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SERM.things are entirely different from repentance, IV. and men are unhappily deceiv'd who trust in them. When our Saviour
commission to his apostles, and establish'd their authority in this manner, John xx. 23. Whofe foever fins ye retain they are retained, and whole foever fins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them; it is contrary to the strain of the gospel, and reason itself, to imagine, that he has invested a succession of fallible mortals with a power of pardoning fins, and especially upon conditions different from those which he has irre vocably fix'd by his laws. The plain meaning is, that having received the Holy Ghost as their guide, the apostles had commission, by their doctrine, to declare the perpetual unalterable terms upon which sinners might obtain the justification of life ; and on the other hand, that kind of disobedience which wou'd fix them under a sentence of condemnation. But, indeed the mistake of those protestants is as pernicious, (and in some respects more criminal, because it is gone into against better means of knowledge) who found their hopes of acceptance, and the remission of fins, on meerly external acts, on the public instrumental duties of Teligion, on confessions and prayers, and the
Sacraments, without amendment of life ; SERM. this is nothing but hypocrisy, it is mocking
IV. God and deceiving our own souls.
Secondly, It must be extreme folly and infinitely dangerous, to delay the necessary work of repentance till the approach of death. This general persuasion is fix'd in the minds of men, that repent they must fome time or other, since without it their destruction is inevitable. But through the deceitfulness of fin their hearts are so harden'd, and their affections so obstinately cleave to their vitious courses and worldly interests, they incline to put off that work, which however confessedly necessary, yet is disagreeable, to a more convenient season; and the most convenient they can pitch upon is, when they must leave this world, and the pleasures of sin can be no longer held.
A great many arguments might be insisted on, to Thew the absurdity of such a conduct. Any one that considers the mutability of hua. man affairs, the uncertainties to which they are liable, particularly the life of man ; our own observation furnishing a multitude of instances of men dying without any opportunity, or even possibility, of preparing for
SERM.death ; or having any deliberate thoughts
considers this, must see that it's imprudent
But the confideration to which my present subject particularly directs our thoughts, is,
that repentance, as it has been in this discourse SERMO
IV. explained, signifying an actual Reformation of life, breaking off our fins, and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, in the approach of death, is impracticable : I have shewn you that according to the scriptural notion of it, it consists in a thorough universal change of the heart and affections of the dispositions and manner of life; at least, newness of life is absolutely neceffary according to the gospel declarations. But in the case suppos’d, what opportuuity is there for all this ? To be griev'd for our transgressions, to. acknowledge them with shame, to change our inclinations and purposes, and declare, that if we were to live we would return to them no more, which is all the repentance dying men can exercise, is not to do what God indispensably requires as the terms of our acecptance, but to substitute something else in the place of it. Besides, if ever so great stress was to be laid on these things, the fincerity of them in dying men, is always liable to suspicion. How little can be attained of that calmness and deliberation which is necessary to them, and how natural is it to fear that in the present circumstances of distress and consternation, seem
Ser M.ingly religious dispositions are only extorted IV. by the immediate shocking apprehensions of
death, and of a future punishment ? We should not indeed take upon us to pronounce judgment against men, who having liv'd wickedly, do in the immediate views of death exercise all the repentance which is then possible for them; no doubt it is the best they can do, and it's most reasonable to press them to it. But the scriptural declarations are not calculated for that case, and for aught I see, give very little ground of comą fort. Their evident design is, to awaken finners out of their Security, and urge them by the strongest motives, while yet
there is space given to repent and to amend their doings, and that being the case of every one of us, what remains but that we apply it to ourselves, diligently minding in our day the things that belong to our peace, before they be bid from our eyes.