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leans over the dying bed, or casts his farewell look on the grave, of one who was dear to him as his own soul. How solemnly does he resolve, at every such warning, to prepare for death and judgment, by applying his heart unto wisdom ! Regard him, when visited in his own person with the stroke of sickness, --how frequent his sighs, how bitter his wailings, how lively his remorse, for those sins which, in the time of health, he fearlessly and familiarly committed !-- who can doubt the sincerity of his vow, that if the God of mercy will “
spare him a little, that he may recover his strength,” he will spend the rest of his life religiously, and repair, if possible, his past transgressions, by a future obedience ! But do we not daily see, that, when the occasion that excites them is removed, every one of these serious impressions is removed also; and that the man, after all his resolutions, returns to his favourite sins, and forgets with his malady or grief, his purpose of amendment? He is drawn, perhaps willingly, to the scene of temptation. He feels the force of habit returning upon him, which he is not inclined to resist. He associates, as before, with men of the same propensities as himself; and he cannot perceive that he is more depraved than they are. He is too busy or too idle for reflection, and dismisses it to a more convenient season-a season that never arrives. His good resolutions gradually become fainter and fainter, -till, at length, they entirely vanish.
What, then, is that fortifying principle, which,
added to contrition, produces true repentance? What consideration, beyond the fear of God, and the unprofitableness of sin, can effect that change of heart which will give us genuine comfort, and restore us to the divine favour ? The love of God is that powerful principle ; and a trust in his goodness is that ground of encouragement. The remembrance of God's mercies, of his long suffering, and of his providential care,—blessings, which, notwithstanding our repeated transgressions, are continually extended to all our sinful race,—ought to convince even the most wicked man that the Almighty “waiteth to be gracious.” He provides for the temporal good of all men, in supplying them with the common blessings of life ;--and in offering to them the common blessing of salvation, he careth also for their spiritual good. He is ever merciful, and ready to forgive iniquities. He « désireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live.”_ “ There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” The riches, therefore, of the divine goodness should engage the love and gratitude of the penitent Christian ; and if, with such feelings, he confesses his sins, they will be forgiven. Persuaded of these truths, he will now endeavour to serve and please God, with greater earnestness than he before delighted in the service of sin. In proportion as he is sensible of his past transgressions, his zeal for true religion will increase more and more.
The depravity of sin will appear to him in its most heinous light, as an abomination to the God of all purity, and as a contempt of the Author of all goodness. His prayers, offered, as they will now be, in faith, will be favourably answered. He will begin to see worldly objects in their true character,—not as promoting, but as hindering, his everlasting peace. They will no longer beguile him into sin, but will be employed, as far as they can be, in effecting the great work of his eternal salvation. The portion of worldly good which divine providence shall assign to him, he will neither neglect nor abuse; . but will consider it as a trust for which he must give account, and will, therefore, endeavour to apply it to its right purposes. His treasure and his conversation will be in heaven ; and he will regard the earth and its concerns, only as the scene and medium of his trial. Confiding in the merits of Christ, he will feel that God is gracious to them that love him ; for though the glory of the Almighty is far above the heavens, and his dwelling-place is exalted above the earth and the floods, yet He visits with a fatherly benignity those children of men who delight to do his will. He assists their humble endeavours, purifies their hearts, and gives constancy to their spirits. He prepares for them the rewards of glory in his own blissful presence, where sin and sorrow can never come.
The repentant Christian will ponder on these truths, and will act upon the influence of them. Under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, he will assiduously cultivate every duty that is required in the Gospel : and,
pressing forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus," he will endeavour to purify himself from all sin, and to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Thus, though the remembrance of his former sins will often recur to his mind, it will be sweetened with the recollection of God's mercies towards him. He will enjoy peace of conscience ; his good deeds will ensure to him the approbation and love of men; and his religious perseverance will crown him with the favour of heaven.
Such is the nature of true repentance :-a disposition of mind, originating, upon self-examination and through the aid of divine grace, in sorrow for past sins and a dread of God's vengeance, but perfected by the love of God, and evidenced by the fruits of virtue and holiness. It is a disposition which we all ought to acquire and improve,-as we value the welfare of our souls. 6. There is no man that liveth and sinneth not:" -and if we flatter ourselves that we are without sin, we incur, by that very flattery, the heavy sin of presumption. In proportion to our failings and transgressions must our humility and repentance be,—the humility, I mean, that proceeds from self-reproach ;—for that humility which consists in a lowly estimation of one's self, is a characteristic virtue of the Gospel, and is essential, both as a quality and as an ornament, to the very best of Christians. How faithful soever we may be to the Captain of our salvation, still in the duties of our warfare, there will be many things in which we shall be found
wanting. A general confession of negligences, ignorances, and sins of infirmity, is daily and continually incumbent on every servant of Christ :—but a more particular confession,-a repentance amounting to an entire change of mind,-are required from those who have so delighted in sin, as to have become proficients in it. Repentance is the primary—the indispensable qualification, by which sinners can regain the favour of God. The avenues to joy and peace everlasting are godly sorrow and contrition. “ Mine iniquities,” says David, “ are gone over my head : as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. I am troubled ; I am bowed down greatly: I go mourning all the day long. But in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear me, O Lord my God.” They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.”
In furtherance of the duty now recommended, the holy Scriptures should be attentively read. Those parts in particular, that shew the nature and
progress of true repentance, should be the subjects of our especial meditation : but as all parts of the sacred volume have a mutual connection, the devout study of it as a whole is an employment than which none can be better for correcting our sentiments and regulating our lives. It is an exercise, which, if soberly pursued, will draw down upon us the grace of God's blessed Spirit,--that we may know our real condition, and become not only sensible of our danger, but desirous of renouncing our sins, and obeying with full purpose of heart, the law of the Lord.