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repentance, or fruits meet for repentance. Let me then once more solemnly testify that, if you live and die without repentance, even without this repentance which I have described ; without submission to God, humiliation before him, renouncing and hating sin, cordially welcoming salvation by Christ, and walking in newness of life ; you will most certainly perish, and that for ever. May God then, of his abundant mercy, grant unto you also, and to all present, repentance unto life eternal!
ON THE EVIL OF SIN, AS COMMITTED AGAINST GOD.
PSALM LI. 4.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned !
The occasion on which this Psalm was composed is well known. The awful fall of David, and the most aggravated crimes which he committed, have attracted very general notice. But many remember his sins, who do not appear properly to consider his humiliation and deep repentance. Numbers, on this ground, suppose themselves superior characters, because they are exempt from such flagrant criminality; though there are no evidences that they possess any positive excellence. And not a few who disgrace the religious opinions which they avow, by evident and habitual misconduct, yet satisfy their own consciences, and expect others to entertain a favourable opinion of them; as 'the 'best,' say they, ' have their faults, and even David “ committed adultery and murder!' But, if they would have us form the same judgment of their case as Nathan did of David's, they must shew the same spirit of deep repentance that he did. A renowned monarch, having given public scandal by his crimes, composes and publishes this Psalm, and, before his own subjects and the whole world,
gives honour to God by proclaiming his own shame!
The Psalm is throughout the language of the deepest contrition ; and has been not improperly called, “The portrait of a penitent.' The royal Psalmist's crimes had been of such a nature, that they were both deeply injurious to mankind, and also most scandalous in the eyes of the world : yet his views of the obligations he lay under to God, and of his most aggravated violation of them, seem to have swallowed up every other consideration. All else in this comparison appeared trivial in his eyes : and the address of Nathan to him shews that, in this respect, his judgment accorded with that of God himself. “ 'Thou art the man! Thus “ saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee
king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the “ hand of Saul ; and I gave thee thy master's “ house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom ; “and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah :
and, if that had been too little, I would more“ over have given thee such and such things. “ Wherefore then hast thou despised the command“ment of the Lord to do evil in his sight? Thou “ hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, “ and hast taken his wife to be thy wife.—There : “fore the sword shall never depart from thine “ house; because thou hast despised me.”!
Observe, my friends, the prophet does not rest the weight of the charge, brought against David, on the injury done to men; but on the ungrateful contempt shewn to God and to his law and authority.
1 2 Sam. xii. 7--10.
2 L '
“Lord Jesus, save me, I perish !”—Now hear the words of God: “ To this man will I look, to him “ that is poor, and is of a contrite spirit, and who “ trembleth at my word.”
You will no doubt allow that, if we“ abhor our“selves” because we have sinned, we must hate sin ; and if we abhor sin, as transgression of the law of God, we must love and approve of that law. If we hate sin, we love its opposite, even holiness: and, if we love holiness, we must love the holy perfections of God, the holy character of Christ, the holiness of his disciples, his truths, his ordinances, and whatever has his stamp upon it. With these views and these affections, how can we do otherwise than admire the plan of redemption, as far as we understand it? seeing it is the grandest display of the divine holiness, and of the evil and desert of sin, which ever was made or shall be made, connected with the most endearing view imaginable of the love and mercy of God to sin
With these things in our minds, we cannot fail to perceive the force of St. Paul's important question, “ How shall we, who are dead to sin, “ live any longer therein ?" If repentance includes conviction of criminality and depravity, submission to God, humiliation, hatred of sin and of ourselves for sin, and love to holiness and to every thing holy; can such a revolution in our judgment and heart fail of producing a change of conduct? Will a man live any longer in that which he abhors, and habitually seek pleasure in what he hates ? Impossible! As soon might each animal leave its proper element, and seek satisfaction in that which would prove fatal to it.
True repentance then, consisting in newness of heart, must and will be shewn in newness of life. A true penitent indeed, being still very imperfect, and surrounded with temptations, may be betrayed into sin : but he cannot sin habitually, or, if I may so speak, upon plan and system. This forms a grand discrimination between the real Christian and the hypocrite. The true Christian in this sense, “ cannot commit sin, for his seed remaineth “ in him ; and he cannot sin, because he is “ born of God.” But a hypocrite pleads the examples of imperfection, or the deeply-lamented sins of real believers, especially those which stand recorded in scripture, as an excuse for habitual, allowed, and unrepented transgression ; and as a reason for thinking himself, and expecting to be thought by others, a sound character.
But now let me ask you, can any one hate sin and abhor himself for sin; can he love God and love his neighbour ; and yet keep possession of that property, which, previously to repentance, he had iniquitously acquired : Surely, if he has the power and the opportunity of making restitution, and hates the works of sin, he will abhor its wages likewise. He will never consent to perpetuate the injustice of which he really repents: but will certainly make full restitution, where he can, whatever self-denial it may impose. In numberless instances indeed, it is difficult to know in what particulars, and to what persons, this restitution is due ; but the poor, especially the poor of Christ's flock, we have always with us : and here, if difficulties arise, the conscientious penitent will not only bestow what he is conscious is not his own,