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SERMON XLVII.

THE REPENTANCE OF SINNERS MATTER
OF JOY IN HEAVEN.

LUKE XV. 7, 10.

1 SAY UNTO YOU, THAT LIKEWISE JOY SHALL BE IN HEAVEN OVER ONE SINNER THAT REPENTETH, MORE THAN OVER NINETY AND NINE JUST PERSONS WHICH NEED NO REPENT. ANCE. LIKEWISE I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT THERE IS JOY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGELS OF GOD OVER ONE SINNER THAT REPENTETH.

THE

HE Pharisees were much offended with our Lord for shewing so much concern for sinners as to keep them company, in order to teach them their duty, and to convince them of their danger.

Our Lord assures them, by these three parables,* that God is well pleased when sinners are converted; that the angels rejoice at it; and that such as are at the pains to bring back poor, ignorant, or wicked people, who have gone astray like lost sheep, do a work very acceptable to God, and God will reward them for it.

In short; our Lord has, by these similitudes, discovered to us one of the most comfortable truths in the world, which is, that when men have offended God, yet if they become sensible of their sin, and truly sorry for it, God will par

* The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Piece of Silver, and the

Prodigal Son.

don what is past, and take them into favour, as if they had never offended him.

What is the reason that we can hear such holy scriptures as these without being moved? The reason is plain; we do not consider that we are sinners; we do not know what it is to be a sinner; we are not sensible that every sinner is liable to the anger of God, is as one lost and undone, until he repent and be restored to God's favour. Would you know the condition of a sinner, whose conscience is awake, and lets him see his sin and his condition?

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Look upon David, when he had been guilty of adultery and murder: hear how he expresses his grief:* My sorrow is continually before me; for mine iniquities are gone over my head; as an heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me.

Look upon St. Peter, when he had denied his Lord, and thought upon it, you will find him weeping bitterly.

See the publican in the temple; he dares not so much as lift up his eyes, but smites upon his breast, and cries, Godbe merciful unto me a sinner.

Consider the penitent woman, at the feet of Jesus, washing his feet with her tears. What was all this for? Our Lord will tell you: Her sins were many; Christ had forgiven her upon her repentance; and thus she expresses her love and thankfulness; she looked upon it as the greatest mercy in the world to be restored to the favour of God, and she would not but shew it by her love and by her tears,

• Psalm xxxvii.

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And if we are not thus affected, when we consider how merciful God has been to us, it is because we are not truly sensible what it is to be out of his favour, what it is to be under his displeasure. In short; it is because our consciences were never well awake.

They that are whole (or think themselves so) care not for a physician, but they that are sick, Come unto me, saith our Lord, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

When once it is thus with men, they will hear these parables with delight, and receive the doctrines contained in them with cheerfulness.

They will understand, for instance, with the greatest satisfaction imaginable, that by the shepherd, who went to seek his lost sheep, is meant Jesus Christ, who came into the world to seek and to save sinners. When they hear what pains he took to find it; how he took it upon his shoulders, how he rejoiced that he had found it, and called his friends and his neighbours to rejoice with him; they will then apply this parable to themselves; they will see plainly, that God desires their conversion; that if he desires it, he will afford them all the means of being converted; that their souls are dear in his sight, or else he would not have sent his own Son to seek and to save them. Then they will see and acknowledge the tender love of this good shepherd, who spared no pains to find his lost sheep; they will therefore love him, deșire to please him, and not willingly do any thing that may justly offend him.

And when they hear again the parable of the woman that had lost a piece of silver, what concern she had upon her, what pains she took to find it, what pleasure she had when she had found it; they will easily see, that all this is matter of the greatest comfort to sinners; that if the angels rejoice upon the conversion of a sinner, it is because God is pleased with it, and because they know that God will not reject any that return to him.

And they will still be more convinced of this, when they go on to consider the circumstances of the prodigal son. He left his father's house without his leave; that which his father gave him to maintain him decently, he spent upon harlots; he never thought upon his father, nor the sad affliction he gave him, till he can live no where else: these are all instances of a vile behaviour; and yet, after all, the father receives him without upbraiding him, and treats him after such a manner as if he had never done amiss.

And will God thus deal with sinners, who return to him after all their wanderings; who, being sensible of their unhappy condition, desire his pardon and favour?

Yes, thus God will deal with his unhappy creatures; unhappy, because they have offended him; but happy, in having such a father, so full of goodness, so ready to pardon.

Will any sinner after this say, I would willingly return, if I could hope that God would receive and pardon me? A sinner may indeed say, I will not forsake my sins; I will not ask pardon; I will not return to my duty; but no

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man can say, if I should desire to return to God, he will not receive me.

Let us all then, for we are all sinners; let us all be encouraged to return to God by a sincere repentance: his goodness should lead us to it; our own danger should spur us on; the joys of heaven should invite us; and the examples of others being received and pardoned, should encourage us to hope for the same merciful

treatment.

In short; the parables we have read will bear witness against us at the last day, that God did invite us, but we unworthily despised his favours of mercy and pardon.

But what pretences have any sinners for not returning to God, and depending upon his pardon? Why, some say, that true repentance, being God's gift, if he is not pleased to call them effectually, it is impossible for them ever to return to him, and to their duty.

But does he not call all sinners to repentance? Will he not make that call effectual to every one who will hear his voice?

How did he call the prodigal? He suffered him to take his own ways, till he made himself miserable; he suffered him to find no rest in the ways of sin; he put it into his mind, that he had a merciful Father to return to; he resolved therefore to try his father's goodness, and it fared with him accordingly, he was received and pardoned.

And will not, does not God do all this for every sinner? Does he not make sin uneasy to them? Do they find any rest in the choices

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