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joy in heaven over such a creature, is a miracle of grace and mercy far surpassing that of curing the blind or the lame, or raising the dead. There is nothing more hateful to God than sin; and yet our Lord says, that there shall be joy in heaven over a sinner. Yes; but it is over a sinner that repenteth; a sinner who hates and forsakes his sins; who turns away from his wickedness both in heart and life; who is grieved at his heart for having despised so good and so merciful a God; who would not for a world turn again to such folly; who feels an indignation against himself on account of it; whose sorrow does not arise srom worldly loss or disappointment, nor chiefly from the fear of endless torments, but from his having set at nought infinite goodness and love; who is above . things anxious to do so no more ; who is afraid lest he should be drawn back to sin; and who, therefore, keeps a strict watch over his heart, his tongue, his ways; and takes revenge as it were on himself, for having neglected and displeased his God. There shall be joy in heaven over such a sinner, how great and how many soever his sins may have been ; for the Lord delighteth not in the death of a sinner: he is not willing that any sinner should perish, but that he should repeat and live. When the Prodigal Son had spent in riotous living all that his father had given him, and in his misery came to himself, and arose to go to his father, in order to confess his sin, acknowledge his wretchedness, and beg only to be admitted as one of his hired servants; his father, while he was yet a great way off, saw him, and had compassion on him, and, running to meet him, fell on his neck and kissed him. He received him with joy, as his son who had been lost but was found, and he would have all the family to rejoice with him. Oh the infinite love and compassion of our heavenly Father! He rejoices at the conChrist. Oassav. No. 123.
version of a sinner: he calls upon his angels to rejoice with him. Such an event fills them with joy and gladness: for among them there is no envy, but love; a love which makes them stoop to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. They rejoice when the labour of their Lord and ours, has not been in vain. Such is the benevolence which reigns in heaven, that joy is excited there even over one sinner that repenteth. One might suppose that the conversion of a whole city or nation might cause joy in heaven; but God and his holy angels rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, and this without respect of persons or rank. Here the rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. It is not said that there shall be joy in heaven over a rich or a great man that repenteth, but over one sinner that repenteth, whether he be rich or poor, high or low, bond or free. Nay, if we may judge from some declarations of Scripture, it would appear that God delighted more especially in the recovery of the poor and mean. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh
should glory in his presence.” The
meanest and poorest sinner that repenteth, is as much the object of the Divine care and joy, as if there were no other to care for in the world. God dwells in light inaccessible: no man hath seen God at any time; but the only begotten Son he hath revealed him, and hath revealed him to us by his beloved disciple as Love: “God is love;” and love, when it loses a beloved object, becomes ardent in its desires to recover it, and will wo no pains and labour to accomplish its recovery : and when those pains and labour are success. ful, the greater the love has been, and the more ardent the desire to recover the lost object, the greater must be the joy in its recovery. God, when he created man at first, breathed into him a living soul, an immortal spirit, after his own image, and in his own likeness; but when man had ruined and destroyed himself by sin, how ardent was the desire manifested by God, and how #. were the care and pains taken or his recovery He removes him from those things which had drawn away his heart from God; he lets him feel the misery which attends his departure from God, by which he lost true peace and joy, and found in their stead only vanity and vexation of spirit. He visits him inwardly by his Spirit; he sends from time to time his servants the prophets, calling upon him to return, and offering him pardon and forgiveness; he waits patiently for him, with a view to reclaim him; he so loves him as to send his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but have everlasting life; he sends him not to condemn the world, but that the world through him may be saved. How ardent must that love have been which clothed the everblessed Son of God with our nature, which led him to take the form of a servant, and to humble himself to death, even the death of the cross, that he might recover us to himself! When the desire has been so intense, and the pains taken so great, for the recovery of the sinner, doubtless the joy for his recovery, when it is accomplished, must be proportionate. Nor is the Divine goodness in this respect confined to a few particular objects. It extends to all. God desires the recovery, the repentance, of every sinner. “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will
ye die? The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to reperitance.” Since, then, our heavenly Father desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should repent and live ; since there is such joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, let it be our endeavour to awaken in ourselves, through the Divine grace, this spirit of true penitence. The great importance of the subject I need not insist upon. It formed the grand topic of the preaching of John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord; and with this topic also, our Lord himself commenced his ministry: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” Our Lord tells us, that it was for the very end that repentance and remission of sins might be preached unto all nations, that it behoved the Son of man to suffer and to rise again from the dead. And what our blessed Lord said to us while on earth, he may be considered as now saying to us from heaven; “ Repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” And who is it that thus calls us to repentance It is our Almighty God, our heavenly Father, our most bountiful Benefactor, our most merciful Redeemer, our most blessed Comforter, our most faithful Friend, who is the giver of all good, who is love and goodness itself; who is also truth itself, and cannot deceive us. And shall we turn a deaf ear to his call Shall we refuse the gracious invitation which would raise us from our natural state of darkness and degradation, of wretchedness and sin; to life, and light, and glory, to perfect happiness and perfect holiness? Such a refusal would cause joy indeed, but not in heaven. The great enemy of our souls, Satan, with all his angels, would rejoice to find that their labour had not been in vain. These thirst for our ruin; they go about seeking to devour us; by the baits of worldly honours, , earthly riches, sensual pleasures,
they would tempt us to defer this great work, and to leave it finally unaccomplished, thus deceiving and drawing us on to our destruction. And shall we gratify their malice and their hatred to us, at a rate too which will prove so costly Shall we be so far deluded and blinded by the god of this world, as to second his efforts for our ruin, and assist him, as it were, to rivet the chains which are to bind us down under darkness, until the judgment of the great day shall consign us to everlasting shame and contempt, misery and despair And let us consider how reasonable are the things which our merciful God and Saviour requires of us, when he tells us to repent. He requires that we do not go on to destroy ourselves eternally, to ruin both our souls and bodies for ever. He requires that we should live to the true ends and purposes of our creation, which are, to glorify God here, by a life devoted to his service, that we may enjoy him for ever in heaven. He requires that we should pursue the things which make us truly happy, and avoid those which will make us for ever miserable. He requires that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves; that we should cease to do evil, and learn to do well; that we should do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God; that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that, renouncing the world, the flesh, and the devil, we should seek the favour of God as our portion, and look to heaven as our home; that our communion should be with God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ; that we should be made partakers of the Divine nature; and have our lives so secured with Christ in God, that when he who is our life shall appear, we may also with him appear in glory. What more ought to be necessary to induce us to obey this call to
repentance, than to contemplate the blessings which attend penitence, and the miseries which attend a contrary state and temper? The penitent have inward peace and serenity of mind; the comfort and joy of a good conscience; the favour of God, and free access to him at all times; his special protection to aid them; the guard of his holy angels to sustain them; sweetness and content in every thing they receive, and even in the afflictions which befal them; a secret delight in following their Lord in that way of self-denial which he trod; the continual aids of his grace to strengthen them in this course; a fervent love, which animates them to undergo all difficulties; an humble faith in God, and a firm hope in his mercy, which support them under every trial.Such are their privileges * their pilgrimage here below; and, to crown all, their latter end is F. and they are at length transated into the kingdom of their Father, and enter for ever into the joy of their Lord. What a contrast to this is the state of the impenitent! They continue slaves to their own lusts, and to the devil, who leads them captive at his will; they have no true inward peace and quiet; the happiness they do enjoy arises only from an ignorance of their true state, a blindness to the miseries that await them : their pleasures are low, transient, o delusive; promising much, but ending only in disappointment; tickling the senses, or the imagination, but .# in the issue vanity and vexation of spirit. And what is their final portion after this severish dream of life is over ? It is outer darkness, misery, and despair; the communion of devils and wicked spirits; weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; the worm that never dies, the fire that never shall be quenched. These considerations, awful as they are, may now, it is true, be disregarded by us; but how different will our view of them be whef
death comes to arrest us and tear us
away from all those objects on
which we had placed our affections,
and the vamity and worthlessness of which we shall then fully under
stand ' We shall then stand amazed
at our own folly and madness; we shall wish earnestly for a longer time in which to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, but it will be denied to us.
Why then do we defer to lend an ear to the Divine calls? How long have we abused his patience and long suffering already! Shall we even delay this work till to morrow, when we know not what dreadful consequences this very day may be big with “To-day, then, let us hear his voice, and not harden our hearts. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” Let us improve the present time, for that only is ours; and turn unto the Lord with all our hearts. And let us not be deterred from entering on this course by any apprehension of the difficulties attending it. For ourselves to overcome our evil habits, to mortify and subdue our lusts and corruptions, to repent and turn unto the Lord, would indeed be beyond our strength. But he who hath commanded us to turn, stands ready to bestow on us the strength which is requisite to that end. Only let us repair to him, and his strength shall be made perfect in our weakness. His grace and Spirit shall be given to us to make us such as he would have us to be ; to quicken our souls, to raise them from the death of sin to a life of righteousness; to turn us from darkmess to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. To conclude: if thus repenting
of our sins we return to God through Jesus Christ, we may be assured of the Divine acceptance. “He will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and our sins and iniquities he will remember no more. Though our sins were as scarlet, he will make them white as snow; and though
they were red as crimson, he will
make them white as wool.” He will receive us into his household and family, and number us with his sons and daughters. He will guide us by his counsel, and hereafter receive us to glory. He will rejoice ever to do us good. Nay, we shall cause joy in heaven among all the blessed multitudes who surround his throne; for “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” Now, unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before his presence with exceeding joy, be all honour and glory, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
To the Editor of the ChristianObserver.
That there is a great difference between the knowledge of the truth, and an habitual love and practice of what is good, is a position which few will controvert. It deserves, however, an attentive consideration. I believe it is common for young persons of lively imaginations, upon their becoming religious, to be anxious to acquire a knowledge of Divine truths. The nature of the doctrines of the Gospel, and their mutual harmony and dependence, open an extensive field of speculation to their view. They read the Bible and religious books with eager curiosity; and the sermons which they hear are readily impressed on the memory. After some time, these sublime truths begin to lose their novelty; the field is surveyed, and the same objects generally present themselves to their observation. An accurate knowledge of the great doctrines of the Gospel is now acquired; and here the danger begins which the writer wishes to investigate. Persons of a warm fancy are iikely to be carried either into the depths of speculative divinity, or into the heights of mystical extravagance. Plain truths are no longer relished; and something must be found to gratify an insatiable cu. riosity, or the most enlightened preacher will be thought superficial, and the Bible itself perhaps will be considered almost as a dead letter. The writer has witnessed some of these excesses and dangerous errors in certain divisions of Christians; and a misconception of the nature and importance of religious principles, as the ultimate end of religious knowledge, has probably been a frequent source of sects and heresies. in order, therefore, to avoid these evils, we must consider the acquisition of virtuous and religious habits as of far greater importance than the richest stores of knowledge. “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” A mere knowledge of the truth will lead to vain jangling, conceit, and spiritual pride. If, then, we are seeking sound knowledge and information on religious points, let it be our principal aim to become wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. If we wish
to know the truth, let it be with this
view, that the truth may make us free from all errors in judgment, and all evils in practice; that we may not only know, but practise what is holy, and just, and good; and may follow whatsoever things are pure, and lovely, and of good report. We shall find, that we may frequently review the same truths, and frequently hear them explained and enforced, without weariness or satiety, if we are only desirous of reducing them to practice. For instance, the doctrine of man's fall and consequent depravity should teach us the important lesson of humility and self-distrust. The doctrine of Divine grace and favour, through a glorious Mediator, should fill us with humble hope, with stedfast faith, and with lively gratitude. God's gracious care over his people, and his readiness to communicate the graces of his Holy Spirit, to renew, sanctify, and comfort them, are calculated to inspire in them a patient submission to his sovereign will, and a constant reliance on his all-power
ful support. The attentive reader of the Bible, or hearer of sermons, may easily draw similar practical lessons from other religious doctrines. And if he is properly acquainted with the weakness of his nature, and the depravity of his heart, he will find it necessary to have a frequent recurrence to the same general principles. He will seek to be grounded and settled in
The writer by no means wishes to disparage religious knowledge; his only aim is to point out the danger and disadvantage of resting satisfied with mere knowledge. He would have men not only to grow wiser, but better, by every opportunity which they enjoy of attending on divine things. Now all the means of grace, though they may not increase our knowledge, have certainly a tendency to nourish us in all goodness. The regular performance of the duties of prayer and praise, whether public or private, has a tendency to increase in us true religion, to strengthen our piety, and to enlarge our desires after divine things. If we conscientiously and diligently improve the means of grace, we shall find that religious impressions will grow stronger, and that we shall be enabled to run in the way of God's
commandments with increasing de
light; worldly vanities and pleasures will lose their attractions, and we shall “ follow righteousness, saith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Since the acquiring of religious principles and virtuous habits, is, as regards ourselves, the principal end of divine ordinances (the obligation we are under to attend on them as duties towards God, is not the object of this discussion), we should carefully look on them in that point of view, and prepare ourselves accordingly. We shall then see, that spiritual improvement in the divine life, is nuch more to be regarded, than the