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Perhaps, however, I am addressing some persons, who still object to the subject; and confiding in the rectitude of their hearts, and the undeviating virtue of their conduct, count the doctrine of repentance and conversion wholly foreign to their case. I have heard persons of this description gravely observe, that it 'would be much better to preach the necessity of a good ' life, than to dwell on repentance; except among the ' refuse of the species, of whom indeed little hope
could be entertained.' But how can such men help seeing, that they only repeat the objections of the Pharisees against Christ himself, and exactly resemble these ancient opposers of the gospel? I would however, at present only say; If any one of you had a son, whom you had tenderly treated from his birth, and who should yet act with as much disregard to your counsel and authority, as you have done to those of your Creator, would you not think that he ought to repent of his ungrateful behaviour? And have you then no cause for repentance? Verily whatever you may think, it will hereafter appear, that there “is joy " in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than "over ninety and nine such just persons that need no “repentance.” But does any one say, 'I own in
general that I ought to repent; yet I find a strange 'insensibility of conscience, and backwardness to 'humble myself before God, or to renounce the plea
sures of sin; and a grievous propensity to delay the ! necessary business, till my alarms and convictions vanish without any abiding effect.' To you, my friend, I would observe that repentance is the gift of God; and that Jesus is exalted “ to give repentance
“ and remission of sins.” Pray therefore to the Lord to 'give you repentance and his holy Spirit:' cry in the language of Ephraim, “ Turn thou me, and I
shall be turned;” and beg of him to take away the heart of stone, and to give the heart of flesh. Me. ditate also continually on the sufferings of Christ, the dignity of the sufferer, and the exhibition God hath given us, in that great transaction, both of his holy hatred of sin, and his compassionate love of sinners. This is the most effectual cure for a hard heart and an unfeeling conscience.
“ I will pour upon them “ the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they " shall look on me whom they have pierced, and “ mourn."*
But remember that life is uncertain; God, whom thou provokest, especially by impenitence, is the arbiter of thy life and death. The Holy Ghost“ saith, “ To day if you will hear his voice harden not your “ hearts.” Even if your days should be prolonged, you may be given over to final obduracy, and continuance in sin will be sure to increase the anguish of repentance, should you at last, by a miracle of mercy, be plucked as a brand out of the burning.
Above all, my fellow sinners, beware lest you be deceived with a false repentance, for nothing so effec. tually hardens men in impenitence.
penitence. Some transient convictions, fears and sorrows, some partial reformation; a new creed, sect, or form of religion; enthusiastick joys and comforts, or delusive fancies of visions and revelations, frequently satisfy men's consciences
* Zech, xii, 10.
and fill them with spiritual pride; while their hearts remain unchanged, the root of sin unmortified, and no works are found meet for repentance!-Beware also of the partial despairing repentance of Judas, the temporary repentance of king Saul, the extorted repentance of Pharaoh, and the case of him who was almost persuaded to be a Christian. -Nor let it be imagined, that repentance and conversion to God are confined to the beginning of a religious profession: for as long as we continue sinful and prone to depart from the Lord, they must constitute our habitual practice, form the dispositions of our hearts, and influence all our tempers and our conduct.
On the other hand, let not the contrite mourner for sin despond: remember, poor trembling penitent, that “there is joy among the angels of God over one sin"ner that repenteth.” Yea, the Lord of angels,
sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied.” Only beseech Him that thy repentance may be genuine and thy conversion entire; thus thou wilt surely find that he is ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy; and ere long thou wilt joyfully sing, “O Lord, I “ will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me, " thine anger is turned away and thou comfortest me.” “For they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” “Let theil the hearts of those rejoice that seek the 5 Lord."
Finally, my Christian brethren, while you are careful in other respects to do works meet for repentance: let me exhort you to enter into the spirit of the gospel by using every means and encouraging every endea- . vour, to bring sinners to repentance; and to welcome Vol, I.
every penitent with cordial joy and affection, as Ana. nias did the converted persecutor, “Brother Saul, the “ Lord Jesus hath sent me, that thou mightest receive “thy sight.” Thus you will manifest the excellency of your principles, and be honoured as instruments in promoting that cause, for which the divine Saviour came into the world and shed his blood upon the cross; and all men will know that you are his true disciples.
2 CORINTHIANS, v. 17.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old
things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.
THE dangers, to which the church at Corinth was exposed from plausible false teachers, obliged the apostle to use such methods of re-establishing his authority, as he apprehended might be misunderstood and censured: he therefore says, “Whether we be
" beside ourselves it is to God, or whether we be
sober it is for your cause.”—The zealous servants of God have constantly been slighted and despised, as “beside themselves;” nay the Son of God, the perfection of wisdom and excellency, was involved in the same charge, even by his friends and relations, as well as by his enemies. * The apostle therefore would not be greatly disquieted, when, not only Festus said, " Paul thou art beside thyself, much learning doth
* 2 Kings, is, 11. Jer. xxix, 26, 27. Hos. ix, 7. Mark, iii, 210
John, x, 20.