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From hence then we may SEE,
[That there are many who greatly mistake its nature, is evident from our text: but, when duly received into the heart, it neither insists on spiritual exercises to the neglect of moral virtues, nor on moral virtues to the neglect of communion with God: it has equal respect to both the tables of the Law. Let not any then attempt to put asunder what God has so inseparably joined. Let not any trust to their moral virtues on the one hand, nor to their spiritual exercises on the other; but let it be the endeavour of all to “have respect unto all the commandments," and to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."] 2. The danger of self-deceit
[We think it evident, that the persons here addressed as “Rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrha,” had by no means formed a just estimate of their own character. And we all see among those around us many who lie under a similar delusion: the conceited professor sees the blindness of the Pharisee, whilst the Pharisee notices with equal clearness his vain conceit. Professors too notice each other's failings, and often, with too much reason, stand in doubt of each other. But all are blind to their own failings: they make far too much allowance for their own evils; and sometimes glory in them as virtues: and so confident are many, of their own acceptance before God, that they will almost at the bar of judgment challenge heaven as their deserth. But, whilst they remain under the power of any allowed sin, “their religion is vain'," and their Judge will disclaim all knowledge of themk; yea, their unmortified lust, whatever it be, will plunge their souls into everlasting perdition! We say not this to discourage the sincere, but to put all upon their guard, and especially to bring to selfexamination those who are most confident that all is well with them. For it is certain that “the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath,” and “fearfulness will surprise them" in the day of judgment m.] 3. The excellency of the Gospel
[The Gospel not only teaches us these things", but shews us where pardon for all our transgressions may be obtained, and how strength may be acquired for the discharge of all our duties. Even under the law, these views were revealed; for, in the words following our text, God told his people, that their scarlet sins should, if mourned over and forsaken, “ become white as snow :" and in other places he promised his Spirit to “write his laws upon their hearts," and to “cause them to keep his statutes." But under the Gospel dispensation, the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood to "cleanse from sin," and of his grace to renew the heart, is declared in the strongest termsP. Hence then, when it is said, “ Wash you, make you clean, " there is no room to say, “ I cannot;" for “ the grace of Christ is sufficient" for all, and “ we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us?." Seek then to be washed in his blood, and to be sanctified by his Spirit, and then the smallest of your offerings, even a cup of cold water, shall be an acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God.)
h Matt. xxv. 44.
i James i. 26.
k Matt. vii. 22, 23.
o Ezek. xxxvi. 27.
9 Phil. iv, 13.
p 1 John i. 7, 9.
CRIMSON SINS MADE WHITE.
Isai. i. 18. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the
Lord : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
MAN is a rational being; and, though prone to abuse his reason for the vindication of his own evil ways, is capable of judging, when sound argument is proposed for his consideration. Hence God addresses himself to our reason, and makes his appeal to the whole creation, when our pride or obstinacy prevent us from acknowledging the truth of his assertions. The chapter before us exhibits a judicial process: heaven and earth are called as witnesses against Israel; the charge against them is opened", and their vindication of themselves is duly considered. Having convicted them of their iniquities, God invites them
ver. 2, 3. • Their reply is not set down at length ; but it may be gathered from the answer given to it by God. They plead that they have offered sacrifices, yea, many, and of the fattest of their flocks; that they have done this themselves, before God in the temple, with great reverence ; that they have presented other offerings also; that they have observed the stated feasts; and that, instead of resting in carnal ceremonies, they had joined with them the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. God follows them through their objections, and leaves them not a word to add, ver. 11-15.
to come and reason with him, and shews them a better way of pleading for themselves.
It is by his ministers that he now condescends to reason with mankind.
We therefore propose to you on this occasion in God's stead, and will
with you upon, the two most important of all points, the necessity and the efficacy of a religious life:
I. The necessity of a religious life
The common reasonings of men on this subject are extremely futile and erroneous
[We are too apt to "confer with flesh and blood," and to be misled by the suggestions of our own evil hearts. The world around us, and our own corrupt nature, unite in asserting, that a life of devotedness to God is not necessary, not desirable, not practicable. “How can it be imagined,' say these objectors,' that God should require all persons to live in such a holy self-denying way as the first Christians did? It might be proper for them in the infancy of Christianity to set such an example; but it cannot be necessary for us in these times to follow it. And to suppose that all who do not give up themselves to God as they did, are doomed to eternal misery, would be to make God a cruel tyrant, and to rob him of his noblest attributes of goodness and mercy. Nor is it to be wished, that religion should operate now as it did then: for how could the affairs of nations be conducted, or the common offices of life be performed ? There would be an end to trade, and to all the refinements of civilized society; and men must be brought back again to the simplicity and vacuity of the Patriarchal age In short, it cannot be effected now. A few visionaries and enthusiasts may experience something, and pretend to a great deal more: but to eradicate from the breast the love of sin, and to raise the soul above all the things of time and sense, and to bring it into a state of habitual communion with God, is impossible ; unless we were all to be set apart to the work of religion, just as the Apostles were, and had nothing else to attend to
Such are the reasonings of flesh and blood. But here is little else than mere unfounded assertion, which is contradicted by every page of the Holy Scriptures, and by the actual experience of thousands.]
Let us now, in God's name, reason with you on the same subject
[Has not God done enough to merit all the services that you can possibly render him? Think of what he has done for you in creation and providence, and, above all, in the work of redemption, and then say, whether there "be any thing which he could have done for you more than he has;" or whether, if he had permitted you to ask whatever you would as the price of your services, you could have ventured to have asked a thousandth part of what he has already done for you? Could you have dared to make such a request as that he would give you his dear Son to die for you, and his Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify you?
Has he not promised you assistance for the performance of every thing he has required of you? We acknowledge your impotency for that which is good : but that is no excuse for your disobedience, while he says, “My grace shall be sufficient for you.” If his grace wrought effectually in the saints of old, it cannot but be as sufficient for you as for them
Will not his love and favour amply compensate for all that you can either do or suffer for him? I might ask this question in reference to the tokens of his favour which he would give you now; but how much more hereafter! Can it be imagined that one saint in glory ever had the thought pass through his mind, that his reward was an inadequate recompence for his former labours ?
Will not all of you at a future period wish that you had dedicated yourselves unreservedly to God ? Many begin to express that wish on their dying bed; though many are so insensible even to the last, as to feel no regret upon the subject. But what does the soul of every man wish, the very instant it is separated from his body? If we could hear it speak then, we can have no doubt what its language would be. If it had not been convinced before, we have no doubt it is convinced then, that former reasonings were vain and delusive
Much more we might easily urge in God's name; but this is sufficient to convince any one who is open to conviction, that an entire surrender of ourselves to God is a good and “ reasonable service."]
From the latter clause of the text we are led to reason more especially with you respecting, II. The efficacy of a religious life
Men, driven from the false refuges of presumption, are ready to run into the contrary extreme of despondency; and, when convinced of the necessity of a holy life, to doubt, whether any efforts on their part will succeed for the attainment of eternal happiness.
Here, as before, let us briefly consider the reasonings of flesh and blood
[Many, under a sense of their past transgressions, will say, that it is too late for them to turn to God; that they have
sinned away their day of grace; that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost; and that God has already sealed them up to final impenitence, and to everlasting condemnation
But here, as in the former instance, is nothing but assertion, founded on unwarrantable surmises and groundless fears. We know that such persons will appeal to Scripture : but by what authority do they apply to themselves passages that have no real reference to their state, and make use of those passages to invalidate the plainest assertions of Holy Writ? If only they desire to come to God, they have an express assurance from God, that “ he will in no wise cast them out.”]
Let us again, in God's name, oppose these reasonings by others that are more substantial
[Is not God a God of infinite mercy and compassion ? Search the Scriptures: see the representations which he gives of himself: how often is it said, “ His mercy endureth for ever!" If then “he delighteth in mercy," who are we that we should presume to limit him in the exercise of it towards ourselves ? Do not his promises extend to all the sins that you
have ever committed? You know that he hath said, “ All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” Moreover, read the words of our text; and doubt if you can. But, perhaps, you will reply, that the sin against the Holy Ghost is excepted; and that that is the sin which you have committed. To that we answer, that if you desire to repent and turn unto God, it is not possible that you should have committed it; because, if you had committed it, you would have arrived at such a degree of obduracy, that you would glory in your shame, and never wish to repent at all
Have not the vilest of sinners already found acceptance with God? Look at the character given of the Corinthians; and see whether you can be in a worse state than they: yet “ they were washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” If you are alarmed about backslidings after conversion, see whether you have been worse than David and Peter: yet they were restored to the divine favour as soon as ever they repented themselves of their iniquities. And myriads of others, once as vile as they, are at this very moment around the throne of God, rejoicing and triumphing in redeeming love. What bar then can there be to your acceptance through “him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood ?"
We forbear to urge other considerations, because if you can
c 1 Cor. vi. 9-11.