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· Q. Since Repentance is so earnestly pressed upon us at this Time, pray wherein does it consist?
A. Repentance consists in such a Change of Mind as produces the like Change in our Lives and Conversations; so that to repent of our Sins, is to be convinced that we have done amiss; whence follows hearty Sorrow for our past Follies, and a firm and effectual Purpose and Resolution of Mind to forsake them for the Time to come. And this Change is so great in our Desires and Resolutions, that the Scripture calls it a new Nature, the Sincerity and Reality whereof appears in Actions suit able to such new Principles.
Q. Whạt Considerations are proper to excite in us Sorrow for our Siņs ?
A. Who can forbear grieving, when he considers that he is fallen under the heavy Displeasure of Almighty God, whose infinite Patience he hath abused? That he is exposed to all those Miseries that are implied in an eternal Separation from the Fountain of all Happiness; that he hath foolishly neglected the most important Concern of his Life, and done what in him lies to make himself everlastingly miserable; that he hath been ungrateful to his mighty Benefactor, and unfaithful to his best Friend ; that he hath affronted Heaven with those very Blessings he hath received from thence; that he hath despised the Riches of God's Goodness, Rom. ii. 4. and Forbearance, and Long-suffering, which should have led him to Repentance.
Q. How ought we to express our Sorrow for our Sins ?
A. By humbly confessing them to Almighty God with Shame and Confusion of Face, by an utter Abhorrence and Detestation of them, by being heartily troubled for what we have done amiss, and resolving not to do the like again. By testifying the Reality of our inward Sorrow, by all those Ways that we find naturally occur in other Cases that afflict us, as in Fasting, Weeping, and Mourning,
Ezra x. 6. practised by Penitents both in the Old and New
* Testament; as is plain by Ezra, David, Nehemiah, Neh. i. 4. St. Peter, and St. Paul; all deep Impressions of
the Mind naturally producing some proportionable Acts ix. 9. Effect upon the Body; and it being very fit that as
the Soul and Body have been partakers in the same Sins, so they should join together in the same Humiliation.
Q. What is meant by a firm Resolution of Amend
A. Such a Purpose of Mind as is formed upon calm Deliberation, after all the Difficulties of a holy Life have been thoroughly considered; and those Discouragements that will frequently attend us in pursuing such a Course. After all the Plea. sures of Sin have been seriously weighed, and those Temptations that will constantly solicit us to commit it; with all those Motives and Arguments that excite us to perform the one and avoid the other; a Resolution of Mind, framed after this Manner, is likely to be permanent and lasting.
Q. What is the best Method to make a Resolution of Amendment effectual?
A. To extend it to all the Particulars of our Duty, obliging ourselves to have a Respect to all God's Commands, and to avoid every Thing his Law forbids. To make it adequate to all Times, not only hereafter, but at present; not only when we are out of Temptations, but when we are under them; not only when we cannot act them, but when we can act and repeat them too. To resolve upon avoiding all those Occasions that betray us into the Breach of our Duty; and to make Use of all those Means, and Helps that are established for our Growth in Grace, especially to pray to God that he would strengthen our Weakness, and confirm our holy Purposes; and that they may be durable, frequently to repeat and renew them, particularly when we approach the Holy Table of the Lord..
Q. Is all true Sorrow for Sin, and are all real Purposes of Amendment for the Time to come, in all Cases sufficient ?
A: No; in some Cases they are not sufficient: For if we have anyways wronged or injured our Neighbour, we must make him all the Reparation we are able. Those that we have drawn into Sin, by our Example, or Neglect of our Duty towards them, we must endeavour all we can to contribute to their Recovery; if we have injured their good Names, we must acknowledge our Faults, and vindicate their Reputations, and hy all fitting Ways repair their Credit; if we have wronged them in their Estates, either by Fraud or Force, we must make Restitution; that is, restore to the right Owner what we unjustly possess, or to his Heirs, or when neither can be discovered, to the Poor; and that with all those Measures and Circumstances, which, upon Consideration, we shall find to be our Duty. Without this Fruit of Repentance, all other Expressions of it will stand us in no Stead, since our Obligation to Restitution is founded upon immutable Reason and natural Justice, which is to do that to another which we would have another do to us. Moreover, the detaining of what we know to be another's Right is a persevering in the first Injustice; and as long as we continue in that State, we cannot expect Pardon.
Q. Whence arises our Obligation to Repentance?
A. From the absolute Necessity of it, in Order to make nis capable of the Mercy and Forgiveness of God. Without Repentance, we must be unavoidably miserable; for it is the great Condition upon which our Salvation depends; and this Change in our wicked Tempers must be wrought, before we can be qualified for that Happiness which God hath promised in the Gospel-Covenant. . .
Q. What do you mean by the Forgiveness of Sins ?
A. A Discharge and Release from that Punishment that is due to Sin. By transgressing God's
Laws we contract Guilt, which wan Obligation to suffer that Punishment the Wrath of God shall think fit to inflict: but by the Forgiveness of Sins we are freed and delivered from that Punishment to which we were before obnoxious.
Q. Is Repentance the valuable Consideration for which God bestows upon us Forgiveness of Sins ?
A. The Scriptures are clear that our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ laid down his Life as a Sacrifice for the Sins of the World; that by his Death he reconciled us to God, and by the Merit of his Sufferings made full Satisfaction for us; so that it is for the sake of what Christ endured, that God was pleased to take off our Obligation to eternal Punishment; but yet this Reconciliation, tbat is made by the Death of Christ between God and Man, is not absolute, but upon Conditions. We must repent to make us capable of that Pardon he bath purchased for us; for our Saviour hath joined these two together in his Commission to the Apostles, saying, That Repentance and Remission of Sins should be preached in his Name throughout all Nations.
Q. How do Men delude themselves in this necessary Duty of Repentance?
Å. By delaying it for the present, and deferring it to some future Opportunity; either till the Heat of Youth is over, or till Sickness, Old Age, or Death, overtakes them. But as it is the greatest Folly ima ginable to venture a Matter of such Consequence upon such an Uncertainty as future Time, which we can never be sure of, and to defer a necessary Work to the most unfitting Season of performing it; so it is highly wicked, in that we abuse God's Patience, who gives us Time and Opportunity for it at present, and prefer the Slavery of Sin before his Service; it is a Contempt of his Laws, and of that Wrath which is revealed from Heaven against all Unrighteousness; and we may justly fear that such a Procedure may provoke God to withdraw that Grace which will then be necessary for the
Luke xxiv. 47.
Exercise of our Repentance, though he should give us Time and Opportunity.
Q. Is a Death-bed Repentance therefore absolutely impossible?
Å. It is certain, that, without a particular Grace of God, no Man will be able to repent upon his Death-bed; and it is no Ways reasonable to expect these extraordinary Influences, when the ordinary Means of Grace have been neglected all along in Life; and therefore I believe it very rarely takes Effect: But I cannot think it absolutely impossible, because the Nature of Repentance consisting in the Change of our Minds, and the Change in our Lives being the only necessary Effect of that inward Change when it is sincere, it is possible, by the extraordinary Grace of God (which the Gospel gives us no Encouragement to hope for), that the Change of our Hearts may be true, full, and sufficient ; and yet we may want Time and Opportunity to shew the Effect of it in our Actions. And when God sees it thus, he may take the inward Will and Choice for the outward Service and Performance; because he foresees, that if Time had been allowed, Obedience would certainly have followed. Besides, we find that the Resolutions of a Sick-bed, though very rarely, yet sometimes have been effectual, which is sufficient to prove the Thing possible; and if Divines thought otherwise, it would be in vain for them to exhort Persons in such Circumstances to repent and turn to God.
Q. Wherein consists the Danger of a Death-bed Repentance ? and how is the Case of such dying Penitents deplorable ?
A. Considering the Difficulty of a thorough Change, and the disadvantageous Circumstances of a Sick-bed, it is highly probable, that whosoever defers it till that Time, will never repent at all; or, if he does, his penitential Resolutions, being founded upon such temporary Principles as the Fear of Death, and the Absence of Temptation, they will