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SEASON FOR REPENTANCE.

fellow-sinwickedness: what must I do? Is there nothing for me, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation? Indeed, my ner, thy case is very deplorable: the day is almost spent: the night, wherein no man can work, is swiftly approaching: thy work is not begun; yea, all thou hast been doing, during the whole course of thy life, must be as it were undone. Thou must travel back again, with weeping and supplication, all the way which thou hast trodden for so many years. Death, judgment, and eternity, press upon thy unprepared soul: the grave is yawning for thy enfeebled body and should death seize upon thee ere repentance hath taken place, it had been good for thee hadst thou never been born. Still, however, thy case is not desperate: though provoked by thy impenitency, the Lord yet renews his compassionate invitations. If then thy heart begin to relent; if remorse embitter thy soul if thou art at length willing to ac"Him that cometh unto knowledge thy offence, and seek his face; come, and cast thyself at his feet, and venture upon his mercy and truth, who sayeth, If indeed thou art renewed to repentance, though me I will in no wise cast out.' "at the ninth or eleventh hour, thou shalt be equalled with those who have borne the heat and burden of the day." Herein lies the danger and the difficulty: but with God all things are possible; he "can change the Ethiopian's skin and the leopard's spots; and by his power, even thou who hast been long accustomed to do evil, mayest learn to do well." Admire then his long-suffering, who hath borne with thy impenitent disregard of his precepts and promises, his authority and invitations, for forty, fifty, sixty or seventy years, and has neither cut thee off by death, nor deprived thee of thy much abused reason, nor left thee to utter insensibility! This is distinguishing patience!

Methinks, aged sinner, I see thy relentings, hear thy groans, and witness thy tears, confusion, and despondency; whilst the crimes of a long life pass in review before thee, the sword of divine justice is brandished against thee, conscience reproaches, and Satan insinuates that it is now too late. Yea, thou art even inclined once more to listen to his insinuations; and to conclude that there is no hope, and that after such a life, thy late repentance and worthless services will never meet with acceptance. But reject this dishonourable thought, resist the lying tempter; when he persuaded thee, heretofore, that it was too early in life to repent, he led thee to the brink of an awful precipice: if he prevail in persuading thee it is now too late, he pushes thee headlong into everlasting ruin. In both he acts in character, and a murderer from the beginning."

66 a liar

"God's ways are above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts," and "his mercies are higher than the heavens," else the case of the aged sinner would be desperate. But though he will not accept the late repentance, and the feeble obedience of one hour, because they merit such a favour; yet for his own name's sake, and through the atonement and intercession of Jesus, he will pardon, justify, and save all those who truly repent and believe the gospel. This discovery of the unspeakable riches of divine love, whilst it gives encouragement to the drooping heart, ought to increase the sinner's remorse for having so neglected and provoked a God of such excellency and mercy, and to quicken his diligence in availing himself of the divine patience, by fleeing for refuge to the hope still set before him. "Today, if ye will hear his voice," before to-morrow, embrace his proffered mercy, and harden not your hearts. And whatever stage of human life you are now arrived at, I can only inculcate the same exhortation: "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation ;" and suggest the same petition: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it" unto wisdom." Psalm xc. 12. speedily, and "with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Eccles. ix. 10. I have shown you, that this, of all others, is the most necessary and important work you can find to do: make then no delay, lest "he swear in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest."

PART FIFTH.

The Means of Repentance.

IN entering on this part of our subject, a formidable objection may be started, and even grounded on what hath already been discoursed, against treating upon the means of repentance at all. It hath been observed, that repentance is the gift of God to us, the purchase of Christ for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us: "How then," it will be objected, “ can we do any thing towards it? If it please God to bestow it upon us, we shall repent, without difficulty or labour: if not, our labour will be altogether to no purpose." It is indeed a certain truth, that repentance is the gift of God, as it has been proved from plain Scriptural testimonies: but it is equally true, and capable of the same proof, that we must diligently labour for it. Nor is there any inconsistency betwixt these distinct views of the subject: they only appear inconsistent to our dark and narrow apprehensions. Upon a similar occasion, the Truth, the Word, and the Wisdom of God saith, "LABOUR not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall GIVE you." John vi. 27. Christ will give it most freely, but you must labour for it most diligently. Thus the harvest is the gift of God, who giveth seed to the sower; who giveth rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and causeth the earth to yeild her increase; yet must the husbandman labour. In both temporal and spiritual concerns, God gives not to the slothful, but to the diligent; and his bounty does not supersede, but encourage our activity.

He works in us, that we may work out our own salvation; he hath appointed means, and commanded us to use them. Obedience is our duty. We ought to use the means, and trust in the Lord to render them effectual; but not to depend on them, or rest in them. They who seriously desire to repent and turn to God, will manifest their sincerity by thus using every proper means with diligence and perseverance: nor shall their labour be in vain; "for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." But negligence will detect hypocrites, and justify God in their condemnation. Something then must be done in order to our being made partakers of repentance: not under the notion of merit, as if we made the purchase: for it is the gift of God: not under the notion of efficacious operation; for it is the work of divine grace: but in order to evidence our integrity in purposing repentance; and that we may be found waiting upon God in the way of his appointment. And though the means will not affect the end without efficacious grace; yet they are quite as much calculated to produce the effect, as medicines are to remove sickness, or agriculture to procure the crop,-both of which are rendered effectual only by the divine blessing.

1. Then, "Consider your ways" as David did: "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet into thy testimonies." Psalm cxix. 59. Are you now desirous truly to repent? Retire frequently into your chamber, shun the hurry and dissipation of a crowd, and court solitude, that you may recollect yourselves, and seriously commune with your own heart. There minutely review your whole past life: with exactness survey your thoughts, words, and actions, ever since the dawn of reason, or from the beginning of recollection. Ask yourselves seriously such questions as these: What have you been scheming, intending, pursuing, all your days? What hath been the standard of your judgment, and rule of your conduct: the opinion of men, or the word of God: the fashions of the world, or the example of Christ? What have your affections been fixed on? Have you given God, or the world,

your heart: I mean your warmest desires, and most devoted attachment? Have you intentionally been pleasing God, or yourselves? Have you been seeking his glory in every thing; or your own ease, interest, gratification, and honour? In what have your time and money been most cheerfully expended? In works of piety and charity; or in gratifying your sensuality, pride, and ambition: Have you been laying up, or aiming to lay up, treasures in heaven, or on earth? Have you improved health, prosperity, abilities, and influence, in promoting the glory of God, the interests of piety, and the good of men? Or have you done no good, but mischief, with them? Hath God been the delightful subject of your meditations and conversation: or have you willingly and habitually forgotten him, and regarded religious thoughts and converse as insipid and irksome? Hath the sweet work of prayer and praise, the worship of God, and hearing and reading his word, been your pleasure, or your task? Have you been out of your element when thus employed, and found more charms, and experienced more satisfaction in licentious company or dissipated mirth? Have you habitually reverenced the sacred name of God, hallowed his Sabbaths, and frequented his sanctuary with reverence and devotion? Or have you taken his name in vain,* despised his ordinances, polluted his Sabbaths, or mocked him with an hypocritical worship?

What have your imaginations been? pure and heavenly, or lewd, ambitious, envious, covetous, revengeful, and abominable? What has your discourse been? edifying, serious, and candid; or profane, polluted, trifling, slanderous, and dissembling? What have your tempers been? meek, peaceable, and kind; or turbulent, contentious and overbearing? Have you be haved, as the word of God directs, in relative life, as parents, children, husbands, wives, masters, and servants? Has equity, disinterestedness, and kindness; or selfishness, covetousness and fraud, directed your worldly business? Have you in sobriety, chastity, and temperance, governed your appetites and passions?

But I have already exceeded due bounds in this specimen of queries, which you ought with all impartiality to propose to yourselves; allowing conscience, after mature recollection, to return a faithful answer. In short, set the law of God and the example of Christ before your eyes; make diligent search into your secret practices, intentions, and inclinations; steadily view your likeness, and estimate your character in this manner, until you know what manner of persons you are. Shrink not back from that view of self-deformity which will thus be presented to you; but look, and look again, till you "abhor yourselves, and repent in dust and ashes."

The man whose circumstances are embarrassed, may possibly retrieve all, if he have resolution in time to look well into his affairs, and be made sensible how bad they are: but to shrink from this investigation, and to banish reflection on a disagreeable subject, completes many a man's ruin. Thus multitudes are afraid, or averse, fully to examine their own character, conduct, and state; they flee from reflection, because uneasy and mortifying; and huddle up all in an unexamined obscurity, till they rush blindfold into remediless ruin. But by carefully examining how matters stand betwixt God

By taking the name of God in vain, I do not mean, nor does the Bible mean, merely blasphemy, perjury, and profane swearing; but every jest or expression which implies want of reverence to the name of God, his word and sacred things. Almost in all companies, the conversation, even though trifling and polluting, is incessantly interlarded with the words God, Lord, Christ, and such like: which are formed into hackneyed phrases, and used as mere expletives to adorn a period, or as notes of admiration, approbation, or indignation. Nothing can more fully discover the degree in which sinful man despises the glorious God, than this general and almost universal practice. Without pleasure, profit, or apparent temptation, in violation of an express command, and in defiance of an awful threatening, that tremendous name which impresses angels with holy awe, and at which devils tremble, is made man's mere by-word. But when the affronted Jehovah shall at last address the sinner, "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord?" and he finds that God will "not hold him guiltless;" his profane trifling will be at an end; and he will be constrained to tremble at the name which he would not reverence-The inefficacy of much apparent religion, and the worthlessness of much evangelical profession, are demonstrated by their failing to repress this awful profaneness. All true Christians, who worship God in spirit and in truth, are, by that profound veneration which they bear to the Lord, cured effectually of this practice; and they ought to unite in bearing testimony against it, boldly, in all coinpanies.

and our souls, the danger is discovered, the remedy is at hand, and our destruction happily prevented. Shift not then this business; slur it not over, but go through with it, though disagreeable and mortifying; and you will find yourselves amply recompensed, not only by its subserviency to repentance, but to future solid and abiding peace of conscience.

II. Examine your heart and life daily. Nor only say, "What have I done?" but "What am I now doing?" "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" And the Lord pronounces him a fool who trusteth in his own heart. Men retain their good opinion and confidence concerning themselves, because they remain strangers to their own hearts, for want of daily examination: for the only way to discover a concealed villain, is carefully to watch him. Watch then your own hearts: examine well your own lives; keep before your eyes the requirements of the divine law, as far as known: search the Scriptures daily for further information: review your daily conduct, judging of it by that infallible standard: descend to particulars: to omissions and commissions, words and actions, intentions and imaginations, deficiencies and defilements in duty, and backwardness to it. This will prove of vast importance to self-knowledge, and consequently to self-abasement. Though difficult at first, it will soon become natural and pleasant to the true Christian; it will continually keep the heart humble and watchful, and the conscience tender; and dependence on the mercy of God, through the blood of Christ, for pardon, in continual exercise. This conduct, like well arranged accounts, will prevent a thousand anxieties and terrors, in times of danger and sickness, and at the hour of death. Grudge not, then, this labour, if you are ambitious to be called disciples of Jesus, and do not "judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life." III. Meditate frequently upon such subjects, as tend to excite and increase in the heart, the sense of the heinousness of sin; labouring with your reluctant minds to bring and keep them close to this exercise. Impenitency is greatly the effect of extenuating notions of the malignity of sin; repentance must then flow from a sense of its hatefulness. It is needless to enumerate the various subjects which, duly meditated upon, may have this effect; and it would lead us into repetitions. Such are the majesty and excellency, authority and law, threatenings and judgments of God: his righteous severity against sinning angels, against Adam and his whole posterity, against the inhabitants of the old world, against Sodom and Gomorrah, against the nations of Canaan, against the people of Israel, in a variety of instances, especially in the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the continued dispersion of the Jewish nation.-All these, and others too numerous for me to mention, are but forerunners and emblems of that everlasting destruction, with which in a future state all they shall be punished, "who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Now, we know that the judgment of God is according unto truth:" these awful instances of his tremendous justice show us his judgment of the evil of sin, and what it really deserves: even his judgment, who is LOVE, and " delighteth not in the death -of a sinner;" but punishes solely to express his holy hatred of that abominable thing which we lodge in our bosom, and in behalf of which we plead. These things were written on purpose to lead us to judge concerning sin, as God judgeth; and this will surely lead us to unfeigned repentance.

IV. Meditate frequently and intensely on the death of Christ. Consider who he was, and what he suffered, and wherefore he suffered. Purposely retire to contemplate this surprising scene; and yield not to weariness or indisposition, till you arrive at some heart-affecting views of a crucified Saviour. Superficial speculations may amuse the fancy, and furnish our conversation; but without deeply examining and well digesting this subject, and being thus established in judgment concerning it, we can never, in habitual experience, reconcile godly sorrow, with abiding peace and joy in the Lord, or humble repentance, with a lively hope of everlasting life. Here that Christian, who turns his eyes from other objects that he may stedfastly

look unto Jesus, will perceive, that the awful vengeance of God against sin, before considered, proceeds not from want of love to the persons of sinners, but from abhorrence of moral evil-the effect of a perfect view of its infinite malignity that this judgment and conduct are essential to the most perfect character, and requisite to his glory as moral Governor of the universe. When, therefore, in boundless love, he determined the salvation of sinners, he would "not spare his own Son;" but would sooner deliver him, " in whom his soul delighted," to the most intense agonies and ignominious death, than leave sin unpunished, or permit his intelligent creatures to remain ignorant of his infinite hatred of it. For the instruction of the whole universe to eternal ages, in these and other important truths, respecting the divine character, law, and government, did the Son of God" suffer once for sins, the just for the unjust."

Here likewise the sinner may learn to estimate the worth of his immortal soul; the vanity of this world; the dangerous situation in which he is placed; the difficulty there is in a sinner's salvation, which cost him, who created and upholds all things by his powerful word, such humiliation and sufferings; the unpeakable love of God, and his willingness to save sinners; seeing "he hath not withheld his only Son from us." These are lessons eminently conducive to repentance; and which can in no other way be learned to such advantage, as by "looking unto Jesus," and meditating on his sufferings. He, then, who sincerely would repent, must daily retire in contemplation to Gethsemane and Golgotha.

V. Lastly, The whole must be rendered effectual by fervent and importunate prayer, without which all other means would be in vain. Whether we read, or meditate, or examine our lives and hearts, or whatever we do, prayer must accompany all; for it is God who takes away the heart of stone, and gives the heart of flesh, and renews us unto repentance; and him we must earnestly supplicate to bestow on us this good and perfect gift. But alas! it is extremely difficult to prevail upon men to get alone, and on their bended knees, day by day, to beseech the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, to work this change in them, and bestow this gift on them. To read, to hear sermons, and other things of a public nature, men may be more easily induced. A mere form or task of devotion, may also be reconciled with a selfsufficient and worldly spirit and conduct: but real prayer stands in direct opposition to them all. It is the very language of indigence and dependence, and earnest longings after God and holiness. In order to pray aright, a man must know, in some measure, how vast and various his wants are; he must understand his true interest and happiness; he must supremely value the favour and image of God. No man can truly pray for spiritual blessings, who doth not carefully review his life, explore his heart, and in a measure know his own character; who is not in some degree acquainted with the majesty, holiness, and heart-searching knowledge of God, his own absolute dependence upon him, his relations and obligations to him, and his offences committed against him; and who is not, in a general way at least, instructed in the way of access for sinners to an offended God, through the atoning blood of his Son, and humbly willing to approach in this appointed way. Such a man draws near with reverential fear and deep self-abasement, confessing his unworthiness, and imploring forgiveness; encouraged only by believing apprehensions of the rich mercy of God to sinners through the mediation of Jesus. Conscious also of ignorance, weakness and depravity, in humble sincerity and earnest longings, he pleads the promises of the word of God, and implores the teaching, strengthening, sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. Faith, repentance, and universal holiness, he longs for, feels his want of, expects, and seeks daily from God in prayer. In all this, his words express, but not fully, the very meaning of his heart. Daily he thus opens and pours out his soul unto God, turning the precepts and promises which he reads or

Heb. xii. 2. apogwytis.

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