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to it, i.e. until conscience becomes seared. But though, by habit in sin, the stings of remorse may be blunted, real peace never would return. By repeating transgression a great many times, we all come at last to feel a general and unsettled uneasiness of heart, which is a constant burden. Ask such an individual if he is unhappy. He perhaps tells you no: he means, however, that he is not particularly unhappy just at that time. His burden is so uniform and constant, that he comes to consider it, at last, as a necessary part of his existence. He has lost all recollection of what pure peace and happiness are. A man who has lived long by a waterfall at last becomes so habituated to the noise, that silence seems a strange luxury to him. So multitudes, who have had an unquiet conscience for their familiar companion for many years, without a single interval of repose, when they at last come and confess their sins, and, through the mercy of God, find peace and happiness, are surprised and delighted with the new and strange sensation.
This peace cannot come by habit in sin. A seared conscience is not a relieved one.-But what is the way by which peace of mind is to be restored in such a case as the above? It is a very simple way. I wish it was more generally understood and practised upon.
Suppose one of these boys should say to himself some day as he is walking alone, “I am not happy, and I have not been happy since I disobeyed my father on the ice. I was very foolish to do that; for I have suffered more, since that time, than ten times as much pleasure would be worth. I am resolved to go and confess the whole to my father, and ask him to forgive me; and then I shall be happy again."
Having resolved upon this, he seeks the very first opportunity to relieve his mind. He is walking, we will
imagine, by the side of his father; and for several minutes he hesitates, knowing not how to begin. He makes, however, at last the effort; and says, in a sorrowful tone, "Father, I have done something very wrong.”
"What is it, my son?"
He hesitates and trembles; and, after a moment's pause, says: “I am very sorry that I did it.”
"My son," says the father, "I have observed, for a day or two, that you have not been happy; and you are evidently unhappy now. I know that you must have done something wrong. But you may do just as you please, about telling me what it is. If you freely confess it and submit to the punishment, whatever it may be, you will be happy again; if not, you will continue to suffer. Now you may do just as you please."
Well, father, I will tell you all. Do you remember that you gave us leave to go upon the river, and skate, the other evening?"
Well, I disobeyed you, and went upon the ice, where you told us not to go. I have been unhappy ever since; and I resolved to-day that I would come and tell you, and ask you to forgive me."
I need not detail the conversation that would follow. But there is not a child, among the hundreds and perhaps thousands who will read this chapter, who does not fully understand, that by such a confession the boy will relieve himself of his burden, restore peace to his mind, and go away from his father with a light and happy heart. He will no more dread to meet him, and hear the sound of his voice. He can now be happy with his sister again; and look upon the beautiful stream winding in the valley without feeling his heart sink within him under a sense of guilt; while all the time, perhaps, his brother, who would not come and acknowledge his sin, has his heart
still darkened, and his countenance made sad by the gloomy recollection of unforgiven sin. Yes, confession of sin has, under the Divine blessing, an almost magic power in restoring peace of mind.
Providence seems to have implanted this principle in the human heart, for the express purpose of having us act upon it. He has so formed us, that, when we have done wrong, we cannot feel at peace again until we have acknowledged our wrong, to the person against whom it was done. And this acknowledgment of it removes the uneasiness, as effectually as fire removes cold, or as water extinguishes fire. And, yet, how slowly do young persons, and even old persons, learn to use it! The remedies for almost every external evil are soon discovered, and are at once applied; but the remedy for that uneasiness of mind which results from having neglected some duty or committed some sin, and which consists, in the first instance, in simple confession of it to the person injured, how slowly is it learned, and how reluctantly practised!
I once knew a boy who was entrusted with a letter to be carried to a distant place. On his way, or just after his arrival, in attempting to take the letter out of his pocket suddenly, he tore it completely in two.
in consternation. What to do he did not know. did not dare to carry the letter in its mangled condition, and he did not dare to destroy it. He did, accordingly, the most foolish thing he could do: he kept it for many days, doubting and waiting, and feeling anxious and unhappy whenever it came in his sight. At last he thought that this was folly; and he took his letter, carried it to the person to whom it was addressed, saying: "Here is a letter which I was entrusted with for you; and, in taking it out of my pocket, I very carelessly tore it in two. I am sorry for it, but I have no excuse.'
The receiver of the letter said it was no matter; and the boy went home, suddenly and entirely relieved.
My reader will say, Why this was a very simple way of getting over the difficulty! Why did not he think of it before?
I know it was a simple way. The whole story is so simple, that it is hardly dignified enough to introduce here; but it is true, and it exactly illustrates the idea I am endeavouring to enforce here, viz. that in little things, as well as in great things, the confession of sin has the strongest tendency to restore peace of mind.
I will now mention one other case, which illustrates the same general truth, but which is in one respect strikingly different from all the preceding.
A merchant was one morning sitting in his countingroom, preparing for the business of the day, when his boy entered with several letters from the Post-office. Among them was one in a strange hand-writing, and with the words " Money enclosed” written upon the outside. As the merchant was not at that time expecting any money, his attention was first attracted to this letter. He opened it, and read somewhat as follows:
"Jan. 4, 1831.
"Some time ago I defrauded you of some money. You did not know it then; and I suppose you never would have known it, unless I had informed you. But I have had no peace of mind since it was done, and send you back the money in this letter. Hoping that God will forgive this and all my other sins,
I remarked, that this case was to be totally different from all the others, in one respect. Reader, do you notice the difference? It consists in this, viz. that here not only was the sin confessed, but reparation was made :
the man not only acknowledged the fraud, but he paid back the money. And if any of my readers are but little acquainted with human-nature, they may perhaps imagine that it was the reparation, and not the confession, which restored peace of mind. But I think I can shew very clearly, that making reparation is not in itself effectual. Suppose this man, instead of writing the above letter, had just come into the store and asked to buy some article or other, and in paying for it had managed dexterously to put in the hands of the clerk a larger sum than was due, so as to repay, without the merchant's knowledge, the whole amount of which he had defrauded him: do you think this would have restored his peace of mind? No, not even if he had thus secretly paid back double what he had unjustly taken. It was the confession, the acknowledgment of having done wrong, which really quieted his troubled conscience, and gave him peace.
It is not probable that this confession was sufficient to make him perfectly happy again; because, among other things, it was incomplete in its kind. The reparation was perfect, but the acknowledgment was not. The reader will observe, that the letter has no name signed to it, and the merchant could not by any means discover who was the writer of it. Now, if the man had honestly told the whole-if he had written his name and place of residence, and described fully all the circumstances of the original fraud-he would have been much more fully relieved. All confession, which is intended to bring back peace of mind when it is gone, should be open and thorough. There are, indeed, many cases, where, from peculiar circumstances in such a case as this, it is not the duty of the individual to give his name. This, however, does not affect the general principle, that the more full and free the confession is, the more perfect will be the restoration of peace.