« السابقةمتابعة »
for many years: fometimes that trouble and vexation, which they foresee a change of life will coft them: fometimes they are withheld by shame, left they should become the ridi cule of their former companions in iniquity; and most generally a false trust in God's mercy, and a dangerous persuasion, that it will be foon enough to return to him at the latter end of their life, fupports them in the career of folly. Thus they have always fome pretence for delaying that neceffary work, which they can never begin too foon. And to these fatal excufes it is owing, I fear, that many a well-meaning man, who seriously intended to begin the work of repentance, but unhappily put it off from day to day, is now lamenting his mifery, amidst the flames that cannot be quenched for, by deferring repentance from day to day, zeal grows weak, and habitual fins strong.
The finner fays, like the prodigal, "I will "arife and go to my father;" I will forfake my love of the world, my drunkenness, pride, hatred, malice, and all my carnal lufts: but, alas! procrastination too foon steals away the powers of refolution, and he flides infenfibly
into his former habits: instead, therefore, of the sweet fruits of penitence, gloomy fear and anxious terror rack the foul with nightly and hourly apprehenfions; vice and desperation occupy that breast, which might have been the lovely abode of virtue, with all her train of godlike pleasures; and, at length, the unhappy finner, in vain lifting up his hands to heaven for a continuance of that miferable existence, which he knows not how to endure, yet fears to quit, falls, furrounded with thofe chains of fin, which his folly firft forged, and his feeble efforts are now unable to break afunder.
The wife failor will learn to fhun the rock on which others have split.-Let their miffortune, therefore, be our warning. If any of us have unhappily fallen into the fnare of fin, let us not delay the precious hours of repentance, but let us rather feek the Lord, whilst happily he may be found, and call upon him, whilst he is near. Be our's the decent and humble language of the returning prodigal, "Father, I have finned against "heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy fon." And then
let us not doubt of the kind reception of the fame prodigal:-" When he was yet a great way off, his father faw him, and had compation on him, and fell on his neck, and "kiffed him. And he faid to his fervants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on “him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and bring hither the fatted "calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry." What an affecting picture is this of the tenderness of the good old man! He knew too well the indiscretion of his fon, and felt every confequence which that indifcretion had brought upon him. Yet, upon his return and acknowledgment of his offences, how readily does all the parent break forth in expreffions of love and affection! He does not reproach him with his past follies, or remind him of the different conduct of his elder brother; he does not infinuate harsh fufpicions of the fincerity of his prefent repentance, or distrust the integrity of his future conduct; but willing to believe that his forrow was real, and his contrition the refult of conviction, he inftantly prepares every mark of honour and feftivity, which could testify the most unfeigned joy.
See, then, ye, who have unhappily by your vices or follies alienated from you the love and protection of your parents, how easy is the return to their favour, if ye are not wanting to yourselves. Acknowledge but your indifcretions; give but the flightest proofs of your reformation; and they will foon feel all the meltings of pity and love rushing into their hearts for the cords of parental love are too ftrong ever to be broken. There is always fomething within, which will plead for you more forcibly than the strongest language of eloquence: there are ten thoufand circumftances, perhaps to an indifferent eye of little moment, which can never be for gotten, which will infure to you a welcome reception, if you can only refolve to make the experiment of returning back to the duty have deferted. Even whilft you are yet you a great way off, they have compassion on you, and wish most earnestly to fall on your neck and kiss you. Deny them not, therefore, by a continuance in your follies, fo great and transporting a pleasure; but return back to the protecting arms of your natural guardians and moft affured friends, before it be too late. It is yet in your power to give joy
and comfort to their declining age: it is yet in your power to gild the evening of their days with light and warmth, and to make them fet in peace and pleasure. But should you neglect the prefent opportunity, you will foon have much to burden your confcience and embitter your future hours: you will bring down their grey hairs with forrow, the fharpeft of all human forrow,—to their grave: and when their eyes are closed in death, with what anguifh will you reflect on your paft undutifulness; with what earnestnefs will you wish that you could recall them back to earth, to teftify your repentance to them, and to wipe away the tear of forrow from their afflicted cheeks?—And should it be your own lot hereafter to have the honourable name of parent, think with what anguish must you for ever look down upon your own children: for fhould they prove difobedient and ungrateful, how must you feel the juft punishment of your own difobedience inflicted by their hands; and fhould they, on the contrary, prove virtuous and amiable, how muft it wound your heart to reflect, that you cruelly deprived your own parents of fo unfpeakable a fatisfaction as you