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defires after him, as your only hope and fafety. Yoù muft heartily approve the way of falvation which the gospel reveals ; and heartily confent to the terms on which it is offered. You muft accept of Christ as a free gift; bringing nothing with you of your own, to recommend you to his acceptance. You muft accept of
and as your prince, as well as Saviour ; confenting as well to be governed as to be faved, to be fanĉtified as to be justified by him. And‘as you muft receive him, fo you must confidently truft in him alone, as a fure foundation of fafety and hope; and as a continuing fountain ofall fupplies of grace to your foul, whatever difficulties and difcouragements you may meet with. And you mufthave this standing evidence of the fincerity of your faith, that it purifies your heart; and brings you to an earneft defire of, and endeavour after, habitual holinefs of heart and life: tlıat it works by love to God and man; and keeps up in your foul an abafing fenfe of your own vilenefs and utter unworthinefs, after all. This is that precious faith, to which the promises of the gospel are made, and to which no falfe professor can make any just pretence. - *v To conclude with a still shorter view of this cafe, when a realizing belief of the gospel, and a despair of all help in yourself brings you to repair to Christ as your only fafety; and to venture your foul, guilty as it is, upon the merit of his obedience, the fufficiency of his grace and strength, and the faithfulnefs of his promife : and heartily to fubmit to his rule and government, now you cannot fail of the fanċtifying influences of his Spifit, to qualify you for the eternal inheritance: For the Amen, the true and faithful witne/, has given you his word for it, that if you thus come to him, he will in ns wife cast you out. . - I might fum up this important point in a yet shorter view. If you fo heartily approve of, and delight in the gospel-way of falvation by Christ alone, that you can chearfully venture your foul and your eternal interefts upon it, as the fure and only foundation of hope and fafety, you have then the faith of Ged’s eleót. And in this cafe he that has befowed fuch graçe upon you, will carry on his own work in your foul, will give you thofe feveral qualifications and evidences of a gracious ftate, which I have before defcribed ; and will at last prefent you faultlefs before his throne, with exceeding joy. - That you may have the delightful experience of fuch a progress of grace in your foul, is the prayer of,
LETTER IX. Wherein the Dirrerencr between a LEGAL and an EvANGELICAL REPENTAN ce is distinčily considered.
OU jufily obferve, o It is of infinite concern, that “ your repentance towards God (as well as your faith towards the Lord Jefus Chrift) be fincere; and that you have therefore caufe to be folicitous, not to be deceived with a repentance which muft be repented of.’ And you have therefore jufl reafon to defire * a clear apprehenfion of the difference between a legal * and an evangelical repentance.’ I shall therefore endeavour according to your defire, o to fhew you the dif* ference, in as eafy and familiar a light as I can.” And perhaps it may give you a clearer view of the cafe, if I íhould fhew you first negatively, wherein the diftinction does not confift, under a few particulars, before l proceed to a direći illuftration of it. It may then be observed, that a deep distrefs of mind on account of finning again/f God, is common both to a legal and evangelical repentance. Even Judas could cry out with agony of foul, I have finned in betraying innocent blood : as well as the Psalmist groans out his complaint, that there was no rest in his bones because of his sins. A distreffing fenfe of fin, in itself confidered, , is therefore no evidence for nor against the truth and fin cerity of repentance. * * , - Moreover a fearful apprehenfion of the divine difpleafure; may be common to both forts of penitents. Mere legal convictions may make finners in Zion afraid, and Jea/Vith/i/urprizé the hypocrite: And destrustion from
God may be a terror to a holy Job, în as great reality, though not with fuch despairing infidelity, as to a Cain or Judas; but this can be no diftinguishing mark of a true or falfe repentance. - - * I may add, dread of, and a temporary reformation from outward and known courses of finning, may likewife be the confequence of both a legal and evangelical repentance. Ahab humbled himfelf, lay in fackloth, and went foftly; and Herod reformed many things, as well as David refrain’d his feet from every evil way. It's impoffible for a finner to give the reins to his lufts, while under the fevere lashes of an awaken’d confcience : that a mere legal convićtion muft, while it laftes, procure an external reformation. Such a reformation, of itfelf, can therefore be no evidence of a fincere repentance, how great foever it may appear, and be fure it can be no evidence against it. Befides, men may be put upon diligence and aĉtivity in duty, by both a legaland evangelical repentance. An unfincere repentance may : men with the hypocri'tical Jews, to feek the Lord daily ; and delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteoufness. In their afflictions they may feek him early. They may feek him and return; and enquire early after God. This may be the fruit of a legal repentance : as well as that a true repentance may and always does bring men to lift up their hearts and their hands to God in the heavens. This therefore can be no diftinguishing criterion, in the cafe before us. Once more, a comforting perfuafion of having ob'tained pardoning mercy, is common to both kinds of penitents. God’s ancient people, when most incorrigible in their impiety, would trufi în lying words, come and fand before him in the house that was called by his name, and/ay, we are delivered to do all these abominations. The Ifraelites in the wildernefs concluded, that God was their Rock, and the most high God their Redeemer, when they fattered him with their lips, and yed to him with their tongues ; and their hearts were not right with him. And on the other hand, the true penitent may fay with David, I faid I will confe/s my transgressions unto the Lord : and thou forgavest me the iniquity of my fîn, , A mere perfuasion of forgivenefs therefore, how comfortable or joyful foever, don't diftinguish the nature of that repentance, on which fuch a perfuasion is founded. In short, it is not the deepest fenfe of fin or guilt, nora the most distreffing forrow on that account ; it is not the fear of God’s wrath, nor the greatest external reforma- . ' tion of life ; it is not the most diligent external attendance upon all known duty; nor the most quieting perfuafion of having made our peace with God; nor all thefe together that will denominate a man fincerely penitent. For all thefe may be, and have been, attained to by mere hypocrites; and often are found with the falfe as well as the true profeffor. Having by way of precaution, given you thefe remarks, I now proceed direćtly to confider the important cafe before us. And, 1. A legal repentance flows only from a fenfe of danger, and fear of wrath ! But an evangelical repentançe is a true mourning for fin; and an earneft defire of deliverance from it. When the confcience of a finner işe alarmed with a fenfe of his, dreadful guilt, it muft neceffarily remonftrate againftthofe impieties, which threaten him with destrućtion and ruin. Thence those frights and terrors, which we fo commonly fee in awakened finners. Their fins (especially fome groffer enormities. of their lives) stare them in the face, with their peculiaraggravations. Confcience draws up the indićtment; and fets home the charge against them. The law paffes, the fentence ; and condemns them without mercy. And what have they now in profpeći ? But a fearful looking. for of fiery indignation to confume them ! Now with what distrefs will they cry out, of the greatnefs and ag#:: of their fins ?. With what amazement will ey expećt the dreadful iffue of a finful course ? How, ready are they now to take up refolutions of a more watchful and holy life ? Now they are brought upon, their knees before God, to acknowledge their fins and to cry for mercy ; and now conscience, like aflaming fword, keeps them from their former course of impiety and sensual gratifications. And what is all this repentance, but mere terror and fear of hell ? Let but confciencobePacified, and their fear blown qyer ; and the dog will quickly return to his vomit again, ’till fome new alarm revive the convićtion of their fin and danger, and their former process of repentance. Thus fome will fin and repent, and repent and fin, all their lives ; and yet ly open to eternal repentance after all. Or, if the diftrefs of conscience make fo deep an impression, and fix fuch an abiding awe of particular fins upon the mind, that there remains a vifible and continuing reformation: yet their lufts are but dammed up by their fears, and were but the dam broken down, they would run again in their former channel with renewed force. It is true the law fometimes proves a fchool-master to drive finners to Christ ; and convićtion of fin and a legal repentance is a neceflary preparative to a faving converfion; but this alone gives no claim to the promife of the gospel. The house may be thus empty, fwept and garni/bed, but for the reception of/even wor/e /pirits than were driven out of it; and a finner may thus escape the pollutions of the world, and yet have his latter end worse than his beginning. If on the other hand, we confider the charaćter of a fincere gospel repentance, though fuch legal terrors may lead to its exercife, they do not belong to its nature : nor are they any part of its defcription. Sin itself, becomes the greatest burden and aversation to a truly penitent foul. I hate, fays the Psalmist, every false way. O wretched man that I am, fays the apostle, who /ball deliver me from the body of this death. Thus the penitent groans being burdened; not from fear of hell, fuch fear being no part of a true repentance, though it may fometimes accompany a fincere and godly forrow for fin. But this forrow arifes from an affećting, humbling, mourning fenfe of fin, from a view of the fin of nature, with the hardnefs of the heart, and univerfal depravity of the affećtions which flow from it ; and from a view · of the numerous fins of praćtice, with their special aggravations. This is the grief, this the distrefs of a repenting finner. It is neceffary, from the nature of a true repentance, that it muit have respećt both to the fin of nature and praćtice; though both of thefe are not atall timesaćtually in the mind; and particularly thought øf, and mourned for by the repenting finner.. The ian