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FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.
THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE.
ST. LUKE xiii. 3.-"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
THE season of Lent, on which we are now entering, has always, from very early times, been set apart for a period of humiliation and sorrow for sin,—a period which is especially appointed for calling our old ways to remembrance, for reflecting upon the punishments we have justly deserved, and for supplicating God's mercy and forgiveness. The time of this season is forty days, for which several reasons have been alleged; such as the drowning of the world with the great flood of waters; the number of days allotted to the Ninevites for their repentance; the duration of the fasts of Moses and Elias; and above all, because when our Blessed Saviour,-He who had
no sin to repent of, no forgiveness to entreat, yet for some wise and holy purpose, thought fit to retire into the wilderness to solitude and silent meditation,-He observed the same length of time; He fasted forty days and forty nights.
Whoever will consider these things, (be his practice what it may at this particular season,) he cannot but think that the number of days has not been fixed without due attention to the will of the Spirit as manifested in Holy Scripture, and that this period of Lent, forming as it does a considerable portion of the year, is not too long for the purpose at which it aims, the leading of sinners to repen
And yet, my brethren, how little regard do we pay to this season; how changed is the observance of Lent to what it was in the earlier times!
With us it passes too generally as every portion of the year does, without producing in us one single effort more than ordinary after repentance. We go on as at other times in the daily business of our calling; we are neither less nor more attentive to our soul's health,-neither less nor more diligent in the use of the means of grace; our prayers are not more earnest or more frequent than at other seasons ; our minds are not troubled with meditations upon our past transgressions; our consciences are not convinced of sin; rarely do we lament the errors of
our former lives, and rarely do the fruits of a new We do not deny ourselves put any unusual restraint
and better life appear. in any indulgence, nor
upon our passions. I ask is not this the case with the generality? But it was not so of old: then, indeed, did men worthily lament them of their sins. Then did they turn to the Lord with all their heart, with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning : and this they did, not from formality—not because they trusted in the merit of the outward penance, but because they felt keenly the corruption of their evil nature, and could not endure the burden of unforgiven sin.
Therefore did they with willing earnestness, avail themselves of this season for redoubling their prayers, for mortifying their evil propensities, for seeking fresh supplies of the aid of that Holy Spirit, without which we can do nothing.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which we barely notice, which but for the meeting of two or three together in God's house, to hear the sentence of His anger and judgment against sinners, and to join in those sorrowful confessions of our unworthiness, and in those expressive petitions for pardon, that the Church puts into our mouths,-Ash Wednesday, which but for this imperfect remembrance of it, would altogether slip out of our memory, has its name from an act of severe discipline, to which
the early Christians had recourse, to testify the depth of their sorrow and humiliation; they used to clothe themselves in the coarsest garments, and sprinkle ashes on their hands and faces; saying one to another, "Remember O man that thou art ashes, and unto dust thou shalt return."
To cover the head with ashes, was regarded aforetime as a mark of the deepest sorrow, and there are numerous examples of its being done in Holy Scripture. When Jonah preached to the Ninevites, the king (we read)" arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth and sat in ashes." And who is there who does not call to mind our Saviour's words, respecting the impenitence, and blindness of those cities wherein He had gone preaching the Gospel of His Kingdom. "Woe unto thee Chorazin! Woe unto thee Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
I mention these things, my brethren, not because it is likely that we should in these days be led to imitate this particular act of penance, but only to show you, that repentance has ever been deemed a work of labour,-a work of self-abasement,-a work very needful to be done, and one that cannot be delayed with safety; we cannot suppose that it is less
necessary for us, than it was for those who have gone before us, (and who lived in days purer than our own,) to humble ourselves, on the recollection of our many misdeeds, before the Lord our God, and to beg Him to have mercy upon us; we cannot suppose that we are less sinners than they were,— less in need of forgiveness. No, my brethren, our neglect of this season is no proof of our being able to do without it; our inattention to the disease of our souls is no proof that they are sound. cept we repent, we shall all likewise perish.
Let me then exhort you to consider well, the object of this present season. It is a season for retirement, for reflection, for earnest prayer, for selfhumiliation, for self-abasement. It has been
handed down to us from the beginning, as the universal observance of the christian church. It is sanctified by its being connected in its origin, with the solitude and humiliation of our Lord. It is, therefore, to be set apart from the ordinary course of our life, to be dedicated to the remembrance of our sins, and of Him who died, that we might be saved from the consequences of them,-remembrances very painful, very sorrowful, but yet very requisite for us. In other words, it is a season set apart for repentance; and as such it should be used, or else instead of being of service to us, it will only do us harm: like every other neglected privi