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THE WAY BY WHICH, AND PLACE TO WHICH, ISRAEL WILL RETURN.
VERSES 21, 22.
Ephraim having been awakened, and brought to Repentance, and made to hear the Invitation to honour the Lord and enjoy his Goodness in the Land- All Israel are next called to listen to the loud and joyful Shout of Jubilee ; and, in the Way wlureby they went, to turn again to their own Cities. 'In giving the One Seed to be born there, the Lord hath given the assured Pledge that all shall follow—all that is promised, with regard to the Multitudinous Seed, the Posterity of the backsliding Daughter. To Shiloh shall the Gathering of the People be.
“ Set thee up waymarks,
Make thee high heaps :
THE people recognised as, in Christ, the Lord's first-born, having been brought to true repentance, to a preparation of heart, by fully submitting unto the free grace of God in the Gospel, will be assuredly given the fulfilment of the promise, “ He that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and inherit my holy mountain, and shall say, Cast ye up! cast ye up! prepare the way! take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people.” He will be given the means of removing both the spiritual and physical obstructions to the speedy and joyful return of the great body of the people, who shall be privileged to honour the Lord in the land, where he hath been so long put to shame; there hath the Lord been put to shame by the open opposers of the gospel, and not less by the false professors of Christianity. The fulness
of the nations promised to be brought forth of Ephraim, having come in, so all Israel shall be saved. Rom. xi, 25, 26.
God will work, but he will not only work for his people, he will work in them-yea, he will work in them mightily, and cause them to be instrumental in their own, and one another's good. He will lay liberally to their hand, and that with which he thus supplies them, they will use, even to the preparing a highway for our God, whereby the redeemed of the Lord may come to Zion, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads. He will make all his mountains a way, and the highways shall be exalted. He will bring down every mountain and hill, and lift up every valley. He will make the rough places plain, and the crooked places straight, along every line of highway, and this by the instrumentality of his people, who are
SKETCH OF THE GREAT HIGHWAY.
being prepared for this work. Already are our people most remarkably in possession of the means for effecting the object desired. And at length Ephraim will give himself to the work ; but, as well, the people generally are called upon to be active in their own deliverance. And in this they may, for some time, be employed without knowing the full design of the work in which they are engaged.
The words “ Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps," seem more especially to refer to the immediate preparation for Israel's return; when their attention, as now, was to be directed to the construction of highways, whereby safe and expeditious conveyance may be obtained, through quarters previously unfrequented ; and whereby places, otherwise distant, may be brought into easy communication with each other, for their mutual advantage, and the general diffusion of knowledge.
This hath been deemed a chief desideratum in these last days; and towards the attainment of it men have been impelled by an irresistible impulse. The engineer hath contributed his skill, and the man of business his commercial ability, and the people their labour, and the government its encouragement, and capitalists the funds necessary for carrying forward the enterprise. Comparatively few, however, it is to be feared, have been thinking of anything farther, than the serving their own selfish ends the forwarding their own narrow views of commercial policy. Few have been thinking that they were in the divine purpose, preparing a highway for our God.
At length attention will in truth be given to the command, “ Set thine heart toward the highway.” This seems to be the same which is adverted to, Isa. xix. 23—25, “ In that day there shall be an highway out of Egypt to Assyria; and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with
Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the earth ; whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." There is likely to be a highway from Egypt to the Gulf of Akaba; there meeting the packets from India and eastern Africa, and thence passing up the valley of El Ghor, to a junction with a line running up the valley of Jezreel, from Acre, on the Mediterranean; and meeting also one from Damascus and the region beyond; and wherefrom a line may be drawn eastward to India, and westward, down Asia Minor, to meet the great European system of railways.
These may converge to the point unto which was the great preaching of the Apostle : His course was from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, Rom. xv. 19, at the north-western extremity of which, is Trieste. Upon attaining this point from northwestern Europe, the passage may be either by sea, to Acre; or by land, as already described. A line along the coast from near Antioch to Acre, and from Egypt to the same, may also, of course, be ultimately laid down.
“ The way thou wentest," describes the course of the great highway. Israel were in their infancy, as a nation, brought out of Egypt by Moses; and under Joshua they were led into the land. They afterwards, as to the great body of them, were carried into Assyria, whilst the escaped passed by the shipping of Tyre down the Mediterranean, to the coasts of Europe, unto which also those that were taken captive into Assyria were afterwards to come, and where the Lord was to be to them, as he hath been indeed to
Little Sanctuary," Ezek. xi. 16. In what part of the world hath the Lord brought a people so near unto Himself, as to the enjoyment of that which was more especially the subject of new covenant blessing, as in the countries where we have come? It was in this direction that the feet of the Lord's messengers were more
THE HIGHWAY CONNECTING THE EAST AND WEST.
especially sent. See how directly Paul was led of the Spirit into Europe, being allowed to turn neither to the left hand nor to the right, until he passed over into our quarter of the globe, Acts, xvi. 6—12. There at Philippi he was instrumental in commencing that good work, which he confidently expected God would perform until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. i. 6 ; compare Jer. xxxiii. 14,) When Israel are found the work of his hands, new created after the image of him who now calleth us to glory and virtue ; it will be seen that the Apostle did not run in vain, neither labour in vain. The primitive Christians in the south-east of Europe, held forth the word of life towards us that were beyond, in the north-west, Phil. ii. 16. It was in this direction also that Paul passed by sea, after he had preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, and when he was being brought before kings for the name's sake of Christ: in addition to which, he was to bear the name of the Lord before the children of Israel, Acts, ix. 15. These were chiefly to be found in the west, as is farther evident from the Apocalypse—the Unveiling.
The election of Israel are at length to he found with the Father's name written upon their foreheads, standing with the Lamb upon Mount Zion, Rev. xiv. 1. Then is the manifestation of the sons of God: but first they had to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Kev. vii
. 2 ; compare Eph. i. 13, 14. And, in order to effect this, the message had to arise from the east, that is, it had to come westward. And the message, when truly understood, as to present privilege and duty, is an invitation to the people of promise to return—an invitation to appear, with holy devotedness, in the place where he hath purposed to destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations, Isa. xxv. 7. Then shall be the Apocalypse—the rending of the vail.
Two things may safely be inferred from the words we have been consi
dering: First, that the people addressed are a people in possession of the means of constructing a highway such as is required. It is accepted according to that which a man hath, and not according to what he hath not. Secondly, that the people so furnished with the means of preparing a highway to, and through the land, are the very people of Israel who previously went that way, in which they are now to be found, as returning. But they have been so long scattered, that they have forgotten their resting-place, Jer. 1. 6. They know not that it is theirs, or that they have any call of God go thither. To meet their case the word requires to be very expressive, and it actually is so—the people already identified are directly addressed as Israel, and are recognised as those unto whom rightfully belong the cities of Israel. And these they are called upon to re-inhabit.
“ Turn again, O virgin of Israel ; turn again to these thy cities."
Men pursuing their mere secular interests, may see it for their advantage to produce much greater facilities for communication between the east and the west, than as yet exist. From the north-west of Europe, through European Turkey, and Asia Minor, to the Euphrates, and then down along that river, in the direction of India, a great highway is at length likely to be opened up. This would lead through the land of Shinar, where wickedness is yet to have a house built for her, Zech. v. 11. There the god of this world may yet be paid the most intense catholic devotion. There may meet the converging lines of highway from the south and the west. The passengers from Europe will have a strong temptation to proceed along that common road or highway, in pursuit of the gain, the glory, or the pleasures of this world. But not only shall be there an highway, a road for all; there shall also be a way, "And it shall be called the way of holiness;" or the separated way, tinguished from the common road or
highway: “ Theunclean shall not puss over it. It is that which shall turn aside from the highway, to the Holy Land, and the City of Righteousness; and whereby "the ransomed of the Lord shall return; and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Isa. xxxv. 8—10.
The Holy People are to turn aside from the multitude that pursue their worldly career ;—the Virgin of Israel is to seek her own peculiar good in her own cities. It is to be observed that it is to cities, and not to one city only to which Israel's attention is called ; and that to the she is invited as to cities which are her own. She has been a stranger to them, and requires to be told they are hers: but they are to be strange to her no longer. There is to be a separation of the Holy people from the world ; as to their points of centralization, and their principal residence. And in their own cities, aside from those highways, which yet shall pass sufficiently near them on either side, are the children of God to be found dwelling together in unity.
It is again to be observed, that in Christ alone can the land be possessed with the promised blessing; and, in order that the separated way may be proceeded in happily, Jesus must be seen and accepted, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Holiness comes through the Holy One of God. It is to those that are found in Him, that the words are addressed, “ Turn again, O Virgin of Israel ; turn again to these thy Cities."
It would seem as if the Virgin of Israel may at first be found slow in complying with the invitation to re, turn. The Lord hath to remonstrate with her, saying, "How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter?" Her backsliding may consist, not only in her early waywardness and departure from the Lord, but also in her present backwardness to listen to the Lord's intreating voice, as inviting her to return to that land from
which she was cast out. He invites her to return, not merely to a submission to his grace, but to the waiting upon Him in the land where He hath more especially promised to accept her and to bless her. It is the place of his appointment, where he hath promised to receive her under his own immediate protection,--to the enjoyment of the fuller bestowment of his grace, and a more complete preparation for her being joined to Him for ever in glory. This place is still deserted. She hath done almost nothing, in her own peculiar home, to make ready for the return of her Lord. She will go about to any other work, or in any other way, than that unto which she is so specially invited. There hath been such destruction in the land,—it hath been so long lying waste,—she hath been so accustomed to regard it as under the curse, that she can scarcely think of it as a peaceful home, as the place where the Lord will bless her.
But surely a token hath been given of God's willingness to fulfil his word, and that to the letter. The mystery of the incarnation may well put to silence all our doubts, as to whether God intends what he says, “ If He hath not withheld His own Son, shall He not with him freely give us all things?" Behold, the Lord hath created a new thing in the land," since Israel was expelled therefrom. After the appearance of God's own Son in the land, and the literal fulfilment of the prediction respecting the first coming of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, we cannot reasonably doubt that our God intends, in that same land, to fulfil the promises given to the fathers, and confirmed in Him, respect ing the manifestation of the eons of the living God. Surely it is more wonderful that He should come thereto, from the throne of his Father, to be born of a woman, and to pass through life the “man of sorrows," and die the accursed death. Surely it was more difficult to anticipate such a fulfilment of the purpose of God as this, than to believe that God will fulfil his word in
INVITATION TO RETURN ZECHARIAH.
receiving back the outcasts of Israel to the blessing promised, -seeing it is so secured to them in Him, who hath for us endured the curse, and fulfilled all righteousness.
God hath given assured evidence that He means what He says; and they who in this persuasion lay hold upon his word, and treat it as a reality, being led forth thereby into the manifestation of his truth in the land, shall find his promise sure, whatever trials they may in the first instance be called upon to endure. Not one good thing of all that God hath spoken, will be found awanting to the children of promise, the numerous offspring of outcast Israel, who, by adoption, through grace, in the Son of God, will be constituted sons of God. As assuredly as the One Seed of the tribe of Judah hath come, to be the glory of his people Israel, so truly shall be brought forth unto Zion the multitudinous seed, who will glory in his name, and be regarded as his glory.
Let it be again remarked that the Lord remonstrates with Israel on account of her backwardness in obeying his voice, as to the promised return, which seems to imply, that, after the time she might have returned, she is still found absent from her own proper home. Her Lord invites her into his land. True, she hath forsaken the Lord, and forfeited all right to the possession of the inheritance promised to the fathers. But it is not in her own right that she is invited the cities of Israel as hers. It is in the name of the rightful Heir, the Mighty to save. It is in the right of Him in whom the promises are all secured to Israel. In giving this new and marvellous thing in the land, God hath given us the assurance that all the promises of God, however great, and however difficult of accomplishment, He will most assuredly fulfil. If He could make the virgin's womb to compass the Man, who is the Mighty One, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, then can there be no doubt that the land of Israel will be rendered capable of sustaining
the multitudes of its promised inhabitants.
Let us be induced to have really, and in all things, our faith and hope in God.
It seems to he with regard to this promised return of Israel to her own cities, that we have the assurance given, Zech. i. 17. "Cry yet," that is in addition to the re-peopling of the land by the Jews after their threescore-and-ten years' captivity in Babylon, referred to, v. 12—16. Cry yet, saying, My cities, through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem again." The invitation is earnestly given, ch. ii. 6, 7,“ Ho, ho, and flee from the laud of the north, saith the Lord.” And then the occasion for the double call, “ Ho, ho ” is given "For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven, saith the Lord." And the need of fleeing from the land of the north is intimated: judgment is to be executed upon Babylon there, “ Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest the daughter of Babylon." And then is intimated the cause of the message being so especially sent to the north country: It was after backsliding Israel, who yet are to prove his glory. "For thus saith the Lord of hosts, After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations that spoiled you; for he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye. For behold I will shake mine hand upon them: and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me." Others may have the worldly spoil, but Israel are to seize upon the true riches, the knowledge of Christ as the Sent of the Father, the good part which shall not be taken from them. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for, lo! I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord." This restoration will not be merely of the remnant of a nation: "Many nations will be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people (Ammi), and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know