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S E R M. But, if the times of ignorance God winked IV. at, he now commands all men every where to repent; having published his law of grace and that remedy which his mercy had found out for sinners. The kingdom of heaven is come, that new gospel constitution wherein the righteousness of God is revealedfrom faith to faith; he has declared himself merciful to the unrighteousness of the penitent, and that their fins and transgressions he will remember no more. That law which is the unalterable rule of right is cleared from the obscurities in which the ignorance and prejudices of men had involved it; there is a full dif-r covery of that which is good and accepta*ble to the Deity, and he has ascertained a glorious reward to them who diligently ffejk him.
From this general character of the Icings dom of heaven, or of Christianity, you will fee that it contains very strong motives to re^ pentance. The first I mention, is taken from the hope of faccess. This is the greatest encouragement, and does most effectually determine men to any valuable design, endeavours, or pursuit. The end is obtaining the favour of God, which is" of so great mor jnent, that one would think men should exert crt their utmost power, and use the greatestSerm, diligence for it, •considering themselves as IV. guilty, and under a forfeiture. The impres-*" * "* fion of this has been so strong on the minds of men, that all nations, sensible of having offended the Deity, have laboured to appease him, tho' for the most part by methods very disagreable to reason, and to our most natural notions of the supreme Being. Repentance, indeed, is what the light of nature dictates, and all men who consider it, are convinced it is absolutely necessary to a reconciliation; but an express assurance from God, that it will be accepted, must be acknowledged an invaluable advantage; and this- we have by the christian revelation. For however the divine goodness manifested by its liberal effects, and extending to all kinds of beings who are capable objects of might induce us to hope that God will fee'favourable to penitents, and make a difference between the obstinately wicked and imperfectly good, who in the general tenor vof their actions sincerely do what is lawful and right, tho' not without a mixture of infirmities; yet, still there might remain a suspicion that the wise governor of the world might see it fit to inflict some degrees
SERM.of punishment in a future state on those IV. who sinned in this life, even altho' they
L"r_v_,"Jhave repented. But this anxiety is sufperfeded, and strong consolation is provided for penitents, by a positive declaration from a person who has a plenary authority sufficiently attested, that God will receive them into favour as if they had never sinned, and that there is reserved for them a compleat
and eternal felicity hereafter ?t
The method in which this mercy is dispensed carries in it very strong arguments to enforce our duty, I mean, repentance and its genuine fruits. It is by the mediation of Christ j by the shedding of his blood, * they are made near to God, who were far off j and he -j- was raised from the deadfor their justification, saving to the uttermost all that come to God by him, because he ever lives to make intercession for them %. Now, this lays 4s under the most endearing obligation of gratitude to our Saviour, who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all our || iniquities, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. The New Testament writers so represent both the death and resurrection of
- Ephes. ii. 13. f Rom. iv. 25. % Heb. vii. 25! H Tit. ii. 14.
Christ, as it appears to be their great design S E R to bring sinners to repentance, or to amend- ^ ment and newness of life. We are buried^^ with him in baptism unto deaths (faith St. Paul, Rom. vi. 4.) that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the father, so we should walk in newness of life. And thus he reasons, 2dof Cor. v. 14, 15. the love of Christ conftraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all once dead, that they that live should no more live to themselves, but to him that died for them and rose again. In his other epistles Jhe speaks often in the fame strain, and to the fame effect, describing our repentance . as the very image and resemblance of Christ's -Crucifixion and rising to glory, for he calls lit being crucified and rising with him, putting ^>ff the body of the fins of the fiesh thro' the faith of the operation of God, and putting on the new man, and being renewed in the spirit of our minds. The fame doctrine is taught by St. Peter, 1st ep. iv. 1. Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind ; for he that hathsuffered in theflesh hath ceasedfromfin.
Another argument for repentance because the kingdom of God, or christianity is come, is taken from the clear light of the gospel;
. and certainly a great weight is added to the obligation of our duty by the full and plain discovery of it; in effect the revelation of our whole duty is in this view the enforcement of repentance, which is nothing else but the practice of whatsoever is good, and pure, and virtuou6, in opposition to former hfts in ignorance. 'The former times God winked at, but now commands all men to repent. He had great compassion for them who lived in times of error, who were very ill taught, and received a corrupt conversation by tradition of their fathers, without any means of delivering themselves, but merely their own reason, which indeed, if duely attended to, might have discovered the folly and wickedness of the idolatry and immorality which then prevailed, but in the generality of men was so weak and unimprov'dj thro' the unhappiness of their education, that it had very little influence; and its feeble effects were easily overborn by the clamor of imposture, prejudices, and vicious customs. But, now, that God has sent his son into the world to reveal his will to mankind, and he has done it with such perspecuity that he who runs may read, and understand it, they must be inexcusable who continue impenitent