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that is, they were the enemies of Christ, unregenerate sinners, and such, for any thing that appeared, they lived and died.
The command of God addressed to these rulers is of a spiritual nature, including unfeigned faith in the Messiah, and sincere obedience to his authority. To kiss the Son, is to be reconciled to him, to embrace his word and ordinances, and bow to his sceptre. To serve him with fear, and rejoice with trembling, denote that they should not think meanly of him on the one hand, nor hypocritically cringe to him, from a mere apprehension of his wrath, on the other; but sincerely embrace his government, and even rejoice that they had it to embrace. That which is here required of unbelievers is the very spirit which distinguishes believers; a holy fear of Christ's majesty, and a humble confidence in his mercy; taking his yoke upon them, and wearing it as their highest delight. That the object of the command was spiritual, is also manifest from the threatening, and the promise annexed to it, lest ye perish from the way-blessed are all they that put their trust in him. It is here plainly supposed that if they did embrace the Son, they should not perish from the way, and if they did put their trust in him, they should be blessed. The result is, unconverted sinners are commanded to believe in Christ for salvation: therefore believing in Christ for salvation is their duty.
Isaiah lv. 1-7.
Ho, every one that thirsteth,
come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money :
come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread; and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not; and nations that knew not thee, shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call ye upon him, while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. This is the language of invitation but divine invitation implies an obligation to accept it; otherwise the conduct of those who made light of the gospel supper, and preferred their farms and merchandize before it, had been guiltless.
The concluding verses of this passage express those things literally which the foregoing ones described metaphorically: the persons invited, and the invitation, are the same in both. The thirst which they are supposed to possess does not mean a holy desire after spiritual blessings, but the natu
ral desire of happiness which God hath implanted in every bosom; and which in wicked men is directed not to the sure mercies of David, but to that which is not bread, or which hath no solid satisfaction in it. The duty to a compliance with which they are so pathetically urged, is, a relinquishment of every false way, and a returning to God in his name who was given for a witness, a leader, and a commander to the people; which is the same thing as repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The encouragements held up to induce a compliance with this duty, are, the freeness, the substantiality, the durableness, the certainty, and the rich abundance of those blessings which as many as repent and believe the gospel shall receive. The whole passage is exceedingly explicit as to the duty of the unconverted; neither is it possible to evade the force of it by any just or fair method of interpretation.
Jeremiah vi. 16. Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls: but they said, We will not walk therein. The persons here addressed are beyond all doubt ungodly men. God himself bears witness of them that their ears were uncircumcised, and they could not hearken; for the word of the Lord was to them a reproach, and they had no delight in it. verse 10. Yea, so hardened were they, that they were not ashamed when they had committed abomination, and so impudent that they could not
blush. verse 15. And such, for any thing that appears, they continued; for when they were exhorted to walk in the good way, their answer was, We will not walk therein. Hence the awful threatening which follows: Hear, O earth, behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. verse 19.
The good way in which they were directed to walk, must have been the same as that in which the patriarchs and prophets had walked in former ages, who, we all know, lived and died in the faith of the promised Messiah. Hence our Lord with great propriety applied the passage to himself.* Jeremiah directed to the old paths, and the good way, as the only medium of finding rest for the soul: Jesus said, Come unto ME all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
We see in this passage also, as in many others, in what manner God requires sinners to use the means of grace: not by a mere attendance upon them, (which while the end is disregarded, and the means rested in instead of it, is not using but perverting them) but with a sincere desire to find out the good way, and to walk in it. God requires no natural impossibilities. No man is required to be
* Matt. xi. 28.
lieve in Christ before he has opportunity of examining the evidence attending his gospel: but he ought to search into it like the noble Bereans, immediately, and with a pure intention of finding and following the good way; which if he do, like them he will soon be found walking in it. If we teach sinners that a mere attendance on the means of grace is that use of them which God requires at their hands, and in which consists the whole of their duty, as to repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be found false witnesses for God, and deceivers of the souls of men.
The New Testament is still more explicit than the Old. Faith in Jesus Christ, even that which is accompanied with salvation, is there constantly held up as the duty of all to whom the gospel is preached.
John xii. 36. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.-The persons to whom this passage was addressed were unbelievers; such who, though Jesus had done so many miracles among them, yet believed not on him; (verse 37.) and it appears that they continued unbelievers, for they are represented as given over to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, (verse 40.) The light which they were exhorted to believe in, appears to be himself, as revealed in the gospel: for thus he speaks in the context, I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should