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often loved your families, your friends, your pleasures, or your riches, much more than God?--Col. iii, 5. In the sight of this law, the irreverent use of the names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words, and works of the Almighty, is a breach of the third commandment; and have you not, in prayer, in praise, even in reading the Scriptures, or in moments of surprize, often taken the name of God in vain; nay, perhaps, even in the daring language of cursing and swearing?
The fourth commandment calls for the spending of the whole time of the Lord's-day in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as may be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. But have you not profaned the day by idleness, or doing that which was in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about worldly employments or recreations ? Ye children, have you always honoured, and cherished, and comforted your parents, and have you never treated them with irreverence in thought, words, or demeanour? Ye men of anger, and wrath, and malice, you are charged with murder in the sight of God.-1 John iii. 15. Ye whose wanton eyes, and lewd and filthy conversation, show the pollution that dwells within, you are guilty of breaking the seventh commandment. Ye dealers, who depreciate your neighbour's goods, and unduly extol your own, to profit by the trick, you, as well as the open plun. derer, are constantly transgressing the eighth commandment. Ye gossippers, and slanderers, and backbiters, who are daily speaking evil of your neighbours, the ninth commandment stands to condemn you. Ye fretful and envying, and covetous sons and daughters of men, the tenth commandment seals your condemnation. Ye drunkards and ye Gospel-despisers, or Gospel-neglecters, ye self-righteous Pharisees, ye formalists, and ye carnally minded, and unconverted of every class, you are far from the way to heaven, and sunk into a state of death.—Matt. xviii. 3; Rom viii. 6. And how can you dare to speak peace to yourselves, when the word of God cries, Wo, wo, wo, unto you!-You are every man guilty in the sight of God; and of what are you guilty ? of breaking a law which proclaims, “ Cursed is every man that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them," Gal. iii. 10; of committing sin, the wages of which, had you never committed it but once, is death, eternal death.
Rom. vi. 23. Tremble, O sinner, at the fearful penalty which you have incurred, not merely by one, but by numberless transgressions. Arise! what meanest thou, O sleeper? and call upon God, if so he will hear, that thou perish not! Though, like Paul, when in an unawakened state, you may have been alive without the law once; may have considered yourself in a state of spiritual life, and in the way to eternal happiness, without knowing the extent or the penalty of the divine law; yet now, when sin revives and rises to your view, as the hideous monster with which you have trifled, let your false hopes die within you; and, conscious that you are in the road to destruction, let your one inquiry be, What must I do to be saved?
Secondly, repentance implies godly sorrow for sin.
The superficial manner in which many take up a profession of religion, without feeling what an evil and bitter thing it is to have sinned, would lead us to stand in doube of them. To an awakened soul, sin will appear so abominable and ruinous a thing, that he will loathe himself, and abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes. The sorrow which will be felt by such persons, will not be the sorrow of the world. It will not arise from the consideration of the mere worldly disadvantages which may be the consequences of the commission of sin. A man may, by sin, ruin his health, or his character, or his fortune. He may destroy the peace and the prospects of his family, and often, very often, are such sad scenes the reward of a sinner's doings. Under the pressure of such worldly calamities, a man may mourn for sin, even to melancholy, and madness, and death; and yet in all this, there may not be one feeling of that godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation.
Godly sorrow arises from the contemplation of the evil of sin, as committed against God. When a penitent considers, that though nourished and brought up as a child, he has rebelled against God, his bountiful benefactor, and has exposed himself to his dread displeasure, he is ready to say, “My heart trembleth, because of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments., I have sinned, and what can I say to thee, O thou preserver of men!"
What a beautiful picture of this sorrow have we in the case of David. He had greatly sinned; and, in sinning, he had grievously injured his fellow.creatures, and had
brought heavy temporal calamities upon himself. But when he contemplates the higher and the holier obligations against which he had transgressed in the sight of his God, the other considerations are lost in this, and he exclaims, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”--Psalm li. 4.
A similar and no less striking instance of this sorrow, we find exhibited in the case of the returning prodigal. He had despised a father's kindness, and a faiher's care. He had lightly esteemed the comforts of home, and had preferred the profligacy of a far country. His sin bad brought him to shame, to want, and to sorrow. But when, as a mourning penitent, he poured out the natural effusions of a broken heart in his parent's ear, the first consideration that gained an utterance, was, “Father, I have sinned against heaven.”
Whilst the thought of having offended God, forms a prominent feature in godly sorrow, the mind of a true penitent is not insensible to other considerations. He looks around him, and beholds the circle of a family, or of friends, or of society, injured by his inattention to religion, or his ungodly example; and he mourns the mischief, which, in many instances, it is impossible to remedy. He looks within him, and finds there a mind long estranged from peace, and often the subject of self-condemnation, and of deep anguish. He looks onward, and beholds a worm that dies not, and a fire that cannot be quenched, and is convinced that he has justly deserved a portion there from that God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
But of all considerations, Calvary, bleeding Calvary, constitutes the most affecting ingredient in godly sorrow. When the penitent beholds a loving, weeping, bleeding, agonizing, dying Saviour, wounded for his transgressions, bruised for his iniquities, and bearing the chastisement of his
peace, “ he looks on him whom he has pierced, and mourns for him, as one mourns for an only son; and is in bitterness for bim, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born."-Zech xii. 10.
To discover well-authenticated examples of this godly sorrow, read in the 6th, the 32d, and the 51st Psalms, the expressions of the anguish of David's heart. Or follow for a little the sorrowful steps of a penitent Peter, when he goes out to weep bitterly.Matt. xxvi. 75. Or behold Mary, the humbled Mary, once indeed a careless sinner, but now a contrite soul, watering the Saviour's feet with her tears, and wiping them with the hairs of her head. Luke vii. 38. The full extent of this sorrow we would not presume to fathom, but it must be such as shall effectually embitter sin to the soul. It must be such as shall render the tidings of a Saviour, contained in the Gospel, the most interesting that ever struck on the ears of a sinful mortal; and it must be such as (to use the words of the excellent definition of repentance contained in our catechism) shall lead the penitent to turn from sin to God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.
Thirdly, repentance involves, as its practical fruit, a turning from sin.
The man that assumes the sorrowful countenance, and heaves the heavy sigh, and utters the bumble confession, and the penitent prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and yet, when followed to his walk in life, does not cease to do evil, learn to do well, and attend to all the duties of a believer, is no better, no other than an hypocrite. You are enjoined not only to repent, but to turn from all your transgressions; for so, and only so, iniquity shall not be your ruin.--Ezek. xviii 30. This is the fruit meet for repentance, demanded in the New Testament. Matt. iii. 8.
III.-Let us press the necessity of immediate repentance.
1. Because the longer you delay, you daily contract more guilt, and your load of iniquity is already too heavy for you to bear. Sinner, have you not already enough provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger? Your every act, while impenitent, must provoke him more and more. Hasten to return, lest he swear in his wrath, you shall never enter into enjoyment of his rest.
2. Should you ever repent, your distress will be the more intense, the longer you delay. Have you not al. ready cause enough for mourning and sorrow! Why should you multiply your own anguish? Your language, if you ever find mercy, will be
“Ah! why did I so late thee know,
3. You can never repent without the grace of God; and you provoke him more and more, by impenitence, to withhold his Spirit from you.
It is he that pours out the spirit of grace and suppli. cation, which opens the sluices of godly sorrow.-Zech. xii. 10. It is be that granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life.--Acts xi. 18. Now a Prince and a Saviour is exalted to give this blessing, as well as forgiveness of sins.Acts v. 31. O ask it now, lest his intercession, in your behalf, should be employed no more,- lest bis spirit should cease to strive,-and lest, given up to hardness and impenitence of heart, you should only treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.-Rom. ii. 5.
Lastly. Today hear his voice, and harden not your heart, for before to-morrow, you may be in eternity.
The gracious and long-suffering God has brought you to the close of another year. He has been coming for ten, twenty, or perhaps fifty years, seeking fruit, and yet perhaps he has found none; no fruit meet for repentonce towards God, and for faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; and he may be about to pronounce over you the dreadful sentence, “Cut them down, why cumber they the ground?” O sinners, are you about to drop into eternity thus, with the unrepented sins of another year about you? With the profaned sabbaths, and neglected sermons, and multiplied omissions, and commissions of twelve months more? God forbid! If you would avert so fearful a calamity, delay not your repentance; for 'not only this very year, but this very nigbt, your souls may be required of you; and, then, mercy will be clean gone for ever, and the Lord will be favourable no more, -your condemnation will be aggravated and unspeakable. Hasten, beloved friends, to the precious blood of Christ, that by it you may be purged from your old sins, before the old year comes to its conclusion. Hasten to the Holy Spirit, that he may give you a new heart, before you enter on a new year, and be determined, through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to put off concerning the former conversation, the old mon, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put ye on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. If thus you should now arise and come to your Father, while now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation, whether many more years shall be added to your life, or that which is now closing shall gather you to your fathers, we are authorized to say, surely it shall be well with you, and your souls shall live.