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powers we possess, we ourselves may be tossed out of it, and fall into perdition. Thus ridiculous are the best efforts of human wisdom, to corrupt the plain meaning of Scripture language, and to accommodate the constitution of gospel grace to that pride and self-idolatry, which, ever since the apostasy, reign in the heart of every natural man.
Whereas the gospel of Christ binds us to duty by the cords of love, and while it presseth holy diligence and activity in the service of God, by the most persuasive arguments, it animates us, at the same time, with the most comfortable assurance, that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Help is laid for us upon one who is mighty, even that good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, who gathers the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young. Therefore they shall never perish, because none are able to pluck them out of his hand. He gives unto them eternal life, and they enter upon the possession of it at their new birth, when, by believing on his name, the power, or rather the privilege, is given them, to become the sons of God. His
is suflicient for them at all times, and in every situation. He is gone to his father's house to prepare a place for them; and he will come again and receive them to himself, that where he is there they may be also, to behold that glory which his father hath given him. " Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.”
The second argument, which respects the manner of our service, is contained in these words, “ For our God is a consuming fire.” This, at first sight, does not seem to accord with the other argument, which is addressed to the ingenuity and gratitude of a renewed heart; but appears rather adapted to the spirit of bondage, than to that spirit of adoption which believers in Christ receive, whereby they are disposed and enabled to call God, Father. But Į shall direct you to two passages of Seripture, which, I apprehend, will remove this ditliculty, and lead us to the true meaning and intent of the Apostle's argument.
One is, Isa. xxxi. 9. where it is said, as a ground of fear to the enemies of Zion, and consequently as a ground of encouragement to her children, that “ the Lord hath his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.”
The other is Mal. ij. 2. where the Messenger of the Covenant and King of Zion is compared to a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap.“ He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may ofter upto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” In this sense, he is a consuming fire to the godly; he refines them by con. suming their dross. This view of God indeed is terrible to the wicked, who are all dross; but it hath another aspect to the godly, who are made partakers of the divine nature. The fire that burns up the enemies of God altogether, shall only consume the dross that still cleaves to them, and from which they will never be wholly separated, till death dissolve their earthly tabernacles. Nevertheless, this is urged, with great propriety, as an argument for serving God with reverence and godly fear; for the means of purifying may be very painful in the mean time, and as it is written, Psal. xcix. 8. “Though he forgives their sins, yet he will take vengeance of their inventions." The children of God may be assured of it, that the rod shall not be withheld-their own backslidings shall be made to reprove them ; “ for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” And therefore they should serve God with reverence, that a moderate furnace may suffice to purge away their dross, and that it may not become necessary, that God, for their correction, should wound their hearts in the tenderest part, by taking from
them their dearest earthly comforts, or withdrawing the light of his countenance utterly from them. “ Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God aceeptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consieming fire."
Isaian xxii. 12,-14.
And in that day did the Lord of hosts call to weeping, and
to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth ; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine ; let us cat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts.
This passage is introduced with a loud and pressing call to repentance. It describes the contemptuous behaviour of the people to whom the call was addressed; and concludes with an alarming denunciation of wrath against those perverse and obstinate transgressors.
Each of these particulars I shall briefly illustrate, and then point out our immediate concern in the subject, and the practical improvement we all ought to make of it.
The first thing that occurs is the call to repentance, verse 12. “ In that day did the Lord of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth.”
The day here referred to was a season of abounding iniquity, as we learn from the first chapter of this book of prophecy, which begins with a heavy charge against the nation of the Jews, published with awful solemnity by God himself, in the following words : “ Hear, O hea, vens, and give ear, 0 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 Ah, sinful nation ! a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are cors rupters. They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they have gone away backward,” Accordingly the prophet, in bespeaking their attention to the message he was about to delie ver, addressed them, in terms of severe reproach, ver. 10. “ Ilear the words of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah." And the lamentation he utters, verse 21. shews with what justice and propriety those titles of ignominy were applied to them. “ How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment, righteousness lodged in it, but. now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water. Thy princes are rebeilious, and companions of thieves ; every one loveth gifts, and followeth, after rewards."
Their boldness and impudence in sinning are partivlarly taken notice of, as high aggravations of their guilt, chạp. ii. verses 8, 9. 66 The shew of their countenance doth witness against then, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they hide it not. Their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eye of his glory.” " Neither was this accusation limited to the men of that age; for, ver. 16. even the daughters of Zion are represented as “ haughty, walking with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they went," under the cumbersome load of tinkling ornaments, chains and bracelets, and the many other superfluous articles of dress, of which a catalogue is left on record from the 18th verse downward, tiil, at the 24th verse, the fantastic in. ventory is closed with that humiliating doom : “ It shall