ePub 版

within him that will prompt him to this more effectually than any outward exhortations can do, ten thousand of which will signify but little, where there is not a principle of true love and gratitude within. And, therefore, he that knows no other fear of God than as an avenger, and dreads nothing but the punishments he has threatened to inflict upon obstinate sinners, and pays him sometimes a little forced obedience upon that score only, this man is a great stranger to that love and gratitude which flows from repentance to salvation, and consequently as great a stranger to that repentance too; and until he finds that he has a filial, reverential fear of God, and stands in awe of him as good children do of a kind father, and keeps from offending him, because he loves him, and values his favour above all things, and looks upon undutifulness to him as the dregs of base ingratitude : until he finds himself thus affected towards God, whatever dread he may sometimes have of his vengeance, and be scared by it now and then from the commission of a vice, he is no true penitent, and will not be esteemed as such by God. For very bad men may and do fear him at such a rate as this, and yet continue as profligate and bad as ever; and a sinner may be afraid of damnation, (and he is a hardened wretch indeed that is not,) and yet love God never the more, nor his sins ever the less, and after all be actually damned for them at last.

3. In the last place, the love and gratitude of a true penitent to his merciful God and Saviour will engage him not only in a heedful, but a zealous performance of religious duties for the future, that he may make some small amends, by a more than



ordinary warmth and fervour in them, for his past transgressions and coldness and neglects, and redeem his mispent time by double diligence. Thus would we do by an offended prince, a parent, or a friend, whose favour we are very desirous perfectly to regain ; and endeavour to recommend ourselves to them by more than ordinary services, and be zealous promoters of their honour and their interest; that so we may recover our forfeited reputation, and demonstrate the sincerity of our sorrow for what is past, and in some measure make atonement for it.

And therefore, if we find it otherwise with respect to God, and are as indifferent and cool as ever in the service of the injured and offended Majesty of heaven, who is our divine parent, and best and greatest friend, and of whose mercy we have had such great experience, how can we think that our hearts have ever been duly affected either with a sense of our sad condition when under his displeasure, or of the greatness of his pardoning goodness, when we have so little love and gratitude to him, as is not sufficient to make us as hearty in his service as we would be in that of an earthly prince or parent or friend, who had received us into favour again, after we had justly incurred their anger ?

I am sure the account we have of the behaviour of true penitents in scripture, and which is recorded for our imitation, is of another nature; and David and Peter and Mary Magdalene, and the woman here in the gospel, were by so much the more zealous in religion after their repentance, as they were forgetful of it before. And nothing can be more reasonable, and becoming a sinner that repents in earnest, and has had great experience of the infinite goodness of God in forgiving him his vast debt when he had nothing to pay, but (without mercy) must have sunk under it for ever, than to love much, and add zeal to his repentance, (as the lukewarm church of Laodicea was advised to do, and employ that vigour and heat of temper in a fervent devotion and exemplary virtue, which he once abused to an eager pursuit of his lusts. And as he formerly, to his shame, had been remarkable for a notorious sinner, that wrought all uncleanness with greediness ; so to make it his endeavour for the time to come to be as remarkable a penitent, and as much taken notice of for righteousness and true holiness; and like John the Baptist, be a preacher of repentance to others, and a burning and a shining light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation". This is the best way to confirm our pardon, so that it shall never be recalled ; and if we never repent of our repentance, but bring forth fruits worthy of it, with perseverance, throughout the whole course of our life, we may then be assured that the compassionate God will never repent of his shewing mercy to us, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live.



Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest no“ thing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the “ sins of all them that are penitent; create and make “ in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily “ lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretch

c Luke iii. 3, 8; John v. 35; Philipp. ii. 15.

b Rev. iii. 19.

“edness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus “ Christ our Lord d !"

Thou, Lord, art full of compassion, longsuffering, and of great pity; thou sparest when we deserve punishment, and in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy; O therefore grant that by thy grace we may become fit objects of forgiveness, and then we know we shall receive it of thee!


O, how charming are the thoughts of thy tender bowels towards us ! How should they soften my spirit, and make my eyes run down with tears of penitence and godly sorrow, for my past base ingratitude to so good a God!

How should I abhor myself for my abuses of thy forbearing love! and throwing myself at thy feet, with shame and confusion of face, how bitterly should I lament my strange perverseness to so kind a parent, in encouraging myself in disobedience, because thy pity still puts off my punishment !

O may I never more be guilty of such horrid baseness, and unaccountable madness and folly! but remember that thou art just and holy, as well as merciful; and wilt not finally spare the obstinately guilty!

And may I be so wise, as immediately to improve the blessed opportunity of recovering thy favour; and not with a hardened, impenitent heart treasure up wrath to myself against the day of wrath! but while it is called to day, hear thy most gracious voice, which kindly invites me to be good and happy! Thou, Lord, hast freely forgiven me a vast debt, which it was impossible for me ever to discharge ; O grant that I may love thee infinitely for it, and have thy praises ever in my mouth! and manifest the truth of my gratitude and repentance by dedicating myself from henceforth, and for ever, entirely to thy service! And do thou mercifully accept my best, though poor endeavours, through Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer! Amen, Amen.

a The Collect for Ash Wednesday.

« 上一頁繼續 »