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and in truth; no more as servants, but in the temper of adoption, as the children of God, by faith in the Son of his love.
There is a considerable analogy to this difference between the Law and the Gospel, as contradistinguished from each other, in the previous distress of a sinner, when he is made sensible of his guilt and danger as a transgressor of the law of God, and the subsequent peace which he obtains by believing the Gospel. The good seed of the word of grace can only take root and flourish in a soil duly prepared. And this preparation of the heart,* without which all that is read or heard concerning MesSIAH produces no permanent good effect, is wholly from the Lord. The first good work of the Holy Spirit, upon the heart of fallen man, is to convince of sin.t He gives some due impressions of the majesty and holiness of the God with whom we have to do, of our dependence upon him, of our obligations to him as our Creator, Lawgiver, and Benefactor ; then we begin to form our estimate of duty, of sin and its desert, not from the prevalent maxims and judgment of mankind around us, but from the unerring standard of Scripture. Thence new and painful apprebensions arise—the lofty looks of man are bumbled, his haughtiness is brought low, his mouth stopped, or only opened to confess bis guilt and vileness, and to cry for mercy. He now feels himself, under the law; it condemns him, and he cannot reply; it commands him and he cannot obey. He has neither righteousness nor strength, and must sink into despair, were it not that he is qualified to hearken to the Gospel with other ears, and to read the Scriptures with other eyes, (if I may so speak,) than he ouce did. He now knows he is sick, and therefore knows his need of a physician. This taste of anxiety, conflict, and fear, which keeps comfort from his heart, and perhaps slumber from his eyes, is often of long continuance. There is no common standard whereby to determine either the degree or the duration. Both differ in different persons; and as the body and the mind have a strong and reciprocal influence upon each other, it is probable the difference observable in such cases may, in part, depend upon constitutional causes. However, the time is a prescribed time, and though not subject to any rules or reasonings of ours, is limited and regulated by the wisdom of God. He wounds, and he heals in his own appointed moment. None that continue waiting upon him, and seeking salvation in the means which he has directed, shall be finally disappointed. Sooner or later he gives them, according to his promise, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise * Proy, xvi.1.
John, xvi. 9.
for the spirit of heaviness.* This warfare is accomplished, when they rightly understand and cordially believe the following clause :
• Her iniquity is pardoned.' Though the sacrifices under the law had an immediate and direct effect to restore the offender, for whom they were offered, to the privileges pertaining to the people of Israel considered as a nation or commonwealth, they could not, of themselves, cleanse the conscience from guilt. It is a dictate of right reason, no less than of revelation, that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.f For this purpose the blood of Christ had a retrospective efficacy, and was the only ground of consolation for a convinced sinner, from the beginning of the world. He was proposed to our first parents as the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head. In this seed Abraham believed, and was justified ; and all, of every age, who were justified, were partakers of Abraham's faith. Therefore the apostle teaches us, that when God set bim forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood, he declared his righteousness in the remission of sins that were past. || For though we may suppose God would have declared his mercy in forgiving sin upon any terms, no consideration but the death of his Son could have exhibited his righteousness-that is, his holiness, justice, and truth, in the pardon of sin. True penitents and believers were pardoned and saved under the law, but not by the law. Their faith looked through all the legal institutions to him who was represented and typified by them. But the types which revealed him, in a sense concealed him likewise. So that, though Abraham saw his day, and rejoiced, and a succession of the servants of God foresaw bis glory and his sufferings, and spake of him; yet, in general, the church of the Old
2 Testament rather desired and longed for, than actually possessed, that fulness of light and knowledge concerning the person, offices, love, and victory of Messiah, which is the privilege of those who enjoy and believe the Gospel.Ş Yet great discoveries of these things were vouchsafed to some of the prophets, particularly to Isaiah, who, on account of the clearness of his views of the Redeemer and his kingdom, has been sometimes styled a fisth Evangelist. The most evangelical part of his prophecy, or at least that part in which he prosecutes the subject with the least interruption, begins with this chapter and with this verse. And he proposes it for the comfort of the mourners in Zion in his day. We know that the Son of God, of whom Moses and the prophets
* Isa. Isi. 3. Heb. xi. 39, 40.
† Heb. x. 4.
I Gen. iii. 15.
|| Rom. iii. 23. * 1 John, v. 20.
spake, is actually come ;* that the atonement for sin is made, the ransom for sinners paid and accepted. Now the shadows are past, the vail removed, the night is ended, the dawn, the day is arrived, yea, the Sun of Righteousness is arisen with healing in his beams.t God is reconciled in his Son, and the ministers of the Gospel are now authorized to preach comfort to all who mourn under a sense of sin, to tell them all manner of sin is forgiven for the Redeemer's sake, and that the iniquity of those who believe in him is freely and abundantly pardoned.
II. Though the last clause of the verse does not belong to the passage, as selected for the Oratorio, it is so closely connected with the subject, that I am not willing to omit it. She has received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The meaning here cannot be, that her afflictions had already been more, and greater, than her sins had deserved. The just desert of sin cannot be received in the present life, for the wages of sin is death and the curse of the law, or, in the apostle's words, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. Therefore a living man can have no reason to complain under the heaviest sufferings. If we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners, we have likewise cause to acknowledge, that he hath not dealt with us according to our iniquities. Nor can the words be so applied to Messiah as to intimate, that even his sufferings were more than necessary, or greater than the exigence of the case required. The efficacy of his atonement is indeed greater than the actual application, and sufficient to save the whole race of mankind if they truly believed in the Son of God. We read, that he groaned and bled upon the cross, till he could say, It is finished, but no longer. It becomes us to refer to infinite wisdom the reasons why his sufferings were prolonged for such a precise time ; but I think we may take it for granted that they did not endure an hour or a minute longer than was strictly necessary. The expression seems to be elliptical, and I apprehend the true sense is, that Jerusalem should receive blessings, double, much greater than all the afflictions which sin had brought upon her ; and in general to us, to every believing sinner, that the blessings of the Gospel are an unspeakably great compensation, and over-balance, for all afflictions of every kind with which we have been, or can be exercised. Afflictions are the fruit of sin, and because our sins have been many, our afflictions may be many.
• But where sin has abounded, grace has inuch more abounded.'ll
† Mal. iv. 2.
| 2 Thess. i. 9.
|| Rom. v. 20.
Before our Lord healed the paralytic man who was brought to him, he said, Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.* His outward malady rendered him an object of compassion to those who brought him ; but be appears to have been sensible of an inward malady, which only Jesus could discern, or pity, or relieve. I doubt not but his conscience was burdened with guilt. An assurance, therefore, that his sins were forgiven, was sufficient to make him be of good cheer, whether his palsy were removed or not. To this purpose the Psalmist speaks absolately and without exception. Blessed is the man,' however circumstanced,' whose transgression is forgiven, whose iniquity is covered.'t Though he be poor, afflicted, diseased, neglected or despised, if the Lord imputeth not his iniquity to him, he is a blessed man. There is no situation in human life so deplorable, but a sense of the pardoning love of God can support and comfort the sufferer under it, compose his spirit, yea, make him exceedingly joyful in all his tribulations ; for he feels the power of the blood of Jesus cleansing his conscience from guilt, and giving him access, by faith, to the throne of grace, with liberty to say, Abba, Father; he knows that all his trials are under the direction of wisdom and love, are all working together for his good, and that the heaviest of them are light, and the longest momentary, in comparison of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which is reserved for him in a better world.f Even at present, in the midst of his sufferings, having cominunion witha God, and a gracious submission to his will, he possesses a peace that passeth understanding, and which the world can neither give nor take away.
I shall close this preliminary discourse with a few observations, by way of improvement.
1. How justly may we adopt the prophet's words, “Who is a God like unto thee !'|| Behold, and admire his goodness! Infinitely happy and glorious in himself, he has provided for the comfort of those who were rebels against his government, and transgressors of his holy law. What was degenerate Israel, and what are we, that he should thus present us with his mercy, remember us in our low estate, and redeem us from misery, in such a way, and at such a price ! Salvation is wholly of grace ;$ not only undeserved, but undesired by us, till he is pleased to awaken us to a sense of our need of it. And then we find every thing prepared that our wants require, or our wishes can conceive; yea, that he has done exceedingly beyond what we could either
# Psalm, xxxii. 1.
| 2 Cor. iv. 16, 17.
|| Micab, vii. 18.
* Mark, ii. 5. Ephes. ii. 5.
ask or think. Salvation is wholly of the Lord, * and bears those signatures of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, which distinguish all his works from the puny imitations of men. It is every way worthy of himself, a great a free, a full a sure salvation. It is great, whether we consider the objects, miserable and hell-deserving sinners ; the end, the restoration of such alienated creatures to his image and favour, to immortal life and happiness; or the means, the incarnation, humiliation, sufferings, and death of his beloved Son. It is free, without exception of persons or cases, without any conditions or qualification, but such as he himself performs in them and bestows upon them. It is full, including every desirable blessing ; pardon, peace, adoption, protection, and guidance through this world, and in the world to come eternal life and happiness, in the unclouded, uninterrupted enjoyment of the favour and love of God, with the perfect and perpetual exclusion of every evil.
2. When the Lord God, who knows the human heart, would speak comfort to it, he proposes one object, and only one, as the necessary and all-sufficient source of consolation. This is MesSIAH. Jesus in his person and offices, known and received by faith, affords a balm for every wound, a cordial for every care. If we admit that they who live in the spirit of the world, can make a poor shift to amuse themselves, and be tolerably satisfied in a state of prosperity, while every thing goes on according to their wish; while we make this concession, (which, however, is more than we need allow them, for we know that no state of life is free from anxiety, disappointment, weariness, and disgust,) yet we must consider them as objects of compassion. It is proof of the weakness and disorder of their minds that they are capable of being satisfied with such trifles. Thus, if a lunatic conceives his cell to be a palace, that his chains are ornaments of gold; if he calls a wreath of his straw a crown, puts it on his head, and affects the language of majesty—we do not suppose the poor creature to be happy because he tells us that he is so; but we rather consider his complacence, in his situation, as an effect and proof of his malady. We pity him, and, if we were able, would gladly restore him to his senses, though we know a cure would immediately put an end to bis pleasing delusions. But, I say, supposing or admitting the world could make its votaries happy in a state of prosperity, it will, it must leave them without resource in the day of trouble. And they are to be pitied indeed, who, when their gourds are withered, when the desire of their eyes is taken from them with a stroke, or the evil which they most feared touches them, or when death looks them closely in the face, have no acquaintance with God, no access to the throne
Psalm, iii. &. Vol. III.