IX. God by David perfected the Jewish worship, and added to it several new institutions. The law was given by Moses, but yet all the institutions of the Jewish worship were not given by Moses. Some were added by divine direction. So this greatest of all personal types of Christ did not only perfect Joshua’s work, in giving Israel the possession of the promised land, but he also finished Moses’ work, in perfecting the instituted worship of Israel. Thus there must be a number of typical prophets, priests, and princes, to complete one figure or shadow of Christ the anti-type, he being the substance of all the types and shadows. Of so much more glory was Christ accounted worthy, than Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon, and all the great prophets, priests, and princes, judges, and saviors of the Old Testament put together.
The ordinances of David are mentioned as of parallel validity with those of Moses, 2 Chr. 23:18, “Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David.” The worship of Israel was perfected by David, by the addition that be made to the ceremonial law, which we have an account of in 1 Chronicles 23-26, consisting in the several orders and courses into which David divided the Levites, and the work and business to which he appointed them, different from what Moses had appointed them to, and also in the divisions of the priests the sons of Aaron into four and twenty courses, assigning to every course their business in the house of the Lord, and their particular stated times of attendance there, and appointing some of the Levites to a new office, that had not been appointed before. That was the office of singers, and particularly ordering and regulating of them in that office, as you may see in 1 Chronicles 25, and appointing others of the Levites by law to the several services of porters, treasurers, officers, and judges. And these ordinances of David were kept up henceforth in the church of Israel, as long as the Jewish church lasted. Thus we find the several orders of priests, and the Levites, the porters, and singers, after the captivity. So we find the courses of the priests appointed by David still continuing in the New Testament. So Zacharias the father of John the Baptist was a priest of the course of Abia, which is the same with the course of Abijab appointed by David, that we read of 1 Chr. 24:10.
Thus David as well as Moses was made like to Christ the son of David, in this respect, that by him God gave a new ecclesiastical establishment, and new institutions of worship. David did not only add to the institutions of Moses, but by those additions he abolished some of the old institutions of Moses that had been in force until that time, particularly those laws of Moses that appointed the business of the Levites, which we have in the third and fourth chapters of Numbers, which very much consisted in their charge of the several parts and utensils of the tabernacle there assigned to them, and in carrying those several parts of the tabernacle. But those laws were now abolished by David. And they were no more to carry those things, as they had been used to do until David’s time. But David appointed them to other work instead of it, see 1 Chr. 23:26, “And also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof” a sure evidence that the ceremonial law given by Moses is not perpetual, as the Jews suppose, but might be wholly abolished by Christ. Or if David, a type of the Messiah, might abolish the law of Moses in part, much more might the Messiah himself abolish the whole.
David, by God’s appointment, abolished all use of the tabernacle, that was built by Moses, and of which he had the pattern from God. For God now revealed it to David to be his will, that a temple should be built, that should be instead of the tabernacle, a great presage of what Christ, the son of David, would do, when he should come, viz. abolish the whole Jewish ecclesiastical constitution, which was but as a movable tabernacle, to set up the spiritual gospel temple, which was to be far more glorious, and of greater extent, and was to last forever. David had the pattern of all things pertaining to the temple showed him, even in like manner as Moses had the pattern of the tabernacle. And Solomon built the temple according to that pattern which he had from his father David, which he received from God. 1 Chr. 28:11, 12, “Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlors thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat, and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the delicate things.” And, 1 Chr. 28:19, “All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his band upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”
X. The canon of Scripture seems at or after the close of David’s reign to be added to by the prophets Nathan and Gad. It appeals probable by the Scriptures that they carried on the history of the two books of Samuel from the place where Samuel left it, and finished it. These two books of Samuel seem to be the book that in the Scripture is called the book of Samuel the seer, and Nathan the prophet, and Gad the seer, as in 1 Chr. 29:29, “Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer.”
XI. The next thing I would take notice of, is God’s wonderfully continuing the kingdom of his visible people in the line of Christ’s legal ancestors, as long as they remained an independent kingdom. Thus it was without any interruption worth taking notice of. Indeed the kingdom of all the tribes of Israel was not kept in that line but the dominion of that part of Israel in which the true worship of God was upheld. So that part that were God’s visible people, was always kept in the family of David, as long as there was any such thing as an independent king of Israel, according to his promise to David, and not only in the family of David, but always in that part of David’s posterity that was the line whence Christ was legally descended, so that the very person that was Christ’s legal ancestor was always in the throne, excepting Jehoaha, who reigned three months, and Zedekiah, as you may see in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ.
Christ was legally descended from the kings of Judah, though he was not naturally descended from them. He was both legally and naturally descended from David. He was naturally descended from Nathan the son of David, for Mary his mother was one of the posterity of David by Nathan, as you may see in Luke’s genealogy. But Joseph, the reputed and legal father of Christ, was naturally descended of Solomon and his successors, as we have an account in Matthew’s genealogy. Jesus Christ, though he was not the natural son of Joseph, yet, by the law and constitution of the Jews, he was Joseph’s heir, because he was the lawful son of Joseph’s lawful wife, conceived while she was his legally espoused wife. The Holy Ghost raised up seed to him. A person by the law of Moses, might be. the legal son and heir of another, whose natural son he was not, as sometimes a man raised up seed to his brother. A brother, in some cases, was to build up a brother’s house, so the Holy Ghost built up Joseph’s house.
And Joseph being in the direct line of the kings of Judah, Of the house of David, he was the legal heir of the crown of David, and Christ being legally his first born son, he was his heir. And so Christ, by the law, was the proper heir of the crown of David, and is therefore said to sit upon the throne of his father David
The crown of God’s people was wonderfully kept in the line of Christ’s legal ancestors. When David was old, and not able any longer to manage the affairs of the kingdom, Adonijah, one of his sons, set up to be king and seemed to have obtained his purpose. All things for a while seemed fair on his side, and he thought himself strong. The thing he aimed at seemed to be accomplished. But so it was, Adonijah was not the son of David that was the ancestor of Joseph, the legal father of Christ. And therefore how wonderfully did Providence work here! What a strange and sudden revolution! All Adonijah’s kingdom and glory vanished away as soon as it was begun. And Solomon, the legal ancestor of Christ, was established in the throne.
And after Solomon’s death, when Jeroboam had conspired against the family, and Rehoboam carried himself so that it was a wonder all Israel was not provoked to forsake him, and ten tribes did actually forsake him, and set up Jeroboam in opposition to him. And though he was a wicked man, and deserved to have been rejected altogether from being king. Yet he being the legal ancestor of Christ, God kept the kingdom of the two tribes, in which the true religion was upheld, in his possession. And though he had been wicked, and his son Abijam was another wicked prince, yet they being legal ancestors of Christ, God still continued the crown in the family, and gave it to Abijam’s son Asa. And afterwards, though many of the kings of Judah were very ‘wicked men, and horridly provoked God, as particularly Jehoram, Ahaziah, Ahaz, Manasseh and Amon. Yet God did not take away the crown from their family, but gave it to their sons, because they were the ancestors of Christ. God’s remembering his covenant that he had established with David, is given as the reason why God did thus, notwithstanding their wicked lives, as 1 Kin. 15:4. speaking there of Abijam’s wickedness, it is said, “Nevertheless, for David’s sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem.” So, 2 Chr. 21:7, speaking there of Jehoram’s great wickedness, it is said, “ Howbeit, the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light unto him, and to his sons for ever.”
The crown of the ten tribes was changed from one family to another continually. First, Jeroboam took it, but the crown remained in his family but for one generation after his death, it only descended to his son Nadab. And then Baasha, that was of another family, took it, and it remained in his posterity but one generation after his death. And then Zimri, that was his servant, and not of his posterity, took it. And then, without descending at all to his posterity, Omri, that was of another family, took it. and the crown continued in his family for three successions. And then Jehu, that was of another family, took it, and the crown continued in his family for three or four successions. And then Shalluin, that was of another family, took it. And the crown did not descend at all to his posterity, but Menahem, that was of another family, took it. And it remained in his family but one generation after him. And then Pekab, that was of another family, took it. And after him Hoshea, that was still of another family, took it. So great a difference was there between the crown of Israel and the crown of Judah, the one was continued evermore in the same family, and with very little interruption, in one right line. The other was continually tossed about from one family to another, as if it were the sport of fortune. The reason was not, because the kings of Judah, many of them, were better than the kings of Israel, but the one had the blessing in them. They were the ancestors of Christ, whose right it was to sit on the throne of Israel. But with the kings of Israel it was not so. And therefore divine Providence exercised a continual care, through all the changes that happened through so many generations, and such a long space of time, to keep the crown of Judah in one direct line, in fulfillment of the everlasting covenant he had made with David, the mercies of which covenant were sure mercies. But in the other case there was no such covenant, and so no such care of Providence.
And here it must not be omitted, that there was once a very strong conspiracy of the kings of Syria and Israel, in the time of that wicked king of Judah, Ahaz, to dispossess Ahaz and his family of the throne of Judah, and to set one of another family, even the son of Tabeal on it, as you may see in Isa. 7:6, “Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal.” And they seemed very likely to accomplish their purpose. — There seemed to be so great a likelihood of it, that the hearts of the people sunk within them, they gave up the cause. It is said, “The heart of Aliaz and his people was moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.” And on this occasion God sent the prophet Isaiah to encourage the people, and tell them that it should not come to pass. And because it looked so much like a gone cause, that Ahaz and the people would very difficulty believe that it would not be, therefore God directs the prophet to give them this sign of it, viz. that Christ should be born of the legal seed of Ahaz, as Isa. 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This was a good sign, and a great confirmation of the truth of what God promised by Isaiah, viz. that the kings of Syria and Israel should never accomplish their purpose of dispossessing the family of Ahaz of the crown of Judah, and setting up the son of Tabeal, for Christ the Immanuel was to be of them. I have mentioned this dispensation of Providence in this place, because though it was continued for so long a time, yet it began in Solomon’s succession to the throne of his father David.
XII. The next thing I would take notice of is, the building of the temple, a great type of three things, viz. of Christ, especially the human nature of Christ, of the church of Christ, and of heaven. The tabernacle seemed rather to represent the church in its movable, changeable state, here in this world. But that beautiful, glorious, costly structure of the temple, that succeeded the tabernacle, and was a fixed, and not a movable thing, seems especially to represent the church in its glorified state in heaven. This temple was built according to the pattern shown by the Holy Ghost to David, and by divine direction given to David, in the place where was the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, in Mount Moriah, 2 Chr. 3:1, in the same mountain, and doubtless in the very same place, where Abraham offered up his son Isaac. For that is said to be a mountain in the land of Moriah, Gen. 22:2, which mountain was called the Mountain of the Lord, as this mountain of the temple was, Gen. 22:14 “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh; as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.”
This was the house where Christ dwelt, until he came to dwell in the temple of his body, or human nature, which was the anti-type of this temple, as appears, because Christ, on occasion of showing him the temple of Jerusalem, says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days will I raise it up,” speaking of the temple of his body, John 2:19, 20. This house, or an house built in this place, continued to be the house of God, the place of the worship of his church, until Christ came. Here was the place that God chose, where all their sacrifices were offered up, until the great sacrifice came, and made the sacrifice and oblation to cease. Into his temple in this place the Lord came, even the messenger of the covenant. Here he often delivered his heavenly doctrine, and wrought miracles. Here his church was gathered by the pouring out of the Spirit, after his ascension. Luke 24:53. Speaking of the disciples, after Christ’s ascension, it is said, “And they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” And, Acts 2:46, speaking of the multitudes that were converted by that great outpouring of the Spirit that was on the day of Pentecost, it is said, “And they continued daily with one accord in the temple.” And, Acts 5:42, speaking of the apostles, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” And hence the sound of the gospel went forth, and the church spread into all the world.
XIII. It Is here worthy to be observed, that at this time, in Solomon’s reign, after the temple was finished, the Jewish church was risen to its highest external glory. The Jewish church, or the ordinances and constitution of it, is compared to the moon, in Rev. 12:1, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon tinder her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” As this church was like the moon in many other respects, so it was in this, that it waxed and waned like the moon. From the first foundation of it, that was laid in the covenant made with Abraham, when this moon was now beginning to appear, it had to this time been gradually increasing in its glory. This time, wherein the temple was finished and dedicated, was about the middle between the calling of Abraham and the coming of Christ, and now it was full moon. After this the glory of the Jewish church gradually decreased, until Christ came, as I shall have occasion more particularly to observe afterwards.
Now the church of Israel was in its highest external glory. Now Israel was multiplied exceedingly, so that they seemed to have become like the sand on the sea shore, 1 Kin. 4:20. Now the kingdom of Israel was firmly established in the right family, the family of which Christ was to come. Now God had chosen the city where he would place his name. Now God had fully given his people the possession of the promised land. And they now possessed the dominion of it all in quietness and peace, even from the river of Egypt, to the great river Euphrates. All those nations that had formerly been their enemies, quietly submitted to them. None pretended to rebel against them. Now the Jewish worship in all its ordinances was fully settled. Now, instead of a movable tent and tabernacle, they had a glorious temple, the most magnificent, beautiful, and costly structure, that there was then, ever had been, or ever has been since. Now the people enjoyed peace and plenty, and sat every man under his vine and fig tree, eating and drinking, and making merry, as 1 Kin. 4:20. Now they were in the highest pitch of earthly prosperity, silver being as plenty as stones, and the land full of gold and precious stones, and other precious foreign commodities, which were brought by Solomon’s ships from Ophir, and which came from other parts of the world. Now they had a king reigning over them that was the wisest of men, and probably the greatest earthly prince that ever was. Now their fame went abroad into all the earth, so that they came from the utmost parts of the earth to see their glory and their happiness.
Thus God was pleased, in one of the ancestors of Christ, remarkably to shadow forth the kingdom of Christ reigning in his glory. David, that was a man of war, a man who had shed much blood, and whose life was full of troubles and conflicts, was more of a representation of Christ in his state of humiliation, his militant state, wherein he was conflicting with his enemies. But Solomon, that was a man of peace, was a representation more especially of Christ exalted, triumphing, and reigning in his kingdom of peace. And the happy glorious state of the Jewish church at that time, did remarkably represent two things. 1. That glorious state of the church on earth that shall be in the latter ages of the world, those days of peace, when nation shall not lift sword against nation, nor learn war any more. 2. The future glorified state of the church in heaven. The earthly Canaan never was so lively a type of the heavenly Canaan, as it was then, when the happy people of Israel did indeed enjoy it as a land flowing with mill and honey.
XIV. After this the glory of the Jewish church gradually declined more and more until Christ came, yet not so but that the work of redemption still went on. Whatever failed or declined, God still carried on this work from age to age. This building was still advancing higher and higher. Things still went on, during the decline of the Jewish church, towards a further preparation of things for the coming of Christ, as well as during its increase. For so wonderfully were things ordered by the infinitely wise Governor of the world, that whatever happened was ordered for good to this general design and made a means of promoting it. When the people of the Jews flourished, and were in prosperity, he made that to contribute to the promoting this design. And when they were in adversity, God made that also to contribute to the carrying on of the same design. While the Jewish church was in its increasing state, the work of redemption was carried on by their increase. When they came to their declining state, which they were in from Solomon’s time until Christ, God carried on the work of redemption by that. That decline itself was one thing that God made use of as a further preparation for Christ’s coming.
As the moon, from the time of its full, is approaching nearer and nearer to her conjunction with the sun, so her light is still more and more decreasing. Until at length, when the conjunction comes, it is wholly swallowed up in the light of the sun. So it was with the Jewish church from the time of its highest glory in Solomon’s time. In the latter end of Solomon’s reign, the state of things began to darken, by Solomon’s corrupting himself with idolatry, which much obscured the glory of this mighty and wise prince. And withal troubles began to arise in his kingdom. And after his death the kingdom was divided, and ten tribes revolted, and with drew their subjection from the house of David, with a falling away from the true worship of God in the temple at Jerusalem, and setting up the golden calves of Bethel and Dan. And presently after this the number of the ten tribes was greatly diminished in the battle of Jeroboam with Abijah, wherein there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men, which loss the kingdom of Israel probably never in any measure recovered.
The ten tribes finally apostatized from the true God under Jeroboam, and the kingdom of Judah was greatly corrupted, and from that time forward were more generally in a corrupt state than otherwise. In Ahab’s time the kingdom of Israel did not only worship the calves of Bethel and Dan, but the worship of Baal was introduced. Before, they pretended to worship the true God by these images, the calves of Jerohoam, but now Ahab introduced idolatry, and the direct worship of false gods in the room of the true God. And soon after the worship of Baal was introduced into the kingdom of Judah, viz. in Jehoram’s reign, by his marrying Athaliah the daughter of Ahab. After this God began to cut Israel short, by finally destroying and sending into captivity that part of the land that was beyond Jordan, as you may see in 2 Kin. 10:32, etc. And then after this Tiglathpileser subdued and captivated all the northern parts of the land, 2 Kin. 15:29. And then at last all the land of the ten tribes was subdued by Salmaneser. And they were finally carried captive out of their own land. After this also the kingdom of Judah was carried captive into Babylon, and a great part of the nation never returned. Those that returned were but a small number, compared with what had been carried captive. And for the most part after this they were dependent on the power of other states, being subject one while to the kings of Persia, then to the monarchy of the Grecians, and then to the Romans. And before Christ’s time, the church of the Jews was become exceeding corrupt, overrun with superstition and self righteousness. And how small a flock was the church of Christ in the days of his incarnation!
God, by this gradual decline of the Jewish state and church from Solomon’s time, prepared the way for the coming of Christ several ways.
1. The decline of the glory of this legal dispensation, made way for the introduction of the more glorious dispensation of the gospel. The decline of the glory of the legal dispensation, was to make way for the introduction of the evangelical dispensation, that was so much more glorious, that the legal dispensation had no glory in comparison with it. The glory of the ancient dispensation, such as it was in Solomon’s time, consisting so much in external glory, was but a childish glory, compared with the spiritual glory of the dispensation introduced by Christ. The church, under the Old Testament was a child under tutors and governors, and God dealt with it as a child. Those pompous externals are called by the apostle, weak and beggarly elements. It was fit that those things should be diminished as Christ approached. As John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ speaking of Christ, says, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John 3:30. It is fit that the twinkling star should gradually withdraw their glory, when the sun is approaching towards his rising. The glory of the Jewish dispensation must be gradually diminished, to prepare the way for the more joyful reception of the spiritual glory of the gospel. If the Jewish church, when Christ came, had been in the same external glory that it was in, in the reign of Solomon, men would have had their eyes so dazzled with it, that they would not have been likely joyfully to exchange such great external glory, for only the spiritual glory of the poor despised Jesus. Again,
2. This gradual decline of the glory of the Jewish state tended to prepare the way for Christ’s coming another way, viz. as it tended to make the glory of God’s power in the great effects of Christ’s redemption, the more conspicuous. God’s people being so diminished and weakened by one step after another, until Christ came, was very much like the diminishing Gideon’s army. God told Gideon, that the people that was with him, was to many for him to deliver the Midianites into their hands lest Israel should vaunt themselves against him, saying “My own hand hath saved me.” And therefore all that were fearful were commanded to return. And there returned twenty and two thousand, and there remained ten thousand. But still they were too many, and there by trying the people at the water, they were reduced to three hundred men. So the people in Solomon’s time were too many, and mighty, and glorious for Christ therefore he diminished them, first, by sending off the ten tribes. And then he diminished them again by the captivity into Babylon. And then they were further diminished by the great and general corruption that there was when Christ came, so that Christ found very few godly persons among them. And with a small handful of disciples, Christ conquered the world. Thus high things were brought down, that Christ might be exalted.
3. This prepared the way for Christ’s coming, as it made the salvation of those Jews that were saved by Christ, to be more sensible and visible. Though the greater part of the nation of the Jews was rejected, and the Gentiles called in their room, yet there were a great many thousands of the Jews that were saved by Christ after his resurrection, Acts 21:20. They being taken from so low a state under temporal calamity in their bondage to the Romans, and from a state of great superstition and wickedness, that the Jewish nation was then fallen into. It made their redemption the more sensibly and visibly glorious.
I have taken notice of this dispensation of Providence In the gradual decline of the Jewish church in this place, because it began in the reign of Solomon.
XV. I would here take notice of the additions that were made to the canon of Scripture in or soon after the reign of Solomon. There were considerable additions made by Solomon himself, who wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastics, probably near the close of his reign. His writing the Song of Songs, as it is called, is what is especially here to he taken notice of, which is wholly on the subject that we are upon, viz. Christ and his redemption, representing the high and glorious relation, and union, and love, that is between Christ and his redeemed church. And the history of the Scripture seems, in Solomon’s reign, and some of the next succeeding reigns, to have been added to by the prophets Nathan and Ahijah, and Shemaiah and Iddo. It is probable that part of the history which we have In the first of Kings, was written by them, by what is said, 2 Chr. 9:29 and in chap. 12:15 and in chap. 13:22.
XVI. God’s wonderfully upholding his church and the true religion through this period. It was very wonderful considering the many and great apostasies that were of that people to idolatry. When the ten tribes had generally and finally forsaken the true worship of God, God kept up the true religion in the kingdom of Judah. And when they corrupted themselves, as they very often did exceedingly, and idolatry was ready totally to swallow all up, yet God kept the lamp alive, and was often pleased, when things seemed to be come to an extremity, and religion at its last gasp, to grant blessed revivals by remarkable outpourings of his Spirit, particularly in Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s time.
XVII. God remarkably kept the book of the law from being lost in times of general and long continued neglect of and enmity against it. The most remarkable instance of this kind that we have, was the preservation of the book of the law in the time of the great apostasy during the greatest part of the long reign of Manasseh, which lasted fifty-five years, and then after that the reign of Amon his son. This while the book of the law was so much neglected, and such a careless and profane management of the affairs of the temple prevailed, that the book of the law, that used to be laid up by the side of the ark in the Holy of Holies, was lost for a long time, nobody knew where it was. But yet God preserved it from being finally lost. In Josiah’s time, when they came to repair the temple, it was found buried in rubbish, after it had been lost so long that Josiah himself seems to have been much a stranger to it until now. See 2 Kin. 22:8, etc.
XVIII. God’s remarkably preserving the tribe of which Christ was to proceed, from being ruined through the many and great dangers of this period. The visible church of Christ from Solomon’s reign, was mainly in the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Benjamin, that was annexed to them, was but a very small tribe, and the tribe of Judah exceeding large. And as Judah took Benjamin under his covert when he went into Egypt to bring corn, so the tribe of Benjamin seemed to be under the covert of Judah ever after. And though, on occasion of Jeroboam’s setting up the calves at Bethel and Dan, the Levites resorted to Judah out of all the tribes of Israel (2 Chr. 11:13), yet they were also small, and not reckoned among the tribes. And though many of the ten tribes did also on that occasion, for the sake of the worship of God in the temple, leave their inheritances in their several tribes, and removed and settled in Judah, arid so were incorporated with them, as we have an account in the chapter just quoted, and 16th verse. Yet the tribe of Judah was so much the prevailing part, that they were called by one name, they were called Judah. Therefore God said to Solomon, 1 Kin. 11:13, “I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, which I have chosen,” and so verse 32, 36. So when the ten tribes were carried captive, it is said, there was none left but the tribe of Judah only, 2 Kin. 17:18, “Therefore the Lord was very wroth with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.” Whence they were all called Jews, which is a word that comes from Judah.
This was the tribe of which Christ was to come, and in this chiefly did God’s visible church consist, from Solomon’s time. And this was the people over whom the kings that were legal ancestors of Christ, and were of the house of David, reigned. This people was wonderfully preserved from destruction during this period. When they often seemed to be upon the brink of ruin, and just ready to be swallowed up. So it was in Rehoboam’s time, when Shishak king of Egypt came against Judah with such a vast force. Yet then God manifestly preserved them from being destroyed. Of this we read in the beginning of 2 Chr. 12. So it was again in Abijah’s time, when Jeroboam set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, a mighty army indeed. We read of it, 2 Chr. 13:3. Then God wrought deliverance to Judah, out of regard to the covenant of grace established with David, as is evident by verse 4 and 5. and the victory they obtained was because the Lord was on their side, as you may see, 2 Chr. 13:12. So it was again in Asa’s time, when Zerah the Ethiopian came against him with a yet larger army of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots, 2 Chr. 14:9. On this occasion Asa cried to the Lord, and trusted in him, being sensible that it was nothing with him to help those that had no power, verse 11, “And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with those that have no power.” And accordingly God gave them a glorious victory over this mighty host.
So again it was in Jehoshaphat’s time, when the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir, combined together against Judah with a mighty army, a force vastly superior to any that Jehoshaphat could raise. Jehoshaphat and his people were greatly afraid. Yet they set themselves to seek God on this occasion, and trusted in him. God told them by one of his prophets, that they need not fear them, nor should they have any occasion to fight in this battle. They should only stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And according to his direction, they only stood still, and sang praises to God, and God made their enemies do the work themselves, and set them to killing one another. And the children of Judah had nothing to do, but to gather the spoil, which was more than they could carry away. We have the story in 2 Chr. 20.
So it was again in Ahaz’s time, when Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, conspired against Judah, and seemed to be sure of their purpose, of which we have spoken already. So it was again in Hezekiah’s time, when Sennacherib, that great king of Assyria, and head of the greatest monarchy that was then in the world, came up against all the fenced cities of Judah, after he had conquered most of the neighboring countries, and sent Rabshakeh. The captain of his host, against Jerusalem, who came, and in a very proud and scornful manner insulted Hezekiah and his people, as being sure of victory. And the people were trembling for fear, like lambs before a lion. Then God sent Isaiah the prophet to comfort them, and assure them that they should not prevail. As a token of which he gave them this sign, viz. that the earth, for two years successively, should bring forth food of itself, from the roots of the old stalks, without their plowing or sowing. And then the third year they should sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them, and live on the fruits of their labor, as they were wont to do before. See 2 Kin. 19:29. This is mentioned as a type of what is promised in verse 30, 31, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah, shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape, out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.” The corn’s springing again after it had been cut off with the sickle, and bringing forth another crop from the roots, that seemed to be dead, said so once and again, represents the church’s reviving again, as it were out of its own ashes, and flourishing like a plant after it had seemingly been cut down past recovery. When the enemies of the church have done their utmost, and seem to have gained their point, and to have overthrown the church, so that the being of it is scarcely visible, but like a living root hid under ground. Yet there is a secret life in it that will cause it to flourish again, and to take root downward, and bear fruit upward. This was fulfilled now at this time. For the king of Assyria had already taken and carried captive the ten tribes. And Sennacherib had also taken all the fenced cities of Judah, and ranged the country round about, and Jerusalem only remained. And Rabshakeh had in his own imagination already swallowed that up, as he had also in the fearful apprehensions of the Jews themselves. But yet God wrought a wonderful deliverance. He sent an angel, that in one night smote an hundred fourscore and five thousand in the enemy’s camp.
XIX. In the reign of Uzziah, and the following reigns, God was pleased to raise up a set of eminent prophets, who should commit their prophecies to writing, and leave them for the use of his church in all ages. We before observed, how that God began a constant succession of prophets in Israel in Samuel’s time, and many of these prophets wrote by divine inspiration, and so added to the canon of Scripture before Uzziah’s time. But none of them are supposed to have written books of prophecies until now. Several of them wrote histories of the wonderful dispensations of God towards his church. This we have observed already of Samuel, who is supposed to have written Judges and Ruth, and part of the first of Samuel, if not the book of Joshua. And Nathan and Gad seem to have written the rest of the two books of Samuel. And Nathan, with Ahijah and Iddo, wrote the history of Solomon, which is probably that which we have in the first book of Kings. The history of Israel seems to have been further carried on by Iddo and Shemaiah, 2 Chr. 12:15, “Now the acts of Rehoboam, first and last, are they not written in the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and Iddo the seer, concerning genealogies?” And after that the history seems to have been further carried on by the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, 2 Chr. 20:34, “Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Jehu, the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel,” as we find him to be, 1 Kin. 16:1, 7. And then it was further continued by the Prophet Isaiah, 2 Chr. 26:22. “Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz write.” He probably did it as well in the second book of Kings, as in the book of his prophecy. And the history was carried on and finished by other prophets after him.
Thus the prophets, even from Samuel’s time, had from time to time been adding to the canon of Scripture by their historical writings. But now, in the days of Uzziah, did God first raise up a set of great prophets, not only to write histories, but to write books of their prophecies. The first of these is thought to be Hosea the son of Beeri, and therefore his prophecy, or the word of the Lord by him, is called the beginning of the word of the Lord, as Hos. 1:2, “The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea,” that is, the beginning, or the first part, of the written word of that kind, viz. that which is written in books of prophecy. He prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel. There were many other witnesses for God raised up about the same time, to commit their prophecies to writing, Isaiah, and Amos, and Jonah, and Micah, and Nahum, and probably some others. And so from that time forward God seemed to continue a succession of writing prophets.
This was a great dispensation of Providence, and a great advance made in the affair of redemption, which appear, if we consider what was said before, that the main business of the prophets was to foreshadow Christ and his redemption. They were all forerunners of the great prophet. The main end why the spirit of prophecy was given them was that they might give testimony to Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer, that was to come. And therefore the testimony of Jesus, and the spirit of prophecy, are spoken of as the same thing, Rev. 19:10, “And I fell at his feet to worship him: and he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” And therefore we find, that the great and main thing that the most of the prophets in their written prophecies insist upon, is Christ and his redemption, and the glorious times of the gospel, which should be in the latter days, according to their manner of expression. And though many other things were spoken of in their prophecies, yet it seems to be only as introductory to their prophecy of these great things. Whatever they prophesy of, here their prophecies commonly terminate, as you may see by a careful perusal of their writings.
These prophets were set to writing their prophecies by the Spirit of Christ that was in them, chiefly for that end, to foreshadow and prepare the way for the coming of Christ, and the glory that should follow. And in what an exalted strain do they all speak of those things! Many other things they speak of in men’s usual language. But when they come upon this subject, what a joyful heavenly sublimity is there in the language they use about it! Some of them are very particular and full in their predictions of these things, and above all the Prophet Isaiah, who is therefore deservedly called the evangelical prophet. He seems to teach the glorious doctrines of the gospel almost as plainly as the apostles did, who preached after Christ was actually come. The Apostle Paul therefore takes notice, that the Prophet Esaias is very bold, Rom. 10:20, i.e. as the meaning of the word, as used in the New Testament, is very plain, he speaks out very plainly and fully, so being “very bold” is used, 2 Cor. 3:12, we use “great plainness of speech,” or “boldness,” as it is in the margin.
How plainly and fully does the Prophet Isaiah describe the manner and circumstances, the nature and end, of the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ, in the Isa. 53. There is scarce a chapter in the New Testament itself which is more full on it! And how much, and in what a glorious strain, does the same prophet speak from time to time of the glorious benefits of Christ, the unspeakable blessings which shall redound to his church through his redemption! Jesus Christ, the person that this prophet spoke so much of, once appeared to Isaiah in the form of the human nature, the nature that he should afterwards take upon him. We have an account of it in the Isa. 6 at the beginning, “I saw also the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple,” etc. This was Christ that Isaiah now saw, as we are expressly told in the New Testament. See John 12:39, 40, 41.
And if we consider the abundant prophecies of this and the other prophets, what a great increase is there or the light of the gospel, which had been growing from the fall of man to this day! — How plentiful are the revelations and prophecies of Christ now, to what they were in the first period of the Old Testament, from Adam to Noah! — Or to what they were in the second, from Noah to Abraham! — Or to what they were before Moses, or in the time of Moses, Joshua, and the Judges! This dispensation that we are now speaking of, was also a glorious advance of the work of redemption by the great additions that were made to the canon of Scripture. Great part of the Old Testament was written now, from the days of Uzziah to the captivity into Babylon. And, how excellent are those portions of it! What a precious treasure have those prophets committed to the church of God, tending greatly to confirm the gospel of Christ, and which has been of great comfort and benefit to God’s church in all ages since, and doubtless will be to the end of the world.