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contrarywise, he thinks "God's service perfect freedom;" he then thinks his past disobedience the result of inexcusable ignorance, presumption, wilfulness, and ingratitude. Further, when such a man thinks, not only of the Divine Perfections-God's infinite excellence, wisdom, and goodness, but also of the wonders of redeeming mercy, manifested in our Saviour; he feels still more ashamed, and humble, and sorry for his past folly and wickedness, and for his daily sins and transgressions. There is such a change passed on his mind, that he does not wish to sin any more. It is not only the consequences of vice and irreligion that he dreads-he hates every false and every wicked way. He desires to confess, with "shame and confusion of face," his manifold presumptuous sins, and to use means henceforward to yield obedience, from a sense of duty and gratitude; to return as a rebel pardoned by his king; as a prodigal son received by a kind father.-And look at the case of the prodigal, as stated by our Saviour.
The prodigal began his career in a spirit of ungrateful pride and self-sufficiency; abandoned his father's house, and sought for happiness in jovial and riotous living, far off from his real friends and his home; in the same manner as guilty, foolish, proud man does, who labours, as in the very fire, to attain happiness, sometimes from the accumulation of money, or from sensual pleasures, or the distinctions and honours of this life, and ever disappointed, still pursues the fleeting shadow.
The prodigal's wants and misery happily humbled his proud heart, and brought him to himself, to a right understanding of his father's kindness, and the happiness of home; then he repented; his mind was changed; and he came to this happy resolution-" I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father! I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants." Here there was no design to excuse, much less to justify himself. No apology on account of his youth, no pretence about having a good heart, notwithstanding his former pride, and ingratitude, and wilfulness. No! this
example of a sincere penitent represents him as resting his plea entirely on the goodness and mercy of his Father. He still retains the language of the filial relation, although he acknowledges that he has no claim to it. "Father (said he) I am unworthy to be called thy son; but, O give me in my Father's house, a servant's place." Here is a spirit of the deepest humility and self-abasement, and an acknowledgement of his Father's goodness. Here sorrow, shame, affection, hope, all work together in this man's breast, and bring him back again to his duty. He did not stay in a distant country, and send apologies to his Father. No, he arose and came himself. And how was he received? With a frown? No! was he upbraided for the past, and put in a course of trial to see how he would behave for the future? No! When he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and brought him to the home he had deserted, and took away his filthy ragged garments, and gave him good clothes, and shoes, and a ring; and having found alive a lost son, whom he lamented as dead, he made a feast, and filled his whole house with joy.
And does this at all represent a lost sinner's case? Yes! Our blessed Saviour says, "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."
How different are the sentiments entertained in heaven and on earth. Alas! who is there amongst men who much cares whether a fellow sinner repents or not; and how many are there ever ready to despise and mock the man who seems at all concerned about his sins. This world, and wicked men and women, are like the people of the far country, where the prodigal wasted his substance with riotous living; and when he began to be in want, none cared for him; the brute beasts were more regarded than he was. He fain would have filled his belly with the husks which the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him. But heaven is like the prodigal's home; in that place there is still a kind concern about him. Oh, what compassion! The Spirit of God strives with sinning man; the Spirit is grieved by man's wickedness; the Son of God died for
man; and all heaven rejoices, (there is joy in the presence of the angels of God,) when sinful man repents, i. e. when man, at first, out of his mind, and wandering far off from his heavenly Father's home; feeding on ashes, or trying to 11 his stomach with husks; trying to find happiness in drunkenness, in debauchery, or in riches, or in worldly distinctions, and such like low and grovelling, or vain and unsatisfying pursuits:-When he comes to himself, is restored to his right mind, and right judgment, and arises, and goes to his heavenly Father, and confesses his follies and his sins, and forsakes them; then there is joy in heaven on his account.
There are some self-righteous, self-conceited people, such as the Pharisees were, in our Saviour's days, who, like the returning prodigal's elder brother, think there is far too much ado made about a sinner's repenting; they do not care whether he repents or not; and they censure those who are a little anxious to induce him to repent; and they are angry because there is such a fuss made about a worthless wretch, (perhaps some poor drunken sailor,) who does actually repent, and come to his heavenly Father, penitent, sober, and in his right mind.
That such self-righteous, cold-hearted people, are very wrong is very evident, unless it be pretended that they are wiser, and better, and more rational, than the all-wise God and his holy angels; but this is too shocking and blasphemous even to be imagined.
And, further, it is a very plain inference from this subject, that a man's repenting, or not repenting, is a matter of great, of vast importance; for in heaven trifling or small matters cannot cause joy or grief. And observe, it is not the repentance of a whole family, or of a whole nation, that is said to give joy, but even the repentance of one sinner causes this joy. Oh, yes! it must be true, that real repentance is connected with the saving of a soul, an immortal spirit, from eternal misery, and the preparing it for eternal happiness. And is not this enough to make angels glad? is not this sufficient to cause joy in heaven? for heaven is the land of benevolence and compassion.
It should ever be remembered that repentance, in some cases, is unavailing; and repentance, even in cases where it is admissible, may be deferred till it is too late. When man violates the laws of his fellow-creatures, it often happens that his repentance will not prevent his punishThere is no proof that when the angels sinned, they were allowed to repent. And when a man has, by vicious excesses, ruined his health, repentance, and even reformation, will not always restore him to health.
But, in reference to man's salvation, the mediatorial work of our Saviour, his death and sufferings in our stead, have made repentance admissible. He came to call sinners to repentance; his servants, the ministers of religion, are directed to go into all the world, and proclaim the good tidings, that the work of redemption is finished; and now God "commands all men, every where, to repent." The good angels are interested about man's repentance; and when but one repents, there is joy in their presence. Thus, all that are divine and good, in heaven and on earth, are moved about one man's salvation or condemnation. Their united admonition and entreaty, is, "Repent and believe the Gospel, and thou shalt be saved." To the returning penitent, then, there is no hindrance-none such need despair. No returning prodigal will ever be rejected: quite the contrary, he will be received with demonstrations of joy.
I have only one caution to suggest; let no one defer repentance; for death may surprise thee, and there is no repentance in the grave. The axe is laid ready at the root of the tree; if it bring not forth good fruit, it will ere long be cut down and cast into the fire. To delay repentance is not the suggestion of a friend, but of an enemy. It is a suggestion that comes from the destroyer of men's souls— the father of lies. Take the resolution at once, and, looking to God's Holy Spirit for help, say, "I will arise and go to my Father;" for you have the Saviour's word for it, that you will be welcomed with joy: the act of faith and repentance will make Heaven glad ;-and then, O man! do thou go and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
Exhortation delivered in England.
And one of the meet and becoming fruits of repentance is an anxious desire to bring others to repentance. A sort of missionary spirit is the general result of true repentance. A gracious state in this world is sometimes said to be glory begun, or an incipient degree of the same sort of sentiments, affections, and joys as will be experienced in heaven. Now if sinless angels rejoice in the return of one human creature to obedience and duty through the blessed Redeemer, is it credible that a gracious soul in this life can be indifferent to the repentance of sinners? and if not indifferent to the effect, neither can such a person be indifferent to the means. To bring sinners to repentance is to co-operate with God, who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should repent, return, and live. To use means to bring sinners to repentance is to co-operate with the Divine Redeemer and with the Holy Spirit; it is to glorify God, and to cause joy in heaven.
By a missionary spirit, I mean a desire to win souls to Christ, to bring men to repentance; to find a sacred delight, to feel (as our text suggests) a seraphic, an angelic joy in the good tidings of sinners being brought to repentance.
Those Christians who take no sort of interest in the news of a sinner repenting, who will not aid in any means to bring sinners to repentance, who will neither give their personal services to call men to repent, nor join with God's people to pray that a spirit of repentance may be poured out upon the nations, nor contribute of their property to send forth the heralds of salvation-are wanting in some of the best evidences of the reality of their Christianity. Here is a work that makes heaven glad; but they are frigid and careless about it-it affords them no joy. What proof then do they give of a fitness for heaven?
Repentance and remission of sins are to be proclaimed in God's name amongst all nations; and Heaven wills that one man should be the medium of conveying this proclamation to others; and yet there are professed disciples of the