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faith ; let them join themselves to the Church in an open confession of their faith, and a devout use of the sacraments, and other means of grace; and let them be sanctified and comforted by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and they will be real Christians; the lessons of the Gospel will have accomplished their end, the wounded heart will be healed, and the eager expressions of alarm and inquiry will gradually be exchanged for the language of assurance and peace
These directions, then, may be viewed both in the light of an ENCOURAGEMENT and of a CAUTION.
They are an ENCOURAGEMENT as they present a way of escape to the anxious inquirer. Is it no relief to the convinced mind to be told there is a Saviour, to be assured of acceptance, to be directed to the Divine Spirit for the communication of wisdom and strength ? Is it no encouragement to be taken, as it were, by the hand, and guided to heaven? Is it no consolation to be led to the mysterious Cross, and instructed in the doctrine of the remission of sins? Be comforted, then, distressed and perplexed penitent. Salvation is before you. However little light or feeling you may now have, go on; press forward; repent; confess the Saviour; seek for pardon; implore sanctifying grace. If you have only a good thought towards God, or some misgiving of mind about your own condition, cherish it, yield to it, follow it, as the dawning light. On the other hand, if your terrors are ever so penetrating, and your apprehensions eyer so vivid, do not despair. Though you should conclude your sins to be more numerous and more aggravated than those of any other person, though you should be struck to the heart with self-condemnation, and be almost ready to conclude that your particular case is beyond the reach of mercy, still be not overwhelmed. The door of repentance and pardon is open. The invitation is
general, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money. The alarm and distress you feel are so far from being arguments against you, that they rather prove you to be in the right way. The Jew who had heard the Apostle's sermon, and who was pricked to the heart, and said with anguish, What shall I do? was in fact in the path to truth and salvation; and so are you, if your feelings are such as his, and you will follow the directions of the sacred word. Yield not then to unbelief; for all things are ready, and none are excluded from the feast of mercy. You are invited and commanded to approach. Nor will God reject a single soul that comes to him in the name of Jesus Christ.
The directions, however, of the Apostle afford also a CAUTION, as they shew that repentance and remission of sins, and a public dedication of ourselves to the service of Christ, are necessary to complete what alarm of conscience may have begun. It is necessary not only to guard against despair by stating the gracious invitations of the Gospel; but to caution men against presumption by enforcing the necessity of complying with those invitations. It is possible for them to be terrified at their sins for a time, and yet not to be turned from them. They may dread the consequences of transgression, and yet continue to love it. Conviction of sin must then be embodied, as it were, in all the acts of the true and practical Christian character. You must be cautious of trusting to any alarm of inind, as though in itself a sufficient evidence of a state of salvation. You may clearly see from the exhortation of the Apostle to the Jews, to Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, for remission of sins, that distress of conscience is one thing, and repentance and pardon another. There are persons who conclude they are true Christians because they have been much affected by a sermon, and have been for a time under terror of mind; but such sensations are no decisive proofs of conversion. There must be something besides conviction; even repentance, faith in the merits and death of Christ, the influences of grace, and holy obedience, to prove that we are truly accepted of God. Alarms indeed may, and ought to end in our being truly awakened from the sleep of sin---this is their proper effect but they may prove to be only like the disturbance given to one in profound slumber, at which he starts for a moment, but, overcome by his sleep, again sinks down to repose. Let us not, therefore, substitute convictions of conscience, which are chiefly valuable as they lead to something further, for that solid conversion to God without which no one can be saved ; but let us, when we hear the word of the Gospel, and are pricked in our hearts, follow on from feeling to practice, and so implore the grace of God, that we may become true believers in the atonement and righteousness of the Saviour; and sincerely dedicated to his service and honour.
To confirm you still more in this solid work of religion, let me, before I conclude,
II. Turn your attention, for an instant, to THE DIRECTIONS PROPER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY REPENTED AND OBEYED THE GOSPEL. These may be drawn from the remaining exhortation of the Apostle to his converts, and from the narrative of their conduct and spirit, contained in the verses which follow my text. I can only allude to them. Let the Christian, then, aim at that holy separation from the world, to which the Apostle exhorted them when he said, Save yourself from this untoward generation. Let him be unmoveable in his profession of the Gospel, after the example of these converts, who continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship. Let him cultivate gratitude to God, charity and benevolence towards others, and cheerfulness and simplicity as to his own character; even as they praised God for his mercies, parted their goods to all men, and did eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart. And to these holy and devout exercises, let him ever add his fervent prayer that numbers may be gathered into the spiritual church; that faithful ministers may be raised up to imitate the boldness, and convincing reasoning and undaunted appeals of the holy Apostle; that many, hearing the word of truth, may be pricked in their hearts, be led to serious inquiry as to their salvation, and never rest till they have truly repented and obeyed the Gospel; that the numbers of such converts may recall to our minds those days of the Spirit when three thousand souls were in one day joined to the infant church; and that, to this end, God may grant us primitive faith and zeal, primitive fervour in prayer and preaching, primitive love to Christ, and primitive measures of the sanctifying grace of the Holy, Ghost: so that the Lord may both increase continually the piety of his faithful servants, and add to their body daily such as shall be saved.
And I will pour upon the house of David and upon
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.
The necessity of repentance is established in every part of Scripture. It is the first duty of a sinner under a dispensation of mercy; prepares for a right reception of Christ as a Saviour; and is a part of that new and holy course of life which every true Christian leads. It accompanies, indeed, every other exercise of piety, and terminates only when we arrive at heaven. Its extent and spirituality, its connection with faith and salvation, the way in which it is to be obtained, and the effects which it produces, are all points of the first moment. On many of them, the text which I have read will afford us instruction. It contains a very remarkable prediction of the repentance and conversion of the Jewish nation. This was in part fulfilled when the Spirit of grace was poured out on the Christian church at the day of Pentecost, and many of those