« PoprzedniaDalej »
3dly. Confession must be mixed with sorrow and shame in the remembrance of our past sins.
A piercing deep sorrow from spiritual principles and persuasives is the ingredient of an acceptable confession. There is a natural sorrow proceeding from the impression of afflicting evils. Sense is very tender and apt to resent what is oppressive to it. A sinner that has wasted his estate, blasted his reputation, shortened his life by his excesses, and hastened his damnation, may feel anguish in his breast for his sins, the procuring causes of his punishment. But this sorrow proceeds only from the sense of external evils, not from the melted heart for the intrinsic evil of sin: as marble pillars are wet, from the moisture of the ambient air. It is the miserable man, not the miserable sinner that mourns. This sorrow is consistent with the love of sin; and when the penal evil is removed, the sinner returns to the practice of it. Carnal sorrrow only respects a man's self as a sufferer: it is in hell, in the extreme degrees, “ there is weeping for for ever.
There is a godly sorrow, of which the Holy Spirit is the spring. It is the promise of God to his people, “I will pour forth the spirit of grace and supplication upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they shall see him whom they have pierced, and mourn over him, as one mourns for the death of his first-born.” The persuasive of our sorrow is answerable to its principle. The serious contemplation of our bleeding dying Saviour, is a spiritual and powerful motive to melt us into the tears of repentance. How congruous is it, if the purchase of our pardon cost our Saviour his bloody agony, that the applying of the pardon to us should cost us the most bitter sorrow ? Divine grief is more from the memory of the evils we have committed against our heavenly Father, than from the evils we suffer. Carnal sorrow is barren and unprofitable. It may be said of it, what the wise preacher says of wild mirth, “ What dost thou ?”. Only that sorrow that comes from heaven is accepted there : one spiritual tear is of more value and efficacy with God than a torrent of natural sor
Repenting sorrow is an indispensable qualification in order to our pardon, not merely from the will of the law-giver as the reason of our duty, but from the congruity of the thing itself. It is observable, that it is the wisdom and kindness of the God of nature, that the food that preserves life is pleasant to our taste, to invite us every day to eat, and renew our strength ; but physic that is necessary for the recovery of health, is very distasteful, that our aversion to it may make us circumspect, to prevent all excesses that are the causes of diseases. Thus the sorrowful confession of sin which is medicinal to the soul, is very aflicting ; it wounds the spirit, and breaks the heart, that we may be jealous of ourselves, lest we eat of the forbidden fruit that requires so bitter a remedy.
Godly sorrow, though it be very afflicting to nature, yet the exercise of it is more satisfying to a sincere penitent, than all the pleasures of sin. In two cases grief is pleasant : when it is upon the account of a person dearly loved ; a parent indulges his sorrow for the death of a child that was the life of his life. Or when pain is beneficial and an advantage : as in the application of a plaster, we are pleased with the pain it causes, that being a sign and effect of its healing operation. Now both these considerations are mixed with repenting sorrow : for it principally arises from the reflection upon sin, as that which has so dishonoured and displeased the blessed God our maker, preserver, and redeemer ; that we have preferred the pleasing our corrupt and licentious appetites, before the obeying “ his holy, just, and good will.” The repenting sinner declares his love to God by his grief for offending him, and voluntarily remembers his past sins, and is pleased in overflowing sorrow for them. And this sorrow is preparative for peace : “ unutterable groans" are introductive of
unspeakable joys : the Holy Spirit “ that convinces of sin is the blessed Comforter."
The confession of sin must be mixed with shame. All the just causes of shame, guilt, turpitude, folly, and disappointment, are complicated in sin. The repenting sinner, by consciousness and reflection upon sin, that induces so heavy a guilt, that defiles the soul with so deep a pollution, that no ray of its original purity remains, that debases it infinitely below its heavenly descent, mourns with tears of confusion for what he has done. Repenting Ephraim bemoans himself, that he had been rebellious against the methods of God's mercy, like a refractory bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: and his recoiling thoughts made him to smite on his thigh, to be ashamed to the degree of confusion for his disobedience. How affecting an object he was in God's eye,
immediate answer declares : “ Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child ? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still : therefore my bowels are troubled for him ; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31. The psalmist reflecting upon his being almost vanquished by a vexatious temptation, degrades and vilifies himself, “ so foolish was I and ignorant, and like a beast before thee." Psal. 73. Ezra in the confession of the holy seed's mixing with heathen idolaters, saith, “ O Lord, I blush and am ashamed at the foul deformity of their sin.” The apostle upbraids the Romans with a stinging reproach, “ What fruit have you of those things whereof ye are now ashamed, the end whereof is death ?” When a foolish choice is made, and the folly is detected, and experience disappoints the expectation, the natural consequent is shame. At the last day, when the filthiness and folly of men shall be published before God, and all the angels and saints, how much rather would they be hid in the darkness of their graves, than be clothed with confusion before that glorious and immense theatre? The sorrowful confession of sin, with deep shame here, will pre-, vent the exposing the sinner to public shame hereafter. • 4ly. Confession must have concomitant with it, the judging ourselves as unworthy of the least mercy, and deserving severe punishment. The apostle assures us, “ if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” He does not say, if we are innocent we shall not be condemned, for then who can appear before the high and enlightened tribunal of heaven ? But if we acknowledge our guilt, and the righteousness of the sentence to which we are obnoxious, we shall be spared. We cannot satisfy God's justice, but we must glorify it : in this the admirable mercy of God appears. Suppose a court on earth, wherein the rule of judgment were, that all the faults which the guilty confess and condemn themselves for, should be pardoned, and only those they conceal should be deadly to them ; how willingly and humbly would those who are conscious of many capital crimes, and are summoned to appear, accuse themselves ? In the court of heaven, if we are faithful to God and our own souls, in the confessing our sins, and passing sentence upon ourselves, we prevent his sentence against us.
Sly. Prayer for pardon must be joined with the confession of sin : “ the Lord is good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in
mercy unto all that call upon him.” God who is rich in mercy, has appointed prayer as the means of our receiving it; it being most honourable to him, that we should have a serious sense of our wants and unworthiness, and our absolute disability to supply them: and by our desires we should glorify his power and love, whereby he is all-sufficient and ready to bestow upon us his blessings. Prayer for pardon must have these ingredients : Ist. Humility is the most becoming qualification of a suppliant to the high judge of the world, to reverse the sentence of eternal death. The deep apprehension of our guilt will 'humble us before his dreadful tribunal. 2dly. Fervency, which is the life of prayer. A cold prayer, the spiritless motion of the lips, is so far from inclining the divine mercy to pardon us, that it increases our guilt, and provokes God's displeasure. If our apprehensions were as real and quick of our spiritual wants as of our temporal, our prayers would be as ardent for supplies. Our desires should be raised in the most intense degrees, in some proportion to the value of the blessing ; they should be strong, as our necessity to obtain it. The pardon of our sins is the effect of God's highest favour, of that love that is peculiar to his children, it is the fruit of our Saviour's bloody sufferings; without it we are miserable for ever, and can we expect to obtain it by a formal superficial prayer? It deserves the flower and zeal of our affections. How solicitous and vehement, and unsatisfied should we be, till we have the clear testimony that we are in a state of divine favour ? Only fervent prayers are regarded by God, and recorded in heaven. We disvalue his pardon by our indifferency and faint desires. In our petitions for temporal things, our affections should be temperate, always mixed with resigned submission to the will and * wisdom of our heavenly Father, who knows what is better for us than we do, and loves us better than we do ourselves : but in praying for the pardon of our sins, our affections should be inflamed, we should as it were offer violence to the King of heaven, and be unsatisfied without it.
What ardent and repeated addresses were made by David for this great blessing : “ Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to thy loving-kindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation." He prays as if the ghost of Uriah were always in his view, covered with blood, and reproaching him for his treacherous cruelty. The affairs and pleasures of his kingdom could not divert and calm his spirit, till he was restored to the joyful sense of God's saving mercy. If it be said, that David's complicated sins were of a crimson guilt, and justly terrified his conscience with the apprehension of vengeance: I answer, it is true, but supposing that preventing grace has kept us from sins of a high nature, whereby we should have incurred greater guilt, and been exposed to greater punishment, yet even the best men are in infinite need of pardoning grace: for the least sin makes us guilty of eternal death, and the infinite number of our sins, though according to the carnal conceits of men small, would be overwhelming. What is weaker than a drop of water, yet the sea that is a collection of innumerable drops of water, does often by an irresistible inundation drown the land. The wind is a cola lection of many vapours, which singly are of no force, yet it often tears up the strongest trees, and overthrows the firmest buildings. If the numerous sins of one man's life were set in order before his eyes, he would sink into the depths of despair, were not the divine mercy superabundant to our abounding sins.' We must renew our requests for pardon every day: it is more necessary than to pray for our daily bread. We contract new guilt every day: and as our Saviour tells us, “he that is washed needs to wash his feet," that is, the sins of frailty and daily incursion must be purged away by serious repentance, and the application of the blood of Christ, and our earnest prayer for pardon. It is the cruel character of satan, he accuses the “ Saints before God day and night:" he is an ardent accuser, and watchful always to find matter to provoke God's displeasure against us.
* Nam pro jucundis aptissimæ quæq; dabunt Dii : charior est illis homo quam sibi. Juven.
It is therefore a duty of daily revolution, to pray for our pardon. Besides, the neglect of seeking for the daily pardon of our offences against God, argues the despising his anger, and consequently the despising his love, which is infinitely provoking. We are commanded not to let the “Sun go down upon our wrath, much less upon God's." Repentance is not an initial act of sorrow, but