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This uniform conduct of our blessed Saviour, to. wards those who were humbly sensible of their guilt and danger, appeared still more remarkable and instructive, if contrasted with his addresses to the selfsufficient Scribes and Pharisees; in which he uses the strongest language of just severity and authoritative rebuke: “ Verily, I say unto you, that the pub"licans and harlots shall enter into the kingdom of " heaven before you.”—“ Ye serpents, ye genera" tion 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 selfrighteous, 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 com. passionate 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 ad.
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 wel. comed, both by the LORD and by his ministers. • The Old Testament affords an instance no less extraordinary. Manasseh had filed 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 abominationsand yet, when, “ in affliction he besought the Lord his God, " and humbled bimself 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: but 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 trémble at his word ; in order to humble and prove him, and to do him good at the latter end; but, if truly penitent, if
“ be goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed; “ be shall doubtless come again rejoicing, and bring " bis 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 angry with me, thine anger 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 salvation."*
Whatever then is needful of instruction, pardon, sanctification, strength, liberty, or comfort, shall in due time be vouchsafed: and the LORD himself will rejoiee 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."
III. Then I proceed 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 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 pro.
per means, to induce others to scek 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 steward. ship.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in “ Christ Jesus.” Did he stoop so low, so deny himself, and suffer such unknown agonies, from love, not to the holy or to his friends, but to lost sinners, rebels, and enemies; to us when viewed in these characters ? Let us imbibe his spirit, let us not be indifferent to the eternal interests of those around us, however vile or injurious. Let us despair of no man, harbour prejudices against none, or indulge resentment on account of any provocations, however many and great. While our foes, perhaps, may even thirst for our blood, let us desire and seek for their salvation. - What language does the apostle use on this subject! “God is my record, how greatly I “ long after you, in the bowels of Jesus CHRIST.”
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, “ till Christ be formed in you.” This was indeed “ the mind that was in Christ Jesus,” and should be in us all.
There is a way of speaking, concerning the ignorant or immoral, too common even among such as profess to believe the gospel ; which seems to imply that they are hopeless characters, and that no good can be done to them: and when this idea prevails, it
is not likely any proper means of doing them good should be attempted with earnestness and perseve. rance. But whoever duly remembers all the particu. lars of his own case, and all the patience and mercy which the LORD has shewn to him, will not readily conceive more difficulties or greater unworthiness in another, than have been overcome and pardoned, in bringing him into the liberty and comfort of the gospel.
While therefore, in our several places, we use all such means of bringing sinners to repentance and the knowledge of Christ, as consist with our character and situation; and watch for opportunities of dropping some hint, or putting something in the way of those to whom we have access, which may awaken their attention : let us remember all our brethren, who, in different parts of the world, and by various methods, are making similar attempts. The ministers of Curist especially, whose constant employment this is, or should be; and who often labour, with a degree of success vastly below their wishes and desires, are entitled to remembrance in your daily prayers. If called on to rejoice with CHRIST, when the lost sheep is found; you must also be required to desire that joyful event.
It takes place, at present, alas! but seldom, to what it has done in former times : and how loudly does this call upon you,“ to strive toge. " ther in prayer for us ;” both that we may be better qualified for the work, and more prospered in it! Perhaps nothing is less adequately attended to, in general, than the duty of praying for the success of