« VorigeDoorgaan »
grity, and a harmless and exemplary conduct even in the station of publicans and soldiers.
But these hints must suffice, as every reflecting person will be able to branch out the general rules laid down, into a variety of particulars; and the grand use of preaching is, to lead men to reflection.
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 en'tertained.' But how can such men help seeing, that they only repeat the objections of the Pharisees against Christ himself, and exactly resemble these antient 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 beha
viour? 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 repent"ance." But does any one say, 'I own in general ' that I ought to repent; yet I find a strange insen'sibility of conscience, and backwardness to hum'ble myself before God, or to renounce the pleasures of sin; and a grievous propensity to delay the necessary business, till my alarms and convic'tions vanish without any abiding effect.' To you, my friend, I would observe that repentance is the gift of God; and that Jesus is exalted "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. Meditate 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
Zech. xii. 10.
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 effectually hardens men in impenitence. 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 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 sinner 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." "then the hearts of those rejoice that seek the "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 endeavour, to bring sinners to repentance; and to welcome every penitent with cordial joy and affection, as Ananias did the con verted 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 be
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
1 2 Kings, ix, 11. Jer. xxix, 26, 27. Hos. ix, 7. Mark, iii, 21. John, x, 20.