Isai. xxxiii. 16. He shall dwell on high: his place of defence
shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him 4
his luaters shall be sure.
WE cannot judge of men's moral state by the dis-
pensations of God's providence towards them. Among
the Jews indeed virtue was inculcated and enforced
chiefly by temporal sanctions ; and their national
prosperity or adversity bore a very manifest refe-
rence to their national conduct. In some degree
also the same observation will extend to individuals
among them. But to us, under the Gospel, God has
not bound himself to distinguish his favourites by
any temporal advantages. evertheless, what the
pious Jews enjoyed visibly in relation to their bodies,
that the obedient Christian shall enjoy invisibly in
his soul.
To enter properly into the subject before us, we
must consider,
I. The character to whom the promise is made —
This appears clearly in the two preceding verses ;
in one of which it is implied, and in the other it is
clearly expressed :
1. He is sincere in his profession of religion —
[The greatier part of the Jews were " sinners in Zion,
304 ISAIAH, XXXIII. 16. [503.
and hypocrites ;" and they hatl good reason to tremble for
then* approaching calamities. The person spoken of in the
text is placed in direct opposition to them : he really belongs
to Zion, and to Zion's God : he does not make religion a
cloke for habitual and indulged lusts ; or profess what he
does not experience : if he implore mercy as a " miserable
sinner ;" and declare his trust in the mere " mercy of God
through Christ Jesus;" and desire " that he may henceforth
live a sober, righteous, and godly life, to the glory of God's
holy name," he does not mock God with umneanmg words, or
hypocritically assume a character which belongs not to him:
he feels in his heart what he utters with his lips ; and desires
to fulfil his duties in Zion, as much as to enjoy her privileges.]
2. He is consistent in the practice of it —
[He has learned in a measure that important lesson,
" Abhor that which is evil ; cleave to that which is good"."
The whole tenor of his conversation is agreeable to the
strictest rules of righteousness. In all his dealings he is both
just and honourable, not taking advantage of the ignorance or
necessities of others, but endeavouring to do as he would be
done unto. or is he less observant of liis words than of his
actions : he not only " walketh righteously," but " speaketh
uprightly:" he rigidly adheres to truth, and avoids every
deviation from it, whether in criminating others, or exculpating
As he thus " cleaves to what is good, so he abhors that
which is evil." Could he gain ever so much by an act of
oppression, or were he offered ever so great a bribe to bias
his judgment and to \iolate his conscience, he would " despise
the gain," and " shake from his hands the polluted gift" with
utter abhorrence. Were he advised to do anything injurious
or vindictive, he would " stop his ears" with indignation, and
not allow the thought for one moment to dwell upon his mind.
Did a contaminating object present itself to his view, or any
thing whereby his own corruptions might be stirred up, he
would " shut his eyes," even like holy Job, who " made a cove-
nant with his eyes that he would not look upon a maid''."
We say not that the Christian is never drawn aside through
the influence of temptation and corruption ; (for then where
shall we find a Christian upon earth?) but if at any time he
be overtaken with a fault, he returns to God with deepest
humiliation and contrition, and renews his course with in-
creased vigilance and circumspection.
That this is indeed the character to whom alone the pro-
mise in the text is made, is evident from parallel passages in
the Psalms % and from the strongest possible declarations in
• Rom. xii. 9. *> Job xxxi. 1. ' Ps. xv. 1 — 5. & xxiv, 3—5.
the ew Testament <^. O that all persons, whether professors
of religion or others, would duly consider this! Our conduct
must be upright towards God and man: we must embrace the
religion of the Gospel with sincerity, and adorn it by a holy
conversation: nor can a person of any other character than
this have any part or lot in the promises of God.]
Let US now turn our attention to,
II. The promise itself —
To understand this, we must consider the occasion-
whereon it was delivered. The Assyrian army, that
had overrun almost the whole of Judea, were now
encompassing Jerusalem. The wicked Jews are
given up to terror and consternation ; but the right-
eous are encouraged with a promise of,
1. Protection —
[A fortress situated on an eminence which no weapons
can reach, and founded on a rock which no human efforts
can shake, may be considered as impregnable. Such a place
should Jerusalem be to God's obedient people.
To us who are surrounded with spiritual enemies, the pro-
mise has a spiritual import. " The archers will shoot at us :"
the world, the flesh, and the devil will combine agamst us to
destroy us : but the true Christian " shall dwell on high," out
of their reach ; and " his place of defence shall be the muni-
tions of rocks " which cannot be undermined. If his enemies
wound his body, they shall " not be able to kill his soul ;"
for that is " hid with Christ in God :" and he may say to his
enemies, as Hezekiah said to the besieging and blaspheming
General, " The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised
thee, and laughed thee to scorn ; the daughter of Jerusalem
hath shaken her head at thee*."]
2. Provision —
[There are but two ways in which a fortress, which will
not capitulate, can be taken ; namely, by assault or famine.
Against both of these God promised to guard his obedient
people: for as their fortress should be impregnable, so it
should be supplied with manna from heaven, and with water
springing out of the rocks on which they dwelt. To us also
the promise may be applied with strictest propriety. Our
enemies may deal with us as with Paul and Silas of old, who
were cruelly scourged, and thrust into an inner prison, and
their feet were made fast in the stocks : but, though there
was no access to them for earthly friends, were the visits
¦^ 1 John iii. 6—10, * 2 Kin. xix. 21.
306 ISAIAH, XXVIII. 16. [503.
of their God intercepted ? Could their supplies of strength
and consolation be cut off? Did not rather their consolations
abound as their afllictions abounded ? Thus it shall be with
us : " bread shall be given us " for the support of our souls,
and " the Holy ^Spirit shall be n>h!iin us a well of -vyater,
sprino-ini'- up" for our continual refreshment. Difficulties and
dampers we may ( xperience ; but they shall issue only in the
confusion of our enemies, and in brighter discoveries of God's
power and grace.]
1. To those who rest in presumptuous hopes —
[The wicked Jews laughed at the judgments of God
when they were at a distance, but were tilled with horror at
their approach, and cried out, " Who shall dwell with the
devouring lire ? who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting
burnings ?" Similar consternation will ere long seize on those
who now slight the threatenings of the Gospel. The day of
vengeance is hastening on apace, and God will then shew
himself to be " a consuming fire '." How will his enemies
then stand appalled"! How " will they cry to the rocks to
fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath
of the Lamb''!" How terrible will the devouring fire then
appear! How awful those everlasting burnings in which
they will be doomed to dwell ! Let the " sinners in Zion,"
the people who name the name of Christ without departing
from iniquity, awake from their delusions ; let " the hypo-
crites" also deceive themselves no longer. Let a holy fear
possess all our souls : let us cry out, as on the day of Pente-
cost, " What shall we do to be saved ?" and let us improve the
present season of God's mercy and forbearance in " fleeing
from the wrath to come."]
1. To those who are agitated with unbelieving
fears —
[Many spend their time in anxious inquiries, W^ill God
save me? Well would it be if we would leave God to do
his part, and mind only our own. God's part is, to save us :
ours is, to serve mid glorify him. This is obvious in the pas-
sage before us, and in numberless other passages of Holy
Writ. We have nothing to fear but sin. Let us be sincere
in embracing the Gospel, and consistent in obeying it, and
we need not fear the united attempts of men and devils. God
is engaged to be the God of his believing and obedient peo-
ple : and, " if he be for us, who can be against us?" He will
" hide us in hit, pavilion','' where we shall be surrounded with
' Hib. xii. 29. « Ps. Ixxiii. I9.
" Kev. vi. 15 — 17. ' Fs. xxvii 5.
hosts of angels for our guard, and supplied with the richest
viands for our support: and " in the floods of great waters they
shall not come nigh us''." Let us then dismiss our unbe-
lieving fears, and look to him to " fiilfil his promises, wherein
he has caused us to put ovu* trust."]
'' Ps. xxxii. 6, 7.

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