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.
But it is time to attend more immediately to our own concerns. The professed purpose of our meeting today is to humble ourselves before Almighty God, and to send up our prayers and supplications to the divine Majesty for obtaining pardon of our sins, and for averting those heavy judgments which our manifold provocations have most justly deserved, and for imploring His blessing and assistance on sea and land, and for restoring and perpetuating peace, safety, and prosperity. I hope these expressions accord with the language and desire of our hearts.
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)!
The rivers of human blood, and all the calamities and horror which overspread a great part of the continent, the distant report of which is sufficient to make our ears tingle, are all to be ascribed to this cause. God is not acknowledged—yea, in some places, He has been formally disowned and renounced. Therefore men are left to themselves, their furious passions are unchained, and they are given up, without restraint, to the way of their own hearts. A more dreadful judgment than this cannot be inflicted on this side of hell.