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• born, by a life of unparalleled wickedness upon earth. Vile « wretch that I am! I have despised the riches of thy goodness,
forbearance, and long-suffering ; not knowing that the good. ness of God leadeth me to repentance. And after all, here • I am told, that there is yet a possibility of pardon, mercy and • salvation for me. The news is so great and so good, that • that I am zealously concerned to examine the grounds and ( evidences of it.
And if it shall appear to be as true, as it • is astonishingly strange, and ravishingly sweet ; I hope, it < fhall effectually lead me to repentance, and dissolve for ever the strongest ties betwixt me and my lusts.'
§ II. Conversion of the vileft finner possible. HAT it is possible for the greatest and most infamous
linner to be recovered by repentance and conversion, and thereupon to find mercy and forgiveness with God; is a truth as sure and firm as it is sweet and comfortable. Three things will give full evidence of it.
1. That their fins do not exceed the power and sufficiency of the causes of remission.
2. That such Ginners are within the calls and invitations of the gospel.
3. That such finners are found among the instances and ex. amples of pardoning mercy, recorded in the scriptures.
And if the causes of pardon be sufficient, and able to produce it, if the gospel-invitations do take them in, and such finners as these, every way as vile and wicked, have not been shut out, but received to mercy; then it is beyond all doubt that there is (at least) a posibility of mercy for such finners as
I. It is past rational doubt, that the causes of remission are every way fufficient, and able to produce the forgiveness of such fins as yours are. For consieler with yourselves,
1. The impulsive cause. The power of 2. The meritorious cause.
The applying cause. 1. The fufficiency and ability of the impulsive cause of pardon, which is none other but the free grace of God, the immense riches and treasures whereof, do infinitely exceed the accompts and computations both of angels and men. Exod. xxxiv. 6,7. “ And the Lord passed by before him, and pro" claimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and graci“ ous, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth:
keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transa
“ gression, and fin.” Mic. vii. 18, 19. “Who is a God lika
grellions of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth no
2. Nor do thy sins exceed the ability and power of the me. ritorious cause of remiffion, namely, the blood of the Lord Jes Sus Christ ; for that blood is the blood of God, Acts xx. 28. He is the Lamb of God, whose blood is fufficient to take a. way the sins of the world, John i. 29. There is but one in the world exempt from remission by this blood, atid if thy heart be now wounded with the sense of sin, (as I here fup: pose it to be) that is none of thy fin, how heinous soever thy othei fins be.
3. Nor do thy sins exceed the ability and power of the ap plying cause of pardon, namely, the Spirit of God. For though I should suppose thy mind to be clouded, and overlhadowed with groffest ignorance, thy heart to be as hard as an adament, or nether-milftone, thy will stiff and obstinate, thy affections enchanted and bewitched with the pleasures of fin; yet this Spirit of God, in a moment, can make a convincing beam of light to dart into thy dark mind, make thy hard heart relent, thy stubborn will to bow, and all the affections of thy soul to comply, and open obediently to Christ. John xvi. 9, 10, “ The Spirit when he cometh, he shall convince the world of “ sin," &c.
Thus you see, whatever your guilt be, it does not exceed the abilities of the causes of remiflion. O what an encourage ment is this?
II. And there is yet further encouragement in this, that if you will open your Bibles, you may find yourselves within the calls and invitations of the gospel. And no man can fay, that man is without hope, that is within a gospel-invitation. Con sider Ifa. lv. 7, 8. “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the “ unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the VOL. VIII.
« Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, “ for he will abundantly pardon ; for my thoughts are not
your thoughts,” &c. Here you have the nature of converfion described negatively and positively, by forsaking your ways and thoughts, and turning to the Lord. The way notes the external course of the conversation ; the thoughts denote the internal frame and temper of the mind: both these must be forsaken. And turning to the Lord, denotes the fincere dedicating of the whole man to God; all which is pofsible, and easy for the Spirit of God to do; and this being once done, abundant pardon is assured. If you say, you cannot think it; God tells you, in the very next words, that his thoughts are not your thoughts ; but as far above them, as the heavens are higher than the earth. Read to the fame purpose, Ha. i. 18. Rev. iii. 20. John vii. 27.
III. And to make the possibility of remiffion yet clearer, know, for your encouragement, that as vile, infamous, and prodigious sinners as yourselves, are recorded, and found amongst the instances and examples of forgiven finners in fcripture. Paul was once a fierce and cruel perfecutor and blafphemer, yet he obtained mercy, 1 Tim. i. 13, 14. That sinful woman, recorded, Luke vii. 37, 38. was an infamous, and a notoriouş finner; yet her fins which were many, were forgiven her, ver. 47. Manasseh was a monster of wickedness, as you may read, 2 Chron. xxxiii. yet found mercy. And if you view that catalogue of finners, given in Cor. vi. 9, 10. you will seem to find among them the very forlorn hope of desperate finners, advanced neareft to hell of any men upon earth; yet fee, ver. 11. what is faid of fome of them: “ And such were “ some of you ; but ye are washed, but ye are justified.”
All these things plainly thew (I fay not the certainty that you shall be, but) the possibility that you may be pardoned; which is a mercy and encouragement unfpeakable.
$ III. The conversion of profane ones bighly probable.
gone in sin so far as you are, by cutting off all hopes of mercy from them, and bringing them to this desperate conclufion; damned we know we shall, and must be ; and therefore as good be damned for more, as lefs. If we had lived sober, and civil lives, we might have had some hope ; but because we have no hope, it is as good for us to take our full swing in fin, as to think of returning by repentance and convertion, fa late in the day as this is.
To obviate this deadly snare of Satan, I shall here further add, That there is not only a possibility of your recovery, but, in some respect, a stronger possibility, that such as you may be converted and saved, than there is for those who have led a smoother, and more civil life in the world, and wholly trust to their own civility for their salvation, instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ.
This plainly appears, by that convictive expression of Chrift to the Scribes and Pharisees, Matth. xxi. 31. “Verily, I say " unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the king“ dom of heaven before you." Publicans, the most infamous among men; and harlots, the worst of women ; yet these sooner wrought over to Christ by faith and repentance, than the more civil, and self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees.
And indeed, it is far easier to come at the consciences of such sinners by conviction, than at the others; they having nothing to ward off the stroke of conviction, it must fall directly, and immediately upon their consciences. The most smooth, and civil part of the world, trust to their own righteousness; and this felf-confidence, like armour of proof, refifts all attempts to bring them to Christ for righteousness. Nothing fixes men in a state of evil, more than a firong conceit that their condition is good.
Betsuch as you are, whose whole lives have been polluted with profaneness, and all impiety, your consciences will more easily receive convictions of your present danger, and of the necessity of a speedy, and thorough change. You cannot think, as others do, that you need no repentance, or reformation. In this refpect, therefore, you lie nearer the door of hope and mercy, than other finners do.
If therefore it shall please the Lord, (whose grace is rich and free to the vileft of finners) to pluck out such as you, as brands out of the burning, by thorough conversiou to Christ; you will not only become real Christians, (as all true converts are) but the most excellent, useful, and zealous amongst all Chriftians. As you will be most eminent instances of his grace, so you will be the moft eminent inftruments for his glory. As you have gone beyond other finners in wickedness, so you will strive to exceed them all in your love to Christ. Luke vii. 47.
66. She “ loved much, for much was forgiven her." You will never think you can do 'en ough for him, who hath done fuch great things for you. Who more fierce, and vile, before conversion, than Paul,
who was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious ? 1 Tim; i. 13. and who, among all the fervants of Christ, loved or laboured for him more than he ? How did he rather fly, than travel
up and down the world, in a flame of zeal for Chrift? * As you have been ringleaders in fin, fo you will not endure to come behind any in zeal and love to the Lord Jesus : Yet not thinking this way to make him a requital for the injuries you have done him ; (that would be the most injurious act of all the rest) but to testify this way the deep senfe you have of the riches and transcendency of his goodness and mercy to you, above all others.
$ IV. Conversion frequently and fatally mistaken. UT here I must warn you of some common, but most
dangerous mistakes, committed in the world, with reIpect to conversion unto God: Except these be feasonably prevented, or removed, none of you will ever ftir, or move further than you are towards Christ. Amongst others, be ware especially of these three following fatal mistakes ; that of,
1. Baptismal regeneration. 2. Common profession of Christianity, 3. Formality in religious duties.
1. There is a notion spread among men, and almost every where obtaining, that the scriptures mean nothing else by conversion, but to be baptized in our infancy into the visible church; and that this ordinance having passed upon them loog ago, they are sufficiently converted already; and that men make but a needless ftir and bustle in the world, about any other, or further conversion,
But, firs, I beseech you, consider how dangerous a thing it is, to take your own shadow for a bridge, and venturing upon it, drown yourselves. If baptism be converfion enough, why doth Christ say, Mark xvi. jo. “ He that believeth, and “ is baptized, shall be saved ; but he that believeth not, shall be “i damned ?” Baptism, without faith, fignifies nothing to salvation ; but faith, without baptism, (where it cannot be had) fecurés salvation. And why doth the apostle say, Gal. vi. 25. “ Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcifion availeth any thing, " but a new creature ?" Or what needed Christ to have pressed and inculcated the indispensible necessity of regeneration upon Nicodemus, as he doth, John iii. 3, 5, 7. who had been many years a circumcised Jew? This your dangerous dependance upon your baptismal regeneration, is what hath given kuch deep offence, and prejudice to many (though without just