The Prisoner Delivered, Isaiah 49:9

Lemuel Haynes
Congregational Manchester, Vermont 1820-01-09
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Gratz Sermon Collection, Box 6, Volume 17


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Lemuel Haynes, colored


The prisoner delivered. 1


Isaiah 49:9.


That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves (Isaiah 49:9) .


The many opprobrious epithets given to Men in the sacred volume are indications of their deplorable and wretched situation. The appropriate term in my text is so often repeated as to exemplify the sentiment suggested. Prisons are of a very ancient date and had their origin in the ferocity and depravity of human nature and are places where criminals are confined to restrain them from acts of violence and secure the safety of the public. that The object of divine attention in the display


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of his mercy and grace should be illustrated by the term in the words before us is worthy the wisdom and benignity of an infinite God—


The office and work of the blessed Redeemer are pointed out in the word of my text as the effect of the Father's designation that thou mayest say to the prisons prisoners Go forth, and to them that are in darkness Shew yourselves (Isaiah 49:9) . The deliverance of the Jews from their long captivity is doubtless intimated as emblematic of the conversion of sinners that are in spiritual bondage and prisoners of hope.


The metaphorical illustrations in my text will be attended to Wherein it does and does not apply there is and is not a resemblance between spiritual and temporal bondage & imprisonment & deliverance will carefully be considered.


Prisoners is a word often made use of in the holy Scriptures as descriptive


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of men in a Natural State. Prisoners in the pit (Isaiah 24:22) —Prisoners of hope (Zechariah 9:12) etc.


1. Prisoners are consigned to prison by an act of civil authority according to legal appointment & agreeable to the law of the state so the wicked are arrested by the law of God and by virtue of an act of the court of heaven are considered as prisoners in a state of condemnation. They are condemned already (John 3:18) —Prisoners are cut off from society as unfit for their communion and fellowship: so it is with the wicked they in a sense separate themselves from the society of God's people and they have no holy intercourse with them—The prisoner converses principally with his fellows in jail while those abroad commonly keep at a distance—Another distressing circumstance attending prisoners in jail is they are in a state of darkness.—This idea is contained in my text. The light does not shine


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so it is with the wicked. They are said to sit in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death (Matthew 4:16) . The way of the wicked is as darkness (Proverbs 4:19) —They are blind as to their own characters and the character of God—To their danger and the only way of escape—Wicked men behold nothing of the divine glory in the word or works of God. Their eyes are blinded that they cannot see like prisoners confined in a dungeon no cheering ray can penetrate the impenetrable wall or illuminate the solitary mansion. A prison is a state of degradation and shame such are described by and treated with contempt. So the wicked are considered by the Almighty as out-casts forlorn and wretched vile and despicable in his sight. As such they are considered in the word of God and shall be so treated at the day of Judgment.—


The distressed and uncomfortable


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state of prisoners is an apt illustration of the fallen state of men. What a wretched situation was Jeremiah when cast into the dungeon where was no water and his feet sank down into the mire (Jeremiah 38:6, 22) . Eastern monarchs when they had cast their wretched captives into a dungeon "never gave themselves the trouble of inquiring about them but let them lie a long time in that miserable condition wholly destitute of relief and disregarded." says Bishop Lowth in loc 2 Prisoners amongst the Romans were fettered and confined in a singular manner One end of the chain which was of a commodious length was fixed about the right arm of the prisoner and the other about the left arm of a soldier.


"Imprisonment (says Dr. Doddridge) is a much greater punishment in the eastern parts of the world than here. State criminals especially when condemned to it are not only forced to submit to a very mean and scanty


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allowance; but are frequently loaded with clogs or yokes of heavy wood in which they cannot either lie or sit at ease; and by frequent scourgings and sometimes by racking are quickly brought to an untimely end." 3


These instances are introduced to illustrate the propriety of the appropriate allusions in my text. The wicked are represented as being under the bonds of iniquity As perishing with hunger—as travailing in pain all their days as strangers to rest tranquility and peace.—


The prisoner assigned to an impregnable castle is confined unable to get out cannot extricate himself his case is hopeless without an interposition of divine power as in the case of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25-26) and Peter (Acts 12:7) —


Sinners in spiritual bondage


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cannot deliver themselves being bound with the cords of their sins (Proverbs 5:22) and are morally unable to burst their bonds asunder scale or break thro the prison walls until the arm of the Lord is revealed.


The criminal in jail has a time appointed for execution when he is to be brought forth and in a public manner experience a shameful death according to the sentence decision of the court—: So the sentence is issued by the great judge of quick and and dead against all the finally impenitent and in the council of God the day of their death The day of their retribution determined and fixed by an eternal decree of heaven. The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath (Job 21:30) . The poor prisoner is an object of


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pity and commiseration they excite the tender sympathy of the human and benevolent—their friends weep and mourn their sorrowful state and tremble when they reflect on the fatal day assigned for their execution. Who can describe the sorrow and distress of God's people for poor sinners confined in the dreary dungeon of sin in adamantine chains of iniquity under the condemnatory sentence of God's holy law and must soon feel the bitter pangs of the first and 2d death O that my head were waters and my eyelids a fountain of tears (Jeremiah 9:1) —Rivers of water run down Mine eyes (Psalms 119:136) I have great heaviness and [sorrow] of heart (Romans 9:2) etc. are the exclamations and distress of the pious soul—What weeping over children over a husband a wife a brother


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a sister devoted to death!


But it may be useful to draw a contrast between the two cases before us.


1. Earthly prisoners are sentenced or assigned to places of confinement by men or human courts and perhaps not always sanctioned by heaven—But the wicked are doomed to punishment by an act of the Almighty or by the authority of Heaven—Jesus who is appointed judge pronounces the awful sentence. Let him die the death Let him in due time be taken from the prison on earth and be [delivered] to the tormenters to suffer eternal death—The sentence is pronounced and executed with awful and terrible majesty and fills the trembling criminal with with inescapable terror trembling—The prisoners may entertain hopes that he may escape the hands of men and have the sentence reversed but when it is pronounced by the Lord Jesus the incorrigible sinner can have no hope


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in his present state. He cannot escape the hands of the Almighty nor support himself amidst his inflexible wrath—God will not meet him as a Man but will take vengeance (Isaiah 47:3) .


In the sentences pronounced on criminals they often can appeal to higher truth or petition for a new trial and sometimes have their sentences reversed or punishment commuted but there is no appeal from the court of heaven. No mitigation of punishment but amidst all the schemes and devices of men the counsel of the Lord that shall stand.


Sometimes prisoners are emancipated on the principle of distributive justice they are found not guilty of the charge by which they were committed to prison But the wicked man will never be delivered in this way They are verily and fully guilty and there can be no error in the decision In this case there will be none to


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oppose the execution Every mouth will be stopped and [* illeg.] approve the sentence and execution But few comparatively are arrested by the hand of civil justice


Those confined in prison for crimes bear a small proportion to the world in general—But how vast the Number of those who stand indicted before the court of heaven for criminal offenses and without repentance will find the soon arrive to the fatal Moment when they must die without Mercy by the heavy hand of vindictive justice! In the present case there will be none to oppose the execution. Every mouth will be stopped and be constrained to acknowledge the equity of the divine proceedings. The imperfections that attend all men and all courts of justice renders them liable to wrong verdicts.


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The innocent may be condemned and the guilty go with impunity. But the great searcher of hearts cannot be deceived—Every decision is dictated by infinite wisdom and goodness he can by no means clear the guilty or condemn the innocent.


II. We will attend to the other situation in the text which implies deliverance "Go forth—shew yourselves" (Isaiah 49:9) . The author of this deliverance is the Lord Jesus Christ that thou mayest say viz. the person designated or appointed by the Father—This deliverance of sinners is consistent with the law of God and dignity of divine government Tis by the blood of the covenant that the prisoners are sent out of the pit (Zechariah 9:11) . It cannot be admitted in any other way only thro the merits of the Redeemer This idea is contained in my text That thou Mayest suggesting that it may not and cannot take place in any other way Jesus Christ effects this work thro the instrumentality of


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means not that they are efficacious but while attending to them God effects this work Tis by the [foolishness] of preaching God saves men—Men condemned to death by civil authority are saved by means of or [through], the instrumentality of unexpected causes as in the recent instance among us. In delivering men from the thraldom and prison of sin and destruction God defers it to an extreme hour when all human exertions fail That his power and grace may appear conspicuous—This appears sentiment derives a degree of illustration by the late providence of God with which we are all acquainted measures were asked in vain to deliver the men from punishment Court and jury were against the prisoners. The public voice pronounced the punishment the verdict just and were scarcely satisfied with the commutation of either of them No escape from prison was granted they were cast into the inner


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prison in chains every precaution to prevent their escape Until from a far country God raised up an instrument of deliverance a stranger to us all—It was great surprising satisfactory seasonable & sure. "Just in the last distressing hour the Lord displays delivering power. The Mount of danger is the place where we shall see surprising grace." 4 When God says to the prisoners Go forth Shew yourselves (Isaiah 49:9) What power in the word of God! Their chains are taken off they leave the solitary dungeon. As when Christ said Lazarus come forth (John 11:43) or to Zaccheus Make haste and come down (Luke 19:5) ! The poor prisoner leaps for joy comes to the light shews himself is beheld with raptures of transport and ecstasies of joy—Songs resound from house to house from place to place All heaven is filled with loud hosannahs when the prisoner leaves his chains


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to bring out the prisoners from the prison and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house (Isaiah 42:7) .


Sing unto the Lord a new song and his praise from the end of the earth ye that go down to the sea and all that is therein the isles and the inhabitants thereof—Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice the villages villages that Kedar doth inhabit Let the inhabitants of the rock sing let them shout from the top of the mountains Let them give glory unto the Lord and declare his praise in the islands (Isaiah 42:10-12) .


When men are delivered from common jails they can walk at large, with their prison garments are restored to society and the immunities of the state are welcomed to the arms of their friends. Show themselves or appear in a different state and character than before—So it is when God delivers Men from the bondage of sin and death


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Still there is a striking contrast as may be shown in several respects.


1. The One is effected by men in a sense different from the other. God The work of delivering sinners is More peculiarly the work of God This the effect of his mighty and immediate agency


2. Sinners are unwilling to come out of their spiritual bondage They love the entertainments the company—the food etc.—They love darkness And when the prison door is thrown wide open and Christ says in the common [course] of his word and providence come forth shew yourselves and yet they refuse to hearken and obey. But when men are confined in earthly jails O how ready are they to come forth How delightful the invitation The prisoner leaps to lose his chains—his company his fare his lodging


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his gloomy abode


3. Tis sometimes criminals are released from their confinement on the principle of distributive justice they are not found guilty of the crime alleged or for which they were committed But the wicked can never be acquitted in this way They are fully guilty of the every charge brought against them there can be no error in the testimony and decision and none to appeal or commute the punishment; but all will in a sense own them them to be guilty before God Tis pardoning grace through the blood of a Mediator that frees the penitent from the sanctions of the law.


4. The emancipation granted by human courts is only a reprieve of the body for a few years months weeks days or perhaps hours or moments But the authority of heaven debars soul and body from all kinds of deaths especially eternal death and even


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he obtains a kind of victory over the temporal death thus great gifts bestowed.


5. Persons exonerated by earthly judiciaries are subject to new arrests for new crimes—Many have been acquitted from jails or state prisons, but soon commit new crimes and sentenced to death and in a few months executed We have of late instances of this nature But those whom the Lord acquits shall never be subject to a new arrest Shall never again be arrested arraigned and condemned—none can again lay any thing to their charge so as to sentence them to death There is an immutable and an eternal act of absolution for all past and future crimes. The late remarkable occurrence and dispensation of divine providence in relation to the prisoners condemned and their deliverance will form an epoch in the annals of history


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that will be transmitted to generations yet unborn—


It affords Reflections [*** illeg.] and interesting of a serious and interesting nature are suggested


1. The imperfections of human nature even under peculiar advantages is clearly exhibited. Perhaps in no case were circumstantial evidence more clear and conclusive or a greater unanimity in court and jury or co-incidence in the public mind but few that did not hesitate to bring their verdict of guilty—The wisdom experience and integrity of the board of trial cannot be questioned neither are we disposed to impeach the evidence in general—The prisoner condemned to death had even confessed the crime [* illeg.] and after all we are sure that they were not guilty—It may prove a caution to us and especially courts of decision in cases of life & death


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to decide with the utmost deliberation and search for clear evidence that murder has been committed and by whom before they pronounce sentence of guilt and look as favorable on the side of the criminal as circumstances will admit. Those remarks are not designed as the least reflection on the court—for I have before observed that during the trial I thought there was a candid leaning in favor of the criminal and evidence not admitted that was not directly in point—Mr. Stephen Boorn has repeatedly told me that he did not blame the authority for deciding against him considering the evidence adduced.


That there were grounds of suspicion that Murder had been committed at Manchester none acquainted with the circumstances can deny and that duty pointed out the propriety of examining into the matter will not be disputed


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2. The final issue and termination of the event so plainly in favor of the supposed criminal should by no means be improved as a discouragement to endeavor to search after iniquity and use all proper measures to detect transgressions and bring them to condign punishment In apprehending criminals there is always to two objects proposed viz. to find out the criminal or clear the innocent so that those ideas are inseparably involved—When the latter is effected character is retrieved the man honored and restored to society the safety of the state secure A more important object obtained than if it had terminated in guilt. If positive and certain public evidence in minds of all must be obtained as to criminality anterior to the commencement of any process in all cases they would be wrong in every case that there were grounds of profession that murder had been committed at Manchester


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none acquainted with all the circumstances will deny and that it was an imperious duty for them to examine into the matter will not be disputed by the candid Whether too much or too little attention has been paid to the subject is not for one to determine But the issue is favorable and we rejoice


3. We are clearly taught that there is a superintending providence that directs all affairs that his works are great and Marvelous and past finding out. The goodness of God in this event is clearly illustrated. While he is one that will by no means clear the guilty yet he will deliver the innocent in his own time and way God will execute judgement for the oppressed—Will give food to the hungry The Lord looseth the prisoner (Psalms 146:7) He hears the the groaning of the prisoners and looseth those who are appointed to death (Psalms 102:20) .


If the Lord is so ready in such wonderful ways to rescue the bodies and lives of men may we not argue from the less to the greater and infer the


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infinite benignity of the Savior who delivers the souls of men from endless perdition Surely the Lord is good and ready to forgive This we are taught in his word and in his providence in the various operations of his hands. The subject is peculiarly interesting to those who have been emancipated from bondage slavery and death—Was there ever a clearer interpretation of divine providence and can they be blind to that Mighty hand that has redeemed them—God has said to you that were prisoners Shew yourselves Go forth Shew yourselves (Isaiah 49:9) Human means were executed for their your deliverance especially for him that was under sentence of death Application to the legislature was [had] but few on the side of the prisoner only 31 out of an 102. The application only tended to fix the sentence more unavoidable as it diminished the power of the governor and council to interpose—I understand that Mr. Chadwich thro whose instrumentality deliverance did not take the paper which contained the [* illeg.] of Mr. Stephen & [* illeg.] Boorn that it came by what we call mere accident into his hands To make search for the man supposed to be murdered was about given up—the day of execution


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was near at hand—Nothing but the appearance would scarcely satisfy the public mind—But amidst all this the Lord interposed by affording undeniable testimony of innocency—The prisoner released will remember those gloomy days and nights spent in the dreary dungeon where I have spent many solitary hours and have been a kind of companion in your habitation I have been an eye & ear witness to your tears and agonies under the anticipations of an approaching and ignominious death—Of being separated from the dear companion of your youth and helpless children Had the court [* illeg.] what Who could relate the pitiful story to fatherless child Could a broken heart Mother said to them bid them to some [obscure] spot and said there dear children lies the remains of an unfortunate parent who wished to be your support in life and the fondness of whose arms were wont to embrace you with parental affection could she point them to the gallows on which a father was executed and [notate] the pitiful disaster!—To conceal it would be improbable and divulge it almost impossible. The [* illeg.] The distress you manifested to me while in prison for your disconsolate wife and poor children while in prison made a deep impression on my mind that I can never forget


Footnotes

1. Compare this manuscript version of Haynes's sermon to the text published in Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M. (New York: 1837), 229-52.

2. Robert Lowth, Isaiah: A New Translation, vol. 2 (Glasgow: 1822), 186.

3. Philip Doddridge, The Family Expositor: or, A Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament, 2nd edition, vol. 2 (London: 1745), 33.

4. Isaac Watts, "Hymn CXXIX," in The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 9 (Leeds: 1813), 155.