« PreviousContinue »
dedication of ourselves to the service of Christ, are necessary to complete what alarm of conscience may have begun. It is necessary not only to guard against despair by stating the gracious invitations of the Gospel; but to caution men against presumption by enforcing the necessity of complying with those invitations. It is possible for them to be terrified at their sins for a time, and yet not to be turned from them. They may dread the consequences of transgression, and yet continue to love it. Conviction of sin must, then, be embodied, as it were, in all the acts of the true and practical Christian character. You must be cautious of trusting to any alarm of mind, as though in itself a sufficient evidence of a state of salvation. You may clearly see from the exhortation of the Apostle to the Jews, to Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, for remission of sins, that distress of conscience is one thing, and repentance and pardon another. There are persons who conclude they are true Christians because they have been much affected by a sermon, and have been for a time under terror of mind; but such sensations are no decisive proofs of conversion. There must be something besides conviction; even repentance, faith in the merits and death of Christ, the influences of grace, and holy
obedience, to prove that we are truly accepted of God. Alarms indeed may, and ought to end in our being truly awakened from the sleep of sin-this is their proper effect-but they may prove to be only like the disturbance given to one in profound slumber, at which he starts for a moment, but, overcome by his sleep, again sinks down to repose. Let us not, therefore, substitute convictions of conscience, which are chiefly valuable as they lead to something further, for that solid conversion to God without which no one can be saved; but let us, when we hear the word of the Gospel, and are pricked in our hearts, follow on from feeling to practise, and so implore the grace of God, that we may become true believers in the atonement and righteousness of the Saviour; and sincerely dedicated to his service and honour.
To confirm you still more in this solid work of religion, let me, before I conclude,
II. Turn your attention, for an instant, to
THE DIRECTIONS PROPER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY REPENTED AND OBEYED THE GOSPEL. These may be drawn from the remaining exhortation of the Apostle to his converts, and from the narrative of their conduct and spirit, contained in the verses which follow my text. I can only allude to them. Let the Christian,
then, aim at that holy separation from the world, to which the Apostle exhorted them when he said, Save yourself from this untoward generation. Let him be unmoveable in his profession of the Gospel, after the example of these converts, who continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship. Let him cultivate gratitude to God, charity and benevolence towards others, and cheerfulness and simplicity as to his own character; even as they praised God for his mercies, parted their goods to all men, and did eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart. And, to these holy and devout exercises, let him ever add his fervent prayer that numbers may be gathered into the spiritual church; that faithful ministers may be raised up to imitate the boldness, and convincing reasoning and undaunted appeals of the holy Apostle; that many, hearing the word of truth, may be pricked in their hearts, be led to serious inquiry as to their salvation, and never rest till they have truly repented and obeyed the Gospel; that the numbers of such converts may recall to our minds those days of the Spirit, when three thousand souls were in one day joined to the infant church; and that, to this end, God may grant us primitive faith and zeal, primitive fervour in prayer and preach
ing, primitive love to Christ, and primitive measures of the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost: so that the Lord may both increase continually the piety of his faithful servants, and add to their body daily such as shall be saved.
ZECHARIAH XII. 10.
And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.
THE necessity of repentance is established in every part of Scripture. It is the first duty of a sinner under a dispensation of mercy; prepares for a right reception of Christ as a Saviour; and is a part of that new and holy course of life which every true Christian leads. It accompanies, indeed, every other exercise of piety, and terminates only when we arrive at heaven. extent and spirituality, its connexion with faith and salvation, the way in which it is to be obtained, and the effects which it produces, are all points of the first moment. On many of them, the text which I have read will afford us