« ForrigeFortsæt »
your joy into heaviness; humble yourselves in "the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.' Make no more vain excuses; pretend not that your sins have been few or small; be not afraid to view them in their full magnitude and malignity; trust only in the mercy of the Father, the atoning blood and prevailing mediation of the Son, and the powerful grace of the holy Spirit; return to the Lord with weeping and supplications; and speedily your sorrows shall be turned into joy, and your heaviness into glad songs of grateful praise.
But men not only should "repent and turn to "God;" we must also call on them " to do works "meet for repentance;" and this leads us,
IV. To consider what is meant by this clause of the text.
If a man truly repent of any misconduct which has proved injurious to himself or others, he would be glad, were it possible, to undo what he recollects with shame and remorse. This is indeed impracticable: yet frequently the effects may be prevented or counteracted: and this is a work meet for repentance, especially if it be done with much loss and self-denial. This consideration, however, may suggest a powerful inducement to early piety for, even if the sinner should be spared, and live to repent in his riper years, he will seldom be able to prevent the mischievous effects of his youthful iniquities; and that, which is practicable and indispensable, will resemble “ the cutting off of a right hand, or the plucking out of "a right eye."
'James iv. 6-10.
He who has in any way defrauded others, cannot be thought" to do works meet for repentance," unless he makes restitution to the best of his ability and recollection; whatever mortifying or self-denying circumstances attend it: for, without this, he retains the wages of his crimes, and perpetuates his injustice. But, as one vice often wastes the gains of another, restitution may be absolutely impracticable; and in many cases it is almost impossible to know to whom restitution should be made, even if a man is able and willing to make it. When therefore the apostle says, "Let him that stole "steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that "he may have to give to him that needeth;" he seems to counsel such persons to submit to hard labour and mean fare, that, by giving to the poor, they might make such restitution, as their circumstances allowed of: and this is certainly "a work "meet for repentance." Were this lowly, industrious, and self-denying conduct more common among professors of the gospel; they would more frequently be enabled " to adorn the doctrine of "Christ" by an unrequired restitution for wrongs, which the laws of men do not notice, but which a tender well-informed conscience cannot overlook. And, when wrong has been done, and the individuals who have been injured cannot be exactly ascertained, the poor, especially of the families which have been wronged, should be considered as best entitled to the restitution. This however, is certain, that the professed penitent himself, whe
ther he have defrauded individuals or the public, cannot retain his unjust gain, either as a treasure to hoard up, or as a source of indulgence, without "putting an accursed thing among his own stuff, "and becoming an accursed thing like unto it."— But we may have traduced the characters, poisoned the principles, or corrupted the morals of others, or in various ways injured them, if we have not robbed them of their property: and, though adequate restitution cannot be made, yet we should do all in our power to counteract the effects of our misconduct, and to promote their best interests; if we would evidence the sincerity of our repentance and faith, and of our love to God and man.
He that well understands the gospel of Christ, and the nature of genuine repentance, will readily perceive that forgiveness of injuries, and love of enemies, are peculiarly required by the words of the text. The man who refuses to forgive surely forgets his own need of forgiveness. And he, who will do nothing for his enemies, can have no proper sense of his own sinfulness, and of the love of God in reconciling us when enemies by the death of his Son. The view which the true penitent has of Christ, dying on the cross and praying for his murderers, will render it easy to him, to pity and love his most determined foes, "to do good to "them that hate him, and to pray for them that despitefully use him and persecute him." These too are works meet for repentance; without which all tears, confessions, and even restitution, can never prove it genuine and unfeigned.
Josh. vii. 11-15.
Patience under afflictions, contentment in our situation, thankfulness for mercies, and meekness under provocations, might be separately considered, did time permit. But, in general, an habitual walk in newness of life comprises the whole. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us,
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we "should live soberly, righteously, and godly in "this present world;" watching and praying against the sins which once had most entire dominion over us; redeeming our time and improving our talents, doing good to all men, especially to the household of faith; a circumspect conduct, and a constant attendance on the ordinances of God; a humble deportment in the family and community, as well as in the church; and a care to ❝ exercise ourselves daily to have a "conscience void of offence towards God and "man:" these I "these I say are "works meet for repent"ance."-When the people asked John the Baptist what they should do in compliance with his exhortation to this effect, he did not require them to retire into deserts, or immure themselves in cloisters, nor even to torment themselves with excessive austerities; but he recommended liberal charity, strict integrity, and a harmless and exemplary conduct even in the station of publicans and soldiers.
But these hints must suffice, as every reflecting person will be able to branch out the general rules laid down, into a variety of particulars; and the grand use of preaching is to lead men to reflection.
Perhaps, however, I am addressing some persons who still object to the subject; and, confiding
in the rectitude of their hearts, and the undeviating virtue of their conduct, count the doctrine of repentance and conversion wholly foreign to their case. I have heard persons of this description gravely observe, that it would be much better to preach the necessity of a good life, than to dwell on repentance; except among the refuse of the species, of whom indeed little hope could be en'tertained.' But how can such men help seeing, that they only repeat the objections of the Pharisees against Christ himself, and exactly resemble these antient opposers of the gospel? I would however, at present only say; If any one of you had a son, whom you had tenderly treated from his birth, and who should yet act with as much disregard to your counsel and authority, as you have done to those of your Creator, would you not think that he ought to repent of his ungrateful behaviour? And have you then no cause for repentance? Verily, whatever you may think, it will hereafter appear that there" is joy in heaven over 66 one sinner that repenteth, more than over nine"ty and nine (such) just persons that need no repentance."-But does any one say, 'I own in general that I ought to repent; yet I find a strange insensibility of conscience, and backward'ness to humble myself before God, or to renounce the pleasures of sin; and a grievous propensity 'to delay that necessary business, till my alarms ' and convictions vanish without any abiding ef'fect?' To you, my friend, I would observe that repentance is the gift of God; and that Jesus is exalted "to give repentance and remission of "sins." Pray therefore to the Lord to give you