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steemed among men, when weighed in the
balances of the sanctuary, will be found
wanting. Conscious of guilt, covered with
shame, and stripped of every selt-righteous
plea ; if your eyes are indeed opened, in-
stead of the boasting language of the Pha-
risee, you will be disposed to cry with the
Pu})lican, God be merciful to me a sinner !
You will join with the prophet in acknow-
ledging, we are all before thee as an un-
clean thing, and all our righteousnesses are
as Jill hf/ rags ; and pray with the Psalmist,
Enter not into judgment with thy servant,
O God ; for in tJiy sight can 'no flesh liv-
ing he justifed.

Such then is the character of the persons
whom Christ came to save.

2. His design in coming into the worlds
is to bring such to repentance.

To call sinners to repentance! — what a
noble and glorious design ! how w^orthy of
the Son of God ! and how admirably adapt-

kkR. 6. BENEVOLENCE. l6l

ed to our circumstances, as guilty, deprav-
ed, and ruined creatures ! To raise the poor
out of the dust, and to lift the needy fi^om
the dung-hill, to set them with princes, even
with the princes of his people ; to restore
immortal creatures, formed originally after,
the image, and designed for the service and
glory of their Creator ; endowed with powers
and capacities which assimilate them to an-
gels, the highest orders of intelligent beings ;
but fallen from their primitive dignity, lost
to every thing excellent and praise-worthy,
and sunk, by low earthly pursuits, to a level
with the brutes that perish — to restore such,
I say, to their original glory and felicity, to
bring them back to the favour and enjoy-
ment of their Maker, to inspire their souls
with the love of God and of goodness, to
render them happy in their own minds, and
blessings to all around them ; and, finally,
to prepare them for higher services^ and
nobler enjoyments in the heavenly world,-
where sin, and all the effects of it shall be
for ever done away— these are the great and
glorious objects which the gospel proposes ;
and these objects it never fails to accom-

162 CIIiilSTlAN SEK.6.

plish in all those who are brought under its

To call sinners to repentance, is here said
to be the great design of Christ's coming in-
to the world ; because repentance is the first
step of the sinner's recovery to God ; ex-
pressing in general, that blessed change
which takes place in his mind, when, de-
livered from the power of darkness, he is
iranslated into the kingdom of God's dear
Son. Genume repentance is always accom-
panied with a living faith in the gospel. It
naturally ffows from it, and is maintained
and cherished in the soul by those awful,
yet pleasing discoveries of the character of
God which the gospel exhibits. Looking
on him whom we have pierced by our trans-
gressions, we learn, not only to mourn, but
to hate and forsake those sins, to atone for
the guilt of which, the Lord of life and glo-
ry suffered and died.

Such, in general is the nature of true re-
pentance — of that repentance which Jesus
is exalted as a Prince and Saviour to be-


stow. Tlie effects produced by it are such
as evidently prove it to be the work of God.
The man who before was a slave to divers
lusts and pleasures, carried into every kind
of wickedness by his own headstrong and
unruly passions, and led captive by the de-
vil at his will, is now brought into the glo-
rious liberty of the children of God. Being
made free hy the Son of God^ he is free in-
deed. Before this time, perhaps, he fre-
quently attempted to break the chains in
which he was bound. Tasting the bitter-
ness of iniquity, perceiving the ruinous ef-
fects of indulged vicious habits on his health,
his fortune, or his character, he often re-
solved that he would no longer pursue the
paths which lead down to the chambers of
death. But, alas ! the force of temptation
soon overpowered the strength of his resolu-
tions. Now, however, a most astonishing
change is felt. What all the wit and wis-
dom of man, the rules of philosophy, the
lessons of morality, and his own most vigo-
rous purposes and endeavours never could
effect, the power of the gospel has accom-
plished. It has subdued the most invete-

164 CHRISTIAN SEll. tf.

rate habits of sin, conquered the most un-
governable passions, and changed the very
picture of the devil into the lovely image of
God. Old things are passed azvay^ and all
things are become new. The drunkard ber
comes sober, the unclean person chaste, the
profane swearer devout, the covetous man
liberal, and the proud self-righteous Phari-
see a humble believer in the grace of the
gospel. The power of sin is destroyed ; its
dominion in the soul is overthrown ; and
the true penitent begins to hate those things
which formerly he loved, and to love and
delight in those things which before were
the objects of his strongest aversion.

The call to repentance is addressed to
sinners universally, without exception ; for
God hath commanded all men every where
to repent. The most moral, respectable,
and amiable of mankind, cannot be saved
without it ; and the most guilty, worthless,
and abandoned of our fellow-creatures, will
not be rejected if truly possessed of it.
Know ye not., says the apostle, (1 Cor. vi.
9—11.) that the unrighteous shall not in^.


herit the kingdom of God. Be not deceive
ed ; neither fornicators^ nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor ahitsers of
themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of
God, Persons of the characters here de-
scribed, who hve and die impenitent, are e-
ridently excluded from any inheritance in
the kingdom of Christ and of God. But
the apostle adds. And such were some of
you ; hut ye are ze^ashed, hut ye are sancti-
fied, hut ye are justified, in the name of the
Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The scripture abounds with instances of
some of the greatest sinners who have ob-
tained mercy. At present I shall select two,
which appear peculiarly well suited to the
occasion of our meeting. The first is the
instance of Zaccheus, who, from a rapacious
publican, became a genuine disciple of
Christ. This man, it should seem, from
niere motives of curiosity, climbed up into
a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was to
pass that way. Judge how great his sur-
prise must have been, when Jesus coining to

166 ' CnillSTIAN' SER. 6.

the place where he was, looked up, and like
one who had long been acquainted with
him, addressed him in these words : Zacche-
nSy make haste and come down ; for to-day
I must abide at thy house. The word of
Christ was accompanied with power ; for at
once Zaccheus obeyed the Saviour's call, and
received him joyfully, not only into his
house, but his heart. And as an evidence
of the happy change which divine grace had
wrought in the disposition of his mind, he
declares, Behold, Lord^ the half of my
goods I give to the poor ; and if I have ta-
ken any thing from any man by false accu^
sation^ I restore him fourfold. The other
instance of the Saviour's power and grace,
not less remarkable than the former, is
that of the woman which was a sinner,
who came with an alabaster box of oint-
ment into the house of one Simon a Phari-
see, where Jesus sat at meat, and began to
wash his feet with her tears, and to wipe
them with the hairs of her head, and to a-
noint them with the ointment. Simon, per-
ceiving this, wondered how our Lord could
allow a woman which was a dinner, that ia^


one who had formerly been of a notorious-
ly bad character, to approach him. But
instead of treating this poor weeping peni-
tent with cruel disdain ; instead of thrusting
her away from his presence as unworthy of
his regard, saying, Stand bj/, for I am ho-
lie?' than thou, — the compassionate Redeem-
er vindicates her cause, reproves the self-
righteous Pharisee, relieves her anxious mind
with the gracious assurances of pardon ; and
declares, that because much had been for-
given her, therefore she loved much.

Here let it be observed, how vastly they
mistake the nature of the doctrine of grace,,
and misrepresent its genuine tendency, who
consider it as injurious to the interests of
morality. Did the gospel indeed give any
encouragement to sinners continuing in sin,
and determined to hold fast their trans-
gressions ; did it flatter them with the hopes
of impunity in a course of iniquity ; or lead
them to expect the enjoyment of future
happiness in the neglect of that holiness,
without which, no man shall see the Lord —
then the charge would be just, and to preach



the doctrine bf free ^race and justification
by faith alone, would be not only dansjerous
to Society, but ruinous to the souls of men.
But is not the very reverse of all this the
truth ? Is it not the professed design of the'
gospel to call sinners to repentance ? Ha?;
not God the Father, having raised up ]ii>i
Son Jesus, sent him to bless us, by turning
azQay every one of us from his iniquities ?
And does not the grace of God, which
bringcth salvation, teach men, that, deny-
ing!; ungodliness and zi^orldly lusts, they
should live soberly, righteously, and godly
m the world ? The gospel, it is true, gives
encouragement to the greatest sinners : — :
But what kind of encouragement? Docs it
encourage to sin, because grace abounds ;
or afford the least ground to hope, that at
any future period by confessing our sins,
and imploring mercy in the name of Christ,
we may obtain pardon ? No. On the con-
trary, it strongly urges the danger of delay,
and removes the chief ground of presump-
tion, by assuring us, that repentance is not
in our own power, but tho gift of God. It
reveals the pardoning love of God as an en-i

SEii. 6. BE]srEvoLE:NrcE. 169

couragement to instant, speedy, immediate
repentance. The language of the gospel is,
Behold, now is the accepted time ; behold^
now is the day of salvation. Seek ye the
Lord while he may he found, call ye upon
him while he is near. Let the wicked for-
sake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord,
and he will have mercy upon him ; and to
our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Having thus endeavoured to illustrate the
great pattern of Christian benevolence ex-
hibited by Christ himself, who came not to
call the righteous, but sinners to repent-
ance, I come now, as was proposed,

II. To point out the influence which this
consideration ouo-ht to have in leading us to
shew mercy to our fellow sinners.

Lut go ye and learn what that meaneth,
I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. In
these words, our Lord refers to a passage
in the prophecies of Hosea, (chap. vi. 6.) For
J desired mercy, and not sacrifice : to



which allusion is made more than once in
the New Testament. The meaning of the
words, in connection with the passage be-
fore us, is plainly this, that mercy to the
souls of men is far more acceptable and
pleasing to God, than the strictest regard to
mere outward observances, where the Spi-
rit of true religion is wanting;. In all asres
men have been exceedingly prone to sub-
stitute the form, in place of the power of
godliness, by a rigorous adherence to the
mere external parts of worship, or even
sometimes to their own vain traditions ;
while they have omitted the weightier mat-
ters of the lazi\ judgment^ mercy ^ and
faith. Such would do well to consider the
meaning of this scripture, and, in general,
the end of the commandment ; which is,
charity^ out of a pure heart, and of a good
conscience, and of faith unfeigned.

Upon this part of the subject a variety
of considerations press upon our minds.
But not to fatigue your attention, I shall on-
ly mention the two following :


1. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by coming in-
to the world to call sinners to repentance,
hath taught us the unspeakable value of the

souls of men Surely those souls, to redeem

which the Son of God became an inhabi-
tant of our guilty world, and submitted to
the most awful and excruciatinir sufFerinos,
must be infinitely precious in the sight of
God. If we estimate the value of any thing
from the regard that is paid to it by wise
and capable judges, what shall we think of
the value of a single immortal soul, ransom-
ed at such a price, and saved from everlast-
ing destruction, by such a variety of asto-
nishing means ? Well might the great
Preacher of righteousness say. What shall
it profit a 7nan, if he shall gain the zn'hole
world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a
77ian give in exchange for his soul 9 Suppose
a man possessed of the whole world, of all its
honours, riches, and pleasures ; yet what a
poor compensation were these for the loss
of an immortal soul ! " The eternal salva-
" tion of one soul,'' says an excellent author,
" is of greater importance than the temporal

" salvation of a whole kingdom or empire for



' ten thousand ages, or indeed for any given
' duration of time ; because there will come
' up a point in eternity, when that one soul
' ^A'ill have existed as many ages as all the
' indi\iduals of a kingdom, ranged in close
' succession, will altogether have existed at
' that given period. Therefore one soul is
' capable of a larger share of happiness or
' misery, to an endless duration, than all
' the inhabitants of a whole kinadom are
' capable of in ten thousand ages/' — Shall
ve not then, Brethren, in the diiierent sta-
tions in which providence hath placed us,
account it our highest honour and privilege
to be workers together with God, in promot-
ing the salvation of immortal souls ? espe-
cially when I add,

2. That our Lord Jesus Christ, by his
example, as well as doctrine, hath taught us,
that none of our fellow-sinners are beyond
the reach of mercy The gracious Redeem-
er, as we have had occasion to observe, was
not ashamed to be called^ tJie Friend of
jxublicaus and sinners. While he boldly
reproved vice of every kind, and, in his own


character, was hoh/, harmless, undefiled,
and separate from shmers, he scrupled not
to converse with persons of every descrip-
tion, with a view to their instruction and re-
formation, that he misrht reclaim sinners
from the error of their way, and turii the
disobedient to the zdsdom of the just. In
this, as in other respects, he hath left us an
example that we should follozD his steps.
He hath taught us not to overlook or de-
spise any of our fellow-sinners,, however far
they may have erred from the right path ;
but, while we hold their crimes in just
abhorrence, and keep at a distance from
their abominable practices, to shew pity to
their souls, by employing all the means in
our power to lead them to repentance, that
they may recover themselves out of the
snare of the devil, who are taken captive by
him at his will.

Upon these principles, and with these
great and important objects in view, the
Philanthropic Society of Edinburgh
has been formed ; at whose request I now
address you. It took its rise from the pious


and successful endeavours of a few indivi-
duals, to recover, from their wretched course
of life, some of tlie convicts in bridewell, who
seemed not altogether indisposed to listen
to instruction. The good effects attending
these endeavours, suggested the idea of in-
stituting a Society, for the purpose of in-
structing, and attempting to reclaim the
criminal and profligate, whei'ever there
might appear any reasonable prospect of
effecting this salutary object ; and this sug-
gestion, dictated by true Christian benevo-
lence, meeting with every possible counte-
nance and encouragement from the Honour-
able Magistrates of this city, and others of
the most respectable character, led to the
adoption of those measures which have been
already laid before the Public.

It is not my intention at present, to enter
into a detail of the wretched circumstances
of that miserable class of our fellow-crea-
tures, for whose benefit this Society has been
instituted. Alas ! their condition is too
well known to stand in need of any descrip-
tion ; nor, supposing it needful, would such


a description be in all respects proper from
this place. Suffer me only to observe, tliat
the alarming progress of vice and profligacy
in this city, has, of late years, greatly en-
creased the number of those unhappy crea-
tures, who, sunk in sin, and lost to shame,
infest our streets. To check, in some mea-
sure, this growing evil, it has been found
necessary, within this short time, to erect a
Bridewell, where criminals of different de-
scriptions are adjudged to labour and con-
finement; the happy effects of which, in
promoting the peace and good order of the
community, are doubtless considerable.
But still something was wanting to give this
wise and salutary institution its full effect.
Among the criminals brought into this si-
tuation, there are some not so hardened in
vice as others, who have been so far influ-
enced, by the discipline and instruction re-
ceived during their confinement, as to ex-
press an earnest wish to leave off their vi-
cious practices, were the least encourage-
ment given, or any means provided, that
might enable them to procure, after their
liberation, proper protection, or a decent


livelihood. But to what hand can they
look for such encouragement or protection ?
Abandoned by the reputable part of Socie-
ty, unpitied by their cruel seducers, who
hare been the chief instruments of their
ruin ; the objects of general disgust and a-
version, without a single friend or guardian,
and surrounded only by their former com-
panions in A ice — what is to be expected,
but that they will return to their former,
profligate courses, and become twofold more
the children of hell than they were before ?

A small degree of attention to these cir-
cumstances, must, I think, convince every
feeling and unprejudiced mind, not only of
the utility, but absolute necessity of such
an institution as the Philanthropic So-
ciety, where an asylum is provided for
such of those poor forlorn fellow-creatures as,
having forsaken the guide of their youth,
and for gotten the covenant of their God, are
convinced of the evil of their ways, and
sincerely desirous to return to the paths of
religion and virtue. In the prosecution of
this benevolent design, the Society, though

SEn. 6. BUJ^EVOLENCE. j'^f

Still in its infancy, have reason to hope theiB
(endeavours have already iDcen blest with
success. In the house which they lately
procured for the greater convenience of su-
perintending those under their charge, there
are at present seven, and it is expected that
a few more will soon be admitted. Two,
under the protection of the Society, are now
in service, and doing well : other applica-
tions for this purpose have been made ; bul:
the directors judge it expedient to refuse
such applications till they have had an op-
portunity of making full proof of their sin-
cerity, and dali with confidence recommend
them to families. It is almost unnecessary
to say,' that the strictest attention is paid
by the Society, to the health, morals, and
proper behaviour of those immediately un-
der their care. Above all, it is their chief
object to inform their mindsj by instructing
them in the great principles and duties of
the Christian religion, from a full and deep
persuasion that many of them are destrbij-
ed for lack of knowledge; and that it is
the gospel of Jesus Christ alone, understood
and felt in its genuine influence, that cai>


176 CinilSTIAN SER. 6.

effectually cure the depravity of the human
heart, or lay a foundation for good conduct
in the various stations and relations of life.

It is enough, I hope, simply to have stat-
ed these facts. With the wise and discern-
ing, they will plead more strongly than the
most laboured address to the feelings. Let
me only add, that, without the immediate
and liberal aid of the Public, the benevo-
lent designs of the Society must fall to the
irround. Hitherto, on account of the scan-
tiness of their funds, they have been obli-
ged to act upon a very limited scale ; but
by the assistance of the friends of religion
and humanity, with the blessing of God,
they fondly flatter themselves, they will soon
be enabled to extend their labours ; and
that, to meet with general countenance and
approbation, the object of the Piiilan-
TH none Society only needs to be known.

Even in a political point of view, the ob-
ject of this Society is of no small import-
ance. If their exertions should produce no
other effect, it must be allowed, at least,


that their tendency is highly conducive to
the welfare of the community, and the tem-
poral happiness of individuals. At all times,
but especially in such time* as the present,
when increasing impiety and profligacy,
threaten the dissolution of all estabhsh-
ed order, to lessen the number of pub-
lic pests and nuisances, and to restore
them as valuable members to society, is
surely doing a most essential service to the
state, and must meet with the countenance
and support of ev'ery man who wishes well
to his country.

But this, it is to be hoped, will not be all
the fruit of their labours. There is a con-
sideration of infinitely higher moment, which
will be felt by those who are actuated by
the spirit of true Christian benevolence.
Jesus Cjarist, who came into the world, not
to call the righteous, but sinners to repent-
ance, and who went about doing good, hath
enjoined on his followers the exercise of
mercy to the souls of men ; and taught us,
by his own example, the extent of this com-
passion. Here is the noblest field for exer


tion ; the most delightful service in which
any of the friends of Jesus can be employ-
ed. Christians, do we stand so much in
need of mercy from him whom we daily of-
fend ?— and shall we refuse to shew the like
mercy to our fellow-sinners ? Hath God, for
Christ's sake, forgiven its all oar trespass-
es ? — and shall not the love of Christ con-
strain us to shew pity to our brethren who
are perishing around us? Who maketh us to
differ from others ? and what have we that
2&e have not received ? and if we have re-
ceived it, why should we glory as if we had
not received it ? Grace — free, sovereign,
unmerited grace, is the cause, and the only
cause of the difference betwixt one sinner
and another. And if, hy the grace of God,
st'e are what we are, why should we des-
pair of any of our fellow-sinners ? Why
^.should we Hmit the power and mercy of
the Holy One of Israel, or cease to employ
the most likely means for bringing the stout
hearted and rebellious, who are far from
righteousness, to the belief and obedience
of the truth, that they may be as brandy
plucked out of the fire '^ Great are th«


compassions of our heavenly Father ; won^-
derful the patience and grace of our loving
Redeemer! Wherefore, my beloved Breth-
ren, be ye followers of God, as clear chil-
dren ; be merciful, as your Father also is
merciful ; devise liberal things, and let the
blessing of them that are ready to perish
come upon you.

And you, my respected Friends, who are
more immediately engaged in this labour
of love, continue your exertions with unre-
mitting dihgence and alacrity : cry mighti-
ly to God for the influences of liis Spirit to
accompany all your endeavours ; nor be dis-
couraged though you should meet with dis-
appointment, and fmd reason to change your
opinion of many of those, concerning whom
you may have once entertained good hope.
Such disappointments are by no means un-
common : Remember the work is the Lord's,
and not yours ; for though Paul may plant,
and Apollos water, it is God that giveth
the increase. If your exertions fail in some
instances, they may succeed in others ; and
,lhe salvation of one soul (if but one), howr


ever little it may be considered in the eyes
of the world, will be found at last an abun-
dant recom pence for the labours of a life-
time ; for he which converteth a sinner from
the error of his way, shall save a soul from
death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.



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Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 9 of 23)