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any one of
in the rectitude of their hearts, and the undeviating virtue of their conduct, count the doctrine of repentance and conversion wholly foreign to their case. I have heard persons of this description gravely observe, that ' it would be much better to preach the necessity of a good life, than to dwell on repentance; except among the refuse of the species, of whom indeed little hope could be en* tertained.' But how can such men help seeing, that they only repeat the objections of the Pharisees against Christ himself, and exactly resemble these antient opposers of the gospel? I would however, at present only say ; If
you had a son, whom you had tenderly treated from his birth, and who should yet act with as much disregard to your counsel and authority, as you have done to those of your Creator, would you not think that he ought to repent of his ungrateful behaviour And have you then no cause for repentance? Verily, whatever you may think, it will hereafter appear that there “is joy in heaven over
one sinner that repenteth, more than over nine“ty and nine (such) just persons that need no repentance.”—But does any one say, 'I own in general that I ought to repent; yet I find a strange insensibility of conscience, and backward'ness to humble myself before God, or to renounce
the pleasures of sin; and a grievous propensity 'to delay that necessary business, till my alarms and convictions vanish without any abiding ef'fect ?'' To you, my friend, I would observe that repentance is the gift of God; and that Jesus is exalted “ to give repentance and remission of “ sins." Pray therefore to the Lord to give you
repentance and his holy Spirit;' cry in the language of Ephraim, “Turn thou me, and I shall be “ turned ;" and beg of him to take away the heart of stone, and to give the heart of flesh. Meditate also continually on the sufferings of Christ, the dignity of the sufferer, and the exhibition which God hath made to us, in that great transaction, both of his holy hatred of sin, and of his compassionate love of sinners. This is the most effectual cure for a hard heart and an unfeeling conscience. “ I will pour upon them the Spirit of
grace and supplication, and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and mourn.”!
But remember that life is uncertain ; and that God, whom thou provokest, especially by impenitence, is the arbiter of thy life and death. The Holy Ghost saith, “ To-day, if ye will hear his
voice, harden not your hearts.” Even if your days should be prolonged, you may be given over to final obduracy; and continuance in sin will be sure to increase the anguish of repentance, should you at last, by a miracle of mercy, be plucked as a brand out of the burning.
Above all, my fellow sinners, beware lest you be deceived with a false repentance; for nothing so effectually hardens men in impenitence. Some transient convictions, fears, and sorrows; some partial reformation; a new creed, sect, or form of religion ; enthusiastic joys and comforts, or delusive fancies of visions and revelations; frequently satisfy men's consciences and fill them with spiritual pride, while their hearts remain un
changed, the root of sin unmortified, and no works are found meet for repentance !-Beware also of the partial despairing repentance of Judas; of the temporary repentance of king Saul; of the extorted repentance of Pharoah; and of the case of him who was “almost persuaded to be a Chris“ tian.”—Nor let it be imagined, that repentance and conversion to God are confined to the beginning of a religious profession : for, as long as we continue sinful and prone to depart from the Lord, they must constitute our habitual practice, form the dispositions of our hearts, and influence all our tempers and our conduct.
On the other hand, let not the contrite mourner for sin despond. Remember, poor trembling penitent, that “there is joy among the angels of “ God over one sinner that repenteth.” Yea, the Lord of angels “ sees of the travail of his soul and “is satisfied.” Only beseech Him that thy repentance may be genuine, and thy conversion entire: thus thou wilt surely find that he is “ ready to “ forgive and plenteous in mercy;" and ere long thou wilt joyfully sing, “ O Lord, I will praise “ thee; though thou wast angry with me, thine
anger is turned away and thou comfortest me.' For “ they that sow in tears shall reap in joy." “Let then the hearts of those rejoice that seek “ the Lord."
Finally, my Christian brethren, while you are careful in other respects “ to do works meet for
repentance,” let me exhort you to enter into the spirit of the gospel by using every means and encouraging every endeavour, to bring sinners to repentance; and to welcome every penitent with
cordial joy and affection, as Ananias did the converted persecutor, “ Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus “ hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy
sight.” Thus you will manifest the excellency of your principles, and be honoured as instruments in promoting that cause for which the divine Saviour came into the world and shed his blood upon the cross ; and all men will know that you are his true disciples.
2 CORINTHIANS V. 17.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old
things are passed away ; behold, all things are become new.
The dangers to which the church at Corinth was exposed, from plausible false teachers, obliged the apostle to use such methods of re-establishing his authority, as he apprehended might be misunderstood and censured : he therefore
“Whether we be beside ourselves it is to God, or whether
we be sober it is for your cause.”—The zealous servants of God have constantly been slighted and despised, as “ beside themselves ;” nay, the Son of God, the perfection of wisdom and excellency, was involved in the same charge, even from his friends and relations as well as from his enemies. The apostle therefore would not be greatly disquieted when Festus said, “ Paul thou art beside
thyself, much learning doth make thee mad,” nor even when his Corinthian converts concurred in the same sentiment.
* But,' says the apostle, “Both the ardour that gives occasion to such imputations, and the wis* dom which regulates its effects, spring from re'gard to the glory of God, and affectionate longing
Kings ix. 11. Jer. xxix. 26, 27. Hos. ix. 7.
Mark ii, 21. John x. 20.