Imagini ale paginilor

tion of it. The true penitent ceases to do evil. An example of this influence, very explanatory of the nature of the principle, occurs in 2 Cor. vii. 11. For, behold, this self-same 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.

A more happy illustration of the power of repentance in casting out sin could not be conceived. What carefulness,- a serious, thoughtful, and careful examination of the alleged sin. What clearing of themselves,-putting it away from them, as the Jews put away the unleavened bread ; searching for it with lighted candles. What indignation,-against themselves, that they should ever have harboured such a sin. What fear,--lest they should ever be tempted, and fall into it again. What vehehement desire,--anxious supplications for the grace of God to keep them. What zeal,—the soul animated with purpose to avoid it. What revenge,-executed upon themselves in bitter exercises of humiliation and self-denial. How can sin exist, where there is such a principle as this. It may intrude, but it will not be tolerated. As soon as ever repentance enters the soul it casts out sin, and it continues there, to exercise a watchful inspection over the intrusion of the enemy. It is a purifying principle, which purges out the old leaven, and continues to cast it off so long as it is produced by the fermentation of evil passions and actions.

VI. Repentance is completed by a determined purpose of future obedience. It is only this that is consistent with it. When, therefore, the disciples of John came to him with a profession of repentance, he immediately demanded of them,

bring forth fruits meet for repentance.' demand be more just. In repentance, that promise is made good, " this is the covenant that I will make after these days, I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Heb. viii. 10. The law of God, effaced from the heart by sin, is inscribed there again. The love of God's law thus takes possession of the soul; and therefore do we naturally look for the outgoings of that love in the doings of holiness. “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” And while the love of God's law is thus an impelling principle in the heart, that law itself is put into the hand as the guide of the life." Its principles are two, thou shalt love the Lord

Nor could any

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

thy God with all thy soul, and mind, and strength; and thy neighbour as thyself;" and these two principles are sufficient to direct us in all we owe to God and man. Let them dwell in the heart, and, as they are there, every duty of life will be discharged. Its commandments are ten; and these are so simple and comprehensive, as to embrace all possible cases in human life. Man is without excuse, for he is never called upon to act, where there is not a precept for guidance. Particularly is this so, since the life of Jesus has been published as a comment on the law. There the law is expressed in living actions, and to obey the law is to do as be did. Well, therefore, may new obedience be expected of every man who, as a penitent, has the law inscribed on his heart, and put into his hand. He is furnished with new principles, impelling him to holiness; he is provided with new precepts to direct all his actions; well, therefore, may his life be new and holy. It nust be so, as well from the nature of the case, as the demand of God. The penitent“ ceases to do evil, and learns to do well.” The known and habitual indulgence of any sin is inconsistent with his condition ; and a hearty devotedness of himself to God, under the operation and guidance of the Spirit, is its natural production. This is the word of the Lord,

a new beart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take


tte stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an beart of Aesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." The penitent is the temple of the Holy Spirit, renewing his heart, purifying his principles, and governing his life. And, therefore, do we demand, at his hands, a life of uprightness and godliness, agreeably to our definition,"repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience."


I AM willing to record the scene of baseness and carnal cor. ruption which I passed through in my youth, not that I may love them, but that I may love thee, my God. I do it with the love of thy love, recollecting my own very evil ways in

the bitterness of memory, that thou mayest be endeared to me, O Delight that never deceives, Delight happy and secure, thou which collectest and bindest together the dispersed parts of my broken soul: while averse from thee, the only God, I vanished into variety of vanities !*

For I was inflamed in my youth to be satiated with infernal fires, and be. came as rottenness in thy sight, while I pleased myself, and desired to please the eyes of men.

Love was my object; but, by the excess of passion, the serenity of affection was lost in the darkness of lust. My weak age was hurried along through the whirlpool of flagitiousness. Thy displeasure was all the time embittering my soul, and I knew it not. The noise of my carnal chains and the punishment of my pride rendered me deaf to thy voice; I went far from thee; thou sufferedst it: I was tossed and agitated, and I overflowed with the ebullitions of lewdness, and thou wast silent, O my too tardy joy! At that time thou wast silent, and I wandered deeply from thee ainong many barren seeds of woes, in a state of proud degradation and restless weariness. Thy Omnipotence is not far from us, even when we are very far from thee; I might have beard thy voice, recommending a single life devoted to God, allowing indeed matrimony, and frowning on lewdness. But I burst all legal bonds, yet escaped not thy scourges ;-who of mortals caù ? For thou wast always present, severely mer. ciful, mixing all my unlawful delights with bitter alloys, that I might seek for pleasure without alloy or obstacle, and not be able to find the possibility of this, but in thee, thee, I say, () Lord, who connectest pain with the breach of thy laws, and smitest that thou mayest heal, and slayest us, that we may not die from thee. Where was I, and how long did I live in exile from thy house, in that sixteenth year


my age, when the madness of lust seized me altogether, and I wil. lingly suffered the reins to be struck out of my hands ? To the disgrace of our nature, this species of lust is every where tolerated, though forbidden by thy laws. My friends took

* The beautiful thought, thus diffusively expressed in our author's usual manner, is happily painted in a single word by the Psalmist, UNITE my heart to fear thy name. Ps. lxxxvi, 11. + I Cor. vii.

Would to God, that this were not the case in Christian countries, as well as Pagan! If the reader feel himself inclined to treat with levity the serious manner in which juvenile vices are treated by the author, be will, when better informed of the malignity of sin, condemu his own taste, not that of Augustine. The same contrast may be extended to the case of his theft which follows,

no pains to bridle me by the wholesome restraint of marriage; their anxiety was, that I should acquire the arts and graces of eloquence. That year

I had vacation from my studies, being returned from Madaura, a neighbouring city, where I had begun to learn oratory, to my father's house at Tagasta. He, with a spirit above his circumstances, for he was but a poor freeman of the town just mentioned, determined to send me to Carthage, that I might have the greatest advantages for proficiency. Why do I relate these things before thee, my God, to my fellow-creatures, the few of them, who may read these lines ?- That both I and they may consider out of how great a depth it behoves us to cry to thee. And what is nearer than thine ears, if the heart confide in thee, and the life flow from faith ? Who did not then extol the noble spirit of my father, laying out so much money on the education of his son; a spirit so much superior to that of many much richer citizens, who had not the heart to send their sons to Carthage ? while yet he had no concern in what manner I grew up to thee. Whether I was chaste or not cost him no thought, provided I was eloquent. In this year of vacation my passions were rampant without controul.' This pleased my father, who, intoxicated with liquor, expressed his pleasure on the occasion to my mother. She bad lately begun to feel tby holy love, and had been washed in the laver of regeneration. He was a catechumen in profession. Instantly she conceived a pious trepidation on my account. My God, thou spakest to me by her, and warnedst me strongly against the ways of vice. Tly voice in ber I despised, and thought it to be only the voice of a woman, which made not the least impression my

mind. So blinded was I, that I should have blushed to be thought less wicked than my companions, and even invented false stories of

niy sinful exploits, to obtain their commendation. My pious parent was prevented from encouraging me to marry; because she thought the usual studies, which I was now to enter upon, might be serviceable to promote in me the work of true religion. My father thought little of thee, much of his son, in vain expectations. Thus, while they both were too anxious for my literary improvements, I made progress

in vice, and shut myself up in the darkness of sin, so as to bar up against myself the admission of thy truth as much as possible.

Thy law certainly punishes theft, O Lord, and so does the LAW* WRITTEN in the hearts of men. For what thief can


* He means the voice of natural conscience. See Rom. ii. 15.

bear another? Yet, compelled by no want, I deliberately committed theft, through the wantonness of iniquity and the contempt of justice. It was not the effect of the theft, but the sin itself, which I wished to enjoy. There was a pear-tree in the neighbourhood of my father's vineyard, loaded with fruit, though not of the most tempting kind. At dead of night, in company with some profligate youths, I plundered the tree,the spoil was principally thrown to the hogs, for I bad abundance of better fruit at home, Behold my heart, my God, behold my heart, which thou hast pitied in its deep abyss of sin. What did I mean, that I should be gratuitously wicked ? U loved destruction itself. In the common course of wickedness, men have some end in view. Even Cataline himself loved not his crimes, but something else, for the sake of which be perpetrated them. We are deceived by appearances of good, embracing the shadows, while we follow our own lusts, instead of seeking the substance, which is only in thee. Thus, the soul commits fornication, when it is turned from thee, and seeks, out of thee, that pleasure, honour, power, wealth, or wisdom, which it never will find in its genuine purity, till it return to thee. All, who remove themselves far from thee, and set up themselves in opposition, perversely imitate some attribute of God, though, even by such imitation, they own thee to be the Creator of the universe. This is the general nature of sin. It deceives by some fictitious shadow of that good, which in God alone is to be found. But what vicious or perverse imitation of my Lord was there in my theft? I can conceive none, unless it be the pleasure of acting arbitrarily and with impunity against law,-a dark similitude of Omnipotence. O rottenness! O monster of life, and profundily of death! Could I delight in what was not lawful, merely on that account, because it was not lawful? What reward shall I give to the Lord, that I can now recollect these things without fear of damnation ? I will love and bless thee, Lord, because thou hast pardoned such horrible evils. limpute it to thy grace, that thou hast melted my sins as ice is melted. I impute, also, to thy grace my exemption from those evils which I have not committed. For of what I was not capable, who loved even gratuitous wickedness ? I am sensible, that all is forgiven,-not only the evils which I have actually committed, but also those evils which, by thy guidance, I have been kept from committing. He who, called by thee, bath avoided the evils which he hears me confessing, should not deride me, a poor patient, healed by the Physician,

« ÎnapoiContinuați »