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advisers to “ the law and to the testimony: for if they speak not according to that, there is no light in them.” In matters of duty or of discipline indeed you cannot be too diffident, you cannot be too submissive. In those things obedience is your highest honour. But when men presume to think for you in the concerns of your souls, it is high time to inquire, whether they will also perish for you? If you perish, you must perish for yourselves; and therefore it behoves you to think for yourselves, and to act for yourselves. The self-deceiving world cannot remove the woe from their own souls; much less can they from yours. “ Walk not then according to the course of this world :"
follow not a multitude to do evil.” Look not at your neighbours, but at Christ and his holy Apostles. Let the Scriptures regulate your every sentiment, your every act. And, without concerning yourselves about the misrepresentations which blind and ungodly men will give of your conduct, “ be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
ISAIAH'S VISION OF CHRIST. Isai. vi. 5—7. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone ; be
cause I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
PREVIOUS to the full revelation of himself in the Gospel, God was pleased to communicate his mind and will to men by dreams and visions, which, since the completion of the sacred canon, are no longer to be expected. But we must not therefore imagine that the revelations so made are less interesting to us, than those which proceeded more immediately from the enlightening influence of the Holy Ghost.' The same importance must be attached to every thing which God has spoken, so far at least as the instruction which is intended to be conveyed is itself important. For instance, the vision of Isaiah seems to have been a peculiar favour vouchsafed to him: but still it contains many instructive lessons for us : and in this two-fold view we will consider it, I. As a peculiar favour vouchsafed to him
That we may have a more distinct view of it, we shall notice in succession, 1. The vision given
[The place where the prophet was supposed to be, was the outer court of the temple ; from whence, the veil which separated it from the sanctuary being drawn aside, he beheld Jehovah seated on his throne, and his train, like that of eastern monarchs, filling the temple. Had no additional light been cast on this vision in the New Testament, we should not have thought of inquiring more minutely about the glorious object whom he saw, and who is here so repeatedly designated by titles peculiar to the one supreme God: but we are authorized to declare, that the person whom he saw, was the Lord Jesus Christ, even our Immanuel, God with usa.”
Around the throne were “ the seraphim,” the holy angels, like flames of fireb, in a posture of devout adoration. Each of them had six wings; with two of which he covered his face, as unworthy to behold the Deity; and with other two, his feet, as unworthy to serve him; whilst with the remaining two he flew with all possible activity to fulfil his will. In themselves they were perfect and spotless creatures: yet, conscious of being as nothing in the sight of a pure and holy God, they were filled with profoundest awe, and served him with reverential fear.
In their worship of him they celebrated, in alternate and responsive songs, the holiness of his nature, and the wonders of his grace. Whether, in the repetition of the word "holy," there be any reference, as some have thought, to the Three Persons of the Godhead, we undertake not to determine: but they evidently regarded the holiness of the Deity as that attribute, which constitutes the glory and perfection of all the rest: and indeed it is that attribute in which he is more especially glorious', and at the remembrance of which the whole universe should give thanks“. Together with this glorious subject they evidently combined the wonders of redeeming
a John xii. 41.
IPs. civ. 4.
c Exod. xv, 11.
d Ps. xxx. 4.
love. It is in that view alone that “the earth" can be said to be “ full of his glory.” In the whole creation indeed there is a marvellous display of wisdom and power; but in redemption alone are seen the mercy, and truth, and faithfulness of our God.
And though the seraphims are not interested in that work as we are, yet, as exhibiting the full radiance of all the divine perfections in united splendour, they admire it, they sing of it, they glorify the Lord Jesus on account of it
At the sound of their voices the doors of the temple were shaken, and the house was filled with smoke. It is possible that this was designed to express the approbation of the Deity, and his delight in that work which was the subject of their praise'. But we rather suppose, that it was intended to intimate the future abolition of the temple worship, when the time should have arrived for the complete establishment of the Christian dispensations.] 2. The fear excited
[In all the manifestations of God to men, the sight of his majesty has excited alarm and terrorh. A measure of this feeling we behold in the prophet on this occasion. But together with this, there was also a deep sense of humiliation and contrition. As Job, on a similar occasion, was led to exclaim, “ I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'," so the prophet, viewing himself, and all around him, in the light of God's holiness, accounted himself a leper in the midst of a leprous world. Whatever he might have judged of himself before, he now was dumb; as indeed every human being must be in the presence of a holy Godk; since “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags ?." From the apprehension and terror we are freed by the Gospel : but the humiliation and self-abasement should rather increase in proportion to the more exalted privileges we enjoy m.] 3. The consolation administered
[Instantly did one of the seraphim fly to him, to declare, that his iniquities were all blotted out as a morning cloud, through the atoning blood of Christ. This was emblematically represented to him by a coal taken from off the altar of burnt-offering, and applied to his lips. Doubtless the performance of this office was a delightful service to the Seraph, who would willingly forego for a season the more immediate vision of the Deity himself, for the honour of executing his will as a messenger of mercy to sinful man.]
e Compare Ps. lxxii. 17—19. where the same person is spoken of, and the same subject pursued.
( 2 Chron. v. 13, 14. and vi. 1. & Amos ix. 1. with Heb. xii. 27. h Judg. xiii. 22. Dan. x. 6—8. Rev. i. 17, i Job xlii. 6. k Rom. iii. 19. I Isai. lxiv. 6.
m Ezek. xvi. 63.
But we hasten from this more restricted view of the subject, to consider it, II. As an instructive lesson to us
Whilst we acknowledge that such visions are not to be expected by us, we may contemplate this with great advantage to our souls. We may learn from it,
1. That a sight of Christ is the highest privilege we can enjoy
[What is it that constitutes the felicity of heaven? What is it that is the great source of happiness to the seraphim around the throne? It is a sight of Christ enthroned in his glory. Yet was that sight afforded to the prophet in a vision; and afterwards to St. Paul, by an immediate admission to it in heaven. And is there no such vision to be enjoyed by us? To our bodily eyes indeed there is not; nor to our imaginations will any such view of him be presented: but to the eye of faith the Lord Jesus is clearly visible; and the eyes of every believer may even now“ behold the King in his beautyn.” In the Gospel he is fully revealed to us: there he appears as "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person :” and we may“ behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." We need not envy the prophet himself; for we may have even brighter views of Jesus than he ever enjoyed. We are told that John was greater than all the prophets; and yet that “the least in the kingdom of heaven,” that is, under the Gospel dispensation, “ is greater than heo." How did he excel all others ? Others prophesied of Christ; but he pointed him out; “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world!" And wherein do we excel him? He beheld Jesus when he came to accomplish our redemption: and we behold him after its accomplishment, seated on his throne of glory, and actually applying to millions of his people the full benefits of that redemption. Let those who embrace the Gospel know their high privilege. Let the poor especially rejoice and be glad. It is not to human learning or to strength of intellect that this discovery of Christ is made, but to faith : and if we search the sacred records with a believing eye, then will “ God shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."]
2. That the more lowly we are in our own eyes, the richer communications we shall receive from him
[Behold how speedily the angel was sent to comfort the mind of the dejected prophet! This was a faithful represenn Isai. xxxiii. 17.
o Luke vii. 26–28.
tation of the care which Jesus takes of all his afflicted people, especially when humbled in the dust before him. “ He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he bring forth judgment unto victory.” Though he is “ The High and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, yet will he dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the Spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones P." Does not his word universally attest this blessed truth, that “whilst he who exalteth himself shall be abased, the man that humbleth himself shall be exalted?” Be not afraid then, ye who feel your own unworthiness: give not way to despondency: say not, “Woe is me! I am undone:” follow not the unbelieving example of Peter, saying, “ Depart from me ; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But know that, if you feel yourselves lost, it was precisely such persons that he came to seek and save"; and that, " where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abounds:” and if, like Mary, you are enabled to go behind him, and wash his feet with your tears, he will ere long say to you, " Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee." Indeed it is in this way that he is daily acting by the ministry of his word: he sends his servant to take his promises, and apply them to the hearts and consciences of his people, and thus to fill them with “a peace that passeth understanding," and with "joy that is unspeakable and glorified.”]
3. That a sense of his pardoning love should animate us to an unreserved surrender of ourselves to him
[See the effect which was instantly produced on the prophet's mind. God designed to send his messages of love and mercy to the Jews, notwithstanding he knew beforehand that they would prove ineffectual for their conversion. To carry such messages was a painful task; but yet, when God asked, “ Who will
go for us?” the prophet hesitated not one moment to offer his services, saying, “ Here am I, send me.” Thus should we also manifest our gratitude to God for all the mercies vouchsafed unto us through the Son of his love. We should not inquire whether the office be pleasant; or, whether it will advance our credit in the world. It should be sufficient for us to know what the will of the Lord is; and then we should account it our honour to do, or suffer it. Especially does this observation apply to those who minister in holy things: if God say, Who will go for me, to carry my Gospel to the heathen? we should not stand to inquire, Whether the office be lucrative or not; or, whether the climate to which we are to go be more or
p Isai. lvii. 15. and lxvi. 2.
q Luke v. 8.
Luke xix. 10. u ver. 8.