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“ But the Father said to the servants, · Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it.””
All these are the entertainment of him, whose utmost hope was to have been made as one of his father's hired servants, and who doubted whether even this boon might be granted. What a contrast is here presented to the rags, hunger, and shame, of the miserable beggar upon whom they were bestowed?
All these are the strongest proofs of kindness in earthly parents ; and are of course the most proper symbols of the kindness with which our Father who is in Heaven, receives his penitent children. At the same time, they are forcible proofs that they are in want of all necessary good. The robe, the ring, the shoes, and the fatted calf, are gifts to him who has neither ornaments, nor necessaries ; who is hungry, naked, and in want of all things.
The very best gifts in the divine kingdom will be bestowed on the returning sinner; the forgiveness of his sins ; the justification, and adoption, of his person, the sanctification of his soul ; direction, support, and comfort in his way to endless life ; admission into heaven, the sight of God; the supreme love of his character ; the knowledge of his dispensations; the enjoyment of his favour ; and the friendship of his glorious family. These are blessings, for which the Universe would be a cheap price; and which all its inhabitants would be unable to purchase.
10thly. There is peculiar joy in Heaven over the repentance of returning sinners.
“Let us eat, and be merry ; for this my son was dead, and is alive again ; he was lost, and is found.”
“ There is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance." Feasting, music, and dancing, the highest testimonies of earthly pleasure, welcomed the prodigal to his father's house; and were chosen by our Saviour, to exhibit the feelings excited in the Heavenly world by the return of the spiritual prodigal. This truth, may indeed, be considered as the burden or moral of the whole parable ; as it is expressly, of the two, which immediately
precede it. The work of redemption is exhibited in the Scriptures as the greatest and most signal work of God; as the prime object of his creation, and providence; and as the chief means of manifesting his wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places. That these illustrious beings should rejoice with peculiar joy in a work, which sustains all these characters, is to be believed of course.
At the same time, the nature of the case itself furnishes the most solid foundation for intense and peculiar joy. The soul is of infinite value. In this case, it has been lost to the Universe. Now it is found again. It has been dead in trespasses and sin. Now it is quickened with the principles of immortal life. Another trophy is added to the victories of Christ ; another gem, to his crown of glory. A deathless mind has secured a title to
the never ending happiness of heaven. A new and eternal in. habitant is introduced into that happy world. The glory of Je
Hoyah is seen, and will forever be seen, with new splendour ; and a new theme of transport is added to the everlasting song * Unto Him, that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings, and priests, unto God, even his father ; to Him be glory, and dominion, forever and ever.--Amen."
What inducements are here presented to sinners, to return 10 God?
The Scriptures invite, entreat and command you to forsake your sins and become reconciled to your Maker. How affecting is the manner in which all this is done! Do you need conviction of your necessities, your guilt, and the wretchedness of your present condition? How strongly have they painted it to your eyes? How truly ? With what irresistible proof! How plainly is the story of the prodigal your own story! Like him you have been furnished by your Heavenly Father with many, and those the most valuable, powers, enjoyments and blessings, in themselves; and when used aright, the effectual means of glorious and immortal good. But your privileges you have prostituted ; your blessings you have wasted on objects which were of no solid or enduring value.
Your situation is that of the prodigal. In a far country, removed from God, his house, and his family, you are voluntary exiles from your friends, and your home; are alone; friendless; in want; and in rags; and are enlisted in the service of Satan, of sin, and of evil men; not one of whom has any real good to give, or, if he had, would give it to you. All are in the same desolate and barren region; are themselves perishing with famine; and are destitute of friendship to you, and to each other.
In this forlorn situation, if ever you open your eyes, and look around; you will see neither comfort, nor hope, to vary the eternal prospect of want, shame, and woe.
Is it not then infinitely desirable to know, that you have a home to which you may go; plenty to which you may betake yourselves; friends from whom you may derive kindness and consolation; and a father yet remaining, who, though so long forsaken, is still willing to acknowledge this relation to you? In his tenderness you may find an asylum ; to his arms you may be welcomed ; in his house you may find an everlasting residence. There all good things abound, are treasured up, and bestowed with unwearied, as well as unlimited, bounty.
Behold that father advancing to meet you on your way! Hear him calling to you with infinite compassion, Ho! thou starving, perishing prodigal. Return to me, and to mine. Art thou hungry? I will feed thee with living bread. Art thou thirsty ? I will lead thee to fountains of living waters. Art thou naked? I will clothe thee with the robe of righteousness. Art thou weary? I will guide thee to eternal rest. Art thou friendless? I will be to thee a Father, and an everlasting friend. Dead, thou shalt live again. Lost, I will restore thee to a Universe of joy. Come; all things are ready. See, heaven is opened. Behold angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, waiting for thy arrival! See the golden sceptre of forgiveness extended before thee! Approach, and touch, and live forever.
THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT THE SCRIPTURES, WOULD NOT BE
PERSUADED, THOUGH ONE ROSE FROM THE DEAD.
Luke xvi. 31.
And he said unto him, “ If they hear not Moses, and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
These words are the close of the parable, uttered by our Saviour concerning the Rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had solicited of Abraham, that Lazarus might come to his relief, in the place where he was tormented. When he found this request could not be granted; he besought Abraham, that he would send Lazarus to his father's house : "for, said he, I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them lest they, also, come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “ They have Moses, and the prophets : let them hear them.” And he said, “Nay, Father Abraham: but, if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." Abraham replied, “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets ; neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” This, certainly, is a very strong assertion. Multitudes have probably discredited the truth of it without hesitation. Others have undoubtedly thought it a hard saying: and others still, unwilling to treat the Scriptures with irreverence, have indeed admitted it to be true, but in a manner, which they did not perceive; and were ready to suppose, that they could not comprehend it.
As all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; it must all be true, whether believed by us, or not; or, if believed, whether the manner, in which it is true, be understood by us, or not, Still it is always desirable to know the manner, in which any thing is true, so far as we may. There are many mysterious truths, which we are necessitated to believe by the soundest philosophy; and many others, which we are required to admit, implicitly, by the authority of God. Yet it is our duty to understand, wherever we can, not only the truth itself, but the evidence also, by which it is supported. Wherever this can be done to our own satisfaction, it will enable us, often, to confute gainsayers ; to remove plausible objections against the Word of God; and to convince those, who are not unwilling to be convinced.
In the text it is declared, that those, who believe not Moses and the prophets; or the Scriptures of the Old Testament ; would not be persuaded to repentance and reformation, although one should rise from the dead, and testify the indispensable importance, and supreme necessity, of both. The Scriptures of the New Testament were at that time not written. This appeal, therefore, could not be made to them. As it stands in the text, I believe it to be exactly true. Still, I shall extend it in the following discourse to the whole Sacred Canon ; because our own concern with the doctrine lies in applying it to both Testaments united. To a Jew the words of Christ, here put into the mouth of Abraham, were addressed with absolute propriety, and irresistible force. To us the case scarcely becomes a practical one, without involving in the doctrine the whole body of Revelation.
In canvassing this subject at the present time, I will,
I. Consider the evidence of Divine Truth, presented by one, risen from the dead.
II. I will examine the evidence of the same truth, furnished by the Scriptures; and the advantages of that evidence for convincing and persuading the mind.
III. I shall attempt to show, that the doctrine, illustrated by this comparison, is true.
I. I shall consider the evidence of Divine Truth, presented by a person, risen from the dead, and its probable effects upon mankind,