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boldness to enter into the holiest, is the blood of Emanuel, the Word made flesh, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that is made. A proper attention to this, will shew both the meaning and propriety of the Apostle's direction to serve God with reverence and godly fear; not the tormenting fear which cherisheth that enmity against God, where. by the carnal mind is characterised; but that filial rever. ence which flows from a supreme love to God, as a reconciled father, and desire to please him, which consists in a holy jealousy of ourselves, an abhorrence of every thing that is offensive to God, and produceth a carefulness to avoid every temptation to sin, and to shun not only the forbidden, but even the doubtful ground, ac. cording to that just description which is given of it, (Prov. viii. 12.) “ The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” And the genuine effects of this fear are fully expressed in those advices of the Wise Man, which are recorded, (chap. iv. at the close) “ Keep thy heart with all diligence—Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left; remove thy feet from evil." Such is the reverence and godly fear with which we are directed to serve the Lord.
Let us now briefly consider the arguments with wbich the exhortation is enforced; and these are twoThe one respecting the matter of duty in general-And the other, the manner in which the service that is due to God ought to be performed.
1st. We are exhorted to serve God, in testimony of our gratitude for the inestimable benefits his grace bath conferred upon us. This argument is plainly addressed to believers in Christ, wbo have received that kingdom
which cannot be moved. The Apostle doth not say, Let us serve God that we may obtain a kingdom; but, having received it as the free gift of God, through faith in his Son, who purchased it with his blood, let us express our thankfulness, by devoting ourselves, and all that we have, or can do, to his service. This is the plain and obvious meaning of the Apostle's argument; and in order to make this passage of Scripture speak the language of that scheme of religion which is too current in the world, the words of it would need to be transposed and varied in some such manner as this:
Prompted by self-love, and the tormenting fear of fu. ture punishment, let us resolve in our minds, for we neither need nor expect supernatural grace, that henceforth we will serve God, as well as the world and the flesh will permit, that so we may escape damnation, and procure a title to, or at least the probable chance of a kingdom, which, after all, may not only be moved, but so agitated and shaken, that without a vigorous exertion of the powers we possess, we ourselves may be tossed out of it, and fall into perdition. Thus ridiculous are the best efforts of human wisdom, to corrupt the plain meaning of Scripture language, and to accommodate the constitution of gospel grace to that pride and self-idolatry, which, ever since the apostacy, reign in the heart of every natural man.
Whereas the gospel of Christ binds us to duty by the cords of love; and while it presseth holy diligence and activity in the service of God, by the most persuasive arguments, it animates us, at the same time, with the most comfortable assurance that our labour sball not be in vain in the Lord. Help is laid for us upon one who is mighty, even that good Shepherd wbo laid down his life for the sheep, who gathers the lambs in his bosom,
and gently leads those that are with young. Therefore they shall never perish, because none are able to pluck them out of his hand. He gives unto them eternal life, and they enter upon the possession of it at their new birth, when, by believing on his name, the power, or ra. ther the privilege is given them, to become the sons of God. His grace is sufficient for them at all times, and in every situation. He is gone to his Father's house to pre. pare a place for them; and he will come again and receive them to himself, that where he is, there they may be also, to behold that glory which his Father bath giv. en him. “Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
2d. The argument, which respects the manner of our service, is contained in these words, “For our God is a consuming fire.” This, at first sight, does not seem to accord with the other argument, which is addressed to the ingenuity and gratitude of a renewed heart; but appears rather adapted to the spirit of bondage, thau to that spirit of adoption which believers in Christ receive, whereby they are disposed and enabled to call God Fa. ther. But I shall direct you to two passages of Scripture, which, I apprebend, will remove this difficulty, and lead us to the true meaning and intent of the Apostle's argument.
One is, Isaiah xxxi. 9. where it is said, as a ground of fear to the enemies of Zion, and consequently as a ground of encouragement to her children, that “the Lord hath his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem."
The other is Mal. iii. 2. where the Messenger of the Covenant and King of Zion is compared to a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap. “He shall sit as a refiner and
purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." In this sense, he is a consuming fire to the godly; he refines them by consuming their dross. This view of God in. deed is terrible to the wicked, who are all dross; but it hath another aspect to the godly, who are made partakers of the divine nature. The fire that burns up the enemies of God altogether, shall only consume the dross that still cleaves to them, and from which they will never be wholly separated, till death dissolve their earthly tabernacles. Nerertheless, this is urged, with great propriety, as an argument for serving God with reverence and godly fear; for the means of purifying may be very painful in the mean time, and as it is written, (Psalm xcix. 8.) “ Though he forgives their sins, yet he will take vengeance of their inventions. The children of God may be assured of it, that the rod shall not be withheld—their own backslidings shall be made to reprove them; " for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” And therefore they should serve God with reverence, that a moderate furnace may suffice to purge away their dross, and that it may not become necessary that God, for their correction, should wound their hearts in the tenderest part, by taking from them their dearest earthly comforts, or withdrawing the light of his countenance utterly from them. “ Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace wbereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”
Preached on a Public Fast-Day, in the time of the American
ISAIAH xxii. 12-14.
And in that day did the LORD OF Hosts call to weep
ing, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth ; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine ; let us eat and drink, for to-morrono we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD OF Hosts.
is introduced with a loud and pressing call to repentance. It describes the contemptuous behaviour of the people to whom the call was addressed; and concludes with an alarming denunciation of wrath against those perverse and obstinate transgressors.
Each of these particulars I shall briefly illustrate, and then point out our immediate concern in the subject, and the practical improvement we all ought to make of it.
The first thing that occurs is the call to repentance, (verse 12.) “ In that day did the Lord of Hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth."
The day here referred to was a season of abounding iniquity, as we learn from the first chapter of this book of prophecy, which begins with a beavy charge against