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and the wrath of God denounced against it,SERM. which is principally intended for the admo- IV. nition of christians, that they do not fall in- ^ to such fin; yet a reserve for the repentance of those who are so guilty is not obscurely insinuated. The apostle Paul refers to a fact of this sort which happened among the Corinthians. One, and probably a teacher of no inconsiderable character, was guilty of such fornication as was not named even among the Gentiles, * that a man should have his father's wife. Because the example was of a very infectious nature, and highly reproachful to Christianity, it was necessary that it ihould be censured with a peculiar severity; accordingly, the apostle, by virtue of his extraordinary miraculous power, delivered the offender to fatan, meaning, that some uncommon temporal judgment was inflicted upon him. But what was the intention? was it that he should be immediately overwhelmed and swallowed up in remediless ruin? no, hut for -j- the deJlruBion of tbeflejh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. That is, that the sinner might be restored to a good state, and the hope of eternal life by repentance. And, Vol. I. G therefore,
* i. Cor. v. j. f i. Cor. v. 5.
SeRm. therefore, when the punishment had its due IV. effect in the humiliation and repentance of 'the offender, the apostle exhorts the saints at Corinth to comfort him as a penitent, and receive him again into their fellowship..: ^ the epistles to the seven churches of Afiat Revel, chap. 2 d, and 3 d, some are charged, with great defection, and the divine displea-^ sure is denounced against them, they ar^ threatned with the removal of their candle* stick out of its place, and other punishments j but still upon the supposition of impenitency j and it is expresily declared, that if they difj repent, their destruction mould be prevented. Nay, some of, the most notorious transgres-r sors, who seduced the servants of Christ iqto grostly immoral practices, are threatned indeed with death, but it it is, except the'^ repent. The apostle Peter himself is an example for the encouragement of offending disciples of Christ to repent -t thro' fear h^ denied his master before men, for which lin his master pronounces a severe punishment j but he obtained mercy, having with deep sorrow for his sin returned to a better mind and better resolution, which he testified thro' the whole course of his after life, and even at his death.
There There is, therefore, repentance also grant- Serm.
have deliberately and presumptuously sinned * against its laws; and their repentance is of the fame kind with that which the gospel describes in the case of converted infidels: a thorough forsaking, and purging the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God, sprinkling the hearts. from an evil conscience, and wajhing the body with pure water. Let them never imagine that their condition is any thing the better for their having been christians before the committing of their iniquities, and that from thence there remains any foundation of hope for them; their habitual course of wickedness utterly inconsistent with integrity, forfeits the christian character, and with it all claim to the privileges of the gospel covenant. Their state is that of a total alienation from God j and their conversion to him, that it may be sincere and acceptable, must be attended with an entire change of disposition and conversation, from evil to good: As David in his penitential exercises, after the most heioous transgression of his life, addresses God, not only with a deprecation of his displeasure for that particular offence,
ed even to them who
SERM.nor indeed, only, with a desire and purpose IV. of amending it, but with the utmost soli
"^' ^"^citude that he might be wholly renewed; in the same manner as a new convert to religion would do, after an universally profligate and abandoned life according to his lujls in ignorance, * create in me a clean heart, 0 Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Nay, if there be any difference, it is this, that the repentance of loch sinners ought to be peculiarly remarkable and conspicuous^ as their iniquities have been accompanied with peculiar aggravations; and, especially^ let it be remembred, that nothing can be to , them a satisfying evidence of their sincerity^ but an effectual amendment, an intire, solved, abstinence from their former inujaii-* ties, and the steddy exercise of the contrary virtues. ..1'..
I come, in the next place, to lay before you the gospel motives to repentance. But, before I enter upon them, it may not be amiss to consider a little the reasonableness of the thing itself, and its agreeableness to our natural sentiments. We have indeed this invaluable advantage by the gospel revelation, that it adds new and very powerful
* Pfolm li. 10.
inducements to our obeying the eternal andSerm. immutable laws of God; but still the first IV.
consideration which takes fast hold on the' minds of men, is, that the things which those laws injoin are excellent and right things, most becoming a reasonable nature, and tending to its perfection, and its highest self enjoyment.
Now, I think it will appear to every attentive person very rational and fit, that we should undo what we have done amiss; that if we have gone into any wrong course, we should not persevere in it, but upon conviction abandon it; that we should renounce our errors, and if we have done iniquity, resolve that we will do it no more j that is, that we should repent. It is true, indeed, that repentance is not directly contained in the original obligation of the law of nature, for it primarily injoins what is good without supposing the case of a departure from it j but in the event of sin, it imports a plain consequential obligation to forsake it, and return to our duty, as being that only which we can reasonably do in such circumstances, and whereby we can only have hope to