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First, I am to shew you the true nature of repentance.
From the method I took to explain my text, it appears, that true repentance consists in a change of the heart and mind from an evil disposition to a good one. A repenting sinner must return to God, under a strong conviction of guilt, and the abominable nature of sin; and the sense of “ his offending against an infinitely glorious and good Being, whom he is under the highest obligation to obey, should work so powerfully upon his mind, as to make him sincerely regret his having done amiss; and not only so, but it must produce a reformation in his life and conversation; or 'else his sorrow is not godly sorrow, but worldly sorrow, which worketh death. .
Where there is no reformation in life and manners, there is no repentance, because the mind is still the same; and when the mind continues the same, it is in a state of impenitentcy, which will bring the sinner, in the end, to everlasting destruction and misery.
Many of the Jews thought that they, without more ado, should be entitled to heaven . and happiness, because they were the children
of Abraham; and therefore had but a very imperfect notion of repentance, 'till John the Baptist shewed them their mistake, and told them they must • bring forth fruits meet for. repentance, and think not to say within
themselves, they have Abraham to their father.” Matt. iii. 8.
It was not merely their being of the seed of Abraham that entitled them to the blessings of the promised Messiah ; no, but they were commanded to purify their hearts by true re. pentance; such as would evidently appear by the good fruits of a virtuous and pious life, before they could expect a share in the blessings which Christ would bestow upon his faithful followers.
Many imagine that if they do but feel some remorse of conscience, and have some transient passions of grief and sorrow for their past sins, that that is repentance; and never regard whether it has any influence upon their fature conduct, so as to work a reformation in their hearts, and cause them to practice religion and virtue.
But in this they are greatly mistaken, for we shall find scarcely, one sinner without such a repentance as this; not one, but who is often convinced of his evil courses, by an accusing conscience, which causes remorse and sorrow, through fear of the vengeance of God.
But what is a sinner's sorrow and tears, if they do not produce a reformation in his life? they are but feigned and hypocritical. He is, perhaps, sorry because he cannot enjoy his beloved sins with more ease and satisfaction to himself, but is determined to go on and gratity his vicious inclinations, though they do
now and then make him uneasySo did Herod, when he swore to the daughter of Herodias, that he would give her whatsoever she would ask; and upon her demanding the head of John the Baptist, it is said, “The king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oaths suke, and for their sakes which sat 'with him, he would not deny her ; and immediately sent un executioner, and commanded the lead to be brought.” Mark vi. 25, 26, 27.'
Herod's sorrow was not repentance ; for though he had a strong conviction in his mind that he was about to commit a very henious sin, yet he persisted, and perpetrated an act of the vilest cruelty upon an innocent and just man. So if the sinner is sorry for 'his sins, and yet continues in them, he is no more a true penitent, than if he went on in an uninterrupted course of wickedness. Nay, on the contrary, when he goes on in sin, in spite of the checks of his conscience, it must be an aggravation of his guilt, and make him so much the greater sinner in the sight of God; for as much as he acts in direct opposition to the clearest conviction of mind..! !!
A: .-, may resolve to leave his sins, and lead a new life, and walk in the commandments of God; and yet this may not be repentance: for mere' resolving to do a thing is not doing it; so a man's resolving to repent is not repentance. He must bring his good resolutions into act, or else he can have no certain evidence that his heart is altered; for this may be only a sudden passion of his mind, occasioned by some particular circumstance that has awaked him from his lethargy, and leaves no lasting impression hehind it, bat quickly evaporates, and he returns to bis old courses again... ? .. A wicked man may, notwithstanding the utmost care and foresight, be brought into imminent danger of his life, or be thrown upon a bed of sickness, which he apprehends to be his last ;, then his guilty conscience flies in his face, his past actions are exposed to view, and he is terrified with the apprehension of his approaching hour, and dreads the thought of launching into eternity loaded with guilt. Then it is that the vain mortal sees his misery, and is struck with the utmost horror at the prospect of being brought to the bar of heaven to answer for his actions. But when he is delivered from this danger, he forgets the solemn protestations he made to God of amendment, and madly returns to his former wicked courses. Can such a man as this be a penitent? Can he be said to repent? No, it is all worldly sorrow, arising more from the apprehension of his danger, than from a resolution to act better. The fear of the vengeance of God, as the just desert of his sins, makes him bewail his miscarriages, and promise a reformation. But when he is recovered, where are his good resolutions ? « Like a morning cloud, and as the early dew, they pass away.”
Such sorrow as this is not repentance, and if a sinner dies under such circumstances, he must be cternally lost and indone! In short, true repentance consists in a deep and unjeigned sorrow for our past sins, and an entire change of heart; productive of a holy and virtuous life; in order to which, the proud heart must be loumbled, every secret lust mortified, every evil thought checked, and every vicious habit rooted out.
We must earvestly implore parlon and forgiveness through the merits of Jesus Christ, and appear before our Judge as sinners that have forfeited our lives; bewail our miscarriages, promise amendment, and intreat God's grace to assist us in our good resolutions; and then, when we bring them into act, we need not doubt but that we have rightly performed the duty of repentance. I shall now,
Secondly, Proceed to remove some prevailing mistakes about this important duty.
And First, Some imagine their repentance is not sincere, unless it be accompanied with a great many tears, whenever they review their past actions, or when they are attending the public worship of God. But we very well know that there are many who.cannot shed a tear, though they are, at the same time, exceeding -sorrowful: and many can shed tears who have no sincere sorrow at all. We should always make allowances for constitutional heats, or melancholly.
Such as are of a melancholy cast, whenever