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Upon a Sight of a Lily and a Violet

These two flowers brought to my mind a saying of Jerome to this effect, that it is better and more honorable to be a lily than a violet. Which, when stripped of its metaphorical clothing comes to this much, that, to be always pure is more commendable than to bear the blush of sin. Spotless innocence does far exceed the greatest penitence.

It is a truth beyond all controversy that innocence is worth more than any penitence.

Innocence being the only the robe of glory, that covered man when first created. If he had never divested himself of innocence, he would never have experienced shame or sorrow. For shame and sorrow are both passions that had their entrance into the world with sin — and shall in the same moment with sin die and expire.

But next to pure virgin purity from sin, the most desirable thing is true and unfeigned penitence for sin. For even though penitence cannot restore a man to his state without sin — time lost and innocence being two irrevocable things — yet it will (through God’s ordination) abundantly give him the capacity for mercy and pardon.

When Ephraim was struck upon his thigh and was ashamed because he bore the reproach of youth [Jeremiah 31:18-19], how earnestly did God remember him? Is Ephraim my dear son? When the Prodigal returns as a penitent, how affectionately did his father embrace him, falling on his neck and kiss him? How the father cuts off the son’s confession by speedily calling for the ring, the robe, the shoes to adorn him — and the fatted calf to feast him! [When we repent, how willingly God comes to receive us.]

O, blessed Lord! How willingly would I (who has nothing of the unspotted purity of the lily) partake plentifully of the tincture of the violet. How fain would I, who have a forehead [stubbornness] to commit sin before you, have a face to blush for sin done against you. My sins are as the sands of the sea for number — O, that my tears were as the water of the sea for abundance.

But who — but you — Lord can change me — a proud and unhallowed sinner — into a real and broken convert? That grace, by which mine whole person must be molded into a penitential frame, is altogether yours: heart, hand, eyes, tongue, cannot move in the least without you. They are lifeless members till you quicken them; yea, rebellious until you subdue them.

Do you therefore, by a powerful energy, fit every part for its proper duty.

Let my hand smite my breast, as the fountain and root from which all my iniquities do spring.

Let my tongue confess them,

my eye mourn for them,

my face, blush for them,

and my heart bleed for them.

Then shall I unfeigningly say and acknowledge,

My ruin is from my self, but in you is my help, O Lord!

Photo courtesy of Bill Gracey