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SERM. But, if the times of ignorance God winked
at, he now commands all men every where
That law which is the unaltera-
From this general character of the kingdom of heaven, or of christianity, you will see that it contains very strong motives to re
The first I mention, is taken from the hope of success. This is the greatest encouragement, and does most effectually determine men to any valuable design, endeavours, or pursuit. The end is obtaining the favour of God, which is of so great moment, that one would think men should ex
ert their utmost power, and use the greatest Serm. diligence for it, considering themselves as IV. guilty, and under a forfeiture. The impresfion of this has been so strong on the minds of men, that all nations, sensible of having offended the Deity, have laboured to appease him, tho’ for the most part by methods very disagreable to reason, and to our most natural notions of the supreme Being. Repentance, indeed, is what the light of nature dictates, and all men who consider it, are convinced it is absolutely necessary to a reconciliation ; but an express assurance from God, that it will be accepted, must be acm knowledged an invaluable advantage ; and this we have by the christian revelation. For however the divine goodness manifested by its liberal effects, and extending to all kinds of beings who are capable objects of it, might induce 'us to hope that God will be favourable to penitents, and make a difference between the obstinately wicked and imperfectly good, who in the general tenor of their actions sincerely do what is lawful and right, tho' not without a mixture of infirmities; yet, still there might remain a suspicion that the wise governor of the world might see it fit to inflict some degrees
Serm.of punishment in a future state on those IV. who sinned in this life, even altho' they
have repented. But this anxiety is susperseded, and strong consolation is provided for penitents, by a positive declaration from a person who has a plenary authority sufficiently attested, that God will receive them into favour as if they had never finned, and that there is reserved for them a compleat and eternal felicity hereafter.
The method in which this mercy is difpensed carries in it very strong arguments to enforce our duty, I mean, repentance and its genuine fruits. It is by the mediation of Christ; by the shedding of his blood, * they are made near to God, who were far off ; and het was raised from the dead for their juftification, saving to the uttermost all that come to God by him, because he ever lives to make intercesion for them I. Now, this lays us under the most endearing obligation of gratitude to our Saviour, who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all our || iniquities, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. The New Testament writers so represent both the death and resurrection of
Christ, * Ephef. ii. 13. + Rom. iv. 25. Heb. vi. 25.
A Tit. ij. 14.
Christ, as it appears to be their great design Serm. to bring finners to repentance, or to amend- IV. ment and newness of life. We are buried with him in baptism unto death, (faith St. Paul, Rom. vi. 4.) that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the father, so we should walk in newness of life. And thus he reasons, 2d of Cor. v. 14, 15. the love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all once dead, that they that live should no more live to themselves, but to him that died for them and rose again. In his other epistles he speaks often in the same strain, and to the same effect, describing our repentance as the very image and resemblance of Christ's crucifixion and rising to glory, for he calls it being crucified and rising with him, putting off the body of the sins of the flesh thro' the faith of the operation of God, and putting on the new man, and being renewed in the fpirit of our minds. The same doctrine is taught by St. Peter, ist ep. iv. 1. Forasmuch as Christ bath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for be that hath sufferedinthe
fleshhath ceased from fin. Another argument for repentance because the kingdom of God, or christianity is come, is taken from the clear light of the gospel ;
SERM. and certainly a great weight is added to the IV.
obligation of our duty by the full and plain discovery of it; in effect the revelation of our whole duty is in this view the enforcement of repentance, which is nothing else but the practice of whatsoever is good, and pure,
and virtuous, in opposition to former lufts in ig
The former times God winked at, but now commands all men to repent. He had great compassion for them who lived in times of error, who were very ill taught, * and received a corrupt conversation by tradition of their fathers, without any means of delivering themselves, but merely their own reason, which indeed, if duely attended to, might have discovered the folly and wickedness of the idolatry and immorality which then prevailed, but in the generality of men was so weak and unimprov'd, thro' the unhappiness of their education, that it had very little influence; and its feeble effects were easily overborn by the clamor of imposture, prejudices, and vicious customs. But, now, that God has sent his son into the world to reveal his will to mankind, and he has done it with such perspecuity that he who runs may read, and understand it, they must be inexcusable who continue impeni