ON THE MERCIFUL DEALINGS OF CHRIST OUR LORD WITH SINNERS
Consider first, how Christ our Lord, whilst he was here visible upon earth, was pleased in a particular manner to show favour and mercy to poor sinners, and to express on all occasions his loving kindness to them; insomuch that the Scribes and Pharisees, (who being full of a conceit of their own justice, despised sinners, and kept them at a distance, saying, ‘Depart from me, come not near me, because thou art unclean,’ Isaias lxv. 5,) were ever objecting to this merciful Lord, that he suffered sinners to draw near unto him; that he received sinners, and did eat with them; that he was a friend to publicans and sinners, &c. Unhappy men, who did not understand that his infinite mercy and charity had bought him down from heaven on purpose to seek and to save sinners! And still more unhappy, in proudly thinking themselves to be just, and not sinners; and therefore rejecting him who came ‘not to call the just, but sinners,’ Matt. ix. 13, vainly imagining they had no need of him. Christians, see here and admire, embrace and love, the great mercy of your redeemer, and how much soever you may be involved in sin, assure yourselves that he is eve ready to receive you, if you will repent in a proper manner and return to him. But O, beware of the blindness of the Pharisees, and of a vain conceit of your own justice! For the first step towards your obtaining mercy must be an humble sense of your sins, and of the great need you have of mercy.
Consider 2ndly, the many instances recorded in the gospel of this merciful disposition of Christ our Lord in favour of sinners. As in his calling them to him, Matt. xi. 28, and even making them his disciples – as in the case of Matthew, &c. – and his frequently conversing most familiarly with them. To which add those remarkable examples of Magdalene, Luke vii.; of the Samaritan woman, John iv.; of the woman taken in adultery, John viii.; of the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv.; of Zacheus, Luke xix.; and of the thief upon the cross, Luke xxiii. And as both in his life and at his death, so after his resurrection also, he gave the like proofs of his loving kindness and his tender mercies to sinners, in the favour he showed both to Magdalene and to Peter, (who had so lately denied him,) by making to them his first visits after his rising from the dead. O! what encouragements are here, O my soul, for us to look for the like mercy from this same Lord, who is still as rich in mercy as ever. But then we must remember to go to him with the like dispositions of faith and repentance, love and humility, as these happy penitents did; and to take care, like them, to return no more to our sins.
Consider 3rdly, the parables by which our Lord has shown forth to us, in a most lively manner, his infinite goodness and mercy to poor sinners; as for instance, that of the good shepherd, Luke xv., who having lost one of his sheep, leaves the rest of his flock, and goes in quest of that which is lost, and ceases not to seek it till he has found it; and when he has found it, lays it upon his shoulders with joy, and coming hoe, calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying: ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In like manner, that of the charitable Samaritan, who showed such tender mercy to the man that had fallen among thieves; and that of the father of the prodigal child, who received so kindly and lovingly his ungracious son, returning home to him. In all which, my soul, thou mayest see a lively and a lovely image of that tender mercy, compassion, and goodness which thy redeemer has so often exercised and continues daily to exercise in favour of sinners. But what can he think too much, that he does for them for whom he has even shed the last drop of his blood? O blessed be his mercy for poor sinners! Ah, my soul were it not for these wonders of his mercy, we should long since have dwelt in hell!
Conclude to lay hold of this mercy of thy Saviour whilst thou hast time, by turning thyself away from all thy sins, from this very hour, and running to this Father of mercies, and dedicating thyself eternally to his service. For why shouldst thou any longer abuse his goodness and love by obstinacy in sin; or run the risk of provoking his justice to revenge upon thee the contempt of his mercy.