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- Godliness - 5/23 -


II. When is a sinner to believe? When he repents? Here again I am going to answer some of your letters. One writes: "I am afraid I do not realize my sin sufficiently. I have no particular agony on account of sin, but I do see my whole life to have been one huge error and sin." There is nothing more common than for souls to delude themselves on this point of feeling. That gentleman confounds feeling with conviction. He thinks because he has not this extreme agony which some have, therefore he is not sufficiently convinced, while the Holy Ghost has opened his eyes to see that his whole life has been one huge error and sin. He is convinced that it has been _all_ sin--not one isolated sin here and there abstracted from his life, but such a perception of his true character that he sees his whole life to have been sin. Surely, my friend, you are convinced. What else but the Holy Ghost could have shown you _that_? Now, the truly repentant soul first sees sin; secondly, he _hates_ sin; thirdly, he _renounces_ sin. Now, let me try you by each of these tests. Don't let Satan deceive you, and make you belie the exercises of your own mind. Face the facts, and when you have come to a conclusion, don't allow him to raise a controversy, but stick to your facts, and go on from them, or you will never get saved. Satan is an accuser of the brethren, and, I suppose, of the sisters too. I will be as honest and as searching with you as I possibly can. I will not spare the probe, but when we have probed and found the truth, stand on it, for Christ's sake, and don't let it go from under your feet, because Satan will try to cheat you out of your common sense, conscience, and convictions.

You _see_ sin. An entirely unawakened soul does not see sin; that is, in its true character, in its heinousness, in its consequences. He admits that all people are sinners. Oh! yes; but he does not see the deadly, damning character of sin. He does not see what an evil and bitter thing sin is in itself. Now, the Holy Ghost alone can open the soul's eyes to see this. Without Him, all my preaching, or any other preaching, even the preaching of the angels, if they were permitted to preach, might go on to all eternity, and it would never convince of sin. If you see sin, it is the Holy Ghost who has opened your eyes. Praise Him, and take encouragement, my friend. If God has thus far dealt with you, and opened your eyes to see the character and consequences of sin, does it not augur well that He desires also to save you from it? He has opened your eyes in order that He may anoint them with eye-salve, and cause you to see light in His light.

Now, have you got thus far? You have told me that your life has been one great sin; others say, one particular form of sin. Whatever it is, if you are convinced of sin, it is the Holy Ghost who has convinced you; therefore, thank God, and take courage thus far.

Further, the true penitent _hates_ sin; that is, his feelings towards sin are quite different to what they were in the past. There was a time when you could commit sin, almost without notice, without concern. People do not realize the great change that has taken place in them in this respect. They are brought gradually to it. Translate yourself back into your unawakened state. How did you live then? The very things that now cause you such distress, you practised every day, and they gave you no concern. The things that horrify you now, in the very thought or temptation to them, you then were daily practising without compunction. You had no hatred to, no dread of sin. You were willing bondslaves of Satan. Now, you are his unwilling slave. Then, you _ran_ towards sin, now, he has to drive you, and when you fall, it is against your will. You hate sin. Now, mind, this is not being saved from it. This is not saying you have power to save yourself from it. In fact, this is the very difficulty personified by the apostle, when representing the ineffectual struggles of a convicted sinner. The things you would not, those you do, and the things you would, those you have not the power to do. Nevertheless, you _desire_ to do them. There is the difference. Once you did not desire to do them, and, perhaps, those who did, were a pack of hypocrites, in your estimation. Now, you feel quite differently, and you struggle, and strive, and pray, and watch. Some of you have told me so, and yet you say, "I am again and again overcome." Of course you are, because you are not _saved yet_! But don't you see, you _desire_ to be. You hate the sin which enthrals you. You struggle against it. You watch against it and you are not overcome half so frequently, perhaps, as you were before. People do not see what a great deal they owe to the convincing and preventing power of the Holy Spirit helping their infirmity, even now, to cut off and pluck out the right hand and the right eye, and bringing them up in a waiting attitude before God, like Cornelius and the eunuch. You, my hearers, some of you, are following after God. You are longing for deliverance, are striving against sin.

Take an another illustration. I don't mean that the soul has power to save itself from its internal maladies. That you will get when Jesus Christ saves you. But, I mean this: here is a soul convinced of sin. Here is a man who is daily addicted to drink. He is a drunkard. He becomes convinced of sin. Now, then, the Spirit of God says, "Will you give up the cup?" Then commences the struggle. Now, the question is, are you to teach that man that he is to go on drinking, and expect God to save him? Are you to keep putting before him faith, and telling him, "Oh! never mind your cup, but believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved"--or, are you to tell him, "you must put away your sin, cut off that right hand, pluck out that right eye, renounce that drink forever in your heart, in your purpose, in your will, and until you do, you cannot exercise faith on the Lord Jesus?"

Here is another person addicted to lying. He, when he is convinced of sin, sets a watch over his lips, that he may not offend with his mouth, and he does succeed in so guarding himself, or the Holy Spirit so helps him to guard himself, that he does not lie as he used. He is overcome now and then, because he has not yet found the power, but he is resolutely, and as far as his will is concerned, cutting off this outward sin, and waiting in the way of obedience for full deliverance and salvation.

There is a servant systematically robs his master's till. He goes to a religious meeting and is convinced. "Now," the Spirit of God says, "you must cut off that dishonesty. You cannot come to this meeting night after night pretending to want to be saved, while you are going on every day robbing your master! You must cut off that right hand, and give up that pilfering, and resolve that you will make restitution, and wait for Me in the way of bringing forth fruits meet for repentance." You see what I mean. Now, you are just here, some of you--you know you are. If you are addicted to any evil habit, it is just the same. Jesus Christ wants you to forswear that habit in your will, determination, and purpose. You have not the power to deliver yourself from it. You may struggle, as some of you tell me you are doing, but it overcomes you, and down you go. He knows all about that, but He approves of the struggle, and the effort, and the watchfulness, and the determination, and when He saves you, He will give you the power, and then you will stand and not fall, for He will hold you up.

Now you know that you go thus far, and you know that at this moment, if you had the power in yourself to extinguish the force of that evil habit over you forever, you would do it without another moment's hesitation. You say, "Oh yes, I would indeed. Would to God I had the power." That is repentance; that is _genuine_ repentance. Now, what you cannot do for yourself, He meets you just where you stand, and says, "I will do it for you; I will break the power of that habit; I will deliver you out of the hands of the enemy; I will save you out of that bondage. Only throw your arm of faith around me, and I will lift you up; and I will inspire you with my Spirit; you shall stand in Me and by Me; and what you are now struggling to do for yourself, I will do for you."

Then you have got thus far that you hate sin? "Yes, I have." You have said it in your letters to me, and there are others saying it who have not written to me. "Yes," you are saying, "I desire to be saved from it. I would save myself this very instant if I could, and never sin again." Would you? Is not that repentance? What else is it, think you?

Suppose you had a disobedient and rebellious son, and he had been living irrespective of your law and will, wasting your money and trampling under foot your commandments. Suppose he comes back, he sees the error of his course. His eyes are opened, perhaps, by affliction, perhaps by want, or ten thousand other things. At any rate he sees it, and he comes home and says, "Oh! father, what a fool I have been; how wicked I have been. I see it all now--I did not see it when I was doing it. I see my evil course, my sins that made you mourn, and turned your hair grey. Oh! how I hate it all. I repent in dust and ashes. Father! I forsake it all! I come home to you!" What would you say? Would you say, "My son, you have not repented enough. Go! begone! Wait till you feel it more!" No, your paternal heart would go out in love and forgiveness, and you would put the kiss of your reconciling love upon his cheek. "Even so there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that _repenteth!_" as there would be joy in that family circle over the return of that wandering child.

But suppose that lad were to come and say, "Father, I do thus repent; I do thus forsake my sins; but there are some companions who will follow me so closely that I am afraid I shall again fall under their power, and there are some habits so terrible that I am afraid they will again conquer. Let me, then, be always by your side. You must strengthen me." What would you say? Would you not say, "Then, come in, my son; sit by me, live with me, and I will shield you--I will deliver you? Thou shalt never cross this threshhold without me. I will live with you; I will hold you up." And, as far as a human being could shield another, you would shield your son; he would never lack your sympathy or your strength day or night. Your Heavenly Father lacks neither sympathy or strength. His eye never sleeps. His arm never tires, and you have only to go and lay your helpless weakness on His Almighty strength by this one desperate leap of faith, and He will hold you up, even though there were a legion of devils around you.

Lastly, you _renounce_ your sins, that is, in will, purpose, and determination. You say, "I never wish to grieve Him again." You sing it, and you feel it. "I never want to grieve Him any more;" and if you could only live without grieving Him, you would not much mind, even if it were in hell itself. Is not that penitence? You know it is. You renounce sin. You do not say, "Lord Jesus, save me with this right hand, with this right eye; Lord Jesus, save me with these forbidden things hanging about my skirts." No; you say, "Lord Jesus, save me out of them. Make me clean." That is penitence. You see it. You hate it. You renounce it. Now then, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, Holy Spirit, reveal the simple way of faith.

III. You say, "How am I to believe?" Some despairing soul asked me this in large letters, "How am I to believe?" How does a bride believe in her husband when she gives herself to him at the altar? She trusts him with herself. She believes in him. She makes a contract, and goes home, and lives as if it were true. That is _faith_. How do you trust your physician when you are sick, as you lay in repose or anguish upon your bed? You trust him with your case. You commit yourself to him. You believe in his skill, and obey his orders. Have faith like this in Jesus Christ.

Trust and obey, and expect that it is going to be with you according


Godliness - 5/23

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