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loves his neighbour, and heartily desires his happiness, will not see him make haste to be undone for ever, and not stop him a little, and acquaint him with his danger, even with some warmth and earnestness, for fear of his displeasure. And though the man may be very angry at first with the impertinent busybody, as perhaps he may call him, for giving him disturbance in a way he so much delights in, yet in cool blood he may consider better of it, and it may do him good. He may then begin to see his error, which he took but little notice of before, and find reason to be thankful for the faithful wounds of his friend o; for as Solomon long ago observed, he that rebuketh a man, afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue p.
But whether it is well received or not, seasonable reproof is a very great charity, and shall not lose its reward; and it is so much a Christian's duty, too, to give it when there is just occasion, that the omission of it in the laity as well as the clergy is a very great fault, and of very ill consequence: and such an irreligious connivance at our brother's sins, and uncompassionate disregard of his dangerous and most deplorable condition, shall be severely accounted for, when inquiry shall be made into our works of mercy, of which this is none of the least 4.
And as the good shepherd, when he had found his stray sheep, laid it upon his shoulders, and brought it home rejoicing, and told the good news to his friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost; so it is an inexpressible pleasure to any truly good man o Prov. xxvii, 6. p Prov. xxviii. 23.
q Matt. xxv. BRAGGE, VOL. III.
to be instrumental in the recovery of a poor, deluded creature, who was almost dead in trespasses and sins; and had it not been for his kind admonitions, in all probability would have been irrecoverably lost.
This is matter of true joy indeed: and every good Christian, and even the angels in heaven, and our blessed Lord himself, will gladly bear a part in it; for he hath told us, that there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance". The greater and more hopeless the danger is, the greater and more surprising will be the joy, when it is escaped; and that in the deliverer as well as him that is delivered: and the rescue of a wretched, perishing soul, out of the very talons of the prince of the power of the air, is so much to the honour of God, the shame and disappointment of the Devil, and the poor creature's happiness, that it may justly cause extraordinary rejoicing. As a man would be more sensibly affected with the recovery of a child from the brink of the grave, than with the continued health of all the rest of his family.
And thou, most holy, and most compassionate Jesus, thou great and good Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who camest down from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost, and not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; have mercy upon me, a poor, wandering, deluded creature, and leave me not to my own counsels, lest my errors and my ignorances increase, and my sins abound to
r Luke xv. 7.
my destruction, and I fall before my adversary, and the enemy of souls rejoice over me, as his miserable prey, whose tender mercies are cruel.
I have shamefully strayed, O Lord, thou knowest, from my duty, and the way of thy commandments, and now groan under the sad consequences of this my wickedness and folly; I am lost and bewildered, even past hopes of return, unless thou seek me out by the powerful calls of thy Spirit, and bring me back by his unerring conduct. Otherefore send that blessed Spirit down, that he may rest upon me, and effectually move me to a reformation of every evil work! And grant that I may entirely give myself
up to his guidance, cheerfully following whereever he shall lead me, and never provoke him to leave me and forsake me!
II. Convince me, I beseech thee, daily more and more of my true interest and my great end! that I may waste my days no longer in empty, vain pursuits ; but live up for the future to the dignity of my nature and most holy profession, in innocence and purity, patience, humility, and obedience, doing injury to none, but all the good I am able in my generation; as becomes one of thy flock, who wert holy and harmless, meek and lowly in heart; and madest it thy whole business to glorify thy Father, and do good to mankind, setting us an example that we should follow thy steps. And I do thou enlarge my soul, that I may tread in those thy blessed steps, and run with cheerfulness the way of thy commandments! then shall I truly walk at liberty, when I have regard to thy precepts above all things, for thy service is perfect freedom ! so shall I glorify thee with my body and my spirit, which are thine ; so shall I live worthy of the blessed name by which I am called, and as befits a candidate for a crown that fadeth not away, eternal in the heavens; and which thou, blessed Jesus, with wondrous love, hast purchased for me with thy most precious blood.
Lord! let thy tender eye of mercy always look upon me, as I sincerely put my trust in thee. Convert my soul, and lead me in the paths of righteousness for thy name's sake: I have gone too long astray from thee, like a sheep that is lost; O do thou seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments!
Amen, dearest Redeemer, Amen.
Of the unjust steward.
LUKE xvi. 1—9.
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain
rich man, which had a steward; and the same was ac
cused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear
this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for
thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I
cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the
stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and
said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my
lord ? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said
unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou ? And
he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said
unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had
done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the
mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
THE ancient fathers looked upon this as the most difficult and obscure of all our Saviour's parables ; and so have several modern writers since, and Caje