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ther he have defrauded individuals or the public, cannot retain his unjust gain, either as a treasure to hoard up, or as a source of indulgence, without "putting an accursed thing among his own stuff, " and becoming an accursed thing like unto it.”— But we may have traduced the characters, poisoned the principles, or corrupted the morals of others, or in various ways injured them, if we have not robbed them of their property: and, though adequate restitution cannot be made, yet we should do all in our power to counteract the effects of our misconduct, and to promote their best interests; if we would evidence the sincerity of our repentance and faith, and of our love to God and man.
He that well understands the gospel of Christ, and the nature of genuine repentance, will readily perceive that forgiveness of injuries, and love of enemies, are peculiarly required by the words of the text. The man who refuses to forgive surely forgets his own need of forgiveness. And he, who will do nothing for his enemies, can have no proper sense of his own sinfulness, and of the love of God in reconciling us when enemies by the death of his Son. The view which the true penitent has of Christ, dying on the cross and praying for his murderers, will render it easy to him, to pity and love his most determined foes, "to do good to "them that hate him, and to pray for them that despitefully use him and persecute him." These too are works meet for repentance; without which all tears, confessions, and even restitution, can never prove it genuine and unfeigned.
1 Josh. vii. 11-15.
Patience under afflictions, contentment in our situation, thankfulness for mercies, and meekness under provocations, might be separately considered, did time permit. But, in general, an habitual walk in newness of life comprises the whole. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us,
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we "should live soberly, righteously, and godly in "this present world;" watching and praying against the sins which once had most entire dominion over us; redeeming our time and improving our talents, doing good to all men, especially to the household of faith; a circumspect conduct, and a constant attendance on the ordinances of God; a humble deportment in the family and community, as well as in the church; and a care to "exercise ourselves daily to have a "conscience void of offence towards God and "man:" these I say are "works meet for repent"ance."-When the people asked John the Baptist what they should do in compliance with his exhortation to this effect, he did not require them to retire into deserts, or immure themselves in cloisters, nor even to torment themselves with excessive austerities; but he recommended liberal charity, strict integrity, and a harmless and exemplary conduct even in the station of publicans and soldiers.
But these hints must suffice, as every reflecting person will be able to branch out the general rules laid down, into a variety of particulars; and the grand use of preaching is to lead men to reflection.
Perhaps, however, I am addressing some persons who still object to the subject; and, confiding
in the rectitude of their hearts, and the undeviating virtue of their conduct, count the doctrine of repentance and conversion wholly foreign to their case. I have heard persons of this description gravely observe, that it would be much better to 'preach the necessity of a good life, than to dwell 'on repentance; except among the refuse of the species, of whom indeed little hope could be en'tertained.' But how can such men help seeing, that they only repeat the objections of the Pharisees against Christ himself, and exactly resemble these antient opposers of the gospel? I would however, at present only say; If any one of you had a son, whom you had tenderly treated from his birth, and who should yet act with as much disregard to your counsel and authority, as you have done to those of your Creator, would think that he ought to repent of his ungrateful behaviour? And have you then no cause for repentance? Verily, whatever you may think, it will hereafter appear that there" is joy in heaven over "one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine (such) just persons that need no repentance.”—But does any one say, 'I own in general that I ought to repent; yet I find a strange insensibility of conscience, and backward'ness to humble myself before God, or to renounce 'the pleasures of sin; and a grievous propensity to delay that necessary business, till my alarms ' and convictions vanish without any abiding ef'fect?' To you, my friend, I would observe that repentance is the gift of God; and that Jesus is exalted" to give repentance and remission of "sins." Pray therefore to the Lord to give you
repentance and his holy Spirit;' cry in the language of Ephraim, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned;" and beg of him to take away the heart of stone, and to give the heart of flesh. Meditate also continually on the sufferings of Christ, the dignity of the sufferer, and the exhibition which God hath made to us, in that great transaction, both of his holy hatred of sin, and of his compassionate love of sinners. This is the most effectual cure for a hard heart and an unfeeling conscience. "I will pour upon them the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look on "me whom they have pierced, and mourn.”1
But remember that life is uncertain; and that God, whom thou provokest, especially by impenitence, is the arbiter of thy life and death. The Holy Ghost saith, "To-day, if ye will hear his "voice, harden not your hearts." Even if your days should be prolonged, you may be given over to final obduracy; and continuance in sin will be sure to increase the anguish of repentance, should you at last, by a miracle of mercy, be plucked as a brand out of the burning.
Above all, my fellow sinners, beware lest you be deceived with a false repentance; for nothing so effectually hardens men in impenitence. Some transient convictions, fears, and sorrows; some partial reformation; a new creed, sect, or form of religion; enthusiastic joys and comforts, or delusive fancies of visions and revelations; frequently satisfy men's consciences and fill them with spiritual pride, while their hearts remain un
Zech. xii. 10.
changed, the root of sin unmortified, and no works are found meet for repentance!-Beware also of the partial despairing repentance of Judas; of the temporary repentance of king Saul; of the extorted repentance of Pharoah; and of the case of him who was "almost persuaded to be a Chris"tian."-Nor let it be imagined, that repentance and conversion to God are confined to the beginning of a religious profession: for, as long as we continue sinful and prone to depart from the Lord, they must constitute our habitual practice, form the dispositions of our hearts, and influence all our tempers and our conduct.
On the other hand, let not the contrite mourner for sin despond. Remember, poor trembling penitent, that "there is joy among the angels of "God over one sinner that repenteth." Yea, the Lord of angels "sees of the travail of his soul and " is satisfied." Only beseech Him that thy repentance may be genuine, and thy conversion entire : thus thou wilt surely find that he is "ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy ;" and ere long thou wilt joyfully sing, "O Lord, I will praise "thee; though thou wast angry with me, thine
anger is turned away and thou comfortest me." For "they that sow in tears shall reap in joy." "Let then the hearts of those rejoice that seek "the Lord."
Finally, my Christian brethren, while you are careful in other respects "to do works meet for repentance," let me exhort you to enter into the spirit of the gospel by using every means and encouraging every endeavour, to bring sinners to repentance; and to welcome every penitent with