Page images

as Eusebius and Josephus say. And to this day, in all parts of the world, are they not the off-scouring of the world? None less beloved, and none more abhorred than they.

And so Capernaum, that was lifted up to heaven, was threatened to be thrown down to hell. No souls fall so low into hell, if they fall, as those souls that, by a hand of mercy, are lifted up nearest to heaven. You slight souls that are so apt to abuse mercy, consider this, that in the gospel days, the plagues that God inflicts upon the despisers and abusers of mercy, are usually spiritual plagues; as blindness of mind, hardness of heart, benumbedness of conscience, which are ten thousand times worse than the worst of outward plagues that can befal you; and therefore though you may escape temporal judgments, yet you shall not escape spiritual judgment. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? says the apostle. O therefore whenever Satan shall present, God to the soul as one made up all of mercy, that he may l draw thee to do wickedly, say unto him, that sins against mercy will bring upon the soul the greatest misery, and therefore whatever becomes of thee, thou wilt not sin against mercy.

Rem. 4. Seriously consider that though God's general mercy is over all his works, yet his special mercy is confined to those who are divinely qualified. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, Exod. xxxiv 6, 7. Shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments, Exod. xx. 6. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies, Psalm xxv. 10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked, but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about, Psalm xxxii. 10. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy, Psalm xxxiii. 18. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting ta everlasting, upon them that fear him, Psalm ciii. 11, 17. When Satan attempts to draw thee to sin by presenting God as a God all made up of mercy, O then reply, that though God's general mercy extends to all the works of his hand, yet his special mercy is confined to them that are divinely qualified, to them that love him and keep his commandments, to them that trust in him, that by hope hang upon him, and that fear him; and that thou must be such a one here, or else thou canst never be happy hereafter; thou must partake of his special mercy, Or else eternally perish in everlasting misery, notwithstanding God's general mercy.

Rem. 5. Solemnly consider that those who were once glorious on earth and are now triumphing in heaven, did look upon the mercy of God as the most powerful argument to preserve them from sin, and to fence their souls against sin; and not as an encouragement to sin. For thy loving kindness is before mine eyes, and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked, Psalm xxvi. 3—^5. So Joseph strengthens himself against sin, from the remembrance of mercy. How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? He had fixed his eye upon mercy, and therefore sin could not enter, though the iron entered into his soul. His soul being taken with mercy, was not moved with his mistress's impudence. Satan knocked oft at the door, but the sight of mercy would not suffer him to answer or open. Joseph, like a pearl in a puddle, keeps his virtue still. So Paul; Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid; how shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Rom. vi. 1, 2. There is nothing in the world that renders a rtlan more unlike to a saint and more like to Satan, than to argue from mercy to sinful liberty, from divine goodness to licentiousness; this is the devil's logic, and in whomsoever you find it, you may write, ' This soul is lost.' A man may as truly say, the sea burns or fire cools, as that free grace and mercy should make a soul truly gracious do wickedly. So the same apostle; I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Rom. xii. 1. So John; These things Iwrite unto you, that ye sin not. What was it that he wrote? He wrote, that we might have fellowship with the Father and his Son; and that the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin; and that, if we confess our sin, he is just and faithful to forgive us our sins; and that if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. These choice favours and mercies the apostle holds forth as the choicest means to preserve the soul from sin, and to keep it at the greatest distance from sin; and if this will not do it, you may write the man void of Christ and grace, and undone for ever.

Dev. 6. The sixth device that Satan has to draw the soul to sin, is by persuading the soul, that the work of repentance is an easy work, and that therefore the soul need not make such a matter of sin. 'Why, suppose you do sin,' says Satan, ' it is no such difficult thing to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, Lord have mercy upon me; and if you do but this, God will cut the score, and pardon your sins, and save your souls.' By this device Satan draws many a soul to sin, and makes many millions of souls servants or rather slaves to sin.

Now the remedies against this device of Satan are these that follow.—

Rem. 1. The first remedy is seriously to consider that repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power. There is no power below that power which raised Christ from the dead and which made the world, that can break the heart of a sinner or turn the heart of a sinner. Thou art as well able to melt adamant, as to melt thine own heart; to turn a flint into flesh, as to turn thine own heart to the Lord; to raise the dead and to make a world, as to repent. Repentance is a flower that grows not in nature's garden. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil, Jet. iii, 23. Repentance is a gift that comes down from above. Men are not born with repentance in their hearts, as they are born With tongues in their mouths. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts v. 31. So in 2 Tim. ii. 25; In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. It is ncJt in the power of any mortal to repent at pleasure. Sortie ignorant deluded souls vainly conceit that these five words,' Lord, have mercy upon me,' are efficacious to send them to heaven; but as many are undone by buying a counterfeit jewel, so many are in hell by mistake of their repentance. Many rest in their repentance, though it be but the shadow of repentance; which caused one to say, ' Repentance damneth more than sin.'

Rem. 2. Solemnly consider the nature of true repentance. Repentance is some other thing than what vain men conceive.

Repentance is sometimes taken, in a more strict and narrow sense, for godly sorrow; sometimes repentance is taken, in a large sense, for amendment of life.

Repentance has in it three things—the act, the subject, the terms.

The formal act of repentance is a changing and converting. It is often set forth in scripture by turning. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, says Ephraim. After that I was turned, I repented, says he. It is a turning from darkness to light.

The subject changed and converted, is the whole man: it is both the sinner's heart and life; first his heart, then his life; first his person, then his practice and conversation. Wash ye, make you clean—there is the change of their persons; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, leatn to do well—there is the chahge of their practices. So, cast away, says Ezekiel. atl your transgressions whereby you have transgressed— there is the change of the life; and make you a new heart and a new spirit—there is the change of the heart.

The terms of this change and conversion, from which and to which both heart and life must be changed, are from all sin to God. The heart must be changed from the state and power of sin, the life from the acts of sin, but both unto God, the heart to be under his power in a state of grace, the life to be under his rule in all new obedience, as the apostle speaks; To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. So the prophet Isaiah says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord. Thus much of the nature of evangelical repentance. Now souls, tell me whether it is such an easy thing to repent, as Satan does suggest.

Besides what has been spoken, I desire that you will take notice, that repentance includes a turning from the most darling sin. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? Yea it is a turning from all sin to God. Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his way, saith the Lord God. Repent, and, turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin, Ezek. xviii. 30. Herod turned from many, but turned not from his Herodias, which was his ruin. Judas turned from all visible wickedness, yet he would not cast out that golden devil covetousness, and therefore was cast into the hottest place in hell. He that turns not from every sin, turns not aright from any one sin. Every sin strikes at the honour of God, the being of God, the glory of God, the heart of Christ, the joy of the spirit, and the peace of a man's consoience; and therefore a soul truly penitent strikes at all, hates all, conflicts with all, and will labour to draw strength from a crucified Christ to crucify all. A true penitent knows neither father nor mother, neither right eye nor right hand, but will pluck out the one and cut off the other. Saul spared but one Agag, and that cost him his soul and his kingdom.

Besides, repentance is not only a turning from all sin, but also a turning to all good, to a love of all good, to a prizing of all good, and to a following after all good. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die; that is,

« PreviousContinue »