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degenerate and corrupted being. He can find nothing to be proud of, nothing that he can call his own, but guilt, disorder, and weakness. And under this conviction, he falls down before God, saying with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes."
This is that self-loathing which I now call upon you to exercise. And the necessity of it is apparent; for until you are brought thus low in your own estimation, you will never esteem the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save you from the wrath to come. Who is it that values a physician while he feels no disease, and hath no fears of death? Will any fly to Christ for refuge, who is not sensible that he stands in need of such a Saviour? No; they only who are perishing in their own apprehensions will welcome the tidings of a Redeemer, and look to him, as the stung Israelites looked to the brazen serpent, lying prostrate at his feet, and resigning themselves wholly to his disposal and government.
LET me then conclude with exhorting you to repair to that fountain which is opened for sin and for uncleanness, to that blood which can cleanse you from all sin. This is the proper use and improvement of all that hath been said. Here is a remedy for all your diseases, a full supply for
all your wants. Here you will find gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and the shame of your nakedness do not appear. The Lord Jesus is a complete Saviour. Be your burden what it will, he is able to support it. His merit surpasseth your guilt by infinite degrees; and his victorious spirit can subdue and mortify your most imperious lusts. Let what hath been said, then, lead you to him. Dwell on the consideration of your own vileness, till your self-confidence is entirely destroyed, and your hearts disposed to receive him as the unspeakable gift of God to man.
In this your Christianity doth consist, and on this your justification depends. This is the sum of your conversion, and the very soul of the new creature. Other things are only preparatives to this, or fruits that grow out of it. Christ is the end and fulfilling of the law, the substance of the gospel, the way to the Father, the help, the hope, the life of the believer. If you know not HIM, you know nothing; if you possess not HIM, you have nothing; and if you be out of HIM, you can do nothing that hath a promise of salvation. O then fly to him as your refuge and sanctuary, and commit your souls into his hands, that he may purify and form them for himself. Plead in the language of David, Psal. li. 2. "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hysop, and I shall be
clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." And look by faith for the accomplishment of that promise, Ezekiel xxxvi. 25. "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." Amen.
JOB XXXVI. 21.
Take heed; regard not iniquity; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.
THESE words were addressed to Job, who from the height of prosperity was suddenly plunged into the deepest and most complicated distress. They are the words of Elihu, the youngest, but by far the wisest and most candid of all Job's friends. The other three were indeed, as himself had styled them, miserable comforters. It was their belief, that adversity was in all cases a certain token of God's displeasure; and, upon this principle, they endeavoured to persuade this excellent servant of God, that his whole religion was false and counterfeit, that divine justice had now laid hold of him, and that he was suffering the punishment of his hypocrisy and iniquity.
At length Elihu interposes; and moved with zeal for the honour of God, and with compassion to his friend, he unfolds the mysteries of Divine VOL. III. A a
Providence, asserts and proves that affliction is designed for the trial of the good, as well as for the punishment of the bad, directs Job to the right improvement of his present distress, and comforts him with the prospect of a happy deliverance from it, as soon as his heart should be thoroughly moulded into a meek and patient submission to the will of his God. At the same time, he rebukes him with a becoming dignity for some rash and unadvised speeches which the severity of his other friends, and the sharpness of his own anguish, had drawn from him; and particularly cautions him in the passage before us, "Take heed; regard not iniquity; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction."
The latter part of the text contains an heavy censure, for which some of Job's impatient wishes for relief had no doubt given too just occasion. But these expressions, uttered in his haste, he afterwards retracted, and finally came out from the furnace of affliction, like gold tried and refined by the fire. What I propose, in discoursing on this subject, is to illustrate and prove the general proposition, that there can be no greater folly than to seek to escape from affliction by complying with the temptations of sin; or, in other words, that the smallest act of deliberate transgression is infinitely worse than the greatest calamity we can suffer in this life.