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Resolutions of obedience. The invigorating and sanctifying agency of the Holy Spirit.
THE important object of repentance, to which indeed all its genuine exercises tend, is the restoration of the soul to holiness. We can have no claim to the favour of a just and holy God; we are not indeed capable of enjoying the pure and perfect bliss of his presence, until the dominion of sin is subverted in our hearts; until we are reinstated in the graces of the divine image. Every expression. of repentance is vain and presumptuous, unless it proceeds from a heart supremely desirous to be released from the dominion of sinful passions—and to obtain that purity which only conducts to the favour of God, to satisfying peace, to unfailing joy in his presence. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
To release us from the bondage of sin was the object which brought down from the mansions of bliss the eternal Son of the Highest. It was the object for which he promulgated his divine instructions, and for which he displayed the example of a spotless life. It was the object which animated all his labours; which conducted him, cheerful and triumphant, through his bitter sufferings. It was the
object for which he finally shed, on the cross, that precious blood which was to be the seal and the means of our deliverance from sin; for which he poured forth the Holy Spirit to sanctify our degenerate nature. While, therefore, unholy passions enthral us; while we are destitute of those virtues by which we must be qualified for everlasting happiness-in vain for us will the Son of God have published his divine instructions-in vain for us will he have displayed his glorious example-in vain for us will he have triumphantly sustained the sufferings and death of the cross-in vain for us will he have purchased the renovating gifts the Holy Spirit. Ah, these powerful aids and motives to holy obedience, perverted and contemned, will strip us of all excuse for our impenitence; will silence the pleas by which we may seek to extenuate our continuance in sin; and will arm with heavier vengeance the sentence of almighty justice.
Contemplate, O, my soul, the import of the holy rite which thou art to celebrate. Contemplate the lively exhibition which the sacrifice of the altar affords, both of the inflexible justice of God, and his infinite mercy. Contemplate, under the affecting symbols there exhibited, the love of the Saviour, who exposed himself to the fires of divine justice to avert from thee their fury. And if, after this awful and affecting exhibition, no desires are awakened to be delivered from the dominion of those sins which called forth the wrath of
heaven on thy innocent Redeemer-if, after this penetrating view, no desires are excited to testify, by thy vows of love and duty, thy gratitude to thy God and Saviour; to obtain, by a life of holy obedience, the enjoyment of their favour,-thou art utterly unworthy to partake of an ordinance, to the exalted tendency of which thou art entirely insensiblethou art utterly unworthy to receive those inestimable communications of mercy and grace, which, in this sacrament, are granted to the prayers and vows of the humble and faithful. Oh! to receive the body and blood of the Saviour into a heart, which, cherishing unholy passions, contemns his authority and mercy, and erects the throne of rebellion against him, -would display a presumption deserving the most severe punishment which infinite justice can inflict.
By every consideration which awakened thy lively sorrow for sin, thou art excited, O, my soul, to the most earnest desires to be rescued from its dominion-thou art urged to the most zealous vows of duty and obedience. How canst thou expect to escape the wrath of God, while, by cherishing thy sins, and persevering in rebellion against him, thou dost expose thyself to his just displeasure? How canst thou expect to enjoy that peace which diffuses its enlivening influence only through the conscience that is redeemed from guilt, when thou dost cherish those unholy passions which produce anxiety and remorse? How canst thou ex
pect to avoid the guilt of rebellion against the righteous authority of the Sovereign of the universe, when the sensual passions which rule in thee bear testimony, that thy expressions and vows of penitence are insincere, that thou dost oppose the just claims of God to thy obedience? How canst thou avert the opprobrium of the basest insensibility and ingratitude, while the display of the mercies of God, and of the riches of his love towards thee in Jesus Christ, cannot induce thee to relinquish the sins which are daily abusing his mercy, which are daily renewing the pangs that rent the bosom of thy Saviour? Ah, my soul, while sin reigns in thy affections; while wilful violations of the laws of God defile thy conscience; though thy pretended sorrow should burst forth in reiterated confessions and supplications, thou art still obnoxious to divine wrath-still the slave of degrading pleasuresstill exposed to the pangs of apprehension and remorse :-thou art still the presumptuous rebel against the authority of God, the guilty contemner of his love.
There is no way in which thou canst prove that thy repentance is genuine, in which thou canst obtain a title to the love and favour of God, or in which thou canst prepare for being a worthy guest at the table of the Lord, but by earnest and uniform desire to be delivered from the dominion of sin, by sincere vows of obedience to thy God and Saviour.
Let, then, thy desires to be delivered from
the dominion of sin, and thy vows of duty and obedience, be sincere and lively.
If in proportion to the disgrace and misery of the evils that oppress us, should be the sincerity and warmth of our desires to be released from them; deliverance from the degrading and miserable bondage of sin should awaken the most sincere and lively desires of our hearts. If in proportion to the magnitude of the favours which we have received from a benefactor, and the value of the blessings which he has still in store for us, should be the sincerity and ardour of our devotion to him; the vows of obedience to our heavenly Father and Redeemer, who is the source of all our blessings, and of all our hopes, should awaken the highest fervour of our affections. From a dominion that destroys our purity and peace, we seek to be delivered. To a merciful and gracious God, who is worthy of our highest homage, and who claims our most ardent gratitude, we are to vow allegiance. The most splendid object of worldly desire sinks in the comparison with the concerns of our eternal destiny. Desires and resolutions, if possible, infinitely more ardent than those which impetuously urge us in the pursuit of worldly enjoyments, should be devoted to the attainment of that spiritual redemption, of that fidelity and zeal in the service of God, which are the only pledges of our peace. Thy desires and resolutions, O, my soul, are to be offered up to a God who searches the heart; who,