« AnteriorContinuar »
in your hand ? Have you one minute at your disa posal ? Boast not thyself of tomorrow. Thou knowest not what a day, may bring forth. Before tomorrow, multitudes shall be in another world. Art thou sure that thou art not of the number? Man knoweth not his time. As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the fons of men snared in an evil hour. Can you recall to mind none of your companions, none of the partners of your follies and your fins, cut off in an unconverted state, cut off perhaps in the midst of an unfinished debauch, and hurried, with all their transgressions on their head, to give in their account to God the Judge of all ? Could I show you the state which they are now in ; could an angel from heaven unbar the gates of the everlasting prison; could you discern the late companions of your wanton hours overwhelmed with torment and despair ; could you hear the cry of their torment which afcendeth up for ever and ever ; could you hear them upbraiding you as the partners of their crimes, and accusing you as in some measure the cause of their damnation ! Great God! how would your hair stand on end ! how would your heart die within you ! how would conscience fix all its stings, and remorse, awaking a new hell within you, torment you before the time! Had a like untimely fate snatched you away then, where had you been now? And is this the improvement which you make of that longer day of grace with which Heaven has been pleased to favour you? Is this the return you make to the Divine goodness for prolonging your lives, and indulging you with a longer day of repentance? Have you in good earnest determined within yourself that you will weary oup the long-suffering of God, and force destruction from his reluctant hand?
I beseech, I implore you, my brethren, in the bonds of friendthip, and in the bowels of the Lord ; by the tender mercies of the God of Peace ; by the dying love of a crucified Redeemer ; by the precious promises and awful threatenings of the Gospel ; by all your hopes of heaven and fears of hell; by the worth of your immortal souls, and by all that is dear to men; I conjure you to accept of the offers of mercy, and fly from the wrath to come. " Behold “ now is the accepted time, behold now is the day " of salvation." All the treasures of heaven are now opening to you ; the blood of Christ is now speaking for the remislion of your fins; the church on earth stretches out its arms to receive you ; the spirits of just men made perfect are eager to enroll you amongst the number of the blessed ; the angels and archangels are waiting to break out into new alleluiahs of joy on your return ; the whole Trinity is now employed in your behalf ; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, at this instant call upon you, weary and heavy laden, to come unto them that ye may have rest unto your souls !
SER MON XIX.
Luke xv. 18.
I will arise and go to my Father.
THE parable of the prodigal lon is one of the most beautiful and affecting pieces of composition which is any where to be found. The occafion on which it was spoken, and the persons to whom it was addressed, are well known to you. Dropping therefore what was peculiar at the first narration, ! shall consider it as representing in general the return of finners to God by true repentance.
Such a return is not a single a&t in the Christian life ; it is the habitual duty of every man who is subject to infirmities and defects. For such is the weakness of human nature in this imperfect state, such is the strength of temptation in this evil world, that frail man is often led astray before he is aware. A. las ! in our best estate we are but returning penitents; and to the last hour of this mortal life we stand in need of amendment.
We may observe the following steps in the return of the prodigal to his father's houfe ; first,His restoration to a better mind, by means of confideration. “ When “ he came to himself, he said, How many hired fer“ vants of my father's have bread enough, and to spare !" Second, Ingenuous forrow for fin, accompanied with faith in the Divine mercy. “ I have finned against Heaven and before thee."
Third, A resolution to return to a sense of duty. “I will arise and go to my father.” And, fourth, His immediate performance of that resolution, " And he arose and came to his father."
First, His restoration to a better mind by means of consideration. “He came to himself.”
With great propriety is this expression used ; for a wicked man is beside himself. Madness, saith Solo. inon, is in the heart of the sinner. As madness is a disease of the rational powers, so is vice of the moral. Sin, in like manner, unhinges the whole frame of the moral being, tinges with its baleful colours every sentiment of the heart and presents to view a spectacle more melancholy still, a being, made after the image of God, finking that image into the resemblance of a brute, or the character of a fiend. Mad, however, as such persons are, they are not always so. Sin cannot always keep its ground. The evil principle has its hour of weakness and decline.
There is no man uniformly wicked. The exertion is too strong to last for ever. Nature does not afford strength and spirits sufficient to keep a man always in energy. The most abandoned have fits and starts of foberness and recollection. There are lucid intervals in the life of every person. At such a time is the crisis of a man's character. At such a time the prodigal son came to his right mind. At once the spell was broken and the enchantment dissolved. He is a. mazed, he is confounded to find himself degraded from the rational character ; cast down to the herd • of inferior animals ; making one at the feast where the vilest of brutes were his associates and companions. Then the false colours with which fancy, had gilded his life, vanish away. The flattering ideas which imagination and passion presented to his mind, disappear in a moment. Disenchanted from the delusions of the great deceiver, what he esteemed to be the garden of Eden, he finds to be a desolate wilderness. " Then he came to himself.”
You know that when a man recovers from a fit of lunacy, and is restored to his reason, the mind annihilates the lurid interval, forgets the events of such a state like a dream, and resumes the train of ideas it had pursued in its found state. Thus, the penitent in the parable, awaking as from a dream, recovering as from a delirium, transports himself into the time past, his former life recurs to his mind, his father's house rises to view, he recalls the first of his days before he went astray. Happy days of early innocence and early piety, before remorse had embittered his hours, or vice corrupted his heart ! Happy days ! when the morning arose in peace, and the evening went down in innocence ; when no action of the past day disturbed his llumbers by night ; when no reflection on the riots of the night threw a cloud over the succeeding day; when he was at peace with his own heart; when conscience was on his fide ; when reflection was a friend ; when memory presented only welcome images to the mind; when, under the wings of paternal care, he was blessed in his going out and coming in; when his father's eye met his with approbation and delight.
Having viewed the picture, he compares it with his present situation. Sad contrast ! By his own folly, a vagabond in a foreign land , banished from all that he valued and held dear ; cut off from the joys of