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his better days'; languishing out life under the most abject form of misery; pining under poverty ; funk into servitude ; feeding swine, and himself defiring to partake with them in their husks; miserable without, but more miserable within ; a spirit wounded by remotse, a heart torn by reflection on itself, an accusing conscience, which told him that he mer. ited his fate; and which held up to him his past life in its blackest colours of folly and guilt. Astonished át himself, startled at his own image, which, in its true colours, he had never seer before, he was do shamed of his conduct, and came to a better mind. Such were the effects of consideration, and fuch will ever be the effects of consideration to those who duly exercise it. Why does the finner go forward in the error of his ways ? Because he does not con: fider. - « Hear, O heavens ; give ear, earth : the
ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's Śs crib ; but my people do not consider.” Consid: er your ways, is the voice which God addresses to mankind in every age ; and unless you consider, the calls of the gospel and the offers of grace are made to no purpose. The world which is to come has no existence to you but what you give it yourselves, the eternity that is before you, the happi. ness of heaven and the pains of hell, are no more than dreams, unless you realize them to yourselves, unless you give them their full force, by bringing them home to the heart. When a man reviews the error of his ways, nothing is wanting to a further reformation but reflection and thoughts: Think, and the work is done. “I have considered myways,' . faith the Pfalmift. : What was the consequence ? * I turned my feet unto thy testimonies."
» The second step in the return of the prodigal, is ingenuous sorrow for fin, accompanied with faith in the Divine mercy. “ Father, I have finned against
“ Heaven and before thee." ....We are formed by the Author of our being to
feel contrition for the offences we commit. This pun. gent sense of infirmities, this penitential forrow for errors and defects, is a beauty in the nature of man. It is an indication that the sense of excellence exists in its full vigour, and the mark of a nature that is not only improvable, but that also is making improvements. When a man seriously considers that the tenor of his life has been irregular and disorderly ; that much of his time has been misemployed, and great part of it spent altogether in vain; that he has walked in a vain show, unprofitable to himself or others, an idler upon the earth, a cumberer of the ground; that by his negligence and perversion of his powers he has been lost to the world which is to come, has marred the beauty of his immortal spirit, and stopt short in the race which conducts to glory, honor, and immortality ; when he further consid. ers that his offences have extended to his fellowmen, that by his conduct he has been the cause of misery to others, has disturbed the peace of society, done an injury to the innocent, such reflections in a heart that is not altogether callous, will awaken contrition and forrow.
This penitential forrow will be increased when he confiders against whom he has offended that he has lianed against infinite goodness and saving mercy and tender love; that he has resisted the efforts of · that arm that was lifted up to save him ; that he ha's rebelled against the God who made, and the Saviour who redeemed him. This is one of the characteristics of true repentance. The penitent does not mourn for his fins as being ruinous to himself, so inuch as for their being offensive to God. Thereturning prodigal, in the address he makes to his Father, dwells not upon the misery he had brought upon himself, upon the ruin to his character, his fortune and his expectations in life. “ I have finned against “ Heaven and in thy sight.” What grieves me most is, that I have offended thee; that I have sinned against goodness unspeakable; against that goodness io which I ain indebted for the care of my infant years; against that goodness to which I owe my prefa ervation ; against him who visited me while I was flying from his presence; who supported my powers while they were employed against him. It is my Benefactor whom I have offended; it is my best Friend that I have injured; it is my Father himself against whom I have risen in arms.
This forrow for sin is accompanied with faith in the Divine mercy. To wicked men labouring under the agonies of a guilty mind, the Deity appears an object of terror. They figure to themselves an angry tyrant, with his thunder in his hand delighting to punish and destroy. Like Adam when he had linned, they are afraid, and flee from the presence of the Lord. But from the mind of the penitent these terrors vanish, and God appears, not as a cruel and malignant power, but as the best of beings, the Fa. ther of mercies and the Friend of men, as a God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Encouraged by these declarations, the penitènt trusts to the
! Divine goodness, and flies for refuge to the hope set before him. It is the wicked man only that defpairs. Horrors of conscience and forebodings of wrath affright and overwhelm the sons of reprobation. Such horrors felt Cain and Judas Iscariot. But the penitent never despairs. He finks indeed in his own eyes, and throws himself proftrate on the ground, but still throws himself at the footstool of mercy, not without the faith and the hope that he will be taken into favour. The language of his soul is, “ 1 hough “ I am cast out of thy fight, yet will I look again to " thy holy temple. I will arise and go to my Father, 6 for though I have offended him, he is a Father still. “ He now fits upon a throne of mercy, and holds a “ fceptre of grace. At thy tribunal former offenders “ have been forgiven, and former sinners have been “ taken into favour. To thy ears the cry of the pen"itent has never ascended in vain. Thou art ever " nigh to all who call upon thee in fincerity of heari. 56 When we tend to thee, at the first step of our rea « turn, thou stretchest out thy hand to receive us.” So different is that repentance which is unto life from the sorrow of the world which worketh death. Dif. ferent as the look of melanclioly upon the face of the virtuous mourner, is from the unkindly glow whiclı burns the cheek of shame: different as the tender tears which a good man sheds for his friends, are from those bitter drops which fall from the malefaetor at the place of execution.
The third step is a resolution to return to a sense" of duty. 5 I will arise.”
Without determined purposes of amendment, contrition is unavailing and ineffectual. The Deity is
not delighted with the sufferings of man. Sorrow for sin is so far pleasing, as it softens the heart, and makes it better. It is the resolution of amendment, the purposes pointed to reformation, that make the broken heart and the contrite spirit an acceptable facrifice; such is the nature of true repentance; it flows not so much from the sense of danger as from the love of goodness.
In true repentance, there is not only a change of mind, but a change of life. When the day-spring from on high arises on him who is in dạrkness, when God says, Let there be light, the scales fall from his eyes, a new world breaks upon his fight, futurity be. comes present, and invisible things are seen; then first he beholds the beauty which is in holiness, and tastes the joy which flows from returning virtue. In that happy hour he forms the pious purpose, and seals the facred vow to be holy for ever. Then he prefers the peace which flows from virtue, and the joy which arises from a good conscience, to every consideration. Then the fervants of God appear to him the only happy men, and he would rather rank with the meanest of these, than enjoy the riches of many wịcked. “ Great God, withhold from me what thou pleasest, 66 but give me to enjoy the approbation of my own « mind, and thy favour. I would rather be the hum. 6 blest of thy fons than dwell in the tents of wicked. o ness.” None shall enter into the New Jerusalem, and sit down at the right hand of the Father, but they who prefer the testimony of a good conscience, the smiles of Heaven, and the sentence of the just, to all the treasures of the world.
Had the penitent not been in earnest, false shame