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Our question is not, May true believers fall away into endless perdition? but, Have we any evidence that we are among the number of those saints who can never perish?

These elucidations and distinctions are sufficient at present. Were we to compose a treatise on the subject, it would be necessary to explain each article more fully but in a single sermon they can only be just mention ed. These hints, we hope, are sufficient to give you a clear state of the question, and a just notion of the doctrine our churches. We do not say every man, but a believer; not every pretended believer, but a true believer; not a believer in a state of infancy and noviciate, but a confirmed believer; not a believer who backslides from his profession, but one who perseveres; not a believer during his falls into sin, but in the ordinary course of his life; not a believer considered in himself, and left to his own efforts, but a believer supported by that divine aid which God never refuses to those who ask it; such a believer, we say, may persuade himself, not only that the promises of God are faithful, and that his decrees are irrevocable, but that he is of the number of those whom faithful promises and immutable decrees secure. Not that we pretend to exclude from salvation those who have not obtained the highest degree of assurance: but we consider it as a state to which each Christian ought to aspire, a privilege that every one should endeavour to obtain. It is not enough to advance this proposition, we must endeavour to establish it on solid proof.

We adduce in proof of this article, first, the experience of holy men; next, the nature of regeneration; then, the privileges of a Chris tian; and lastly, the testimony of the Holy Spirit; each of which we will briefly explain.

1. We allege the experience of holy men. A long list of men persuaded of their salvation might here be given. A few follow. Job says, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself,' chap. xix. 25-27. David says, 'O Lord, deliver my soul from men of the world, who have their portion in this life. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness,' Ps. xvii. 14, 15. So Asaph, It is my happiness to draw near to God. I am continually with thee, thou hast holden me by thy right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory,' Ps. lxxiii. 28, 23, 24. But not to multiply examples, let us content ourselves with the words of the text, and in order to feel the force of them, let us explain them.

I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' What is this love of God, of which our aposthe speaks? The expression is equivocal. It either signifies the love of Jesus Christ to us, or our love to him. Both come to the same;

for as St. Paul could not persuade himself that God would always love him, without at the same time assuring himself that he should always love God; nor that he should always love God, without persuading himself that God would always love him; so that it is indifferent which sense we take, for in either sense the apostle means by the love of God in Christ Jesus, his communion with God in Jesus Christ. What does he say of this communion? He says, he is 'persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate it.' This enumeration includes all, and leaves no room for addition. In effect, what are the most formidable enemies that conspire against our souls?

Are they the sophisms with which Satan gives a gloss to error? There is an art of enveloping the truth; there is a superficial glare that may render false religions probable, and may dazzle the eyes of inquirers. St. Paul defies not only the most accomplished teachers, and the most refined sophists: but the very devils also, neither angels, says he, that is, fallen angels.

Are they the dissipations of life, which by filling all the capacity of the soul, often deprive it of the liberty of working out his salvation? or are they the approaches of death, the gloom of which intercepts the light and obscures the rays of the Sun of righteousness? St. Paul is superior to both, neither death, nor life,' says he.

Are they worldly pomps and grandeurs ? A certain love of elevation, inseparable from our minds, prejudices us in favour of whatever presents itself to us under the idea of grandeur. St. Paul dares all the pomps, and all the potentates in the world, 'neither principalities, nor powers, nor height,' adds he.

Are the impressions that present objects always make on us enemies to us? The idea of a present benefit weighs much with us The sacrifice of the present to the future is the most difficult of all the efforts of our hearts. St. Paul knows the art of rendering present objects future, and of annihilating the present, if I may venture to say so, by placing it in future prospect; 'neither things present, nor things to come.'

Are they the most cruel torments? How difficult is it to resist pain! In violent sensations of pain the soul itself retires into concealment, and surrounded with excruciating maladies can scarcely support itself by reflection. St. Paul can resist all torment, 'distress and persecution, famine and nakedness, peril and sword.'

Is contempt an enemy? Many who have withstood all other trials, have sunk under that unjust scandal which often covers the children of God in this world. St. Paul entertained rectified ideas of glory, and found grandeur in the deepest abasement, when religion reduced him to it. Neither,' says he, 'shall death be able to separate.' 'I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth;' and lest the imperfection of his






enumeration should excite any suspicion be persuaded that he shall triumph over all
concerning his perseverance, he adds, nor his temptations; he may say, I am persuad
any other creature, shall be able to separate ed that no creature shall separate ine from
us from the love of God which is in Christ the love of God.'
Jesus our Lord.'

In vain it will be objected, that this assu-
rance was grounded on some extraordinary
revelation, and on some privileges peculiar
to the apostles; for it is clear by the prece-
ding verses, that the apostle grounds his as-
surance of salvation on promises made to all
the church. On this account some duties
are enjoined on all Christians, which suppose
that all Christians may arrive at this assu-
rance; these duties are thanksgiving, joy,
and hope. Nothing then, can invalidate our
arguments drawn from the examples of holy
inen. Thus the question of assurance is not
a question of right, subject to objections and
difficulties: it is a question of fact, explain-
ed by an event, and decided by experience.

2. Let us attend to the nature of regeneration. A regenerate man is not one who lightly determines his choice of a religion; the allurement of a present pleasure, through It may happen, that such a man through he is not a child tossed to and fro, and carri- the enticement of a temptation, through the ed about with every wind of doctrine, Eph. iv. false attractives of the world, may for a few 14; but he is a man who has studied Chris-moments be imposed on, and betrayed away: tianity, weighed its arguments, seen its evi- but a remembrance of the pleasures of piety, dences, and felt all their force, so that he is a contrast between them and the pleasures of persuaded by demonstration, that there is a the world, will soon recover him to such reGod, a providence, another life, a judgment, ligious exercises as before gave him real a heaven, a hell, and so on. pleasures and pure joy.

A regenerate man is one, who, by continual meditations and pious actions, has surmounted his natural propensities to sin. He is a man, whose constitution, so to speak, is new cast and refined, so that instead of being inwardly carried away to sin by his own violent passions, he is inwardly moved to the practice of piety and virtue.

A regenerate man is one, who in pious exercises, has experienced that satisfaction which a rational mind tastes, when inward consciousness attests a harmony between destiny and duty. He is a man, who has felt that peace which passeth all understand ing; that joy unspeakable, and full of glory,' Phil. iv. 7; 1 Pet. i. 8, which the presence of God produces in the soul. He is a man, whose life has abounded with those happy periods, in which the soul loses sight of the world, holds communion with its God, foretastes eternal felicity, finds itself, as St. Paul expresses it, raised up from the dead, and made to sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus,' Eph. ii. 6.

ing, we have granted our opponents all which Remark here, that by proposing this reasonthey can reasonably require; we have placed things at the worst. But, including all our ideas, we affirm, the principles of regeneration are such, that he who possesses them, will not only arise from his falls, should he somebut he will avail himself of these very temptimes fall into sin under violent temptations; tations to confirm his faith and obedience. The same objects produce different effects, according to the different dispositions of the persons to whom they are offered. What serves to confirm a wicked man in sin, serves to confirm a good man in virtue, and, if he has fallen, to reclaim him to God.

A regenerate man is one who has meditated on the attributes of God, his wisdom, his omnipresence, and his justice; and particularly on those depths of mercy which inclined him to redeem a fallen world, and to ransom it by a sacrifice, the bare idea of which confounds imagination, and absorbs all thought.

ful sophism of error, he will take occasion Propose to a regenerate man the most artfrom it to attach himself more earnestly to the study of truth; he will increase his knowledge, and he will never find a more sincere attachment to religion than after dis covering the nullity of the objections that worldly pomp, it will elevate his mind to that are inade against it. glory which God has reserved for his children Surround him with in the other world. Put him in a state of meanness and misery, it will detach him from the world, and enliven him in searching felicity in another life. Lay him on a death-bed, even there he will triumph over all. The him, will begin to fall in pieces, and he will veils that concealed the supreme good from become inflamed with the desire of possessing it. Suppose him even fallen into sin, an experience of his frailty will animate him to vigilance; he will hereafter doubly guard the weak passes of his soul; and thus he will defeats. gain by his losses, and triumph in his very

It is too little to say, 'No creature shall

A regenerate man is one, whose own ideas of God have produced love to him, a love the more fervent because it is founded on his own perfections and excellencies, a 'love strong as death, a love that many waters cannot quench, neither can the floods drown,' Cant. viii. 6. 7.

This is a fair account of a regenerate man. Now, it is certain, such a man has a right to

this man. It may happen to him, that a com Let us consider things at the worst with plex sophism, or an ingenious objection, may for a moment becloud his faith, and excite some doubt in his mind; but as we suppose him enlightened, guarded, and grounded in the truth, it is impossible his persuasion of these great truths, truths so well understood and established, should ever be totally effaced from his mind.

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through a revolt of his senses, or a revolution
Indeed it may happen, that such a man
of his spirits, may fall into some excesses
but as his constitutional turn is reformed, his
propensity to sin surmounted, and his habits
of piety established, it is impossible he should
turn to their usual calm.
not know that his senses and spirits will re-


separate him from the love of God;' all creatures shall serve to unite him more closely to his Lord. Thus St. Paul says, All things work together for good to them that love God; in all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,' Rom. viii. 28.37. Observe these expressions, not only nothing can hurt a true believer: but all things work together for his good;' not only, we are conquerors: but we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.' Nothing is hyperbolical here. Every thing actually contributes to the salvation of a belever. In this sense all are his, Paul, Cephas, and the world,' 1 Cor. iii. 22. In this sense he spoileth principalities and powers, and, like his Saviour, makes a show of them openly,' Col. ii. 15. And this is a reason for a believer's continual joy, because, in whatever circumstances Providence may place him, all conduct him to the one great end. Were his chief aim health, sickness would deprive him of it; were it elevation, meanness would thwart him; were it riches, poverty would counteract his design: but as his chief aim is salvation, all things, sickness and health, majesty and meanness, poverty and riches, all contribute to his salvation. I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. All things work together for good to them that love God. We are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us.'

The prerogatives of a Christian afford a third class of arguments for assurance of salvation. This appears by two propositions. A Christian may know, that he has a true faith. When a person is persuaded, that he has a true faith, he may assure himself of obtaining assistance to persevere, and consequently of arriving at salvation.

The first proposition is incontestable. True faith has proper characters. It consists in some ideas of the mind, in some dispositions of heart, and in some action of life. each of which may be described, if not with facility, yet with certainty, when the laws of self-examination are obeyed. The Scripture puts these words into the mouths of true believers: We know that we have passed from death unto life; we know that we are of the - truth, and shall assure our hearts before him,' I John iii. 14. 19. Agreeably to which St. Paul says, 'Hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end,' Heb. ii. 6. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves; know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?'

2 Cor. xiii. 5.


mitted in the whole course of our lives, provided we repent. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins,' 1 John ii. 1. A second privilege is the acceptance of sincerity instead of perfection, A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench,' Matt. xii. 20. Another privilege is supernatural grace to support us under trials: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,' James i. 5. One privilege is the connexion of all benefits with the one great gift, God who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' Rom. viii. 32. Another privilege is the gift of perseverance, 'I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people,' Jer. xxxi. 33. 'I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,' Ezek. xxxvi. 27. Another privilege is an interest in the intercession of Jesus Christ, which God never rejects. 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,' Luke xxii. 31, 32. Holy Father! keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also, which shall believe on me through their word,' John xvii. 11. 20. I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, chap. xiv. 16. These privileges, in a word, consist in being loved of God unto the end,' chap. xiii. 1; having been loved from the beginning, and in receiving from God gifts and calling without repentance,' Rom. xi. 29.


Here lies the difficulty: I have faith to-day, how can I assure myself that I shall have it to-morrow? I am sure to-day I am in a state of grace, how can I be sure I shall be so tomorrow? Our second proposition is intended to remove this difficulty. When we are sure faith is true and genuine, we may be sure of assistance to persevere. We ground this on the privileges of true faith. One of these is the pardon of all the sins that we have com

Do not attempt, then, to overwhelm me with a sense of my own frailty and sin. Do not allege my natural levity and inconstancy. Do not oppose against me the rapid moments, in which my passions sport with my real happiness, and change me in an instant from hatred to love, and from love to hatred again. Do not produce, in the sad history of my life, the mortifying list of so many resolutions forgotten, so many unreal plans, so many abortive designs. The edifice of my salvation is proof against all vicissitudes; it is in the hand of him who changes not, who is the same yesterday to-day and for ever,' Heb. xiii. 8. To him I commit the preservation of it; because I am a Christian, and because it is the privilege of a Christian to say, according to the beautiful expression of St. Paul, 'I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,' 2 Tim. i. 12.

Finally, the inward testimony of the Spirit of God puts the doctrine of assurance out of all doubt. We propose this argument with trembling, so excessively has human fancy abused it! Enthusiasm defiles the church of God. The world, always fantastic, and full of visionary schemes, seems now-a-days to be superannuated. We almost every where

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not sin without dragging your children down the gulf into which you precipitate yourself. Hence we generally see, if a father be ignorant of religion, his children are ignorant of religion; if a mother be a mere worldling, her children are infatuated with love to the world. You are a pastor, you cannot fall into sin without inducing some of your flock to sin too; there are always some people so weak or so wicked, as to think they cannot do wrong, while they imitate you, while they take those for their examples who profess to regulate the conduct of others. St. Jerome says, The house and the conduct of a bishop are considered as a mirror of public discipline, so that all think they do right when they follow the example of their bishop. You are a master, you cannot sin without emboldening your apprentices and workmen to sin, nor without making your families schools of error, and your shops academies of the devil. Dreadful thought! too capable of producing the most exquisite sorrow! What can a man think of himself, who, considering those unhappy creatures who are already victims to the just displeasure of God in hell, or who are likely to become so, is obliged to say to himself, agrecably to the divers circumstances in which Providence has placed him, Perhaps this church, which has produced only apostates, might have produced only martyrs, had I'declared the whole counsel of God' with plainness and courage? Acts xx. 27. Perhaps this family that is plunged into ignorance, fallen from ignorance to vice, and from vice into perdition, might have produced an' Onesimus, a partner of the saints,' Philem. 10. 17, had I caused the spirit of piety and virtue to have animated the house! Perhaps this child, given me to be made an offering to the Lord, and so to become my joy and crown,' Phil. iv. 1. through all eternity may execrate me as the author of his misery; he perhaps may justly reproach me, and say, unworthy parent, it was by imitating thy fatal example that I was brought into this intolerable condition; they were thine abominable maxims, and thy pernicious actions, which involved me first in sin and then in punishment in hell.

verse, the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,' Matt. iv. 10. There comes, however, a moment, in which all these different motives are alike. When a man lies on a death-bed, when all terrestial objects are disappearing, when he begins to consider them in their true point of light, and to compare sceptres, conquests, crowns, and kingdoms, with the ideas of his own mind, the immense desires of his heart, and the large plans of felicity that religion traces, he finds he has been dazzled and misled by false lights, and how in such an hour can he bear to reflect on himself without shame and confusion?

5. I make a fifth article of the penitent's uncertainty of his state. For although the mercy of God is infinite, and he never rejects those who sincerely repent, yet it is certain, the sinner in the first moments of his penitence has reason to doubt of his state, and till the evidence of his conversion becomes clear, there is almost as much probability of his destruction as of his salvation. Terrible uncertainty! so terrible, that I am not afraid of affirming, except the torments of hell, it is the most cruel condition into which an intelligent being can be brought. Represent to yourselves, if it be possible, the state of a man who reasons thus. When I consider myself, I cannot doubt of my guilt. I have added crime to crime, rebellion to rebellion. I have sinned not only through infirmity and weakness: but I have been governed by principles horrible and detestable; incompatible with those of good men, and with all hopes of paradise. I deserve hell, it is certain, and there are in that miserable place sinners less guilty than myself. My sentence, indeed, is not yet denounced: but what proof have I, that I have not sinned beyond the reach of that mercy which is held forth to sinners in the gospel? The gospel says plainly enough, 'If any man sin, there is an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,' 1 John ii. 1; but the same gospel declares as plainly, that it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance,' Heb. vi 4 6. I see indeed in the New Testament a Peter, who repented and was pardoned, after he had denied his Saviour: but the same book shows me also a Judas, who died in despair. On this side of a crucified Christ I see a converted thief: on the other hangs one, who persisting in impenitence expires in guilt unpardoned; and the blood of the Saviour flowing all warm and propitious from his veins, obtains in his sight pardon for his partner, but none for him. I see indeed in the gospel, that God invites the sinner, and waits awhile for his return: but I see also, that this time is limited; that it is a fine day succeeded by a terrible night; that it is a measure which the obstinacy of a sinner fills up. O happy days in which I saw the face of my God, in which I could assure myself of my salvation, in which I cheerfully waited for death as my passage to glory. Ah whither are you fled! Now, what must I think of myself? Have I committed only pardonable offences, or have I been guilty of those crimes for which there

4. The weakness of motives to sin is the fourth cause of the sorrow of a penitent. When people find themselves deceived in the choice of one out of many objects, they comfort themselves by reflecting, either that all the objects had similar qualifications to recommend them, or that their dissimilarity was difficult to be known. But what proportion is there between motives to vice and motives to virtue? Attend a moment to motives to sin. Sometimes a vapour in the brain, a rapidity in the circulation of the blood, a flow of spirits, a revolt of the senses, are our motives to sin. But after this vapour is dissipated, after this rapidity is abated, after the spirits and senses are calmed, and we reflect on what induced us to offend God, how can we bear the sight of ourselves without shame and confusion of face? Motives to sin are innumerable and very various but what are they all? Sometimes an imaginary terest, an inch of ground, and sometimes ceptre, a crown, the conquest of the uni

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is no forgiveness? Shall I be forgiven as Peter was, or shall I be abandoned to desperation like Judas? Shall I ascend to paradise with the converted thief, or must I with his impenitent partner be cast into the flames of hell? Will my Redeemer deign to raise me by his life-giving voice from my grave to the resurrection unto life, or will he doom me to destruction? Are the riches of the goodness and forbearance of God, yet open to me, or are they closed against me? Am I a real penitent, or am I only an apparent one? Shall I be damned? Shall I be saved?-Perhaps the one.--Perhaps the other.-Perhaps heaven.-Perhaps hell-O fatal uncertainty!-Dreadful horror! Cruel doubt! This is the sixth arrow of the Almighty, that wounds the heart of a repenting sinner.

which worldly systems sometimes give ano-
ther kind of penitents. The grief of the lat-
ter arises only from motives of self-interest,
from punishinents they feel, or from conse-
quences they fear.

We have seen, then, the true causes of
godly sorrow, and we are now to attend to
its effects; they constitute a second remark-
able difference between godly sorrow and the
sorrow of the world.

II. St. Paul speaks of the effects of godly sorrow only in general terins in our text, he says, it worketh repentance to salvation :' but in the following verses he speaks more particularly; Behold, this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!' Some of these terms may perhaps be equivocal, however, we do not intend at present to inquire into the various senses of them: but will take them in that sense which seems most obvious, most agreeable to the style of St. Paul, and to the subject of which he is speaking.


6. Perhaps hell. This is my sixth reflection. Hell is an idea, against which there is no philosophy to comfort, no profaneness to protect, no brutality to harden; for if we every day see men, who seem to be got above the fear of future punishment, it is because we see at the same time men, who have found the art either of stupifying themselves by the tumultuous noise of their passions, or of blinding themselves by their infidelity. The very skepticism of these men marks their timidity. The very attempts, which they make to avoid thinking of hell, are full of proofs that they cannot bear the sight of it. Indeed, who can support the idea of the torments of hell, especially when their duration is added? Yet this is the idea that strikes a penitent, he condemns himself to suffer this punishment, he places himself on the edge of this gulf, and if I may be allowed to speak so, draws in the pestilential vapours, that arise from this bottomless abyss. Every moment of his life, before he beholds God as his reconciled Father, is a moment, in which probably he may be cast into hell, because there is no period in the life of such a man, in which it is not probable that he may die, and there is no death for one who dies in impenitence, which will not be a death in a state of reprobation.

There is also in the language of the apostle, in what he calls the working of godly sorrow,' something relative to the state of the Corinthian church in regard to the case of the incestuous person; and this seems particularly clear in the expression, yea, what revenge! St. Paul very likely referred to the excommunication of this person by the Corinthian church. He had directed them in a former epistle, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one unto Satan,' 1 Cor. v. 4, 5. We have seen that the punishments inflicted on such persons are called vengeance, and of this revenge, or vengeance, the apostle speaks. Let us omit every thing personal, aud let us attend only to that part of the subject which regards ourselves.


7. In fine, the last arrow that wounds the heart of a penitent, is an arrow of divine love. The more we love God, the more misery we endure when we have been so unhappy as to offend him. Yes, this love, which inflames seraphims, this love, which makes the felicity of angels, this love, which supports the believer under the most cruel | torments, this love is more terrible than death, and becomes the greatest tormentor of the penitent. To have offended a God whom he loves, a God whom so many excellences render lovely, a God whom he longs again to love, notwithstanding those terrible looks which he casts on the sins that the penitent deplores; these thoughts excite such sorrows in the soul, as nothing but ex-ple very commonly say, We deserve these perience can give men to understand. punishments, we are sinners, very great sinners: but those penitents are rare, very rare indeed, who possess what our apostle calls carefulness, or vigilance. A Christian, who is truly affected with having offended God, labours with the utmost earnestness to find out all that can have contributed to excite

The first effect of godly sorrow is what our apostle calls carefulness, or, as I would rather read it, vigilance, yea, what vigilance! I understand by this term the disposition of a man, who feeling a sincere sorrow for his sins, and being actually under the afflicting hand of God, is not content with a few general notions, and a little vague knowledge of his own irregularities: but uses all his efforts to examine every circumstance of his life, and to dive into the least obvious parts of his own conscience, in order to discover whatever is offensive to that God, whose favour and clemency he most earnestly implores. The penitence of worldlings, or as St. Paul expresses it, 'the sorrow of the world,' may indeed produce such general notions, and such a vague knowledge of sin, as I just now mentioned. Afflicted peo

The union of all these causes, which produce sorrow in a true penitent, forms the grand difference between that which St. Paul calls godly sorrow, and that which he calls the sorrono of the world, that is to say, between true repentance and that uneasiness.

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