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nal indulgence, was become so weak at last, that it could not resist even the poor temptation of his palate but disregarding the favour of Almighty Providence, which had placed him in the lofty position of heir to Abraham and inheritor of the promise, disregarding his father Isaac's partiality descending to him on that same account, disregarding his own honour and happiness, and that of all his posterity,―he weakly and wickedly, or, as it is said, “ profanely," (Heb. xii. 16,) exchanged his blessed birthright for one morsel (or meal rather) of meat; and consequently "found (as the Scripture informs us) no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." (Heb. xii. 16, 17.) His father sent him away loaded with temporal blessings, as God sends the reprobates; "for he is kind unto the unthankful and the evil:" but the divine birthright, or the right of kin to Messiah, was gone from him and his for ever.
If every one who is born to God by an union cemented in his name, and by a further assignment of him, the property so born, to God by contract before witnesses, with a regular covenant and conveyance-being weak enough thereafter to renounce his birthright only by a tacit preference of some inferior object, which was precisely Esau's case, were doomed to be rejected by God accordingly as Esau was by Isaac, I fear it would be a serious case for many of us. If Esau had been so rejected of God for every spiritual blessing as he was for one, he might have wept blood instead of tears. And if it was deemed such a piece of profaneness in that hardy hunter, to prefer food before honour as he came fainting from the field, what must be thought of those who have their daily fill of necessaries without the danger of the chase, and even of lawful enjoyments if they like, yet cannot be satisfied with these; but must be hankering after sinful pleasures, or rather after base illusions-shadows of pleasure and food for repentance? "Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; (says the prophet;) give ear unto the law of
our God ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil: learn to do well. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah i. 10, &c.)
In this manner did the holy prophets, or the Holy Ghost by them, encourage offenders to look for pardon by repentance in the worst cases, without flattering their offences; since looking to God for pardon with no higher confidence than became them they might be considered in a more favourable position than those who defy or disregard him; as it is written again, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God: for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously. For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. His branches shall spread; and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return." (Hos. xiv. 1, &c.) Which may be understood of Christ and his holy religion: for this is like the shadow of Christ going before him; and happy are they who wait for the substance, as many who satisfy themselves with a shadow of religion would not be satisfied with the shadow only of its advantages: and there may be ninety-nine good men of that sort to one real penitent. (Luke xv. 7.) We read, "With the Lord there is mercy;" (Ps. cxxx. 7;) and I am sure there is: but we must take it as it comes. Our Saviour tells us generally, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish:" (Luke xiii. 3) and we cannot without repenting expect the benefit of repentance, whatever room there may be for it in the mercy of God. Feeling a call to repentance may show some room for its blessed fruit; answering that call,
some more; and so by degrees we may find room enough. It will be bad for us, if we do not; as may appear by considering
§3. The opposite manner and Effect of a good and evil, or allowed and disallowed repentance: which are both bitter indeed; but one as a medicine, the other as a poison; one as a limited evil, like most medicines, the other as illimitable suffering. And only a sample of the first might be enough to check the profligate sometimes, if he should be willing to consider it-to consider how good men, or not particularly bad, are made to smart under the stroke of repentance. Job, for example, was not particularly bad, we know: and how he was racked, tossed, and tormented by the storm within him, even more than by all his heavy afflictions without! "Am I
a sea, or a whale, (said he to his heavenly Observer,) that thou hast set a watch over me?-I have sinned: what shall I do unto thee, O thou Preserver of men? Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee; so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?" (Job vii. 12. 20, 21.) So David was a man after God's own heart-a man of righteous principles, but not infallible, any more than St. Peter: and how does he express the bitter effect of repentance? "I am weary of my groaning: every night wash I my bed, and water my couch with tears. For innumerable troubles are come about me: my sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up: yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me." (Ps. vi. 6; xl. 15.)
Now these men could not either of them have an heavier load of guilt on his conscience at last, than perhaps the most righteous of modern times might have; their crimes, however great, having been duly repented: which may be thought rare, and yet cannot be doubted, considering their habitual sincerity and evident suffering on that account. And if righteous men, or so righteous as they,
scarcely be saved in the storm of repentance, "where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (Pet. I. iv. 18.) Such examples of mental suffering should have some weight with the wretched profligate, who is over head and ears in debt to repentance. But if the expressions of these good men do not give a sufficient idea of his painful liability, the profligate may just step into one of those ominous asylums for lunatics which spring up continually every where, il signs of the times; and there see by chance what an intensity of suffering it is possible to meet in the way of repentance. I confess the general way that they recommend his medicine to a patient is not by telling him how painful or unpleasant it may be in its operation: but you will observe a peculiarity in this case; which is the danger of suffering more in the same way, if the necessary suffering be not endured at once as an antidote, similar to what we hear and read of people taking poison habitually in small doses to counteract its effect in larger; whence the term Mithridate before mentioned. The agreeable effects of repentance however, being more positive as well as more palatable, are those which bid fairest to recommend it.
There seems then in the outward tone and character of one who reckons with himself daily and daily repents, as our Saviour recommends-and Job and David and others like them may be supposed to have done, a grandeur and a richness that one does not find in the reckless sort, if one should in their equals for other respects. But it is to the inner man from which these outward characters proceed, that you are to look for the more pleasing features and effects of repentance, if it be toward a legitimate object; which, as I have before stated, is necessary, to make it legitimate and good. Thus we find in a hearty and sincere repentance toward God the richest endowment for the subject and the most acceptable sacrifice to God that any subject of his can offer, which is that of a contrite heart; as it is said, "The sacrifice of God is a
troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise." (Ps. li. 17.) These are indeed fruits meet for repentance; as John told the Pharisees, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." (Matt. iii. 8.) And the fruit of their acceptance in Christ is, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeping our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. iv. 7.)
In repentance toward mankind, if that be likewise sincere, one finds a reinforcement of kindness and charity; in repentance toward inferior kinds an agreeable accession of gentleness and humanity, toward one's self, of faith, prudence, and humility. Repentance is edifying in every respect in particular, it opens the heart to sympathy, bounty, and liberality. But we should be cautious of mistaking these virtues for repentance: also, of substituting silver and gold for that which is of so much higher price in the sight of God as meekness and humility. (Pet. I. iii. 4.) A man possessed with the dire disease of guilt might be glad to give any thing" rivers of oil," (Mic. vi. 7,) if he had them, to be rid of it: which others also might be glad enough to receive on this account. But not so God: "he hath shewed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee; but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (lb. 8.) By a sacrifice of this kind a man might enrich himself, as by that of silver and gold he might some arch impostor or idle fraternity, if any one should be base enough to take advantage of his despondence, instead of giving it a right direction.
Such an acceptable sacrifice as that is not likely to offer any where sooner than in an honest and hearty repentance toward one or other of the forementioned objects; and no doubt, there will be room enough for repentance toward both, but toward God more especially as it is said by the Psalmist, "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise." (Ps. li. 17.) Therefore the benefit of this passion or acci