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Serm. things are entirely different from repentance, J V. antl men are unhappily deceiv'd who trust in them. When our Saviour gave commisiion to his apostles, and establish,'d their authority in this manner, Johnxx. 23. Whose soever fins ye retain they are retained, and whoje soeversins ye remit, they are remitted unto-them; it it contrary to the strain of the gospel, and rea~ son itself, to imagine, that he has invested a succession of fallible mortals with a power of pardoning sins, and especially upon conditions different from those which he has irrevocably fix'd by his laws. The plain meaning is, that having received the Holy Ghost as their guide, the apostles had commisiion, by their doctrine, to declare the perpetual unalterable terms upon which sinners might obtain the justification of life $ and on the other hand, that kind of disobedience whidi wou'd fix them under a sentence of condemnation. But, indeed the mistake of those protestants is as pernicious, (and in some respects more criminal, because it is gone into against better means of knowledge) who found their hopes of acceptance, and the remission of sins, on meerly external acts, on the public instrumental duties of religion, on confessions and prayers, and the
sacraments, sacraments, without amendment of life Jserm. this is nothing but hypocrisy, it is mocking ^ J[^_ God and deceiving our own fouls.
Secondly, It must be extreme folly and infinitely dangerous, to delay the necessary work of repentance till the approach of death. This general persuasion is fix'd in the minds of men, that repent they must some time or other, since without it their destruction is inevitable. But through the deceitfulnefs of sin their hearts are so hardcn'd, and their affections so obstinately cleave to their vitious courses and worldly interests, they incline to put off that work, which however confessedly necessary, yet is disagreeable, to a more convenient season j arid the most convenient they can pitch upon is, when they must leave this world, and the pleasures of sin can be no longer held. V"- A great many arguments might be insisted on, to shew the absurdity of such a conduct. Any one that considers the mutability of human affairs, the uncertainties to which they are liable, particularly the life of man; our own observation furnishing a multitude of instances of men dying without any opportunity, or even possibility, of preparing for
E Rm. death j or having any deliberate thoughts IV. about the issues of it: any, I fay, who ^ considers this, must fee that it's imprudent even to madness, to put our salvation on such a risque as the design and expectation of repenting on a death-bed. And as wife providence, to guard against our postponing the work of our salvation, has placed the manner and circumstances of our dying wholly out of our view, and made them to us utterly uncertain, so the dispensation of grace and divine aids may be lost, and th« Spirit of God grieved by their transgressions, will at last strive no more with sinners, who are become altogether jlejh, incorrigibly corrupt, having by a custom of doing evil harden'd themselves into an utter insensibility : Does not experience shew, and the least reflexion on the nature of habits, that the longer repentance is delay'd, the more difficult it becomes? And must not every one be sensible how inconsistent, and indeed disingenuous it is, to commit sin with an intention to be afterwards heartily sorry for it, if there were no more in repentance than sorrow for fin? 4 But the consideration to which my present subject particularly directs our thoughts, is> - . - that
that repentance, as it has been in this discourse S E R M; explained, signifying an actual Reformation of ^ * a life, breaking off our sins, and bringing- 'f forth the fruits of righteousness, in the approach of death, is impracticable: I have • shewn you that according to the scriptural notion of it, it consists in a thorough universal change of the heart and affections of the dispositions and manner of life; at least, newness of life is absolutely necessary according to the gospel declarations. But in the case feppos'd, what opportuuity is there for all this? To be griev'd for our transgressions, to acknowledge them with shame, to change our inclinations and purposes, and declare, that if we were to live we would return to. them no more, which is all the repentance dying men can exercise, is not to do what God indispensably requires as the terms of our acceptance, but to substitute something dsd in the place of it. Besides, if ever so great stress was to be laid on these things, the sincerity of them. in dying men, is alWays liable to suspicion. How little can be attained of that calmness and deliberation which is necessary to them, and how natural is it to fear that in the present circumstances of distress and consternation, seem
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SERM.ingly religious dispositions are only extorted IV. by the immediate shocking apprehensions' of death, and of a future punishment? We should not indeed take upon us to pronounce judgment against men, who having ttVa wickedly, do in the" immediate views of death exercise all the repentance which is then possible for them|j no doubt it is the best they can do, and it's most reasonable to press them to it* But the scriptural declarations are not calculated for that cafe, and for aught I fee, give very little ground of comi. fort. Their evident design is, to awaken sinners out of their Security, and urge thegi by the strongest motives, while yet there" is space given to repent and to amend their doings, and that being the cafe of every one of us, what remains but that we apply it to ourselves, diligently minding in our day the things that belong to our peace, fyefore. they be„ hid from our eyes.
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