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PSALM, cxix. 60.
I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy
PENTANCE is generally thought to be a very severe and gloomy duty, but, in truth, it is only ourselves who make it so, by refusing to enter upon it with zeal and alacrity. We have often an indistinct persuasion, that we are not in the right course, and yet we have too good an opinion of ourselves to admit this persuasion as a certainty. We see
* Preached during Lent.
that there are many things in our conduct which we ought to amend, yet we are too lazy and procrastinating to set about the reformation immediately, and without delay. Thus it is from our own false dealing with ourselves, and from our languor in the road of duty, that we regard those calls which are mercifully sent to rouse us, as troublesome and importunate, and that we are ever apt to speak of “a more convenient season" in which we think we shall be more disposed to listen to them. The only way to give to Repentance a character of delight, rather than of melancholy, is to meet it in the spirit of the Psalmist,-“ I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” The subject is most worthy of our serious consideration, not only as suited to the present season, in which we are calling our ways to remembrance, but as suited to our condition as human creatures, in every day and hour of our existence upon earth. There is not, in truth, a moment of our lives in which, if we are accustomed to reflect upon our own minds, we may not find something to amend, either of smaller or of greater moment, and very possibly, what appears
to us an amendment in a small matter may often lead to the most important consequences.
I. The text, my brethren, in the first place, directs our thoughts to that Great Being who gave us existence, and according to whose laws we are required to walk. It is to be apprehended, that wrong views of His Character are very frequently at the root of that distaste which we commonly entertain towards the duty of Repentance. We are apt to look upon him rather as our Ruler or Governor, than in any more endearing light, and His laws, therefore, rather appear to us to be arbitrary restrictions, than salutary and affectionate regulations which have our good and happiness as their chief end. It is necessary, then, before we can “keep His commandments” with any alacrity, that we should be fully persuaded of the principle from which they proceed; that we should believe them to be dictated by supreme Goodness, and supreme Wisdom; and that, instead of regarding the God who brought us into being, as in any respect partial or arbitrary in his proceedings, we should believe Him to be the equal Father of all mankind, who has given to every man the capacity of happiness, and who, in all the laws which he imposes, is guiding us on to our highest good. In this view, how great and beneficent is that system of being into which we are born! Endowed with faculties of understanding, before which all the fair book of creation lies open,-endowed with affections and feelings so exquisite in their nature, and so benevolent in their direction,-endowed with hopes which rise from our bitterest afflictions, and irradiate even the darkness of the grave; can we repine that we are farther subjected to an ennobling system of Moral Discipline, and can we for a moiment doubt that its purpose is to exalt and improve all our powers, to refine and to purify all our affections, and to give us, at last, instead of the fading shadow of earthly felicity, the high and the never-ending happiness of Heaven? It is, indeed, meet and right that we should submit to this wise scheme of moral training with the most entire confidence and filial thankfulness, and even, if the regulations of God were severe, that we should have a perfect conviction of their beneficent tendency. But, in the common course of things, they are not grievous, and even in this dark and passing world, “ all his ways" will be found to be “ pleasantness, and all his paths to be peace."
.” They are ever attended with quiet of conscience, and with the hopefulness of Faith; and they confer upon the spirit a strength and an elevation which is itself happiness, and which would be but poorly exchanged for the greatest enjoyments or prosperities of the world. According to these views, therefore, upon which we ought to meditate, till we are fully assured of them, we must perceive that a return to the divine laws, whenever we have been so unhappy as to deviate from them, is a return to the true good and glory of our nature, and that Repentance is not a melancholy duty, but must be the source of our highest felicity, no less than improvement.
II. There is, however, a second prejudice which stands much in the way of Repentance, and that is, the inattention of men to their own characters, and their want of perception, that this great duty applies to themselves individually. They are willing enough to admit, that there is a numerous party of mankind to whom repentance ought to be preached as the only means of their restoration; but almost every one