Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

And now, sir, to sum up the whole in a short and easy view : if you have a good evidence of a saving faith in Christ, you must have such a sensible impression of the truth of the gospel, as makes you feel the importance of your eternal concerns, and your necessity of an interest in Christ; and puts your soul upon earnest and active desires after him, as your only hope and safety. You must heartily approve the way of salvation which the gospel reveals, and heartily consent to the terms on which it is offered. You must accept of Christ as a free gift; bringing nothing with you of your own, to recommend you to his acceptance. You must accept of him as your only righteousness to justify you before God; and as your Prince, as well as Saviour; desiring as well to be governed as to be saved, to be sanctified as to be justified by him. And as you must receive him, so you must confidently trust in him alone, as a sure foundation of safety and hope; and as a continuing fountain of all supplies of grace to your soul, whatever difficulties and discouragements you may meet with. . And you must have this standing evidence of the sincerity of your faith, that it purifies your heart, and brings you to an earnest desire of, and endeavour after habitual holiness of heart and life; that it works by love to God and man, and keeps up in your soul an abasing sense of your own vileness and utter unworthiness, after all. This is that precious faith, to which the promises of the gospel are made, and to which no false professor can make any just pretence.

To conclude with a still shorter view of this case: when a realizing belief of the gospel, and a despair of all help in yourself, brings you to repair to Christ as your only safety; and to venture your soul, guilty as it is, upon the merit of his obedience, the sufficiency

of his grace and strength, and the faithfulness of his promise, and heartily to submit to his rule and government; now you cannot fail of the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, to qualify you for the eternal inheritance: for the Amen, the true and faithful Witness, has given you his word for it, that if you thus come to him, he will in no wise cast you out. I might sum up this important point in a yet shorter view: if you so heartily approve of and delight in the gospel way of salvation by Christ alone, that you can cheerfully venture your soul and your eternal interests upon it, as the sure and only foundation of hope and safety, you have then the faith of God's elect: and, in this case, he that has bestowed such grace upon you will carry on his own work in your soul, will give you those several qualifications and evidences of a gracious state which I have before described, and will at last present you faultless before his throne, with exceeding joy. That you may have the delightful experience of such a progress of grace in your soul, is the prayer of,

SIR,
Yours, &c.

LETTER VIII.

WHEREIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEGAL AND AN Evange LICAL REPENTANCE IS DISTINCTLY CONSIDERED.

SIR,

You justly observe, “It is of infinite concern, that your repentance towards God (as well as your faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ) be sincere; and that you have therefore cause to be solicitous, not to be deceived with a repentance which must be repented of.” And you have therefore just reason to desire “a clear apprehension of the difference between a legal and an evangelical repentance.” I shall therefore endeavour, according to your desire, “to show you the difference, in as easy and familiar a light as I can.” And perhaps it may give you a clearer view of the case, if I should show you first, negatively, wherein the distinction does not consist, under a few particulars, before I proceed to a direct illustration of it. It may then be observed, that a deep distress of mind, on account of sinning against God, is common both to a legal and evangelical repentance. Even Judas could cry out with agony of soul, I have sinned, in betraying innocent blood; as well as the psalmist groan out his complaint, that there was no rest in his bones because of his sins. A distressing sense of sin, in itself considered, is therefore no evidence either for or against the truth and sincerity of repentance. Moreover, a fearful apprehension of the Divine displeasure may be common to both sorts of penitents. Mere legal convictions may make sinners in Zion afraid, and fearfulness surprise the hypocrite; and destruction from God may o: a terror to a holy Job, in as great reality, though not with such despairing infidelity, as to a Cain or Judas; but this can be no distinguishing mark of a true or false repentance. I may add, dread of, and a temporary reformation from outward and known courses of sinning, may likewise be the consequence of both a legal and evangelical repentance. Ahab humbled himself, lay in sackcloth, and went softly; and Herod reformed many things, as well as David, who refrained his feet from every evil way. It is impossible for a sinner to give the reins to his lusts, while under the severe lashes of an awakened conscience; so that a mere legal conviction must, while it lasts, procure an external reformation. Such a reformation, of itself, can therefore be no evidence of a sincere repentance, how great soever it may appear, and (certainly) no evidence against it. Besides, men may be put upon diligence and activity in duty, by both a legal and evangelical repentance. An insincere repentance may bring men, with the hypocritical jews, to seek the Lord daily; and delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness. In their afflictions they may seek him early. They may seek him and return, and inquire early after God. This may be the fruit of a legal repentance, as well as that a true repentance may and always does bring men to lift up their hearts and their hands to God in the heavens. This, therefore, can be no distinguishing criterion in the case before us. In short, it is not the deepest sense of sin or guilt, nor the most distressing sorrow on that account; it is not the fear of God's wrath, nor the greatest external reformation of life, nor the most diligent external attendance upon all known duty, nor all these together, that will denominate a man sincerely penitent. For all these may be, and have been attained to by mere hypocrites, and often are found with the false as well as the true professor. Having, by way of precaution, given you these remarks, I now proceed directly to consider the important case before us. And, 1. A legal repentance flows only from a sense of danger, and fear of wrath; but an evangelical repentance is a true mourning for sin, and an earnest desire of deliverance from it. When the conscience of a sinner is alarmed with a sense of his dreadful guilt, it must necessarily remonstrate against those impieties which threaten him with destruction and ruin. Thence those frights and terrors which we so commonly see in awakened sinners. Their sins, especially some grosser enormities of their lives, stare them in the face, with their peculiar aggravations. Conscience draws up the indictment, and sets home the charge against them. The law passes the sentence, and condemns them without mercy. And what have they now in prospect, but a fearful looking-for of fiery indignation to consume them! Now with what distress will they cry out, of the greatness and aggravations of their sins ! With what amazement will they expect the dreadful issue of a sinful course I How ready are they now to take up resolutions of a more watchful and holy life I Now they are brought upon their knees before God, to acknowledge their sins, and to cry for mercy; and now conscience, like a flaming sword, keeps them from their former course of impiety and sensual gratifications. And what is

« НазадПродовжити »