« ElőzőTovább »
The man whose circumstances are embarrassed may possibly retrieve all, if he have resolution in time to look well into his affairs, and be made sensible how bad they are: but to shrink from this investigation, and to banish reflection on a disagreeable subject, completes many a man's ruin. Thus multitudes are afraid, or averse, fully to examine their own character, conduct, and state ; they flee from reflection, because uneasy and mortifying ; and huddle up all in an unexamined obscurity, till they rush blindfold into remediless ruin. But by carefully examining how matters stand betwixt God and our souls, the danger is discovered, the remedy is at hand, and our destruction happily prevented. Shift not then this business : slur it not over, but go through with it, though disagreeable and mortifying: and you will find yourselves amply recompensed, by its subserviency not only to repentance, but to future solid and abiding peace of conscience.
II. Examine your heart and life daily. Not only say, 'What have I done?' but · What am I ' now doing?' “ The heart is deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked, who can know “ it?" And the Lord pronounces him “a fool, “ who trusteth in his own heart.” Men retain their good opinion and confidence concerning themselves, because they remain strangers to their own hearts, for want of daily examination : for the only way to discover a concealed villain is carefully to watch him. Watch then your own hearts : examine well your own lives : keep before your eyes the requirements of the divine law, as far as known: search the scriptures daily for further in
formation : review your daily conduct, judging of it by that infallible standard : descend to particulars; to omissions and commissions, words and actions, intentions and imaginations, deficiencies and defilements in duty, and backwardness to it. This will prove of vast importance to selfknowledge, and consequently to self-abasement. Though difficult at first, it will soon become natural and pleasant to the true Christian : it will continually keep the heart humble and watchful, and the conscience tender; and dependence on the mercy of God, through the blood of Christ, for pardon, in continual exercise. This conduct, like well-arranged accounts, will prevent a thousand anxieties and terrors in times of danger and sickness, and at the hour of death. Grudge not, then, this labour, if you are ambitious to be called disciples of Jesus, and do not “ judge yourselves un
worthy of everlasting life.”
III. Meditate frequently upon such subjects, as tend to excite and increase in the heart the sense of the heinousness of sin; labouring with your reluctant minds to bring and keep them close to this exercise. Impenitency is greatly the effect of extenuating notions of the malignity of sin: repentance must then flow from a sense of its hatefulness. It is needless to enumerate the various subjects which, duly meditated upon, may have this effect; and it would lead us into repetitions. Such are the majesty and excellency; authority and law, threatenings and judgments, of God: his righteous severity against sinning angels, against Adam and his whole posterity, against the inhabitants of the old world, against Sodom
« Now we
and Gomorrah, against the nations of Canaan, against the people of Israel, in a variety of instances, especially in the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the continued dispersion of the Jewish nation. All these, and others too numerous for me to mention, are but forerunners and emblems of that " everlasting destruction," with which in the future state all those shall be punished, “ who know not God, and obey not the gos
pel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “ know that the judgment of God is according “to truth :” these awful instances of his tremendous justice shew us his judgment of the evil of sin, and what it really deserves : even his judgment who “ is love,” and “ delighteth not in the “ death of a sinner;" but punishes solely to express his holy hatred of that abominable thing, which we lodge in our bosom, and in behalf of which we plead. These things were written on purpose to lead us to judge concerning sin as God judgeth: and this will surely lead us to unfeigned repentance.
IV. Meditate frequently and intensely on the death of Christ. Consider who he was, and what he suffered, and wherefore he suffered. Purposely retire to contemplate this surprising scene; and yield not to weariness or indisposition, till you arrive at some heart-affecting views of a crucified Saviour. Superficial speculations may amuse the fancy, and furnish out conversation : but without deeply examining and well digesting this subject, and being thus established in judgment concerning it, we can never, in habitual experience, reconcile godly sorrow with abiding peace and joy in the
Lord; or humble repentance with a lively hope of everlasting life. Here that Christian, who turns his eyes
from other objects that he may stedfastly look unto Jesus,* will perceive that the awful vengeance of God against sin, before considered, proceeds not from want of love to the persons of sinners, but from abhorrence of moral evil, the effect of a perfect view of its infinite malignity: that this judgment and conduct are essential to his most perfect character, and requisite to his glory as moral governor of the universe. When, therefore, in boundless love, he determined the salvation of sinners, he would " not spare his own Son;" but would sooner deliver him, “ in whom his soul “ delighted," to the most intense agonies and ignominious death, than leave sin unpunished, or permit his intelligent creatures to remain ignorant of his infinite hatred of it. For the instruction of the whole universe to eternal ages, in these and other important truths, respecting the divine character, law, and government, did the Son of God “ suffer once for sins, the just for the unjust.”
Here likewise the sinner may learn to estimate the worth of his immortal soul ; the vanity of this world; the dangerous situation in which he is placed ; the difficulty there is in a sinner's salvation, which cost him, who created and upholds all things by his powerful word, such humiliation and sufferings; the unspeakable love of God, and his willingness to save sinners, seeing “ he hath not “ withheld his only Son from us.” These are lessons eminently conducive to repentance: and
which can in no other way be learned to such advantage, as by “ looking unto Jesus,” and meditating on his sufferings. He then, who sincerely would repent, must daily retire in contemplation to Gethsemane and Golgotha.
V. Lastly, The whole must be rendered effectual by fervent and importunate prayer, without which all other means will be in vain. Whether we read, or meditate, or examine our lives and hearts, or whatever we do, prayer must accompany all; for it is God who “ takes away the heart of “ stone, and gives the heart of flesh,” and“ renews
us unto repentance ;” and him we must earnestly supplicate to bestow on us this “good and perfect
gift.” But, alas! it is extremely difficult to prevail upon men to get alone, and on their bended knces, day by day, to beseech the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, to work this change in them, and bestow this gift on them. To read, to hear sermons, and other things of a public nature, men may be more easily induced. A mere form or task of devotion may also be reconciled with a self-sufficient and worldly spirit and conduct; but real prayer stands in direct opposition to them all. It is the very language of indigence and dependence, and earnest longings after God and holiness. In order to pray aright, a man must know, in some measure, how vast and various his wants are ; he must understand his true interest and happiness; he must supremely value the favour and image of God. No man can truly pray for spiritual blessings, who does not carefully review his life, explore his heart, and in a measure know his own character; who is not in some degree acquainted