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But of the day which shall come at the rising of that glorious Sun, the prophet saith, that it shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch, verse 1. It will be a terrible day to those that shall obstinately refuse to walk in the light of it; they shall be all consumed, as we read the unbelieving Jews were at the destruction of Jerusalem, that happened soon after that sun was up. But then turning himself, as it were, to his own people, Almighty God here by his prophet cheers and comforts them, saying to them, But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings, &c. He shall arise to all; but to the other with such a scorching heat as shall burn them up; to these with healing in his wings, or rays, so as not to hurt, but heal them of all their maladies.
Now that which I chiefly design, by God's assistance, to shew from these words, is what thoughts they suggest to us concerning our blessed Saviour, by calling him the Sun of righteousness. But to make the way as plain as I can, we must first consider, to whom he is here said to arise with healing in his wings, even to those that fear the name of God; i. e. to those who firmly believing in God, and being fully persuaded of his infinite power, justice, and mercy, and also of the truth of all his threats and promises, stand continually in awe of him, not daring to do any thing willingly that may offend him, nor leave any thing undone that he would have them do. Such, and such only, can be truly said to fear God. And therefore the fear of God in the Scriptures, especially of the Old Testament, is all along put for the whole duty of man. There being no duty that a man owes, either to God or his neighbour, but if he really fears God, he will endeavour all he can to do it. But this necessarily supposeth his belief in God, and his holy word, or rather proceeds originally
from it. For he that cometh unto God, so as to fear and obey him, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him, Heb. xi. 6. So that as no man can believe in God, but he must needs fear him; so no man can fear God, unless he first believes in him. From whence it necessarily follows, that by those who are here said to fear the name of God, we can understand no other but only such as are possessed with a firm belief in him, and with a full persuasion of the truth and certainty of those divine revelations that he hath made of himself, and of his will to mankind, and therefore live accordingly.
Of these, and these only, it is here said, that to them shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. Not to any other; no other being able to see his light, nor capable of those healing influences that proceed from him. For though he be a sun, he is not such a sun as we see with our bodily eyes in the firmament, but the Sun of righteousness, shining in the highest heavens, beyond the reach of our senses, visible only to the eye of faith, the evidence of things not seen. Insomuch that although he be risen, and darts down his beams to this lower world continually, yet they who have not faith, can neither see him, nor enjoy any more benefit by him, than as if he was not risen, or did not shine at all. As if a man be born stark blind, though the sun shines never so clear about him, he sees no more than he did before, but lives in the dark at noonday as much as at midnight; neither can ye ever make him understand what light or colours are; for having not that sense, by which alone such things can be perceived, he can never understand what you mean by such things, so as to form any true notion of them in his mind. So it is in our present case; though the sun of righteousness be risen, and shines most gloriously in the world, yet being the object only of our faith, without that a man can discern nothing of him. He may perhaps talk of him as a blind man may talk of
light, but all the while he knows not what he means by the words which he useth about him. For he useth them only as words in course, taken up from those he talks with, without having any effect or operation at all upon his mind; whereas they who really believe God's word, and what is there revealed concerning the Sun of righteousness, they see his light, they fell his heat, they experience the power and efficacy of his influences; and therefore, although they who have not faith (as few have) can be no way profited by what they shall hear or read of him, yet they who have, and act it upon what they hear or read out of God's holy word concerning him, they will find their thoughts and apprehensions of him cleared up, and their affections inflamed to him; so as to love and honour him for the future, as the fountain of all that spiritual life, and light, and joy they have. For to them he will arise, with healing in his wings.
He did not only arise once, but he continually ariseth to those who believe in God, and fear him. For thus saith the Lord, To you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings. It is true, he speaks more especially of his incarnation, or visible appearance in the world; but by this manner of speaking, he intimates withal that this Sun of righteousness is always shining upon his faithful people, more or less, in all ages, from the beginning to the end of the world. For in that it is said he shall arise, it is plainly supposed that he was the Sun of righteousness before, and gave light unto the world, though not so clearly as when he was actually risen. As we see and enjoy the light of the sun long before he riseth, from the first dawning of the day, though it grows clearer and clearer all along as he comes nearer and nearer to his rising: so the Sun of righteousness began to enlighten the world as soon as it was darkened by sin; the day then began to break, and it grew lighter and lighter in every Adam himself saw something of this light, Abra
ham more; Abraham rejoiced to see my day, saith this glorious Sun; he saw it, and was glad, John viii. 56. David and the prophets after him saw it most clearly, especially this, the last of the prophets: he saw this Sun in a manner rising, so that he could tell the people it would suddenly get above their horizon; The Lord whom ye seek, saith he, shall suddenly come to his temple, Mal. iii. 1. and acquaints them also with the happy influences it would have upon them, saying, in the name of God, Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings.
The Sun of righteousness; that is, as I observed before, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is often foretold and spoke of under the name and notion of the sun or star that giveth light unto the world. There shall come a star out of Jacob, said Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 7. and he shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, saith David, 2 Sam. xxiii. 4. And the prophet Isaiah, speaking of his coming, saith, The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined, Isa. ix. 2. For that this was spoken of Christ, we have the authority of the Evangelist, Matt. iv. 16. To the same purpose is that of the same prophet, Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee, Isa. Ix. 1, 2. The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee. But the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy glory, ver. 19, 20. To which we may add the many places where Christ is called ns, which we translate the Branch. As, I will bring forth my servant the Branch, Zech.iii. 8. Behold the man, whose name is the Branch, chap. vi. 8. I will raise up to David a righteous
Branch, Jer. xxiii. 5. And a Branch of righteousness, chap.xxxiii. 15. In all which places the original word signifies also the rising of the sun, and is accordingly rendered by the LXX. Avaro, Oriens, not that part of heaven where the sun riseth, but the sun itself as rising there. And so it is translated also both in the Syriac and Arabic versions. And where it is said, In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful, Isa. iv. 2. In the LXX. it is áμó òs, God shall shine forth. In the Syriac, Lo, The rising of the Lord shall be for glory. In Arabic, U, The Lord shall rise as the sun. And that this is the true sense of the word in all these places, appears from the prophecy of Zacharias the father of John the Baptist; for speaking of Christ's coming, he expresseth it according to our translation, by saying, The Day-spring from on high hath visited us, Luke i. 78. But in the original it is the same word that the LXX. use in all the aforesaid places, 'Avaro Oriens, the rising sun. And it is much to be observed, that all the said places of the prophets are interpreted of the Messiah or Christ; by the Targum or Chaldee Paraphrase, made by the ancient Jews themselves; for no the rising sun, is there translated on the Christ, as if it was only another name for Messiah, the Saviour of the world. From all which it appears, that when the prophet here calls our Saviour Christ the Sun of righteousness, he speaks according to the common sense and practice of the church at that time.
And verily he may well be called the Sun, both in respect of what he is in himself, and in respect of what he is to us. As there is but one sun in the firmament, it is the chief of all creatures that we see in the world. There is nothing upon earth but what is vastly inferior the very stars of heaven seem no way comparable to it; it is the top, the head, the glory of all visible objects: in like manner, as there is but one Saviour in the world, he is exalted far above all things in it, not only