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if, sensible of his own weakness and peril, he had been used continually to watch his own transgressions, and not to let things pass away as in a dream, then he would be like the same ship, caught indeed in a storm, but guided by a careful pilot, who had watched, and not lost his reckoning, and was aware what course to take.
In another way, the remembrance of our sin and unworthiness may help us against worldly care and anxiety. If we have it deep at heart, it will make us very resigned, and ready to bow with submission to the will of our chastening Father, as being thoroughly convinced that we have indeed deserved much worse, and humbly hoping to be so weaned from our bad ways, and to learn so much patience by our trials in this present world, may prepare us, by Divine grace, to be received into rest and glory hereafter. According to the saying in the Book of Lamentations : “ Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" and to that other saying in the Prophet Micah, “ I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him.”
By the same rule, much thought of our own unworthiness, and of the spiritual danger we are in, will make us very indifferent to worldly things : as those well know who have at any time felt more than usually dejected on recollecting their many provocations against their Maker, and considering what must become of them should He call them before they have truly repented. When such thoughts are strong on a man's mind, he loses his relish for the things which are accounted the chief prizes of this world. It is nothing to him whether he is rich or great, he is swallowed
with the awful meditation what is to become of his soul for ever. This, which has been most men's feeling occasionally, would be every man's feeling by regular habit, if he would regularly reprove himself for his faults, and endeavour to see them as the Holy Angels do. Now, who does not see that whatever takes him off from worldly cares and anxieties, would be so much added to the quiet and comfort of his life? Who would not bear the pain which strictly watching his own sins must occasion, for the sake of that calmness and evenness of mind which good Christians enjoy, because, by God's grace, they have but one great care, but one thing much at heart, namely, the saving of their souls; and by the same grace they are in a fair way to make sure of that for ever? Certainly such unity and steadiness of purpose, such constancy and tranquillity of heart, such freedom from the wild and childish passions, which distract the impenitent unrenewed heart ten thousand ways at once,-certainly these are great blessings, even here in this present life. And these are only to be obtained by those who will consent to have their hearts thoroughly humbled, by the constant watching of their own transgressions and backslidings.
Then, when God's Spirit has thus taught men to believe themselves to be unworthy persons heartily,—which is indeed a much harder lesson than we can understand, till we have thoroughly tried,—but when we have heartily learned our own unworthiness, the lessons to be learned from the sufferings of our Blessed Saviour will sink the deeper into our hearts; we shall be ashamed to murmur at our light affliction which is but for a moment, considering what He endured who was without spot and blemish, "purer than an Angel, and brighter than the Morning Star.” Supposing that we are reproached, that will come int
our minds which our LORD Himself hinted His Disciples : “ If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household !” A truly humble person will even be alarmed, if he find himself going on for any length of time without God's fatherly chastisements. He will fear lest, for some sin of his, God does not think him worthy “to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses.” So much the more contentedly, and even thankfully, will he bear such trials when they come, however grievous to flesh and blood, being now sure that God means him good, since He has given him an opportunity of being conformed to the image of His Son.
Also, when we are speaking of Confession, another thing is much to be considered,—the relief which God has provided for sick souls, by inviting and encouraging them to confess their sins to their brethren ; not to any of their brethren, but to those whom He has called from among the rest to be His Ministers, partly for this very purpose, that they may receive private Confession, and administer private Absolution, in His Name. As it was, no doubt, a great relief to the unhappy lepers among the Jews, that they were to come to the Priest, and tell him all, and he was to judge of their case, and use all gentleness and discretion towards them : so if we would oftener follow the advice and direction of our Church, and lay open our conscience to the Priest, when we find it troubled with any weighty matter, it could not fail greatly to relieve us, and help towards the cure of our sick souls. The pain and shame itself of confessing would, doubtless, in many cases be very great; but if borne patiently for Christ's sake, it would do good as other tribulations do, besides the secret and mysterious blessing which our LORD has joined to the right use of all His holy Church ordinances. Then as the Leper would feel sure consolation, on being told by the Priest that his leprosy was really cleansed, the band of God taken off, and he free to enter into God's Sanctuary again : so who can say what comfort and strength it might give any of us Christians now, if, having a burthened conscience, he were to open his grief to the Priest with entire humility and truth, and if having obediently followed good advice, and shown good signs of true and enduring repentance, he should hear the gracious words, “I absolve thee from all thy sins," spoken to him with authority by one of those to whom our LORD Himself said, “ Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven?"
Surely in such an one, according to the measure of his sincerity, the gracious Psalm would be accomplished,—“ While I held my tongue, my bones consumed away through my daily complaining: Thy hand was heavy upon me day and night.” But "I acknowledged my sin unto THEE, and mine iniquity have I not hid : I said, I will confess my sins unto the LORD; and so Thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin.” Thus speaks David, who had confessed his sins, not•to God only, but also to God's Prophet : and so he found absolution and relief. Though he still bore about him, sad and heavy, the remembrance of what he had done; though the mark continued upon him, yet he had comfort and assured hope, in knowing that God had so far put away his sin, that he was not to die for it: he was in a way to be quite cured at last, if he would but persist in his humble remembrance of his sin, and in true obedience, till his trial was over.
On the whole, is not the point made clear, which at first may sound strange to the inconsiderate, namely, that continual remembrance of your sins, according to the advice and example of David, is the only way to have tolerable peace of mind ? For this will lead you to Holy Scripture, and to the great and noble examples there. This will lead you to the foot of the Cross, will set you upon seeking God's Holy Spirit by confession and absolution, by His Sacraments and by untiring Prayer. This will keep it ever in your heart, that God is present observing your ways. Worldly cares and worldly fears will pass away like light clouds over your mind, when the serious thought of your sin and danger is become habitual to you. You will be braced up to endure sorrow, knowing that it is fully deserved ; and whilst with all thankfulness you receive the thousand blessings, the least of which you know is greater than the best of your merits, you will be continually humbled and sobered by the remembrance of what He suffered, Who never deserved any
ill. And thus, not being high-minded, but fearing, you will make every day's remembrance of your past sins a step towards that eternal peace, in which there will be no need of watching against sin any more.
DANGER OF IRREVERENCE.
2 COR, iji. 6.
" Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the
letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
We may well inquire how it is that the letter of Scripture, in distinction from the spirit of it, is spoken of as so dangerous; for we doubt not that the letter of it is from God; and therefore cannot be in itself evil, but must be good and life-giving. And the same may be said of sacred forms in religion, such as the Church affords us; if they are, as we trust, from God, they cannot be in themselves evil, but good and profitable. But of course what is meant is, that there is a danger of our misusing the letter to our hurt, from our not having the true spirit of a Christian. In the same way that our bodily food is good and necessary for life, but if there is not strength and health in the constitution to digest the food, and to turn it into nourishment, it will become hurtful, and do harm instead of good.
There can surely be no part of Scripture, either new or old, but must have been very good to the Jew formerly, and to the Christian now, unless it is by his own bad use of it; for we know how the Psalmist speaks of the Law throughout the 119th Psalm, the words of which were “ sweet unto" his throat,” and " sweeter than honey unto” his “mouth.” Which could not have been the case unless they were full of profit and bless