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fold, by the diligent concern and care of the shepherd. Let us here ask, what the sheep that went astray was saved from? Was it saved from the wrath and curse of its owner? Had the shepherd any decree out against the comfort and life of this strayed member of his flock ? Would it not seem absurd in the extreme to pretend that the shepherd went after the sheep with a view to save it from his own vengeance? The fact is, the sheep was saved from its wanderings and from all the inconveniences of the condition into which it had wandered.
The parable of the prodigal son is another beautiful representation of the salvation of sinners, and is found in connexion with the parable of the lost sheep, and used by the Saviour for the same purpose.
But what was the Prodigal finally saved from by being brought to repentance, and to his father's house? Was he saved from any wrath and curse of his father ? Had the father any unmerciful decree out against his son's life or happiness! When the returning son was yet a great way off, and the father's compassion urged him to run and meet his child, was this parental effort, and all the mighty tide of compassion manifested on that occasion exerted to save this son from his father's wrath and curse ?
The hearer cannot but see that nothing could be more unreasonable than this notion. And yet is it not as plain as the sun at noon, that the common doctrine of salvation is predicated exactly on this absurdity ? Does it not explain scripture in a way to represent the divine Creator as exerting the means of his grace to save sinners from his own wrath and curse ? Does it not hold up the idea that God sent his son to suffer and die for sinners, in order to save them from this curse of the Father, which curse is said to be the pains of hell forever? Does it not constantly hold forth the notion, that the ministry of the gospel is now exerting all its energies and means to snatch sinners away from the divine wrath, as brands are plucked from a fire ?
The divine instructor on another similar occasion
to the one we have just noticed, made use of the folowing simile; " The whole need not the physician, but they that are sick. For the Son of man is not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
As the Saviour represented the case of the sinner by one who is sick, and the salvation of the sinner by the recovery of the sick to health by means of a physician, we may ask, if it could be reconciled with reason and common sense, to pretend that the physician exerts his skill and the power of his medicine to save his patient from his wrath and indignation ?
The fact is, my christian friends, Jesus who dwells in the bosom of the Father, never represented his doctrine of salvation to be in any sense like the doctrine of the church which we have examined. Our heavenly Father, as manifested in his Son, and as held up by the preaching of Jesus, loves his enemies, loves sinners, and because he loves them he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. He sent him to save us from our sins, and to reconcile us to God. St. Paul to the Colossians says of God;
« Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."
'This passage very plainly shows us the nature of that salvation of which our text speaks. It is a salvation from error, deception, ignorance and all their evils, to truth, knowledge, understanding and all their blessings.
To the Ephesians he says, that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify, and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Let us carefully examine this representation, for here the apostle informs us the object which Christ had in view when he gave himself for the church. And what was it? Was it to appease his Father's wrath? Was it to reconcile the Father to the church? Was it to save the church froin God's wrath and curse in the eternal world ?
No, my brethren, Jesus gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it. The church was in an unsanctified, unclean state, and the gospel or doctrine of Christ is that water or word by which he cleanses and saves it from its uncleanness. Christ saves his church from all spots and wrinkles, and presents it to himself a glorious church. Hark and hear those sons and daughters speak in loud exclaim; “Thou hast loved us and washed us from our sins in thine own blood.”
Our next endeavors will be directed to illustrate what the Apostle means by the holy calling, with which he accompanies our salvation, and to show the natural connexion in which they stand to each other.
This subject may be seen most clearly by a little improvement of the similes which were used to represent the nature of salvation. But we may commence these remarks by recurring to the words of the Angel to Joseph; - Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins."
Now it appears very consistent that when Jesus saves a sinner from his sins, he should at the same time call him to walk in holiness of life. Otherwise what benefit could there result from this salvation?
If what is meant by saving the sinner, is to save him from the penalty of the law, it is true such a salvation might be entirely disconnected with a holy calling. If a man, for instance, have stolen, for which crime the law says he shall be thus and so punished, and we wish to save him from receiving such punishment, there would be no necessary connexion between such salvation and the reformed and virtuous conduct of this man. But if the object be to sare the man from being a thief, it is absolutely necessary in this case to furnish the man with such moral sentiments, and such a sense of moral virtue as will prevent his repeating the crime.
There seems to be an evident connexion likewise, between bringing the lost sheep back to the fold, and such measures as might be necessary to prevent it from again going astray; for if the propensity to wan
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der still remains, and there be no provisions to prevent Theke indulgence, there would seem an impropriety in makund E
ing those exertions by which the sheep was found and returned to the fold.
This subject is very ciearly seen in the case of the reformed prodigal. 'If after he had returned to his father's house, and had been there most kindly received ; if after all his penitence and reformation ; if after he had been clothed with the best robe, had shoes put on his feet, and his father's ring upon his hand; if after partaking of the fatted calf and the joys of the family on this occasion, he had again turned his back on his father, and again acted the prodigal, the joy that had lighted up the countenances of the family would most surely have been turned into mourning, and in room, of festivity, fasting would be more suitable to the occasion.
But it is most clearly seen that every circumstance which contributed to the return of this lost son, and all the favor which was shown him by his father, together with all the enjoyments of the full and well replenished house to which he was welcomed, called, in the most persuasive manner, on him who had been dead, but made alive, who had been lost, but was found, to take heed to his ways, to stand fast in the liberty wherewith his father had made him free, that he might continue to enjoy those invaluable blessings.
My christian friends, has our merciful Father in heaven condescended to forgive us all our trespasses, has ne clothed us with the white linen of the righteousness of Christ, have we tasted that the Lord is gracious, and been permitted to set at his table, and to feast on those rich provisions with which Zion is blessed ? And do not these favors call us with an holy calling, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with
This same Apostle has signified the sentiment of our text, in the following words to Titus ; " For the grace of God which bringeth salvation bath appeared to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly
care bi alrati ng
in this present world. Looking for that blessed hope, yet
do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
By the similes and passages which we have employed in the illustration of this section of our text, it appears that holiness of life is a requisition enjoined by