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worship of God? but they will say, “ I was glad, “ when it was said to me, Let us go into the house " of the Lord.” This will put earnestness into their inquiries, and fervency into their prayers ; and render Christ and his salvation glorious in their
eyes, and precious to their souls. But, alas ! I fear this is by no means the case of all even in this congregation. I am persuaded
of you, my friends, have never felt this kind and degree of conviction, as to the criminality of your conduct, and the danger of your souls. I cannot impart to you my perceptions of the truths I inculcate : but I would exhort you to search the scriptures, and beg of God, for Christ's sake, to illuminate your minds by his Holy Spirit, to a right understanding of the sacred word, and to a just estimate of your own character and conduct. When this has been duly attended to, you will more nearly agree with me as to the need of regeneration and repentance, of faith in the Son of God, and of every part of scriptural Christianity, than you
have hitherto. The subject before us explains a circumstance, which to many appears strange and unaccountable. The same person who, when careless and inattentive to religion, seemed satisfied with himself, now that he is become earnest about salvation, afraid of all sin, and attentive to every duty, is far removed from self-complacency: so far, that he has a lower opinion of himself than he ever had before! In fact, he judges by a new rule ; he views his conduct, as considering himself the subject and deeply-indebted creature of God.
He has new sensibilities : he is far more employed than for
merly in reviewing his own thoughts, motives, words, and actions : he sees sin in ten thousand particulars, where before he saw it not. He thinks nothing done, because he is so far from having attained. He judges not by what man takes cognizance of; but by his obligations to that God who searches the heart. And thus, in his best duties, he feels the need of mercy; and can in nothing find encouragement, except from “ the “ glorious gospel of God our Saviour.”
Thus deep humility, and a great proficiency in genuine religion, not only go together, but are proportioned to each other, and aid one another's growth. Thus Christ Jesus, and his atonement, righteousness, and grace, become more and more valued, as the believer advances in holiness : and thus he daily ripens for the world above; where perfect purity, humility, gratitude, and admiring love, will dictate the adoration, and enhance the felicity, of the redeemed to all eternity.
But, if hitherto strangers to this salvation and this state of heart, you are still called on to seek “the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness “ from the God of our salvation :” he is ready to receive and bless all that come to him on his mercy-seat, through the mediation of his Son. “Behold, therefore, now is the accepted time; be“ hold now is the day of salvation.” « Let the “ wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous “ man his thoughts; and let him return unto the “ Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to “ our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
ON CHRIST'S LOVE TO PENITENT SINNERS.
LUKE XV. 6.
Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which
"Then drew near unto Jesus all the publicans “ and sinners for to hear him. Persons of bad character, not only in the sight of God, but also in the judgment of men, were so impressed by our Lord's miracles and discourses, that they voluntarily “ drew near,” not to cavil or scoff, but “ to “ hear him.” Yet, while he compassionately regarded and instructed them, the “Scribes and “ Pharisees murmured, saying, This man receiveth
sinners, and eateth with them.”
To repress these proud objectors; to illustrate the propriety of his conduct as the Saviour of sinners ; and to encourage the penitent, both at that time and in all future ages; our gracious Lord spoke the three parables which stand recorded in this chapter.
We have lately considered the scriptural view of
repentance unto life;" and the majesty and glory of that God against whom we have sinned, with our relations and obligations to him, as aggravating the criminality of our conduct; and have
shewn, that we are all thus brought in guilty before God of numberless and heinous transgressions, whatever be our character among men. These considerations are suited to shew us our need of repentance, of mercy, of the Saviour's atoning blood, and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. If then our minds be prepared, by a genuine conviction that this is really our state, and these our urgent wants, to welcome the message of the gospel; the present subject, which leads us to consider the love of Christ to lost sinners in general, and to penitents in particular, cannot but be seasonable.
“ What man of you,” says the condescending Saviour even to his murmuring opposers, “ having “an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, will not “ leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and
go after that which is lost, until he find it?” The hundred sheep are his valued property: one of them is lost; the rest are safe in the pasture : and his principal care and pains are not employed about the ninety and nine, but about the single sheep that is missing. He leaves the rest as not equally needing his presence, and goes from place to place, with labour and fatigue, to seek after that which is lost: nor does he remit his assiduity, or cease from his anxious search, till at length he finds it. Then he thinks himself well recompensed for his past labour ; and “ laying it on his
shoulders, rejoicing,” he carries it to the fold: and going home “ he calleth together his friends “and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with “me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” -What then are we to learn from this parable? Our Lord himself answers the inquiry, when he adds, “ I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be “ in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more “ than over ninety and nine just persons which “ need no repentance.”
But who are these “ just persons that need no
repentance?” Certainly none on earth have a right to consider themselves as such; but it is equally certain that numbers do not perceive or feel their need of repentance. The murmurs of the Pharisees, whom our Lord addressed, shewed this to be their proud sentiment: and he often spoke to men according to their judgment of themselves, and not according to their real character. The chapter before us contains a remarkable instance of this : for in the parable of the prodigal son the elder brother is introduced, when in a very proud and disobedient spirit, saying, “ Lo, “ these many years do I serve thee; neither “ transgressed I at any time thy commandment:” and his father is afterwards represented as saying, “ Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have “is thine:” though it is evident that the parable was intended to rebuke the vain confidence of the proud Pharisees, as well as to encourage humble penitents.
But, should any person doubt respecting this interpretation, we may remember that angels in heaven need no repentance: yet the Saviour's care, and labour, and sufferings, were not employed about them, but in behalf of
lost sinners on earth : nor does he rejoice over angels, as he does over every sinner that repents.—Even those who have been brought home to his fold,