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And first, of repentance. St. Paul assures us,* that this is the foundation of our peace with God, and upon which he will acknowledge us: Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, (that pretends to be his servant,) depart from iniquity. How depart from iniquity? Why, not only confess our sins, (which we are ready enough to do, and lament our weaknesses, but sincerely resolve, for the time to come, to forsake
to avoid all sin, and the occasions of it.
But we are beset with temptations, and in many things we offend all. Must not we, therefore, hope for pardon and peace, when at any time we have been overtaken in a fault? Yes, sure; but on this condition only, that when I repent of any fault, I do at the same time sincerely resolve not to repeat that fault in particular; and to the best of my power, to do as I have resolved, praying for grace as well as pardon: otherwise, he that does not keep a stricter watch over such sins as do most easily beset him, must not too confidently hope for pardon: which obliges me to take notice of a mistake which people are too apt to run into.
We are apt to conclude, that if in the main our lives be tolerable, for a slip now and then there is no great harm in it. But pray let us consider, that such slips as these, if wilful, are a plain disowning of God's authority, and as plain a forfeiture of his favour, and the peace which attends it.
All at present that I shall say to this mistake is this:
-See what are those sins which the
scriptures say will keep men out of heaven. If your sin, which you now and then indulge, be one of those (as to be sure it is), why then depend upon it, it will shut you out of heaven; and that it is all one how many other good qualifications you had; they will be of no use to you.
In short; he that calleth sinners to repentance, calleth them from all their sins. And it is the greatest instance of presumption, to hope that God will pass by any wilful sins, because we serve him in other things; as if our service profited him more than ourselves.
But to proceed: To the promise of God, that he will accept of our repentance, instead of a sinless obedience, there is this condition added; If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you your trespasses. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.
Now, this is so far from being a burthensome condition, that it is certainly one of the most comfortable clauses that could have been added to the article of repentance. For if I sincerely forgive others, I may plead with God for the pardon of my own sins which I have repented of, and very securely depend upon his word and promise. Thus you see how necessary, and how unreasonable it is, that we should repent, as we hope for the favour of God.
The next condition of our peace is faith, by which we receive the conditions of our salvation offered us by Jesus Christ; believing him to be sent from God for that very end; confidently
. Matth. vi. 13.
relying upon all that he hath revealed to us, without questioning his authority, or disputing his commands.
Now, whoever has this faith will soon find himself obliged to do what God has commanded, in order to his peace and happiness. For instance:-If he really believes that God has in his holy word set down the terms of salvation, he will not hope for salvation on any other
If he believes that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, he will think himself certainly obliged to purify himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. If he believes that God will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, as he will find reason, so he will not fail to pray for the comfort and assistance of that blessed guide. If he believes a judgment to come, he will take care to examine and to judge himself, that he may not be condemned of the Lord when he cometh to judge the world in righteousness.
Lastly, if he believes the everlasting rewards and punishments of the life to come, he cannot be indifferent which of these may be his own portion.
From all which it appears, that faith, as it is a condition of our peace, is a real principle of obedience; not only discovering to us where we are to look for happiness, but also engaging us to do what we believe we ought to do in order to attain it.
And this brings us to consider the last condition of our peace with God, a sincere obedience. He that doeth the will of my Father, saith Jesus
Christ,* (and he only,) shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. And what the will of God is, the apostle tells us:t This is the will of God, the great design of the gospel, even your sanctification; that is, that we be renewed in our nature, freed from the tyranny of sin, and so far in the
way of perfection, as to be always making some progress towards it.
And why is this so necessary an article of our peace? Why; because this is the wedding garment, without which no man shall ever be admitted into heaven: for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
See the goodness of God.—He does indeed positively require our obedience to certain laws he hath given us; but then this is to the end that, by obeying the truth, we may purify our souls, and qualify ourselves for heaven, where no impure thing can enter.
But how shall we know the laws he has given us for this purpose
? Would to God that were the only thing that is wanting to make our obedience perfect! He that endeavours to live up to that measure of knowledge he has already, and is ready to do the will of God at all times when he knows it, he shall (as our Saviour saith) know of the doctrine whether it be of od.
Thus I have laid before you the nature and the conditions of a peace better than any
the world can give; the effect of a conquest greater than those the world so much magnifies. It is Solomon's assertion,s not mine, He that ruleth his spirit, is better than he that taketh a city.
What hinders us then from obtaining this peace? Do we think it will be time enough hereafter? When, pray? When we come to die? Perhaps that may be too late. To be plain, God has fixed the time :
-Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. And he who will not take this time may, too likely, never embrace another.
But, perhaps, I am persuading you to seek for that peace which most men think they are possessed of. We may easily know that, by considering seriously whether we observe the conditions before-mentioned.
A sign of true repentance (for instance) is amendment of life: A sign of true faith is, our living as if the things we profess to believe were true:-A sign of true obedience is, having respect unto all God's commandments.
Verily, if we have not this testimony of our peace with God, we have no manner of reason to be easy with our condition; it is a false peace we are possessed of, which will stand us in no stead at the hour of death, (when we shall have most need of it,) nor in the day of judgment. He that shall' not have made his peace with God before he goes hence, (and how soon that may be, God only knows,) he will have God for his enemy, and for his portion eternal misery.
But God forbid that we should let so great a concern continue in so great uncertainty. Is the peace
of God of so little value? Is the peace of conscience, grounded upon God's word, not worth our striving for? Is the love