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IS A I A H.
DCCCLVI. God's COMPLAINT AGAINST HIS PEOPLE. Isai. i. 2,3. Hear, O heavens, and give eur, O earth: for the
Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
IT is the Lord God Almighty that now speaketh respecting us. Let every ear attend; let every heart be humbled in the dust before him. He hath a controversy with us, and a complaint against us : and he summons both heaven and earth to attest the truth of his charge, and the equity of his judgment. Though he is a Sovereign, and amenable to none, yet he does frequently make his appeal to the whole creation, and constitute his creatures judges between himself and usa. In this charge we behold, I. The evil we have committed
The charge is doubtless in the first place uttered against the Jews
[God had truly “ nourished them, and brought them up as children.” He had chosen them to himself, as his peculiar people ; he had brought them up out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and an out-stretched arm: he had fed and supported them forty years in the wilderness; he had given them a revelation of his mind and will; and he had planted them in that good land which he had promised to their fathers. In all this he had acted towards them with all the care and tenderness of a most affectionate Parentb--
But how had they requited him for all his kindness? From the very beginning did they show themselves a rebellious and stiff-necked people. They were always murmuring under
a Mic. vi. 2. Deut. i. 31. and xxxii. 9-12. Deut. ix. 24. every succeeding trial, and distrusting God in every difficulty, and in heart going back again to the flesh-pots of Egypt. They were often ready to stone those servants of God who had been the instruments of their deliverance; they retained their idols which they had worshipped in Egypt; and even made a golden calf, as the representative, or rather, as the rival and competitor, of Jehovah. In their history we find some seasons of amendment; but, on the whole, they were “a rebellious and gainsaying people."] But this is no less applicable to ourselves
(Certainly we are quite as much indebted to the Lord as ever the Jews of old were : for though we have not had such visible interpositions in our favour, we have been no less the objects of his paternal care: and, in that which constituted their “chief advantage,” we greatly excel themd.” “To them were committed the Oracles of God:” but to us is given the Gospel of his dear Son; in comparison of which the Law, glorious as it was, had no glory at all; being eclipsed as a star before the meridian sune --
And what has been our conduct towards him? Have we been sensible of the benefits conferred upon us; and have we endeavoured to render to him the recompence that was due? Alas! we have been unmindful of his kindness, and regardless of his authority altogether. It has never entered into our hearts to say, “ Come, let us serve the Lord, who hath done such great things for us." Whilst we have violated his holy laws, we have "puffed at his judgments,” saying in our hearts, “God seeth not, neither regardeth what we do." If called to obey him, we have replied, in spirit, if not in word, “Who is the Lord, that we should serve him? We know not the Lord, neither will we obey his voice 8.” “Our lips are our own: Who is Lord over ush?” In truth, we have lived “ without God in the worldi;" and have practically said, “There is no Godk.”]
Not content with charging upon us our multiplied rebellions, God proceeds to set forth, II. The extent of our criminality
The brute creation demean themselves, for the most part, in a way suited to their several capacities
[The ox and the ass are amongst the most stupid of the brute creation : yet have they some knowledge of their master, and some sense of their dependence on him. Though fed only
d Rom. iii. 2. e 2 Cor. iii. 7-11, Jer. ii. 5, 6. and v. 23, 24. & Job xxi. 14, 15. Exod. v. 2. h Ps. xii. 4. i Eph. ii. 12. k Ps. xiv, 1.
for their master's benefit, and used only to subserve his interests, they often express themselves with a kind of grateful acknowledgment towards him.]
But we, notwithstanding our superior advantages, act more irrationally than they
[We live from year to year on the bounty of our heavenly Father, and yet feel no sense of gratitude towards him. We “ do not even consider” our obligations to him. We“ do not consider” either what he has done for us; (though it is so great, that neither the tongues of men or of angels can ever worthily declare it:) or, what he requires of us; (though that should be the subject of our unceasing contemplation:) or, what return we have hitherto made to him; (though on that our eternal happiness depends :) or, what account we shall hereafter give to him; (though we know not but that before the expiration of another hour we may be summoned into his immediate presence.) In a word, God's testimony respecting us is, that “he is not in all, or any, of our thoughts!.” Of the brute creation there are many that act with a degree of foresight and wisdomm: but we, who are endued with reason, act a part more irrational than they: and hence are justly reproached by God as more brutish and sottish than even the ox and ass ". How humiliating is this view of our state, and especially in relation to persons who have been redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son! Verily there is not one amongst us who has not reason to blush and be confounded under the accusations that are brought against us.] In CONCLUSION, we will,
1. Inquire what plea you can offer in your own behalf ?
[We know that the young, the old, the rich, the poor, have all their appropriate excuses : but what plea have they that will avail them at the bar of judgment ? Will any deny the charge! Alas! alas! Where is there one amongst us that has not been a rebel from the womb? Where is there one amongst us that has ever equalled the ox or ass in their attachment to him who feeds them, and their willing submission to his yoke? We must confess, every one of us, that we have not so much as considered our obligations, or our duties, or our interests, or our true happiness in any respect, unless we have been renewed in our minds by the Spirit of God himself. Let us then put away all our vain pleas and excuses, and adopt, each of us for himself, the language of Agur; “I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding
m Prov. vi. 6—8. Jer. viii. 7. .n Jer. iv. 22. and v.21.
of a mano." If we feel not the depth of our depravity, and refuse to humble ourselves before God, we do in fact “make God a liar," and provoke him to execute upon us the judgments we have deserved.]
2. Suggest a plea which you may offer with safety to your souls
(Vile as we are, Christ died for us; and his death shall avail even for the chief of sinners. Hear with what confidence it was pleaded by the Apostle Paul: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” Does any one imagine that he is unworthy to hope that this plea shall ever avail for him? God himself, at the very time that he most fully expatiates on our guilt, puts this plea into our mouths, and declares that, if we offer it before him, it shall avail for our justification in the last day P. Let us then rely simply on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and plead his merits at the throne of grace: then, if heaven and earth do testify our desert of eternal condemnation, they shall testify also our affiance in the Divine“ promises, which in Christ are yea, and in him Amen, to the everlasting glory of our offended God."]
DCCCLVII. THE SINFULNESS AND INCORRIGIBLENESS OF THE NATION. Isai. i. 4, 5. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity,
a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters! they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more ? ye will revolt more and more.
THE end for which God inflicts punishment upon his people, is, to bring them to repentance, and thereby prevent the necessity of punishing them in the eternal world : and when this end is not answered, he leaves them to themselves, to follow the imaginations of their own hearts, and to bring upon themselves an accumulated weight of wrath. But before he utterly abandons them, he sends them many solemn warnings, if that by any means he may prevail upon them to turn unto him. Extremely solemn is the reproof which he gave the Jews in the passage before us : he summons heaven and earth
to hear his controversy, and to judge between him and his people : and then, in a way of affectionate expostulation, he threatens to cease from visiting them with parental chastisements, and to leave them to fill up the measure of their iniquities.
The words of our text, accommodated as they may be to our present circumstances, naturally lead us to set before you, I. Our sinfulness
The general description given of the Jews is equally suitable to us
[We are a “nation" extremely and universally “ sinful:” we are “laden with " every species of “iniquity"--We are "a seed of evil-doers:" all ranks and orders of men amongst us are depraved: the transgressions of individuals are indeed exceeding various; but sin of some kind is the delight of all, yea, it is the very element wherein we live --- Nor are we merely corrupt, but “ corrupters ” of each other, laughing religion out of the world, and hardening one another in the commission of sin ---]
Nor is the particular charge that is brought against them less applicable to us
[It is lamentable to see what a general dereliction of religious principle obtains amongst us. Men do not indeed formally renounce Christianity; but “they forsake the Lord” as unworthy of their love or confidence; and, by an inward " apostasy” of the heart, “ provoke the Holy One of Israel to anger.” We might adduce a great variety of charges in confirmation of this; but we will notice only one, namely, our dependence on our fleets and armies, rather than on Godb. This is peculiarly provoking to the Deity, because it is a virtual denial of his providence, and an excluding of him from the government of the world---]
But besides these things, there is a further charge to be brought against us, on account of, II. Our incorrigibleness
What improvement have we made of our late chastisements ?
a A time of war and of great national calamity.
b Instead of this, might be specified, our not seeing and acknowledging the hand of God in his judgments.
c See Isai. xxii. 8–11. and Jer. xvii. 1