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ON THE SPIRITUAL WANTS OF MAN, AND
THE FREE GOODNESS OF GOD.*
ISAIAH, lv. 1.
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.
It is in these words, of infinite benevolence, that the great universal Father is represented as calling to his human offspring. There is nothing in them that is not expressive of the utmost kindness and affection. The race of man is here painted under an image which can ex
* Preached on the Sunday before Easter.
cite no other feelings than those of pity and compassion,—as travellers perishing from faintness and fatigue,—as wanderers over a burning desert,--who are ready to lay themselves down, and to die in despair, while no welcome fountain of “waters” is rising to allay their thirst, and no habitations of men are in view, where “wine and milk” may minister to their restoration.
I. This picture of the condition of man, is no less just than it is affecting. We are all travellers through a world, in which there are many causes of fatigue and weariness, and many more to mislead us from our way. Is there an instance of a single pilgrim in this journey of human life, who has not, on many occasions, felt affliction and melancholy from the disasters which have befallen him, or who has not been conscious of self-reproach on account of his wanderings, and of despondence from the difficulty of retracing his steps ? Even of those who have been the most prosperous or the most innocent, is there one who has not felt sorrow, which nothing around him could relieve,or one who has not wandered from his direct course, and run into errors which may never cease to perplex him? If there are in this journey long periods of forgetfulness, when we are so much engrossed with the conveniences which surround us,—with the enjoyments which fascinate us,—or with the adventures which engage our activity, that we seem to have no want, and to ask for nothing but the continuance of the objects which delight and interest us; yet, on the other hand, there are times of reflection, which will come upon us only with the greater vehemence that we seem to discard them, and in the disappointment of some of our views, or in the very weariness attending the success of others, we shall feel that thirst of the soul which cannot be satisfied with any thing short of living waters. No, my brethren, in the most flattering picture of human existence, we must see a demand made for something which the world cannot supply,--an eye, often of agony, turned to Heaven,-a cry for strength and restoration, even from those who are seemingly the most prosperous, and, it may be, the least offending a voice of inward misery bursting from the heart, and which nothing but an answer from Omnipotence itself can satisfy !
II. It is to this condition of man, that the words of the text are, in the second place, so benevolently adapted. They are the words of Omnipotence; and, in this view, they satisfy every thing that the soul feels of the feebleness and precariousness of its present state. They are the words of One who is intimately acquainted with the condition and character of human nature, because it is originally His own work ; and whatever may be the deviations into which it has run, in its weak and wandering course, it still belongs to Him, is protected by him, and is acknowledged by him amid all its wanderings! How satisfactory, then, to every feeling of the heart, are words so benevolent and merciful,-proceeding from Him who alone can console, and who alone can have mercy,—who alone can bestow those living waters for which the soul thirsts,—and who, in these words of Paternal kindness, entreats us to come and receive them! How different are they, in their character, from those denunciations of wrath, or of partial exclusion, which the weakness of human speculations or passions has so often ascribed to that Gracious Being! The words are addressed to “ every one that thirsteth.” It is to human nature in all its circumstances of misery, of sin, of abandonment, and desolation, not to particular men, or classes of men, that these words of Heavenly Mercy are spoken. Are we human, and are we in want? Then we are at once told, that, amidst all our wretchedness, we have a Father who love thus ; that, however the plans of his Providence may require that suffering should, for a time, prevail in his creation, yet that it “ springeth not from the dust," but is directed in its course by infinite love; that there is not one of the Beings whom he has formed, whom his Providential care for a moment abandons; that wherever a human creature breathes, God is present with him, and throws around him the arms of his mercy; that sin itself cannot separate us from Him,but that there is not the sinner by whom he may not be found ; that in the very bosom of guilt or carelessness, or worldly forgetfulness, he calls upon us to be His; and that, if we are fainting and athirst, we have only to look