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and deep contrition, intreats his mercy, and determines to know no other hope.
Before we proceed, let us not forget to think of this gracious Saviour weeping over ungrateful Jerusalem and the miseries to which it was devoted; and praying when nailed on the cross for his murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they "know not what they do." Nor let it be lost sight of, that "Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and for ever."
The commission and instruction given to his apostles, when he sent them forth to preach the gospel, were perfectly coincident with these encouraging representations of his personal ministry. "Other sheep," he says, "I have, which are not "of this fold: them also I must bring, and they "shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, " and one shepherd." "Neither pray I for these 66 alone, but for them also which shall believe in
me through their word."
"Go ye into all the "world, and preach the gospel to every creature : " he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; 66 and he that believeth not shall be damned."Indeed what is the commission of Christ to his ministers, in every age, but that expressed in the words of our ordination service? To seek for 'Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad; and
for his children, who are in the midst of this 'naughty world, that they may be saved through 'Christ for ever.' This we all most solemnly promise to do, when we are admitted to our sacred function; and this must form one grand object of
'John x. 16. xvii. 20. Mark xvi. 16.
all our subsequent ministrations, if we would fulfil the vows of God that are upon us.
And what are our instructions in this great concern? We are commanded to preach "repentance "towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus "Christ:" to assure our hearers of every character, that "all things are ready; to invite, persuade, expostulate, "instantly, in season, out of season;" and even "to compel them to come in ;" certainly by no other compulsion than that of convincing arguments, urgent persuasions, and reiterated exhortations. "Now then we are ambassadors for "Christ; as though God did beseech you by us,
we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled "to God."-"We also as fellow-workers together "with him, beseech you also that ye receive not "the grace of God in vain."
We are instructed, not only to inform you of what God has done for the salvation of sinners, and of what Christ has suffered for sins, and of his prevailing intercession for all "who come to "God by him ;" not only to propose these blessings to you: but also to urge most earnestly your acceptance of them; to take no denial; to renew our invitations and expostulations; to venture your displeasure and contempt, in seeking your salvation; and never to remit or cease from our endeavours, till you forsake our ministry, or either you or we are called to the tribunal of God.
And what is that peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, of which so much is said in the scriptures, especially in the New Testament, and of which, alas ! so little is heard from many pulpits in this Chris
tian country? "He shall convince the world of "sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." "He "shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, "and shall shew it unto you." His first work, as proceeding from the Father and the Son, consists in "quickening the dead in sin," bringing the prodigal to himself, humbling the proud heart, subduing the stout spirit, awakening the careless conscience, and shewing the criminal his guilt, the justice of God in his condemnation, and the future judgment, with all its solemnities and awful consequences. When this has been effected, and the convinced transgressor is brought to despair of salvation, except through mercy alone, by faith in Christ Jesus; the same effectual Teacher " glo"rifies the Saviour," shews the suitableness, fulness, and freeness of his salvation, and brings the desponding penitent to "count all but loss for the "excellency of the knowledge of Christ," and of his atonement and righteousness.
This then is the fact referred to in the text. The sinner hears the gospel, is brought to repentance, to submission, to earnest desires of salvation, to a cordial acceptance of Christ, according to the degree of knowledge already attained, and to diligent search after more competent instruction in the truth and will of God.
The persons, thus become humble and earnest, may have been previously of divers characters, some more and some less moral; the degrees of their capacity or information may widely differ; and also their rank and station in society: but they now all understand the apostle's language,
which before they either overlooked or disliked, "There is no difference, for all have sinned, and "come short of the glory of God."
When Peter addressed the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and thousands embraced the gospel, even of those who had concurred in crucifying the Lord of glory; then this joyful event took place in numerous instances. The good Shepherd found and rejoiced over his lost sheep. When the poor gaoler began, trembling, to cry out, "What must "I do to be saved?" and gladly welcomed the message of the gospel; it was a single but illustrious instance of the same kind. We are not favoured with such success as Peter witnessed; but from time to time, one and another, like the gaoler, makes the interesting inquiry, and welcomes the scriptural answer. And, whether one obscure person in a cottage or a prison is converted, or ten thousand are converted at once; not a single instance is overlooked: Christ rejoices over his lost sheep, and calls on us to rejoice likewise.
II. What then do we learn from this expression, "Rejoice with me ?"-We may suppose the penitent, not only bowed down by a sense of past guilt, but oppressed by feeling much remaining stoutness of spirit and hardness of heart; which, though not before aware of, he now begins to perceive and lament. Perhaps he recollects, not merely outward sins, but (which is often the case with moral persons,) a proud contempt of the doctrines and ministry of the gospel, and many sarcastical remarks on pious persons, that lie with peculiar weight upon the conscience. Many
of provocations and disappointments; who had persevered for a long course of time, while the case seemed hopeless: would he not rejoice, when his endeavours were crowned with full success? Surely he could not see the repenting rebel a suppliant at his feet, confessing his crimes with all their aggravations, and most submissively imploring forgiveness and reconciliation, though ready to fear a repulse, without the most lively emotions of satisfaction. It is impossible, but he must inwardly rejoice; unless he, who had the heart of a father while the son was a rebel, could be turned into a monster when his son became a penitent. Prudence indeed might dictate the outward expressions of his joy, and that perhaps in a way not quite so pleasing to the suppliant's feelings; but, beyond all doubt, they would be directed to the promoting of his permanent advantage.
We learn then from the expression, Rejoice "with me," that the penitent sinner is sure to find a cordial welcome from him who "came to seek "and to save that which was lost."
All the love of Christ to sinners, which has been before considered; all the means used, and the divine influence of the Holy Spirit communicated, in order to bring them to a sense of their guilt and danger, and to render them willing to accept of this salvation; are so many demonstrations that no one, however guilty or enslaved by sin, shall be rejected when thus brought to seek mercy and grace as proposed in the gospel The prodigal is at length induced to say, "I will go to my father, "and say unto him, Father, I have sinned against "heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy