Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

or neglected by us, we had never appeared in this place. A little time for recollection and amendment is yet allowed us by the mercy of the law. Of this little time let no particle be lost. Let us fill our remaining life with all the duties which our present condition allows us to practise. Let us make one earnest effort for salvation! And Oh! heavenly Father, who desireth not the death of a sinner, grant that this effort may not be in vain !,

To teach others what they must do to be saved, has long been my employment and profession. You see with what confusion and dishonour I now stand before you-no more in the pulpit of instruction, but on this humble seat with yourselves. -You are not to consider me now `as a man authorised to form the manners, or direct the conscience, and speaking with the authority of a pastor, to his flock: I am here guilty, like yourselves, of a capital offence: and sentenced, like yourselves, to a public and shameful death. My profession, which has given me stronger convictions of my duty than most of you can be supposed to have attained, and has extended my views to the consequences of wickedness farther than your observation is likely to have reached, has loaded my sin with peculiar aggravations; and I entreat you to join your prayers with mine, that my sorrow may be proportionate to my guilt!

I am now, like you, enquiring, what I must do to he saved? and stand here to communicate to you what that enquiry suggests. Hear me with attention, my fellow prisoners; and in your melancholy hours of retirement, consider well what I offer to you from the sincerity of my good will, and from the deepest conviction of a penitent heart.

Salvation is promised to us Christians, on the terms of Faith, Obedience, and Repentance. I shall therefore endeavour to show how, in the short interval between this moment and death, we may exert faith, perform obedience, and exercise repentance, in a manner which our heavenly Father may, in his infinite mercy, vouchsafe to accept.

I. Faith is the foundation of all Christian virtue. It is that without which it is impossible to please God. I shall

therefore

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

therefore consider, first, How faith is to be particularly exerted by us in our present state?

Faith is a full and undoubting confidence in the declarations made by God in the holy Scriptures; a sincere reception of the doctrines taught by our blessed Saviour, with a firm assurance that he died to take away the sins of the world, and that we have, each of us, part in the boundless benefits of the universal sacrifice.

To this faith we must have recourse at all times, but particularly if we find ourselves tempted to despair. If thoughts arise in our minds, which suggest that we have sinned beyond the hope of pardon, and that therefore it is vain to seck for reconciliation by repentance; we must remember that God willeth that every man should be saved, and that those who obey his call, however late, should not be rejected. If we are tempted to think that the injuries we have done are unrepaired, and, therefore, repentance is vain; let us remember that the reparation which is impossible is not required; that sincerely to will, is to do, in the sight of Him to whom all hearts are open; and that what is deficient in our endeavour, is supplied by the merits of Him who died to redeem us.

Yet let us likewise be careful, lest an erroneous opinion of the all-sufficiency of our Saviour's merits lull us into carelessness and security. His merits are indeed all-sufficient! but he has prescribed the terms on which they are to operate. He died to save sinners, but to save only those sinners that repent. Peter, who denied him, was forgiven, but he obtained his pardon by weeping bitterly. They who have lived in perpetual regularity of duty, and are free from any gross or visible transgression, are yet but unprofitable servants.-What, then, are we, whose crimes are hastening us to the grave before our time?—Let us work with fear and trembling, but still let us endeavour to work out our salvation. Let us hope without presumption; let us fear without desperation; and let our faith animate us to that which we were to consider,

Secondly, "Sincere Obedience to the laws of God." Our obedience, for the short time yet remaining, is re

strained

strained to a narrow circle. These duties, which are called social and relative, are for the most part out of our power. We can contribute very little to the general happiness of mankind, while on those whom kindred and friendship have allied to us, we have brought disgrace and sorrow. We can only benefit the public by an example of contrition, and fortify our friends against temptation by warning and admonition.

The obedience left us now to practice is "submission to the will of God, and calm acquiescence in his wisdom and his justice." We must not allow ourselves to repine at those miseries which have followed our offences, but suffer, with silent humility and resigned patience, the punishment which we deserve; remembering that, according to the Apostle's decision, no praise is due to them who bear with patience to be buffetted for their faults.

When we consider the wickedness of our past lives, and the danger of having been summoned to the final judgment without preparation, we shall, I hope, gradually arise so much above the conceptions of human nature, as to return thanks to God for what once seemed the most dreadful of all evils-our detection and conviction!-We shrink back, by immediate and instinctive terror from the public eye, turned as it is upon us with indignation and contempt. Imprisonment is afflictive, and ignominious death is fearful! But let us compare our condition with that which our actions might reasonably have incurred. The robber might have died in the act of violence, by lawful resistance. The man of fraud might have sunk into the grave, while he was enjoying the gain of his artifice:-and where then had been our hope? We have now leisure for thought; we have opportunities for instruction, and, whatever we suffer from offended laws, may yet reconcile ourselves to God, who, if we sincerely seek him, will assuredly be found.

But how are we to seek the Lord? By the way which he himself hath appointed; by humble, fervent, and frequent prayer. Some hours of worship are appointed us; let us duly observe them. Some assistance to our devo

tion is supplied; let us thankfully accept it. But let us not rest in formality and prescription: let us call upon God night and day. When in the review of the times which we have past, any offence arises to our thoughts, let us humbly implore forgiveness; and for those faults (and many they are and must be) which we cannot recollect, let us solicit mercy in general petitions. But it must be our constant care that we pray not merely with our lips, but that when we lament our sins, we are really humbled in self-abhorrence *; and that when we call for mercy, we raise our thoughts to hope and trust in the goodness of God, and the merits of our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The reception of the holy sacrament, to which we shall be called in the most solemn manner, perhaps, a few hours before we die, is the highest act of Christian worship. At that awful moment it will become us to drop for ever all worldly thoughts, to fix our hope solely upon Christ, whose death is represented; and to consider ourselves as no longer connected with mortality.And, possibly, it may please God to afford us some consolation, some secret intimations of acceptance and forgiveness. But these radiations of favour are not always felt by the sincerest penitents. To the greater part of those whom angels stand ready to receive, nothing is granted in this world beyond rational hope; and with hope founded on promise, we may well be satisfied.

But such promises of salvation are made only to the penitent. It is requisite, then, that we consider,

Thirdly, "How Repentance is to be éxercised." Repentance, in the general state of Christian life, is such a sorrow for sin as produces a change of manners, and an amendment of life. It is that disposition of mind, by which he who stole, steals no more; by which the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right. And to the man thus reformed, it is is expressly promised, that he skall save

*See Job, chap. xlii, verse 6.

his soul alive*. Of this repentance the proofs are visible, and the reality certain, always to the penitent, and commonly to the church with whom he communicates; because the state of the mind is discovered by the outward actions.-But of the repentance which our condition requires and admits, no such evidence can appear; for to us many crimes and many virtues are made impossible by confinement; and the shortness of the time which is before us, gives little power, even to ourselves, of distinguishing the effects of terror from those of conviction; of deciding whether our present sorrow for sin proceeds from abhorrence of guilt or dread of punishment? whether the violence of our inordinate passions be totally subdued by the fear of God, or only crushed and restrained by the temporary force of present calamity?

Our repentance is like that of other sinners on their death bed; but with this advantage, that our danger is not greater, and our strength is more. Our faculties are not impaired by weakness of body. We come to the great work not withered by pains, nor clouded by the fumes of disease; but with minds capable of continued attention, and with bodies of which we need have no care; we may therefore better discharge this tremendous duty, and better judge of our performance.

Of the efficacy of a death-bed repentance many have disputed; but we have no leisure for controversy. Fix in your minds this decision: "Repentance is a change of the heart, of an evil to a good disposition." When that change is made, repentance is complete. God will consider that life as amended, which would have been amended if he had spared it. Repentance, in the sight of man, even of the penitent, is not known but by its fruits; but our Creator sees the fruit in the blossom or the seed. He knows those resolutions which are fixed, those conversions which would be permanent: and will

There cannot be a stronger exemplification of this idea, than the conduct of the Gaoler, who uttered the question with which we commenced our enquiry--What shall I do to be saved?—What a change of mind and manners was wrought in him by the power of God! Read Acts, chap. xvi.

receive

« AnteriorContinuar »