« הקודםהמשך »
but lives in envy, malice, pride, carnal.mindedness, unbelief; or some other such heart-defiling fin. To finish his character, whatever seeming progress he may make in religion, his heart is not right with God: but is still going after his idols, ftill estranged from vital Christianity and the power of godliness. Like Ephraim, he is as a cake not turned, neither bread nor dough; or like Laodicea, lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.
If we proceed to view the character of the sincere penitent, it is directly contrary to this. He finds indeed (as has been observed) continual occasion to lament the great imperfections of his heart and life; and according. ly seeks renewed pardon and cleansing in the blood of Chrift. But though he has not already attained, nor is already perfect, he is yet presing towards perfection. He is yet watching, striving against all his corruptions; yet aiming at and endeavouring after further conformity to God, in all holy conversation and godliness. He is ne. ver satisfied with a partial reformation, with external duty; or with any thing short of a life of vital piety. He does not renounce one luft and retain another ; content himself with first-table duties, in the neglect of the fecond; nor quiet himself in a life of mere formal godli. ness ; nor can he reft, till he rejoices in the testimony of his conscience, that in fimplicity and godly sincerity, not with flejbly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he has his conversation in the world. All the actings of his mind, as well as his external conduct, fall under his strictest cognizance and inspection, and he is awfully careful to approve himself to him, who knows his thoughts afar off. His reformation extends not only to the devotions of the church, but of his family and closet; not only to his conversation, but to his thoughts and affections ; not only to the worship of God, but to the duties of every relation he sustains among men; and in a word, his repentance produces heavenly-mindedness, humility, meekness, charity, patience, forgiving of injuries, selfdenial; and is accompanied with all other fruits and graces of the blefied Spirit. It is the desire of my i foul (says the fincere penitent) to keep the way of the • Lord; and not wickedly to depart from my God. I « would refrain my feet from every evil way; and walk
' within my houfe with a perfect heart. I know I have
to do with a God who trieth the heart; and hath pleafure in uprightness; I would therefore set the Lord always before me; and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind. I know that my heart is . deceitful above all things ; and desperately wicked. I know that mine iniquities are ascended over mine head: for which I am bowed down greatly ; and go
mourning all the day long. But yet my desire is be'fore the Lord; and 'my groaning is not hid from him.
I can truly say, that I even hate vain thoughts, but • God's law do I love. O that God would give me un
derstanding that I may keep his law, and observe it. with my
whole heart !'I would be for God without any reserve: for I esteem his precepts concerning all things to be right, and I have inclined my heart to keep his statutes always, even unto the end."
To conclude, herein lies the great difference between a legal and an evangelical repeatance; The one is an external reformation only, deflitute of all the graces of the blessed Spirit. The other is an internal change, a change of the heart, of the will and affections, as well as of the outward conversation ; a change which is accompanied with all the fruits and graces of the Spirit of God. The one aims at just so much religion as will keep the mind easy; and calm the rufles of an awakened conscience. The other aims at a holy, humble, Fratchful, and spiritual walk with God; and rests in no degree of attainments whatsoever.
Thus, Sir, I have given you a general view of the difference between a legal and evangelical repentance. You have not demanded this of me out of mere curiosia, ty: or as a matter of speculation only : but in order to the exercise and practice of a repentance unto life, not to
You should therefore remember who is exalted at God's right hand, to give repentance, as well as forgiveness of Ins. Remember that you must depend only upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ; and mult accordingly lie at his footstool, to have this great important change wrought in your heart. And therefore fince you depend upon the mere sovereign grace of God in Christ, for
be repented of
the renewing influences of his holy Spirit, you should be the more importunate in your cries to him, in the language of Ephraim, Turn thou me, and I fball be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.
You should endeavour to review your paft fins, and as particularly as you can, acknowledge them before God with all their heinous circumstances and peculiar aggravations; and you should with peculiar ardour of foul wrestle with him, for pardon and cleansing in the blood of Christ.
You should endeavour to fee and be affected with the fin of your nature, as well as of your practice, of your heart, as well as of your life, and with constant ferven cy cry to God for a new heart and a right Spirit, for victory over your corruptions ; and for grace to approve your felf to God in a life of new obedience, as well as for pardon and reconciliation to him.
You should be daily calling yourself to an account for your daily fins and imperfections, and daily con feling and lamenting them before God, that you may never have fo much
as the fins of one day unrepented of. Though it be impoffible, that you can be fufficiently humbled before God, under an abahing sense of your great finfunefs, unwortbiness, and ingratitude to him : Yet remeniber that faithful Jaying, which is worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came to save finners. Don't dishonour the infinite merit of the Redeemer's blood by being afraid to trust to it, for pardon and fanctification. Don't dilhonour the infinite compaffion of the divine nature, by calling into question his being as ready to grant, as you heartily to seek pardon and forgiveness of all your fins, how many and great foever they be. Be therefore humbled: but not discouraged. While you lament your fin and imperfection, adore the infinite riches of that grace and love, which has opened a fountain for fin and uncleannefs.
And to sum up the whole in a word, you must remember, that it is the essence of a true repentance, to turn to God; and therefore, if you would evidence the sincerity of your repentance, you must give up yourself to God. You must cbuse him for your God and por: tion, : You must watch at tis gates'; and wait at the
pofts of his doors. - You must make a buliness of religion; and in a life of most active and earnest diligence, expect acceptance through the merits of Chrill, and continued supplies of grace and strength from his fulness to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.. * That the Lord would
his own work in
your soul ; and lead you on from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, till you arrive where your faith will be turned into vision, and your repentance into eternal praises, is the prayer of,
LETTER X. Wherein is proved, that the
SEVENTH CHAPTER to the ROMANS contains the description and character of a CONVERTED STATE
Cannot but take comfort, from your melancholy
complaint of the corruptions you are fruggling with; and your sense of the vileness and finfulness of your heart, which makes you groan being burthened: because you therein breathe the language of a broken and a contrite spirit ; and give me hopes that you are offering to God the facrifice, which he will not despise. You • took comfort (you tell me) from the seventh chapter
to the Romans, finding there, the like complaints (with yours, in so eminent and exalted a Christian as • the apostle Paul himself : but that prop is knocked • from under you, by conversation with fome perlons of • a superior reputation for religion, who aflure you that • St. Paul is there giving the character of an unconver• ted person, under a conflict between his corruptions " and the alarms of an awakened conscience, and that
all those places of scripture are to be interpreted in the « fame manner, which represent the like conflict in the
foul.' Upon which you defire iny sentiments.
What strange efforts are of late made against evangelical, vital, and experimental piety! How inconfiftent
are the methods used by thofe, who are fo eamestly labouring in this undertaking! Is it not enough to put mankind into a dangerous fecurity, ty flattering them with a prospect of fafety, without any experience of a work of grace in their hearts ; but they must also tore ment and disquiet the minds of those who have been favoured with thofe bleffed experiences, by perfuading them, that remaining disallowed corruptions and imPerfections are inconfiftent with a ftate of grace, and with the favour of God! What do thefe men mean ! Have they ng feeling perception, no affecting sense of the imperfections of their hearts and lives! Or do they make it their practice, and efteem it their duty, to give their corruptions a quiet refidence in their hearts, and to maintain no conflict or struggle with them!
But its my bugness to answer your demand; and to endeavour to convince you, that the apostle in the feventh chapter to the Romans, is defcribing the conflict, which every true Chriftian experiences, while he walk's with God, and lives near to him.
In order to a fair and clear decision, it will be pro. per to take fome (very brief) notice of the general scope and design of this epiftle, in the firtt feven chapters This seems to be summarily propofed in the first chapter, ver. 17. Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The juft fball live by faith.. Thee is, we are juftified before God, only by the righ. teousness of Chrift received by faith. We continue in a justified state, by the renewed exercise of faith : And the whole life of a justified perfon is a life of faith in the Son of God, as well as his whole hope of eternal life is through faith in Christ. This doctrine is proved, by a representation of the atrocious impiety and wickednefs of the whole Gentile world ; that even they who make the highest pretences to innocence, and who judge and censure others for such horrid impieties, as are commonly praclised anidng them, ‘are all inexcufable and felfcondemned, on account of the wickedness perpetrated and indulged by themselves ; being all of them fuch violators of the law and light of nature, as will leave them without excuse in the day when God fall judge the secrets of men by Jcfus Glirit. This is plainly the apostle's at.