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is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He will ease them of their burdens, cure them of their diseases, recover them from their wanderings, dissipate their fears, and at length enable them to triumph over all their enemies. His watchful eye shall guide them, his bountiful hand supply them, and his powerful arm support them. He will consult both their safety and comfort, and bring them to that world where danger and sorrow shall be known no more. Their sun shall no more go down, neither shall their moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be their everlasting light, and the days of their mourning shall be ended.
Such is the compassion of Jesus, that humble and fearful souls may claim him as their friend: their infirmities shall not alienate his love. He will preserve weak grace, and make it victorious. It is his gift, and he will not reclaim it; his work, and he will not forsake it; it bears his image, and he will not suffer it to be defaced. He who notices the smallest sins to punish them, will also notice the weakest efforts of grace to encourage and reward them. This the experience of his people in all ages abundantly testify.
We shall now proceed to an improvement of the subject.
1. Let weak christians be encouraged from hence to commit themselves to Christ, and place an entire confidence in his faithfulness and compassion. Let them discountenance the suggestions of an unbelieving heart, and strengthen themselves in the Lord their God. Let them plead his promises, upon which he has caused them to hope: let them no longer hang down their heads like a bulrush, but lift them up with holy joy. Why should the bruised reed shrink from him whose purpose it is not to break it down, but raise it up. He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
2. Let us imitate this part of our Lord's conduct, and carry it towards others as he carries it towards As we live upon charity, we should also exercise it. We should not put on the fierceness of a lion to others, when Christ shews the meekness of a lamb to us. Let us therefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healedComfort the feeble minded, support the weak, and be patient to all men. Let ministers especially imitate the example of their divine Master; encourage the weak, instruct the ignorant, and bear with the froward. It becomes them to be gentle among their people, as a nurse cherisheth her children; remembering that God is against those shepherds who strengthen not the diseased, nor heal the sick, nor bind up the broken, but treat them with rigour; and he will require his flock at their hands. (Ezek. xxxiv. 10.) Bucer, after long experience, resolved to despise none in whom there was any thing of Christ. Where there is most holiness, there is always the most tenderness and moderation, humility and condescension.
3. It becomes us to beware that we do not abuse the mercy of our Saviour, by supposing that we have weak grace when indeed we have none; for it is real, and not counterfeit piety, to which he shews his tender regard. Nor yet by contenting ourselves with weak grace, though it be true. This would be offensive to the Giver, and not answer the end for which it is given. Christ came that his people might have life, and have it more abundantly. God's command in the new, as well as in the old creation, is, "Eucrease and multiply." True religion is, so to forget the things which are behind, as to be reaching forth unto those which are before; and to press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. iii. 14.
Lastly: If weak christians shall not be neglected, much less the strong. If Christ will not quench the smoaking flax, much less that which burns with a brighter flame. If he will not break the bruised reed, much less the strong cedars in his Lebanon.
"How soft the words my Saviour speaks;
The humble poor he won't despise,
With humble souls he bears a part
Tho' press'd with fears on every side
Necessity of Holiness.
JER. xiii. 27.
Oh Jerusalem, will thou not be made clean! When shall it once be?
THUS may a minister address every one of his auditory. Oh man, thou hast need of cleansing! It is necessary both to thy present comfort, and eternal salvation. He only shall dwell in God's holy hill of Zion, who hath clean hands, and a pure heart. Wilt thou not be made clean; when shall it once be?
I. Let us attend to the question itself: Wilt thou not be made clean? And here the following things may be observed.
1. It is of great importance to be cleansed from the filth of sin, and is what should be sought after with the utmost seriousness. Cleansing sometimes respects the pardon of sin, which is a sovereign act of God, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, who hath loved us, and washed from our sins in his own blood. But here it refers to the renovation of the heart, by the sanctifying influences of the holy Spirit. This also is one of the great blessings of the covenant of grace: I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. Ezek. xxxvi. 25.
2. Cleansing the heart from sin is the work of God. None of our efforts can here be availing. We can defile, but not purify ourselves. We may in some measure put away wickedness from our lives, but cannot remove one evil from the heart. Hence the language of David, Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me : and of the Leper, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean! The new creation is as much God's work as the old. He that cleanses from guilt, must also cleanse us from corruption; and Christ is made unto us sanctification, as well as righteousness and redemption. If ever we be saved, it must be by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the holy Ghost; and that through the kindness and love of God our Saviour. Titus iii. 4-6.
3. God has much at heart the sanctification of his people. There is a wonderful pathos in the words of our text they seem to express strong desire and ardent affection. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness; not only in himself, but in others also. Holiness is what he approves, and what he requires: for this is the will of God, even our sanctification. Were our eyes but once open to see its beauty, and did we but feel its necessity, our hearts would be set upon it too. To excite this desire, let us notice the divine expostulation" Wilt thou not be made clean?" Surely thou wouldst, if thou wast not blind to thine own interest, and stupidly unconcerned about thine own happiness! Wilt thou not part with those lusts which will otherwise separate betwixt God and thee? Wilt thou renounce all the glories of heaven, to gratify thy sinful inclinations? Are the pleasures of sense superior to those of religion; the advantages of the world to be preferred to the loving kindness of God; and these momentary enjoyments to those rivers of pleasure which are at his right hand for evermore? Shall it be said, I would have cleansed