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SERMON XXX.3232   Preached October 3, 1693.

James ii. 23.

And the scripture was fulfilled, &c.

4. THE exercise of repentance towards God; and the bringing of the soul to this hath the most of friendliness that can be expressed. It is he that brings the soul to the necessary exercise of repentance and godly sorrow, whereby men are brought off from sin, and brought home 391to God. I would now have you to understand, that I do not, by mentioning these things in this order, wherein I do, say that there is such an order punctually observed by God in the effecting and bringing about these things. But where there are many particulars to be mentioned to you, it is impossible they can all be mentioned in one breath; we can but mention one after another. But God’s order of doing things may not be always the same. Some acts maybe produced first in such an order, and (for aught we know) afterwards in another. And most certain we are, that for the substance of all that is requisite to the salvation and blessedness of the soul, it may, and for aught we know, always is done in one and the same moment, when God regenerates it, visiting it with his Son, and so pardons and justifies it, and entitleth it to eternal life. And it is very possible, that that very moment wherein he first applies himself to the soul to unite it to Christ, may be at the moment of its separation from this body. And so all that is necessary to salvation must be done in that moment, or the soul must be lost; and, for aught we know, it may be always so. But, I say, notwithstanding that when there are many things that are distinct in themselves, that is, that are capable of distinct conceptions in our minds, none of these things are to be overlooked; we must distinctly mention things that do occur, though we cannot mention them all in one moment or breath.

But most certain it is, that there is in this very case repentance necessary; and there is the exercise of repentance necessary. So faith is necessary, not only the principle of faith, but the act and exercise too; for when we are said to be justified by faith, what is the meaning of that? By a disposition to believe: the mere disposition to believe is not believing. We are said to be justified by faith, Rom. v. 1; so Gal. ii. 16. it is said we have believed, that we might be justified. We have believed, not have been disposed only to believe, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ. Why so, after the same manner, when it is said, “Repent, that your sins may be blotted out;” the meaning cannot be, that there be some disposition in you to repent. Acts iii. 19. “Repent, for the remission of sins;” Acts ii. 38. The meaning cannot be, that there be in you some essay, some tendency, some inclinations to repentance; but Repent, except you repent (not except you be some way inclined to it), ye shall all likewise perish. Herein, I say, inasmuch as such a repentance is 392so conjunct a thing with a safe state for a sinner, there appears most admirable friendliness in this matter. That an heart that was most adverse and disaffected to God before, should be turned to him; that an heart that was before a stone, a rock, should be so relenting; how admirable a thing is this, if you consider at once both the necessity and the excellency, and the rarity of such a repentance. Take these things together, and it is most admirable friendship that appears in giving repentance. It is spoken with admiration, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts xi. 18. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts v. 31.

1. Consider the necessity of it, and you acknowledge the friendliness of it. Any one that understood the state of his own case, if he had but so much sense about him as to consider what he should do, and how incapable he is of doing it, would say, Lord, what shall I do with this wretched heart of mine? I can as soon dissolve a rock as melt it down. I cannot make it relent or bleed. The most proper, the most weighty, most important thoughts I can take up, do all hover on the surface, and never enter, have no molifying influence, are productive of nothing: well, now for God to say, this is a thing that shall be done—I will take away the heart of stone; this soul of thine it must dissolve or perish; thou must repent or die. Thy faint strugglings prove thy impotency; I will relieve in this distressed case. Oh what friendship is here! And,

2. If we consider the excellency of the thing wrought in this case, it is a most friendly work. It restores the lost creature to itself, and brings it to God. A most glorious work! Thy wretched soul is not itself till it repent. Repentance is a becoming wise. It is a soul’s return to a sound and sober sense of things, of which it was destitute before. The character that Ecclesiastes gives of the hearts of men generally, which we heard opened heretofore, is—madness is in their hearts. Repentance is the cure of this madness. It is by it they return to a sound mind; and it is by it they return to God. “Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;” you find how they are conjoined, Acts xx. 21. A wandering creature, that hath spent its time hitherto in perpetual deviations from the living God, now comes back to him. Admirable friendliness, to produce and bring about this return! Long it 393was, and not such a thought taken up, Where is God my maker? There was no miss of God. How is the soul, after the divine touch and impress put upon it, impatient of longer distance? I can live without God no longer; where is God my maker? This resolution possesses it: “I will arise and go to my Father, and say, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Perhaps there were some cold relentings before, but now that matter is resolved; and it is the power of divine grace, giving repentance, that resolves and determines it. Now a disceptation is out of doors, laid aside. And whereas the matter was long at this pass, Shall I? Shall I? Shall I break off from this way of sin? Shall I abandon that lust which did domineer, and unto which I did enslave myself? Now the soul will be no longer at this pass; Shall I? Shall I? But when God gives it repentance, he brings the matter to this: the soul says, “I will arise and go to my Father,” and throw myself at his feet and cry for mercy, as that which I can no longer live and be without. I can remain in this irresolution no longer. This is giving repentance, and oh, how friendly! When by it the soul returns to itself, and to its God at once. And again,

3. If you consider the rarity of such a work, it is wonderful friendliness. How many are there, who sit a life’s time under that gospel, which is Christ’s call continually to repentance? “1 came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Many live a life’s time under that gospel by which he calls, but his call is regarded no more than the whistling of the wind among the leaves of the trees. “I called, but they gave me no answer: I called, but ye refused: I stretched out my hand, but no man regarded.” Prov. i. 24. And what proves the issue of this with, God knows, too many? Ye shall call, but I will not regard; ye shall make many prayers, and I will not hear; “I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.” Consider this as the common case, and what wonderful friendliness is it when he gives repentance! When he enables a poor creature to fall before him in the dust, with self-loathing, clothing itself with shame and confusion before him; when he hath brought it to a supplicating posture; when he hath made it feel wounds and remorse within itself, which the most never feel;—let but these things be considered together, the necessity, the excellency, and the rarity of serious repentance, and it is wonderful friendliness? when God worketh a soul to it.


5. Great friendliness appears in his begetting in the soul an universal frame of holiness and rectitude, that is spread through all the powers and faculties thereof. Though this, for aught we know, may be done in the same instant of time wherein he is said to regenerate a soul; yet it is capable of a distinct conception, and so ought not to be altogether confounded with that: for whenever it pleaseth God to touch a soul with a saving divine touch, that touch must be supposed to be vital. He toucheth it, and makes it live. He, by that touch, draws it into union with his Son, to him, so as that it comes to possess him, to have him (in the Scripture phrase); and in having him it hath life. 1 John v. 12. Yet, for all this, the having a distinct, explicit frame of holy rectitude laid out through the soul, is a diverse thing; it is to be distinctly considered, supposing that that be by so quick and speedy an operation effected, as to be in the same moment of time. And so, though these be not separable things, they are distinct things. As, when the rational soul is first united with the unformed matter of a human body, there may be said to be a man virtually, though the several parts of the human body are distinctly formed by degrees. It is very true, indeed, that where a spiritual being is the subject of an operation, there it may be quick, and, for aught we know, momentary; it may be done, for all we know, in a moment. Spirit being said to be the production, the thing produced in the case, as John iii. 6, “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” Why, supposing that, yet that first vital touch, by which it may be said to be regenerated, may be distinguished, though not separated from this intire work of regeneration, by which the frame of holiness is superinduced that work of sanctification. And so the most do distinguish regeneration from sanctification; as the former is the latter virtually, and the latter is the former actually and completely. And this frame consists of that concurrence of gracious principles that do belong to the new nature, now become explicit in the soul. They were all actually in the new nature when first given, but yet make a formed new man, as the divine Spirit lays out the several lineaments thereof by his own operation and influence. And whether that be instantaneous, or whether it be in a continued succession of time, is a matter altogether so unknown, and so unknowable to us, that it would be lost time and labour to go about to dispute it. Besides, that the determination would be as little useful, as it is possible. But certain it is, that besides the communication of the 395new nature and the new life, which virtually contain all holy gracious principles in it, there are holy gracious principles given themselves, which actually and formally obtain and have place in the soul, and are the fruits of the Spirit, which we find mentioned in distinct terms, Gal. v. 22, 23, and in divers other places.

6. With this falls in the mortifying and destroying the body of sin; and it is indifferent whether this be mentioned before the other, or after. It is altogether indifferent. For this work of the divine Spirit, it may be very well wrought, by the opposite thereunto taking place in the soul, and making its own way, and expelling the former form, as this latter is itself introduced. As fire seizing upon any combustible matter, it doth at the same time expel the form of the wood or seal, and introduce its own form of fire. But that is a thing that must necessarily fall in, be the order what it will, and it makes little what the order be. But when there is a new man to be put on, there is the old man to be put off, and there is the body of sin and of flesh to be destroyed, so as that the soul is no longer to serve sin. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is to free it from the law of sin and death. Rom. viii. 2. It is altogether an unconceivable thing, that when the soul is in union with Christ, and intitled to a righteousness by him of His working out, that it should at the same time continue in a stated rebellion against God, and under the governing power of reigning sin; of sin still in the throne, and still giving law, or still being a law in the soul,—the law of sin and death. These things can no more consist. The reign and power of sin is broken in the same instant that any one’s state is changed. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace;” under the law, as it is a condemning law. Why, then, at the same time that the sinner ceases to be condemned, sin ceaseth to reign. If it hath no condemning power, it hath no dominion. To be under the condemning power of sin, and to be under grace, these are inconsistent. And to be under grace, and to be under the power of sin regnant, are equally inconsistent. “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” It will not consist with your state, with that state which you are to conclude is yours, and is proper to you now, that is, a state of holy life into which you are regenerated. “Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.” 396Rom. vi. 11. The Apostle is not teaching these to make a false judgement. He would not have them reckon themselves alive unto God through Jesus Christ, if they were not alive, or if they were still dead.. But if they be so alive, if the life of grace doth come to have any place in them, the reigning of sin is at an end, as the next words shew. Sin is no longer to reign in their mortal bodies. And in the 14th verse, “it can have no dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” And you are resigned (as the intervening 13th verse says), “yielding yourselves to God, as those who are alive from the dead.”

Now how admirable friendship is there in this too, considering the base servitude that all were naturally in unto sin before. With how kind an eye doth the blessed God behold from his throne above, the enthralled, miserable state of wretched souls serving divers lusts and pleasures; drudging to the devil for the wages of death, and no other. Not dictated to by those lusts of theirs, which, being fulfilled, destroy them. “The wages of sin is death.” It is only then when men come to have their fruit unto holiness that they have for their end everlasting life. Rom. vi. 22. That there should be so compassionate an eye cast upon the miserable state of forlorn souls upon this account, seeing them so injuriously imposed upon, held in so vile a vassalage, so ignoble a servitude, which hath so destructive a tendency, that they are led as so many slaves in bonds and cords to their destruction and final ruin, to which their course and state do naturally tend;—that God should look down with so compassionate an eye upon the distress of these wretched creatures, and determine with himself; lay the design in his wise and good counsel—I will work the freedom of these wretched souls; I have appointed a Redeemer for them, that is proper for their state of slavery; the notion of redemption most appositely answers the notion of the enthralled state of sinners before. And ergo, it is observable, Tit. ii. 14, that our Lord is said to give himself for us “to redeem us from all iniquity.” Not only to redeem us from wrath and from hell, and final ruin, but “from all iniquity.”

And that is one consequent of our being in Christ, or our union with him. If ever we are said to be in him, then he is made to us redemption. Sanctification you have heard of (and you have heard of the other before;) that stands in investing and possessing the soul with an entire new 397frame of holiness. And Redemption, which stands in the divestiture of the power of sin, that had introduced into it an universal irrectitude, and which is wrought out or wrought off, eadem opera, by the same work by which the new man or the divine image is superinduced. There is great friendliness in this: These wretched souls (saith God) they shall be slaves no longer, I will assert them into a state of liberty. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. That Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of the Redeemer and Mediator, when it makes its seizure, and takes possession of them for him, it becomes the law of the Spirit of life in them, making them free from the law of sin and death. And that is a further expression of the friendliness of the blessed God to a soul, in and about the matters that here lie under our consideration.

These are his ways with the sons of men, when he is about saving them from going down to the pit—when he hath found out a righteousness and redemption for them; or when he is shewing man his righteousness that he may deliver him from that state of death and destruction into which he was continually ready to precipitate himself.

There are many more instances of this friendliness on God’s part yet behind. But as to what has been thus said, let us make some reflections on ourselves. What have we found of this friendliness between the blessed God and our souls, in any such instances as these? Hath there been any such transaction set on foot between him and us? Do we find any applications have been made to our spirits, such as we have attended to? Indeed God speaks to men inwardly, and often, but they perceive it not. He speaks, but they know not his voice that speaks to them. It is often a whispering voice, which they can easily neglect, and against which they shut and stop their ears. We are not to conclude, ergo, that he hath never made any application to us, if we have had no distinct reflections thereon. But we may conclude, if there have been any application made to us to any valuable purpose, then we have been capable of reflecting and taking notice that it hath been made; our attention hath been engaged, and we must have been brought to consider that God is dealing with my soul about the very life of it; and salvation or destruction will be the issue of the treaty, according as I now comply and co operate (in a subordinate way) with his motions in me and upon me; or do resist them, and comply not. But how awakening should it be to us to consider that these are 398matters of life and death; that such a treaty with the souls of men hath this design to invest them with a righteousness in which they may be capable of appearing safely before the tribunal of the supreme and final Judge. And we are each of us to consider with ourselves, have I yet such a righteousness, yea or no? Such a righteousness I cannot have of myself, I must be beholden for it, it must be an imparted thing. Have I any of those characters in me by which I may conclude, or whence I may gather that such a righteousness will be reckoned to me, will be accounted to me, and so answer the exigency of my case as certainly as if I had wrought it out myself?

Why, perhaps, though we have often heard our case thus stated, yet the thoughts of this state of our case may be rarities with many. And are there any among us that never think of any such thing, but just then when we are told of it? Do we believe ourselves to have souls made for eternity and an everlasting estate? And do we apprehend it enough for us to think of such matters as these once a week? We cannot help having some thoughts of this kind when the sound of words that import them beats upon our ears. That we cannot help. But is it enough (I say) for things that do concern us with reference to eternity, to be thought of but once a week, when we cannot help it? When things are borne in upon us, and inserted, and we have no way to keep them off, unless we would stop our ears? Is this like persons designing for eternity, and for an ever lasting well-being? If I would throw away all thoughts of these matters till the next season returning of hearing of these again, how do I know when my soul will be required? Sure, methinks, I should consider with myself every time I lie down, have I a righteousness about me in which I may safely lie down? To lie down this night under guilt, when I do not know but this night my soul may be required, this is desperate. Who can answer to himself his having such a resolution as this! I will neglect it, I will throw away all thoughts of it. I will run the hazard, I will try what will come of it! But if, instead of engaging our spirits in the serious thoughts of what doth so deeply concern us, there should be not only a not considering but a continual running in the course that tends to involve us in new guilt, so that the person that doth not know but the next night, or the next hour, he shall be required to surrender and give up a loathsome, guilty soul, how amazing is it that a reasonable intelligent spirit should be sunk into this pitch and 399degree of stupidity, so little to consider I have a soul about me that is capable of eternity, and of eternal felicity. in that state which lies before me: how amazing is it (I say) that an intelligent spirit should be so low sunk as not to be capable of considering the difference between the pleasures of a moment and an eternity of misery and woe, if such moment be mispent in this world. And an eternity of blessedness if it be employed, as it may be, to purposes which it is possible and capable it may.

I would leave a resolution, if it might be, with each one to consider their case. To have a righteousness that will bear me out before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge is my present and most indispensable concernment. And ergo, shall all of us go away now with the resolution, never to be at rest till we can say this righteousness is ours by friendly vouchsafement? We could never work out such an one to ourselves. But by friendly vouchsafement we find such characters to be upon us that speak his righteousness is ours. Then shall we live the rest of our time, rejoicing in the hope of that glory which is also the hope of righteousness by Jesus Christ, through faith, as the Apostle calls it, Gal. v. 5.—But now I go on to add in the next place—

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