« PreviousContinue »
never said to any of the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain. And this leads me to the
II. Thing proposed, which was to recommend the example of these penitents described in the text to your imitation. In the
1st place, then, Let me call upon you to remember your ways. The neglect of serious consideration is the ruin of almost every soul that perisheth eternally. Hence it is that we continue in our sins, and that we relapse alter having forsaken them; that we decline from our religious attainments, and being again entangled in the pollutions of the world, that our last state becomes worse than our first. All these evils flow from a thoughtless unreflecting life. A great part of mankind pass their days in a course of perpetual dissipation, without once re. flecting on their actions, until the near view of an eternal world awakens them from this fatal security. Then, indeed, the case is extremely altered then the remembrance of his ways forceth itself upon the sinner-then he sees his error, and lament bis folly, and prays for mercy, and even asks the prayers of those whom once he derided as precise and fanatical. He would not re. fect upon the great truths of religion while he might have done it to a good purpose. Now he reflects, and reflects at leisure; but it is a cruel leisure, for the fruits of it are perplexity and dismay.
God is represented, by the prophet Jeremiah, as putting this question, "Why is the people of Jerusalem slidden back with a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return." Jer. vii. 5. The answer is given in the following verse, “ I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?” The consequence of which was, “ Every one turned to his course,
as the horse rusheth into the battle.” Whereas, did we seriously ask ourselves that important question, What have we done? we would soon discover so much guilt in our doings, as to be compelled to ask ourselves another question, What shall I do to be saved?
Let me then prevail with you seriously and impartial. | ly to examine your past conduct. Consider what hath
been the prevailing course of your life; and rest not satisfied with a general conviction that it hath been wrong, but labour to recollect as many passages of it as you can. Review all its different periods since you came to the years of understanding. Consider the various relations in which you have been placed, the special duties which arose from those relations, and the manner in which you bave performed them. This will be a task displeasing indeed to the flesh, and mortifying to the natural pride of your hearts. But you must not hearken to these pernicious counsellors. The more they cry out, Forbear, the more resolutely must you persist. Charge your consciences with it as a religious duty, and implore the Holy Spirit of God to assist your endeavours. When by such means you have discovered your own evil ways, then proceed to consider attentively the nature and degree of that evil wbich is in them. Let it not suffice to know that you have been sinners, without pondering the dreadful malignity and demerit of sin. View it in its natural tarpitude and deformity, as the plague and leprosy of the soul, which renders you loathsome and abominable in the sight of your Maker. View it as a daring act of rebellion against the most righteous authority, as the transgression of a law which is in all respects holy, just, and good; the precepts of which are not only reasonable in themselves, but also most kind and salutary to us. View it as the basest ingratitude towards your best and
most unwearied benefactor. View it, above all, in the severity of the punishment which it deserves, exemplified in those mysterious and inconceivable sufferings which the Son of God underwent to expiate its guilt.
See here, O sinner, the awful demerit of thy transgressions. Thou wast doomed to the wrath of God, and to everlasting banishment from his presence; and thou wast not only incapable to deliver thyself by any works or sufferings of thy own, but all the angels in heaven could not have offered a price that would have ransomed thy perishing soul. None else could pay thy debt but the Son of God, and even he could pay it in no other way than by suffering the penalty which thou hadst incurred. O how hateful doth sin appear when viewed in this light! Adam's expulsion from paradise, the deluge of the ancient world, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, loudly proclaim its pernicious nature and heinous demerit. We feel it to be burtful in the natural evils of sickness and pain to which it bath subjected us. Death, which is its wages, is an awful monitor of its malignant effects. It appears terrible in the worm that never dieth, and in that fire that is not quenched. But no where doth it appear so deformed and odious as in the sufferings and death of Christ; for how deep must that stain have been, which nothing could wash away but the blood of the Son of God! How deadly that disease which no other medicine could cure!
But as these considerations are applicable to all sios in common, it will be necessary, in order to your forming a just estimate of your own evil ways, to look more narrowly into the aggravating circumstances with which they have been attended.
Have not many of your transgressions been committed with knowledge and deliberation, nay, with artifice and cunning? Have they not cost you no small degrees of study, before those desires which lust conceived were accomplished in actual sin? Have you not courted temptation, and wearied yourselves with committing iniqui. ty ? Consider what degrees of resistance from your own minds you have vanquished; what obstacles in Provi. dence you have overcome; what strivings of the Holy Spirit you have defeated in the course of your transgressions. Nay, have not some of your sins been still more aggravated by the breach of express vows and resolutions against them, often repeated with the greatest solemnity? Hide not your eyes from any of these aggravating circumstances which have attended your offences. Every sin which you wilfully cover, or extenuate, will thereby gain an invincible addition of strength. Every lust which you conceal in your bosom, will become a viper which one day will sting you to the heart. Every good disposition, which you magnify, shall languish and pine away; and those treasures of grace, with which the humble are enriched, shall be of no advantage to you, till you feel
your poverty and wretchedness. Let me therefore call on you to exercise the
2d Branch of repentance, which is here exemplified to us, viz. Loathing yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. And say, 0 sinner, is there not cause for this? Dost thou loatb that which is deformed and filthy ? 6 We are all," saith the prophet Isaiah, “as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." Thou art displeased with thine enemies who seek to injure thee; but where is there such an enemy as thou art to tbyself?
Men may wrong thee in thy temporal interests, but no man, nay, no created being, can ruin thy soul without thine own concurrence. It is thou, and none else, that hast wounded thy conscience, and thrown away thy peace, and exposed thy soul to everlasting misery. Thou abborrest him who hath killed thy dearest friend; but where hadst thou ever such a friend as the Lord Je. sus Christ, whom, by thy sins, thou hast crucified and slain? Thy sins brought him down from heaven to earth; thy sins subjected him to poverty, persecution, and reproach; thy sins involved him in conflicts dreadful and unutterable, nailed him to the cross, and laid bim low in the grave. By thy sins thou hast often trampled on his blood, crucified him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Is there not cause then to loath thyself in thine own sight for thine iniquities and for thine abominations? But as there are several counterfeits of this penitent disposition, it may be proper to mention a few
a of them, that you may have a clearer view of that selfloathing which I am desirous of recommending to you.
A man who, by his base, unwortby behaviour, has forfeited the esteem of the world, may feel much inward shame and uneasiness on that account, which may be mistaken by others, and even by himself, for true humi. liation. And yet, though he seem to loath both himself and his sins, he doth neither truly, and there is nothing genuine or promising in this kind of remorse. If the world would be reconciled to him, he would soon be re. conciled himself; for at bottom he hath no other quarrel with his sins, but that they happen to be disgraceful in the eyes of those whose esteem he would wish to pre
In like manner a natural conscience, irritated by some flagrant violation of the law of God, may severely sting