And now—oh, for a glance of what Isaiah saw, and has described (Isa 6:1-4)! Oh, that we, by the power of that faith which is the evidence of things unseen, could behold the glory of the Lord filling this house; that we could realize the presence and the attitude of their attendant angels! They cover their faces and their feet with their wings, as overpowered by the beams of His majesty, and conscious, if not of defilement like us, yet of unavoidable inability as creatures to render Him the whole of that praise and homage which are justly due to Him. Oh, that by faith we could enter into the spirit of their ascription, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3)!
If we were all thus affected, as the prophet was, surely each one would adopt the
prophet’s language. Or if a comfortable hope in the Gospel prevented us from crying
out, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” (Isa 6:5a), we should at least say, as the Hebrew
word might be so rendered, “I am silenced, I am struck dumb!” I am overwhelmed
with confusion and shame; for “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst
of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa
6:5b). If we have a degree of this impression, we shall not be at leisure to perplex our
selves concerning men or measures, the second causes, or immediate instruments of
our calamities. The evil of sin, contrasted with the holiness and glory of God, will engross
our thoughts. And we shall ascribe all the troubles we either feel or fear to our
own sins, and the sins of those among whom we dwell.
Let us first look at home. “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5), i.e., I am a sinner.
This confession suits us and is readily made by all who know themselves. The
Lord said of the Amorites at a certain period, “Their iniquity is not yet full” (Gen
15:16)! I hope the measure of our iniquity is not yet full, but it is filling every day,
and we are all daily contributing to fill it. True believers, though by grace delivered
from the reigning power of sin, are still sinners. In many things we offend all, in
thought, word, and deed. We are now called upon to humble ourselves before God,
for the sins of our ignorance, and for the more aggravated sins we have committed
against light and experience—for those personal sins, the record of which is only
known to God and our consciences; for the defects and defilements of our best services;
for our great and manifold failures in the discharge of our relative duties, as
parents, children, husbands, wives, masters, or servants, and as members of the
community. Our dullness in the ways of God; our alertness in the pursuit of our own
will and way; our differences to what concerns His glory, compared with the quickness
of our apprehensions when our own temporal interests are affected—are so
many proofs of our ingratitude and depravity.
The sins of the Lord’s own people are so many, and so heightened by the consideration
of His known goodness, that if He was to enter into judgment with them only,
they could offer no other plea than that which He has mercifully provided for them: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there
is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psa 130:3-4).
It is easy to declaim against the wickedness of the times. But only they who are
duly affected with the multitude and magnitude of their own sins can be competent
judges of what the prophet meant or felt when he said, “I dwell in the midst of a people
of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5). We ought to be no less concerned (though in a different
manner) for the sins of those among whom we dwell, than for our own. We shall be
so, if with the eyes of our mind we behold the King, the Lord of hosts, because His
glory, which should be the dearest object to our hearts, is dishonored by them...
Will not the Lord’s words to Israel apply with equal propriety to us? “What could
have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I
looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes” (Isa 5:4)?
How is the blessed Gospel improved among us? This would be a heavy day to me,
if I did not believe and know that there are those among our various denominations
who prize and adorn it. If these could be all assembled in one place, I hope they
would be found a very considerable number; and for their sakes, and in answer to
their prayers, I humbly trust that mercy will still be afforded to us. But compared
with the multitudes who reject, despise, or dishonor it, I fear they are very few. Too
many hate it with a bitter hatred, and exert all their influence to oppose and suppress
it. The great doctrines of the Reformation are treated with contempt; and both they
who preach and they who espouse them are considered as visionaries or hypocrites,
knaves or fools. The Gospel of God is shunned as a pestilence, or complained of as a
burden, almost wherever it is known.
Wisdom is indeed justified by all her children (Luk 7:35). The Gospel is the power
of God to the salvation of them that believe (Rom 1:16). It recalls them from error,
from wickedness, and from misery; guides their feet into the ways of peace; and
teaches them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. But in the number
of those who profess to receive it, there are too many who confirm and increase the
prejudices of those who speak against what they knew not. Alas! What extravagant
opinions, what fierce dissensions, what loose conversations, what open offences, may
be found among many who would be thought professors of that Gospel which only
breathes the spirit of holiness, love, and peace!
What then must be the state of those who avowedly live without God in the
world? I need not enlarge upon this painful subject, which forces itself upon the
mind if we only walk the streets or look into the newspaper. It is not necessary to inform
you that infidelity, licentiousness, perjury, profaneness, and the neglect and
contempt of God’s Sabbaths and worship abound. The laws of God, and the laws of
the land, so far as their object is to enforce the observance of His commands, are
openly and customarily violated in every rank of life. In a day when the Lord of hosts
calls to weeping and mourning, thoughtless security, dissipation, and riot are characteristics of our national spirit. The loss of public spirit and that impatience of subordination,
so generally observable, so widely diffused, which are the consequences of
our sins against God, are, in themselves, moral causes sufficient to ruin the nation,
unless His mercy interposes in our behalf.
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan