« הקודםהמשך »
Serm. God. Is it were true, that repentance conIII. fists in these things, yet is it not evident from a multitude of scripture declarations, indeed from the intire strain of them, that a good life according to the mercy of the gospel covenant, that is, sincere prevailing, though imperfect holiness in all manner of conversation, is the condition of eternal life? and therefore to understand the gospel consistently, we rriust conclude, that either repentance is not sufficient of itself, to entitle to forgiveness and acceptance with God, or a persevering conformity to the divine law is included in it, which seems to be the juster explication.
But, we may be farther satisfied, that fSpentance, as the term of forgiveness and reconciliation to God, does not consist wholly in these particulars already mentioned, by trusting to which many deceive themselve^lp we may, I say, be satisfied of this, by cotf^ sidering the reason of the thing j forp?rie the Jirji place, it cannot be reasonably thought that God has any delight in the for-: row of his creatures, meerly for its own fake, because, that is contrary to his perfect goodness, which takes pleasure in the happiness of all beings who are capable of it?V' and the scripture tells us, that he delights in
the prosperity and joy of his servants. If S E we could at all suppose that the griefs of sinners are pleasing to the Deity, as separated from the proper effect of them in their reformation j then still the more intense their griefs are, the more pleasing they would be, and consequently the hopeless anguish of the accursed objects of his wrath, would, as being the bitterest and the most painful, be the most acceptable, the howlings of the damned be more grateful in his ears, than the ingenuous mournings of the penitent* which every one will judge to be absurd.. Let us put the case of a human superior who has bowels of compassion; will he take any pleasure in the sorrows of an offending subject any farther than as they are the salutary presages of amendment? Will a father delight in the piercing griefs of his child, or even a judge in the affliction of a malefactor? IsL<3!(Otherwise, certainly, than as their future obedience may be thereby secured. We ought not, then, to think that the best of alLbeings, the most merciful father even of his prodigal children, the most compassionate judge, who does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men, will regard with pleasure and approbation, ihe deepest sorrows and humiliations of sinners on any
F 2 other
SeRm.other account, than as they are means In III. order to the end which he certainly approves,
u"the bettering of their hearts, and reforming their conversations; and therefore we must conclude, that the repentance which God accepts is not consummated, nor principally consists, in sorrow for sm.
Second/y, The same judgment is to be made of confession, in which our penitence must not rest, nor will God approve it unless it end in the forsaking of sin; which Solomon comprehends in the condition of our obtaining mercy. Prov. xxviii. 13. He that ccvereth his Jin, stall net prosper, but ivboso confefjeth and forsaketh jhall have mercy. I do not speak here only of a formal acknowledgment in words, which without the fincere and ingenuous contrition of the heart, cannot be pleasing to God, for it is hypocrisy; but, let us suppose it ever so serious, and accompanied with the deepest remorse and self-abasement, it is only so far valuable as it terminates in holiness of heart and life. Consider how we would judge in a parallel case of our own. Suppose a child, a servant, a friend, or a neighbour, is guilty of a trespass, and makes profession of grief for it; humanity and christian charity require us to
forgive the wrong j but it is always taken for S granted, that the injurious shall not relapse into his former offences, but that his future conduct shall be just, respectful, and obliging; when it happens otherwise, and the conduct continues uninfluenced, and as bad as before, a repetition in that cafe of such fruitless professions is in itself offensive, and rather serves to heighten the provocation; and, if it be so, we cannot but imagine that God will count it an indignity, if his sinful creatures treat him after the fame manner; if" after many provocations, they, in order to obtain his favour, only make a confession of their guilt, and instead of forsaking their evil ways, return to them again.
And, in the last place, the dispositions and purposes of the mind will be unavailable, and are not true repentance unless they (ar«; followed with a suitable practice, Let ^iHSijudge in this case as we do in all others j concerning the abilities, the qualities, the ac* .tfpmplishments, natural and moral, of the Rinnan foul. Reason itself, the distinguishing <?fqellence of our nature, is discovered only by our conduct; jf a creature in human shape should show by its actions no other Equities than those which belong to the . brutal kind, it could not be acknowledged r.r.; i F 3 to
SERM.tobeof our species. But, particularly, in determining characters and qualities of men,
v we have always a recourse to their behaviour. Thus we distinguish between a wife man and a fool, between just and unjust, between grateful and ungrateful, between a friend and an enemy j for these are never considered as, nor indeed are they in their own nature, idle, unactive qualities, resting in the mind, Dispositions are in order to action, and have a necessary relation .to it, particular dispositions to particular courses of action and without them, are to nil intents and purposes to be considered as if they had no being.
After the fame manner let us judge of re* pentance, considered as a disposition in the mind. To what is it a disposition? surely to obedience, to the expressions of love and gratitude to God and hatred of sin, to a course of action opposite to the former which is now repented of. Without that obedience, therefore, those expressions of love
• and gratitude to God, and hatred of sin, and
without that change of our course of action, it must be accounted empty and void. The sinner very well knows how his former dispositions, he now pretends to repent of, and ip haye changed, exerted themselves; they