Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

duc of mankind, than to be principally concerned about that which is lost, to take all possible pains to recover it, and when that object is attained, to rejoice more over it, than over what we have long quietly possessed? Who but must, judging impartially, naturally draw this conclusion, that it was by no means unbecoming in the saviour of the world to concern himself about the information, the improvement and the consolation of such persons as were utterly despised and neglected by their hypocritical teachers, though, as it appears, they were more sincerely desirous of the salvation of God, than their haughty despisers? Was not Christ sent into the world by God for the very purpose of preaching to the wretched, of announcing good tidings to the meek, of binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and seeking that which was lost? Was it not rather the sick and the infirm that were in need of a physician, than the really or imaginary healthy and robust? This, my dear hearers, is the connection wherein the words of our text stand with the purport to which they were delivered by our divine instructor. Let us now proceed to make a more general application of them, by considering the narrative of the forlorn son as the fimilitude of a penitent and returning finner.

This edifying parable contains three particulars extremely interesting. The first comprehends what passed previous to the return of the prodigal son to

his

his father. This will afford us an opportunity to speak of the motives to conversion, and of the preparatives to it. The second particular relates to the actual return of the lost son to his father, and the manner and nature of it. This will teach us wherein true penitence and conversion properly consist. The third particular, lastly, represents to us the happy consequences of this conversion ; and this representation will inform us of the various and great advantages of true penitence and conversion.

" When he came to himself,” says the parable, " he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have finned against heaven, and before thee." When he came to himself. With great propriety is this expression used; for a wicked man is beside himself. Madness, says Solomon, 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 agent, 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, sinking 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 weak. nels and decline. There is no man uniformly

wicked.

T 2

wicked. The exertion is too strong to last forever. 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 reflection. 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 prodigał came to his right mind. At once the spell was broken, and the inchantment dissolved. He is amazed, 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.

a moment. Disenchanted from the delu. fions of those deceivers, what he esteemed to be the garden of Eden, he finds to be a desolate wil. derness. Then he came to himself. This, my friends, it was that stimulated the forlorn fon to his return; and these or similar sentiments and emotions are what must awaken the finner to conversion, and prepare

him for it. The loft son firft becomes fenfible of his misery. Till now he thought him. self happy in having shaken off the authority and withdrawn himself from the vigilance of his father. The licentious freedom he enjoyed, thc extravagant and dissolute life he led, the tumultuons pleasures he met with on all hands, flattered his appetites.

They

They stunned his moral sense; they concealed futurity from his view, and he thought he had no reason to repent of his senseless choice. But now having run through all his means, fallen into the extremes of poverty and contempt, obliged to put up with the vilest servitude, and to content himself with the coarsest fare, and with all scarcely able to support his life: he wakes from his wretched delusion. The inchanting dreams of pleasure and happiness by which he has been hitherto deluded, are now vanished away. He finds himself cheated in his expectations. He can no longer conceal his wretchedness from himself. He severely feels the deplorable consequences of his foolish conduct; he groans under the burden of it; and these painful sensations compel him to think seriously on emanci. pating himself from them.

Just fo it is, pious hearers, with the man that, awakes from the lethargy of vice. He proceeds perhaps for a long time secure and careless in his wicked ways, breaks

every tie of religion and vir. tue, refuses due obedience to his creator and lord, and takes that for liberty which is in fact the hardest and most infamous bondage. The sinful appetites which he blindly follows, captivate him with their deceitful charms; they promise him a round of pleasure and delight; and he fondly imagines he has found out the way that leads to true felicity. The vehement calls of passion ftifle the voice of reason and conscience; the affairs and dissipations of this

world

T 3

world shut the avenues of his mind against all serious thoughts, and, like a man intoxicated with the fumes of inflammatory liquors, sees not the danger that awaits him. But when the poison of fin has had its effect ; when disquiet, vexation, and disguft, take place of pleasure ; when pain and fickness, or other adverse events, stimulate him, as it were, to reflect on himfelf and his moral condition; when the lofs of his property, the sudden death of his friend, the unexpected failure of his plans, or other striking occurrences fill him with dismay; when the light of truth, in this suspension of the passions, in this stillness of the heart, darts upon his mind, and the darkness of prejudice and error, which had hitherto blinded him, is dispelled : he then begins to understand the deceitfulness of fin, then its fascinating charms are dissipated before him.

appears to himn in all its deformity, as ghastly and detestable as it really is; and he is seized with the utmost astonishment that he could ever be imposed on by such empty impoftures. He now feels the degrading, the cruel shackles by which he is bound, and sees that he, who thought himself erewhile fo free, is in fact the most wretched of slaves. He now tastes the bitter fruits of fin, and experiences what sorrow and anguish of heart it occasions when a man forsakes the Lord his God, and esteems any. thing but him as his fovereign good. His false repose is now come to an end; his security makes way for trouble and affright; his foolih hopes are

It

vanished;

« ForrigeFortsæt »