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Word of God. St. Peter was called upon to render an Account of his Conduct, in communicating the Privileges of the Gospel to the Gentiles : when he had vindicated himself to their Satisfaction, they thus expressed themselves: Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life. Now it is evident, that what God granted to the Gentiles, was the same that the Gentiles received, and therefore Repentance unto Life was the Word of God, published to the World by our Lord and his A postles ; and for this Reason, the Writer to the Hebrews reckons Repentance from dead Works, and Faith towards God, to be the first Principles, or main Foundation of the Doctrine of Christ. Heb. vi. 1.
Before I proceed to lay before you the Consequences, which arise from this State of the Case, I beg leave to make an Observation or two, in Order to clear the Way for what is to follow: You may observe then, that Repentance was the very first Thing insisted on, wherever the Gospel was published, before any new Law or Doctrine was promulged, or so much as mentioned. The Proof of this I need not at.. tempt, since the Passages aiready produced
do plainly contain it, and indeed the Nature of the Thing speaks it; for the Repentance taught, could not respect any new Law to be delivered to the World, against which no Offence having been committed, no Repentance could be required.
Secondly, That the Gospel was ushered in by the Doctrine of Repentance, not only when it was delivered to the few, but also when it was proclaimed to the Gentile World. The Jews lived under the Divine Law, delivered by Moses, and were guilty of many Offences committed against that Law, to which they owed Obedience : but the Gentiles were not under that Law, nor had they been ever called to the Obedience of it; and therefore the Repentance which was taught, as the Introduction of the Gofpel, did not regard any particular Institution, but that general Law of Nature, to which every Man owed Obedience, in Virtue of the Reason and Understanding, with which God had endowed him.
Thirdly, That true Repentance requires Change of Mind, and leads to a Reformation of Manners, and a due Obedience for the future to that Law of Righteousness, against which the Offence was committed :
for where the Obligation of Obedience to any Law ceases, there can be no Call to Repentance for Disobedience. This Doctrine is so plain in Scripture, and so uniformly taught by all the Ministers of our Church, that I would willingly suppose no one ignorant of it. The Baptist sufficiently explained himself, exhorting such as came to his Baptisın, to bring forth Fruits meet for i Repentance : to which general Instruction his particular Admonitions always correfpond. To the hard-hearted and uncharitable Jews, he said, He that hath two Coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and be that hath Meat, let him do likewise. To the Publicans, whose Crime was Extortion, he said, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. To the Soldiers, who were noted for Rapine, false Information, and the like Vices, he said, Do Violence to no Man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your Wages. In like Manner, our blessed Saviour, when he dismissed the Woman taken in Adultery, he let her depart with this Advice, Go, and fin no more. So did he instruct also the Man whom he had set free from the Infirmity, which was the Punishment of his Iniquity; Behold thou
DISCOURSE VI. art made whole; sin no more, left a worfe Thing come unto tbee : teaching neither the one nor the other any new Doctrine with respect to their particular Cases, but referring both back to that Law which they had transgressed, as the proper Measure of their future Obedience.
I Mall now proceed to lay before you such Consequences as seem to me to be the natural Result of this Method made use of by our blessed Lord and his Apostles, in publishing the Gospel to Mankind.
And the first is this : That the Religion of the Gospel is the true original Religion of Reason and Nature. It is so in Part : it is all that, and more. Repentance was necessary, but it was not all. Repentance was the first Step towards Christian Perfection. See Heb. vi. 1.
This appears by considering the Nature of that Repentance which our Lord, and those who came after him in the Ministry of the Gospel, preached to the World : Repentance supposes a Transgression, and Transgression supposes a Law; for as the Apostle argues, where there is no Law, there is no Transgresson. And since Repentance consists in a Change of Mind, in rectifying what was before amiss, and in fulfilling that Obedience which was before wanting ; it is evident, that to repent of the Violation of any Law, is to return to the Obedience of it: and he that exhorts and calls you to Repentance, calls you back to the Obedience of that Law, against which you had offended. The Question then is, against what Law those Offences were committed, the Repentance for which was so necessary, that without it there was no Admittance into the Fellowship of the Gospel of Christ. The Laws of the Gospel, considered as such, are evidently excluded upon the present View; for Repentance being the first Thing every where taught, and antecedently to the Publication of any of the Rules and Precepts of the Gospel, the Law not yet published could not be the Rule of that Repentance, which related to Sins already committed. At the Time of the Publication of the Gospel, there were many Forms and Institutions of Religion sublisting in the World: but as these were very different from one another, insomuch that if some were true, others were certainly false ; fo they could not be the Ground of that Repentance, which being generally taught to