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support of the public interest: The holy seed shall be the substance thereof. Where we may notice two things.
1st, A description of God's little remnant; they are the holy seed.
2dly, The bulk they bear in the land, or in God's view, however little account may be made of them by the men of the world; though they be the dross and off-scouring of the earth, in the view of men; yet, before the Lord, they are the substance thereof.
For the first of these, the designation given to God's remnant, the holy seed. Some, by the holy seed, understand Christ; who is sometimes called "the seed of the woman," "the seed of Abraham," sometimes "the seed of David according to the flesh," and he, before his coming in the flesh, was the substance or strength of the Jewish nation; that nation was preserved from utter ruin till the Messiah should come of it; hence says the prophet, Is. lxv. 8, "Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it;" and when once that blessing was come, in whom men were to be blessed, the nation and church of the Jews was soon destroyed and cut off. Others, by the holy seed, understand the godly remnant that were among that people. These are frequently in scripture spoken of under the notion of seed: Psal. xxii. 30: "A seed shall serve him, it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." And Is. liii. 10: "He shall see his seed." And then they are called a holy seed: because they are renewed after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; separate from the rest of the profane world, who were carried down the stream both of personal and public provocation.
2dly, Notice the bulk and room this holy seed bears in God's view, however much they may be despised in the eyes of the world; they are the substance thereof, that is, of the church and nation. Some think that in this last clause the former metaphor of a tree is still continued. The body of the Jewish nation is compared to a tree, common professors to the leaves of a tree, which in the autumn and winter are blown away in a storm, and driven hither and thither with the wind; but the holy seed or God's remnant of believers, or sanctified souls, are like the trunk or stem of the tree, which remains firm against the winter-wind of temptation, error, defection, or persecution; and having the life and sap of the reality of the grace of God in them, sprouts and flourishes again in the spring, when the winter is over and past. Some read the words, The holy seed shall be the stay, strength, or support thereof; being an allusion, as they think, to the elms and oaks which grew on either side of the causeway, or raised way, that led from the king's palace to the temple, 1 Kings
x. 5; which served to support the terrace, or raised way, that the earth might not crumble away from it; so the truly godly in the nation are the stay and support of it; the pillars of the land, that keeps things together, that the whole nation and church do not go to utter ruin.
OBSERVE, "That God's remnant, or his holy seed, in a church or nation, are just the strength and substance thereof." The holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
The doctrine being the same as the words, I shall not stay upon the proof or confirmation of it: scriptures to this purpose will occur in the prosecution, which I shall, through the Lord's assistance, attempt in the following order and method:
I. Give some account of God's remnant, as contradistinguished from the rest of the world.
II. Why called a seed.
III. Why called a holy seed.
IV. What may be imported in their being called the substance of a land or church.
V. In what respect they are so. And,
I. The first thing is, to give some account of this remnant, who are here called a holy seed, in contradistinction from the rest of mankind.
1. Then, they are a people of a distinct pedigree from the rest of mankind. It is true, indeed, as to their natural birth, they are come of the same common stock of the first Adam, and therefore "children of wrath, even as others:" but as to their spiritual or supernatural birth, they are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," John i. 13; hence it is that they are ready to say to God, Is. Ixiii. 16, "Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our father."
2. This remnant, this holy seed, are a people under a distinct government from the rest of mankind. All mankind by nature are under the government of the devil, the god of this world; and their lusts are the laws by which they walk, Eph. ii. 2, 3. But God's remnant, through the power of grace, have broken their covenant with hell, and agreement with death, and cast themselves under the government of a God in Christ, saying, "O Lord, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make
mention of thy name." "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, and he will save us."
3. They are a people that stand upon a quite different foundation than the rest of the world. Others are building upon the sand of general mercy, of an empty profession, common providences, common graces, the works of the law, some such sandy foundation; they are building their hope of acceptance and salvation there; but God's remnant have quit all these foundations of sand, and taken their only standing upon the clear and cleanly foundation that God hath laid in Zion: namely, an incarnate God, doing and dying, and interceding in the room of guilty sinners: here, I say, they make their stand for eternity, saying, "This is my rest ;" and, indeed, "other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
4. They are a people of a different spirit from the rest of mankind: 1 Cor. ii. 12: "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God." It is said of Caleb and Joshua, that they were of another spirit than the rest of the Israelites. God's holy seed have received the Spirit of their everlasting Father, according to his promise, "I will put my Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes."
5. They travel a different road from the rest of the world. The men of the world travel in the broad way that leads to destruction, the road of open profanity, the road of mere morality, or, at best, the road of legality, which all lead down to the chambers of death; but God's remnant walk in the straight and narrow way that leadeth unto life," the cleanly way of obedience, of faith: Is. xxxv. 8: "A highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." And hence it comes,
6. Lastly, That they make a quite different end, and have a different landing at death from the rest of mankind: Psal. xxxvii. 37, 38: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together, the end of the wicked shall be cut off."
II. The second thing proposed was, to inquire why this remnant is here called the seed: The holy seed shall be the substance thereof. Now, for clearing this, consider, that all mankind are divided into the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; the seed of Christ, and the seed of the devil. Christ himself is the seed of the woman, and the seed of
Abraham, in a way of eminence and excellence; but out of this one seed has sprung a numerous issue and offspring promised to him of his Father, Is. liii. 10: "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days;" and this is the seed that is here spoken of. And they are called a seed, or his seed, for these reasons:
1. Because they owe their very being to him, not simply as a God Creator, but as a God Redeemer. You know children derive their natural being from their parents, they are just pieces of themselves; so believers owe their spiritual being to a God in Christ, they are "partakers of the divine nature," and the seed of God abideth in them; and in this respect they "are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."
2. Because of the likeness that they bear to him. As a man's seed and offspring bears a resemblance to him; so here, as we are the seed of the first Adam, and creatures in this world, we bear a similitude to him; but as we are the seed of the second Adam, we will bear a resemblance to him: "We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."
3. They are his seed in respect of their dependence on him. A man's children, or offspring, depend on him for food, clothing, counsel, and every thing: so believers depend upon a God in Christ for their all, they trust in him, and call upon him for their daily bread, for supplies of grace, light, and life; and, accordingly, "out of his fulness they receive grace for grace."
4. Their being his seed implies, that they are his family and household in this lower world; hence, says the apostle, "We are no more aliens and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." They have got a name and a place, in his house and within his walls, even an everlasting name, that shall never be cut off.
5. It implies that they are the heirs of his estate. A man's seed are heirs of his inheritance; so believers, being the seed of Christ, are "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus," heirs of a large fortune indeed, even "an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away:" he settles all by the covenant on them.
Before I shut up this head, I will give you a few remarks concerning this seed of Christ.
1. Then, This seed is but a remnant of mankind, as you see in the text, In it shall be a tenth; but like the tithe, or tenth part, which is but little in respect of the rest of the
field; hence called "a little flock; a few names in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments." But yet,
2. For all that, it is a numerous seed, absolutely considered in themselves: Rev. vii. 9, they are called "an innumerable company, which no man could number." As the natural seed of Abraham are said to be like the sand of the sea for multitude; so the spiritual seed of Abraham, who are the seed of Christ also, will be an innumerable company, when they are all gathered together to Christ; therefore compared to the drops of the dew.
3. They are an honourable seed; and no wonder, for they are the seed of the “ King of kings, and Lord of lords, and each one of them resembles the child of a king;" yea they are "made kings and priests unto God." "Ever since thou
wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable.”
4. They are a costly seed to our glorious Redeemer; for they are the purchase of his blood, " redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ."
5. They are a flourishing and fruitful seed; they shall be called the "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, in whom he will be glorified." They abide in Christ, and Christ abides in them; and they who are thus " planted in the house of the Lord, flourish in the courts of our God," Psal. xcii.
6. They are a troubled and persecuted seed in this world. You know the husbandman's seed-corn must be threshed; the cart-wheel is made to pass over it; the ox and the ass were made to tread upon it; hence that command, “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn." So the seed of Christ, are frequently threshed with. the flail of affliction: "Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of heaven." God sets the oxen, the asses, the brute beasts, the men of this world, who, like beasts, "have their portion in this life, to trample upon his seed, that they may be prepared and fitted for the Master's use; for by these afflictions he "makes us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
7. Though they be a troubled and persecuted seed, yet they are a very durable seed, "His seed shall endure for ever," Psal. lxxxix. 28, 29. Christ's seed, and his throne, run parallel in their duration and continuance: "His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven." The perpetuity of his kingdom secures the duration of his seed, so that the world may as well imagine to overturn his throne, as to raze his seed in the world; while he is a King, he will have subjects; and blessed be his name, "His king