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be discouraged by any fuch fears. If, after a serious repentance, a man should be prevailed upon to re. turn to his former wickedness, in as high or a higher degree than before ; yet, even in this case, we cannot conclude that such a person is for ever excluded by God from all possibility of pardon and reconciliation. On the contrary, we must consider how highly the mercy of God is set forth and magnified, even towards the greatest finners, upon their true repentance ; that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live (d): that he is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all phould come to repentance (e) : that though our fins be as scarlet, or as red as crimfon, yet God is ready upon our repentance to make them as white as wool, or fuozu ().
From thefe and many such passages of scripture, we may gather, that if the most profligate and reJapsed finner does, even after a long time, come at Jaft to such a sense of his own condition, as thoroughly to turn from the wickedness that he bath committed, and live the remainder of his days in the practice of virtue and good works, doing that wbich is lawful and right, even such a person as this shall fave his foul alive (8).
(d) Ezek. xxxiii. 11. (e) 2 Pet. iii.gra (f) Ifai. i, 18. (g) Ezek. xviii. 27.
At the same time it must be obvious to com. mon sense, that the greater a man's fins have been, and the oftener he has relapsed into them, the deeper his forrow and repentance must be. But to make our fear a pretence for keeping ourselves back from this ordinance of God, is in fact to negle&t the means of repentance ; and to render ourselves criminal in a greater degree, for fear we should be fo in a leffer.
Some men pretend, that they are so continually engaged, and taken up with business, that they have not time to prepare themselves for the hcl you communion ; and therefore do not come to it.
These must know, that this duty or business is either lawful or unlawful. If it be such as cannot be followed with a good conscience, it must be renounced in any case.: if it be lawful and com'manded, and engages us in nothing which is dishonest; such business as this is so far from unqualifying a man, that it rather renders him the more fit to receive the holy communion. For as idleness is itself a sin, and the mother, or at least the nur le of all manner of wickedness,fo honest and lawfuli
business is a duty in which every man is obliged to be diligent (h).
But some say their time is so wholly taken up, that they have not leisure for the performance of those folemn devotions which are necessary in order to their due preparation. .
Such may be the condition of fome, as not to have fo much as a place of retirement for their private devotions, as in the case of private soldiers in a camp, and fuch like. But it is a mistake which fome well-meaning men entertain, that they must not venture to receive the holy communion, except they say so many prayers, and spend so many hours in retirement and meditation for some days immediately before the celebration of it.
Where a man indeed is at his own command, and master of his own time, he is much to be commended, if upon such an occasion he spends more hours than at other times, in private prayers, reading, and meditation, that he may trim bis lamp before he goes to meet the bridegroom; and cleanse and adorn his wedding garment, before he comes to the marriage feast. But where the public service of a man's country, or the private necessities of himself or his family, engage him in so much business, as that he has not such leisure for retirement; if, in the midst of his affairs, he takes care to have God
(l) · Thes, iv. 11. Eph. iv. 28..
in his thoughts, and often to lift up his heart to him by private ejaculations ; if he has neither chamber nor closet, garden nor field to withdraw himself into; if he' feriously retires into his own thoughts, he may well hope for acceptance. A man may do this in any place, upon his bed, at midnight, and even in the midst of the greatest croud in the day-time ; he may there enquire into his paft fins, and renew his resolutions of amendment; and if all this proceeds from an honest and wello, meaning heart, truly and affectionately disposed to the service of God, and the practice of piety, no doubt but he will be as well accepted by God, as those who have better opportunities for such performances.
Excuse on account of ignorance, answered.
Some apprehend that they are not fit to come, becaufe they are ignorant, and not well instructed in the principles of their religion. ..
If a man be ignorant of those things which are ordinarily necessary to the salvation of every Chriftian, it is evidently not fit that he should come to the holy communion, until such time as he is better instructed. But such instruction as this is so easy to be had amongst us, that it must be every man's
awn fault if he wants it. How easy is it for every man, who either reads the scripture, or hears it read, fufficiently to learn all the great and necessary things of the Christian religion? As for example,
That God created all things : · That Jesus Christ is the Son of God:
That the same Christ came into the world, and took our nature upon him, to suffer for our redemption :
That after he had suffered, he rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where he remains for ever in the glory and majesty of God; making interceffion for us:
That he hall come again at the end of the world to judge both the living and the dead (who shall at that time be raised again) and to sentence every man, either to everlasting happiness, or etesnas misery:
That every Christian is to be admitted into the church by baptism:
That it is his duty to live soberlý, righteously, and godly, in this present world :
That it is by the aslistance of the Holy Ghost, who is the giver of spiritual life unto us, that we are alone enabled to perform these duties :
Lastly, that in remembrance of the death and paffion" of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we are com