Page images

what is the most protracted period of human existence? What is the duration of the earth itself, or of the heavens, with all their luminaries, when compared to eternal life? Eternal life implies not only a perpetual revolution of ages; but never-ending pleasures, ennobling enjoyments, inconceivable dignity, incessant advancement in the knowledge of the Deity, and increasing conformity to his moral image.

Labour, then, my brethren, for the Bread that endureth unto everlasting life. You feel your earthly wants. Have you no spiritual wants? Or must we apply to you the language of that Epistle which our Lord directed to the church of Laodicea ;-" Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked ?" Whether the unconverted man know it, or not, this is a faithful description of his state. But shall we, therefore, tell him, that his case is remediless,--that the Bread of Life is put out of his reach? The benevolent spirit of the gospel will not allow us to use this discouraging language: but rather teaches us to say to him, _“There is bread enough and to spare;' and to urge him to accept the rich benefits of the gospel, that he may eat, and live for ever. O sinners, wherefore do ye spend your money

for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” Turn your attention to your everlasting interests. “Hearken diligently” to the voice of a gracious Saviour, “and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto him : hear, and your soul shall live; and he will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Pray earnestly for Divine grace ; --pray that you may be made acquainted with your spiritual wants; -pray that you may be nourished and satisfied with immortal food. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “Which of you, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone ?If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!” May the Father of lights, from whom proceedeth every good and every perfect gift, supply all your need out of the riches of his glory, by Christ Jesus! To Him be everlasting ascriptions of praise and honour. Amen. DISCOURSE VI.

MATTHEW, vi. 12.

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

The doctrine of forgiveness may with propriety be classed among the most interesting subjects which can at any time engage the attention of the christian suppliant. It is chiefly with the hope of obtaining this invaluable favour, that the penitent is encouraged, notwithstanding the anguish and horror which arise from recollected guilt, to cast himself at the feet of his offended Creator: and it is partly from a sense of Divine forgiveness, that the experienced and confirmed believer is imboldened, with filial reverence and affection, to approach the throne of mercy, and to implore those “good and perfect gifts” which advance him towards spiritual maturity, and prepare him more and more for the felicities of heaven. Where no hope of forgiveness exists, none of the blessings of religion can be realized. He whose conscience is galled with the burden of unpardoned sin, feels that he has no part with true Christians: he feels that he has not taken one step in that new and living way which is consecrated for us,—that he has not obtained that first privilege which introduces the soul to every other. The ancient prophets, though their annunciations of pardon were founded on correct ideas of the character of God, had perhaps but indistinct conceptions of the manner in which it was bestowed, and, more especially, saw not, as Christians see, its equal bearings on the justice and the clemency of the Divine government. Jesus Christ, on the contrary, was the distinguished Herald of this grand and interesting doctrine: he came from heaven on purpose to develope and illustrate it. It was his great business to reveal it more explicitly than it had been revealed in any previous age, and to place it in a point of view the most consistent with the character of Deity, and the most encouraging to the repenting sinner. This he effected, not only by his luminous instructions, but by his death, in

which he became a Propitiation for sin, to declare the righteousness of God, and to show that God might be just, and yet “the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” As this, therefore, was one of the principal objects for which the Son of God assumed “the likeness of sinful flesh," it was natural for him to introduce some notice of the blessing thus to be secured, in that prayer which he composed and recommended for the use of his followers.

By the term “ debts,” in our text, we are to understand offences committed against God. Agreeably to this, St. Luke writes,-“Forgive us our sins;" and St. Mark,-"Forgive us our trespasses.” These sins or trespasses are called debts, because, by the commission of them, we incur the penalty which Divine justice has annexed to the transgression of the law,-a penalty, the quality of which may be inferred from the tremendous declaration, "

“ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”

With respect to the latter clause of the text, -"as we forgive our debtors," which is employed as an argument, or plea, to enforce the petition, we may just observe, that it alludes chiefly, perhaps, to personal injuries, rather than to pecuniary obligations, the re mission of which, though proper in some in

« PreviousContinue »