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Ezek. xviii. 27.
When The Wicked Man Turneth Away From His Wickedness That He Hath Committed, And Doeth That Which Is Lawful And Right, He Shall Save His Soul
HAPPY is the man, who, under *the influence of a good education and virtuous dispositions, has pursued a regular course of life, from the first years of discretion! Trained up in the way, wherein he should walk, he finds his duty converted into a pleasure: he goes on uniformly in a course of goodness; ness i betrayed indeed, by the common weakness of nature, into occasional frailties and errors, yet never habitually deserting his Maker's service. His passions are under discipline: habits of reflection, and the grace of God in the regular revolution of religious offices, either restrain or recall them to their proper subjection. The world has the benefit of his virtues, and he the comforts- and serenity of a mind at ease.
But, unhappily, a great part of mankind, on their first entrance into life, take a contrary course. They grow up uninstructed and undisciplined: the passions swell: the pulse beats high: the world spreads all its bewitching charms to seduce them. The example of those before them adds force to these sollicitatiqns. — The contest is soon decided, where the forces are disproportiOned. — Where principles are either weak or none at all, passions will ever get the ascendant. Under their blind impulse, pulse, then, the weak and simple are hurried away; down they go the broad, and smooth, and easy path of sin, that leadeth to destruction. *
What are the ministers of religion to say and do in this deplorable cafe? Are they to shut up the gate of mercy against this unhappy, this pitiable part of their fellow-creatures? That were cruelty. Are they to set them upon a level with the uniformly virtuous and useful? That were to subvert the foundations of right and wrong.
The truth is, repentance, when real and Jincere, is always acceptable to God in its proper degree, and, through the merits of a Mediator, washes away the
- facilis descensus Averni;
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis:
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hie labor est: pauci, quos æquus amavit
Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad æthera virtus,
Dis geniti, potuere————
Virg. 6. 126.
guilt of all transgressions; but to indulge and practise sin with the hopes of exercising such a sincere and true repentance, as is really acceptable, is a delusion of the most fatal consequence to mankind. For this notion supposes that a man has a command of things, which lie totally out of his own power; that he can ascertain his life, and the degrees of mischief, which his vices occasion; that he can command his resolutions; and claim the assistance of Divine grace when he pleases. All these are wild suppositions. For life is uncertain— the mischievous consequences of several vices hard to be repaired—human resolutions grow every day weaker by ill habits—and Divine grace can only co-operate with, and not force, our wills.
I. Boast not thyself of the morrow, (fays the wise man) for thou knoweji not what the morrow flail bring forth. Yet the sinner, as if times and seasons and