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poor forgot their poverty, and thought themselves rich in having the gospel preached to them; how the broken-hearted smiled, when the compassionate Jesus looked that way; how the fetters fell off, when the great Captain of salvation proclaimed “ Deliverance to the captives;" how joy appeared in every countenance, when Jesus opened the book ; and “Satan fell like lightning from heaven," before his all.commanding voice: -I say, had we been present then, we should have seen that the “ word of God was quick, and powerful,” when the Spirit of the Lord was upon the preacher of it.
-O thou, who didst anoint Jesus to preach the Gospel to the poor, favour with thy divine influ. ences one of the most unworthy of his messengers: enable him rightly to divide this, word of truth, and give to every man his portion in due season : that the blind may see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the sorrowful rejoice; and that we may be all turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
I, I shall endeavour to illustrate the captivity we are under and
II. State the deliverance which Christ has wrought out for us.
1 We'are, I. To illustrate the captivity we are under.
I say illustrate, for sure it cannot be necessary for me to stay to prove that we are all by nature bondsmen and slaves. Some who pride themselves in their imaginary freedom, and think liberty to: consist in breaking through all the restraints of reason and religion, may perhaps resent the impu-, tation. "What !' say they ; are we slaves also ?
Is it not evident to all the world, that we do as we please? Do we not walk 'after “ the ways of our own hearts,” and “ the sight of our own eyes ; and who dare say unto us, What dost thou ?'— True indeed, no laws human or divine can restrain your unbridled passions; no considerations of honour, prudence, gratitude, duty, or interest, have any influence on your unthinking minds: and what then ? are ye for that reason free? Assert your freedom, and for one day act, and be, the Christian. Come, ye boasted libertines, who glory in the imagination that ye can do as ye please; show your freedom, by doing what reason, and religion, and conscience say you ought to do,-“ love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength;" “ walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless :” let not a vain thought, nor an idle word, escape you ;
“ deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly;" “ put away all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.”— Ah, sinner! thou mayest as well reach the stars with thy fingers, as be a Christian for an hour ; thou mayest as well put out the sun with thy breath, as exert the least single act in the spiritual and divine life :--as will appear by considering some particulars in which the condition of sinners resembles that of captives and prisoners.
1. They are under arrest.
The man who has forfeited his liberty and life to the state, is pursued, seized, tried, convicted, condemned, and expects and dreads the awful hour of execution. In like manner, the sinner, born an
enemy to God, and having by innumerable viola. tions of the divine law forfeited his claim to happiness and existence, becomes an outcast and alien: the law denounces the most tremendous threatenings: deep in arrears to Divine Justice, he is cast into prison: Conscience, God's vicegerent, hath condemned him already; and there remains nothing to him, but “a certain fearful looking-for of wrath.” For who can deliver his brother or himself, or give to God a ransom for either! Who dare say to the Almighty, “ Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all ?” Who presumes to think that future obedience is a sufficient compensation for past rebellion; or is vain enough to imagine that it is in the power of fallen, sinful man, to “ magnify the law and make it honourable ?"-And, oh the dreadful anxiety of the sinner's heart, when he first perceives his guilt and danger! The“ arrows of the Almighty stick fast in him, the poison whereof drinketh up his very spirit.” The afflictions of life have an additional bitterness; the enjoyments of life have lost their relish: a smiling providence mocks his woe; a frowning providence heightens his despair. He starts at the shaking of a leaf, as if every noise were a summons to judgment. He is afraid to eat, lest his meat should choke him: and is afraid to sleep, lest he should awake in hell. He dreads to be alone, and trembles at the shadow of his own thought. He hurries from place to place; but conscience, sin, and death, meet him every-where. He dislikes his old companions in sin, and yet inwardly envies them their thoughtless gaiety. He looks round and round, on this side and on that
i he looks forward and backward : he looks inward
and downward: he looks every way- but upward; and thither he is afraid to look, though it be the only quarter from whence salvation comes. ;.
Who can tell, who, but those who have felt it, can conceive, how welcome deliverance is to such wretched captives ! But,
2. They are in darkness.
Prisons' are dark and gloomy places; and the hole where condemned malefactors lie, is generally the darkest part of the dungeon ; where no cheering beam of light ever enters, unless it be now and then the glimmering taper, which only serves to heighten the gloom, by discovering those frightful objects which absolute darkness had before concealed--An affecting emblem of a sinner's mind, which has never been enlightened nor sanctified by divine grace!
“ Ye were darkness !" says the Apostle, writing to the Ephesians (v. 8): and, speaking of the Gentiles, he says, they had their “ understanding darkened” (Eph. iv. 18): or, in the still more emphatical language of prophecy;
Judgment is far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity: for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall, like the blind; and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noon-day as in the night.” (Isai. lix. 9.) « For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them, for they are 'spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. ii. 14.) He may, indeed, discourse of them ; but it must be 'as the blind man does of colours, neither of them knowing they say, nor whereof they affirm ; and therefore
put darkness for light, and light for darkness :
bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." And happy would it be, if this were confined to heathens, and those barbarous nations whom the 164 Day-spring from on high” never visited ! Happy would it be, if all, to whom those glad tidings are brought, and who live under the immediate beams of the Sun of Righteousness, did “ see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and were converted and healed.” Would to God there were no room to say now, as well as when the observation was first made, " Men love dark. ness rather than light.”
3. They are bound with fetters.
Prisoners, especially those who are charged with capital crimes, are generally loaded with irons, not only to prevent their escape, but to make their confinement more burthensome and painful:-and there are “bonds of iniquity,” too, in which every unconverted sinner is held ; and fetters, which chain down the soul to the vilest servitude. For " verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” (John viii. 34, & 2 Pet. ij. 19.) While they promise themselves
liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption : for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage”-a bondage far worse than Egyptian, and from which nothing but the immediate hand of God can rescue us. slaves to sin, ye servants of divers lusts and passions, ye vassals of the prince of darkness! is his yoke easy, and are his burdens light? Are not his commands grievous, and his service drudgery, and his
wages death? Are not the bonds of iniquity dipped in the gall of bitterness ? Because the senses