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JESUS OPENS THE PRISON-DOORS TO

THE PRISONERS,

SER MON LIV.

Isa. Ixi. 1.--And the opening of the prison to them

that are bound.

H Η

ERE is another benefit which, in the gospel,

is brought by Christ to finners who are in their

natural state, namely, a proclamation as to opening the prison to the prisoners. In this there are two things.

1. The misery of a natural state, which is here laid out in its full extent, in three particulars. You have heard that unconverted finners are Satan's captives; this is a sad case, but it is yet worse; for,

(1.) They are also prisoners. Every captive is not a prisoner, but all natural men, being Satan's captives, are held prisoners, fhut up in the prison of their natural state. This is Satan's prison, crammed full of his prisoners of war. But this is not all ; for, (2.) They are prisoners in chains, they are bound

JESUS OPENS THE PRISON-DOORS, &c.

153

in the prison. Satan has his irons on them, as malefactors under sentence of death, that they may not escape. This is still worse than being a prisoner. But worse than all this is here stated ; for,

(3.) They are blinded too in their prison. For the word rendered opening, does particularly relate to the opening the eyes ; and therefore the prophet uses it to express the relieving of such prisoners perfectly. This is evident by comparing Luke, iv. 18. « And recovering of light to the blind, to set at liberty them who are bruised." It was a custom much used in the eastern nations, and retained among the Turks to this day, to put out the eyes of fome of their prisoners, adding this misery to their imprisonment. So the Philistines did with Samson, Judges, xvi. 21. ; and Nebuchadnezzar with Zedekiah, 2 Kings, mkv. 7. This, in a spiritual sense, is the case of all prisoners in their natural state. To sum up all, O unconverted finner! thou art Satan's captive, a captive in prison, and a prisoner in chains; and withal thine eyes are put out, thou art in darkness, even darkness itself. In the words there is,

2. A suitable remedy, full help proclaimed by Christ in the gospel. God has seen the misery of the prisoners, his Son has paid the ransom for them, and thereupon he is sent to proclaim the opening of the prison-doors to them, opening every way to them; for this expression comprehends the affording full remedy to their cafe ; namely, opening their prison,-opening their chains, and opening their eyes. By his word he offers it, by his Spirit he effects it, in all his elect. --From this subject we propose to your consideration the following DOCTRINES :

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Doct. I. That every unconverted finner is a bound

man in the prison of a natural state, with his eyes put out.

Doct. II. That by open proclamation in the go

spel, Christ offers to the prisoners in a natural ftate, an opening of their eyes, of their bands, and of their prison-doors.

We begin with Doct. I. That every unconverted finner is a

bound man in the prison of a natural state, with his eyes put out.

For illustrating this doctrine, we shall, 1. Speak of the imprisonment in which guilty finners are.

II. Mention the bands, chains, and fetters wherewith they are bound in the prison of a natural state.

III. Point out the darkness and blindness of the prisoners in their natural state.

I. We are to consider the imprisonment in which unconverted finners are.

This prison is the natural unconverted state; and thus that word, i Pet. iii. 19. “ By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison," is by some understood. However, it is plain that: this is meant in our text. Thus Peter said to Simon the forcerer : Acts, viij. 23. “ For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Thus finners in their natural ftate, are said to be all concluded under fin, and shut up under the law, Gal. iii. 22. 23. Con. cluded or shut

up,

that is, declared to be so. Let us consider, then, the natural state as a state of

imprisonment

imprisonment. Here we shall answer the three following QUESTIONS :

1. Whose prisoners are they?

2. What are the causes of this imprisonment ? --And,

3. In what condition are natural men, as prifoners in this their natural state? We begin with,

Queft. 1. Whose prisoners are they?

(1.) Unconverted sinners are God's prisoners, as the great Judge and party whom they have offended : Rom. xi. 32. « God hath concluded them all in unbelief." There are two things in a natural state.--The sinfulness of it; they can do nothing but sin. Move they cannot without that circle, more than a prisoner out of his prison. -The misery of it. They are under the curse : Gal. iii. Ic, This last, God, as a juft Judge, inilicted on mankind for the breach of the covenant of works; and while this lies upon them, there can be no communion betwixt God and them, and consequently nothing but fin in them; and so they are all concluded under sin.

(2.) They are Satan's prisoners. He acts as the jailor, and is therefore said to have the

of death, Heb. ii. 14. Man, having freely yielded to Satan, and become his captive, was delivered up into his hand by the Judge. They are under the power of Satan, Acts, xxvi. 18. He keeps the keys of this prison, and watchfully marks his prisoners, that none of them escape. Nay, when the commandment is come, to deliver the elect out of his hand, he will not yield them up, till the prison-doors be broke open, and they are forcibly taken out of his hand. Queft. 2. What are the causes of this imprisonment ? --As to this we observe, that they are in prison,

power

sonment ?

(1.) As debtors to divine justice. Sin is a debt, and the worst of all debts; committing fin is contracting a debt, which finners are unable to pay. But it must be paid ; a satisfaction must be made to justice to the utmost farthing. As to natural men, their debt is not forgiven. All their accounts stand uncancelled. They have as yet no share in the Cautioner's payment.

Therefore they are kept in this prison justly for their debt, and they cannot escape. They were laid up there for our father Adam's debt. This debt brought all mankind into the prison, Rom. v. 12.“ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by fin; and so death patled upon all men, for that all have finned.” The covenant be. ing broken, we became liable to pay the penalty, and, being unable to relieve ourselves, were fhut up in prison under the wrath and curse of God. They are also arrested there for their own debt, contracted in their own persons. Every sinful thought, word, or action, is a new item in our accounts.

And at the instance of every broken commandment, the law arrests the natural man in the prison, clapping its curse upon the finner ; so that the longer one remains in their natural ftate, there is always the less hope of their delivery. Nay, their delivery is impossible, till the Cautioner loose all the arrests, by paying the whole debt.

(2.) They are in prison as malefactors condemn. ed in law: John, iii. 18. “ He that believeth not is condemned already. There is a sentence of death pafled upon all men in a natural ftate, they are condemned to die eternally ; and therefore are committed to the jailor, to keep them in the

prison

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