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sins; repent, that your fins may be blotted out; that is, upon this condition that ye repent of your sins, they shall be forgiven, and not otherwise. Can there be any plainer condition in the world, than this in those words of our saviour? If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive your trespasses; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.
This is so far from being any prejudice to the freeness of God's grace, who is infinitely gracious in offering such great blessings to us upon any condition that we can perform; that it were one of the absurdest things in ;the world to imagine that God shouldgrant to men forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, let them behave themselves as they will.
IV. The last thing I proposed for the explaining of this doctrine of the promises of God, was to consider when men may be said to have a right to these promises, so as to be able upon good grounds to apply them to themselves: And the answer to this is very plain and easy: namely, when they find the conditions of these promises in themselves; and not till then.
When a man hath truly repented of his sins, so as to forsake them, and lead a new life; and when he does from his heart forgive those who have offended him, and hath laid down all animosity against them, and thoughts of revenge; then hath he a right to the promise of pardon and forgiveness, and may apply to himself in particular what the scripture faith in general, that God will blot out all his trangrejjions, and remember his iniquities no more. When a man doth constantly and earnestly implore the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, and is ready to yield to the motions of it, and does faithfully make use of that strength and assistance which God affords him, then he may expect the continuance of his grace, and further degrees of it. When a man makes it the constant and sincere endeavour of his life, to please God, and to walk in all the ordinances and commandments of tht Lord blameless, and is effectually taught by the grace of God to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteoufly, and godly in this present world, then he may with comfort and joy wait for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; then he may with confidence depend upon God, in sure and certain hope of that eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised. When he can say with St. Paul, 1 have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, then he may likewise triumph as he did, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the righteous judge shallgive me in that day.
Upon these terms, and in these cases, men may upon good grounds apply to themselves these exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel; and so far as any man is doubtful and uncertain of the performance of the conditions which the gospel requires, so far he must necessarily question his right and title to the blessings promised. And if any man think this doctrine too uncomfortable, and be willing to reject it upon this account, I shall only fay this, that men may cheat themselves, if they please, but most: certainly they will never find any true and solid comfort in any other. This is a plain and sensible account of a man's confidence and good hopes in the promises of God; but for a man to apply any promise to himself, before he finds the condition in himself, is not faith, but either fancy or presumption.
And therefore it is a very preposterous course which many take, to advise and exhort men, with so much earnestness, to apply the promises of God to themselves, and to tell them that they are guilty of great unbelief in not doing it. That which is proper to exhort men to, is to endeavour to perform the condition uponwhichGod hath promised any blessing to us; .and when men find the condition in themselves, they will without any great persuasion take comfort from the promise, and apply it to themselves; but till they discern the condition in themselves, it is impossible for a man that understands himself, to apVol. Y. O ply ply the promise to himself; for till the condition be performed, he hath no more right to the promise, than if such a promise had never been made. And it is so far from being a sin in such a man, to doubt of the benefit of such a promise, that it is his duty to do so; and no man that understands himself and the promises of God, can possibly do otherwise.
Therefore it is a vain and groundless trouble which perplexeth many people, that they cannot apply the promises of God to themselves; whereas the true ground of their trouble should be this, that they have not been careful to perform the condition of those promises which they would apply to themselves; the other is an endless trouble; let them but look to the condition, and the promise will apply itself. I speak all this on purpose to free men from those perplexities wherewith many have entangled themselves, by false apprehensions of the promises of God, either as if they were not made to us upo.n certain conditions to be performed by us, or as if any man could comfortably apply them to himself, before he hath performed those conditions upon which God hath made such promises. For if men will believe that which is not true, or expect things upon such terms as they are not to be had, they may trouble themselves eternally-, and all the world cannot help it.
I have now done with the first thing I propounded to speak to, namely, the promises which are here spoken of. The second thing (viz.) what influence these promises ought to have upon us, that by them we may be made partakers of the divine nature, I lhall reserve to another opportunity.
The nature and influence of the promises of the gospel.
2 V E T E R i. 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.
The second sermon on this text.
IMade entrance into these words the last day, fn the handling whereof I proposed to do these two things:
Tirjl, To.consider the promises here spoken os; Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and'precious promises.
Secondly, The influence which these promises ought to have upon us; That by these ye might bepartakers of a divine nature.
The first of these I have done with, and proceed row to the
Second, viz.. The influence which these promises ought to have upon us; Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of a divine nature. Not that we can partake of the essence and nature osGod, as sortie have blasphemously affirmed, pretending, in their canting and senseless language, to be godded with God, and christed with Christ. In this fense it is impossible for us to partake of the divine nature i for this would be for men to become gods, and to be advanced to the state and perfection of the Deity. But the word <suVj< doth frequently in scripture signify a temper and disposition; and to be partakers of a divine nature, is to be of a divine temper and disposition, to have our corrupt natures rectified and O a purged purged from all finful lusts and irregular passions, and from all vicious and corrupt affections; and therefore it follows in the text, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; and bepdes this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. So that we are made partakers of a divine nature, as the Apostle here explains it, these two ways; by cleansing ourselves from the lusts of the flesh, which the Apostle here calls the corruption ox defilement which is in the world through lust; and by a diligent endeavour aster all Christian graces and virtues, faith and temperance, and patience, a sincere love of the brethren, and an universal chanty and good-will towards all men.
And that this is the proper influence and efficacy of the great promises of the gospel upon the hearts and lives of men, the Apostle St. Paul fully declares to us, a Cor. vii. 1. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; that is, from the lusts of the flesh, and of uncleanness, and from all evil and corrupt affections of the mind, such as wrath, envy, malice, hatred, strife, revenge, cruelty, pride, and the like, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; that is, continually aspiring still more and more after further degrees of holiness, and virtue and goodness, which are the great perfections of the divine nature. And thus by a constant and sincere endeavour to cleanse ourselves from all impurity of flefli and spirit, and by practising all the virtues of a <*ood life, we shall by degrees raise and advance ourselves to a god-like temper and disposition, imitating in all our actions the goodness, and mercy, and patience, and truth, and faithfulness of God, and all those other perfections of the divine nature, which are comprehended under the term of holiness. This is that -which the Apostle here calls partaking of a divint nature; or, as our blessed Saviour expreflethjt, to.