« AnteriorContinuar »
ing foolishly neglected the most important concern of our lives, and done what in us lies to make ourselves everlasting: ly miserable ; that we have been ungrateful to our mighty benefactor, and unfaithful to our best friend; that we have affronted heaven with those very blessings we have received from thence; and that we have despised the riches of God's goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, which should have led us to a thorough change of our life and conversation. And this forrow for our sins must be expressed, by humbly confeffing them to almighty God, with shame and confusion of face, by an utter abhorrence and detestation of them, by being heartily troubled for what we have done amiss, and resolving not to do the like any more: and by teftifying the reality of our inward sorrow, by all those ways that we find naturally occur in other cases that affict us; as in fafting, weeping, mourning, and praying; it being very fit, that as the soul and body have been partakers in the fame fins, so they should join together in the same humiliation and firm resolution of amendment. But .
All sorrow for sin, and all purposes of amendment for the Whence it time to come, are not in all cales sufficient to be arifeth. . properly called repentance, or an hearty contrition: because if this sorrow and purpose of amendment arise not from a pure love of God, and deep sense of our own foul ingratitude in offending so good and gracious a being, but only from a dread of his justice, and fear of being punished for transgressions; our repentance and good purposes, though they carry with them the appearance of never fo much truth and reality, ought juftly to be suspected as insufficient. Which duty therefore does not only from hence appear to be necessary, but it is strongly inforced, even with the force of command, when our Saviour declares, that, Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perith, Luke xiii. 5.
The best method to make such a resolution of amendWhen effec- ment effectual is to extend it to all the particulars tual." of our duty, obliging ourselves to have a respect to all God's commands, and to avoid every thing his law condemns. Thus true repentance must be pure, constant, and perfevering in its effects; that is, it must put a man inte
such a state, as that he will not any more return wilfully unto fin. He therefore, that repents, ought to be infinitely fearful of relapsing into fin, as one that is purecom
It must be recovering out of a dangerous and almost mortal Jiant, and sickness. Whenever he wilfully relapses, he makes perfevering. his case worse than it was at first, and his disease more in danger of being mortal; it becomes much harder for him to renew himself unto repentance; and much more difficult to procure pardon: It is true, evil habits are not to be rooted out at once, and vicious customs to be overcome in a moment. So long therefore as a man does not return wilfully and deliberately into the habit of fin, many surprises and interruptions in the struggle with a customary vice may be consistent with the progress of repentance: but it is then only that it becomes complete and effectual, when the evil habit is so intirely rooted out, that the inan thence-forward obeys the commandments of God without looking back, and returns no more to the sins he has condemned. Let no man therefore think that he has truly repented of any deadly sin, so long as he continues to practise and repeat it. He may fast, and pray, and lament, and use all the apparent signs of repentance imaginable : but God will never esteem his repentance true, nor accept it as available to the forgiveness of lin, till he sees it pure, and constant, and persevering.
It is mere delufion and unpardonable stupidity for man, who has not the power of his own life, and, ihould Mül not be he be cut off in the midst of his fins, must be delayed. eternally punished, to delay this great and necessary work for the present, and defer it to some future opportunity; either till the heat of youth isover, or till sickness, oldage, or death overtakes him. And it is not only the greatest folly imaginable to venture a matter of such consequence upon such an uncertainty as future time, which we can never be sure of; and to defér a necessary work to the most unfitting season of performing it; butitis highly wicked, in that we abuse God's patience, who gives us time and opportunity for it at present, and prefer the slavery of sin 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. This is indeed a melancholy considera-, tion: and what shall I say to awaken men out of this fatal lethargy, and to inspire them with a just sense of their danger, but intreat them to consider, that, unless they repent, they will certainly perish? Through the times of ignorance God winked, yet now he commandeth all men every-where to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained. A day when the sinners will in vain call to the mountains and rocks to fall on them, and to hide them; and when that dreadful sentence shall be pronounced, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. This is sufficient to sew us the great ncceflity of denyingungodlinessand worldly lusts, and of living righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world.
From whence we may conclude concerning the times and Times for frequent returns of our repentance: If we are daily this diety. guilty of any fin, we should repent every day : because sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We may be Dailes instructed in this custom by the children of this
world in the management of their temporal concerns: they teach us, that shortreckonings are the safestmeans to a fair and unperplexed account. We Thould repent before On filemn all folemn days, the blessed Sacrament, 8c. The ercafons. time of affliction is a strong call to repentance : when fickness, or pains, or outward calamities, or a wounded In affiti- fpirit attack us, we are soon fenfible of our own ons. inability: and whither should we fly for refuge ? Break off thy sins by repentance, says Daniel, left ye be pus nished with those who defpise the chastifements of the Lord. At death.
wk The approach of death is the most awakening lea
"e son for repentance; and I fear moft men's repentance sets fail from this dangerous port. Not that we pretend to fet bounds to the goodness and mercy of that Lord, who declares that he wills not the death of a finner ; and, whenever a soul is raised from the lecp of sin, it must be ascribed
unto the Spirit of God calling her to repentance. Consequently it would be rash and dangerous for us to assert the imposfibility of a death-bed repentance. Yet, it is certain, that without a particular grace of God no man will be the day able to repent upon his death-bed; and it is no of deferring way reasonable to expect these extraordinary in- it till then. fluences, when the ordinary means of grace have been neglectedallour life long. Hewholong pursues avicious courte, and returns not till the latter end of his days, must never expect either to live or die in fo great peace, or so assured a prospect of being happy in the other world, tho' he be never lo diligent and sincere in his religion, as he who begins betimes. All his hopes will be mingled with fad fears of his condition; the sense of the many grievous fins of his life. so long persisted in, will still be afflicting his conscience; and he will still be doubtful whether he hath sufficiently repente ed of them, and whether God hath received him to favour. This is the unavoidable consequence of putting off the bufiness of religion to our latter days. Wherefore,
It is to be feared, that it is highly probable, that whoever defers it till that time, will never repent at all; or if he does, his penitential resolutions being found
The disaded upon such temporary principles as the fear of a deaih. bed death, and the absence of temptation, they will repentance. seldom prove strong and vigorous enough to produce a thorough reformation; as is plain in the case of those that recover, among whom there are very few that are true and constant to those purposes of amendment, which they formed upon the prospect of approaching death. Therefore make no delay in this great and neceílary works, for there can be no repentance in the grave: and we are taught by ,.
No purgathe church, that · The Romißh do&rine concern‘ing purgatory, pardons, and invocation of saints, pentance in • is a fond thing, vainly intended, and grounded the grave. upon no warranty of scripture, but rathor repugnani to the word of God.' * And Length of time will add strength to thy evil inclinations,
STUua vantages of
* See the 22d Article of Religion.
and weaken thy good resolutions. Can the man who has Cuftom of cherished fin all his life in his bofom, and wilfully fin. neglected, if not abhorred, God and his means of grace, ever hope to be so thoroughly changed in a moment, as effectually to hate fin, and turn unto the God of his falvation with all his heart?
Or, again ; what hopes can a man entertain that he shall
... find time and opportunity for this necessary duty, Bodily pain.
dy parts when the little remains of life are filled up with continual distractions and afflictions, which are the necessary effects of those diseases, which commonly bring us to the grave ? VII. To this duty of repentance we commonly find the
duty of Fasting joined in scripture; and we taffing. therefore shall act most prudently and safely to conform to that rule. Fasting, in a strict sense, 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 nourishment. But, in a large sense, fasting implies an abstinence from some kind of food, especially from 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 hours in those days their publick assemblies continued. By this mortification some felf-denial is designed to our A revenge
bodily appetites; for no abstinence can partake of upon our. the nature of fasting, except there be something in felves. 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 confideration of any thing that is serious: And therefore all nations from ancient 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 altho' our Saviour hath left no positive precept about fasting, yet he joinsitwithalmsgiving and prayer, which are unquestionable duties; and the directions he gave in his admirable sermon upon the mount, concerning the performance of it, sufficiently suppose the necessity of the