« السابقةمتابعة »
than for his enemy and ruthless seducer. And indeed we ought to be confounded at the ungenerous idea of doing less in the practice of virtue, than in the commission of sin, of being less solicitous to make our election sure, than to gratify our passions, and involve ourselves in ruin. Your feet, continues this renowned doctor, your feet have trodden the ways of death, bearing you to seduce or injure your neighbour ; let them henceforth bear you forward in the paths of sanctity, to the assistance of your unfortunate fellow-creatures. If your hands have been employed in seizing or purloining the property of another, let them now be extended to relieve the indigent; if your eyes have been turned on every side, or fixed on every object to which curiosity, or lust, or covetousness invited, let them now be employed in discovering the wants of suffering poverty, and every mean by which the glory of God may be promoted. In a word, let all your senses, all the powers of your soul, and all the members of your body, bear testimony to justice, and administer the same service to virtue, which they have afforded to uncleanness and iniquity. Well does St. Paul say, that he speaks a human thing, because of the infirmity of our flesh; for is it possible that less can be required of us, on our return to the God whom we have injured by sin? And if the God of all goodness and love will be satisfied with this our offering, which indeed would be his due, even if we had never sinned against him, (for all that we can do in homage to his Deity is strictly his,) yet if this will satisfy him, is it not the extreme of injustice and baseness to give him a refusal ? Yet how many, alas, refuse this small atonement, this indispensable mark of sincere repentance ! Who profess themselves grieved for their past sins, yet do not zealously cultivate the opposite virtues; but entertaining a secret affection for what was once so fondly cherished, continue to commit in desire what they scarcely and reluctantly refrain from in effect; who waver in continual hesitation between duty and inclination, occasionally fall into their former crimes, and are never disgusted with them. This is not a sincere repentance: it has not the mark which St. Paul considers as the least that can be required to evince a genuine conversion. If strength enough can be found for pleasure ; if, when called upon to partake in amusements beyond comparison more fatiguing than the exercise of rigorous penance, all is life and ardour ; if, at the call of vanity, you spring with elastic speed, but when religion urges to turn from false joys to the pleasures of contemplation, and the practice of virtue; if, then, you are tepid,
and slow, and inactive, Oh! my brethren, you do not yield your members to serve justice unto sanctification, as you have yielded them to serve uncleanness and iniquity ; in other words, you are not converted. How many never want strength for mirth and pastime, for the pleasures of the table and midnight revelry, but to fast, to abstain, to practise mortification, is impossible. To gratify ambition, avarice, self-love, nothing is too difficult; but to subdue the passions, to refrain from sinful pleasures, to exercise charity and mercy, to acquire the several christian virtues, is intolerable, is impracticable, is beyond the power of human ability. Be not deceived, my friends, never can you prudently persuade yourselves that you are converted to God, unless you do as much for him as you have done against him; unless you do as much to save your souls, as you have done to lose them; unless you consecrate to the service of God those members, senses, and faculties, which you have employed in offending him.
The second mark given by the apostle, is a sincere regret, and never-ceasing confusion for the guilt of sin. What fruit had you in those things, of which you are now ashamed? for the end of them is death. (v. 21.) He therefore reminds them of the emptiness of every earthly gratification, the vanity of every worldly plea
What fruit have you reaped from your endeavours to gratify your passions ? Alas! nothing now remains but confusion and remorse : and happy may you esteem yourselves, if, by repentance, you escape eternal death, which you have merited by your sins. Preserve and cherish this sorrow and this shame; by it you are to judge of the sincerity of your conversion. When memory recalls the scenes of past follies and guilt, do you review them with horror and shame? Do you lament your sins in the bitterness of your souls? Do you blush with virtuous confusion, on the recollection of your former scandals ? and is your shame influenced by motives of love of God, so that you appear before him in the posture, and with the sentiments of criminals, ready to suffer the contempt of the world, which, by your sins, you have so justly merited? If so ; give thanks to God, and entertain an humble hope that your conversion is sincere, that you are reconciled to your offended Lord, and your sins forgiven. But do you not rather experience the reverse of all this? You have confessed your sins; but, your confession over, have you not forgotten your sins, and even that you have been sinners? Instead of submitting to the confusion of your own hearts, and the confusion which your public scandal has excited, do you not revolt against humiliation, and even try to exculpate yourselves before men, by a defence of your criminal conduct ? Do you not rebel against the dispositions of the Almighty, by murmuring and repining, and even resisting the chastisements which his wisdom inflicts upon you? While perhaps you say, you resolve to do penance for your sins, does not the slightest contradiction disconcert you? the smallest affliction destroy your peace of mind ? and though the cross be evidently sent by heaven for your good, is it not still received with impatience?
As this conduct does not argue a sincere repentance, and a true conversion, let me desire you to look into yourselves, my brethren, that you may discover whether you be still enslaved to sin, or delivered from the cruel thraldom of Satan. If, notwithstanding the violence of temptation, you still remain faithful to your divine Lord, if you still hear his word, and, struggling hard against flesh and blood, still observe his precepts, be not disheartened. The apostle exhorts you to perseverance :-let us attentively consider the motives which he proposes, as inducements and helps under the difficulties which we must expect to meet with.
Second. Being now made free from sin, says St. Paul, and become servants unto God,