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2 COR. VI. 2.
“ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the
day of salvation."
The first injunction uttered by our Saviour and his Apostles, in all their exhortations, was that of repentance. So warmly and so frequently was the necessity of it urged by them, that it is made to occupy a conspicuous part in all the evangelical records. Jews were called upon to forsake the fatal delusions by which they had been led astray; Heathens were exhorted to turn from their abominations; and all men were commanded every where to repent; for the light of heavenly truth was then dawning upon the world. The Lord of Glory had appeared; the kingdom of God was at hand; and the reign of Grace had commenced.
In like manner, this has been the messagethis the command of every preacher of the Gospel, in subsequent times. As faithful ambassadors for Christ, they have not ceased to call upon their hearers to forsake their
sins, to turn to God, to cultivate holiness, and to prepare for Heaven. Nor has there ever been a time, or ever a congregation, in which this important injunction was not necessary In every promiscuous assembly there will be some, either young or old, who neglect the sacred obligations of Religion. I shall not, therefore, be deemed severe in my judgment in concluding that some, who now hear me, may be of this character. My knowledge of human nature authorizes the decision; and your own consciences will justify
In addressing myself chiefly to the impenitent, my object is to exhort you, my friends,
, not to delay what you know to be your duty; lest, by fatal procrastination, you find yourselves, at a time when all possibility of reparation shall have passed, overwhelmed with irremediable confusion.
I shall not amuse you by entering into an elaborate definition of repentance. You all know that it imports a reformation of character; that it necessarily implies some suitable apprehension of the divine perfections, of the moral government of God, of the evil nature and fatal consequences of sin, and of the necessity of righteousness, in order to be assimi
lated to that standard of moral excellence, which God has been pleased to reveal in his Son, for our instruction, and our imitation. You all know, that it lies at the foundation of that beautiful edifice of moral construction, in which the glory of the human character is displayed in the most exalted point of view; and in which the power and majesty of divine truth are most illustriously exemplified on earth. You all know, that the very essence of repen. tance consists in forsaking sin and cultivating righteousness ; as necessary to qualify us for moral enjoyment in this life ; and as an indispensable prerequisite to a participation in that happiness, which is hereafter to be revealed.
It is rather my object to urge you to the immediate and effectual exercise of this Christian virtue, as a measure which you yourselves will readily acknowledge to be absolutely necessary to your happiness. For there is not, perhaps, a human being on the face of the whole earth, who feels not, in his own breast, some sense of the propriety of Religion. All men are capable, in some degree, of moral perception, however degraded their state may This is as necessary to constitute them moral beings, as the exercise of mind is to constitute
them rational agents. The sense of Religion, therefore, must be proportionably greater, as the arts of civilization and the happy influence of the Gospel have combined, to draw forth into useful cultivation, the latent powers of of our nature. I must consequently conclude, that all who have enjoyed the advantages of those who hear me, must, without hesitation, admit the duty of repentance; and that all of you, who have never yet carried into practice this virtue, do seriously propose in your owii hearts, that, at some future period, some more convenient season, you will solemnly strive to make
your peace with God. I would therefore remind you, with all the sincerity and all the affection of one, whose duty and whose pleasure it is to proclaim the principles of the everlasting Gospel, that “ now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation :” and that, in putting off the day of Grace, in delaying the season of merciful visitation, you incur a hazard more to be dreaded, than all the terrors of death and the grave.
I. Reflect, my friends, that by delaying your repentance, you necessarily render your reformation the more difficult. You
say, that on to-morrow, at some future period, you are resolved to forsake the laby
. rinths of iniquity, to turn from the bewitching smiles of pleasure, and cultivate those fruits whose blooming fragrance shall be delightful in time, and whose full perfection shall ripen in eternity. Alas ! how improvident is man! How blind to his best interest! You
that you are resolved to repent, but not now : That you will hereafter fulfil, what you know to be your present duty. Are you aware, that by such procrastination you are but binding yourselves in the strong manacles of habit ? That the longer you continue in the practice of sin, the deeper you immerse yourselves in inextricable difficulties ? Are you aware that conscience, now so ready to sound the alarm, may, by frequent abuse, become unmindful of its office? That the vigilance of remorse, by being disregarded, will cease to prepare the arrows of conviction? Know you not, that it is a truth, established by the experience of every age, that, by long neglect, eve. ry avenue to the human heart, through which moral truth usually finds its way to the seat of reception, will at length be closed ? Have you yet to learn that the shield of habit more and more impenetrable; that clouds are ever gathering in our moral hemisphere, whose glaring pretensions have no other ob