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posely sought for objects the most undeserving on which to exercise beneficence: that in ages to come, God might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Jesus Christ, and that, for the encouragement of the indigent supplicant at his throne, it might appear, in every generation, that the unsearchable riches of his grace are treasures which no poverty can exhaust, and which divine fidelity itself stands pledged never to withhold.
“Such was the beneficent design of God, and such is the salutary genius of the gospel. Delightful, ravishing truth! enough, one would think, to make the brow of melancholy wear a smile.
The blessings of grace were never designed to distinguish the worthy, or to reward merit; but to relieve the wretched, and save the desperate. These are the patentees in the heavenly grant. Yea, they have an exclusive right. For, as to all those who imagine themselves to be the better sort of people"; who depend on their own duties; and plead their own worthiness; who are not willing to stand on a level with publicans and harlots ; Christ has nothing to do with them, nor the gospel any thing to say to them. As they are too proud to live upon alms, or to be entirely beholden to sovereign grace for all their salvation; so they must not take it amiss, if they have not the least assistance from that quarter. They appeal to the law, and by it they must stand or fall.'
The divine conduct, in saving sinners, has ever been an occasion of stumbling to the selfrighteous moralist. This was strikingly exemplified during the life and ministry of our blessed Lord. His compassionate regard to those whom the scribes and pharisees considered as the refuse of the people, was always objected to his mission and his character. He was contemptuously called, a friend of publicans and sinners.' It was said, in a way of reproach, ‘he receiveth sinners and eateth with them—He is gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner:' and when the infamous
prostitute came to Jesus as he sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, and began to wash his feet with tears, and to wipe them with the hairs of her head, he that invited him spake within himself, saying, this man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner-How is it, was the inquiry, that your master eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
The deportment of the pharisees was very different from the conduct of those whom they denominated sinners: for these, it is pretty evident, were notoriously abandoned, even to a proverb. . The pharisees imagined that the moral qualifications which they possessed ought, when contrasted with the character of those profligates with whom Jesus-was familiar, to have secured them peculiar marks of favour and attachment. They argued, as all men naturally do, on a supposition that some sort of worthiness in the sinner must be the ground of divine approbation, and the only means by which that approbation can consistently be enjoyed. They were, in scripture language, whole. They did not consider themselves as diseased, and, of course, felt no need of a physician.
But so far was our blessed Lord from considering the objections brought against the publicans and sinners a just reason for treating them with abhorrence or neglect, that he made the very objection itself an argument for paying them particular attention. He tacitly admitted the truth of what the pharisees allèged, and vindicated the propriety of his conduct on their own principles. You pronounce, as if he had said, and it is granted, that these men are extremely wicked ; that they are lost, as to themselves, and abandoned by reputable society; and this charge they do not pretend to deny, nor yet attempt to palliate their crimes ; surely, therefore, if any persons upon earth be completely wretched, these are the men. Your own assertions compel you to admit that they stand in need of commisseration and relief; and that, if divine mercy be not gratuitously conferred, they must inevitably perish. In rescuing them from perdition, therefore, I am only doing what you, in other cases, would both commend and imitate. For what man among you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which was lost, until he find it ? Either, what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?' Now, I have publickly and repeatedly declared that I am come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is my errand ; and therefore you must allow that, if there be any consistency between my pretensions and my conduct, these publicans and sinners are the very persons whom I ought to save ; and that, instead of attempting to avoid intercourse with them, it is rather my duty to promote it: for the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick-I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance : and where should the physician be found but among them that are diseased ?-or with whom should the Saviour associate, but with those whom he came purposely to save ?