Meditation 3: Of the Fruits of Repentance, by Richard Allestree.
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. Mat. iii. 8.
The foundation of a holy life, is true repentance; and where that is acquired, remission of sins, and eternal life succeeds. Why then do we defer our repentance, and procrastinate it from day to day? Tomorrow is not in our possession; and to repent sincerely, is not in our power; but when the Judgment Day is approached, we must render an account not only for one day, but for our whole lives.
Acknowledge and bewail thy sins, so shalt thou find God in Christ appeased towards thee. I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, saith the Lord, Isa. 43. 25. inferring our sins are enrolled in the Court of Heaven. Turn away thy face from my sins, begs the Royal Prophet, Psal. 51. 9. Demonstrating that our iniquities are in God's sight. Be converted unto us, O God, prayeth Moses: therefore our sins do separate us from God, Isa. 59. 2. Our sins have answered us, complaineth Isaiah, ver. 12. and do accuse us before God's tribunal. Cleanse me from my sins, is the Psalmist's petition, Psal. 51. 2. Concluding, our sins, in appearance, are sordid in the eye of the Almighty.
Sin is the distemper of the soul: which moved David to cry out, Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee, Psal. 41. 4. It is for sin, that we are blotted out of the Book of Life. So said the Eternal, Whosoever shall sin against me, I will blot him out of my book, Exod. 32. 32. We are cast off by the Almighty for our sins: which made David deprecate, Cast me not away from thy presence, Psal. 51. 11. Sin torments the mind, and dries up the moisture, as the Psalmist experienced, Restore me to the joy of thy salvation, Psal. 47. 12.
Sin is infectious, says the prophet, Isa. 24. 5 The earth is defiled by the inhabitants thereof, which have transgressed the law. Our Sins press us down to hell, else the Psalmist had not broke out, saying, Out of the deep have I cried to thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Ps. 130. 1. Sin is the spiritual death of the soul. So says the Apostle, We were sometimes dead in our sins, Ephes. 2. 1. By mortal sin, man loses his Creator, who is the infinite and incomprehensible good: therefore, to be deprived of him, is an infinite and incomprehensible evil. And as the Almighty is the chiefest good, so sin is the chiefest evil.
Calamities and punishments are not absolutely evil; for many times from them good is extracted: Nay, they may properly be called good; because they are God's messengers, and proceed from him who is the fountain of all goodness. Moreover, they lead us unto the chiefest good, even life everlasting. Christ, by his passion, entered into his glory, Luke 24. 26. And Christians, by tribulations, enter into life eternal, Act. 14. 22. And consequently, sin is the chiefest evil, because it draws us from the chiefest good.
The sinner is accused by his conscience, which he has defiled; by his Creator, whom he has offended; by the sins he has committed; by the creatures he has abused; and by the devil, who has seduced him. How saving then is repentance, which frees us from such accusations! Let us haste then with speed to such a sovereign catholicon. If thou defer thy repentance till death, thou dost not forsake thy sins, but they forsake thee; and it is very difficult to trace out an example of sincere repentance at the hour of death, except that of the thief upon the cross.
Fourteen years have I served thee, (said Jacob to Laban,) it is time now that I should provide for my own house, Gen. 31. 41. And if thou hast pursued the world, and chased after the vanities of it so many years, it is now high time to provide for thy soul. Every day, nay, every hour and minute, we accumulate sin; Oh, let the Spirit, every moment, wash it away with tears of repentance. The Almighty infuses not the oil of mercy, but into the vessel of a contrite heart: He first mortifies us by contrition, and then quickens us by his spirit of consolation: He leads us into a deep abyss of grief, and brings us back by his restraining grace.
Elias first heard a vehement wind, overturning mountains, and cleaving rocks; and after the wind, an earthquake; and after the earthquake, fire, 1 King. 19. 11. At length there followed a still, small voice, ver. 12. From whence we may infer, that terror is the precursor of the love of omnipotency, and sorrow precedes comfort. God binds not up any wounds that are laid open by confession: He pardons and justifies none, except they acknowledge and condemn themselves: he comforts not, unless they first despond. And this is the sincere repentance which God, by his Holy Spirit, operates in us.