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acted. Some are too proud to confess. Through a false shame, they would rather die than acknowledge their sin. When they are sunk into the greatest misery, and all seems gone, yet pride is not
gone. Bend they will not: they will rather break. But the true penitent has a generous shame. With an honest mind, he confesses, “ My God is righteous, and I am wicked. Should He cast me immediately into hell, it is no worse than I deserve. But I remember hearing, that he is a merciful God, slow to anger, and ready to pardon. Let me try him. I will go and confess, how unworthy I am of the meanest place in his service. I will do any thing, and suffer any thing, rather than remain the slave of the devil.”
4. And now the work of mercy begins in good earnest. The father sees him “afar off”, and runs to meet him faster than the prodigal son went to seek his father. The mercy of God is swifter than our repentance. He is more ready to hear, than we to pray. Yet this we must observe, to the credit of the young
man : he not only said that he would arise, and go to his father ; but, he did so: he kept his word. It is a hopeless sign, when persons promise to mend, but put it off for the present, and go on with their former lusts and pleasures. Not so this young man: he immediately sought his way back to his father's house. And now, see the joy with which God welcomes a returning sinner! He sees him while he is yet at a great distance. He sees the first turn of the sinner's heart, and loves him for it: for indeed that turn, that change of heart, is the work of God himself. Without the Holy Spirit working on our hearts, we should remain stupid and obstinate, drudging on still in the service of the devil, and willing to die in our sins. But God touches the heart, and softens it. He bids us turn, and look to the cross, and see, by faith, who it was that bore our sins in his own body on the accursed tree. Then our tears begin to flow : then every token of love, that a father can shew, is heaped upon such unworthy wretches as we.
5. The account closes with a description of a full and free Gospel, offered to the vilest sinner. The father no sooner hears the words, “ I am no more worthy to be called thy son,” than he immediately adopts him anew, calls for the best robe, puts a ring on his finger, has him well shod, and has the fatted calf killed to feast him. In short, he provides him with all he could want, or wish.
Let me now propose a few questions on this subject: and let me speak with earnestness and affection. Have you become weary of sin? and have you learned that even your own good works, which you try to perform of yourself, are no better than filthy rags? Have you understood what is that righteousness of God, which is through the faith of Christ? Is your soul clothed with this spotless robe, covering all your sins, and making you wellpleasing in the eyes of God; because he beholds you, not as you are in yourself, but as you are in Christ? Remember, that you are invited to the marriage-supper of the Lamb: but if you do not wear the robe, and the ring, offered in the Gospel, the Master of the feast will say, “ Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment?”
But oh, if you receive this Saviour with a broken and a believing heart, what songs of joy will be sung in heaven on your behalf! “ There is joy, in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth.” Perhaps you might look upon one soul, among so many millions, as too small a matter for God to think of. But it is far otherwise : for your one soul Christ died !
And if you are recovered from the ways of sin to God, all heaven will ring with shouts of praise, while angels will say of you, “ This one soul was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found !”
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high ; who humbleth himself, to behold the things that are in heaven and in earth! He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.
And now, O Heavenly Father, seeing thou art so gracious unto us, we beseech thee, for the sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, to receive us again to thine own home, and keep us there, and let us not turn again to folly! Let our hearts rejoice in thy salvation; and find more pleasure in the very lowest place in Thy service, than ever we tasted in the ways of sin. And never suffer us to open our mouths, either to murmur or to boast; but cause us to go softly all our days, and to remember and be confounded because of our shame, though thou art pacified towards us.
We will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. And help us to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; so that all men, beholding the work of grace in us, may see that it is thy work; and confess, that where sin abounded, there hath
much more abounded. We ask these things for the glory of thy great name, through our only Mediator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
LUKE xviii. 1-8. And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man :
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while : but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet, because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them ?
I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth ? Our Blessed Saviour has, in many passages of the Gospel, encouraged us to pray. He says: “ Aski, and
ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."
Our Saviour has also taught us how to pray. What child is there, that has not learned to say the Lord's Prayer? “ Our Father, which art in heaven,” &c. That prayer expresses, in few words, all we can desire, for the glory of God, for the salvation of our souls, and for the wants of our bodies.
When we pray to God for the blessings of this life, we should remember that He alone knows what is best for us in this world. If we might have our own wish, we should ask for nothing but plenty of money, health and long life, and all those things which the world calls good. And yet the Lord may see, that it is much the best for us to be po and sick, and afflicted: and if we can only trust in Him, as a wise and kind Father, we shall be glad to labour on in his service, and leave all our worldly matters in his hands. “ For our Heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of:” and he has promised, “ I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
When we ask for blessings for our souls, we