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we to rest in mere general acknowledgments: we should search out our sins: we should say, “ Thus and thus have I done.” We should go farther, and enter into the particular aggravations of our sins, in order the more deeply to affect our own hearts, and to fill our minds with self-lothing and selfabhorrence. Not that God needs to be informed: he knows all our iniquities, and all the circumstances with which they have been attended. But by spreading them all before God, we give the more glory to him as a God of infinite mercy and compassion; at the same time that we prepare our own minds for a due reception of mercy at his hands.
But, besides this, we must forsake our sins. If we hold them fast, it is a clear proof that our repentance is not genuine. Nor must we forsake them merely as a man parts with a limb, which, if not amputated, would destroy his life: we may indeed take into our consideration the danger arising from them, as our Lord tells us in the case of “ a right hand or right eye, which, if retained, would plunge us into everlasting perdition : but we must regard them as odious, and hateful, and abominable; and long for deliverance from them as we would for deliverance from the most lothsome disorder.
These two, a confessing, and forsaking of sin, must go together. Supposing we could put away our sins for the future, it would still become us to bewail those which are past: and, if we bewail them ever so bitterly, still must we not rest without gaining the victory over them, it is the union of them both that marks true penitence; and]
Where such repentance is, there God will bestow his richest blessings
[It is said in a subsequent part of this chapter, that “a faithful man shall abound with blessings.” And this is true of all who deal faithfully with their own souls and with their God, in bewailing and mortifying their most secret corruptions. This is strongly asserted by all the inspired writers. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon ." To such both the faithfulness and the justice of God assure a perfect remission of all sino. Nor will God delay to manifest his love, when once he sees our souls truly humbled for sin. The self-condemning publican was justified even before he left the spot where his confessions were madeP. And David speaks of the same truth as realized also in his experience. Whilst he forbore to humble himself, he was kept in a state of darkness and misery: but “ as soon as he began to confess his sins unto the Lord, the Lord forgave the iniquity of his siny."
n Isai. lv. 7.
• 1 John. i. 9, 10.
p Luke xviii. 14.
And need we say what " mercy” God will vouchsafe to penitents in the last day? Surely all the manifestations of his Iove which he gives to them in this world, are but as a twinkling star compared with that full splendour of the Sun of Righteousness, which in that day every contrite soul shall enjoy. The joy of the Father over the returning prodigal, with all the music, and feasting, and dancing, are but faint images of what shall be realized in heaven over every true penitent through all eternity.] From hence we may LEARN,
1. Whence it is that men know so little of spiritual prosperity[Repentance is a work to which we are very averse.
If we did but occasionally set apart a day for solemn fasting and prayer, and set ourselves more diligently to the great duty of humiliation before God, we should have more delightful visits from him, and richer communications of his grace to our souls
-] 2. How painful will be the self-condemnation of all who perish!
[The promise in our text will then be remembered with unutterable shame and sorrow. What a reflection will it be, “ I might have obtained mercy, but would not seek it:” God said to me," Only acknowledge thine iniquity";” but I would not deign to acknowledge it. Verily the easy terms on which salvation might have been obtained, will form the bitterest ingredient of that bitter cup which the impenitent soul will have to drink to all eternity.]
3. What obligations do we owe to the Lord Jesus Christ!
[It is through him, and through him alone, that repentance is of any avail. There is nothing in repentance that can merit forgiveness: all the merit is in Christ Jesus, even in his obedience unto death: it is that which cancels all our guilt; it is that which purchases our title to the heavenly inheritance. Whilst therefore we confess and forsake our sins, let our eyes be directed to Him as our only hope, even to him, “in whom all the seed of Israel shall be justified, and in whom they shall glory."]
9 Ps. xxxii. 3—5.
Jer. ii. 12, 13.
THE PORTION OF THE FAITHFUL MAN. Prov. xxviii. 20. A faithful man shall abound with blessings.
ST. PAUL has told us, that “ the love of money is the root of all evil: and that many, whilst coveting after it, have pierced themselves through with many sorrowsa.” In truth, the effects of this principle on the persons in whom it dwells, and on all connected with them, are beyond all conception bitter and injurious. On the other hand, a superiority to the love of money greatly elevates and ennobles those in whom it is found; and conduces, in a very eminent degree, to their happiness both in this world and the next.
This appears to be the precise import of our text, as it stands connected with the words which follow it. But we need not so limit its use. It contains a general truth, which will afford us much profitable instruction. Taking it in this more enlarged sense, I will endeavour to shew, I. Who are they that answer the description here
given usNehemiah, speaking of his brother Hanani, says, “ He was a faithful man, and feared God above many:" and he assigns this as his reason for appointing him to superintend the repairs of the city of Jerusalem ; since he might be fully depended on for a conscientious discharge of his high office b. From hence, then, we see who they are that are entitled to the character of “ faithful men.” They are those who are,
1. Faithful to their convictions in things relating to God
[There is in every man, under the Christian dispensation, a conviction that he is a sinner who stands in need of mercy; that God has revealed to us in his Gospel the way in which alone he will dispense mercy; and that, as responsible beings, who shall soon stand at the judgment-seat of Christ in order to be judged according to our works, it is our duty and our happiness to be seeking for mercy in God's appointed way. Now, a 1 Tim. vi. 10.
b Neh. vii. 2.
if a man be faithful to his convictions respecting these things, we may justly call him a faithful man; but, if he neglect God, and pour contempt upon the Lord Jesus, and disregard his eternal interests, and labour in every possible way to silence the remonstrances of his own conscience, is he faithful? No, indeed; he is a traitor to God and to his own soul. If he be truly upright before God, he will give to the concerns of his soul and of eternity the attention they demand ---]
2. Faithful to their engagements in things relating to man
[Without supposing any express compact voluntarily entered into between man and man, there is of necessity a mutual obligation lying upon every man to perform the duties of his place and station. As husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants, magistrates or subjects, all of us have some line of conduct prescribed to us; and, as members of one great body, are bound to perform our proper office for the benefit of the whole. Every person feels this in relation to others; and would account himself very injuriously treated, if any should violate towards him the duties of their station : and, consequently, every one must owe to others the treatment which he himself claims at their hands. Now, a faithful man considers this, and will labour to do unto others as he, in a change of circumstances, would think it right that they should do unto him. But if a man consult nothing but his own interests and inclinations, and make his own will the only rule of his conduct, can he be called “ faithful?” Is he not as much bound to observe the commandments of the second table as those of the first? His obligation to both the one and the other of them is unalterable ; nor can either the one or the other in any wise be dispensed with. Religion and morality must go hand in hand. Neither of them can supersede the other; nor can either of them exist without the other: and he who is faithful in one, must of necessity be faithful in both.]
For the encouragement of such characters, I will proceed to state, II. What are the peculiar blessings reserved for
themTruly “ the faithful man shall abound with blessings”—
[I might here enumerate thousands of blessings, if time would admit of it; but I will specify only three: the approbation of God; the testimony of a good conscience; and a blessed hope of immortality and glory But how shall I describe these blessings? “ In God's favour is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itselfc"
As for the testimony of our own conscience, and the witness of God's Spirit with ours, that we are upright before him, man can have no greater joy on earth than thata And who can adequately declare the blessedness of a soul that apprehends God himself as his portion, and all the glory of heaven as his inheritance? ---]
But it is the peculiarity and exclusiveness of this portion which we are chiefly called to notice
[To the faithful man these blessings are accorded; but to him also are they limited : for they are peculiar to him ; “and a stranger intermeddleth not with his joye." Let the man who is unfaithful to his convictions or to his engagements say what he knows of these blessings? If he speak the truth before God, he has no experience of them whatever in his own soul. Indeed, it is impossible that he should have any sense of them as already imparted to him ; since, if God be true, no one of them belongs to him ; "he has no part or lot in any one of them :" they belong to the faithful man, and to him alone --] SEE, then,
1. What is the proper scope and tendency of the Gospel
[It is doubtless intended to effect a change, yea, an exceeding great change, both in the characters and states of men. But what does it effect in their character ? Does it make them hypocrites ? No; but faithful both to God and man. And what does it effect in their states? Does it deprive them of comforts, and make them melancholy? No; but it makes them to abound with blessings, both in time and in eternity. O that you could be prevailed upon to view the Gospel in its true light, and to embrace it with your whole hearts !]
2. What bitter self-condemnation awaits the impenitent and unbelieving soul
[You have now the blessings of time and sense. But what are they, in comparison of those that await the faithful man? Even here your portion is far inferior to his : but what will they be in the eternal world ? Truly, you will all find, ere long, that to gain the whole world with the loss of your own souls was a sad exchange. May God make you wise in time, that you may not have to deplore your folly to all eternity !]
c Ps. xxx. 5. and lxüi. 3. d 2 Cor. i. 12. Rom. vii. 16.
e Prov. xiv. 10.