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Parochial Sermons

The Posthumous Works of the Late Right Reverend John Henry Hobart, D.D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York.

Volume Three.

New-York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1832.

Sermon XXV.

Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth. Isaiah lxiii. 1-6.

Within the whole compass of language, no passage can be produced more truly eloquent and sublime than these glowing words of the evangelical prophet. He presents to our view a severe and bloody conflict, in which a personage most glorious and exalted is introduced as the principal actor; and the tremendous effects of his power and anger are displayed in the total destruction of his enemies. This scene is exhibited in language highly-figurative, with imagery awfully just and appropriate, calculated to awaken the varied emotions of astonishment and sympathy, of terror and of triumph.

Independently of its evangelical meaning, the [298/299] passage cannot be read without those feelings of awe and pleasure which the truly sublime never fails to excite. But when we consider the evangelical prophet as describing, in these words, the glorious character and the deep humiliation and sufferings of the Messiah--as depicting the splendid victories by which he achieved our redemption, and the terrible vengeance which he will execute on his impenitent adversaries--this sublime passage assumes infinite interest; and the scene which it unfolds, excites the emotions of the most profound reverence and adoration. The evangelical strain of the prophet, who seems never for a moment to take his enraptured view from the promised Child that was to be born, and the Son that was to be given--the elevated grandeur and sublimity of the epithets, which are weakened and degraded when applied to a personage and event less glorious than the Saviour and his redemption-justify this application of the passage.

Our church, by appointing the chapter in which these words are contained, as part of the epistle for Monday in this holy week, consecrated, from the earliest ages of Christianity, to the commemoration of the passion and crucifixion of our Lord, refers the event exhibited in this passage to that victory which, by his sufferings and death, he achieved over our spiritual enemies. Your time, therefore, cannot be more suitably employed than in considering the evangelical meaning of these sublime words.

It is necessary to remark, that though some of the declarations in this passage, which the prophet puts into the mouth of the Messiah, have a future aspect, yet the evident meaning and connexion of [299/300] the various parts of it require that they should be rendered in the past time; and the original justifies this rendering. The scene is under the form of a dialogue, which increases its spirit and sublimity.

The Messiah is introduced as an Almighty Conqueror returning triumphant from the slaughter of his foes, and awakening in those who behold him the emotions of astonishment and awe; and they burst forth in the inquiry--"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?" Bozrah was a city of Edom, a country, the inhabitants of which had been distinguished for their inveterate enmity to the Jews; and it is usual with the prophets to distinguish the enemies of Christ and his church by the names of nations who were adversaries of Israel, God's peculiar people, whom he had selected to be the depositaries of his laws and truths until the promised seed should come, who should be for salvation to the finds of the earth. The Messiah therefore, returning in "dyed garments" from the conflict with the enemies of man's salvation, is represented as coming from Edom and Bozrah.

The majesty and splendour of his appearance excite still further astonishment and awe.

"This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength."

The appearance of the Conqueror was suited to the dignity of his character, to the irresistable might of his dominion, and to the infinitely important achievements in which he had been engaged. he "travels in the greatness of his strength," bearing dismay and defeat amongst all his enemies, and bringing victory and salvation to his faithful followers.

[301] How applicable is this description to our Almighty Redeemer! Though poverty and persecution marked his suffering life--though, considered as the representative of our guilt, he had "no form nor comeliness, no beauty that we should desire him"--though, in his state of humiliation, "he was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"--yet the glory of the Godhead shone with refulgent light through this cloud of sorrow. To the eye of faith, he appeared "fairer than the children of men," "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," "the chief among ten thousand, altogether lovely." The divine virtues which from his sacred person diffused lustre, were like "the glorious apparel" which commanded astonishment and admiration. When he nailed sin to his cross--when he entered the strong holds of the adversary and routed his forces--when, marching through the domains of death, he led captivity captive--our glorious Redeemer returned from the conquest "travelling in the greatness of his strength."

By this sublime introduction we are prepared for the delineation of the almighty power of the divine Conqueror.

The question having been asked, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?" the personage himself returns the answer:

"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save."

He was not a victor who, swayed by the spirit of ambitious domination, sought renown in devastation and carnage; who, setting at defiance justice and mercy, stretched his relentless sceptre over [301/302] oppressed nations. Unlike the conquerors of the world, the Saviour, gentle, meek, and lowly, directed his almighty power only against the adversaries of God and man. He sought to "bring down the proud and lofty, and to exalt the humble and meek." "He spake in righteousness:" in righteousness did he proclaim his laws; in righteousness did he establish his dominion; in righteousness does he exercise his sway; and according to the eternal rules of righteousness will he finally distribute the rewards and punishments of his kingdom. "Mighty is he to save;" not indeed from the yoke of temporal power, not from the bondage of worldly oppression; for his "kingdom is not of this world:" "mighty is he to save" from the bondage of sin and Satan, from the sway of unholy passions, more severe and humiliating than the yoke of the oppressor. For this purpose he is armed with the power of the Godhead: he is head over all things to his church, and ready to dispense all those blessings which, as sinful and mortal creatures, we can require. We are therefore called to render him the profound homage of faith and obedience; for "all power is given to him in heaven and on earth." "He hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."

The splendid garments of this Almighty Conqueror were stained with blood. The inquiry, therefore, from those who behold his coming, naturally arises--

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?" Dyed were his celestial garments, as if he had been treading the fat where the wine is pressed from the broken grape.

[303] The glorious personage who is addressed, himself replies:

"I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."

The Conqueror had been engaged in a severe and dreadful combat. The wrath of his enemies came mightily upon him, and bruised him, as if he had been trodden down in a wine-press. Alone and unsupported, he sustained the shock of his foes. But he rose victorious from the conflict, hurling destruction on his enemies He sprinkled their "blood upon his garments, and stained his raiment." In that "day of vengeance," when he came to achieve the deliverance of his faithful followers, his anger and his fury burst forth, and he "trod down the people," and trampled them under his victorious feet.

What a forcible and awful picture of the achievements of Jesus Christ, the glorious King and Captain of our salvation! Beholding him in the day of his humiliation and suffering, we are astonished that "his visage is marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men." The blood which stains the garments of a Saviour so meek, so lowly, so gentle, may well excite our astonishment. He accounts for his mysterious appearance: "I have trodden the wine-press alone." As the grape is bruised in the wine-press by the weight of the mill stone, so was I crushed by the wrath of God due to the sins of a guilty world. [303/304] "Alone," without support, without sympathy, without comfort, I sustained the inflictions of divine justice. "Of the people there was none with me." Even those for whom I was enduring those dreadful agonies, refused me their compassion. The chosen companions of my toils and labours, in this dark hour, forsook me and fled. In vain did I invoke the pity of those who surrounded the cross on which I was encountering the agonies of an ignominious death: "Is it nothing to you all, ye that pass by?" Mockery and insult answered the cries of anguish which burst from my soul. Even my Almighty Father, in this hour of misery, withdrew from me the ineffable consolations of his countenance, and directing his justice against me, as the representative of rebellious man, cast upon me his wrathful frown. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Oh! was there any sorrow like unto my sorrow wherewith the Lord afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger? But in the counsels of the eternal Godhead, as the Redeemer of man, I was to achieve, through suffering and death, his salvation. The hour of my death, therefore, became the hour of my triumph: it was the consummation of the degrading scene of my humiliation, during which "I was smitten of God and afflicted; was wounded for the transgressions and bruised for the iniquities of my people." Thus, "through the suffering of death, I became crowned with glory and honour:" the ignominious cross was changed into the throne of almighty power and dominion: yes, from the wine-press in which, crushed by the arm of divine justice, I satisfied to the uttermost its inexorable claims, I arose, arrayed with the "garments of vengeance for clothing, and [304/305] with zeal as with a cloak." On your foes, sin, and death, and Satan, who held you captive, I hurled the thunder of my power; I sunk them in the winepress of my wrath; I trampled them in my fury; their blood I sprinkled on my garments, with their blood I stained my raiment. To accomplish your redemption, I thus went forth in the greatness of my power, conquering and to conquer. Mercy hushed her pleadings; for the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed had come.

In the succeeding verses, the Messiah still further displays the wonders of his redeeming power, his glorious triumphs over all the adversaries of our salvation.

"I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my righteousness, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth."

The miserable race of man were in captivity to sin and Satan--cut off from communion with their God, the fountain of life and happiness--obnoxious, through transgression, to his justice. "I looked, and there was none to help; I wondered that there was none to uphold." None of the innumerable myriads of created spirits, however deeply they might compassionate, could restore fallen man. His guilt, incurred by transgressions committed against an infinite God, was also infinite, and required an infinite atonement. The holy law of the Creator of the world had been violated; its everlasting penalties must be sustained. The [305/306] authority of the Sovereign of angels and of man had been insulted; an all-perfect reparation was necessary. Imperfection would tarnish the most exalted obedience, and defeat the boldest efforts of the highest angelic spirit; among the host of heaven none, therefore, could be found able to render that perfect obedience, that infinite atonement, which the contemned authority and justice of God exacted. Man was sinking under the vengeance of his Almighty Judge: prompted by infinite and ineffable compassion, the eternal Son of the Father undertook that infinitely arduous office, to which the most perfect seraph was unequal: he resolved to encounter and satisfy the claims of divine holiness, and in the person of man to sustain the tremendous inflictions of divine justice. He resolved, and he effected our redemption; his own arm brought salvation unto him: his omnipotent power enabled him to achieve our redemption, and to bring in everlasting righteousness: "his fury, it upheld him." Roused to holy indignation against the enemies of man's salvation, "he trod them down in his anger, he made them drunk in his fury, he brought down their strength to the earth," binding them in chains at his victorious feet, and emptying into their souls the cup of his fury, which, like an intoxicating draught, prostrated their strength, and brought them to the earth. Victorious over all his enemies, he reigns, the dispenser of life, health, and salvation to a fallen world.

Thus have I endeavoured to exhibit to you the awful and sublime import of this evangelical passage.

The first impressions which the contemplation [306/307] of it is calculated to excite, are those of profound reverence and admiration of the glorious character and offices of Christ.

An omnipotent Conqueror returning victorious from the combat, glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength; speaking in righteousness; mighty to save; the day of vengeance in his heart; treading down the people in his anger, making them drunk in his fury; achieving salvation by his victorious arm--it is not in the power of language to convey to us more awfully sublime ideas of the divine power of Christ, and of the fulness and glory of his redemption, as well as of the exterminating terrors of his justice. To suppose that an inspired prophet would apply these divine epithets to the victories of a frail and sinful man, would be to impute to him absurd and criminal impiety. The divine nature of the Saviour alone justifies this glorious representation of him: the divine nature of the Saviour alone constitutes an unfailing ground of confidence and hope that he is mighty to save. The exhibition which the prophet presents of the character and triumphs of the Messiah, affords the joyful conviction that nothing is left unfinished which was necessary for the salvation of man. The all-perfect obedience which divine holiness exacted, has been rendered, and the atonement to offended justice has been made. The exercise of mercy is no longer incompatible with the holiness and justice of the Sovereign and Judge of the universe. Christ is able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God through him. Seated on the throne of his glory as the Mediator and King of his church, he dispenses to his penitent people that grace which will enable them to [307/308] triumph over all the enemies of their salvation, whom he hath already vanquished.

Come then, ye sons of men--for you this glorious Redeemer shed his blood, for you he purchased the almighty succours of his grace--come, thankfully accept the offers of salvation which he extends to you. He is mighty to save you from your sins, which render you obnoxious to the divine displeasure. Trust cordially and supremely in his mercy and grace, and faithfully adore and serve him; and he will exalt you to the glories of his celestial throne.

But if you reject that love which prompted him to undergo such tremendous sufferings, and to achieve such glorious victories for you and for your salvation--if you continue impenitent and unholy, the slaves of sin and the world, when he calls and urges you to return to him--he will open upon you those stores of wrath which he once poured forth on the adversaries which held you in bondage. When he comes, the day of vengeance again in his heart, to execute the fierceness of his displeasure on those who obey not his Gospel, he will trample them in his anger, he will make them drunk in his fury; yes, in the forcible language of inspiration, he will spill their life-blood on the ground.

Finally. The contemplation of this glowing prophetical description of the character and offices of the Messiah should impress us with the sentiments of lively gratitude for his unparalleled condescension and mercy.

Alone he trod the wine-press of divine wrath, and of the people there was none with him. Persecuted by those whom he came to save--deserted [308/309] by his disciples, whom he had distinguished by so many acts of love--forsaken, in the hour of his bitter agony, by his God--the Saviour of the world sunk, friendless and alone, under the overwhelming flood of divine justice.

And shall we still, blessed Saviour, withhold from thee our sympathy--still, unmoved, behold thy bitter sufferings, and refuse to commemorate them in the sacrament of thy institution--cruel as thy murderers, crucify thee afresh by our sins? No; unless our souls are dead to the emotions of sympathy, of gratitude, and love.

My brethren, the season has arrived, sacred to the commemoration of the sufferings of our Lord. In the primitive church, the whole season of Lent was devoted to acts of humiliation and penitence in memory of the sufferings of Christ, and the week of his crucifixion was marked by extraordinary acts of devotion. This pious custom is preserved in our church, which provides daily services during this week. Let it not be said that we cannot spare a few hours from business or pleasure to devote to the grateful commemoration of the sufferings of him who devoted his life and his death for us: especially on the day consecrated to the commemoration of his last agonies, in our private devotions as well as in the public service of the church, let us gratefully celebrate the infinite love which induced the Son of God to offer himself up a sacrifice on the cross for our redemption.

And as thou, O holy Jesus, didst, on this day, die to destroy, by the power of thy death, the dominion of our spiritual adversaries, so, by thy grace, may our spiritual death unto sin be this day effected; that thus rising to a new and holy life, we [309/310] may be fitted for sharing with thee in the glories of that celestial kingdom to which, as the reward of thy sufferings, thou art exalted, and where thou livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever; to whom be ascribed all honour, power, majesty, and dominion, world without end.

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