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dead, and anon again they feel the flame of love kindled with that coal, quickening them to such a readiness, and such free offers of themselves to fervice, as to those that understand not the reason of it, would seem presumptuous forwardness; and there may be in some minds, at one and the same time, a strange mixture and counterworking of these two together; a sense of unfitness and unworthiness drawe ing back, and yet the strength of love driving forward, thinking thus, “ How can I, who am so filthy, “ so vile, speak of God ? yet hath he fhown me
mercy, how then can I be filent ?";
Send me.] Moses' reluctance, this same Prophet would have vented too before the touch of the coal, while he said, Wo is me, I am undone, or struck down, as the word may fignify, cannot speak witli such unholy lips of so holy a God. Isaiah cries out of polluted lips, as Moses complained of stammering lips ; and this is fit to precede, first a sense of extreme inability and indignity, and then, upon a change and call, ready obedience. A man once undone and dead, and then recovered, is the only fit messenger for God; in such an one love overcomes all difficulties without and within, and in his work no constraint is he feel ing but that of love, and where that is, no other will be needed; the sweet all-powerful constraint of love will send thee all.cheerful, though it were through the fire or water: No water can quencb it, nor fire out-burn it; it burns hotter than any other kindled against it; after the touch of that coal, no forbearing. (Jer. xx. 9. But his word was in my heart as a burning fire, put up in my bones, and I was weary with fore bearing, I could not stay. 1 Pet. V. 2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the overhgbt thereof, not by constraint, but willingly ; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind). Yet he says, send me ; though he had so ardent a desire and readiness to go. yet he will not go unsent, but humbly offers himself,
and waits both for his commission and instructions ; and how awful are they !
Ver. 9. And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye
indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but
perceive not. Ver. 10. Make the heart of this people fat, and make
their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; left they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
IS message you see is most fad, and so he is put
to it, put to the trial of his obedience, as men usually are according to the degree of their fitness. Nothing is more sweet to a messenger, than to have good news to carry. Oh! it is a blessed sweet thing to convert souls ! But, how heavy.to harden them by preaching! Yet thus it is to many, at some times, and almost generally to all; certainly before this much had been heard and despised; they had been hardening their own hearts, and now they shall have enough of it; their very fin shall be their plague, a plague of all others the moft terrible; yet, as was said above, there are times of the height of this plague, as of others, and this was one of those times of its raging mortality. The Prophet did nothing but preach, and yet they were ftupified by it; and indeed wherever the word does not foften and quicken, it hardens and kills; and the more lively the ministry of the word is where it works this effect, the more deeply doth it work it.
This was verified on the Jews; though then God's own people, yet it was verified on them to the utmost ; and this context is often cited against them in the New Tettament, no place so often. So excellent
a preacher as Isaiah, and so well reputed amongst his people, yet was sent to preach them blind, and deaf, and dead; and this same does the gospel to most of many a congregation in Scotland : and the more of Christ that is spoken, the more are unbelievers hardened. Isaiah, the most evangelical of all the Prophets, was yet brought to that, Who hath believed our report? Yea, this was fulfilled in the preaching of Christ himself; as the hotter the sun, the more is the clay hardened.
Go tell this people.] Observe the mighty power of the word, to whatsoever it is sent; as it is wonderfully efficacious for softening, melting, reducing to God; so, if it be sent, to harden, to seal to judgment, to bring in and hasten it; and therefore spoke of, as effecting the things it speaks ; as in Jer. i. 10. See, I have this day set thee over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant ; Ezek. xliii. 3. And it was according to the appearance of the vifon, which I faw when I came to destroy the city ; Hoseah vi. 5. Therefore have I bewed them by the Prophets; I bave Main them by the words of my mouth. Therefore despise it not, spiritual judgments are the heaviest of all; though least felt for a time, yet they stick closest, and prove saddest in the end : The not feeling is a great part of the plague; in this is the nature and malignity of the disease, that it takes away the fight and sense of other things, and of itself. The plague is a disease seizing on the spirits, and therefore is so dangerous; but this only seizes on the spirit of the mind; and is any thing so dreadful? Oh! any plague but that of the heart.' People think it a good thing not to feel the word, not to be troubled : Well, as they love this, they are filled with it, and shall have enough of it; so in self-love, fui amator fibi dat. God is righteous and pure in this, there are many vain cavils about his working on the heart to harden, which arise from an ignorant low conceit of God, as of a dependent be
ing, or tied to laws, or to give account. We ought rather to tremble before him; he doth no iniquity ; and we shall be forced to confess it. Many ways of his are obscure, but none are unjust. Find we not this people fit under the sound, and are many of them as if absent, as if they had never heard such things spoke of? so grossly ignorant of all these ; hearing hear, but understand not : others are yet worse; they get a kind of knowledge, but it is dead, and works nothing; these see, and yet perceive not, and know not even what they know; most are of this fort, and they are of all others the worst to convince.
When they are told of Christ, and forgiveness of fins, and are entreated to believe thefe mysteries, they cry out, Oh! we do, we know them, and can answer, if you ask us, what these doctrines are. But the heart is not changed, no fin is forsaken, no study of holiness, no flame of love. This not perceiving is the great judgment of this land, this the great cause of lamentation, that Christ is so much known and yet so little : People do not think whither it tends, and what the importance of this message is ; they hear it as a paling tale, or, at the best, as for the present, a pleasing found, a lovely fong, Ezek. xxxiii. 32.; and if by an able minifter, sung by a good voice, but no impression is made, it dies out in the air, it enters not into their hearts to quicken them, and so their evil is the more deadly. Oh! bemoan this, beg the removal of it above all judgments, and the sending forth of that Spirit, that causes the mountains to flow down, Ifa. lxiv. 1. Many of you, my brethren, may be under fomewhat of this, as there are divers degrees of it, ere it come to be incurable; Oh! pray to be delivered, left it grow so far that it be in vain to bid you do fó. Better to be cast into extreme terrors for a time, than to cons tinue thus; better to fall into a fever than into this lethargy, which makes you sleep to death.
Convert, and be healed.] These two go together; all miferics are healed, and grace and favour flow forth,
when once the soul is ftirred up to seek after God, and turn in to him : other courses of healing, public or private evils, are but mountebank cures, that vex and torinent, as unapt physic does, and do no good; yea make things worse than before ; Hofea v. 13. When Ephraim faw his fickness, and Judah bis wound ; then went Ephraim to the Alyrian, and sent to King Jareb, yet could he not heal you, nor cure you' of your wound: compared with chap. vi. ver. 1. Come and let us return unto the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
There is much in a custom of fruitless hearing to stupify and make hard; to make men sermon-proof; and the hearing of the most excellent, hardens most, both against them, and against all others that are their inferiors; for, being accustomed to hear the most moving strains, unmoved, makes them scorn, and easily beat back, that which is less pressing. A largely endued, and very spiritual minister, is either one of the highest blessings, or heaviest curses, that can come upon a people.
Hearing hear.] This even the ministers themselves may fall under : speakers may have no ears; as the Italian says of preachers, they do not hear their own voice: They may grow hard, by custom of speaking of divine things without divine affection; so that nothing themselves, or others, say, can work on them : Hence it is that fo few formal dead ministers are converted, that one said, raro vidi clericum pænitentem ; so hardened are they against the means of conviction, in which they have been so long conversant, and not converted by them. They have been speaking so often of heaven and hell, and of Jesus Christ, and feeling nothing of them, that the words have lost their power, and they are grown hard as the skin of leviathan, esteeming iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. And this, by the way, beside that God's dispensation is fo fixed, may be a reason why that sin, mentioned in the sixth of the Hebrews, is unpardonVOL. II. 3 F