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negative righteousness and holiness only, is no righteousness nor holiness; Ezek. xviii. 21. David fulfilled all the will of God, and had respect unto all his commandments; and so had Zacharias and Elizabeth. It is not enough that the tree bears not ill fruit; but, it must bring forth good fruit, else it must be cut down and cast into the fire. So it is not enough, that you are not thus and thus wicked, but you must be thus and thus gracious and good, else divine justice will put an axe of divine vengeance to the root of your souls, and cut you off for ever. Every tree that bringeth not forth goodfrut, is hewn down and cast into the fire.
Besides, repentance includes a sensibleness of sin's sinfulness; how opposite and contrary it is to the blessed God. God is light, sin is darkness; God is life, sin is death; God is heaven, sin is hell; God is beauty, sin is deformity.
Also true repentance includes a sensibleness of sin's mischievousness; how it cast angels out of heaven, Adam out of Paradise; how it laid the first corner-stone in hell, and brought in all the curses, crosses, and miseries, that are in the world; and how it makes men liable to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal wrath; how it has made men godless, Christless, hopeless, and heavenless.
Further; true repentance includes sorrow for sin, contrition of heart. , It breaks the heart with sighs, and sobs, and groans, for that a loving God and Father is by sin offended, a blessed Saviour afresh crucified, and the sweet Comforter, the Spirit, grieved and vexed.
Again; repentance includes, not only a loathing of sin, but also a loathing of ourselves for sin. As a man loathes not only poison, but the very dish or vessel that has the smell of the poison; so a true penitent loathes not only his sin, but himself, the vessel that smells of it. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed, Ezek. xx. 43. True repentance will work your hearts, not only to loathe your sins, but also to loathe yourselves.
Again; true repentance not only works a man to loathe himself for his sins, but it makes him ashamed of his sin also. What fruit had ye then of those things whereof ye are now ashamed? says the apostle. So Ezekiel; And thou shall be confounded and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God. When a penitential soul sees his sins pardoned, the anger of God pacified, and divine justice satisfied, then he sits down and blushes, as the Hebrew has it, as one ashamed. Yea, true repentance works a man to cross his sinful self, and to walk contrary to sinful self, to take a holy revenge upon sin; as you may see in Paul, the jailor, Mary Magdalene, and Manasseh. This the apostle shews in 2 Cor. vii. 10,11. For godly sorrow worketh repentance not to be repented of, but the sorrow of the world worketh death: for behold this self-same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire? yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge!
Now, souls, sum up all these things together, and tell me whether it is such an easy thing to repent, as Satan would make the soul believe; and I am confident your heart will answer, that it is as hard a thing to repent as it is to make a world, Or raise the dead.
I shall conclude. this second remedy with a worthy saying of a precious, holy man. 'Repentance,' says he, 'strips us naked of all the garments of the old Adam, and leaves not so much as a shirt behind;' in this rotten building it leaves not a stone upon a stone. As the flood drowned Noah's own friends and servants, so must the flood of repenting tears drown our sweetest and most profitable sins.
Rem. 3. Seriously consider that repentance is a continued act. The word repent implies the continuation of it. True repentance inclines a man's heart to perform God's statutes always, even unto the end. A true penitent must go on from faith to faith, from strength to strength; he must never stand still, nor turn back. Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation, as well as other graces. True repentance is a continued spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing. My sin is ever before me. A true penitent is often casting his eyes back to the days of his former vanity, and this makes him, morning and evening, water his couch with tears. Remember not against me the sins of my youth, says one blessed penitent; and, I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious, says another penitent. Repentance is a continued act of turning, a repentance never to be repented of, a turning never to turn again to folly. A true penitent has ever something within him to turn from. He can never get near enough to God, no, not so near him as once he was; and therefore he is still turning and turning, that he may get nearer and nearer to him who is his chiefest good and his only happiness; the best and the greatest true penitents are every day crying out, O wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us from the body of this death? They are still sensible of sin, and still conflicting with sin, and still sorrowing for sin, and still loathing themselves for sin. , Repentance is no transient act, but a continued act of the soul. And tell me, 0 tempted soul, Whether it is such an easy thing as Satan would make thee believe, to be every day turning more and more from sin, and turning nearer and nearer to God, thy choicest blessedness. A true penitent can as easily content himself with one act of faith, or one act of love, as he can content himself with one act of repentance.
A Jewish rabbi pressing the practice of repentance upon his disciples, exhorted them to be sure to repent the day before they died. One of them replied, that the day of any man's death was very uncertain. 'Repent therefore every day,' said the Rabbi, ' and then you will be sure to repent the day before you die.' You are wise, and know how to apply this to your own advantage.
Rem. 4. Solemnly consider that if the work of repentance were such an easy work as Satan would make it to be, then certainly so many would not lie roaring and crying, out of wrath and eternal ruin, under the horrors and terrors of conscience for not repenting; yea, doubtless, so many millions would not go to hell for not repenting, if it were such an easy thing to repent. Ah, do not poor souls under horror of conscience, cry out and say, 'Were all this world a lump of gold, and in our hand to dispose of,
we would give it for the least dram of repentance.' And wilt thou say, it is an easy thing to repent, when a poor sinner, whose conscience is awakened, will judge the exchange of all the world for the least dram of repentance, to be the happiest exchange that ever sinner made? Tell me, O soul, is it good going to hell? is it good dwelling with devouring fire, with everlasting burning? Is it good to be for ever separated from the blessed and glorious presence of God, angels, and saints? and to be for ever shut out from those good things of eternal life, which are so many, that they exceed number; so great, that they exceed measure; so precious, that they exceed all estimation? We know, it is the greatest misery that can befal the sons of men; and would they not prevent this by repentance, if it were such an easy thing to repent, as Satan would have it? Well then do not run the hazard of losing God, Christ, heaven, and thy soul, for ever, by hearkening to this device of Satan, that it is an easy thing to repent. If it be so easy, why then do wicked men's hearts so rise against them who press the doctrine of repentance in the sweetest way, and by the strongest and the choicest arguments that the Scripture affords? And why do they kill two at once, the faithful labourer's name and their own souls, by their wicked words and actings, because they are put upon repenting, which Satan tells them is so easy a thing? Surely were repentance so easy, wicked ' men would not be so much enraged, when that doctrine is by evangelical considerations pressed upon them.
Rem. 5. Seriously consider that to repent of sin is as great a work of grace, as not to sin. By our sinful falls the powers of the soul are weakened, the strength of grace is decayed, our evidences for heaven are blotted, fears and doubts in the soul are raised, (will God once more pardon this scarlet sin, and shew mercy to this wretched soul?) and corruptions in the heart are more advantaged and confirmed, and the conscience of a man after falls is the more enraged or the more benumbed: now for a soul, notwithstanding all this, to repent of his falls, shews, that it is as great a work of grace to repent of sin, as it is not to sin. Repentance is the vomit of the soul; and of all physic, none so difficult and hard as this. The same means that tend to preserve the soul from sin, the same means work the soul to rise by repentance, when it is fallen into sin. We know, the mercy and loving kindness of God is one special means to keep the soul from sin, as David spake; 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 by the same means the soul is raised by repentance out of sin; as you may see in Mary Magdalene, who loved much and wept much, because much was forgiven her. So those in Ho sea; Come and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight; or before his face, as the Hebrew has it; that is, in his favour, Hos. vi. I, 2. Confidence in'God's mercy and love, that he would heal them, and bind up their wounds, and revive their dejected spirits, and cause them to live in his favour, was that which did work their hearts to repent, and return unto him. I might further shew you this truth in many other particulars, but this may suffice; only remember this in the general, that there is as much of the power of God, and love of God, and faith in God, and fear of God; and care to please God, and zeal for the glory of God, requisite to work a man to repent of sin, as there is to keep a man from sin; by which you may easily judge, that to repent of sin is as great a work as not to sin. And now tell me, O soul, is it an easy thing not to sin? We know then certainly, it is not an easy thing to repent of sin.
Rem. 6. Seriously consider that he who now tempts thee to sin upon this account, that repentance is easy, will ere long work thee to despair; and, for ever to break the neck of thy soul, present repentance as the most difficult and hard work in the world; and to this purpose he will set thy sins in order before thee, and make them to say,' We are thine, and we must follow thee.' Now Satan will help to work the soul to look up, and see God angry;