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Would you not pour out your yery soul in the language of wrestling supplication ? Would you not press your suit by every argument, so long as a ray of hope fell upon your spirits! In this case, the idea that help must come from another, would not render you indolent, and why should it do so in the business of conversion ?
IV. I shall now state how a right disposition of mind towards God will exercise itself in our circumstances as sinners, which will bring us more immediately to a consideration of the nature of real religion.
First.-Reverence, veneration, and awe, are due from us to that great and glorious Being, who is the author of our existence, the fountain of our comforts, the witness of our actions, and the arbiter of our eternal destiny. How sublimely grand and awful is the character of God, as it is revealed in his word ! Acknowledging as you do, my children, his existence, you should make him the object of your habitual fear and dread. You should maintain a constant veneration for hiń, a trembling deprecation of his wrath. A consciousness of his existence, and of his iromediate
presence, should never for any great length of time be absent from your mind. The idea of an ever-present, omniscient, omnipotent Spirit, should not only be sometimes before your understanding as an article of faith, but impressed upon your heart as an awful and practical reality. Your very spirits should ever be labouring to apprehend, and apply the representation which the scriptures give us of the deity. A desire to know him, to feel and act towards him with propriety, should be interwoven with the entire habit of your reflections and conduct.
Secondly.-Penitence is indispensably necessary.
In order to this, there must be deep conviction of sin; for none can mourn over a fault, which he is not convinced that he has committed. A deep consciousness of guilt is one of the first feelings of a renewed mind, and is one of the first operations of the Holy Ghost.“ When he is come, he shall convince the world of sin.” We
e come to a knowledge of our sinful state, by an acquaintance with the spirituality, purity, and extent of the moral law; “ for sin is the transgression of the law.” Until we kuow the law, which is the rule of duty, we cannot know in what way, and to what extent, we have offended against it. The exposition which our Lord has given us of the law, in his sermon on the Mount, informs us that it is not only the overt act of iniquity which makes a man sinner: but the inward feeling, the imagination, the desire. An unchaste look is a breach of the seventh commandment; a feeling of inimoderate anger is a violation of the sixth. Viewing ourselves in such a mirror, and trying ourselves by such a standard, we must all confess ourselves to be guilty of ten thousand sins. And then again we are not only sinful for what we do amiss ; but for what we leave undone that is right, and ought to be done. If therefore we have a right disposition towards God, we must have a deep feeling of depravity and guilt; an impressive sense of moral obliquity; an humbling consciousness of vileness. To the charges of the law, we must cry guilty, guilty. We must not only admit upon the testimony of others that we are sinful, but from a perception of the holi
ness of God's nature, and the purity of his law; we must discern the number, aggravations, and enormity of our offences. We must do homage to infinite holiness, by acknowledging ourselves altogether sinful.
Sorrow is essential to penitence. We cannot have been made partakers of penitence if we do not feel inward grief on the review of our transgressions. We read of “ godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salvation.” If we have injured a fellow-creature, the first indication of a right sense of the aggression is a sincere regret that we should have acted so. How much more necessary is it that we should be unfeignedly sorry for
our innumerable offences against God. Sorrow for sin, is not however to be estimated only by violent emotions and copious tears. The passions are much stronger in themselves, and much more exciteable, in some than in others; and therefore, the same degree of inward emotion, or of outward grief, is not to be expected from all. The degrees of sorrow, as well as the outward modes of expressing it, will vary, as belonging more to the sensitive nature than to the rational; and for avoiding all scruple and doubtfulness, on this head, it may be laid down for certain, that the least degree of sorrow is sufficient, if it produce reformation; the greatest insufficient, if it do not.
The next step in penitence is confession. Real sorrow for sin is always frank and impartial, while false or partial sorrow is prone to concealment, palliation, and apology. There is a wretched proneness in many persons, when convinced of siy, to offer excuses and to endeavour to think
the best of their case. They cannot be brought to admit the charge in all its length and breadth ; but they attempt to hide its magnitude from their own eyes. This is a dangerous disposition, and has often come between a man's soul and his salvation. All the great and precious promises of pardon are suspended upon the condition of confession. “ If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Confession must be in detail, not in generals only; it must be free and impartial.
Abhorrence of sin is also included in penitence. There can be no reai grief for an action, which is not accompanied by a dislike of it. We shall unquestionably hate sin, if we partake of godly
This indeed is the true meaning of the term repentance, which does not signify grief merely, but an entire change of mind towards sin. Abhorrence of sin is as necessary a part of repentance as grief. Our hatred of transgression must be grounded not merely on viewing it as an injury to ourselves, but as an insult to God. For penitence, on account of sin, is altogether a different feeling to that which we experience over a fire, a shipwreck, or a disease which has diminished our comforts. Our tears then are not enough, if not followed by abhorrence. If we are sincere in our grief, we shall detest and fly the viper which has stung us, and not cherish and caress the beast, whilst with false tears we bathe the wound we have received.
Thirdly.–Faith in Jesus Christ is no less necessary.
Faith is a very important, and most essential part of true religion. Faith in Christ is a firm practical belief of the Gospel testimony concern
ing Christ, a full persuasion of the truth of what is declared, and a confident expectation of what is promised. The testimony is this. “ It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." " God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Hence then, faith is believing that Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice of atonement to divine justice, for human guilt, depending on that atonement firmly and exclusively for acceptance with God, and expecting eternal life according to God's promise.
Faith is most obviously as much a part of a right disposition towards God, as penitence. God having given Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners, and promised to save those who depend upon the atonement, and commanded all to ask for pardon and eternal life; it is manifest, that not to believe, is to dispute the Divine veracity, as well as to rebel agaiast the Divine authority. To believe the Gospel, and to expect salvation through Christ, is to honour all the attributes of Deity at once, is to praise that mercy which prompted the scheme of redemption, that wisdom which devised it, that power which accomplished it, that justice which is satisfied by it, and that truth which engages to bestow its benefits on all that seek them. Not to believe is an act of contempt, which insults Jehovah in every view of his character at once. Until we are brought therefore, actually to depend on Christ
as to accept salvation, we have no real religion.