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Showing who are sinners in Zion.
There are two kinds of persons among God’s professing people; the one, those who are truly godly, spoken of in the verse following the text: 182182 Isaiah xxxiii. 15. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly,” &c. The other kind consists of sinners in Zion, or hypocrites. It is to be observed, that the prophet in this chapter speaks interchangeably, first to the one, and then to the other of these characters of men; awfully threatening and denouncing the wrath of God against the one, and comforting the other with gracious promises. Thus you may observe, in the 5th and 6th verses., there are comfortable promises to the godly; then in the eight following verses, awful judgments are threatened against the sinners in Zion. Again, in the two next verses are blessed promises to the sincerely godly, and in the former part of ver. 17. And then in the latter part of ver. 17. and in ver. 18, and 19. are terrible threatenings to sinners in Zion: then in the verses that follow are gracious promises to the godly.
Our text is part of what is said in this chapter to sinners in Zion. In ver. 10. it is said, “Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself,” i.e. Now will I arise to execute wrath upon the ungodly; I will not let them alone any longer. They shall see that I am not asleep, and that I am not regardless of mine own honour. “Now will I be exalted. 183183 Isaiah xxxiii. 10. ” Though they have cast contempt upon me, yet I will vindicate the honour of my own majesty: I will exalt myself, and show my greatness, and my awful majesty in their destruction. ” Now will I lift up myself; 184184 Ibid. ” now I will no longer have mine honour trampled in the dust by them: but my glory shall be manifested in their misery.
In ver. 11. the prophet proceeds, “Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble:” i. e. Ye shall pursue happiness in ways of wickedness, but you shall not obtain it; you are as ground which brings forth no fruit, as if only chaff were sowed in it; it brings forth nothing but stubble, which is fit for nothing but to be burned.
It seems to have been the manner in that land where the corn grew very rank, when they had reaped the wheat, and gathered it off from the ground, to set fire to the stubble; which is alluded to here; and therefore it is added, “Your breath, as fire, shall devour you: 185185 Isaiah xxxiii. 11. ” i.e. Your own wicked speeches, your wickedness that you commit with your breath, or with your tongues, shall set fire to the stubble and devour it.
Then it follows in ver. 12. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime.” As they are wont to burn lime in a great and exceeding fierce fire, till stones, and bones, and other things are burnt to lime; so shall the wicked be burnt in the fire of God’s wrath. “As thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire: 186186 Isaiah xxxiii. 12 ” as briers and thorns are the encumbrance and curse of the ground where they grow, and are wont to be burnt; so shall it be with the wicked that are among God’s people, and grow in God’s field. Heb. vi. 7, 8. “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
Then it follows in ver. 13. “Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might.” This implies that God will by the destruction of ungodly men, manifest his glory very publicly, even in the sight of the whole world, both in the sight of those that are near, and of those that are far off. “Acknowledge my might. 187187 Isaiah xxxiii. 13. ” Which implies that God will execute wrath upon ungodly men, in such a manner as extraordinarily to show forth his great and mighty power. The destruction and misery of the wicked will be so dreadful, that it will be a manifestation of the omnipotent power of God, that he can execute such misery; agreeably to Rom. ix. 22. ” What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”
Next follow these words: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? 188188 Isaiah xxxiii. 14. ” The sense is, That the time will come, when fearfulness will surprise the sinners in Zion; because they will know, that they are about to be cast into a devouring fire, which they must suffer for ever and ever, and which none can endure.
It may be inquired, who are the sinners in Zion?—I answer, That they are those who are in a natural condition among the visible people of God. Zion, or the city of David of old, was a type of the church; and the church of God in Scripture is perhaps more frequently called by the name of Zion than by any other name. And commonly by Zion is meant the true church of Christ, or the invisible church of true saints. But sometimes by this name is meant the visible church, consisting of those who are outwardly, by profession and external privileges, the people of God. This is intended by Zion in this text.
The greater part of the world are sinners: Christ’s flock is, and ever hath been, but a little flock. And the sinners of the world are of two sorts: those who are visibly of Satan’s kingdom, who are without the pale of the visible church; and those who do not profess the true religion, nor attend the external ordinances of it. Beside these there are the sinners in Zion. Both are the objects of the displeasure and wrath of God; but his wrath is more especially manifested in Scripture against the latter. Sinners in Zion will have by far the lowest place in hell.
They are exalted nearest to heaven in this world, and they will be lowest in hell in another. The same is meant by hypocrites. Sinners in Zion are all hypocrites; for they make a profession of the true religion; they attend God’s ordinances, and make a show of being the worshippers of God; but all is hypocrisy.
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