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deeds, but this man hath done nothing aniss.” Did not the heart open out in these simple words its contrition ? did it not take its first glance of hope in the Crucified ? There had been no outburst of Deity in those hours of uttermost agony, but mark the faith in that
“Lord !” mark what humbleness, what conscious unworthiness in that appeal! No great blessing does he venture to sue; it is only," Remember me!' What beyond could such a vile one ask for, and his recollection, though undeserved, would be enough, “Lord, remember me. Note the hope in that appeal. A poor malefactor, with a cross for his death-bed and racked by pain as the wage of crime, looks forward to a kingdom, and that with desire of remembrance there : " Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
Brethren, you know how that holy Sufferer forgot his torture before that appeal, and put forth his power and love to save to the uttermost: " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.". And when agony and the cruelty of the soldiery had wrung out life from the agonized frame, sweetly, sweetly did he fall asleep in Jesus. See the criminal at his very uttermost, pardoned, saved. In the morning a felon in chains, in the evening a saint in white. In the morning handled of soldiers, in the evening nursed by angels. In the morning in the slavery of fierce passions, in the evening in the freedom of heavenly love. In the morning crucified, in the evening crowned. One hour sobbing out his first sigh of sudden penitence; the next hour singing the first song of his endless anthem of praise. Oh, blessed Jesus! When thou wert weak, then thou wert strong ; when vanquished by death then thou coulilst give life ; thou didst take a soul from the cross of a condemned criminal to the throne of a redeemed saint. Therefore, we will proclaim that because thy power doth equal thy love, and thy love doth govern thy power, that thou art " able to save to the uttermost."
Now, once more, is there an uttermost in point of madness and maturity in sin, to which His ability to save cannot reach? Here, again, I appeal to fact in the history of his earthly ministry, which was intended to promise and to illustrate the virtue of his heavenly life. Call to mind the scene in Simon's house. The woman that came softly to his feet, as he sat down at the Pharisee's table, as Luke tells us, was a sinner. Vulgar fame and that hard world which deals so harshly with the outcast, because of her lost virtue, and yet smiles upon, and admits into all circles, the mean, selfish, and cowardly creature-almost, to my mind, the most despicable on God's earth, who seduced her by his false flatteries, and then cast aside heedlessly the poor victim, as a child throws away a spoiled plaything-vulgar fame and that hard world, no doubt truly, justly, and with the finger of scorn, had pointed to her, branded her as a sinner. Depend upon it she had tasted the misery of that death in life which is always felt by those who live in sinful pleasure, that sense of degradation, that
agony of remorse, that selt-hatred, that intense desire to escape from the hated yet continued sin, while all the time escape seemed impossible, hopeless. Depend upon it, too, she had tasted the agony of a woman's broken heart. And, now, Love, Divine Love, had deepened the wounds which human scorn and human cruelty had gashed there, fleepened only to heal; and she comes to Jesus. Note her deep humility. The greatest sinner becomes the weekest suppliant-she stood at the feet of Jesus Note well her painful shame-she stood at the feet of Jesus, behind him. “And it is not the voice now, but the eyes, that give expression to the heart's fulness" -she stood behind him weeping, and washed his feet with her tears. And she must dry them, too, and she takes her hair for this purpose, as slaves were wont to do, when washing their master's feet. And, then, that touch, draws out her heart to venture upon kissing his feet. And, then, the box of precious ointment is not forgotten, that alabaster box which, if not the wage of iniquity, she had misapplied to vanity and shameful lusts. In her deep reverence and worship she pours the offering upon his head. And whence this humility, these tears, this kiss, this love? Oh! she had already heard words of mercy in the street, and in the byway, from him who is able to save to the uttermost-mercy to her whom hard men and worldly scorn had thrust aside as a poor outcast. If not actually, yet spiritually, she had conversed with him who can bind up broken hearts, and who, as we sung tonight, though he can tell in his majesty the number of the stars, does not scruple to dispense, from his hospital of grace, medicine to heal the sickness of the human spirit. Because she loved much she had inuch forgiven her. And, thus, under this picture of his tenderness and power, he has bid us write that he is “able to save to the uttermost," to uttermost of remorse, when it has well nigh stiffened us into the death of despairto the uttermost of wickedness, when evil habit is as hard to change as the leopard's spot—to the uttermost of indifference, when the conscience seems as deaf to the voice of rebuke as the dead man's ear to the passionate cries of love. I confess, that it seems hopeless to us sometimes that “uttermost." We would fain turn aside sometimes and pass where our ministry of truth can tell. No, no; never let us shut the door of mercy against a single sinner. The times and the tides of the living waters which give life, wherever they come are not under our control. We dare not speak of remediless obstructions to their flow when God bas made nione. We watch, and wait, and work, and pray, because Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost.” And, in all confidence, that the glad tiding may be made the power of salvation to all who hear it, we will proclaim it to all--aye, even to the greatest traitor to conscience and Christ, if we could cross his path, hasting in his remorse like Judas to a hopeless death, or springing from the bridge to find a watery grave in the river stream.
Dear brethren, this is our message to you. And if this power to save to the uttermost does not touch you, save you, it is because the limit is not in the Saviour who has the right to exercise it, but in you. The only limit in my text, is this : " He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." To come unto him is to come unto God, for this is the chain of steps in eternal life, "we are Christ's and Christ is God's."
And, then, he who would know, in his own soul, Christ's ability to save, must come to him; of course not actually but spiritually- ----come unto him in one of those wonderful translations of human spirits which faith accomplishes as, it takes them within the veil, and gives substance to what is hoped for, and evidence of what is unseen,-translations which make a man, as Paul says, to "see Him who is invisible," come to Him as the needle to the magnet, drawn by the attraction of his mercy,come to Him as the disciple to the teacher, learning under his secret teaching, --come to Him as a patient to the physician, to tell of agony and entreat aid, --come to Him as a sinner to his Saviour, yearning for salvation, come to Him as an angel to his God, reverencing, loving, adoring, serving. Yes, come to him spiritually, as Mary did really, sitting at his feet on choice of the good part,-come to him spiritually, as Nicodemus did really, seeking light upon the inner darkness,-come to Him spiritually, as the penitent woman did really, loving, weeping much, because much had been forgiven her,-come to Him spiritually, as John did really, leaning with the repose of trust upon his bosom and feeding upon his living bread which he gives. “ The Spirit and the bride say come.” Our ministry is just the invitation, “Come.” And the Church in her sacraments and her ordinances, in which the Lord Jesus does most surely abide, says,“ Come.”
And what mean we by these special services in this noble building, but just to have occasion to say, “Come,” to you who, perhaps, have never heard of his ability to “save to the uttermost,'' never heard that there is One upon the throne above, who has remembered you, though all the while you have forgottem him-One who would not have you left in the vineyard of this Christian country fruitless, a cumberer of the ground, waiting for that axe which must be laid some day to the barren root of all dead trees--One who lives to make intercession for them that come unto God by him, that is, for me, for you. Be it so with all of us; be it so with you, my brethren and my sisters in the Lord; and then to you in all time of our tribulation, in that awful uttermost, “in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,” He, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, -He, the good Lord who is able to save, will hear your prayers, deliver you as you intreat, and seal that deliverance at once, by granting you peace unspeakable and prophetic of glory.
Exeter Wall sermons.
THE PRODIGAL SON.
PREACHED ON SUNDAY EVENING, JANUARY 31, 1858,
REV. JOSHUA C. HARRISON.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had
compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."-LUKE xv. 20.
In the account which is given us of the creation of the world, in the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” It is in consequence of this resemblance which man bears to his Maker, that he is able to understand God at all; for you will at once perceive that if we were totally unlike our Creator, if we had no attributes in common with Him, He must remain to us for ever unknown. No words could convey to us the remotest idea of what He was, because words are only the signs of things we know; and if there were a world or a being entirely dissimilar to this world and every creature upon it, we should find that language was quite powerless to give us any intelligible description of them. Now, however, we learn from the word of inspiration, that man was formed the likeness of the Eternal; and, learning this, we at once reach the exhilarating conclusion, "Then it is possible for me to know God.” Our knowledge, indeed, must still be very imperfect, for the finite can never fully comprehend the Infinite; but He is not veiled in utter darkness; we form some dim notion of his attributes, we do not worship “an unknown God.” Wisdom, thought, love, truthfulness, joy, purity, personality, all in measure belong to us; to Him, without and beyond measure; and hence, the higher we rise in intelligence, purity, and love, the more capable do we become of comprehending Him who yet, in the fulness of his Godhead, passeth human knowledge.
In like manner, you must have observed that, in the Bible, our earthly relationships are all used as illustrations of the relationship in which God stands to us; and just as among men one and the same person may sustain several distinct and independent relationships, so we find does God. He is Owner, Upholder, Teacher, Ruler, Father, and it is only by combining the various ideas conveyed by such words that we obtain any complete or adequate conception of the relationship which God bears to man. Two of these ideas, however, are perhaps more frequently dwelt on than the rest. He is our Father,--for He called us into existence, and naturally looks on us with deepest interest, and feels for us the tenderest love. He is our Sovereign, --for He knows that well-being depends on righteousness, and that only as He maintains a law of absolute holiness can creatures constituted as we are be noble or happy. Now, as long his intelligent creatures
relationships appear quite harmonious; but as soon as disobedience and unholiness arise, the claims of the Judge will clash with the feelings of the Father, and the two, if possible, will need to be reconciled.
This opposition between the demands of the Judge and the Father, when both relationships meet in the same person, has not unfrequently occurred in human governments, in which case, the feelings of the father have perhaps generally triumphed, and justice and law have been dishonoured; but, there have been instances in which the demands of law, involving as they do the interests not merely of a family but of a nation, have been felt to be so sacred, that either the father has been merged in the judge or some compromise has been attempted between the two. The history of Brutus, one of the two earliest Roman consuls, is an example of the first kind. For when his own sons, who had been found, with several others, conspiring against the new republic, were brought before him, he sternly asked them whether they could offer any defence for their crimes, and receiving no answer, said to the executioner, "Now it is for you to perform the rest.” He would not listen to the pleadings of nature, when duty to the state required him to be firm. And this firmness, we are assured, did more than any thing else to give stability to the recently-formed constitution. In the case of a certain king of the Locrians, we example of the second kind, and find that father and judge both insisted on being heard. This king had made a law that the sin of adultery should be punished by the loss of both eyes. The first offender that was discovered,
after the passing of this statute, was his own son.
His perplexity was very great. To execute the sentence, would be to inflict on his own child a most terrible, an irreparable calamity; to let him go free, would be to stultify himself and make his government despised. He therefore determined to bear part of the punishment himself, rather than totally deprive his child of sight, and each endured the extinction of an eye. It cannot be wondered at that such an arrangement produced a deeper conviction of the majesty and inviolability of law, and more fully answered the end of punishment, than even the exact execution of the original sentence could have done. Still, although an atonement was thus made, you will perceive that it was incomplete; the punishment was indeed diminished, but not remitted; justice was upheld, law was honoured, but the yearnings of parental affection were only partially satisfied. If the Eternal God should ever determine on a provision for reconciling the claims of the Father and the Judge, that provision, we may be certain beforehand, will be perfect. The law will be fully illustrated and magnified ; the offender, entirely delivered from the grasp of the sentence, will be restored to all the blessings and honours of a child; the maintenance of absolute rectitude will be joined with free and unreserved forgiveness; the Father and the Judge alike recognised and satisfied. Now this is precisely what has been done. God has looked with righteousness, and yet in pity, on sinful and erring man, and has said, “Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom. That ransom was nothing less than the obedience and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. He, who was God manifest in the flesh, came down from the Father as our Substitute and Surety. “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree; though he knew no sin, he was made sin for us, that we. might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He “redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” The consummate excellence of that law was manifested by his life, which was one unvarying career of obedience to its commands. The inflexible decision of that law was proved, when it was seen that, rather than its honour should be tarnished, Jesus, the Son of God, would suffer in the sinner's room, The real greatness and blessedness of subjecting our own will to the Divine, was illustrated in his sublime self-sacrifice; and a way was opened whereby, in strictest harmony with the highest justice, the repentant sinner can obtain mercy, and the self-condemned and trembling prodigal can find a home in his Father's house. The legal difficultiesthe difficulties connected with the violation of public, universal law-are now removed ; a channel is provided through which grace and blessing can flow to the penitent, and God is both just and the Justifier of those who believe in Jesus. All that a Father's. overflowing heart sees needful for the recovery of his foolish and erring children, He can now bestow without dishonour and without stint; and therefore, by the lips of his own Son, He has pronounced that all-comprehending promise : "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask?” Directly the sinner wakes up to a sense of his guilt and danger, and seeks forgiveness through Jesus Christ, he receives both the remission of his sentence and the heart of a child. The love which has made so costly a provision for his
however timid, he need not fear; the grace that saves is infinite; "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin."
Still it is, perhaps, not to be wondered at that some, who get a very distinct and profound view of their own sin, should tremble and hesitate. "Is it possible,” they are ready to ask, " that upon one so unworthy as I am, one who has so long and so grievously offended, the Eternal God can ever look with favour? Is it possible that He will ever welcome me as his child?” Now, the parable from which I have taken my text is well adapted to dispel such fears, and most important it is that they should be dispelled, for if a man fancies that he is in a hopeless condition, he endeavours, in the best way he can, to reconcile himself to it, and drops all effort to get free. If a man looks upon God with terror, as a being whose anger he deserves and must endure, he can regard Him with no filial love. The willingness of God, therefore, to receive and pardon the penitent is a truth which must be believed and felt, if the sinner is to be incited to any feelings of trust and tenderness, or to any endeavours after pardon and deliverance. Let us look, then, at the encouragement which is given to every awakened sinner by this parable, to the meaning of which my text is the key. Like the two preceding parables of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money, it was no doubt intended to account for the condescension which our Lord displayed to the lowest and basest of the populace--the publicans and sinners whom the Pharisees despised. The woman who has merely lost a coin sweeps every corner till she finds it, for the simple reason that we none of us like to lose the smallest trifle. The shepherd who has lost one of his sheep tracks it through brake and moors, and brings it on his shoulders rejoicing, because he takes an interest in every one of his flock. But who can fully describe the feelings of a father, when his erring and reckless child, long lost to his family, the shame and dishonour of his house, comes back with broken heart and obedient spirit—the joy with which he clasps him to his bosom, and, refusing to hear of the past, is only concerned to celebrate his return? "And shall not I,” suggests the Saviour, "who am the good shepherd, seek these poor lost sheep? Shall not I, who possess a heart warmer than the tenderest father's, welcome my poor prodigal, who displays the returning love of a child ? and, if you self-righteous Pharisees, in your pride and exclusiveness, stand aloof, shall not I rejoice over a son who was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found?” Let none then be discouraged. The Saviour is ready to receive you. The Eternal Father is waiting to be gracious. And if any still shrink back with alarm, still fear lest they should be rejected, let them come and look a little more narrowly into this exquisite parable.
I. Is it the recollection of the descent, which you voluntarily made, that disturbs you, the downward course, which you so wilfully took ? Then think of the younger son in our narrative. He had a wise and indulgent father, a rich and happy home. But after a while, he began to lose that perfect sympathy with his father which had once prevailed; difference of view produced a real, though scarcely perceptible, diminution of affection. As a natural consequence, he fretted under the restraints of the family, felt the risings of independence, and longed to be free. For all of us must have noticed that the fresh warm love of a child's heart, the deep, reverent concern to do his father's pleasure, is like a silken cord which, without conscious restraint, binds him to home and its purity, is like the strong, health-giving breeze which makes his task a pleasure. But when this filial love is weakened, as if the cord were snapped, and the air become sultry and stagnant, the attraction of home affections and virtues gradually ceases to hold him, and a moral taint corrupts his soul. So this young man, obtaining the portion of goods intended for him, at last set out on a long journey into a far country, and separated him. self entirely from his father's counsel and influence. Time wore on, and he probably forgot his home altogetber. He sent no messages to indicate his love, and received no advice to restrain him from evil. The father who had so tenderly nurtured him, so generously endowed him, was treated with absolute neglect, and communications between them were completely dropped. And now, finding him. self where there was nothing to check his selfishness, nothing to revive that domestic love which is the strongest natural preservative from vice, he gave the reins to his passions and sinned without reserve. So completely was he lost to all sense of honour or shame, that he actually used the goods which his father had given him to obtain criminal indulgences which he must have known that his father abhorred. O! I have heard of a young man who was trained in a pious home, but, in this great city, he fell into eril company and resorted to haunts of guilty pleasure. But the little purse of money which his mother sent up from time to time he always reserved for higher purposes, and