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how diligent our great enemy is to quicken our motion the wrong way, will find it as necessary for a Christian to be always proceeding onward, and making every day some further progress in religion, as for a man to ply his oars vigorously, and without intermission, that rows in a strong current against wind and tide.
III. In the last place; if, as the latter of these parables represents it, it is the wisdom of a weak prince, not rashly to wage war with one of double force, but as soon as he can to make peace, what a madness is it for a poor, weak creature to rebel against his Almighty Creator! what but utter ruin can be expected from such an unequal conflict!
For let me demand, as God once did of Job, Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.Then will I also confess unto thee that thy own right hand can save thee. What stinging upbraidings are these, and how to the life do they express the impotency of a poor, despicable, sinful mortal, when contending with his Maker! How do they force from us Job's confession and self-abasement; Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Because I have added rebellion to my sin, and clapped my hands, and multiplied my words against God". Can we think that God will always tamely put up the indignities we offer him, and that our rebellion and disobedience shall always go unpunished? Will
1 Job xl. 9,
m Job xl. 4.
n Job xxxiv. ult.
he never, think we, vindicate his honour, and shew a difference between the righteous and the wicked? Are all his terrible threatenings mere noise, and those dreadful descriptions he has given us of the process at the great day of judgment, wherein he will require of us an account of our works, and judge us according to them, and of the wrath to come against those that have been workers of iniquity, when the most exquisite torments both of soul and body shall be their sad portion for ever, without the least allay or mitigation? Is all this nothing but poetical fiction, or high words that will never be made good? For God's sake let us not soothe ourselves up with such ridiculous fancies as these but be persuaded, if not by love and gratitude, yet by the terrors of the divine vengeance, against which none shall be able to stand, immediately, before that terrible day shall come, (for then it will be too late,) to send an humble ambassage, and desire conditions of peace; to beg mercy and compassion through Jesus the great Mediator between him and us; whose merits are all-sufficient, and intercession most prevalent for all that with true faith and unfeigned repentance come to God by him ; that for his sake who is the eternal Son of his love, in whom he is well-pleased, he would look upon us with pity and compassion!
Most blessed and holy God! who graciously desirest the happiness of all thy creatures, and in infinite mercy hast sent Jesus, the Son of thy love, to rescue sinful mankind from the depths of misery,
and prepare them for the enjoyment of thyself in glory; all love and praise be to thee, and may thy inexpressible goodness be magnified for ever!
How holy, just, and good; how noble, how lovely, and how excellent above all other, is the religion which Jesus hath vouchsafed to teach us; and that duty and service which he requireth of us! how directly do his divine precepts tend to perfect our nature, and make us fit for heaven! But since, alas! it is so hard for us in this our degenerate state to do the good that we desire and ought to do, and we find ourselves too ready to comply with temptations to evil; O grant that we may be so wise as seriously to lay to heart the hazardous condition we are in, and employ all the reason thou hast given us to discover the snares of the great deceiver, and take those measures which are most conducive to our happiness! And do thou keep us by thy divine protection from all things hurtful, and by the guidance of thy good Spirit lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.
What mighty encouragement hast thou given us, blessed Redeemer, to be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the works of holiness; by promising such glorious rewards to those that do so, as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither can enter into the heart of man to conceive! We earnestly beseech thee, therefore, merciful Lord, to give us grace so duly to attend to the transcendent excellency of those thy precious and invaluable promises, that we may persist in thy service against all opposition whatsoever; and bear up with courage and patience under all difficulties and discouragements, and
with contempt and scorn reject all temptations, how alluring soever to the contrary, as not worthy to be compared with our glorious reversion above.
And since into thy presence and thy kingdom no unclean thing can enter, do thou enable us by thy heavenly aid to cleanse and purify our souls from all those defilements which are abominable to thee; that we may no longer resist thy heavenly will, but submit ourselves entirely to thy obedience. That so at length, after a persevering piety and holy preparation here, we may be admitted into those regions of purity and love, of happiness and glory, where thou, most blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, livest and reignest for ever. Amen. Amen.
Of the lost sheep.
LUKE XV. 4-7.
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
THE design of this parable being the same with that of the prodigal son, ver. 11. of this chapter, namely, to shew how desirous our good God is of the recovery of a sinner from a course of wickedness to a sense of his duty, and how pleased he is when he hath effected it; I once intended to pass it by, having formerly discoursed upon that other parable, vol. ii. p. 305. But upon second thoughts, having duly weighed and considered it, I found enough in it of peculiar sense, as well as variety of expression, to deserve our serious and particular reflections upon it.
And because, both in the New Testament and the Old, we frequently find God's faithful people called his sheep, and those that wander from the paths of their duty to him compared to stray or lost sheep,