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THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN.
hand of Jesus expressly to set it forth. There, the love of the injured father is described as having been burning to his son—even while in the far country he was spending his substance in riotous living, and preferring rather to starve on the husks of swine, than return to his father's house. And, when at length he came to himself-Did he require to move his father's heart to compassion 8-to kindle up again love in his bosom ?—to restore the property he had taken away—and thus dispose that injured parent to receive the wanderer again ? Quite the reverse. The father saw his son afar off ; and ran, and had compassion, and kissed him -even before the unhappy prodigal had time to urge a single plea.
And does not this lovely scene graphically represent the heart—the true aspect of God to every man-woman and child—to every "prodigal” of the human family- though still living in the far country of sin and unbelief? Was it not originally depicted by the Redeemer for this very design? Who can disprove it from Scripture? Who will attempt it—but those who are in some degree the representatives of that ignoble class—who murmured at the enlarged benevolence of Jesus,-saying, “This
THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN.
man receiveth sinners and eateth with them"? Is it not then a most ruinous contradiction of the word of God-involving the blood of many souls-practically to deny or hide in public teaching, this most attractive portraiture of the heart and mind of God in relation to every perishing sinner ? But how often is this done? how often is God set forth, directly or indirectly, as one who is in heart alienated from man, (personally considered,) on account of his transgressions ;-as one who can alone have compassion awakened, so to speak, in his mind-by the penitential tears-reformation-earnest appeals and mental agonies of the sinner-as if He were “hard and austere" —or as if He were like selfish men (in regard to those in whom they have no interest—and for whom they have no affection requiring to be won over—or affected by mere passionate appeals to sentimental emotion? The results are awfully disastrous. God is dishonoured and the hearers are in imminent danger of being eternally ruined. For, such representations tend to deepen the darkness which already covers the sinner's understanding regarding God; while, so far from being adapted to inspire confidence in his forgiving
FALSE REPRESENTATIONS OF GOD.
mercy, they rather lead the unhappy souls to flee farther and farther from God-yea to banish Him from their thoughts, except when otherwise compelled by intense distress and alarm !
Far, unspeakably far, is it from the writer's desire to deprecate penitential tears-great alarm-or earnest and immediate reformation on the part of sinners, abstractly considered, while seeking the knowledge of salvation. But, it is one thing to view these mental exercises as being frequently important means to lead newly awakened sinners straight up to behold the Lamb of God, bearing the burden of their iniquities—that they might believe and be saved ; and quite another, (as previously shown) to set forth God as requiring such efforts to melt his heart to compassion and forgiving mercy!
What, then, shall be said of those who give large prominency to other doctrines of Scripture in their public teaching—but, who give no frequent-emphatic utterance of the wondrous revelation of God's LOVE WORLD? For, if the doctrine of this boundless compassionate love to every man be distinctly revealed in Scripture, as it undoubtedly
VITAL DEFICIENCY OF PREACHING,
is—if it shines forth there, in relation to other revealed doctrines, as the sun and centre of them all-and, if it be essentially necessary to the rapid progress of the Redeemer's kingdom -to the turning of “many to righteousness," —that the minds of me in general should be earnestly and most emphatically directed(along with a due proportion of other truths) to this all-affecting-heart-conquering aspect of God, in relation to themselves ;-Howwe ask, can he be said to understand and experimentally know God — or be eminently successful in winning souls to the Redeemerwho seldom dwells upon the glorious topic —who only occasionally refers to it? He may, indeed, assign it a place in his professed creed--and thus abstractly hold the doctrine tenaciously—yet, if it has never stood forth to his own spiritual perception in graphic reliefnever been realized in its power, as the source of unbounded peace and spiritual confidence to himself-or, if it thus be only occasionally and almost incidentally alluded to in its ordinary teaching—what can be concluded, but that he is yet himself mournfully deficient in the knowledge of its glorious meaning—its infinite importance? Who can wonder that such a
WHAT CAN DESTROY ENMITY?
vital deficiency should, to a great extent, arrest both the spiritual growth of believers under his charge—and the conversion of sinners to God ?
But again-since every thing depends on the experimental knowledge of the love of God to ourselves-since it may be proved to a demonstration, that it is only by the belief of sovereign love as revealed on the cross of Christ, that any soul can be saved,—since it is manifest that the whole of man's continued sinfulness and misery may be traced to one root, and that-enmity to God--How vain to dream of a truly successful ministry where these essential truths are but seldom enforced ! For what can
remove or slay that enmity —which exists in all its power (however concealed from sight) in every one who has never received eternal life-never been regenerated by the Spirit of God ? What can remove that fearful barrier-so as to inspire the soul with confidence to draw near to God-exclaiming, - Abba Father”? Will fear of wrath-hopes of Heaven—or the mere offer of any personal advantage do it? No. In the very nature of things—according to the mental constitution which God has given to man-it is impossible