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SERM. and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day LXII.
overtake you unawares.”
And now I believe I have said enough to persuade every serious Christian, that has heard and understands me, to resolve to set apart some time in every week of his life to think of death, and to ask himself, how he is prepared for it? And that I may help his meditations on that subject, I will just set before him what a wise man, when he comes to die, will wish he had done.
He will then wish, that he had made a just and Christian settlement of his temporal concerns, so as not to be distracted with the cares of this world, when his heart and thoughts should be
on another. He will then wish, that he had made his peace with God, by a timely repentance; that he had lived to God's glory in discharging faithfully the duties of his calling; that he had weaned his affections from, and loosened the bands that fasten us to the world.
He will wish, that he had crucified the flesh with all its sinful lusts; that being weary of this life, he might be more desirous of a better; and that by acts of mercy and charity, he had entitled himself to the mercy of God at the hour of death, and the day of judgment, when he will most stand in need of it.
And lastly, he will then wish, that he had got such habits of patience and resignation to the will of God during his health, as may render death, with all the train of evils leading to it, less frightful and amazing.
These are the things we shall all wish for when death approaches; and these should be the practice of every Christian's life; which God grant they may, and especially of myself, and of every one that now hears me.
TIIE MISTAKES OF CHRISTIANS CONCERNING RFPENTANCE.
Acts ii. 19.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be See Ps, 32. blotted out.
1,5; 38.18; 51.13; Jer. 3. 12, 13;
Matt. 3.8,9; Most people are very ready to own that they are sinners ;
Luke 24. and that they stand in need of God's mercy and pardon. And 46, 47;
Acts 17. 30, all Christians pretend to know, that without repentance no-31; 2 Cor. body can possibly be restored to God's favour, or ever attain 2. 11. that happiness which we all hope for after death. And repentance being a natural duty, most Christians, by considering what they expect from others who have wronged or offended them, are convinced that something agreeable to that will be expected by God from such as have offended Him.
Notwithstanding all this, repentance is a duty the most neglected and mistaken of any other Christian duty.
It is generally put off to the last.
People are apt to think that repentance is necessary only where men have fallen into great and crying sins; and when, upon any consideration whatever, they have left off to commit such sins, they look upon themselves as in a hopeful way of salvation.
Many are apt to imagine, that repentance is nothing but a concern and sorrow for having done amiss, and trusting that God, for Christ's sake, will pardon them; and too, too many place repentance in confessing their sins, protesting to be sorry for them, and promising not to repeat them; and are satisfied with this, without any serious endeavours of amendment.
And lastly, most Christians imagine, that repentance is in their own power; that they can set about it, and perform it,
SERM. when they please; and do not know that it is the gift of God,
and that it must, as all other graces, be asked of God with earnestness, humility, and with a sincere design of forsaking every evil way.
Now such mistakes as these will be an occasion of very sad consequences; and too many Christians (it is to be feared) will find those sins charged upon them, at the great account, which they did suppose they had repented of, and were forgiven them.
To prevent these mistakes as much as may be, Christians should consider, that repentance and conversion are not to be separated. The Spirit of God has joined them together in the text: “Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” And, Acts xxvi. 20,“ Repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Not to mention many more passages in the sacred Scriptures, where this is expressly said, or intimated.
Now, if this were well considered, Christians would have other thoughts of repentance than what they generally entertain. They would see plainly, for instance,
That if to repent is to be converted, then no degree of sorrow, no acts of mortification, which do not produce amendment of life, can be true repentance;
That not only notorious sinners have need of repentance to be reconciled unto God, but that all who are born in sin are the children of wrath, and have therefore need, by repentance, to be restored to God's favour and acceptance ;
That there is no true conversion, and therefore no true repentance, where men forsake some sins only, and live in others; all sins being forbidden of God, and displeasing to
That if a sincere resolution of forsaking the sins men confess do not accompany their confession, it is what the wickedest man on earth may do, as well as the most holy, and therefore can be no sure mark of true repentance.
That to resolve to repent without calling in the assistance of God's grace, would be as absurd as to attempt to raise the dead, or to command light out of darkness, or to make a new creation; forasmuch as to be converted is to become a new creature; it is to be turned from darkness to light; it is to be raised from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, which none but God can effect; and
Lastly; Christians would easily perceive the great absurdity of putting off repentance unto the last, because if a man cannot give a proof of his repentance by a change of life, he will want one of the greatest comforts of a death-bed; one of the best marks of a repentance unto life, which is doing works meet for repentance; that is, answerable to amendment of life.
In short; repentance is a means by which a sinner is restored to the favour of God; it is a step to conversion : but if conversion do not follow, it is only a repentance to be repented of.
And Christians sadly deceive themselves when they imagine, that any thing less than being restored to the image of God, in which we were at first created, can restore us to God's favour. “ If any man be in Christ” (saith the Apostle), “ If 2 Cor. 5. 17. any man be in Christ,” that is, a sincere Christian," he is a new creature;" his former life and affections are changed for the better; he sets his heart upon things above; he has quite other aims than he had before ; for now he follows no longer the inclinations of corrupted nature, but denies himself, resists temptations, prays for grace to withstand them, and finds a real pleasure in mortifying his corrupt affections. “Behold, all things are become new," saith the Apostle; a new heart, new desires, an enlightened understanding, a will obedient to the will and law of God. Where repentance ends in this, it is such as it should be; it is repentance unto life not to be repented of.
Now, that all our humiliations and repentance may have this blessed effect, to turn us from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God; it is absolutely necessary, that we be thoroughly convinced of this great truth, that we have in us the seeds of all manner of wickedness, ready to spring up, and break out into sinful actions upon the first occasion, if not restrained by the grace of God. We are all of the same race and make with St. Peter, who denied his Lord and Saviour ; with Judas, who betrayed Him; with Pilate, who condemned Him against his conscience; with the Jews, who crucified Him; with Herod, who murdered the innocent children; with the men of Sodom, whose sin was punished with
SERM. fire and brimstone; and with those of the old world, who LXIII.
brought upon themselves a universal destruction.
Though, I say, the corruption of our nature has not discovered itself in such wickedness as these, yet we have the root and seed of all these, and of all other sins, in us ; and we ought to know this, and to know, that on this account we are utterly unfit for the favour of God; and should certainly feel His everlasting displeasure, but that Jesus Christ has purchased our redemption by His most precious blood; and has put us into a way of regaining the favour of God, and of attaining everlasting salvation, if we are not wanting to ourselves.
I say again, that it is absolutely necessary that we should know and feel this our miserable estate and condition; to the end, that seeing our misery, we may more earnestly look out for help, embrace it when it is offered us, and be careful not to provoke the divine justice to leave us to ourselves, and in that sad estate into which we are fallen; that we may be afraid to make our condition worse by continuing in rebellion against God, when He is so gracious as to pardon us upon our sincere repentance, and change of heart and life; and lastly, that feeling our misery, we may not defer our repentance till it be too late to recover that image of God which we have lost in the fall.
Indeed the corrupt heart of man can find out many motives
to repentance less painful than this; but this is the true Matt. 9. 12. Gospel motive: “They that are whole” (saith our Lord) “need
not a physician, but they that are sick :” they will feel the need they have of help; they will perceive the necessity, not only of forsaking the sins they have been guilty of, but of mortifying that corrupt nature which is the spring and source of all sin.
In order to this, they will thankfully lay hold of the means of salvation offered them by Jesus Christ; they will receive Him for their Saviour and Law-giver, and His Gospel as the rule by which they ought to live, since by it they must be judged.
In short; they will not, they cannot be easy, until, by the grace of God, they have in some good measure overcome their evil and corrupt affections; until they see and are per