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sinful and unworthy soul to the mere mercy of God in Christ.
On the contrary, a dead faith always either puffs up the vain mind with a haughty pleasing apprehension of its own attainments, makes it censorious and uncharitable, and inspires it with that proud Pharisaical language, “ I thank God I am not as other men;" or else, from the same haughty principle, either leaves the soul secure and easy, in its good designs and purposes of future repentance, or impatient and desponding, through want of those good qualifications which it supposes necessary.
I think I need not enlarge upon this distinction, it is so apparent and manifest, and the characters so easy to be known.
And now, Sir, to sum up the whole in a short and easy view :- If you have good evidence of a saving faith in Christ, you must have such a sensible impression of the truth of the Gospel, as makes you feel the importance of your eternal concerns, and your necessity of an interest in Christ; and puts your soul upon
earnest and active desires after him, as your only hope and safety. You must heartily approve the way of salvation which the Gospel reveals, and heartily consent to the terms on which it is offered. You must accept of Christ as a free gift; bringing nothing with
you his acceptance.
You must accept of him as your only righteousness to justify you before God; and as your Prince, as well as Saviour; consenting as well to be governed as to be saved, to be sanctified as to be justified, by him. And as you must receive him, so you must confidently trust in him alone, as
a sure foundation of safety and hope, and as a continuing fountain of all supplies of grace to your soul, whatever difficulties and discouragements you may meet with.
And you must have this standing evidence of the sincerity of your faith, that it purifies your heart, and brings you to an earnest desire of, and endeavour after, habitual holiness of heart and life; that it works by love to God and man, and keeps up in your soul an abasing sense of your own vileness . and utter unworthiness, after all. This is that
precious faith to which the promises of the Gospel are made, and to which no false professor can make any just pretence.
To conclude with a still shorter view of this case: When a realizing belief of the Gospel, and a despair of all help in yourself, brings you to repair to Christ as your only safety; and to venture your soul, guilty as it is, upon the merit of his obedience, the sufficiency of his grace and strength, and the faithfulness of his promise, and heartily to submit to his rule and government—now you cannot fail of the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, to qualify you for the eternal inheritance; for “the Amen, the true and faithful Witness," has given you his word for it, that if you
come to him, he will in nowise cast you out."
I might sum up this important point in a yet shorter view:- If you so heartily approve of, and delight in, the Gospel-way of salvation by Christ alone, that you can cheerfully venture your soul and your eternal interests upon it, as the sure and only foundation of hope and safety, you have then the faith of God's elect; and, in this case, he that has be
stowed such grace upon you, will carry on his own work in your soul, will give you those several quali, fications and evidences of a gracious state which I have before described, and will at last present you faultless before his throne, with exceeding joy. That you may have the delightful experience of such a progress of grace in your soul, is the prayer of,
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEGAL AND AN EVANGELICAL REPENTANCE DISTINCTLY CONSIDERED.
You justly observe, “ It is of infinite concern that your repentance towards God (as well as your faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ) be sincere; and that you have therefore cause to be solicitous, not to be deceived with a repentance which must be repented of.” And you have, therefore, just reason to desire " a clear apprehension of the difference between a legal and an evangelical repentance.” I shall therefore endeavour, according to your desire, " to show you the difference, in as easy and familiar a light as I can.” And perhaps it may give you a clearer view of the case, if I should show you first, negatively, wherein the distinction does not consist, under a few particulars, before I proceed to a direct illustration of it.
may then be observed, that a deep distress of mind, on account of sinning against God, is common both to a legal and evangelical repentance. Even Judas could cry out with agony of soul, “ I have sinned, in betraying innocent blood :” as well as the Psalmist groans out his complaint, that there was
vo rest in his bones because of his sins." A distressing sense of sin, in itself considered, is therefore no evidence for nor against the truth and sincerity of repentance.
Moreover, a fearful apprehension of the divine displeasure may be common to both sorts of penitents. Mere legal convictions may make “ sinners in Zion afraid, and fearfulness surprise the hypocrite:” and destruction from God may be a terror to a holy Job, in as great reality, though not with such despairing infidelity, as to a Cain or Judas; but this can be no distinguishing mark of a true or false repentance.
I may add, dread of, and a temporary reformation from, outward and known courses of sinning, may likewise be the consequence of both a legal and evangelical repentance. Ahab humbled himself, lay in sackcloth, and went softly; and Herod reformed 'many things, as well as David refrained his feet from every evil way. It is impossible for a sinner to give the reins to his lusts, while under the severe lashes of an awakened conscience; that a mere legal conviction must, while it lasts, procure an external reformation. Such a reformation, of itself, can therefore be no evidence of a sincere repentance, how great soever it may appear; and be sure, it can be no evidence against it.
Besides, men may be put upon diligence and activity in duty, by both a legal and evangelical repentance. An insincere repentance may bring men, with the hypocritical Jews, to “ seek the Lord daily, and delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness. In their afflictions they may seek him early. They may seek him and return, and inquire early after God.” This may be the fruit of a legal repentance, as well as that a true repentance may, and always does, bring men to “ lift up their hearts and their hands to God in the heavens." This, therefore, can be no distinguishing criterion in the case before us.
Once more; a comforting persuasion of having obtained pardoning mercy is common to both kinds of penitents. God's ancient people, when most incorrigible in their impiety, would “trust in lying words, come and stand before him in the house that was called by his name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations." The Israelites in the wilderness concluded, that “ God was their Rock, and the most high God their Redeemer, when they flattered him with their lips, and lied to him with their tongues, and their hearts were not right with him." And, on the other hand, the true penitent may say with David, “I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest me the iniquity of my sin." A mere persuasion of forgiveness, therefore, how comfortable or joyful soever, does not distinguish the nature of that repentance on which such a persuasion is founded.
In short, it is not the deepest sense of sin or guilt, nor the most distressing sorrow on that account; it