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SERM. used, all the rest follows of course. For VIII.
surely it is impossible for the sinner to reflect seriously on his degraded and perilous situation, of the ingratitude which he has committed against God, who has laid all possible obligations upon him, of the folly which he hath been guilty of towards him. self in forfeiting his title to eternal bliss and glory, and of the danger to which he has subjected himself of everlasting perdition; that there is but one step between him and death, and not another between that and hell, surely it is impossible for him to lay these thoughts seriously to heart, without being deeply concerned that he has acted so absurdly and criminally, or without wishing most devoutly that he had done otherwise. Hence arises sorrow for his sins past, which is the main ingredient in repentance ; for a desire and resolution to avoid the like vicious courses in future naturally and usually follow. So far re
pentance is produced by fear; but now a SERM. nobler motive will begin to cperate. Our evil ways being relinquished, the transition is easy, and almost unavoidable, to a life of piety and virtue; and that once begun, the hope of pleasing our Maker and attaining the glorious rewards, which he hath promised, will soon predominate. The dread of punishment may deter us from relapsing into gross wickedness, but it must be the desire of gaining the approbation of our Creator, and becoming partakers of his heavenly promises, which can alone excite us to any sublime height of virtue. Repent. ance, we see, begins with consideration, from whence results sorrow for sins past; this sorrow produces a resolution to avoid the like in future, which is the beginning of reformation ; and that once entered upon, and the prospects of eternal bliss, and glory opening upon us and animating our exertions, there is no degree of perfection at
SERM. which we may not arrive, and probably no VIII.
mansions in heaven which we may not attain. A true penitent then is one, who is thoroughly convinced of the folly, baseness, and ingratitude of sin ; who has forşaken it, from the danger to which it exposed him, and who has embraced a life of holiness, from the hopes of pleasing his Maker, and attaining his gracious promises. He never looks back to his past life without shame and self-abhorrence, and is particularly cautious not to call to mind his former vicious pleasures, except to quicken his sorrow and contrition, and to beg mercy of God for having been guilty of them. Re: flecting on the injury which he may have done by his former bad example, he is desirous that his conversion may be open and manifest, and that he may become an eminent pattern of what is just and worthy; as he was formerly the cause of reflections on his profession of a Christian, he will be care:
ful that those who were once scandalized by SERM.
VIII. his vices, may now be edified by his virtues; he will make his light shine before men; that they may see his good works and glorify, on his account, his Father which is in heaven. If he has wronged any one, he will be rigorously exact in making restitution ; for it is impossible he should be in earnest in his reformation, if he continues to enjoy or retain the acquisitions of sin.
Lastly, he will scrupulously avoid those companions and those situations, by which he knows himself liable to be drawn into vice; a relapse may otherwise be the consequence, and his rashness in hazarding it may provoke God entirely to withdraw from him his holy spirit, and so his last state may be worse than his first. Let not however the penitent be discouraged by unpremeditated and unintentional lapses, at his first entrance into repentance ; let him not provoke them, but let him not despair,
SERM. if he should occasionally fall into them. It VIII.
requires uncommon firmness, and it is indeed almost impossible to arrive at once, after a long course of sinning, at perfect obedience. But let him persevere in his exertions, and he will rise superior to his falls ; he will grow by degrees more and more firm, will be continually making new accessions in holiness, till at length he is freed from this life of probation by death, and will attain that state where there is assurance of righteousness and happiness for evermore.