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and sufferings as the principal circumstance that should engage the hearts and confirm the hopes of sinners. He gave repeated promises that those who believe in him shall never perish, that neither force nor fraud should frustrate his intentions in their favour; that after his ascension he would send the Holy Spirit to supply his bodily presence; that his power, grace, and providence should be with his people to the end of the world; and, finally, that he would manage their concerns in heaven, and at length return to take them to himself, that they might be with him for ever, to behold and to share his glory.

4. In this revelation God has illustriously displayed the glory of his free grace. The miserable and guilty, who find themselves without either plea or hope, but what the Gospel proclaims by Christ, are invited without exception, and received without condition. Though they have been the vilest offenders, they are freely accepted in the beloved, and none of their iniquities shall be remembered any more. On the contrary, the most respectable characters amongst men, are declared to be of no avail in point of acceptance with God; but in this respect all the race of Adam are upon equal terms, and must be involved in the same ruin, without an absolute dependence on the great Mediator. This is an illustrious peculiarity of the Gospel, which the proud, fallen nature of man, cannot but resist and find fault with, till the conscience is truly affected with the guilt and demerit of sin. The whole tenour of our Saviour's ministry was suited to depreciate the most specious attainments of those who trusted in themselves

* John x. 28. † John xvi. 7. 13, 14.; Matth. xxviii. 20. John xiv. 3., 13, 14.

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that they were righteous, and to encourage all who felt and confessed themselves to be miserable sinners.

Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.

This was a chief cause of the opposition he met with in his own person, and has awakened the hatred and dislike of the bulk of mankind against his doctrine ever since. It is necessary, therefore, to confirm it by proofs which cannot be evaded by any who profess to acknowledge him to be a teacher sent from God.

He was daily conversant with many who were wise and righteous in their own eyes, and we find he omits no opportunity to expose and condemn their pretensions. He spake one parable purposely to persons of this stamp*, and describes a Pharisee boasting of his observance of the law. He paid tythes, he fasted, he prayed, he was not chargeable with adultery or extortion. He could say more for himself than many can who affect to be thought religious. But the poor publican, (though despicable in his sight,) who, conscious of his unworthiness, durst not lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, and cried for mercy, was in a happier and safer condition than the other with all his boasted obedience.

Another remarkable instance is that of the rulert, who accosted our Lord in a respectful manner, asking him what he should do to inherit eternal life. His address was becoming, his inquiry seemed sincere; and the character he gave of himself was such, as men, who see not the heart, might have judged exemplary and praise-worthy. When our Lord referred him to the precepts of the law, he answered that he had kept

Lüke xviii. 9-14. ↑ Matth. xix. 16.; Luke xviii. 18.

them all from his youth. Yet one thing, we read, was wanting. What could this one thing be, which rendered so fair a character of no value? We may collect it from the event. He wanted a deep sense of his need of a Saviour. If he had been possessed of this one thing, he would willingly have relinquished all to follow Jesus. But ignorant of the spirituality of the law, he trusted to a defective obedience; and the love of the world prevailing in his heart, he chose rather to part with Christ than with his possessions..

On the other hand, how readily our Lord received sinners, notorious sinners, who were vile to a proverb, appears from the remarkable account given by St. Luke* of a woman whose character had been so infamous, that the Pharisee wondered that Jesus could permit her to touch him. But, though a great sinner, she found great forgiveness; therefore she loved much and wept much. She had nothing to say for herself; but Jesus espoused her cause, and pronounced her pardon. He likewise silenced the proud caviller by a parable, that sweetly illustrates the freeness and genuine effect of the grace of God, which can only be possessed or prized by those who see they must perish without it.

And this was the general effect of his preaching. Publicans and sinners thronged to hear him, received his doctrine, and found rest for their souls. As this discrimination gave a general offence, he took occasion to deliver the parable of the prodigalt; in the former

Luke vii. 37.

† She washed his feet with tears. Hexo Beexe, She began to rain tears upon his feet. Her head was waters, and her eyes fountains. To receive a free pardon of many sins, a pardon bought with blood-'tis this causes the heart to melt, and the eyes to flow.

Luke xv. 11.

part of which he gives a most endearing view of the grace of God, in pardoning and accepting the most undeserving. He afterwards, in the close, shows the pride, stubbornness, and enmity of the self-righteous Pharisees, under the character of the elder brother. While his language and deportment, discovered the disobedience and malice of his heart, he pretended that he had never broke his father's commands. The self-condemned sinner, when he first receives hope of pardon, experiences a joy and peace in believing: this is represented by the feast and fatted calf. But the religious, orderly brother, had never received so much as a kid. He had found no true comfort in all his formal round of duties; and therefore was exceedingly angry that the prodigal should at once obtain those marks of favour, which he, who had remained with his father, had been always a stranger to.

*

But the capital exemplification of this, and indeed of every doctrine of the Gospel, is contained in the account given of the thief † upon the cross; a passage which has, perhaps, been more mistaken and misrepresented by commentators, than any other in the New Testament. The grace of God has shone so bright in this instance, that it has dazzled the eyes even of good men. They have attempted to palliate the offender's crime, or

It may be objected to this interpretation, that the father speaks to the elder brother in terms of complacence. "Son, thou "art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." But this is not the only place where our Lord addresses the Pharisees in their own style, according to the opinion they conceived of themselves. Thus, Matt. viii. 12, he says, "The children of the kingdom "shall be cast out into outer darkness"-he does not mean those who were truly the children of the kingdom, but those who pretended to be so.

+ Luke xxiii. 39-43.

at least to suppose that this was the first fault of the kind he had committed; that perhaps he had been surprised into it, and might in other respects have been of a fairer character. They conjecture that this was the first time he had heard of Jesus, and that there was not only some sort of merit in his faith and confession under these circumstances, but that the death of Jesus happily coinciding with his own, afforded him an advantage peculiar to himself; and that therefore this was an exempt case, and not to be drawn into a precedent to after-times.

If it was my professed design to comment upon this malefactor's case, I should consider it in a different light. The nature of his punishment, which was seldom inflicted but on those who were judged the most atrocious criminals, makes it more than probable that he did not suffer for a first offence. Nor was he simply a thief. The history of those times abounds with the mischiefs committed by public robbers, who used to join in considerable bands for rapine and murder, and commit the greatest excesses. In all likelihood, the malefactors crucified with Jesus were of this sort, accomplices and equals in guilt, and therefore judged to die together,receiving, (as appears by the criminal's own confession on the cross,) the just reward of their deeds*. Here was indeed a fair occasion to show the sovereignty and triumph of grace, contrasted with the most desperate pitch of obdurate wickedness; to show, on the one hand, that the compassion and the power of Christ

It seems probable from the history that these were of Barabbas's gang. They had made an insurrection, committed murder, and were, with their ringleader, convicted and condemned. He, in dishonour to Jesus, was spared, whilst these his accomplices were executed with him.

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