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Isaiah 40:1-2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Purifoy   
The Gospel Messenger--April 1884



Text, Isa 40:1-2: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”


Here three prominent points present themselves for our consideration:


1st. Concerning the gospel ministry; its object, etc.

2nd. The warfare here alluded to, and,

3rd. The result of that warfare.


This arrangement of the subject, the comforting of God’s people, enables us to present it in a clearer light to the understanding of the hearer. Let us, therefore, proceed with it in the order stated.


1st. Concerning the gospel ministry: The text begins with a command to the prophet, from the prophets it descended to the apostles, and from the apostles to the gospel ministry. The command is: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God,” &c. None can fully comply with that command except the true gospel minister, to whom it now belongs, and to whom it is particularly addressed. But who is a true minister of the gospel? I answer: It is the one, and him alone, who is called of God, qualified of God, and sent of God to preach the preaching that he bids him to preach. “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” How different this is to the claims of modern religionists who say: “God calls, but the qualifications to preach comes of men.” So they have their theological schools to prepare and qualify men, professedly called of God, to preach the gospel, saying: “No man can preach acceptably without an education,” and “that none can understand the scriptures without an education.” Is this true? Can we know God by the wisdom of the world? Can we understand the things of the Spirit revealed in the scriptures by the learning and training received in colleges, and other institutions of learning? We cannot. The Bible teaches us that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and that by wisdom the world cannot know God; but what is more highly esteemed among men than the wisdom of the world as the necessary means of qualifying men to understand and preach the gospel? This, too, in the face of God’s disapprobation of such a course where he says: “That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in his sight.” Was the apostle Paul qualified of men to preach the gospel? Hear him: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Did worldly wisdom, of which he had an abundant share, assist him any in preaching?


Hear him on that point: “And my speech and m was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but! in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Now, the why God must, and does, qualify men to preach the gospel is,  I think, very plain, and I would explain it in this way: The sphere of the preacher is altogether different from those who give instruction in natural things. He, the preacher, is called of God as a teacher of spiritual things; he is called also as a witness for God to bear testimony to the truths of revelation, which are spiritual; and spiritual discernment and spiritual understanding, which God alone can give, are absolutely necessary qualifications for that sphere. The teacher of natural things needs only natural training, and natural discernment, to qualify him for his sphere, or work. None will deny that the preacher is called a witness for God. “Ye are my witnesses.” says God. What is a quality witness for anything? It is a personal knowledge of the testimony the witness is to render. Would you think for a moment of sending any one to school to qualify him as a witness in your courts of justice? How absurd the very thought; and yet, in the face of a greater absurdity, men of great ability, so-called, men of great learning and worldly wisdom, are at this moment actually engaged in qualifying men, by an educational process, based upon the wisdom of men, for God’s witnesses, they say. They think they can qualify men, by a natural process, to bear testimony to spiritual things. That is like qualifying men in a known tongue to teach an unknown tongue; it is like qualifying a man in the English language to teach Greek. The apostle Paul asks: “What man knoweth the things of man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” The solution of which is, that we understand one another because we are under the influence of the same natural understanding; but to understand the things of God, we must be under the influence of the Spirit of God; must have spiritual discernment, spiritual understanding. To illustrate: If I write home they understand that letter because they are influenced by the same spirit that dictated the writing of it; but suppose I write or speak in an unknown tongue, none could understand

it but those who are under the influence of the knowledge of that tongue or language. So, in like manner, in order to understand the things of God, in order to understand the scriptures in their spirituality, not the mere letter, we must be under the influence of the same Spirit that dictated the writing of the scriptures, which was the Holy Ghost.


Schools of learning, therefore, cannot qualify men to preach the gospel because they can only teach the letter, and not the spirit of it. They cannot impart an understanding of its spirituality, because they cannot impart, nor implant the Holy Ghost. And Paul says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”


Now because we take this position as Primitive Baptists we are not opposed to education, as is charged against us by our enemies, because we do not support theological schools, but denounce them as God-dishonoring institutions, that they are. We are the friends and patrons of education, doing all we can to educate our children, and thus aid them all we can, in this particular, in their earthly career. Education is one thing, and highly useful in its place, and the religion of Christ is quite another thing, which cannot be taught or implanted in hearts of men by man, no matter how worldly wise or learned he may be. Therefore, we say keep the one separate and distinct from the other forever. When God wants an educated man for a preacher be calls an educated man, not one to be educated, but one already educated. We have many among us who have a liberal education, and even some with a classical education, but each and every one of them will testify that their literary attainments do not in the least qualify them as gospel preachers; do not in the least give them spiritual understanding, nor an aptness to teach; that these qualifications come alone from God, as a special gift from him, by which they are qualified as spiritual witnesses, and teachers in Israel. But the great majority of those ho are called and qualified of God to preach, are what are termed, illiterate men. There is doubtless great wisdom in this. We hear of but little trouble, discord, strife and division originating among illiterate preachers. Such, generally, comes from the educated and worldly wise.


But the true minister of the gospel is not only called and qualified of God, but he is also sent of God. His field of labor is impressed upon his mind and heart, and there he must do the most of his preaching.  I once heard an Arminian preacher say: “Yes, the preacher must be sent, but the church must send him, and in order to send him they must have money, for ‘how can they preach except they be sent?’ and,”  the Arminian added with emphasis, “How can they be sent without MONEY?” Doubtless money is the only thing that will, or can, as a general thing, move an Arminian preacher, but the true witnesses of God are moved upon, and sent forth alone by the power of God. Money is no consideration with them; they must preach, because God requires it of them; necessity is laid upon them, so that they feel “woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” God never calls an unregenerated man to preach, and there is no such thing as a real self-made gospel preacher. There may be many self- made preachers, and many college preachers, but they are only that many self-made failures, and college-made failures.


Next we notice the object of preaching. Some, who are not of us, frequently ask me what use has a Primitive Baptist for preaching; “for,” say they, “you teach that if a man is to be saved, he will be saved anyhow.” To which I always reply that we teach no such thing. We do not teach that men are saved in their sins, which is implied in the anyhow; but teach that men are saved from their sins. We do not teach that those who are to be saved are saved anyhow, but one how, and that is through Christ, and through him alone. “For he is the only name, given under heaven, among men whereby we must be saved,” if saved at all. Jesus, there fore, is the only means of salvation. The object of preaching, then, is not to save sinners; it is not a means of salvation, nor a means of regeneration or quickening; it is not to make sheep, but to gather them into the visible flock, gather them into the fold of Christ, the Church, and then feed and instruct them. The preacher, the gospel preacher, I mean, is compared to a hunter and to a fisherman. Was the hunter ever known to be the means of creating or of’ making the game he went out to gather? Was the fisherman ever known to be the means of making the fish he caught? And yet, what do we see and hear from modern religionists. Why, they tell us that God is using them, their preachers, their churches and their men-made institutions as means of grace, as the means of salvation, and that if sinners will lie in the use of those means they all can be saved by them. In other words, they would have us, and the whole world, believe that God h sent them forth, through their various agencies, and multiplied human machinery, a hunters, to hunt up the goats in order to help the Lord make sheep of them; that they are sent as fishermen to make fish of tadpoles, so to speak. Where, in all God’s word, are we taught that any man is used as a means to make saints of sinners, to quicken any who are dead in trespasses and sin, to translate men from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son? The inspired record says: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” Was the preaching of Paul the means of opening the heart of Lydia? No, but the Lord opened her heart, and that was the means of her hearing and understanding Paul’s preaching; so that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul, and the apostle gathered her into the fold of Christ. Not to be tedious on this part of the subject, I repeat, that the object of preaching is not to save sinners from eternal ruin, but gather the saved of God into the Church; not to regenerate sinners, but to gather such into the fold of Christ.


Preaching the gospel is good news to every quickened sinner. It shows him what great things the Lord has done for him; it tells his experience, his hopes, and his fears; it feeds, instructs, and comforts the Lord’s people. But hear what the Apostle Paul says to the Ephesians on this very point: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doc trine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” With the object of preaching so fully and clearly set forth in this lengthy quotation by the apostle, is it not strange he said nothing it being a means of grace, or a

means of regeneration, if such be the case? But as he intimates nothing of the kind, and as we cannot find it anywhere taught in God’s word, we conclude that it is presumption on the part of any to claim to be instruments in God’s hands to save or regenerate sinners. This alone is God’s work, by the quickening power of his Spirit; but after that they need the gospel preacher to comfort and instruct them, and lead them, or direct them, into the path of duty. And here, in the text before us, the command, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” clearly points out one of the great designs and the duty of preaching, which is to comfort the people of God. They need all the comfort they can get in their earthly pilgrimage, which is beset with trials, temptations, and many doubts, fears, and a sense of great unworthiness.


The Lord knows our frame; he knows how frail and weak we are, and he knows, too, how much we need comfort., and, blessed be his great name, he has bad left upon record an abundance of com fort and consolation for his tempest-tossed children. The whole Bible is full of comfort. The text under consideration is full of it, and it is to .show the comfort that it contains that I have selected it for this occasion, hoping and desiring that the many dear children of God who are here  seated before me may receive that same comfort from it wherewith I, myself have been comforted. To this end let us now pass on to the next point, the warfare here alluded to: “Speak ye comfort ably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished.”


Jerusalem, I understand, refers to, or represents here, spiritual Israel—the whole elect of God. But what is the warfare that was accomplished for her—for all of spiritual Israel? It is a most singular one. Never was there such a warfare heard of before; never will there be such a one again. To look at it from a mere human standpoint., the contest was so unequal that it seemed that utter failure in behalf of Jerusalem would be the inevitable result, and no doubt her enemy thought that victory was on the side of eternal ruin. But not so. The prophet here was commanded to proclaim victory on the behalf of Jerusalem some seven hundred years before the actual conflict took place.

Who, then, was the victor? Who accomplished the warfare of Jerusalem?  Brethren, it was Jesus, the Captain of our salvation. But I said the contest was a singular one. It was so singular, so peculiar, and so wonderful, that I wish to look at some of the wonderful peculiarities of it before passing further on. The first wonder to me is that the contest should ever be. What was there about those whom Jesus represented in that warfare to induce him to engage in  such a conflict for them? Nothing; absolutely nothing. They desired him not; they asked not after Him. By nature they were the children of wrath, even as others, and enemies arrayed against him, like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion. The strange spectacle, then, is presented of Jesus engaging in a warfare against sin and Satan, death, hell and the grave, single-handed and alone—and of the people, there was none to help him—for a people that did not love Him, nor desire Him. He was not moved to it by any foreseen good in them, for there was none good; no, not one. They were unworthy, altogether unworthy, of such a distinguished representative. They were defiled and polluted by sin beyond expression; so much so that it was necessary for Jesus to be made sin for them in order to represent them in that warfare. Is it not most won indeed that he should leave the realms of eternal bliss and glory to endure such contradiction of sinners—such ignominy, shame and degradation? Why did He do it? It was because of the great and everlasting love he had for them. And this is the next great wonder: that He loved them at all, for by nature they were no better than the rest of mankind, who were rejected. The wonder is that He did not reject all, for all deserved it. Why this is so we cannot tell, except to say, “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens,” or rejects. But for this extraordinary love, this wonderful and astonishing love for those he gave to Christ in the covenant of redemption, there would have been no salvation at all for any of the human race, but, like the fallen angels, all would have been rejected and lost, forever and forever.


The Apostle John, transported with rapture and wonder, exclaims, “Be hold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”  How strange and wonderful all this is! God loved his chosen people even while they were his enemies. No wonder, then, His people now are commanded to love their enemies, and do good to those who despitefully use them. It is Godlike to do this, and none but those who have been made partakers of the divine nature can do it. Whom, therefore, God loves, he can never hate, and never cast him away; and whom he hates, he can never love, for lie is unchangeable; “Therefore ye Sons of Jacob are not consumed.” When we are told, then, that there are millions in hell whom God loved, and for whom Christ died, it is false; every word false. Why say I this? It is because Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth unto me shall come to me.” And he further said, “I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me, and this is the will of him that sent me: That of all the Father hath given unto me I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day.” But, brethren, behold your Redeemer engaged in the great conflict for you! Behold Him stripped of the glory He had with the Father before the world began! See Him as the son of man, made of a woman, made under the law to obey that law for you, and thus fulfill its demands of obedience that it justly claimed of you. See Him as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He became poor, that you might be rich;

homeless, that you might have a home eternal in the heavens. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man bath not where to lay his head.” As the conflict rages, see the malice and rage of the scribes and Pharisees against Him, and how they seek to slay Him. They call him an Impostor, a glutton, and a wine-bibber—a friend of publicans and harlots. The malice of Satan and the world combined are arrayed against Him. Besides all this, the iniquity of us all was laid upon him, and the Lord did it; yea, it pleased Him to bruise Him and put Him to grief. He was made sin and a curse for His people, and there was none to pity Him. No pity on earth, and none in heaven. He must tread the wine- press of God’s wrath alone. Deep and keen was the anguish and agony of His soul; so deep and heavy upon Him that he cries out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” He is betrayed, and fails into the hands of the mob. He is led before Pilate, where He is treated with indignity. They spit upon Him and deride Him. Where now are his disciples? They fled and forsook Him; but after awhile we find Peter outside the judgment hall, denying all knowledge of Jesus, and trying to confirm his word by cursing and swearing that he knew Him not, after boasting that he would go with Him to death itself. Forsaken, now, by those from whom we naturally would have expected better things, we see Him condemned to be crucified; and on the cross he is not only forsaken of men, but the Father himself forsakes Him, and He cries with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He has now made an offering of Himself, without spot, unto God, and amid the convulsions of nature expires upon the cross, is taken down and buried in Joseph’s new tomb; but the grave is to not hold Him, for the warfare is not complete till He bursts asunder the bands of death, and comes forth from the grave, the third day, the victorious Conqueror over all the combined powers of darkness—over every enemy of God’s elect. The warfare is accomplished.

Let us now look at the results of that warfare. They are grand and glorious. Let us enumerate some, if not all of them:


1st. “By the obedience of one, many shall be made righteous.” Just as many, therefore, as He represented in that obedience, just that many shall be made righteous, and that embraces all that the Father gave Him.


2nd. “By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” By the atonement an end was made of sin on behalf of His people; sin, therefore, can have no more dominion over them to destroy them. “There is, therefore, no more condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “And the blood of his Son Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” Then we have justification as well as redemption: the pardon of iniquity. And then come the double results.


 “For she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” What does this mean? In order to a full understanding of it, let us consider what we lost by sin in the fall of man. Through the fall we lose natural life, but through Jesus we receive spiritual or eternal life; through the fall we lose the image of the

earthly Adam, for dust thou art and unto dust must return, but the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the tomb shall quicken our mortal bodies, and raise them  and fashion them like unto the glorious body of the Son of God; in the fall we became the slaves of sin and death, but through Jesus we are made the heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; through the full we lose all our earthly possessions, but through Jesus we receive an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. So where sin had abounded to our destruction, grace has much more abounded to our eternal salvation and glory, to give us double for all our sins, through the worthy merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

To God be all the praise, forever and ever, Amen.


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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.