Page images

the mourners in Zion in his day. We know that the Son of God, of whom Moses and the prophets spake, is actually come*; that the atonement for sin is made, the ransom for sinners paid and accepted. Now the shadows are past, the vail removed, the night is ended, the dawn, the day is arrived, yea, the Sun of Righteousness is arisen with healing in his beamst. God is reconciled in his Son, and the ministers of the Gospel are now authorized to preach comfort to all who'mourn under a sense of sin, to tell them all manner of sin is forgiven for the Redeemer's sake, and that the iniquity of those who believe in him is freely and abundantly pardoned.

II. Though the last clause of the verse does not belong to the passage, as selected for the Oratorio, it is so closely connected with the subject, that I am not willing to omit it. “She has received at the Lord's hand dou“ble for all her sins.” The meaning here cannot be, that her afflictions had already been more, and greater, than her sins had deserved. The just desert of sin cannot be received in the present life, for the wages of sin is death and the curse of the law, or in the apostle's words, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his powerf. Therefore a living man can have no reason to complain under the heaviest sufferings. If we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners, we have likewise cause to acknowledge, that he hath not dealt with us according to our iniquities. Nor can the words be so applied to MESSIAH as to intimate, that even his sufferings were more than necessary, or greater than the exigence of the case required. The efficacy of his atonement is indeed greater than the actual application, and sufficient to save the whole race of mankind if they truly believed in the Son of God. We read, that he groaned and bled upon the cross, till he could say, It is finished, but no longer. It becomes us to refer to infinite wisdom, the reasons why his sufferings were prolonged for such a precise time; but I think we may take it for granted that they did not endure an hour or a minute longer than was strictly necessary. The expression seems to be elliptical, and I apprehend the true sense is, that Jerusalem should receive blessings, double, much greater than all the afflictions which sin had brought upon her ; and in general to us, to every believing sinner, that the blessings of the Gospel are an unspeakably great compensation, and over-balance, for all afflictions of every kind with which we have been, or can be exercised. Afflictions are the fruit of sin, and because our sins have been many, our afflictions may be many.

* 1 John v. 20.

+ Mal. iv. 2.

* 2 Thess. i. 9.

“ But where sin has " abounded, grace has much more abounded*.”

Before our Lord healed the paralytic man who was brought to him, he said, Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven theet. His outward malady rendered him an object of compassion to those who brought him; but he appears to have been sensible of an inward malady, which only Jesus could discern, or pity, or relieve. I doubt not but his conscience was burdened with guilt. · An assurance, therefore, that his sins were forgiven, was sufficient to make him be of good cheer, whether his palsy were removed or not. To this purpose the Psalmist speaks absolutely and without exception. "Blessed is the man,” however circumstanced, “ whose

transgression is forgiven, whose iniquity is coveredt. Though he be poor, afflicted, diseased, neglected or despised, if the Lord imputeth not his iniquity to him, he

* Rom. v. 20.

+ Mark ii. 5.

| Psal. xxxii. 1.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

is a blessed man. There is no situation in human life
so deplorable, but a sense of the pardoning love of God
can support and comfort the sufferer under it, compose
his spirit, yea, make him exceedingly joyful in all his
tribulations ; for he feels the power of the blood
of Jesus cleansing his conscience from guilt, and giving
bim access by faith to the throne of grace, with liberty
to say, Abba, Father; he knows that all his trials are
under the direction of wisdom and love, are all working
together for his good, and that the heaviest of them are
light, and the longest momentary, in comparison of that
far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which
is reserved for him in a better world*. Even at pre-
sent, in the midst of his sufferings, having communion
with God, and a gracious submission to his will, he
possesses a peace that passeth understanding, and which
the world can neither give nor take away.
· I shall close this preliminary discourse with a few
observations, by way of improvement.

1. How justly may we adopt the prophet's words, “Who is a God like unto theef !” Behold and admire his goodness! Infinitely happy and glorious in himself, he has provided for the comfort of those who were rebels against his government, and transgressors of his holy law. What was degenerate Israel, and what are we, that he should thus prevent us with his mercy, remeinber us in our low estate, and redeem us from misery, in such a way, and at such a price! Salvation is wholly of gracef; not only undeserved, but undesired by us, till he is pleased to awaken us to a sense of our need of it. And then we find every thing prepared that our wants require, or our wishes can con

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

* 2 Cor. iv. 16, 17.

† Micah vii. 18.

Ephes. ü. 5.

It is every

ceive; yea, that he has done exceedingly beyond what we could either ask or think. Salvation is wholly of the Lord", and bears those signatures of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, which distinguish all his works from the puny imitations of men. way worthy of himself, a great, a free, a full, a sure salvation. It is great, whether we consider the objects, miserable and hell-deserving sinners; the end, the restoration of such alienated creatures to his image and favour, to immortal life and happiness; or the means, the incarnation, humiliation, sufferings, and death of his beloved Son. It is free, without exception of persons or cases, without any conditions or qualifications, but such as he himself performs in them, and bestows upon them. It is full, including every desirable blessing; pardon, peace, adoption, protection, and guidance through this world, and in the world to come eternal life and happiness, in the unclouded, uninterrupted enjoyment of the favour and love of God, with the perfect and perpetual exclusion of every evil.

2. When the Lord God, who knows the human heart, would speak comfort to it, he proposes one object, and only one, as the necessary and all-sufficient source of consolation. This is MESSIAH. Jesus in his person and offices, known and received by faith, affords a balm for every wound, a cordial for every

If we admit that they who live in the spirit of the world, can make a poor shift to amuse themselves, and be tolerably satisfied in a state of prosperity, while every thing goes on according to their wish; while we make this concession, (which, however, is more than we need allow them, for we know that no state of life is


* Psal. iii. 8.


free from anxiety, disappointment, weariness, and disgust,) yet we must consider them as objects of compassion. It is a proof of the weakness and disorder of their minds that they are capable of being satisfied with such trifles. Thus if a lunatic conceives his cell to be a palace, that his chains are ornaments of gold, if he calls a wreath of his straw a crown, puts it on his head, and affects the language of majesty—we do not suppose the poor creature to be happy, because he tells us that he is so; but we rather consider his complacence in his situation, as an effect and proof of his malady, We pity bim, and if we were able, would gladly restore him to his senses, though we know a cure would immediately put an end to his pleasing delusions. But, I say, supposing or admitting the world could make its votaries happy in a state of prosperity, it will, it must leave them without resource in the day of trouble. And they are to be pitied indeed, who, when their gourds are withered, when the desire of their eyes is taken from them with a stroke, or the evil which they most feared touches them, or when death looks them closely in the face, have no acquaintance with God, no access to the throne of grace, but, being without Christ, are without a solid hope of good hereafter, though they are forced to feel the vanity and inconstancy of every thing here. But they who know Messiah, who believe in him, and partake of his spirit, cannot be comfortless. They recollect what he suffered for them, they know that every circumstance and event of life is under his direction, and designed to work for their good ; that though they sow in tears, they shall soon reap in joy; and therefore they possess their souls in patience, and are cheerful, yea, comfortable, under those trying dispensations of Providence, which, when they affect the

« PreviousContinue »