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theless, I [am] the LORD, I change not ; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed ; I will not entirely destroy them.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept (them.] Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? what is there in us that needs
to be reformed. 8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, 9 Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye
[are) cursed with a curse : for ye have robbed me, (even) 10 this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,
that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that (there shall) not be room) enough (to receive it ;] you make the present scarcity an excuse for not bringing tithes, but that is a reason why you should bring them all, and so secure my blessing. Open
ing the windows of heaven is a proverbial expression for great nl plenty. And I will rebuke the devourer, the locust, caterpiller,
canker worm, &c. or whatever destroys the fruits of the earth, for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your
ground ; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time 12 in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall
call you blessed : for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts ; the nations who have reflected upon your country as barren, and upon yoar God as having cast you off, upon
the relurn of plenty shall judge otherwise. 13 Your words have been stout, or, bold and blasphemous,
against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken 14 [so much] against thee? Ye have said, It [is] vain to serve
God : and what profit [is it] that we have kept his ordinance, - and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts; 15 with prayer and fasting, in sackcloth and ashes ? And now we
have reason to call the proud happy ; yea, they that work wickedness are set up ; yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered; their houses and families are built up, and those who seem to challenge and provoke God to his face, are delivered by his providence, not only from the suffering, which good men endure, but recovered from afflictions into which they fall.
1, W E should be very careful not rashly to conclude, from
VV the present appearances of providence, that religion is an unprofitable thing ; or, that every one who doeth evilis good in the sight of the Lord : or say, with these wicked Jews, Where is the God of judgment ? he hath forsaken the earth, and taketh no notice of what is said or done there; he hath said he will come to judgment, but Where is the promise of his coming ? Such scoffers as these there were in the latter end of the Jewish church, and such there shall be in the latter days of the christian church ; but their unbelief shall not make the promise of God of none effect, for the day of the Lord will come ; and an awful and everlasting distinction be made between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not ; the righteous shall go away into life eternal, but the wicked into everlasting punishment.
2. Let us bless God that Christ is sent as the messenger of the covenant, to declare the will of God and unveil futurity. John prepared the way before him, and pointed him out to the people; at length he appeared with the fullest proofs of his divine commission, to negotiate peace, to settle a correspondence between God and man, to offer pardon, to promise divine aids, and accepte .ance through his sacrifice and mediation ; to reveal a judgment to come, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Bless. ed are our cyes, that see, and our ears, that hear those things, which kings, and prophets, and mighty men of old, desired to see and hear, but were not so highly favoured. Let us cordially embrace this Saviour ; submit to his method of salvation ; fear his threatenings ; trust his promises ; follow his example ; and say, Hosannah to the Son of David ! Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord !
3. Let us seriously inquire, what effect the appearance of Christ and his gospel have had upon us. Has he been to us as a refiner's fire, and as fullers' scap? It will signify nothing to rejoice in his appearance, and approve his undertaking, and welcome him with the loudest hosannahs, if we are not purified from sin ; if our angry, turbulent, and sensual passions have not been subdued, or at least governed and restrained. If our hearts are not devoted to God, and fixed upon him ; if our affections are not raised to heaven, as a world of devotion, purity, and love, and made to delight in holy duties, and in offering unto the Lord the offerings of righteousness ; if this is indeed our temper and character, we have not received the grace of God in vain, all the blessings of the covenant will be ours; and we may rejoice in the second coming of Christ, when our faith will be found to praise and honour and glory.
4. Let us above all things dread the thought of having God a witness against us, at that day. He will soon come near 10 us to judgment, v. 5. We must all appear before his bar, and give an account of all things done in the body, whether good or evil ; and then he will be a swift witness against all those who have broken his laws, and rejected his gospel and covenant ; he will bring such evidence against them, as they cannot gainsay ; such judgment, as they cannot escape.
5. Let us adore his immutability, v. 6. It is owing to this that ve are not consumed ; he is mindful of his promise and of his cov
enant : he was so to the sons of Jacob ; and he will be so under every dispensation, to the end of time. We have to do with a God that changeth not; therefore it is that we are not consumed. While this speaks terror to the guilty, it speaks comfort to his faithful servants ; and they ought to rejoice in God who keepeth his covenant and his mercy for ever. Once more,
6. Reformation is the way to prosperity and happiness. How much soever we have neglected God's ordinances, and robbed him of the offerings due to him, of our services and our hearts ; yet, saith the Lord of hosts, if ye will return unto me, I will return unto you. Let us then all be engaged to do so by humble penitence and prayer ; by faith in Christ, and by new and better obedience ; then will he prosper us according to the days in which we have been afflicted, and the years wherein we have seen evil. He will give us the blessings of heaven above, and the earth beneath ; and deliver us from our enemies and fears. Or, if he withholdeth great things from us here, he will bless our blessings, be they ever so few and small ; and this will be as a constant feast: he will open heaven to our view, and finally receive us to his elernal kingdom. Only prove me, saith the Lord, make a trial whether it svill not be so. Let us all make the trial immediately, and trust a faithful God, who is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all we can either ask or think.
CHAP. III. 16, to the end. CHAP. IV.
God here distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked ; he
threatens awful judgments to the one, and promises salvation to the other, under a future and approaching dispensation ; and then, with a solemnity becoming the last of the prophets, he closes the sacred canon, with enjoining the strict observance of the law, till the forerunner, already promised, should appear in the spirit of Elias, to introduce the Messiah, and begin a new and everlasting dispensation.
16 THEN they that feared the LORD, spake often one to
1 another : and the LORD hearkened and heard [it :) and a book of remembrance was written before him for them
that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name, his 17 perfections, and providence, and consulted his glory. And
they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when
I make up my jewels ; and I will spare them, as a man 18 spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye
return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. Vol. VI.
1 Chap. IV. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn
as an oven ; and the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble : and the day that cometh, shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch ; a proverbial expression, denoting the utter destruction of Jerusalem : and it is also applicable to the final judgment.*
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteous. ness arise with healing in his wings, or rays ; and ye shall go
forth to the pasture, and grow up, or, thrive and be happy, as 3 calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked,
subdue and triumph over your enemies : for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do
(this,? saith the LORD of hosts.fi 4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I com,
manded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgments, A proper admonition, both to correct the irregularities before reproved, and to instruct them how to behave, now prophecy was to cease ; you are still to regard the law, but to keep up an expectation of the Messiah, whom Moses, as well as the succeeding prophets, spoke of. The gift of prophecy being now to cease, you must be sure to have to:
course to the written word, 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet,t that is, John
the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elias, ( Luke i. 17.) before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD ; when he shall take vengeance on the Jews by the Roo
man armies ; hence John warned them to fly from the wrath 10 6 come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the chil.
dren, and the heart of the children to their fathers; John's doctrine shall be adapted to turn men to repentance, co touch the hearts of fathers and children, both old and young ; and promote union and friendship among all, by directing all to their great master and prophet, the promised Messiah ; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse ; the whole land of Judea with utter desolation. This was the consequence of their rejecting Christ; and both they and their land lie under it la this day,
• The world, in this and the preceding verses, is compared to an house on fire ; God, to the master and father ; the wicked, to the useless lumber : the saints and children of God, to jewels. These, his principal care is exerted about ; these he will be sure to save, whatever becomes of the rest.
+ This refers to the safety of christians when Jerusalem was destroyed, and their triumph over their implacable enemies, when the Romans conquered them.
Some of the Jews expected Elijah himself; others, a prophet in his spirit : hence they asked John the Baptist, Art thou Elijah, or that prophei ?
1. T ET us imitate the piety of this little remnant, and encour,
L age ourselves with their hope. Observe their charac. ter ; they feared God, they thought on his name, on his majesty, his perfections, his works, and his promises ; and their meditation was sweet. They spake often one to another, concerning the God they feared, and the name they thought upon ; they kept together, as suitable companions to each other, and this in the most degenerate times. A good example for us all, and especially for young people, not to forsake the assembling of themselves together for prayer and religious conversation, and other devotional exercises. When vice is bold, let not the friends of religion be fearful and ashamed. Observe how God honoured them; the Lord hearkened and heard it ; he paid peculiar attention to them, and was well pleased with them; he kept an account of their meetings and conferences ; every good word and every good work, and every pious attempt to strengthen each others hands in God, were registered before him. And such persons are still precious in his sight, he esteems them his jewels ; he will treat them now, as a father dealeth with a beloved son that serveth him ; and hereafter he will crown this grace with glory ; they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels ; and Christ will say to them, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. Let us follow their example, and we shall share in their honour and happiness. On the other hand,
2. Let us dread the doom of the wicked, chap. iv. 1. There will be a terrible day, which shall burn as an oven ; and the fuel which is prepared for it are the proud in heari, whose words have been stout against God, and all who have done wickedly. Whatever their wickedness be, God sees it all ; and that day shall burn them up as stubble is consumed by the flame : it shall leave them neither root nor branch ; completely destroy all their hopes, and plunge them into misery and despair. God will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest : this shall be the portion of their cup. Therefore let us come out from among them, and not partake of their sins, lest we partake of their plagues. Finally,
3. Let us be thankful that the Sun of righteousness hath risen upon us : let us walk in his light, and seek healing and salvation from his beams. We have reason to be thankful every day for the beams of the natural sun ; but we have greater reason to be thankful for the beams of the Sun of righteousness, whose coming is as the light of the morning, when the sun äriseth, even a morning without clouds. Through the tender mercy of God, this day spring from on high hath visited this benighted world ; a world which sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death. Let us be