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opprobrious, for the purpose of characterizing his faithful disciples.]
This statement being still as true as in the prophet's days, I will proceed, II. To point out its aspect on the parties concernedTruly its aspect is very different,
, 1. On those who account the saints to be “ for signs and for wonders”.
[They, alas! only betray their own ignorance. Methinks, if they exercised any sound judgment, they would rather account themselves "signs and wonders;" and stand amazed that ever they should have been capable of acting so irrational a part as they have, throughout their whole lives. What! “gaze strangely at persons, and speak evil of them, merely because they will not run to the same excess of riot” as the ungodly world are pursuing! Is this consistent-I will not say, with piety, but with common sense? But, in fact, these very persons, in the midst of all their profane jests or acrimonious proceedings, cannot help venerating, in their hearts, the servants of Christ, and wishing at least to “die their death,” even though they will not endeavour to live their life. And assuredly the time is coming, when they will condemn their present conduct as bitterly as now they inveigh against the conduct of the Lord's people. Now they call the saints "the troublers of Israel ;" and complain of them, as wishing “ to turn the world upside down :" but in a little time their voice will be changed; and they will bemoan themselves, saying, “We fools accounted their life madness, and their end to be without honour: but now, how are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints! Therefore have we erred from the way of truth .... but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known iti."] 2. On those who are so accounted
[Be it so, that ye are and must be, despised and “ hated, of all men, for Christ's sake.” But shall I condole with
you on this account? No: I will rather congratulate you; for the whole tenour of Scripture pronounces this to be a ground of
Is it a ground of joy, that “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you ? and
you are conformed to your Saviour's image and that he is glorified in you?? Then I bid you rejoice. Again ; Is it a ground of joy that the work of God's grace is advanced in youm, and an accumulated
h 1 Pet. iv. 4. The Greek.
i Wisd. v.
4-7. k Matt. v. 10-12. 11 Pet. iv. 12-14. m 1 Pet. i. 7.
weight of glory is preparing for you" ? Then, again I say, Rejoice. But particularly bear in mind what was before spoken respecting our blessed Saviour's acknowledgment of those who thus serve him with fidelity : even in the presence of his father will he confess them, as partakers of his nature, and as heirs of his gloryo. I say, then, be content to be signs and wonders for a little season; that ye may answer the designs of God respecting you in this world, and be partakers of his glory for ever in the world to come.] n 2 Cor. iv. 17.
o Heb. ii. 13.
SEEKING AFTER GOD.
THE appeals which God makes to men in the inspired volume are exceeding forcible: they make men judges in their own cause; and cannot fail to carry conviction to every mind. Who could resist the appeal of Nehemiah to the usurious and oppressive Israelites:
Ought ye not to walk in the fear of Godb?” So I doubt not but that all of you will readily acknowledge the obligation which lies upon you, whilst I, 1. Make the appeal to you
Nothing can be conceived more just or simple than the question here proposed for your consideration. For, 1. Who amongst us does not stand in need of help?
[Who has not many sins to be forgiven?---and many wants, temporal as well as spiritual, to be supplied ?-
mang 2. Who but God can supply our wants ?
[We have not in ourselves a sufficiency even for a good thought." — nor is there a creature in the universe able to render us any effectual assistanced -]
3. Is not God both able and willing to do for you all that you can possibly desire ?
[Suppose your sins to be as great as those of Manasseh, can he not pardon theme? or your necessities to be as great as those of Israel in the wilderness, can he not supply them'? Search the annals of the world, and find one, if you can, “who ever sought his face in vain 8" --]
a The extreme simplicity of this subject renders any further elucidation of it superfluous.
b Neh. v. 9. c 2 Cor. iii. 5. d Ps. xlix. 7. e 2 Chron. xxxiii, 12, 13.
4. Will it not, hereafter, be to you a ground of bitter self-reproach, if you neglect to seek him ?
[Our Lord will surely say to you at the last day, “ How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would noth!" The fault is all your own : " ye would not come to me, that ye might have lifei.” And the conviction of this will be the bitterest ingredient of that cup which shall then be given you to drink to all eternity.]
Assured that you cannot but have felt the force of this appeal, I will, II. Found upon it some suitable advice
What shall I say? Seek the Lord : 1. With understanding
[You must seek God as reconciled to you in Christ Jesusk. In Himself he is "a consuming fire!." It is in Christ alone that any
sinner in the universe can gain access to him m --] 2. With earnestness
[It is not by any formal services that you can hope to succeed. You must not only seek but strive n.” “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence; and the violent must take it by force" - -] 3. With speed
[There may come a time, even in this life, when God may give you over to a reprobate mind, and heaven may be shut against you for ever? --- At all events, death may quickly terminate all your hopes. In the eternal world, however loudly you may cry, you will not be able to obtain one drop of water to cool your tongue."] 4. With constancy
[To the latest hour of your life must you continue to seek help from God, as much as at the present moment. period you draw back from him, you will “ draw back unto perdition 9." You must not “ be weary in well-doing;" for The only who endures to the end shall be saved".") f Ps. lxxviii. 12–16. Eph. iii. 20.
8 Isai. xlv. 19. h Matt. xxiii. 37. i John v. 40.
k 2 Cor. v. 19-21. 1 Heb. xii. 29.
m John xiv. 6. Heb. x. 19-22. n Luke xiii. 24.
• Matt. xi. 12. p Ps. lxxxi. 10–12. Rom. i. 28. Isai. lv. 6. 9 Heb. x. 38, 39.
Matt. x. 22.
If at any
DCCCLXXI. BLESSINGS IMPARTED BY THE GOSPEL. Isai. ix. 244. The people that walked in darkness have seen a
great light : they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy : they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
THE dispensations of God in this world are never so afflictive, but there are some alleviating and consolatory circumstances to cheer us under them. The judgments with which he threatened to punish his apostate people were very tremendous : yet he comforted them in the mean time with prospects of the Messiah's advent. Whatever reference the words of my text may have to the deliverance of the Jews from Sennacherib's army, we are sure that they refer to Christ, and to the blessings that should issue from the ministration of his Gospel. St. Matthew quotes them in this viewb; and the very words themselves are far more suited to a spiritual subject than to any temporal occurrence.
We notice then in the text three rich blessings resulting from the ministry of Christ, and of his servants in all ages; namely, light, joy, and victory. The first which the Christian receives, is, I. Light
Men are everywhere “ sitting in darkness and the shadow of death”
a Isai. viii. 19–22. b Matt. iv. 12—16.
• The first verse of the chapter is inexplicable, according to our version. Bishop Lowth translates it differently, and thereby makes the sense of the whole passage clear. “There shall not hereafter be darkness in the land which was distressed. He formerly debased the land of Zebulon and Naphthali, but in the latter time he hath made it glorious, even the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. (For] the people, &c.” The meaning is, that as the northern part of Galilee had been particularly afflicted by the incursions of the Assyrians, so it should be particularly honoured by the ministry of Christ.
[This was the case with the Jews, notwithstanding they were God's professing people, and had continual access to the word and ordinances of God. And it is the case with us, notwithstanding we are called Christians, and have the word and sacraments administered amongst us. We are like persons immured in a dungeon, or bereft of sight: light is shining all around but we see it not: we are as much in darkness as if there were no light at all. The Scriptures uniformly represent us thus; and experience abundantly confirms their testimony. How ignorant are men of their own hearts ; of God; of the way of acceptance with him; and indeed of the whole circle of divine truth! Nor is this ignorance confined to the illiterate : it obtains as much among the great and learned, as among the poorest and meanest of mankind.]
But by the Gospel the eyes of their understanding are opened
[All were not enlightened by the preaching of Christ and his apostles; nor are all instructed now by the word they hear: but they whose eyes are opened, do attain by the Gospel a wonderful insight into “ the truth as it is in Jesus :” they discover the depth of their own depravity: they behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ:" a thousand other things, “which the natural man cannot receive,"are open to their view: “they are brought out of darkness into marvellous lightd." “ neither do they from thenceforth walk any more in darkness, because they have the light of life."]
Together with light, the Christian is filled with, II. Joy
That which in the text we read “ Thou hast not increased the joy,” is in the margin translated, “ Thou hast increased to it the joy," namely, to the nation of saints that are multiplied. This seems to be the more proper rendering of the words, and to agree best with the context; for all who are illuminated with divine truth, have, 1. A sacred joy
[Whatever joy a carnal man partakes of, let him only be brought into the divine presence, and it vanishes at once. To speak to him of God and heaven and hell, is to make him melancholy. But the Christian's joy is a holy sacred joy: “he joys before God.” It was appointed under the Law that the people at the beginning and end of harvest should bring their firstfruits and their tithes to the temple, and, feasting upon them d 1 Pet. ii. 9.
e John viii. 12.