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his own safety and peace. His keenest pang of sorrow will arise from the remembrance of the evils which others may have suffered, either from bis neglect of duty towards them or from the unhappy influence of his bad example. In all the various relations of life—whether Providence may have raised him to stations of public honour and trust, or limited his sphere of action within the domestic and social circle-he will have reason to lament the ten thousand opportunities he has neglected of doing good to those around him ; of soothing their distresses; of relieving their wants; of enlightening their minds ; of reclaiming them from sin ; of urging them to attend to the concerns of their immortal souls, and of supplicating the Throne of Grace in their behalf. Nay, what is worse,
he may have mocked at every thing sober and serious; he may have laughed away the first religious impressions from the breast of some friend or acquaintance ; he may have delighted to tread the forbidden paths of sensuality and sin, and may have seduced, by his base example, the innocent and unwary to destruction. Thus, either by gross neglect on the one hand, or by direct influence on the other, he may have shut out some miserable soul from heaven, and may have plunged it into irremediable woe. And, if really penitent, his heart will bleed at the remembrance of these consequences of his guilt. He will begin to realize the true and awful nature of sin. He will see that, if permitted to have an unchecked sway, it would soon blot out
all that is fair and lovely and cheering from creation, and envelop it in one eternal midnight of wretchedness and despair. So far, therefore, as he may have contributed to this horrid predominance of sin, even within the narrow circle in which he has moved, so far he sees reason for the deepest repentance. But if such be the character of his past, such also will be that of his future, guilt ; for sin will ever be opposed to real happiness. He, therefore, can surely feel no genuine repentance for the consequences of his past guilt, who does not labour to become entirely free from the dominion of sin in future-who does not commence and prosecute the work of a thorough and permanent reformation.
4. Repentance is principally founded upon a deep conviction of past ingratitude toward God. This cause of repentance swallows up all the rest ; or rather, they all terminate in this. For God is the Author of that law which denounces eternal death against the transgressor, and to the just penalty of which the penitent sinner has long been exposed; and yet the arm of Divine Justice has not fallen upon his guilty head. God is the Author of that law, by the disobedience of which the penitent sinner hath so degraded his moral character, and roused to its keenest rebuke a wounded and angry conscience; and yet Divine Grace has all the while been offering, and still offers, its pure and holy influence to remove all sin from the heart, and to adorn it with every Christian virtue. God is the Author of all those relations of life in which the pen
itent sinner hath so grossly neglected his duty, and done dreadful, perhaps irreparable, injury to the best interests of his fellow-men ; and yet Divine Goodness has continued to sustain him in life, and even to crown that life with loving-kindness and with tender mercies. He has had food to eat, and raiment to put on. He has enjoyed the comforts and conveniences, perhaps the refinements and luxuries, of civilized society. He has reposed beneath his own vine, with none to molest or make him afraid. And what is far beyond all these merciescrowning them all, ennobling them all, giving importance to them all-he has been permitted to hear the glad news of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and has had continually placed before him the means of grace and the hope of glory. These good and perfect gifts have all flowed upon him from one Source-from that Being who is merciful, and kind, and long-suffering even to the ungrateful and rebellious. His past transgressions, therefore, take their deepest dye from the reflection that they have been committed against God; and the true penitent is ready to exclaim, with the contrite monarch of Israel, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” But this goodness of God, which thus lays the foundation of genuine repentance, still continues to bless the penitent sinner. Does he mourn for his past ingratitude ? Has the goodness of God led him to repentance ? The same goodness still demands the most loyal homage of his heart, and calls for unceasing ex
pressions of grateful obedience. He, therefore, can surely feel no genuine repentance for his past ingratitude toward God, who does not endeavour to love him more and serve him better in future-who does not cominence and prosecute the work of a thorough and permanent reformation.
Thus you see, my brethren, how all the causes which tend to produce genuine repentance must, with the force of necessity, lead to a radical reformation of heart and life. These are as indissolubly connected as the fountain, and the streams which it pours forth; as the tree, and the fruit which it bears. Trust not, then, to any outward expression of humiliation and penitence before God, as the test of your sincerity. Count not the sighs, and tears, and groans, which may have attended your more secret prostration of soul, before the offended Majesty of Heaven. Rely not on these for proof of the genuineness of your repentance. Rather scrutinize your present purposes and motives of action : examine the real character of your daily conduct and conversation : and thus learn whether you are truly penitent, by ascertaining whether you do indeed bring forth fruits ineet for repentance.
II. And that we may all the better practice this important duty of self-examination, let us consider, as was proposed in the second place, the nature of that reformation which the doctrine of our text inculcates. This reformation will be radical, and it will be permanent.
1. It will be radical.-It will lay the axe to the root of the sinner's past transgressions. It will purify the fountain whence all his wickedness has flowed. It will reach the heart, penetrating its most hidden recesses, and hallowing its most secret affections. There is, my brethren, a mere external reformation of conduct, which often takes place in those who are alarmed at the consequences of sin. The fact is, their repentance is not allied to a humble reliance on the merits of Jesus Christ for acceptance with God; but to a dependence on their own future obedience. Self-righteousness is the foundation of their apparent reformation. And in what does their reformation consist ? In abstaining from gross and palpable immoralities of conduct ; in preserving a decent and sober external deportment; in attending to the outward forms and ceremonies of religion. Of that internal purity of heart which consists in bringing, or at least attempting to reduce, the most retired thoughts, the most secret motives of conduct, into subjection to the law of God, which requires that we should do all things for his glory ;-of a radical reformation like this, the false penitent knows nothing. Let us then, my hearers, be careful to see, whether the reformation which our repentance produces is commensurate with the extent of our past transgressions. Does it aim to rectify all the disorders of our souls ? Does it make no compromise with any secret or easily besetting sin ? Does it strive to slay all the remaining enmity which exists in the carnal mind against God?