THE BURDEN OF DUMAH.
Isa. xxi. 11, 12. The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night.—If ye will enquire, enquire ye. Return. Come.
This is a single prophecy; and a whole prophecy. It has no immediate connection with what precedes, or with what follows in the chapter; and if it were taken out of the place which it now occupies in the Book of Isaiah, and placed in any other part of the Book, or even of the Bible, I do not see but it would be as intelligible as it is now. It. is a striking specimen of the manner of Isaiah when he is full of a subject, and when, as is often the case, the prophetic words flow from his mouth not like a gentle and fertilizing stream, but like a torrent that has been obstructed, and that now rushes impetuously over all barriers. It is also a specimen of his manner when he is- ironical or sarcastic; and when he designs to convey some truth of vital interest that shall reach the heart of a taunting enemy of God and his cause. The prophecy is abrupt, concise, enigmatical, obscure. It is probably little understood by most of the readers of this wonderful prophet, as it has been by most commentators. Yet, notwithstanding its obscurity, it is seen to be beautiful; and there are few readers of the Bible who do not wish to understand it. It is capable, I think, of an easy explanation ; and is adapted to convey most important instruction alike to the friends and the enemies of God:—to the former, when desponding and disheartened in view of personal trials and calamities, or in view of a persecuted and distracted church, or of a darkened world;—to the latter, when they are disposed to taunt the friends of God; to revile them in suffering; or to ridicule their solicitude for the coming of the kingdom of the Redeemer on earth.
It is a vital part of the work of the ministry to explain the Scriptures, and to show not only that the Bible is a book of eminent sublimity, truth, and beauty ; but that it is adapted to convey most valuable instruction and admonition for all classes of mankind. I propose, therefore, to submit an exposition of this very obscure, and yet very striking prophecy; and in doing it, I shall,
I. In the first place, endeavor to explain it; and,
II. In the second place, exhibit the lessons which it teaches, or apply it to the friends and the foes of God.
bI. In the explanation of the prophecy, it will be necessary to go somewhat into detail in an examination of the words and phrases of which it is composed. I will promise, however, that this shall not be tedious or uninteresting to those of you who will give me your patient attention. The prophecy is in these words: "The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh,and also the night. If ye will enquire, enquire ye. Return. Come."
(1.) The word-" burden,'" in the text, is a common word in the prophecies, and especially in Isaiah, to denote a prophetic message, or an oracle. It is usually, not always, given to such a message as foretold punishment or calamity; or such as was painful in its nature and adapted to weigh down the spirits. We have a similar idea in our language, when we speak of bad news as adapted to weigh down the spirits; or of .suffering and calamity that is fitted to oppress the mind. Of this nature were many of the messages which the prophets were directed to bear;—messages predicting judgment and wo; foretelling the calamities of war, of the pestilence, or of captivity,and portraying ruined temples, cities, and towns, —messages alike painful to him who bare them, and to those to whom they were addressed. Such, I take it, was the message referred to here—a message indicating future calamity represented by the word night—' the night cometh;'—a message oppressive and burdensoms to the prophet, and painful to the taunting inhabitants of Dumah.
(2.) The word " Dumah" in the text, is "another name for Idumea, or the land of Edom. This country, settled by the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, stretched along on the south of Palestine, and extended as far as the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and by conquest subsequently, far into the land of Moab. It is now a vast desert, travelled by wandering Arabs, and alike undistinguished for agriculture or commerce. Its capital was in Mount Seir^a mountain range laying south of the Dead Sea, in a plain now called Wady Mousa—or the valley of Moses. This is the Mount Seir referred tain the text; the place from which one is heard calling to the watchman, and enquiring respecting the night. The reader of the popular modern travels will be able to identify this place when he is reminded that this is the site of the celebrated city of Petra, so recently discovered and explored, and so fully described by travellers. Its site is a vast hollow, in a mountain, with but a single way of access; its structures now are vast tombs, and temples, and theatres, and palaces cut with infinite toil from the solid rock; its inhabitants are the dead—and the living are not there, save when a Bedoui chieftain with his tribe passes along, -or a lonely traveller spends a night in one of its tombs.
(3.) Between Dumah or Idumea and the Jews, there b.ad. been a long hostility; a hostility coming down from the strife between Jacob and Esau, and aggravated by all the bitterness of a family quarrel. The hostility was deepened when Moses led the children of Israel to the land of Canaan. " The territory of Edom lay between him and Canaan, and he sent messengers to the king of Idumea to ask the privilege of peaceably passing through the land. "Let us pass, I pray thee,-" was the reasonable request, "through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's highway, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left until we have passed thy borders." Num. xx. 17. This reasonable petition was denied. Moses repeated the request. "We will go," said he, "by the highway; and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then will I pay for it; I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet." Ver. 19. This repeated and respectful request was met with as decided hostility, and the armies of Edom were sent to guard the way, and to harrass the Israelites on their march. Edom soon became the implacable foe of the Jews. It formed alliances with their enemies; invaded their land; rejoiced in their defeats, and triumphed in their calamities. The immediate and special event, however, to which there is an indirect allusion in the text, was the unnatural and wicked exultation of the Idumeans when the temple at Jerusalem was fired, and the city was destroyed by the Chaldeans. Then, when calamity had come upon the whole Jewish nation, and when all the sympathies of Edom should have been excited in behalf of his much afflicted kinsmen, the descendants of Jacob, he joined in the exulting cry of the Chaldeans, and urged them on to the complete destruction of the holy city and the temple. "Remember, 0 Lord," said the Jews in their captivity, "remember the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem," i. e. in the day when Jerusalem shall be rebuilt, "who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." Psalm cxxxvii. 7. Its enemies they urged on to the work of deeper destruction. They regarded the ruin as final and complete, and they exulted over desolate Judea, and the captivity of its inhabitants in Babylon.
(4.) This is the time to which the prophecy in our text refers. It was during the captivity at Babylon, and near its close. The temple was in ruins, and the city and the" land were waste. The situation of their once beautiful and much-loved country may be described in the language of this same prophet uttering the words which the. captives would use. "Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Oik holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burnt up with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste." Isa. lxiv. 10, 1L. This was the "night"—the long and chilly night referred to in the text; the night of destruction that had settled upon Judea; the calamity over which the dweller in Mount Seir was disposed still to exult.
(5.) At this time, and in this state of things, the prophet represents- himself in vision as a watchman amidst desolate Jerusalem. It is night; a long night of calamity and wo. He is stationed there to observe the approach of better times; the indications of returning day. He is looking anxiously to the East—the direction whence light appears, and whence the exiles would return to their own land. He is watching for the first ray of morning; the first indication of returning prosperity, and of restored peace for long desolated Jerusalem.
(6.) At this time, and in these circumstances, a voice is heard from Mount Seir, the capital of Idumea. "He," that is, some one, "calleth unto me out of Seir." It is the voice of taunting and reproach breaking on the stillness and gloom of the night. 'Watchman, what of the night? Watchman^ what of the night? -What is the prospect? You have watched long. Is there any sign of day? Is there'any ray in the East indicating the return of better times? Is your patience still unexhausted, as you watch on during the long night, and amidst the desolate ruins?'
(7.) To this the watchman answers. 'Yes. There is the appearance of day. The morning cometh. There is a ray in the East. I see the prospect of future happier days; of deliverance from the exile; of peace and happiness restored to the desolate land. I see the exiles return; the temple rise in its glory; the city restored to its magnificence; the land studded with Villages and covered with vineyards and with flocks. I see the sun of prosperity about to rise; and I see, in the distance, the great Deliverer, as the light and glory of the world.' 'But,' he adds to the taunting Edomite, ' I see another thing. I see night coming too. I see times of calamity and desolation in the distance. It is not all light; not all prosperity for all people. A long, black, chilly night is to come. It will come upon the land of Idumea. That taunting, scoffing land; that land so hostile to the people of God; that land whose inhabitants cried respecting Jerusalem, Rase it, rase it to the very foundation, shall be enveloped in night, and covered with desolation. On that proud capital, from which the voice of reproach now comes, Watchman, what of the night? the shades of a long and gloomy night are yet to settle; a night darker, and more dismal, and of more lengthened shadows than that which has settled upon devoted Jerusalem and Judea.' 'Yet,' adds he, • if ye will enquire further, enquire ye. Do it, and you shall obtain information. Return, come. Turn from your taunts and revilings. Come with a humble mind, and even you may partake of the blessings, of the light that I see dawning on the darkened land. Even Idumea—the long and bitter foe of God and of his people; Idumea—taunting and scoffing; Idumea, now reviling us for the long night of calamity and wo, may partake of the privileges of the pure religion that shall bless the land in the bright day which begins to dawn in the East.'
Such I take to be the meaning of this brief prophecy. I proceed now, as was proposed,
II. In the second place to exhibit the lessons which it is fitted to teach, or to make a more particular application of it. The application will be to two classes of men, and it will be found to contain important instruction for those who are, and those who are not, the friends of God. With a statement of these lessons my subject will be closed.
(1.) We have, in the prophecy before us, an illustration of the conduct of a taunting and a scoffing world; a world often disposed not to reason, but to make derision of religion; a world always finding occasions, in some peculiar state of the church, or in some aspect of religion, for the exhibition of irony or scorn. 'What of the night, watchman? what of the night?' was the sarcastic and contemptuous language of the bitter foe of Jerusalem, and of the nation that had exulted when it felL Its ruins; its desolate temple ; its dilapidated walls; its grass-grown streets; its broken-down hedges; its wasted fields, were the topic oT derision. Carmel, once a fold for flocks, and the splendid plain of Esdraelon, now run over with briers and thorns, and the nation in exile in a distant land, and the lonely and pensive watchman looking long, as was supposed, in vain for the return of day, furnished then the topic of the taunting enquiry.
You will not forget that in the time of this same exile, the feelings of the pious were tried in a similar manner in Babylon. I use their own pensive and beautiful language. "By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of ns mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" Ps. cxxxvii. 1—4.
"Along the banks where Babel's current flows,
The captive bands in deep despondence strayed;
While Zion's fall in sad remembrance rose,
Her friends, her children mingled with the dead.
The tuneful harp that once with joy they strung, .
When praise employed and mirth inspired their lay
Was now in silence on the willows hung,
While growing grief prolonged the tedious day.
Their proud oppressors, to increase their woe,
With taunting smiles a song of Zion claim;
Bid sacred praise in strains melodious flow,
While they blaspheme the great Jehovah's name."
Thus too, when they returned again to their own land, and when they recommenced the building of trie city and the temple, they furnished a new topic of derision. "What do these feeble Jews?" said their scoffing foes. "Will they fortify themselves? Will they revive the stones out of the rubbish which are burnt? Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall." Neh. iv. 2. 4. No one can fail to remember also the manner in which the Redeemer of the world was met, and the scoffs and jeers which he encountered in his life and at his death. When argument failed, how common was it to taunt and revile him! When confuted by reason; when reproved by conscience; and when losing their own power and popularity, his foes decked him in the cast-off robes of royalty, and twisted a diadem of thorns around his bleeding brow, and placed a reed in his hand, and made him the sport of the multitude. Even when he was on the cross, they reviled and taunted him. "Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself and come down from the cross." Who ever before or since reviled a sufferer.on a cross? Who ever ridiculed a man on the gallows? And where else but in ridiculing religion do men lay aside all the tender and kind feelings of their nature, and insult the miserable, and delight in the anguish of the dying? I need not remind you that in nearly all ages the calamities, and trials, and hopes, and plans, and efforts of the church have heen the subject of derision and merriment by the world. The "Nazarenes" was the name by which they were known in ancient times; and the name of Methodist and Puritan have at different times been used for the same end; until all such names have been made respectable by the virtues of those to whom they were first applied in scorn. I need not remind you that the Lord's supper has been made the subject of merriment; that the Bible has been travestied by infidels; that revivals and missions have been the subject of jesting and of scorn; and that the slender success of the plans of the church for the conversion of the world, have all been met with the spirit of the man crying from Seir, " Watchman, what of the night?" Nor need I remind you of a celebrated prophecy, which has certainly come to pass, whatever may be said of the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel about Babylon, Tyre, or Egypt, " And there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their owq lusts, and saying where is the promise of his coming?" 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4. Such "scoffers there have been; such there are; such there will be; —and when they are encountered we should not suppose that any strange thing has happened unto us.
I do not regard this as an age distinguished by any means, for scoffing or reviling on the subject of religion. It may not be an age as distinguished for profound thinking as some others that have passed, for men are too active, and too full of enterprize, to sit down in the closet or the cloister for patient and deliberate thought. Still it is an age when the great mass of men, in this land at least, feel and believe that the subject of religion is to be treated respectfully; that to ridicule the opinions of others is a breach of politeness if of no higher law; an age too when you can usually get a candid hearing for whatever you have to say in favor of evangelical religion, of revivals, and of Christian missions. Scoffers are the exception; they do not give character to the age. They are the few, not the many; the few marked by the breach of the common laws of urbanity no less than by the violation of the laws of heaven.
Yet there are some such:—some who, like the man calling from Mount Seir, are disposed to meet religion with taunts and reproaches. You may meet such a man occasionally in a stage-coach or a steam-boat—a man as deficient in sound knowledge and good breeding as he is in respect for God ;—for when man loses his respect for his Maker, he at the same time loses his respect for all that is commendable and good. You may sometimes meet a young man—bred to better things, and with early opportunities for becoming useful and respected—who has confounded flippancy with manliness, and mistaken contempt for the opinions of the wise and great, for independence of mind—a young man who begins by torturing the feelings of a sister and a mother; and who ends, as all such young men will, in the contempt and scorn of all that is good, and in the utter wreck of character; for when a young man has learned to trifle with the feelings of a sister and a mother, there is no step in the descending scale of infamy which he is not prepared to take.
Lord Shaftesbury, perhaps for the love of parodox, and perhaps to perplex others, held that "ridicule is the test of truth ;" and the enemies of religion have not been slow to act on this precious maxim—a maxim that aided Galileo so much in perfecting the telescope, and Newton in discovering the laws of the uerse, and Hervey in discovering the circulation of the blood, and which has been just as valuable in religion as it was in those sciences! It has lived to our time; and it is accomplishing just as much for the welfare of men now as it did in the possession of its noble author. How invaluable a maxim for a man who is travelling to eternity! How easy it is to settle every question about religion and morals! Howsovereign a specific for turning aside the arrows of the king of terrors, and driving away the .chills of death, and causing the thunders of justice around the throne of God to sleep, is it to sit down and deride them all! How easy to be saved, if the only condition of salvation is to revile the sorrows, the joys, the hopes, and the plans of the people of God!
(2.) We have in the response of the watchmen, " The morning cometh," an illustration of the times of light and prosperity in the church destined to succeed those of calamity. The watchman saw the light in the distant east. He saw the day breaking, and the indications of returning morning* This, as has already been intimated, included probably two things. (I.) He saw, in vision, the exiles returning to their own land; and, (2.) In the distant future he saw the glory of the church ; its splendor and prosperity after the darkness; its glorious Deliverer—the Messiah, and the light from his coming spreading over.all the nations of the earth. Future times of glory should succeed the calamities of the seventy years desolation; and a brighter day than any before was yet to dawn upon the world.
Let us, without forcing this unnaturally, endeavor to apply it to some similar circumstances. It is not from direct prophetic vision that we shall do it, but by the application of some of the well-understood principles of the Bible.
We may apply it to the individual Christian in the midst of calamity. To him the morning cometh. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Ps. xxx. 5. It is true of every individual Christian that to him, when he is pressed down by calamity and sorrow, the morning cometh. Long he may watch; and "hope deferred may make the heart sick;" and his faith may be ready to faint, but still it is true that to him brighter times will come, and on him the day-star of hope and salvation will arise. Or even should his trials continue till life shall close, and should night follow night full of gloom, still he sees a light above in heaven. Beyond the confines of all this darkness his eye beholds the beams of eternal day; a world where the sun never sets, and where light dwells forever around the throne of God.
"There is a home for weary souls
By sin and sorrow driven;
When tossed on life's tempestuous shoals,
Where storms arise and ocean rolls,
And all is drear but heaven.
There, faith lifts up her choerful eye,
To brighter prospects given,
And views the tempest passing by,
The evening shadows quickly fly
And all serene in heaven."
Thus too it is of the church uersal. In her-darkest hours, it was true that brighter days were to dawn. The eye of faith could look forward to future periods when the storms of persecution would subside, and the fires of martyrdom would go out. As in the long desolations of wasted Judea, the watchman couM look onward, and see the distant day dawn in the east, so it has always been with a persecuted and afflicted church. The shadows would pass away, and a brighter and purer light would rise upon the benighted world. So it is now. We suffer not indeed the evils of persecution. Our land is not, like Judea, laid waste. Our country is not a wilderness, nor are our temples burned up with fire. But there is often not a little in the contentions, and strifes; the ambition, and the crooked policy of portions of the church; the worldlymindedness and the inconsistencies of its members, to try the faith of those who love Zion, and to give occasion to the taunt of the scoffer, and the raillery of the profane. So too in the enterprize for the conversion of the world. 'What is the prospect of its conversion ?' asks the scoffer. 'What advance has been made? Who have been reclaimed from Pagan darkness? What is the character of the converts on heathen ground? How long will it be ere the world is converted at the rate of the present efforts, and the present success ?'—There is an answer to all this. As surely as the 'watchman' saw the light in the east rising on desolate Judea, so surely does the eye of faith see the light of salvation rising on a darkened world, and so surely can it be said,' The morning cometh.' The night of sin is to be succeeded by a long bright day. The shadow of death which for six thousand years has stretched over hill and vale, is to be dissipated by the rising of the Sun of righteousness. Those shadows will roll off from the earth, as you have seen the cloud of dew climb up the mountain side, and waste away as the sun ascended, until all was gone, and his unobstructed beams poured down on the world below.
There is one thing only that is certain in the future history of this world—its conversion to God and to the true religion;—and that is as certain as the destruction of Babylon was when Isaiah foretold it; as the ruin of Tyre was when Ezekiel said it would be a barren rock on which the fisherman should dry his net; as the desolation of this same Idumea and Petra was when God said by the prophets, "I will make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out, and him that returneth; and I will fill his mountains with his stain men; in thy hills, and in thy vallies, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword. I will make thee perpetual desolations;" "the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it; and thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls;" Ezek. xxxv. 7—9; Isa. xxxiv. 11. 13, 14; as certain as was the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Lord Jesus, sitting on the brow of the Mount of Olives, and looking down on the devoted city, said, "The days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee." Luke xix. 43, 44. All this, to the letter, has been fulfilled. With equal clearness God has foretold the conversion of this whole world to himself.— "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts." Mai. i. 11. "So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun." Isa. lix. 19. "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Isa. xi. 9. "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, and the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory, and thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God." Isa. lx. "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God. And 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. The duration of any existing kingdom or dynasty on earth is unknown; the perpetuity of any splendid commercial capital is unknown; the preservation of any existing civil institutions is a point on which no one of the Burkes and the Cannings of the world, with their almost prophetic sagacity, can reason with certainty; but the conversion of this whole world to God is as fixed as his own throne, and constitutes the only landmark that is set up in the future.
(3.) In like manner we have, in the response of the watchman, an illustration of a third important fact—the night of calamity that is coming on a sinful and scoffing world. 'The morning cometh—and—also—the night;' morning, as I understand it, to desolate Jerusalem : night, long and chilly night, to taunting Petra and Idumea. 'I see,' said the watchman, 'I see not only approaching morning, but also approaching night. I see a bright day dawning on the afflicted people of God, but. I see, in the distance, also, the dark shades of night. I see the friends of God returning from exile to their now desolate land, and a long career of glory and honor before them. But—I see night for their foes; night for their taunting enemies; night about to settle on Mount Seir. and the whole land of Idumea.' And such a night! What is Petra, the once proud capital of Idumea, now? A city of tombs; a sepulchre of the dead. True, its theatre and its temples are there engraved in the eternal rock; its dwellings are there, sculptured with all the skill of ancient art. But it is solitary and still. Ages rolled by, when to the civilized and the Christian world its very site was unknown. It was hidden in the towering rocks; and a night of centuries, unbroken by one ray of civilization or prosperity, has rested upon the whole land of Idumea. The foot of the traveller has indeed once more passed through Idumea, and to Petra. The wayfaring man has gone from a Christian land; and what has he found? He has found a city of the dead; a place of tombs; a desolate capital of a desolate land, as Ezekiel and Isaiah, two thousand five hundred years ago, said it would be. He has found no dweller there; he sees no living human being but the wandering Arab stealing along among the habitations of untenanted Petra, and claiming the desolation as his own. "I would," said our own countryman, Stephens, when there, "I would that the sceptic could stand, as I did, among the ruins of this city among the rocks, and there open the sacred book, and read the words of the inspired penman, written when this desolate place was one of the greatest cities in the world. I see the scoff arrested, his cheek pale, his lips quivering, and his heart quaking with fear, as the ruined city cries out to him in a voice loud and powerful as that of one risen from the dead; though he would not believe Moses and the prophets, he believes the hand-writing of God himself in the desolation and eternal ruin around him."*
Now, in this night of desolation and ruin, we have an illustration of the night that is yet to come on a sinful and scoffing world. What a place of prosperity and splendor —the thoroughfare, the emporium of the commerce of the East—was once that proud city! To what magnificence did it arise! Yet what a fall! What a night! Thus night is soon to settle on guilty and scoffing man—the night of death. It comes—how chilly; how gloomy; how long! No matter what the pride, and wealth, and talent of the scoffer; no matter what his rank or his standing; yet to him the night approaches, and he must die. A few more days of prosperity will end all; and the tongue of the profane man and of the scoffer will be silent in the grave. Youug man, or aged! If a scoffer; if a reviler of God; if a taunter of father, or mother, or sister, for being a Christian; if a reviler of the church, or of the church's Redeemer, I apprize you that the^lay of taunting and reviling will soon cease. I apprize you that there will be no raillery or reviling in the grave, or at the bar of God; and I remind you that it is equally odious and wicked here. Listen, one moment, to an extract from what the leader of modern infidels—shame that the immortal mind has ever acknowledged such a leader—
• Travels in Arabia, Egypt, Ac. voL ii. 76.
has called "Solomon's jest-book."—" Because I have called, and ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh." Prov. i. 24, 25.
Thus too, a dark night of calamity and storm shall come not only upon the individual scoffer, but upon the whole wicked world. The morning of glory will dawn on the church redeemed; destruction fearful and awful as in that solemn night when the angel of death went through the tents of Sennacherib, shall come; and the guilty shall be doomed to wo. On all the wicked the night of destruction comes, as certainly as destruction impended over Petra,and Babylon, and Tyre, and Jerusalem, when the prophets and the Saviour looked far into future times, and told what they would be. The same prophetic eye has looked on the future doom of guilty man; and the same voice that with such fearful certainty told what Jerusalem would be, has said " All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation." The same Spirit of inspiration that indited the prophecy respecting Dumah, has also caused to be recorded these words: "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Pet. iii. 10. So certain as desolation reigns where once was proud and guilty Babylon ; so certain as Petra is a lonely city of the dead; so certain as Tyre is a solitary place where the fisherman spreads his net, so sure is it that fire and flame will spread over the hills and vales of the earth, and that final and irremediable destruction from the presence of Jehovah shall come upon the guHty. God said of Dumah, (Isa. xxxiv. 5. 4. 8.) "My sword shall rush as if intoxicated [with wrath] from heaven; behold it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse to judgment. And all the hosts of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; for it is the day of the Lord's vengeance."* So his vengeance shall come upon a guilty world; and so beneath his uplifted arm the wicked shall die.
(4.) There remains one other idea on which, in conclusion, I may make a remark. The thought occurs in that part of my text, " If ye will enquire, enquire ye; return; come." That is, if you—the despiser and the scoffer—will enquire in an humble manner; if you will come with proper reverence and respect, and will turn from your sins, it may be done. Light will stream also along your path; and the sun of prosperity will ride up your sky, and will pour down his noontide radiance upon you also. The man who ridicules religion; he who travesties the Bible; he who makes the new birth, the atonement, and the promise of heaven the subject of merriment; he who derides the piely of a sister and the solicitude of a mother for his salvation ; he who laughs at the efforts of Christians to convert the world; and he who makes a mockery of death and the judgment, even he may learn the way to life, and partake of the much-despised blessings of pardon and salvation. If he will forsake the ways of derision; if he will enquire on this subject in a manner appropriate to its importance; if with a candid, humble, docile mind, he will approach the oracles of God, light shall break in upon his mind, and the beams of an eternal morning find their way to his heart. "The meek will God guide in judgment, and. the meek will he teach his way." But who can instruct a scoffer? Who can teach that young man who is already too wise to be taught even by the God that made him? Who can instruct him who is too wise to enquire; him who lives to deride sacred things; him who lives to make a jest of death and a mockery of the judgment? I pity the scoffer.—I have no deeper compassion for any one of the misguided sons of mortality than I have for that ill-informed and misdirected young man who is too wise to learn where Newton learned, and too proud to bow where Bacon bowed his mighty mind;—for that unhappy and wretched man—standing over the grave, and near the bar of Almighty God, who lives to make derision of the agony of the Saviour, to mock his Maker on his throne, and to scoff at the God who keeps him out of hell! Do I address such an one? Let me tell you, there is neither wisdom, nor wit, nor talent in this. It secures the approbation of no one whose good opinion is of value. It will secure not your own approbation when you die. It will plant daggers in your dying pillow. Let me remind you that life is not lengthened out by a jeer; that the shades of the chilly night roll on towards you while you laugh; that to ridicule religion alleviates none of the agonies of dying and the terrors of the judgment seat, and that the flames of hell are not made a thing of nought by a jibe. Let me tell you, in the spirit of my text—that serious, sober, humble, prayerful enquiry on the subject of religion, will conduct to the favor of God and to heaven ;—any other spirit leads down to the dark shades of eternal death! Do you then say to me, < Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?' I reply, the morning cometh to the church redeemed;—the glad morning of deliverance to the afflicted Christian, and the morning of the resurrection and of eternal glory to all who bear the image and the name of the Son of God:—and also night cometh to the scoffing sinner—the chilly night of death—the night of wo eternal to all who deride, despise, or neglect religion. If ye will enquire further, it may be done. Even now return to the Lord with a humble, penitent, and believing heart, and he will be found of you; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon. Isa. Iv. 7.
* For the propriety of this translation, I may be permitted, perhaps, to refer the reader to my Notes on Isaiah on this place.