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with trembling.” It is that perfection of the Deity, even his
mercy in Jesus Christ, that we are now called to contemplate ; and if there are those present whose consciences are awakened, who feel alarmed at the view of their past transgressions, and at the prospect of the deserved and dreaded punishment, then, though every other promise were erased from the Bible, here is that which is well suited to meet their case, to fill their hearts with strong consolation, with joy unutterable, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
In this gracious and condescending address of God to sinners, there are three points embraced :
I. There is assumed the existence of aggravated guilt.
II. There is expressed the promise of pardoning mercy.
III. There is required the exercise of wise consideration.
I. There is here assumed the existence of aggravated guilt. The sins of those addressed are supposed to be red as scarlet, or as crimson. With us there is a distinction between these two things; the one denoting a bright red, and the other, a red darkened with blue. But it is needless to suppose that distinction here, for it is believed that only one and the same colour is intended by the two words employed in the original. They designate the worm-colour, or worm-dye, which is also the meaning of our word vermilion, because it was obtained from a worm or insect found in the excresence which grows on a species of evergreen oak. The radical meaning of the expression scarlet, conveys the idea of shining brightness; and, according to some, it implies also the being double-dyed; and the term rendered crimson, is just the name of the worm itself
, from which the tincture was extracted, repeated with the view of imparting variety and intensity to the expression; “ Though your sins be red as the bright double-dyed worm-colour, yea, though they be as red as the worm itself."
It is important to mark the fact, that this colour was a fast or fixed colour. Neither rain, nor washing, nor long use could remove it, and hence it fitly represents the inherent, inwrought, immovable, and permanent indwelling of sin in the soul of fallen man. No human means can wash it out; no effort of man or angel, no outward rites, no prayers, no sacrifices, no tears are sufficient to efface from the heart one of the red stains of sin. It is deep-seated there, as was scarlet in the wool and cloth. To discharge the strong colour is beyond the skill and power of man,-a skill and power divine can alone effect it. Now the Jews, to whom the words of the text were first addressed, were, as a people, characterised by sins of the deepest dye; and the whole of the previous part of this chapter is taken up, as we request you specially to observe, with a dreadful yet most melancholy representation of their deep depravity and heinous crimes. If we take a view of all these enormities (more especially in connexion with the high and abundant privileges with which they were favoured,) we shall perceive something of the awful guilt under which they lay, and
the arts of peace, the art of war, the art of legislation, the services and sacrifices of idolatry and superstition, the schemes of philosophy, the gloomy path of scepticism, infidelity, atheism. But all proved unavailing to heal man's deadly plague.
Having now seen, then, how every remedy failed that was devised by man, let us next contemplate, in the third and last place, God's own effectual cure.
“For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Now, you will observe that, in providing a remedy for a world that was sinful, polluted, alienated, helpless, miserable, and that had failed in every experiment made through successive ages to relieve its own malady—the first thing wanting, the main requisite for a perfect cure, was a remedy for man's guilt.
And here, brethren, when we contemplate God providing such a remedy, we do not find him changing one iota of his essential character—we do not see him foregoing the claims of his justice, and proclaiming the transgressor at once free. We do not find him yielding one single atom of his righteous demands in reference to man's fallen race, while he proposes to make them happy. We do not find the honour of God as King, Lawgiver, Judge, at all sinking in the remedy he devises and proposes for the sinner's exaltation. No, we find him still peerless in his majesty as before; his law fulfilled, his justice vindicated, his holiness unsullied, his integrity unimpeached and unimpaired, and the high honours of his throne maintained. And, as he knows well the extent of human guilt and the depth of human corruption—as he has watched all the wayward wanderings of the human heart, and is intimately acquainted with its thorough alienation and its utter wretchedness—he looks not to human nature for help or for deliverance. He looks not to guilt, for expiation—he looks not to pollution, for purity-he looks not to enmity, for love—he looks not to helplessness, for relief-he looks not to death, for life. But, turning away from the impotence and imbecility of man, he turns round to his own co-equal Son, and upon him he lays our help—from him he expects our deliverance. In him is all power; and, uniting our nature with his own, he embodies in that nature the innate dignity of the eternal Godhead. But he comes not down to earth that he may call upon man to satisfy the claims of the law he has broken, or to answer the demands of the justice he has insulted. He comes not down that he may inflict on the trembling culprit all the vengeance to which he has exposed himself. No! but that he may bear all that wrath upon himself. He appears as the sinner's substitutethe sinner's surety—the sinner's friend. As he sees the lightnings play, and hears the thunders roll, and marks where the wrath is about to alight—then he comes forth travelling in the greatness of his strength -speaking in righteousness, mighty to save. Then a voice is heard to break the dread stillness, saying, “6 Deliver them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.” When he sees the world weak as to its own help, and ready to sink down into an eternity of woe, he himself undertakes to bear the descending curse, and makes himself the glorious pedestal on which man may stand and rise to heaven. Yes, my fellow
sinners, it was when with heaven our communication: was cut off, and a gulf seemingly impassable was fixed between us and that world of blessedness—it was when not so much as a whisper of peace or hope was wafted towards this dark and desolate region—it was even then that He, whom all angels worship, himself interposed for our rescue.
Let us, in fancy, transport ourselves to the angelic world, and let us thence contemplate the scene that was witnessed in that revolted province called the earth. We behold the Son of the Eternal leaving his high throne in the heaven and advancing towards the earth’s habitable parts. We naturally expect that he is about to visit it in just judgment, and hurl against the children of men the thunderbolts of his wrath. But, instead of this, we behold his countenance clothed with a smile of ineffable love; and, to the astonishment both of heaven and hell, he himself assumes the nature of man, (sin only excepted,) descends among them in pity and power, and, with his own immortal lips, proclaims to them a full and plenteous redemption. And in Him, the Lamb slain to take away sin, angels saw and admitted that there was an equivalent for a lost world; when they perceived that, before the guilty could go free, the sword of divine justice must smite the divine Shepherd—the fellow and equal of Jehovah, they were constrained and rejoiced to acknowledge that glory redounded to God in the highest, while there was peace on earth and good-will to man; yea, that the very justice which threatened our guilt, and the
very holiness that loathed our pollution, now saw every perfection of the Deity conspire for our safety. If