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fire: The slander has been carried on from tongue to tongue, till a few hours or a few days have roused a feeling of indignation, or hatred, or scorn, or silent suspicion, of which we may never know, or which, if we did, we could never cure. And so the victim of our slander may live on in misery, robbed of his good name, or his enjoyments, or of his place in society, or he may die heart-broken under the injuries of a false reproach, set afloat by us. We may hear of his misery when we can do nothing to relieve it, and find no place for repentance of the evil we have done, though we seek for it with tears.
Where again shall we find a place for repenting of the evil which our evil example has done?? If others have learned from us to scoff at religion, or to be careless about it; if they have learned from us to believe that sensuality is a venial sin ; if they have learned from us to glory in avowing it, in talking of it, in defiling themselves and others with defiling conversation, what shall we do? what can we do to make up to them for the fearful evil which we have done to their souls? When we come to repent ourselves, if, by God's grace, we ever do repent, and are regenerated by His Spirit unto holiness, they may be absent beyond our powers to trace, hardened beyond our powers to retrieve, or already gone to those unseen abodes where the spirit is to await its final doom. And if this thought is a solemn one for all men, and all times, and all places, I think it is a thought especially solemn for those who meet here.
i The interesting account of Struensee's conversion by Dr. Münter gives a striking picture of the misery occasioned by the remembrance of the evil done by bad example. To Struensee, indeed, the suffering it caused was a blessing. When his heart seemed hardened on other points, his misery on this was extreme; and of this Münter took advantage, and, by God's blessing, led him to a sincere repentance.
Pass a few years onwards, and many of you who are now enjoying together the inexpressible happiness of a young and warm friendship, and of intercourse the most free and familiar, will part to meet no more. It is a sad and saddening catalogue which even at an early period of our progress to the grave we are compelled to write of the ravages of death. It is a sad and saddening thought to remember how
many the cold grave now holds of the kind hearts and warm hands which we once took to our own, how few of those who hailed our outset, could be collected round us now, how few are left to rejoice at our success, or to comfort us in our failures. Others of ever, will meet again, but oh! how changed! changed by success, or sorrow, or want, or sickness; changed most of all by sin ! If there be one of you who, by God's grace, through the prevailing prayer of the Great Intercessor, shall be enabled to overcome sin, and to renew himself again after the image of God, what will be his anguish when he shall see the friend of his early and happy years, hardened in habits of sin and selfishness, which he learned from him, when he shall hear him indulge in a low and loathsome avowal of profligacy, the taste for which he imbibed from him; when he shall hear him openly avow the disbelief in a crucified Master, and the disbelief in the eternal distinction between right and wrong, which he learned from him, in the days when he too, in his fancied wisdom, saw the folly and fraud of religion,
you, how or of priestcraft, as he called it, when he too was the enlightened disciple, as he then thought, of some miserable, base, and selfish system of expediency, or of some system more debasing and more polluting still. What will be the bitterness of his anguish, when he shall hear that the friend of his youth hath sunk ere the prime and pride of manhood into a grave dug for him by his own vices, and shall know that from that early grave there shall go up a cry of blood against the early tempter, the seducer, the destroyer of body and soul, a cry which that destroyer, though repentant, must know, deserves to be registered against him in heaven?
It is a fearful thing, indeed, to remember how powerful man is to do evil, how powerless to cure it. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, under the clear remembrance that you will find no place for repentance of the evils done by your evil example, though you seek for it carefully with tears, “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it
grace to the hearers.'
The lapse of time again touches us in another and very tender point, by taking away from us all place for repentance there. By the law of our being, the parent is to descend to the grave before his child. What shall be his thought, who has caused, or hastened his father's descent thither, disappointed all his fond hopes and expectations, thrown away time, and character, and opportunities, broken the kind heart, and sent the grey hairs in sorrow to the grave ? I fear that this happens oftener than we are willing to
allow... We do not think of it unless some particular and sudden event follows some outrageous sin. We forget the intimate and exquisite' connexion of mind and body, forget how surely, though it may not be suddenly, the frail body is borne down by the suffering mind; how unconquerably, but too often, true grief defies all counsel, all redress, but that which ends all counsel.' But however that may be, I am sure that there is no grief so bitter and so utterly without remedy in this world as a parent's grief for the unworthi, ness of his child. A child, more than all other gifts, brings with it forward looking thoughts?, and, by a kind law of the ever kind Author of Nature, supplies man with an unfailing motive to cheerful exertion, to activity, and to human interest, in those years when otherwise, as far as the world is concerned, there is indeed no pleasure in them;' and it is no mean instrument in God's hand for carrying on our thoughts and hopes beyond the grave. When this holy source of pleasure is tainted, when this staff of feeble age is broken away, life has no more to give that can comfort or cheer, and death in this point supplies not its wonted comfort, for the broken heart cannot buoy itself up with the hope of re-union in that world where sin may not
What is a Christian child's death compared with that? It may be bitter to see the
close on the young and the beloved, but it closes on the young and the beloved with a hope, yea! with a certainty. The flower hath faded for a time, but it will rise to light and life in a happier climate and a
more kindly soil. In that sure and certain hope the Christian father can render up the child whom the Lord gave him, for he renders him up to the Lord again, to His everlasting arms, who will take him when father and mother must forsake him. “My son,' he can say, because thy heart was wise, even in this sad hour my heart rejoiceth, even mine. Yea! even in this sad hour, I have a refuge and a resting place, even thy mercy, my God and my King, and thy everlasting covenant.' But with what hope, what cheerful thought, can that desolate old man assuage his sorrows, when he goes down to the grave himself leaving behind him a sinful, profligate, or even a careless and unchristian son ? And with what emotions shall that son see his father's body committed to the grave, earth to earth, dust to dust, and remember by what long and slow processes of daily and hourly anguish, the suffering body and patient spirit were broken and brought to this sad consummation ?
His tears may descend indeed on that sad grave, but he cannot recall past years, lost opportunities, disappointed hopes; there is no place for repentance, though he seek for it carefully with tears. Yet stay them not, for they are gracious drops ! it would be a hopeless heart that did not melt now! and, through God's grace, this bitter, late, and in some sort fruitless repentance, may be the beginning of better things, the first fruits of a richer harvest, of a repentance not to be repented of!
There may not be many cases of such deep and fearful suffering as this, but numberless beyond a doubt are the instances in which we inflict bitter and