is not likely any proper means of doing them good should be attempted with earnestness and perseverance. But whoever duly remembers all the particu lars of his own case, and all the patience and mercy which the LORD has shewn to him, will not readily conceive more difficulties or greater unworthiness in another, than have been overcome and pardoned, in bringing him into the liberty and comfort of the gospel.

While therefore, in our several places, we use all such means of bringing sinners to repentance and the knowledge of CHRIST, as consist with our character and situation; and watch for opportunities of dropping some hint, or putting something in the way of those to whom we have access, which may awaken their attention let us remember all our brethren, who, in different parts of the world, and by various methods, are making similar attempts. The ministers of CHRIST especially, whose constant employment this is, or should be; and who often labour, with a degree of success vastly below their wishes and desires, are entitled to remembrance in your daily prayers. If called on to rejoice with CHRIST, when the lost sheep is found; you must also be required to desire that joyful event. It takes place, at present, alas! but seldom, to what it has done in former times and how loudly does this call upon you, "to strive toge"ther in prayer for us;" both that we may be better qualified for the work, and more prospered in it! Perhaps nothing is less adequately attended to, in general, than the duty of praying for the success of


the gospel, and that "the LORD of the harvest would "send forth labourers into his harvest."


In the present lamentably divided state of the Christian Church, a temper too generally prevails, not unlike that manifested by the apostles, when they saw one casting out devils in CHRIST'S name; "and forbad him, because he followed not with "them :" and our LORD's reply seems to be little thought of; "Forbid him not; for he that is not "against us, is for us.'

No doubt, every one ought to be satisfied in his own mind, as to his proper place and work, and should act consistently with his engagements; not doing evil that good may come," or even causing, by any impropriety," his good to be evil spoken of.” But if we candidly look around us, and take a large view of the Christian Church, we shall evidently perceive that GOD brings home lost sheep, and so causes joy in heaven, by persons who are very far from exactly coinciding with us, in those things on which we perhaps lay an undue stress. It is too much for us to assume it, as fact, that our views are exclusively scriptural; for other conscientious men are equally confident in their opinions: and if we were sure that we were right and they mistaken; yet, as the only wise GoD sees good to execute a part of his counsel by their means; and as "there is joy in hea


ven over one sinner that repenteth;" it does not become us to manifest the pharisaical spirit of the el der brother; who was objecting and complaining, when his father and the whole family were feasting,


and rejoicing over "him who had been lost and was
"found, had been dead and was alive."

St. Paul was sure that they who preached CHRIST out of envy and strife were wrong, not only in circumstances, but in the radical temper of their hearts: yet, as it seems, they preached the substance of the true gospel among those who had been strangers to it; so that sinners were by their means brought to repentance and faith in CHRIST, he determined to rejoice in their success: doubtless, because the Saviour calls on all his friends to rejoice with him when he finds his lost sheep. As to consequences, he left them with GOD; as also the judgment to be awarded to those, who wanted "to add affliction to his "bonds."..

[ocr errors]

We also learn, from the language of the text, that we should, with caution, encourage every relenting in those, who have hitherto appeared stout-hearted and far from righteousness. We should meet with kindness and meekness every dawning of light and conviction, and spare no pains in leading forward the newly awakened sinner, notwithstanding his mistakes, prejudices, or ignorance; imitating him, who "did not quench the smoking flax, or break the "bruised reed." It is indeed proper to avoid such encouraging language, as may tend to self-deception : but whatever can inspire the hope which animates to diligence; whatever can tend to lift up the hands

that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees, or "make straight paths for the feet; that that which is may not be turned out of the way, but rather "be healed," should be perseveringly attempted.




"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye; but not


to doubtful disputations."

We should also be reminded to attend to another apostolical injunction which is often forgotten, "If a "man be overtaken in a fault, you that are spiritual "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; con"sidering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." For the recovery of one, who seemed in our judgment to be a believer, is often that very event over which angels and the LORD of angels rejoice. "Brethren, "if any of you do err from the truth, and one con"vert him; let him know that he who converteth a "sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul "from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Let us, in these and all other cases, connected with the joyful event referred to in the text, use all the means we can, and pray fervently for a blessing on every attempt made by others, as well as by ourselves, all over the world. Let us expect to receive answers to our prayers, and stand prepared to bless and praise GOD, whenever we hear of sinners brought to repentance, and the success of that cause, for which CHRIST JESUS came into the world and shed his blood upon the cross.

Brethren, you have heard many things concerning the love of CHRIST to sinners, in general, and to repenting sinners in particular; and of his unspeakable condescension, compassion, and loving kindness: but do not, on this ground, conclude that he cannot, or will not punish; "Despisest thou the riches of his "goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering, no "knowing that the goodness of GOD leadeth thee te

repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent "heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the “day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judg "ment of GOD; who shall render to every one ac"cording to his deeds?"-Notwithstanding the inexpressible love of CHRIST, he will at length" be "revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in "flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know "not God, and that obey not his gospel; who shall "be punished with an everlasting destruction from "his presence."-"How shall we then escape, if we "neglect so great salvation?" They who are emboldened by the grace of the gospel to continue im-penitent, will perish with the most aggravated condemnation." Seek the LORD," therefore," while "he may be found; call upon him while he is near:" and beware of trusting in any transient impressions, which leave no abiding effect on your general temper and conduct; for no persons are more hopeless in their impenitence, than they who groundlessly think, that they have repented. Yet, be thankful for any degree of feeling, any disposition to relent and submit to Gon: but give diligence, and exercise watchfulness, that these convictions may be rendered deeper, and made more effectual in producing works meet for repentance.

We, who cannot see the heart, must encourage whatever appears right: but you should look to GOD to search and examine you, that you may become acquainted with yourselves, and not be deceived by a repentance which must eventually be repented of. Take care, in this view, of every scheme which tends

« VorigeDoorgaan »