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Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee. — Isa. xhii. 4. [1795.] Though the Church has often been distressed, yet she has ever had for her support precious promises. .... The words of the text lead to the following Proposition, namely. The Lord will adorn the soul that he loves : hence we may discover who are the chosen people of God. There are some truths in the Scriptures that stand on their own foundation, — that stand on the veracity of the Speaker. Other truths of Scripture may be illustrated, proved, supported : namely, such as describe man as mortal, &c. ; but, with respect to such
THE lord's delight I HIS PEOPLE. 91 passages as that in the text, the Word is to be the rule and touchstone. The enemy has at all times a most wonderful skill in raising a cloud in a Christian's mind : but, let it be remembered, God saith, " I have loved thee with an everlasting love :" and " since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable." If a man ask. How can one be more precious than his neighbor ? the answer is, God has said it. The Prophet Ezekiel describes, chapter xvi., under the similitude of a wretched infant, loathed and cast out, the natural state of Jerusalem ; and verse 6, God's astonishing grace and mercy to her : " I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live." And, from the 8th to the 15th verse, God is stating, by the Prophet, how this wretched infant was taken into covenant, and afterwards adorned. " / clothed thee with broidered work ; / decked thee also with ornaments ;" I brought thee into the state in which thou now art, and made
thee " honorable :" I acted towards thee a part far beyond that of the good Samaritan. Luke x. 30. It is not to be supposed that the true Israelite is not of the same vile stock as others. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But God, by the operation of his grace, has called them, and chosen them, and they become precious in his sight, even his ''jewels," Mai. iii. 17.— his "vineyard," Isa. v. Observe, it is not the Preacher, but the Lord, who says they are precious. Our Saviour says, " Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." John xv. 16. God's people are precious in their birth : see Jer. i. .5 ; Gal. i. 15 ; Hosea xii. 3 ; Psa. Ixxi. 6 ; Isa. xlvi. 3. They are precious in their life : see 1 Pet. ii. 9 ; Psa. Ixxii. 14 ; Lam. iv. 2 : and they are precious in their death: Psa. cxvi. 15: Rev. xiv. 13.
92 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. When the Lord takes a sinner out of a sinful world, he will adorn that soul : " Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable." He makes all such honorable, both by imputed and imparted righteousness. All men are in reality what they are in the sight of God. There is a grand distinction marked in the Scripture between the honor that cometh from God, and that which the world calls honorable. That God does adorn his saints, — such as have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them in the Gospel, — may be seen by every one that is an observer. Did you ever see a poor, foolish, thoughtless, wicked youth, following the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, — fitting himself for destruction, — deaf, as the deaf adder, to all that friends could say, and rushing on to ruin, as the horse rushes into the battle ; — have you ever seen such an one, when enlightened by the Spirit of God, to become quite another character — a changed man ? What do we see in such a case ? We behold the blessed effects spoken of in the text : we behold a sinner called and chosen by the grace and mercy of God : a prodigal brought back to his Father : and then the Father calling for the best robe and putting it on him : putting a ring on his hand and shoes on
his feet. ow, though much of this change may be seen, for you may see some of the effects, — yet you can see but a part of what is done : you cannot see the heart : there is infinitely more than you can see : there is communion with God through Jesus Christ ; following the High Priest within the vail ; — there is, even now, a crown of glory preparing for his head ; and, whether we see it or not, we do well to believe God when he speaks, as in the text, and declares that his people are " precious," " honorable," and " loved." And the cause of all lies in this : I have adopted thee —
THE lord's delight I HIS PEOPLE. 93 I have anointed thee — I have made thee a conqueror — I have made thee an heir — " This people have I formed for myself." A transaction has passed between God and the soul, and a garment has been thrown over, that has produced a greater change of state than when the mantle of Elijah was thrown over Elisha. Ephraim has been taught to smite upon his thigh, and say, " Turn thou me, and so shall I be turned :" or to say, like the woman in the Gospel, " If I may but touch the hem of his garment I shall be made whole." ow, being justified by faith, and living by faith, he walks on new ground, and stands in the position of an adopted child, whom the Lord will beautify with salvation : for " such honor have all his saints." But some may ask. Are this people held in honor after all ? First, you must observe in whose sight they are honorable : not in the sight of the world, but in God's sight : they are also held in honor by good men : but if you ask me what the world thinks, I would ask you again. What is there in the world's opinion that can touch the case ? Will it depreciate a fine prospect, or a fine painting, or any specimen of beauty or art, or a fine piece of music, — that the blind, the idiot, the man that has no taste, or no ear, can discern nothing in them? Yet the world stands in such position in regard to all spiritual objects. See 1 John iii. 1. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God : therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." It saw nothing in the glory of Christ : it
called for Barabbas the robber instead. But whether the world acknowledge us or not, God says, " Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee.'^ If there be one grace that characterizes a true child
94 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. of God more than another, it is his low view of himself, even after God has adorned him : when he contemplates the glory of Him who filleth the heaven of heavens, he feels himself but vanity and dust before God ; and if it were not for the " Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness," his view of himself as a sinner would be far more humiliating than even the sense of his meanness and insignificance as a creature. The reason that some persons think so much of themselves is, because they know so little of themselves. We should fall low, and say with Jacob, " I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant ;" and, with St. Paul, " I am less than the least of all saints." But what then ? Does it lessen the grace wherein we stand ? Our hope is, that whatever sin has made us, the grace of God will recover us. Let us, then, seek to become partakers of this grace. The way that God usually takes to form a man for himself is by first convincing him that he has ruined himself, and that his help is only in Christ Jesus. He has said, he will cast out none that come unto him : and " he will beautify the meek with salvation." The work of sanctification is a gradual work. A Christian is not formed at once, but by a course of means, of which aflfliction is one. When a statuary begins to work an image out of a block of stone, or marble, it is so rough and uncouth, it is impossible to know what figure he designs to make ; but, as he goes on, the likeness comes out. This appears in the life of Job : " I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee :" by the process of affliction, he had learnt both to know himself and God ; and thus he became adorned with humility, and filled with adoration.
Inference. — Is it the Lord's design to adorn his people
THE lord's delight I HIS PEOPLE. 95 with the beauties of holiness ? Then let us say, " The Lord is my light and my salvation : of whom shall I be afraid ?" If I am precious in his sight, let the world scorn me : it is the Lord's design to honor me ; that is enough ; let him do it in his own time and way. I may have to pass through deep waters — deep disease — sharp trials ; yet God says, " Fear not, for I am with thee." If a man be not an antinomian or a hypocrite, but if he be walking with Christ, then let him take comfort from this subject. God has said, " This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise." But not by ostentation. How does a great building praise the architect? By evidencing his skill. So does the Christian : and in order to this, how watchful, how holy, how circumspect, should be his walk and conversation, in order to glorify his Father who is in heaven ! There are some people that resemble a scaffolding in the building up of this spiritual house ; they are hired servants, employed only to carry on the work ; and when the house is finished, they are taken down, and laid by. Such are men with great and splendid gifts, but Httle grace ; who learn the language, but who are strangers to the spirit of the Gospel. In conclusion : If such as are precious in the Lord's sight are honorable, let me call upon you to adore the goodness of our God for making such poor sinners precious in his sight ; and bringing them, in his good time, to glory. I call upon those who have no such hope heartily to seek it, in the words of the Psalmist, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people : oh, visit me with thy salvation ; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance." Psa. cvi. 4, 5.
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