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.
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.
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).
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.