; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22
FOUR POINTS OF A TRUE RELIGION
Isaiah 43:1-28 - Isaiah 48:1-22
WE have now surveyed the governing truths of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22 : the One God, omnipotent and righteous; the One People, His servants and witnesses to the world; the nothingness of all other gods and idols before Him; the vanity and ignorance of their diviners, compared with His power, who, because He has a purpose working through all history, and is both faithful to it and almighty to bring it to pass, can inspire His prophets to declare beforehand the facts that shall be. He has brought His people into captivity for a set time, the end of which is now near. Cyrus the Persian, already upon the horizon, and threatening Babylon, is to be their deliverer. But whomever He raises up on Israel’s behalf, God is always Himself their foremost champion. Not only is His word upon them, but His heart is among them. He bears the brunt of their battle, and their deliverance, political and spiritual, is His own travail and agony. Whomever else He summons on the stage, He remains the true hero of the drama.
Now, chapters 43-48 are simply the elaboration and more urgent offer of all these truths, under the sense of the rapid approach of Cyrus upon Babylon. They declare again God’s unity, omnipotence, and righteousness, they confirm His forgiveness of His people, they repeat the laughter at the idols, they give us nearer views of Cyrus, they answer the doubts that many orthodox Israelites felt about this Gentile Messiah; chapters 46 and 47 describe Babylon as if on the eve of her fall, and chapter 48, after Jehovah more urgently than ever presses upon reluctant Israel to show the results of her discipline in Babylon, closes with a call to leave the accursed city, as if the way were at last open. This call has been taken as the mark of a definite division of our prophecy. But too much must not be put upon it. It is indeed the first call to depart from Babylon; but it is not the last. And although chapter 49, and the chapters following, speak more of Zion’s Restoration and less of the Captivity, yet chapter 49 is closely connected with chapter 48, and we do not finally leave Babylon behind till Isaiah 52:12. Nevertheless, in the meantime chapter 48 will form a convenient point on which to keep our eyes.
Cyrus, when we last saw him, was upon the banks of the Halys, 546 B.C., startling Croesus and the Lydian Empire into extraordinary efforts, both of a religious and political kind, to avert his attack. He had just come from an unsuccessful attempt upon the northern frontier of Babylon, and at first it appeared as if he were to find no better fortune on the western border of Lydia. In spite of his superior numbers, the Lydian army kept the ground on which he met them in battle. But Croesus, thinking that the war was over for the season, fell back soon afterwards on Sardis, and Cyrus, following him up by forced marches, surprised him under the walls of the city, routed the famous Lydian cavalry by the novel terror of his camels, and after a siege of fourteen days sent a few soldiers to scale a side of the citadel too steep to be guarded by the defenders; and so Sardis, its king and its empire, lay at his feet. This Lydian campaign of Cyrus, which is related by Herodotus, is worth noting here for the light it throws on the character of the man, whom according to our prophecy, God chose to be His chief instrument in that generation. If his turning back from Babylonia, eight years before he was granted an easy entrance to her capital, shows how patiently Cyrus could wait upon fortune, his quick march upon Sardis is the brilliant evidence that when fortune showed the way, she found this Persian an obedient and punctual follower. The Lydian campaign forms as good an illustration as we shall find of these texts of our prophet: "He pursueth them, he passeth in safety; by a way he (almost) treads not with his feet. He cometh upon satraps as on mortar, and as the potter treadeth upon clay. [Isaiah 12:3] I have holden his right hand to bring down before him nations, and the loins of kings will I loosen," (poor ungirt Croesus, for instance, relaxing so foolishly after his victory!) "to open before him doors, and gates shall not be shut" (so was Sardis unready for him), "I go before thee, and will level the ridges; doors of brass I will shiver, and bolts of iron cut in sunder. And I will give to thee treasures of darkness, hidden riches of secret places." [Isaiah 45:1-3] Some have found in this an allusion to the immense hoards of Croesus, which fell to Cyrus with Sardis.
With Lydia, the rest of Asia Minor, including the cities of the Greeks, who held the coast of the Aegean, was bound to come into the Persian’s hands. But the process of subjection turned out to be a tong one. The Greeks got no help from Greece. Sparta sent to Cyrus an embassy with a threat, but the Persian laughed at it and it came to nothing. Indeed, Sparta’s message was only a temptation to this irresistible warrior to carry his fortunate arms into Europe. His own presence, however, was required in the East, and his lieutenants found the thorough subjection of Asia Minor a task requiring several years. It cannot have well been concluded before 540, and while it was in progress we understand why Cyrus did not again attack Babylonia. Meantime, he was occupied with lesser tribes to the north of Media.
Cyrus’ second campaign against Babylonia opened in 539. This time he avoided the northern wall from which he had been repulsed in 546. Attacking Babylonia from the east, he crossed the Tigris, beat the Babylonian king into Borsippa, laid siege to that fortress and marched on Babylon, which was held by the king’s son, Belshazzar, Bil-sarussur. All the world knows the supreme generalship by which Cyrus is said to have captured Babylon without assaulting the walls, from whose impregnable height their defenders showered ridicule upon him; how he made himself master of Nebuchadrezzar’s great bason at Sepharvaim, and turned the Euphrates into it; and how, before the Babylonians had time to notice the dwindling of the waters in their midst, his soldiers waded down the river bed, and by the river gates surprised the careless citizens upon a night of festival. But recent research makes it more probable that her inhabitants themselves surrendered Babylon to Cyrus.
Now it was during the course of the events just sketched, but before their culmination in the fall of Babylon, that chapters 43-48 were composed. That, at least, is what they themselves suggest. In three passages, which deal with Cyrus or with Babylon, some of the verbs are in the past, some in the future. Those in the past tense describe the calling and full career of Cyrus or the beginning of preparations against Babylon. Those in the. future tense promise Babylon’s fall or Cyrus’ completion of the liberation of the Jews. Thus, in Isaiah 43:14 it is written: "For your sakes I have sent to Babylon, and I will bring down as fugitives all of them, and the Chaldeans in the ships of their rejoicing." Surely these words announce that BabyIon’s fate was already on the way to her, but not yet arrived. Again, in the verses which deal with Cyrus himself, Isaiah 45:1-6, which we have partly quoted, the Persian is already "grasped by his right hand by God, and called"; but his career is not over, for God promises to do various things for him. The third passage is Isaiah 45:13 of the same chapter, where Jehovah says, "I have stirred him up in righteousness, and" changing to the future tense, "all his ways will I level; he shall build My city, and My captivity shall he send away." What could be more precise than the tenor of all these passages? If people would only take our prophet at his word; if with all their belief in the inspiration of the text of Scripture, they would only pay attention to its grammar, which surely, on their own theory, is also thoroughly sacred, then there would be today no question about the date of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22. As plainly as grammar can enable it to do, this prophecy speaks of Cyrus’ campaign against Babylon as already begun, but of its completion as still future. Chapter 48, it is true, assumes events as still farther developed, but we will come to it afterwards.
During Cyrus’ preparations, then, for invading Babylonia, and in prospect of her certain fall, chapters 43-48 repeat with greater detail and impetuosity the truths, which we have already gathered from chapters 40-42.
1. And first of these comes naturally the omnipotence, righteousness, and personal urgency of Jehovah Himself. Everything is again assured by His power and purpose; everything starts from His initiative. To illustrate this we could quote from almost every verse in the chapters under consideration. "I, I Jehovah, and there is none beside Me a Saviour. I am God"-El. "Also from today on I am He. I will work, and who shall let it? I am Jehovah. I, I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions. I First, and I Last; and beside Me there is no God"-Elohim. "Is there a God," Eloah, "beside Me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any. I Jehovah, Maker of all things. I am Jehovah, and there is none else; beside Me there is no God. I am Jehovah, and there is none else. Former of light and Creator of darkness, Maker of peace and Creator of evil, I am Jehovah, Maker of all these. I am Jehovah, and there is none else, God," Elohini, "beside Me, God-Righteous,’" El Ssaddiq, "and a Saviour: there is none except: Me. Face Me, and be saved all ends of the earth; for I am God," El, "and there is none else. Only in Jehovah-of Me shall they say-are righteousnesses and strength. I am God," El, "and there is none else; God," Elohim, "and there is none like Me. I am He; I am First, yea, I am Last. I, I have spoken. I have declared it."
It is of advantage to gather together so many passages-and they might have been increased-from chapters 43-48. They let us see at a glance what a part the first personal pronoun plays in the Divine revelation. Beneath every religious truth is the unity of God. Behind every great movement is the personal initiative, and urgency of God. And revelation is, in its essence, not the mere publication of truths about God, but the personal presence and communication to men of God Himself. Three words are used for Deity-El, Eloah, Elohim-exhausting the Divine terminology. But besides these, there is a formula which puts the point even more sharply: "I am He." It was the habit of the Hebrew nation, and indeed of all Semitic peoples, who shared their reverent unwillingness to name the Deity, to speak of Him simply by the third personal pronoun. The Book of Job is full of instances of the habit, and it also appears in many proper names, as Eli-hu, "My God-is-He," Abi-hu, "My-Father-is-He." Renan adduces the practice as evidence that the Semites were "naturally monotheistic,"-as evidence for what was never the case! But if there was no original Semitic monotheism for this practice to prove, we may yet take the practice as evidence for the personality of the Hebrew God. The God of the prophets is not the it, which Mr. Matthew Arnold so strangely thought he had identified in their writings, and which, in philosophic language, that unsophisticated Orientals would never have understood, he so cumbrously named "a tendency not ourselves that makes for righteousness." Not anything like this is the God, who here urges His self-consciousness upon men. He says, "I am He,"-the unseen Power, who was too awful and too dark to be named, but about whom, when in their terror and ignorance His worshippers sought to describe Him, they assumed that He was a Person, and called Him, as they would have called one of themselves, by a personal pronoun. By the mouth of His prophet this vague and awful He declares Himself as I, I, I, - no mere tendency, but a living Heart and urgent Will, personal character and force of initiative, from which all tendencies move and take their direction and strength. "I am He."
History is strewn with the errors of those who have sought from God something else than Himself. All the degradation, even of the highest religions, has sprung from this, that their votaries forgot that religion was a communion with God Himself, a life in the power of His character and will, and employed it as the mere communication either of material benefits or of intellectual ideas. It has been the mistake of millions to see in revelation nothing but the telling of fortunes, the recovery of lost things, decision in quarrels, direction in war, or the bestowal of some personal favour. Such are like the person, of whom St. Luke tells us, who saw nothing in Christ but the recoverer of a bad debt: "Master, speak unto my brother that he divide the inheritance with me"; and their superstition is as far from true faith as the prodigal’s old heart, when he said, "Give me the portion of goods that falleth unto me," was from the other heart, when, in his poverty and woe, he cast himself utterly upon his Father: "I will arise and go to my Father." But no less a mistake do those make, who seek from God not Himself, but only intellectual information. The first Reformers did well, who brought the common soul to the personal grace of God; but many of their successors, in a controversy, whose dust obscured the sun and allowed them to see but the length of their own weapons, used Scripture chiefly as a store of proofs for separate doctrines of the faith, and forgot that God Himself was there at all. And though in these days we seek from the Bible many desirable things, such as history, philosophy, morals, formulas of assurance of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, maxims for conduct, yet all these will avail us little, until we have found behind them the living Character, the Will, the Grace, the Urgency, the Almighty Power, by trust in whom and communion with whom alone they are added unto us.
Now the deity, who claims in these chapters to be the One, Sovereign God, was the deity of a little tribe. "I am Jehovah, I Jehovah am God, I Jehovah am He." We cannot too much impress ourselves with the historical wonder of this. In a world, which contained Babylon and Egypt with their large empires, Lydia with all her wealth, and the Medes with all their force; which was already feeling the possibilities of the great Greek life, and had the Persians, the masters of the future, upon its threshold, -it was the god of none of these, but of the obscurest tribe of their bondsmen, who claimed the Divine Sovereignty for Himself; it was the pride of none of these, but the faith of the most despised and, at its heart, most mournful religion of the time, which offered an explanation of history, claimed the future, and was assured that the biggest forces of the world were working for its ends. "Thus saith Jehovah, King of Israel, and his Redeemer Jehovah of Hosts, I First, and I Last; and beside Me there is no God. Is there a God beside Me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any."
By itself this were a cheap claim, and might have been made by any idol among them, were it not for the additional proofs by which it is supported. We may summarise these additional proofs as threefold: Laughter, Gospel, and Control of History, -three marvels in the experience of exiles. People, mournfullest and most despised, their mouths were to be filled with the laughter of truth’s scorn upon the idols of their conquerors. Men, most tormented by conscience and filled with the sense of sin, they were to hear the gospel of forgiveness. Nation, against whom all fact seemed to be working, their God told them, alone of all nations of the world, that He controlled for their sake the facts of today and the issues of tomorrow.
2. A burst of laughter comes very weirdly out of the Exile. But we have already seen the intellectual right to scorn which these crushed captives had. They were monotheists and their enemies were image worshippers. Monotheism, even in its rudest forms, raises men intellectually, -it is difficult to say by how many degrees. Indeed, degrees do not measure the mental difference between an idolater and him who serves with his mind, as well as with all his heart and it not for the additional proofs by which it is a difference that is absolute. Israel in captivity was conscious of this, and therefore, although the souls of those sad men were filled beyond any in the world with the heaviness of sorrow and the humility of guilt, their proud faces carried a scorn they had every right to wear, as the servants of the One God. See how this scorn breaks forth in the following passage. Its text is corrupt, and its rhythm, at this distance from the voices that utter it, is hardly perceptible; but thoroughly evident is its tone of intellectual superiority, and the scorn of it gushes forth in impetuous, unequal verse, the force of which the smoothness and dignity of our Authorised Version has unfortunately disguised.
Formers of an idol are all of them waste,
And their darlings are utterly worthless!
And their confessors - they! they see not and know not
Enough to feel shame.
Who has fashioned a god, or an image has cast?
‘Tis to be utterly worthless.
Lo! all that depend on’t are shamed,
And the gravers are less than men:
Let all of them gather and stand.
They quake and are shamed in the lump.
Iron-graver-he takes a chisel,
And works with hot coals,
And with hammers he moulds;
And has done it with the arm of his strength. -
Anon hungers, and strength goes;
Drinks no water, and wearies!
Wood-graver-he draws a line,
Marks it with pencil,
Makes it with planes,
And with compasses marks it.
So has made it the build of a man,
To a grace that is human-
To inhabit a house, cutting it cedars.
Or one takes an ilex or oak,
And picks for himself from the trees of the wood
One has planted a pine, and the rain makes it big,
And ‘tis there for a man to burn.
And one has taken of it, and been warmed;
Yea, kindles and bakes bread, -
Yea, works out a god, and has worshipped it!
Has made it an idol, and bows down before it!
Part of it burns he with fire,
Upon part eats flesh,
Roasts roast and is full;
Yea, warms him and saith,
"Aha, I am warm, have seen fire!"
And the rest of it-to a god he has made-to his image!
He bows to it, worships it, prays to it,
And says, "Save me, for my god art thou!"
They know not and deem not!
For He hath bedaubed, past seeing, their eyes
Past thinking, their hearts.
And none takes to heart,
Neither has knowledge nor sense to say,
"‘Part of it burned I in fire-
Yea, have baked bread on its coals,
Do roast flesh that I eat, -
And the rest o’t, to a
Disgust should I make it?
The trunk of a tree should I worship?’"
Herder of ashes, a duped heart has sent him astray,
That he cannot deliver his soul. neither say,
"Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
Is not the prevailing note in these verses surprise at the mental condition of an idol-worshipper? "They see not and know not enough to feel shame. None takes it to heart, neither has knowledge nor sense to say, Part of it I have burned in fire and the rest, should I make it a god?" This intellectual confidence, breaking out into scorn, is the second great token of truth, which distinguishes the religion of this poor slave of a people.
3. The third token is its moral character. The intellectual truth of a religion would go for little, had the religion nothing to say to man’s moral sense-did it not concern itself with his sins, had it no redemption for his guilt. Now, the chapters before us are full of judgment and mercy. If they have scorn for the idols, they have doom for sin, and grace for the sinner. They are no mere political manifesto for the occasion, declaring how Israel shall be liberated from Babylon. They are a gospel for sinners in all time. By this they farther accredit themselves as a universal religion.
God is omnipotent, yet He can do nothing for Israel till Israel put away their sins. Those sins, and not the people’s captivity, are the Deity’s chief concern. Sin has been at the bottom of their whole adversity. This is brought out with all the versatility of conscience itself. Israel and their God have been at variance; their sin has been, what conscience feels the most, a sin against love. "Yet not upon Me hast thou called, O Jacob; how hast thou been wearied with Me, O Israel I have not made thee to slave with offerings, nor weaned thee with incense but thou hast made Me to slave with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities". [Isaiah 43:22-24] So God sets their sins, where men most see the blackness of their guilt, in the face of His love. And now He challenges conscience. "Put Me in remembrance; let us come to judgment together; indict, that thou mayest be justified" (Isaiah 43:26). But it had been age long and original sin. "Thy father, the first had sinned; yea, thy representative men"-literally "interpreters, mediators-had transgressed against Me. Therefore did I profane consecrated princes, and gave Jacob to the ban, and Israel to reviling" (Isaiah 43:27-28). The Exile itself was but an episode in a tragedy, which began far back with Israel’s history. And so chapter 48 repeats: "I knew that thou dost deal very treacherously, and Transgressor-from-the-womb do they call thee" (Isaiah 48:8). And then there comes the sad note of what might have been. "O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as the river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea" (Isaiah 48:18). As broad Euphrates thou shouldst have lavishly rolled, and flashed to the sun like a summer sea. But now, hear what is left. "There is no peace, saith Jehovah, to the wicked" (Isaiah 48:22).
Ah, it is no dusty stretch of ancient history, no; long-extinct volcano upon the far waste of Asian politics, to which we are led by the writings of the Exile. But they treat of man’s perennial trouble; and conscience, that never dies, speaks through their old-fashioned letters and figures with words we feel like swords. And therefore, still, whether they be psalms or prophecies, they stand like some ancient minster in the modern world, -where, on each new soiled day, till time ends, the heavy heart of man may be helped to read itself, and lift up its guilt for mercy.
They are the confessional of the world, but they are also its gospel, and the altar where forgiveness is sealed. "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me. I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins; turn unto Me, for I have redeemed, thee. Israel shall be saved by Jehovah with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." [Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:21-22; Isaiah 45:17] Now, when we remember who the God is, who thus speaks, -not merely One who flings the word of pardon from the sublime height of His holiness, but, as we saw, speaks it from the midst of all His own passion and struggle under His people’s sins, -then with what assurance does His word come home to the heart. What honour and obligation to righteousness does the pardon of such a God put upon our hearts. One understands why Ambrose sent Augustine, after his conversion, first to these prophecies.
4. The fourth token, which these chapters offer for the religion of Jehovah, is the claim they make for it to interpret and to control history. There are two verbs, which are frequently repeated throughout the chapters, and which are given together in Isaiah 43:12 : "I have published and I have saved." These are the two acts by which Jehovah proves His solitary divinity over against the idols.
The "publishing," of course, is the same prediction, of which chapter 41 spoke. It is "publishing" in former times things happening now; it is "publishing" now things that are still to happen. "And who, like Me, calls out and publishes it, and sets it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and that shall come, let them publish. Tremble not, nor fear: did I not long ago cause thee to hear? and I published, and ye are My witnesses. Is there a God beside Me? nay, there is no Rock; I know none". [Isaiah 44:7-8]
The two go together, the doing of wonderful and saving acts for His people and the publishing of them before they come to pass. Israel’s past is full of such acts. Chapter 43, instances the delivery from Egypt (Isaiah 43:16-17), but immediately proceeds (Isaiah 43:18-19): "Remember ye not the former things"-here our old friend ri’shonoth occurs again, but this time means simply "previous events"-"neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; even now it springs forth. Shall ye not know it? Yea, I will set in the wilderness a way, in the desert rivers." And of this new event of the Return, and of others which will follow from it, like the building of Jerusalem, the chapters insist over and over again, that they are the work of Jehovah, who is therefore a Saviour God. But what better proof can be given, that these saving facts are indeed His own and part of His counsel, than that He foretold them by His messengers and prophets to Israel, -of which previous "publication" His people are the witnesses. "Who among the peoples can publish thus, and let us hear predictions?-again ri’shonoth, "things ahead-let them bring their witnesses, that they may be justified, and let them hear and say, Truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah," to Israel. [Isaiah 43:9-10] "I have published, and I have saved, and I have shewed, and there was no strange god among you; therefore"-because Jehovah was notoriously the only God who had to do with them during all this prediction and fulfilment of prediction" ye are witnesses for Me, saith Jehovah, that I am God" (id. Isaiah 43:12). The meaning of all this is plain. Jehovah is God alone, because He is directly effective in history for the salvation of His people, and because He has published beforehand what He will do. The great instance of this, which the prophecy adduces, is the present movement towards the liberation of the people, of which movement Cyrus is the most conspicuous factor. Of this Isaiah 45:19 ff. says: "Not in a place of the land of in Secret have I spoken, darkness. I have not said to the seed of Jacob, In vanity seek ye Me. I Jehovah am a speaker of righteousness, a publisher of things that are straight. Be gathered and come in; draw together, ye survivors of the nations: they have no knowledge that carry about the log of their image, and are suppliants to a god that cannot save. Publish, and bring it here; nay, let them advise together; who made this to be heard,"-that is, "who published this, -of ancient time?" Who published this of old? I Jehovah, and there is none God beside Me: a God righteous,"-that is, consistent, true to His published word, -"and a Saviour, there is none beside Me." "Here we have joined together the same ideas as in Isaiah 43:12." There "I have declared and saved" is equivalent to "a God righteous and a Saviour" here. "Only in Jehovah are righteousnesses," that is, fidelity to His anciently published purposes; "and strength," that is, capacity to carry these purposes out in history. God is righteous because, according to another verse in the same prophecy, [Isaiah 44:26] "He confirmeth the word of His servant, and the advice of His messengers He fulfilleth."
Now the question has been asked, To what predictions does the prophecy allude as being fulfilled in those days when Cyrus was so evidently advancing to the overthrow of Babylon? Before answering this question it is well to note, that, for the most part, the prophet speaks in general terms. He gives no hint to justify that unfounded belief, to which so many think it necessary to cling, that Cyrus was actually named by a prophet of Jehovah years before he appeared. Had such a prediction existed, we can have no doubt that our prophet would now have appealed to it. No: he evidently refers only to those numerous and notorious predictions by Isaiah, and by Jeremiah, of the return of Israel from exile after a certain and fixed period. Those were now coming to pass.
But from this new day Jehovah also predicts for the days to come, and He does this very particularly, Isaiah 44:26, "Who is saying of Jerusalem, She shall be inhabited; and of the cities of Judah, They shall be built; and of her waste places, I will raise them up. Who saith to the deep, Be dry, and thy rivers I will dry up. Who saith of Koresh, My Shepherd, and all My pleasure he shall fulfil: even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built, and the Temple shall be founded."
Thus, backward and forward, yesterday, today and for ever, Jehovah’s hand is upon history. He controls it: it is the fulfilment of His ancient purpose. By predictions made long ago and fulfilled today, by the readiness to predict today what will happen tomorrow, He is surely God and God alone. Singular fact, that in that day of great empires, confident in their resources, and with the future so near their grasp, it should be the God of a little people, cut off from their history, servile and seemingly spent, who should take the big things of earth-Egypt, Ethiopia, Seba-and speak of them as counters to be given in exchange for His people; who should speak of such a people as the chief heirs of the future, the indispensable ministers of mankind. The claim has two Divine features. It is unique, and history has vindicated it. It is unique: no other religion, in that or in any other time, has so rationally explained past history or laid out the ages to come upon the lines of a purpose so definite, so rational, so beneficent-a purpose so worthy of the One God and Creator of all. And it has been vindicated: Israel returned to their own land, resumed the development of their calling, and, after the centuries came and went, fulfilled the promise that they should be the religious teachers of mankind. The long delay of this fulfilment surely but testifies the more to the Divine foresight of the promise; to the patience, which nature, as well as history, reveals to be, as much as omnipotence, a mark of Deity.
These, then, are the four points, upon which the religion of Israel offers itself. First, it is the force of the character and grace of a personal God; second, it speaks with a high intellectual confidence, whereof its scorn is here the chief mark; third, it is intensely moral, making man’s sin its chief concern; and fourth, it claims the control of history, and history has justified the claim.