תמונות בעמוד

" for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; " and was lost, and is found.”

The Jews, hearing the sound of the Gospel, and the voice of joy and rejoicing in the church, were continually “calling to the servants” of God, the apostles and first preachers of the word, and asking “ what these things meant;" and were always answered, as in the parable, that “ their brother was

come;" that God had granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life; that they were now come into the church; and the one great sacrifice was offered for them, and for all men. And are not the words of the parable fulfilled to this day? “ They are an

gry, and will not come in.” No, not though their Father, God Almighty, time after time came out and entreated them by the voice of his Son, by the preaching of his apostles, by the allurements of his mercies, and by the terror of his judgements. All, all would not do. Their Father they rebelled against, bis Son they crucified, his apostles they persecuted, his mercies they forgot, and his judgements they defied. Seventeen hundred years are past; still, still

they are angry, and will not come in!” Their plea is, as represented in the parable, that they served God many years; that they never transgressed at any time his commandment; that God had not showed them sufficient marks of his favour; but treated this worthless prodigal Gentile better than he had treated them; a plea, every article of which is full of pride, falsehood, and envy. Pride is at the bottom of all. They loved to justify themselves by the works of the law, as St. Paul says of them; VOL. II.

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“ going about to establish their own righteousness

by the works of the law, they did not submit them“selves to the righteousness of God, which is by * faith in Jesus Christ.” Accordingly their plea runs altogether in the boasting strain. First, " They had served God many years.” Not to mention hozo they had served him, it was God that enabled them both to will and to do; so that there was no room for boasting. Secondly, “ They had never, at any “ time, transgressed his commandment;" in other words, they thanked God they were not as other men were, adulterers, fornicators, extortioners, unjust, or even as this prodigal Gentile. Now, supposing all this to be true, they were still unprofitable servants; they had done only that which it was their duty to do. But St. Stephen convinced them that they were infamous transgressors, having, indeed, received the law, but not kept it; so that what they reckoned matter of glorying, was, in reality, the sentence of their condemnation. In this part of their plea, therefore, there is a mixture of pride and falsehood. Thirdly, “God had not showed them suffi“ cient marks of his favour.” This was false, for he was continually showering his benefits upon them; and for many, many years, their fleece had the dew, when all the rest of the ground was dry. Fourthly, “ He treated the Gentiles better than he had treated " them.” This was false again, as well as envious; for if they would come in, they might have partaken with the Gentiles in the feast and the joy, and been for ever with them in the charch; nor would the accession of the nations have diminished aught from them,




but rather it would have added an infinite increase of joy and pleasure to them, had the love of God and of their brother been in their hearts; as the light of the sun is not lessened, but increased, by being reflected at once from all the innumerable waves of the wide

Indeed, the father in the parable, ever tender and loving, and willing to try every way to bring them in, does not object their transgressions to them, but answers upon their state of the case; that even supposing they had served and obeyed him as they said they had, they could never complain of wanting marks of his favour, seeing they had “ever been in “ his house," the church, with him as his children, and all that he had was theirs; for to them per“ tained the adoption, and the glory, and the cove“ nants, and the giving of the law, and the service “ of God, and the promises; theirs were the fathers; " and of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Why, therefore, should they be angry, because the poor Gentiles were suffered to partake of these good things, when they had qualified themselves for it by repentance and faith? And what sort of materials must their hearts be made of, when they could not acquiesce in that tender, merciful, and loving declaration of their heavenly Father-" It was meet that “ we should make merry and be glad; for this thy “ brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, " and is found ?”

Beholding, therefore, the sad consequences of departing from our Father's house, let us take the resolution of the holy Psalmist; “ I will dwell in “ the house of the Lord for ever.” Let us think

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that we hear our blessed Master, astonished, as it were, to see himself forsaken by so many of his disciples, saying unto us, as once he did to the twelve, “ Will ye also go away?” And let us answer with one accord, as they did by the mouth of St. Peter, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words " of eternal life.” But what was it that seduced the prodigal Gentile to leave so gracious a father, and to quit the house where his glory dwelt? What but an impatience of restraint, a fond desire of independency, and of being wise above what is written. Warned, therefore, by his fate, let us love the discipline that withholds us from sin ; let us glory (if we must glory) in that dependency on our Maker, and those whom his providence has set over us, by which alone, after all, the church and the world are supported and preserved; and let us at last learn to believe in God, and rest assured, upon his word, that the wisdom of this world is as unsatisfactory as its riches, honours, and pleasures; and that, amidst the greatest abundance of them all, “a mighty fa“ mine will arise" in the soul for want of more substantial food; which, if it be not remedied in this life, by “seeking meat from God,” will continue to torment in those regions of sorrow where hunger and despair are co-eternal.

Let the sinner, whom the chastising hand of God has brought to himself; whose eyes have been opened by affliction, to behold his real state and condition; who has felt the truth which he refused to believe, that the world is vanity, and sin folly; let such a one listen to the adınonitions of conscience, and cherish the first dawnings of divine grace in his heart; that so the Sun of Righteousness, there arising, may disperse every cloud, and cause every shadow to fly away; till having by slow and imperceptible degrees ascended the heights of the sky, he stands fixed in his meridian, diffusing on all beneath him the perfect day. For, however darkness may at present cover the transgressor, and gross darkness overwhelm his soul, as once it did the Gentile world; yet let bim know, to his great and endless comfort, that, upon his sincere repentance, the Lord shall arise likewise upon him, and his glory shall be seen 'upon himn. Let him only follow the example of the returning prodigal, and he shall not fail of his reward, even reconciliation, and peace, and love, and joy, and rejoicing, in the house of his heavenly Father.

Lastly, let us of the nations whom undeserved mercy has numbered amongst the children of God, let us beware that we copy not after the pattern of the Jew, or envy him the glory of his future conversion and restoration. Rather let us endeavour to the utmost to forward so happy an event. And since of all human means, that of showing him the dispensations of Jesus, whom his wicked hands cru. cified, in his own Scriptures of the Old Testament, is the most likely to contribute towards the blessed work, let this be an additional motive to us to study day and night the true import of those lively oracles. But since such a conversion as this must be most eminently the work of the Almighty, let not our most fervent prayers be ever wanting to him, that he would now at length look down from heaven upon

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