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JOY IN HEAVEN:
PREACHED BEFORE THE GOVERNORS
LONDON FEMALE PENITENTIARY,
AT THE PARISH CHURCH OF
ST, ANTHOLIN, WATLING-STREET,
MAY 8, 1812 ;
BEING THEIR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY.
LUKE XV. 10.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth.
Events of various kinds occur on earth, which excite the boisterous joy of immense multitudes, throughout populous regions ; but, generally, that which causes joy in one country produces "mourn“ing, lamentation, and wo" in some neighbouring nation : nay, in most instances, it clothes no small number even in the joyous land with mourning, and pierces their hearts with anguish.
But the word of God informs us of one event, and only of one, which occurs on earth, that causes joy in heaven, and among all its holy and blessed inhabitants. No intimation is given, that the victories and triumphs, even of the most favoured nation; or the deliverance of any country from tyranny and oppression; or the civilization of barbarous countries ; or ameliorating the condition of any part of the human race, by wholesome laws, impartially executed; or even the progress of science or intellectual improvement; causes joy in all who value their reputation. Thus a sort of excommunication takes place, which is commonly considered as irrevocable. I am far from objecting to this measure: in the case now before us, it forms a proper and wholesome discipline to the offenders ; and a warning to others, suited to strengthen their purpose in the hour of temptation ; and it powerfully tends to preserve that invaluable treasure, female chastity. I only object to it, when considered as irrevocable by one party, and hopeless by the other. Let all endeavours be used to bring the criminal to repentance; and to “restore her “in the spirit of meekness:” and when it is rendered evident that repentance has taken place, by “works meet for repentance,” then let the excommunicatory sentence be disannulled.—“Sufficient “is this punishinent, which was inflicted of many: “ so that contrariwise, ye ought rather to forgive
her, and to comfort her; lest, perhaps, such a “one should be swallowed up of over-much sor
“Lest Satan should get an advantage “against us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 1
It would be well if impartiality were adhered to in this respect. But I am afraid it is too much even to be hoped for, that, in any circle, men convicted of seduction, or gross licentiousness, even far beyond what would deeply disgrace any female, should be frowned out of the company of men of character and virtue. Yet it is rather wonderful, that women of character and virtue do not exclude them, with decided disapprobation, similar to that which meets perhaps the very objects of their se
'2 Cor. vi. 11.
ductive arts. Scarcely any human means would so much tend to counteract the dire progress of licentiousness, as such a line of conduct adopted by all virtuous females. By an almost irreversible law of our nature, each sex desires to be, or to appear to be, what the other sex approves ; at least not to be what it shuns with contempt and aversion: and, did virtuous women shew decided disapprobation of licentious men, and exclude them from their society, in the same manner in which the dissolute of their own sex are excluded, the effect in reforming the morals of men, and consequently in stopping the progress of female profligacy would no doubt be very great, probably beyond our present conception.
But to return from this, I trust, not inappropriate digression, the evangelist says,
“ Then drew near " to Jesus, all the publicans and sinners for to hear “ him.” It does not appear that they came with any intention to deride, or to object : but to hear his gracious instructions; no doubt under some prevailing conviction, that he was “a teacher sent “ from God:” and that they themselves needed to be taught the way of salvation. “And the Scribes “ and Pharisees murmured, saying, This man re“ceiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” It was on this occasion that our Lord spoke those three parables of which the chapter consists.
In whatever manner some expressions in these parables may be interpreted by men of discordant sentiments, it is absolutely undeniable, that the repentance of such persons as the publicans and sinners whom the Scribes and Pharisees disdained,