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To wicked men labouring under the agonies of a guilty mind, the deity appears an object of terror. They figure to themselves an angry tyrant, with his thunder in his hand, delighting to punish and destroy. They are afraid, and flee from the presence of the Lord. But from the mind of the penitent these terrors presently vanish, and God appears, not as a cruel and malignant power, but as the best of beings, the father of mercies and the friend of man, as a God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Encouraged by these declarations, the penitent trusts to the divine goodness, and flies for refuge to the hope fet before him. Horrors of conscience and forebodings of wrath overwhelm the sons of reprobation. But the penitent never despairs. He sinks indeed in his own eyes, and throws himself prostrate on the ground, but still throws himself at the footstool of mercy, not without the faith and the hope that he will be taken into favour. The language of his soul is : Great God, withhold from me what else thou pleasest, but give me to enjoy the approbation of my own mind and thy favour. I would rather henceforth be the humbleft of thy fons than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
“ I will arise,” says the contrite youth, “and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have finned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy fon; make me as one of thy hired servants.” I will immediately
embrace the only means still left me to employ, for avoiding utter ruin, before it be too late and all repentance be in vain. I will exert the little strength I have remaining, to hasten from the abyss that lies
The smallest delay may be fatal to me. To regain my squandered hopes shall from this instant be my sole concern; and nothing shall be too hard for me to undertake that can favour my design. Let the shame and confufion be as great as it may, into which the consciousness of my follies and the fight of my injured father will throw me; let the reproaches I have to expe&t from him be as cutting as they will to my vanity and pride; cost what labour and self-denial it may at first to renounce my wicked habits, and to fatisfy my so long neglected duties : nothing shall prevent me from returning to him whom I have so senselessly forsaken, and asking fuccour of him who alone is difpofed and able to help me.
go and throw myself at his feet; I will prevent his reproaches by an humble and frank confession of my transgressions and errors; and, instead of thinking on evasion or excuse, will condemn myself, and cast myself entirely on his mercy. It is not an austere, an inexorable master; it is a compassionate and tender father with whom I have to do. What has not a fon to hope for from such a father? Yes, his own heart will speak pity for me, he will shew mercy towards me; and this hall be my inducement to testify my gratitude to him by a willing and faithful obedience, and to render myself worthy of his favour by a total alteration of my sentiments and my conduct.
The same resolutions, my friends, are adopted by the repentant finner. He trusts not to a deceitful and inefficient sorrow. He is not contented with making bitter lamentations on his wretched condition, or barely wishing to become better, without putting his hand to the work. He wastes not his time in useless doubt or in dangerous hesitation. My life, says he, is passing quickly away ; it may unexpectedly come to an end. Death, judgment, and eternity, are ever advancing towards me; they may seize me at unawares.
Shall not I then hasten to deliver my soul ? Shall I not work while it is day, ere the night come when no man can work? There is but one way left to avoid perdition. Shall I hesitate one moment about betaking myself to it? Life and death, blessing and cursing, are now before me. Stili I have an opportunity of chusing between them. Who can tell whether that will continue to me if I stand longer doubting? Is it difficult for me now to subdue my sinful desires, to quit my bad habits, break with my bad companions, and reform my dissolute life: will it not every day becoine still harder ? Will not my servitude be growing constantly more severe, my propensity to vice more strong, my whole temper more corrupt, and consequently my amendment still more impracticable ? Shall I not by these
means be heaping sin upon sin, and punishment upon punishment, and so at length deprive myself of all hope of forgiveness ? No! to-day, that I hear the voice of God, while his grace is yet offered to me, to-day will I follow his affectionate call, and earnestly implore that divine compassion which alone can make me happy. My resolution is taken, and nothing shall hinder me from bringing it to effect. I will arise and go to my heavenly Father, from whom I am now at so great a distance, whose favour and protection I have so madly cast off. I will bow myself before his offended majesty, acknowledge my transgressions, and intreat his compassion with a broken and a contrite heart. I will solemnly renounce every sin, and devote myself to the service of God and the practice of virtue. Have I hitherto shaken off his just and gentle authority; it shall now be my greatest delight and my glory to: pay
him an unreserved obedience, and faithfully to fulfil the duties of a subject in his kingdom. Have I hitherto followed my irregular desires and the corrupted principles of the men of the world; henceforward the law of the Most High shall be the sole and unalterable rule of my conduct. Have I hitherto cared only for my body and my earthly condition; henceforward, the care of my soul, and my happiness in the future world, shall be the ultimate aim of all my endeavours.
The support which God has promised to the sincere will be mighty in my weakness. He will assist me in con:
quering every difficulty; and I trust assuredly that I shall find his yoke to be easy, and his burden light; that I shall experience that his commandments are not grievous.
If the resolutions of the repentant finner be thus formed, my friends ; if they be grounded on selfinspection, on consideration and firm conviction ; if they be taken with seriousness and sincerity; they will certainly be brought to effect. Without determined purposes of amendment, contrition is unavailing and ineffectual. The deity is not de. lighted with the sufferings of man. Sorrow for fin is so far pleasing, as it softens the leart and makes it better. It is the resolution of amendment, the purposes pointed to reformation, that make the broken heart and the contrite spirit an acceptable facrifice ; such is the nature of true repentance; i: flows not so much from the sense of danger as from the love of goodness.
In true repentance, there is not only a change of mind, but a change of life. When the dayspring from on high arises on him who is in darkness, when God says let there be light, the scales fall off from his eyes, a new world breaks upon his view, futurity becomes present, and invisible things are seen ; then first he beholds the beauty which is in holiness, and tastes the joy which flows from returning virtue. In that happy hour he forms the pious purpose, and seals the facred vow to be holy for ever. Then he prefers the peace derived