« AnteriorContinuar »
the gratification of their lusts: and because these hateful dispositions are so predominant in them, that without the interposition of Omnipotence they are insuperable. Can these hateful dispositions then be seriously urged as an excuse? Will any dare to urge them at the day of judgment? No, " every mouth will then be stopped, and all "the world shall be found guilty before God."— I should not in this place have touched upon this controversial subject, had I not observed how greedily this poison is drunk down, and how fatally it operates, in stupifying the conscience, flattering the pride, and apologizing for the sloth of mankind.
Instead of thus abetting, we should endeavour to counteract these artifices of Satan, and to combat the reluctancy of a sinners heart, by shewing the absolute necessity of prayer to salvation; enforcing the invitations to the throne of grace; expatiating on the promises made to all who call upon the Lord; explaining the nature of prayer; directing him in the new and living way to the throne of grace; answering objections, obviating discouragements, representing prayer as our privilege, and unspeakable consolation, and exhorting sinners to draw near, and share our happiness: for we may be assured that they who are thus excited to pray will, in due time, render unto God the praise of " making them to differ."
But I return from this digression.—My fellow sinners, you must pray or perish. Your backwardness to pray should humble you, and stir you up to overcome it; especially by crying unto the Lord -to incline your heart, by his grace, to love and delight in prayer. Your ignorance should urge you to begin as the disciples did: "Lord, "teach us to pray." You must not yield to corruption, temptation, or discouragement, but persevere in prayer, with all sincerity and earnestness. If you pray aright, you will be very far from trusting in, or boasting of, your prayers; for you will perceive much imperfection and defilement in them. But, though humbled on that account, you need not despond; your prayers, though broken, faultering and feeble, (if you mean what you express, and desire what you ask,) shall meet with acceptance through the intercession of Jesus, and be not only answered, but in due season far exceeded. Especially in this way you must seek repentance, as the gift of God through Jesus Christ; using the other means with diligence, earnestness and perseverance; and then you will assuredly be made partakers of that " repentance, "which is unto salvation not to be repented of."
Having thus gone through the subject, according to the method first laid down, nothing remains but to close with a few practical observations.
I. I would observe from what has been discoursed, that every species of religion, in which repentance forms no prominent part, from first to last, is justly to be suspected, yea certainly to be condemned, as unscriptural and destructive. There is a great deal of this religion in the world, which often comes recommended by extraordinary zeal for some peculiar doctrines of Christianity, and is distinguished by unwarranted confidence and high affections. Men, hearing the gospel, are superficially alarmed on account of their sins, and eagerly look out for comfort. Through inexperience they lie open to Satan's artifice, and are easily imposed on with false comfort, deduced from false principles, exactly suited to their carnal unhumbled hearts. Thus they presume that their sins are pardoned, and their state good; and with this presumption self-love is delighted, and high affections produced: these, expressed in earnest fluent language, create them injudicious admirers: this flatters and affects them the more, and confirms them in their confidence; so that they think, they must never more, after such experiences, on any account, doubt of their own salvation. Yet all this is only a land-flood, and soon subsides. They gradually experience a decay of affection, and
grow lifeless, indolent, and worldly: with their affections their confidence declines; but they struggle hard to exclude doubtings; they call themselves backsliders: allow themselves to have "forsaken their first love ;" and groan out Job's complaint, though not at all in Job's meaning, "Oh that it were with me, as in months past!" And, would a wish suffice, something might be done; but they have no heart for greater exertion. To close all, they abuse the doctrine of final perseverance; take it for granted that they are saints; expect to be restored as it were by miracle, whilst they turn a deaf hear to the voice of Christ, commanding them to "be zealous, and repent;" till at length, perhaps a suitable occasion and temptation presenting, they throw aside their profession of godliness.
This is exactly the religion of the stony-ground hearers, who had faith, confidence and joy, such as they were, but no repentance or humility,* and therefore "no root in themselves:" for it is only by renewing our hearts unto repentance, that the ground is prepared for the reception of the seed, and the production of true faith and holiness, as has already been demonstrated.
"Let no man deceive you by vain words." Except you are partakers of repentance, and "bring "forth fruits meet for repentance," all your religion is vain, your hopes presumptuous, and your destruction inevitable; whatever other attainments, gifts, or experiences, you may have to boast of, or to buoy up your confidence. Satan can "transform himself into an angel of light," and as effectually ruin souls by false religion, as by open ungodliness; and far more unsuspectedly.
* It is very observable how often the words, "Every one that "exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth him"self shall be exalted," are repeated by our Saviour: and how many similar expressions are used by the apostles. This infallibly teaches us, that all appearances of religion are fallacious, so long as the heart remains unhumbled.
IK I observe from what hath been discoursed, that great care is requisite in distinguishing betwixt true repentance, and that which is superficial and merely natural.* This is of vast importance, as numbers of those who die impenitent have at tunes judged themselves, and been thought by others, to be penitent. Let it then be remembered that true repentance, though generally accompanied with terror, tears, confessions, and outward reformation, good words., fair promises, and earnest resolutions, does not consist in, or uniformly attend upon all or any of them. But true repentance is a change of judgment, inclination, and affection,
* Some will perhaps be disposed tp inquire, why I have not adopted the common distinction between legal and evangelical repentance. As these 'expressions do not occur in scripture, every one is at liberty to use them or not; and the distinction did not appear to me sufficiently exact, or comprehensive, for my purpose. True repentance has more respect to the law, as transgressed by sin, and justly condemning the sinner, than any false repentance can have. Whilst, on the other hand, men are more frequently seduced into a dependence on a superficial repentance, by unwarrantable presumptions of mercy, and false apprehensions of evangelical truth, than by slavish regard to the law. JVa<Kra/and spiritual repentance seems to me a preferable distinction. By natural repentance, I would understand every sort of repentance of which a mere natural man is capable: by spiritual repentance, that which springs from true grace in the heart.