« PreviousContinue »
excuses. He sees its horrid evil, described in Scripture as dirt, dung, plague, ulcers, and putrefying sores; and seeing this in his own heart, he loathes himself, and cries with Job, Lord, I am vile! I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!' And this leads us to
another observation :
V. When a man is converted to God, he always begins to pray. The person in our text, already convinced of sin, falls down on his face and worships God.' A blind Pagan till now. If he worshipped before, it was Bacchus or Venus perhaps : or, the person may be a mere Heathenish Christian-one who never worships at all; for how many are there among us, who so entirely live without God in the world, that they never pray. But see the effect of God's word when carried to the heart. Regardless of the eye of man, he prostrates himself in the dust of abasement before his offended Maker and Judge. This was the symptom of Paul's own conversion. Behold he prayeth,' said Christ concerning him, as a proof that he was another man; a new man.
It is sad to think that so many people never pray. A short form of words, always the same, and always unfelt, is hypocritically offered by some in their beds, of when nearly asleep. By others this paltry ceremony is quite omitted. Some are ashamed to pray, lest they should be laughed at for it. Others are afraid, lest the Devil should appear to them. Others pretend that they cannot get a private place to pray in. But let me ask such, Can you not get a private place to sin in ? if you loved prayer as you now love sin, you would not make this excuse. Behold here, a man so overpowered with a sense of the majesty and justice of God; so deeply affected with his danger as a sinner, and so eagerly desirous of his pardoning mercy, that he forgets he is surrounded by mortals, and falls down before his God with a publican's petition- God be merciful to me a sinner! So have I seen a condemned criminal at a human bar, when the fearful sentence of death has been pronounced, fall down on his knees, and, regardless of the gazing throng, implore the favour of the judge. So have I seen dying persons, expecting soon
to appear before God, cry aloud for mercy, without considering who surrounded their beds. The place, or the posture of prayer, is of little consequence. It might disturb the public worship for persons to fall down and pray aloud in our assemblies; yet when a person is greatly affected, it will be difficult to conceal his emotions. He will lift up his heart, if not his voice, to God. And when he goes home, it will uot be with the usual compliment, that he had heard a fine sermon, or a charming preacher; but retiring to some secret place, he will confess and lament his sins, and seek the pardon of them through the blood of Christ; while, conscious also of their loathsome defilement, he will earnestly crave the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. One more observation remains.
VI. Converted persons drop all their prejudices against the people of God, and speak honourably of them; He will report that God is in you of a truth.' It is not unlikely that he said before, The Devil is in you.' Profane people indulge themselves in abusing religious persons. They are fond of calling them nick-names; they treat them with contempt and scorn; and sometimes abuse their persons, injure their property, hurt their character, or hinder their employment. Though religion be protected by the laws of the land, there are a thousand ways in which serious people are now persecuted, especially where the gospel is newly introduced into a place; and the poor, especially, are threatened by their superiors, that they shall be deprived of parish support, or other assistance, if they dare to judge for themselves, and attend the worship of God, where they think themselves profited. But these persecutors (for that is their true character, if they restrain men in their religion) ought to remember, that the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.' Jude 15: for the Lord considers what is done to his people as done to himself; and he says, 'it were better for a man to have a mill-stone hung about his neck, and be
cast into the sea with it, than for him to offend or hurt one of the least of his disciples who believe in him.' Mark ix. 42.
But no sooner does a man come to himself, and see things as they are, than he forms a very different opinion of godly persons. They are no longer the objects of contempt and scorn. He sees that they are the excellent of the earth, the children of God, and heirs of eternal glory. He now says, 'God is in you of a truth.' Blessed truth! Jesus is 'Immanuel-God with us.' He is really and truly with his people when they meet to pray, and praise, and hear his word. 'Lo! I am with you always,' saith he, 'even to the end of the world.' And again, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. xviii. 20. Blessed be Jesus for this precious promise, and blessed be his name for the fulfilment of it! We know he is with us, to observe, guide, assist, encourage, quicken, approve, and succeed us: yea, he comes first to bid us welcome. 'There am I.'
Now every converted person knows and feels this. He therefore says with Jacob-How awful is this place; it is the house of God and the gate of heaven.' Observe, it is said, He will report that God is with you.' He will not be ashamed to tell the world so; and he will tell it to others, that they may come too. Just as some of our Lord's first disciples did. When Andrew was called by Christ, he went and called his brother Peter; and when Philip was called he invited Nathanael; and when Nathanael made some objections, and said, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth Philip said, Come and see.' In like manner, let all those who have felt the power of God under the word, invite their friends and neighbours to hear and judge for themselves.
And thus, my friends, we have seen a picture of primitive religion, such as prevailed in the first and best days of Christianity. And now let us enquire, Is our religion like this? Is it thus in our assemblies ?
Not in all. In some places what irreverence! laughing, ogling, sleeping! The preacher himself is perhaps in fault. Perhaps it is not the gospel that he preaches; or he is unaffected by it. He performs his duty as the school-boy his task. The people come expecting nothing; they go away having obtained nothing; and a pious spectator is constrained to reverse the text, and say, 'God is not here, of a truth.' But where the gospel of Jesus is faithfully preached, the powerful effects, mentioned in the text, will, by the blessing of God, more or less follow. If the doctrine tend to humble the sinner, to exalt the Saviour, and to promote holiness,' Jesus, by his Spirit, is there, and will set his seal to the heavenly truth. Both the law and the gospel, rightly dispensed, will tend to convince men of their lost and ruined state, to disclose the secret thoughts of the heart; and when this is done, to lead the sinner in earnest prayer to seek salvation by Jesus Christ. Has the word of God had this effect upon us? To know and feel ourselves miserable sinners is the first main point in religion. Without this we are blind to every thing else in Scripture. Without this we cannot pray sincerely, or do any thing in religion aright. Sin cannot be taken away till it be discovered; nor can we ever become what we ought to be till we know what we are. And when this is rightly known you see what follows. You see the convinced sinner prostrate on the ground. Has a sense of sin, an apprehension of its danger, and a hatred of its evil, brought us to our knees? If so, bless God, for it. It is a good beginning. This is the finger of God. Wait upon God; and he who hath begun the work will finish it..
What an evidence does this subject afford us of the truth and reality of the religion of Christ! Can any power but that which is divine, thus enlighten the mind, convince the conscience, terrify the soul, disclose the secrets of the heart, humble the proud rebel, and at once tury his affections into another channel? No, no. This is the work of God; and the Scriptures, by which he effects it, are the word of God, and he who believeth hath hereby a witness in himself,' that they are so. May these blessed truths, so useful and necessary to the
conversion and salvation of souls, be every where proclaimed; and may these, their blessed effects, be every where produced: so shall multitudes be saved, and glory, glory, glory, be given to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, world without end! Amen.
ALMIGHTY God! who didst speak in times past to the fathers by the prophets, who hast since spoken to mankind by thy Son, and dost now speak to us in the holy Scriptures, and by the preaching of the gospel, grant, we beseech thee, that the gospel may come to us, not in word only, but in power: may the Holy Spirit, according to the promise of our Saviour, convince us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
We confess, O Lord, that we are guilty before thee. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. We stand at thy bar, O thou Judge of the earth, condemned by thy holy law, and condemned in our own consciences: but, blessed be thy name, we ́have an Advocate with thee, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins. Have mercy upon us, O God, for his sake! Have mercy upon us, according to thy loving kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out our transgressions.
Glory be, to thee, O Lord, that thou art still in the midst of thy church of a truth, as thou wast in former times. Thanks be unto God, that by the preaching of his gospel, accompanied by the power of his Spirit, some who once trusted in themselves that they were righteous, have been convinced and judged, and made to cry out, What shall we do to be saved? O that such happy effects may follow the words which have now been spoken! We beg it for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Advocate and Mediator.