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where it has prejudiced men's minds against religion, or led them into sin, and emboldened them in it; or in any way tended to the dishonour of God, and the ruin of souls.' Gladly would he undo this part of his conduct : it ever grieves him upon reflection : he is pained that the seed is sown, and springs up and grows, notwithstanding all his endeavours to the contrary. But, as far as his retraction, his arguments, his persuasions, his example, and influence, can reach, he will endeavour to prevent the further progress of the mischief.In these and various other particulars, true repentance influences a man sincerely to desire and endeavour, to counteract the tendency of his former evil conduct : but appearances of humiliation for sin may be and often are without this distinguishing effect. Thus Ahab humbled himself and was clothed in sackcloth, but neither restored Naboth's vineyard, nor ceased to commit iniquity.
III. True repentance is ' attended with a deter'mination of mind, through divine grace, to walk * for the future in newness of life, evidenced to 'be sincere by fruits meet for repentance;' that is, by all holy dispositions, words, and actions.
This is at last the grand distinction betwixt true repentance, and all false appearances. Though men be abundant in shedding tears, and make the most humiliating confessions, or most ample restitution ; though they openly retract their false principles, and are zealous in promoting true religion ; tholgh they relate the most plausible story of experiences, and profess to be favoured with the most glorious manifestations ; though they have strong confidence, high affections, orthodox sentiments, exact judgment, and extensive knowledge; yet, except they“ do works meet for “ repentance,” all the rest is nothing, they are still in their sins. For the tree is known by the fruit; and
every tree that bringeth not forth “ good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Yea, though Cain's terror, Judas's confession and restitution, Pharaoh's fair promises, Ahab's humiliation, Herod's reverencing the prophet, “hearing “ him gladly, and doing many things,” the stony ground hearer's joy; together with “the tongues “of men and of angels,” the gifts of miracles and prophecy, and the knowledge of all mysteries, were combined in one man ; they would not prove him a true penitent, so long as the love of one lust remained unmortified in his heart, or the practice of it was allowed in his life.
Unless the drunkard become habitually sober, and “ the churl learn to be liberal ;” unless the contentious man learn meekness, and the proud humility ; unless every man break off, and set himself to oppose, and mortify his constitutional and customary iniquity; there is no real repent
The man's mind is not changed' respecting sin : he does not sincerely grieve that ever he committed it, nor really desire it undone, nor heartily abhor it, nor is willing to be finally divorced from it; not from his darling indulgence, his Delilah, his Herodias ; however he be affected, alarmed, and restrained.
I allow that the true penitent will find work enough all his life with his own peculiar evil propensities; and, after all his watchfulness, prayer, and determination of mind against every sin, he
will too often manifest, to his great sorrow, that his evil nature is not destroyed, that sin yet dwells within him ; but he will also give abundant evidence that no sin hath dominion over him ; that his own iniquity is peculiarly abhorred, dreaded, and opposed ; and that, in short, “he is a new “ creature ; old things are past away, behold all
things are become new.” This will not be so evident to others, in the case of a man who was before moral and decent in his character: but it will be equally manifest to his own conscience; whilst he observes that he now acts from other principles, to other ends, and by another rule, than heretofore ; and now not only has regard to those things with which men are acquainted, but with equal care and attention abstains from secret sins, from evil tempers, intentions, and imaginations, which are manifest only unto God.
It appears, then, that this necessary repentance is a very arduous business. Thus our Lord represents it : “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; “ for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be “able.” Do you object the profit and pleasantness of your sins, and the pain of parting with them? He answers,
“ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck “ it out: if thy right hand or foot offend thee, cut “ it off: for it is profitable for thee,” thus maimed and mutilated, “ to enter into life, rather than
having two eyes, two hands, two feet, to be cast “ into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the “ fire is not quenched.” When the difficulty is objected, the necessity is urged ; and the awful alternative, repentance or eternal damnation! But should any urge the impossibility; he proposes the
A DISCOURSE UPON REPENTANCE.
effectual assistance of Him, to whom all things are possible. An easy slothful religion may serve a man to live with ; but only a diligent, self-denying religion will comfortably prepare him to meet death. “ Except a man deny himself, take up his
cross daily, and forsake all that he hath, he can“not be my disciple,” saith the loving Saviour of the world, the Judge of the living and of the dead: and, because we are so backward to believe it, and so much depends upon believing it, he confirms it with a double asseveration ; “ Verily, verily, I say “ unto you.”
But, though the work is great, and requires labour and self-denial, there is no cause for despondency; the encouragements are proportionable ; the success certain to every one who is in good earnest about it; and the work itself unspeakably. more pleasant than all the forbidden delights of sin.
ENCOURAGEMENTS TO REPENTANCE.
I have already intimated, that he, who, convinced of the necessity of repentance, in good earnest uses those means which God has appointed in order to it, may depend upon the effectual assistance of the Holy Spirit, in this important undertaking, which will render it both practical and pleasant: and the same topic will afterwards be resumed, when those means are treated of. I shall not therefore farther speak upon the subject in this place, but lead your attention to those encouragments, which arise from the assurance that repentance is inseparably connected with salvation.
I. In the first place, “God commandeth all “men every where to repent.” Were there any of the human race who did not need repentance, or any to whom repentance would be unavailing, we may be sure God would not have given such a commandment. He sends no message of this kind to fallen angels, or to the souls of wicked men who have died in their sins ; because he hath determined to shew them no mercy. Having done wrong in sinning, doubtless they continue to do wrong in not repenting : and their impenitent rebellion and enmity to God will eternally illustrate his justice in their condemnation; as all will see, that he doth not without cause treat them as enemies. A man who has murdered his lawful prince, though the law must have its course, ought to