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SERM. sincere repentance and reformation. It is XV. true that men, even without a revelation,
have great reason to believe that God, whose tender mercies are over all bis works, and who exerciseth such long-suffering, patience, and forbearance, towards mankind, is placable, if his offending creatures heartily repent and amend their doings, and that his impartial equity will make a difference between such as do so, and them who continue obstinately impenitent and disobedient but how far his wisdom might fce fit to testify his displeasure against the finful inventions even of the penitent, and what he may require previously to their enjoying the full effects of his reconciled favour, their reason could not so fully satisfy them, but that it must be acknowledged an invaluable advantage to have a positive and clear declaration from himself well attested, that he will grant them a full and free remiffion of all their fins, that he will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and remember their transgressions no more ; and this we have by Jesus Christ, in whose name repentance is preached and forgiveness. An ingenuous mind will find itself strongly engaged by the facred bond of gratitude to the mercy of God, who hath published his law of grace, excellently accommodated to
our state of infirmity, and guilt, whereby he SERM.
of your minds.
2dly, Another great encouragement we have is, the promise of divine assistance in order to our doing good works, and standing
Serm. compleat in all the will of Godi Such is XV. the weakness of men, so strong their pre
judices, especially by vicious customs which have obtained, and evil habits, that to reclaim them, and bring them to integrity and goodness
, there needed a gracious interpofition of God himself Of this, wise men men among the heathens were sensible, and expressed their desire and expectations of it; and the more rare examples of illustrious virtue they attributed to superior aids from hea
But it is fully explained and ascertained by the gospel, a great part of which is taken up in describing the various operations and influences of the Holy Spirit on the minds of men, in order to their carrying religious virtue to a just measure of perfection. The ancient prophets foretold it, as the glory of the last and most perfect form of religion, namely, the christian, that the Spirit of God should be poured abundantly on his servants ; and though many of their prophecies relate to extraordinary gifts, yet some speak of the assistances which should be given for the ordinary purposes of religious life, as Ezekiel xxxvi. 26. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you ; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh;
will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to SERM. walk in my statutes. But in the New Testa. XV. ment this is declared more plainly. Our Saviour assureth his disciples that their heavenly Father will give his spirit to them that ask him. There were indeed miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost given to the apostles and others for the confirmation of christianity, but the Spirit is also given to other christians, to instruct, and establish, and comfort them; and the apostle teacheth us that the virtues of temperance, patience, meekness, and charity, are the fruits of the Spirit, produced, exercised, and carried to perfection, by his affistance. The examples proposed in fcripture for our imitation carry also in them a strong persuasive force, since they shew that as virtue appeareth beautiful and lovely in the description, so it is practicable in life ; that it is not only for superior natures, but shineth with a peculiar lustre, when it resisteth many difficulties, and conquereth violent opposition, Above all, the perfect pattern given us by Jesus Christ, the captain of our Salvation, who was made perfect by sufferings, his example, I say, should inspire us with a noble ardor and strong resolution to follow his steps.
Serm. Lastly, The great rewards which our SaXV. viour hath declared he will give to his faith
ful servants at the last day, are a mighty support to virtue. However strong the arguments from reason itself may appear to us for a future existence, yet the wisest men who had no revelation were uncertain about it; but now God hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel, which describeth the future judgment fo fully and circumstantially, and reprefenteth the issues of it so distinctly, that the argument drawn from that topic appeareth in a quite different light; and the apostle had reason to say, as he doth Acts xvii. 30.
The times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men every where to repent. And not only is this a confideration which strongly urgeth us to repentance and the reforming our lives in general, but it hath force enough to raise every virtue to the highest pitch and defeat the most powerful temptations. Are we called to arduous fervices, and to undergo grievous sufferings, to take up
the cross and follow Christ, to deny ourselves, to submit to God's will patiently under the greatest afflictions, and trust in him, even in the greatest dangers ?. There is sufficient encouragement to all this in the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory