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formed the commands of their Creator. Nay, he made no objections or excuses when he was sent to pronounce the condemnation of the rebellious Jews, and to be an occasion of their judicial blindness, for a warning to all others who “ hate the light because their deeds are evil.”
These effects of genuine encouragement to the broken in heart were by no means peculiar to the prophet. They will not indeed follow from an unscriptural assurance of forgiveness, but they are inseparable from comfort obtained by the exercise of living faith in Christ, under the teaching and influence of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul, speaking of his abundant labours and sufferings, says, “ Having obtained mercy, we faint not;" and afterwards, “ For the love of Christ constraineth “ us ; because we thus judge, that if one died for all " then were all dead : and that he died for all, that “they which live should not henceforth live unto “ themselves, but unto him which died for them “ and rose again." It was his earnest expectation “and hope, that Christ should be magnified in his
body, whether by life or death :"2 other “things “ moved him not, neither counted he his life dear “ unto himself, so that he might finish his course “ with joy, and the ministry which he had received of “ the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace “ of God."3 Deep humiliation for sin; firm confidence in the mercy of God; gratitude to the divine Saviour," who loved him, and gave himself “ for him ;" zeal for his glory; and compassion for perishing sinners; combined in rendering him
12 Cor. iv. 1. v. 14, 15.
Phil. i. 20, 21.
Acts xx, 24.
superior to all other hopes and fears, and prepared him for the most unwearied exertions and patient sufferings, in making full proof of his sacred ministry.
We allow that the subject applies with peculiar propriety to the case of those who are engaged in the same good work: but all Christians “ bought with a price, that they should glorify God “ with their bodies and spirits which are his.” They all love the Lord Jesus Christ on the same grounds, though not in equal measure; they partake of " like precious faith” with that of the apostles; and “ if any man have not the Spirit of “ Christ he is none of his." When therefore the deeply humbled sinner has been delivered from gloomy fears of deserved wrath, and enabled to rejoice in Christ and his pardoning love; he will certainly inquire, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?". Nor will he, when under the lively impressions of admiring love and gratitude, be disposed to think any sacrifice too costly, any labour too great, or any danger too imminent, to which he may be called, in his attempts to serve and honour his beloved Benefactor. This leads him to consider, in what way he may most effectually recommend the salvation of Christ to his fellow-sinners, or be useful to that “ flock which he purchased with his own blood.” These reflections will frequently employ his thoughts, whether he be a minister of religion, a magistrate, a steward of the “ unrighteous mam
mon,” possessed of influence, or endued with natural and acquired abilities ; or whether, on the contrary, he live in a private and obscure station,
a labourer, a servant, in deep poverty, or even in a state of slavery. And whatever be the Christian's outward situation and circumstances, provided he aim to serve the Lord Jesus by a conscientious attention to his peculiar duties, in honesty, quietness, and contentment; he will be enabled to " adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour," and as certainly meet with a gracious acceptance, as if he were sent, like Isaiah and Paul, to carry his message to the church and to the world.
The performance of relative duties, even when the most unkind returns are experienced ; strict integrity under heavy losses and in trying circumstances; patience and meekness amidst sufferings and injuries : are in some respects equivalent to the prophet's alacrity in undertaking the painful service allotted him. And, in proportion as the believer can unite deep humility with assured hope and fervent zeal, he will act with decision according to the commands of his Lord, and the opportunities or advantages afforded him. But, if pride warp his steady aim and mar his simplicity, or negligence make way for guilt and alarm; he will find himself in all respects indisposed for difficult, perilous, or self-denying services. When discouragement prevails, “ the hands hang down and " the knees wax feeble :” a man in this case scarcely finds himself at liberty to speak a word on religious subjects, for the instruction even of his own family; and still less to attempt any thing of a more arduous nature, for the glory of God and the benefit of his church. When David had been grievously overcome by temptation, he found that conscious guilt rendered him incapable of renew
ing his bold and zealous endeavours in the service of God. He therefore prayed, “ Open my lips, O “Lord, that my
mouth may shew forth thy praise.” But, when“ the joy of God's salvation” is restored, the lively exercise of every holy affection renders a man ready to say, “Here am I, send me:" If so poor a worm as I am may glorify thy name, O Lord, I would thankfully yield myself to thy disposal, that I may be employed in any way which may seem good in thy sight.
If then these be indeed the effects of such humbling and encouraging views of the Lord and of heavenly things, as have been described; we ought certainly to inquire with great seriousness, whether we have learned or experienced any thing of the same nature ? And this may introduce an address to different descriptions of persons.
There are numbers, who do not wish to be thought infidels or irreligious; but call themselves believers, render some worship to God, and respect the name of Christ and the leading truths of Christianity: yet they by no means think that they are altogether sinful, and exposed to just condemnation even for the defilements of their religious duties. They adopt various methods of eluding the inferences we draw from the general declarations of scripture, concerning the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart; and object to every attempt made to convince them, that they themselves, as well as gentiles and wicked Jews, are included in these unrestricted charges. These appear to them hard
sayings;" because they deprive them of every
plea, undermine the foundation of their hope, and exclude all boasting and self-preference. But, if you have been used to reason and object in this manner, let me earnestly intreat and conjure you, seriously to answer the following questions : Do you really think your own hearts, characters, and services to be more holy and excellent, than those of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, or Paul ?
Or do you suppose
that your superior sanctity is proportioned to the difference of the language you use in speaking of your virtues and duties? If you cannot without affectation adopt their humiliating expressions, it must arise from one of these causes : either your conduct and character are far more holy than their's were; or they knew far more of God and of themselves, than you do. You are either much better men; or you are much less acquainted with those things which are essential to a right judgment of characters and actions.
When the apostle said, “ God, who commanded “the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined “ in our hearts, to give us the light of the know“ ledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus “ Christ;" he assigned the real cause of the lowly opinion which eminent saints have ever entertained of themselves : and a want of this divine illumination gives occasion for that favourable estimate which numbers form of their virtues and characters. If then this be the case, or if there be the least probability that it is so ; would it not be wise in
you, my friends, to intreat the Lord, that he would “
open your understandings to understand “the scriptures?" and would it be improper for you, frequently to meditate with fixed attention on