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"Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live." "Seek ye the Lord, while "he may be found; call ye upon him while he is
near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him re"turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abun
dantly pardon'." Confess your sins, therefore, without reserve; forsake them without delay, renounce your former associates in ungodliness; "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, "and touch not the unclean thing, and I will "receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye "shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty." Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; "and purify your hearts, ye double-minded; be "afflicted, and mourn and weep; let your laughter "be turned into mourning, and your joy into "heaviness; humble yourselves in the sight of the
Lord, and he shall lift you up." Make no more vain excuses; pretend not that your sins have been few or small; be not afraid to view them in their full magnitude and malignity; trust only in the mercy of the Father, the atoning blood and prevailing mediation of the Son, and the powerful grace of the holy Spirit; return to the Lord with weeping and supplications; and speedily your 3 Jam. iv, 6-10,
Isai. Iv. 6, 7.
2 2 Cor. vi, 17, 18.
sorrow's shall be turned into joy, and your heaviness into glad songs of grateful praise.
But men not only should "repent and turn to God;" we must also call on them to do works meet for repentance; and this leads us,
IV. To consider what is meant by this clause of
If a man truly repent of any misconduct, which hath proved injurious to himself or others, he would be glad, were it possible, to undo what he recollects with shame and remorse. This is indeed impracticable; yet frequently the effects may be prevented or counteracted; and this is a work meet for repentance, especially if it be done with much loss and self-denial. This consideration, however, may suggest a powerful inducement to early piety: for even if the sinner should be spared, and live to repent in his riper years, he will seldom be able to prevent the mischievous effects of his youthful iniquities; and that, which is practicable and indispensable, will resemble "the cutting "off of a right hand, or the plucking out of a " right eye."
He who has in any way defrauded others, cannot be thought "to do works meet for repentance," unless he makes restitution to the best of his ability and recollection; whatever mortifying or
self-denying circumstances attend it: for without this, he retains the wages of his crimes, and perpetuates his injustice. But as one vice often wastes the gains of another, restitution may be absolutely impracticable; and in many cases it is almost impossible to know to whom restitution should be made, even if a man is able and willing to make it. When therefore the apostle says, "Let him that "stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hand the thing which is good, "that he may have to give to him that needeth';" he seems to counsel such persons to submit to hard labour and mean fare, that by giving to the poor, they might make such restitution, as their circumstances allowed of: and this is certainly a work meet for repentance. Were this lowly, industrious, and self-denying conduct more common among professors of the gospel; they would more frequently be enabled to adorn the doctrine of Christ by an unrequired restitution for wrongs, which the laws of men do not notice, but which a tender well-informed conscience cannot overlook. And when wrong has been done, and the individuals who have been injured cannot be exactly ascertained, the poor, especially of the families which have been wronged, should be considered as best entitled to the restitution. This however, is certain, that the professed penitent himself, whether he
Eph. iv. 28.
have defrauded individuals or the publick, cannot retain it, either as a treasure to hoard up, or as a source of indulgence, without "putting an ac"cursed thing among his own stuff, and becoming
an accursed thing like unto it'."—But we may have traduced the characters, poisoned the principles, or corrupted the morals of others, or in various ways injured them, if we have not robbed them of their property: and though adequate restitution cannot be made; yet we should do all in our power to counteract the effects of our misconduct, and to promote their best interests; if we would evidence the sincerity of our repentance and faith, and of our love to God and man.
He that well understands the gospel of Christ, and the nature of genuine repentance, will readily perceive, that forgiveness of injuries, and love of enemies, are peculiarly required by the words of the text. The man who refuses to forgive, surely forgets his own need of forgiveness. And he, who will do nothing for his enemies, can have no proper sense of his own sinfulness, and of the love of God in reconciling us when enemies by the death of his Son. The view, which the true penitent has of Christ, dying on the cross and praying for his murderers, will render it easy to him, to pity and love his most determined foes, to do good to them that hate him, and pray for them that despitefully
Josh. vii. 11-15.
use him and persecute him. These too are works meet for repentance; without which all tears, confessions, and even restitution, can never prove it genuine and unfeigned.
Patience under afflictions, contentment in our situation, thankfulness for mercies, and meekness under provocations, might be separately considered, did time permit. But in general, an habitual walk in newness of life, comprises the whole. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation, "teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and "worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righte"ously, and godly in this present world;" watching and praying against the sins which once had most entire dominion over us; redeeming our time and improving our talents, doing good to all men, especially to the household of faith; a circumspect conduct, and a constant attendance on the ordinances of God; a humble deportment in the family and community, as well as in the church; and a care to exercise ourselves daily to have a "conscience void of offence, towards God and "man:" these I say are works meet for repentance.
-When the people asked John Baptist what they should do, in compliance with his exhortation to this effect; he did not require them to retire into deserts, or immure themselves in cloysters, nor even to torment themselves with excessive austerities: but he recommended liberal charity, strict inte