NO state is more dreary than that of the repentant sinner, when first he understands where he is, and begins to turn his thoughts towards his Great Master whom he has offended. Of course it is tempered with comfort and hope, as are all acts of duty; and on the retrospect, far from being distressing to dwell upon, it will be even pleasant. But at the time it is a most dreary state. A man finds that he has a great work to do, and does not know how to do it, or even what it is, and his impatience and restlessness are as great as his conscious ignorance; indeed, he is restless because he is ignorant. There is great danger of his taking wrong steps, inasmuch as he is anxious to move, and does not know whither. Let me now make some remarks upon certain faults into which he is likely to fall.
1. I observe, then, that repentant sinners are often impatient to put themselves upon some new line of action, or to adopt some particular rule of life. They feel that what they have done in time past is, as far as this life is concerned, indelible, and places an impassable barrier between themselves and others: happy only if that badge of guilt and shame does not outlast the grave, but is wiped out in the day of account. They feel that they can never be as others are, till the voice of Christ pronounces them acquitted and blessed. And their heart yearns towards humiliation, and burns with a godly indignation against themselves, as if nothing were too bad for them; and they look about for something to do, some state of life to engage in, some task or servile office to undertake. Now it commonly happens that God does not disclose His will to them at once,—and for that will they ought to wait, whereas they are impatient; and when God's will does not clearly appear, they try to persuade themselves that they have ascertained it when they have not.
St. Paul should be the pattern of the true penitent here. First he said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" then he was "obedient to the heavenly vision;" he waited three days, till God spoke to him by Ananias; and after that he suffered himself to be led about by Providence hither and thither, as though he had been still blind, without apparent method or purpose, and in no regular calling. It was not till years afterwards that the Holy Spirit said, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." [Acts xiii. 2.] What a lesson is this for patient waiting on God! "O tarry thou the Lord's leisure;" wait till He speaks. It is impossible but He means to put you on some service; but in His house are many posts, many offices. Be quite sure you are taking the place He would have you take. Since you have gone wrong, and now wish to go right, be sure to ascertain the right; take not only what is good, but what is best. This you cannot do, except by following His call; and for His call you must wait,—whether He will call you forward in your present state of life, or call you to change it. Like the prophet, you must stand upon your watch, and set you on the tower, and watch to see what He will say to you, and what you shall answer when you are reproved: recollecting that "the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." [Habakkuk ii. 1, 3.] Never regard how long you have to wait; be it for years, suffer it. Say not time is short, for God can make it long. If He use you not, even till the eleventh hour, He can make that hour a thousand, and can reward you in proportion to the years of your patient waiting.