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The import of this is—"Jehovah is coming. Remove out of his way whatever might offend his sight or obstruct his progress." Sin, in all its various forms, is an offence to him, as he travels on his way, in “his chariot and horses of salvation,” and therefore remove it. When a monarch announces his intention to visit any one of his cities, he expects the road to be cleared of obstructions, and his way made open and free. All heaps of filth must be taken away, and every preparation made to bid him welcome. The streets through which his chariot is to pass, are to be swept, and no passengers are to treat him with indifference. Hence heralds and pioneers were anciently sent before kings,
to announce their coming, to open passes, level heaps, and fill up hollows.
John was the herald of the King of Glory. It was predicted of him that he should “go before the face of the Lord, and make his paths straight.” He did this in effect, by crying “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This shows that the sins of the people would be as offensive heaps, disgusting to the sight of this gracious and august visitant, as hollows and hillocks and rocks in the way of his chariot ; for repentance could no otherwise “prepare his way,” than by removing vice and sin. This was an intimation of the spirituality of his salvation. He looked for no pomp of outward exhibitions, like the illuminations and triumphal arches, and splendid processions with which earthly kings are honoured, in their progress through their dominions. “The baptism of repentance" (i. e, the baptism of penitents in the very act of repentance), “ for the remission of sins,” was the external emblem of that preparation for his gracious appearance, and it was the outward intimation that he was coming full of pardoning love. All who truly repented were prepared to partake of his fulness of grace and truth, and to see him in his spiritual glory.
Thus, still, repentance prepares the way for the enjoyment of his salvation and manifestations. Those who live in sin do not prepare his way. They suffer the road to be filled with mire, and stones, and sights offensive to the eyes of his holiness. If we long for manifestations of his glory, let us first search and try our ways, and see what is amiss. Thus David sought, and expected them, (Ps. ci. 2): “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. Oh when wilt thou come unto me ?” That is, “I will sincerely endeavour to remove iniquity far from my tabernacle, and thus expect and wait for thee.” In conformity to these things, Isaiah predicted that the glory of the Lord was to “be revealed, and all flesh should see it;" but the sight was to be expected only by those who prepared the way.—Isai. xl. 4, 5. This is the very doctrine that Christ preached when he was about to close his ministry. " He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and I will manifest
myself to him."-John xiv. 21. And when Judas enquired, in order more fully to understand him (v. 22), “ Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself?" &c., Christ does but repeat the sentiment, saying, “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.”—0. 23. This is in exact harmony with the prediction of Isaiah, that, in order to the manifestation of the dirine glory, there must be a preparation by obedience. And it accords with daily experience. Holy desires for communion, lead to a diligent search after sin, and renunciation of it, and then follow delightful manifestations —“the revelation of the glory of the Lord.” The more close the previous self-examination, the more careful the reformation; the deeper the repentance and humiliation, the more certain and glorious bis coming.
This preparation, in the way of duty, to meet God in the way of mercy, was well understood by the ancients. (See Gen. xxxv. 1-10.) God commands Jacob to go to Bethel, remain there, and make an altar. Jacob immediately orders his sons to put away strange gods, to be clean, change their garments, and attend him. The result is, God appears, and blesses him. Thus, too, at the time of the giving of the law, the people were admonished to sanctify themselves, and be ready against the third day, because the Lord was coming down on Mount Sinai, and expected solemn preparation, and even abstinence from lawful pleasures, that the mind might be in a reverential state of awful expectation.
Thus, too, in the time of Hezekiah, the passover not being duly kept with previous preparation, according to the cleansing of the sanctuary, a plague went forth among the people. In David's time, the Lord made a breach upon the procession, in the death of Uzzah, because they sought not the Lord, after the due order.
So God says to all who expect any favourable appearances and discoveries of himself. “ Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.” We know how John directed the publicans and soldiers to “prepare the way of the Lord,”
“exacting no more than was appointed them, being content with their wages, doing violence to no man: and he who had two coats was to impart to him who had none, and he who had meat was to do likewise.” And the Pharisees were to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and all were to be baptized in Jordan, “confessing their sins.” These things may seem of trifling importance to some, who expect no discoveries of divine glory but in the way of arbitrary revelations, without any settled rule, or regard to order. But such are in deep error, It behoves all who love the Lord, to know what he expects of them, in order to fellowship. It is as much as our souls are worth, to be ignorant of these things. He will be “ waited for in the
way judgments,” and “sanctified in them that come nigh him.” The ancient washing of clothes was emblematical of that “cleansing of ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,” which the Lord requires of us, that he may receive us. It may be that our little profit in public and private duties arises from our misunderstanding, or our not adverting to, that preparation which he requires. How much we lose, by our ignorance and heedlessness, of heaven upon earth, no tongue can express. If we expect to see his glory, we must “prepare his way.” In going to his house, let us wash our hands from defilement, and so compass his altar.”
In the supper, we are to “examine our. selves, and so eat of that bread.” What, then, should be our solemnity of preparation to meet him at death? Let us carefully ponder Luke xii. 35-37; Matt. xxv. 13; 2 Peter iii. 14.
SERMON ON THE DECEITFULNESS AND HARDENING
NATURE OF SIN.
HEBREWS iii. 13. “EXHORT ONE ANOTHER DAILY, WHILE IT IS CALLED TO-DAY,
LEST ANY OF YOU BE HARDENED THROUGH THE DECEITFUL
NESS OF SIN.
Among the numerous advantages possessed by those who live in gospel times, the opportunity of reflecting on the conduct of God to his ancient people, and the manner in which on different occasions they returned the obligations he imposed upon them, is a very obvious and important one. No subject, in itself considered, may perhaps be more calculated to deter us from the pernicious influences of unbelief, and to excite unbounded confidence in the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God. Of this truth, the apostle Paul doubtless felt the full force when he dictated the former part of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Having demonstrated, by arguments altogether irresistible, the incomparable dignity of the person and priesthood of Christ,—which of course stamps a peculiar excellence on the dispensation of the gospel, and ought to have precluded from the minds of the Jews the slightest hesitation as to the duty of embracing it,-he earnestly admonishes them against the great sin of unbelief, while he fortifies his caution by presenting before them the awful example of their ancestors, of whom multitudes, by an obstinate perseverance in this sin, fell in the wilderness a sacrifice to the righteous displeasure of God. At this day the human heart is equally depraved as during the frequent defections of the stubborn Jews. The high and distinguishing privileges which we owe to the entire revelation of the gospel, must, if sinned against, prodigiously augment the enormity of our offence. The advice contained in the words of the text does, therefore, undoubtedly demand the close attention of every professing Christian. “Exhort one another daily," &c.