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in youth, their own wrong deeds haunt them and torment them ?—That they are, perhaps the poorer, perhaps the sicklier, perhaps the more ignorant, perhaps the sillier, perhaps the more sorrowful this day, for things which they did twenty, thirty years ago ? Is there any one in this church who ever did a wrong thing without smarting for it? If there is (which I question), let him be sure that it is only because his time is not come. Do not fancy that because you are forgiven, you may not be actually less good men all your lives by having sinned when young.
I know it is sometimes said, “The greater the sinner, the greater the saint.' I do not believe that: because I do not see it. I see, and I thank God for it, that men who have been very wrong at one time, come very right afterwards ; that, having found out in earnest that the wages of sin are death, they do repent in earnest, and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. But I see, too, that the bad habits, bad passions, bad methods of thought, which they have indulged in youth, remain
more or less, and make them worse men, sillier men, less useful men, less happy men, sometimes to their lives' end : and they, if they be true Christians, know it, and repent of their early sins not once for all only, but all their lives long; because they feel that they have weakened and worsened themselves thereby.
It stands to reason, my friends, that it should be so. If a man loses his way, and finds it again, he is so much the less forward on his way, surely, by all the time he has spent in getting back into the road. If a child has a violent illness, it stops growing, because the life and nourishment which ought to have gone towards its growth, are spent in curing its disease. And so, if a man has indulged in bad habits in his youth, he is but too likely (let him do what he will) to be a less good man for it to his life's end, because the Spirit of God, which ought to have been making him grow in grace, freely and healthily, to the stature of a perfect man, to the fulness of the measure of Christ, is striving to conquer old bad habits, and cure old diseases of character; and the man, even though he does enter into life, enters into it halt and maimed; and the wages of his sin have been, as they always will be, death to some powers, some faculties of his soul.
Think over these things, my friends; and believe that the wages of sin are death, and that there is no escaping from God's just and everlasting laws. But meanwhile, let us judge no man. This is a great and a solemn reason for observing with fear and trembling, our Lord's command, for it is nothing less, ‘Judge not, and 'ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.'
For we never can know how much of any man's misconduct is to be set down to original, and how much to actual, sin ;-how much disease of mind and heart he has inherited from his parents, how much he has brought upon himself.
Therefore judge no man, but yourselves. Search your own hearts, to see what manner of men you really wish to be; judge yourselves, lest God should judge you.
Do you wish to go on as you like here on earth, right or wrong, in the hope that somehow or other, the punishment of your sins will be forgiven you at the last day?
Then know that that is impossible. As a man sows, so shall he reap; and if you sow to the flesh, of the flesh you will reap—corruption, The wages of sin are death. Those wages will be paid you, and you must take them whether you like or not.
But do you wish to be Good ? Do you see (I trust in God that many of you do) that goodness is the only wise, safe, prudent life for you: because it is the only path the end of which is not death?
Do you see that goodness is the only right and honourable life for you, because it is the only path by which you can do your duty to man or to God; the only method by which you can show your gratitude to God for all his goodness to you, and can please him, in return for all that he has done by his grace and free love to bless you ?
Do you, in a word, repent you truly of your former sins, and purpose to lead a new life? Then know, that all beyond is the free grace, the free gift of God. You have to earn nothing, to buy nothing. The will is all God asks. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
Freely he forgives you all your past sins, for the sake of that precious blood which was shed on the cross for the sins of the whole world. Freely he takes you back, as his child, to your Father's house. Freely he gives you his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Goodness, the Spirit of Life, to put into your mind good desires, and enable you to bring those desires to good effect, that you may live the eternal life of grace and goodness for ever, whether in earth or heaven.
Yes, it is the Gift of God, which raises you from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; and if you have that gift, you will not murmur, surely, though you have to bear, more or less, the just and natural consequences of your former sins; though you be, through your own guilt, a sadder man to your dying day. Be content. You are forgiven. You are cleansed from your sin; is not that mercy enough?