Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thus man, blinded by sin, fatally imposes upon himself. But it is not so with the awakened soul. He has no excuses to make, but confesses his sin with every aggravating circumstance, searching for it through all the recesses of his heart, as a man would search his house for a thief, that was come to rob and murder him. Sin, suffered to remain unconfessed, unpardoned, and unmortified, will rob us of eternal felicity, and destroy both body and soul in hell. This the contrite sinner is well persuaded of, and therefore examines himself daily, that sin, being discovered, may be confessed and pardoned : and not content with his own exertions, and moreover suspecting his own heart as deceitful above • all things,' he makes this his continual prayer, • Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me • and know my thoughts : and see if there be any o wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.' Dissimulation doubles the guilt of sin, and effectually prevents the Divine communication of pardoning mercy.

Of this we have a clear proof in the experience of David.* • When I kept silence,' says he, while I withheld a full confession of my sin, my bones waxed . old, through my roaring all the day long. For

day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me ; my moisture is turned into the drought of sum6 mer. I found no comfort, but the agony of

# Ps. xxxii. 3. &c. See also Job alii. 5, 6.

my soul was inexpressibly great. Then I ac

knowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniqui•ty have I not hid : I said I will confess my • transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgav. • est the iniquity of my sin.' Confession is es• sential to a participation of mercy.

Having shewn the necessity of confession, our church proceeds to direct us how to perform this duty in an acceptable manner : for confession must be made with an humble, lowly, penitent, « and obedient heart.'

• An humble and lowly heart' is an essential requisite in every part of God's worship ; but it is so, in an especial manner, when we come before His footstool to acknowledge and confess r our manifold sins and wickedness. The lips may utter words, in which the heart is uninterested. It was one of the charges brought against the Jews that they drew near to God with their mouth, and honoured Him with their lips, while their heart was far from Him.* Would God, the charge were not applicable to professing Christians also ! But it is possible that the heart may be engaged in the utterance of confession, and yet in a very improper manner : the heart may be destitute of humility and lowliness. A man may even propose to himself his own reputation in the confession he makes. He may speak degradingly of himself, that others may consider him as a pattern of humility. There is reason to fear, that this is not infrequently the case. Humility is the characteristic of a Christian ; and therefore pride often conceals itself under the garb of repentance. But when men truly know the evil of sin, their confessions will be made with an heart truly humble and lowly.' It was with such an heart that the prodigal returned to his father's house, saying, “Father, I have sinI ned against Heaven and before Thee, and am • no more worthy to be called Thy son. It was with feelings of deep self-abasement that the contrite publican smote upon his breast, crying, «God be merciful to me, a sinner. There were no witnesses of his humiliation present, in whose opinion he could hope to raise himself by the lowly language he used. It was enough for him, that the Searcher of hearts saw his godly sor• row.' Perhaps it would be useful to inquire, whether the confessions of our closets coincide with those we make before men : whether the language we adopt in the church, harmonize with our feelings and expressions in secret ; when no eye seeth us, and no ear heareth us, but that of our Father, who is in heaven. Are we really ashamed of sin ? Can we in sincerity adopt the language of Ephraim, whom God heard bemoaning himself thus, . Surely after that I was turned, I . repented ; and after that I was instructed, I * smote upon my thigh :f I was ashamed, yea, , • even confounded, because I did bear the re. proach of my youth.'I O how many are ashamed of ragged garments, or an empty purse who never felt one emotion of shame on account of sin ; though there is nothing but sin, that is properly a cause of shame !

* Is. xxix. 13.

Penitence is another concomitant of all true confession. Repentance includes an hatred of sin, and a full purpose to forsake it : He that « confesseth and forsaketh it shall have mercy.' The promise is exclusively to such. Our sorrow for it must arise from godly, not from worldly motives ; for 6 the sorrow of the world worketh • death. Our dereliction of sin must not be par. tial but universal. No reserves must be made. How horrible would be such a prayer as this ! • Lord such and such sins trouble me, I freely • confess them to be sins, and am willing to be • delivered from them ; but there is one or more, • which I cannot part with, at least not now, • though perhaps I may, some time or other.'

+ Smiting on the thigh is mentioned as a gesture of violent grief, not only in the sacred, (see also Ezek. xxi. 12.) but like• wise in the profane writers. See Homer Il. xii. lin. 163. Il. xv. • lin. 397. So in Xenophon (Cyropod. lib. vii. p. 390. Edit.

Hutchinson, 8vo.) When Cyrus heard of the death of Abradatas, and the sorrow of his wife on that account, TalTATO alpel TOY limpor be smote his thigh.'

* Jer. XXII. 19.

[ocr errors]

6

Do you start at such language ? O take heed, lest it should prove to be that of your own hearts.

Once more • An obedient heart' is also necessary to be brought with us to the throne of grace. By « an obedient heart our reformers meant an heart fraught with holy desires, and stedfast purposes, formed in the strength of Divine grace, of walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. A readiness to submit to whatever God enjoins is inseparable from genuine confession. With the great Apostle of the Gentiles, every awakened sinner inquires, • Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?'* or with the Psalmist prays, Teach me thy way, O Lord, • I will walk in thy truth, unite my heart to fear • thy name.'t

The object, which a contrite sinner proposes to himself in making confession of his sins, is • that he may obtain forgiveness of the same by • God's infinite goodness and mercy.' Remission is the one thing needful to an awakened mind. Go to the dying traveller stretched on the burning sands of Nubia ; offer him gold and silver and gorgeous apparel ; and, if he has sufficient strength left, he will express his astonishment at your folly, or his abhorrence of the insult shewn him. The refreshing draught is the boon he wants. Present the pitcher to his lips, and

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »