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put in mind of the necessity of contrition and humble confession before God.
His language will suit us all, • I acknowledge my transgres• sions, and my sin is ever before me.' - Hide • Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine in• iquities. Every hope of acceptance by the works of the law must be relinquished, for in God's sight can no man living be justified.' What an awful proof it is of the blindness of our understandings and the perversity of our wills, that any persons should come, and join in our confessions and professions, and yet continue strangers to themselves and Christ.
But a considerable number of those, who join in our assemblies, may be supposed to be persons of a formal and pharisaic stamp: for Pharisees did not cease to exist with the extinction of the Jewish state. No, they are to be found in every age and in every place. We are all naturally such. We pride ourselves in some comparative excellence we suppose ourselves to possess ; and we place all religion in externals, forgetting that God claims the heart. It is not the confession of sin made with the lips, but an inward conviction of sin, accompanied with a real sorrow for and hatred of it, that constitutes a true penitent: for, • the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit : It is • the broken and contrite heart, that God will not • despise.' How strange that we should mistake the shadow for the substance, that creates it. Let it be remembered, that it is not rending the garment but the heart, that is acceptable to God. Perhaps some one or more persons, who may condescend to cast an hasty glance over these pages, may be ready to say in the true spirit of the Pharisee of old. . I thank God, that I am • not as other men are :' I am no drunkard, no swearer, no sabbath-breaker : I go to church and sacrament, and give alms. Alas! my brother, you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity : for, unless you feel yourself to be a miserable sinner,' you are proved an hypocrite by your own confessions. Perhaps in the spirit of proud boasting, like the Jews of old, you may be saying, because you are a member of our excellent church, « The temple of the • Lord, the temple of the Lord are we;' as if an outward relation to the best visible church on earth would intitle you to the privileges of Christianity. The temple of the Lord was the place where confession of sin was made, where prayer and praise were offered, and Christ was glorified. Is your heart the temple of the Lord ? Is it the seat of contrition, prayer, and praise ? Vain otherwise is your boast of membership in any visible church whatsoever.
But many also of our congregations are Antinomians ; persons, who are practical enemies to the law of God and the holiness it enjoins. They feel not the necessity of purity of heart and conduct, and of giving up their souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice to
God. While they profess themselves members of our church, and join in her worship, they take no care to conform their hearts and lives to the precepts of the gospel. Such pitiable persons are here shewn the necessity of repentance, in order to salvation. The solemn words of the Baptist (Matt. iii. 2.) are laid before them, • Repent ye, • for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repentance implies a change of heart and life. He is not a Christian, who is one outwardly, neither is that | Baptism, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian, who is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter. • The wicked man must turn away • from his wickedness which he hath committed, • and do that which is lawful and right, if he 6 would save his soul alive. While living after • the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of
the flesh and of the mind,' what proof have we to give that our faith is the faith of God's elect?' Ask yourselves therefore, Brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, are your confessions of sin, and professions of faith in the Son of God, accompanied with resolutions of devoting yourselves to Him without reserve or delay; and with earn
+ How many parts are there in a sacrament? Answer. Two : the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.'---Sce Church Catechism.
est desires after that grace, which alone can enable you to prove your sincerity, and adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things ?
Once more : a large portion of our congregations, we would charitably hope, often consists of those, who come to His house with a Divinely wrought desire of worshipping God in an acceptable manner. These are often oppressed with fear and harassed with doubt, lest their persons and sacrifices should be rejected. When they consider into whose presence they are come, and with whom they have to do, they stand afar off, *smite upon their breasts and cry, God be merci. • ful to me a sinner,' While others trifle, they are serious : while others can enter the house of God with levity and indifference, they tremble o at his word' and presence. Their sins are many, and they feel them; the remembrance is • grievous to them, and the burden intolerable.' They are unworthy to enter into the house of God. They dare not absent themselves, because God is only to be found in the instituted means ; yet they tremble to appear before Him. Esther's language is their's, • If I perish, I perish. For the encouragement of such persons several comfortable passages are adduced. The language of David, Psal. li. 3, 9. they can in sincerity adopt : therefore they are informed, that their present state of mind is most acceptable to God, Psal. li. 17. For their comfort, the character of God is drawn, Joel ii. 13. He is gracious and merci. • ful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and
repenteth him of the evil.' By a quotation from Dan. ix. 0, 10. they are assured, that to the - Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, * tho we have rebelled against him. They are exhorted to follow the example of the Prodigal, and arise and go to their Father, and say unto • Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and • before Thee, and am no more worthy to be cal- led Thy son.' To all this a gracious declaration is annexed, that if we confess our sins, He - is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to • Cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'