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to come before their God, they dare not lift their eyes to heaven: 'Can it be,' they are ready to ask, Can it be that God will look on creatures so vile?'
Let such note well,
2. The command, conveyed in the message of God to Israel; it is this, “ Return, return ye backsliding children.”
Stay not at a distance. Hesitate no more. Fear not to draw nigh. It is guilt that makes you tremble. It is guilt that makes you dread to approach. It is guilt that suggests the doubt whether your God will look on you again. Away with these guilty apprehensions and suspicions. I bid you return. Come, come back, unto me; your God I am still ; yes your compassionate God. I am waiting to be gracious: “I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever." So speaks Jehovah to his repenting Israel. And so, thou burdened, contrite, trembling, penitent, He speaks to thee. “I will arise and go to my father,” said the poor weeping prodigal when he came to himself, “ and I will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him," and restored him at once to his home. What means this beautiful picture familiar to all our minds ? What is it but Christ's own illustration of the blessed truth that to every
backslidden, but now repenting soul, this is the word the Lord hath spoken, “Return, fear not, I will in no wise cast thee out."
And it is needful to cherish in our minds this feature in the character of our God, this readiness on his part to receive again those who had forsaken him. For a guilty heart is full of suspicion, and full of fear : and that liar, the devil, always will whisper, aye, more than whisper to the heart of an awakened sinner who would fain come home to God, that it is a fruitless hope : “No,' saith that foul fiend, the door is shut, thy sins have been too great, mercy there is none for thee.' And the trembling conscience is too ready to believe this.
Brethren, is any one of you harassed by such thoughts as these? Resist the devil. It is the devil, not thy God, that bids thee fear. 'Tis Satan saith “ despair.” God saith “ return.” Which wilt thou listen to ?
Come then, sinner, come at thy Father's call. Own to him all thy sin. Cast thyself upon his faithfulness. Open thy heart to Him in prayer. Implore of Him pardoning mercy and renewing grace. He commands thee to draw nigh, and He cannot, would not send thee now away. But hear again his own words. Notice,
3. The promise accompanying the command to return : “ I will heal your backslidings.”
'I will restore you,' and how? How does God recover sinful souls? How does He remedy the evil which sin has wrought ? We answer that it is by a full and free forgiveness. This it is that heals. Let a sinner know indeed that God, for his dear Son's sake, hath put away all his sin, and given him peace and everlasting life, will that man go back to sin ? Can he love it ? Will he find delight in that which his merciful Father abhors ? On the contrary, will he not rather henceforward desire to yield up himself to the service of that gracious Lord who hath so loved and saved him?
Most beautifully is this recovering power of pardoning love set forth in another place, where the Lord by his prophet Hosea again declares of his people, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away:” and what follows as the result of this ? “ Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols ? "
See then, penitent offender, abundant reason why thou shouldst come to taste the goodness of thy God. It is by that goodness, his forgiving mercy, that He will subdue in thee the power of sin, and establish his “ law of liberty" within thy soul.
Thou sayest, "wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? ” The Lord himself replies, “Sin shall not have dominion over you:
for why ? “ Ye are under grace.” Grace, free pardoning grace in Christ Jesus, this shall break the chain of sin, animate the soul for holiness, and give a power to run the way of God's commandments.
Christians, you have found it so. How has sin been crucified in you? How has holy love been awakened ? What has been the healing medicine for your sinful and diseased souls ? Saith every heart among you, O, the Lord hath shewn to me his wondrous redemption ; that has healed my backslidings, set me free from guilt, and so delivered me from sin. I have health and cure ; I walk in newness of life. Then, mourning penitents, you who long for this healing, behold God saith, return; come to his feet, and the blessing shall be yours. now ?
What say you to your God? We will pass at once to the remainder of our text : for there,
What say you
II. We read in few words. THE REPLY THE REPENTING PEOPLE ISRAEL TO JEHOVAH's CALL,
“ Behold! we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God."
“We come,” trusting thy word, believing thy promise, relying on thy love. “We come,” for healing grace.
" We come " for restoration to thy ways.
We come to be henceforward thine. "O Lord, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us, but by Thee,” even by thy grace,“ will we make mention of thy name; we confess Thee only as our God, and surrender ourselves to thy will.'
So speak, I trust, the heart of many here. We have described their past, their present state ? They have been backsliding children. They are now repenting. They fain would come back to God. They have feared to do so.
But they hear this day his voice; it saith, “ return.” And
while that good and gracious word is sounding on the ear, they feel the rising resolution ; their souls are moved ; it is the Holy Spirit operating in their hearts ; they think they can trust, yea they feel that they do trust, the word the Lord has spoken. “We come,” they cry,
““behold we come, we come unto Thee, Thou most merciful Father, we believe thy love, we resign ourselves to thy will ; from this time forth we would be only thine. Thou art the Lord our God."
Beloved brethren, I pray that such may be the language of every individual among us. For it is the language of faith, it is the language of obedience, and it betokens the passing of a soul from death unto life.
We say it is the language of faith. The man who speaks thus, is one whom the Holy Spirit, having first convinced him of his sin, is leading unto Christ, and through Christ to God. He is one who believes the record of the love of God in the gospel of his Son. That gospel tells him that there is mercy for him, mercy for the sake of a dying Redeemer, mercy through the merit of an everliving Intercessor, and he credits the assurance given him. “Behold," he saith, “I come, my God, in and through thy Son, my adorable Saviour, and I do believe, that for his sake, Thou hast pardoned me, and taken me for thine own, and that Thou wilt ever henceforward be the Lord
God." It is the language of obedience too. It is the renewal of the covenant. It is the confession, 'Lord, I have too long forgotten Thee, and all