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And surely "God is not a man that he should lie: "hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?1
The grandest display of the love of God doth equally declare his justice and holiness: and will not men allow that he is LOVE: unless he will, as it were, abdicate his throne, dishonour his name, and neglect the interests of his obedient subjects, in order to preserve impenitent rebels from deserved punishment? These reflections ought rather to convince us, that there is a malignity in sin, of which men are not aware; seeing God so terribly threatens and severely punishes his offending creatures, and yet rescues a penitent remnant in so stupendous a manner.
But some still contend that God will save all sincere persons, each in his own way: and they support this antiscriptural opinion by the words of our text.-Leaving at present the case of those who never were favoured with the clear light of divine revelation; let it be observed, that if they who are fully informed, or might be did they properly improve their advantages, persist in neglecting the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures, to depend on their moral virtues, rational schemes, or self-invented observances; if they treat the truth of God as a lie, and count that wisdom which angels adore, to be "foolishness;" if they regard the stupendous love of God in giving his Son to be the Saviour of the world as needless; and then pretend that he will condemn no man for unavoidable errors: let them look to it, for evil is before
1 Numb. xxiii. 19.
mentioned, exceedingly misleads inexperienced youth. But GOD IS LOVE; and, the more we resemble and imitate him in this endearing attribute, the greater real excellency we unquestionably possess. Let us then be "followers of God," and "walk in love," after his pattern, in all the various displays of it which have been considered: then we shall certainly be known and approved as his children, and found meet for the eternal inheritance of his heavenly kingdom.
Finally, if we be conscious of having "fled for "refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us" in the gospel, let us receive the trials allotted us as the wise and holy appointments of divine love; let us not judge of the Lord's dispensations by our feelings or reasonings, but by his holy word; and let us submit to his will, whatever he may withhold, take away or inflict; assured that he manages all our concerns in that manner which is most conducive to our eternal interests, and best suited to illustrate the riches of his paternal liberality.
ACTS XXVI. 19, 20.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
THE propriety and address of St. Paul's speech before Agrippa, Festus, and that august assembly, in whose presence he stood as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, have been generally admired: but the faithfulness and courage, with which he pleaded the cause of the gospel, are perhaps still more deserving of our attention. He paid no court to his illustrious auditors: he attempted not to ingratiate himself with them, or even to shun their contempt or aversion; while he used the most effectual means of convincing them, not only that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but that faith in him was absolutely necessary to salvation, and that all men without exception ought to " repent, "and turn to God, and do works meet for re66 pentance."
Having given a brief narration of his own miraculous conversion, he produced his commission to preach the gospel to the gentiles; " "I have ap
peared unto thee," says the divine Saviour, "to
"make thee a minister and a witness, both of "these things which thou hast seen, and of those 66 things in the which I will appear unto thee delivering thee from the people and from the "gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open "their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, "that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and " inheritance among them which are sanctified by "faith that is in me. Whereupon," says the apostle, "I was not disobedient unto the hea"venly vision, but shewed," first to the Jews and then to the gentiles, "that they should repent "and turn to God, and do works meet for repent"ance." In doing this, " he was not disobedient "to the heavenly vision:" for, in his view of Christianity, these practical subjects perfectly accorded with the doctrines of faith and grace. The several Christian graces may, and should, be distinguished, as they have their appropriate nature and use; but they cannot be separated in the person who possesses them. For instance, an impenitent believer, and an unbelieving penitent are ideal characters: true faith is a penitent faith, and true repentance is believing repentance: yet the nature and use of repentance and faith should be plainly distinguished. This will appear more evidently, while from the text we take occasion to consider,
I. The importance of the subject, as it from the scriptures:
II. Certain things which are implied in it:` III. The peculiar nature of repentance and turning unto God:
IV. And lastly, The works meet for repent
I. Let me call your attention, my brethren, to the importance or prominence of this subject, as it appears from the scriptures, especially from the New Testament.
John the Baptist was the predicted forerunner of the Messiah, who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, when he came in human nature among his ancient people the Jews: but how did he execute his important office? He came preaching, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at "hand." Let me intreat your serious attention to this circumstance. Notwithstanding the advantages of that favoured nation, with all their notions and form of godliness, there was no order of men, no religious sect, no individual whatever, that did not want repentance, as a preparation for welcoming the Messiah, and sharing the blessings of his spiritual kingdom. Insomuch, that the Baptist said to the Pharisees, as well as to the Sadducees, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned
you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring "forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and "think not to say within yourselves, We have "Abraham to our father."-Not long after, our Lord himself condescended to preach the gospel; and he too said, "Repent, for the kingdom of "heaven is at hand." When the apostles went forth at his command, they " preached every where "that men should repent:" and it appears from part of his discourse to the seventy disciples, that
'Matt. iii. 7-10.