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tion suddenly, by saying, I will call and see you tomorrow.
On the evening to which I now allude all the seats were filled, and persons were seated on each stair entirely to the top, and many had found their place on the floor above. It was a calm and mild summer evening, and perfect stillness reigned over the assembled crowd, unbroken except by the long breathing or the deep sigh of some anxious soul. I thought I had never seen so still, so solemn, and so thoughtful an assembly. I closed the front door, after all had entered, and took my stand in my accustomed place. I hesitated to speak. I was afraid to utter a word. It seemed to me that anything I could say would be less solemn, impressive, instructive, than that tomb-like silence in an assembly of so many immortal souls, each visited by the Holy Spirit I stood, for some time, in perfect silence. The power of that silence was painful. The people sat before me like statues of marble—not a movement, not a sound. It appeared as if they had all ceased to breathe. At length I broke the silence by saying, "Each one of you is thinking of his own immortal soul and of his God." Again I paused for a minute, for I was overawed, and knew not what to say. Then falling on my knees, I commenced prayer. They all spontaneously knelt. After a short prayer, I proposed to speak a few words to each one of them, as far as it was possible, and requested all of them, except the individual with whom I should be conversing, to be engaged in reflection or in silent prayer to God. Passing rapidly from one to another, 1 had spoken to all those in the parlours and in the hall, till I had reached about the middle of it, where every word spoken could be heard by the whole assembly. Coming to a man, about thirty years of age, whom I had seen there three times before, I said to him :—
"I did not expect to see you here to-night. I thought you would have come to repentance before this time, and would have no occasion any longer to ask,' What must I do to be saved'?"
"I can't repent," said he, with a sort of determined and despairing accent, and so loudly as to startle us all.
Instantly I felt sorry for this expression. But I thought it would not do to avoid noticing it, and leave it sounding in the ears of so many impenitent sinners. I immediately answered, as I stood before him, as gently and yet solemnly as I could :—
"What an awfully wicked heart you must have! You can't repent! You love sin so well, that you cannot be sorry for it—you cannot forsake it—you cannot hate it! You must be in an awful condition indeed! You are so much the enemy of God that you cannot be sorry for having offended him—you cannot cease to contend against him; and even now, while you are sensible of the impropriety and unhappiness of it, you cannot cease to resist the Holy Spirit, who strives with you to bring you to repentance! You must have an awfully depraved heart!"
"I can't repent," said he again, with an accent of grief and intolerable vexation—" I can't repent with such a heart!"
"That means," said I, "that you have become too wicked to desire to become any better, for nothing but wickedness makes repentance difficult. And then, you just plead one sin as an excuse for another—the sin of your heart as an excuse for the continued sin of your heart."
Still he insisted. "I can't repent I I would if I could!" And the tears rolled down his cheeks, of which he seemed to be utterly unconscious, as well as unconscious of the presence of any one but myself.
"You would if you could," said I, "is only a selfrighteous and self-justifying excuse. Your deceitful heart means by it that you are not so wicked as to continue in your impenitence willingly. It means that you are willing to repent, but you cannot. You are deceived. You are not willing. You think you are, but you are in an error. You never will be willing, unless God shall verify in yon the promise, 'My people shall be willing in the day of my power.' In that power lies your only hope, as I have told you before, when I urged you to pray. If you are willing to repent, what hinders you? I am willing you should repent. All of us here are willing. Every angel in heaven is willing you should repent. Christ, who died to redeem you, is willing. God the Father is willing. The Holy Spirit is willing, who at this moment strives with you to bring you to repentance. What hinders you, then? Yourself only! And when you say you can't repent, you mean that you are not to be blamed for coming here to-night with an impenitent heart. You are wofully deceived! God blames you! The whole Bible blames you! Your own conscience, though you strive to silence it, blames you! This excuse will not stand."
"I can't repent!" said he again, in a harsh, vociferating voice, as if in anger.
"Then God can't save you," said I; "for he cannot lie, and he has said the impenitent shall be destroyed. Yon say you cannot repent. He has not said so. He commands you to repent."
He replied, with much agitation, but in a subdued tone: "I am sure I have tried long, and my mind has been greatly tormented. All has done no good. I do not see how I can repent."
"Other people have repented," said I. "There are a great many penitents in the world. I find there are some here to-night, who think they have come to repentance since they were here last sabbath evening. One of them told me then very much the same thing you tell me now, that it did not seem to him he ever could turn from sin; but he has found out that it is possible. As to your having tried so long, the length of time will not save you. If a man has his face turned the wrong way, the longer he goes on the worse off he becomes. He would do well to stop, and turn about. Such is the call of the Bible: 'Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die? Eepent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord.' Other people have turned to God, and you ought to. But your mind has seized on the idea of your trying and your trouble, and you make an excuse and a self-righteousness of them."
"Do you think I am self-righteous?" said he.
"I know you are. That is your grand difficulty. You have been trying to save yourself. You are trying now. When you tried to repent, your heart aimed after repentance, as something to recommend you to God, and constitute a reason why he should forgive and save you. It was just an operation of a self-righteous spirit. It was just an attempt to save yourself, to have your religion save you, instead of relying by faith upon Jesus Christ to be saved from wrath through him. This is precisely the case with every impenitent sinner. The error is one. The forms ot it may be various, but in all cases it is substantially the same thing. St. Paul has given a perfect description of it: 'Goiog about' (from one thing to another, from one device or attempt to another)—' going about to establish a righteousness of their own, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.' One man tries to establish a righteousness of his own, out of his reformation; another one, out of his duties; another, out of his painful attempts or painful convictions; as you just now mentioned your own torments of mind. It is evident that you are trying to be righteous before God, through your pain and your attempted penitence. And if you should find any peace of mind in that way, it would only be a deception, not an item of religion in it. You ought to betake yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, a poor, guilty, undone sinner, to be saved by him alone—saved by grace. You ought to go to him, just as you are, to be washed in his blood, to be clothed in his righteousness, to be sheltered from the thunders of God's eternal law, in the security of his all-sufficient atonement. You ought to flee to Christ, like the man-slayer to the city of refuge before he is cut down by the sword of the avenger of blood. You ought to go instantly, like the prodigal to his father, in all his poverty, starvation, and rags, as well as guilt. You ought to cry, like Peter sinking in the waves, 'Lord, save me.' But instead of this, you are just looking to yourself, striving to find something, or make something in your own heart, which shall recommend you to God. And in this miserable way you are making salvation a far more difficult matter than God has made it. You have forgotten the free grace of the gospel, the full atonement of Jesus Christ by the sacrifice of himself."
"But," said he, "I can't repent and come to Christ of myself."
"I certainly never said you could, and never wished you to think you could. In my opinion, God does not wish you to think so. And if you have found out that you cannot repent of yourself, aside from Divine aid, I am glad of it—you have found out an important truth. Most certainly God does not tell you to repent of yourself. He tells you that 'Christ is exalted to give repentance.' He says to every sinner,' Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help : let him take hold on my strength that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me.' On the ground that they need it, he has promised 'the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.' God never expects you to repent without Divine aid, but with it. He knows you are too wicked to do it, that you are without strength, helpless, undone, a lost sinner! And here lies the very heart of your error. You have been trying to repent in a way that God never told you, just hy your own powers, instead of trying to get God to have mercy upon you, and save you by his help. You have been looking to the powers within you, instead of looking to the aid above you. You have trusted to yourself, instead of trusting yourself to the grace of Christ. And that is the very reason why you have failed; and now you complain that you cannot repent, while, in reality, you have exactly the same sufficiency as the penitent all around you. What has been their help, may be your help. And the sooner you are driven off from all that self-seeking and self-reliance, the better it will be for you. You are in the double error of undervaluing the character of God, and overvaluing your own. God is more merciful and more gracious than you think him to be. He is more ready to save you. And when he commands you to repent, he does not wish you to forget that all your hope lies in the immediate aid of his Holy Spirit. Nor does he wish you to attempt to dispense with that proffered assistance, by your not believing that you are as utterly helpless as you really are. He does not tell you to rely upon your own shattered strength; but you have done so. And when you have failed, you then turn round and complain that you 'can't repent.' You reject his offered help—the help of the omnipotent Spirit. And for this reason you will be the more criminal if you do not repent. That Divine Spirit is your only hope. If he leaves you to yourself, you are lost—eternally lost! Tread softly, my dear friend. The ground whereon thou standest is holy ground. Let not the Holy Spirit, who presides over the souls here this evening, bear witness against you in the day of the final judgment—' Because I have called, and ye refused.' You can repent, just in the way that others repent, just because God is your help. Trust him, and rely upon yourself no longer."
As I was saying these things, he appeared to become much less affected, but much more thoughtful. His tears and his agitations ceased, and he seemed to hang upon my lips, as if he was listening to some new wonder. When I had done, all was hushed as death; and in a deliberate, subdued, and solemn tone, he broke that expressive silence, saying:—