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We have seen these, and other like sorrowful sights, and we have mourned over them-But the worst feature which they present is this—that the old errors are worse than the first. The man sins the same sin, but in an intensified degree—he is more of a drunkard, more of a Sabbath breaker, more reckless in every way, less open to repentance, than he was in the old days, ere ever he had any awakening, any prick of conscience because of his sins.
It is this very terrible aspect of the consequence of a relapse, that St. Peter seems to have had before him when he wrote that awful passage in his Second Epistle,-in which he says of some that, it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them!
Such, then, is their state who having been once made free from sin, allow themselves to be again brought under the yoke-who guard the bouse so carelessly that the unclean spirit comes back and gets possession of his old home. Their last state is worse than the first. Their second course of sin is more hardening, more obstinate. It becomes well nigh impossible to renew them again unto repentance.
O, brethren, let me warn you lest such a state ever be yours! Let me put you on your guard against the return of the unclean spirit !
I will suppose that for the present, you have got rid of him. I will suppose that through grace you have conquered your besetting sin—that the lusts that most war in your members are in subjection—that you
are not now at the beck and bidding of any master passion.
But do not presume on your position.—Do not think that you are secure against the crafts and wiles of the wicked one. Not easily, not easily will he give you up. No opportunity will he lose of seeking re-admittance into your soul-of asserting again his former sway over you.
Let this knowledge of Satan's devices make you more wary. Be sober, be vigilant, use all the means of gracekeep your hearts and hands well employed. Remember, as I said above, that the surest way to keep off the unclean spirit, is to fill up his room. Rəmember, it is the empty house swept and garnished—the idle heart dressed for pleasure which invites his return. Let him not find yours to be such.—Let him find you when he comes pre-engaged-busy with your proper Master's work—doing the duty that lies before you with all your might. Above all, let him find you fortified with the spirit of prayer-praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.
For what are the Psalmist's words ? Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. ..... I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my stronghold, my God in Him will I trust.
Yes, make God your defence, dwell as it were, within the stronghold of His protection. And then you are safe-There shall no evil happen unto thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. The enemy shall not be able to do thee violence, the son of wickedness shall not hurt thee. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways !
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
GENESIS XLII. 21.
And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our
This is one of those sharp self-accusing cries which witnesses to the power of conscience. It was the utterance of Jacob's sons under circumstances of great trouble. The confession of a sin they had long ago committed together in common, but which till now, it would seem, had not been visited upon them, had not stirred up any sentence of condemnation against them out of their own heart.
Like many sins that men commit, this sin of Jacob's sons had for years gone undiscovered. They had done it, and then tried to smother it in silence. It was a deed they would not like to talk about—even amongst themselves, by a kind of tacit consent, they would surely keep from mentioning it. And so never talking of it, they would cease in time to think about it. As years went
on, and the crime was yet undetected, their hearts would get hardened against all repentance. The thought, so apt to rise up in a guilty man's heart, when no quick punishment overtakes him, would be theirs—Tush, Thou God carest not for it—He hideth away His face—He never saw it. But God, we know, did see it, God did care for it. He was preparing a way to bring it home to them, while yet they boasted of their impunity. There was a famine in the land of Canaan; and all countries came into Egypt to buy corn. Jacob also sent his sons down thither. They were seized as spies by the governor of the land, and only allowed to go back to their country on condition of their returning with their younger brother Benjamin. They knew not who the governor was who dealt thus harshly by them—They knew not that all this was put on, that it cost Joseph no small effort to restrain the real feelings of his heart before them. But the apparent cruelty of his conduct, the demand that he made upon them for Benjamin, involving, us they knew it must, the heaviest sorrow to their aged father—perhaps his death before their eyes—put them upon reflecting on the past—“What had they done to be so used ? Why, when people from all countries were allowed to traffic unmolested, were they signalised out for ill-treatment? Were they sinners above all men, that they should suffer such things?” Conscience told them, that they were. As they stood there at the mercy of the governor—strangers and helpless in that Egyptian land—there rose up before them