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the Divine procedure with the devils and the heathen world may be involved (for the former of whom no ransom was provided, and to the latter of whom no Saviour has been revealed); it is enough for us to know (for we have nothing to do with His conduct towards others) that He willeth not our death, and that our destruction, should we perish, will be wholly of ourselves.
The second branch of the preface of our collect is more confined, but still more decisive and comfortable. God “forgives the sins of all them “ that are penitent.” This subject is beautifully illustrated by the parables of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son. In the former of these the good Shepherd is represented as seeking with tender anxiety His wandering sheep until He find them. And in the latter the Father of mercies is introduced as running to meet His losť son, so soon as ever a penitent desire is formed in his bosom of returning to his parent's house But it is not from parables only that we gather instruction on this pleasing topic. The statement of our collect is exemplified in innumerable cases which are not scenical but real matters of fact. The sins of David were very heinous, and considering the privileges he had enjoyed, the mercies he had received, and the station he held in the church, it is scarcely possible to conceive any thing more provoking to the Majesty of God. But God forgives the sins of all them " that are penitent;" for no sooner did the criminal confess, with penitential compunction, “ I have sinned,” than the Divinely commissioned prophet replied, “The Lord also hath
put away thy sin, thou shalt not die.” 1 Sam. xii. 13. The history of Manasseh affords another instance of the like kind. He had been guilty of every abomination which the Lord hateth. He had committed the grossest idolatries, and the most cruel murders, and "wrought much “ evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him “ to anger.” He was not only a daring transgressor himself, but he employed his regal authority to make others also to sin. It is impossible to read the 33d chapter of the second book of Chronicles without being astonished at the patience and long-suffering of God. At length, after repeated warnings which this monster of iniquity neglected and despised, “the Lord
brought on him the captains of the host of the
king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among “the thorns, (probably in some thicket where he had concealed himself from pursuit) “and “ bound him with fetters, and carried him to • Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he " sought the Lord his God, and humbled himself
greatly before the God of his fathers, and
prayed unto Him; and He was intreated of “ him, and heard his supplication, and brought “ him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. " Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was « God.” To these Old Testament accounts we may add from the New, that no sooner did a sinful woman, whose iniquities had been many, present herself at the feet of the compassionate Jesus in the house of Simon the pharisee, than Jesus said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. But where is the necessity of multiplying proofs that God forgives the sins of all them that are penitent, since the witnesses constitute a great multitude which no man can number. Heaven teems with them, and earth is constantly adding to the number. No penitent soul ever failed of obtaining a place among those who wash their
robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Nor does hell, among all its myriads of wretched prisoners, contain one contrite bosom.
The comfortable assertion of our collect being perfectly established, it remains only that we inquire what penitence is. On this subject our church shall speak for herself; for the homily of repentance will be the best interpreter of her meaning, when she teaches us to pray for that grace.
“ There be four parts of repentance,” (ueTAYOIG) “ which being set together may be likened to “ an easy and short ladder, whereby we may “ climb from the bottomless pit of perdition “ that we cast ourselves into by our daily offences “ and grievous sins, up into the castle or tower “ of eternal and endless salvation.
6. The first is the contrition of the heart; for “ we must be earnestly sorry for our sins, and “ unfeignedly lament and bewail that we have, “ by them, so grievously offended our most “ bounteous and merciful God; who so tenderly “ loved us that He gave His only begotten Son “ to die a most bitter death, and to shed His “ dear heart-blood for our redemption and deli
verance. And verily this inward sorrow and
grief, being conceived in the heart for the “ heinousness of sin, if it be earnest and un
feigned, is as a sacrifice to God; as the holy “ prophet David doth testify, saying, A sacrifice " to God is a troubled spirit: a contrite and “ broken heart, O Lord, Thou wilt not despise.
(Ps. li.) But, that this may take place in us, we must be diligent to read and hear the Scriptures, and the word of God, which most
lively do paint out before our eyes our natural “ uncleanness, and the enormity of our sinful - life. For unless we have a thorough feeling “ of our sins, how can it be that we should “ earnestly be sorry for them? They therefore 66 that have no mind at all neither to read nor
yet to hear God's word, there is but small hope - of them, that they will as much as once set “ their feet, or take hold upon the first staff or “ step of this ladder, but rather will sink deeper “ and deeper into the bottomless pit of perdition. « For if at any time through the remorse of their “ conscience which accuseth them, they feel
any inward grief, sorrow, or heaviness for “ their sins, forasmuch as they want the salve " and comfort of God's word which they do « despise, it will be unto them rather a mean “ to bring them to utter desperation than « otherwise.
“ The second is an unfeigned confession and “ acknowledging of our sins unto God, whom
by them we have so grievously offended, that " if He should deal with us according to His
justice we do deserve a thousand hells, if there « could be so many. Yet if we will, with a - sorrowful and contrite heart, make an un
feigned confession of them unto God, He will “ freely and frankly forgive them, and so put « all our wickedness out of remembrance before “ the sight of His Majesty, that they shall no 6 more be thought upon.
- The third part of repentance is faith, whereby “ we do apprehend and take hold upon the pro“ mises of God touching the free pardon and " forgiveness of our sins; which promises are “ sealed up unto us with the death and blood
shedding of His Son Jesus Christ. For what « should avail and profit us to be sorry for our "sins, to lament and bewail that we have
" offended our most bounteous and merciful “ Father, or to acknowledge and confess our u offences and trespasses, though it be done
never so earnestly, unless we do steadfastly “ believe and be fully persuaded, that God, " for His Son Jesus Christ's sake, will forgive us “all our sins, and put them out of remembrance " and from His sight. Therefore they that “ teach repentance without a lively faith in Jeho sus Christ, do teach none other but Judas's “ repentance.
“ The fourth is an amendment of life, or a new life in bringing forth fruits worthy of
repentance. For they that do truly repent “ must be clean altered and changed, they must “ become new creatures, they must be no more “ the same that they were before. And there* fore thus said John Baptist unto the pharisees " and sadducees that came to his baptism, O
generation of vipers, who hath forewarned you “ to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth “ therefore fruits worthy of repentance. Where" by we do learn, that if we will have the wrath « of God to be pacified, we must in no wise “ dissemble, but turn unto Him again with a “ true and sound repentance, which may be “ known and declared by good fruits, as by most “ sure and infallible signs thereof,
They that do from the bottom of their hearts “ acknowledge their sins, and are unfeignedly
sorry for their offences, will cast off all hypo“ crisy, and put on true humility and lowliness “ of heart. They will not only receive the phy« sician of the soul, but also with a most fervent “ desire long for Him. They will not only « abstain from the sins of their former life, and o from all other filthy vices, but also flee, eschew,