« PreviousContinue »
at every event more serious than common, and to relapse into our antient sins the moment we resume our original feelings.
Though the instability of repentance does sometimes proceed from the errors of the understanding, it is most commonly to be attributed to the inability to execute what the understanding determines to be right; there is a state of mind, (avery common one,) in which an human being, perfectly aware he is doing wrong, and destroying his own happiness, cannot refrain from the impulse of present gratification. Such a strange preference of evil has lead some to suppose, that the imagination always miscolours the facts in these cases, and that, at the moment of election, from some specious misrepresentation, the best of two actions is made to appear the worst, and the worst the best. On the contrary, it is quite manifest, when gratifications are immediate, and penalties remote, that men do deliberately pursue that line of conduct which they have no doubt will produce to them a much greater portion of misery than good. I do not only mean misery in a world to come, but
misery in this; and to such an extreme is irresolution carried, that men will frequently do that for which they are absolutely certain they must atone, by tenfold wretchedness, within the short period of a day, or an hour;-such is the power of immediate enjoyment over the minds of men.
The great mean of making repentance efficacious, is by holding no parley with temptation; to hesitate is to consent; to listen is to be convinced; to pause is to yield. The soul of a penitent man should be as firm, against future relapse, as it is sorrowful for past iniquity: the only chance for doing well, is to be stubborn in new righteousness; to hear nothing but on one side, and to be indebted for safety, to prudence, rather than to impartiality; above all things, to tremble for youthful virtue; not to trust ourselves, till we have walked long with God,-till the full measure of his grace is upon us,-till long abstinence has taught us to forbear,-till we have gained such wide, and such true, knowledge of pleasure, that we compre
hend salvation and eternity, in the circle of your joys.
When we ponder over the scriptures, there is one very delightful promise, which they hold out; not only that repentance, producing a real alteration of life will be accepted of God, as an atonement for sin; but so much does that acceptance, and forgiveness, make a part, and an essential part, of the great scheme of redemption, that we are told, there will be joy in Heaven over a repentant sinner; that the vanquishing of evil penetrates into other worlds, reaches to higher systems, diffuses joy over greater beings, and purer natures, whom we should have supposed to be occupied with their own proper and essential happiness; therefore, no man should say, my life has been too bad,-I have gone too far, I have trespassed too much,-I may as well go on to the end;—I have no chance of being saved. It is better far, that such a man should make a last effort for his soul, that he should come forth, and lay his sin upon the altar, and call earnestly to God with a contrite, and a wounded
heart.-Ninety and nine just persons cannot move Heaven as much as the true sorrows of sin; all things are better than the abandonment of hope in Providence, and the daring, wicked, impenitent violation of the laws of God.
I will now, then, shortly recapitulate all that I have said, in my two discourses, upon the subject of repentance. I have said, that repentance must be sincere ;that to be sincere, it must conduce to righteousness, and must include restitution, or compensation; that its efficacy is in proportion to the early period at which it is begun, and that it has no efficacy at all, if it is deferred till the moment of death :The causes of repentance, I have stated to be a good, religious education; sickness, old age, and all great physical evils, public or private; repentance, when once excited by these causes, should be rendered permanent by the recollection of those feelings which first gave it birth, by dividing the difficulty, so as to accommodate it to our weak state of resolution, or by overwhelming it, at once, by one great effort. If these things have in
them any shadow of truth,-if they are founded upon the spirit of the gospel, then repent ye; sin no more; leave the pledge upon the altar; give back the thirty pieces of silver, the wages of Satan; and, remember your Creator; while life yet remains wait not till palsy and fever teach you to repent; wait not till pain, and anguish, teach you the power of God;-learn, rather, that power from the blessings you enjoy, and while you do enjoy them, repent ye,—for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.