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3. They get a comforting and heart-reviving sight, the most comfortable they ever saw, which will make the most heavy heart joyful. And this is a sight of Christ in the glory of his mediatory office; Isa. xxxiii. 17,“ Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty, they shall behold the land that is very far off.” They see Jesus standing as a Prophet, discovering those thoughts of love, which were from eternity in the breast of Christ's Father, toward these prisoners. Standing as a priest as he had been slain, at the Father's right hand, making intercession for the prisoner's freedom. And as a King, having the sovereign command of life and death, and having the keys of the prison in his hand, to take out the prisoner when he will. O glorious sight for the prisoners ! when their eyes are opened. It is a threefold sight. It is a sight of the transcendant excellency and loveliness of Jesus, Isa. xxxiii. 17, (quoted above.) While the prisoner lay in darkness, he was ready to say to every lover of Christ,“ What is thy beloved more than another beloved ?” Cant. v. 9. There was then to him more glory in a vain world, in the lust of the eye and the pride of life, than in Christ. But now that his eyes are opened, he sees a glory in him, which darkens all created excellency, as the rising sun makes the stars to hide their heads. He appears now as the pearl of great price, Matth. xiii. 46. All the perfections of the divine glory shine forth in him ; these appear in the face of Christ, as in a glass, of which the prisoner now gets a view. And then none but Christ for him ; Psalm Ixxiii. 25, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Again, he gets a sight of his fulness for, and suitableness to, the case of the prisoner. Like the prodigal, Luke xv. 17, he sees that in his father's house there is bread enough and to spare. He sees then that he needs look to no other quarter for help ; that there is an all-sufficient fulness of it in Christ. Does the prisoner consider his vast debts ? Christ is a cautioner, a mighty one. Does he consider his crimes ? Christ died to satisfy for them. He has power over the jailor, and can bind the strong man, loose and bring out the prisoner. Is he defiled in his prison-garments ? Christ has white raiment to put on him, in exchange for these. Are there iron gates in the way? yea, irons on the prisoner's legs? He breaks the bars of iron, and brings out the prisoner. Once more, he gets a sight of the willingness and readiness of Christ to communicate of his fulness; Heb. iv. 15, 16, “ For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain meroy, and find grace to help in time of need." He now sees the truth and reality of gospel invitations and promises, that they are not only fair words, as he sometime thought them, but sure and tried words ; Psalm xii. 6, “ The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." This revives the fainting heart, is the great cordial for a soul ready to perish; so that the prisoner resolves to venture himself, and lay his whole weight on the glorious Deliverer.
Before leaving this head, it may be of importance to inquire, what ground the blinded prisoner has to rest upon and embrace this offer in the proclamation of the gospel ? As to this we observe,
1. That there is nothing offered but what our Lord can perform and make good; Numb. xxiii. 19, “ God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall be not make it good ?” Jesus is the true light, the light of the world; the star that came out of Jacob, Numb. xxiv. 17; the bright and morning star, which puts an end to the dark night in the soul, Rev. xxii. 16, the sun of righteousness, Mal. iv. 2. He has a fulness of the spirit of light in him, to communicate to dark souls, Rev. iii. 1. We observe,
2. That there is nothing offered but what he has already performed in the experience of thousands, who have been Satan's close prisoners as well as you ; Isa. XXXV. 4, 5, 6, “ He will come and Bave you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing ; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” Paul was a blind Pharisee, but O how wonderfully were his eyes opened! There have been many who were as stupid, secure, and blind as any, whom the day-spring from on high hath visited; who sat in darkness, but are now turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan anto God. We observe,
3. There is nothing proposed to us but what he has his Father's commission to offer and make good ; Isa. xlix. 6, “And he said, Is it a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Ver. 9, “That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth? to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in their ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.” Again, to the same purport, see Isa. xlii, 6, 7. And therefore his coming into the world is compared to the day-spring, Luke i. 78, which comes at its appointed time. We observe,
4. That what is offered is offered unto you. Ye are all comprehended in the proclamation ; Isa. lv. 1, “Ho ! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Whatever be your case, though you be in the innermost room of satan's prison in the world, ye are meu, ye are sons of men : Prov. viii. 4,“ Unto you, O men! do I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” And the offer is very particular, Eph. v. 14, " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” We observe,
5. That there is the greatest reality, truth, and sincerity in the offer; Rev. iii. 14, “ These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Never one embraced this offer who was refused. It grieves his Spirit that sinners do not fall in with it. He wept over Jerusalem for this; and he has lost no bowels of compassion by going to heaven.
This part of the subject we would improve, by urging you to embrace the offered light, the saving illumination proclaimed in the gospel; and to come to Christ with this errand, That your eyes may be opened. And here I would exhort you to the following things :
Be convinced of your natural darkness and blindness in the things of God. Say not, with the Pharisees, Are we blind also ? The less thou seest of this darkness about thee, the greater is the darkness upon thee. The best see but in part, and most men see none at all in a saving manner. Love darkness; John iii. 19, “ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” As the owl loves not the shining sun, so men wedded to their lusts hate the light, and love to be in darkness. They do not know God, nor bis Jaw, nor his Son, nor themselves, and they care not for the knowledge of them; Job xxi. 14, “ Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” They are at little pains with their Bibles, and far less with their hearts and lives, to make them agreeable to the light of the word. Do not resist and rebel against the light, Job xxiv. 13, “ They are of those who rebel against the light; they know not the way thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof." Let not your lusts carry you over the belly of what light you have, lest ye be judicially blinded. What light God offers you by his word, by providences, or by inward motions and convictions within your breasts, beware of fighting against it, beware of resisting and putting it out. Sometimes the Spirit of the Lord begins to throw in beams of light into the soul, at a sermon, under a rod, or some rebuke of providence. But the sinner cannot be easy till this be again darkened. Be satisfied with no light, which has not a sanctifying and a purifying heat with it. The true light is called the light of
life, John viii. 12. When the Spirit of the Lord fell on the disciples, Acts ii., there appeared tongues of fire, enlightening and warming. Dangerous is the case of men who keep truth a prisoner; Rom. i. 18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Lastly, Go to the Lord for the Spirit of illumination. Pray, search for the same as for hid treasures, and believe for it in the Lord Jesus. Look to him that ye inay be enlightened with this saving illumination of his word and Spirit. To prevail with you in all these points, I would mention the following MOTIVES :
Mot. 1. This illumination is absolutely necessary for salvation. A sinner will never prize Christ, nor come to him, till his eyes are opened to see his sin and misery, what a just God and a strict law he has to deal with, what a precious and suitable Saviour Christ is; John iv. 10, " Jesus answered, and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” While Satan keeps his prisoner bound, he will hold him fart. That which the eye sees not, the heart receives not. The danger may be very great, but when unknown the sinner is secure.
Mot. 2. Blindness under the gospel is most inexcuseable ; John is. 41, “ Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say we see; therefore your sin remaineth.” It is wilful blindness. Those who live in the dark corners of the earth, where the light of the gopel is not known, what wonder is it that they walk on in darkness ? But the light of the gospel shines about
Christ offers to enlighten us by his Spirit, Eph. v. 14. If we choose darkness rather than light, we must lay our account with our choice being our ruin, John iii. 19.
Mot. 3. Saving illumination is the only way to true confort, and the want of it the way to utter misery; Col. i. 12, 13, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." At the bindiug of the soul, Satan completes the security of the prisoner; and at the enlightening of him, Christ begins his deliverance. In them who are saved, the light is carried on to the light of glory. In them who are lost, the darkness is continued, till they come to endless and utter darkness.
We are now, II. To shew, that Christ offers to the prisoners a loosing of those bands wherewith they are bound.
Here it will be necessary to shew,-1. How he looses God's bands from off the prisoners. And, 2. How he takes off the devil's bands from them. Let us then,
1. Shew how he looses God's bands from off the prisoners. The anconverted sinner is God's prisoner under the bands of guilt, and of the curse of the law, which bind him over to destruction. These he looses and takes off the sinner by the application of his own blood; Zech. ix. 11, “ As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water."
Here we observe,
(1.) That Jesus purchased their freedom from these bands by his death and sufferings. Guilt is a strong tie, the curso is a heavy chain on the prisoner; in these the power of spiritual death lay. But Jesus, by his death, procured the sioner's relaxation ; Gal. iii. 13,“ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us." His compassion for the prisoners made him pay for them a ransom of his own blood. He took their bands of guilt and the curse upon himself, that he might loose them from off them. Now he has ransomed the prisoners, who will accept of his delivery, and has a right to loose them from their bands; justice and the law having nothing to object. We observe,
(2.) That Jesus comes in the gospel to the prison door, proclaims and makes offer of liberty to the prisoners. This he does in the text. In his name the offer is made by his messengers ; his authority to loose the prisoners is asserted, Matth. xxviii. 18," Jesus came and said unto them, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." His ability and willingness to do it is confirmed, Heb. vii. 25, " Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” They are pressed to consent to the offer; charged upon their peril to comply with it; and all this to make them willing to come away out of the prison with the deliverer. We observe,
(3.) That though the most part give a deaf ear to the gospel-call, will not believe their danger, but sit at ease in their fetters, yet some are made a willing people in a day of power; Psalm cx. 3. By the word, faith is wrought in their hearts; Rom. x. 17; even that faith whereby the soul lays hold upon, and unites with Christ, flees in under the covert of his blood, lays over the weight of all its guilt upon Jesus, believing his blood to be sufficient to take it all away, and, renouncing all other pleas, betakes itself to this; Rom. iii. 25, " Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Thus this blood is applied. We observe,
(4.) That when this blood is thus applied, the chaios are ordered to be taken off the prisoner; Job xxxiii. 24,“ Deliver him from