Billeder på siden

"to be called thy son:" and will the father now spurn him from him, and leave him at last to perish? No: "He looketh upon men, and if any



say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was " right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his "soul from going down into the pit, and his life "shall see the light." The good Shepherd has regained his lost sheep, and says to his friends and neighbours," Rejoice with me, for I have found

my sheep that was lost." And if any, like the Pharisees, and the elder brother in the parable, object, and find fault, he will vindicate his own proceedings, and put them to shame and silence.

Certainly this is the view of the subject, which these parables, spoken for that very purpose, are suited to convey: and the general tenour of scripture accords to it. How emphatical the language of God by his prophet concerning Ephraim! "I "have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself "thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chas"tised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou "art the Lord my God.-Is Ephraim my dear son? "Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. There"fore my bowels are troubled for him. I will "surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."2

[ocr errors]

Indeed the kindness and condescension of Christ, as recorded in the gospel, during his personal ministry, were entirely coincident with these representations. He never despised or frowned on any one who came to him, however mean or vile; but

1 Job. xxxiii. 27, 28.

Jer. xxxi. 18-20.

was always accessible and compassionate: and in this, as in all other respects, he "hath left us an example that we should follow his steps."


Simon, the Pharisee, disdained "the woman "that was a sinner," when, as a weeping penitent, she washed our Lord's " feet with tears, and wiped "them with the hairs of her head." But he graciously noticed the evidences of her faith and love: he declared that "her sins, though many, were forgiven:" he said to her, "thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In like manner, when censured for becoming the guest of Zaccheus the publican; having heard his profession of penitent faith, he declared for his encouragement, "This day is salvation come to "this house; for as much as he also is a son of "Abraham: for the Son of man is come to seek ૮ "and to save that which was lost.' And even to the thief upon the cross, who confessed his guilt, and said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest "in thy kingdom;" amidst his own agonizing tortures he replied, " Verily, I say unto thee, this day "shalt thou be with me in paradise."


This uniform conduct of our blessed Saviour, towards those who were humbly sensible of their guilt and danger, appears still more remarkable and instructive, if contrasted with his addresses to the self-sufficient Scribes and Pharisees; in which he uses the strongest language of just severity and authoritative rebuke: "Verily, I say unto you, "that the publicans and harlots shall enter into the kingdom of heaven before you." "Ye serpents,

[ocr errors]


ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the "damnation of hell?" There is in some men a

sort of indolent easiness of temper, which induces an indiscriminate kindness to persons of all characters, at least as far as words can go: but the marked difference of address, which our Lord made use of, in speaking to the self-righteous and to the humble penitent, forms such a contrast, that we are sure there must be, in his judgment, something essentially different in the state of their hearts, which according to the plan of the gospel requires this marked discrimination.

When Saul of Tarsus, being met with in the way to Damascus, became a humble suppliant, the compassionate Saviour whom he had persecuted takes notice of it to Ananias," Behold he prayeth." And Ananias, sent expressly to assure him of pardon and peace, and to restore his sight as a pledge of further mercies, accosts this wolf, which had so cruelly destroyed the sheep of Christ, with the cordial address," Brother, Saul, the Lord, even Jesus "whom thou sawest in the way, hath sent me unto "thee." It is probable that Saul, during his three days' weeping and fasting, in darkness and distress, had feared lest he had sinned beyond the reach of mercy: but no objections were made against him on account of his past most atrocious crimes; and, as soon as he began to repent, and was willing to be saved in the way of the gospel, he was heartily welcomed, both by the Lord and by his ministers. The Old Testament affords an instance no less extraordinary. Manassch had filled Jerusalem with abominable idolatries, and with innocent blood; he had persisted and increased in wickedness beyond example, in defiance of warnings sent

from God by his prophets; he had used his authority to induce his people to comply with his abominations; and, yet, when " in affliction he besought "the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly "before the God of his fathers; he was intreated "of him, and heard his supplication."

But the parable, in this chapter, of the prodigal son, which has been repeatedly alluded to, is perhaps the most decisive on the subject that can be conceived. It was spoken on purpose to encourage the penitent, and to reprove those who disdained them. No sooner is the prodigal, whose conduct had been most base, brought to himself, and induced to return home, than the father sees him afar off, runs to meet him, prevents his confessions and intreaties, hastens to speak peace and comfort to his dejected heart, and welcomes him with every token of affection and joy.

The Lord indeed often leaves the awakened sinner for a time" to sow in tears," and "tremble "at his word;" in order " to humble and prove ❝ him, and to do him good at the latter end:" but if truly penitent, if" he goeth forth and weepeth, "bearing precious seed, he shall doubtless come "again rejoicing, and bring his sheaves with him." He may for a season mourn in darkness, and fear lest his case be hopeless; but ere long he shall say, "O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast 66 angry with me, thine is turned away, and "thou comfortest me. Behold God is become my


"salvation: I will trust and not be afraid; for the "Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, he "also is become my salvation. Therefore with

"joy shall ye draw waters out of the wells of sal"vation."

Whatever then is needful of instruction, pardon, sanctification, strength, liberty, or comfort, shall in due time be vouchsafed; and the Lord himself will rejoice over the poor penitent to do him good, "to the praise of the glory of his grace." For, "where sin has abounded, grace much more "abounds."-I proceed then,

III. To consider what we may learn from the call given us to rejoice with the good Shepherd, when he has found his sheep that was lost.

I apprehend that this call was not merely intended as an additional encouragement to the poor trembling and mourning penitent, though it is exceedingly suited to answer this end; but also to teach us some important parts of our duty, which we are too apt to overlook.-If indeed we "have "fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before "us" in the gospel; if we have found " peace and "joy in believing," and "have tasted that the Lord " is gracious;" it should be one grand aim and design of our future lives, by all proper means to induce others to seek a share in the same inestimable blessings. This is by no means exclusively the work of ministers: it is the duty of all Christians, in their families and neighbourhood; among their relatives and connexions; in their sphere of action, whether contracted or more extended; and according to the talents committed to their stewardship.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsæt »