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JOB xxxiii. 27, 28.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and
perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit,—and his life shall see the light.
The chief excellence of the Holy Scriptures is, that, on the authority of Heaven itself, and with a perspicuity suited both to the wisdom and goodness of their great Author, and to the capacities of those for whose benefit they were revealed, they set forth the attributes of God and the duties of man; so that we can know, from unerring evidence, the rule and measure,—the grounds and object of moral virtue and of religious obligation in all our conditions and circumstances. Whether the page that we peruse be historical or prophetic, descriptive, preceptive, or devotional ; whether its style be literal or figurative;
whether it were revealed under the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, or the Christian dispensation, we derive, as the reward of our sober research, such notions of the Divine nature and of our own state, as will enable us, with the aid of God's good Spirit, in union with those other means that are graciously afforded us, to attain everlasting happiness. To this object, all other modes of instruction are inadequate. The records of beathen literature and all the stores of mere human wisdom, only shew how weak, and how insufficient to its own happiness is the mind of man: for while these give false and discordant notions of God and of ourselves, the holy Scriptures “are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousuess, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works ;" and they “ are able to make us wise unto salvation.”
The text contains implicitly an argument for the important duty of repentance, drawn from the consideration of God's goodness, and of the unprofitableness of sin : for of God it says “He looketh upon men ; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” It will not here be necessary to inquire, whether, in the original intention, these words regarded the benefits of repentance as confined to the present life, or as extended to that which is to
The general truth contained in them is thisthat on our acknowledging and forsaking our sins,
God will abstain from punishing us, and will restore us to his favour. I say, “ on our acknowledging and forsaking our sins :” for though only the acknowledging of them is mentioned in the text_“I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not”—yet the avowal of their unprofitableness implies a resolution of forsaking them ;-and if we look into the next chapter, we shall find that both these parts of repentance were in the contemplation of the speaker.—He there says “Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more.
That which I see not, teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more."
There are times in which every man is impelled, by what I may term the moral instinet of our nature, to examine his heart and conduct. Some will do this superficially, or fly from it, as from a painful task ; but others, of a better frame of mind, do it seriously, and as a duty. When, therefore, at such hours, we reflect on the boundless perfections of the Almighty, and on the purity and uprightness that he requires in us, we must feel some uneasiness as to our own state. We shall reproach ourselves for having been too negligent for many things that belong to our peace, and too “careful about many things" that tend directly to our ruin. When we consider that he is a God jealous of his honour, and powerful to execute on us all the retribution that unsparing justice demands, we shall feel the danger of sin, and shall be alarmed for the consequences of it. If we
call to mind those mercies and loving kindnesses which, notwithstanding our numberless transgressions, he has bestowed on us, the ingratitude of sin
in the strongest light to our minds. If we attend, further, to the consciousness that he is ever present—that “ he hath searched us and known us; that he knoweth our downsitting and our uprising, and understandeth our thoughts afar off ; that be compasseth our path and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways; and that there is not a word in our tongue, but the Lord knoweth it altogether,”—the impossibility of escaping punishment will awaken in our hearts the liveliest and most penetrating sorrow. The turpitude of sin in the sight of Him who is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;"—the dread of having offended Him who is “ clothed with strength, and to whom vengeance belongeth ;-—the self-reproach we must feel at having requited with mere unthankfulness Him whose“ tender mercies are over all his works ;"—the impossibility of eluding, by any works of secrecy or darkness, the view and cognizance of Him whose“
eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good ;"! all and each of these considerations must excite uneasiness and alarm in every breast that is not hardened against all natural sensibility. Again,when it is considered that sin is the bane and blemish of the soul ; that by depraving the will, it corrupts the understanding, and makes dim the light of reason ; that it imperceptibly despoils the conscience of its power to guide, to admonish, and to correct us ; that by vitiating our affections, it enslaves us to sensuality, to vapid ambition, and to sordid covetousness that its beginnings, its progress, and its end, yield, on the confession of the most experienced and most successful sinners, nothing but shame and misery ; and that, from its hatefulness in the sight of God, it deprives us of his favour, takes from us the blessed help and comfort of his Holy Spirit, and exposes us to the danger of eternal condemnation--the wicked man must, surely, be convinced of the error of his ways, and must be roused, in spite of his assumed gaiety and false security, to soberness of thought and to deep contrition.
But the thoughtfulness and the contrition, arising only from self-reproach and from the fear of punishment, will avail but little, if they are not strengthened by feelings more spiritual, and by motives that will operate more steadily. Sincere and effectual as they may be for a time, and essential as they are to true repentance ; yet experience proves that they are seldom so lasting as to be beneficial. Such is the deceitfulness of sin, and so insinuating is its influence, that, when it has once grown into habit, it is not barely the conviction of its unprofitableness that will destroy or remove it. Mark with what serious, what fixed an attention, men sometimes listen to the word of God,—with what eagerness they hearken to the great topics of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come !” Behold the mourner, as he