David Black.

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had put away his sin, that is, cancelled its
guilt, or granted him forgiveness, he foretells,
at the same time, several great and grievous
calamities which should befal him, as tokens
of God's displeasure ; every one of which
would, doubtless, contribute to bring his sin
to remembrance. First of all, the child be-
gotten in adultery is smitten with sickness,
and cut off by death ; an affliction, in which
David did not fail to perceive the hand of a
justly offended God. Next, Tamar his
daughter is defiled by her own brother Am-
non ; in revenge for which, Amnon is cruel-
ly and treacherously slain by Absalom. To
fill up the measure of his sufi'erings, Absa-
lom, his darling son, his beloved Absalom,
rises in rebellion against his too indulgent



Father, and dies in the very act of rebelhon,
with all iiis crimes and follies on his head.
How much David's heart was softened under
these accumulated distresses, and how clear-
ly he saw in them the punishment* of his in-
iquity, appears from his language on a ve-
ry trying occasion, when by Absalom's re-
bellion he was forced to fiy from Jerusalem,
and, with a few faithful attendants, to pass
over the brook Kedron. Carry hack, said
he to Zadok the high priest, (2 Sam. xv.
25, 26.) the ark of God into the city ; ij I
ahall Jind favour in the eyes of the Lord,
he will bring me again, and shew me both
it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I
have no delight in thee, behold, here am /,
let him do to me as seemeth good inito

Have we not, my Friends, in the course
of our own experience and observation, wit-
nessed cases very similar to these ? Have
we not known persons of reputed piety,
who, in the season of outward prosperity,
have discovered no small degree of sinful
conformity to the world ; and whose con-


duct in general, so far from adorning the
doctrine of God our Saviour, has been stain-
ed with many blemishes, which have griev-
ed the hearts of the godly, and brought re-
proach upon the good ways of the Lord ?
Have we not seen them backsliding Irom
God in spite of faithful warnings and admo-
nitions, promising themselves })eace when
there was no peace, till, by means of some
sharp and rousing affliction, their sin has
found them out. Then with tears of peni-
tential sorrow and unfeigned regret, we have
heard them confess their guilt, bewail their
backslidings, and bless the kind hand,
which, by means of seasonable correction,
has recovered them from their sinful wan-

May not this. Brethren, have been the
case w ith son*e who now hear me ? or, at
least, are there not some of you, who in less
palpable deviations from duty, have been
brought back to God by means of afflic-
tion? You secretly cherished some idol in
your hearts, which marred your com-
fort, and interrupted your communion with


God. You were guilty of inordinate at-
tachment to the creature, and gave to some
other object that place in your affections
which belongs to God only. Perhaps you
were not aware of it at the time, till, by the
removal of the idol, God detected and dis-
covered your guilt, and then, with shame and
self-condemnation, you were constrained to
acknowledge, that your sin had found you

Hitherto I have mentioned some of those
more special seasons and situations, in which
sin finds the sinner out, and in which the
discovery, however painful, may, by the
blessing of God, prove salutary to the soul.
But I proceed to speak of two other seasons,
more certain and universal, in which the ef-
fects, in general, are not so comfortable.

If then neither the faithful ministry of
the word, nor sickness, nor adversity prove
effectual for this purpose, I add,

IV. That the near approach of death of-^
ten rouses the sinner's conscience, and dis-

^ER. 3, 3IN DETECTED. 69

covers him to himself in his real charac-

. At this awful season, every disguise is
commonly removed ; those refuges of lies^
which formerly kept alive a presumptuous
hope, are swept away, and the sinner finds
himself on the brink of eternity, without
any well grounded confidence in God ; nay,
with the fearful looking for of judgment,
and fiery indignation from his presence. I
know, indeed, that in very many cases, sin-
ners die as they have lived, in a state of
thoughtless security, or hardened impeni-
tence. Some are cut off suddenly, without
having any opportunity afforded them for
serious reflection. They pass at once from
a state of abused worldly prosperity, into a
state of endless inconceivable misery : There
«re no bands in their death, but their
strength is firm. Others, who die of lin-
£:erino; diseases, flatter themselves to the
last with the hope of recovery ; and through
the cruel mistaken kindness of friends, are
never allowed to admit a thought of death
or eternity. But there are instances, and


these, perhaps, more numerous than many
suppose, of j)ersons dying under the horrors
of an awakened conscience ; alarmed, but
not converted ; convinced, but not chan-
ged. When such cases do happen, as I am
persuaded they not unfrequently do, e.>^
pecially in those places where the gospel
is most purely and faithfully preached, the
greatest pains are taken to conceal them
irom public notice ; or, admitting the facts,
to ascribe them to other causes than those
which really produce them, such as dis-
ease, the delirium of fever, or a gloomy dis-
tempered imagination.

But however easy it may be to view death
at a distance, the near approach of it can
scarcely fail to excite alarming apprehen-
sions, in the breasts of those who are not
brutishly ignorant, or awfully hardened.
The certain and immediate prospect of pass-
ing into eternity, of entering on an unknown
and unchangeable state of being, of ap-
pearing before the great and omniscient God,
who is of purer eyes than to behold iniqui-
ty, and from w hose awful and impartial deci-


sion there lies no appeal, nor any possibility of
escape, how serious and solemn ! How over-
whelming the thought, when the mind is ca-
pable of reflection, and in full possession of its
faculties ! Sin must then appear to the unpar-
doned sinner, in a very different light, from
what it ever did before. Innumerable in-
stances of vicious habits indulged, of duties
neglected or slightly performed, of privi-
leges misimproved, and of mercies ungrate-
fully abused, recur to his memory ; and, a-
midst the agonies of dissolving nature,
harrow up his souL Should it be sug-
gested to his mind in these awful mo-
ments, that God is merciful, — this sug-
gestion, which formerly served to cherish a
false delusive hope, and to render him se-
cure in the commission of sin, so far from
yielding comfort, greatly heightens and
aggravates his distress. " Yes,'' (might he
say, if able to express his feelings in M^ords,)
>* God is merciful — but I have undervalued,
" slighted, and abused his mercy. God is
" merciful — but he is likewisejust to punish
" the workers of iniquity ; and how can I
" escape his deserved vengeance, who have


" all my life long neglected his great salva-
" tion/'

Of all the delusions by Avhich the god of
this world blinds the minds of them that
believe not, the trusting to a death-bed re-
pentance is surely one of the greatest. How
uncertain ! how dreadfully precarious ! The
possibiUti) of it, none who regard the autho-
rity of God's word can deny ; but how rare
are the instances, and how unlikely, that
those who sin under this presumption Avill
ever be visited with God's salvation ! Even
Christians, who are pardoned and accepted
by God, may suffer on their death-bed very
awful rebukes on account of the prevalence
of some particular sin, or the general unten-
derness and inconstancy of their walk.
Their sin may find them out, at a time when
they stand most in need of divine support and
consolation ; and they may be left to mourn
under the hidings of God's face, in painful
uncertainty about their state, when, had they
walked more closely with God, they might
have been edifvino; and instructino- their fel-
low Christians. Ah! little do we think, when


we are guilty of sinful compliances, when
we indulge a worldly spirit, or neglect the
opportunities of doing good which we have
in our power, that we may be scattering
thorns on our dying pillow, and perhaps
clouding our evidences for heaven in those
moments when ten thousand worlds will ap-
pear as nothing, in comparison of one smile
of God's reconciled countenance.

V. I have only to mention, as another
season, when, if not before, sin will infallibly
find the sinner out — -The judgment of the
great day.

God hath appointed a day, in which he
will judge the world in righteousness. This
is the uniform doctrine of scripture, and va-
rious appearances in the present state of the
world concur in proving the certainty of
this great and solemn event. In particular,
the power of conscience, in cases which are
not cognisable by human laws, shews, that
there is a witness above, whose eyes are up-
on the ways of men, and who seeth all his
goings, to whom the greatest, as well as



the meanest of mankind are accountable.
Think not then, poor sinner, that thou canst
escape the judgment of God. The terrors
of his M'ord thou mayest affect to brave ;
his threatnings ma\^ fail to alarm, and his
promises to allure thy stupid and obdurate
heart ; even the most striking and awaken-
ing dispensations of pro^ idence may be dis-
regarded and despised by thee. Death it*
self may possibly approach ^A'ithout creating
any great alarm ; and, supported by some
mistaken view of the character of God, thou
mayest go do^n to the grave with a lie in
thy right hand — but still, he sure your sin
Ziilljind you out. It must, it will do so, if
not before, at least at the judgment seat of
Christ, zi)hen God will bring to light the
hidden things of darkness, and make ma*
nifest the counsels of every heart. And ah !
how dreadful to think of never being unde-
ceived, till death has sealed thine everlast-
ing doom ; of never seeing thy true state and
character, till placed beyond the reach of
recovery, in a world of endless misery, when
he. that made thee xcill not have mercy on


thee, and he that formed thee zdll shew
thee no favour.

There is something very solemn and strik-
ing in the account given us in the seventh
chapter of Joshua, of the discovery of A-
chan's sin. He had stolen a golden wedge,
with some other articles, which he hid in
the earth, in the midst of his tent, hoping
thereby to escape detection. But though
no human eye was witness to Achan's
crime, God beheld it, and by his express
command, the offender is called forth to suf-
fer deserved punishment. For this purpose
all the tribes of Israel are assembled toge-
ther, and each tribe, with every particular
family and household belonging to it passes
under review, till at last, the guilty person
is singled out, confesses his guilt, and re-
ceives the punishmxcnt due to his crime. An
instructive emblem this of what we shall all
witness, when the Son of man shall come
again in the clouds of heaven with power
and great glory ; when he shall sit upon
his throne, and before him shall be gather-
ed ^11 nations, and lie shall separate them


one from another as a shepherd dkideth
his sheep from the goafs. Then shall every
man he judged according to his works.
Sin, however carefully concealed, however
artfully coloured over by plausible pretexts,
will then find the sinner out. The guilty
person, whoever he is, or whatever station
he may have occupied upon earth, shall
then be called forth to judgment, and the
most secret crime he has ever committed
shall be detected and exposed before assem-
bled worlds. No apologies for sin m ill then
be admitted, for the Judge is omniscient, and
knows the secrets of all hearts. No attempt
to escape the punishment of iniquity will
then be possible, for the Judge is omnipotent,
and can easily put in execution his most
tremendous threatnings. In vain will im-
penitent transgressors cry to the rocks and
to the mountains to fall on them, and to
hide them from the face of him that sit^
teth on the throne, and from the wrath of
the Lamb. The day of recompence is fully
come, when he will render to every man
according to his deeds ; and all shall knozo


that it is He who searcheth the hearts and
trieth the reins of the children of men.

Is it then so indubitably certain, that
sooner or later sin will find the sinner out,
how dreadful the infatuation of multitudes,
who go on secure from day to day, under
the guilt of innumerable transgressions!
The practical language of many is. The
Lord doth not see, neither doth the God of
Jacob regard it. But how vain and ground-
less is such an expectation ! There is no-
thing secret that shall not he made mani-
fest, neither any thing hid that shall not
he known. He who searcheth Jerusalem as
with lighted candles, can easily pierce
through the thickest disguise. Be not de-
ceived ; God is not mocked : for whatso-
ever a man sozoeth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to liis flesh, shall of the
flesh reap corruption ; hut he that soweth
to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life
evcj'lastijig. If a man should sow cockle
in his field instead of barley, and after all
expect to reap the same kind of crop with
his neighbour who sowed good seed, we


should pity his folly, or suppose him out of
h.s senses. It matters little whether any
one saw him while he sowed his field, the
harvest will soon discover the absurdity of
his conduct. Far more egregious is the fol-
ly and madness of tliat man who expects to
find peace in the ways of sm ; who sows to
the flesh, and yet hopes to reap life ever-
lasting. The present life is our seed-time.
We are sowing for eternity. The harvest is
approaching, when we shall reap according
to the nature of the seed that we have sown,
Tvhether it be to the flesh or to the Spirit.

My dear hearers, we are all deeply inter-
ested in this subject. Our sins are man}^
they are highh;^ aggravated, they expose us to
certain and inevitable destruction. Let us
not wait, then, till our sin find us out. This
it Zi)ill do, but it may be too late, and there-
fore let us all, without delay, endeavour to
find our sins out, that in the exercise ot true
Tepentance and faith in the blood of Christ,
'ive may apply to God for his pardoning
•mercy ar^d sanctifying grace.


Nor let any of us flatter ourselves with,
the hope that our sins are pardoned, mere-
ly because we confess that we are poor sin-
ners, and haA^e learned to say , God have mercy
on us. This many do, who are evidently stran-
gers to the forgiveness that is zmth God.
Nay, many are encouraged to go on in sin,
from* partial, confused, and mistaken ideas
of gospel grace. But that is not the genu-
ine gospel which gives the least encourage-
ment to sin. If we hold fast our transgres-
sions, and refuse to let them go, or, if while
we pretend to be sorry for our sins, we se-
cretly indulge them in our hearts, and are at
no pains to avoid the temptations which lead
to them, it is a plain evidence, that our
hearts are not right with God, that our guilt
is still unpardoned, and that we are yet in
our sins. True godly sorrovf is known by its
fruits. It produces unfeigned hatred of sin,
habitual watchfulness against it, a holy fear
of offending God, and an uniform desire and
endeavour to please him. If we have ob-
tained redemption through the blood of
Christ, the forgiveness of all our sins, ac-
cording to the riches of his grace, sin shall


no longer have dominion over us. We may
mourn over its prevalence, but we shall no
longer be subject to its power. We may
feel its inward w^orkings, but we shall be
made daily to watch, and pray, and strive
against it. Brethren, is it thus with you ?
Examine yourselves, whether you be in the
faith ; prove your own selves. The heart
is deceitful. Let this make you distrustful
of yourselves, and lead you to pray with
the Psalmist, Search me, God, and know
my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts ;
and see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

An opportunity is again afforded us of
approaching the table of the Lord*. Let
none who are living in open or in secret sin
venture to approach it. Let none imagine
that the partaking of the bread and wine,
will make atonement for their sins, or settle
accounts with God. Fatal mistake ! dread-

* This Sermon appears to have been preached on a
day of humiliation before dispensing the Lord's Sup-


fill perversion of the ordinance ! But let e-
very humble, penitent, believing sinner re-
new his application to the blood of sprink-
ling, and come to receive the pledges of the
Redeemer's love.





Mark vi. 12.

A?id they went out, and preached that
men should repent.

In these words we are presented with a
Summary account of the doctrine preached
by the Apostles, in consequence of the in-
structions which they received from their
divine Master. Jesus having chosen tweh'e
of his followers to be his constant atten-
dants, began to send them out by two and
two, to preach in the surrounding cities and
villages, that by means of their instructions,
the minds of his countrymen might be pre-
pared for receiving the glad tidings of the-


gospel, which were soon to be pubhshed to
them, and to all nations. And here we are
told, that when they went out upon this im-
portant mission, they preached that men
should repent.

The doctrine of repentance, my Brethren,
holds a distinguished place in the system of
divine truth contained in the scriptures.
Nor is this to be wondered at, if we consi-
der, that the gospel is adapted to the cir-
cumstances, not of innocent, but of sinful
creatures. Moses and the prophets fre-
quently inculcated the necessity of \ epent-
ance. It was the substance of John the
Baptist's ministry. He pent ?/e, said that
great preacher of righteousness to his hear-
ers of every description, for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand. Such also was the doc-
trine which our Lord himself preached to
those who attended his public ministry.
Jlepent, he said, and believe the gospel.
And in the instructions which he delivered
to his apostles, when he commissioned them
to preach the gospel, it was expressly en-
joined, that repentance and remission of



si7is should be preached in his name among
all nations. That the apostles were faith-
ful in the discharge of this important trust,
appears from the words of Peter on the me-
morable day of Pentecost, when they were
all filled with the Holy Ghost. Addressing
^he convinced Jews, he thus exhorts them.
Repent and he baptized, every one of you^
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remis-^
si 071 of sins : and afterwards. Repent and
be converted, that your sins may be blotted
out. The Apostle Paul speaks of repent"
anccfrojn dead works as one of the first
principles of the doctrine of Christ ; and,
when giving a summary of his doctrine be-
fore the elders of Ephesus, he comprehends
the whole under the two great articles of Re-
pentance and Faith ; Testifying both to the
Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance
towards God, and faith towards our Lord
Jesus Christ.

A doctrine so important, and so frequent-
ly insisted upon in the sacred writings, has
surely a claim to our most serious consider-


ation. Let me entreat you then to listeu
with attention, while I endeavour,

I. To explain the nature of true repent-

II. To point out its indispensible neces*

III. To mention some motives and en-
couragements, to incite you to the perform^
ance of this duty.

I. The nature of true repentance.

There are two words in the New Testa-
ment, which are rendered in our version
repentance ; the one * denoting after-care-
fulness, the other -f a cJiange of mind, of
judgment, and disposition. Without con-
suming your time in a critical examination
of the words, I would only observe, that
both these ideas are included in true repent-
ance. Before, however, proceeding direct-


\y to explain its nature, it may be proper to
premise two observations to prevent some
mistakes on this subject, into which many
have fallen.

1. I would remark, that repentance is re-
presented in scripture, both as the gift of
God, and as the duty of the sinner. It is
the gift of God, for everjj good gift, and
every perfect gift is from alwve, and com-
eth down from the Father of lights. Je-
sus is eaalted a Prince and a Saviour, to
give repentance to Israel and forgiveness
of sins. Without the concurring influence
of divine grace, the best and most likely
means will prove ineffectual. Such is the
deep depravity of human nature, such our
total alienation from the life of God, that
no power, but that which made us at first,
can form us anew after the divine image, or
change the heart of stone into a heart of
flesh. But, at the same time, repentance is"
the sinner^s duty, and certain means are ap-
pointed, in the use of which, God is pleased
to communicate his grace. It is the sin-
ner's duty to consider his ways, and to turn


from sin unto God. It is his duty to read
and hear the word of God with reverence
and attention, to meditate upon the truths
of Scripture, above all, to pray to God for
the effectual teaching of his Spirit, in depen-
dence upon his faithful promise, that he will
give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
These two things, that repentance is the
gift of God, and, at the same time, the du-^
ty of the sinner, are in themselves perfect-
ly consistent with one another, and it is our
ignorance only that leads us to suppose
any incongruity between them. I would,

2. Remark, that true repentance is in-
separably connected with faith in JesuS

Whether faith or repentance has the pre-
cedency in the order of nature, is a point a*
bout which different opinions have been
formed. This, however, I apprehend, is not
of such importance as some have supposed.
Faith and repentance are equally the effects
of the regenerating grace of God, nor is it
possible to conceive a moment of time in


which the one exists in the soul separate
from the other. An impenitent believer, or
an unbelieving penitent, are expressions a-
like contradictory and absurd. On the one
hand, it is certain, that without some con-
viction of the evil and demerit of sin, there
can be no true faith in the gospel of Jesus
Christ ; for our Lord himself declares, They
that be wliole need not a physician, but
they that are sick. On the other hand, it
is equally certain, that sin is never truly
hated nor forsaken, till we obtain some com-
forting discoveries of the forgiveness that is
with God. There is an awakenino- of the
conscience, which generally precedes the
comfort which the sinner derives from the
gospel. But this, strictly speaking, is not
repentance, though it may lead to it. It is
only when we can look on him whom we
have pierced by our sins, that we mourn
after a godly sort. This, and this alone,
melts the soul into genuine contrition, and
breaks asunder the adamantine chains by
which the sinner is kept in bondage. There
is a conviction of danger, that excites the
trembling soul to Hee to the Saviour for re-


fuge, and this by some may be called re-
pentance, but the evil nature and bitter con-
sequences of sin are never truly perceived,
nor felt, till Jesus become the object of our
confidence, and hope, and till we learn to
estimate the greatness of our guilt, by the
value of the price that was paid for our re-

Having made these preliminary observa-
tions, I proceed to explain more distinctly
the nature of true repentance.

1. We may consider repentance as includ-
ing a genuine sorrow for sin.

There is a sorrow for sin which is not
connected with repentance, and which ma-
ny have felt who are still in the gall of bit-

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Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 5 of 23)