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apply for relief, and embrace happiness? Have you not found the world to be vain and vexatious, and the pleasures of sin bitter and painfui? Have not all endeavours to establish your own righteousness, or overcome your own passions, habits, and temptations, proved wearisome and unsuccessful? Hear then the words of the sinner's Friend, while he speaks to you in accents of the tenderest love.
" Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken
dirigently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, " and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline
your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul " shall live." “ Seek ye the Lord, while he may
be “ found; call ye upon him while he is near: Let the “ wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man “ his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and “ he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for “ he will abundantly pardon."* Confess your sins, , therefore, without reserve; forsake them without de. lay, renounce your former associates in ungodliness; “ Come out from among them, and be ye separate, “and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive “ you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord Almigh“ Cleanse your hands, ye
sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded; be afflicted, “ and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned “ into mourning, and your joy into heaviness; hum. “ ble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall
* Isai. ly. 6, 7.
† 2 Cor. vi, 17, 18.
Make no more vain excuses; pretend not that your sins have been few or small; be not afraid to view them in their full magnitude and malignity; trust only in the mercy of the Father, the atoning blood and prevailing mediation of the Son, and the powerful grace of the holy Spirit; return to the Lord with weeping and supplications; and speedily your sorrows shall be turned into joy, and your heaviness into glad songs of grateful praise.
But men not only should “repent and turn to God;" we must also call on them to do works meet for repentance; and this leads us,
IV. To consider what is meant by this clause of the text.
If a man truly repent of any misconduct, which hath proved injurious to bimself or others, he would be glad, were it possible, to undo what he recollects with shame and remorse. This is indeed impracti- . cable; yet frequently the effects may be prevented or counteracted; and this is a work meet for repentance, especially if it be done with much loss and self-denial. This consideration, however, may suggest a powerful inducement to early piety: for even if the sinner should be spared, and live to repent in his riper years, he will seldom be able to prevent the mischievous effects of his youthful iniquities; and that, which is practicable and indispensable, will resemble“ the cutting off of a right hand, or the plucking out of a right eye.”
* Jam. iv, 6-10.
He who has in any way defrauded others, cannot be thought “ to do works meet for repentance,” unless he makes restitution to the best of his ability and recollection; whatever mortifying or self-denying circumstances attend it: for without this, he retains the wages of his crimes, and perpetuates his injustice. But as one vice often wastes the gains of another, re. stitution may be absolutely impracticable; and in many cases it is almost impossible to know to whom restitution should be made, even if a man is able and will. ing to make it. When therefore the apostle says,
Let bim that stole steal no more; but rather let him
labour, working with his hand the thing which is “good, that he may have to give to him that need. “eth;"'* he seems to counsel such persons to submit to hard labour and mean fare, that by giving to the poor, they might make such restitution, as their cir. cumstances allowed of: and this is certainly a work meet for repentance. Were this lowly, industrious, and self-denying conduct more common among professors of the gospel; they would more frequently be cnabled to adorn the doctrine of Christ by an unre. quired restitution for wrongs, which the laws of men do not notice, but which a tender well-informed conscience cannot overlook. And when wrong has been done, and the individuals who have been injured cannot be exactly ascertained, the poor, especially of the families which have been wronged, should be considered as best entitled to the restitution. This however, is certain, that the professed penitent himself,
* Eph. iv. 28.
whether he have defrauded individuals or the publick, cannot retain it, either as a treasure to hoard up, or as a source of indulgence, without “putting an accursed “thing among his own stuff, and becoming an ac“cursed thing like unto it."*—But we may have traduced the characters, poisoned the principles, or corrupted the morals of others, or in various ways in. jured them, if we have not robbed them of their pro- . perty: and though adequate restitution cannot be made; yet we should do all in our power to coun. teract the effects of our misconduct, and to promote their best interests; if we would evidence the sincerity of our repentance and faith, and of our love to God and man.
He that well understands the gospel of Christ, and the nature of genuine repentance, will readily perceive, that forgiveness of injuries, and love of ene. mies, are peculiarly required by the words of the text. The man who refuses to forgive, surely forgets, his own need of forgiveness. And he, who will do nothing for his enemies, can have no proper sense of his own sinfulness, and of the love of God in reconciling us when enemies by the death of his Son. The view, which the true penitent has of Christ, dying on the cross, and praying for his murderers, will render it easy to him, to pity and love his most determined foes, to do good to them that hate him, and pray for them that despitefully use him and persecute him. These too are works meet for repentance; without which all tears, confessions, and even restitution, can never prove it genuine and unseigned.
* Josh. vii. 11.-159
Patience under afflictions, contentment in our situa. tion, thankfulness for mercies, and meekness under provocations, might be separately considered, did time permit. But in general, an habitual walk in newness of life, comprises the whole. “ The grace of God “ that bringeth salvation, teaches us, that, denying “ ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live so
berly, righteously, and godly in this present world;" watching and praying against the sins which once had most entire dominion over us; redeeming our time and improving our talents, doing good to all men, especially to the household of faith; a circumspect conduct, and a constant attendance on the ordinances of God; a humble deportment in the family and community, as well as in the church; and a care to “ex“ ercise ourselves daily to have a conscience void of
offence, towards God and man:” these I say are works meet for repentance.-When the people asked John Baptist what they should do, in compliance with his exhortation to this effect; he did not require them to retire into deserts, or immure themselves in cloysters, nor even to torment themselves with excessive austerities: but he recommended liberal charity, strict integrity, and a harmless and exemplary conduct even in the station of publicans and soldiers.
But these hints must suffice, as every reflecting per. son will be able to branch out the general rules laid down, into a variety of particulars; and the grand use of preaching is, to lead men to reflection.