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A means of salvation.
blessed Saviour Jesus Christ laid down his life as a sacrifice for the fins of the world ; that by his death he reconciled us to God, and by the merit of his sufferings made full satisfaction for us; so that it is for the sake of what Christendured, that God was pleased to reverse our condemnation to eternal punishment: nevertheless, this reconciliation that is made by the death of Christ between God and man, is not absolute, but upon certain conditions on the part of man, who must repent to make them capable of that pardon he hath purchased for us ; and therefore, our Saviour hath joined these two together in his commission to the apostles, saying, that repentance and remiffion of sins should be preached in his name throughout all nations.
Therefore, it is mere delusion for man to delay this great and neceffary work. It is unpardonable stupidity for man, who has not the power of his own life, Must not be
delayed. and should he be cut off in the midst of his sins, must be eternally punished, to delay it for the present, and defer it to some future opportunity ; either till the heat of youth is over, or till sickness, old age, or death overtakes him. And it is not only the greatest folly imaginable, to venture a matter of fuch consequence upon such an uncertainty as future time, which we can never be sure of; and to defer a neceffary work to the most unfitting season of performingit; but it is highly wicked, in that we abuse God's patience, who gives us time and opportunity for it at present; and prefer the slavery of fin before his service; it is a contempt of his laws and of that wrath, which is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness: so that we may justly fear that such a proceeding may provoke God to withdraw that grace, which will then be necessary for the exercise of our repentance,
tho he should give us time and opportunity for so great a work.
Not that we pretend to set bounds tothe goodnessand merсу of that Lord, who declares that he wills not the death of a finner : and, whenever a foul is raised from the sleep of fin, it must be ascribed unto the Spirit of God calling her to repentance; consequently, it would be rash and dangerous for us to affert the impossibility of a death-bed repentance. Yet,
V. It is certain, that without a particular grace of God no
man will be able to repent upon his death-bed ; and it is no ways reasonable to expect these extraordinary influences, when the ordinary means of
grace have been neglected all the life long; and therefore, I believe, it very rarely takes effect: but I cannot think it absolutely impossible, because the nature of repentance consisting in the change of our minds ; and the change in our lives being only the necessary effect of that inward change, when it is fincere ; it is possible by the extraordinary grace of God, that the change of our hearts may be true, full, and fufficient, and yet we may want time and opportunity to
shew the effect of it in our deeds. So that God, Dangerous.
who knoweth our hearts, and sees it thus, may take the inward will and choice for the outward service and performance; because he foresees that if time had been allowed, the fick penitent would have kept his good purposes of amendment and obedience to his laws. We also find that the resolutions of a fick bed, though very rarely, yet sometimes have been effectual, which is sufficient to prove the thing possible; and if divines thought otherwise, it would be in vain for them to exhort persons in such circumstances to repent and turn to the God of their falvation. Considering, nevertheless, the difficulty of a thorough change, and the disadvantageous circumstances of a sick bed; it is to be feared, and it is highly probable, that whoever defers it till that time will never repent at all; or if he does, his penitential resolutions being founded
upon such temporary principles as the fear of death, and the absence of temptation, they will seldom prove strong and vigorous enough to produce a thorough reformation; as is plain in the case of those that recover, among whom there
few that are true and constant to those purposes of amendment, which they formed upon the prospect of approaching death. But supposing their penitential purposes be rightly qualified; considering the fickleness of our nature, nothing but the fruits and effects of repentance can create in us an assurance that we are inwardly changed; and consequently, they must needs die very uncomfortably, and in great doubt and anxiety of mind concerning their eternal fate and doom.
On folemn occasions.
VI. From whence we may conclude, concerning the times and frequent returns of our repentance. If we are daily guilty of any sin, we should repent every day. We should We may be instructed in this custom by the chil- repent dren of this world, in the managementof their tem- Daily. poral concerns : they teach us that short reckonings are the safest means to a fair and unperplexed account. We should repent, before all solemn duties, the blessed facrament, &c. The time of affliction is a strong call to repentance, when sickness, or pains, or outward calamities, or a wounded spirit attack In aflicus, we are soon sensible of our own inability; and tions. whither should we fly for refuge? break off thy fins by repentance, says Daniel
. The approach proach of of death is the most awakening season for repen- death. tance, and I fear most mens repentance sets fail from this dangerous port *.
VII. To this duty of repentance we commonly find the duty of fasting joined in scripture; and we there
Fafting fore shall act most prudently and safely, to walk by that rule. Fasting, in a strie fense, implies a total abstinence from all meat and drink the whole day, from morning to evening; and then to refresh ourselves sparingly as to the quantity, and not delicately as to the quality, of the nourish
This was the manner the primitive christians fafted many days before Easter. But in a large sense, fasting implies an abstinence from some kind of food, especially flesh and wine, or a deferring eating beyond the usual hours, as the primitive christians did on their set days, till three in the afternoon, to which hour on those days, their publick assemblies continued t.
By this mortification fome self-denial is designed to our bodily appetites; for no abstinence can partake of the nature of fafting, except there be something in it that afflicts us; and nature seems to suggest it as a proper means to express sorrow and grief; and as a fit method to dispose our minds towards the consideration of any thing that is serious. And therefore, M
Al * See what is said above in fe&t. V. and in chapter XVII. ad repentance. + See page 37, to page 40.
tient chri. itians.
All nations from antient times have used fasting as a part of repentance, and as a means to turn away God's anger; as it is plain in the case of the Ninevites; which was a notion common to them with the rest of mankind. And although our Saviour hath left no positive precept about fafting, yet he joins it with almsgiving and prayer, unquestionable duties: and the directions he gave in his admirable sermon
the mount, concerning the performance of it, sufficiently supposes the ne
cessity of the duty; which if governed by such A necessary rules as our Saviour there lays down, will be accepduty.
ted by God, and openly rewarded by him when he judges us according to our works.
Therefore the antient christians were very exact How obferv. ed by the an- both in their weekly, and yearly fasts: their week
ly fasts-were kept on Wednesdays and Fridays, be
cause on the one, our Lord was betrayed, and on the other, crucified for our sins.
It was also a duty all along observed by devout men, and acceptable to God, under the Old and New Testament, both as it was helpful to their devotion, and as it became a part thereof. But no fast may be accounted religious, but such as is undertaken, to restrain the looser appetites of the flesh, and to keep the body under subjection ; to give the mind liberty and ability to consider and reflect while it is actually engaged in divine service, or preparing for some folemn part of it; to humble ourselves before God under a sense of our sins, and the misery to which they expose; to turn away his anger, and to supplicate for his mercy and favour ; to express revenge against ourselves, for the abuse of those good things God alloweth us to enjoy, and of which we have made ourselves unworthy by finful excesses, when it is used as a piece of selfdenial, in order the better to command our fleshly appetites; and as a means to raise in our minds a due valuation of the happiness of the other world, when we despise the enjoyments of this; and, above all, to make it acceptable to God, it should be accompanied with fervent prayer, and a charitable relief of the
poor, whose miseries we may the better guess at, when we are bearing some of the inconveniences of hunger; always taking care to avoid all presumption, never to fast under a
Is not me.
supposition that we merit thereby, nor in such an extreme manner as may prejudice our health, and indispose us for the service of God. But beware of temp- ritorious. tation ; let us deal impartially with ourselves, and not make use of these reasons, without grounds as a pretence to excuse ourselves from the obligation of this duty *.
VIII. Neither is this to be accounted the whole of our repentance; sorrow
Of satisfacfasting may be undertaken on worldly views ; wherefore our repentance should be always accompanied with fatisfaction for injuries done by us : concerning which, observe that it is that part of justice to which a man is obliged by some former contract, or a foregoing fault, by his own or another man's act, either with, or without his will. The borrower is bound to pay, and much more he that steals or defrauds. In the case of stealing, there is an injury done to our neighbour, and the evil still remains after the action is past, therefore for this weare accountable to our neighbour, and we are to take the evil off from him, which we brought upon him, or else he is an injured person, and a sufferer all the while : and that any man should be the worse for me, by my act, and by my intention, is against the rule of equity, of justice, and of charity; I do not that to others which I would have done to myself, for I
the ruins .of my neighbour. Wherefore, our sin can never be pardon.ed till we have restored what we unjustly took, or wrongfully detained : which we must really perform when we are able. Which doctrine, besides it's evident and apparent reasonableness, is derived from the express words of scripture, reckoning restitution to be a part
Necessary - necessary in order to the remission of our fins : if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, &c. he shall surely live, he shall not die. And the practice of this part of justice is to be directed by these rules following. That person who is a real cause of doing his neighbour wrong, whether by commending or encou
reftitution. - raging it, by counselling or commanding it, by
acting • See also what is said in chapter XVII, concerning repentance.
See above in page 162.