Imatges de pÓgina

that Moses, Samuel, or any of the holy Prophets, fell into any such trouble, when drawing near the gates of the grave; but the contrary. Old Jacob could say, with the greatest composure of mind, "I have waited for thy salvation, O God." And even Moses, who although he died in the wilderness, which he well knew was a punishment for his sin; yet when the Lord commanded him to go up and die in the mount, he does not appear, in the smallest degree, to be disturbed in his mind; but with ali possible readiness, obeyed the word of the Lord. And had Hezekiah been in the same state, he would doubtless have been affected in the same manner. But his peace seems to have been of that kind which every one has, till enlightened by the Divine Spirit. For although the Lord himself hath declared, "There is no peace to the wicked;" yet notwithstanding this, there are thousands now-a-days who are like minded with these in the time of Moses, who said, "We shall have peace, although we follow the imagination of our own hearts, to add drunkenness to thirst." Nothing is more common than for those who are living in the open violation of the laws of God, to hope against hope, and to believe in express contradiction to the whole Bible, that notwithstanding all their wickedness, the mercy of God shall be extended to then at one time or another. And it is no uncommon thing for those among this class of the ungodly, to quote the words of St. John, to quiet their consciences,-" Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." Now, saith one, my heart does not condemn me, therefore I may have confidence towards God."-But these unhappy people must be told the reason why their hearts or their consciences do not condemn them, is, because their minds are blinded by the god of this world; and because their consciences are hardened by their long continued rebellion against God; and that it would be far happier for them if their consciences did condemn them, for then there would be some ground of hope concerning them; but while they continue in that benighted and spiritually dead state in which they are, there is no ground of hope.

at all.

[ocr errors]

There are many others, who not being openly wicked, but have endeavoured to live in a sober, regular, and in what some call, a religious way, are led to think that they have a peace of a far more excellent nature than the former, and are generally confident to a high degree, that they are the favourites of heaven, and God could hardly be just if he' did not reward them with eternal glory. And many.of


them will quote the words of holy Job, and say," Mỹ righteousness will I hold fast, and will not let it go, my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live." But these people should consider, that Job could also say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." He knew his interest in the mercy and love of God, through Christ Jesus. But alas, they are entire strangers to every thing of the kind, and have been building all their hopes upon their own supposed goodness, and expecting salvation for the sake of their own righteousness. Now supposing these people to be as sincere and upright as ever Cornelius was, yet they cannot enjoy the peace of God in their present state, any more than he did. But if like him they are enquiring after God, then there is good reason to believe that the Lord will deal with them as he did with him, and bring them into his favour and family by one means or another. But if, on the contrary, as is too often the case, they are filled with high conceits of their own wisdom and holiness, are satisfied with their pre sent state, and vainly think that all is well with them, then we must say to them, in the word of the Lord, "Wo unto them that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, saith the Lord." "All ye that kindle a fire, and compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which you have kindled; but this shall ye have at my hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow." How applicable are these awful words to those proud, vain, and self-righteous people, who are walking in that way which seemeth right to a man, but at the same time, it leadeth down to the chambers of death. And what makes their case much more dangerous is, many of those who ought to know better, will, like the false prophets of old, endeavour to persuade them all shall be well with them, and will cry, "peace, peace, when it is evident to every enlightened mind, that there is no peace. The God of love úses a great variety of means, in order to enlighten the minds, to awaken the consciences, and to tear away that false peace from these poor deluded souls. Sometimes he sends them heavy afflictions, and brings them down to the gates of death, as he did Hezekiah. "I will go and return to my place, (saith the Lord,) till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in the time of their affliction they will seek me early." When the chastening hand of God is upon them, and to all appearance death is at the door, then it frequently happens that their false peace takes its everlasting flight, and they are left as wretched and miserable as Hezekiah was. Their consciences were fast asleep, and they

were vainly dreaming of everlasting happiness, yet now they awake. and are made both to see and to feel, in such a manner as words cannot express, that they are what the word of God declares them to be; "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." They begin to cry to the Lord in their trouble, and to seek for mercy and grace at his hand.

[ocr errors]

But the grand, and most effectual means which the Lord is pleased to make use of, for the removal of that false peace from the minds of men is, the preaching of his own word, by his faithful ministers. To enlighten the mind and awaken the conscience, is the first work of the Spirit of God. And as every real minister of Christ knows this, it will of course be his first concern, to bring all who attend upon his ministry to a due sense of their fallen and guilty condition; as he knows very well, that till this is done, all his labour must be in vain. A skilful husbandman will not think of sowing the seed till the ground is properly prepared to receive it. A wise builder will not attempt to lay the foundation of his building till the rubbish is cleared away, and he has got to a good sound bottom. No more will a faithful minister of Christ think of sowing the good seed of the kingdom, till the fallow ground of the heart is broken up. Nor will he begin to build for eternity, till the heart is truly penitent, and prepared to receive Christ, the only foundation upon which he may build his hope of present pardon and everlasting peace. This brings us to consider,

Secondly, The nature of that bitterness which Hezekiah laboured under, after Isaiah the Prophet was sent to him.

That Hezekiah was in great bitterness, is evident from his own account of the state of his mind at that time. "I said, in the cutting off my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent. I have cut off like a weaver my life; he will cut me off with pining sickness; From day even to night will he make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that as a lion so will be break all my bones: From day even till night will he make an end of me." All this is the language of the deepest sorrow, of the bitterest distress; and yet the words which follow are still more affecting: "Like crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove; mine eyes fail with looking upward; I am oppressed,0 Lord, undertake for me. It is evident that Hezekiah's

distress was exceeding great: But at the same time it is equally evident, that he was brought into a truly penitent state of mind. That his deep sorrow led him to earnest prayer; and the Lord graciously answered his cry, and extended his mercy and love to him. Hezekiah's bitterness was no other than that godly sorrow for sin, which always, in a greater or less degree, attends true evangelical repentance: As we shall find, that all those whom we have any. account of in the word of God, who were brought into a a penitent state of mind, were affected much in the same manner, and some of them in, as high degree as Hezekiah was. Consider the case of David, as he describes it himself in the 38th Psalm, O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thy displeasure; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long." And he adds, these truly affecting words, "I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. David's words undoubtedly differ from those which Hezekiah used, but his distress was just the same, and it is evident that it arose from the very same cause.

Compare these two accounts with that which is given of Ephraim, in the 31st of Jeremiah, "I have surely heard Ephraim demoaning himself thus,-Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; as bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after I was turned I repented; and after I was instructed I smote upon my thigh. I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." Here it clearly appears, that Ephraim's distress was the same with David's: And if we pass on to the New Testament, the same thing will also appear.

We read of a publican who went up to the temple to pray; and our Lord represents him as standing afar off, ashamed to lift up his eyes to heaven; smiting upon his guilty troubled breast, and saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" From every expression here made use of, it appears, that he was in great distress; that his soul was bowed down with trouble. If we compare this account with that given of the prodigal son, it is just the same: And if we compare these with that of St. Paul, they will all agree together. For it is said of him, that he was three days and nights, and neither did eat nor drink: So that it is reasonable to suppose the distress of his mind was exceeding great, being awakened

to a deep sence of his past sin. Nor is it at all strange, that a person made truly sensible of his sinful, guilty, and helpless state, should be thus deeply affected with the consideration. of it: On the contrary, we may justly wonder to see many so little concerned on such occasions. Let a person feel how guilty he is in the sight of God, and that he is exposed to his just displeasure on that account; let him feel how sin has polluted and defiled his whole soul; so that he is altogether as an unclean thing, and therefore utterly unable either to serve God acceptably here, or to enjoy God eternally hereafter; while in this state of mind; let him feel that his soul is (as it were) bound down in misery and iron, and that he can in no wise help himself. In a word, let him clearly see how many and how great his offences against God have been, and the aggravating circumstances with which his sins have been attended; and above, and beyond all, let him consider what his sins have cost the Lord Jesus Christ; and then we need not to be surprised, if we hear one roaring for the very disquietness of his soul, and hear another cry out, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" But we may justly admire the goodness of God, in preserving such persons from falling into deep despair, enabling them to hope in his mercy, and to wait patiently for his salvation. It is true, all are not alike deeply awakened, nor have all the same painful convictions: But yet all must see, and feel, their lost and ruined state; and be so much affected with the sight, as to be made willing to seek the Lord with their whole heart, so that they may obtain mercy and grace at his hand. And I have no scruple to say, that it is truly happy for those, who like David, have no rest in their bones, by reason of their sin; so that they cannot rest because of their deep distress, and they dare not, because of the extreme danger which they see themselves to be in, but are constrained to go unto the Lord Jesus Christ, for his pardoning mercy and love. These souls shall be brought savingly through, and shall be able to testify with Hezekiah, "Thou hast, in love to my soul, cast all my sins behind thy back." Consider we now,

Thirdly, The tender mercy and love of God, to which Hezekiah ascribes his salvation: "Thou hast, in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption."

Hezekiah ascribes his salvation to its proper cause, the inconceivable love of God. He had prayed in the beginning of his sickness, but too much like a pharisee, when he said, "Remember, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in thy sight." But now his mind seems

« AnteriorContinua »