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truth, they flee to the next refuge which their own imaginations suggest ; and cry,
“ Peace, peace," when destruction is near. This is the unhappy condition of sinners. Thus low were we sunk, thus led astray by Satan, thus bewildered and distressed, thus defenceless and exposed, thus weak, and unable to recover our former privileges, or ward off approach: ing danger, thus ready to sink into perdition, thus wretched and lost, when the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation.
This leads me to inquire,
II. How does Christ seek and save those that are lost?
O! Sinners, let me repeat those precious words again and again, till your hearts melt at the wonders of mercy which they contain. The Son of Man is. come to seek and to save that which was lost. If you feel your misery and danger, you will not think me too particular, if I endeavour to show you separately, first, how Christ seeks, and then how he saves, lost sinners.
First, how does Christ seek those that are lost?
There is so much grace and condescension in the expression, that we almost hesitate to give it any credit; and we read the words over and over, to satisfy ourselves that we are not deceived. But so it is written; and let me add, so it has been actually found, as many whom he has sought and saved can happily testify. Some things when lost are not worth seeking. * Let them go,” we say, “they are good for nothing. We shall not give ourselves the trouble to get them again.” And why did not Christ say this also of us He sought not lost angels. ," Let them go," said he,
“ when they left their seats in heaven. Let them go, and be reserved in everlasting chains under dark, ness.” Why did he not act in the same manner with us? Would it not have been enough, if he had promised that, if we sought him, he would grant us his favour? No; he knew that, if left to ourselves, we never should seek him ; and that so long as we could live without him, though it were upon husks, we should never feel a wish to return. Rather, therefore,
a than that we should pérish, rather than-(I scarcely know how to speak it, the distance is so great, and the language so familiar: but O! the unsearchable riches of Christ !)-rather than not have us with him in heaven, he will come down and seek us.
This he does in part by his word. He diligently sought the salvation of souls when he was on earth; and was never so happy as when he saw any success of his ministry, though it were among the lowest and meanest of the people.“ In that day, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seenneth good in thy sight." Since his ascension, his heart is intent upon the same gracious design. For this purpose, he causes his word to be preached, whieh being quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, and laying open the thoughts and intents of the heart, is made an instrument of the conversion and salvation of many. He sends it wherever any are to be bene
. fited by it. So when Paul was hesitating about staying at Corinth, as we are informed in the Acts of the Apostles, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Be nor afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee; and no man shall hurt thee, for I have much people in this city.” In this view, my appearance here this day, as an ambassador of Christ, is of the highest importance. It is as if the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man; go into that congregation, and seek out some perishing souls which I have in that assembly. However concealed from others, they are not hidden from me ; and through my grace they shall become heirs of salva. tion. Tell them, I expect that they immediately deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me: and thou shalt see that the words that I speak to thee are spirit and life.” Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded. Be it unto thy servant according to thy word.
He seeks others by his providence. Some have had but few opportunities of hearing the gospel; but others have heard it for many years, without deriving any benefit from this invaluable privilege. Gracious invitations, and awful warnings, have frequently been given, but without any effect. They seem as if they said, “ As for the word, which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken to thee; but will certainly do whatever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth." One would think that such were irrecoverably lost: and so they would be, if it were not for Jesus, who will seek those whom all the world consider as hopeless. For this purpose he chooses sometimes a mercy, but more frequently an affliction. “ Go,” says he, “ to those persons who are so madly running from me, as if I were their inveterate enemy. Go, stop them, smite them, humble them; but say
that I love them notwithstanding; and that in pure, compassion to their souls, I have sent thee to prevent their going on in the road to destruction.” Think of this, sinner, in the next trouble wbich befals thee ; and consider it as a messenger which Christ has employed to save thy perishing soul.
Christ also seeks sinners by his Spirit. “ Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” This is the reason why the same word, or the same occurrence of Providence, that makes an effectual impression on one, produces no effect upon another. The Spirit unites his influence with the outward call, and inclines and enables the soul to comply. Whom Christ thus seeks, he finds; and whom he finds, he will finally save.
This leads me, secondly, to inquire how Christ saves those who are lost.
He saves them by purchase. “In whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins ; according to the riches of his grace.” You know that if a debtor owe more than he can pay, he is liable to an arrest ; and if his creditor will proceed to the rigour of the law, he is thrown into prison, and must lie there till the debt be discharged. This was our condition. We were debtors to the law of God, which was confessedly holy, just, and good, and therefore was not to be broken with impunity. The decree was gone forth, “ The soul that sinneth shall die.” Justice demanded instant satisfaction, or
[SERM. 5. everlasting imprisonment. What could we do? We were poor, and, for aught we knew, were friendless too; and we seemed to have nothing before us, but a certain and fearful destruction. Then the Son of Man came to seek and to save us, and gave his life a
, ransom for many. God might have refused to accept any substitute; he might have insisted that the guilty should suffer, in their own persons, the punishment which their sins had deserved: but he graciously consented to receive satisfaction from Christ in our stead; who died the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Thus our debts were discharged, and our souls set at liberty. It is not wonderful, then, that we hear so many thousands of the inhabitants of heaven singing aloud,“ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing ; for thou wast slain,
'; and hast redeemed us to God by the blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
But he saves them by. power as well as by purchase. Undoubtedly the greatest difficulty was removed when divine justice was satisfied. But yet, if Christ had done nothing more, our salvation would not have been completed; for Satan held us fast in his chains; and our depraved passions, like petty tyrants, had dominion over us; so that we should never have been benefited by the liberty which Christ had purchased, if he had not encountered and overcome these powerful enemies. This victory is frequently mentioned in scripture. Thus it is said that the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil; that he conquered death, and him who had the power of deatb; that is, the devil;