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him by a particular interposition to favour Serm. fome of them with a positive revelation of III. his will, to reclaim them from their errors and lead them in the way to happinefs. For this end was the constitution of Israel form’d, which is fignificantly and justly called a Theocracy; God himself was King, the laws were given by him, nay, and he kept in his own hand the last resort of power in the execution. The people under that form of divine government, werethe special favourites of heaven; God himself call’d them a chofen nation to him, a.peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, and our Saviour tells us that salvation was of the Jews. But whatever the special reasons might be, taken from the genius of that people and the circumstances of the time, there was in that oeconomy a great mixture of ceremony and external pomp, which rendered it imperfect, and unfit to answer the more extensive purposes of that grace, designed for mankind in the fulness of time : And therefore it must give way to a better constitution, a new kingdom of grace, which God erected and
into the hands of his son, to be wisely and graciously administred by him, for turning the disobe dient to the wisdom of the
just, reducing to their duty the rebellious, not of one, but of all
SERM.nations to whom it should be published withIII. out distinction, and fo bringing many to
glory. It is the excellency of this last and best scheme, that it proposes the first great principles of religion, with an admirable plainness, it gives such instructions concern. ing the Deity, his moral perfections and his providence, and concerning the obligations and duties of morality, that is, of piety, temperan -; righteousness, and charity, as are most answerable to the natural sentiments of mankind, and which our own hearts, if we seriously attend to them, cannot but approve; it prescribes such a pure, simple, and reasonable worship as is worthy of God to accept, and of men to perform ; it declares thefe terms of acceptance, accomodated to the frailty of our present state, and the conscious fense we have of guilt, which gives the greatest encouragement to finners who are willing to reform their lives and return to their duty, and at the fame time, lays them under the greateft and most indispensable neceflity of reforming; and it enforces our obedience to the laws of God in the strongest manner, and by the moft powerful motives, having brought life and immortality to light, and declared, that God has * appointed a day wberein be will judge
* Ats xvii. 312
the world in righteousness by that man, whom Serm.
This is that kingdom of heaven which our
The whole strain of the New-Teftament shews it to be of absolute necessity. The most important consequences depend upon it. The great author of our religion has told us that* except we repent we shall perish. After the resurrection of Christ, the apostles filled with the holy ghost, pressed it upon men in this manner, repent and be converted, that your fins may be blotted out, A&ts iii. 19. The great doctrines of christianity, which are declared to be of its very effence, do all point to it as their proper improvement. The death of Christ is represented as calling upon us to be crucified with him, to mortify the
SERM. deeds of the body, and to be renewed in the III. Spirit of our minds, that is to repent. And
that future judgment which God has appoints ed, and the declaration and assurance of which is a peculiar glory of the gospel, strongly enforces the same exhortation. These considerations will, I hope, engage your attention to that first and great instruc, tion which our Saviour gave to the world.
The original word which is generally, used in the New Testament for repentance, does properly signify a change of mind, and very agreeeable it is to the nature of the thing; for that religious repentance which God injoins, and peremptorily insists on as the condition of forgiveness, and our obtain, ing his favour, is a change of our dispositions from evil to good, and as the genuine fruit of it, the ammendment of our lives. The gospel supposes men to have universally finned and come sort of the glory of God, nay, it declares that those to whom the great salvation was first offered, both Jews and Gentiles, were very corrupt. Among the Jews religion had degenerated into empty form, and trifling ceremonies were substituted in the place of substantial godliness and virtue. Under a specious lhew of outward fanctity was covered reigning
impiety, impiety, pride, and covetousness. The SERM. heathen were deep sunk in all manner of III. wickedness, in adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, revelling, drunkenness, unnatural contentions and animofities. Such were the persons whom Christ and his apostles called to repent, that is, to change their inclinations and tempers, to unlearn their vitious habits, to bring forth fruits meet for amendment of life, to become lovers of God and men, to worship God in spirit and truth, to be fober, patient, meek, humble, just, and merciful.
This is what the first teachers of christianity mean by repentance, which they so earnestly and frequently inculcate, and they sometimes represent it by different notions, but which amount to the same thing in effect ; as, by conversion to God, that is, whereas men were in a vile subjection to sins, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, they renounce the tyrannical usurpation of those other lords who have had dominion over them, and yield themselves to God as their only rightful Lord, to walk in his ways, and to keep his Commandments. Sometimes it is represented under the images of a new crea. tion, and a resurrection or revival from death ; which fignify that important moral change in