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supreme Lord of heaven and earth? Dare you provoke him to jealousy? Are you stronger than he? Can you harden yourselves against him, and yet prosper? I again proclaim it aloud in your hearing. The King of kings, my Master, has issued out his royal mandate, requiring you, by these presents, to repent, upon pain of everlasting damnation. This day it is proclaimed in your ears, therefore this day repent. If you refuse to repent, let this conviction follow you home, and perpetually haunt you, that you have this day, when you were met together under pretence of worshipping God, knowingly disobeyed the great gospel-command. And to the great God you must answer for your disobedience.
In the next place, my text tells you, he commands all men to repent: all men, of all ranks and characters. This command, therefore, is binding upon you all. The great God cries to you all, Repent! Repent, young
and old, rich and poor, white and black, free and bond: Repent, ye young 'sinners, now, while your hearts are soft and tender, and your passions easily moved, and you are not hardened by a long course of habitual sinning. Repent, ye grey-headed, veteran sinners, now at last repent, when the load of sins, heaped up for so many years lies so heavy upon you, and you are walking every moment on the slippery brink of eternity: Repent, ye rich men; ye are not above this command: Repent, ye poor; ye are not beneath it : Repent, ye poor slaves; your colour, or low estate in life, cannot free you from this command: Repent, ye masters, for your sins against your Master, who is in heaven. In short, God commandeth all men, kings and subjects, the highest and the lowest, and all the intermediate ranks, to repent.
To render the call still more pointed and universal, it is added, He commandeth all men, everywhere to repent.
Everywhere, in city and country; in palaces and cottages; in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, wherever the trumpet of the gospel sounds the alarm, to repent; in Virginia, in this very spot, where we now stand. Repentance is not a local duty, but it extends as far as human nature, as far as the utmost boundaries of this guilty world. Wherever there are sinners under a dispensation of grace, there this command reaches. It reaches to the busy merchant in his store, to the laborious planter in the field, and to the tradesman in his shop; to the sailor tossing on the waves, and to the inhabitant of solid ground; to the man of learning in his study, and to the illiterate peasant; to the judge upon the bench, as well as to the criminal in the dungeon; to the man of sobriety, to the unthinking rake, and to the brutish debauchee; to the minister in the pulpit, and to the people in their pews; to the dissenter in the meeting-house, and to the conformist in church; to husbands and wives; to parents and children; to masters and servants; to all the sons of men, whatever they are, wherever they dwell, whatever they are doing; to all these the command reaches. And do you not find yourselves included in it? If you are men, if you dwell anywhere upon this guilty globe, you are included; for, let me tell you once more, God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.
Nor are you allowed to delay your compliance. Repentance is your present duty: For now he commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Now, when the times of ignorance are over, and the gospel sheds heavenly day among you: Now, when he will no longer wink, or connive at your impenitence, but takes strict notice of it with just indignation : Now, while the day of grace lasts, and there is place left for repentance: Now, before you are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and while his spirit is striving with you: Now, while his judgments are in the earth, and your country is surrounded with the terrors of war: Now, while he is publishing his command to a guilty country to repent, by the horrid sound of trumpets and cannons: Now, while you have time, which may be taken from you the next year, the next week, or, perhaps, the very next moment: Now, while you enjoy health of body, and the exercise of your reason, and your attention is not tied down to pain and agony: Now, and not to-morrow; not upon a sick bed; not in a dying hour. Now is the time in which God commands you to repent; he does not allow you one hour's delay; and what right have you to allow it to yourselves? Therefore, now, this moment, let us all repent: all, without exception. Why should there not be one assembly of true penitents upon our guilty globe ? And oh! why should it not be this? Why should not repentance be as universal as sin ? And, since we are all sinners, oh! why should we not all be humble penitents ? Repent, you must, either in time or eternity, upon earth, or in hell. You cannot possibly avoid it. The question is not, shall I repent ? for that is beyond a doubt. But the question is, “Shall I repent now, when it may reform and save me; or shall I put it off to the eternal world, when my repentance will be my punishment, and can answer no end but to torment me ?" And is this a hard question? Does not common sense determine it in favour of the present time? Therefore, let the duty be as extensively observed as it is commanded: Let all men everywhere repent. Blessed God! pour out upon us a spirit of grace and supplications, that there may be a great mourning among us; that we may“mourn, as one that mourneth for an only son; and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for a first-born.” Zech. xii. 10. Grant this for Jesus' sake! Amen.
THE TENDER ANXIETIES OF MINISTERS FOR THEIR PEOPLE.
GALAT. IV. 19, 20.—My little children, of whom I travail
in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice : for I stand in doubt of you.
Nothing could be more agreeable to a generous spirit that loves God and mankind, than to be fully satisfied of the real goodness and happiness of his fellow-creatures : and nothing is more painful than an anxious jealousy and fear in a matter he has so much at heart.
Some profess themselves very easy in this respect, and they glory in this easiness as a high pitch of charity and benevolence. They hope well of all—except, perhaps, their personal enemies, who, for that very reason, must be very worthless and execrable creatures. Though Scripture and reason do jointly declare, that men of bad lives who habitually indulge themselves in sin, and neglect the known duties of religion and morality, are no objects of rational charity at all, but must be judged destitute of true piety by all that would judge according to evidence ; “yet, God forbid, say they, that they should judge any man. They are not of a censorious spirit, but generous and benevolent in their hopes of all.” They can venture to hope that the tree is good, even when the fruit is corrupt: that is, that a good man may lead a bad life. But this temper ought not to be honoured with the noble name of Charity. Let it be called ignorance, gross ignorance of the nature of true religion; or infidelity and avowed disbelief of what the Scripture determines concerning the character of a good man; or let it be called indifferency, an indifferency whether men be now good or bad, and whether they shall be happy or miserable hereafter. Where there is no love or affectionate concern, there will be no uneasy jealousy. Or let it be called a mere artifice for self-defence. Men are often cautious for condemning others, not from benevolence to them, but out of mercy to themselves, not being willing to involve themselves in the same condemnation; since they are conscious they are as bad as others, they must be sparing to others, in order to spare themselves. These are the true names of what passes current under the name of Charity in the world.
St. Paul, whose heart was capable of the kindest sentiments to mankind, could not enjoy the pleasure of this promiscuous charity. He could not thus conclude well of all, not even of all under the Christian name; not of all whom he once hoped were his spiritual children; no, not of all the members of the once flourishing churches of Galatia, where he met with so friendly a reception, and had so much promising appearance of success. I stand in doubt of you, says he.
The state and character of these churches, we may partly learn from this epistle. A considerable number of Galatians had been converted from heathenism to Christianity by St. Paul's ministry; and in the transports of their first zeal they made a very promising appearance: hence he puts them in mind that they had begun in the Spirit, (ch. iii. 3.) that when they first started in the Christian race, they had run well, (ch. v. 7.) that they suffered many things in the cause of the gospel; (ch. iii. 4.) and as to their affection to him, it was very extraordinary.