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in their repenting of, and turning from, their iniquities. These would be removed as grounds of controversy, as separating between them and their God, and as obstacles in the way of the blessing. This affords us a true criterion by which we may judge when God may be said to bless this or any other sinful land: the causes of his contending will be in a great measure removed, and sins formerly prevalent will be given up, both in affection and practice. This, like every other part of the blessing, comes from God. He alone, by his grace without us, can remove the guilt of sin, and by his grace within us the power. The effects of the curse would also be removed. These were various, both on God's part, and their own. God was angry, and hid his face. He contended, and wrote bitter things against them. He threatened judgments, and partly inflicted them. In a great measure he acted as their enemy. All these he would remove by turning away
On their part were sin and suffering. They smarted for their conduct; but they were obstinate, and refused to be reclaimed. They had inward murmurings, and outward wickedness. They withheld the tithes, and robbed God. All these things would be removed by the Divine blessing. Their famine and want should be no more. Their ills of doing and suffering would cease; and Haggai's words would be verified to them, “ From this day will I bless you."
3. It concludes the favour of God, and the fruits of it. When God blesses a person or people, they may sing as in Isai. xii. 1, “ Though thou wast angry with
thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst
The favour of God sometimes signifies his great purpose of grace in himself, which is the source of every spiritual blessing : at other times it is taken for present favourable dealing-when, instead of anger or threatening, he speaks peace to his people, and lifts up the light of his countenance. In this last sense it is to be understood here. Well can believers distinguish between God's fatherly anger; and the intimations of his love. The fruits of his favour are many and great, and will be partly explained afterward. At present we shall only say that his promises are accomplished to his people, and his perfections exerted in their behalf. In consequence of this they enjoy sweet communion. If an angry God makes sinners quake, and saints tremble, (see Psal. cxix. 120,) a God reconciled, and intimating that he is pacified, will fill the heart with gladness, and the mouth with praise. When the fruits of Divine favour are enjoyed, matters go well in Judah, and in the heart of every saint.
3. The acceptation of their services was another part of the blessing. When God called them to bring the tithes, and promised that he would bless them, he intimated that he would graciously accept their offerings. In justification, the persons and all the services of the saints are accepted. This acceptance is in the Beloved, and for his sake. This blessing is unalterable, unceasing, and incapable of increase or diminution. It commences in the same moment with spiritual life, and runs parallel with it as to duration. Prosperity and adversity, life or death, proper or improper conduct, never vary this
acceptance. It is unalterable. The ground of it is without us, and infinitely perfect.
Besides this, there is a particular acceptation of some services expressive of God's peculiar approbation. As to those who are justified in Christ, this is founded on the former, and may be considered as a kind intimation of it; and there is commonly something remarkably excellent both in the acceptance, and the manner in which God intimates it. We have an instance of this when God sent a prophet to acquaint David how well he took it, that it was in his heart to build him an house. It is likewise exemplified in the woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears: while the Pharisee entertained harsh thoughts on account of her former character, the Saviour commended the woman, and kindly accepted her service. Many, whose persons were not accepted before God, but still under the curse, have often met with something similar to this acceptance on account of some signal service done to God, or his Church. Jehu's zeal for the Lord was rewarded with the throne. The repentance of the Ninevites saved their city; and God took it well that, at the voice of the unknown prophet, they repented in dust and ashes from the highest to the lowest.
4. The Divine blessing here promised likewise included gracious retribution and reward. When they brought all the tithes, he would not put them off with mere favourable acceptance, however valuable in itself; but would graciously reward them. Their hearts would be filled with grace, and their land and houses with plenty. None ever were losers by the
service of God. While the ark was with Obed-edom, the Lord graciously rewarded his care, by making all he had to prosper. When Abraham entertained God's angels, the promise of Isaac was sealed to him. The kindness of Lot to the messengers from heaven was rewarded with a miraculous deliverance, when the city was destroyed by fire and brimstone. The widow of Sarepta was likewise well repaid for her trouble and cost with Elijah. In every period there have been many instances of the Lord's people attending his ordinances with great difficulty, and making strong exertions to support his interest; but they received such support and consolation as compensated every difficulty, and encouraged their hearts. As the Lord has often rewarded individuals, in the text he promised retribution to the whole nation. He was to bestow great outward prosperity. Under the Old Testament, this was an usual blessing. They had a delightsome land-a land which flowed with milk and honey. Even in New Testament times, the Lord's people in general are not in want. They may be poor and afflicted, but God will provide. What is good he will give. Often the Israelites found in experience that outward prosperity and religion kept pace with one another. Under David and Solomon holiness and happiness met together, and piety and prosperity kissed each other. Under Asa and Jehoshaphat matters went well in the land. But when religion declined, and sin prevailed; when God's ordinances were neglected, and altars erected to idols, their prosperous state was turned into misery. Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is
å reproach to any people; and, if persisted in, will prove their ruin.
Addressing only a few individuals about temporal prosperity as a part of the blessing, it will not be improper to give the following direction: Seek not great things for yourselves. Christ has sanctified a state of indigence and poverty. In this respect his people have generally the advantage of himself. They commonly have some place of residence, while he had nowhere to lay his head. It is true his enemies often have the greatest share of outward good things; but with them it is a kind of peradventure. Godliness has the promise of this life, as well as that which is to come; and the covenant of grace secures to the real Christian that his bread shall be given, and his water made sure. Some have compared outward good things to the leaves of a tree, and the Lord's people to the fruit. When the fruit is gathered, the leaves fall off. When all God's people shall be brought home to glory, the creatures, as no more necessary, shall instantly fade and fall away.
5. The Lord was to bless his Church at this time in such a manner as to make his kindness and interposition evident. The blessing was to come with visibility and observation. Great outward prosperity could not fail to be noticed by themselves and others, and especially on the back of such famine. As plenty would proclaim God to be the author, the season would proclaim his goodness. The Lord blessed them in the same manner, when they laid the foundation of the second temple, Hag. ii. 19. While the blessing attracted their own attention, their enemies