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LUKE XV. 10.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth.
Events of various kinds occur on earth, which excite the boisterous joy of immense multitudes, throughout populous regions; but, generally, that which causes joy in one country produces " mourn"ing, lamentation, and wo" in some neighbouring nation: nay, in most instances, it clothes no small number even in the joyous land with mourning, and pierces their hearts with anguish.
But the word of God informs us of one event, and only of one, which occurs on earth, that causes joy in heaven, and among all its holy and blessed inhabitants. No intimation is given, that the victories and triumphs, even of the most favoured nation; or the deliverance of any country from tyranny and oppression; or the civilization of barbarous countries; or ameliorating the condition of any part of the human race, by wholesome laws, impartially executed; or even the progress of science or intellectual improvement; causes joy in heaven. I mean not to depreciate those events: but angels are not said to rejoice on account of them. Even the external prosperity and enlargement of the church is not mentioned as exciting their joy: for, could it be separated from the repentance and conversion of sinners, it would be no more than a worthless form, a dead carcase of religion. Had it been announced, and attested by him who is " the Truth," "the Amen, the true and "faithful Witness," that one single event occurs on earth which causes joy in heaven; and had no further information been given; our thoughts might have been deeply occupied in inquiring what that could be. Conjectures of different kinds might have been made, by politicians, philosophers, men of learning, and philanthropists: but it is probable that almost all would have been exceedingly astonished, on being told, after all their investigations and decisions, that the repentance of one sinner, perhaps in the lowest order of society, unlettered, destitute it may be, one of previous bad character; a poor sufferer in a hospital, or a workhouse; nay, a wretched prostitute in a garret, or a felon in a dungeon; was this single joyful event! Yet this is actually the case! In whatever rank of life he might be, or of whatever previous character among men, "there is joy in the pre"sence of the angels of God over one sinner "that repenteth :"—over king Manasseh, and Nebuchadnezzar the mighty monarch of Babylon, and over the thief upon the cross: over Saul, the zealous, moral, and formal Pharisee, and over " the woman who was a sinner," and whom Simon the Pharisee disdained.—In this view," Let the brother
"of low degree rejoice, in that he is exalted; but "the rich in that he is made low:" for there is no joy over the self-wise, the self-righteous, the selfwilled, or any of those who do not repent, or who think that they " need no repentance."
I shall not occupy your time any further by introductory reflections. Let me intreat your candid and patient attention, while with all plainness I endeavour,
I. To state and explain the nature of that event, over which there is joy in heaven:
II. To shew who they are that unite in this rejoicing: and,
III. To consider the grounds and reasons of their joy.
A concise view of these particulars, will open the way to much practical instruction; and especially shew, that the grand object of the London Female Penitentiary entirely coincides with that of Christianity itself, and as such is superior to all reasonable objection.
I. Then, I proceed to state and explain the nature of that event, over which there is joy in heaven.
The occasion on which our Lord spake the words of my text, and the whole chapter whence they are taken, combine in leading our thoughts to those sinners, especially, who have by their vices disgraced themselves among men. For depraved as human nature is, and wicked and ungodly as the world is, there are some degrees, and particularly some kinds, of wickedness which in many circles are excluded from toleration, and deemed sufficient to banish the culprit from the society of all who value their reputation. Thus a sort of excommunication takes place, which is commonly considered as irrevocable. I am far from objecting to this measure: in the case now before us, it forms a proper and wholesome discipline to the offenders; and a warning to others, suited to strengthen their purpose in the hour of temptation; and it powerfully tends to preserve that invaluable treasure, female chastity. I only object to it, when considered as irrevocable by one party, and hopeless by the other. Let all endeavours be used to bring the criminal to repentance; and to "restore her "in the spirit of meekness:" and when it is rendered evident that repentance has taken place, by "works meet for repentance," then let the excommunicatory sentence be disannulled.—l( Sufficient "is this punishment, which was inflicted of many: "so that contrariwise, ye ought rather to forgive "her, and to comfort her; lest, perhaps, such a "one should be swallowed up of over-much sor"row." "Lest Satan should get an advantage "against us: for we are not ignorantof hisdevices."1 It would be well if impartiality were adhered to in this respect. But I am afraid it is too much even to be hoped for, that, in any circle, men convicted of seduction, or gross licentiousness, even far beyond what would deeply disgrace any female, should be frowned out of the company of men of character and virtue. Yet it is rather wonderful, that women of character and virtue do not exclude them, with decided disapprobation, similar to that which meets perhaps the very objects of their se
dnctive arts. Scarcely any human means would so much tend to counteract the dire progress of licentiousness, as such a line of conduct adopted by all virtuous females. By an almost irreversible law of our nature, each sex desires to be, or to appear to be, what the other sex approves; at least not to be what it shuns with contempt and aversion: and, did virtuous women shew decided disapprobation of licentious men, and exclude them from their society, in the same manner in which the dissolute of their own sex are excluded, the effect in reforming the morals of men, and consequently in stopping the progress of female profligacy would no doubt be very great, probably beyond our present conception. .
But to return from this, I trust, not inappropriate digression, the evangelist says, "Then drew near "to Jesus, all the publicans and sinners for to hear "him." It does not appear that they came with any intention to deride, or to object: but to hear his gracious instructions; no doubt under some prevailing conviction, that he was "a teacher sent "from God:" and that they themselves needed to be taught the way of salvation. "And the Scribes "and Pharisees murmured, saying, This man re"ceiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It was on this occasion that our Lord spoke those three parables of which the chapter consists.
In whatever manner some expressions in these parables may be interpreted by men of discordant sentiments, it is absolutely undeniable, that the repentance of such persons as the publicans and sinners whom the Scribes and Pharisees disdained,