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benefits, surely neither few nor small, which have come to you in the course of your life from God—but these are enough, I would believe, to call forth serious reflection; to bring out of every man's heart a feeling of thankfulness, and a feeling of unworthiness, to make us say, one and all, The Lord hath been mindful of us and hath blessed us ; He hath not dealt with us according to our sins, but He has dealt with us according to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses !
And now, brethren, once more let us consider the end and object of this merciful dealing of God towards usThe goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance—all that care, all that correction, all those favours showered so abundantly upon us, have this end, to make us happy by making us holy. As long as we keep our sins we cannot possibly be happy. Whoso committeth sin is of the devil. No matter what that habitual indulgence in any one forbidden thing is—be it anger—be it foul words— be it drink-be it little tricks of dishonesty-be it untruthfulness—be it speaking evil of our neighbourswhatsoever may be the evil practice or feeling to which we are given, that practice, that feeling, is the cord that ties us to our great enemy: really to be happy, really to be free, we must break that bond asunder, we must cast away that cord from us.
And this is what God wishes to do for our good. He has no other feeling towards us, but such as we may judge to be in the bosom of a most kind Father. He does not desire, in any case, that we should perish, but would in all cases rather that we turned from our sins,
and were saved-Have I any pleasure that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God? and not that he should return from his ways and live.
Oh, brethren! when this is God's mind toward us, declared in every part of His revealed Word, what excuse is there for us if we continue in our sins ? That must be a terrible condition of soul on which God's goodness makes no impression! I know not, when this fails, what arguments are likely to avail. Scripture, indeed, speaks of the terrors of the Lord, of the fire prepared for the devil and his angels, and of the worm that dieth not, and the outer darkness, wherein are weeping and gnashing of teeth: but I greatly doubt, however such announcements may for the moment, terrify and disturb, whether they will produce any lasting effects upon the sinner. Certainly, in the Gospel, in that great parable of repentance we have listened to so often, our Lord makes little use of such terrors; with Him the moving power is a sense of God's goodness—I will arise and go to my Father--that is the cord that draws, and if that fail to draw, I know not (as I have said) by what other
process, the lost prodigal shall ever get back-I know not, if a man despise the riches of God's goodness and forbearance, how it is possible for such an one to come to effectual repentance ! Then let this goodness work its proper work among
Let the recollection of sin be at this time vividly before our minds. Let not another Lent go by without some effort on our part to walk more worthy of the Lord that bought us.
Let us each fix on his own besetting sin, and do battle with it bravely. Let us now put
our hand to the nail, and our right hand to the workman's hammer, and with strong and repeated strokes, smite through the temples of the giant Sisera*—the sin that most wars in our members, most tyrannizes over us at present—Let us, I say—God helping us—take in hand this most needful work of repentance-repentance whereby we forsake sin.
All, need to repent; all, are called to repent; all may repent. Not, I believe, in any case, is there among us that terrible hindrance, that utterly hard heart—which makes it impossible to repent. Neither need we despair because of the many sins by which we feel ourselves to be defiled. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. Applied by faith—let no man doubt it—it can wipe away the worst guilt.—Yes~ stains-crimson stains—which not all the penance in the world can touch-no sooner come in contact with that Divine remedy, than they are at once, and for ever removed !
Plead, then, ye who falter through fear—ye who are discouraged, and out of hope-plead with God that Jesus Christ has died-plead with Him what He has said–His own word of promise—that Christ is set forth to be a propitiation; lift up your voice and cry “For His sake bless me, even me also, O my Father !” But plead at once : do not make the work of repentance harder by putting it off. Delay is ever followed by coolness, and coolness leads to indifference, and indifference, long continued, may make repentance impossible, may
* For this illustration I am indebted to Professor Stanley's Sermon on Liberty, preached before the University, 1859.
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.
For 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 Esauthere 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 :