THE EVIDENCES OF TRUE REPENTANCE.
2 Cor. vii. 9—11.—" Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."
This was an instance of genuine repentance, and the things here enumerated are characteristics of true repentance. The case referred to was one in which manifest wrong had been done by the church at Corinth, 1 Cor. v. Paul had written to them respecting the wrong, enjoining on them to take the speediest measures to put it away. This letter had had all the effect which he wished. They had seen the error; they were deeply grieved and pained on account of it; they felt the force of the reproofs of the apostle; and the sorrow which they experienced was such as God approved, and such as was fitted to work salvation. There was deep distress of mind—evinced in their " sorrowing after a godly sort ;" there was " carefulness,"—or diligence, effort, forwardness in removing the evil; there was a " clearing of themselves,"—not an apology for the sin, but a desire to state all the mitigating circumstances of the case, and to show that the church was not disposed to be the defender of evil; there was " indignation,"—indignation against the sin, and a cordial hatred of it; there was " fear,"—fear lest the thing should be continued or repeated—a state of mind anxious that the whole evil might be corrected, and that no vestige of it should remain among them; there was " vehement desire,"—a fervent wish to remove all cause of complaint; there was " zeal,"—zeal in putting away the sin, and in producing a reformation ; there was "revenge"—that is, they immediately set about the work of punishing the offender. This sorrow, and ardour, and earnestness, and promptness, the apostle regarded as good evidence of the genuineness of their repentance; as a specimen of that " godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of."
The subject which will now be considered is, the evidences of true repentance. The inquiry is, What are the evidences of true repentance ? What distinguishes true repentance from false ? How may we satisfy ourselves that we have truly repented of our sins ?
The characteristics of repentance may be arranged under three heads, or three things seem necessary to the full and complete proof of true repentance. They are these:—the internal feeling of regret or sorrow which is experienced in view of sin ; the purpose deliberately formed in the mind to abandon it; and the actual forsaking of the evil. I say these are necessary to the full and complete evidencing of real repentance. It is true that there may be circumstances where the first alone, or the first and second combined, would be indicative of genuine repentance, but there might be no opportunity to test them, and the three are necessary to furnish evidence that shall be of the highest kind, or that shall be satisfactory in the highest degree. I propose to illustrate these in their order.
I. The first which I specify is, the internal feeling; the regret for the wrong ; the sorrow of heart which is experienced. This, of course, will be known only to the individual, except so far as he chooses to make others acquainted with it.
I do not say that mere regret or sorrow, of itself, is full evidence of repentance, for it may not be the right kind of sorrow— it may not be such as would bear the application of a test—it may not be permanent in its influence; but regret, or sorrow, enters always into true repentance. It results from the laws of the mind that where a wrong which we have done is contemplated in a proper manner, it should produce regret and pain. It enters into the meaning of all the words by which we are accustomed to express repentance. Thus in the text and context, the apostle says that the letter which he had sent to the Corinthians had made them " sorry though it were but for a season;" he says that they " sorrowed to repentance;" he speaks of their "mourning ;" he speaks of their " sorrowing after a godly sort." There may, indeed, be great diversity in the depth, and pungency, and duration, and external expressions of sorrow experienced by true penitents. This diversity arises much from a difference of temperament; from the previous character; from the extent and aggravation of sin ; and, so far as appearances are concerned, from the habits of self-control or the,want of it in
individuals. There is often the most aeep and permanent feeling when there are no tears; and the sorrow which is accompanied by loud and boisterous outcries, is often a sorrow which lies very near the surface of the soul, every trace of whose existence soon vanishes. But sorrow of some kind is necessary to repentance ; and if we have never had a pang of regret for the past, if we have never felt that we have done wrong, if we have never felt ashamed, and humbled, and confounded in view of our errors and faults, if we have never had anything of the spirit of the publican when he said, " God be merciful to me a sinner," or of the prodigal when he said, " Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son," or of David when he said, " I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me," we may be sure that we have never truly repented.
Yet we should not suppose that all sorrow experienced in view of past sins is necessarily true repentance. " There is a sorrow of the world," in view of sin, " which worketh death." Judas the traitor had deep anguish in view of his crime, and went and added to his guilt another enormous act of transgression. Many a gambler has had the keenest feelings of regret when his money is gone, who had no real penitence ; and there is deep sorrow in those " doleful regions" where there is " weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," but there is no true repentance there.
At this stage of our inquiry, therefore, it is of the highest importance that we should endeavour to lay down some marks by which we may be able to distinguish that sorrow which enters into true repentance from that which constitutes the false;—and this may be done by asking ourselves the simple question, Why do we feel sorrow at all in the case? What is it that produces it? If it is produced by any of the things which I will now specify, it is clear that the sorrow furnishes no evidence of true repentance:—
(1.) If it is produced by the mere dread of punishment. It is clear that in such a case the sorrow which exists is not in view of the sin, but only of the penalty. If the apprehension of punishment were taken away, the sorrow also would disappear.
(2.) If it arises from the mere shame of detection. In such a case there is clearly no evidence of true repentance. A man may be greatly ashamed and grieved because some base, or mean, or vile, or detestable act is found out, who would have had no trouble on account of it if it had remained concealed. His grief is, that he has been exposed, not that he has done the wrong; and there are none, probably, who have not done many things which would suffuse the cheeks with crimson if they were known, but who have no compunctious visitings as long as they are concealed.
(3.) A similar kind of false repentance or sorrow for the past arises from the idea that a man has made a mistake, or is likely to suffer loss on account of his conduct. When a man has made a bargain which is likely to involve him in loss, when he has missed an opportunity to make an advantageous bargain, he often experiences regret, and in many cases reflects on himself for his folly. So a man may feel in relation to his past life. He looks at the money which he has squandered, and the time which he has wasted which ought to have been employed in study or in honest industry; at the hours of his life which he has trifled away in foolish conversation, or equally foolish reading; and finds himself now placed at an eminent disadvantage on account of it, and if he has any proper sense of it, will regret it. But still he may regret it, not as having any sense of the wrong, or the sinfulness of his course, but only as a matter of loss—and with much the same feeling that the man has who has made a bad bargain. If the loss could in any way be made up to him, he would have no trouble on account of his course considered as sinful. So a daughter of vanity may exercise the same kind of repentance in view of the waste of time, and the loss of health, in the ball-room. She has allowed her rest to be broken; she has exposed herself unprotected by any suitable dress to the cold of a winter's night after being heated in the dance; and she begins to be alarmed at the paleness of her own cheeks, ■and then at the slight hectic that she cannot conceal, and then at the cough which will not leave her, and she is sad and sorrowful as she sees that the grave must soon close over her in spite of all that friends and physicians can do. But there is necessarily no genuine repentance here—no sorrow for the sin. She mourns over her faded health and beauty; over her imprudent exposure ; over the fact that she has wasted her life ;—but there is no sorrow that she has done wrong; that she lias offended God; that she has spent her time in the neglect of her Saviour and her soul; and that she has jeoparded her salvation.
(4.) There is often sorrow, and deep sorrow, in view of our conduct considered as a violation of some law of etiquette, when there is no sorrow for the act considered as a violation of the law of God. I apprehend, that some of the deepest pangs that are felt in this world are those which arise from the violation of some social law; from something that may expose you to the censure of so-called " society ;" something that may occur to throw you out of the fashionable circle in which you wish to move; something that may forfeit the favour of those distinguished in elevated life, whose " good grace" you would wish to preserve. Many a votary of fashion experiences pangs of this kind keener than ordinarily accompany true repentance towards God; and amidst the ever-varying delusions of the human mind it is possible that this may sometimes be mistaken for true repentance. You have offended the world; you have been disappointed in your attempts to secure its favour; you have been thrown out of the circles where you were ambitious to shine; and you turn your attention to religion, and suppose that you come into the church a true penitent. And yet there may be no evidence of repentance at all. You may never have had one real sigh of regret for anything that you have ever done against God; and you come weeping to the altar of Christ, not because you have offended him, but because you have been disappointed in your foolish ambition to move in a circle from which you have been excluded.
It would be easy to enumerate many other things of this sort which may be mistaken for sincere repentance. The idea is, that the sorrow which is produced by mere loss, or by the disgrace of exposure, or by disappointed ambition—the sorrow which terminates on the world,—has in it necessarily none of the elements of repentance. I will not deny that any one of these things may be the occasion of turning the mind to a contemplation of the evil of the course pursued, and that, impressed with the folly of these things in one point of view, you may be led to see their folly and wickedness iu a higher sense. But clearly, in the matter as we have contemplated it thus far, there is of necessity no true repentance, and a man may have all these things, and never experience one pang of regret for his conduct regarded as a sin against God.
The sense of what I have said, therefore, is this:—that true repentance is based on the contemplation of an act regarded as in itself evil and wrong ; regarded as a sin against God. Whether it exposes to punishment or not; whether it is detected or undetected ; whether attended with loss or with gain ; whether reputable in the eyes of the world or disreputable; and whether it will continue us within the limits of the clique, or clan, or caste where we have been, or raise us to that to which we have aspired, does not affect the question. It is seen to be evil and wrong in the sight of God, and the sin is loathed, and we loathe ourselves on account of it. Our thoughts are not occupied about the question of exposure or concealment; about the honour or disgrace attending it; but about its intrinsic loathsomeness, and hatefulness, and vileness. It follows, consequently, that the true penitent, in dealing with his own heart, is more concerned with those things that are unknown to the world, and of which there is no danger that they should be known, than he is with the fact that the " secret faults " that have been concealed from every eye are now disclosed, or with those presumptuous sins that every one sees. It is sorrow for the wrong done ; the intrinsic evil; the loathsomeness, the vileness, the ingratitude, the corruption of a heart seen to be blacker and viler than has ever been suspected by the world. When that sorrow exists, and from these causes, a man may trust that he has exercised true repentance.
II. The second thing which I specified as entering into true repentance is, the purpose deliberately formed in the mind to abandon the evil. My meaning in this connexion is, that it is not enough to have sorrow for the past, unless there is a purpose corresponding with that sorrow, and co-extensive with it, to forsake the evil course altogether. I will admit, also, in regard to this, as in regard to the former, that even this would not be full and complete evidence of the sincerity of repentance—for (1,) the purpose, though formed, might not be adhered to; and, (2,) there might be no opportunity to carry it into effect: but there can be no true repentance, and no satisfactory evidence of repentance, where this purpose is not formed.
To explain this remark still farther, it should be said, that the purpose referred to is not one of distant and future amendment, but is one which contemplates the immediate and entire abandonment of the evil; a direct " breaking off from transgressions by righteousness, and by turning unto the Lord." To resolve to abandon a sinful course at some future period, however solemn and sacred that resolution may be, is no evidence of present repentance. In such a case, the actual state of the mind is seen in the determination to continue the wrong-doing, and that state indicates a prevailing love for the sin, and a determination to practise it as long as it will be safe.
It is not difficult to persuade men to form purposes of future amendment. Indeed, most men need no persuasion on that point, but, however wicked they may be, they have in general made up their minds to it already. The point of difficulty is, when you come, to persuade the man to resolve at once to give up his habit of profane swearing; to become temperate ; to forsake the companionship of the vile; to abandon his dishonest acts in dealing; to commence the habit of family prayer; to begin to serve the Lord. I should have no difficulty in so setting before you the evils of a wicked life as to persuade you to resolve at some future period to reform ; my difficulty is in persuading you, in view of a life perceived to be wrong, to resolve at once to break off from your evil ways. I wish now to show you that there can be no evidence of repentance without this.
It surely cannot require many words to convince you that this is so. In all the appeals that are made to men in the Bible to repent of their sins, it is implied that there should be a resolution at once to forsake the evil. It is nowhere hinted—it would be a mockery of all our conceptions of repentance if it were—that men might resolve to pursue their evil courses a little longer, intending then to return to the Lord. Nothing is more manifest in the Scriptures than the duty of immediate repentance; of all that is involved in a purpose to abandon an evil course as soon as it is seen to be evil. We all see at once, that this accords with all the conceptions that we have on the subject of repentance. If a man does not thus resolve, whatever may be the expressions of sorrow which he may utter for the past, it is clear that his heart still loves the evil. The purpose, moreover, must relate to entire abandonment of the evil in every form and modification. It will not do, for example, for a man to resolve to abandon the open form of the sin, and to practise it in secret. It will not do for him, constrained by public sentiment, to yield so far to that public sentiment as to abandon the sin for the present, and to retain the secret love of it in his heart, and to hope for the timo when by a change of public opinion it may be proper for him to resume it. It will not do to resolve to give up one form of the sin, and to practise it under a different name. It would not do to take the capital which public sentiment or the laws should forbid him to employ in one way, and to invest it in a form equally evil. It would not do, for example, for a man who had a large capital invested in the slave-trade, to take that same capital and build a distillery, or to sell out his distillery and become the lessee of a theatre. Where there is true repentance, there must be a deliberate purpose to abandon evil in any and every form, and in every modification. The repentance, if genuine, is not so much for the form of the evil, as it is for the evil itself.
This is so plain, that it requires no farther remarks to prove, that when there is true repentance there will be a purpose deliberately formed to forsake evil as evil; to forsake all evil. It is necessary here, as under the former head, only to make a few remarks in order to distinguish true repentance from false, considered in this view. It may he ohserved, then, that in this aspect, more than in the former, a man may be led to resolve to abandon a course of evil from some motive which may be no indication of sincere repentance. He will be still more likely to resolve to abandon a course of conduct from some motive which is no indication of true repentance, than he would be sincerely to regret it. He may be induced to resolve to abandon an evil course from any one of the following motives—and when these are the motives, nothing can be inferred as to the genuineness of repentance:—(1.) It may be because the course involves a loss of property, and not because he is convinced of the wrong. Thus a man might give up gambling, or horse-racing, because he alwa),s loses ; or a seller of ardent spirits might abandon the traffic, because it makes so many bad debts; or a man might set his slaves at liberty, because, they are unprofitable. Desirable and proper as the course in this and similar instances might be in itself, yet the man should not infer that he has had any true repentance for the wrong; for it is clear that if the business had been profitable, he would have had no trouble on the subject. In the same manner a man may resolve not to travel any more on the sabbath, or to withdraw his investments from a sabbathbreaking railway company, not because he exactly sees that it is wrong, but because he is apprehensive that in the end it will prove to be unprofitable. (2.) A man may resolve to abandon an evil course, because he is involved by it in disgrace. He has become a drunkard, and he resolves to reform, not because he is convinced of the evil and wrong of intemperance in itself considered, but because he has lost his character in the view of the community, and is likely also to lose all his business. It is evident that, in such a case, there would be no true repentance for the cause considered as an evil, but only of regret for the dishonour and disadvantage coming on him. (3.) In like manner, a man may resolve to abandon a certain course because the strong current of public sentiment is set against it. Thus multitudes are the friends of temperance,—not because they see any evil in moderate drinking, and especially in wine-drinking; and not because they have any sense of the goodness of God in keeping them from the ruin into which others have fallen, who began life in the same way in this respect with themselves ; and not because they have any compunction that they ever wasted their own money, and squandered their own time, and jeoparded their own souls, or ruined their sons or others by their own example,—but because the public sentiment is changed. The result is indeed a good one, whatever is the motive—for it is a great point gained when even one, from whatever cause, becomes a warm, practical friend of thorough temperance; but let not the man suppose that there is necessarily any principle in this, or that there is any genuine regret for the evil of his own example and life.
The sum of what I have said under this head of my discourse is this:—that in true repentance there will always be a deliberate purpose to abandon every evil; but that so far as this furnishes any evidence of true repentance everything depends on the motive by which it is done.
III. The third point which I propose to illustrate is, that in true repentance there will he an actual forsaking of sin; an endeavour to arrest the progress of the sin at once, and to repair its evils on ourselves and on others. The essential idea here is, that injury has been done by the life of sin, and that there is an actual exertion to stay that injury—a closing up of the plan of evil—a counter-influence of good commenced, to be continued ever afterwards. This occurred in the case mentioned in the text; and it is so manifestly required in every instance of true repentance that it would be improper even to attempt to prove it. All that is necessary is to show what is implied in it. This evidence of repentance, then, involves the following things :—
(1.) It involves an honest abandonment of the sin, no matter how lucrative, how alluring, how reputable, or how honourable. The eye in true repentance is fixed on the sin, not on the profit or loss, the honour or dishonour. When there is true repentance for a course of life, there will be an immediate cessation of the wrong, no matter what may be involved in it—even though it may be attended with the sacrifice of any amount of property. At Ephesus there were many persons transacting a lucrative business by a species of magic, employing a considerable investment of capital. Many of those engaged in it became convinced by the .preaching of the apostles that the employment was evil, and they " brought their books together, and burned them before all men," amounting in value to fifty thousand pieces of silver, Acts xix. 19. So if a man who has been engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits becomes convinced that the business is contrary to the word of God, it will be abandoned, no matter what may be the pecuniary loss, or the effect on his business. The consideration of property as opposed to the will of God in the case will not affect him for a moment. If he is a true penitent, he will hereafter live an upright and a godly lite. He will seek another employment, or he will beg or starve rather than persist in doing wrong. If a man is convinced that slavery■ is sinful and wrong, no pecuniary consideration will induce him to continue the relation for a moment longer; the only question will be in regard to the welfare of those whom the law has recognised as under his protection. If a man is convinced that it is wrong to run cars, or canal-boats, or stages on the sabbath, and that it is wrong to be the owner of money thus invested, no pecuniary consideration will induce him to retain property thus invested; no pecuniary loss or sacrifice will prevent his withdrawing from the business. The sole question that passes before the mind, when there is true repentance, is in regard to the right and the wrong of any particular course of life ; and when that is settled, all is settled.
The remark now made may be extended to everything—even to those tilings where no pecuniary sacrifice is involved. Whatever may be the nature of the sacrifice implied in giving up a sinful course, it will be submitted to. For there are often sacrifices, on becoming a true penitent, greater than those of money. If you have loved the gay world; if you have been the patron of vanity and folly; if you have lived, not to honour God, but to find pleasure in the theatre or the ball-room; if your heart has become wedded to a life frivolous in the eyes of mortals, and odious in the eyes of angels and of God, it may require of you a sacrifice which gold could not well measure to give up this course to which you have been devoted. Yet it is of the nature of repentance for the follies of the past that it should be done. WhaJ. repentance requires, is not that you should come to the altar with streaming eyes and a head bowed down like a bulrush to-day, to mingle in such scenes again to-morrow; but it is that the evidence of your repentance should be manifest in the place where wrong has been done. Your vacated seat at the table of sinful hilarity and song; your vacated place where you have been accustomed to be seen in the dance; your prompt and decided expression of a purpose to lead a different life, when allured to scenes where God is forgotten, and where religion cannot be honoured, is the way, and the only way in respect to this in which you can evince true penitence for the past, and satisfy the world that you mean to live for nobler ends.
(2.) True repentance, as it respects the conduct, and as the evidence of it is to be found in the conduct, involves a course of life that is fitted to repair the evil which we have done to ourselves by our former lives. We cannot, indeed, even in the most thorough repentance, do this entirely. We cannot recall the wasted hours; we cannot recover the money that we have lost by vicious indulgence; we cannot at once restore health to the body enervated by dissipation—perhaps we can never do it perfectly,—but wo can set about an honest purpose to repair the evil by a different course of life, as far as it may be possible. We cannot, indeed, recover the hours already wasted; but we may resolve that there shall be no more wasted, and we may be at such a time of life that the squandered part shall not materially affect our ultimate attainments and usefulness. We cannot / recover our squandered property; but we can so regulate our lives that there shall be no more squandered, and so that we may acquire all that shall be necessary for our own wants and the wants of our families, and so as to furnish us the means of doing extensive good. We may have, indeed, injured our health ; but the injury may not be irreparable, and we may resolve that the wrong done shall be carried no farther, and we may yet be enabled to pursue our task of life with restored and invigorated powers. If there is such a purpose at once to check and arrest the progress of the evil on ourselves, there is evidence of genuine repentance for the past; if there is not, sighs, and tears, and professions amount to nothing.
(3.) The evidence of repentance implied in our conduct invoves also such a course of life as shall repair, as far as possible, the injury done to others. There is much, indeed, here which cannot be repaired. You cannot recall from the grave the man who has been deprived of life ; you cannot bring to the cheerful light of the living, the father and the mother whose hearts have been broken by your misconduct, and who have gone down with sorrow to the tomb; you cannot make the hair of a father that has been turned prematurely grey by your ingratitude and folly, black and glossy again ; you cannot restore to innocence the deluded victim whom you have ruined by your seductive arts, your example, or your bad principles.
But you may, notwithstanding, do much to repair the evil which you have done to others. A wounded father's heart you may heal by a frank confession, and by a subsequent life of strict propriety and virtue. A wrong which you have done to another by dishonesty and fraud, you may in a great measure repair by confession, and by an honest restoration of all that you have taken from him by fraud. And though in many cases it may be beyond your power to undo the wrong that you have done to theh, yet you may more than compensate for this ■to the world by the service which you may render to society. In a battle, you have at one moment proved yourself to be a coward, and the battle may be lost; but in a hundred subsequent engage
ments you may be faithful to your standard, carrying it into the very camp of the enemy. You may have made one infidel by your example or bad principles, and you can never save him now from the blighting influence of infidelity; but by a consistent and zealous Christian life you may save hundreds of others from becoming infidels. In the days of your sin and folly you may have led one ingenuous and noble youth to love the intoxicating glass, and no effort of yours can sava him from a drunkard's grave; but by becoming now the warm and consistent friend of temperance, you may be the means of saving hundreds of such youths from such a grave ; and so far as society is concerned, you may do an hundredfold to repair the wrong■. Saul of Tarsus, when he was converted, could never recall to life the martyred Stephen; nor could he bring back to the earth those whom he had imprisoned, and against whom he gave his voice when they were put to death; but he could devote his great talents to the work of propagating the religion which he had persecuted, and save thousands and tens of thousands from a more dreadful death than that of the martyrs. He did it. He set about the great work of repairing the wrongs which he had done to the world as a persecutor; and the sincerity of his repentance was evinced not only by his expressions of deep humiliation and sorrow in view of the past—by his solemn declaration that he was the " least of all the apostles," and was not " fit to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God,"—but by such a life of devotedness to a righteous cause as man never before led, and by a career pursued in repairing the wrong, which was felt to the ends of the earth, and which will continue to he felt to the end of time.
In this abandonment of an evil course ; in this struggle against sin; in this solemn purpose to forsake that which has been seen to be wrong, and in this honest and persevering effort to repair the injuries which have been done by our past misconduct, is to be found the evidence of true repentance.
We may learn from our subject,
(1.) That there is much false repentance in the world. There is much sorrow that expends itself in sighs and tears and temporary emotion, and that " brings forth no fruit meet for repentance." There is much forsaking of sin for other reasons than because it is seen to be wrong. It is abandoned because it is unprofitable ; or because it is unfashionable ; or because it does not comport with good breeding and the maintenance of the character of a gentleman ; or because the popular sentiment sets strongly against it; or because it is expensive, and cannot well be afforded; and not because there is any deep sense of the evil. The evil is still loved, and you would be ready to practise it again if your own circumstances, or the views of the public, should be changed. So, many men break off from certain sins, not because they hate them, but because they are growing old, and can no longer enjoy them; many do it, not because their views are changed, but because they are laid on a bed of pain, and the hour of death draweth near. It becomes, therefore, obviously a very solemn duty for each one to examine his own heart, to ascertain why it is that he has forsaken the paths in which he once so cheerfully walked.
(2.) We may see the reason why a death-bed repentance is of so little value. Jeremy Taylor maintained that a death-bed repentance is impossible. There could not be, he said, evidence furnished that it is sincere and genuine. But, whatever may be true on that point, our subject teaches us that all the evidence furnished by a death,bed repentance is of very little value. A moment's reflection, it would seem, would satisfy any one of tho truth of this remark. Let him think how many regrets are felt by those in health for their past conduct, which never amount to true penitence; how many expressions of sorrow are made, followed by no correspondent action; how many alarms are felt that produce no turning from sin ; how many resolutions are formed only to be disregarded; and then let him reflect on the usual condition of the mind on a death-bed:—how incapable of calm reflection; how likely to act from the influence of mere alarm ; how often it is wholly or partially delirious,—and he will see how little dependence is to be placed on expressions of penitence in such circumstances. Let him ask himself also how many in the sphere of his observation there have been, who on a sick bed have resolved to forsake their sins and to live to God, but who on their recovery have shown that their repentance was false and hollow, and he will learn what to think of that repentance when there has been no such recovery. It is a common thing for men when they are sick, and suppose that they are about to die, to become apparently penitent and religious ;—not common for them when they recover to give evidence that the repentance was genuine. In a ministry now of nearly thirty years, I have had opportunity to see many sick and dying persons. In all that time I cannot now recall a solitary instance of one who became apparently penitent on a sick-bed, who furnished any evidence in his subsequent life that it was genuine. Now, if this be so in the usual cases of restoration to health, I would not say that it would absolutely prove that in cases which terminated differently there was no evidence of true repentance; but who can help asking the question, What evidence would they have probably furnished, if they had been restored again to health ?
(3.) Finally, the conclusion of the whole matter then is this :— If we would have evidence of repentance that is worth anything— that will furnish consolation to our friends when we are gone— that will enable them to go and bend over our graves with the consolation derived from the belief that we are in heaven ; if we would have them go and inscribe on the stone which marks the place where we sleep, in an intelligent manner, some simple and sweet passage of the word of God indicating their belief that we are happy, or have them plant there the flower which as it blooms from spring to spring shall be expressive of the hope that we shall be raised to life and glory, that evidence must be found in a life of piety so uniform as to show that we hate all the ways of sin. It must be founded on the workings of our minds in their best state, and in their maturest powers. And for myself, I desire to have, and to leave to my friends in that hour when, so far as this world is concerned, I shall give them the parting hand, a hope not derived from the workings of a mind broken and prostrate by age or disease, or from an expression of regret then wrung from my dying lips—but a hope derived from the best exercise of my intellect and my heart in my maturest days, employed with prayerful energy, and assisted by the grace of God, on the great subject of religion. No other subject so demands the exercise of those powers; nothing ■else would I desire to have placed on so firm a basis, and so far beyond the clanger of deception, as my hope of immortality.