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my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." The pardon of individuals is also sometimes spoken of as what had already been granted. See Matt. ix. 2, "Son be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." Luke vii. 47, "Her sins which are many are forgiven." And Eph. iv. 32, "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." It is likewise said, "He that believeth, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." And, "There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

By a sinful nation's being forgiven, on repentance and a reformation, we are to understand the remission of certain public judgments, with which it had been threatened. By the forgiveness of particular sinners, immediately on their conversion, by repentance and faith in Christ, is to be understood, their being delivered from the wrath to come, or secured, by the promises of the gospel, from eternal punishment. Not that they are so fully forgiven, but that they may be punished in the life which now is, both for their past and their future sins. Job says to God, "Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth." And this is the case, undoubtedly, with many good men. When David was brought to repentance, and said, "I have sinned against the Lord;" Nathan said unto him, "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to plaspheme, the child that is born unto thee shall surely die." Which punishment, and the others before denounced, were inflicted upon him with unabated severity, notwithstanding his sin was put away, as to the penalty which was its capital and full desert.

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Hezekiah likewise, because his heart was lifted up, and he rendered not again according to the benefits done him, was sorely visited and terribly threatened, though he had long been eminently pious. And the apostle Paul, when reproving the Corinthians for their scandalous attendance on the Lord's supper, says to them; "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."

True penitents and believers are not under the curse of the law, but under a covenant of grace: a covenant according to which they are out of danger of the condemnation of the wicked, and their final salvation is secured. Nevertheless, they are not so forgiven as that their transgressions may not be yet visited with the rod, in this world, and their iniquity with stripes.

But in our text it is said, " Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." What are we to understand by those times?

Some understand by them, the times of the more full pouring out of the Divine Spirit under the gospel dispensation: and some, the times of wrath and destruction which would soon come upon Jerusalem, and upon the persecuting Jews in general; which would be times of a short relief and rofreshing to the persecuted christians.

But, though these might, with some propriety, be spoken of as refreshing times to the suffering disciples of Christ, it appears from what follows, that the apostle had an ultimate reference to a more distant day; even the day of final retribution. the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, who


before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution," (or fulfilment)" of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets, since the world began."

At the day of judgment, the sins of those who shall then appear to have truly repented, and been converted to the obedience of the gospel, will be blotted out, more fully than they ever are in this world. All such will then be openly acquitted from the whole curse of the law; and will have an everlasting deliverance from all the penal and unhappy consequences of original and actual sin.

It was proposed, in the last place, to consider, what is the duty of sinners, relative to their repentance and conversion; since these are made matters of exhortation and command to them. And here,

1. We are to understand, undoubtedly, that it is the duty of all to whom the overtures of salvation are made, immediately to repent of their sins, and turn from them to God, in the way that he offers pardoning mercy.

Many are ready to argue that since repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and not in the power of sinners so long as they are in a state of unregeneracy; the only duty at pesent incumbent on them respecting these matters, is to be in the use of those outward means, whereby saving grace is ordinarily communicated to the souls of men. That such exercises of heart as imply real holiness, cannot reasonably be required of them while unrenewed. But, that the inspired preachers of christianity thought otherwise, is very obvious. Their first exhortation to sinners was, "Repent, and believe the gospel." Repent, and be converted." And if any at all delayed repenting sincerely, and becoming true christians, those preachers evidently considered them as being alto



Our Saviour

gether criminal and without excuse. himself severely upbraided those who had heard his doctrines and seen his miracles, because they repented not plainly telling them that it would be more tolerable in the day of judgment, for Tyre and Sidon, and even for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for them.

As to the common objection, that to command or exhort men to repent with godly sorrow, and believe to the saving of the soul, while they are unregenerate, is unreasonable; and that to condemn them for not doing so is unjust, because a compliance with such requisitions is not in their power to this the answer is, that all the reason they cannot do these things, is their not being so disposed; or their not having an honest and good heart: and that what men could do if they would, or if it were not for the wickedness of their hearts, they may reasonably be required to do, and may justly be condemned for not doing. This was the way which our Saviour took, to stop the mouths of such objectors. He said to the unbelieving Jews, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." And to the city of Jerusalem, when abandoned to destruction; "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." And again; "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

But it may be said, To call upon sinners to repent and believe, or to be converted, when it is impossible they should do these things, let this impossibility be owing to what it will, is in vain, and can do no good. Is it not better to tell the unconverted of things which they can do; and to give them directions and exhortations with which they may possibly be persuaded to comply?

To this it is answered: Though no preaching will be of any avail for the conversion of sinners, without the special grace of God; yet, under that preaching which has a tendency to convince them of their duty and their sin, we have more reason to expect. this divine grace, than under that which rather tends to strengthen their self-deception, and to shut out more entirely the light of genuine conviction. To urge on the unregenerate only the externals of religion, is the direct way to make them think that all their duty consists in the performance of these: and, consequently, to build them up upon the rotten foundation of self-righteousness and dead works. On the contrary, the method taken by our Saviour and his apostles, of urging sincere repentance and saving faith, as the immediate duty of unbelieving and impenitent sinners; and insisting upon their utter inexcusableness in the neglect of these, has a natural tendency to cast down self-righteous imaginations, and to make men sensible of the necessity of renewing grace, and of an interest in the righteousness of Christ. Yet,

2. It is nevertheless the duty of the unconverted to be in the diligent use of the outward and ordinary means of conversion; and to this they should be exhorted.

As, on the one hand, some imagine that nothing more than external duties can reasonably be urged upon the unregenerate; so, on the contrary, others seem to suppose that no directions are to be given them, except to be perfect, or to repent and believe the gospel. But this last opinion, as well as the first, appears to me unfounded, either in reason or scripture. If it be the duty of sinners to repent, it is their duty to endeavor to know what they have to repent of. If it be their duty to believe the gospel, it must be their duty to be in the use of proper means to understand the import of the gospel, and

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