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of Edom in the day of Jerusalem, who said, “Rase, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." From this
passage, we may infer that the ancient antipathy of Esau against Jacob had made his posterity, though themselves in subjection, willing instruments in the hand of the Babylonians in their assault upon Jerusalem. For this conduct, the Lord's anger was kindled against Edom; and Ezekiel predicted, that Israel, on their restoration, should be the rod of God's anger, and should lay his vengeance upon Edom : whilst Obadiah, at a previous period, but referring, in all probability, to the same provocation, says of Edom, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever:” “there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it.” The result in both instances corresponded with the prediction. The morning came.
On their submission to the Babylonians, who, to use the prophetic language of Jeremiah, came upon them like a lion from the swelling of Jordan, and, as an eagle, flew and spread his wings over Bozrah, the capital city, so that the hearts of the mighty men of Edom were as the heart of a woman in her pangs, they seem to have been favored by them; and during the Babylonish captivity they seized upon the south-west parts of Judea, and dwelt there. From this period to the times of the Maccabees seems to have been the morning,—the season of prosperity, which was to come. This, however, was speedily succeeded by a night of adversity. Judas Maccabæus desolated their country, and slew many; and his nephew, Hyrcanus, completed their subjugation, compelling them to be circumcised, and to embrace Judaism, and incorporating them with the Jewish Church and nation. The very name of Edom was abolished and disused about the first century after Christ; so that as Obadiah had predicted, “Edom was cut off for ever."
It is difficult to say what meaning is to be attached to the last clause of the prophet's answer, which in Bishop Lowth's Translation stands thus, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye, come again.” It appears to be a rebuke, as though the prophet had said, “If you will inquire in earnest, and with a desire to be instructed as to what you ought to do, why then do inquire—come again, and I will answer.”
Having thus endeavoured to explain the literal signification of this brief and obscure prophecy, I will now further consider it, as an illustration of the conduct of mankind in every age, and of the counsel which the watchmen of the true Israel are commissioned to address to them.
Mankind are here represented, in the first place, as coming to the ministers of religion to inquire of them, saying, “ Watchman, what of the night?—Watchman, what of the night?” The ministers of religion are continually called watchmen in Scripture. To Ezekiel, for instance, the Lord said, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel.” The duty of the ministers of religion, in like manner, bears a close resemblance to that of a watchman. A watchman is required to be observant, to stand upon his watchtower, to mark everything which passes around him, to sound an alarm when danger menaces his charge, to note the lapse of time, and to arouse the slumbering to attend to their daily duties. In each of these particulars, the resemblance between the duty of a watchman, and that of a minister of religion holds good. The minister must stand upon the watchtower, and note what is passing around him, and attentively mark what are the signs of the times, that he may be able to speak a word in season to his people, and be free from the blood of all. This is of the utmost importance ; for a minister's message ought to be in season, that is, suited to the condition of those
amongst whom he labours, and to the times in which he lives. If all around are lying in darkness and the shadow of death, he must boldly re-echo the Apostolic cry, “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” even the light of life. If any have lost their first love, and declined in zeal, it is then his duty to say with the Saviour, “Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works : or else the Lord will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place.” If his congregation are neither hot nor cold in the things of God, but hot in the pursuit of earthly things, then must he set his face as a flint, and manfully protest against this Laodicean spirit, adducing as his warrant the indignant language of his divine Master, “I would that thou wert hot or cold; but because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spue thee out of my mouth." If, on the contrary, he notes a spirit of inquiry among his charge, and hears many asking the way to Zion, then must he carefully fan the incipient flame, preaching unto them Jesus, as the way to God, and the door of the fold of Christ ;-strengthening the weak, guiding the inquiring, and alluring the irresolute. It may be too, that he lives in perilous times,—when God seems to be about to sift the nations,—when men's hearts are failing them for fear of the things that are coming to pass in the world. If such be the case, he has a duty to perform. He must admonish the high minded, requiring them in the words of St. Peter, “to submit themselves unto every ordinance of men for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme: or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well: for so is the will of God:”-yea, he must warn all to set their own souls in order, and to get the Lamb's mark upon their foreheads, as the best preparation for evil times,–
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the best safeguard when God's judgments are abroad in the earth. But, as I said before, a watchman is also required to note the lapse of time, and to arouse the slumbering to a sense of their danger and duty. And is not this required of the minister of Christ? knows that the present is the accepted time and day of salvation : he sees also that many are allowing the moments of their appointed time to pass away as a tale that is told. Hence, he feels himself constrained to lift up his voice like a trumpet,—to cry aloud and spare not, lest any should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,-lest any, allowing the harvest of grace to pass away, the summer of opportunity to be unimproved, should sink into the grave, unsanctified and unsaved.
Now, brethren, it is not from choice merely, but from necessity that ministers attend to this solemn duty. They have been called unto it by God; for they are directed to hear the word at his mouth, and to give men warning from Him ;—they are commanded to preach the Gospel,—to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and affection. If they fail to do this, the blood of the unwarned sinner will be on their heads; and the lives of those who have perished for lack of the knowledge of the Saviour will be required at their hands. And yet, with such an awful responsibility resting upon them,-a responsibility which may well render them earnest and importunate,—a responsibility which urges them to be instant in season and out of season that they may be clean from the blood of all, some venture to condemn them as troublesome monitors—as senseless fanatics. Ah, brethren, when such characters are trembling on the verge of an undesired eternity,—when they stand at the bar of the Judge of quick and dead, when they know the value of that soul for which in this life they cared not, they will not judge us so harshly: they will then remember our exhortations, and our prayers; and they will say of us, “Ye were our friendsye cared for our souls; and had we hearkened to you, we should not have come into this place of torment.”
But if watchmen are set for the warning and edifying of the souls of men, it is the duty of all to inquire of them, to call unto them, as he out of Seir called unto the prophet, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” This inquiry may mean, either, “What are the tidings of the night?” or, “What is the time of the night?” In either sense, it is most important. A minister indeed knows not how much of any man's span of existence is expired: that is amongst the secret things that belong to God; but he does know that the time on any supposition is short, and that the hour of death will come upon many at a moment when they think not of it, and as a thief in the night comes on the unsuspecting householder. He knows too the tidings of the night, which are, that salvation from death, and sin, and the curse, is offered without money and without price to every believing penitent, though his sins may have been as scarlet or crimson,--that grace, ample as man’s need, is freely tendered to all who will seek for it with all their heart; so that whosoever will may take of the waters of life freely; but that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God.
The inquiry, “Watchman, what of the night?” might be made, either carelessly, or earnestly; and the same dictinction may be traced in the inquiries of mankind in every age. It is too much the custom for persons to come to the house of God, thus saying to the minister, as it were, “Watchman, what of the night?" although they have no serious intention of laying to heart, or of profiting by his testimony. Such persons pray not that God will prepare their hearts to seek Him,—that He will make the word the power of God unto their salvation,