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thing wrong, while yet the person is at a stand still, and does not see his way how to set out on a better road.
Now for the benefit of both sorts of answerers, God's wisdom has condescended to point out, by what follows in the Prophet, the right course to be pursued. The particular sin which he here reproves in them is their robbing God of His tithes; and when they say,
“ Wherein shall we return ?" this is His Divine command : “ Bring all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord, if I will not open the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there be not room enough to receive it.” That is, make a courageous effort, and force yourself to do those things wbich are most contrary to the particular sin against which conscience warns you. Do not stand waiting, and hesitating, and asking how you must set about the work of repentance, but at once begin exercising yourself, in whatever most contradicts the bad tendencies which you cannot help being aware of. If the evil spirit of impurity has at all laid hold of you, trifle not with it, but the very next opportunity you have, turn away your eyes and all your senses from that which you know is likely to corrupt them. If selfishness be your fault, force yourself to wait upon others. If you are inclined to high thoughts of yourself, turn steadily away from your own praise, in whatever form and shape it comes. And so in all other respects; and especially take care, what you do, not to do it by halves, but with a generous faith give up all to God, and prove Him if He will not bless you in so doing.
By way of conclusion, I will take an instance not very far from Malachi's : I will suppose that some man, during this year that is passed, has been guilty of the deadly sin of stealing, or otherwise unfairly making gain of what was other men's. To him God's command by the Prophet is clear. Never mind the shame, the pain, or the loss, of making full restitution of all you have taken. Restore it, if you can, with large amends : the Law of Moses said fourfold, and Zacchæus, the publican, we know did the same, proving thereby the sincerity of his repentance. Upon which our Lord gave him a special blessing, and declared that salvation was come to his house. If we would have at all the same kind of blessing, let us , see to it that we follow his ex
ample, and make full restitution of ill-gotten gains, as far as ever it can be brought about. Be not afraid of the shame, or the pain, or the want; think of God's blessing, think of Christ and His Holy Angels, well pleased to behold you from Heaven ; think that there cannot be a likelier way of ensuring to yourself a happy new year.
But it may be, actual restitution is become impossible ; as it too often justly happens to us, that even when we truly repent, we find the mischief we have done incurable : perhaps the person wronged is dead or far away, and we know not how to have any dealings with him, or you cannot exactly tell whom you wronged; and this I take to be a very common case, that people go on in some way of business, taking little unfair liberties in matters of selling and buying, labour and handicraft, until the sum of their gain, and of their sin too, is very large, and yet it would be hard for them to say, “So much was taken from this man, so much from that," and to make satisfaction accordingly. What are such to do? Jesus Christ in His great mercy has left them a plain way to the blessing of Zacchæus, or some good portion of it. He is present among them, by His poor and needy, ready to receive their offerings, sincerely and humbly given, as true tokens of repent
as Zacchæus, besides restoring fourfold to those whom he could remember to have wronged, and who were within reach, gave also half his goods to the poor, by way of restitution of those many other unfair gains, which had helped him, as a heathen tax-gatherer, to become rich. Do you as he did, and a blessing will come to your house.
But perhaps it is out of your power to make restitution in this way either. You are too poor ; or the wrongs you
your brethren were not in money matters, nor such as could be measured in money. Well, at least you may repent bitterly, you may confess your sin, you may punish yourself in many ways. You may warn those who have been so unfortunate as to fall within the reach of your ill-example; or, if they be gone, you may warn others : you cannot be too careful in watching to give no scandal, no temptation to sin, especially in the same way, to any who come near you. You can help them by good example, if in no other way; or, if the time be gone by for that, you can help them by prayer. And, last of all, you can take patiently, nay, I
will say thankfully too, whatever pain, sorrow, or disappointment, God sends on you for the punishment of those your old sins. You may say, not only with your lips, but with your heart, May I suffer more and more here, so I may be forgiven through Jesus CHRIST hereafter.
These things if we do, we may hope that the unspeakable Grace of God may fulfil in us, great as our backslidings may have been, that merciful saying, “ Return unto Me, and I will return unto you.” We may not at first feel the difference ; we may not know how and when the light of His forgiving countenance begins to beam towards us again. But in time, even here, we may be able to trace it—like a path, as some one has said, over the mountains, becoming visible as we remove to a distance from it. And hereafter, should we be so happy as to attain that world, we shall own, with joy and wonder, that not one good thing of all the ALMIGHTY promised has failed to come to pass. Only let us begin courageously, and at once, and persevere humbly and patiently; for the journey is great for us, the time is short, and we, alas, are far behind.
END OF VOL. IV.