Page images

in his bad habits, and blinding him to the greatness of his danger; our own, by our deceitful flattery, and the infection of his sinful example. So long as the sheep is a wanderer it cannot be in favour with its shepherd; till it is found, there can be no rejoicing.

We should also be religiously careful lest our own conduct should bring our sincerity into question, since the sight of all mankind is keen to detect inconsistency in their monitors; and since, if our actions belie our words, it is vain to hope that our advice will be heard with conviction. And more than all, and for the sake not of our friend only, but of our own salvation, we should use the utmost care and diligence lest, while we give instruction to others, we ourselves should be cast away; and lest, while we boast ourselves the instructors of the weak, the dispensers of spiritual wealth to the needy, and the guide to them that sit in darkness, our own eyes may labour under a greater infirmity than that of which we undertake to heal our brother; and while we say we are rich and in need of nothing, we may find ourselves too soon in the presence of our Judge, both " poor and miserable, and blind and naked."

Of the instruction which the same parable conveys to sinners, a very few observations may be sufficient. The first which I shall offer is the great danger of sin, and the exceeding terrour of its natural consequences, which can so excite the pity of the Most High, and the sympathy of the holy and

happy inhabitants of another and a superior state of existence. That must be no common misery to rescue us from which the Almighty did not withhold His only Son; those effects of our wanderings must be strange and terrible, which can draw down on us the attention of the armies of Heaven, and call forth their lively joy at the rescue of a lost fellowcreature. The glory of the Most High might well spare the children of the world from the hallelujahs, of Paradise; the happiness of angels is already complete without the addition of such beings as ourselves to their glorious company. It is only our misery which leads them to think of us at all; it is only our danger which makes our escape a subject of rejoicing. And if, with them who best know the value of a soul, our souls are thus valued; if to them who best know the fruits of sin, those fruits appear so terrible, how great is our infatuation who slumber on the brink of a precipice at which the far-seeing cherubims shudder, who defy the threats, who despise the warnings, who render vain the indulgence, the sufferings, the gracious influences, the patient and persevering kindness of the Almighty.

Nor are they our fears alone which are thus embattled against our continuance in sin; our hopes and our kindlier feelings are, at the same time, encouraged to a speedy and effectual repentance from the interest which the angels take in our success, and from the merciful solicitude which the God of angels and of men has Himself expressed

for our safety. For our race, when we had wandered aside from the paths of peace and happiness, for our race the Heavenly Shepherd left His ancient and faithful flock, the spirits who kept their first estate, the sons who were ever with Him. It was us whom He sought in the wilderness of the world; it was our nature, our infirmities, the punishment of sins which dwelt in our bodies, which He bare on His shoulders through the valley of the shadow of death, that He might bring us back to His Father's kingdom. And think you there will not be joy in the presence of His angels hereafter, when His toils shall receive their full reward in the restoration of countless millions, and when the sheep who have been lost and found again, shall return under His care to that fold from whence they never more shall wander? Or do we shrink back in hopeless despair of a prize so much beyond the limits of our natural weakness? "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." That repentance of a sinner in which the angels rejoice, that repentance which God Himself delighteth to behold, God, we may be sure, well knows how to bring to pass, and He will bring it to pass, unless the sinner refuses to be healed.

Day by day He calls us, saying, why will ye die? Day by day His Spirit is at hand, and to be found of all that diligently seek Him. Day by day He

1 St. Luke xii. 32.

prompts the desire which leads us to His mercyseat, the effectual prayer whereby we seek Him. Let us but fan that holy flame, which the breath of the Lord hath kindled; let us but seek His help where it hourly solicits our acceptance; let us but endeavour to forsake those evil ways of which death is the appointed issue, and that which the angels desire, and that which the Lord desireth, shall be surely and speedily accomplished, if we will but add our hearty desires to theirs, and meet, by our fervent prayers and penitent resolutions, the hopes and promises, and helps and consolation of Heaven.



[Preached at Calcutta, November 30th, 1823.]

GAL. iii. 19.

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.

THE main scope and purpose of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, has been by many men so greatly misunderstood, and so dangerously perverted to purposes entirely foreign to the apostle's intention, that we cannot too closely bear in mind that the dispute between them was, whether the law of Moses was of perpetual obligation or no, and whether the observance of its ceremonies and sacrifices was necessary to obtain pardon for the sins of mankind? The Galatians and the great body of Jewish Christians, supposed that circumcision, that the refraining from swine's flesh, that the wearing their beards long, and a blue fringe on their garments, were observances with which, as they had been once commanded by God, no man had power to dispense with; and that expiation and forgiveness of the sins of the world were to be sought for

« PreviousContinue »