The operations of the Spirit come with pureness and pleasure: the light in the understanding diffuses itself through all the faculties. But Satan’s influence, and that of our own hearts, as there is no light in it for the understanding, so there is no purity, peace, or pleasure for the believer; but something painful and defiling. To transgress is a hard way; an unclean and troublesome way, Prov. 13, the way in which transgressors choose to walk..
The operations of the Spirit, the influence of Satan, and the motions of our own hearts, are all at times very sudden, and something surprising; but the operations of the divine Spirit, however sudden or surprising, are always calm, pure, transforming, and humbling, referring all unto the uninterrupted word. Whereas the motions of our own hearts, and Satan’s suggestions, are always attended with something or other inconsistent with, and directly opposite to these. Oh, that those who have eyes to see, would but make use of them.
John Willison (1680–1750), Scottish divine, was born in 1680 During the controversy which ended in the deposition of Ebenezer Erskine and his followers, Willison exerted himself to the utmost to prevent a schism. At the synod of Angus in 1733, he preached a sermon urging conciliatory measures, which was published under the title ‘The Church’s Danger. Willison was one of the most eminent evangelical clergymen of his time. He was remarkable for his combination of personal piety with public spirit, and, though frequently engaged in controversy, ‘there was no asperity in what he said or wrote.’ Faithful in every department of duty, he was especially noted for his diligence in catechizing the young and in visiting the sick. He died on 3 May 1750 in the seventieth year of his age and was buried in the South Church, Dundee. Wikisource
Mr Willison is described as having been most exemplary in all the relations of life, and singularly faithful and laborious in the discharge of the important duties of his sacred office, especially in visiting and comforting the sick. In this benevolent work he made no distinction between the rich and the poor, or, if he did, it was in favour of the latter. Neither did he confine his exertions in such cases to those of his own persuasion, but with a truly christian liberality of sentiment, readily obeyed the calls of all in affliction, whatever their religious creed might be, who sought his aid.
“The priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD.” (2 Chron. 29:16-17, KJV)
As we look back upon the past and forward to the future, a multitude of thoughts naturally rush upon our minds. But there is one subject that may well supersede the consideration of every other: the welfare of the church of Jesus Christ. We have seen her desolation and felt her reproach, and something must be done for her deliverance and enlargement.
Our text may give us helpful direction for the state in which we now find ourselves. When Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father, Ahaz, was not only an idolatrous king but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin.
With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased and the idols of the Gentiles exalted. Although he was but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival. He destroyed the high places, cut down the groves, and broke the graven images. He commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired. He exhorted the priests and Levites to purify the temple, to restore the morning and evening sacrifices, to reinstate the observation of the Passover, and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.
The humble man or woman of God will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates with devout admiration. As he looks back, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is as within our reach as it was within his over twenty-five hundred years ago.
The question very naturally arises: How comes it to pass that this knowledge which Divine inspiration postulates, and affirms to be innate and constitutional to the human mind, should become so vitiated? The majority of mankind are idolaters and polytheists and have been for thousands of years. Can it be that the truth that there is only one God is native to the human spirit and that the pagan “knows” this God?
And such is the human heart that all these forms of depravity were not too bad to be anticipated by the Lord, who knew the heart. He knows the virulence of the poisoned spring. The Syrian Hazael wonders that any should fancy, far less say, that he could be capable of a murderous deed; but the Lord Jehovah, looking on the unrenewed heart, forms this estimate of it, even in the case of his own Israel, viz. they might be tempted not only to adultery (ver. 20), and to present† their children to Molech, in reckless inhumanity, and perhaps in order to be quit of them (ver. 21). By all this they brought public reproach on the name of Jehovah (“profaning his name”); yet even beyond this would they go. Some might be led (ver. 22) to the grossest and most shocking lust man with man, and (ver. 23) man or woman with beasts. How awful is the Lord’s judgment of the human heart! He believes that an Israelite, though surrounded –as an Israelite, of course, was, with everything that could fence in his morality–might nevertheless have a heart so foul as to burst all bounds, and transgress all limits, and overflow all banks.
The land was to be cleared of its inhabitants, who had committed these sins. Iniquity done in its secret places was crying to God for vengeance, and the land itself was loathing the foul sins it was compelled to bear–the land itself was ” spewing out”* the people. Again we see, as at the beginning of the chapter, that these precepts have all of them a place in the conscience. The law is written on the heart even of these Canaanites, and for resisting that law they are punished.
One of two books that the wife of John Bunyan brought to their marriage given as a dowry from her father. At the time Bunyan was yet uncoverted.
After that the aged man has battled with long sickness, and having endured the brunt of pain, and now expect some ease—in comes death, nature’s slaughter-man, God’s curse, and hell’s supplier —and looks the old man grim and black in the face; and neither pitying his age, nor regarding his long-endured dolours, will not be hired to refrain either for silver or gold; nay, he will not take to spare his life, skin for skin (Job 1), and all that the old man has! But death batters all the principal parts of his body, and arrests him to appear before the dreadful Judge. And as thinking that the old man will not despatch to go with him fast enough, Lord!—how many darts of calamities does he shoot through him—pains, aches, cramps, fevers, obstructions, weak heart, shortness of breath, colic, stone, etc. Oh, what a ghastly sight it is, to see him then in his bed, when death has given him his mortal wound! What a cold sweat over-runs all his body—what a trembling possesses all his members! The head hangs limp, the face waxes pale, the nose purples, the jaw-bone hangs down, the eye-strings break, the tongue falters, the breath shortens and smells foul, and at every gasp the heart-strings are ready to break asunder!
While he is thus summoned to appear at the great assizes of God’s judgment, behold, a quartersessions and jail-delivery is held within himself; where reason sits as judge, the devil puts in a bill of indictment, wherein is alleged all your evil deeds that ever you have committed, and all the good deeds that ever you have omitted, and all the curses and judgments that are due to every sin. Your own conscience shall accuse you, and your memory shall give bitter evidence, and death stands at the bar ready, as a cruel executioner, to dispatch you.
The plague is as rampant in our streets as it is represented to be in the Proverbs. Mankind has sat for the picture: there is no mistake in the outline; there is no exaggeration in the coloring. It is a mirror held up for the world to see itself in. Dark as the lines are in which the importunate, shameless solicitations of a wanton woman are drawn on this page, they are not darker than the reality, as seen in our crowded thoroughfares by day and by night. The vulture, with unerring instinct, scents the carrion and flutters around the place where it lies until an opportunity occurs of alighting upon it and satiating her appetite on the loathsome food. The power of sin lies in its pleasure. If stolen waters were not sweet, no one would steal the waters. This is part of the mystery in which our being is involved by the fall, and it is one of the most fearful features of our case. Our appetite is diseased. If our bodily appetite were so perverted that it should crave for what is poisonous and loathe wholesome food, we would not give ourselves up to each random inclination: the risk of death would be great and valuing life, we would set a guard on the side of danger. But in man fallen there is a diseased relish for that which destroys. Sin, which is the death of a man’s soul, is yet sweet to the man’s taste.
In early 1741, McCulloch began to preach a series of sermons on the subject of spiritual regeneration, including within his addresses selected excerpts from published reports of the revival then occurring in the American colonies through the ministries of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. During this same year, in July, evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour of Scotland, ‘where he abode some time, and preached many awakening sermons in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other places’. Some members of the Cambuslang parish, including two prominent elders, Ingram, More, and Robert Bowman, were strongly impressed by the preaching of Whitefield at meetings they attended at the High churchyard in Glasgow. More and Bowman subsequently ‘went through the Parish, and procured about a hundred Subscriptions to a petition desiring the Minister [McCulloch] to preach to them every Thursday, which he, at their Request, complied with’.
About the beginning of March 1742, I came to Cambuslang & heard a minister on that text, what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world & loses his own Soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul at the hearing of which I began to turn thoughtful and concerned, about my soul & my eternal salvation, and thought that I had all along before that, lived without any thought or concern about it: And for a long time after, when I was at home, that word, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul, came every now & then into my mind, & made me look on all worldly concerns as nothing compared to soul-concerns. I came frequently to Cambuslang but nothing I heard there further touched me, till toward the End of April 1742, when hearing a minister on a Thursday preach on that text, They shall look on him whom they pierced & mourn, at which I was made to see that I had been along my life piercing and wounding Christ by my sins, and was made to weep and mourn and melt on that account.
Several of the awakened told me, that they were brought to a concern about their souls by such a reasoning as this within themselves:—These people under so much distress are far from being so great sinners as I have been and am: how stupid and hard-hearted then am I who am altogether unconcerned. And if they are afraid of the wrath of God, I have far greater reason to be so. There appeared to me nothing more unreasonable in making use of the example of the distressed, to make other secure sinners afraid of sin and the wrath of God than there is in the law
punishing crimes publicly to make others afraid to commit them. I was also convinced that it was sinful in me to wish or desire that the infinitely wise and sovereign Lord should order his own work in another way than what pleased himself. There were also some brethren who did not think the way 1 had taken, to remove the distressed, to be the best: and therefore, after some weeks’ trial, I altered it: I am now of opinion, after all, that I have seen and experienced relating to this work, that it is best to leave the distressed to their liberty, and in the congregation, if they incline, until it be dismissed. No means that Providence puts in our hands is to be omitted that hath a tendency to awaken secure sinners.
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