صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Gal. iii. 22.) And

3. By only considering and comparing two other relations, the Occasion and Object of repentance, which I mention together on account of their general correspondence, the righteous man may happen to find his error; which is also a very great one, and very obtrusive. “For (as our Saviour says) it must needs be, that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matt. xviii. 7.) Whether toward God, one's neighbour, or one's self offence will come and continue, if it be not anticipated by a timely repentance; the divine bounty having supplied in the beginning for all the men that ever should be, not only the means of subsistence, but an inexhaustible fund of happiness (without abuse) in nature and Providence, if they would only enjoy and allow each other to enjoy it. But the course of human happiness has ever been liable to interruption at the same time, and through the same cause, that secret dissatisfaction and murderous disposition which are naturally engendered by guilt. And hence, too often the original buoyancy of spirits which is kindly given to every animal by nature, and providentially remains for our support, like arms and legs, after higher gifts are gone, will hardly suffice to bear up against the tyranny, ill-humour, and oppression that is exercised by one creature of the earth over others, especially over "the little ones," for these any man of the earth, or woman either, will venture to offend. Too often the steady course of happiness which nature and Providence have combined shall be disturbed by the very person or object for whom it is prepared: too often shall one man ruin another for his own pleasure, or rather for the common enemy: too often shall one leave another to ruin himself at discretion, from apathy or mistaken indulgence; and all be like to turn their heavenly Donor's gifts to his disparagement. Whereby man's present existence, which

had otherwise been a never fading paradise of enjoyment, is troubled first, and, causes going on without interruption, will be turned at last into a very hell of repentance,-" into the fire that never shall be quenched,-where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark ix. 43, 44.) But that is an extreme case, however common it may prove, and not the sort that I mean to insist on. The sort of repentance that I have chiefly to insist on would rather prove an antidote and a specific for the venom that corrodes your heart, if it could be taken in time, before the disease is too far established-before the evil is past remedy.

And hast thou, most righteous man, or canst thou have, any doubt of thy call to repentance with the rest? Then, examine thyself by thy past life, which is the surest criterion; and hear what that shall say to thee on the different counts in the law. Perhaps, thou hast not many gods, but thou mightest have one or two little ones; thou art not much of an idolater, except in two or three frivolous respects; not given to swearing, except between thy teeth; no great sabbath-breaker, as times go; one that will not dishonour his father and mother, intentionally; too guarded, to do any murder; too cold, to commit adultery; too proud, to steal; having no mind to bear false witness, except from pride as aforesaid; not coveting, every thing; not envious, except on a few points; not morose, when every thing goes according to thy wishes; not hasty in thyself, when there is no particular pressure from without. But with so many exceptions in thy character, can there be no call for repentance? If God do not require an apology-if thou have no call for repentance toward him, thou wilt have certainly toward some of thy fellow-creatures; the horse that carries, the dog that guards and amuses, the sheep that clothes and feeds thee, are all the worse for thy exceptions. Even the innocent lamb, and its fond mother, have felt the effects of thy imperious temper; and the partner of thy bed has had days of sorrow through thy petulance, if not

to her, yet toward others of the household. Thy austerity in overlooking is not troublesome, only to thy servants;thy excessive precision in trifles, while in some high respects of duty and charity thou art just as remiss, is a plague to all around thee, and chiefly to thyself in the midst.

Say thou meanest well, if thou be so ill-tempered: but, a well meaning ill-tempered man-what is he good for, if he be not as proper a man as any to make others miserable? Do shreds and patches offend thine eyes? Dost thou turn up the nose at sour smelling poverty-food as thou art for worms? (Job xxiv. 20.) Remember, "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker.” (Prov. xvii. 5.) And I do not see how a man can be innocent before God who feels so unbecomingly toward any of his creatures, though he should not choose to express it. For God sees what we feel;-to him, therefore, distasting a poor man, is like spitting in his face. It is like wounding God through him; and though God be too high to be immediately aggrieved by aught we can do, may not he be aggrieved in others? He may even in the offender himself, injuring himself by thought, word, and deed-sinning, as it is said, against his own soul, (Num. xvi. 38,) without the power of forgiving himself. For, THOUGH EVERY ONE HAS THE POWER OF OFFENDING, ONLY ONE HAS THE POWER TO FORGIVE. (Mark ii. 7.) Tell me not of atrocious villains, and of sinners by wholesale,- of those "who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin, as it were, with a cart-rope:" I would hear what the righteous man himself can answer, when he is called to repentance, -the comparatively righteous, I mean: for all men are not equally vile, though all vile enough, or as vile as the dust. (Gen. iii. 19.) Will he say, It is a mistake? Why if the views and particulars of his acting through life were to rise up in judgment against him, I doubt the man, with all his righteousness, might be glad to find room for repentance.

4. This is also a relation or particular of the subject

deserving consideration; the Room, latitude or opportunity allowed to repentance. It deserves consideration on many accounts; but, especially, on account of its weight in regulating our conduct with regard to the subject. For, if there was no room for repentance in any case, no more than there is for impunity, and we could but know it, we should be inclined to put aside the bitter draught at once, however unwelcome it must be found at last, rather than drink it as a mithridate; rather forget awhile, if possible, what we know is unavoidable, than meet our trouble afar off by cruel anticipation. And it does not seem a matter of course from one authority of the New Testament, that all offenders should be forgiven either simply on their repentance. We know that a very high price has been paid for our privilege to repent, and be as we were ;—a price worthy of the extent of the privilege, and the dignity of the Power that allows it: the privilege extending to mankind generally, the power no less than universal Majesty, or the Majesty of the universe. With those whom I have the pleasure of addressing, there may be some perception of the worth of this privilege, as their attendance at this place bespeaks their interest in the subject; but no one can have an ADEQUATE perception of it, and too many, it is to be feared, do even care nothing about it. Who feel no restraint, but what the law imposes on them, or what they are really shamed into by the censure of a lax society. Thus, "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." (Ps. xiv. 1.) And it is not to be expected, that the Supreme Being, of whose existence none but a fool could doubt, should condescend to reveal himself and expostulate with a fool that is self made, and not born an idiot, to bring him to a timely repentance. He plumes himself upon his ignorance of God, the greatest affliction that ever befel mankind; thinking, that if God will never reveal himself for the future, any more than he has yet done to him in particular, he shall have no great cause to be afraid of his judgment; and reason

ing acccordingly, he says, in his heart, "I shall never be cast down: there shall no harm happen unto me." "The evil shall not overtake, nor prevent us." (Amos, ix. 10.)

I should betray my trust exceedingly, if I held out any hope of a saving repentance to men of this spirit or humour; as, on the other hand, I should be sorry to throw any obstacle or discouragement in the way of so good a work, with a woeful dejection for men of tender conscience, as if they were lost; while there may still be room for them to turn, and return. To rob men in this manner of an humble confidence in God's mercy through Christ, would be as likely a way as any to accelerate the fate of the sinner, and send him headlong from the narrow pass at which he stops trembling, into the dizzy abyss that threatened his farther progress. It would be the part of a very indiscreet, if not of a treacherous, guide,— at once fatal to venturous sinners, and injurious to God by impeaching his most valued attribute,-that of exereising loving kindness, as well as judgment and righteousness in the earth. "For in these things I delight, saith the Lord." (Jer. ix. 24.) Therefore, to place the question straight between these two points, namely, between Room and No room for repentance, I have taken a case from Scripture; which is that of Esau, and the authority just alluded to..

It seems this man was the elder of two sons that were produced at one birth; which gave him, what is still allowed in such cases, and was from the beginning of the world, or of its population, however, the right of primogeniture, or a first birthright: and to keep this was as great a duty to God and himself for man, as to keep to his kind, or for an angel to keep his first estate. But what did Esau in this case? He might have done, and most likely did, many foolish, and many wicked things before, as no man is ever worst all at once; but here he proceeded to the extent of folly and profaneness, in selling his birthright. His virtue, sapped continually by crimi

« السابقةمتابعة »