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when Jesus singled you out from the rest of the prisoners, knocked off your fetters, put a pardon into your hands, and brought you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Look back, therefore, to your former guilty condition with the deepest humility, and tremble while you reflect upon your past misery and danger. Look up with thankfulness and joy to your gracious deliverer; and as redeemed and delivered, be diligent, faithful, resolute soldiers and servants of Christ.
Let the Christian look forward with joy to that world of undissembled and undecaying piety, where the formalist and the hypocrite, the weak and the wavering, the doubting and the disconsolate, will be characters unknown. There we shall never feel any of those languors and decays, which make us some. times fear that we are ready to die. But our hearts will vie with the angels of God, in doing the pleasure, and singing the praises, of Him who sitteth upon the throne, and of the Lamb for ever and ever. Ah! how unlike are our present flat and lifeless devotions, to the spirited and harmonious hallelujahs of glorified saints! Blessed be God, a time is approaching, when we shall love him more intensely, serve him more vigorously, and, above all, when "we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.”
CHRIST SEEKING AND SAVING THOSE WHO WERE
LUKE xix. 10. For the Son of Man is comie, to seek and to save that
which was lost.
If we had lived many hundred years ago, when the birth of Christ was foretold by one prophet after another with increasing clearness, what a variety of conjectures should we have formed of the design of his coming! and when we heard that he was actually born, how would our hearts beat with a trembling anxiety, according to our prevailing views and dispositions ! Had we been like the Jewish nation, who at that time were galled with a foreign yoke, and impatient to be delivered from it, we should have been flattering ourselves, that glorious times were approaching, when we should have a prince of our own, who would fight our battles, subdue our enemies, and make us once niore a free and flourishing people. If we had been of a more spiritual and serious turn, and taking notice of the signs of the times, were deeply affected with the universal depravity, the news of Christ's coming would have thrown us into extreme consternation. The history of the deluge, and the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, would have come fresh to our remembrance,
and have filled us with the most terrifying apprehensions, lest the patience of God should be once more exhausted, and he should be sending his Son to pu. nish and extirpate our rebellious nation. But what a transport of grateful surprize and joy must we have felt, to hear an angel say, “ Fear not, for behold I bring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” How readily should we have joined with the heavenly host in shouting, “Glory to God in the highest,” for thus proclaiming peace on earth, and giving such proof of his good will to men! “ For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
We have a similar expression in the gospel by St. Matthew. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Then it follows, “ How think ye; if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray ?” Hence it appears, that this description of mankind as lost, is a metaphor taken from the destitute, defenceless, and dangerous condition of sheep which have wandered from the fold. Though Christ was primarily sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet for our comfort, he declared, that he had other sheep, which are not of this fold, even all that in every nation should believe on his name.
As this, therefore, is a subject in which we are all interested, I shall hope for your serious attention, while I endeavour to describe what is implied in our being lost, and then show how Christ seeks and saves us.
I. What is implied in our being lost?
The metaphor of a lost sheep naturally reminds us of our weakness and wanderings, our distress and danger, and our utter inability to recover ourselves.
“ The wicked are transgressors from the womb, going astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." They are not merely disposed to wander, but are actually gone astray; and this is not peculiar to one or two of the most profligate, but is common to every individual of the apostate descendants of Adam.
They are all gone aside ; they are altogether become filthy. There is none that doeth good, no not one."
“Vain man would be wise, though he is born like the wild ass's colt.” But what can be a more flagrant proof of folly, than this universal wandering from God? I say from God ; for, in his original state, man was admitted to the most delightful communion with God. This was, emphatically, heaven upon earth. We should have imagined, that he would have been so sensible of his happiness, as to have carefully avoided every thing that had the least tendency to interrupt the heavenly intercourse. But man being in honour, abode not. He was tempted, and overcome.
He ventured to do what God had positively forbidden. So he drove out the man ; and, ever since, his posterity have been fugitives and vagabonds ; feeling after happiness where it is not to be found; and, with a strange infatuation, expecting safety in the paths of the destroyer. What a pitiable sight is a world lying in wickedness! To see millions of immortal souls perishing in sin, following after vanities, forsaking their own mercies, easily imposed upon by the most trifling temptation, and wandering further and further from God, and all blessedness.
Their condition is distressful and dangerous too. :
Sometimes the guilty conscience of a sinner haunts him, whithersoever he goes, like a spectre. If he take refuge in company, it still furiously pursues him ; till he plunge into the wildest extravagancies, to avoid, if it were possible, God and himself. If sinners would speak out, they would confess, that a life of distance from God, or of pleasure, as it is falsely denominated, is, notwithstanding every endeavour to sweeten it, a most wretched and pitiable condition.
But whether they be easy or miserable, they are in the most imminent danger. Their path is full of snares, and surrounded with enemies. Yet those
poor unthinking wanderers dream of safety and peace: And because the road is broad and smooth, and crowded with passengers, on they go, without caring whether it lead to life or death: on they go: and if sovereign grace do not prevent it, on they will go, till their steps take hold on hell.
They are also unable to recover themselves. Of the numberless sinners who are daily wandering from God, not one, if left to himself, would ever return. “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness to him: Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Sometimes, indeed, like persons who are frightened in their sleep, and starting up, and looking wildly round them, utter a few broken sentences, and then fall asleep again, suddenly they are alarmed, and cry put, as in an agony, " What shall I do to be saved ?" But being destitute of the light of divine