« PreviousContinue »
ing. And to this purpose it is, that we are to interpret that Phrase of Renting the beart, and not the garments; not to sorbid the latter, but (according to the propriety of the Hebrew
Compare Hof, Language) to prefer the former. So much to prefer it, that, if One must be undone, the former is of so great consequence; and that, provided this be done effectually, it matters not, comparatively speaking, whether the latter be done
Thus Turning to the Lord with all our heart is set to denote a serious and unfeigned Repentance ; Such a thorough and total Change of Desires and Affections, as the Scripture calls a new Heart, a new Spirit, and that which renders the Person, in whom it is found, a new Creature. When we do not only leave off to commit, but even to love Sin; When we find an inward Complacency in God and Goodness; and perform our Duty with Appetite and Delight. Without this we may have the Form, but not the Power of Godliness. Nor could such Conversion be lasting. For nothing is so, that does not proceed from Inclination and Principle. Nature will soon return, and break loose from its Constraint. And therefore, till that Nature be corrected, till the Heart it self be changed; No change of Actions and Behaviour, however artfully put on for a while, can ever avail to the Ends of this Command, or deserve the Name of Repentance.
Again, As these outward Appearances alone can be of no Service to our Selves, so neither can they possibly be pleasing to Almighty God. They cannot please him for this very reason; because they are unprofitable to our Selves, and ineffectual for compassing the very End he aims at, which is no other, than our Change and Amendment. But there are other Considerations, which must render them highly displea
sing and abominable in his Sight. For all Dissimulation whatsoever is, in its own Nature, so odious and vile; that nothing could prevail for the practice of it upon any account, except the hope of going undiscovered. We allow our Selves too great Liberties of this kind, in common intercourse with one another ; and make an ill use of the Certainty we have, that Men cannot enter into our Thoughts, and consequently may be deceived, by Management and Ceremony, fair Carriage, and large Professions. But, if at any time this Mask be pluck'd off or seen through, no Affront is more highly, or more justly resented ; no Body more detested or despised, than the Flatterer or fawning Hypocrite. The Reason is, because this does not only betray Falfhood and Baseness in his own Temper, but it is a plain Reproach to the Person he labours to put upon, argues a mean Opinion of his Judgment, and that he was believed weak and despicable enough, to be abused and deceived without dircerning it.
Now, if the Case stands thus in all Transactions between Man and Man ; If We can so ill bear any Advantage to be taken of the Frailties and Infirmities, we are sensible, belonging to us; How impious and insufferable a Mockery must that be, which thinks any double dealing can pass upon God, who hath them not? How do they bring him down to our poor Level, rob him of his noblest Perfections, forget those Characters given of himself, that he is a Searcher of
hearts, a discerner of secrets, that there is
not a word in our tongues, but he knows it altogether, nor a thought in our breasts, but be understands it afar off? How dare any Man entertain a Thought of trifling with such a God? A God, who hath declared himself jealous of his Honour, in this point particularly? For, therefore is the Ungodly threatned with utter Destruction, for taking God's
Ili. xxix. 13
covenant into his mouth, when at the same time he hated to be reformed, cast his words behind him,
Pfal. 1. 16,--21. and, because not speedily punished for such Hypocrisy, concluded God to be such a one as himself. Therefore are the People of Judah given over to an amazing Destruction, such as the Wisdom of their wise Counsellors should not be able to prevent ; because, though they honoured God with their lips, and drew near to him with their mouth, get their heart was all the while far from him. This rendred all their Worship vain, and all their Endeavours of Escape fruitless, that they fought to hide their counsel from the Lord, and wrought in the dark, and said, who seeth us, and who knoweth us? There were no end of exposing the Absurdity, the Weakness, the Danger ; of dissembling with God, or imagining, that the cunningest Disguise can shelter the moft lurking Corruption from his all-piercing Eye. Let David suffice to convince us of the Folly, and our Saviour, to shew us the Consequence of it: The One reminding Men, that He, who made them, must needs have perfect Knowledge of them ; The Other, by forewarning us, that where the portion of Hypocrites is, there Mall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
These things are so exceeding manifest, both from express Declarations of Scripture, and from the Rcason of the thing; that one would stand amazed at the Commonness of a Crime so heinous, a Delusion so senseless. And yet how generally it hath prevailed in the World, the Examples of many among the Heathen, of the Pharisees among the Jews, and of Multitudes among Christians in every Age, and Place, are too melancholy, and too sensible, an Evidence.
This must be attributed to the cunning Craftiness of Designing Men; contriving, for private Advantage, to cheat the Souls under their Care, with false Notions
Pfal. xciv. Matth. xxiv. 51.
of Religion; and to the Folly of People, favouring this Deceit, by giving into such Schemes, as flatter their favourite Vices; and submitting to some Austerities as meritorious, which, how mortifying and rigorous foever they appear, are yet in truth less grievous to Flesh and Blood, than a thorough Change of Affections and Manners. A juft Indignation against these Corruptions hath driven many into a contrary Extreme; and tempted them to reject all those outward Marks of Repentance, so wretchedly abused by ignorant or ill intending Men, as not only needless, but superstitious. Whereas indeed These still continue necessary; and, when not made to supply the place of, but to express and promote, Conversion of Heart, continue to oblige us.
Such are the Particulars that follow here; Without a Change of the Mind and Actions, nothing, worse than nothing; but with it, decent in Themselves, profitable to Us, and acceptable to Almighty God. And therefore, having enJarged thus far, to secure the First and main Point, Our Sincerity; I proceed to consider the Rest, which the Portions of Scripture now in hand enjoin ; and which this Day, and the Season ushered in by it, do more especially call for, in order to our more effectual Repentance.
2. The next Thing then to be spoken of is Sorrow for our past Faults. A Christian must consider the Concerns of his Soul very partially, or very Nightly, not to see, and be fully convinced, that provoking God's Displeasure, risquing the Loss of Heaven, and lying liable to the Damnation of Hell, are Calamities to be dreaded and lamented, infinitely above any, that the Crosses or Disappointments of this World can ever expose us to. The more, because in One Case we are often purely passive, but whatever befals us in the Other, we bring upon our Selves; and if we deal righteously, must at once lament, and condemn, the Sufferer. Let
Deut. X. 17.
Men but think at all of this Matter, and they will find no need for my labouring to persuade them, that they ought to be Sorry for their Sins. But in regard every Sort of Sorrow may not be proper or effectual, I hall endeavour to say somewhat, that may
upon this account. Concerning the Motives, the Degree, and the End of, that Sorrow commanded here: So far as the Scripture, I am treating of, furnishes occasion and hints for it.
I. As to the Motive, First; The Connexion may seem a little strange, that so Solemn an Exhortation to weeping, and mourning, and rending the heart, should be inforced with this Argument, That God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Would not one have expected the Prophet, at this time, to have represented God by those other Jerem. xxxii. Characters elsewhere given of him; A great God, a mighty, and a terrible, that will by no means clear the guilty; whose eyes are open upon all the ways of the fons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings? Should not this rather have been pressed upon them, Turn ye unto the Lord your God, for, if a man will not turn, he will whet his sword, he hath bent his bow, and made it ready: He prepareth the instruments of death: İle repayeth then that hate him to their face, to destroy them ; He will not be sack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his foce? Such a Method of reasoning had no doubt been very agreeable to the Temper of hardned Sinners, to awaken them out of their Security, and admonish them, whom they have to deal with. But yet the manner of the Prophet's proceeding was certainly moit Seasonable at that, and may easily be proved very instructive and u.eful at Any time, upon These two accounts.
Psal. vii. 12, 13.