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SERM.the tempers and manners of men, when, III. from a doleful depravity, wherein reason and
*-"v~^conscience, and all the best sentiments and affections of human nature, seem to be lost or asleep, and all the designs and pursuits of men are directed by selfish inferior appetites, or contracted vitious propensities; when, I fay, from this wretched degeneracy they are recovered to the love and practice of the things that are pure, and true, and just, and venerable, and virtuous; to seek the things that are above, to approve the good and acceptable, iindperfeSi will of God, and to walk in newness of life. These representations shew the efficacy of the gospel and the grace of God, for effecting such a change in men j but as it is all a voluntary change, wherein their own natural powers actively exert themselves, the whole is comprehended under the duty of Repentance. Still it is to be remember'd, that the essence of repenting, consists in prevailing good inclinations, contrary to the evil ones which had the ascendant before, and good works directly opposite to those wicked ones of which sinners had been guilty. Thus, John Baptist who first declared the coming of God's kingdom, and faught the doctrine of repentance for the remission of sins, when, having in general, •: exhorted.
.exhorted his hearers to repent, they asked Se R M. tiim more particularly what he meant by it, HI. and what he would have them to do, ex-1" k ""J plains it thus, Luke iii. from ver. 1 ii. accommodating his exhortation to their various circumstances; the common people he directed, instead of outward ceremonies and forms, in which the religion of that time chiefly consisted, to abound in works of substantial piety and charity, and to give out t)f their plenty for the relief of their indigent fello wvcreatures; the collectors of taxes, called Publicans, he exhorted to perform what was given them in charge justly and mercifully, never extorting from any man more than what the due and faithful discharge of their trust required; and the soldiers, that they mould not behave themselves insolently and oppressively, but be content with their wages. This was the Baptist's doctrine of repentance, and it may very easily, by parity of reasons, be applied to all the various relations, circumstances, and conditions in human life. In general, let men forsake their wicked ways and unrighteous doings, and turn to the Lord, practising the virtues which are contrary to their former vices. And in particular, Let him that stole t Jkal no more j let him that has been covetous,
Erm. break. off his sins by foewing mercy to thet III. poor j let the lewd and voluptuous become ~*~m~f chaste and temperate j the wrathful and contentious put on bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, forbearing and forgiving the weak and the injurious; in fine, let us * put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lufls, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. All the sacred writers with. one consent, continually urge men to this, as the only effectual way to obtain reconciliation with God, and the remission of all their sins. The prophets under the Old Testament insist upon it as well as Christ and his apostles, assuring the fewsi that without it all their sacrifices and other external rites would be unavailable to their acceptance with God; that indeed God was ready to forgive their iniquities; though thenfns were as scarlet, and red like crimson, he would make them white as snow and wool j but it is upon the condition of their washing and" making them clean, putting away the evil oftheir doings, ceasing to do evil, and learning "to do well ||. No more taking pleasure in their former sinful courses, rigoroufly exacting the labours and services of the poor, and
grinding * Ephes. ivf 24.. || Isaiah i. 16. ig.
grinding their faces by oppression, butSERMstealing their bread to the hungry, and c loath-HI'- "ing the naked\\: in short, exercising themselvesv universally in the works of true piety and" righteousness. Sorrow for fin, and-what'iS called contrition, humiliation for having offended God, and perverted that which is. right; the confessing of our iniquities with shame and grief, and pious virtuous inclinations, a desire to become holy as God is holy j all these are necessary to repentance, but it is a fetal mistake to imagine* that it essentially consists, and is compleated in any, or all of them; or, that any thing will be accepted without what I have already mentioned, a thorough and effectual forsaking all fin, and turning to God, and to the practice of our duty, universally. These prepara-' tory exercises and dispositions of the mind, arise from the reason of things, and the very frame of our nature. As repentance is the rational exercise of the soul, wherein its in-' tellectual and active powers are deliberately employed, what first and naturally occurs to the reflecting thoughts of a penitent, is,' his former conduct• and he cannot review it otherwise than with an ingenuous remorse' $nd self-abhorrence. When a Man confi-1
i •• ders
J Ilk. Iviii. 7.
S E R M. ders that he has done wrong, it is impossibly III. to avoid a deep concern ; for it is the highest„ pleasure to be justified to our selves, and the,, reproaches of a self-accusing heart are mqstj painful; and this is the best and most effec—, tual preservative from a relapse into former follies. * Sorrow after a godly sort, as the,: apostle fays, is naturally productive of fear, and zeal, and carefulness ; fear of offending , God for the future, a zeal and care to please him in all things. And as this is the true foun- , dation of repentance, that it may be firm„^ and stable, nothing is more neceflary for us to attend to, than that our sorrow be of the , v kind I just now mentioned, after a godly .. sort. There may be a grief even for fin, which is of another character ; that is, whe(a,o;) the penal and pernicious consequences of it^ only are considered, especially, the disgrace^ and the miseries to which it exposes sinners lc in this world. Such a sorrow is really no IVS more than a painful fense of natural evil ojr ^ unhappinefs; and if sin is only considered, ^ as the occasion of that, without entering into its moral deformity, we can never imagine :\ that sorrow arising thence, has any thing ia^ it of that ingenuous remorse which is accept' able to God j or that it will produce, or in—
*** 1 1 deed
*aCor. vii. 9—ir.