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the evidences of its truth. Accordingly, in the Old Testament, impenitent sinners are exhorted to consider their ways: and in the New, unbelievers are directed to search the scriptures.
We will now conclude with some application of our subject.
1. From the explanation now given of repentance and conversion, false converts may be undeceived; and all should be cautioned not to lay hold on a hope, upon slender and insufficient evidence.
There are many ways in which persons may vainly flatter themselves that they have experienced a saving change. Some may rest in a mere external reformation. They have forsaken former gross ways of sin, and are become constant in those religious duties which they once carelessly neglected; and this they may take to be conversion. Others have been under fearful apprehensions of devouring fire and everlasting burnings; but, in the midst of their greatest terrors, perhaps some comfortable text of scripture came suddenly into their mind, such as,
Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee;" or," Fear not,-it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom;" or by some other means a confident persuasion was given them of God's electing love and pardoning mercy, which filled them with joy and comfort; and, of course, with repentance, and purposes of new obedience; but all from the old native principle of self-love. In such ways, thousands and ten thousands have probably been deceived, and have gone down to the grave with a lie in their right hand.
Think not that you have experienced repentance unto salvation, unless you have had that sorrow for sin and hatred of it, which did not begin with loving God because of an apprehension of his being pacified toward you; or of your being chosen of him as a
vessel of mercy, and an heir of glory. Think not that you are converted, unless you have had a change of heart, as well as of life. Unless you have cordially turned to God as your rightful Lord; being reconciled to his law and government, and to the absolute sovereignty of his Providence and grace. Unless you love God for what he is in himself, and have returned to him as your chief good; being able truly to say to him with the psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and none upon earth do I desire besides thee." Nor unless you have trusted in Christ, as the only way to the Father; relying upon him alone, as the meritorious ground of hope toward God. Nor unless you live by faith on the Son of God, have learnt of him, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
2. It may be seen from our subject, that the inducement set before sinners in the gospel, to repent and be converted, is infinitely weighty and powerful. How great, how necessary, how infinitely important a thing must it be, to have your sins so blotted out, that they will not be brought in against you, to your everlasting condemnation, when the books shall be opened in the day of judgment !
3. The greatest of sinners may hence see that there is hope in their case. The crucifiers of their Saviour were taught to entertain a hope that their sins might be blotted out; and thousands of them were pricked in their heart, converted and saved. Christ is exalted to give repentance, and remission of sins. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
ON SAVING FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.
JOHN VI. 29.
This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath
SOME would have ministers preach only on plain practical subjects, and not trouble their unlearned hearers with controverted points of doctrine. And undoubtedly it is true, that things which "come home to men's business and bosoms," are more suitable for the pulpit, than matters of mere speculation. But practical subjects, are not all of equal importance. People should be instructed in every duty required of them in God's perfect law; but it most of all concerns them to be rightly informed respecting that duty which is made absolutely necessary to their salvation, in the gospel of his grace. "What must I do to be saved?" is the all-important question for a sinner. And to this question, the all-comprehensive answer is given, by our great Teacher, in the words now to be insisted on.
The preceding part of the chapter contains an account of Christ's feeding about five thousand men, with only five loaves of bread and two small fishes. By this miracle, these men were impressed with a
strong persuasion of his being that great temporal deliverer of the Jews, of whom they were then in impatient expectation; probably, as it convinced them of his power easily to support numerous armies, and to conquer the world. Accordingly, they were about to take him, in a violent and tumultuous manner, and proclaim him their king. Which, when Jesus perceived, he withdrew secretly from them to a mountain himself alone and at night, his disciples having attempted to cross the sea of Galilee, and being in imminent danger by reason of a tempestuous wind, he went to them walking on the waves; and having stilled the storm, they soon landed together on the opposite shore. The next day, when the multitude, who saw the disciples depart without him, and knew of no vessel in which he could have followed them, had searched long for him on the other side, they took shipping and crossed likewise to Capernaum where, unexpectedly finding him with his disciples, they said unto him, "Rabbi, when camest thou hither?" But instead of gratifying their curiosity in regard to the time or manner of his coming, our Saviour rather reproved them for their unworthy and carnal motives, in pursuing him with so much anxiety. "Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life." Hereupon, willing perhaps to justify themselves, they said unto him, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” To which question, with whatever views it might be asked, our Lord gave a serious and direct reply. "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
By him whom God hath sent, it is plain, our Saviour means himself. The only things which need explanation in the words, are therefore these two;