has been one with them, is their life, their foundation, their chief corner stone; with whom as such, no comparison can be made from human architecture; He is a living stone, and His life is disseminated through all the materials of the building, making them lively stones, and one with Him, so that this Rock, this foundation must be destroyed before the building can fall, or one stone.
"And to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." This, as I understand it, relates to that state of condemnation in which mankind are sunken as transgressors of the law, they being as prisoners shut up in the pit of depravity. Hence it is said to the daughters of Zion, "As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein there is no water" Zech.9:11. The hole of the pit out of which they are digged, has reference to the fact that the whole human family are in the pit, or state of condemnation in a mass together; and hence when any are digged, or taken out, there is a hole made in the mass, or evidence left of their having been in that pit. Hence the direction is to the children of grace in their difficulties, distresses and discouragements, to "Look to the hole of the pit;" look back to where you once lay in the darkness, ignorant of yourself and of God, and of the spirituality of His law. Afterwards there was light let into the pit; that is, your eyes were enlightened to see your relation to God, and your condemnation as a transgressor of His law. You tried to bring yourself into favor with God; but you were shut up under the law in this pit of depravity; you found it a horrible pit, and your feet sinking deeper and deeper in the mire. Nay, you knew of no other medium to look for relief but to the law, and that demanded full payment and held you fast as its prisoner, so that you found yourself as helpless to deliver yourself as would be a clod of dirt to throw itself out of a pit that was being dug. Now, if a believer, you can look back and see this hole of the pit, that place under the law in which you once lay. And you know you were thrown, or taken out of it. You know that you were once delivered from that sense of condemnation and guilt, and brought into a state of peace, and felt a confidence in approaching God with your thanksgivings and supplications which you had not felt before; and felt a hope springing up in your breast that your sins were forgiven, &c. You may have thought very soon after that you were deceived, and wanted to get back again under the law, and again to feel that distress, that sense of guilt and condemnation which had been removed from you; but you found you could not get back under it; that you were as much shut out from it now as you were shut up under it before. You were sensible that you were a vile sinner, but you could not feel the condemnation and wrath for it as before, and you were distressed that you could not feel it. You have never, from that day to this, thought of ascribing it to anything else that you were sent forth out of that pit, but to the blood of Zion's covenant, or the new covenant. And you have never, from that day to this, thought of looking to the law, or to your obedience to it, as the medium of your acceptance with God. Now, if you can see that hole of the pit where you know you once were, and know that you are no longer in it, you have the evidence that you are no longer under the law. And if not under it, then, of course, not subject to its curse; and if freed from the curse of the law, nothing can hurt you. You may have heavy trials, difficulties and temptations, but no evil can come to you from them.
The people of God are further directed in the following verse to "look to Abraham their father, and to Sarah, that bear them," &. In this we may see, if we will look, that Abraham's being called alone, his becoming old, nor the barrenness of Sarah, could prevent the accomplishment of God's promise to Abraham concerning a seed. Neither could the perverseness of Jacob's sons, nor the obstinacy of Pharaoh, nor the Red Sea, nor the barrenness of the desert, nor the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness, nor any other obstacle, prevent the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham's seed, that they should be put in possession of the land of Canaan. From this we may be assured that nothing is too hard for the Lord, and that all He has promised to his church and people He will assuredly accomplish.
But I have written enough to show my views of the text, and here I will leave it, as I fear I am not writing to much profit.
Yours in love, Elder Samuel Trott,
Signs of the Times, Vol. 27 (1859)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott