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but unless we at the same time endeavour to fight against, and to crush, and, as it were, to annihilate our sins, and our sinful propensities; it will avail nothing. It will be but as a deceptive hypocrisy ; an awful nockery of God, and his Gospel. But to a timely, a godly sorrow,
God will ever add the grace of a holy resolution.
But this relinquishment of sin must not be only temporary,
sin be ever before you. Else, each sin, after such a sorrow and resolution, will but be a heavier weight to sink the soul into a deeper judgment. We do not really repent, unless we from the very inmost soul wish, that we had never done the sin ; and not merely not intend to do it again. It will not do, only to decline sin, until our appetite for sin returns. We must not enjoy the pleasures of sin, even for a season. It is when sin beckons, that we are to put to the test our good resolutions. We must abide, and persevere, in these resolutions continually. We must stand aloof, and watch against surprises, and temptations. We must fear, and love, and trust, and pray to God for his strengthening mercy, to enable us to withstand—and withstand and withstand, all the insidious arts, and fiery darts, and deadly machinations, of the adversary; and having done all, to stand — stand firmly, immoveably, with our feet planted on the chief corner stone of our Faith and our Hope, for a defence and protection. For, without the divine arm, we are as a kid against the tiger, as a feather against the wind. Our ferocious and opposing passions will conquer
We must, therefore, ever vigilantly watch and pray, lest our feet slide on the slippery places.
3. But abandonment of sin alone will never do. This is but one half of Repentance. We must also be active in duty. We must not only repent, and turn to God, but must do works ineet for repentance. We must awake to righteousness. We must not only cease to do evil, but must learn to do well; not only be callous against the influence of evil, but be quickened into the performance of good. We must not only escape from the dominion of lust, but be
up and doing in the train of virtue. We must go forth to plant and to water, in the vineyard of the Lord; and run and toil to gather in his harvests. We must be on the
We must go
lookout, lest we go astray from his fold. We must not only do good, but must encourage good in others. Suppose, by a long course of circumspection, and mortifcation, we have conquered our evil habits; yet all this, I repeat, will be but one half of repentance. That resolve only is the evidence of a holy penitence, which ripens into action, and whose actions are fruitful in a reformed life. We must add to our faith all the Christian virtues, and the Christian graces. These things must not only be in us, but must abound. In fine, true repentance will produce conversion; and conversion will require, and incline us, to make an outward and visible profession, and covenant, with God, and before men.
But this activity in duty, like the relinquishment of sin, must also be permanent. We must prosecute unto the end. Victory is awarded, not to him that putteth on, but to him that putteth off, the harness. We must run with patience the race that is set before us.
forth from conquering to conquer. Blessed is he that endureth unto the death. Motives must ripen into habits. We must let the time past of our lives suffice, and more than suffice, in which to have wrought the will of the flesh. Activity in duty for a while will not do. Being redeemed from our vain conversation, we should serve God, in holiness and righteousness, all our days. We must not be discouraged, knowing that, in due time, we shall reap, if we faint not.
4. Is it asked, When we should repent and be converted? I answer, Now. The present time is the only time, which we can call our own. Our yesterdays are gone, and our tomorrows may never come. The work of repentance is a great work, and it therefore requires a great room to work it in. Will a man, who has a mighty task to perform during the day, put off the beginning of it until the evening? Ought not a man, who has a long journey to travel, to start early in the morning? Must not a child, who has a desire to excel in useful learning, begin betimes, if he hopes ever to accomplish his aim? And can a person subdue his old passions, eradicate his old lusts, and correct his old wicked habits, and ungodly inclinations, in a day, or a year? And even, if his life be
spared, which is very uncertain, can he better do this, when he is distracted with the increasing cares and shares of business, and become less tender in his conscience, and more hardened in his habits? And will God accept only the refuse and the impotent of his sacrifices and his affections, as his offering? And do you think, that God will wait for you, and continue waiting, until you choose to take time, and then forgive you? Dare not to trespass upon the long-suffering of God. He that lives in sin, will die in sorrow. Do not resolve to sin now, and to repent hereafter. Do you know how long you will live? Do you know, whether you may not die in the very act of sin? Will you not by delay render your
heart more incapable of repenting? by growing more in love with sin, by remembering its pleasures, and serving it once more, and losing one degree more of the liberty of your spirit?' And if pleasant now, will it not be pleasant to sin next week, and next week after that, and so on? And still you intend to repent, when the sin can no longer please. And the longer you indulge in it, the sweeter
you will taste it. And this is but saying, that when I become more enamoured of sin, I will then discard it. What presumption, what folly, what madness!
What say the Scriptures? They name no time but to-day. Now is the accepted time. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. God now commandeth all men, every where, to repent. Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call ye upon him, while he is near. Despise not the riches of the goodness and forbearance of God. Let the goodness of God lead thee to repentance. Quench not the Spirit. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. Except ye repent, ye shall all perish. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.
Redeem then the time. Even he, who delays until middle age, will find many inconveniences; many infirmities to strengthen, much remaining pride to quell, many
encroachments of temptations and intemperancies, much indevotion and lukewarmness in religion; in short, he will be likely to become a very imperfect Christian. Repentance and reformation are not the work of an hour. They require a whole life, and a long life, to perform them well. It takes time and nurture, to grow up into the fulness of the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. He that repents to-day, repents late enough that he did not begin yesterday. God may depart, and withdraw his aid. We may beg oil for our lamps, and be refused. The night may be at hand, and we be not saved.
He only can die with composure, who has long stood waiting, with his loins girded, ready for departure.
5. Hence we learn, how ruinous it is, to defer repentance, and conversion from sin, until we are at leisure in a sick chamber, or have done with the world by reason of old age, or are warned to it on our death beds. We may,
God appoint, we may never be sick; we may never be old; we may die suddenly. And if we are thus tried by sickness, or spared to old age, or laid gasping upon a death bed; how know we, that God may continue to us the use of our senses? But granting that he do, what will it avail? When a man'has sacrificed his childhood to vanity, his youth to lust and to intemperance, his manhood to ambition and rage, pride and revenge, secular desires, and unholy actions; and yet still farther, given his old age to covetousness and oppression, to the world and the devil; after all this, what remains for God, and for religion? Oh, for that, they will do well enough; upon their death bed they will send for a priest to minister comfort to them, they will pray and ask God forgiveness, and receive the holy sacrament, and leave their goods behind them, disposing them to their friends and relatives, and some dole and issues of the alms-basket to the poor.' And thus they think they will die quietly, and be accepted as children of the heavenly kingdom. God in his mercy grant, that they do not find their' mistake in another world. But we have no ground to hope for this. Will a few late tears, a few extorted prayers, wash out, and atone for, the disobedience and impiety of forty, or sixty, or eighty years? Can a man, and that in his fee
blest estate, undo in a day, or a week, what he has been perhaps fifty or seventy years in doing, and that too in his full strength? Is it any thing to quit our evil propensities at a time, when we have no temptation to them? When our passions are dull, or indifferent, or extinct? To make war, when we have nothing to war against? To begin to live, when it is time to die? And when we cannot reduce our good purposes to action? Will God pardon the sins of a whole life, easier than the sins of our youth? We dare not then, it were madness, to defer repentance, 'till our strengths are decayed, our spirits are weak, and our lust strong; our habits confirmed, and our longings after sin many and impotent; for what is very hard to be done, and is always done imperfectly, when there is length of time, and a less work to do, and more abilities to do it withal; when the time is short, and almost expired, and the work made difficult and vast, and the strength weaker, and the faculties are disabled, will seem little less than absolutely impossible.'
But did not God save the thief upon the Cross ? His case was not like ours. He probably was a Heathen, and had before never heard of Christ. But even allowing that he had before known and rejected Christ, and was saved, by the superabundant mercy of the dying Saviour, in his extremity of life ; yet this example is alone. God, it has been said, hath vouchsafed us one such case, that we should never despair ; and but one, that we should never presume.
It is certain, that there is no warrant in Scripture for salvation offered to a death-bed repentance.
What, cannot God save a death-bed penitent ? Una doubtedly he can, if he please; but will he please ? Can you find any promise in Scripture, that he will ? But what then must a dying sinner do? Must he neglect to do any thing for his salvation ? No. God forbid. Let him do what he can. It is but little. But let not that little be left undone. It is certain, that a death-bed repentance, if not hopeless, is invalid, sick, languid, and impotent, like our dying bodies, and disabled faculties. Nor ought we to expect the eternal glories of heaven for so small a price ; so short a service ; so imperfect a trial, Salvation cost too much, for such admittance ; a sigh or