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the awakened Jew ask, what he shall do? The answer was, Repent ; let the alarm which he has felt, lead him to an entire repentance and conversion to God-And be baptized ; let him publicly unite himself to the church by the open dedication of himself to God in his appointed sacrament—For the remission of sins, which is to be obtained through that Saviour alone in whose name he is to be baptized, and which will be sealed and confirmed to him in that ordinance— And he shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, if not in his extraordinary, yet in his enlightening and sanctifying influences.
The exhortation, then, as addressed to professed Christians, who have already been admitted by baptism to the privileges of the visible church, may be considered as relating to REPENTANCE, PARDON, CONFESSION OF THE NAME OF CHRIST, and THE
THE Holy Spirit. In proportion as these Christian graces and gifts are imparted to the mind, will our convictions of sin have their full and proper effect. Let men have repentance towards God, which needeth not to be repented of ; let them be found in Christ, not having their own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of God by faith ; let them join themselves to the Church in an open confession of their faith, and a devout use of the sacraments, and other
means of grace; and let them be sanctified and comforted by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and they will be real Christians ; the lessons of the Gospel will have accomplished their end, the wounded heart will be healed, and the eager expressions of alarm and inquiry will gradually be exchanged for the language of assurance and peace and joy.
These directions, then, may be viewed both in the light of an ENCOURAGEMENT and of a
They are an ENCOURAGEMENT, as they present a way of escape to the anxious inquirer. Is it no relief to the convinced mind to be told there is a Saviour, to be assured of acceptance, to be directed to the Divine Spirit for the communication of wisdom and strength? Is it no encouragement to be taken as it were by the hand, and guided to heaven? Is it no consolation to be led to the mysterious Cross, and instructed in the doctrine of the remission of sins? Be comforted, then, distressed and perplexed penitent. Salvation is before you. However little light or feeling you may now have, go on; press forward; repent; confess the Saviour; seek for pardon ; implore sanctifying grace. If you have only a good thought towards God, or some misgiving of mind about your own condition, cherish it, yield to it, follow it as the dawning light. On the other
hand, if your terrors are ever so penetrating, and your apprehensions ever so vivid, do not despair. Though you should conclude your sins to be more numerous and more aggravated than those of any other person, though you should be struck to the heart with self-condemnation, and be almost ready to conclude that your particular case is beyond the reach of mercy, still be not overwhelmed. The door of repentance and pardon is open. The invitation is general, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money. The alarm and distress you feel are so far from being arguments against you, that they rather prove you to be in the right way. The Jew who had heard the Apostle's sermon, and who was pricked to the heart, and said with anguish, What shall I do? was in fact in the path to truth and salvation; and so are you,
your feelings are such as bis, and you will follow the directions of the sacred word. Yield not then to unbelief; for all things are ready, and none are excluded from the feast
You are invited and commanded to approach. Nor will God reject a single soul that comes to him in the name of Jesus Christ.
The directions, however, of the Apostle afford also a CAUTION, as they show that repentance and remission of sins, and a public
dedication of ourselves to the service of Christ, are necessary to complete what alarm of conscience may have begun. It is necessary not only to guard against despair by stating the gracious invitations of the Gospel; but to caution men against presumption by enforcing the necessity of complying with those invitations. It is possible for them to be terrified at their sins for a time, and yet not to be turned from them. They may dread the consequences of transgression, and yet continue to love it. Conviction of sin must, then, be embodied, as it were, in all the acts of the true and practical Christian character. You must be cautious of trusting to any alarm of mind, as though in itself a sufficient evidence of a state of salvation. You may clearly see from the exhortation of the Apostle to the Jews to Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for remission of sins, that distress of conscience is one thing, and repentance and pardon another. There are persons who conclude they
true Christians because they have been much affected by a sermon, and have been for a time under terror of mind; but such sensations are no decisive proofs of conversion, There must be something besides conviction ; even repentance, faith in the merits and death of Christ, the influences of gracey and holy
obedience, to prove that we are truly accepted of God. Alarms indeed may, and 'ought to end in our being truly awakened from the sleep of sin—this is their proper effect--but they may prove to be only like the disturbance given to one in profound slumber, at which he starts for a moment, but, overcome by his sleep, again sinks down to repose. Let us not, therefore, substitute convictions of conscience, which are chiefly valuable as they lead to something further, for that solid conversion to God without which no one can be saved; but let us, when we hear the word of the Gospel, and are pricked in our hearts, follow on from feeling to practice, and so implore the grace of God, that we may become true believers in the atonement and righteousness of the Saviour ; and sincerely dedicated to his service and honour.
To confirm you still more in this solid work of religion, let me, before I conclude,
II. Turn your attention for an instant, to THE DIRECTIONS PROPER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY REPENTED AND OBEYED THE GOSPEL. These may be drawn from the remaining exhortation of the Apostle to his converts, and from the narrative of their conduct and spirit, contained in the verses which follow my text. I can only made to them. Let the Christian,