« הקודםהמשך »
$e R M. the new covenant, was what all the followIV. ers of Christ were understood to be bound
%""v~-''to, as the genuine effect, I may fay, the continuation of that repentance which was begun at their conversion to Christianity, and into which, they were initiated at their baptism. This repentance was siippofed, when once sincerely begun, never to be revoked, nor to need to be repeated, as the apostle speaks, 2 Cor. vii. 10. not to be repented of j as the seal of it was never to be received but once; and therefore, in the 6th chapter to the Hebrews, repentance from dead works, as well as faith, and in consequence of both, baptism is reckon'd as the foundation of Christianity not to be laid again.
To suppose men called to repent in the same manner as at their first professing the religion of Christ, is to suppose that the foundation is destroy'd, that in effect they have departed from christianity, and renoun^ ced their baptism j thus falling from grace and returning to that state of death in trespasses and fins wherein the world lay, like the unconverted Gentiles who walked in the •vanity of their minds, and according to their former lusts in ignorance; and this is a sup-r position which is not made in Ihe general
stjain strain of the New Testament writings, (asSE&a-f. it was not reasonable it should) they are, IV. therefore, to be understood in treating of re-'"""* "-' pentancej to mean the first conversion of sinners, by the grace of God that brings salvation,ynvw dead idols to the service of the living God; from an impious and immoral conversation in worldly lusts, to a sober righteous and godly life; in which they are bound by the laws of their religion and their covenant with God to persevere and go on to perfection. Its true, christians are in some sense oblig'd r daily to repent; that is, whereas this is an imperfect state, and they are liable to failures thro' surprising temptations, remaining ignorance, and many infirmities which compass them about, they ought continually by impartial self-examination to find out these failings, to regret them humbly, and set themselves in opposition to them, aspiring to higher measures of perfection, leaving the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before as the * Apoflk speaks. But, this is not what the sacred writers mean by repentance, but becoming new creatures, turning from a wicked and ungodly life to a sincere holiness and virtue; and their doctrine is, that sincere christian
SeRm.being born of God, born of water and of IV- the Spirit, that is, truly repenting and being baptized, they do not, they cannot sin; because the divine seed abides in them; they do not commit sin, so as to be its servants, and under its dominion any more.
Nevertheless, it is a case which may be supposed, for it is sometimes fact, and the inspired writers themselves affirm it to be so, that men under the profession of the gospel fall into those courses, and into these practices which are utterly inconsistent with sincerity; they *fn wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth., and depart from the holy commandment which was delivered unto them. Not only an open and avowed re'jesting of Christianity, which some in the primitive times were guilty of, and it was extremely difficult to renew them again unto repentance j not only this, I fay, but any wilful, deliberate sinning against the light and conviction of men's own minds, any known criminal practices frequently repeated, any of those things for the fake of which the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience, as adultery, fornication, drunkenness, fraud, violence, oppression, or others of a like nature and malignity, any of them
* Heb. x. 26.
knowingly and wilfully committed, espc-S cially relapsed into, after professed sorrow and purposes of amendment, is a violation of the christian covenant, a forfeiture of our claim to the favour of God according to the laws of the gospel, and subjects sinners to his indignation. What in this case is to be done? I have said already these are not the persons to whom the doctrine of repentance was originally preached, nor to whose condition it is accommodated in the general strain of the New Testament. Indeed their condition is much worse, their guilt is more agravated by such bold and presumptuous defiance to the light of their own consciences, and contempt of the gospel grace j the spirit of God is grieved, their hearts more hardened, and their reformation rendered more difficult, as St. Peter fays, 2d epist. ii. 21. It were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness^ than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment.
But after all there is no other remedy; repent they must or perish. Tho' the scripture speaks but sparingly of jhdjij&fh, and of that duty with an application to it, as it is not reasonable such ample encouragement" should be given to them as to those who 6 - . sinn'd
SErm,sinn'd in ignorance^ and whose siris were ifi ^some sense connived at, yet the plain reason of the case will direct them to this, as the only way for obtaining forgiveness and salvation, notwithstanding all the disadvantages they have brought themselves under, and all the disabilities they have contracted for performing it. And yet the scripture is not wholly silent concerning this cafe, and the necessity, and even the hopefulness of repenting in it. The prophets often call upon the Jews (whose condition in this respect was parallel to that of christians) in such terms as these, * return ye blackjliding children, for I am married to you. The covenant on God's part shall still stand, if ye will forsake the sins by which you have violated it and revolted from him; and -J- tbo' thou hast plaid the harlot with many lovers, yet return to me faith the Lord. That is, for so the figurative expression signifies, tho' thou art guilty of heinous* aggravated offences, and particularly of idolatry, which was an essential breach of the covenant, yet there is room for repentance. And in the New Testament, as we find the cafe of apostacy supposed, or of insincerity, that is of wilful transgressions under the christian profession
* Jcr. iii. 14. f Jer. iii. 1.