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presumptuously approach temptation-if we are not doubly upon our guard against what we know injurious to our health, howsoever pleasing to our appetite; hereby both body and soul would certainly suffer from the indiscretion. Having gained some ground, therefore, we must conduct ourselves like wary soldiers, who having once been worsted, know the enemy's strength and their own weak side.
But in the case of pardon for sin, which has led me to state such a variety of argument for the benefit and comfort of the humble contrite penitent, we have the surest hope-the word of Him who cannot lie; who is above the devil and all his wiles, and who has solemnly declared, that those who come to HIM, he will in no wise cast out. Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will refresh you; for God hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but would rather that he should turn to him, and live. But turn to HIM, he must, or DIE. There is but one way of doing it, and it means but one thing; viz. whenever, through a course of wickedness, we are of necessity turned from him; on our sorrow for our sin, and a change of life, he is ever ready to meet us, like the merciful father in the Gospel, who is the emblem of God's gracious love towards every returning prodigal; and the last end of every such repenting sinner shall be peace. It is impossible to give greater weight to
these consolations and helps, that the self-condemning sinner may occasionally need, when the weakness of his frame is ready to be overpowered by spiritual despondency, than by quoting to you God's express sentence on this very subject from the mouth of his Prophet Ezekiel, which, at the same time, proves the necessity of repentance, and establishes the value of the converted sinner's hope beyond all doubt or fear. (Ezek. xviii. 21, 22, 23, 24.)
"If the wicked will return from all sins that he hath committed (that is, be no longer a slave to them), and keep all my statutes (that is, attend to the commandments of God), and so do that which is lawful and right (be honest and just), he shall surely live, and not die." And the following supplies the utmost consolation that can be promised: "All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him; but in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live" (here, both repentance and reformation are plainly implied). And to render the hope of the reformed sinner still stronger, observe how it is established by a description of the contrast, in the case even of the righteous, or one who has been some time good, but is sunk into his former evil courses: If the righteous turn away from his righteousness (that is, ceases to be good), and committeth iniquity, and doth according to all the abo
minations that the wicked man doth, shall he live? No, saith God. All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned (it shall tell for nothing); but in his transgression that he hath committed, and in his sins that he hath committed, in them shall he die.
Here, my dear brethren, is one of the clearest and most express passages in all Scripture, to the point in question; one of the most comforting exhortations, and at the same time most awful admonitions. Far is it from encouraging the delay of repentance; for you see that it positively asserts that no man shall be saved who is not found at the time of his death in a steady course of doing right, i. e. bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. However good a man may be just now, or at any particular period of his life, he must continue to go on to perfection, or it will profit him nothing. However faulty a man hath been; if he takes up, and dies in the actual endeavour to redeem the time, his soul shall live. Christ hath purchased the forgiveness of sins for all such. These are the termsthese are the signs of our justification, pardon, or acceptance; and on no other can we expect it, without dishonouring the nature of God, and doing violence to the words of his own mouth. Most fatal, therefore, is it to defer repentance on this account, because the goodness of God leads to repentance, and we are
never sure how long our day of grace may last: that is, how long we may enjoy our lives or senses, sa as to be subjects of any actual reformation; for all the time that is unredeemed, is not only lost for ever, but every thing transacted in it, must be accounted for, unless an interest is obtained in that oblivion promised to the real penitent.
To conclude: The true notion of the forgiveness of sins is necessary, in order to teach us what we owe to Christ, to whom we are so highly indebted for this forgiveness; and this can hardly be testified by living in open defiance to all his laws, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace. Through this man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins, and without a surety we could have had no release; he rendered God propitious to our persons, because he first gave himself a satisfaction for our sins; but while he took off our obligation to punishment, he laid upon us a new and stronger obligation to obedience. For we are not our own; we are bought with a price; we must, therefore, glorify God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which are God's; we must no longer be the servants of men, much less the servants of sin and Satan, because we are now the servants of Christ, who never yet did, nor can serve sin.
Further, it is necessary to believe the remis
sion of sins, as wrought by the blood of Christ, it being through this, that the covenant between God and man was ratified and confirmed; and (as I have so earnestly before enforced) through which we are minded of the condition required; for it is the nature of all covenants to expect performance on both parts; and therefore, if we look for forgiveness promised, we must perform repentance commanded. These two were always preached together; and those things which God hath joined, no man ought to put asunder.
From all that has been said on this very important article of our Christian faith (and too much pains cannot be taken on so interesting a subject), every one may learn what he is positively to believe and confess concerning this article of the forgiveness of sin; for thereby every Christian is supposed to understand and declare thus much, that he doth freely acknowledge, and with unspeakable comfort embrace, this truth as most necessary to his temporal and eternal peace: that, whereas every sin is a transgression of the law of God, there remaineth necessarily guilt in the person of every transgressór, and that guilt exposes and renders him liable to eternal punishment, because what is unholy and impure, must be for ever separated from God. So that all men being concluded under sin, they were all justly subject to the mise