Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"The great duty...is repentance...."

A few posts ago I referred to the Yale Digital Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson. Included in that collection are sermons that Johnson composed, presumably, for preachers unwilling or unable to write their own. These were not published until after Samuel Johnson's death. This is from the second sermon in the collection:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts,
and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:7
...[T]here is mercy with him, therefore shall he be feared. It is reasonable, that we should endeavour to please him, because we know that every sincere endeavour will be rewarded by him; that we should use all the means in our power, to enlighten our minds, and regulate our lives, because our errours, if involuntary, will not be imputed to us; and our conduct, though not exactly agreeable to the divine ideas of rectitude, yet if approved, after honest and diligent enquiries, by our own consciences, will not be condemned by that God, who judges of the heart, weighs every circumstance of our lives, and admits every real extenuation of our failings and transgressions.

Were there not mercy with him, were he not to be reconciled after the commission of a crime, what must be the state of those, who are conscious of having once offended him? A state of gloomy melancholy, or outrageous desperation; a dismal weariness of life, and inexpressible agonies at the thought of death; for what affright or affliction could equal the horrours of that mind, which expected every moment to fall into the hands of implacable omnipotence?

But the mercy of God extends not only to those that have made his will, in some degree, the rule of their actions, and have only deviated from it by inadvertency, surprize, inattention, or negligence, but even to those that have polluted themselves with studied and premeditated wickedness; that have violated his commands in opposition to conviction, and gone on, from crime to crime, under a sense of the divine disapprobation.

Even these are not for ever excluded from his favour, but have in their hands means, appointed by himself, of reconciliation to him; means by which pardon may be obtained, and by which they may be restored to those hopes of happiness, from which they have fallen by their own fault.

The great duty, to the performance of which these benefits are promised, is repentance; a duty, which it is of the utmost importance to every man to understand and practise....