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sultation with other pastors, or concurrence of the church, be neglected : and after let there be place for due appeals, and let ministers consent to give account when they are accused of mal-administration.
But if, after private admonition, while the offence is such as requireth not public confession) the sinner be penitent, let the minister privately apply to his consolation the promises of the Gospel, with such cautelous prudence as is most suitable to his condition.
And if he repent not till after public admonition, or that the scandal be so great and notorious as that a public confession is necessary ; let him, at a seasonable time appointed by the pastor, with remorse of conscience and true contrition, confess his sin before the congregation, and heartily lament it, and clear the honour of his Christian profession, which he had stained ; and crave the prayers of the church to God for pardon and reconciliation through Christ, and also crave the ministerial absolution and restoration to the communion of the church, and profess his resolution to do so no more; but to live in new obedience to God, desiring also their prayers for corroborating and preserving grace.
It is only a credible profession of repentance that is to be accepted by the church.
The foregoing cautions must be carefully observed in such confessions, that they be not made to the injuring of the magistrate, or of the church, or of the reputation of others; or of the life, estate, or liberty of the offender; or to any other shame than is necessary to the manifesting of his repentance, and the clearing of his profession, and the righting of any that he hath wronged, and the honour and preservation of the church.
When he hath made a credible profession of repentance, it is the pastor's duty ministerially to declare him pardoned by Christ, but in conditional terms; (if his repentance be sincere :) and to absolve him from the censure of non-communion with the church, if he was under such a censure before his penitence; and to declare him meet for their communion, and to encourage him to come, and require the church to entertain him into their communion with gladness, and not upbraid him with his fall, but rejoice in his recovery, and endeavour his confirmation and preservation for the time to come. And it is his duty accordingly to admit him to communion, and theirs to have loving
communion with him : all which the penitent person must believingly, lovingly, and joyfully receive. But if any, by notorious perfidiousness, or frequent covenant-breaking, have forfeited the credit of their words, or have long continued in the sin which they do confess, so that their forsaking it hath no proof ; the church then must have testimony of the actual reformation of such as these, before they may take their professions and promises as credible, Yet here the difference of persons and offences is so great, that this is to be much left to the prudence of pastors that are present, and acquainted with the persons and circumstances of the case. In the transacting of all this, these following forms, to be varied as the variety of cases do require, may be made use of.
A Form of Public Admonition to the Impenitent.
The sin may be A. B. you are convict of gross and named and ag- scandalous sin ; you have been admogravated, when it is convenient. nished, and entreated to repent. The promises of mercies to the penitent, and the threatenings of God against the impenitent, have not been concealed from you. We have waited in hope for your repentance, as having compassion on your soul, and desiring your salvation ; but we must say with grief, you have hitherto disappointed us. We are certain, from the word of God, that
Luke xiii. 3,5. you must be penitent, if ever you will be Acts v. 31. pardoned ; and that except you repent, Luke xii. 47. you shall everlastingly perish. To acquaint you publicly with this, and yet here to offer you mercy from the Lord, is the next duty laid upon us for your recovery.
O! blame us not, if, knowing the terrors of the Lord, we thus persuade you, and are loath to leave you in the power of Satan, and loath to see you cast out into perdition, and that your blood should be required at our hands, as not having discharged our duty to prevent it.
Be it known unto you, therefore, that it is the God of heaven and earth, the great, the jealous, and the terrible God, whose laws you have broken, and whose authority you despise. You refuse his government, who is coming with ten Jude xiv. 15. thousands of his saints, to execute judg- Psal. v. 4, 5. ment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly of their ungodly deeds and speeches : who hath told us that evil shall not dwell with him : the foolish shall not stand in his sight; he hateth all workers of iniquity : the ungodly shall not stand
Psal. i. 5, 6.
Psal. x. 13.
in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. God hath not made his laws in vain.
Though the wicked contemn God, and say in their hearts he will not require it; yet their 2 Pet. ii. 3, 9. damnation slumbereth not, they are reserved to the day of judgment, to be punished : and Psal. xxxvii. 13. he seeth that their day is coming. If men cut off the lives of those that break their laws, will God be outfaced by the pride and stubbornness of sinners ? He will not ; you shall know he will not: he threateneth not in jest. Who hath hard
ened himself against him, and hath prospered ? Are you not as chaff and stubble, and is not our God a consuming
fire ? If briars and thorns be set against him in battle, will he not go through them, and burn them up together? Can your heart endure, Ezek, xxii. 14, or your hands be strong, in the day when God shall deal with you? It is the Lord that hath spoken it, and he will do it. What will
do when you must bear with the pains of hell from God, that now can scarce endure to be thus openly and plainly warned of it? If we, to please you, should be silent and betray you, do you think the God of heaven will fear or flatter you, or be unjust to please a
Job ix. 4.