(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
SERMON VII. (Preached on the Wednesday Evening, Oct. 29.) ST. LUKE xv. 1, 2.
Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
OUR Blessed Lord came to give us all the wishes of our hearts, although not in our way. He "the Desire of all nations" came to fulfil all they had ever sought, all the longings of the weary, aching, heart of man; yea more, than all; for He came to give that which it hath "not entered into the heart of man to conceive." But His Wisdom must choose the way, in which His Love should bestow it. He would have given it us in our own, if He could. But our eyes were weak and sore, and could not without pain behold Him, our True Sun, until they were healed; our hearts were filled with vanities, and could not contain both Him and His creatures; they were corrupt, and until He cleansed them, all which should be poured into them must be spoiled. So then He must come in a way in which we looked not for Him. He came to give us in the end, infinitely more than all our restless hearts craved for; but when healed, not in our sickness; in heaven not on earth; or on earth in hope and in earnest, not as yet in its fulness. He came to replace the shadows by His own Substance; to give us what our heart really longed .for, while it was busying itself with earthly things; something which it could love above all things, and whose full Jove it should have for itself; something which should abide with it, which should fill it, which it should never be weary of loving; Beauty which should never fade, Riches which should never flee away, Pleasure which should never pall, Life which should not decay, Joy which should be for ever new, Love, which should raise us up to that we love. All which we could long for, He came to give, yea Himself to be; our true Life, our true Riches, the true Light which lighteneth our eyes, the Torrent of Pleasure, the Richness of the House of God. He came that we might love Him in His Humanity, that so we might behold and love Him hereafter in His unchangeable Wisdom and Majesty and Truth. But He came to give all in a new way. He would give us riches, but to the poor in spirit; life, but through death, deadness to the world through His Death, that we might live to Him in the life eternal; He would exalt us, but by teaching us to abase ourselves; He would make us first, when we had of Him learnt to be last; through sorrow, He would give us true joy; through shame, everlasting glory; having nothing, to possess all things, by possessing Himself, in Whom are all things.
But these things, although blessed when learnt, were hard to learn. And so our Good Lord began in Himself that new life, which through His grace His members were to live. In the Manhood which He took, He began that new creation, which was to be carried on in those redeemed by His Blood. He received in His Manhood without measure the Spirit, Which, as God, He gave, that through His Human Nature, It might, according to their measure, flow over to all the members of His mystical body.
He came to change powerfully all our earthly thoughts, and so He first reversed all things in Himself. All which the world honoured, its greatness and its glory, its dignity and majesty, He put from Him, that we might learn from Him to be lowly of heart. He came to found a kingdom which should not pass away, but His Crown was woven of the thorns of our sins; the sceptre which He bare upon His shoulder, was the Cross; that so He might make us too kings, when crucified with Him, lords, through grace, of our own wills, and coheirs of His everlasting kingdom. He was born Christ the King, but at "Bethlehem, the least of the cities of Judah," and was there an outcast amongst the beasts of the field. He lived and grew up at despised Nazareth--the reputed son of a poor mechanic. He came into the world to save the world, and yet remained unknown for full thirty years of His short life. And when He did manifest Himself, the proof of Him and of His ministry was such as man had never before seen, and which the world could not comprehend. For as He came to purify our dregs, to re-form to Himself out of our mass of corruption and decay, those who should be heirs with Him in glory, so would He shew at once the might of His grace and the depth of His love, by stooping, as the Great Physician, to the very lowest of our miseries. What should feel itself too lost for His love, when publicans and harlots were among the first, who were admitted into the kingdom of Heaven; and He vouchsafed to be called "the Friend of publicans and sinners?" What sickness should be thought too great for the Heavenly Physician, when "the sick" were they whom He came to heal, although, He became, thereby, with them, Himself "the scorn of man and the outcast of the people?"
And herein was manifested the difference between man's wisdom and the Wisdom of God, yea Him, Who came among us, being the Wisdom of God and the Power of God. Man's wisdom when it would effect any thing, must use the best materials it could; it must, to gain disciples, teach the wise and the learned, at least the better and honester part of mankind. Philosophy of old turned herself to those who sought wisdom: for the wisdom of man has no constraining power over the heart of man; she sent away from her those who had not yet gained the mastery over their passions as unfit hearers for her schoola. Not so the Uncreated and Creating Wisdom, Who Himself created all things, and Whose "Word," whereby He created them, "was with power," in Whose Hands are all the hearts which He hath made;--in His Hands to fashion them, and in His Heart to love them. His special mission was to preach the Gospel to the poor, to seek and to save that which was lost, to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. And so we find that one of the chief reproaches which the Pharisees and Doctors of the law cast upon Him, was, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." Contrary to their practice, who thought themselves defiled even by the touch or company of sinners, He was ever to be found with the poor, the wretched, and the outcast. As He feared not and disdained not the touch of the leper, so He shrunk not from the lips of the far more unclean, from those who were infected by the leprosy of sin. Thus when they beheld Him sitting at meat with many publicans and sinners in the house of St. Matthew, they said unto His disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" And again, when He sat at meat in Simon's house, and the woman of the city, of whom the Gospel record is that she was a sinner, came behind Him weeping, and washed His feet her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment, the Pharisee, we read, spake within himself, "This Man if he were a Prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him, for she is a sinner."
We see then, my brethren, what men thought of these things; and because they were offended at our Blessed Lord, we learn at once how very different their manner of life and sense of what was right was from His. They loved to be with the righteous and self-satisfied, but He with the humble and heavy-laden sinner. They sought to be with the rich and great ones of this world, He with the poor, the sick, and the needy. They loved to have many salutations in the market place, and were found in the highest rooms at feasts; but He in solitary places or humble dwellings, where He would be most likely to meet with those, who, feeling themselves to be wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, had withdrawn from the notice of men to weep and to mourn. And while all others loved to be with the many and the great, He to seek and to save the lost and penitent whom the world despised, and never to leave off seeking till He found them.
This then I say was the characteristic of our Blessed Lord's ministry, this was the difference of His temper and man's--of the Son of Man Who came to save that which was lost, and of men whom He came to redeem. It was His reproach--the reproach indeed of them that hated Him, but the joy of them that loved Him. Hear Him in the synagogue at Nazareth. He found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Bruised and broken Himself, and emphatically The Man of Sorrows, if there be any whom He especially loves and seeks, and for whom He has reserved His tenderest and sweetest consolations, it is the broken in heart, the heavy-laden, who feel their sins to be a burden, intolerable, too heavy for them to bear. For it is to those who mourn, that He is the Comforter,--to those who labour and are heavy-laden, that He giveth rest--to those who are sick, that He is the Physician and giveth medicine to heal their sickness;--in a word, He is the Saviour of sinners, the Justifier of the unjust.
It was then not only to justify His own conduct, but much more, we may be quite sure, for the encouragement of these poor publicans and sinners who thronged around Him to hear the words of love and mercy, that our Blessed Lord deigned to answer the murmurs of the Scribes and Pharisees by three parables, which you heard in the second Lesson of this morning's service. Holy Scripture is throughout one record of human sorrow, the fruit of human sin, and of God's love in healing and recovering us. And these parables bring these truths before us in a most striking manner. The first is that of the shepherd, who, leaving the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness, goes after that which had strayed from the fold, and never leaves off seeking for it, till he finds it. The second of the woman, who having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, lighteth the candle and searcheth diligently until she finds it. The third, of the prodigal son, who having received his portion of his father's goods, leaves his home, and in a far country wastes his all in riotous living; and then finding there nothing but strangeness and cruelty and unkind-ness among his new associates, he at last comes to himself, recollects the happy home which he had left, and resolves at once to return to his Father, Who receives him with the open arms of love and forgiveness. And who, brethren, is this Shepherd, but He Who laid down His life for His sheep? or who this woman, but the Church, so often thus described in Holy Scripture? and God the Father is the father in the parable of the prodigal son. All three are represented as seeking, recovering, reconciling lost souls. Christ the Good Shepherd, Who hath brought us on His shoulders back to our lost home, toiling under the weight of our sins, and His garments stained with the taint of our impurity. The Church, who lights the candle and sweeps the house, while she searches for the lost piece of money bearing the image of Him Who created us. The Father Who receives and restores us to the place which by our manifold sins and rebellions we had forfeited. Each has but one object--the weary sheep is brought back again to the fold, the lost piece of money is found, and the repentant son retraces his erring steps, and is restored to favour.
Again. Our Blessed Lord in these parables seems to point out especially three things--why God pardons us, and why He loves us, and why when He came in the flesh, He conversed and sought with so much earnestness to save sinners. He first represents the simplicity and weakness of man, who is betrayed by a cunning adversary; he strays from the fold like a simple sheep; as the Prophet says, "We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every man to his own way;" first deceived before we deceive others, and seduced to our own destruction. In the piece of money which was lost bearing the king's image and superscription, we behold another motive of God's great love and compassion towards those who were created in His own image, the work of His own Hands, bearing His Name, on whom, both within and without in body and in soul, had been traced a likeness of Himself, marking them out as His own. And in the third, our necessity and poverty are set forth in the returning prodigal who was perishing with hunger. For when men are in misery and so learn to feel their afflictions, then it is that God chiefly manifests Himself to them as the God of love and mercy, even anticipating their return as the father in the parable, for "when the son was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
Our Blessed Lord then, in answering the murmurs of the Pharisees, sets before us the strong claim which sinners, however sunk in iniquity, had upon His love. He could not but love them and be merciful unto them, even when their fellow men had cast them off: because they were His members, His own flesh and blood; because in the very worst estate of a sinner there is so much to lament over and to pity; so great the loss of his own good, so much blindness to his own happiness, so much real wretchedness, so much barter of that which is inestimable for the mere husks and garbage of the world, his own precious, glorious, immortal soul--pawned as it were to the devil, for a grovelling short-lived pleasure, which after all in the very enjoyment of it makes him only the more wretched! At the very sight then of the wretchedness and misery of fallen man, our Lord could not but have compassion on him. And the greater the loss, the more intense the pity and compassion which He feels. Thus it is, O most wondrous love! though man strays as far as he will, that he never can stray beyond the reach of God's mercy or of Christ's desire to save him: though he wander like a sheep in the wilderness, and leaves the fold, yet rather than that he should be entirely lost, our Lord searches diligently, early and late, until He find it. Nay, He speaks of that loss as His own personal loss. "What man of you, says He, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it?" And when through its manifold wanderings it is faint and weary, as men are wont, who have trodden in the paths of sin, have worn themselves out with their own folly, wishing yet having no heart, no courage, to return, He layeth it on His shoulders like the good shepherd, and carries it back to the flock rejoicing; not grudging His own toil and suffering, Himself afflicted in all our afflictions, and joying in our Redemption, making His Sufferings our glory and joy, and our Redemption the satisfaction of His Soul, although all the gain was ours, all the suffering and the love His. And when He cometh home, and that home which He left for us was heaven, He calleth together His friends and His neighbours, saying unto them, "Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost." And who are these friends and neighbours, but the Angels and the Hosts of Heaven? They rejoice because He does, and His joy is the joy of them all. They rejoice because one more is added to their number, because of him who is brought back to God's fold, the repentant sinner, who has washed away his sins by penitential tears. There is greater joy over that one penitent, than over ninety-nine just persons which need no repentance--greater joy over one fallen man brought back to God's Bosom, than over Angels themselves who have never fallen; not because God loves the pure and innocent less, but because for sinful men Christ has undergone greater labour and suffering. And so the joy is greater, because that Blood which He shed is not all shed in vain, because He came to seek and to save that which was lost; and, behold! that lost is found! "Come unto Me, saith Christ, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." O, brethren, "no word of comfort," writes St. Augustine, "such as this in all the wisest systems of Philosophy. In the writings of the sages of old you will find many clever things acutely said, many things to warm the surface of the heart, but no where will you find such as this." Here then, O Christian, is thy Hope; if thou art sick, here is thy Physician; if thou art thirsty, here is thy Fountain; if thou needest help, here is thy Strength; if thou fearest death, here is thy Life; if thou desirest heaven, here is thy Way; if thou art sorrowful, here is thy Joy. It may be thou hast forsaken thy Father's house, and squandered away His goods and the talents which He entrusted to thy keeping; thou hast, it may be, given to the world thy heart, thy affections, thy time, thy zeal, thy service. And how has the world requited thee? Did it not send thee to live amongst its off-scourings and impurities? But now perchance thou art sick at heart, and loathest the world; thou rememberest the happy days of thy home, the time when thou wast innocent and light-hearted, and so thou longest to retrace thy steps. Well! there is hope for thee. But by the path of penitence must thou come back: by confession of thy sins must thou be restored to favour: like the son in the parable, thou must confess to thy Father, and say unto Him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son." He feared the loss of sonship, and he was restored to his dignity; he dreaded reproach, and he was received with rejoicings; he was afraid of punishment, and his father fell on his neck and kissed him. And what this father was in the parable, such is our Father which is in heaven. Even so, brethren; not disdaining the name of Father from the lips of us His disobedient, wayward, and polluted children, not withholding His Fatherly affection even from him who had forsaken his home, who had given his all to the World, and who was brought at first to repentance by no higher or nobler motive than the sense of his own extreme wretchedness.
Now a little consideration will shew us how it is just this peculiar characteristic of our Blessed Lord's ministry, which is so full of loveliness and attraction to all true mourning penitents. For when they feel their wickednesses to be like a sore burden too heavy for them to bear, and by them are brought into so great trouble and misery that they go mourning all the day long--when at such moments nothing in the world appears to them of any consequence compared with the hopes of forgiveness, then it is surely that one should especially dwell upon the unfathomable, inexhaustible, indefatigable love of Christ, "lest they should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." For great fear there is, lest some penitents, being overwhelmed by the enormity of their guilt, should only realize the Lord to be to them a God of Justice and not a merciful and forgiving Father. And this, we know, is a very favourite device of Satan, to destroy the sinner's confidence in the mercy of God. He would, for example, unfold to the penitent the severity of God's judgments, and then do his utmost to persuade him that there is no message of forgiveness for him; that God, provoked with his repeated rebellions, has abandoned him and left him to eat of the fruit of his own way. And thus while on the one hand Satan bids him take to himself as his very own every menace and judgment in God's holy and righteous law against impenitent sinners, so on the other hand he would try to put doubt and distrust into his mind, if perchance the words of love and mercy fall upon his ears. He suggests despairing thoughts, which if they get possession of the mind, at once prevent him from applying God's message of forgiveness to himself. Such an one would willingly return to God, but Satan keeps him back. Ever mindful and calling to his recollection the sins of infirmity into which he may daily fall, or perchance the sins of his youth which are of a graver character--clever too in finding out new sins for himself and overnice in his refinement of them, he exaggerates to himself every fault that he either has or thinks he has committed. He forgets the mercy which pardons and only remembers the justice which punishes. God seems to him only terrible, just, and righteous, one that will by no means spare the guilty. And if, since he sees it to be his only hope, he does return from whence he strayed, it is to live in his Father's house not as a child with a kind and forgiving father, but rather as a slave with a severe and angry master. He may walk with faithfulness in the ordinances of the Church and in the commandments of God, but then it is with pain and heaviness. Night and day with tears of penitence and contrition he tries to wipe out the foul blots of sin which he has contracted on his Baptismal robe, once so clean, so pure; still he gains no relief--he gets no rest--he forgets that suffering is the necessary consequence of sin, and takes it as a token of God's anger. And so not being instantaneously relieved he is disheartened. He forgets that suffer we must for our sins either here or hereafter; and so thinking that God, so far as he is concerned, has shut up His lovingkindness in displeasure, he is unable to realize to himself the mercy and love of God. Now this is, I am persuaded, no imaginary case. It is one to be particularly guarded against in these days, when God is calling so many, in a voice against which they cannot shut their ears, to awake from their sleep of death and to repent, and if they would be saved in the Day of the Lord, for the future to be more watchful, and to strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. You will remember, that in the case of the Corinthian who had previously sinned, St. Paul, fearing these sad consequences, bids the Church receive him back again upon his repentance, he bids them confirm their love towards him, to forgive him and to comfort him, "lest perhaps," he adds, "such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow, and Satan thereby get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices." Now let such an one, as I have before described, be told of Christ's exceeding love for all true penitents, that He rejects none that come to Him in faith and penitence, and then what a change takes place! Equally alive as before to his numberless sins and imworthmess, yet now he becomes full of love and thankfulness to God in graciously extending to him the message of peace and forgiveness; his love increases his confidence, and his confidence nourishes his love. He knows that God's mercy is greater than his ingratitude--that though terrible in wrath, His wrath is not proof against an humble and contrite heart--that His power is chiefly manifested "in shewing mercy and pity"--he brings to his recollection the penitent and returning prodigal, such as he is pourtrayed in the Gospel, either in the person of the prodigal son, or in that of St. Mary Magdalene. True it is, that with confusion of face he draws nigh to the Throne of grace, because he knows how great and holy and just and good the Lord God of Hosts is; and himself withal how wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked--yet this confusion does not keep him back--his fear yields to his love--because he is assured that God retaineth not His anger for ever, but that He delighteth in mercy: and so, conscious that he has much forgiven him, he loves much; and mourning much, he is greatly comforted.
To such of you then, my brethren, whose hearts have been pricked by the sting of conscience, and so aroused to a sense of your own exceeding sinfulness, if you be truly penitent, to you is this message of love and mercy sent. It may be that you feel your sins to be a burden too heavy for you to bear; still do not despair: this very feeling of wretchedness is from God; and all distrust of His mercy to penitents is of the devil. We have an express assurance that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And so when the prodigal had resolved to arise and go to his father and confess his sin, his father is represented to us as already looking out for him and hastening to meet him. Indeed, so very ready is our Heavenly Father to watch the very first returns, however feeble, of confession and repentance, that even when the wicked Ahab humbled himself and shewed signs of humiliation, God spared him the judgments in his day. I do not say that penitents can all at once regain that peace of mind which would have been their privilege had they never grievously fallen; or indeed that they will be quite sure to regain it this side of the grave. God graciously forgives them, and suffering is now a token not of anger but of love--it is a merciful Physician's Hand pressing out their wound, probing it, it may be, to the quick, that He may afterwards close it and bind it up for ever, and soften it with the blessed Anointing of His Holy Spirit. Such need not only not despair, but they have every thing to hope for; if they will but take patiently whatever God may see fit to lay upon them, and so walk with fidelity and thankfulness in the way of God's commandments. Their condition is a blessed one, though not so blessed as if they had never strayed, and their hope (and is not that a blessed one?) is in the God, "Who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." If then, brethren, you are, any of you, sensible of God's loving-kindness toward you, if you have a good hope that your sins, though many, have been forgiven you; if He has of His infinite mercy snatched you, as it were, as a brand out of the fire, what reason is there for you to give for the future the greater diligence to make your calling and election sure! Oh! let the recollection of the past only quicken you to walk the more zealously and circumspectly in the way of His commandments; to be more watchful hereafter over your whole self, thoughts, words, and actions; striving to please Him in all things, Who hath so lovingly sought and found you, being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun the good work in you, and given you the desire to live to Him, will, if you will but continue faithful to Him, perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ.
O! may we not cry out, "What is there in man, O Lord, that Thou art so mindful of him, or the son of man, that Thou so regardest him?" What is there so attractive and engaging in the polluted souls of sinners, that for one soul only Thou couldest leave Thy ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness, and go after that one sheep which was lost, and never give over searching for it till Thou hadst found it? That for more than thirty years Thou wentest up and down upon the earth, traversing hither and thither, condescending to the most menial offices and enduring every hardship, and all the while doing good and healing those that were oppressed of the Devil? All night on the chilly mountains in prayer, all day in the scorching plain, preaching to the multitudes that flocked around Thee, that the kingdom of God was at hand! houseless, for Thou hadst not where to lay Thy Head, lest the sinner should pass by unseen by Thee; sleepless, lest he should escape Thy vigilance! "O! what is man, O Lord, that Thou wert so mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou dost so lovingly visit him?" And not content with this, Thou hast left behind Thee on earth, Thy Church to carry on Thine own work; Thou hast willed to join on our poor love with Thine own Almighty love, and to pour out the riches of Thy grace and message of reconciliation through us earthen vessels, and to seek and to save, through sinful man, those whom Thou hast purchased with Thine own Blood. But, alas! how have we shepherds under the Great Shepherd fulfilled the trust committed to us? Where has been in us that which was our Lord's peculiar characteristic, an intense, untiring zeal for lost souls? Oh! to our shame be it spoken, what little account do we take of them, for whom He suffered so much; of those thousands of poor perishing souls, who are famishing for want of the Bread of Life at our very doors, and whose blood will hereafter be required at our hands! And yet one would fain hope that God is rousing us to walk more after the mind and example of Christ, and so more faithfully to reflect His image. It is surely something that we are but coming to own and confess our past crying sins of indifference and apathy. Our Church indeed is now many ages in arrears; but has she not already set herself to the work, which has been accumulating upon her hands? The blessed occasion, upon which we are met, is, we may trust, such an instance of God's forgiving love; for He has mercy in store, when He stirs the hearts of penitents. Gladdening is it to the Holy Angels, gladdening to the Church, gladdening too and an encouragement to us to do the like, that one who wishes to be known only among his fellow men as a penitent, has, at all the cost he could, built this Church to the praise of his Redeemer, Who, he hopes, has not only sought, but found him; and for love of Him, he hath done what he could for the poorest of his brethren. O wondrous and most affecting mercy of our God, which not only accepts the love of the penitent, but turns that penitential love into an occasion of His own glory and the saving of others' souls. His gifts of nature of grace must have been wasted by this penitent once, callings and re-callings of His Spirit; His own Image, more or less, injured in him. And now with what favour and lovingkindness hath He not overwhelmed him! "Who am I," says holy David, "and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee." But now to have received not only his sin-stained self, and, as we trust, to have cleansed him; but to have accepted a sinner's gift; that He, Whose are all things, should have received and hallowed those fragments which He enabled him to bring; that He, the Good Shepherd, should have thus admitted this once stray sheep, to help to gather into His fold, those yet astray; that one no more worthy to be called His son, should by His love be employed to bring back other sons to the Bosom of their Father, and add to the joys of Heaven; of a truth, "O God, the broken and contrite heart dost Thou not despise."
But one thought more--religious seasons like the present, which is of more than usual solemnity, bring with them their responsibilities; and their use is to put us all on the examination of our own hearts and lives. They remind us that life is short, and this world is vain--that here we are pilgrims and heaven is our home. And the shortness of time, the vanity of the world, the price of the immortal soul, and, as the foundation of all spiritual advancement, the consciousness of sin and our own unworthiness, these are the great and solemn truths, which the world would have us forget, but which the Church seeks to reclaim. We are nearer death this year than we were last--to-day than yesterday; life too, at the longest, is but short, and we are not certain even of to-morrow; and besides this, sure I am, that in proportion as each one knows himself, he must acknowledge, and that too from the bottom of his heart, that it is of God's infinite mercy only, that he has been hitherto spared, and not long since been in hell. Every one knows, as none else but God can know, the plague of his own heart; the sins and offences of his youth; the deep lodgment of corruption, which like a well of poison, is continually issuing forth and diffusing its noxious streams around, tainting, alas! with sin all that Christians and even Saints think and say and do. Indeed this is what even the holiest feel in themselves, and the more in proportion as they are the holier. My brethren, may God work this knowledge in all of us, whoever we may be, and whatever our state; for this knowledge is at the root of all humiliation, and humiliation lies at the root of penitence, and penitence is the very condition of acceptance. We must all seek to become penitents; to attain to the spirit of the prodigal, who confessed himself unworthy of the least of God's blessings. And if we will but henceforth walk in this spirit of penitence, O what may we not do, for others as well as for ourselves, towards gaining an entrance into that holy place, into which nothing that is unclean shall enter! We have more than usual tokens of God's Providence on every side, fresh proofs day by day of His exceeding love and mercy; and though there be a threatening of the clouds, still all will but issue in brighter sunshine, as it ever does to the Elect, if we will but cast ourselves on Him, and seek to be worthier of His mercies, more accessible to His Guidance, and more obedient to His Will. Oh! be assured, that Christians are never farther from spiritual exaltation than when they are elated with thoughts of self; and never so ripe for the consolations of Christ, as when they are brought very low, whether by God's merciful chastisements, or by their own willing self-abasement. "For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Almighty and everlasting God, Who hatest nothing that Thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.