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and piety. The parables which he was pleased to make use of for this very case are alone sufficient to shew, that he could have no such meaning, nor any intention to inculcate so foreign a thought. The man who had lost one sheep out of the hundred, did not value that lost sheep above the ninety-nine left; no, nor above any single sheep of the whole number, so far as appears ; to be sure, he would not have parted with any one of the whole, for the recovering of what was lost ; because that would have been doing nothing, but endeavouring to repair one loss by another; and indeed by a greater, all things considered.

So again, in the case of the woman represented as having lost one of her ten pieces of silver; her searching so diligently for what she had lost was no argument of her valuing that single piece above all the rest, or above any other piece that remained with her. She would have taken the same pains to recover any other of the ten, had she had the misfortune to lose it ; so that her care and solicitude in that affair could be an argument of nothing but of her valuing all alike: neither would she have parted with any single piece which remained sure, in order to regain that piece which she had lost.

Once more: the father, in the parable, who shewed himself overjoyed at the recovery of the prodigal son before lost, cannot reasonably be supposed to have valued him more, or so much as he really valued his sober son, who had remained constantly with him ; neither would he have parted with that good son for the sake of that other; who at the best was but a reformed offender, though not to be despised in that view. To the one the father said, “ Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thinee.” How kind and gracious! What could he have said more? As to the other, he rejoiced in him, as in a son restored from the dead, but not preferring him to the son who had been all along alive and well. The sum then is, that the very turn and structure of the three several parables abundantly shew, that it was no design of our Lord to prefer a late penitent before a person of even and uniform life; much less to prefer one single such penitent before numbers of the better kind. The parables themselves convey no such thought : but it would be absurd to interpret a few particular words of somewhat doubtful meaning, against the plain and undoubted drift or tenor of the whole discourse.

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e Luke xv. 31.

What then is it that our Lord can be supposed to mean by saying, that " joy shall be in heaven over one returning sinner, more than over ninety and nine just men ?" &c. The meaning lies deep, but it may be drawn out, as I conceive, by attentively considering the occasion of the words, which I have before explained. Our Lord's intent was to correct an envious, narrow, selfish disposition of mind; such as leads men to value a blessing the more, for its being confined to them singly, in preference to many others; and to look upon any privilege as the less for being shared in common.

This is very ill-natured towards men of our own species, as if they were not our brethren, and members with us: and it is greatly affronting the goodness of God, as if it were not extensive or diffusive enough to take in any number whatever, (fitly prepared,) and to make the very largeness of the number a considerable circumstance for the advancing the felicity of ecery individual. Now in order to confront and confute such envious and ill-natured jealousies, our Lord was pleased to intimate, that the angels of heaven are of quite another temper and principle: for though they are most highly in God's favour, yet they desire of all things, for God's glory, and for their own greater happiness, to have men brought in to share with them in it. And as they are grieved and concerned (so far as is consistent with their blissful state) when men revolt from God to their own undoing ; so they are particularly joyful and thankful, as often as deserters return to their duty, and become capable of enjoying the inheritance of the saints in light. If but one in a hundred should happen to go astray, and fall off, (so our Lord puts the case in the first parable,) they would think it of high moment to recover that one; and rejoice in it, more than in the other ninety-nine: because an hundred is more than ninety-nine, and a new addition becomes matter of new joy to them: not that that single person is better than the ninety-nine, (that were absurd;) but, while that single one was wanting, the satisfaction was less, and the joy impaired; which, by the recovery of the lost member, becomes again full and complete. The narrow-spirited Pharisees, in their selfish way, would have said, What signifies the loss of one sinner, or more, so long as we are but happy, and have all to ourselves ? For the fewer we have to share with us, the more distinguished are we above the rest of mankind. So thought they, in their pride and vanity. But our Lord understood better; and he endeavoured to make them understand it like

wise, by the three several parables which I have been explaining; which indeed were all intended to teach us, not to think ourselves the more happy, for being eminently distinguished as a select few, exclusive of our brethren; but rather, then to judge ourselves most happy, when the greatest numbers can be persuaded to come in and partake with us. Many are apt to please themselves in a thought, that they have something to boast of above others, which they retain to themselves, and in which none can equal them or share with them; as if happiness consisted in singularity or superiority: the heavenly temper is just the reverse, and it is brotherly love that makes it so. True and dear friends can scarce relish any happiness in which both do not share. Where universal benevolence reigns, the effect is as universal: the felicity of every one becomes the greater for every one's partaking of it and sharing in it. This, I presume, was our Lord's thought in the text, suitable to one that is a friend to all who will accept him, and a constant lover of mankind.

Enough has been said for the opening the general design and intention of the text which I have been upon. .

II. It remains only to consider the more particular use and improvement of it; and that by way of application both to good Christians and bad.

As to good Christians, they may from hence learn, how acceptable a service they are performing, while they are endeavouring, either by example or persuasion, to draw many unto God. It is contributing to the enlargement of God's kingdom: it is afflicting and weakening the powers of darkness, and bringing fresh matter of joy and triumph to the blessed above. It is, at the same time, putting on and improving that heavenly disposition here, which will be both their perfection and happiness hereafter. The angels themselves are employed constantly in these pious cares; and it is both their business and delight to assist in converting sinners, and to draw them off from Satan unto God. Our Lord, in the text, has intimated as much to every good Christian, for the inciting them to follow their bright example ; and he has further instructed us to pray daily, that God's will may be done in earth, as it is in heaven. So much with respect to Christians of the better sort, who have their minds set towards heaven. As to the ungodly and impenitent, if disposed to hear and

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attend, they may learn a most comfortable lesson from the doctrine of the text; namely this, that though they are for the present, through their own default, shut out from the kingdom of heaven; yet a door stands open for repentance, whensoever they shall think it their duty and interest to look up to heaven, and to return to God. For their further encouragement, our Lord has been pleased to hint, that the angels themselves stand, in a manner, waiting for their conversion ; and will not only be content, but even joyful to receive them, when they shake off their evil habits, and become new men, thoroughly reclaimed both in heart and life. In the mean season they are considered as lost and undono, dead in trespasses and sins: and that is the very reason given, why the joy in heaven will be the greater upon their recovery, if ever they shall recover; because it is doubtful, and almost desperate. Thy brother was dead," says the kind father in the parable, “ and is alive again ; and was lost, and is “ found f.” And therefore he judged it meet to make the more solemn rejoicing for a recovery of so extraordinary a nature, somewhat resembling even a resurrection from the grave.

There are indeed many and great difficulties in the work of correcting inveterate habits : but there are also many and great encouragements, sufficient to countervail the difficulties of it, if a man will but seriously set about it, with such care and earnestness, such resolution and endeavour, as any other business of weight requires. It should be resolved upon instantly without delay, because necessary to be done, and delays are dangerous : it should be pursued with resolution and vigour; for faint endeavours will never effect any thing considerable, either in that or any other grand affair. It should be conducted with great deliberation and forecast, foreseeing every obstacle or impediment which may stand in the way, and providing wisely against them. It is the want of such prudent forecast which generally keeps sinners in their former courses ; and renders their

faint resolutions and endeavours fruitless or ineffectual. They sincerely wish, perhaps, to live better; and they resolve sincerely, at seasons, so to do: but yet they set not about the work in any proper method, or with due pre. cautions. They aim well, with respect to the end ; but they use not the right means. They aim to reform ; but still they take no care to avoid such temptations as will be too hard for them ; or to shun such company and such entanglements as will, probably, deceive and ensnare them. And hence it is, that their warmest desires after godliness prove ineffectual ; and their best resolutions are not strong enough to secure them against frequent relapses. The only way to make sure of the end is to look well to the means. Let but any person consider well beforehand what he has to do, and how by degrees it is to be effected ; and then resolve (with the help of God's grace) to pursue those proper measures with care and assiduity; and then he need not doubt but this work of the Lord will more and more prosper in his hands ; and there will be joy in heaven over every such thoughtful sinner so repenting.

f Luke xv. 32.

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