ON THE SENTIMENTS OF A PENITENT SINNER
Consider first, that according to the different steps that are usually taken in the sinner’s conversion, different sentiments and affection gradually take possession of his soul. And first his faith, which was asleep before, awakened by serious consideration, or by hearing the word of God, or by reading good books, opens his eyes to discover, in part at least, how odious, how filthy a monster has hitherto had possession of his soul, and what dreadful dangers have surrounded him with the worst of judgments from God, both for time and eternity. This by the help of the Holy Ghost, produces in his soul a wholesome fear of the justice of God, and of that miserable death, judgment, and hell, which are daily overtaking unrepenting sinners. Now this fear is usually the beginning of the greatest conversions. How hard must that sinner be whom neither the sight of the sword of God hanging over his head, nor of a miserable death, following closely at his heels, nor of hell, open under his feet, and just ready to swallow him down, can move to repentance.
Consider 2ndly, that the sinner being alarmed by the terrors of divine justice, seeks to find how he may escape these dreadful evils, that continually threaten him on every side, and how he may rid himself of his sins, the true source of all these evils. And here the mercy and goodness of God, and the precious blood of the Son of God, shed for poor sinners, present themselves before the eyes of his soul, and encourage him to hope that the same God, whose mercy has endured him so long in his sins, whose goodness has watched over him all this while, preserving him from innumerable evils, and loading him with innumerable benefits, who has purchased this soul of his for himself at so dear a rate, and who has shed his own blood to wash him from these very sins, will certainly receive him, now he desires to return to him (according to his repeated promises made to repenting sinners), as he has received millions of others, that have returned to him after sin. And in this hope he firmly proposes to neglect no one thing required on his part, towards obtaining the absolution and full remission of all his sins, and a perfect reconciliation with his God.
Consider 3rdly, that the sinner being thus encouraged, and resolved to go and present himself before the throne of divine grace, and there to sue for the pardon of all his sins, through the precious blood of the Son of God, betakes himself to fervent prayer, in order to obtain the necessary disposition of a contrite and humble heart, without which there is no admittance to mercy and grace. This contrite and humble heart is an excellent composition of three great virtues, viz., penance, humility, and divine love. Penance fills the soul with a horror and deep sense of sorrow for sin committed, together with an ardent desire to abolish it; humility obliges the soul to condemn herself, by reason of her manifold crimes, as worthy of all manner of evil, and unworthy of the least good, and to sit down in the very lowest place, as the most wretched, the most ungrateful, and the most abominable of all creatures; and divine love teaches her to consider and detest in her sins, not so much the evil they bring upon her, as their infinite malice, from the infinite opposition they have to a God infinitely good in himself and infinitely good to her, and their enormous outrages against the Son of God, incarnate for the love of her. With these sentiments the true penitent endeavours to prepare and dispose himself for the confession of his sins, and absolution from them. And this is that ‘contrite and humble heart which God never despises.’ Ps. l.
Conclude, if thou would’st effectually turn from sin to God, to endeavour to walk in these steps, especially to meditate seriously upon the great truths that relate to eternity, and to labour with all thy power for the acquiring a contrite and humble heart.