« ForrigeFortsæt »
this eminent servant of God to exclaim, "Wo 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 about 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 indeed render his words, "Wo 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," and he feared lest his religious services and prophetical labours should increase his condemnation. Yet this did not arise from the recollection of immoralities or impieties, 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; 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 connexion 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 leper, who covered his lip and cried, "Unclean! unclean!"
These observations illustrate the apostle's declaration, that "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 punishment of the wicked to the number and aggravation of their crimes: but in this respect there is no difference, that "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 a holy God must have witnessed in his performances: and I dare confidently foretel that he will ere long cry out with the prophet, "We are all as an un"clean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as "filthy rags:" or in the language of the judicious Hooker, 'The best things that we do have some
thing in them to be pardoned: how then can we 'do any thing meritorious or worthy to be re'warded? 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 Christ "Jesus might be given to them that believe!"l 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, for in thy sight shall no man living "be justified."
This 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 sea
' Gal. iii. 22.
sonable 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.-We consider then, III. 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 be obtained only by faith in the promised Redeemer, " the Lamb slain from the foun"dation 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 pre