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does not the heart pay to him who thus tendered encouragement to reformation of life, and thus afforded consolation to humiliated and repentant sin?
If there be a pang of bitterness, it is that which the sinner must feel in the hour of gloom and of recollection. Have I neglected and despised the most solemn and sacred obligations of duty ? Have the laws of heaven, which require my obedience, been insulted by my rebellion? What account shall I be able to give of myself at the tribunal of eternal and immutable justice ? How shall I, polluted as I am by crime, and self-condemned, expect to find acceptance and favour with the Almighty? These questions, which sooner or later the conscience of the sinner must whisper within, cannot but overwhelm his heart with dismay, and leave him, if he have no resource but in himself, without remedy and without hope. But let him consider the woman who is here pardoned, and the judge who pardons, and he will no longer despair. He will be instructed where the forgiving and atoning mercy is to be found ; and, instead of sinking beneath the burden of fear and sin, and anticipating the period of punishment and woe, he will be reminded of the efficacy of a broken and contrite heart; he will be encouraged to return to God; and his spirit, repentant, regenerated, and renewed, may learn to elevate its trust to heaven, and to repose, with tranquil but humble confidence, in the bosom of divine compassion.
Every where in the Gospel is this lesson announced to the repentant sinner; but it deserves particularly to be noticed, that the pious trust which it is his consolation and comfort to be permitted to cherish, is to him as an obligation fulfilled and a duty obeyed. Faith and charity are indispensible, but to faith and charity must be added hope. In other words, the follower of Christ must not despair. He is to trust, on the contrary, that every tear of contrition which he sheds, and every aspiration of faith which ascends from his heart, possesses, in the sight of God, a holy, sacrificial, and atoning efficacy. In the divine justice which weighs his thoughts and his ways, is mingled, as he is instructed, the goodness that is willing to embrace the returning criminal, and the compassion that delights to tender the conditions of pardon; and the voice of promise perpetually tells him, that the portal of the sanctuary is open for his reception, and that nothing but the impenitence and obstinacy of guilt can close it against him. Thus it is that a ray of light and hope is let in upon the darkness of his soul, that a pillar of fire is lighted up for him in the desert, to direct his way towards the Canaan of rest, and that the admonition of celestial mercy is heard—"Wherefore “ should ye spend your money for that which is not “ bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth “ not? Approach the fountains of living water which " are opened for you, and drink and livé. Fear not, “ for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am “thy God."
These however, though of so much efficacy, are not the sole consolations prepared for afflicted man, by the wisdom and mercy of the new dispensation. The foundations of the divine government are, indeed, laid in truth and equity, and the penitent sinner is riot excluded from the divine compassion. But wherever there is man, tears are to be shed ; and the people of God are to participate, like the rest of the world, the evils which attend the pilgrimage of life, and to endure, for their hour, the allotted
portion of painful and necessary discipline. They are, therefore, told, that this world is not their all. They are permitted to look forward to those regions where they shall receive from the hand of the Almighty their eternal recompence; and they are encouraged “ to reckon,” with the apostle, “ that " the sufferings of the present time are not worthy " to be compared with the glory to be revealed, "ånd that the white palms, the robes, and the
sceptres of the just, shall be their portion for ever " and ever*.” The vista of their sorrows thus opens on the scene of their glory. They have to rest their hope of hereafter on no speculations of a vain, a doubtful, and a doubting philosophy, but on the unhesitating assurance of Him“ who brought life " and immortality to light;" and they may apply to the wounds of the heart inflicted by the calamities of one' world, the healing 'balsam afforded by the authorized anticipations of another.
Let the good man, now, enumerate all his evils. He is smitten and cast down. Infirmity and disease Lj prey upon his declining years. The eyes which had
been accustomed to sparkle with joy as he approached, are closed in death ; the parental hands, which had been so often raised to bless him, moulder in the dust; and all those in whose welfare he more especially rejoiced, and for whom he most desired to live, have
gone to their long homes. But, lo! the period of tears is hastening away. The scene spreads out before him, where calamity and grief shall be no more.' Already he beholds the glooms which rest upon his paths gradually clearing up. Those whom he hath lost are about to be restored ; that which
Romans viii. 18.
he has suffered is about to be recompensed. Let me, then, he may whisper to himself, endure but a little longer, and all shall be well. From the ashes of apparent deformity and confusion, shall spring up the perfection of order and beauty. The tomb shall become the passage to immortality, and the calamities of the present shall be remembered only to heighten the felicities of the future.
While the Apostles, after their divine Master, inculcated doctrines like these, they were prepared to demonstrate their influence and their efficacy. Behold those heroic sufferers, in chains, smitten, cast down, maligned, and persecuted. Do they shrink? Do they repine? Do they tremble? Strengthened, on the contrary, by the consolations of faith and hope which they tendered to others, they exult in the cross they bear, and triumph in the sufferings inflicted, by the permission of God, for the augmentation of their glory. “No!"-exclaims Saint Paul, “ though I be " sacrificed upon the oblation and service of your " faith, I congratulate you all ; on the same account “ do ye rejoice and congratulate me.*.” And what occasion had this holy man to rejoice? Did he expect fạme, or riches, or dignities, or triumphs? Or were there not before him, disgraces, stripes, ignominies, the glooms of a prison, the condemnation of unjust judges, the crown of martyrdom? But he could endure all with resignation, for he was sustained by the spirit of Evangelical hope, not by the poor pretences of human philosophy ; by that “spirit “. which had joy in infirmities, in reproaches, in ne"cessities, in persecutions for Christ's sake;" by that spirit which," being justified by faith, had peace
* Philipp. ii. 17, 18,
« with God, and gloried in tribulation, knowing that “ tribulation worketh patience, and patience expe
rience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not “ ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad “ in our hearts*."
The disciple of Christ, then, is afforded all the consolations which may best brighten the glooms of trial. He is not a depeudent solely on his own strength; he has not his portion solely in this world; there is one above him who watches ever his path, and listens to his supplications; his afflictions are for trial, and his trial for glory; whatever be his infirmities, the voice of mediation pleads for him before the throne of grace; and the redeeming mercy, which bore his sins on the cross, has accomplished his salvation. Here, therefore, he rests. While he recognises, in the griefs which beset him, the decree of heaven, he beholds the arm of might stretched forth to guide and to save him; and he submits himself and his concerns with humble, but confiding truth, to the care of that paternal Being who thus looks down upon him in amity and in mercy.
And, now, let the religion of Greece, of Rome, of Hindostan, and of Mecca, collect and bring forth all the best and brightest consolations which they have prepared for their disciples. What are the hopes which they authenticate, the prospects which they unfold, the aids which they afford, the mercies which they announce, the divine economy which they proclaim, compared with those disclosed, in a manner so effective and so beautiful, by evangelical wisdom? On one side, we contemplate a providence
i Thess. i. 6; Rom. v.