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and are founded on the most solid evidence. Of this the proof is complete; for every sanctified man entertains the same views concerning his former sinful condition to his dying day, and they continually become clearer and more satisfactory while he lives. They are, therefore, the decisions of the soundest reflection, and the most rational apprehensions concerning ourselves. There is not a child of God in the world who does not, with the strongest feelings, often, very often, say with David, "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who "shall stand ?"
There is nothing in ourselves which God can accept, nothing which can contribute towards the expiation of our guilt, nothing which can at all become the ground of our justification. To this state of man all the invitations of the Gospel are conformed. "Ho! every one that thirsteth," saith God by the prophet Isaiah, " come ye to the waters; and he that hath "no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea come, buy wine and "milk, without money and without price." "Come unto me," saith our Saviour, "all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, " and I will give you rest." "Whosoever will, let them come " and take the water of life freely." All these invitations, and many others like them, are obviously directed to those who have nothing of their own, and are literally in want of all things. The proper, the instinctive language of every penitent is, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
As these views are just, it is evident that he, who has them not, has no just apprehensions of his condition, and has not yet begun to regard himself as he is regarded by his Maker. Whoever, therefore, supposes himself to be a penitent, and has yet not discerned that this is his real situation, is only deceiving himself, and building upon the sand. These views enter into the nature and essence of repentance; and, where they do not exist, repentance has not begun to exist. But without repentance there can be no forgiveness, safety, nor hope.
On the other hand, he who entertains such apprehensions concerning himself has solid reasons to believe, that some good
thing is found in him toward the Lord God of Israel. This state of mind, which I have described, is in itself good, and the foundation of more extensive good. It is to be understood, however, that mere speculative views are not here intended. It is essential that all these things be deeply and ingenuously felt in the heart, and cheerfully acknowledged; and that they be so felt, as to become a living principle of future action.
Second, Another thing realized by the sinner in this state is, that in the house of his heavenly Father there is an abundance of good.
"How many hired servants in my father's house," said the prodigal, "have bread enough, and to spare." There is enough, and more than enough for all who dwell in that happy mansion. The plenty which abounded here was exactly fitted to supply the necessities of this famishing wretch. He was perishing with hunger. In his father's house there was bread, not husks, but the food which would satisfy hunger, and preserve life.
In the house of our heavenly Father good abounds, which is exactly fitted to supply the wants of perishing sinners. The soul needs sustenance equally with the body, and for the want of it will be famished. The food, on which alone it can be sustained, is the living bread which came down from heaven, and the water which is given by Christ. "He, who drinketh "of the water which Christ gives, shall never thirst; he, who "eateth of this bread, shall live for ever." In this divine mansion, the bread of life is found. There flows the pure river of the water of life. On its banks ascends the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields its fruit every month. Those who are admitted into this happy place hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. But the Lamb shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The enjoyments yielded by this delightful place are the proper food of a rational immortal mind, and entirely suited to the demands of its original exalted nature. They are pure, sub
lime, eternal, and ever increasing; fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.
For this good, we are here taught, the sinner has in this situation begun to entertain a relish. The prodigal no longer would fain fill his belly with the husks which the swine did eat. His palate began to relish the bread of his father's house, and turned a longing eye toward the solid sustenance which was there so amply furnished. The sinner, in the case supposed, begins to hunger and to thirst after righteousness.
Third, The sinner in this situation begins, also, to cherish a realising hope that this good may be his. Such a hope the prodigal plainly cherished. The remembrance, that even the hired servants in his father's house had bread enough and to spare, was accompanied with a prevailing hope, that, upon his return, the same blessing would be imparted to him. Accordingly, he determines immediately to arise and go to his father. Without such a hope he would have continued where he was, and perished on the spot.
The promises of the Gospel contains, and proffer to returning sinners, all the blessings which they need. In this situation the sinner begins to make the case his own, and to hope, and in some degree to believe, that these promises are addressed to him. His hopes are well founded and evangelical. The promises of the Gospel are directed to just such persons as he is. They were intended to encourage, allure, and support, sinners in this very situation; to keep them from despair, and to strengthen and uphold them in the mighty concern of turning to God. Every such sinner will find every such promise fulfilled to himself.
Thus have I followed the progress of a sinner through the several stages of his corruption and ruin to the commencement of his return to God, exhibited in so interesting a manner in this most instructive and beautiful parable. I will now conclude the discourse with a single remark. It is this, How happily adapted is the salvation of the Gospel to the circumstances of sinners!
Had this salvation not been offered freely, it would have
been offered in vain. We owe ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay. Unless, therefore, the debt be forgiven, we must be sent to the prison of punishment. But this forgiveness is in its nature free and sovereign.
In plainer language, we are sinners, have broken the law of God, and are rebels against his government. But the law, of which not a single jot or tittle can possibly fail, has said, "The soul that sinneth shall die ;" and "Cursed is every one "who continueth not in all things written in the book of the "law to do them." Every sinner, therefore, is absolutely condemned by this most holy law; and, if left to himself, must perish.
In this miserable situation, Christ, with wonderful love, with divine compassion, has interposed in behalf of our race; made an end of sin; finished transgression; made reconciliation for iniquity; and brought in everlasting righteousness. The expiations which he has accomplished may become ours by faith in him, and repentance towards God. Thus we are introduced to the glorious hope of immortal life, and are called upon by a voice from heaven to return, repent, and live. Here every reason is furnished for comfort which in such a state can exist; every reason to bless God; every inducement to seek salvation.
But no hope is here presented to him who is quiet in his sins, and satisfied with his own righteousness. He is the prodigal in the text, in his most forlorn situation. He may be, and often is, not less at his ease, not less gay, not less riotous, not less unconscious of his situation. He may say, as others before him have said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, "and have need of nothing." Still he is not the less wretched and miserable, and in want of all things. All within him is beggary, all without is famine. His only food is husks, and his only destiny to perish with hunger, and that while bread enough and to spare is prepared for his enjoyment, and ready for his acceptance. God is waiting to be gracious to him. Christ holds out to him the bread of life. Heaven opens its gates for his reception. Angels are prepared to
welcome the forsaken wanderer to its immortal blessings, and saints to see him added to their number, increasing their happiness, and mingling in their praise, while he, poor, starving, famishing wretch, clings to his misery, hugs his ruin, and wiser in his own eyes than the God who made him; glories in the wisdom which plans and executes the eternal destruction of his soul.