Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) online

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And this has been the way of good men, and their security :
" I have sworn, and am purposed, to keep Thy righteous judg- [Ps. 119,
ments," saith the Psalmist : that is, I am determined at all "-'
times ichat to do ; to do the will of my Lord and Master, when
I knoio it, without consulting my own will, my passions, or
worldly interest.

But for a man, when a temptation lies in his way, to be at
liberty to wish that God had not forbidden him the thing he
desires; to question whether the penalty of breaking His
laws Avill be greater than the pleasure of following his own
inclinations; to be at liberty to hope that the goodness of
God may perhaps pardon, where His justice has so severely
threatened : this would be ^ fatal liberty. It would be parley-
ing with our corrupt appetites, which are often too strong
even for our most settled resolutions ; much more when we
are undetermined what to do until we are forced to act;
Avhen the present jAeasure, or profit, or passion, will too likely
prevail with us to forget the rewards or punishments of a
future life.

Such a resolution is necessary, on account of the peace of
mind, and security from fear of evil, it gives us.

Sincerity consists in an inclination and readiness of mind
to learn and to do the will of God. Wherever this is found,
there may be mistakes, there may be failings, there may be
sins of infirmity, but there cannot possibly be such a perverse-


s E R M. ness of the will, or a conniption of manners, as will exclude us
. ^H^ the service of God, or forbid us hoping for His pardon, favour,

aud blessing, provided we choose not ways of serving Him of
our own devising, but make use of, and value, the means of
grace which His wisdom and goodness has appointed for our
instruction, assistance, and salvation.

Lastly; such a resolution and readiness to do the will of
God, will be a powerful means of understanding at all times

iiohni. 17.'] what the will of our Lord is. "He that will do the will of
God" (saith our Saviour), that is, he who desires to do it,
" he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or
whether I speak of Myself."

The truth appears to men just as they are disposed to re-
ceive it ; and it is not always for want of reason, that men do
not believe or know the truth, but generally from an un-

[Matt. 13. willingness to receive and to obey it. " Hearing ye shall

14 ; Is. 6. 9.1 . .

hear and not understand," saith our Saviour : and yet this
was their condemnation, which could not have been, unless
the will of God had been plainly made known to them. And
[2 Tim.3.4.] it was their crime as well as their punishment, that pride, self-
conceit, worldly -minded ness, being lovers of pleasure more than
lovers of God, unfitted them for understanding the truth, made
the Son of God become a stumbling-block, aud an offence to
them to whom He came with terms of salvation.

In one word; Jesus Christ has made the way of life plain,
not by requiring us to know a great deal, but by obliging us
to an honest use of what we know ; by giving us feiv rides,
which He expects we should remember and observe; by
setting us an example, which He demands we should imitate ;
and by affording us means of grace, which He requires us to
make use of as we hope for happiness. And we may judge
of our sincerity, and consequently of our state with God, by
comparing our love for Him and His service with any other

A covetous man, for instance, hears proposals of gain from
strangers, from inferiors, and even from enemies. There
needs no apology be made to excuse the liberty of speaking
to him upon that subject ,• one need not bid him have a care
of his interest ; he will be sure to do that if he knows it. He
is very watchful of those that would wrong him; and will


not knowingly do any thing which shall affect and hurt his
great design of enriching himself. In short, he does all this
as naturally as he lives, because his heart is set upon this one
thing, the increasing his substance.

From which we may set down these sure marks of our
sincerity towards God. First, that we never consent to
known iniquity. 2ndly, that we are never uneasy to hear
the truth and know our duty. And lastly, that we make
use of those means of knowing and doing our duty which
God has directed us to.

Thus will our love to God be sincere and manifest. We
shall love to please Him ; we shall easily understand what
will please Him ; and we shall be at peace with ourselves,
and secure from fear of anger from so good a master.

II. But then, ive must be sure to employ all our gifts and
graces, all the talents He bestoivs upon us, for His honour, in
discharging the proper duties of our callings. For this is
another character of a good and faithful servant: "thou
hast been faithful ;" that is, thou hast employed the talents
I gave thee, in the business I appointed thee. That man,
therefore, cannot be called a good servant, who will choose
what business he himself pleaseth, to employ his time, and
thoughts, and labour upon, and not what his Lord has
assigned him, and qualified him for.

And yet infinite are the disorders and instances of this
nature, and fatal the consequences, while people neglect
their proper business for what they think a better way of
spending their time.

Can a man, qualified for and dedicated to the more imme-
diate service of God, innocently engage himself in worldly
business inconsistent with such an employment? The same
Lord, Who has ordained "that they who preach the Gospel [iCor.
should live of the Gospel,^^ has at once appointed the duty
and the support of those that serve at the altar.

But more criminal is the indiscreet zeal of those who go
into the service before they are sent, and will be teachers of
others, before their Lord has declared them qualified for
such an office. Will He approve of such a servant ? Will
He accept, will He reward his service?

If we consider how few are appointed to govern, in com-


S E R M. parison of those whose duty it is to obey, one would wonder
'- — to find so many of all conditions, as much engaged in mo-
delling the world, and censuring the conduct of those who
are bound to govern, as if all were to command, and none to
obey. And yet, our Lord is a God of Order, and would have
all His servants to keep their station, and to observe the
duties of their calling ; some of which are indeed common
to all christians : to promote the glory of God ; to be ex-
amples of piety ; to discountenance vice ; to comfort the
afflicted ; and to minister to the necessities of the poor and

In all which duties, there is a very great latitude left, that
people may have an opportunity of manifesting their zeal
and piety towards God, and their compassion and charity
towards men.

But the duties of oub calling are limited to particular
persons, as the providence of God has ordered it. And every
man will have enough to do, to see his own duties handsomely
discharged, without engaging in those in which he has no-
thing to do.

If parents and masters govern their children and servants
well ; if these are dutiful and faithful to them ; if magistrates
act as if they had a master in heaven ; and they that ought
to obey do it for conscience sake; if men are just in their
dealings one with another, and cheerfully aim at the public
good ; there is no better way of promoting the glory of God,
and securing our title to heaven.

It is by these things we approve ourselves christians indeed ;
manifest our faith by our works ; and are more sure that we
are under the conduct of the Spirit of God, by a faithful dis-
charge of these relative duties, than by any other instance or
pretence whatever.

Even fasting, and prayer, and alms, or any other acts or
expressions of devotion, are nothing in the account of God,
if we do not hereby become better men, better neighbours,
better christians, in that state of life unto which it has pleased
God to call us.

III. The last character of a faithful servant is, that he often
calls himself to an account ; amends where he has done amiss ;
and uses proper means for avoiding mistakes for the time to come.


This is found necessary in the common concerns of hfe ;
much more is it so with respect to our duty to God, and the
concerns of eternity ; lest we fall into such ignorance, or incon-
sideration, as will lead us into sin without thinking of it.
For then, our sins are as much ivilful, as if we should say in
our hearts, this we will do though we know God has for-
bidden us.

It is a dangerous error we are apt to run into : — Ave are in
a good way ; we find ourselves hearty in it; we resolve to
pui'sue it as long as we live ; and we apprehend no danger,
or that ever we shall miscarry, having given ourselves to
God's service. But then, we do not remember, that all tlie
intimations of Scripture, which speak of the danger of draiv-
ing back, oi falling aioay, are all to no purpose, if, as long as
we are in this world, we were not liable to be undone ; if we
continue not faithful unto death, careful of our ways even
unto our lives' end ; which it is not possible to do, without
calling ourselves often to an account, and charging ourselves
with the errors we have committed, in order to avoid them
for the future.

By this means, if we have done any action Avhich either
was in itself, or in the manner of doing it, unfit to be done
by a servant of God, or to an end unworthy of a Christian,
and we resolve to forbear that for the time to come, to avoid
all occasions of temptation, and use such means as are proper
to prevent a relapse ; by doing this, we know what we have
to answer for, we keep peace with God, and keep all quiet

On the other hand, very dreadful have been the conse-
quences of neglecting this duty. People have forgot them-
selves, their vows, their duty, and their God ; have fallen in
love with sins, which once they abhorred ; and have increased
their accounts to such a length, that nothing but the sight
of death could force them to look upon them. The conse-
quence of which has too often been confusion and despair.

But why should we ever suffer matters to come to this ex-
tremity ? Why should we neglect or be afraid to see how our
accounts stand betwixt us and our Lord ?

Blessed be God, that we serve a Master Who knows our
infirmities. Who will accept of our repentance, and forgive all
L 2


SERM. that is pastj if we sincerely purpose to serve Him more faith-

' — fully. A Master, Who will command us nothing but what is

reasonable and for our good ; Who cannot mistake our honest
intentions, and will accept of our sincere endeavours instead
[2Tim.i.9; of a perfect obedience; and Who will reward us, not according
to our works, but according to His mercy and promise in Jesus
Christ. Here is no room for complaint, no room for fear,
much less for despair.

Let such as are most apt to despond view a servant, who is
always prepared to do his lord's will, is always pleased to
know it, is angry with himself whenever it has been his mis-
fortune to have done amiss, and takes more care for the time
to come not to run into mistakes. On the other hand, let
hiiu look upon the loi'd of that servant, as very desirous of
the welfare of his whole family ; reasonable in all his com-
mands, concerned to have his hoiisehold carefully instructed
in their duty, easy to be intreated when matters have gone
wrong, satisfied with the good meaning and honest endeavours
of such as could not come up to the utmost of their duty;
lastly, just to all his promises, and kind to his faithful ser-
vants beyond their expectations. No man, who considers
that this is really the character, these the properties, of the
Lord of the world, can despair of approving himself to God,
unless this be his case, that he cannot resolve to become the
faithful servant just now described.

But whether we oxe faithful or otherwise, accountable we
must be, whether we will or no. We have all received talents,
even those that think they have been most overlooked ; and
we must all one day answer for the use we have made of

It is true, our Lord and Master is kind and good ; but
then He \sjust as well as merciful; and if His gifts are neg-
lected. His promises despised. His commands broken without
regret, and His goodness abused. He can be severe. He has
been so in instances innumerable, and He has declared that
He will be so, and give to every man according to his works,
whether they have done good or evil.

God Almighty make us all truly sensible of this, that we
may fear where we have reason so to do, and be cheerful
where we have none ; that we may have always in our eye


the prize of our calling, which will be sufficient to encourage
us under difficulties, excite our best endeavours, and reward
all our labours.

'Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all
honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Is. 55. 6, 7
Mark 6. 12
2 Cor. 7. 10,



Awaken, God, the spirit of repentance in this drowsy, thoughtless world,
which stands so much in need of it ; make me a faithful, successful
preacher of true repentance ; pour down Thy Holy Spirit upon my heart,
and upon the hearts of all that shall hear these truths, that we may
all repent and turn to God with all our hearts, and bring forth fruits
answerable to amendment of life, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

Mattheav iii. 8 — 10,

Bring forth fruits meet for repentance j (tliat is, answerable to
amendment of life;) and t/iink not to say within yourselves,
We have Abraham to our father ; for I say unto yout that God
is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Now
the axe is laid unto the root of the trees : therefore every tree
which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into
the fire.

These words discover to us a truth which most christians
are not aware of, and which they will be surprised at when
they hear it ; and it is this ; that too many are ruined, not so
much by their sins, as by their very repentance ; that is^ they
mistake, and take that for repentance which will never do
them any service, and which God will never accept of for the
pardon of their sins.

Sinners we are, every soul of us, and every soul of us
would come short of heaven, if God in mercy had not pro-
vided and offered us a remedy for our sins. This remedy is
a true repentance. Every christian who lays hold of it will
most certainly be pardoned, and saved, and be happy for


ever. Every one who despises, neglects, or wilfully mis-
takes this remedy, will as surely be shut out of heaven,
and be punished eternally, as God, and this Word of His The Bible,
are true.

If this will not make you very attentive to what I am
going to say upon this subject of repentance, I have no other
arguments to prevail with you. For this is the very argu-
ment, or motive, which the Spirit of God in the text made
use of, to awaken the Jewish nation, and to prepare them for
receiving the mercies of the Gospel just going to be offered
them. "The axe (saith the holy Baptist), the axe is laid to
the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, which bringeth
not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire :"
assuring us by this, that the fruit of repentance is that which
God expects from us, and which of His great merc}^, for
Christ's sake. He will accept of; but if this fruit does not
appear in our lives, we must expect nothing less than to be
cut off by death, and to be burnt with fire unquenchable :
there being no other choice for christian people, but a true
repentance or ruin.

Every christian, therefore, who lays any thing to heart,
will be glad to be informed from the Word of God ;

First, concerning the reason and necessity of repentance, and
in what true repentance does consist.

Secondly, what are those mistakes concerning repentance,
which christians are liable to fall into.

And lastly, how a christian may have the sure comfort of
knowing whether his repentance will be accepted of God, for his
pardon and salvation.

And these are the particulars, that by the good grace of
God, which I beseech Him to vouchsafe me, I purpose at
this time to lay before you, and to charge upon myself.

I. I must, first of all, explain to you the absolute neces-
sity OF REPENTANCE. Not Only Jolin the Baptist, but our
Lord Himself and His Apostles, began their ministry by ex-
horting and requiring people to repent, as they hoped to be
saved; plainly shewing, that no man can receive the Gospel
— can be a christian — without forsaking his sins, which are
against natural reason and conscience : for he that will not
forsake a sin which his own conscience tells him he ought


5ERM. not to live in^ will not receive a revelation wliicli his own

'- — reason may tell liim comes from God.

This, you see, shews the absolute necessity of repentance,
in order to a man's being a christian, — of his receiving the
Gospel to any saving pvirposes.

We are all of us the sinful race of Adam; we have, every
one of us, the root, the spring, the seed, the fountain of every
evil, within us ; and the best of us would be as wicked as the
worst we know, if we were left entirely to ourselves. And as
it is, the very best of us have done many, many things which
are hateful to God ; and therefore an holy God could never
have taken pleasure in such sinful creatures, had not Jesus
Christ put us into a way of regaining His favour, if we will
but close with the means of salvation oflfered them in the
Gospel: that is, if men ivill repent and turn to God; if they
will forsake their sins, which are hateful to God, and bring
forth fruits ansiverahle to amendment of life ; if they do this,
they shall be pardoned every sin that is past, and be made
happy when they die.

Now, it is for this very end that God has given, and con-
tinues to us, our lives; that laying hold of this mercy, we
may repent, our corrupt nature may be mended, and that
we may be restored to the image of God, and be fit for para-
dise when we die.

This, I say, is God's great design in setting us in this state
of trial, to qualify us for ete?'nal happiness, and at the same
time, to manifest His own most glorious perfections : that
we may adore His almighty power, which can enable such
poor weak creatures to overcome the greatest difficulties, the
temptations of the flesh, the ivorld, and the devil; that we
may adore His wonderful patience, in bearing with our per-
verseness ; His infinite mercy and goodness, in pardoning us
upon our true repentance; and His seweve justice, in punish-
ing those who will uot be prevailed upon, by so much good-
ness, to repent, and lead a new life.

By this time, you see the absolute necessity of repentance
to salvation, and that true repentance consists in such a sorrow
for having offended God, as is folloived by a change of mind,
and amendment of life.

And whether this sorrow proceeded at the first from fear,


or from a concern for haA'ing abused the goodness of so gra-
cious a God ; yet if it bring forth fruit answerable to amend-
ment of life, it will be accepted ; that is, if the sinner, being
made sensible of the mercy of God for Christ's sake to all
true penitents, shall resolve with holy Job, — "Where I have [Job 34.32.]
done iniquity, I will do so no more." If he resolves with
the people of Israel, " All that the Lord shall command me, [Exod. 19.
that will I do." If these resolutions are followed by an '-'
ha;;"ed of every thing that a man believes may displease God ;
by avoiding as much as possible all temptations to sin ; by a
sincere endeavour to lead an holy and a christian life ; and
lastly, by using the means which God has ordained to keep
us from backsliding ; such a person is a true penitent, and in
the sure way to heaven and happiness.

But then, I must not conceal it from you, that all this is
not so soon done as advised or resolved upon ; the world, the
flesh, and the devil, are not so easily overcome as renounced.J
Habits of virtue and goodness are not acquired at once ; and
the way to eternal happiness, our Lord assures us, is narrow
and difficult, and will require pains and striving to pass
through it safely.

What then must be done ? Must we sit still, and be con-
tent to perish^? That is a frightful thought indeed ; and
God, to make it still more terrible, has made known to us a
truth, that, if attended to, will awaken the most drowsy sin-
ner alive ; — they that have done evil (lived wicked lives), awe? [Matt. 25.
do not repent, shall go into everlasting fire. '-'

Few people can hear this without some thoughts and pur-
poses of repentance ; but then, to avoid the difficulties of a
true repentance, the corrupt heart of man has ever been
seeking for expedients to make it more easy and consistent
with an unconverted life.

Thus the Jews flattered themselves that God, for the sake
of Abraham their father, would pass by their faults more
easily than those of other people ; but the holy Baptist, in
the text, assures them to the contrary. And indeed, from
the beginning, they were told this in very plain words ; and
that their being the children of Abraham would not secure
them against the displeasure of God. " If ye at all forget Deut. 8. 19,
the Lord your God, ye shall surely perish, as the nations


SERM. perished which the Lord destroyed before your face.'' Not-
— — '— withstanding this, christians have multiplied these mistakes
to the ruin of infinite souls.

II. Many are apt to think, that repentance is only necessary
when people have fallen into great and crying sins ; and that
when they have forsaken such sins, though for the fear of tem-
poral punishment only, they are in the ivay of salvation.
Many imagine that their repentance is over, when they have
expressed their sorrow for having done amiss, and begged
God's pardon. Too many are persuaded that repentance is in
their oivn power, and that they can set about it and perform
it when they please. And too, too many put off their repent-
ance to the ver}^ end of their lives.

These are sad mistakes among christians ; who will often
find to their astonishment those sins charged upon them,
which they hoped they had repented of, and were forgiven.

Now, to prevent these mistakes, the Spirit of God has
.cts 3. 19. joined repentance and conversion together. " Repent and be
converted, that your sins may be blotted out." So that no
degree of sorrow, no penance, no mortification, no confession,
no absolution, which is not attended Avitli amendment of life,
will avail any thing in the sight of God.

Not only notorious sinners, but all men living, have need
of repentance to restore them to the favour of God ; and to
think that repentance is in our own power without the grace
of God, is as absurd, as it would be to think to raise the
dead by our own power ; the one being as great a miracle as
the other.

Let it be observed, moreover, that a short sorrow, and
asking pardon of God, is so far from being repentance, that
a christian's whole life ought to be a state of repentance ; that
is, he ought, and he will, if he be a true penitent, all his life
long lament and strive against the corruption of his nature,
and be sorry for the sins he has ever fallen into, whenever he
remembers them. He will evermore watch over his own
heart ; oppose every evil inclination ; and immediately beg
forgiveness of God, whenever any sin has got the mastery of
him against his settled purposes.

In short, a christian, for these reasons, will never think
himself excused, to his dying day, from self-denial, from


watching, and prayer ; Jesus Christ having made these the
standing means of repentance unto life.

But the great mistake and delusion of all is the depending
upon a late, a death-bed repentance.

Christians should consider, that the Spirit of God, by
requiring us to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, has
shewed us the absurdity, the danger, the inexpressible dan-
ger, of putting off onr repentance till the night come when no [John 9. 4.]

Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 49)