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reign over us." You have vainly conspired against his very being; and, by your apostacy from your baptismal covenant and religious profession, you have reiterated the clamour and deed of his mur, derers, “Crucify him, crucify him !"
Such, and so heinous, are the charges which the ambassador of Christ is commissioned to bring against you ; and which the Spirit, promised to convince the world of sin, brings home to every awakened conscience. And yet, thus injured and insulted, the om. nipotent God, unimplored, sheathes the sword of resistless vengeance : holds parley with his prostrate foe: sends his ambassador to propose an accommodation: and beseeches you to be reconciled. What, then, you will, trembling, ask, are the terms ? though none can be severe as we deserve : none, however severe, can be rejected. Am I then commissioned to exact from you the debt due to the Divine justice ? Am I to impose upon you a daily task, a dull routine, of unmeaning ceremonies ? Am I to debase you by the imposition of a ceaseless round of superstitious follies and senseless absurdities ? Am I to degrade you from the high privilege of immediate access to God, by shutting you out from the Divine Presence, unless introduced by the mediation of some fellow-worm, some fellow-sinner: and thus to set over you “gods many, and lords many ?" Am I to demand from you your first-born for your transgression, the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul? Am I to inflict upon you tortures, and stripes, and fastings, and nakedness; penance and pilgrimage, sackcloth and ashes : and, when nature sinks beneath the discipline, to cast you into prison until you have paid all the debt? And there, reserved in chains of darkness, amid the agonies of a fire half-penal, halfpurifying; am I to plunge into the depths of eternal perdition your despairing soul, while I declare, as with the voice and authority of God, that you shall not come out thence until you have paid the uttermost farthing? No!-I ask you not to pay the debt, because I know the heinous criminality and the deep pollution of sin. I know that by one single offence against Infinite Power and Love you have contracted a debt and a defilement, from which an eternity of tor. ments could not redeem you, an eternity of fire could not purge you. No!-I come to declare to you, in the name and upon the authority of God, that the debt is already paid : that the atonement has been already offered: that the Father's love has provided the ransom : that the Son's obedience unto death has consummated the work of redemption : “ that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them ;” and that now God can be just and yet the Justifier of the ungodly,—the Justifier of him, whatever he may have been, who believeth in Jesus. I come but to repeat to you those pregnant and mysterious words of Christ himself, in which centre all the decrees of eternity, all the promises of God: that from the Divine text upon which principalities and powers in heavenly places continually meditate : whose utterance convulsed the universe ; while the sun was darkened ; and the earth trembled ; and the rocks rent; and the graves opened ; and death resigned its captives; and the prince of this world and his infernal legions, spoiled and triumphed over upon the cross, fled back in agonies of despair,—their last stake lost,—to seek for shelter amid the eternal gloom of hell's unfathomable abysses; and the celestial host bowed down from heaven's battlements to hear, with mingled admiration, awe, and love,-I but repeat to you the last words of an Incarnate God — a bleeding, suffering, dying Saviour, “ It is finished !”
III. But have you been made a partaker of this great salvation ; wrought out by means thus unutterably, inconceivably, stupendous ? Have you accepted the gracious invitation of your reconciled God and Father; and are you reconciled to God? Nor say that to answer these questions were impossible : to at to answer them presumptuous. I send you not to scale the heavens : to intrude boldly into the privacies of the Omniscient: to pluck from the book of God's secret and eternal decrees the page which records your final destiny : then, presuming upon the inviolability of his truth, to rest in insolent security; to mock, and to defy God. This, indeed, were daring presumption ; were impious blasphemy. But no! The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart : and I but ask you honestly to read for me the sentence graven in legible and infallible characters upon the tablet of your own heart. I ask you not whether God be reconciled to you : waving all discussion of this point, by its fruits I would more surely know it: but I ask, Are you recon. ciled to God ? " We love Him, because he first loved us : and where the pure love of God in Christ reigns, “ neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, por things present, nor things to come,” can permanently disturb the peace or shake the contidence of that soul. It has found the Supreme Good, which the human heart, even in its wildest wanderings, has been ardently and steadily pursuing: for every such pursuit after enjoyment but tells the misery and the capacity of the soul; and, as the ever shifting needle to the constant pole, points to God. He who loves has found God: has seen, and felt, and tasted, and apprehended God, by the congenial faculty. He knows, by happy experience, that God is that infinite fulness which alone can satisfy his infinite wants,—the happiness commensurate with his misery. He requires no voice from heaven to tell him that his whole nature has embraced God: that he dwelleth in God, and God in him : there is a spiritual sensation of it, certain as his identity and his happiness. He feels that he has centred the profoundest affections of his heart in God, and that all are satisfied. The storms of passion; the distracting anxieties of worldly care ; the heart-sickness of hope deferred, have subsided, and the peace of God rules in his heart. The mists and shadows, which deluded and betrayed him in the darkness of nature's midnight, have been dispelled by the dawning light of truth : the Sun of righteousness has arisen above the everlasting bills, and the prospect brightens into paradise. The restless wanderer has at length found a home, nor desires again to stray. He feels no want which, if the treasures of the universe were at his command, he would supply but by this one petition, “ Thy will be done.” He has chosen whom he will serve for time and for eternity, and reason, without a single check, deliberately sanctions his choice.
He has no fear lest he may change. He knows indeed that he is impotent and frail, but this knowledge is his strength; for he knows that he can do all things through Christ strengthening him : and when he is weak then is he strong. He has no fear lest God may change. He knows that God is a Father, and that God is love ; and though a mother may forget her sucking child that she should not
have compassion on the fruit of her womb, yet that God cannot forget his offspring. Thus he repels every temptation to doubt and fear, by the assurance of present possession and enjoyment, and by the nature and character of God. And were the host of heaven to tempt him to despondency or distrust, it would but rally to his heart its profoundest sentiments, its warmest affections, and tenderest sensibilities; and “ a still small voice" would ascend from that sanctuary, in which God loves to dwell with the humble and contrite soul, to revive and re-assure it: My Beloved is mine, and I am His.
Nor does he fear lest Satan may transform himself into an angel of light, and speak to his soul “ peace, where there is no peace.' The heart's appeal, “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,” he has tried by its fruits : not by a mere abstinence from gross and outward sin : from ungodliness and profligacy: from profane or corrupt conversation : from dishonesty, intemperance, impurity,—let not these things be so much as named among you, as becometh saints :no, he who would test the sincerity of his profession, and the soundness of his hope ; he who would try the spirit that witnesseth in him whether it be of God, must sound a profounder depth. He has weighed time and eternity-or rather this world and God-in the balances of the sanctuary; and this, not merely in abstract speculation; convincing the understanding, but neither converting the heart, nor influencing the life ; but he does it practically, in the conduct of his daily walk. As the suspicious miser weighs, and examines carefully, each piece of gold presented to him in the transactions of business, he habitually weighs the treasures of the world against the true riches. He weighs the honour that men receive one of another against the honour which cometh of God only. He weighs the pleasures of the world against those pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore. He estimates all by that scale of adjustment, and that unerring standard, which the precepts of Scripture and the mind of Christ furnish : and his decision does not serve merely to argue out a doctrine, and establish a creed,
“ To point a moral, or adorn a tale," of religious experiences; but shapes his course, and gives its colour and character to his life. He knows that “ Christ has suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps;" and he seeks to be made conformable to this : to know “ the fellowship of His sufferings,” in the daily crucifixion of his evil tempers and affections : to“ know the power of his resurrection,” in his daily advances in meekness, sanctity, and love. He seeks habitually to realize the Divine Presence: to see the searching eye of an unsleeping Providence constantly marking all his steps, and attentively reading his heart : and to experience the efficacious and blessed influences of the indwelling of the Divine Spirit in his soul :—as a Spirit of penitence, shedding its pure light upon the remaining corruptions of nature, and convincing him of sin :-as a Spirit of holiness, shedding a more interior and intense light into the profound abysses of moral truth : illuminating the Infinite Mind of God manifest in the flesh; and convincing him of righteousness :-as the author and finisher of faith, enabling him to apprehend that righteousness as imputed—and as imparted to bim. He seeks that Spirit as a Comforter amid the vicissitudes of this troublesome world ; and as a Sanctifier amid the tempta
tions of this evil world. Amid the complicated entanglements of business; the infinitely varied delusions of error ; the specious sophistry of deceit; the contradictions of theological controversy; he looks to that Spirit as a teacher and guide into all necessary truth.
He lives no longer unto himself, but unto God: not a God afar off, wandering, dim and indistinct, amid the distant realms of immensity; but a God nigh; a God reigning in that kingdom of heaven within him which is righteousness, and peace, and joy. A new tribunal has been erected in his bosom, in which God continually presides : and to every dispensation of his Providence; every appeal of his Spirit ; his loyal heart responds, “Not my will but thine be done."
Nor does he appear before this tribunal in a spirit of bondage ; a guilty and reluctant criminal, summoned by outraged majesty and violated law, and dragged from his concealment by an accusing conconscience. He comes voluntarily ; in a spirit of adoption; as a son to drink in the counsels of a wise and loving Father. He comes with confidence in his security, and rejoicing in his nearness of access, as did the high priest to the mercy-seat and to the oracle. He watches carefully that the gifts of Providence should not arrest, and satisfy, the divinely inspired and heaven-tending aspirations of his soul after happiness, but should serve as so many steps in that scale by which it is ascending to God. And when he sees, as assur. edly he will see, the bright and brilliant colouring with which youth, and hope, and fancy, gilded the prospect of early life, vanishing at the Ithurial touch of truth, and fading with the setting sun of time: when he sees the several objects, in company with which he started from the post of life on a race of anticipated enjoyment, and with which his earliest, warmest feelings are intimately associated, gradually exhibiting that brand with which the destroyer has stamped them for his own; or sinking around him, successively in the common ruin, even
“ Before decay's effacing fingers
Have swept the lines where beauty lingers :" when infirmity of body, and languor of spirits, tell him but too plainly that he bears his full share in this universal waste : and he feels a rising generation, with its fresher feelings, its more sanguine hopes, and buoyant spirits, pressing him from off the stage of life, he but rejoices that this is not his rest; that his home is not here on earth; that his heart, his treasure, and his conversation are in heaven, in scenes far, far away; safe from the sudden shocks of adversity ; from the incessant fluctuations of time; and from the silently wasting influences of decay.
But if you possess no solid and comfortable assurance that you are a subject of that important regenerating change which makes all things new and holy; if the spirit of adoption which cries Abba, Father, witnesseth not with your spirit that you are a child of God: if faith does not testity that you are reconciled to God by the death of his Son : if hope, full of immortality, does not enable you to look forward, beyond the dark valley of the shadow of death, with joy unspeakable and full of glory : if charity does not, even now, anticipate that unfailing bliss, and give you to taste those rivers of pleasure which are at God's right hand for evermore :-O let me beseech you to pause in this thoughtless headlong race to death and ruin. O consider the shortness, the uncertainty of life : the near
ness, the certainty of death and judgment. O reflect that true happiness for time and for eternity is at stake ; and that this day the die may be cast, the lot may be drawn, and your fate irrevocably decided. This night thy soul may be required of thee, and if unreconciled must perish for ever. To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your heart against the appeals of your Heavenly Father's love and compassionate anxiety for your salvation. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” O receive not this wondrous grace of God in vain. Come, with confi. dence, to that Gracious Benefactor who, when we were enemies, reconciled us to Himself by the death of his Son: who “ made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." As “ ambassadors of Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God.”
J. M. H.
THE ELDER SON IN THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. DIFFERENT opinions are entertained as to the character of the elder son, introduced by our Lord into his affecting and instructive parable of the prodigal son, (Luke xv. 11–32). And yet there seems an easy method of determining the points in dispute,-namely, by referring to the occasion which gave rise to the parable, and the
persons to whom it was addressed, and which furnish the key to its interpretation. 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.”
Surely there can be no doubt that the publicans and sinners, so graciously received and instructed by our Lord, are represented by the prodigal son returning to his father ; and that the murmuring of the Scribes and Pharisees is exhibited in the jealous dislike of the elder son to the warm reception given to his prodigal brother. In short, it would seem inevitable to conclude at once that the elder brother represents a proud, self-righteous, envious Pharisee.
This however is not admitted by all. Some stumble at the free and hearty reception of the prodigal; and maintain that what is said of the elder brother proves him to have been highest in his father's esteem, and the best off after all. Ver. 31 : “ Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” This is a point of great moment; for it touches the free grace of the Gospel, and the doctrine of the universal corruption of man, which renders a free pardon needful for all.
The elder son's disposition betrays itself too clearly in that when he heard of his brother's return, and his father's joy over him, “ He was angry, and would not go in." Could he have any real love for his father, any sympathy with him, any proper filial affections, not to join in the rejoicing on such an occasion ? And even when his father came and entreated him, he still stands out, boasts of his own conduct, and complains of his Father's neglect. “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might