Think well on't: 20th day.
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THE TWENTIETH DAY.
On the relapsing sinner. CONSIDER, that if any one mortal sin is so heinous a treason against the sovereign majesty of God, as we have seen in the foregoing chapter; if every such sin is an abomination to our Lord, and the death of the soul of that unhappy sinner who is guilty of it; what must we think of the miserable condition of relapsing sinners, that is, of such Christians as are continually falling again and again into the same mortal sins, after repeated confessions and solemn promises of amendment? Alas! what can we think, but that by this method of life they are treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath; and they will in all appearance, sooner or later, draw down a dreadful vengeance on their heads? Because by every relapse their crime is aggravated, and their latter .condition becomes worse than the former.
2. Consider the ingratitude, the perfidiousness, the contempt of God, which the relapsing sinner is guilty of, as often as, after his reconciliation, he returns like a dog to the vomit. He is guilty of the highest ingratitude, in treading under foot the grace of reconcihation, by which he had been a little before raised from the dunghill of sin, and even drawn out of the jaws of hell; and by a distinguishing mercy restored to the friendship of God, to the dignity of a child of God and heir of heaven. He is guilty of a base perfidiousness, in breaking his solemn word given to God in his confession. He is guilty of a notorious contempt of the divine majesty, in banishing God from his soul, after having invited him in, and introducing satan in his place; and this, after a full knowledge and experience of both sides. Good God! to put the whole universe in balance with thee, would be a most heinous affront; since heaven, and all the powers thereof, the earth and seas, and all things therein, are less than a grain of sand, if compared to thee: what then must we think of the unparalleled injury done thee by the relapsing sinner, when putting thee and satan in the scales, he gives the preference to the devil!
3 . Consider the dreadful danger to which the relapsing sinner is daily exposed, from the sword of the divine justice which hangs over his guilty head, and is daily provoked by his ingratitude and insolence. Alas! we are all mortal: we neither know the day nor the hour that will be our last; if we be surprised by death in the state of mortal sin, as millions have been, we are irrecoverably lost. If then it is madness at any time to risk eternity, by consenting to a mortal sin, how much more, to provoke the Almighty by frequent relapses, and by a practice of abusing his graces and mercy at every turn? Ah! what multitudes of souls have been thus betrayed into that dismal pit of never-ending woe, where the worm never dies, and the fire never is quenched! Unhappy wretches! they designed as little to damn themselves as any of us do; but God will not be laughed at.
4. Consider another evil which the sinner, who frequently falls back into the same sins, has too just reason to apprehend, is the insincerity of his past repentance. For in reality, what appearance is there, that his sorrow and resolution of amendment have been such as God requires, when after so many confessions he is still the same man? True contrition is a sovereign grief, by which the penitent detests his sin above all other evils, with a full determination and firm resolution of never returning to it any more. Now how is it likely, that the relapsing sinner detests sincerely his sin above all evils, with a firm purpose of amendment, when he is soon so easily prevailed upon by the first temptation to return to it again?
5. Consider the remedies and means, by which we are to be preserved from this pernicious evil of relapsing into mortal sin. The first is to avoid the dangerous occasions, which have drawn or probably may draw us into the same sins: without this care to fly the occasions of sin, the strongest resolution of amendment will prove ineffectual, as we daily see by woeful experience: for he that loves the danger shall perish in it. Eccl. iii. 27. No pretext of worldly concerns must here be put in balance with eternity: we must part with hand or eye sooner than lose our souls. Another main preservative against relapse, is to labour by fervent prayer, and diligent frequenting of the sacraments, to suppress the unhappy dispositions that insensibly lead thereunto; vigorously to resist the first motions to evil; and to strive with all possible diligence to root out that wretched propensity to sin, which former sins have left in the soul. Ah! how hard it is to maintain a castle, where the enemy has already surprised the avenues, and has a strong party within, ready to open the gates to him! The third and chief remedy against relapse is, for the penitent carefully to nourish in his heart a truly penitential spirit, daily to renew his sorrow for his sins, and to recount in the sight of God, in the bitterness of his soul, all his past iniquities; daily to admire and adore that mercy, which has borne with him so long, and to value above all treasures that grace of reconciliation, by which he has been drawn out of so much misery; daily to beg of God with all the fervour of his soul, sooner to take him out of this world, than to suffer him any more to die to him by mortal sin. Good God! grant that this may be always the disposition of our souls. Amen. Amen.
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