« AnteriorContinuar »
of the head, and regards thee as much as if thou wert his only care.
Observe, in the next place, the wisdom of his thoughts. You have a dear child absent from you, and you follow him in your mind. But you know not his present circumstances. You left him in such a place-but where is he now? You left him in such a conditionbut what is he now? Perhaps, while you are thinking of his health, he is groaning under a bruised limb, or a painful disorder. Perhaps, while you are thinking of his safety, some enemy is taking advantage of his innocency. Perhaps, while you are rejoicing in his prudence, he is going to take a step that will involve him for life. But when God thinketh upon you, he is perfectly acquainted with your situation, your dangers, your wants. "He knows all your walking through this great wilderness"-and can afford you the seasonable succour you need.-For again,
Observe the efficiency of his thoughts. You think upon another; and you are anxious to guide, or defend, or relieve him. But in how many cases can you think only! Solicitude cannot control the disease of the body; cannot dissipate the melancholy of the mind. But with God all things are possible. He who thinks upon you is a God at hand, and not afar off; he has all events under his control; he is the God of all grace. If, therefore, he does not immediately deliver, it is not because he is unable to redress, but because he is waiting to be gracious. "The Lord is a God of judgment, and blessed are all they that wait for him."- -Let us conclude.
Here we see how it is that the believer stands while others sink. He has supports peculiar to himself; and when creatures frown or fail, he encourages himself in the Lord his God."Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
Is this your portion? How anxious are men to gain the notice of their fellow-creatures, especially if they are a little raised above themselves in condition! 66 Many will. entreat the favour of the prince, and every one is a friend to him that giveth gifts." But in this case you are never sure you shall succeed; and you have gained nothing if you do. Whereas here-the success is sure, and the success is-every thing. Pray therefore, with Nehemiah, "Think upon me, O my 2 Y 30*
God, for good. Seek the Lord, and ye shall live."
O believer! If God thinks upon you, ought you not to think upon him? David did. "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God? how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake I am still with thee." If he minds your affairs-Be not you forgetful of his. Ever ask, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Ever cry, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE.
In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.-Zech. xiii. 1.
THERE are many curious things in nature; and there are things useful and necessary. But we have things, shall I say, of the same kind, in the world of grace, far superior; and superior, because they regard the soul and eternity. How is the rising of the orb of day surpassed by "the Sun of righteousness, who arises with healing under his wings!" How are the meekness of the lily, and the fragrance of the rose, excelled by "the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley!" It is pleasing to behold a number of trees adorned with blossoms, or bending with fruit--but we have in the Church "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." It is delightful to view a river refreshing and fertilizing the meadows through which it murmurs-but we read of "the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." There are fountains. We hear of remarkable ones abroad. We have some very valuable ones in our own country. One of these bubbles up in the place of our residence; and to which multitudes repair for relief. But I have to invite your attention this evening to a fountain infinitely more wonderful and efficacious, and of which Zechariah speaks, in the words which I have read: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
For, my brethren, to what can he refer, but the exclamation of John, the forerunner of the Messiah-" Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" Nothing less will be found sufficient to justify, or imbody the language. Even allowing that Zechariah had not the same distinct and explicit views of the Saviour that we have who possess the explanations of the New Testament writers; it does not follow that this was not his object; for we know that the prophets often delivered predictions which they did not completely understand;
and therefore studied them after they had announced them: "searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before-dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: and of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."
hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
I am not unmindful of the day* which has assembled us together; but my choice of a subject shows that I consider it of little importance, to dwell upon the crucifixion of Christ, as a wonderful, or a tragical scene. I am aware that such a pathetical representation might be given of the history as would draw tears from every eye-while the mind remained uninformed of, and the heart unaffected with, the nature and design of the The grand thing is, to know why the dispensation was necessary; and, realizing its accomplishment in ourselves, to be able to say, "He was wounded for our trans
gressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
I have two things in view.-I. TO EXPLAIN THE PROMISE.-II. TO IMPROVE THE
and yet undiminished. He is in himself an infinite and everlasting source of all the influences and blessings we need: "In him
Secondly. This fountain was to be opened. If a fountain was shut up, and sealed, though the contents would be equally precious in themselves, they would be useless to us; yea, they would only provoke our desire, to torment us. And what would the Saviour's excellences and benefits be to us, if unattainable and inaccessible? But they are placed within our view, and within our reach. This fountain was actually opened in his sufferings. His blood flowed in the garden, and upon the cross. His back was wounded by the scourge; his temples with the crown of thorns; his hands and his feet with the nails; his side with the spear. Then was the fountain opened; and one, hard by, beheld it—
"The dying thief rejoiced to see
And oh that each of us, with humility and confidence, may be able to add;
"And there have I, as vile as he,
TRUTH IT CONTAINS.
I. IN THE EXPLANATION OF THE PROMISE, three things are observable. The fountainthe opening-and the end.
The apostles laid it open doctrinally, in their preaching. Paul could appeal to the Corinthians, and say; "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And referring both to the subject of his preaching, and the plain and lively manner in which he had delivered it, he could say to the Galatians, "Before your eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you."
It was, unquestionably, open, when the apostles wrote their epistles; for thousands were rejoicing in the efficacy of this fountain, and could say, "We are come to the blood of sprinkling-We are redeemed with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin!"-And is it closed since No: it stands open now-open, in the means of grace
First. The fountain. This image holds forth the Redeemer. In distinction from creatures, which "are cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," he may well call himself the fountain of living waters." The Jews were accustomed, on the last, which was called the great day of the feast, to fetch water from the pool of Siloam, singing the words of Isaiah, "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." On that very occasion, we find our Saviour preaching; and he takes advantage of the ceremony to proclaim himself to the multitude as the true source of blessedness: "In-open, in the invitations of the Word— the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus open, in the nearness, the power, and the stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let grace of the Saviour-how open while he him come unto me, and drink. He that be- says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no lieveth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out wise cast out!" of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." To the woman of Samaria he had said before, "The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."-He shall possess a plenitude himself: but the fulness of the Christian is limited; is derived; is the fulness of a vessel. This vessel is supplied from the fulness of a fountain-and this fountain is the Lord Jesus. His fulness is original and boundless. It is the fulness of a spring; always flowing, * Good Friday.
Thirdly. This fountain is "opened for sin and for uncleanness." There had been provisions for ceremonial pollution, under the Mosaical economy. There was the brazen sea, fifty feet in circumference, and ten in depth; in which the priests were to wash their hands and feet. There were also ten lavers, in which the things offered in sacrifice were washed, and whence the water was taken to sprinkle the offerers. There were also fountains for bodily diseases-the pool of Siloam to which our Saviour sent the man
born blind; and the pool of Bethesda, where | And as things strike us most forcibly by conlay a great number of sufferers, waiting for trast, the more he is enlightened to see the the troubling of the waters. These probably purity and glory of God; and especially his had a preternatural quality imparted to them, grace and love in the person, work, and sufabout this period, to rouse the mind to expect- ferings of his dear Son; instead of being reation, and to prepare it to contemplate the ap- conciled to himself, the more will he feel of proaching Recoverer of the human race. He the temper of Job, who exclaimed, “Behold, differed from all these, as a fountain for moral I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? whereand spiritual defilement—“for sin and for un- fore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and cleanness." ashes."
And sin is uncleanness. Its very nature is contamination. The moment it touched a number of angels in heaven, it turned them into devils, and expelled them from their first estate. It is so contagious, that it infects every thing in contact with it, so that, as the house of the leper was to be taken down because of the inhabitant, "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up"-not because they are guilty; but because they have been the witnesses, the instruments, the abodes of sin.
Sin is a pollution the most deep and diffusive: it stops not at the surface, but penetrates the inner man of the heart; it spreads through every power, from the highest intellectual faculty, down to the lowest animal appetite. If any part were left uninjured, it would seem to be the conscience-but no; the very conscience itself is defiled: and nothing has been too vile to be perpetrated under its permission, and in obedience to its dictates. It is a pollution the most horrible and dangerous, as it disfigures us before God; and renders us odious in his sight. And nothing else does this. Poverty does not; meanness does not; disease does not-Lazarus full of sores, begging at the rich man's gate, and Job, covered with biles, among the ashes, were dear to God, and lay in his bosom. But sin is the abominable thing which his soul hates. Men often roll it, as a sweet morsel, under their tongue; but it is more poisonous than the gall of asps. They think lightly of it; but can that be a trifling thing which causes God to hate the very work of his own hands-"my soul loathed them!"-and induce the very "Father of mercies" to say at last, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Have you, my hearers, such views of sin? Does it appear to you, as it does to the Judge of all, exceeding sinful?
Such is certainly the sentiment of every man who is "convinced of sin." The Holy Spirit leads him to see, not only its guilt, but its defilement; and while the one excites his fear, the other calls forth his aversion. Selfcomplacency is then ruined for ever. He no longer wonders that he stands excluded, in his present state, from the presence of a holy God. He feels that he deserves to perish and cries with the leper, "Unclean, unclean."
But there is a fountain that washes out even the stains of the soul-and of sin! And it was opened for this very purpose: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness." And I proceed,
II. TO IMPROVE THE TRUTH CONTAINED IN THE PROMISE. And should I dwell longer on this part of our subject than on the former, it will not appear wonderful to those who reflect, how much more ready people are to hear than to apply; and how seldom practice keeps pace with speculation. In order to commend myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God, I arrange the assembly in five classes; each of which has a relation to the truth before us. The first are ignorant. The second presumptuous. The third selfrighteous. The fourth the fearful. The fifth the believing.
First. The ignorant. The Apostle speaks of some who cried, Peace, peace, while sudden destruction was coming upon them-such a difference is there between confidence and security. Our Lord tells us of some who are "whole, and need not the physician"- -so necessary is a conviction of our spiritual state to excite a proper regard to the Saviour. And, to vary the metaphor, some are not defiled, and need not this fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. We do not mean that there are any really in this condition, and the reason is involved in the inquiry, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" It is a law pervading all nature, that “like begets like." A viper brings forth a poisonous brood. Swine produce something that loves the mire. The skin of an Ethiopian will be black. What but depraved offspring can descend from sinful parents? Therefore, says Job, "What is man, that he should be clean, or he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous!" The Scripture assures us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It teaches us, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." It assures us that it is not the life which defiles the heart; but the heart the life: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” It requires no less than a change of nature, to show that our nature is depraved; and it re
quires this change in every man, to show that this depravity is universal.
Yet there are those who deny this mortifying fact; and though they live in a land of vision, are so unacquainted with the Bible, and ignorant of themselves, as to imagine that they are pure. "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness." We may conclude the reception our subject will meet with from you. You cannot understand it, because you know nothing of the state to which it refers; and you cannot value it, because you feel nothing that can render it interesting. The whole system of the Gospel is founded in the fact of our guilt and depravity; and till a man is convinced of this, he will be like the deaf adder, that stoppeth his ear against the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. Pardon offered to the innocent will be deemed an insult. Alms presented to the affluent will be rejected with disdain. O what a mercy, to feel our need of mercy!-Beg of God to open the eyes of your understanding, and lead you into an acquaintance with yourselves; that, seeing what you are, and feeling what you deserve, and what you need, you may be prepared to welcome the glad tidings of salvation, and deem it a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that, There is " a fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness."
Were we even pardoned for contracting the disease, yet, while it continues uncured, we can have no ease within. If we entered heaven with an unsanctified disposition, we should be incapable of relishing its enjoyments. A title to glory can never give us a meetness for it. Wherever we carry sin in us, we carry hell with us. The Lord Jesus is a Saviour, because he "saves his people from their sins."-" He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Beware of deceiv ing yourselves. To be washed in this fountain, is the one thing needful. "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Thirdly. The self-righteous. I mean those who hope to cleanse themselves in some other way than by this fountain. Some would wash away their sins by the tears of repentance. Some would cover them by charity: for "charity" (by the mistake of a passage of Scripture) "covers a multitude of sins" Some would pay off the old score by ceremo nial and superstitious observances-And here, what an article could religious folly furnish! What is there to which men have not had recourse while asking, "How shall I come before the Lord, or bow before the high God!"
Even when people are in a measure awakened, and begin to feel their need of salvation, it cannot but be remarked, how inclined they Secondly. The presumptuous. Antino- are to some plan, some services, some sacrimian perversion is far worse than mere ig- fice, of their own. The simple provision of norance of the Gospel. We should be cau- God offends them; and they resemble Naatious in applying hard names; but the man. Naaman was a leper. He had come Scripture makes no scruple to call those "un- with a splendid train; and more full of pride godly men, that turn the grace of our Lord than of disease, he stood, with his horses and God into lasciviousness." And yet there are his chariot, at the door of the house of Elisha. men, whose very religion leaves them per- Hence, when Elisha sent a messenger unto sonally unchanged: who dream of mercy him, saying, “Go and wash in Jordan seven while they live in sin; and claim eternal times, and thy flesh shall come again unto life without "the washing of regeneration, thee, and thou shalt be clean, Naaman was and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." But wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I there is no salvation without cleansing: "He thought, He will surely come out to me, and that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, stand, and call on the name of the Lord his even as he is pure." For sin separates be- God, and strike his hand over the place, and tween God and the soul; and that wall of di- recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharvision must be removed before we can meet. par, rivers of Damascus, better than all the There must be agreement before there can waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be intimacy. "How can two walk together, be clean! So he turned, and went away in except they be agreed? What fellowship a rage." And would have remained a leper hath righteousness with unrighteousness? had not the servants been wiser than the And what communion hath light with dark- master. Here was his error. He came for ness? And what agreement hath the tem- a cure, and it was, therefore, for him not to ple of God with idols? for ye are the temple prescribe, but to submit. So it should be with of the living God; as God hath said, I will you. You are not to go about to establish dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will your own righteousness, but to submit yourbe their God, and they shall be my people. selves to the righteousness which is of God. Wherefore come out from among them, and You are not to reason and speculate; but folbe ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not low the Divine will. You are lost, and ready the unclean thing; and I will receive you, to perish. The Gospel reveals a method of and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall salvation, and you should cheerfully and be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Al- thankfully bow to it-you should implicitly mighty." acquiesce in it; remembering that you have
no claims on the sovereign Donor; and that the plan is the effect of his wisdom, as well as of his goodness.
And would he, at an infinite expense, have provided, and made known, this way of salvation, if any other had been sufficient? Would he have called the attention of the universe to the opening of this Fountain, for the ablution of souls, had other streams been available? Our having recourse, therefore, to any other plan of salvation, is not only useless, and sure to end in disappointment; but it is criminal. There is nothing than can render us more guilty before God. It is disobedience; it is opposition. It robs him of his peculiar glory. It degrades his understanding, as well as detracts from his mercy. It "frustrates the grace of God, and makes Jesus Christ to be dead in vain."
Fourthly. The fearful. It is no easy thing to satisfy the conscience of awakened sinners they need strong consolation who are "fleeing for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them."-And is it not provided? Wherefore do you doubt? We acknowledge the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin. Neither could blood merely human. But the blood of which we speak is the blood of a Divine Sufferer; and we know the all-sufficiency of it, because it has been accepted by Him who required it on our behalf. And if He has heard the voice of the blood of sprinkling, and is satisfied; if his law is magnified and made honourable; and he can be faithful and just, as well as merciful and gracious, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousnesswe may well believe-and enter into rest.
But you say, it is not the efficiency of the Fountain you question. What then? Why, whether I have liberty to make use of it? Let us examine this case. And for whom is this Fountain opened? The innocent and the clean? No-It is opened "for sin and uncleanness." Guilt, therefore, constitutes no exclusion. We are told, he "came into the world to save sinners;" and that "he died for the ungodly." As I can only at first apply to him in the character of a sinner, it is obvious, that the warrant which authorizes me to apply must be addressed indiscriminately to all sinners. And so it is. All who have the Gospel have such a warrant warrant that will not only justify any man from presumption who acts upon it, but will be sure to condemn all those who do not. Come, therefore, come, whoever you are.
I know that such language has been deemed altogether exceptionable; as if we encouraged sin, while we only encourage the sinner. And how are we to encourage a sinner? Is it by requiring of him, as the ground of his hope, conditions which he cannot perform? Or is it by keeping him back from Christ, while waiting for qualifications which he can never derive from himself? Are men to be warmed before they go to the fire, to entitle them to the heat, and to prepare them for it? Are patients to be recovered, or, at least, considerably mended, before they apply to the physician? The sick and the dying are his charge. Do not wait, therefore, for qualifications to recommend you-We do need a mediator between God and us, but not between us and Christ. What said Paul and Silas at once to the jailer's question? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
"This Fountain unsealed
Who long to be healed
The great and the small."
"This Fountain, though rich,
The welcomer here."
"Let not conscience make you linger,
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him."
Finally. There is one class more who have a relation to our subject; and it consists of those who by faith have applied to this Saviour: and who know, by experience, that there is indeed a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. You are witnesses. You can vouch that it is accessible and free. Were you refused? Were you required to wait? Was your claim questioned? Rather, were you not welcomed with a smile, which showed, that the backwardness had only been on your side; and with a voice, that kindly anticipated your approach, and said, "Wilt thou be made whole?"
When persons, labouring under a malady, have found relief, a grateful disposition leads them, as opportunity offers, to commend the physician; while a benevolent feeling urges them to recommend his remedy to others, who are suffering under the same complaint. "Praise ye the Lord. Declare his doings among the people. Make mention that his Name is exalted." Go, and divulge-not
But I have nothing to pay. And you need only what you have read and heard, but
what you have known and felt. Are there not thousands perishing around you? And are they not your brethren; bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh? What was
You can vouch for its efficacy too. You know that it can relieve a troubled mind; that it can heal the broken in heart, and bind up all their wounds. You know that, while it deeply humbles before God, it can inspire a holy freedom: for you "have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him." You know that, while it renders the curse harmless, it makes sin odious; and not only tranquillizes, but "purifies the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God."