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The John Newton Project

Messiah No. 1

No 1 col

The Messiah begins with

Isaiah 40:1-2

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God, etc.

[Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins
.] [1]
 
If, as some eminent Commentators suppose, the prophet in this passage had any reference to the restoration of Babylon, it is certain his principal object was much more important.  Indeed the history of their return from captivity, and their state afterwards, seems not to correspond with the magnificent images here used.  Though they rebuilt their city and temple, they met with many insults and much opposition, and continued a tributary and dependant people.  I shall therefore waive the consideration of this sense.  The prophet’s thoughts seem fixed upon one august [2] Personage, who was approaching to enlighten and bless a miserable world, and before he describes the circumstances of his appearances, he is directed to comfort the mourners in Zion, with an assurance that this great event, was sufficient to compensate them for all their sorrows.  The state of Jerusalem, the representative name of the people or church of God, was very low in Isaiah’s time.  How different from the time of Solomon!  Iniquity abounded, security [3] prevailed, and judgements were impending.  The words of many were stout against the Lord [4], but there were a few who feared him, whose eyes affected their hearts, and who mourned the evils they could not prevent.  These and these only were strictly the Lord’s people, and to these the message of comfort was addressed.  Speak to Jerusalem comfortably, speak to her heart, to her case, there is an answer to all her desires, a balm for all her griefs, in this one consideration, The Messiah is at hand. Through and by him:
1. Her warfare will be accomplished
Two ideas are included in the original term:
   1.1  a state of service connected with hardship, like that of the military life
 1.2 an appointed time as it is rendered [in] Job 14:14 [5]
  These ideas equally apply to the Mosaic dispensation.  It was a state of comparative servitude, distance, fear and labour.  The ceremonial law, was a yoke, a burden which Peter says, Neither we nor our fathers were able to bear. [6]  But the Gospel was to supersede it, and to bring in a state of life, liberty and confidence.  Such likewise is the time of conviction.  The awakened sinner feels terror, distress and bondage – but it is for an appointed time.  To such we are commanded to preach comfort, by leading their thoughts to the Messiah.
2. Her iniquity is pardoned
The Messiah is coming to put away all sin by the one full, sufficient sacrifice of himself.  We know that he is come, the atonement made, the ransom paid and accepted, and a throne of grace established, to which whoever comes shall in no wise be cast out.
3. She has received double
Not as some suppose, that her afflictions had already been overproportioned to their procuring cause - sin.  We shall always have reason to say, He has not dealt with us according to our iniquities. [7]  Others – who are rather too eager to strain texts, beyond their proper import, in order to support a favourite doctrine – suppose, that the sufferings of the Messiah would be greater than the exigency of the case – more than necessary.  But the truth is best proved and supported by texts which expressly teach it.  The efficacy of the atonement is indeed greater than the actual application, and sufficient to save the whole race of mankind, if they believed in the Son of God.  But he groaned and bled upon the Cross till he could say, It is finished [8] – but no longer.  It becomes us to refer to infinite wisdom, the reasons why his sufferings were for such a precise time, but we may be sure they were not beyond what the cause required.  I think the true sense of the words is, that Jerusalem should receive blessings double, much greater, than all her former afflictions.  And in general to us, to every believing sinner, that the blessings of the Gospel would be an unspeakably great over-balance and compensation for all afflictions of every kind, [with] which we have been or can be exercised.  Afflictions are the fruit of sin, and because our sins have been many, our afflictions may be many.  But where sin has abounded grace has much more abounded. [9]

Observe:
1. Behold the goodness of God.  Infinitely happy and glorious in himself - he has provided for the comfort of those who were rebels against his government and transgressors of his law.
2. The Lord God who knows the human heart, its wants, feelings and desires – when he would comfort and speak to the heart, proposes One object, and only One – as the necessary and all sufficient [10] source of comfort. 

This is the Messiah. 
Jesus balm cordial

Jesus in his person and offices known and received by faith, affords a balm for every wound, a cordial for every care.
3. To be capable of this comfort the heart must be in a state suited to it.  A free pardon is a comfort to a malefactor, but it implies guilt, and therefore they who have not broken the laws would be rather offended than comforted by an offer of pardon.  Could we suppose that a company of people, who were all trembling under an apprehension of the wrath of God, constrained to confess the justice of the sentence, but not as yet informed of any way to escape, were to hear this message for the first time, and to be fully assured of its truth and authority, they would receive it as life from the dead.  But for want of knowing themselves, it is to be feared that many who have received pleasure from the music of the Messiah, neither found, nor expected, nor desired to find, any comfort from the words.
 


Endnotes:
 
[1] KJV has “received of the Lord's hand
[2] ‘august’: awe-inspiring
[3] ‘security’: a false security, oblivious to the present danger
[4] Malachi 3:13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
[5] Job 14:14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
[6] Peter speaking in Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
[7] Psalm 103:10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
[8] John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
[9] Romans 5:20 … But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
[10] ‘all sufficient’: El Shaddai, as in Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.


Acknowledgements:
Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's Messiah notebook
   

Marylynn Rouse, 07/01/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 10:39 on 12 December 2019