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and sunk under the communications, which they received from above, so strong was the impression, so unequal their strength; but truths, that overwhelmed the servants of God, were familiar to his Son. He was composed upon the greatest occasions. He was tried every way; by wicked men; by the wicked one; by weak or false friends, as well as by open enemies. He proved himself superior to every artifice, to every temptation, to every difficulty.
It was asked, and will always be asked, "whence had this man these things-and what wisdom is this, that is given unto him?" He had no means or opportunity of cultivating his understanding, or improving his heart. He was born, as the history testifies, in a low and indigent condition. He was without education, without learning, without any models to form himself upon, either in his own time and in his own country, or in any records of former ages, that were at all likely to fall into his hands. Yet, notwithstanding these great disadvantages-disadvantages I mean to a mere mortal man, he supported, throughout a most singular and difficult life, such wisdom and such virtue, as were never before found united; and we may venture to say, never will be again united in any human being.
Our Lord's history is given us in the Gospels in a very plain, unornamented manner, and so much the better. There is an air of godly sincerity, of simplicity, and of solid undisguised truth in every thing, which is related. Nothing is wrought up with art: no endeavour to place things in the fairest light: no praise or panegyric, or very little: no solicitude to dwell on the most favourable, or striking, or illustrious parts of our Saviour's character. These circumstances added to the whole turn and tenor of the Evangelist's writings,
prove that they followed truth, and fact, and nothing else. Lay open then the Bible before you, regard and contemplate the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is there candidly and honestly set forth.
Again, if Jesus be the Son of God, then every thing which he taught comes to us with the weight and sanction of divine authority; and demands, from every sincere disciple of Christ, implicit belief, and implicit obedience. Christ delivered all his doctrines in the name of God: all of them, therefore, from their nature are to be received. He has given no man a license to adopt as much or as little of them as he thinks fit. He has authorised no human being to “add thereto, or diminish therefrom." We are not to receive one precept, and refuse another; we are not to receive one article of belief, and reject another article of belief ; all are stamped by the same authority, and that authority is decisive. There may be truths very imperfectly apprehended by our finite understandings. There is nothing surprising in this ; on the contrary, it was natural and reasonable to expect it to be so, in a revelation pertaining to that incomprehensible Being, “the High and Mighty One, that inhabiteth eternity." But we have this for our trust and consolation : we have a heavenly guide, we may put ourselves without reserve into his hands, and submit our judgments with boundless confidence to his direction ; “ for He is the way, and the truth, and the life:" we must obey him with our understandings, we must obey him with our wills.
“Let us bring, therefore,” according to the strong expression of the Apostle, “let us bring every thought to the obedience of Christ, receiving with meekness the ingrafted word, that is able to save our souls.”
2 COR. VII. 10.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.
THE piety of good men in good times having appointed this season of Lent for a more particular attention to the concerns of religion, and especially that momentous part of religion, inward penitence and contrition; I know not how I can employ the beginning of this season better than by setting before you the nature of repentance; so far, at least, as to point out the marks and rules by which we may judge of its truth, and its sincerity.
And when I talk of judging of the sincerity of repentance, I do not mean other men's repentance, but our own. Under these words I shall apply myself to consider the rules and tokens, whereby we may judge of the sincerity of repentance; not of other men's repentance, with which we have nothing to do, but of our own. Repentance is a change of the heart, from an evil to a good disposition. When that change is made, repentance is true. This is a short definition of repentance; but it will of itself teach us many truths concerning the subject. As 1st, that sorrow for our past sins, however earnest and contrite it be, is not alone
repentance. Repentance is the change of the disposition. Sorrow for the past is likely to produce that change, which always accompanies it; but still it is not the change itself, nor indeed does it, as experience testifies, always and certainly work that change.
Sorrow for the past must necessarily be a part of repentance : for why should we repent, or wish to repent, of that for which we are not sorry? but still it is only a part; and it is extremely material that we do not mistake a part of our duty for the whole. When the change, as I said, is made, repentance is complete, and not till then. Sorrow or contrition are the instruments and means towards that change; but if the instrument does not perform its office, and if the means do not produce the end, still all the instruments and means then go
for nothing. 2dly. If you ask whether repentance be in its nature a sudden and hasty thing, to be brought about at once, and as some think at a single instant, at a precise and perceivable moment: I answer, that usually, perhaps, it is not. Repentance is the change of the disposition. Few changes are made on a sudden ; at least few sudden changes are lasting. If
; there be constitutional vices of mind and temper, it is equally the work of long reflection and endeavour to beat them down, and keep them down. If there be some old confirmed habit of gratification to contend with, the struggle is commonly tedious, even when it is successful. This I say for the sake of those who, because they do not find their change at once, give up; who quit the contest, because it continues longer than they were prepared to expect. The duty of such is comprised in one word-perseverance, and a determined perseverance, is the
is the very substance of virtue. Almost man can be sorry for his sins : every
man can deplore and forsake them. Most men, indeed, make some short-lived efforts to become virtuous; but perseverance is what they want, and fail in. Yet in one sense there is one essential change made in every sinner who repents; which change consists in this, that whereas before he was growing worse, he is now growing better. His improvement may be slow, but be it ever so slow, there is still this difference between growing better and growing worse. It resembles, to my apprehension, the case of a patient in a fever. We say that his distemper has had a turn ; yet take him an hour or a day past the turn, or so much before, and you will observe little alteration : for the alteration is, that whereas he was before growing worse, and weaker, by almost insensible degrees, so now he is growing better and stronger, though by degrees equally slow. And this the physician accounts a great alteration ; and so it is, although it be long before he be well ; and though he be in perpetual danger of a relapse, during the progress of his recovery. And the physician pronounces expressly, that there has been a turn in the disorder; that the crisis is past, not because his patient is now well, who before was ill; but because he finds
; him now gradually growing stronger and well, who before was gradually becoming ill.
Thus the sinner may securely, though humbly, hope that he has repented, who observes himself growing continually better ; who is conscious that he is in an amended state, though there be yet much to be done and suffered, before the amendment be complete. And as the patient was far from being out of danger, because he had passed the turn, so is the sinner. As the patient often relapses, so 's the sinner. As the relapse is often more fatal
first sickness ; so is it