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deed at all tends to, a real amendment. But, S E R M. the mind that grieves after a godly fort dwells HI. on the consideration of sin as it is in itself^ ~ ~w^~! afuf In the lights wherein the scripture sets itj it considers moral evil as an error, as un~ becoming the rational nature, as a deviation from the eternal and unchangeable measures of right, as offensive to, and disapproved by, the best of all beings, as ingratude to a benefactor who continually loads us with his favours, and exercises towards us the most amazing patience and tender compassion 3 to all which the gospel adds, that most powerful motive taken from the death and passion of Christ. Our glorious redeemer was, as the prophet speaks of him, a man of sorrows and acquainted 'with grief % ; and after a life of deep humiliation, poverty and contempt, endured a most ignominious and painful death. And, when we remember that he suffered and past through alibis scenes of grief for our fakes, that he might redeem us from all our iniquities, and purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works * ~, and finally bring us to the possession of an eternal rest and blessedness in heaven; when I say, all this is considered, it must be a hard heart that does not relent, that can look to
t Ift. liii. 3. * Titus U. 14.
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Svx.M.biin that was pierced for our sins, and 'not •*»*• mourn and be in bitterness.
It is likewise very natural for men convinced, and sensibly affected with the remembrance of their transgressions, to cohseft them to God whom they have offended. Nature dictates a way of expressing our sorrows, and reason tells us that sorrow for injuries done, should be uttered in acknow* ledgements to the person injured. We are very ready to expect and demand it when wrong is done us, and can we question the equity of paying it when our hearts tells us *we have done wrong; especially, this ho* mage is due to the supreme being, when we have affronted and provoked him by violating his righteous laws. The confession of fin is a reproaching ourselves in the bitterness of our spirits, as polluted by the most nauseous and loathsome thing, which we can no longer bear. It is, as the scripture speaks, taking to ourselves shame, and confusion of face^ and justifying God whom our transgressions dishonoured, making a solemn acknowledgement of the reasonableness of his laws, and the righteousness of the sentence which he has pronounced against the evil deeds of men. At the fame time, it gives glory to his mercy and the truth of his promise. mise, that he will pardon iniquity, trans- S greJ]ion, and Jin j the hope of which, far from lessening the malignity of sin, in the view of a penitent, it increases it rather, as the prophet fays, in the name of the Lord. Ezekiel xvi. 63. Thou jhalt remember, and be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hafl done. Jor these reasons, the confession of sin is often enjoin'd in scripture, and great promises are made to the sincere performance of k; yet the stress is not laid on the performance itself, but the value of it depends on its tendency to a reformation, which, chiefly, is well-pleasing to God.
The result will certainly be a change of mind and affections from evil to good, a disposition to alter our course of action; for it is altogether an inconsistent supposition, that we should be sorry for having offended, and acknowledge it with shame, at the same time resolving that we will continue in the same course. But still all these are only preparations for repentance, it is not finish'd in them. It's true characteristic is a deliberate and resolved change of temper and behaviour; a firm purpose of amendment thoroughly executed; resolving to keep God's righteous judgments,
S E R M. ments, and immediately entering upon the actual performance of it; no more fashioning
L"" '"'ourselves according to the former lusts in ignoranee, but as he that hath called us is holy, becoming holy in all manner of conversation *. .
To convince us of this, which I take to be a point of very great moment; let us, firsts consider the express declarations of scripture concerning it. The apostle Paul discoursing of godly sorrow, (and certainly none can have a better character, it comprehends every good qualification of sorrow for sin) says it worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of \ not that it is repentance unto falvation, for he maketh a plain difference as between the means and the end ; the occasion or preparation and the effect. Besides, in a great many other passages, a pious and virtuous life, a persevering obedience and patient continuance in well doing, is the condition of our obtaining eternal life; which indeed is contained in repentance, but not in sorrow, confession of sin, or good inclinations. On the other hand, a vitious character and wicked behaviour, disqualifies men for the kingdom of God, whatever their griefs, humiliations, and pious desires,
and purposes may be. The -j- adulterer, theSerm* sorcerer, the railer, the covetous, the drunk<zr</, wo/ inherit the kingdom of God J' v J tho' they mould often with deep humility and regret confess their sins, and in their confessions and griefs incline and resolve to alter their course of life; yet they do it not, but it happens to them according to the proverb, as St. Peter expresses it, || The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was wa/hed, to her wallowing in the mire.
I think no attentive person can doubt but this is the doctrine of the holy scriptures upon the head of repentance; at least, that a virtuous course of life, ordering our conversations aright, being undefiled in the way, walking in the law of the Lord, doing n» iniquity, and keeping God's precepts diligently, is absolutely and indispensably necessary to our being blessed in enjoying the favour of God. It is a wonder that any christians mould have gone into other sentiments, some even in speculation and opinion, many more in the secret fond presumption of their hearts, not supported by any avowed principle, imagining that humiliation, and contrition, and ineffectual purposes of amendment, would at last be sufficient to their acceptance with -vol. I. F God.
f I Cos. VU 9. || % Pet. ii. 22,.