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melancholy thoughts? Would you not say, how are beauty and grandeur turned into desolation ? The lamps are extinguished; the altar is overturned ; the glory is departed! And was not man made to be a temple for God ? At first, the light of truth shone in his understanding, the language of praise flowed from his lips. Lord, what is man! How is this temple become a den of thieves! Where now is Paradise, with its blooming beauties, and sacred sweets ? Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee a lesson of humility. Where canst thou turn thine eye, or set thy foot, without finding proofs of thy depravity? Cursed is the ground for thy sake! thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee. Gen. iii. 18. What are the pains which pierce the body, but the poisoned darts of sin ? What are all the terrors of death, but the fruits of sin? Sin opened the sluices of divine wrath, and led into the world those floods of misery, which have spread their bitter waters over every land!, Well, then, may we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and cry, Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
On the Nature of Repentance.
In the last chapter, I proved that all are by nature, in a state of spiritual darkness and dis. tance from God, defiled with sin and exposed to future punishment. It is no easy matter to believe a doctrine, so grating to all the feelings which self-love fondly cherishes. Yet this is necessary, as a first step in religion; and without it, we stumble at the threshold. Having opened the way, I shall now proceed to shew the nature of repentance. It is of the highest importance that we should have right sentiments on this subject. There are few persons but sometimes hear or speak of repentance. The vilest reprobates will in their more sober moments own the need of repentance. While men are in the very act of sinning against God, the mind is now and then struck with a thought of repentance. But we have reason to fear, there are not many who have just ideas of what the scriptures mean by this term. Some take the name for the thing,
the shadow for the substance. Others think of nothing more than a slight reforination. If the wound be skinned over, they conclude it is healed. If the wild beast be chained, they are not concerned that it should be tamed. What numbers are there, who vainly imagine they have a power to produce the change required by themselves ! Strangers to the corruption of the heart, and the strength of evil habits, they suppose they can forsake vice and become virtuous when they please, and leap out of Delilah's lap into Abraham's bosom. Sin first deceives, next stupifies, and at last destroys. While men entertain such loose, erroneous notions, trusting to their own power, and despising or neglecting the grace of God, it may be truly said, they put their repentance in the place of Christ. It is necessary therefore that we should carefully guard against every thing which leads to such delusions.
1. I shall endeavour to shew the nature of true repentance.
That repentance which issues in life eternal, is a change of mind, contrition of heart, and deep self-abhorrence.
1. A change of mind.
While a sinner is in a carnal state, his views and sentiments, his hopes and fears, his aims and motives, are directly contrary to what they ought
to be. He scorns substantial blessings, and catches at shadows. He refuses the heavenly manna, and according to the language of the prophet, feeds upon ashes. He rejects the pearl of great price, and rakes up despicable rubbish. The things of the spirit of God, in which alone there is true wisdom, appear foolishness to him. As his imagination gilds every thing with false colours, he is pleased where he should be disgusted, and disgusted where he ought to be pleased. He is like a hungry man that dreameth, and behold he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or a thirsty man that dreameth, and behold he drinketh, but he awaketh and he is faint. Isa. xxix. 8.
But in repentance, a happy change takes place. He who is brought under the saving influence of divine grace, is renewed in the spirit of his mind. The eyes of his understanding are enlightened, to see the vanity of the world, the evil of sin, and the value of eternal possessions. Whatever relates to God, to Christ, and to the immortal soul, now appears in a new light.
1. The sincere penitent has right views of God.
Once he did not like to retain God in his knowledge. He had a revolting and a rebellious heart. The law of God, requiring perfect obedience, was thought too strict. The justice of God, preparing a cup of indignation for the wicked, was thought too severe. The worship of God was felt to be a weariness and an intolerable burden.
While such was the frame of the sinner's mind, no wonder he should turn away from religion with hatred and scorn. Job describes the wicked in prosperity, in the following remarkable language; Therefore they say unto God, depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him? Job xxi. 14. 15. One of this character hates the light, because his deeds are evil. But he who has undergone a thorough change, has new thoughts of God. He sees that he is supremely great, and infinitely gracious, worthy of the highest love and reverence, from every creature in earth and heaven. He is convinced, that the law is holy, just, and good, and even when it condemns himself, goes not a jot too far. He is ready to own, that if he had been compelled to drink the cup of wrath, and wring out its bitterest dregs, he should not have had a drop more than he deserved. In short, he perceives that God is a rock, his work is perfect, his word is pure, and all his ways are wonderful, and past finding out. And is it not evident, that the