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SERMON VII.

A BRAND PLUCKED OUT OF THE FIRE.

ZechARIAH iii. 2.

IS NOT THIS A BRAND PLUCKED OUT OF THE FIRE?

ZECHARIAH was one of those prophets whom the Lord mercifully raised up to encourage, exhort, and instruct his people at the eventful period of their return from the Babylonish captivity. Joshua was the high priest at that time, the first who filled that sacred office after their restoration to the holy land. In the very remarkable vision connected with the words before us, Joshua appears to be introduced as a representative of the whole nation : he was by his office their typical mediator with God, their intercessor and advocate : he offered sacrifices, and made atonement for their sins, and was in all respects a type of “tne great High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." But he had himself contracted many defilements in a heathen land, he was unskilful in his office, and many irregularities occurred in the temple worship, upon its first re-establishment, which might be calculated to render the services unacceptable to God. This vision was therefore vouchsafed to the prophet for the express purpose of consoling the minds of God's people, and of assuring them that they, their high priest, and their services, should find favour in the sight of the Lord.

The details of the vision itself are very remarkable. The prophet beheld JEHOVAH, the ANGEL JEHOVAH, Joshua the high priest, standing before them, and Satan at his right hand, to resist or accuse him. The clamorous charges which we may suppose the adversary brought against Joshua were speedily answered by the angel Jehovah, who rebuked him.* “ And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord which hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked from the burning ?” The angel of the Lord does not deny the charges which are brought against Joshua, nor does he declare him to be unworthy of condemnation, even that of the devil and his angels, but he claims him as one rescued from that perdition, and set apart for himself, even as a brand plucked by the arm of sovereign grace out of the burning pile.

The utter unworthiness of Joshua to be the recipient of such distinguishing mercy is illus

* Ver. 2.

6. Now

trated by another figure in the vision. Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” Instead of the pure white garments of the priestly office which were typical of the perfect righteousness of Christ, Joshua was here represented as clad in squalid raiment, indicative both of his own and the people's guilt and iniquity. Yet he was not rejected, nor condemned; on the contrary, the Lord spake unto his ministering angels, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him.” And unto Joshua the Lord himself said, “Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Nor was this all; abundant honour was conferred upon the pardoned and accepted Joshua; for the Lord said, “ Let them set a fair mitre upon his head;" denoting his establishment in the office of high priest, and giving assurance that the sacrifices which he should offer for himself and for his people should be acceptable to God. Joshua is then honourably dismissed with an exhortation from the Lord himself “ to walk in his ways, and keep his charge;" accompanied by a promise, upon his obedience, “that he should judge God's house, and keep his courts” below, until he was taken to the glory above, and a place should be given him to walk among them that stand by, that is, among the bright and shining angels who surround the throne.

Now, without further inquiry into the literal and prophetical interpretation of this vision, and its primary application to the ransomed of the Lord then newly assembled in Zion, we may fairly contemplate it as illustrative of spiritual things; in which point of view it may suggest topics awakening to the unconverted, and consolatory to all who feel and know themselves to be sinners. May it please God to bless and sanctify our meditations to his glory, and to our instruction and edification! Let us then again review this remarkable vision; we may see therein, I. The SINNER ACCUSED; and, II. THE SINNER VINDICATED.

I. The ordeal to which the sinner is here submitted is terrible to contemplate. On the one hand we are summoned to behold the fearful majesty of Jehovah himself-the glory of the Lord—his dread image before whose appearance the heavens and the earth shall pass away, and at whose tribunal every human being must one day stand, to give an account of the deeds done in the body. Before his awful presence an individual sinner is now summoned ; “ clad in filthy garments,” symbolical of his manifold defilements, he awaits his doom. And opposed to him stands an accuser, a willing and vindictive witness against him; and many a heavy charge does he allege: it is Satan-- Beelzebub—the prince of the devils.

How different is the character in which Satan appears in this awful vision from that which he now assumes among the children of men! Here, in this world, he masks his hideous form, disguises his evil purposes, deceives, beguiles, and tempts his unconscious victims to their ruin. He tells of earthly joys and of the pleasures of sin ; he paints religion as a gloomy thing, the service of God as a grievous bondage ; and men believe his lies, and yield implicit credence to his suggestions. But when his work of destruction is completed, and he meets the deluded sinner before the bar of God, he throws aside the mask, appears against his dupe as a fierce accuser—he claims him for his own-before the affrighted and trembling sinner he details the very crimes to which by his temptations he had incited him, and upon the inflexible principles of justice he demands the culprit's instant condemnation. , “What plea is there to be urged in arrest of judgment? Why should this sinner be plucked out of that fire which is prepared for him ? In the days of his flesh did not the flames of lust, pride, envy, malice, and ambition, rage in his heart? And are not these the very embers of that fire which shall never be quenched? The sure harbingers of the worm that never dies? Where is the hand that will rescue him? Who is the friend that will appear for him ?"

What a moment of intense interest will that be

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