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parts of true repentance. These outward expressions depend a good deal upon the bodily frame and constitution. The surest marks of christian repentance is ceasing to do evil and learning to do well, under a sense of the Divine authority. The beginning may be and often is sensible, arising from some awakening incident, some sudden misfortune, some disorder, some grave discourse, or serious vein of reflection.
But the progress is slow and gradual. And of this the following is a sure criterion. If a man seriously attends to his life, corrects his errors, repairs his injuries, and uses the means of grace,
PRIVATE DEVOTION and ATTENDANCE
Upon Divine Ordinances, and, under these means, endeavours to make an actual progress in a virtuous life, he is a' trite penitent; and though he neither afflicts, nor bewails, nor torments himself in weak timid complaints, yet if the feed springs and grows up impercepO 2 tiby tibly in his heart he knoweth not how, Mark, iv. 27, he wants no assurances of his being in the Divine favour from self-appointed ministers, whom God NeVer SENT.
And, though we must labour after perfection in this life, yet let no man arrogate to himself, the proud pharisee's claim, a pure and unsinning perfection. To be sure, St. John saith, whosoever is bom of God doth Not Commit Sin. i. John, iii. 9. But he also tells us, that if we fay, we Have No Sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. —i. 8. And the solution is this: to commit fin, in the language of scripture, is to live in some habit of sin, or to fall into some gross crime; and this to be sure can be said of no one deserving the name of Christ; but slight errors and miscarriages we are liable to, as long as we carry flesh and blood about us, and so long the blood of Christ and the grace of his ordinances is necessary to a true christian life.
But let us, at the same time, avoid the gross error of those, who place a merit in church ordinances, independent of the inward grace and moral disposition. These men, the members of the true Catholic church as they call themselves, deluded with a vain idle circle of confessions and absolutions, are, * as one well expresses it, "for"ever penitents without ever repenting, "and continually doing pennance, with"out ever amending their lives and manners at all." We have not so learned Christ: we use certain outward means, because they are of his appointment; we attend to the spiritual uses and purposes of them, because shadows without the substance are vain.
But what fliall we say to those besotted men, who disclaim both the means and spirit of religion?
* Dr. Clarke.
In their lives they are heathens, and hereafter will not have heathen ignorance to plead in their excuse. For what man wants opportunities of knowing the way of life ?—The voice of natural conscience in every bosom, the example and conversation of good men in every part of life, the public shame attending flagitious actions, the public praise bestowed on virtue, in which the wicked are even forced to bear a part-—all these are calls, which no one can overlook: the churches of God are open, and his ministers are calling men every day to a reformation of manners. And if men, under these advantages, will stop their ears and turn their backs upon instruction; their ignorance is self-sought, and, so far from being an excuse, will make part of their guilt, as an abuse of one of the greatest mercies of Divine Providence.