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pose, David, in another place, says, Thou defirest not sacrifice, else would I give it : Thou delightest not in burnt-offering ; and immediately after, declares, agreeably to our doctrine, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despiseb. He that confesseth his fins, and forsaketh thein, faith the wise man, the Jame foall find mercy ; but ke that covereth his fins, shall not profper. And in the New Testament, destruction is denounced against all who do not repent. Except ye repent, ye fhall all likewise perishd. In the parable of the pharisee and publican, the latter, who was ashamed on account of his fins, who stood at a distance, and beat upon his breast, and said, God be merciful to me a finner : went down to his house justified, rather than the other.
But in the third place: Iu this parable is represented to us the mercy of God, and his readiness to receive every returning finner. This is the perfection of the divine nature, in which, as offending creatures, we are principally interested. By his goodness he is . . R 3
the * Psalm li. 16, 17. ^ ¢ Prov. xxvii, 13. d Luke xiii. 3.
e Luke x,
the object of the love and veneration of angels. From its emanations they receive their felicity, and, dwelling at the fountain of joy, they know no sorrow. But goodness itself, strict impartial goodness, is the object of terror to a weak, imperfect creature like man, conscious of his fins, and repeated offences. Goodnefs engages the being that is possessed of it, to be beneficent, to bestow the means of happiness, but not to restore them, if they have been misapplied and squandered. When I survey the justice of the Divinity, I tremble in his prefence ; and were I ignorant of every other moral perfection of his nature, I should pray to be reduced to nothing. When I view his goodness, I admire and adore it; but I envy the angels who never fell, and who are the objects of its complacence. But when I see him clothed in his mercy, I glory in my lot as a man, and raise my eyes to immortality. Now it is this attribute which is represented to us in this parable. When the prodigal had wasted all, when he was ruined and undone, and was obliged to return to that father whom he had disregarded and dishonoured ; we read, while he was yet a great way off, he
bad compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. Does not this teach us that, like as a father pitieth his children, fo the Lord pitieth every repenting finner? Even under the severity of the old dispensation, the Omnipotent had declared himself the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and flow to anger, forgiving iniquity, transgreffion, and fin. With him, it was at that period declared, there was mercy, that he might be feared, and plenteous redemption; and be remembered the frame of mortals, that they were but dust. But still clearer declarations of the mercy and placability of God are afforded to us under the new dispensation, in which Christ himself is the law-giver. The heavenly voice, at his birth, proclaimed, Peace on earth, and good-will to men; as if all that had yet been known, was only to be compared to some scattered rays which preceded the rising of the sun. One great part of our Saviour's employment, during the whole of his ministry, was to display the divinity in his mildest aspect, and by this means, to heal the broken in heart, and to bind up the wounded in spirit. And finally, this Saviour, by an unspotted obedience, and a meritorious R4
death, made mercy and truth to meet together, righteousness and peace to kiss each other.
Having now considered the fatal consequences of vice, the disposition of a true penitent, and the exuberant mercy of God ; let us, in a few sentences, apply what has been said.
Is vice the direct road to misery and ruin? Does not daily experience convince us that it is ? While the common accidents of life slay their thousands, this evil alone killeth her ten thousands. Let this teach us to consider it as our greatest enemy. If there were a general reformation in a country, I could scarcely number up the train of diseases, inisfortunes, and afflictions which would difappear at once by its means : for trace our calamities to the source, and it will be found that yice is the chief one. Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let all who are not yet initiated in sin, beware of it, for verily it bringeth a snare to his foul.
2dly, Since the disposition of a true penitent is so pleasing in the fight of God, what reason has every one of us, to endeavour to obtain it! The Almighty shews the value he
has for a human soul, by preferring its re. newal to every other facrifice. There is a strange propensity in corrupt man, to endeavour to please God in some different manner; but this is the only way that is acceptable, To what purpose is the multitude of your fabbaths, your new-moons, and your oblations ? Wash ye, make ye clean, put away the evil of your doings, cease to do evil, learn to do well, What occasion we all have for this, let our lives and our manners testify. Does that piety, integrity or purity prevail among us, which become the gospel? Is that love to God, and regard to his laws, which the gos, pel enjoirs, the ruling principle of our lives? Would to God it were! after all, there should remain fufficient defects to lament, But as it is otherwise, ho:v deep ought our humiliation to be! Let us acknowledge our. transgressions, and be diligent to search out the plague of our own hearts, and turn unta God, who will have mercy; and unto our God, who will abundantly pardon.
Lastly, This mercy of God which is difplayed in the scriptures, ought to be the ob·ject of our praise and adoration. We are enabled to view God, and yet we are not