Imatges de pàgina

the ungodly and the sinner appear?" what shall become of him, who, by his evil life, hath not only removed himself from the affections, but even from the possibilities of virtue?— He that hath lived in sin, will die in sorrow.



BUT I shall pursue this great and necessary truth, First, by shewing what parts and ingredients of repentance are assigned, when it is described in Holy Scripture: Secondly, by shewing the necessities, the absolute necessities, of a holy life, and what it means in Scripture to live holily:' Thirdly, by considering what directions or intimations we have concerning the last time of beginning to repent; and what is the longest period that any man may venture with safety. And in the prosecution of these particulars, we shall remove the objections, those aprons of fig-leaves, which men use for their shelter to palliate their sin, and to hide themselves from that from which no rocks or mountains shall protect them, though they fall upon them; that is, the wrath of God.

First, That repentance is not only an abolition and extinction of the body of sin, a bringing it to the altar, and slaying it before God and all the people; but that we must also χρυσὸν κέρασι περιχεύειν, “ mingle gold and rich presents,” the oblation of good works and holy habits with the sacrifice, I have already proved: but now if we will see repentance in its stature and integrity of constitution described, we shall find it to be the one-half of all that which God requires of Christians. Faith and repentance are the whole duty of a Christian. Faith is a sacrifice of the understanding to God; repentance sacrifices the whole will: that gives the knowing; this gives up all the desiring faculties: that makes us disciples; this makes us servants of the holy Jesus. Nothing else was preached by the Apostles, nothing was enjoined as the duty of man, nothing else did build up the body of Christian religion. So that as faith contains all that knowledge, which is necessary to salvation; so repentance comprehends in it all the whole practice and working duty of a

returning Christian. And this was the sum total of all that St. Paul preached to the Gentiles, when, in his farewell-sermon to the bishops and priests of Ephesus, he professed that he "kept back nothing that was profitable" to them; and yet it was all nothing but this, 'repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.' So that whosoever believes in Jesus Christ and repents towards God, must make his accounts according to this standard, that is, to believe all that Christ taught him, and to do all that Christ commanded. And this is remarked in St. Paul's catechismd, where he gives a more particular catalogue of fundamentals: he reckons nothing but sacraments and faith; of which he enumerates two principal articles, "resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Whatsoever is practical, all the whole duty of man, the practice of all obedience, is called 'repentance from dead works:' which, if we observe the singularity of the phrase, does not mean 'sorrow;' for sorrow from dead works, is not sense; but it must mean 'mutationem status,' a conversion from dead works, which (as in all motions) supposes two terms; from dead works to living works; from the death of sin,' to the life of righteousness.'



I will add but two places more, out of each Testament one; in which, I suppose, you may see every lineament of this great duty described, that you may no longer mistake a grasshopper for an eagle; sorrow and holy purposes, for the entire duty of repentance. In Ezekiel, xviii. 21. you shall find it thus described: "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die." Or, as it is more fully described in Ezekiel, xxxiii. 14. "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he hath robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die." Here only is the condition of pardon; to leave all your sins, to keep all God's statutes, to walk in them, to abide, to proceed, and make progress in them; and this, without the interruption by a deadly sin,-' without committing iniquity, to make restitution of all the wrongs he hath

Acts, xx. 21.

d Heb. vi. 1.


done, all the unjust money he hath taken, all the oppressions he hath committed, all that must be satisfied for, and repaid according to our ability: we must make satisfaction for all injury to our neighbour's fame, all wrongs done to his soul; he must be restored to that condition of good things thou didst in any sense remove him from: when this is done according to thy utmost power, then thou hast repented truly, then thou hast a title to the promise; "Thou shalt surely live, thou shalt not die," for thy old sins thou hast formerly committed. Only be pleased to observe this one thing; that this place of Ezekiel is it, which is so often mistaken for that common saying, At what time soever a sinner repents him of his sins from the bottom of his heart, I will put all his wickedness out of my remembrance, saith the Lord." For although at what time soever a sinner does repent,' as repentance is now explained, God will forgive him,—and that repentance, as it is now stated, cannot be done' at what time soever,' not upon a man's death-bed; yet there are no such words in the whole Bible, nor any nearer to the sense of them, than the words I have now read to you out of the Prophet Ezekiel. Let that, therefore, no more deceive you, or be made a colour to countenance a persevering sinner, or a death-bed penitent.

Neither is the duty of repentance to be bought at an easier rate in the New Testament. You may see it described in 2 Cor. vii. 10, 11. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance." Well! but what is that repentance which is so wrought? This it is: "Behold this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!" These are the fruits of that sorrow that is effectual; these are the parts of repentance: 'clearing ourselves' of all that is past, and great carefulness' for the future; 'anger' at ourselves for our old sins, and 'fear' lest we commit the like again; 'vehement desires' of pleasing God, and 'zeal' of holy actions, and a revenge' upon ourselves for our sins, called by St. Paul, in another place, "a judging ourselves, lest we be judged of the Lord." And in pursuance of this truth, the primitive church did not admit

a 1 Cor. xi. 31.

[ocr errors]

a sinning person to the public communions with the faithful, till, besides their sorrow, they had spent some years in an ayaloɛpyía, in 'doing good works,' and holy living; and especially in such actions which did contradict that wicked inclination, which led them into those sins, whereof they were now admitted to repent. And therefore, we find that they stood in the station of penitents seven years, thirteen years, and sometimes till their death, before they could be reconciled to the peace of God, and his holy church.

[blocks in formation]

Repentance is the institution of a philosophical and severe life, an utter extirpation of all unreasonableness and impiety, and an address to, and a final passing through, all the parts of holy living.

Now consider, whether this be imaginable or possible to be done upon our death-bed, when a man is frighted into an involuntary, a sudden, and unchosen piety. 'O μɛtavowv où φόβῳ τῶν ἐναντίων τὴν τοῦ κακοῦ πρᾶξιν αἱρήσεται, saith Hierocles. He that never repents till a violent fear be upon him, till he apprehend himself to be in the jaws of death, ready to give up his unready and unprepared accounts, till he sees the Judge sitting in all the addresses of dreadfulness and majesty, just now, as he believes, ready to pronounce that fearful and intolerable sentence of, " Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire;" this man does nothing for the love of God, nothing for the love of virtue: it is just as a condemned man repents that he was a traitor; but repented not till he was arrested, and sure to die: such a repentance as this, may still consist with as great an affection to sin as ever he had"; and, it is no thanks to him, if, when the knife is at his throat, then he gives good words and flatters. But, suppose this man in his health, and in the midst of all his lust, it is evident that there are some circumstances of action, in which the man would have refused to commit his most pleasing sin. Would not the son of

f Hor. Od. 3. 24.

κ' ἡ δὲ μετάνοια αὕτη φιλοσοφίας ἀρχὴ γίνεται, καὶ τῶν ἀνοήτων ἔργων τε καὶ λόγων φυγή,

καὶ τῆς ἀμεταμελήτου ζωῆς ἡ πρώτη παρασκευή. Hierocles, Needham, p. 126.

h See Life of Jesus, Disc. of Repentance, part 2.



Tarquin have refused to ravish Lucretia, if Junius Brutus had been by him? Would the impurest person in the world act his lust in the market-place? or drink off an intemperate goblet, if a dagger were placed at his throat? In these circumstances their fear would make them declare against the present acting their impurities. But does this cure the intemperance of their affections? Let the impure person retire to his closet, and Junius Brutus be engaged in a far-distant war, and the dagger be taken from the drunkard's throat, and the fear of shame, or death, or judgment, be taken from them all; and they shall no more resist their temptation, than they could before remove their fear: and you may as well judge the other persons holy, and haters of their sin, as the man upon his death-bed to be penitent; and rather they than he, by how much this man's fear, the fear of death, and of the infinite pains of hell, the fear of a provoked God, and an angry eternal Judge, are far greater than the apprehensions of a public shame, or an abused husband, or the poniard of an angry person. These men then sin not, because they dare not; they are frighted from the act, but not from the affection; which is not to be cured but by discourse, and reasonable acts, and human considerations; of which that man is not naturally capable, who is possessed with the greatest fear, the fear of death and damnation. If there had been time to curse his sin, and to live the life of grace, I deny not but God might have begun his conversion with so great a fear, that he should never have wiped off its impression: but if the man dies then, dies when he only declaims against, and curses his sin, as being the author of his present fear and apprehended calamity; it is very far from reconciling him to God or hopes of pardon, because it proceeds from a violent, unnatural, and intolerable cause; no act of choice, or virtue, but of sorrow, a deserved sorrow, and a miserable, unchosen, unavoidable fear;

moriensque recepit Quas nollet victurus aquas

He curses sin upon his death-bed, and makes a panegyric of

i Cogimur à suetis animum suspendere rebus;

Atque ut vivamus, vivere desinimus. Cornel. Gal.

* Nec ad rem pertinet ubi inciperet, quod placuerat ut fieret.

« AnteriorContinua »