« PoprzedniaDalej »
are stupified, do you think yourselves well ? Be. cause your fetters are gilded, do you mistake them for ornaments, and "glory in your shame?”—The Lord pity your insensibility and folly! for if you did but see, and feel, and understand; instead of boasting of your liberty, your only ardent cry would be, « wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?"
4. They are exiles.
Captives are not only prisoners, but exiles, banished far from their native country; torn from all their former acquaintance, friends, and relations; and carried into a strange land-perhaps a land not inhabited, a mere wilderness, a desert,to be companions of dragons, and exposed to the continual ravages of beasts of prey.----Alas! that there should be any resemblance between this, and man, highly-favoured and heaven-born man! And yet so it is. Heaven was his home, God was his father, angels his companions, and the whole world his own; but "man being in honour abode not:” proud, foolish, disobedient, rebellious man, threw off the silken cords of his Father's love, sold himself for nought, and became " carnal, sensual, devilish !" “ So He drove out the man"-drove him from his presence, drove him from his complacential love and favour; fixed a guard of angels, and a flaming sword, to bar up the passage to the tree of life ;and doomed him to labour among briars and thorns, and with the sweat of his brow to reap the effects of his rashness and folly, in this wretched state of distance and captivity.
We were all born without Christ; “ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” and “ strangers from
the covenant of promise ; having no hope, and without God in the world.”. Yea, " afar .off”-at the greatest distance possible from. God and happiness. All intercourse between us and the everblessed God entirely dropped on our part dropped. Divine meditation, prayer, and praise, wholly laid aside; and not only disused, but distasteful : we were not only indifferent, but averse to communion with God : we liked not to retain him in our knowledge, but, with an affected and insolent strangeness, dared to say to the almighty Jehovah, the God who spake us into being, and gives us daily breath and bread, “ Depart from us, for we desire not the know ledge of thy ways."-Could devils go farther?
5. They are in want.
Prisoners and captives are exposed to the greatest hardships and severities : hunger, nakedness, and cold, press hard upon them; and even bread and water are dealt out in scanty portions.-Equally destitute are the prisoners of Satan: in want, not of wealth, and honour, and pleasure, and all the gaudy vanities which earth can heap upon themof these, perhaps, they have enough ; and by these they are so intoxicated as to think themselves“ rich, and increased in goods, and to have need of nothing," while, alas ! they want the “ Bread of life" and the “ waters of salvation ;" they want the favour of God, the Love of Christ, the joys of the Holy Ghost, the testimony of conscience, and every thing that looks like peace, and comfort, and satise faction.
What a. melancholy scene does this connected view of the misery of mankind present us with!
The world, upon this survey of it, appears nothing befter than a large and gloomy prison, in which lie millions of distracted criminals, and rebels against their Creator, under sentence of condemnation, whom Death, one by one, is privately executing 1 say
distracted; for what better is it, to “ sow the wind;" to hunt “ shadows;" to "hew out broken cisterns ;" to " stop their ears," against the voice of reason, the voice of conscience, the voice of God: to challenge the Almighty, and “ run upon the thick bosses of his buckler ;” to “ crucify the Lord of glory afresh ;" to " resist” and “ grieve" is the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost;" to hate their best friends ;' to neglect salvation; to court destruction; to hug their chains, and“ glory in their shame?” These, and a thousand other instances of madness, are daily visible; for which the wrath of God cometh down on such children of disobedience.
Whose eye does not affect his heart, at the view of this scene of wretchedness! But when, from surveying the world in general, I call in my thoughts, and take a particular view of this congregation, this world in miniature; and see those, for whose welfare I am more tenderly concerned, lying in wickedness, strangers to God, captives of Satan, heirs of wrath, vessels fitted for destruction; duty and affection engage me to attempt your
deliverance. I would fain be excused from speaking harshly: I am unwilling even to mention the real danger of your state and circumstances; I almost tremble, in this connection, to repeat thosé awful passages,
“ God is angry with the wicked every day ;" " he hateth all the workers of iniquity;".
“ vengeance is mine; I will repay it, saith the Lord ;'! “ be will by no means clear the guilty;" “ on the wicked, he will rain a snare, fire, and brimstone, an horrible tempest ;'? for who knows the power of his anger ?--and the less we know, the more reason we have to dread it. To think how many serious warnings, and entreaties, and heartaffecting allurements, you have withstood; and what treasures of unknown wrath you have thereby been heaping up:--to see you eating and drinking, buying and selling, following your several employments and diversions, and all under the wrath of God, and with his curse covering you as a garment, and mingling with all your business and all your comfort ; and to reflect, that you are all the while on the brink of eternity, and, for aught you know, with not a step, not a band's-breadth, not a hair's-breadth, between you and death, between you and damnation ;-not to know, but, before you sleep to-night, before you leave this house, before the words are well out of my mouth, the outstretched arm of Justice may seize you, and the “ Judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer cast you into the bottomless pit;" and the all-powerful and unchanging Jehovah swear in his wrath that you shall never, never depart thence !Who can endure the horror of such considerations as these? And yet to this are we all liable, without the gracious provision of the Gospel. But, behold, I bring you this day " glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to 'all people: for to you is born a Saviour;" to you is sent a Deliverer; and his name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." * The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (and you will remember who it is that says this), “ because he hath anointed me to preach deliverance to the captives.”
We proceed then II. To inquire into the deliverance which Christ has wrought out for us, and offers to us.
• What is this deliverance? Wherein does it consist? In what respects are Christians “ anointed with the oil of gladness above their fellows?" Does their fig-tree always blossom? Is their fruit always on their vine? Does the labour of their olive never fail? Is their house always so with God as they would have it? Does health and vigour, always flourish in their countenances ? Are they exempted from the infirmities of old age and the stroke of death? Do they know no changes ? Are they not in trouble like other men ? or, rather, are they not a mark for other men to shoot at ? Do not innumerable evils compass them about? Is it not said, and do we not daily see, that“ many are the afflictions of the righteous ?". Are not Job's trials repeated in the experience of many of God's most eminent servants no sooner hath one messenger delivered his dismal tale, than another comes ; and he is succeeded by another, and another, and another, till Death takes pity and closes the gloomy, train. Are they delivered from inward temptations and assaults ? Is their soul never cast down and disquieted within them? Does Satan never vex them; are they quite beyond the reach of his fiery darts? Can they mount up to heaven, on the wings, of faith, and love, and holy joy, , whenever they please, without any interruption or restraint ?--Whence, then, these mournful complaints ?." How long