« AnteriorContinua »
of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.' Deut. xxxii, 6: 'Do ye thus requite the Lord? O foolish people and unwise! is not he thy Father that hath bought thee?' Mal. i, 6: A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you; O priests, that despise my name.' Chap. ii, 10: 'Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously, every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?' Eph. iv, 6: One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.' Matt. vi, 9: After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven; hallowed be thy name.' Verse 12,' And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.' Heb. ii, 11-15: For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren; saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praises unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.'
No comments are necessary to make it evident that the most natural sense of such scriptures, as are here quoted, goes to prove the proposition under consideration. This being conceded, notice will be taken of our third proposition, which is, that the true spirit of
christian charity rejoices at the bringing of sinners to repentance.
This idea is not only supported by the application of the three parables here illustrated, but is in reality the soul of the gospel system. To bring sinners to repentance, was the manifest object of God sending his Son into our world; he was exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remissions of sins; the ministry of the gospel is directed to this end, viz. that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This system of gospel salvation, is a system of divine benevolence, which is the spirit of heaven-born charity. Jesus says, Luke v, 32: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' This is the declared object of our blessed Saviour. For the success of this work, there is joy in heaven; the angels of God see, with infinite delight and satisfaction, the triumphs of the cross extended in the repentance of sinners. They see the kingdom of darkness diminished, the power of satan more circumscribed, the unhappy rebellion of mankind reclaimed, sin actually finished in the human heart, the strong holds of the enemy reduced by the power of divine grace, and every thought of the heart brought into obedience to Christ.
Nothing short of this can be meant by repentance; for to nothing short of this could the sense of the parables be justly applied. A lost sheep, found by the shepherd, restored to the fold from which it wandered, giving joy to the owner; the finding of a valuable piece of silver, and its restoration to the possession of its owner, causing joy to her who so highly prized the treasure; the coming home of a long absent prodigal son, in the most humble manner, to his father, being
received with such marks of favor, and treated so kindly, and the joy inspired by the occasion, all show, in the most lively colors, the true penitence of the sinner, his happy reception into the enjoyment of favor, and the devotedness of his heart to gospel obedience: while, as a consequence of this salvation, joys unspeakable abound in the heart of every true lover of God.
Contrast with this heavenly theme the soul chilling doctrine of eternal rebellion against the law of love, and set up and establish the kingdom of satan and his dominion over the offspring of God, then ask the lovers of the cross to rejoice in such doctrine, what heart could comply? To require a song of rejoicing in this case, would be like the tantalizing request to the captives mentioned in Psalm cxxxvii, 1-4: 'By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us, required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land.' Those who have led the church captive into Babylon have required of her songs, and those who have wasted her, have required of her mirth; but her harps have been hung on the willows of sorrow, and she has wept by the rivers of grief.
But Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness; the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come unto her with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Let us allow the objector, the liberty to oppose the foregoing arguments by stating as follows:
1. It is a dishonor to God to argue that sinners are his offspring.
2. To argue that God loves the sinner as his offspring, and exercises a fatherly providence over him, and all the fatherly affections and mercies towards him, is to encourage him in sin and rebellion against God.
3. Such arguments serve the unjust cause of exalting the wicked in his own eyes.
These objections are constantly urged by those who stand in the character of the Pharisees and scribes, who are zealous to defend the character of their God against all such dishonor, and are equally zealous to set the wicked in a low diminutive sphere. But these Pharisees and scribes are blind and insensible to the following truths:
1. If it be not allowed that sinners are the offspring of God, it will be difficult to determine in what their sinfulness consists; for they must be the offspring of God, or of some other being, or they must be self-existent. If they be the offspring of some other being than God, it must be proved that they have disobeyed this being in order to prove that they are sinners. they be self-existent, they are not accountable to any being but themselves; and while they do as they please, there is none to say, what doest thou?
2. These blind guides, who suppose that it is an encouragement to the sinner to continue in sin, to argue and prove, from the word of God, that he has a father in heaven who owns him as his child, and exercises a fatherly providence over him, and all the fatherly affections and mercies towards him,-are insensible and blind to the fact, that they themselves are the wicked, and stand justly condemned for the omission of the
weightier matters of the law. They are also blind to that divine truth so plainly argued in the following scriptures: Rom. ii, 4: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?' 1 John iv, 16: We love him because he first loved us.'
3. Their prejudice so blinds them that they do not see that the argument, that the sinner is the acknowledged child of God, is so far from serving the unjust cause of exalting the wicked in his own eyes, that its effects in the mind, are exactly the reverse. Disobedi
ence to a kind and merciful father is surely the greatest cause of self abasement, that can be imagined ; while on the other hand, not to allow the sinner to be the acknowledged child of God, is to absolve him from this most humiliating ingratitude. Could these Pharisees and scribes but see the glorious truth of man's relation to his heavenly father, as that truth is revealed in Christ, and could they but realize the universal brotherhood of mankind, they would no more murmur because the Saviour receiveth sinners and eateth with them, they would no more be angry, because our heavenly Father receives the returning prodigal ; nor would they refuse to join in the festive joys of the fatted calf, if they loved their brethren of the human race, as they do themselves.