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for him to imitate the leper, who covered his lip and cried, “Unclean! unclean !”
These observations illustrate the apostle's declaration, that “there is no difference, for all have “ sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Great diversity is indeed found in the moral conduct of men; and the Judge of the world will proportion the punishment of the wicked to the number and aggravation of their crimes : but in this respect there is no difference, that “all have “ sinned.” The most yirtuous and religious, even they who have served the Lord from their earliest days in genuine piety, must fall down before him in deep humility; and not only confess that they have been guilty of numerous omissions, and deviations from the rule of duty, in thought, word, and deed, but that their very services have often been the fruit of polluted lips. Nor could they ever have been satisfied with them, had they not dwelt among sinners like themselves, and had not their views of that glorious God whom they professed to worship been faint and confused.
Let any man carefully and impartially examine his own devotions, in the closet, in the house of God, or at the Lord's table : let him close every duty, or every sabbath, with endeavours to ascertain the degree of spiritual worship, and of a corrupt mixture, which the all-seeing eye of a holy God must have witnessed in his performances : and I dare confidently foretel that he will ere long cry out with the prophet, “ We are all as an un“clean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as “ filthy rags :” or in the language of the judicious Hooker, “The best things that we do have something in them to be pardoned: how then can we “ do any thing meritorious or worthy to be re(warded ? Our continual suit to the Lord is and 'must be, to bear with our infirmities, and pardon our offences.' Thus “the scripture concludes “all under sin ; that the promise which is by Christ “ Jesus might be given to them that believe !"! For these are discoveries of sinfulness, from which no man can escape, when he weighs himself in the balance of the sanctuary: so that every one is left to his choice, either to condemn the spirituality of the law and the holiness of the Lawgiver ; or “ to “ submit to the righteousness of God,” and to cry for mercy, saying, “Enter not into judgment with “thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living “ be justified.”
This humiliation cannot be too deep; we cannot be too sensible of our guilt and pollution, or too entirely delivered from self-confidence. But we may easily be too much discouraged, and through despondency neglect the means of grace, and the duties of our station. Many persons having discovered with great alarm their guilt and danger, and being convinced, by painful experience, of their inability to resist temptation or to keep their resolutions, have rushed impetuously into wickedness, impiety or infidelity, to obtain deliverance from the reproaches of their own consciences : and probably but few are duly humbled, without passing through a measure of discouraging terrors. Even the prophet was on this occasion dismayed, as well as laid low in self-abasement: and, if sea
Gal. iä. 22.
sonable encouragement had not been afforded, the very intention of the vision would have been counteracted, and he unfitted for the arduous services to which he was called.—We consider then,
III. The relief and encouragement which he received.
We are not indeed warranted to expect direct assurances by immediate revelation; yet the emblems of this vision aptly represent the way in which the convinced sinner finds peace and hope, connected with increasing humiliation.-It has been remarked that the scene of this vision was the temple: the altar of burnt-offering was therefore full in view, on which the daily sacrifices and occasional oblations were consuming, by the fire that came down from heaven. The blood of numberless innocent animals slain in sacrifice, and their bodies consumed to ashes, that guilty men might. be pardoned and blessed, were constant declarations that sinners deserved death, and the fiery wrath of god in another world ; and that deliverance could be obtained only by faith in the promised Redeemer, “ the Lamb slain from the foun“dation of the world,” From this altar one of the seraphim took a live coal, and applied it to the prophet's lips, assuring him that his “ iniquity was “ taken away, and his sin purged.”
No endeavours were used to comfort Isaiah by persuading him, that he thought too ill of his own character and services : no intimation was made, that the vision had bewildered his mind, and inspired groundless alarms. On the contrary, the heavenly messenger of peace seemed to allow that “ he was a man of polluted lips,” and that his
sent judgment of himself was according to truth : but he assured him that his guilt was removed by the atoning sacrifices, and by faith in the typified Redeemer. When Simon the Pharisee disdained the weeping penitent, who washed the Saviour's feet with her tears, our Lord did not vindicate her character or palliate her guilt; but graciously noticing her repentance, faith, and love, he declared, that “ her sins though many were forgiven.” This is the uniform method of scripture : but numbers endeavour to encourage trembling sinners, by arguing them into a more favourable opinion of themselves, or by pointing out certain good actions or qualities, which may counterbalance their offences. Such are“ physicians of no value.” They administer fatal opiates to the lethargic, when they have been in a measure awakened: and they prolong the distress of the contrite and poor in spirit. No man is terrified merely by the opinion that his sins are numerous and heinous; but through unbelief, ignorance, or indistinct notions of the divine mercy, and of the blessed gospel of God our Saviour. These are therefore the subjects on which we should principally insist, if we would bring the distressed in conscience to permanent comfort and stable peace.
“ Faith cometh by hearing :” and, while we point out“ the Lamb of God that taketh away “ the sin of the world,” we do our part to apply “ the live coal from the altar” to the trembling sinner's lips. For, when a man is brought to seek encouragement, not from himself or any of his services, but from the infinite mercies of God, through the atoning blood of Christ; and to perceive the Saviour's power and willingness “ to save
sonable encouragement the very intention of the counteracted, and he un vices to which he was
III. The relief and received.
We are not indeed assurances by immedi: blems of this vision ? which the convinced : connected with incre been remarked that t the temple: the altar fore full in view, on occasional oblations that came down fron berless innocent ani: bodies consumed to be pardoned and : tions that sinners wrath of god in a rance could be oli mised Redeemer, " dation of the we seraphim took a prophet's lips, ass
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themselves and a want of this divine illumimatra gives ocasion for that farourable estimate which numbers form of their virtues and characters
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