« PreviousContinue »
with due thoughtfulness and application of mind it may give you both a Right Notion and Understanding of it, so as to free you from all dangerous and mischievous Mistakes about it, and that it will convey so much Warmth as well as Light to your thoughts as may by the Grace of God
very much help to quicken and excite you to a Speedy and thorough Repentance, and to a Holy and Good Life.
As it will in some measure give you clear thoughts of Religion in all the parts of it, which some who have a strong fence yet have dark and confused apprehensions about, and will enable you to make a right Judgment of your selves and Spiritual state by evident and obvious and certain marks, so I dare Say that no Man who takes the whole force of it into his mind, and duly considers, and seriously attends to all the thoughts that it will suggest to him, will ever live in his fins, or continue to be a wicked Man.
One of the great Reasons that makes Men So even beyond Atheism and Infidelity it Self (for they being contrary to the natural sense of our minds, prevail not upon fo many as Superstition, False and corrupt Ree ligion) is the perverting Christianity and corrupting the Gospel by Doctrines of
Looseness and Licentiousness, that give false hopes of Pardon and Salvation without Obedience and a good Life, and by some imaginary Schemes, and some comfortable but Erroneous and even Damnable Do&trines reconcile Religion to Mens Lusts, and the hopes of Pardon and Happiness to a careless and wicked life.
How this is done in the Church of Rome by their Doctrines of Penance, Confession and Absolution, Contrition and Attrition, and the like, has been shown and made out by the Protestant Writers against them; and indeed I take those Principles to be the very Rotten Core of Popery, the PoySon and Philter by which it bewitches so many wretched Souls into its Communion, and the Antichristian Cup of Fornication that it gives the Kings and People of the Earth to drink.
The Loose Notions of Repentance which came at first from them, but have been taken up by many others since, put me upon this Design of Examining and Rectifying them, for I am perswaded there never was any Error or any Delusion of the Devil which hath destroyed more Souls than the fatal mistakes about this Duty, especially about a Dying Repentance ; which has
been the wretched Reserve of most wicked Men all their Lives, and the broken Reed they have trusted to at their Deaths,whereby they have been encouraged in their Sins, and had a kind of Protection, as they thought, against all the dangers of them by this priviledge of Repenting at the last, and by having that allowed to be valid and sufficie ent by the terms of the Gospel.
By this they have all along had the rea ferved hopes of saving their Souls however pickedly they lived, and so have excused themselves from and shifted off the necessity of a Good life by this more easie and compendious way; which though it were liable to some more accidental hazards,get might as effettually
do the Business by the standing principles of Religion, and by having, as was supposed, an ordinary Title to Pardon and Sal. pation,
This hath greatly comforted Sinners, and greatly encouraged them in their Sins, when es is cammonly said of a great many, they might hope though they lived very to dye well and make a good end, and by being penitent at the lal?, like the Thief upon the Cross, to be surely pardon'd and go to Heaven ; and so this Comfortable Disjunctive has been set up, or twofold way of going to Heaven, either by living well and
being good Men before we come to Dye, or else by Repenting and being sorry at that time that we were not so.
The Consequences to Religion and a good Life are so plain and fatal from hence, and I have known so many Sad Instances of its dreadful mischief in my frequent attending the Sick (whereby my experience in this case, if not my skill, has made me a good Physician) that I thought I could not do more Service to God and Religion, and the Souls of Men than to rescue them from such false Notions and pernicious Mistakes about a matter of so great consequence, and do all I could effectually to perswade them to the Practice of such a true Repentance as is not to be Repented of.
The serving such an excellent Design makes me venture this Discourse into the World without being concerned for the many Defects and Imperfections in the Style, Phrase and Words, which a nice Critick may find in it; but I am sure the pious and welldisposed Reader will excase and overlook those when he is affected with the thought and matter which is of so great moment and importance ; and when he is satisfied with the vertue and wholsomnessof the Phykick, he will not I hope be fo delicate as ta
find fault with its being either too much or too little gilded.
I confess some part of it hath lain by me many Years (even beyond Horace's ninth) and hath many youthful strokes in it, to show it was drawn before the rest, and to excuse its Dress and Colours ; but the Thought and Notion is all of a piece, and I have had it so long, and considered it so fully, that if any Mall differ from me after reading it thorough, for the strength of it lies in the Frame and Contexture of the whole and not in any single part, I should very much wonder and be glad to know his Reasons.
I have chosen sometimes to repeat the same Notion as there was occasion rather than to refer the Reader back again to another place, where there would not be such an immediate connexion with what he was just reading, so that he would lose the fight of what went before with looking after it, and would not see the thing so well in one view.
I have often thought that we wanted a Just and entire Discourse of Repentance and all that relates to it, and have wondered that among all our Excellent Practical Treatises we should hardly have one such fitted for common use ; among other Rea