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the house of God, conscious of his unworthiness of the blessing which he came to implore, he stood afar off from the most holy place, just within the sacred edifice, as though he would be thankful to be merely a door-keeper in the house of God; and filled with remorse for his past offences, of which he repented truly, he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.13 Be merciful, or, as the idea is, Look
upon the propitiation made for the guilty, accept the atonement offered on my behalf, and grant that, on account of it, a sinful creature may be accepted with Thee, and justified before Thee. So likewise when the prodigal son, spoken of in another parable contained in the chapter from which the text is taken, came to himself when he was brought to see his sin by feeling his misery, and true repentance took place in his mind, he resolved, I will arise, and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son. From these parables of the publican and the prodigal, we may learn what it is to be a penitent sinner. They are set before us in order to promote selfexamination. Have we then the same feelings of compunction and repentance for sin that the
13 Luke xviii. 13.
14 Luke xv. 18, 19.
publican had? We have uttered in the house of God similar language of confession of sin, and of prayer for pardoning mercy. Was it the language of our hearts before that God who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the children of men? Do we repent us truly of our sins past, and have we a lively, a real faith in God's mercy through Christ? This repentance, and this faith are the gift of God ;15 and must be sought from Him by those who are conscious that they are destitute of them; and He has promised that they who seek shall find, 16 or shall obtain the blessings which He bestows. Let it be our earnest prayer then, that He would grant unto us repentance unto life.
The characters spoken of in the text are those of the sinner that repenteth, and of the just persons who need no repentance. We are to consider
Secondly, Our Saviour's remark respecting them, I say unto you, that joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repent
It is to be observed, that both the characters here described occasion joy in heaven, although the one is a cause of greater joy for a season than the other. The state of the righteous people of God, who are justified before Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
15 Ephesians ii. 8.
16 Matthew vii. 7.
who are accepted in His presence; who walk humbly with their God, and live in obedience to His revealed will and commandments, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; is no doubt an occasion of continual joy in the presence of the angels of God in heaven. Indeed the Apostle says, that unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. That the church of Christ is continued in being on earth; and that each individual of it is upheld in the good ways of God, in the midst of the various trials and temptations to which the members of the church militant here on earth are exposed; is a cause of exultation to those who stand confirmed in the Divine favour for evermore. In His gracious dispensations towards His church and people on earth, the wisdom of God is so displayed, that the heavenly hosts are led to praise and magnify Him for it.
In the parable of the prodigal son, before referred to, which was delivered at the same time,
with the same object as the two parables in the Gospel for this day, we may observe that the father was evidently pleased that his elder son had lived with him and served him, neither at any time transgressed his commandment ; for in consequence of it, he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. But this was not inconsistent with the greater joy which he discovered for a season, on the return of the long lost prodigal; which he justified by declaring, It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.18 And in the parables before us, we may understand that the hundred sheep were equally valuable to the owner one as another; and the ten pieces or drachms of silver were each of the same value to the poor woman who lost one of them. But as our Saviour observed at another time, It is not the will of our Father which is in heaven, that one of His little ones should perish ,19 and therefore the recovery of that sheep which had strayed from the fold and was lost, was a peculiar cause of rejoicing
17 Ephesians iii. 10.
The observation in the text was made especially for the consolation of the penitent sinner; that when he has come to himself, like the prodigal; and is humbled before God for his departure from Him, and his multiplied transgressions; he may be assured of meeting with a gracious reception from the Father of heaven, when he implores pardon and peace.
Let the humbled penitent then take encouragement; and while he confesses and deplores his sins, let him
18 Luke xv, 29, 31, 32.
19 Matthew xviii. 14.
behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world ;20 and rejoice that through Him, who was crucified for our offences, and raised again for our justification, there is deliverance from the wrath to come.
But let none take encouragement to go on in sin, because with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. There is no mercy for the impenitent and unbelieving. It is a delusion for those who are resolved to continue in sin, to imagine that grace will abound towards them. Let us beware of having our hearts hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, lest we should be cut off in our sins, and be lost for ever.
Let the consideration of the subject which the text presents to us, lead us to beseech Him who is eralted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance and forgiveness of sins, 23 to bestow these blessings upon us; that there may be joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels of God, on our account. For unless our repentance on earth occasion joy in heaven, we shall never be admitted into the mansions of the blessed. But it is the privilege of those who have been made partakers of repentance unto life, to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The happiness of heaven is a subject on which believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may meditate with delight. When
20 John i. 29. 21 Rom.iv. 25, v. 1. 22 Psalm cxxx.7. 23 Acts v.31.