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his followers, never despise the meanest or the worst of men when they seem disposed to receive religious instruction ; but rather exert ourselves with a distinguished zeal, as knowing that the joy of the heavenly world in their recovery will be in some measure proportionable to the extremity of their former danger.
Let us often recollect the charity and goodness of those perfected spirits who look down from their own glory with compassion on mortals wandering in the paths of the destroyer, and who sing anthems of thankfulness and joy, when by divine grace they are reclaimed from them. Let every sinner be touched with a generous desire, that he who has been in so many instances the offence and burden of the earth, inay become the joy of heaven by his sincere conversion. And let the solicitude with which the little possessions of this world are sought, when they are lost by any accident, engage us more earnestly to seek what is infinitely more valuable, our own salvation, and that of the immortal souls of others. May we in our different stations labour successfully their recovery ; that we may another day share in that higher joy which angels and glorified saints shall express when they see them not only reduced to the paths of virtue and happiness, but fixed in abodes of eternal glory!
The parable of the prodigal son.
LUKE xv. ll, &c.
11 'ITH the same design of reproving the envy of the Pharisees,
and encouraging every sincere penitent, our Lord uttered 12 another parable. And he said, a certain man had two sons. And the
younger of them said to his parent, Father, give me that portion of goods which falls to my share. And he divided his 13 living between them. And not many days after, the younger
son gathering all together, took a journey into a very distant
country; and there living in a riotous manner, squandered away 14 his substance. And when he had consumed all, there was an
extreme famine in that country; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself as a servant to a citizen of
that place ; who sent him unto his grounds to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his belly with the husks which
the swine did eat : and yet no man would take so much pity upon 17 him as to give unto him one morsel of food. This led him to seri
ous consideration ; and coming to himself, he said, How many
hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, while 18 I am perishing with famine! I will arise and go to my father ;
and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and 19 before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son : make 20 me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came to his
father. But while he was yet at a considerable distance, his fa
ther saw him, and his bowels yearned over him, and he ran, and 21 fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Fa
ther, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no 22 more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, bring out the best robe, and clothe him with it, and put a 23 ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet. And bring hither the 24 fatted calf, and kill it ; and let us eat, and be cheerful : For this
my son, that was considered by me as dead, is restored to life ; 25 and he who was lost, is found. And they began to be cheerful. But
his elder son was in the field; and as on his return, he approached 26 the house, he heard inusic and dancing. And calling one of the 27 şervants, he inquired what was the meaning of these things ? And
he said to him, thy brother is come ; and thy father has killed the 28 fatted calf, because he has received him in good health. And he
was angry, and would not go in : His father therefore came out, 29 and entreated him. But he replied to his father, Behold, I have
served thee these many years, nor have at any time transgressed
thy command, and yet thou hast never given me so much as a kid, 30 that I might make an entertainment with my friends : But as
soon as this thy son was come, who has devoured thy substance 31 with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fattest calf. And he
said to him, Son, thou art always with me, and all that I have is 32 thine, as thou art heir to my estate : But it was fit we should feast
and rejoice ; for this thy brother*, who was looked upon as dead is as it were alive again ; and he who was lost is found.
REFLECTIONS. Let us here behold, with all due attention, the moving representation which our gracious Redeemer makes of the folly of sinners, and the compassions of God; compassions which he describes as one who himself felt them, and who in this respect, as well as others, was the express image of his Father.We have before us in this parable a lively emblem of the character and condition of sinners in their falJen state. They are thus impatient of the most necessary restraints ; thus fondly conceited of their own wisdom ; and thus, when enriched by the bounties of the great common Father, do they ungratefully run from him, and say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Sensual pleasures are eagerly sought; and perhaps all their earthly possessions and hopes are quickly paid as the price of them. While the means of obtaining these pleasures continue, not a serious thought of God can find a place in their minds : and then, perhaps, afflictions, heavy and complicated afflictions, come upon them ; yet even under that pressure they will often make very hard shifts before they will be persuaded to think of a return ; till at length divine grace, working in concurrence with providence, brings them to a better temper.
When they see themselves naked and indigent, enslaved and undone ; when they come to themselves, and recover the excerise of their reason, improving it to the only purposes for which it would have been worth while to have received it ;-then they fcel the pangs of penitential remorse ; then they remember the blessings they have
* There is a lovely opposition between this and the 30th verse ; the elder son had said, This thy Son ; the father in his reply tenderly says, This thy brother.
lost, and attend to the misery they have incurred. And hereupon they are disposed humbly to confess their folly, and to prostrate themselves in the presence of their heavenly Father : they put the resolution immediately into practice; they arise and go unto him.-But oh, let us behold with wonder and pleasure the gracious reception they find from divine, injured goodness! He sees them afar off, he pities, he meets, and embraces them; he interrupts their complaints and acknowledgments with tokens of his returning favour. Is Ephraim my dear son ? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still : therefore my boqvels are troubled for him ; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. Thus does God welcome the humble penitent; thus does he open the arms of his love to embrace him, and the treasures of his bounty to enrich him. He arrays him with the robe of a Redeemer's righteousness, dresses him in the grņaments of sanctifying grace, honours him with the tokens of adopting love, and invests him with the glorious privileges and immunities of his children. And all this he does with unutterable delight: he rejoices over him with joy; he rests in his love, and, as it were, rejoices over him with singing ; and this is the joyful language of the song, My children that were dead, are alive again, and though they were lost, they are found.
Let heaven and earth unite in the joy, and echo back the song. Let no elder brother murmur at the indulgence with which these prodigals are treated; but rather welcome them back into the family, and eyen encourage every thing that looks like a disposition to return to it. And let those who have been thụs received, wander no more ; but rather let them emulate the strictest piety of those who for many years have served their heavenly Father, without having in any potorious instances transgressed his commandments.
The parable of the unjust steward. The Pharisees reproved for their
covetousness and hypocrisy. LUKE xvi. I-18.
ND Jesus having rebuked the Pharisees for their envious and
uncharitable temper, he said also to his disciples, There was a certain rich man who had a steward; and he was accused to 2 him, as having wasted his goods. And calling him, he said unto
him, What is this that I hear of thee? Give an account of thine 3 administration ; for thou canst be no longer steward. And the
steward said within himself,. What shall I do? for my Lord is ta
king away my stewardship. I am not able to dig, and I am 4 ashamed to beg. I know what I will do; that when I am re
moved from my office, they may receive me into their houses. 5 And having called every one of his lord's debtors to him ; he said 6 to the first, How much owest thou to my lord ? And he said an hun
dred baths of oil. And he said to him, Take thy bill, and sit 7 down directly, and write another of but fifty. Then he said
to another, And how much dost thou owe? And he said, An hundred homers of wheat. And he says to him, Take thy % bill, and write fourscore. And when the master heard of it, he
praised the unjust steward, as having done prudently. Thus,
said Jesus, the children of this world are wiser in their way and 9 generation, than the children of light. And I also say to you,
make yourselves sure friends with the unrighteous or deceitful mammon*, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations; and you may for ever enjoy the rewards of your
charity and love, in an everlasting friendship with those worthy per10 sons who have been relieved by it. He who is faithful in the small.
est trust, is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in the 11 least, is unjust also in much. If therefore you have not been
faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will intrust you with 12 the true riches ?. And if you have not been faithful in what was 13 another's, who will give you that which shall be your own ? No
domestic can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one, and love the other; or he will adhere to the one, and neglect the other: 80 you cannot serve God and mammon.
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these 15 things; and they derided him. And he said to them, You are
they that justify yourselves before men; but God knows your
hearts : for that which is highly esteemed among men, is an 16 abomination before God. The law and the prophets were the only
divine revelation among you until John the Baptist appeared ; but
from that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one 17 forces his way into it. Yet think not that it was meant to supersede
the original law of God, for it is easier for heaven and earth to
pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fail. As to the law of 18 marriage in particular, as I have before declared, Whosoever puts
away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery ; and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.
REFLECTIONS. May the wisdom of the children of this world in their comparatively trifling concerns excite a holy emulation in the children of light! Is it not much better worth our while to employ all the attention of our thoughts in observing opportunities for the good of our souls, and to exert all the force of our resolutions in improving them, than to labour merely for the meat which perishes, for that deceitful mammon, that treacherous friend, which will at best only amuse us for a few years, and will for ever forsake us in our greatest extremity ? Let us take occasion from this parable, to think how soon we must part with all our present possessions; how soon we must give an account of our respective stewardships as those who must be no longer stewards. Let us therefore manage them in such a manner as 'may most effectually promote the great purposes of our everlasting happiness. To this
* Mammon or wealth, is here called unrighteous, or deceitful, on account of its being so apt to fail the expectations of the owners; and' in that view is opposed to the true riches, ver. 11
end, let us remember how absolutely necessary it is that we abound in works of charity and benevolence, and that we endeavour to abstract our hearts from an over-eager attachment to these lying vanities ; for surely the trifles of earth are no better. Let us not imagine that our particular address can find out the secret of serving God and mammon, since Christ represents it as an impossibility and contradiction.
May we be found faithful in what God has committed to us, whether it be little or much ; and govern ourselves, not by the maxims of this vain world, but by those of the gospel! And if the same temper that led the covetous Pharisees to deride our Lord, engage the children of this world to pour contempt upon us as visionaries and enthusiasts, we have much greater reason to be grieved for them than for ourselves. Their censures can be matter of but little account to us, when we consider that the things which are highly esteemed by men are often an abomination in the sight of God. His law is sacred, and the constitutions of his kingdom are unalterable: may the temper of our minds be so altered and disposed as may suit it! For another day, and another world, will shew that real Christianity is the only wisdom ; and that all the refinements of human policy without it are but specious madness and laborious ruin !
The parable of the rich glutton and Lazarus. LUKE xvi. 19, &c.
19 THERE was a certain rích man who wore purple and fine li. 20
nen, and daily feasted in a splendid manner. And there was a certain poor man, named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full 21 of ulcers. And he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell
from the rich man's table; yea, the dogs came and licked his 22 sores.
But so it was, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was 23 buried. And in the unseen world* being in torments, he lifted up his
eyes, and saw Abraham from afar, and Lazarus in his bo24 som, (i. e.) placed next the father of the faithful. And calling out
he said, O'father Abraham, have compassion upon me, and send
Lazarus, to dip the tip of his finger in water to refresh my tongue, 25 for I am tormented in this fame. But Abraham said, Son, re
member that thou didst in thy life-time receive thy good things,
and likewise Lazarus his evil things : but now he is comforted, 36 and thou art justly tormented. And besides all this, between us
and you there is a great chasm fixed : so that they who would go
from hence to you cannot ; neither can they who are there come 27 unto us. Then he said, I beseech thee therefore, O father, that 28 thou wouldst send him to my father's house : For I have five
brethren, that he may testify to them, that they may not also come 29 into this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Mo
* This is the general sense of the word adns. Both the rich man and Lazarus were in Hades, though in different regions of it.