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We offer up our supplications, O God, on behalf of those who do not join with us in these petitions. We pray for those who are following, without remorse, the devices and desires of their own hearts, who are serving divers lusts and pleasures, who are dead while they live, and are in danger of eternal death. We beseech thee, Lord, to pity them in their miserable and awful condition. No power but thine can save them: but with thee all things are possible. O let the pitifulness of thy great mercy help them: that being made free from sin, and becoming the servants of God, they may have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Isaiah 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.
'"THE pardon of sin has been justly called, 'The lifeblood of religion.' It is this which runs through all parts of the Scripture, like the blood in our veins, and is the foremost object in the glorious gospel.' No man has a grain of religion, till he sees the need, and feels the want of the pardon of his sins. No man is happy in religion, till he has reason to conclude that his sins are pardoned. Gratitude for this blessing is the grand incentive to holy obedience, and triumph on account of it forms a principal part of the bliss of glorified saints. How worthy, then, is this subject of our most serious regard! We all need pardon; and pardon or punishment must be our portion.
Among the precious promises of God's word, this, in our text, is one of the chief. And it appears the more gracious, as it follows a list of most heinous and abominable sins charged upon the Jews. This will appear more clearly by considering the three parts of our text.
1. A Charge; 2. An Invitation ; and, 3. A Promise.
1. The first thing in the text is a Charge implied, and more particularly expressed in the former verses of this chapter. The charge is sin—sin, the most aggravated, the most horrid, the most enormous;—sins
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called scarlet and crimson. The greatness of sin is intended by these words. Scarlet and crimson are colours far remote from white, which is the emblem of innocence or righteousness. The saints in glory are represented as 'clothed in white robes;' and 'in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints.' But here sinners are represented as in garments stained with blood. The bloody, murderous, destructive nature of sin may be intended. Sin has slain its millions. If all the bodies of the dead were heaped up, they would form the greatest mountain in the world; and we might say—Sin slew all these ; for, by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; so that death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' Some understand by the word scarlet —double-dyed—as deeply tinctured by sin as possible; as when any garment has been twice dyed, first in the wool, and again in the thread or piece. So great sinners are twice dyed; first in their corrupt nature, for all men are born in sin ; and then dyed again in the long confirmed habits of actual transgression.
But let us look over the particulars of this charge, Sinners are first charged with ingratitude (verse 2): 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.' Call a man ungrateful, and you call him all that is bad; but the ingratitude of children is the worst ingratitude. Children are under the greatest obligations to their tender parents, for food and raiment, protection and education; but if, instead of dutiful obedience and affectionate care, they return evil for good, rebellion instead of subjection, it is like fixing a dagger in a parent's heart. Such a trial David felt, in the wicked conduct of his beloved Absalom. In this manner God speaks of man's sin. God is good; and 'the goodness of God leadeth us to repentance;' but impenitent sinners 'despise the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering ; and thus treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.'
Again — sinners are charged with insensibility (ver. 3.): 'The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider.' It is a sad thing indeed, that man, who was made in the image of God, should be made, by sin, like the beasts that perish ! yea, worst than they are. The ox is a stupid creature, yet he knows his owner, and submits his neck to the yoke; the ass is still more stupid, yet he knows when he is well off, and abides by his master's crib; but sinners are more base, more ignorant, more stupid; * They have the worst qualities of brutes without the best.' They do not know God; they do not consider their duty to God, nor their obligations to God; even Israel, that might and ought to know better.
They are further charged with forsaking God. All sinners do so. They turn their backs upon him; they say, in effect, 'Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.'—' What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit shall we have if we pray unto him?' Besides this, they corrupted others. They were not content to eat the Devil's morsel alone; they must entice others, to poison them with it. And indeed, this is awfully common among us. When young persons fall into the sin of uncleanness, how active are they to seduce others; when men fall into the sin of drunkenness, how busy are they to engage others in the same vice.
These sins were universal (ver. 4) : 'Ah, sinful nation ! a people laden with iniquity!' All orders of people were guilty; the 'whole head was sick, the whole heart was faint.' God knows it is thus in England. We are a wicked people, and the Lord is provoked with us. All the miseries of human life, all the terrors and agonies of death, all the torments of the damned, are proofs of God's anger against sin. Sin is a heavy load, though fools make light of it. And they who make light of it now, are likely to feel its dreadful weight in another world. Sooner or later it will be found a burden too heavy to bear. Happy they, who now, feeling its load, obey the kind invitation of Christ: Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, anil I will give you rest.'
The condition of Israel, and of every sinner, is compared (ver. 6) to that of a human body, wholly disordered, and become intolerably loathsome. * From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been clos?3, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.' See, sinner, thy wretched picture! Sin is the disease of thy soul, and the worst symptom is, thou knowest it not. We pity the ravings of a man in a fever, who fancies himself in health: such is the dangerous condition of sinners who boast of their ' good hearts,' or call their abominations * human frailties,' or ' youthful follies.' In the eye of a pure and holy God, the sinner is far more loathsome than a carcass covered with bleeding wounds, running sores, or filthy ulcers.
It is absolutely necessary that each of us should personally know that this is his own case. Ministers are, at the peril of their own souls, obliged to declare this; they must shew the people their sins and warn them from God, or the sinner's blood will be required at their hands. But if sinners are faithfully warned, ministers are free from their blood; their blood is upon their own heads. But, O! how unwilling are men to see and own their true condition! How do they shut their eyes against the light that would make manifest their works of darkness! How dearly-do they love the darkness that conceals their sins! How angry are they to be told of their disease! How do they liate the gospel that reveals a remedy, and shun the kind Physician who would cure them! And yet, mark their inconsistency! Do you not hear them deny, to men, that they are condemned, and yet cry to God to have mercy on them? But if they are not condemned, what neecTjiave they of mercy? And if they are, why do they deny their lost estate? We hear them, also, praising God for his 'inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;' but how absurd is this, if they believe not, if they feel not, the wretched bondage of their sins?
But now observe, with wonder and joy, the astonishing grace of God; what language might sinners justly expect, who had been convinced of ingratitude, rebellion,