Sermon 176. The Prodigal's Return
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 7, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"But when he was yet a great way off; his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."-Luke 15:20.
ALL PERSONS ENGAGED IN EDUCATION will tell you that they find it far more difficult to make the mind unlearn its errors thanto make it receive truth. If we could suppose a man totally ignorant of anything, we should have a fairer chance of instructinghim quickly and effectually than we should have had if his mind had been previously stored with falsehood. I have no doubtyou, each of you, find it harder to unlearn than to learn. To get rid of old prejudices andpreconceived notions is a very hard struggle indeed. It has been well said, that those few words, "I am mistaken," arethe hardest in all the English language to pronounce, and certainly it takes very much force to compel us to pronounce them:and after having done so, it is even then difficult to wipe away the slime which an old serpentine error has left upon theheart. Better for us not to have known at all than to have known the wrong thing. Now, I am sure that this truth is nevermore truethan when it applies to God. If I had been let alone to form my notion of God, entirely from Holy Scripture, I feel, thatwith the assistance of his Holy Spirit it would have been far more easy for me to understand what he is, and how he governsthe world, than to learn even the truths of his own Word, after the mind had become perverted by the opinions of others. Why,brethren, who is it that gives a fair representation of God? The Arminian slanders God by accusing him (not in his ownintention, but really so) of unfaithfulness; for he teaches that God may promise what he never performs; that he may giveeternal life, and promise that those who have it shall never perish, and yet they may perish after all. He speaks of God asif he were a mutable being, for he talks of his loving men one day, and hating them the next; of his writing their names inthe Book of Life one hour, and then erasing their names in the next. And the influence of such an error as that, is very baneful.Many children of God, who have imbibed these errors in early youth, have had to drag along their poor wearied and brokenframes for many a day, whereas they might have walked joyfully to heaven if they had known the truth from the beginning. Onthe other hand, those who hear the Calvinistic preacher, are very apt to misinterpret God. Although we trust we would neverspeak of God in any other sense than that in which we find him represented in sacred Scripture, yet are we well aware thatmany ofour hearers, even through our assertions, when most guarded, are apt to get rather a caricature of God, than a true pictureof him. They imagine that God is a severe being, angry and fierce, very easily to be moved to wrath, but not so easily tobe induced to love; they are apt to think of him as one who sits in supreme and lofty state, either totally indifferent tothe wishes of his creatures, or else determined to have his own way with them, as an arbitrary Sovereign, never listeningto theirdesires, or compassionating their woes. O that we could unlearn all these fallacies, and believe God to be what he is!O that we could come to Scripture, and there look into that glass which reflects his sacred image, and then receive him ashe is, the all-Wise, the all-Just, and yet the all-Gracious, and all-Loving Jehovah! I shall endeavor this morning, by thehelp of God's Holy Spirit, to represent the lovely character of Christ; and if I shall be happy enough to have some in myaudience whoare in the position of the prodigal son in the parable-coming to Christ, and yet a great way off from him-I shall trustthat they will be led by the same Divine Spirit, to believe in the loving kindness of Jehovah, and so may find peace withGod now, ere they leave this house of prayer.
"When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."First, I shall notice the position intended in the words, "a great way off ;" secondly, I shall notice the peculiar troubles which agitate the minds of those, who are in this condition; and then, thirdly, I shall endeavor to teach the great loving-kindness of our own adorable God, inasmuch as when we are "a great way off," he runsto us, and embraces us in the arms of his love.
I. First, then, what is the POSITION signified by being "a great way off?" I must just notice what is not that position. It is not the position of the man who is careless and entirely regardless of God; for you notice that theprodigal is represented now as having come to himself, and as returning to his father's house. Though it be true that allsinners are a great way off from God, whether they know it or not, yet in this particular instance, the position of thepoor prodigal is intended to signify the character of one, who has been aroused by conviction, who has been led to abhorhis former life, and who sincerely desires to return to God. I shall not, then, this morning, specially address the blasphemer,and the profane. To him, there may be some incidental warning heard, but I shall not specially address such a character. Itis another person for whom this text is intended: the man who has been a blasphemer, if you please, who may have been adrunkard, and a swearer, and what not, but who has now renounced these things, and is steadfastly seeking after Christ,that he may obtain eternal life. That is the man who is here said to be, though coming to the Lord, "a great way off."
Once again, there is another person who is not intended by this description, namely, the very great man, the Pharisee whothinks himself extremely righteous, and has never learned to confess his sin. You, sir, in your apprehension, are not a greatway off. You are so really in the sight of God; you are as far from him as light from darkness, as the east is from the west;but you are not spoken of here. You are like the prodigal son, only that instead of spending your liferighteously, you have run away from your Father, and hidden in the earth the gold which he gave you, and are able to feedupon the husks which swine do eat, whilst by a miserable economy of good works you are hoping to save enough of your fortuneto support yourself here and in eternity. Your hope of self-salvation is a fallacy, and you are not addressed in the wordsof the text. It is the man who knows himself lost, but desires to be saved, who is here declared to be met by God, and receivedwith affectionate embraces.
And now we come to the question, Who is the man, and why is he said to be a great way off? For he seems to be very near thekingdom, now that he knows his need and is seeking the Saviour. I reply, in the first place, he is a great way off in hisown apprehensions. You are here this morning, and you have an idea that never was man so far from God as you are. You lookback upon your past life, and you recollect how you have slighted God, despised his Sabbath, neglected hisBook, trampled upon the blood of sprinkling, and rejected all the invitations of his mercy. You turn over the pages ofyour history, and you remember the sins which you have committed-the sins of your youth and your former transgressions, thecrimes of your manhood, and the riper sins of your older years; like black waves dashing upon a dark shore, they roll in waveupon wave, upon your poor troubled memory. There comes a little wave of your childish folly, and over that there leaps oneofyour youthful transgressions, and over the head of this there comes a very Atlantic billow of your manhood's transgressions.At the sight of them you stand astonished and amazed. "O Lord my God, how deep is the gulf which divides me from thyself,and where is the power that can bridge it? I am separated from thee by leagues of sin, whole mountains of my guilt are piledupward between me and thyself. O God, shouldest thou destroy me now, thou wouldest be just; and if thou dost ever bring metothyself, it must be nothing less than a power as Omnipotent as that which made the world, which can ever do it. O! howfar am I from God!" Some of you would be startled this morning, if your neighbors were to give you revelations of their ownfeelings. If yonder man standing there in the crowd could come into this pulpit, and tell you what he now feels, you mightperhaps be horrified at his description of his own heart. How many of you have no notion of the way in which a soul is cutand hackedabout, when it is under the convictions of the law! If you should hear the man tell out what he feels, you would say,"Ah! he is a poor deluded enthusiast; men are not so bad as that;" or else you would be apt to think he had committed somenameless crime which be dare not mention. that was preying on his conscience. Nay, sir, he has been as moral and upright asyou have been; but should he describe himself as he now discovers himself to be, he would shock you utterly. And yet you arethe same,though you feel it not, and would indignantly deny it. When the light of God's grace comes into your heart, it is somethinglike the opening of the windows of an old cellar that has been shut up for many days. Down in that cellar, which has not beenopened for many months, are all kinds of loathsome creatures, and a few sickly plants blanched by the darkness. The wallsare dark and damp with the trail of reptiles; it is a horrid filthy place, in which no one would willingly enter. You maywalkthere in the dark very securely, and except now and then for the touch of some slimy creature, you would not believe theplace was so bad and filthy. Open those shutters, clean a pane of glass, let a little light in, and now see how a thousandnoxious things have made this place their habitation. Sure, twas not the light that made this place so horrible, but it wasthe light that showed how horrible it was before. So let God's grace just open a window and let the light into a man's soul,and hewill stand astonished to see at what a distance he is from God. Yes, sir, to-day you think yourself second to none butthe Eternal; you fancy that you can approach his throne with steady step; it is but a little that you have to do to be saved;you imagine that you can accomplish it at any hour, and save yourself upon your dying bed as well as now. Ah! sir, if youcould but be touched by Ithuriel's wand, and made to be in appearance what you are in reality, then you would see that youare farenough from God even now, and so far from him that unless the arms of his grace were stretched out to bring you to himself,you must perish in your sin. Now I turn my eye again with hope, and trust I leave not a few in this large assembly who cansay, "Sir, I feel I am far from God, and sometimes I fear I am so far from him that he will never have mercy upon me; I darenot lift so much as my eyes towards heaven; I smite on my breast, and say, 'Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner'" Oh! poorheart; here is a comforting passage for thee: "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassionon him."
But again, there is a second sense in which some now present may feel themselves to be far off from God. Conscience tellsevery man that if he would be saved he must get rid of his sin. The Antinomian may possibly pretend to believe that men canbe saved while they live in sin; but conscience will never allow any man to swallow so egregious a lie as that. I have notone person in this congregation who is not perfectly assured that if he is to be saved he must leave off hisdrunkenness and his vices. Sure there is not one here so stupefied with the laudanum of hellish indifference as to imaginethat he can revel in his lusts, and afterwards wear the white robe of the redeemed in paradise. If ye imagine ye can be partakersof the blood of Christ, and yet drink the cup of Belial; if ye imagine that ye can be members of Satan and members of Christat the same time, ye have less sense than one would give you credit for. No, you know that right arms must be out off,and right eyes plucked out-that the most darling sins must be renounced, if ye would enter into the kingdom of God. AndI have a man here who is convinced of the unholiness of his life, and he has striven to reform, not because he thinks reformationwould save him, for he knows better than that, but because he knows that this is one of the first-fruits of grace-reformationfrom sin. Well, poor man, he has for many years been an inveterate drunkard, and he struggles now to overcome thepassion. He has almost effected it; but he never had such an Herculean labor to attempt before; for now some temptationcomes upon him so strongly that it is as much as he can do to stand against it; and perhaps sometimes since his first convictionof sin he has even fallen into it. Or perhaps it is another vice, and you, my brother, have set your face against it; butthere are many bonds and fetters that bind us to our vices, and you find that though it was easy enough to spin the warp andwoof sin together, it is not so easy to unravel that which you have spun. You can not purge your house of your idols;you do not yet know how to give up all your lustful pleasures. Not yet can you renounce the company of the ungodly. You havecut off one by one your most intimate acquaintances, but it is very hard to do it completely, and you are struggling to accomplishit, and you often fall on your knees and cry, "O, Lord, how far I am from thee! what high steps these are which I have toclimb! Oh! how can I be saved? Sure, if I can not purge myself from my old sins, I shall never be able to hold on my way;and even should I get rid of them, I should plunge into them once more." You are crying out, "Oh, how great my distance fromGod! Lord, bring me near!"
Let me present you with one other aspect of our distance from God. You have read your Bibles, and you believe that faith alonecan unite the soul to Christ. You feel that unless you can believe in him who died upon the cross for your sins, you can neversee the kingdom of God; but you can say this morning, "Sir, I have striven to believe; I have searched the Scriptures, nothours, but days together, to find a promise on which my weary foot might rest; I have been upon myknees many and many a time, earnestly supplicating a Divine blessing; but though I have pleaded, all in vain I have urgedmy plea, for until now no whisper have I had of grace, no token for good, no sign of mercy. Sir, I have striven to believe,and I have said,
"O could I but believe
Then all would easy be;
I would, but can not-Lord, relieve,
My help must come from thee!"
I have used all the power I have, and have desperately striven to cast myself at the Saviour's feet and see my sins washedsway in his blood. I have not been indifferent to the story of the cross; I have read it a hundred times, and even wept overit; but when I strive to put my hand upon the scape-goat's head, and labor to believe that my sins are transferred to him,some demon seems to stop the breath that would breathe itself forth in adoration, and something checks thehand that would lay itself upon the head that died for me. Well, poor soul, thou art indeed far from God. I will repeatthe words of the text to thee. May the Holy Spirit repeat them in thine ear! "When he was yet a great way off, his fathersaw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." So shall it be with thee if thou hast come thusfar, though great may be the distance, thy feet shall not have to travel it, but God, the Eternal One, shall from his thronelookdown and visit thy poor heart, though now thou tarriest by the way, afraid to approach him.
II. Our second point is the PECULIAR TROUBLES which agitate the breasts of those who are in this position. Let us introduceto you the poor ragged prodigal. After a life of ease, he is, by his own vice, plunged into penury and labor. After feedingswine for a time, and being almost starved, he sets about returning to his father's house. It is a long and weary journey.He walks many a mile, until his feet are sore, and at last, from the summit of a mountain, he views hisfather's house far away in the plain. There are yet many miles between him and his father whom he has neglected. Can youconceive his emotions when, for the first time after so long an absence, he sees the old house at home? He remembers it wellin the distance, for though it is long since he trod its floors, he has never ceased to recollect it; and the remembranceof his father's kindness, and of his own prosperity when he was with him, has never yet been erased from his consciousness.Youwould imagine that for one moment he feels a flash of joy, like some flash of lightning in the midst of the tempest, butanon a black darkness comes over his spirit. In the first place, it is probable he will think, "Oh! suppose I could reachmy home, will my father receive me? Will he not shut the door in my face and tell me begone and spend the rest of my lifewhere I have been spending the first of it?" Then another suggestion might arise: "Surely, the demon that led me first astraymay leadme back again, before I salute my parent." "Or mayhap," thought he, "I may even die upon the road, and so, before I havereceived my father's blessing, my soul may stand before its God." I doubt not each of these three thoughts has crossed yourmind if you are now in the position of one who is seeking Christ, but mourns to feel himself far away from him.
First, you have been afraid lest you should die before Christ has appeared to you. You have been for months seeking the Saviourwithout finding him, and now the black thought comes, "And what if I should die with all these prayers unanswered? Oh! ifhe would but hear me ere I departed this world I would be content, though he should keep me waiting in anguish for many years.But what, if before tomorrow morning I should be a corpse? At my bed I kneel to-night and cry formercy. Oh! if he should not send the pardon before to-morrow morning, and in the night my spirit should stand before hisbar!-What then?" It is singular that other men think they shall live for ever, but men convinced of sin, who seek a Saviour,are afraid they shall not live another moment. You have known the time, dear Christian brethren, when you dared not shut youreyes for feel you should not open them again on earth; when you dreaded the shadows of the night lest they should darken forever the light of the sun, and you should dwell in outer darkness throughout eternity. You have mourned as each day hasentered, and you have wept as it has departed, because you fancied that your next step might precipitate you into your eternaldoom. I have known what it is to tread the earth and fear lest every tuft of grass should but cover a door to hell; trembling,lest every particle, and every atom, and every stone, should be solar league with God against me, as to destroy me. JohnBunyan says, that at one time in his experience, he felt that he had rather have been born a dog or a toad than a man;he felt so unutterably wretched on account of sin; and his great point of wretchedness was the fact, that though he had beenthree years seeking Christ, he might after all die without finding him. And in truth, this is no needless alarm. It may beperhaps too alarming to some who already feel their need of Christ, but the mass of us need perpetually to be startled withthethought of death. How few of you ever indulge that thought! Because ye live and are in health, and eat, and drink, andsleep, ye think ye shall not die. Do ye ever soberly look at your last end? Do ye ever, when ye come to your beds at night,think how one day ye shall undress for the last slumber? And when ye wake in the morning, do ye never think that the trumpof the archangel shall startle you to appear before God in the last day of the great assize, wherein an universe shall standbeforethe Judge? No. "All men think all men mortal but themselves;" and thoughts of death we still push off, until at last weshall find ourselves waking up in torment, where to wake is to wake too late. But thou to whom I specially speak this morning,thou who feelest that thou art a great way off from Christ, thou shalt never die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord;if thou hast really sought him, thou shalt never die until thou hast found him. There was never a soul yet, that sincerelysought the Saviour, who perished before he found him. No; the gates of death shall never shut on thee till the gates ofgrace have opened for thee; till Christ has washed thy sins away thou shalt never be baptized in Jordan's flood. Thy lifeis secure, for this is God's constant plan-he keeps his own elect alive till the day of his grace, and then he takes themto himself. And inasmuch as thou knowest thy need of a Saviour, thou art one of his, and thou shalt never die until thou hastfoundhim.
Your second fear is, "Ah, sir! I am not afraid of dying before I find Christ, I have a worse fear than that; I have had convictionsbefore, and they have often passed away; my greatest fear to-day is, that these will be the same." I have heard of a poorcollier, who on one occasion, having been deeply impressed under a sermon, was led to repent of sin and forsake his formerlife; but he felt so great horror of ever returning to his former conversation, that one day heknelt down and cried thus unto God, "O Lord, let me die on this spot, rather than ever deny the religion which I haveespoused, and turn back to my former conversation:" and we are credibly told, that he died on that very spot, and so his prayerwas answered. God had rather take him home to heaven than suffer him to bear the brunt of temptation on earth. Now, when mencome to Christ, they feel that they had rather suffer anything than lose their convictions. Scores of times have you and Ibeendrawn to Christ under the preaching of the Word. We can look back upon dozens of occasions on which it seemed just theturning point with us. Something said in our hearts, "Now, believe in Christ, now is the accepted time, now is the day ofsalvation." But we said, "To-morrow, to-morrow ;" and when to-morrow came our convictions were gone. We thought what we saidyesterday would be the deed of to-day; but instead of it, the procrastination of yesterday became the hardened wickednessof to-day:we wandered farther from God and forgot him. Now you are crying to him for fear, lest he should give you up again. Youhave this morning prayed before you came here, and you said, "Father, suffer not my companions to laugh me out of my religion;let not my worldly business so engross my thoughts, as to prevent my due attention to the matters of another world. Oh, letnot the trifles of to-day so absorb my thoughts that I may not be preparing myself to meet my God-
'Deeply on my thoughtful heart,
Eternal things impress,'
and make this a real saving work that shall never die out, nor be taken from me." Is that your earnest prayer? O poor prodigal,it shall be heard, it shall be answered. Thou shalt not have time to go back. To-day thy Father views thee from his thronein heaven; to-day he runs to thee in the message of his gospel; today he falls upon thy neck and weeps for joy; to-day hesays to thee, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven ;" to-day, by the preaching of the Word, hebids thee come and reason with him, "for though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool, though the be red likecrimson, they shall be whiter than snow."
But the last and the most prominent thought which I suppose the prodigal would have, would be, that when he did get to hisfather, he would say to him, "Get along with you, I will have nothing more to do with you." "Ah!" thought he to himself, "Irecollect the morning, when I rose up before day-break, because I knew I could not stand my mothers tears; I remember howI crept down the back staircase and took all the money with me, how I stole down the yard and ran away intothe land where I spent my all. Oh! what will the old gentlemen say of me when I come back? Why, there he is! he is runningto me. But he has got a horsewhip with him, to be sure, to whip me away. It is not at all possible that if he comes he willhave a kind word for me. The most I can expect is that he will say, 'Well John, you have wasted all your money, you can notexpect me to do anything for you again. I won't let you starve; you shall be one of my servants: there, come, I will takeyou asfootman;' and if he will do that I will be obliged to him; nay, that is the very thing I will ask of him; I will say,'Make me as one of thy hired servants.'" "Oh," said the devil within him, "your father will never speak comfortably to you:you had better run away again. I tell you if he gets near you, you will have such a dressing as you never received in yourlife. You will die with a broken heart; you will very likely fall dead here; the old man will never bury you; the carrioncrows wineat you. There is no hope for you: see how you have treated him. Put yourself in his place: what would you do if you hada son that had run away with half your living, and spent it upon harlots?" And the son thought if he were in his fathers placehe should be very harsh and severe; and possibly, he almost turned upon his heel to run away. But he had not time to do that.When he was just thinking about running away, on a sudden his father's arms were about his neck, and he had received thepaternal kiss. Nay, before he could get his whole prayer finished, he was arrayed in a white robe, the best in the house;and they had brought him to the table, and the fatted calf was being killed for his repast. And poor soul, it shall be sowith you. Thou sayest, "If I go to God, he win never receive me. I am too vile and wretched: others he may have pressed tohis heart, but he will not me. If my brother should go, he might be saved; but there are such aggravations in my crime; Ihave grownso old since; I have done such a deal of mischief; I have so often blasphemed him, so frequently broken his Sabbaths;ah! and I have so often deceived him; I have promised I would repent, and when I got well I have lied to God, and gone backto my old sin. Oh, if he would but let me creep inside the door of heaven! I win not ask to be one of his children; I winonly ask that he will let me be where the Syro-Phoenician woman desired to be-to be a dog, to eat the crumbs that fall fromtheMaster's table. That is all I ask; and oh! if he will but grant it to me, he shall never hear the last of it, for as longas I live I will sing his praise; and when the world doth fade away, and the sun grow dim with age, my gratitude, immortalas my soul, shall never cease to sing his love, who pardoned my grossest sins and washed me in his blood." It shad be so.Come and try. Now, sinners, dry your tears; let hopeless sorrows cease; look to the wounds of Christ, who died; let all yourgriefsnow be removed, there is no further cause for them; your Father loves you; he accepts and receives you to his heart.
III. Now, in conclusion, I may notice HOW THESE FEARS WERE MET IN THE PRODIGAL'S CASE, and how they shall be met in ours ifwe are in the same condition.
The text says, "The Father saw him." Yes, and God saw thee just now. That tear which was wiped away so hastily-as if thouwast ashamed of it-God saw it, and he stored it in his bottle. That prayer which thou didst breathe just a few moments ago,so faintly, and with such little faith-God heard it. The other day thou wast in thy chamber, where no ear heard thee; butGod was there. Sinner, let this be thy comfort, that God sees thee when thou beginnest to repent. Hedoes not see thee with his usual gaze, with which he looks on all men; but he sees thee with an eye of intense interest.He has been looking on thee in an thy sin, and in all thy sorrow, hoping that thou wouldst repent; and now he sees the firstgleam of grace, and he beholds it with joy. Never warder on the lonely castle top saw the first grey light of morning withmore joy than that with which God beholds the first desire in thy heart. Never physician rejoiced more when he saw the firstheaving of the lungs in one that was supposed to be dead, than God doth rejoice over thee, now that he sees the firsttoken for good. Think not that thou art despised and unknown, and forgotten. He is marking thee from his high throne in glory,and rejoicing in what he sees. He saw thee pray, he heard thee groan; he marked thy tear; he looked upon thee and rejoicedto see that these were the first seeds of grace in thine heart.
And then, the text says, "he had compassion on him." He did not merely see him, but he wept within himself to think he shouldbe in such a condition. The old father had a very long range of eye-sight; and though the prodigal could not see him in thedistance, he could see the prodigal. And the fathers first thought when he saw him was this-"O my poor son, O my poor boy!that ever he should have brought himself into such a state as this!" He looked through his telescopeof love, and he saw him, and said, "Ah! he did not go out of my house in such trim as that. Poor creature, his feet arebleeding; he has come a long way, I'll be bound. Look at his face, he doesn't look like the same boy he was when he left me.His eye that was so bright, is now sunken in its socket; his cheeks that once stood out with fatness, have now become hollowwith famine. Poor wretch, I can tell all his bones, he is so emaciated." Instead of feeling any anger in his heart, he feltjustthe contrary; he felt such pity for his poor son. And so the Lord feels for you-you that are groaning and moaning on accountof sin. He forgets your sins; he only weeps to think you should have brought yourself to be what you are: "Why didst thourebel against me, and bring thyself into such a state as this?" It was just like that day when Adam sinned. God walked inthe garden, and he missed Adam. He did not cry out, "Adam, come here and be judged!" No; with a soft, sorrowful, and plaintivevoice, he said, "Adam, where art thou? Oh, my fair Adam, thou whom I made so happy, where art thou now? Oh, Adam! thoudidst think to become a God; where art thou now? Thou hast walked with me: dost thou hide thyself from thy friend? Littledost thou know, O Adam, what woes thou hast brought on thyself, and thine offspring. Adam, where art thou?" And Jehovah bowelsyearn to-day over you. He is not angry with you; his anger is passed away, and his hands are stretched out still. Inasmuchas hehas brought you to feel that you have sinned against him, and to desire reconciliation with him, there is no wrath inhis heart. The only sorrow that he feels is sorrow that you should have brought yourself into a state so mournful as thatin which you now are found.
But he did not stop in mere compassion. Having had compassion, "he ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." This you donot understand yet; but you shall. As sure as God is God, if you this day are seeking him aright through Christ, the day shallcome when the kiss of full assurance shall be on your lip, when the arms of sovereign love shall embrace you, and you shallknow it to be so. Thou mayest have despised him, but thou shalt know him yet to be thy Father and thyFriend. Thou mayest have scoffed his name: thou shalt one day come to rejoice in it as better than pure gold. Thou mayesthave broken his Sabbaths and despised his Word; the day is coming when the Sabbath shall be thy delight, and his Word thytreasure. Yes, marvel not; thou mayest have plunged into the kennel of sin, and made thy clothes black with iniquity; butthou shalt one day stand before his throne white as the angels be; and that tongue that once cursed him shall yet sing hispraise. Ifthou be a real seeker, the hands that have been stained with lust shall one day grasp the harp of gold, and the head thathas plotted against the Most High shall yet be girt with gold. Seemeth it not a strange thing that God should do so much forsinners? But strange though it seem, it shall be strangely true. Look at the staggering drunkard in the ale-house. Is therea possibility that one day he shall stand among the fairest sons of light? Possibility! ay, certainty, if he repents and turnsfrom the error of his ways. Hear you yon curser and swearer? See you the man who labels himself as a servant of hell,and is not ashamed to do so? Is it possible that he shall one day share the bliss of the redeemed? Possible! ay, more, itis sure, if he turneth from his evil ways. O sovereign grace, turn men that they may repent! "Turn ye, turn ye, why will yedie, O house of Israel?"
"Lord, do thou the sinner turn,
For thy tender mercy's sake."
One word or so, and I have done. If any of you to-day are under conviction of sin, let me solemnly warn you not to frequentplaces where those convictions are likely too be destroyed.
A correspondent of the New York Christian Advocate furnishes the following affecting narrative:-
"When I was travelling in the state of Massachusetts, twenty-six years ago, after preaching one evening in the town of ___________,a very serious-looking young man arose, and wished to address the assembly. After obtaining leave, he spoke as follows:-'Myfriends, about one year ago, I set out in company with a young man of my intimate acquaintance, to seek the salvation of mysoul. For several weeks we went on together, we laboured together, and often renewed ourcovenant not to give over seeking till we obtained the religion of Jesus. But, all at once, the young man neglected attendingmeeting, appeared to turn his back on all the means of grace, and grew so shy of me, that I could scarcely get an opportunityto speak with him. His strange conduct gave me much painful anxiety of mind; but still I felt resolved to obtain the salvationof my soul, or perish, making the publican's plea. After a few days, a friend informed me that my young companion hadreceived an invitation to a ball, and was determined to go. I went immediately to him, and, with tears in my eyes, endeavouredto persuade him to change his purpose, and to go with me on that evening to a prayer-meeting. I pleaded with him in vain.He told me, when we parted, that I must not give him up as lost, for after he had attended that ball, he intended to makea business of seeking religion. The appointed evening came, and he went to the ball, and I went to the prayer-meeting. Soonafter the meeting opened, it pleased God, in answer to my prayer, to turn my spiritual captivity, and make my soul rejoicein his justifying love. Soon after the ball opened, my young friend was standing at the head of the ball-room, with the handof a young lady in his hand, preparing to lead down the dance; and, while the musician was turning his violin,, without onemoment's warning, the young man sallied back, and fell dead on the floor. I was immediately sent for, to assist in devisingmeans to convey his remains to his father's house. You will be better able to judge what were the emotions of my heart,when I tell you that that young man was my own brother.'"
Trifle not, then, with thy convictions, for eternity shall be too short for thee to utter thy lamentations over such trifling.