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indeed hath ordinarily been considered as the first step to. wards conversion. In order to treat of it in the most clear, and at the same time the most useful manner, I shall divide it into two branches, and first, consider what is the true and genuine source of conviction or forrow for sin; and secondly, to what degree it must be, in order to a faving change.
First then, let us consider what is the true and genuine source of conviction and sorrow for fin. And here we may observe in general, that properly speaking, there can be but two sources of sorrow or humiliation of mind at all, viz. fear of suffering, and sense of the evil and clefert of sin. Both these are found in true penitents; and it is their union and mutual influence that distinguishes repentance unto life from every counterfeit. Many have trembled through fear of punishment from God, and been dismayed at the tokens of his presence, who, notwithfanding, lived and died strangers to true religion, or any faving change. We see that even Judas the traitor to his Lord repented, confessed his fin, nay, did what he could to repair the wrong, throwing back the price of innocent blood ; and yet hanged himself in defpair. The scripture only further says, he went into his own place; but there have been few, if any, interpreters of scripture, who entertained any doubt that it was the place of torment. We every day see that occasional danger, or the apprehenfion of immediate death, throws some into fits of terror, extorts from them confessions of guilt, or promises of amendment; and yet, in a little time they return to their former practices, and sin with the same security, and perhaps with greater avidity than before. .
What is the essential defect of such seeming penitents ? It is that they have no just sense of the evil of fin in itself; they have no inward cordial approbation of the holiness of God's nature and law, or of the justice of that sentence of condemnation which stands written against every transgreffor. Here, O Christian, is the cardinal point on which true repentance turns, and the reader may plainly perceive the reason and necesity of what was formerly observed, that there must be a discovery of the infinite glory and amiableness of the divine nature, Without this there may be a flavish terror, but no true humiliation. It is only when a sinner sees the unspeakable majesty, the transcen. dent glory, and infinite amiableness of the divine nature, that he is truly, effectually, and unfeignedly humbled.
Oh! that I could deliver this with proper force! that I could write and speak under an experimental sense of its truth! The finner then perceives how infinitely worthy his Maker is of the highest esteem, the most ardent love, and the most unremitted obedience. He then fees, that every intelligent creature, from the most shining fe. raph in the heavenly hoit, to the meanest and most defpised mortal worm, is under an infinite, eternal, unchange. able obligation to love God with all his heart, and strength, and mind. On this account he is convinced, that alienated affection and misplaced allegiance is infinitely finful. He sees this obligation to be founded not merely nor chiefly on the greatness of divine power, but on the intrinsic inherent excellence of the divine nature. Therefore he is persuaded, that there is not only danger in rebelling against, or dishonoring God, but a great and manifest wrong and injustice in refusing to honor him. This strikes him with a sense of his own guilt, and the guilt of all those who live “ without God in the world.”
At once to confirm and illustrate this truth, I must make two obfervations, which will be found universally to hold, on the character and conduct of true penitents. ist. That they obtain a new sense of the excellence and obligation of the duties of divine worship, both public and private. Before, they were apt to consider the duties of worship as little more than the means of religion; that the fear of an invisible Judge might be a bond upon the conscience, and keep men from fraud and dishonesty, or from riot and sensuality. They were cold and formal therefore in their own attendance, and never heard any speak of joy or sensible communion with God in his fanctuary, but they were ready to express their detestation of it as hypocrisy, or their contempt of it as enthusiasm and folly.
But now the language of adoration is in some measure understood, which had been wholly insipid and without meaning before. They join with the psalmist in saying, “ Honor and majesty are before him, strength and beauty " are in his fanctuary. Give unto the Lord, () ye kindreds “ of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. “ Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; “ bring an offering, come into his courts. O worship the " Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him all the “ earth.”* See also these elevated itrains of praise, which, whether they are meant as the exercise of the church militant on earth, or the church triumphant in heaven, are equally proper here. “And the four beasts had each of " them fix wings about him, and they were full of eyes "s within ; and they relt not day and night, saying, Holy, “ holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and " is to come. And when those beasts give glory, and “ honor, and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who “ liveth for ever and ever; the four and twenty elders “ fall down before him that fat on the throne, and worship “ him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns " before the throne, saying, “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, “ to receive glory, and honor, and power; for thou hast “ created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and “were created.”+ And to the same purpose, “ And I “ beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round " about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders : and the “ number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, " and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was Nain, to receive power, and “ riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, " and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and " on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the “ fea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and "honor, and glory, and power be unto him that fitteth up" on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Nay, a true penitent begins to see the beauty even of the
* Psal. xcvi. 6, 7, 8, 9. † Rev. iv. 8, 9, 10, 11,
Rev. v. 11, 12, 13.
as worldly princ but he who a disobedienc
divine sovereignty, that all things belong to God, and therefore it is most fit that all things should be subject to him, according to that strong and beautiful passage : “And " the four and twenty elders which fat before God on " their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, “ saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God almighty, "s which art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast “ taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.'' *
The other observation I am to make is, that a true pe. nitent always acquires the deepest abhorrence of that atrocious, though prevailing fin, of profaning the name of God in common discourse. There are many persons, not otherwise the moit abandoned, who have no just sense of the heinousness of this lin: and as it is not directly level. led against the temporal interest of our neighbors, it is far from being generally fo fcandalous and dishonorable as it ought to be. Such religion or virtue as is founded on worldly principles and views, may easily consist with its continuance; but he who is convinced of the evil of all fin, as rebellion against, and disobedience to God, will see the horrible guilt and impiety that attends this abominable practice. That religion which is the work of God's holy Spirit, and consists in the recovery of his lost image, will never be able to bear so direct a violation of his sacred authority, so unprovoked an insult upon his honor and glory.
A fear of punishment then we have seen, without a sense of the evil of fin in itself, is not sufficient. Let me now add, that this discovery of the evil of fin in itself, must in. crease our fear of punishment, by shewing it to be just. A fear of punishment while alone, always tempts the sinner to search about on all hands for arguments against that suffering, the justice of which he cannot perceive. Hence infidelity of heart and secret suggestions, that surely it can. not be that God will punish as he hath faid. Hence blal. phemous impatience. Hence rising thoughts and rebellion against God, even while under his rod; such as are described by the prophet Hofea : “ And they have not cried
“ unto me with their heart when they howled upon their “ beds.”* Nay, hence sometimes the bitterest prosesed infidels among those who have been brought up in the knowledge of the truths of the gospel, while they have never seen their beauty, or felt their power.
But so soon as there is a discovery of the glory of God and the universal and perfect obedience due from all to him, this throws a new light on the tokens of a divine displeasure against fin, in the works of creation and provi. dence. This carries home, with irresistible force, all the threatenings of the wrath of God against sinners in his word. Their justice is then deeply and inwardly felt, and the finner begins to wonder at the patience of a longsuffering God, that has not long ere now made him a mò. nument of vengeance.
The same view it is that not only begins, but carries on and compleats genuine convictions of sin, that filences all objections, and refutes the reasonings of the carnal mind. Every sincere convert will have, in a greater or lesser de. gree, the evidence in himself, that his change is of fove. reign grace. He will probably be able to recollect in how many instances his mind set itself to oppose, and was at pains as it were to collect and muster up every objection against the obligation and sanction of the law of God. The objections are raifed, first, against the necessity or benefit of obedience, and then against suffering for obedience, till all are borne down by the same almighty power which fpake and it was done, and which can lead captivity cap. “ tive.” I cannot propose to enumerate all the objecti. ons, or rather, all the forms in which objections may arise in the finner's mind, when struggling against conviction ; but I shall mention a few of them, and show what it is that ut put them to silence.
1. Perhaps the finner will say, alas! why should the law be so extremely rigorous, as to insist upon absolute and finless obedience? Hard indeed, that it will admit not of any transgression, any omission, the least flip, or failing or frailty, but pronounceth so severe a sentence, “ Cursed is
* Hosca vii. 14.