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worship and services, which the Seraphim presented before the Lord of hosts. The holy angels “ excel in strength,” and are glorious beyond the conception of mortal men: even the most eminent saints have been dismayed at their benign appearance, or tempted to render them divine honours. Yet these exalted spirits appeared in vision, as engaged in adoration of the great Jehovah ; uniting deep humility with their most exalted praises; and manifesting the fullest conviction that their spotless services were inexpressibly beneath the excellency and greatness of that God whom they worshipped. This view seems to have greatly conduced to throw the prophet's mind into that perturbation, which he discovered on the occasion.
Men in general keep each other in countenance, while they rest satisfied with a form of godliness. They go to a place of worship, and to the Lord's table ; read or repeat a prayer and a thanksgiving; and please themselves with the idea that they have done their duty; nay, they have scarcely an idea of a more spiritual worship. But when their attention is directed to the devout aspirations of David, Daniel, and other holy men of God; especially when they contemplate the adorations of the heavenly hosts, as described in the sacred Scriptu ; they become sensible by the comparison, that they have been, heedlessly or presumptuously, presenting to the glorious Jehovah a formal, defiled, and hypocritical service, “ drawing near to him with their lips, while their hearts were far from him.” But this very properly leads us,
II. To consider of the peculiar nature and tendency of that inward perturbation, which caused this eminent servant of God to exclaim, “Woe is me, for I am undone."
Isaiah was called when young to the prophetical office ; and we may thence conclude that he had been preserved by divine grace from every evil way, and had dedicated his earliest days to the service of God. He discharged the sacred trust confided to him for above sixty years ; yet we do not find, during this long period, that he ever acted inconsistently with his sacred ministry. In his private deportment and public work, he seems to have sustained a most unexceptionable character : nor have we any proofs of his sinfulness, but those found in his own confessions. Yet on this occasion, he was so overwhelmed with the sense of his own guilt and pollution, that he was almost ready to lie down in despair. Some persons indeed render his words thus: “ Woe is me, I am struck dumb." "He was struck dumb, says Bishop Lowth, because he was a man of polluted lips, and dwelt among a people of polluted lips; and was unworthy either to join the Seraphim in singing God's praises, or to be the messenger of God to his people.' It is however evident, that he was so alarmed and humbled, because “ his eyes had seen the King the Lord of hosts," that “his mouth was stopped, he became guilty before God,” anrd he feared, lest his religious services and prophetical labours should increase his condemnation. This however did not arise from any immoralities or impieties which he recollected; or from conscious hypocrisy or unfaithfulness in his ministry: but from the conviction of his mind, that his best duties were exceedingly polluted; whether he considered the holy majesty of the Lord to whom they were presented, or compared them with the exalted worship of the heavenly hosts. He would no doubt reflect, with shame and sorrow, on his want of reverence and humility, in his religious performances ; on the wandering imaginations which distracted his attention ; on the languor of his affections; and on his want of zeal, love, and admiring 'gratitude, even in his most fervent praises and thanksgivings. He might also, perhaps, be conscious of a corrupt self-complacency and regard to the opinion of men, mingling even with his endeavours to glorify God; and that he had felt but little delight in those employments, which angels deem their highest privilege, and in which they enjoy unalloyed felicity.
As the prophet of the Lord, he had likewise delivered many awful messages to the rebellious Jews : but this vision made him afraid, lest he too should fall under condemnation, for executing so important an office from corrupt motives, with a divided heart, and in an improper manner.
He was at the same time convinced, that he “ dwelt among a people of polluted lips." The Israelites were distinguished from other nations, as the worshippers of Jehovah ; and when the prophet compared himself with them, he supposed that his services were pure and spiritual. But he now perceived, that he ought not to be thus satisfied; for when their religious duties and professions were brought forth to the light, and viewed in connection with the adoration of the Seraphim, it was manifest that God might justly reject them with abhorrence. It was therefore more proper for him to imitate the lepers, who covered their lip, and cried, • Unclean! unclean!
These observations illustrate the apostle's declaration, “ There is no difference ; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Great diversity is indeed found in the moral conduct of men, and the Judge of the world will proportion the punishments of the wicked to the number and aggravation of their crimes: but in this one respect, there is no difference, “ for all have sinned.” The most virtuous and religious; even they who have served the Lord from their earliest days in genuine piety, must fall down before him in deep humility; and not only confess that they have been guilty of numerous omissions, and deviations from the rule of duty, in thought, word, and deed, but that their very services have often been the fruit of polluted lips. Nor could they ever have been satisfied with them, had they not dwelt among sinners like themselves ; and had not their views of that glorious God whom they professed to worship been faint and confused.
Let any man carefully and impartially examine his own devotions, in the closet, in the house of God, or at the Lord's table: let him close every duty or every Sabbath, with endeavours to ascertain the degree of spiritual worship, and of a corrupt mixture, which the all-seeing eye of an holy God must have witnessed in his performances; and I dare confidently foretell, that he will ere long cry out with the prophet, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags :” or in the language of the judicious Hooker, · The best things that we do have something in them to be pardoned : how then can we
do any thing meritorious or worthy to be rewarded ? Our continual suit to the Lord' is and must be, to bear with our infirmities and pardon our offences.' Thus “the Scripture concludes all under sin: that the promise which is by Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe !" Gal. iii. 22. For these are discoveries of sinfulness, from which no man can escape, when he weighs himself in the balance of the sanctuary : so that every one is left to his choice, either to condemn the spirituality of the law, and the holiness of the Lawgiver ; or to submit to the righteousness of God, and to cry for mercy, saying, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified."
Thus humiliation cannot be too deep; we cannot be too sensible of our guilt and pollution, or too entirely delivered from self-confidence. But we may easily be too much discouraged, and through despondency neglect the means of grace, and the duties of our station. Many persons, having discovered with great alarm their guilt and danger, and being convinced, by painful experience, of their inability to resist temptation, or to keep their resolutions; have rushed impetuously into wickedness, impiety, or infidelity, to obtain deliverance from the reproaches of their own consciences : and probably but few are duly humbled, without passing through a measure of discouraging terrors. Even the prophet was on this occasion dismayed, as well as laid low in self-abasement: and if seasonable encouragement had not been afforded, the very intention of the vision would have been counteracted, and he unfitted for the arduous services to which he was called.
III. Then we consider the relief and encouragement which he received. We are not indeed warranted to expect direct assurances by immediate
revelation“; yet the emblems of this vision aptly represent the way in which the convinced sinner finds peace and hope, connected with increasing humiliation.-It has been remarked, that the scene of this vision was the temple : the altar of burnt-offering was therefore full in view, on which the daily sacrifices and occasional oblations were consuming, by the fire that came down from heaven. The blood of numberless innocent animals slain in sacrifice, and their bodies consumed to ashes, that guilty men might be pardoned and blessed, were constant declarations that sinners deserved death and the fiery wrath of God in another world ; -and that deliverance could only be obtained by faith in the promised Redeemer, “ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” From this altar one of the Seraphim took a live coal, and applied it to the prophet's lips, assuring him that his “ iniquity was taken away, and his sin purged.”
No endeavours were used to comfort Isaiah by persuading him, that he thought too ill of his own character and services; no intimation was made, that the vision had bewildered his mind, and inspired groundless alarms. On the contrary, the heavenly messenger of peace seemed to allow that “he was a man of polluted lips," and that his present judgment of himself was according to truth: but he assured him, that his guilt was removed by the atoning sacrifices, and by faith in the typified Redeemer. When Simon the Pharisee disdained the weeping penitent, who washed our Lord's feet with her tears, he did not vindicate her character or palliate her guilt ; but graciously noticing her repentance, faith, and love," he declared, that “ her sins which were many were forgiven.” This is the uniform method of Scripture: but numbers endeavour to encourage trembling sinners, by arguing them into a more favourable opinion of themselves, or by pointing out certain good actions or qualities, which may counterbalance their offences. Such are physicians of no value. They administer fatal opiates to the lethargic, when they have been in a measure awakened : and they prolong the distress of the contrite and poor in spirit. No man is terrified merely by the opinion that his sins are numerous and heinous; but through unbelief, ignorance, or confused notions of the divine mercy, and of the blessed gospel of God our Saviour. These are therefore the subjects on which we should principally insist, if we would bring the distressed in conscience to permanent comfort and stable peace.
“ Faith comes by hearing ;” and while we point out “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” we do our part to apply “the live coal from the altar” to the trembling sinner's lips. * For when a man is brought to seek encouragement, not from himself or any of his services, but from the infinite mercies of God, through the atoning blood of Christ; and to perceive the Saviour's power and willingness “ to save unto the uttermost all that come to God through him :" he will soon rise superior to his desponding fears, and possess a good hope through grace,” that his “ sins though many are forgiven;" or at least, that his iniquity will at length be purged away
But whoever may be the messenger of peace to the broken in heart, the Holy Spirit is the author and giver of this blessing. “ When the comforter is come,” saith our Lord, “ he shall convince the world of sin : and “ He shall glorify me ; for he shall receive of mine and shall shew it unto you.” John xvi. 8—15. When humiliating convictions have prepared the heart to welcome a free salvation, the Divine Comforter enables the sinner to see the glory of God, and the harmony of his attributes, in the person and redemption of Christ : thus he finds peace and joy in believing, and at length “ abounds in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost !" This consolation is the effect of regenerating grace, and accompanied by a new creation of the soul to holiness. The faith that justifies is living and active: it works by love of God and man; purifies the heart, and overcomes the world; and thus renders the believer fruitful in good works, to the glory of God through Jesus Christ. The live coal from the altar may therefore be considered as an emblem of those spiritual affections, that are kindled in the believer's heart
by the Holy Ghost, which prepare, animate, and even constrain him, to de vote his talents to the glory of God, and to employ them according to his commandments. This is the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and of fire, with which Jesus baptizes his true disciples: these sacred influences penetrate and enlighten the mind, warm and elevate the affections, consume the dross of low and carnal passions, and transform the whole goul into the very nature of that divine agent by whom they are produced.
IV. Then let us proceed to consider the effects of this encouragement, on the prophet's disposition and conduct.
The vision had struck him dumb, filled him with consternation, and indisposed him for his prophetical office. But now hearing the voice of the Lord, saying, “ Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" he answered without hesitation, “ Here I am, send me.”—Neither the consciousness of his unworthiness and insufficiency, nor the prospect of difficulties, perils, or self-denial, produced the least reluctancy to the important and arduous service. His love to the Lord and zeal for his glory rendered him willing to go any whither, to any person, or on any message. He was ready to face a persecuting tyrant or an enraged multitude; to travel over mountains and seas, or through inhospitable deserts. He declined not hardship, poverty, or neglect ; but was so desirous, that the name of God should be hallowed, his kingdom promoted, and his will done on earth, even as in heaven, that he exulted in the thought of being employed as an instrument in such a work. He could not indeed equal the fervent zeal and rapturous worship of the Seraphim: but he desired to emulate the promptitude and alacrity, with which they performed the commands of their Creator. Nay, he made no objections or excuses, when he was sent to pronounce the condemnation of the rebellious Jews, and to prove an occasion of their judicial blindness for a warning to all others, who “ hate the light because their deeds are evil.”
These effects of genuine encouragement to the broken in heart were by no means peculiar to the prophet. They will not indeed follow from an unscriptural assurance of forgiveness ; but they are inseparable from comfort obtained by the exercise of living faith in Christ, under the teaching and inMuence of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul, speaking of his abundant labours and sufferings, adds,“ Having obtained mercy we faint not;" and afterwards, “ For the love of Christ constraineth us: because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Cor. iv. 1. v. 14, 15. It was “ his earnest expectation and hope,—that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or death;" Phil. i. 20, 21.-other “ things moved him not, neither counted he his life dear unto himself, so hat he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts xx. 24. Deep humiliation for sin, firm confidence in the mercy of God, gratitude to the Divine Saviour “who loved him and gave himself for him," zeal for his glory, and compassion for perishing singers, combined in rendering him superior to all other hopes and fears, and prepared him for most unwearied exertions, and patient sufferings, in making full proof of his sacred ministry:
We allow that the subject applies with peculiar propriety to the case of those who are engaged in the same good work : but all Christians “ are bought with a price, that they may glorify God with their bodies and spirits which are his." They all love the Lord Jesus Christ on the same grounds, though not in equal measure; they partake of " like precious faith" with that of the apostles ; and “ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his. When therefore the deeply humbled sinner has been delivered from gloomy fears of deserved wrath, and enabled to rejoice in Christ and his pardoning love; he will certainly inquire, “ What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits ?” Nor will he, when under the lively impressions of admiring love and gratitude, be disposed to think any sacrifice too costly, any labour too great, or any danger too imminent, to which he may be called, in his attempts to serve and honour his beloved benefactor. This causes him to consider, in what way he may most effectually recommend the salvation of Christ to his fellow-sinners, or be useful to that flock which he “purchased with his own blood." These reflections will frequently employ his thoughts, whether he be a minister of religion, a magistrate, a steward of the unrighteous mammon, possessed of influence, or endued with natural and acquired abilities; or whether, on the contrary, he live in a private and obscure station,-a labourer, a servant, in deep poverty, or even in a state of slavery. And, whatever be the Christian's outward situation and circumstances, provided he aim to serve the Lord Jesus by a conscientious attention to his several duties, in honesty, quietness, and contentment; he will be enabled to adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour, and as certainly meet with a gracious acceptance, as if he were sent, like Isaiah and Paul, to carry his message to the church and to the world.
The performance of relative duties, even when the most unkind returns are experienced ; strict integrity under heavy losses and in trying circumstances; patience and meekness, amidst sufferings and injuries, are in some respects equivalent to the prophet’s alacrity, in undertaking the painful service allotted him. And, in proportion as the believer can unite deep humility, with assured hope and fervent zeal, he will act with decision according to the commands of his Lord, and the opportunities or advantages afforded him. But if pride warp his steady aim and mar his simplicity, or negligence make way for guilt and alarm; he will find himself in all respects indisposed for difficult, perilous, or self-denying services. When discouragement prevails, “ the hands hang down and the knees wax feeble :” a man in this case scarcely finds himself at liberty to speak a word on religious subjects, for the instruction even of his own family; and still less to attempt any thing of a more arduous nature for the glory of God and the benefit of his church. When David had been grievously overcome by temptation, he found that conscious guilt rendered him incapable of renewing his bold and zealous endeavours in the service of God. He therefore prayed, “ Open my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may shew forth thy praise." But when the joy of God's salvation is restored, the lively exercise of every holy affection renders a man ready to say, “ Here I am, send me ;" * If so poor a worm as I am, may glorify thy name, O Lord, I would thankfully yield myself to thy disposal, that I may be employed in any way, which may seem good in thy sight. —If, then, these be indeed the effects of such humbling and encouraging views of the Lord and heavenly things as have been described, we ought certainly to inquire with great seriousness, whether we have learned or experienced any thing of the same nature?--And this may introduce an address to different descriptions of persons.
There are numbers, who do not wish to be thought infidels or irreligious; but call themselves believers, render some worship to God, and respect the name of Christ, and the leading truths of Christianity: yet they by no means think that they are altogether sinful, and exposed to just condemnation even for the defilements of their religious duties. They adopt various methods of eluding the inferences we draw from the general declarations of Scripture, concerning the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart; and object to every attempt made to convince them, that they themselves, as well as Gentiles and wicked Jews, are included in these unrestricted charges. These appear to them hard sayings; because they deprive them of every plea, undermine the foundation of their hope, and exclude all boasting and self-preference.—But, if you have been used to reason and object in this manner, let me earnestly intreat and conjure you, seriously to answer the following questions :-Do you really think your own hearis, characters, and services, to be more holy and excellent than those of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, or Paul? Or do you suppose that your superior sanctity is proportioned to