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three days' darkness, while the Israelites had light in all their dwellings ! It was among the last and worst of their plagues. Surely light is sweet; and the more excellent the light is, it must be the sadder to be deprived of it. The light of God's grace and favour is the most excellent light, and therefore heaven is called light, and hell is darkness, utter darkness; no gleam of comfort in hell. A natural state is the suburbs of hell, and no real comfort in this condition, but a possibility of help. Therefore the saints pity them, as in a most piteous condition. Jerusalem's case drew tears from our Saviour's eyes, Lake xix. 41, 42. There is,
2. Unacquaintedness with their own state of sinfulness and misery; Rev. vii. 17. Their misery; they are blind, they see not the
azard they are in every moment of dropping into the pit. The messengers of death are approaching them, the sword of justice is hanging over their heads, signs of approaching ruin are on them and about them; others see it, but not themselves ; Hos. vii. 9, “ Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not.” The prodigal never saw his starving condition, till he came to himself, Luke xv. 17. Their sinfulness also; of this they are ignorant; Rom. vii. 9, “For I was alive without the law once ; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." As in a house, the motes flying thick there are not perceived till the sun-beams enlighten it; so, till the Lord open the eyes of the blinded sinner, he sees not those swarms of living lusts which are preying on his dead soul, the innumerable evils which compass him about, those multiplied pieces of guilt which are binding him over to destruction.
3. They are easily ensnared and deceived in matters of the greatest concern. Our Lord Jesus pronounces a woe to the world because of offences, Matth. xviii. 7. Because stumbling-blocks laid before the blind cannot but have most pernicious effects. The world is full of snares laid by Satan and his instruments; and the blindness of the mind exposes men to the utmost hazard by them. How easily are they cheated out of their greatest interests for another world, and made to hug a shadow instead of the substance, and embrace a scorpion instead of a fish, and stones instead of bread; because, though they be eagle-eyed in the things of time, they are like bats and owls as to the light of life. Like Esau, for one morsel of meat they sell this birth-right, Heb. xii. 16.
4. They get no good of the light of the gospel, but stumble at noon-day, as in the dark. They receive this grace in vain. The night and day are alike to the blind, winter and spring to the dead tree. And hence mon live under the gospel as loosely, profanely,
and carelessly, as if they were living in the dark corners of the earth. The light of the gospel, like a shining sun, has arisen, teaching us, that, “ denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world," Tit. ii. 12. But instead of going like men to their proper work, they like wild beasts go to their dens, and lie at ease, neither working out their own salvation, nor doing any good to others. The light is set up to them, but their works are works of darkness, and so they hate the light.
5. They are precipitating themselves into the utmost bazard to their souls, without fear; Psalm xxxvi. 1, “ The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” How fearlessly do men venture themselves into the forbidden ground, rush in the way of sin on the sword-point of justice; Jer. viii. 6, “I hearkened, and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done ? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.” They drink up iniquity as the ox the water, being in that case as blind men drinking up a cup of poison, which they know not to be such. There is,
6. Deep security in the most dangerous condition, as not seeing what is before them. They go on in their courses, as the sinners did before the flood, Matth. xxiv. 38. They are exposed every day to the utmost hazard, yet they are secure. They stand before God's bent bow, as a mark to his arrows, yet they are at ease. Wrath is pursuing them, yet they are not concerned to flee from the wrath to come. They are jovial while about the pit's mouth, and even though they are in hazard every moment of falling into it.
Lastly, To sum up all in a word, this blindness fills the whole man in heart and life with darkness and confusion; Matth. vi. 23, “ But if thine eye be evil, thy vhole body shall be full of darkness; if, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !” A person can do nothing which is good in this case, he lies open to all evil both of sin and misery. And this darkness, unremoved, will make way for eternal darkness.
Having, as we proceeded, made some practical improvement, in conclusion, we shall only exhort you,
1. To be convinced, of this your natural darkness; believe it from the Lord's word, and believe your hazard from it, though otherwise ye do not see it.
2. See your need of Christ to open your eyes. Pray for the Spirit; say, with the blind man, “ Lord, that mine eyes may be opened.”
Lastly, From what has been said on the several parts of Christ's commission with respect to natural men, unconverted sinners may get a broad view of their misery. Ye are Satan's captives, yea, prisoners, God's prisoners, the devil's prisoners, prisoners in bands, and blinded prisoners. Be deeply affected with your condition, and be persuaded, as prisoners of hope, to return to your strong-holds, while you have access to them. While it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, but hearken to his voice, proclaiming that he is" anointed to open the prison to them that are bound.”
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
SERMON L V.
Isaiau lxi. 1,
HAVING attended to the first doctrinal point on this subject, we now go on to
DOCTRINE II. That, by open proclamation in the gospel, Jesus offers to prisoners in a natural state, an opening of their eyes, a loosing of their bands, and a bringing them out of their prisons.
We shall illustrate the different parts of this doctrine, under the following heads :
I. We shall show, that Christ offers to such an opening of their eyes, the recovery of their spiritual sight, and to bring them from darkness unto light.
II. We shall show how Christ takes off the devil's bands from these prisoners.
III. We shall show, that Christ offers to prisoners in a natural state, an opening of their prisons, and a bringing them out of these.
The improvement of each will be added as we proceed. We are then,
I. To shew, that Christ offers to prisoners in a natural state, an opening of their eyes, the recovery of their spiritual sight, and so to bring them from darkness unto light.
What, do such say, is in this offer? Certain it is that saying illumination is hereby offered to you; Rev. iii. 18," I counsel thee," says he, “ to anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.” This is a glorious and most necessary benefit, a thousand times more necessary than light to those who are naturally blind. The unrenewed world lie in darkness, they will not, they cannot see. There is a long and dark night upon them. Christ offers to bring a morning unto their souls, to make the day-star arise there; yea, the Sun of righteousness to shine there. There is a thick mist about you, so that you cannot see your way, but spend your life in endless wanderings among deep pits. He will, by the spirit of his mouth, dispel it, and make light to arise up, that ye may see clearly about you. Your eyes are clouded and blinded; he will make the scales to fall off from them; and this will give you a threefold sight. There is, 1. A sad and melancholy sight, the saddest ever you saw,
which will make the lightest heart among us all heavy; and this is a sight of yourselves in your universal sinfulness and defilement. This pricked Peter's hearers to the heart, Acts ii. 37. It struck Paul with the paleness of death; for “ I was alive,” said he," without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died," Rom. vii. 9. Men naturally are strangers to themselves, but when the prisoner's eyes are opened, he gets a broad view of his sinful self. He sees a corrupt nature, from which no good can come; averse to good, and prone to evil; not to be changed, but by a miracle of grace ; Rom. viii. 24,“ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" He sees a corrupt, desperately wicked heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Jer. xvii. 9. There is an emptiness of all good; a fulness of all evil, the seed and root of all abominations which are done in the world, living lusts of all kinds, like so many vermin in their nest, Mark vii. 21 ; a continual steam of actual sinning and lusting, arising from hence on the steam of a duoghill. Further, he sees a sinful life and conversation, woven into one continued piece of sin, where the parts sometime thought good will appear even black as hell, like the rest ; unclean lips, all over defiled with vanity or vileness; an unclean life, which is unfruitful and unprofitable for God and for themselves; full of sins against the holy law of God, committed against much light and love, as well as checks by word and providence, &c. When the Lord comes to the prisoner, and opens his eyes, he takes him and leads him through his heart and life; then what a sad sight does he get! then will he cry, as in Job, xl. 4, “ Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” Then is accomplished these words, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore, and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord of hosts," Jer. ii. 19. There is,
2. A terrible and frightful sight, which will make the stoutest heart to tremble, so that they shall say, as Moses did at the burning mount, "I excedingly fear and quake.” And this sight is threefold. There is a sight of an absolute God, in the glory of his holiness and justice, Lev. x. 3. Men's eyes are naturally withheld, so that they see not what a God they have to do with, Psalm 1. 21. They think he is altogether such an one as themselves; but says he, “I will reprove thee, and set them (your sins) in order before you." When their eyes are opened, they are cured of their fatal mistake; Hab. i. 13, " Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." They see him on a throne of justice, angry with the wicked every day; a hater of every sin, a severe avenger of sin from the least to the greatest, with whom no sin is accounted a small thing. There is a fiery stream issuing out of his mouth, to devour his adversaries, as engaged, by his word and nature, to magnify the law and make it honourable. This terrible sight will give the sinner experience of the psalmist's case, Psalm lxxiii. 3, “I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed ;” and hence make his heart cry out within him, as in Isa. xxxiii. 14,“ Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire ? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?” Again, he gets a sight of the fiery law in its absolute purity, extensiveness, and severity ; Rom. vii. 9, “ For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandinent came, sin revived, and I died.” The law, to the blinded sinner, is like a looking glass covered over with dust, in which the man never sees the true shadow of himself. But when the sinner's eyes are opened, the glass is rubbed clean, and shines bright, to his terror and astonishment. Then it discovers the damnable nature of some things he thought good, the heinousness of what he reckoned small faults, and makes all his sins greater than ever he thought them. He sees the threats and curses of the law, no more as scarecrows, or as the shadows of the mountains, but more sure than heaven or earth to have their effect. And then one word of it will go deeper with him than a thousand used to do. Further, he gets a sight of himself, in his miserable, lost, and undone estate. Like the prodigal, he comes to himself, and sees that he is perishing with hunger. He sees himself to be ruined, to be a self-destroyer; a dead man in law, devoted to destruction by the curse of the law; under sentence of eternal death, pronounced by the Judge of all, and registered in the Bible ; bound with the threatenings of the law, as so many cords of death; and withal, utterly unable to extricate himself out of this gulph of sin and misery ; Rom. v. 6, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”