And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.
I. THE EXPLICATION.
1. This stability must not be meant of any particular Church in the world. Particular Churches have their beginnings, progresses, and periods. Particular Churches have been corrupted by superstition and idolatry, rent by heresies, and scattered by persecutions, Zion hath stood, though some synagogues of it have been pulled down; it hath, like the sun, kept its station in the firmament, though not without eclipses and clouds to muffle it. The Church is but one, though it be in divers countries, and named according to the places where it resides, as the Church of Ephesus, the Church of Sardis, etc. If you obstruct the light of one beam, or lop off one branch, or dam up the stream, yet the sun, root, fountain remains the same.
2. Though God unstakes the Church in one place, yet He will not only have a Church, but a professing Church in another. It is a standing law of Christianity that a belief in the heart should be attended by confession with the mouth (Romans 10:9). And the Church is a congregation of people sounding the voice of Christ, as He was preached and confessed by the apostles. While there are believers, there will be professors in society together; some ordinances settled in being during the continuance of the world, as the supper (1 Corinthians 11:6).
3. This Church or Zion shall have a numerous progeny. The spiritual Israel shall be "as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered" (Hosea 1:10), which was the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17), and renewed in the same terms to Jacob (Genesis 32:12). The Church is a little flock in comparison of the carnal world, yet it is numerous in itself, though not in every place.
II. GOD HAS HITHERTO ESTABLISHED ZION.
1. This is testified by its present standing, when other empires have sunk by age or violence. She bath borne up her head in the midst of earthly revolutions, and met with her preservation or resurrection where carnal interests have found their funeral.
2. No society but the Church ever subsisted in the midst of a multitude of enemies.
3. The violences against her, which have been fatal to other societies, have been useful to her. This bush hath burned without consuming, and preserved its verdure in the midst of fire; not from the nature of the bush, but the presence of Him that dwelt in it.
4. When she has seemed to be forlorn and dead, God has restored her. When Israel was at the lowest, a decree issued out in Egypt to destroy her males and root out her seed, deliverance began to dawn; and when a knife was at her throat at the Red Sea, and scarce a valiant believer found among a multitude of despairers, God turned the back of the knife to His Israel, and the edge to the throat of the enemies.
5. God never wanted instruments for His Church in the due season. If Nebuchadnezzar be the axe to hew down Jerusalem, Cyrus shall be the instrument to build her up; when His time is come, He will not want an Ezra and Nehemiah to rear her walls, nor be wanting to them to inspire them with courage and assist their labour, in spite of the adversaries that would give checkmate to the work. If Stephen be stoned by the Sews, He will call out Paul, an abettor of that murder, to be a preacher of the Gospel, and he that was all fire against it shall become as great a flame for the propagation of it: one phoenix shall arise out of the ashes of another.
III. WHY IT MUST NEEDS BE SO.
1. It is necessary for the honour of God. Those societies may moulder away, and those religions grow feeble, which have drawn their birth from the wisdom of man and been settled from the force of man, but a Divine work must needs have a Divine establishment.. It is so —
(1) If you regard it as His main design in the creation of the world.
(2) As He hath been the author and builder of Zion.
(3) As He hath been the preserver and enlarger of her to this day.
(4) In regard of the cost and pains He hath been at about Zion.
(5) In regard of faithfulness, His veracity is engaged.
(6) In regard it is the seat of His glory.
(7) In regard that it is the object of His peculiar affection.
(8) In regard of the natural weakness of the Church.
2. It is for the exercise of the offices of Christ that Zion should be established. He is prophet, priest, and king, which are all titles of relation. Prophet implies some to be instructed, a priest some to offer for, and a king some to be ruled; put one relation, and you must necessarily put the other. If there were no Church preserved in the world, He would be a nominal prophet without any disciples, a king without subjects, and a priest without suppliants to be atoned by Him upon earth.
3. The foundation of Zion is sure. It is founded upon Christ, the corner stone.
IV. THE USE,
(1) If the Church hath a duration and stability, then ordinances and ministry are perpetual. Ministers may be thrust into corners, clapped up in prison, hurried to their graves, but the sepulchres of ministers are not the graves of the ministry.
(2) The doctrine of the establishment of every member of Zion is clearly established. The same blood that is the cement of Zion, the same hand that built her, the same head that influenceth her, secures every one of her true-born children. They are all in the same posture and upon the same foundation with Zion herself.
(3) How great is the folly of Zion's enemies! They judge of her by the weakness of her worldly interest, and not by the almightiness of her guardian.
(4) What a ground is here for prayer! No petition can more comfortably, no petition can more confidently, be put up, than for Zion's establishment. Prayers for particular persons, or for ourselves, may want success; but supplications for Zion never miscarry.
(5) What a strong ground is here for trust! Look not so much upon the condition of Zion's walls as upon her foundation; not upon her present posture, as upon her promise-charte; not upon her as a weak vine, but under the hand of the Highest as the vine-dresser. Look not upon the feebleness of the flock, but upon the care of the shepherd; nor upon the fierceness of the lions, but upon the strength and affection of her guardian.
(1) In the confusions and troubles of the world.
(2) In persecutions.
(3) In the deepest designs of her enemies. If He be the Highest, and employs Himself as the Highest, there is none so high as to overtop Him, none so high as to outwit Him. Though their union be never so close, and their projects never so deep, yet God's being with the Church is curb enough for them and comforting enough for Zion (Isaiah 8:9).
(1) Take heed of apostatizing from Zion.
(2) Let us love Zion.
(3) Let us desire the establishment of Zion more than our own private establishment.
(4) Let us endeavour the establishment of Zion.
Parallel VersesKJV: And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.