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dead soul. But suppose we should leave as many hodies here behind us as there are dead souls among us; suppose every sinner destitute of spiritual life should now be struck dead before us, O how would this floor be overlaid with dead corpses ! How few of us would escape! What bitter lamentations and tears would be among us! One would lose a husband or a wife, another a friend or a neighbor. And have we hearts to mourn, and tears to shed over such an event as this, and have we no compassion for dead souls? Is there none to mourn over them? Sinners, if you will still continue dead, there are some here to-day who part with you with this wish, O that my head were waters, and mine eyes fountains of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. And O that our mournings may reach the Lord of life, and that you might be quickened from your death in trespasses and sins! Amen and Amen.
POOR AND CONTRITE SPIRITS THE
Isaiah lxvi. 2.- To this man will I look ; even to him that
is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
As we consist of animal bodies as well as immortal souls, and are endowed with corporeal senses as well as rational powers, God, who has wisely adapted our religion to our make, requires bodily as well as spiritual worship; and commands us not only to exercise the inward powers of our minds in proper acts of devotion, but also to express our inward 'devotion by suitable ex ternal actions, and to attend upon him in the sensible outward ordinances which he has appointed. Thus it is under the gospel; but it was more remarkably so under the law, which, compared with the pure and spiritual worship of the gospel, was a system of carnal ordinances, and required a great deal of external pomp and grandeur, and bodily services. Thus a costly and mag. nificent structure was erected, by divine direction, in the wilderness, called the tabernacle, because built in the form of a tent, and moveable from place to place; and afterwards a most stately temple was built by Solomon, with immense cost, where the divine worship should be statedly celebrated, and where all the males of Israel should solemnly meet for that purpose three times in a
These externals were not intended to exclude the internal worship of the spirit, but to express and assist it. And these cermonials were not to be put into the place of morals, but observed as helps to the practice of them, and to prefigure the great Messiah: Even under the Mosaic dispensation, God had the greatest regard holiness of heart and a good life; and the strictest observer of ceremonies could not be accepted without them.
But it is natural to degenerate mankind to invert the order of things, to place a part, the easiest and meanest part of religion, for the whole of it, to rest in the externals of religion as sufficient, without regarding the heart, and to depend upon pharisaical strictness in ceremonial observances, as an excuse or atonement for neglecting the weighter matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
This was the unhappy error of the Jews in Isaiah's time ; and this the Lord would correct in the first verses of this chapter.
The Jews gloried in their having the house of God among them, and were ever trusting in vain words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these. Jer. vii. 4. They filled his altars with costly sacrifices; and in these they trusted to make atonement for sin, and secure the divine favor.
As to their sacrifices God lets them know, that while they had no regard to their morals, but chose their own ways, and their souls delighted in their abominations, while they presented them in a formal manner, without
the fire of divine love, their sacrifices were so far from procuring his acceptance, that they were odious to him. He abhors their most expensive offerings as abominable and profane. He that killeth an or for sacrifice is as far from being accepted as if he unjustly slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck, &c. Isaiah lxvi. 3.
To remove this superstitious confidence in the temple, the Lord informs them that he had no need of it ; that, large and magnificent as it was, it was not fit to contain him; and that, in consecrating it to him, they should not proudly think that they had given him anything to which he had no prior right. “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, where I reign conspicuous in the visible majesty and grandeur of a God; and though the earth is not adorned with such illustrious displays of my immediate presence, though it does not shine in all the glory of my royal palace on high, yet it is a little province in my immense empire, and subject to my authority; it is my footstool. If, then, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool ; if the whole creation is my kingdom, where is the house that ye build unto me? where is your temple which appears so stately in your eyes ? it is vanished, it is sunk into nothing. Is it able to contain that infinite Being to whom the whole earth is but an humble footstool, and the vast heaven but a throne? Can you vainly imagine that my presence can be confined to you in the narrow bounds of a temple, when the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain me? Where is the place of my rest ? can you provide a place for my repose, as though I were weary? or can my presence be restrained to one place, incapable of acting beyond the prescribed limits? No; infinite space only can equal my being and perfections; infinite space only is a sufficient sphere for my operations.
“Can you imagine you can bribe my favor, and give me something I had no right to before, by all the stately buildings you can rear to my name ? Is not universal nature mine? For all these things hath mine hand made out of nothing, and all these things have been or still subsist by the support of my all-preserving hand, and what right can be more valid and inalienable than that founded
upon creation? Your silver and gold are mine, and mine the cattle upon a thousand hills ; and therefore of mine own do you give me, saith the Lord.”
These are such majestic strains of language as are worthy a God. Thus it becomes him to advance himself above the whole creation, and to assert his absolute property in, and independency upon, the universe.
Had he only turned to us the bright side of his throne, that dazzles us with insufferable splendor ; had he only displayed his majesty unallayed with grace and condescension in such language as this, it would have overwhelmed us, and cast us into the most abject despondency, as the outcasts of his providence, beneath his notice. We might fear he would overlook us with majestic disdain, or careless neglect, like the little things that are called great by mortals, or as the busy emmets of our species are apt to do. In the hurry of business they are liable to neglect, and in the power of pride and grandeur to overlook or disdain their dependents. We should be ready, in hopeless anxiety, to say, “Is all this earth which to us appears so vast, and which is parceled into a thousand mighty kingdoms, as we call them, is it all but the humble footstool of God ? hardly worthy to bear his feet? What then am I ? an atom of an atom-world, a trifling individual of a trifling race. Can I expect he will take any notice of such an insignificant thing as I ? The vast aflăirs of heaven and earth lie upon his head, and he is employed in the concerns of the wide universe, and can he find leisure to concern him. self with me, and my little interests? Will a king, deliberating upon
the concerns of nations, interest himself in favor of the worm that crawls at his footstool ? If the magnificent temple of Solomon was unworthy of the divine inhabitant, will he admit me into his presence, and give me audience ? how can I expect it? It seems daring and presumptuous to hope for such condescension. And shall I then despair of the gracious regard of my Maker ?"
No, desponding creature ! mean and unworthy as thou art, hear the voice of divine condescension, as well as of majesty: To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word. Though God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, though he pours contempt upon princes, and scorns
them in all their haughty glory and affected majesty, yet there are persons whom his gracious eye will regard. The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, and dwelleth in the high and holy place, he will look down through all the shining ranks of angels upon—whom? Not on the proud, the haughty and presumptuous, but upon him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word. To this man will he look from the throne of his majesty, however low, however mean he may be. This man is an object that can, as it were, attract his eyes from all the glories of the heavenly world, so as to regard an humble, self-abasing worm. This man can never be lost or overlooked among the multitudes of creatures, but the eyes of the Lord will discover him in the greatest crowd, his eyes will graciously fix upon this man, this particular man, though there were but one such in the compass of the creation, or though he were banished into the remotest corner of the universe, like a diamond in a heap of rubbish, or at the bottom of the ocean.
Do you hear this, you that are poor and contrite in spirit, and that tremble at his word ? ye that, above all others, are most apt to fear you shall be disregarded by him, because you, of all others, are most deeply sensible how unworthy you are of his gracious notice: God, the great, the glorious, the terrible God, looks down upon you with eyes of love, and by so much the more affectionately, by how much the lower you are in your own esteem. Does not your heart spring within you at the sound? Are you not lost in pleasing wonder and gratitude, and crying out, “ Can it be? can it be? is it indeed possible ? is it true ?" Yes, you have his own word for it, and do you not think it too good news to be true, but believe, and rejoice, and give glory to his name; and fear not what men or devils can do unto you.
This, my brethren, is a matter of universal concern. It is the interest of each of us to know whether we are thus graciously regarded by that God on whom our very being and all our happiness entirely depend. And how shall we know this? In no other way than by discovering whether we have the characters of that happy man to whom he condescends to look. These are not pomp