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HUMBLE ATTEMPT, &c.
ZECH. viii. 20, 21, 22.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go unto another saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts. I will go also. also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
THE TEXT OPENED, AND AN ACCOUNT GIVEN OF THE AFFAIR PROPOSED IN THE MEMORIAL FROM SCOTLAND.
In this chapter we have a prophecy of a future glorious advancement of the church of God; wherein it is evident that something further is intended than ever were fulfilled to the Jewish nation under the Old Testament. For here are plain prophecies of such things as never were fulfilled before the coming of the Messiah: Particularly, what is said in the two last verses in the chapter, of "many people and strong nations
worshipping and seeking the true God;" and of so great an accession of Gentile nations to the church of God, that by far the greater part of the visible worshippers should consist of this new accession, so that they should be to the other as ten to one.-A certain number for an uncertain. There never happened any thing, from the time of the prophet Zechariah to the coming of Christ, to answer this prophecy: And it can have no fulfilment but either, in the calling of the Gentiles, in and after the days of the apostles; or, in the future glorious enlargement of the church of God in the latter ages of the world, so often foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, and by the prophet Zechariah in particular, in the latter part of his prophecy. It is most probable, that what the spirit of God has chiefly respect to, is that last and greatest enlargement and most glorious advancement of the church of God on earth; in the benefits of which especially the Jewish nation were to have a share, a very eminent and distinguished share.
There is a great agreement between what is here said, and other prophecies that must manifestly have respect to the church's latter-day-glory: As Isai. Ix. 2-4. "The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee: And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee." That whole chapter, beyond all dispute, has respect to the most glorious state of the church of God on earth. So chap. lxvi. 8. "Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Shall a nation be born at once?" ver. 10. "Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her." ver. 12. "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream."-Mich. iv. 1, &c. "But in the last day it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountain, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it; and many nations shall come and say, come, and let us go up unto the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob.And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." See also Isai. ii. at the beginning.-There has been nothing yet brought to pass, in any measure, to answer these prophecies. And as the prophecy in my text, and the following verse, agrees with them, so there is reason to think it has a respect to the same times. And indeed there is a remarkable agreement in the description given throughout the chapter,
with the representations made of those times elsewhere in the prophets*.
So that however the prophet, in some parts of this chapter, may have respect to future smiles of heaven on the Jewish nation, lately returned from the Babylonish captivity, and resettled in the land of Canaan, in a great increase of their numbers and wealth, and the return of more captives from Chaldea and other countries, &c. yet the spirit of God has doubtless respect to things far greater than these, and of which these were but faint resemblances. We find it common in the prophecies of the old testament, that when the prophets are speaking of divine favours and blessings on the Jews, attending or following their return from the Babylonish captivity, the spirit of God takes occasion from thence to speak of the incomparably greater blessings on the church, that shall attend and follow her deliverance from the spiritual or mystical Babylon, of which those were a type; and then speaks almost wholly of these latter and vastly greater things, so as to seem to forget the former.
And whereas the prophet, in this chapter, speaks of God "bringing his people again from the east and west to Jerusalem, (ver. 7, 8.) and multitudes of all nations taking hold of the skirts of the Jews;" so far as this means literally that nation of the posterity of Jacob, it cannot chiefly respect any return of the Jews from Babylon and other countries, in those ancient times before Christ; for no such things attended any such return. It must therefore have respect to the great calling and gathering of the Jews into the fold of Christ, and their being received to the blessings of his kingdom, after the fall of Antichrist, or the destruction of mystical Babylon.
Observations on the Text.
In the text we have an account how this future glorious advancement of the church of God should be introduced; viz. By great multitudes in different towns and countries taking up a joint resolution, and coming into an express and visible agreement, that they will, by united and extraordinary prayer, seek to God, that he would come and manifest himself, and
As may be seen by comparing ver. 3, with Isai. lx. 14-ver. 4, with Isai. lxv. 20, 22, and xxxiii. 24. ver. 6, 7, 8, with Ezek. xxxvii. 2, 11, 12, 21-ver. 7, with Isai. xliii. 5, 6, and xlix. 12, and lix. 19.-ver. 12, 13, with Hos. ii. 21, 22, and Ezek. xxxiv. 22-29, ver. 8, 12, 13, with Ezek. xxxvi. 28-30,-ver. 13, with Zeph. iii. 20, and Isa. xix. 24,-ver. 19, with Isai. lxi. 3, and Jer. xxxi. 12, 13, 14.
grant the tokens and fruits of his gracious presence.-Particularly we may observe,
1. The duty, with the attendance on which the glorious event foretold shall be brought on; viz. The duty of prayer.Prayer, some suppose, is here to be taken synechdochically, for the whole of divine worship; prayer being a principal part of worship in the days of the gospel, when sacrifices are abolished. If so, this is to be understood only as a prophecy of a great revival of religion, and of the true worship of God among his visible people, the accession of others to the church, and turning of multitudes, from idolatry to the worship of the true God. But it appears to me reasonable to suppose, that something more special is intended, with regard to the duty of prayer; considering that prayer is here expressly and repeatedly mentioned; and also considering how parallel this place is with many other prophecies, that speak of an extraordinary spirit of prayer, as preceding and introducing that glorious day of religious revival, and advancement of the church's peace and prosperity, so often foretold. Add to this, the agreeableness of what is here said, with what is said afterwards by the same prophet, of the pouring out of a spirit of grace and sup plication, as that with which this great revival of religion shall begin. (Chap. xii. 10.)
2. The good, that shall be sought by prayer; which is GOD himself. It is said once and again, "They shall go to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts. This is the good they ask for, and seek by prayer, The Lord of Hosts himself. To seek God, as the expression may perhaps be sometimes used in scripture, may signify no more than seeking the favour or mercy of God. And if it be taken so here, praying before the Lord, and seeking the Lord of Hosts, must be synonymous expressions. And it must be confessed to be a common thing in scripture, to signify the same thing repeatedly, by various expressions of the same import, for the greater emphasis.
But certainly that expression of seeking the Lord, is very commonly used to signify something more; it implies that God Himself is the great good desired and sought after; that the blessings pursued are God's gracious presence, the blessed manifestations of him, union and intercourse with him; or, in short, God's manifestations and communications of himself by his Holy Spirit. Thus the psalmist desired God, thirsted after him, and sought him. (Psal. lxiii. 1, 2, 8.) "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee. My flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.-My soul followeth hard after thee."-(Psal. lxx. iii. 25.) "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire
besides thee." The psalmist earnestly pursued after GoD, his soul thirsted after him, he stretched forth his hands unto him, &c. (Psal. cxliii. 6.) And therefore it is in scripture the peculiar character of the saints, that they are those who seek God. (Psal. xxiv. 6.) This is the generation of them that seek HIM. (Psal. Ixix. 32.) Your heart shall live that seek God. If the expression in the text be understood agreeably to this sense, then by seeking the Lord of hosts, we must understand a seeking, that God who had withdrawn, or as it were hid himself for a long time, would return to his church, and grant the tokens and fruits of his gracious presence, and those blessed communications of his spirit to his people, and to mankind on earth, which he had often promised, and which his church had long waited for.
And it seems reasonable, to understand the phrase, seeking the Lord of hosts, in this sense here; and not as merely signifying the same thing with praying to God: Not only because the expression is repeatedly added to praying before the Lord, in the text but also because the phrase, taken in this sense, is exactly agreeable to other parallel prophetic representations. Thus God's people seeking, by earnest prayer, the promised restoration of the church of God, after the Babylonish captivity, and the great apostacy that occasioned it, is called their SEEKING GOD, and SEARCHING for him; and God's granting this promised revival and restoration is called his being FOUND of them. Jer. xxix. 10, 14. " For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word towards you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye go and call upon me, and I will hearken unto you; and ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart; and I will be found of you, saith the Lord, and I will turn away your captivity." And the prophets, from time to time, represent God,* in a low and afflicted state of his church, as being withdrawn, and hiding himself. Isai. xlv. 15. "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." (Chap. Ivii. 17.) I hid me, and was wroth. And they represent God's people, while his church is in such a state, before God delivers and restores the same, as "seeking him, looking for him, searching and waiting for him, and calling after him." (Hos. v. 15.) "I will go and return unto my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him."
And when God, in answer to their prayers and succeeding their endeavours, delivers, restores, and advances his church, according to his promise, then he is said to answer, and come,