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parable, by the solicitude of the woman who carefully sought and recovered the piece of money that was lost. The two cases are quite similar, and were designed to enforce this important instruction : that God is not only willing, but affectionately desirous “ that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of divine truth.”

In the parable of the prodigal son, the same consoling doctrine is placed in a still more conspicuous and affecting light. The benevolent Father of Mankind is here represented as possessing all the feelings of a tender-hearted parent, rejoicing in the unexpected return of an undutiful son from a life of prodigal extravagance, which had reduced him to extreme want and misery.

The first news of the repentant youth's return, filled him with an ecstacy of joy ; for, “while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Instead of severe reproaches for his past improper conduct, he gives him the most affectionate welcome, celebrates his return to his late forsaken home, with all the generous liberality which suited his affluence, amidst the joyful congratulations of his happy family. Surely no scene can be imagined more delightful, or in which the feelings of nature in the breast of a parent are depicted with finer

strokes of genuine expression ;-reminding us of what the evangelical Prophet thus says, in describing the tender mercies of the Parent of universal nature : “Let the wicked forsake his

way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

The “joy” that is said to be “in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance," like other figurative passages, must not be taken in a strict, but qualified sense. Our divine Redeemer obviously here alluding to the common experience of mankind, and the usual feelings of the human heart. There is nothing more frequent, or more natural, than to find ourselves extremely affected when we obtain what we did not hope for, or recover the possession of what we considered as irretrievably lost. Joy on such occasions rises into transport, and often far exceeds the intrinsic value of the object gained. In order, therefore, to afford us a just idea of the satisfaction of a gracious God in the conversion of sinners, our heavenly Father is here represented after the manner of men, as deriving more sensible pleasure from the sincere repentance of one sinner, than from the continued obedience, imperfect as it must ever be, of ninety and nine comparatively righteous persons, who having never gone astray into glaringly wicked courses, might perhaps be considered in less danger of finally perishing. As health is more enjoyed after sickness, and life more prized after a narrow escape from death, so, in like manner, we estimate the value of other objects with which our interest is tenderly connected, by circumstances no less casual and unexpected. And besides this,although general habits of rectitude and obedience, “ springing from a true and lively faith,” as being the fruits and evidences of that faith, are unquestionably "pleasing and acceptable to God;"—whilst, on the other hand, the scripture declares, that “all wickedness is an abomination in his sight,” who is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;"—yet, of the awakened sinner, converted through grace from the error of his ways, after perhaps, a long and flagrant deviation from the path of duty, and returning in the humble spirit of the prodigal, to seek reconciliation with his offended God-of him, I

say,

it

may truly be affirmed, that since he cannot but feel the sincerest sorrow and contrition for the wickedness of his past life, the deepest conviction of his lost and ruined state, and the greatest abhorrence of all manner of sin : since his love will be proportioned to the greatness of the debt forgiven him, and his faith in Christ increased, by the grateful yet humiliating recollection, that when “ he had nothing to pay,” his heavenly

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Father had pity on him, and for his Saviour's sake, freely forgave him all;--so, in the recovery of such an one, who “was dead”—“dead in trespasses and sins,” and is alive again—“alive unto God, through Jesus Christ,”—there is “joy in heaven,” more than over a multitude of those, commonly regarded as “just persons," whose good deeds, however excellent in themselves, lose all value before a heart searching God, unless they proceed from Christian principles and Christian motives. The purport, however, of the passage in question, is—not to derogate in the smallest degree from the importance of a holy and religious life ; for, although even our best actions are, alas ! always tainted with that corruption, inherent in our fallen state, and consequently must be utterly destitute of all merit as a procuring cause of salvation, which is wholly and entirely the “free gift of God in Christ Jesus,”—yet it is expressedly declared that “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord ;" and David says, God's “delight is upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue:”—neither, most assuredly, can it be intended as an encouragement to the sinner to go on in his vicious course, for this were indeed, to “ continue in sin, that grace might abound:”this were in direct contradiction to the awful warning of our Lord himself,

except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The chief object of the passage plainly is, to point out, with that force and strength of expression which so peculiarly characterises our Saviour's parables, the mercy and forbearance of God ; and to shew that, even at the eleventh hour, if the sinner really turn and repent,” he need not despair of pardon and acceptance;for, that even then, “the blood of Christ hath power to cleanse from all sin.”

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Indeed, from the whole of what has been said on this interesting subject, we must infer, that God hath no pleasure in the death of sinners, but that they should return and live; that he is long suffering towards them, not willing that any should perish, “but that all should come to repentance.” To repent therefore, and make our peace with God, is in truth, a matter of infinite moment to every one of us; and the sooner we perform this essential—this important work, the better, both for our temporal and eternal peace: but if the gracious encouragements of heaven have no influence over the hearts of habitual sinners, to produce their amendment and repentance, say what can a gracious God do more, or what can rebellious man expect ? Menaces and terrors are awakening arguments indeed! yet they are arguments which affect only the most debased principles of our nature, working entirely upon the lowest passions, inte

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