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the present, and on his future prospects. "Awake "thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and "Christ shall give thee light."
When the careless sinner thus "comes to him
self," he considers what he has been doing; where he now is; whither he is going; and what is likely to befal him. He now examines his thoughts, his words, and his actions; he studies the rule which God hath prescribed; and compares his past and present conduct with it, both in respect of what he has done, and what he has neglected to do: estimating also his advantages, and the uses which he has made of them. And, as he does this with the great day of account and righteous retribution before his eyes, he also begs of God to search and prove him, that he may now judge himself, and not at last be finally condemned to have his doom with the impenitent and unbelieving.
Consideration will soon make way for conviction, increasing conviction both of criminality in conduct, and depravity of heart; and this even in respect of those persons who have been more decent and amiable than many others. "I was," says the apostle," alive without the law once." While he had estimated his own character, according to the notions and traditions of the Pharisees, who only regarded the outward conduct; he thought his life good, his heart good, his state good. But, during his three days solitary fasting and praying at Damascus, he had abundant opportunity for consideration: and "the commandment," "the
holy, just, and good law," came with power and conviction to his conscience; and then " sin re
"vived and he died." He became deeply sensible, by viewing himself in this glass, that his life, his heart, his state were deplorably bad: and this prepared the way for his understanding and believing the gospel.
The convinced sinner hears" the wrath of God "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness "and unrighteousness of men;" and, instead of his previous favourable opinion of himself, he is ready to adopt the Psalmist's words, "Who can "understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from
66 my secret faults." My sins are more in num"ber than the hairs of my head; my heart faileth "me." When one, who was before careless and inconsiderate, is thus led to make this awful review, with the law of God open before him, and the judgment-seat in full prospect, he then not only judges himself concerning gross crimes and immoralities; but he discovers in his whole conduct, base ingratitude to God and contemptuous forgetfulness of him; idolatrous love of worldly objects; talents entrusted and abused; time and life wasted, and worse than wasted; mischief, irretrievable mischief, done in various ways by his example and influence. Whether he looks back upon his life past, or towards the future reckoning; whether he looks into his heart, or to his God, he is amazed to think of his sins, and all the aggravations of them: he continually discovers evil where he before suspected none, nay, even in the virtues on which he prided himself: he daily weighs himself in the balance, and is always found wanting his best actions are defective; his motives are corrupt, at least, in part; and, the more
he studies the rule, the fuller is his conviction that if judged according to it he must be condemned. He now feels the propriety of the apostle's words, "I through the law am dead to "the law:"" for by the law is the knowledge of "sin." And whatever was his former character among men, he adopts from his heart the pub"God be merciful to me a sinner!"
These convictions cannot be separated from fear, sorrow, and remorse: but if genuine, and produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit, they will always be accompanied by a measure of hope in the mercy of God.
We may therefore state the next step in true repentance to be submission. "Submit yourselves
"to God."-We should not think that a disobedient child was really penitent, unless he submitted. The stubborn heart of man stands out against God, and perseveres both in excusing sin, and in repeating the offence. The stout-hearted will neither own his guilt, nor acknowledge the justice of the sentence denounced against him: he is averse to be either taught or ruled by the Lord. Self-will, self-wisdom, and self-righteous pride, unite in opposition to unreserved submission; and these principles of proud rebellion often maintain much influence even under deep and distressing terrors and convictions.
But he who is brought to real repentance unreservedly submits to God, and is willing both to be taught and ruled by him. ،، Other lords, says he," have had dominion over me; but by thee, only will I make mention of thy name." especially becomes willing to be saved in any way
which the word of God prescribes. he, "what wouldst thou have me to do?" He submits to the righteousness of God; he owns that he is a sinner, deserving condemnation, and unable to save himself; and thus a preparation is made, by a penitent state of heart, for his understanding the gospel, and most cordially embracing it. For, he now seeks mercy as mercy; he comes in the way which God has opened, as far as he understands it; and, when it is explained to him more fully, it exactly answers all the desires of his heart. This indeed forms the connexion between true repentance and living faith. Every one who repents, pleads guilty, prays to be taught the way of salvation, welcomes the gospel, and thus learns to "live by faith in the Son of God," to love the Saviour, and to devote himself to his service.
Humiliation before God is indeed implied under the term submission. It may, however, be advantageously considered as a distinct exercise of the penitent heart. How different were the views, in this respect, which St. Paul had of his own character, when he considered himself as "the chief "of sinners;" as "less than the least of all saints;" and not " meet to be called an apostle;" from those which he had entertained when he was a self-sufficient and self-wise Pharisee! Holy Job, when brought to a right state of heart," abhorred him"self in dust and ashes." Few, I apprehend, will expressly say, that they are far better characters than Job was: yet how few can sincerely use his language!" Then," saith God, "ye shall loathe "yourselves in your own sight."
This humiliation makes way for ingenuous con
fession. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."" If we say that we "have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth " is not in us; but, if we confess our sins, God is "faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Thus David, "while he kept silence," was deeply distressed; but at last he said, "I will confess my "transgressions unto the Lord; and so," he adds, "thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
thus the returning prodigal, without attempting a palliation of his crimes, says, " Father, I have sin“ned against heaven, and before thee, and am no "more worthy to be called thy son."
This union of submission and humiliation forms, I apprehend, what the scripture calls "the broken "and contrite heart." "The sacrifices of God are
a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, "O God, thou wilt not despise." "Thus saith "the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, "whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and "holy place; with him also that is of a contrite "and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the "humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite
" ones." "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for "their's is the kingdom of heaven." Pride, stubbornness, self-will, and an independent, self-confident spirit, are the opposites of this contrite heart: but, when submission and humiliation take place, the sinner feels himself a child who needs teaching, a criminal in want of pardon, a leper that desires and longs to be cleansed, a prisoner panting for liberty. These blessings, and all others, are set before him in the gospel: he "asks and receives."