God, against whom he hath ungratefully rebelled. Influenced by such considerations, he arises from his grovelling indulgences and low pursuits; he repents and turns to God, with humble confessions and fervent prayers; he struggles through difficulties, resists temptations, and rises above dark desponding fears; and finds our heavenly Father far more ready to pardon, welcome, and bless him, than he could possibly have expected.

Yes, my brethren, many of you know the meaning of this parable by your own happy expe rience: and comparing the bitterness of your

sinful courses, with the peace and joy which you have found in believing; you are ready to say to others, “ Come, taste and see how gracious the “ Lord is, and how blessed they are that trust in “ him.”—But are there not also among you some persons who never thus “ came to theniselves ?” and have no acquaintance with the change that hath been described ?-A few instances may indeed occur, where repentance and conversion have begun so early in life, and been matured so gradually, as to leave no distinct traces of this experience: but they who are strangers to it, are almost universally ignorant of vital Christianity and its saving efficacy. True converts, however imperceptible their progress, are always conscious of desires and dispositions, not natural to fallen man: and they are more prone to question, whether a change, wrought qưietly and gradually, can be

genuine; than to suppose a more distinct awakening to a sense of guilt and danger not before felt, to be in general unnecessary.

This “coming to themselves,” is often attended with alarm and terror, (which, however, are not at all essential to repentance;) and it is always productive of godly sorrow; a deep and unfeigned concern for having offended our great and glorious Creator, broken his good laws, acted so foolish and base a part, and done so much injury to our neighbours and relatives. This is likewise connected with self-abasement, lowly thoughts of ourselves, and a disposition to plead guilty before God, and confess our sins unreservedly, with shame and remorse. Thus the Lord speaks of penitent Ephraim by his holy prophet. “I have surely “heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast "chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock “unaccustomed to the yoke. Turn thou me, and “I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord


God. Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after “ I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh ; I was

ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did “ bear the reproach of my youth'.”—The effects of repentance are described after a similar manner in Ezekiel : “ That thou mayest remember and be “ confounded, and never open thy mouth any

more for thy shame, when I'am pacified towards

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

" thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord “ God'.” For “ he looketh upon men, and if any

say I have sinned, and perverted that which is

right, and it profited me not, he shall deliver his “soul from going down into the pit, and his life “shall see the light?” “He that covereth his sins “shall not prosper; but he that confesseth and “ forsaketh them shall find mercy.” The returning prodigal makes no excuse for his conduct, but says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and “ before thee, and am no more worthy to be called

thy son.” And “the publican, who smote on “ his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a

sinner, went home justified,” rather than the Pharisee that despised him. These are strong

instances, which objectors would do well to reconsider.

While men continue to boast, to palliate their conduct, to throw the blame on others, or to attempt making amends for their sins, they are not truly penitent: but when their excuses are silenced, and they condemn themselves without reserve, they begin to shew a temper of mind suited to their situation and character. And never was food more grateful to one perishing with hunger, or liberty more welcome to the poor prisoner than the gospel of Christ is to every broken-hearted penitent. He may be exercised with doubts of its truth, or entertain notions partial or erroneous of its freeness and sufficiency: but as the grand obstacle to believing is reinoved, this preparation of heart making way for fuller illumination and conviction, he will soon most cordially approve and embrace the doctrine of salvation by the cross of Christ.

* Ezek. xvi, 63.

2 Job, xxxiii, 27, 28.

For the true penitent abhors and detests his sins; he despises and rejects the wages and pleasures of iniquity; he casts away with loathing all his transgressions, and dreads a relapse into them as the most dire calainity; and he renounces all other hopes of salvation, along with his former pursuits and connexions, that he may seek liberty and happiness in the favour and service of his reconciled God. His former alienation is removed; he returns to him as his Rest and Refuge; and through many conflicts and discouragements, he comes to God, to yield himself to his service, to become his spiritual worshipper, and, “as bought “ with a price to glorify him, in body and in spirit, " which are his.

In this manner all men are commanded to “re

pent and turn to God," from their worldly idols and sinful pursuits !-And do you not find, my friends, that in keeping at a distance from the Fountain of living waters, you prolong your own distress and disappointment? Do none of you, while striving against conviction, or cleaving to your lusts and pleasures, and refusing to humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,

[ocr errors]

experience such disquietude as the Psalmist has described ? “When I kept silence, my bones waxed “old, through my roaring all the day long: for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;

my moisture is turned into the drought in sum“mer'.” Why should you pertinaciously refuse to hearken to the voice of Christ, and the admonitions of your own consciences? Why refuse to draw near to God, that he may draw near unto you? Do you not sometimes feel, though unwilling to own it, that the warnings and counsels of your ministers are reasonable, and that it would be your highest interest to comply with them? Are you not ready to say, “Go thy way at this time, when “ I have a convenient season I will call for thee?" But why do you delay to apply for relief, and embrace happiness? Have you not found the world to be vain and vexatious, and the pleasures of sin bitter and painful? Have not all endeavours to establish your own righteousness, or overcome your own passions, habits, and temptations, proved wearisome and unsuccessful? Hear then the words of the sinner's Friend, while he speaks to you in accents of the tenderest love. " Wherefore do ye

spend money for that which is not bread, and

your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hear“ken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is “ good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

*Ps. xxxii, 3, 4.

« VorigeDoorgaan »