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punish it; but to confess our sins is to honour his holy law, which we have broken; to honour his omniscience, which beheld all our crimes; to honour his justice, which might take vengeance upon them; and to honour his patience, which has forborne to strike the fatal blow. And, indeed, a frank and free confession of our sins is the best way of finding peace, “While I kept silence,” says the Psalmist,“ my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long; but I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm xxxii, 4, 5.
Secret sins require only secret confession to that God who seeth in secret; but sins that are public and scandalous ought to be more openly acknowledged; that we may undo, as far as we can, the evil committed.
The true penitent is sincere in his public confession. How many call themselves « miserable sinners :" declare that “ the remembrance of their sins is grievous, and the burden of them intolerable;" and cry, “Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ, have mercy upon us, without the least sense of the evil or burden of iniquity? This is abominable hypocrisy, and adding sin to sin. But the renewed soul is truly sincere in his confessions; he finds the words of Scripture well adapted to his feelings, and can cordially adopt those of Job, “Behold I am vile, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes;” or the words of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner;" or the words of Paul, who calls himself “ the chief of sinners."
We have now considered Conviction, Contrition, and Confession, as three essential ingredients in true repentance; and to these we must add one more,
IV. Conversion; which is a forsaking sin, and
turning from it to God. John the Baptist, that great preacher of repentance, exhorted his hearers to * bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” And thus St. Paul preached both to Jews and Gentiles, “that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Acts xxvi. 20. Without this, the most humbling expressions and confessions, the greatest alarms of conscience, or floods of tears, will prove insufficient. « Though Cain's terror, Judas's confession, Pharaoh's promises, Ahab's humiliation, Herod's hearing John gladly, and doing many things, were all combined in one man, they would not prove him a real penitent, while the love of one sin remained unmortified in the heart, or the practice of it allowed in his life.” True repentance is not content to lop off the branches, but “lays the axe at the root of the tree.” The devil may suggest that a beloved sin is but a little one, and may be spared; but grace will know, that as one small leak may sink a ship, so one indulged sin may damn a soul. However dear therefore a lust may be, or however hard to be parted with, it must be forsaken. So our Lord directs : “ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out; if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off:” that is, if thine eye or thine hand cause thee to offend, or incline thee to sin, turn away thine eye from it, as if thou hadst no eye to see it, or hand to practise it ; and be as willing to part with a beloved lust, as a man who has a mortified hand or foot is willing to part with it, to preserve his life. “For it is better to enter into life thus maimed, than having two eyes or two hands to be cast into hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
You have a fine instance of true repentance in Zaccheus, the converted publican. When Christ and salvation came to his house and heart, he, who had probably been a great sinner, stands and says to the Lord : “ Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore himn fourfold.” Here was not only confession of sin, but forsaking it. He, who had been an extortioner, becomes not only honest, but liberal. He makes restitution; and so will every true penitent. He will undo what he has done if possible. Alas! how many evils is it now impossible to undo! Some poor souls are perhaps in hell, to whose destruction our wickedness contributed. But grace will enable us to do what is possible: sin shall not have dominion : and we shall now be as earnest to please and serve God, as once we were to serve the devil.
If this be repentance, the great point is, Have we repented? O, let us not deceive ourselves ! Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness, has said, “ Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish:”not come to nothing, or cease to be (happy would it be for impenitent sinners were that their case); but they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Do not mistake. Repentance is universally necessary, for "all have sinned.” If it could be proved that we never committed but one single sin, repentance would be absolutely necessary. One theft, one murder, proved against a man at a human bar, is enough to procure his condemnation; so one sin against God is enough to condemn us to eternal misery. But it is not one, it is not ten thousand sins only, that we have to lament; " who can understand his errors ?” Listen not to the father of lies; he promised Eve that eating of the forbidden fruit should do her no harm; but she found, and we all feel, the dreadful effects of that first sin. Say not, with
the wicked man of old, “ Who, when he heareth the words of this curse, shall bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst.” God forbid! for mark the consequence : “ The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him.” Deut. xxix. 19, 20. Repent or perish, is the solemn decision of God. “He commandeth all men every where to repent;" and what can be more reasonable? The law which we have broken is "holy, and just, and good.” To love him was our most reasonable service; and would have been for our unspeakable benefit. Having then broken it, and by so doing incurred his wrath, and exposed ourselves to ruin, can it be thought unreasonable that we should make a humble submission, and implore his mercy ?
Come, then, and be encouraged to instant repentance. He might have cut you off in your sins, without a moment's warning; but he has given you time and space for repentance. His very command is encouragement. İt implies, that “there is forgiveness with him;" for pardon of sin and repentance are inseparably connected. “Christ is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins." O apply to him, without delay, by earnest prayer, and he will give them to you. Hear, sinner, the gracious message which he sends you this day. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Only do not suppose that repentance deserves or merits pardon. Neither repentance, nor faith, nor any of their practical fruits are, in the least degree, causes or conditions, meritorious of mercy and eternal life. No, no! Salvation is all of grace; but this is the order appointed of God; for, by penitential sorrow, the heart is prepared to receive the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let the “goodness of God lead thee to repentance.” He delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but rather rejoiceth in his return. And our Saviour assures us, that “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.” Arise, sinner, for he calleth thee. Does your heart begin to relent? Are you saying, “I will arise and go to my father ?” Arise, then, and go at once. He will see thee afar off, and run to meet thee; he waits to be gracious, and there shall be joy in heaven, and joy on earth, upon thy return.
Thousands as vile and base as you have found mercy. Let not Satan say it is too late : the door is open; nor let him say it is too soon, for the door may soon be shut. He may say, to-morrow may do. God says to-day. “ While it is called to-day," then, hear his voice. To-morrow may be too late. - This night may thy soul be required of thee!” Beware of deferring repentance to a dying bed. Will you not then have enough to do, to bear with patience the pains and agonies of dissolving nature ?—Why should you plant thorns in your dying pillow ?Why should you not then have the peace of God, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, to support and comfort your heart? Besides, who can tell but sudden death may be your lot ?-if not, extreme pain, or a disordered head, may prevent the possibility of repentance. And do not be discouraged by supposing that repentance has any thing in it forbidding. Christ has said, “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The penitent has more pleasure in his tears than the worldling in all his gaiety. Besides, if the door be strait, it opens into