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bring on that sleep of the soul out of which there is no awakening, or only an awakening when it is too late ; when the cry for mercy shall be stifled, that the sentence of justice may be pronounced; when the hapless putter off—the despiser of God's goodness, roused at length to his danger, shall look round in vain for a way of escape; shall find no place of repentance-no-though he seek it carefully with tears !
SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT.
THE LOST BLESSING.
HEB. XII. 17.
Por ye know how that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing,
he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
THE history of Esau, which we have again read in the lesson of this morning, is the history of lost opportunities. God gives us to see in him the misery which ensues from neglecting our blessings. There are, no doubt, other grave lessons to be learnt from Esau, there is the lesson that sensuality makes the heart gross --that it is a sin which, above all others, wars against the soul—a sin that entails, almost always, much sorrow and suffering, but not sorrow of a Godly sort-only that sorrow of the world which worketh death.
There are these and other lessons besides in Esau's history; lessons all of value, all to be deeply pondered --but the one I would most wish to keep before our minds to-day, is that of which I have spoken, viz., that opportunities carelessly let slip, are lost to us for ever : are not to be had back at our call at a later day-nothough we seek them carefully with tears.
This is the lesson. Let us notice first in Esau how it was exemplified, and afterwards its application to ourselves.
And first of Esau-He despised his birthright-he made light of what, in those days, was regarded as a very high advantage and privilege. He gave up, for a mess of potage, what, as a true descendant of Abraham, he ought especially to have valued, the headship in the house whence the Messiah should arise–For one morsel of meat he sold his birthright !
That was Esau's great offence—now let us see how he was punished. The life of his father Isaac is coming to a close. At the age of one hundred and thirty-seven his strength fails him, and his eyes are dim. Before the night comes and closes all, he would have a parting interview with Esau, that he may hand over to him, in the solemnest manner, the honours and privileges of his position—the blessing of the eldest son.
Jacob, the younger son, not trusting, it would seem, to Esau's pledge of resigning, and stirred up by his mother Rebecca, comes between Esau and his father's purpose, and, by a most treacherous stratagem, steals away his brother's blessing.
Scarcely has he got it-scarcely have the words been spoken—when Esau returns to claim from Isaac his expected and promised blessing. On finding what has happened, he is very urgent with his father to undo the mischief-or at least to give him also a blessing—he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father! Hast thou not reserved a blessing? hast thou but one blessing, my father ? bless me, even me also, O my father!
But no—this could not now be—the forfeited blessing could not be had back again. Some blessing, indeed, Esau might still receive; and did receive-but the blessing—the inheritance—the headship in Abraham's family -to be the ancestral source from whence the Desire of all nations should spring, this was no longer within his reach, it had passed for ever to the younger son. His father's word was given : the promise had gone out of his mouth–I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed.
That word Esau in vain sought to alter. He could not for all he cried so urgently, bring his father to retract it
- He found no place for repentance—or, as it is in the margin of our Bibles" no way to change his father's mind”—though he sought it carefully with tears.
So was Esau punished for his profaneness—for making light of his birthright. We have now to draw some practical warning for our own use from his history.
And this, as I said at the first, I take to be the great lesson—that lost opportunities never come back—that blessings, wantonly forfeited, are gone for ever. And not only that blessings are lost to us when not duly valued and used, but further, that much misery and sorrow are incurred by our neglect of them; misery and sorrow for which, on this side the grave, no remedy is to be bad-no --not though we seek it carefully with tears.
This, then, is the law under which God has made us to live-let us trace its working in some familiar instance.
For example, look at the convicted felon. Take the case of a man who, after a long course of sin, is at length found out, arrested by justice, and shut up in prison-perhaps sent out of his country, or consigned to some other ignominious punishment.
Often such an one, when undergoing the penalty of his offence, will mourn in bitterness of soul for his past folly. As he lies there in gaol, a dishonoured man, with a lost character, he will think of the days when he was innocent—when he lived in an honest home, and bore a good name, and was as yet free from vicious habits, and kept no company with evil doers.
And then he will wish that what had happened since, his wild after-course—his starting aside from the good path, his career of sin, had never been; he would give the world to have, once more, a fair opportunity—once more to have an unstained character, and a quiet conscience, and the chance of leading a good life from the beginning
But he cannot have his wish, any more than Esau could have back his birthright. The burden which he has placed on his own back he must bear. Not for such as him can there ever be the full blessing of innocence. God may and will forgive him for all his past guilt, if he turn to Him in true sorrow: all good men will rejoice to see him take up better ways-nor will they taunt him with his former misconduct. But his own heart will feel the wound till the end. He will never lift up his head