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sorrow, keen self-reproach, and all those complicated feelings, which sin gathers round the impenitent. Now, there is shame indeed ; but the feeling is avowed, and its bitterness is past; there is sorrow, but it is a sorrow working joy; there is self-condemnation, but the soul hath cast itself upon God who “is greater than our heart.” What, though conviction once lowered us prostrate in the dust! The throne of grace did but shine yet more glorious, the lower the penitent did bow himself. Penitence hath raised and set him up on a rock; and new emotions, soothing though humbling, have succeeded all those sad troublings. He rises from his dark memories of despair, firm of purpose and of will, looking back upon the past, as one remembers the dangers of death escaped. Even those, whose course of life has been held in a uniform endeavour after Christian faith and Christian practice, and who therefore might seem to “need no" such “repentance,” adopt this confession in all humility of spirit; and it brings peace to them. Every devout feeling becomes deeper and holier, as they can cast from them the imperfections which attach even to their holiest services. The soul is elevated above its wonted bearing; the weight of the cross is then felt light burden; the yoke of the gospel,
Almighty God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our Church, having received in the confession of the congregation an avowal of that repentance which the Saviour himself made the condition of forgiveness and reconciliation—“Repent, and be saved” — fearlessly declares, in the exercise of her delegated authority, God's pardon and love'. But it is impossible for language to be more guarded and unpresuming. The form itself partakes the twofold character of an ardent supplication, and a declaratory pardon. In either case it is so framed, that the expectation of blessing is grounded altogether upon the gracious and merciful promise of our heavenly Father, that He will forgive the sins of all who heartily repent, and truly believe. And is it not this truth, which the Saviour came down from heaven to establish, which angels heralded, and which Apostles proclaimed ?
Our Church here arrogates no exclusive favour, even to the assembled congregation. She declares the offer of the promise with the conditions of it to be universal:
Almighty God hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that, with hearty repentance and true faith, turn unto Him ”-yet she cannot but point the absolution to the individuals assembled at that holy feast, of which, as they have professed to heed the conditions, she ardently trusts they may share the blessings— " Have mercy upon you," “ pardon and deliver you.” How must every heart fill with a calm and holy joy when these words of peace strike upon it! How readily must yours respond—“ O God, who in thine
1" To us,” saith St. Paul,“ God hath given the ministry of reconciliation.” And justly does the Apostle claim this happy office : for “ whosesoever sins ye remit,” saith the risen Saviour to his appointed ministers, “they are remitted.” And to whom are they to offer God's pardon in the remission of sins, but to those who repent and turn to Him? 2 Cor. v. 18. and John xx, 23.
omniscience knowest that I do truly repent, and that I have confessed unreservedly my offences, keeping nothing back; O heavenly Father, remember thine own holy promise to forgive the sins of the penitent: forgive me mine, and blot out all my transgressions. My soul turneth trustingly to Thee, with hearty repentance and true faith. O turn Thou mercifully unto me with pardon and deliverance.".....Mark how instructive the words are. May God not only “pardon” past sins, but “ deliver” the penitent from the power of them in the time to come, and that fully. He who would confess his sins acceptably before God, must do so without any the least mental reservation, . When he implores pardon and deliverance, the supplication has reference to all his sins. There must be no keeping back any favourite sin, no self-deceiving in the neglect of any distasteful duty. All sin is to be removed, all goodness cherished. You therefore continue your heartfelt prayer, that, by his grace, sought specially in this solemn service, you may be “ confirmed and strengthened in all goodness :" so confirmed in what is strong, so strengthened in what is weak, that you may neither be discouraged by the dangers of your christian course, nor wearied by its toil; but be so guided by divine grace, and sustained by divine power, that you be brought “at last to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
THE SENTENCES OF ENCOURAGEMENT.
Still there may be timid souls who, under an awful sense of sin itself, and a deep conviction of their own utter unworthiness as sinners, even yet fear to approach the table of the Lord. Therefore our Church again evidences its consideration and sympathy with the lowly and the contrite ; again enters, as it were, into all our feelings, again compassionates all our failings, and leads us on, by her cheering voice, as a tender mother her children. First she declares what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all that truly turn to Him: “ Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” And are not these words full of comfort ? Are they not ample warrant for the encouragement hitherto given by the Church, for a trust in the Divine mercy ? Are they not a seal to the testimony she has hitherto borne to the Saviour's power and will to save the penitent? or has she exceeded her office? Have her ministers gone beyond their credentials as ambassadors of Christ? Rather, would they not themselves be chargeable with keeping back the full offer of divine mercy, did they not invite all to accept the blessing ? And of this we are well assured, that there lives not the christian pilgrim upon whom the words must not fall, like balm upon an aching wound; for there lives not one upon whom care and sorrow, temporal or spiritual, sit so light, but that he needs rest, and longs after repose. Of the assembled congregation there are none whom trouble reaches not at some or other season. Safety for the present is no security for the future. If free to-day, we may bear our burden tomorrow. Even suppose greater trials to be escaped altogether, the tender oft have sorrows which fill the heart with sadness, though sorrows of which the world knows not; and it is surely wise to provide a strength which shall meet every case. Hence, this gracious invitation and its promise shine like the rainbow light, giving hope that in storm as in calm, in sorrow as in joy, our ever-present God is with us. Moreover, to every well-constituted mind, there is always grief, deep though salutary grief, known only to itself and God, when, after hearty self-examination, it mourns its own unworthiness, and trembles in the prospect of a dread hereafter. To such these words breathe full comfort. “Come to me," saith the omnipotent Saviour and Redeemer, “ Come to me, and I will give you rest;” rest even from thy fears. Come to my cross, and there, weary with thy pilgrimage, lay thy burden, where it may be better borne than by thee!.” Nor let any doubt this power and love. What saith St. John? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Lingereth yet some contrite penitent? Hear also
1 This reliance on our blessed Saviour for strength to bear the weight of our cross, and for spirit to endure its pains, implies a submission to the will of God, which is not less pleasing to Him, than beneficial to ourselves. “ Whoever always reposes in the good and holy will of God”—said the apostolic Swartz, “saves himself much trouble, and makes that supportable which an impatient and unsubdued self-will would render intolerable.” This noble-minded servant of Christ proceeds to attribute all success to Him, into whose name we were baptized as Christian soldiers; and beautifully he reminds us, that from the very cross we bear, and whose weight lades us so heavily, is reflected the strength by which it is to be borne, and the courage by which it is to be borne triumphantly. “May the Lord," he adds, “ May the Lord subdue in us this self-will, more and more, by the power of the cross of Christ.”—“Swartz's Life,” by Dean Pearson, vol. i. p. 76, 3rd ed.