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"Lord Jesus, save me, I perish!"-Now hear the words of God: "To this man will I look, to him "that is poor, and is of a contrite spirit, and who "trembleth at my word."
You will no doubt allow that, if we " abhor our"selves" because we have sinned, we must hate sin; and if we abhor sin, as transgression of the law of God, we must love and approve of that law. If we hate sin, we love its opposite, even holiness: and, if we love holiness, we must love the holy perfections of God, the holy character of Christ, the holiness of his disciples, his truths, his ordinances, and whatever has his stamp upon it. With these views and these affections, how can we do otherwise than admire the plan of redemption, as far as we understand it? seeing it is the grandest display of the divine holiness, and of the evil and desert of sin, which ever was made or shall be made, connected with the most endearing view imaginable of the love and mercy of God to sinners. With these things in our minds, we cannot fail to perceive the force of St. Paul's important question, "How shall we, who are dead to sin, "live any longer therein ?" If repentance includes conviction of criminality and depravity, submission to God, humiliation, hatred of sin and of ourselves for sin, and love to holiness and to every thing holy; can such a revolution in our judgment and heart fail of producing a change of conduct ? Will a man live any longer in that which he abhors, and habitually seek pleasure in what he hates? Impossible! As soon might each animal leave its proper element, and seek satisfaction in that which would prove fatal to it.
True repentance then, consisting in newness of heart, must and will be shewn in newness of life. A true penitent indeed, being still very imperfect, and surrounded with temptations, may be betrayed into sin but he cannot sin habitually, or, if I may so speak, upon plan and system. This forms a grand discrimination between the real Christian and the hypocrite. The true Christian in this sense," cannot commit sin, for his seed remaineth "in him; and he cannot sin, because he is "born of God," But a hypocrite pleads the examples of imperfection, or the deeply-lamented sins of real believers, especially those which stand recorded in scripture, as an excuse for habitual, allowed, and unrepented transgression; and as a reason for thinking himself, and expecting to be thought by others, a sound character.
But now let me ask you, can any one hate sin and abhor himself for sin; can he love God and love his neighbour; and yet keep possession of that property, which, previously to repentance, he had iniquitously acquired? Surely, if he has the power and the opportunity of making restitution, and hates the works of sin, he will abhor its wages likewise. He will never consent to perpetuate the injustice of which he really repents: but will certainly make full restitution, where he can, whatever self-denial it may impose. In numberless instances indeed, it is difficult to know in what particulars, and to what persons, this restitution is due; but the poor, especially the poor of Christ's flock, we have always with us: and here, if difficulties arise, the conscientious penitent will not only bestow what he is conscious is not his own,
and yet knows not to whom to restore it, but even add far more to it, if in his power,
The apostle, however, addresses some whom he supposes unable to make restitution: and his language is well worthy our attention. "Let him
"that stole, steal no more: but rather let him la
bour, working with his hands the thing that is
good, that he may have to give to him that "needeth." Mark the reason: not only that he may honestly support himself and his family, but also "that he may have to give to him that "needeth;" thus gradually making amends to man for injuries done to man, though he can make no compensation to his offended God. Here "he hath nothing to pay," and begs a free forgiveness.
In a variety of ways the true penitent, during his daily self-examination, will discover instances in which he has injured others perhaps in their character, or their principles, by his conversation, or his example: and he will here too endeavour to counteract, or make amends for, his misconduct, by any means in his power, however humiliating and self-denying; and especially by henceforth setting a good example, and trying to "do good to all men, and especially to the house"hold of faith."
To these general outlines of the nature and effects of true repentance, it may be proper to add something more particular, as it relates to the state and inward feelings of the heart. It must be obvious to those who duly consider the subject, that the repentance above described will be attended with great tenderness of conscience, fear
of temptation, jealousy of a man's own heart, and dread of being deceived. For it arises from a conviction that "the heart is deceitful above all things " and desperately wicked."
If then thou art a true penitent, and there be any sin to which thou hast been formerly addicted more than to others, here thou wilt keep the strictest watch; all temptations to this evil thou wilt most cautiously shun; against it thou wilt most frequently and earnestly pray; and, though thou mayest often feel trouble and alarm from it, yet it will henceforth be more opposed, dreaded, and hated, than any other sin.
This tenderness of conscience, and hatred of sin, ("the heart of flesh" which God hath given instead of " the heart of stone;") disposes a man to condemn himself in many things in which he once saw no harm. He now loves the holy rule of the divine law; he loves holiness and hates sin, every kind of sin and, as a person of delicate cleanliness is disgusted by the least speck of dirt, so the true penitent is more pained by an unguarded word, or an angry temper, than others are, or than he himself used to be, by habitual ungodliness, not to say acts of direct immorality.
"Herein," says the great champion of the doctrines of grace, "Herein do I exercise myself, to "have a conscience void of offence toward God "and toward men." "He delighted in the law "of God," in his inmost soul; yet he could not but see and feel that he had not attained full conformity to it: he admired the standard of holiness, but he could not come up to it: yet he "exercised
"himself" daily in aiming at nearer and nearer conformity. At the same time finding that he "could not do the thing that he would ;" but that another "law within him warred against the law "of his mind;" he groaned and complained under this conflict, more than under all his persecutions and sufferings. "Oh wretched man that I am,” he says, "who shall deliver me "Lord I love 'thy law, I hate sin; it is my grief and burden; 'yet it dwells and works within me. O gracious 'Lord, when wilt thou deliver me?'
This is the necessary effect of genuine repentance, in an imperfect state: dissatisfaction with ourselves must be the consequence of hatred of sin, and humiliation before God. The deeper the repentance, the more entire the hatred of sin, the keener the eye of the mind in detecting it, and the conscience in condemning it, the greater will be our self-displacency.
He that daily improves in spiritual discernment, in the knowledge of God and of himself, in acquaintance with the holy law and its spiritual requirements, in love of God and holiness, and in tenderness of conscience, is indeed more holy than before, but he is also more humble: for humility is a principal. part of holiness. So far therefore from being better pleased with his own character and attainments, he will be more and more abased before God; and it is very probable that, if his judgment be not exactly formed by the scripture, he may be often ready to conclude that he cannot be a true convert, seeing he is so far from that holiness which he longs after and admires.
And now let me ask you, my friends, whether