Christmas Day 1765


Isaiah 45:8
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it.
Isaiah 45v8  Zion002#
That the context had a literal reference to the approaching captivity is most certain—Cyrus the appointed deliverer is mentioned by name—but that its full spiritual and most important sense had respect to a more awful captivity, a more valuable deliverance, a more glorious Saviour, is well known to all whose understandings are enlightened by the grace of God. The prophet from chapter 40 looks forward to gospel times—the sum of his message is, Say unto Zion, Thy God cometh. It is the promised expected presence of Jesus, that calls forth the animated language with which Isaiah abounds. He saw his glory and spake of him. He represents the mountains sinking into a plain, the wilderness, flourishing like the garden of the Lord to welcome his approach. My text is not the words of Isaiah but of the Lord himself—preparing himself as it were to his great work, and determining the success, he calls to the heavens from above and to the earth that he may bless his people. They are the words of him who in the fullness of time veiled his glories, and was born of a virgin—and from him his redeemed children learn to speak the same language when they think of his condescending love, and its blessed effects. On this day, yea every day, the voice of joy and thanksgiving is heard in the tabernacles of the righteous—and their hearts echo to such a joyful declaration as this, may the Lord help our meditations on it.
These words can only be understood in a gospel view. If without respect to the covenant of grace you say, Let the heavens pour down righteousness, you say you know not what. Then the skies poured down righteousness, when the old world was deluged with water, when Sodom was destroyed by showers of flaming brimstone—this and this only have we righteously deserved from God—it is grace, amazing grace, that puts such a word as this in a sinner’s mouth. ‘Tis grace that found the means to make the righteousness of God and the salvation of man consistent. It was for this purpose that Jesus Christ came into the world.

We have here:
1. The great discovery from heaven—righteousness
2. The blessed effect upon earth
The earth is here represented as barren and unfruitful as in the first creation—but he that said Let there be light—let the earth bring forth fruit—is here magnifying the power of his word, in  producing a new creation. In plain words by earth is meant mankind, who are of the earth, earthy, and by sin cleave to the very dust in their souls and affections. Their character is here supposed—insensible and unfeeling, let the earth open—miserable and wicked, far from salvation, and destitute of righteousness. A blessed change is intended—to make the hard heart open, to bring salvation near, to make sinners righteous. And how is this to be effected? By influences from heaven, by righteousness poured forth from on high.

Let us briefly consider:
1. the case
2. the cure
1. [the case:] Let the earth open
It is shut before, as the ground is hard for want of rain. Such hard and dry earth is an emblem of the hard heart of man and points out:
  1.1 Stupidity
In vain has God proclaimed his presence in every part of his works; man takes no notice of his operations, but lives in this theatre of the Creator’s glory, with the most unmeaning indifference to all that passes. In vain even the Scripture is put in his hand and the Gospel preached in his ears till God says, Let the earth open.
  1.2 Ingratitude
Isaiah 1:4. [1] Though mercies are multiplied upon him every moment he regards them not—no improvement, no return.
  1.3 Obstinacy
As mercies cannot win him, neither can judgments tame him. Instead of humbling himself, he tosses like a bull in a net, and hardens his neck still more.
  1.4 Total barrenness
Destitute of all good and righteousness, incapable of producing any, as a rock or pavement is of yielding corn.
  As man is thus wicked and unprofitable, so he is miserable. Salvation is far from him, the way of peace he knows not. The sentence of the law is gone forth, the curse of God hangs over him, he is like the earth mentioned, Hebrews 6:8 [2]—might justly be rejected and destroyed with an utter destruction—but where sin has abounded, Grace has much more abounded.

We speak of:
2. The provision or cure: Drop down…
  2.1 The glorious remedy must come from above, the earth can do nothing for itself; thus the Lord teaches Hosea 13:9. [3]
  2.2 The means is Righteousness. A perfect righteousness is necessary for man’s comfortable intercourse with his Maker—without this no acceptance with God, no confidence in the heart. This is one great cause why men are so averse to God, they are afraid of him, being condemned in their own consciences and like Adam would fain flee.
  2.3 This word Drop… pour was fulfilled:
    2.3.1 when the Son of God was made incarnate. He was foretold and revealed as the Lord our righteousness. [4]
    2.3.2 when Jesus ascended—and received gifts for men—even the Holy Spirit to take of his glories, his riches, his righteousness, to make them known, and to make them over to sinners.
  2.4 The ordinances of the Gospel are as the heavens in which the Sun of Righteousness moves and by which his righteousness is poured forth in refreshing streams. Where the Lord thus vouchsafes to shine, a blessing will follow. Prize the ordinances, and pray for their continuance.
  2.5 In this way—the earth is opened, the stone is changed into flesh. [5] The Gospel of Christ is the only thing that will change the stone into flesh. The Holy Spirit when about to glorify Jesus, first empties and convinces the sinner, shows him the need and the worth of righteousness and where it is to be found—then the heart melts and the eyes flow—then God and his truth are acknowledged—the arms of rebellion are laid down and the soul cries, What shall I render? [6]

The effects are:
    2.5.1 Salvation
By believing this righteousness becomes ours—then we have a token for good, a word to answer all who would accuse. Saved from wrath, from guilt and from the power of sin. For:
    2.5.2 Righteousness
All who have an eye to see the glory of Christ in the glass of the Gospel are changed into the same image.
  2.6 The Lord challenges all the glory of this work, and his people willingly give it him; they will say, Not unto us_. [7]
1. These are proper subjects for the day. Do you look upon Christmas as an extraordinary day? If you know Jesus and his righteousness, you know how to keep Christmas all the year round. If not, what is the day to you?

Let me ask you:
  1.1 Why do you keep it?
  1.2 How do you keep it?
  If you have no better reason than custom, and if you spend it in indulging those works of the devil, which he came to destroy—this day of the Lord is darkness to you and not light. Will you plead it and say—Lord we used to set down to eat and drink and rise up to play, on a certain day, and this we professed to do for thy glory. [8]
2. Believers, let us keep the feast. The Lord whom  you love, who was humbled in the stable, and is now exalted in glory, calls us to his presence. He has prepared his bread, he has mingled his wine, he says, Eat O friends. [9] Open your mouths wide and I will fill. [10] Who can tell, but he may now bid the heavens drop, and pour down his righteousness amongst us. Has he not said, If any man thirst let him come to me and drink. [11] Come then every sin-sick, thirsty, weary soul, come to the waters, yea come buy wine and milk without money and without price. [12]

[1] Isaiah 1:4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
[2] Hebrews 6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
[3] Hosea 13:9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
[4] Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 33:16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.
[5] Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
[6] Psalm 116:12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
[7] Psalm 115:1 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
[8] [?] alluding to Matthew 24:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
[Or] Luke 18: 11,12 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
[9] Song of Solomon 5:1 I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
[10] Psalm 81:10 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
[11] John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
[12] Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 713(20), N44

Marylynn Rouse, 15/12/2020