« PreviousContinue »
SERMON OF REPENTANCE.
EZEK. Xxxvi, 31.
Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that
were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities, and for your abominations.
The words are a part of God's prognostics of the Jews' restoration, whose dejection he had before described. Their disease began within, and there God promiseth to work the cure. Their captivity was but the fruit of their voluntary captivity to sin, and their grief of heart was but the fruit of their hardness of heart, and their sharpest suffering of their soul pollutions, and therefore God promiseth a methodical cure, even to take away their old and stony heart, and cleanse them from their filthiness, and so to ease them by the removing of the cause. How far, and when, this promise was to be made good to the Jews, as nationally considered, is a matter that requires a longer disposition than my limited hour will allow, and the decision of that case is needless, as to my present end and work. That this is part of the gospel covenant, and applicable to us believers now, the Holy Ghost, in the epistle to the Hebrews, hath as
The text is the description of the repentance of the people, in which the beginning of their recovery doth consist, and by which the rest must be attained. The evil which they repent of is, in general, all their iniquities, but especially their idolatry, called their abominations. Their repentance is foretold, as it is in the understanding and thoughts, and as in the will and affections. In the former, it is called “remembering their own evil ways.” In the latter, it is called
loathing themselves in their own sight, for their iniquities and abominations." Montanus translates it reprobabitis in vos; but in c. 20, v. 43, fastidietis vos. The same sense is intended by the other ver
sions. When the Septuagint translates it by displeasure, and the Chaldee by groaning, and the Syriac by the wrinkling of the face, and the Sept., in c. xx. 43, by smiting on the face; the Arabic here perverts the sense by turning all to negatives, ye shall not,'&c., yet in c. xx. 43. he turns it by the tearing of the face. I have purposely chosen a text that needs no long explication, that in obedience to the the foreseeen straits of time I may be excused from that part, and be on the more necessary.
This observation contains the meaning of the text, which by God's assistance, I shall now insist on, viz. :
The remembering of their own iniquities, and loathing themselves for them, is the sign of a repenting people, and the prognostic of their restoration, so far as deliverance may be here expected.
For the opening of which, observe these things following.
2. It is not all kind of remembering that will prove you penitent. The impenitent remember their sin that they may commit it; they remember it with love, desire, and delight; the heart of the worldling goeth after his airy or earthen idol. The heart of the ambitious feedeth on bis vain glory, and the people's breath; and the filthy fornicator is delighted in the thoughts of the object and exercise of his lust. But it is a remembering, 1. From a deep conviction of the evil and odiousness of sin. 2. And with abhorrence and self-loathing. 3. That leadeth to a resolved and vigilant forsaking, that is the proof of true repentance, and the prognostic of a people's restoration.
3. And it is not all self-loathing that will signify true repenting, for there is a self-loathing of the desperate and the damned soul that abhorreth itself, and teareth and tormenteth itself, and cannot be restrained from self-revenge, when it finds that it hath wilfully, foolishly, and obstinately been its own destroyer. But the self-loathing of the truly penitent hath these following properties :
1. It proceedeth from the predominant love of God, whom we have abused and offended. The more we love him, the more we loathe what is contrary to him.
2. It is much excited by the observation and sense of his exceeding mercies, and is conjunct with gratitude.
3. It continueth and increaseth under the greatest assurance of forgiveness, and sense of love, and dieth not when we think we are out of danger.
4. It containeth a loathing of sin as sin, and a love of holiness as such, and not only a love of ease and peace, and a loathing of sin, as the cause of suffering.
5. It resolveth the soul against returning to its former course, and resolveth it for an entire devotedness to God for the time to come.
6. It deeply engageth the penitent in a conflict against the flesh, and maketh him victorious, and setteth him to work in a life of holiness, as his trade and principal business in the world.
7. It bringeth him to a delight in God and holiness, and a delight in himself, so far as he findeth God and heaven, and holiness within him. He can, with some comfort and content, own himself and his conversation, so far as God (victorious against his carnal self) appeareth in him. For as he loveth Christ in the rest of his members, so must he in himself. And this is it that self-loathing doth prepare for.
This must be the self-loathing that must afford you comfort, as a penitent people in the way to restoration.
1. Where you see it is implied, that materially it containeth these common acts. 1. Accusing and condemning thoughts against ourselves. It is a judging of ourselves, and makes us call ourselves with Paul, foolish, disobedient, deceived; yea, mad; (as Acts xxvi. 11 ;) and with David to say, I have done foolishly. (2 Sam. xxiv. 10.) 2. It containeth a deep distaste and displeasure with ourselves, and a heart rising against ourselves. 3. As also an holy indignation against ourselves, as apprehending that we have played the enemies to ourselves and God. 4. And it possesseth us with grief and trouble at our miscarriages. So that a soul in this condition is sick of itself, and vexed with its self-procured wo.
2. Note also that when self-loathing proceedeth from mere conviction, and is without the love of God and holiness, it is but the tormentor of the soul, and runs it deeper into sin, provoking men here to destroy their lives; and in hell it is the never-dying worm.
3. Note also, that it is themselves that they are said to loathe, because it is ourselves that conscience hath to do with, as witness, and
as judge; it is ourselves that are naturally nearest 10 ourselves, and our own affairs that we are most concerned in. It is ourselves that must have the joy or torment, and therefore it is our own actions and estate that we have first to mind. Though yet, as magistrates, ministers, and neighbors, we must next mind others, and must loathe iniquity wherever we meet it, and a vile person must be condemned in our eyes, while we honor them that fear the Lord. (Psalm xv. 4.)
And as by nature, so in the commandment, God hath given to every man the first and principal care and charge of himself, and his own salvation, and consequently of his own ways, so that we may with less suspicion loathe ourselves than others, and are more obliged to do it.
4. Note also, that it is not for our troubles, or our disgrace, or our bodily deformities, or infirmities, or for our poverty and want, that penitents are said to loathe themselves, but for their iniquities and abominations. For, 1. This loathing is a kind of justice done upon ourselves, and therefore is exercised, not for mere infelicities, but for crimes. Conscience keepeth in its own court, and meddleth but with moral evils, which we are conscious of. 2. And also it is sin that is loathed by God, and makes the creature loathsome in his eyes; and repentance conformeth the soul to God, and therefore causeth us, to loathe as he doth, and on his grounds. And, 3. There is no evil but sin, and that which sin procureth, and therefore it is for sin that the penitent loathes himself.
5. Note also, that it is here implied, that, till repentance, there was none of this remembering of sin, and loathing of themselves. They begin with our conversion, and, as before described, are proper to the truly penitent. For, to consider them distinctly, 1. The deluded soul that is bewitched by his own coucupiscence, is so taken up with remembering of his fleshly pleasures, and his alluring objects, and his honors, and his earthly businesses and store, that he hath no mind or room for the remembering of his foolish, odious sin, and the wrong that he is doing to God, and to himself. Death is oblivious, and sleep hath but a distracted ineffectual memory, that stirreth not the busy dreamer from his pillow, nor despatcheth any of the work Vol. II.
he dreams of. And the unconverted are asleep, and dead in sin. The crowd of cares and worldly businesses, and the tumultuous noise of foolish sports, and other sensual passions and delights, do take up the minds of the unconverted, and turn them from the observation, of the things of greatest everlasting consequence. They have a memory for sin and the flesh, to which they are alive, but not for things spiritual and eternal, to which they are dead. They remember not God himself as God, with any effectual remembrance. God is not in all their thoughts. (Psal. x. 4.) They live as without him in the world. (Eph. ii. 12.) And if they remember not God, they cannot remember sin as sin, whose malignity lieth in its opposition to the will and holiness of God. They forget themselves, and therefore must needs forget their sinfulness. Alas! they remember not effectually and savingly, what they are, and why they were made, and what they are daily nourished and preserved for, and what business they have to do here in the world. They forget that they have souls to save or lose, that must live in endless joy or torment. You may see by their careless and ungodly lives that they forget it. You may hear by their carnal frothy speech that they forget it. And he that remembereth not himself, remembereth not his own concernments. They forget the end to which they tend; the life which they must live forever; the matters everlasting, whose greatness and duration, one would think, should so command the mind of man, and take up all his thoughts and cares in despite of all the little
, triding matters that would avert them, that we should think almost of nothing else. Yet these, even these, that nothing but deadness or madness should make a reasonable creature to forget, are daily forgotten by the unconverted soul, or ineffectually remembered. Many a time have I admired that men of reason who are here to-day, and in endless joy or misery to-morrow, should be able to forget such inexpressible concernments! Methinks they should easier forget to rise, or dress themselves, or to eat, or drink, or any thing, than forget an endless life, which is so undoubtedly certain, and so near. A man that hath a cause to be heard to-morrow, in which his lise or honor is concerned, cannot forget it; a wretch that is condemned to die to-morrow, cannot forget it. And yet poor sinners, that are con