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Many there have been, many are recorded, who have been convinced of fiu, perplexed about it, sorry for it, that have made open confession and acknowledgment of it, that under the pressing sense of it, have cried out even to God for deliverance, and yet have come short of mercy, pardon, and acceptance with God. The cases of Cain, Pharaoh, Saul, Ahab, Judas, and others, might be insisted on. What was wanting that made all that they did abominable ? Consider one instance for all : It is said of Judas, that he repented, Mar. xxvii. 3. atrapennbase he repented himself; but wherein did this repentance consist? he was convinced of his fin in general, Laptor , faith be, I have finned, ver. 4.
2. He was senfible of the particular sin, whereof he stood charged in conscience before God. I have, faith he, betrayed innocent blood : I am guilty of blood, innocent blood, and that in the vileft manner, by treachery. So that he comes, 3. To a full and open confession of his fin.
4. He makes restitution of what he was advantaged by his fin, he brought again the thirty pieces of silver, ver. 3. all testifying an hearty sorrow that spirited the whole. Methinks now Judas his repentance looks like the young man's obedience, who cried out, All these things have I done; is there any thing lacking? Yea, one thing was wanting to that young man, he had no true faith nor love to God all this while, which vitiated and spoiled all the rest of his performances. One thing also is wanting to this repentance of Judas, he had no faith of forgiveness in God; that he could nor believe; and therefore after all this sorrow, instead of coming to him, he bids him the utmost defiance, and goes away, and hangs himself.
Indeed faith of forgiveness, as hath been shewed, hath many degrees. There is of them, that which is indispensibly necessary to render repentance acceptable. What it is in particular, I do not dispute. It is not an assurance of the acceptance of our persons in general. It is not that the particular fin wherewith, it may be, the soul is perplexed, is forgiven. A general, so it be
a gospel-discovery that there iş forgiveness in God, will fuffice. The church expresseth it, Hof. xiv. 3 In thee the fatherlefs findeth mercy, and Joel ii: 14 Who knows but he will return and repent. I have this ground, faith the soul, God is in himself gracious and merciful; the fatherless, destiture, and helpless, that come to him by Christ, find mercy in him. None in heaven and earth can evince, but that he may return to me also. Now, let a man's convictions be never fo great, sharp, wounding, his sorrow never so abundant, overflowing abiding; his confeffion never so full, free or open, if this one thing be wanting, all is nothing but what tends to death,
Fourthly, To prescribe repentance as a duty unto fine ners, without a foundation of pardon and forgiveness in himself, is inconlistent with the wisdom, holinefs, goodpess, faithfulness, and all other glorious excellencies and perfections of the nature of God: For,
If, The apostle lays this as the great foundation of all consolation, that God cannot lie or deceive, Heb. vi. 18. And again, he engageth the faithfulness and veracity of God to the same purpose, Tit. i. 2. God who cannot lie hath promised it. Now, there is a lie, a deceit in things, as well as in words. He chat doch a thing, which in its own nature is apt to deceive them that consider it, with an intention of deceiving them, is no less a liar, than he which affirms that to be true, which he knows to be false. There is a lie in actions, as well as in words. The whole life of an hypocrite is a lie. So faith the prophet of idolaters, There is a lie in their right hand, Isa. xliv, 20.
2dly, The proposal of repentance, is a thing fitted and suited, in its own nature, to beget thoughts in the mind of a singer, that there is forgiveness with God. Repenting is for sinners only. I came not, saith our Saviour, to call the righteous, but finners to repentance. It is for them, and them only. It was no dury for Adam in Eden; it iş pone for the angels in heaven, nor for the damned in hell. What then may be the language of this appointment? O finners, come and deal with God by repentance, doth it not openly speak forgiveness in God? and if it were otherwise, could men possibly be more frustrated or deceived? would not the institution of repentance be a lie? such a delusion may produce from Satan, but not from him who is the fountain of goodnefs, holiness and truth. His call to repentance, is a full demonftration of his readiness to forgive, Acts xvii, 30, 31, 32. It is true, many do thus deceive themselves : They raise themselves unto an expectation of immunity, not on gospel grounds; and their disapoint. ment is a great part of their punishment. But God deceives none; whoever comes to him on his proposal of repentance, fhall find forgiveness. It is said of some indeed, that he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh, Prov. i. 26. He will aggravate their misery, by giving them to see what their pride and folly hath brought them unto. But who are they? only such as refuse his call to repentance, with the promises of the acceptation annexed.
3dly, There is then do cause, why those who are under a call of repentance, should question whether there be forgiveness in God or no. This concerns my second proposition, Come, faith the Lord unto the fouls of men ; leave your fipful ways, turn unto me, humble yourselves with broken and contrite hearts : Alas, fay poor convinced fingers, we are poor, dark and ignorant creatures; or, we are old in fin, or greater finners, or backsliders, or have fallen often into the fame fins ; can we expect there should be forgiveness for us? Why, you are under God's invitation to rea pentance; and to disbelieve forgiveness, is to call the truth, holiness and faithfulness of God into question. If you will not believe forgiveness, pretend what you please, it is in truth because you hate repentance. You do but deceive your souls when you pretend you come not up to repentance, because you cannot believe forgiveness; for in the very inftitution of this duty, God
engageth all his properties to make it, good, that he hath pardon and mercy for sinners.
4thly, Much less cause is there no doubt of forgiveness, where fircere repentance is in any measure wrought. No soul comes to repentance, but upon God's call. God calls none but whom he hath mercy for upon their coming. And as for those who sin against the Holy Gholt, as they shut themselves out from forgiveness, so they are not called to repentance.
stbly, God exprefly declares in the scripture, that the forgiveness that is with him, is the foundation of his prescribing repentance unto man.
One instance may fuffice, Ifa. lv. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way in the Heb. a perverse wicked one; and the man of iniquity his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and be will have mercy; and to our God, for (in the Heb.) he will multiply to pardon. You fee to whom he speaks; to men perversly wicked, and such as make a trade of finning. What doth he call them unto? plainly to repentance, to the duty we have insisted on. But what is the ground of such an invitation unto such profligate finners ? Why, the abundant forgivenefs and pardon that is with him, super-abounding unto what the worst of them can stand in need of; as Rom. V. 20.
And this is another way whereby God hath revealed that there is forgiveness with him, and an infallible bottom for faith to build upon in its approaches unto God it is. Nor can the certainty of this evidence be called into question, but on such grounds as are derogatory to the glory and honour of God. And this connection of repentance and forgiveness, is that principle from whence God convinces a stubborn unbelieving people, that all his ways and dealings with finners are just and equal, Ezek. xviii. 25. And should there be any failure in it, they could not be so. Every soul then that is under a call to repentance, whether out of his natural condition, or from any back-sliding into folly after conversion, hath a sufficient foundation to rest on, as to the pardon he enquires after. God is ready to deal with bim on terms
if out of love to fin, or the power of unbelief, he refuse to close with him on these terms, his condem. nation is just. And it will be well, that this consideration be well imprinted on the minds of men. I say, notwithstanding the geheral presumptions that men seem to have of this matter , yet these principles of it ought to be inculcated. For,
1. Such is the atheism that lies lurking in the hearts of men by nature, that notwithstanding their pretences and professions, we have need to be pressing upon them evidences of the very being and essential properties of God. In so doing, we have the assistance of inbred notions in their own minds, which they cannot eject, to help to carry on the work. How much more is this necessary in reference unto the free acts of the will of God, which are to be known only by mere revelation. Our word had need be line upon line : And yet when we have done, have cause enough to cry out, as was said, Lord who hath believed our report, and to whom hath this arm of the Lord been revealed?
2. What was spoken before of the obstacles that ly in the way, hindring souls from a saving conception of this truth, ought to be remembred. Those who have no experience of them between God and their soul, seem to be ignorant of the true nature of conscience, law, gospel, grace, sin and forgiveness.
3. Many who are come to a saving perswalion of it, yet having not received it upon clear and unquestionable grounds, and so not knowing how to resolve the faith of it into its proper principles, are not able to answer the objections that ly against it in their own consciences, and do so miserably fluctuate about it all their days. There had need to have these principles inculcated on them. Were they pondered aright, fome might have cause to say with the Samaritans, who first gave credit to the report of the woman, John iv. They had but a report be-. fore, but now they find all things to be according unto it, yea to exceed it.
A little experience of a mani's own unbelief, with the observation that may easily be made of