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man can work.

And indeed, every body must see that there would be no
necessity of a good life, if a man may be unjust, or unmer-
ciful, or covetous, or a drunkard, or an adulterer, a profaner
of God, His name, or His ordinances, and yet may hope for
mercy when he comes to die, upon his being sorry for his
wicked life, and begging God's pardon.

Let it be further considered, that God has positively
declared, that He will render to every man according to his
works. Now, if a man has done no good works (after his
repentance) to balance his evil deeds, what can he hope for
but judgment without mercy ?

In short, though an evil liver should, when he comes to
die, be never so sorry for his sins, and resolve sincerely to
change his life, yet such a person has no promise from God,
that his repentance shall be accepted : the promise you have
heard, is to such as repent and turn to God, and bring forth
fruits meet for repentance. And accordingly the tree, that
had not brought forth good fruit, after patience and pains had
been spent on it in vain, was to be cut down and burnt.

I know very well what will be said to this, that it may
drive dying sinners to despair ; but I am not now speaking
to dying sinners ; I am speaking to such as have it in their
power, by the grace of God, to repent before they come into
that sad condition, which no man in his right mind would
venture his soul upon/o?* this ivhole world.

There were cases under the law which God reserved to
Himself, even so ive must leave the fate of a death-bed re-
pentance to the uncovenanted mercy of God.

There haA^e been persons so unhappily educated, and so
extremely ignorant, that when they have come to die, it has
appeared that they knew nothing almost of their duly, or



156 TRUE REPENTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATIO>^.

SERM. their danger. Such pitiable circumstances may find mercy
'— with God ; but such as hve in a continued course of sin,



rejecting the means of instruction, despising the means of
conversion, hardening themsekes against all methods of God
for their salvation ; such can have little comfort administered
unto them when they come to die. Nor will any minister
or priest of God, who understands the Gospel and his duty,
dare to give any assurance, or other advice, to such unhappy
people, than to exhort them to do all that is in their power,
and to leave the issue to God ; to confess, and detest, their
hatred and contempt of God, and His laws, with the utmost
abhorrence : to let all that come to see them know what an
evil and bitter thing it is, when one comes to die, to look
back upon an ill-spent life ; to warn them, as they love their
own souls, to repent in time, lest they also come into that
state of torment. And lastly, to accept of sorrow and
anguish of mind, as a just punishment, and such as their
case requires.

Such humiliations as these will have their weight with
God ; if not to pardon their sins, yet at least to lessen their
punishment, and to keep them from despair.

III. We come now to consider hoiv a christian may have
the comfort of knoiving whether his repentance be such as will
be accepted of God for his pardon and salvation.

And, in the first place, every man living may have the
comfort of knowing assuredly, that his sins, though never so
great, will be pardoned upon his true repentance. We have

Mark 3. 28. the word and the oath of the Son of God for this : " Verily,
all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men."

And every christian may be assured, that if God has given
him the spirit of repentance, that is, a fear for himself; a
sorrow for having offended God ; a desire of returning to his
duty, and of being reconciled to his Maker : he may be
assured, that his sin is not that unpardonable sin excepted by

[Mark 3. our Lord, the sin against the Holy Ghost. He may be

■J assured of this, because it is the Holy Ghost Who gives him

this spirit ; Who gives him grace, and a desire, and a will, to

repent ; Who therefore has not utterly forsaken him : that

iJohno.iG. is, he has not sinned the sin unto death, as the Apostle
calls it.



ance.



TRUE REPENTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION. 157

His next concern, therefore, must be to look to his repent-
ice, that it be such as the Gospel requires ; for upon that,
his safety, and the whole comfort of his life and death
depend.

For example: his conscience must witness for him, that
he does not live in any known sin ; if he does, he is no true
penitent, though he has forsaken never so many evil ways.
A good christian may indeed fall into a sin, through surprise;
through the force of a temptation ; for want of keeping a strict
watch over himself; but he is no longer a good christian, or
a true penitent, if, being made sensible of his fault, he does
not immediately repent of it, and resolve to do so no more.
Thus did St. Peter ; thus did David ; and thus will every
christian do, who considers that he ventures no less a stake
than his own soul, who ventures to live one moment in any
known sin.

Secondly; a true penitent, — his conscience must witness
for him, that he does not live in a wilful neglect of any
known duty. " Cease to do evil, learn to do well.'' " Bring isa.i.i6,i7.
forth fruits meet for repentance.'' This is the language, this [Matt. 3.' 8.]
the design, both of the Law and the Gospel. Let no man,
therefore, comfort himself with saying, that he leads an
harmless Hfe. Every man has his proper duty and talents,
for which he must answer ; so that no man can say he leads
an harmless life, who leads an useless life, or who neglects the
duties of his place and state of life.

Thirdly ; a true penitent, — his conscience must witness for
him, that he keeps a strict ivatch over himself, for fear of
backsliding. "Watch and pray, that ye fall not into temp- Matt.26.4J.
tation." This is a Gospel rule, never to be dispensed with,
never to be forgotten ; without which no man can be secure
of his perseverance.

Lastly; a true penitent, — his conscience must witness for
him, that he strives to please God in every thing to the best
of his power. This is the surest proof of a christian's sin-
cerity, and of the truth of his repentance, when he can say,
this I avoid, this I abhor, because I believe it will displease
God; when he can truly say, this I do, this I undertake, this
I suffer, because I believe it is the will of God, and will be
for His glory. Whoever is in this way is a true penitent, his



158 TRITE REPJJNTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION.

s E R M. sins will be forgiven, and he is in the sure way of salvation ;
'- — these being fruits answei'able to amendment of life.

But that a christian may keep in this way, it will be neces-
sary that he call himself often to an account; that every
night he beg forgiveness of those sins which through frailty
he has committed the day past ; and that he omit none of
those means which God has ordained to keep christians from
backsliding, and from falling into the snare of the devil : one
of which the Church has provided in her daily service, — a
standing and an effectual means of obtaining pardon for all
such as sincerely close with it ; that is, for all such as having
with all true humility confessed their sins unto Grod, do
secretly beg of Him, that the pardon pronounced by His own
minister may become effectual for the forgiveness of all
their sins.

Only remember, that it is a mere mocking of God to con-
fess our sins, without a sincere purpose of forsaking them ;
and that the absolution pronounced by the priest of God will
only benefit those who with hearty repentance and true faith
turn unto God. And to such — to such as are triily penitent —
the daily absolution will be an invaluable blessing and com-
fort, even as great as it is to be satisfied, that their pardon is
sealed in heaven.

Another means of grace, and pardon, and salvation, is
offered us in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. And a
christian must be very ignorant, or very little concerned for
his salvation, who will turn his back upon that ordinance,
which is designed to seal unto all worthy receivers the pardon
of all their sins.

By this time, I hope you see, and are convinced, that
repentance is not so much a laiv imposed upon you, as a
favour and a privilege of the Gospel; that it is the greatest
mercy vouchsafed unto sinners, who, when they have forfeited
the favour of God, are not utterly cast off, but have the
promise of pardon, and this upon most reasonable terms.

But then we must be careful not to abuse this great privi-
lege ; that we be not bold to provoke God, because He has
been so good as to promise to pardon us upon our true
repentance ; always remembering, that God's great design in
accepting of our repentance is this, that we may live to His



TRUE REPENTAXCK ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION. 159

glory the remainder of our days ; that we may shew in our
conversion, the power of His grace, the riches of His good-
ness and mercy, the faithfulness of His promises, and the
holiness of His laws.

By this you see, that a christiayi's whole life ought to be a
state of repentance ; that we ought, all our days, to be labour-
ing after holiness and perfection, getting the mastery over
our corruptions, and doing good in our generation. And we
shall not defer this one moment, if we consider that the ser-
vant in the Gospel, who had most improved his talents, had [Matt. 25.
the greatest reward ; and that the sooner we repent, the
more happy we shall be when we die.

This shews the madness of those who will be making ex-
periments, how long they may go on in a careless way of
living, and still hope that God will be gracious to them, and
accept of their repentance. For there is a time when (as God
Himself has declared) He will not be found of them that seek
Him. Besides this, every moment we defer our repentance,
we lessen our own happiness.

But above all, let us consider, that repentance is a work of
time, of pains, of sorrow, and uneasy to flesh and blood ; that
the ways of sin are extremely hazardous, and a return to our
duty very uncertain : that, therefore, they are wise and happy,
who are taught betimes to fear God and walk in His ways ;
who can say with the eldest son in the Gospel, " I never dis- [Luke 15.
obeyed thy commands." You know the father^s answer, ■" ' ■-*
" Son, aU that I have is thine."

And indeed the goodness of God has so ordered matters,
that this might be the happy case of many more christians,
if it were not plainly our own fault.

At our baptism He gives us His Holy Spirit to be the
principle of a new life to us, — an all-powerful Spirit, able
to keep us in the ways and in the favour of God to our
lives^ end.

Were parents careful to instruct their children, how to
improve and how to preserve this mighty blessing, what an
alteration should we see in the christian world ! But, alas !
they are suffered to grow up in ignorance, to get evil habits,
to grieve the Holy Spirit by which they were sanctified, and
very often to fall again into the snare, and power, and king-



160 TRUE REPKNTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION,

SEEM, dom of Satan. It is tlien they must be plainly told, that
-^^^^' they have no other choice but repentance or damnation. And,
God knows, this is often told to such as turn a deaf ear to so
dreadful a truth. They are in the power of a master who
will not suffer them to fear till it be too late to repent, unless
the Almighty God, by a miracle of mercy, interpose His
power. And this He does sometimes bij the discipline of His
Church; and would oftener do it, did not wicked men
oppose this gracious method of His providence for the con-
version of sinners.

But then you see the great sin of those, who go about to
set at nought, to pull down, or to despise and abuse, such a
powei^ful means of grace and conversion, which has God for
its author, and is ordained to remove scandals out of His
Church ; to awaken and to humble sinners ; to prevent their
being hardened in wickedness, and from corrupting others ;
to beget in all a fear of falling ; to prevent the judgments of
God from falliug upon the society ; and lastly, to make some
reparation to the honour of God for His abused authority.
These are the ends of Church discipline, and which many a
sinner, I hope, has reason to bless God for.

To proceed : by this time, I hope, good christians, you see,
that your everlasting welfare depends upon the sincerity of your
repentance ; this being the only way by which a sinner can
possibly be restored to the favour of God, and put into the
way of salvation. You see that repentance is the gift of God,
and that it must be begged of Him with a sincere design of
forsaking every evil way.

To encourage us to think, in good earnest, of setting about
so necessary a work, God is so good as to offer us all the
assistance that we can possibly want : and that we may not
flatter ourselves, that it may not be so ill with us as has been
intimated, Jesus Christ Himself has told us what will be
the punishment of sin unrepented of: Eternal darkness, —
pain of body, and anguish of mind, — unquenchable fire, — and

THESE FOR EVER !

Will any man, in his right mind, who hears, who believes,
these words of the Son of God, live one moment under the
hazard and dread of dying in his sins ? If, therefore, any of
you, who now hear and understand me, are convinced that



TRUE REPENTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION. 161

you live in any known sin, or very frequently fall into the
same sins; be persuaded, as you love your souls, from this
moment to begin your repentance, to forsake every sin,
though as dear to you as a right hand or a right eije. They
are the words of Jesus Christ that I am going to repeat : —
" It is better for you to enter into life, halt, or maimed, or with
one eye, than to go whole and sound to hell, into the fire that
never shall he quenched ;" which words our Lord repeats thj'ee Matt. 18. 8 ;

Mark 9 43

times, that christians may never forget them ; that they may &c.
repent in time, and never go into that place of torment.

You see how dangerous a thing it is to fancy ourselves
safe, when indeed we are not so. Think not, therefore, to
say to yourselves, We are christians ; we are members of a
body of which Christ is the head, for which He gave His
most precious blood ; we have the means of grace and sal-
vation amongst us.

Oh, christians ! how many souls are there, w^ho, this mo-
ment, are bitterly lamenting the ill use they made of these
blessings, when they were in this state of trial ! Let us, who
are yet alive, think seriously of this; and resolve, by the
grace of God, to lead a life worthy of the religion we profess,
of the means and hopes of salvation, which God has vouch-
safed us, and mindful of the misery we are liable to in case
we miscarry.

It is easy and it is common to say, We are all sinners ; but
it is not always considered that such sinners as repent, and
bring forth fruits meet for repentance, shall be saved; and
that such as do not so shall be damned. This sure makes a
mighty difference betwixt sinners and sinners.

You see what hazard a christian runs by returning again
into the sins he has repented of. " Sin no more (saith our John 5. 14.
Lord), sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." And
indeed, one may appeal to any man's conscience, whether he
does not find, that the oftener he returns to the sins he has
repented of, the more careless and hardened he grows, and
more bold to sin. And if you are not convinced, by what
has been said, of the irreparable danger of trusting to a
death- bed repentance, do but consider what you would think
of a man who should preach such a doctrine as this : chris-
tians, notwithstanding God has expressly commanded you to



16£ TRUE llEPENTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION.

SERM. forsake your sins, and to lead holy lives, as ever you hope for
— ^ — '■ — pardon and to escape the damnation of hell ; notwithstand-
ing God has declared that this is the utmost mercy to be de-
pended on ; yet I will promise you pardon and happiness, if,
after an ill-spent life, you are very sorry when you come to
die. This is what christians will not bear to hear, and yet it
is what is every day depended upon without scruple.

And now, christians, if you have attended to what has
been said, you will be able better to judge of your state,
whether you are really in the way of salvation or perdition.
If you can truly say, that you have forsaken every known
sin ; that you resist the corruption of your nature ; that you
immediately repent of any sin which through surprise or
frailty you fall into ; that you pray for God's grace continu-
ally, for light to see, and for power to do your duty, keeping
out of the way of temptations as much as possible ; if you
can truly say, that by this way your heart is changed as well
as your outward behaviour, and that you see the fruits of
your repentance in the holiness of your life ; why then you
may, with an humble confidence, speak peace unto your
soul.

Till then, religion will be a burthen to you ; you will be a
burthen to yourselves : you cannot love God ; you cannot, as
prodigious a sin as it is, you cannot but hate llim, because
you can expect no good from Him ; you can expect nothing
but that His judgments will some time or other overtake you
for your sins. And this is the reason, that all who live in
their sins unrepented of do secretly wish that there were no
God to call them to an account ; and, from wishing, come at
last to believe there is no God.

And now, christians, you see plainly from what has been
said, that it is not so much any law or decree of God that
shuts sinners out of heaven, but the very condition of their
nature makes it impossible for them to be happy; that there-
fore our nature must be mended before we can hope for any
favour from God ; we must forsake every thing that we be-
lieve will displease Him, and we must accustom ourselves to
love and to do what He has commanded.

This is that repentance, that duty, which has been set be-
fore you at this time. And, that you may consider very



TRUE REPENTANCE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION. 163

seriously of ivhat has been said, I will leaA^e these following

truths upon your minds. First ; that there is no repentance

in the grave ; that the night is coming on apace ivhen no [John 9. 4.]

man can work ; that the end of sin is not to be seen in this

life ; that the next life is the life of rewards or punishments ;

that the more we deny, the more we punish ourselves for our

sins, the less punishment, and the more favour, we may

expect from God: "If we would judge ourselves (saith iCor.n.si.

St. Paul), we should not be judged" — condemned of the

Lord : that by deferring our repentance, we do not only

hazard ourselves, but lessen our reward if ever we do repent.

And lastly, that if a man, when he comes to die, has not this

proof of his repentance, that his life has been such as it

should be ; namely, sober, chaste, upright, just, merciful ; he

will want one of the greatest comforts of a death-bed — one of

the surest marks of a repentance unto life.

Awaken, O God, the spirit of repentance in this careless
world, which stands so much in need of it. Pour down Thy
Holy Spirit upon the hearts of all that hear these truths,
that they may repent and turn to God, and bring forth
fruits meet for repentance, for Jesus Christ's sake. To
Whom, &c.



M 2



SERMON XIV.



CHRISTMAS-DAY.



THE GREAT BLESSING AND THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY
OF A REDEEMER.



The Collect for the Communion Service, in King EdvxinVs
Common Prayer, early in the morning.
God, Who makest us glad with the early remembrance of the birth of
Thine only Son Jesus Christ ; grant, that as we joyfully receive Him
for our Redeemer, so we may with siu-e confidence behold Him when He
shall come to be our judge, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the
Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.



Luke ii, 10.
See Isa. 52. BeJwM, I hruig you good tidings of great jo//, which shall

7; John 3. / - 77 /

16; Rom '-'^ lo all peojjle.

10 '15.

These are the words, this the message, of God, by His
Angel, to a company of shepherds, the night our Saviour
Christ was born. The whole account is as follows: "And
there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the
field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the
Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the
Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the Angel said unto them. Fear not : for behold, I
bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all
people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David,
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall he a
sign unto you ; j^e shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling
clotlies, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with
the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will towards men."



THE GREAT BLESSING AND NECESSITY OF A REDEEMER, 165

These are the good tidings of great joy, which we are now
going to put you in mind of, and to explain to you.

The first thing which^ at this time, we should consider is,
the wonderful goodness of the great God, the INIaker of
heaven and earth, who in compassion to His poor creatures
did send — not an Angel, but — His own Son, to redeem us
from the sad condition our sins had brought us into. He
sent His Son into the world, " that the world through Him John 3. i7.
might be saved.^^ God grant that every soul here present
may, through faith in His blood, make His coming into the
world effectual to every one's own salvation ; and then it will
be matter of joy indeed to all of us, who now solemnly re-
member His incarnation and birth.

That we may do it with more sincere joy and thankful-
ness, we will consider the evils and dangers which, as fallen
and sinful creatures, we are all subject to.

We are subject to a corrupt heart; to the malice and
power of evil spirits; to a proneness in our nature to evil
continually ; to the temptations of an evil world ; to a weak-
ness of nature, which of itself cannot withstand temptations ;
to a continual fear of death, and of what may be our condi-
tion after death ; to the thoughts of a judgment to come,
and the dread of the sentence then to be passed upon all
men.

Now, the thoughts of these evils would make the stoutest
heart to tremble, and are enough to distract the wisest man
alive, if the God of mercy had not proposed a way to deliver
us from this bondage.

This will shew us the blessing of our Saviour's coming
into the world, and the infinite mercies we shall receive there-
by, if it is not our own fault.

As fallen creatures, we had forfeited all the favours which
God designed us at our creation. We then lost that Holy
Spirit, by which we had power to know and to do our duty,
whatever God expected from us. By the loss of that Holy
Spirit, our reason became corrupt, and not sufficient to guide
us in the way of truth and salvation ; our will and our affec-
tions became ungovernable, and we became subject to every
temptation to sin ; and as such, God, an holy God, could
take no pleasure in us.



16G THE GREAT BLESSING AND THE

SERM. Th\s shews us the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, — of one

who could undertake to make satisfaction to the Divine

Justice for the sins and offences of a whole world ; who was
worthy to plead with the great God for His rebellious crea-
tures ; who was able to prevail with God to pardon what was
past, and to receive them again into favour.

Who does not see the necessity of some one, who might
let us know upon what terms God would forgive sinners, —
who could put us in a sure way of salvation ; of one who
could obtain for us that Holy Spirit, which could help us to
subdue all our enemies temporal and spiritual; who could
set us in his own person an example, how we ought to walk
so as to please God, and to deliver us from the wrath to come ?

Now, all this our Redeemer, our Lord Christ, has done for
us. He has given us the greatest assurance, that God, His
Father, will for His sake be reconciled unto us ; that He will
accept of our repentance ; that He will treat us, and deal with
us, as He would have done with our first parents, had they
not so grievously transgressed His command, provided we
will be governed by Him; that is. He tvill make us Juqypy for
ever. That in order to this. He will give us His Holy Spirit,



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 15 of 49)