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ISAIAH Ixi. 1-3.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hatlı anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called Trees of righte ousness, The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
THIS Scene which the prophet unfolds, exhibits almost all the characters that compose the subjects of human misery; we behold the poor, the brokenhearted, the mourner, the captive; and surely this scene will call forth the compassion of the Most High. It is calculated to awaken our liveliest sympathy; and we hear a personage who appears bearing from the Most High a commission of mercy; and thus he unfolds its interesting import:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to VOL. II.
comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called Trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
No doubt can exist with respect to the personage who thus delivers his gracious commission; the evangelical prophet contains the most minute delineations of the character and offices of Jesus Christ; we cannot, therefore, hesitate instantly to refer to him a passage which so well suits the gracious and compassionate character and office of the Saviour of the world. The correctness of this application is established by our Lord himself. Soon after he commenced his ministry, by preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease, entering, as was his custom, a synagogue at Nazareth, to unite in the worship there celebrated, he was called to officiate as a reader, and opening the book of the prophet Esaias, which was presented to him, he found the place where this passage was written; and having read it, he expounded it, and proclaimed to the people wondering at the gracious words which proceeded out of his lips, "This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears." He thus declared that he was the gracious Personage pointed out in the passage of the evangelical prophet.
Applying then this passage to Jesus Christ, we behold,
1. His solemn inauguration to office; and,
2. The gracious functions with which he was invested.
The consideration of these particulars will lead to remarks suitable to the present occasion, of admitting to the office of the Christian ministry.
1. We behold the inauguration of Christ to his divine offices. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me."
But did he not, from all eternity, possess the Spirit without measure? The eternal Word, was he not with God from the beginning, or ever the world was-was he not God? The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, is he not the Almighty? The brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, did not the eternal Son make the worlds? The King of kings and Lord of lords, is not his throne for ever and ever? Yes-and therefore at his name every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that he is Lord.
But this eternal Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; the brightness of the Father's glory took upon him the nature of man; and he was thus made flesh, and clothed with our nature, that he might become the Mediator between God and man, the Saviour, the Intercessor, the Prophet, the Priest, and the Ruler of his redeemed people. Not, therefore, in his character of "God over all" did he receive the anointing of the Spirit, but in that character of the Son of man which he assumed when he was born of a virgin. By the Spirit of the Lord was he inaugurated to the office of Mediator between God and man.
The Holy Ghost was the agent in this august solemnity.
In the eternal counsels of love towards man, it
was ordained that all the persons of the Godhead should be occupied in the work of his redemption: and thus, while we adore God the Father as the Author of that stupendous scheme by which mercy and truth met together, and God the Son as the Saviour by whom this redemption was effected, we acknowledge God the Holy Ghost as the divine source of all those gifts and graces which qualified the man Christ Jesus for his office as Mediator, and sinful man, which he came to redeem, for the participation of the blessings of his kingdom. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Jesus Christ; and by this Spirit was he consecrated to the mediatorial office.
In allusion to the mode by which consecration to office was performed among men, and particularly among God's chosen people, Jesus Christ was said to be "anointed." "The Lord hath anointed me."
Anointing with oil which was the produce of at tree esteemed of superior glory and excellency, and which was a liquor pure, delicate, and incorruptible, was frequently practised among the nations of the East, and especially among the Hebrews. As a religious ceremony, it designated both persons and things to sacred purposes. A holy anointing oil, consisting of the most precious spices and perfumes with the oil of the olive, was appointed by God to be used by Moses for the anointing of the tabernacle, of the ark, and of the sacred vessels, to sanctify them, and to make them most holy; and for the anointing of Aaron and his sons, to consecrate them, that they might minister unto the Lord in the priests' office. With this holy unction were the prophets, kings, and priests of the Israelites designated to their sacred functions.
Highly proper was it, therefore, that he who, in his character as Mediator, was to be the Prophet, the Priest, and the Ruler of his people, should be consecrated to these holy offices by a sacred unction. Precious and fragrant was the oil which, shed on Aaron's head, went down to the skirts of his clothing; precious and fragrant was the oil of gladness by which, when Solomon was advanced to the regal dignity, the people rejoiced with great joy; but infinitely more precious and fragrant than these was the unction of the Holy One, that "oil of gladness" by which Jesus Christ was "exalted above his fellows:" it was the unction of the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus received this unction of the Spirit when, at the incarnation, the Holy Ghost came upon the blessed virgin, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her; and he also received this divine unction when, at his baptism, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and lighted upon him. By this unction of the Spirit he was not only solemnly vested with the mediatorial office, but endued, in his human nature, with all those divine gifts and graces necessary to discharge its exalted duties.
The man Christ Jesus was thus solemnly inaugurated, not with the most precious unction by which designation is made to human offices, but by the Spirit of the Lord: the heavens open, and this Spirit descends upon him without measurethe Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And hear him thus declaring his divine commission: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me."