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This indeed is a strong hold, an impregnable defence to all who flee to it for refuge: It is “an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." Here an effectual supply is to be found for all the singer's wants and necessities; an infinite sacrifice to expiate his guilt; all.conquering grace to subdue his corruptions; unerring wisdom to guide him; irresistible power to protect him; unbounded goodness to relieve his present needs, and to crown him with glory and happiness hereafter. In short, “ the whole fulness of the Godhead" is treasured up in the Mediator of this covenant; and “he is made of God," unto all who believe on him, “ wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption."
But instead of enlarging upon the description of this strong hold, I reckon it of greater importance to explain the advice here given to the prisoners of hope, which is the proper work and duty of the day: Turn ye to the strong hold. But how are we to do this?
1st. We must turn our back upon every thing else, and abandon all other means of deliverance as refuges of lies, which will miserably disappoint those who expect relief from them. Particularly we must renounce our own righteousness, and plead guilty in the presence of a holy God, acknowledging, that we must stand justly condemned by the tenor of the first covenant, and are neither able of ourselves to give any satisfaction for past offences, nor to yield an acceptable obedience for the future. “ They that be whole," said our blessed Saviour,“ need no physician, but they that are sick.” The natural pride of our hearts opposeth our seeking aid from any thing without ourselves; nay, such is our disaffection to the great God, that even when aid appears necessary, we would rather be indebted for it to any other than to him. I believe I may venture to affirm, that
the gospel-sanctuary is always the sinner's last resort; and it is not till we are “shut up unto the faith,” as the Apostle expresseth it, that is, hedged in on every side by an absolute despair of relief from any creature, that we come to think in good earnest of seeking it from Cbrist. This then is the first thing implied in turning to the strong hold, that we turn our back upon every thing else. It further imports, in the
2d place, That we turn our eyes to this strong hold, and narrowly examine the security it affords.
The true flight of a soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, is not a rash and precipitate adventure, but the result of serious and mature deliberation : it is not curiosity, but pressing necessity, that sets the soul in motion. The awakened sinner sees the avenger of blood ready to seize upon him; and hearing of a strong hold, erected by infinite wisdom and grace, for the protection and safety of persons in his situation, he anxiously inquires into the truth of this report, and useth every means in his power to get certain information of it.
This, my brethren, is an essential part of the duty here enjoined. I cannot tell you of what importance it is to get clear and distinct apprehensions of the gospelcovenant, that strong hold pointed out to us in my text.
We should not only endeavour to know what we are allowed to expect from it, but likewise to see the firmness of that foundation upon which our faith and hope must stand. A wavering hope may balance a wavering apprehension of danger, but will not answer the necessities of an awakened sinner. But when we come to see that this strong hold is built upon the Rock of ages, and supported by pillars of invincible strength, even all the perfections of an unchangeable God; or, to drop the allusion, when we see that this covenant, which promises
every blessing we need, is a sure, a permanent, and irrevocable deed, confirmed by the oath of the great I AM, and sealed with the blood of his own dear Son, “ in whom all the promises are yea and amen:" here the soul finds something to lean upon; its anxious fears begin to vanish; it now knows with certainty where relief is to be found.
Having thus discovered the stability of the covenant, and that it is in all respects such a strong hold as we need, the
3d and principal thing required is, That we actually flee to it, and improve it for all the purposes for which it was intended.
The two former advices I gave you, were only preparatory to this last and most important step, which is the sum and substance of the duty here enjoined, Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.
You who are lying in the prisou of an unconverted state, come hither to this sanctuary, whose gates stand open to receive you: “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners:" He hath shed that blood wbich 6 cleanseth from all sin," and hath sealed that gracious and well-ordered covenant, which offers pardon and eternal life to every penitent, believing sinner. And now “ all things are ready" for your reception and entertainment: The Father is ready to embrace you; Christ is ready to wash you in his blood; the Spirit is ready to heal your diseased natures; angels are ready to rejoice at your return; and we, as the servants of this King of Zion, are ready to welcome you into the family of God, and do now exhort and pray you, in Christ's stead, to flee for refuge, “ to lay hold on the hope set
before you." This is the call of my text to unconverted sinners.
As to the other prisoners of hope I spoke of, who, though they are rescued from the pit wherein is no water, yet find their souls cast down within them, and, by reason of various discouragements, cannot enjoy “the liberty wherewith Christ hath set them free."
The call to you is, Turn again to the strong hold, and once more look to “ the Rock that is higher than you. The Redeemer, in whom you trust, is mighty to save; "all power is committed to bim in heaven and in earth;" and he is constituted “head over all things for his chureh.” “ It hath pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell;" and the whole fulness of the Godhead is treasured up in him, for this very end, that he may dispense to his people such gracious supplies as their various cases and circumstances may require. You are not straitened in him, be not "straitened in your own bowels."
Might I stay to examine your particular complaints, I believe I could show you that there is something in the covenant to answer them all. He who brought you out of the pit of an uncouverted state, can easily deliver you from every other prison. What furnace can consame those who are sprinkled with that blood which hath already quenched the fire of incensed justice? He who “ bore your sins in his own body upon the tree,” will not suffer you to sink under the weight of them: He
suffered, being tempted,” will certainly succour you who are tempted: He who, under the hidings of his Father's face, cried out upon the cross, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" cannot fail to sympathize with bis people in the like circumstances, and he whose own “soul was exceeding sorrowful,
even unto death,” will, in due time, communicate that joy to you, the want of which was so painful to himself. If Christ is indeed precious in your esteem; if you can say, without known guile, that your whole dependance is upon bim, and him alone; then know, that he is equal to all the trust you can put in him, and he is faithful who hath said, Even to-day do I declare, that I will render double unto thee. And this is the
Third and last branch of the text. Upon which I shall offer a very few remarks, and then conclude.
1st. I would observe, that the promise itself is most gracious, I will render double unto thee. We meet with the same expression, (Isaiah Ixi. 7.) where I think the meaning of it is plainly ascertained : “For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy sball be unto them." The chapter is introduced with that grand description of the Messiah's office, which I formerly quoted : “ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” &c. The redemption of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and their return to their own land, appear from the sequel of the chapter to have been the events which the Prophet had more immediately in his eye. But we shall not be able to doubt that he looked a great deal farther, even to that spiritual redemption which Christ was to achieve for his church, if we turn over to the 4th chapter of Luke, 21st verse, where our blessed Lord, after reading this passage in the synagogue at Nazareth, made particular application of it to himself, in these remarkable words: “ This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." Hence it is obvious, that what the Prophet says in the 7th verse, viz. for your shame ye shall have double," &c. falls to be understood in a spiritual sense too; and