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It must be universal, extending to all serM. kinds of sin without exception or reservation: he must forsake all his evil ways, be they ever so dear, familiar, or habitual; he inust put himself
upon a continual guard against all those sins, which whether from constitution or habit or circumstance of life do most readily beset lim: and as he determines to abandon every sort of error, so also must he learn to practise every branch of righteousness. It must be immediate; for so alone can he shew himself sincere in his return to God : if he is truly solicitous to make his peace with God, he will not defer to the morrow what he can set about to day; he will not suffer the sun to go down without a resolution to amend his life, since he cannot assure himself but this night his soul may be required of him. A repentance of this nature, sincere, universal, and immediate, it is to be hoped will be available to his final peace. And when he has heavily mourned for his sins and turned unto the Lord with all his heart, he may have confidence towards God through the merits of a Saviour, that he will be accepted in his Father's house with
SERM. such gratulation of the heavenly host,
as of one who was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found.
Thus the case of the Younger Son supplies the Sinner with this double instruction, a warning in the course of his sins, and an encouragement in his resolutions of repentance.
But I must not leave the subject without attempting to deduce another lesson from the case of the Elder Son: for though this portion of the parable may seem to have an exclusive reference to the Jews in
opposition to the Gentiles, and to the Pharisees and Scribes in contradistinction to the Publicans and Sinners; yet this also may be found to admit of application to the Christian world, as a caution to those men, who study both to know and to do the will of God, that they do not entertain either presumptuous opinions of themselves or uncharitable sentiments of others. After those repeated lessons, which our Lord has laboured to inculcate both by precept and example, in behalf of humility and charity, the two more distinguishing ornaments of his religion, what Believer
in the Gospel can arrogate a title SERM. from his own deserts to the peculiar favour of Heaven, or can murmur at the mercies extended to a contrite and repenting Sinner?
Yet still it may be of use to combat that disposition of human nature, which will sometimes prevail in defiance of our Saviour's precepts, to rate ourselves too high and other men too low in the scale of Christian virtue and in the estimation of Heaven.
But what is the merit, on which we presume that we are more righteous than our Brethren, and more in favour with God? Is it a more zealous profession of faith? He whom we profess to believe hath said, Not every one that suith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my father which is in Heaven". Is it a superiсr knowledge in the word of God? He who declared this word hath said, If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them". Is it a more animated love of Christ? The object of this love hath said, If ye love me, keep my commandments o,
m Mat, vii. 21. John xiij. 17. John xiv, 15.
As a tree is known by its fruits, so our faith, our knowledge, and our love are shewn by a conformity of heart and character and life to him, whom we profess to believe, and to know, and to love. And we give the most unquestionable 'evidence of being truly his Disciples, when we copy him in those virtues, on which he laid the greatest stress, and which are the striking features both of his doctrine and his example, namely in humility and charity; when we learn of him to be meek and lowly in heart P, and when we love one another as he hath loved us 9.
On the other hand do we presume on our obedience? Let us always bear in mind, that of ourselves we are indigent and helpless creatures, always liable to err, and perpetually falling into error.
Without the grace of God we can do nothing; and even when we have done what is our duty to do, we are but unprofitable servants, And therefore we should never dare to say to God in language like to that of the Elder Son in his remonstrance to a
Matt, xi. 29.
John xv. 12.
Father, Lo these muny years do I serve serm. thee, neither have I at any time transgressed thy commandment: for with all our endeavours we can never attain the true Christian character, neither can we ever say, we are already perfect. With all our vigilance we must have committed many sins, with all our diligence we must have omitted many duties: we all stand in need of a Saviour's merits, as well to obtain remission of our sins as to procure acceptance to our imperfect obedience. And therefore it behoves us to humble ourselves before God, and to supplicate his favour, not for our merits but of his mercies through the mediation of our blessed Lord.
While we thus endeavour to correct all vain opinions of ourselves, we shall be brought to entertain more charitable sentiments and dispositions toward others. If they shew forth a religious conversation and deportment, so as to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things', let us give God the praise, let us rejoice in the blessing they derive upon themselves, and the blessed ex
Tit. ii. 10.