Brethren, I believe that most of those in this congregation who will finally perish, their destruction will be sudden. It is written, ‘And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares’
I believe, again, it is so with all you who die without finding Christ, you will perish suddenly. ‘Upon the wicked, he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup.’
As the mind is hereby fixed on the consideration of sin, so a sense of sin must also be fixed on the mind, — that is the conscience and affections. A bare contemplation of the concernments of sin is of little use in this matter. The Scripture principally evidences this work of conviction, or placeth it in this effect of a sense of sin, in trouble, sorrow, disquietment of mind, fear of ruin, and the like: see Acts ii. 37
The mind of man, in the state of childhood and youth, puts itself forth in all kinds of vain actings, in foolish imaginations, perverse and froward appetites, falseness in words, with sensible effects of corrupt inclinations in every kind. Austin’s first book of Confessions is an excellent comment on that text, wherein the “vanity of childhood and youth” are graphically described, with pathetical self-reflecting complaints concerning the guilt of sin which is contracted in them. Some, perhaps, may think light of those ways of folly and vanity wherein childhood doth, or left alone would, consume itself; — that there is no moral evil in those childish innocencies.
How may a person distinguish between the genuine consolations of the Gospel, wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God, and those comforts that spring from our own imagination or a delusive spirit?
Even in a true believer, I question not but comforts may spring from his own imagination or a delusive spirit. The comforts will not fail to produce corrupt fruit. Instead of melting, it will harden the heart, filling it with pride and vanity, not with humility and gravity. They will cause the wheel of obedience to run heavily, whether it respects private devotion or public worship; the general conduct also will be more lax and careless, for the “conversation” will not be more “in heaven.” The person will be more prompted to an offensive and sinful self-seeking, than to a savory and holy self-denial. He will be carried away more by sense than by faith, and in many parts of his conduct he will imitate an unbeliever, rather than bear the image of his holy Redeemer.
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.
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