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"Confess your faults one to another."
I WISH, in this first chapter, to point out to my reader something in the nature and effects of confession, which every one has perhaps at some time experienced, but which few sufficiently consider. I mean its power to bring peace and happiness to the heart. But to make myself clearly understood I must suppose a case.
Two boys, on a pleasant winter evening, ask their father to permit them to go out upon the river to skate. The father hesitates, because, though within certain limits, he knows there is no danger, yet he is aware that above a certain turn of the stream the current is rapid and the ice consequently thin. At last, however, he says, "You may go, but you must on no account go above the bend."
The boys accept the condition, and are soon among their twenty companions shooting swiftly over the smooth, black ice, sometimes gliding in graceful curves before the bright fire which they have built in the middle of the stream,and sometimes sailing away into the dim distance in search of new and unexplored regions.
Presently a plan is formed by the other boys for going in a cheerful company, far up the stream, to explore its shores and then return again in half an hour to their fire. Our two boys sigh to think of their father's prohibition to them. They faintly and hesitatingly hint that the ice may not be strong enough, but their caution has no effect upon their comrades, and the whole set forth, and soon are flying with full speed towards the limit prescribed. Our boys think they may safely accompany them till they reach the boundary which they are forbidden to pass ;-but while they do so, they become animated and intoxicated with the motion and the scene. They feel a little foreboding as they approach the line, but as it is not definitely marked, they do not abruptly stop. They fall a little in the rear, and see whirling through the bend of the river the whole crowd of their companions and, after a moment's hesitation, they follow on. The spot once past, their indecision vanishes; they press forward to the foremost rank,-forget their father, their promise, their danger. God protects them, however. They spend the half hour in delight,-return down the river to their fire, and, at the close of the evening, they take off their skates, and step upon the firm ground and walk towards their home.
The enjoyment is now over, and the punishment is to come. What punishment? I do not mean that their father will punish them. He knows nothing of it. He trusts his boys, and, confiding in their promise, he will not ask them whether they have kept it. They have returned safely, and the forbidden ice over which they have passed never can speak to tell of their disobedience. Nor do I mean the punishment which God will inflict in another world upon undutiful children. I mean another quicker punishment, and which almost always comes after transgression.-And I wish my young readers would think of this more than they
I mean the loss of peace of mind.
As the boys approach their father's dwelling, unless their consciences have become seared by oft-repeated transgression, their hearts are filled with uneasiness and foreboding care. They will walk silently. As they enter the house, they shrink from their father's eye. He looks pleased and happy at their safe return. But they turn away from him as soon as they can, and prefer going to another room, or in some other way avoiding his presence. Their sister, perhaps, in the gaiety and happiness of her heart, tries to talk with them about their evening's enjoyment,-but they wish to turn the conversation. In a word, their peace of mind is --and they shrink from every eye, and wish to go as soon as possible to bed, that they may be unseen and forgotten.
If they have been taught to fear God, they are not happy here. They dare not-strange infatuation!-repeat their evening prayer;-as if they supposed they could escape God's notice, by neglecting to call upon him. At last, however, they sink to sleep.
The next morning they awake with the customary cheerfulness of childhood,-until, as they look forth from their window, they see the clear ice-bound stream which tempted them to sin, winding its way among the trees. They say nothing, but each feels guilty and sad. They meet their father and mother with clouded hearts, and every object at all connected with their transgression awakens the remorse which destroys their happiness. They carry thus about with them a weary and heavy burden.
I suppose that in such cases most boys would continue to bear this burden, until at last they become insensible to it, i. e. until conscience becomes seared. But though by habit in sin the stings of remorse may be blunted, yet peace never would return. By repeating transgression a great many times, we all come at last to feel a general and settled uneasiness of heart, which is a constant burden. Ask such an individual if he is unhappy. He 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 is. 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 con
science for their familiar companion for many years, without a single interval of repose, when they at last come and confess their sins, and 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 ge
nerally 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