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purpose “ to call sinners to repentance."* That as it is a necessary duty at all times, so more especially in the time of sickness, when we are commanded in a particular manner to “set our house in order.” That it is a work of great difficulty, consisting in general of a "change of mind,” and a “change of life.” Upon which account it is called in Scripture, " a state of regeneration, or new birth;” a “conversion from sin to God;" a " being renewed in the spirit of our minds ;"? a “putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts of the flesh," and a "putting on the new man, which is created in righteousness and true holiness." That so great a change as this, is not to be effected at once, but requires the utmost self-denial and resolution to put it in execution, consisting in general of the following particulars ?-1. A sorrowful sense of our sins: 2. An humble confession of them : 3. An unfeigned abhorrence and forsaking of them, and turning to the Lord our God with all our hearts; 4. A patient continuance in well-doing to the end of our lives.
These are the constituent and essential parts of a true repentance; which may severally be displayed from the following motives of reason and Scripture, as opportunity shall serve, and the sick man's condition permit.
The first part of a true repentance is a sorrowful sense of our sins, which naturally produceth this good effect, as we may learn from St. Paul (2 Cor. vii. 10.) where he tells us, that “godly sorrow worketh repentance.' Without it, to be sure, there can be no such thing; for, how can a man repent of that which he is not sorry for? or, how can any one sincerely ask pardon and forgiveness for what he is not concerned or troubled about ?
A sorrowful sense, then, of our sins, is the first part of a true repentance, the necessity whereof may be seen from the grievous and abominable nature of sin; as, 1. That it made so wide a separation betwixt God and man, that nothing but the blood of his only-begot
* Matt. ix. 13.
ten Son could suffice to atone for its intolerable guilt: 2. That it carries along with it the basest ingratitude, as being done against our heavenly Father, “ in whom we live, and move, and have our being :” 3. That the consequence of it is nothing less than eternal ruin, in that “the wrath of God is revealed against all impeuitent sinners;” and “the wages of sin is death,"-Rot only temporal but eternal.
From these and the like considerations, the penitent may farther learn, that to be sorry for our sins is a great and important duty. That it does not consist in a little trivial concern, a superficial sigh, or tear, or calling ourselves sinners, &c.; but in a real, ingenuous, pungent, and afflicting sorrow: for, can that which cast our parents out of Paradise at first, that brought down the Son of God afterward from heaven, and put him at last to such a cruel and shameful death, be now thought to be done away by a single tear or a groan? Can so base a piece of ingratitude, as rebelling against the Lord of glory, who gives us all we have, be sup posed to be pardoned by a slender submission? Or can that which deserves the torment of hell, be sufficiently atoned for by a little indignation and superficial remorse?
True repentance, therefore, is ever accompanied with a deep and af
sorrow; a sorrow that will make us so irreconcilable to sin, as that we shall choose rather to die than to live in it. For so the bitterest ac cents of grief are all ascribed to a true repentance in Scripture : such as a “weeping sorely," or "bitterly;" a “weeping day and night;" a“ repenting in dust and ashes;" a “putting on sackcloth ;" “fasting and prayer,” &c. Thus holy David: “I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long, and that by reason of mine iniquities, which are gone over my head, and as a heavy burden, are too heavy for me to bear,” Ps. xxxviii. 4. 6.
Thus Ephraim could say, “ After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, be. cause I did hear the reproach of my youth :" Jer.
And this is the proper satisfaction for sin which God expects, and bath promised to accept ; as, Ps. li. 17. “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit : a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
2. The next thing requisite in a true repentance, is confession of sins, which naturally follows the other ; for if a man be so deeply afflicted with sorrow for his sins, he will be glad to be rid of them as soon as he can; and the way for this, is humbly to confess them to God, who hath promised to forgive us if we do. “I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord,” saith the Psalmist; "and so thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin;" Ps. xxxii. 6. So, Prov. xxviii. 13. and 1 John i. 9. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So the returning prodigal went to his father with an hunible confession of his baseness, and was received into favour again. Luke xv. 18, 19.
And because the number of our sins are like the hairs of cur head, or the sand of the sea, and almost as various too in their kinds as their numbers ; confession must needs be a very extensive duty, and require the strictest care and examination of ourselves : for “who can tell how oft he offendeth !” saith David ; " 0, cleanse thou me from my secret faults?"
The penitent, therefore, should be reminded, that his confession be as minute and particular as it can; since the more particular the confession is, to be sure, the more sincere and safe the repentance.
3. A third thing requisite in a true repentance, is an unfeigned abhorrence and forsaking of sin, and turning to the Lord our God with all our hearts.
For so we find them expressly joined together by St. Paul, when he charges those whom by vision he was sent to convert, to change* their mind, and “turn to God, and do works meet for repentance:" Acts xxvi. 20. And a little before he says, he was sent“to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the prower of Satan unto God, that they may re
* απήγγελλον μετανοείν. .
ceive forgiveness of sins:" ver. 18. And we shall always find, when we are commanded to cease from evil, it is an order to do good,
The penitent, therefore, must be reminded, not only to confess and be sorry for his sins, but likewise to forsake them. For it is he only“who confesseth and forsaketh his sins, that shall have mercy:" Prov, xxvii. 13. And this forsaking must not be only for the present, during his sickness, or for a week, a month, or a year; but for his whole life, be it never so protracted; which is the
4. Last thing requisite in a true repentance, viz. “a patient continuance in well-doing to the end of our lives.” For as the holy Jesus assures us, that “ he that endureth unto the end shall be saved :" so does the Spirit of God profess, that “if any man draw back, his soul shall have no pleasure in him;" Heb. x. 38. Hence we are said to “be partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” Heb. iii. 14. but not else; for it is to “him only that overcometh, and keepeth his works to the end,” that our Saviour hath promised a reward: Rev. ii. 26. Hence our religion is said to be a continual warfare, and we must be constantly " pressing forward towards the mark of our high calling," with the apostle, lest we fail of the prize.
And this it is which makes a death-bed repentance so justly reckoned to be very full of hazard; such as none who defer it till then, can depend upon with any real security. For let a man be never so seemingly penitent in the day of his visitation, yet none but God can tell whether it be sincere or not; since nothing is more common than for those who expressed the greatest signs of a lasting repentance upon a sick-bed, to forget all their vows and promises of amendment, as soon as God had removed the judgment, and restored them to their former health. “It happened to them according to the true proverb," as St. Peter says, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire :" 2 Pet. ii. 22.
The sick penitent, therefore, should be often reminded of this :that nothing will be looked upon as true repentance, but what would terminate in a holy life : that, therefore, he ought to take great heed, that his repentance be not only the effect of his present danger, but that it be lasting and sincere, “ bringing forth works meet for repentance,” should it please God mercifully to prove him by a longer life.
But here it is much to be feared, that after all his endeavours to bring men to a sight of themselves, and 5 repent them truly of their sins, the spiritual man will meet with but very little encouragement : for if we look round the world, we shall find the generality of men to be of a rude indifference, and a seared conscience, and mightily ignorant of their condition with respect to another world, being abused by evil customs and principles, apt to excuse themselves, and to be content with a certain general and indefinite confession ; so that if you provoke them never so much to acknowledge their faults, you shall hardly ever extort any thing farther from them than this, viz. “ That they are sinners, as every man hath his infirmity, and they as well as any; but, God be thanked, they have done no injury to any man, but are in charity with all the world." And, perhaps they will tell you,“ they are no swearers, no adulterers, no rebels, &c. but that God forgive them, they must needs acknowledge themselves to be sinners in the main," &c. And if you can open their breast so far, it will be looked upon as sufficient: to go any farther, will be to do the office of an accuser, not of a friend.
But, which is yet worse, there are a great many persons who have been so used to an habitual course of sin, that the crime is made natural and necessary to them, and they have no remorse of conscience for it, but think themselves in a state of security very often when they stand upon the brink of damnation. This happens in the cases of drunkenness and lewd practices, and luxury, and idleness, and mispending of the sabbath, and in lying and vain jesting, and slandering of others; and particularly in such evils as the laws do not punish, nor public customs shame, but which are countenanced by