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6 born, by a life of unparalleled wickedness upon earth. Vile wretch that I am! I have despised the riches of thy goodness, • forbearance, and lang-fuffering; not knowing that the goodnefs of God leadeth me to repentance. And after all, here I am told, that there is yet a poffibility of pardon, mercy and falvation for me. The news is fo great and so good, that that I am zealously concerned to examine the grounds and ⚫ evidences of it. And if it fhall appear to be as true, as it is aftonishingly strange, and ravishingly fweet; I hope, it • fhall effectually lead me to repentance, and diffolve for ever the strongest ties betwixt me and my lufts.'
§ II. Converfion of the vileft finner poffible.
HAT it is poffible for the greatest and most infamous finner to be recovered by repentance and converfion, and thereupon to find mercy and forgiveness with God; is a truth as fure and firm as it is fweet and comfortable. Three things will give full evidence of it.
1. That their fins do not exceed the power and fufficiency
of the causes of remiffion.
2. That fuch finners are within the calls and invitations of the gospel.
3. That fuch finners are found among the instances and examples of pardoning mercy, recorded in the scriptures.
And if the caufes of pardon be fufficient, and able to produce it; if the gospel-invitations do take them in, and fuch finners as thefe, every way as vile and wicked, have not been fhut out, but received to mercy; then it is beyond all doubt that there is (at least) a poffibility of mercy for fuch finners as
I. It is paft rational doubt, that the causes of remiffion are every way sufficient, and able to produce the forgiveness of fuch fins as yours are. For confider with yourselves,
The power of
1. The impulfive cause.
3. The applying cause.
1. The fufficiency and ability of the impulfive cause of pardon, which is none other but the free grace of God, the immenfe riches and treasures whereof, do infinitely exceed the accompts and computations both of angels and men. Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. " And the Lord paffed by before him, and pro"claimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and graci"ous, long-fuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth: keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and trauf
"greffion, and fin." Mic. vii. 18, 19. "Who is a God lika unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and paffeth by the tranf "greffions of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth no "his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He
will turn again, he will have compaflion upon us; he will "fubdue our iniquities, and thou wilt caft all our fins into the "depths of the fea." Once more, Rom. v. 20. "Where fin «abounded, grace did much more abound." So that whate ver thy fins have been, they do not, they cannot exceed the ability and power of the grace of God, the all-fufficient, impulfive cause of remiffion. That infinite abyss, or fea of mer cy, can swallow up, and cover such mountains of guilt, as thine have been.
2. Nor do thy fins exceed the ability and power of the me ritorious cause of remiffion, namely, the blood of the Lord Jes fus Chrift; for that blood is the blood of God, Acts xx. 28. He is the Lamb of God, whose blood is fufficient to take a way the fins of the world, John i. 29. There is but one fin in the world exempt from remiffion by this blood, and if thy heart be now wounded with the sense of fin, (as I here fup pofe it to be) that is none of thy fin, how heinous foever thy other fins be.
3. Nor do thy fins exceed the ability and power of the ap plying caufe of pardon, namely, the Spirit of God. For though I fhould fuppofe thy mind to be clouded, and overshadowed with groffeft ignorance, thy heart to be as hard as an adament, or nether-milftone, thy will ftiff and obftinate, thy affections enchanted and bewitched with the pleasures of fin; yet this Spirit of God, in a moment, can make a convincing beam of light to dart into thy dark mind, make thy hard heart relent, thy ftubborn will to bow, and all the affections of thy foul to comply, and open obediently to Christ. John xvi. 9, 10, "The Spirit when he cometh, he shall convince the world of "fin," &c.
Thus you fee, whatever your guilt be, it does not exceed the abilities of the caufes of remiflion. O what an encourage. ment is this?
II. And there is yet further encouragement in this, that if you will open your Bibles, you may find yourselves within the calls and invitations of the gospel. And no man can fay, that man is without hope, that is within a gospel-invitation. Confider Ifa. lv. 7, 8. "Let the wicked forfake his way, and the "unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the VOL. VIII. Fff
"Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, "for he will abundantly pardon; for my thoughts are not your thoughts," &c. Here you have the nature of converfion defcribed negatively and pofitively, by forfaking your ways and thoughts, and turning to the Lord. The way notes the external courfe of the converfation; the thoughts denote the internal frame and temper of the mind: both these must be forfaken. And turning to the Lord, denotes the fincere dedicating of the whole man to God; all which is poffible, and eafy for the Spirit of God to do; and this being once done, abundant pardon is affured. If you fay, you cannot think it; God tells you, in the very next words, that his thoughts are not your thoughts; but as far above them, as the heavens are higher than the earth. Read to the fame purpose, Ha. i. 18. Rev. iii. 20. John vii. 27.
III. And to make the poffibility of remiffion yet clearer, know, for your encouragement, that as vile, infamous, and prodigious finners as yourselves, are recorded, and found amongst the inftances and examples of forgiven finners in fcripture. Paul was once a fierce and cruel perfecutor and blafphemer, yet he obtained mercy, 1 Tim. i. 13, 14. That finful woman, recorded, Luke vii. 37, 38. was an infamous, and a notorious finner; yet her fins which were many, were forgiven her, ver. 47. Manaffeh was a monfter of wickedness, as you may read, 2 Chron. xxxiii. yet found mercy. And if you view that catalogue of finners, given in r Cor. vi. 9, 10. you will feem to find among them the very forlorn hope of desperate finners, advanced neareft to hell of any men upon earth; yet fee, ver. 11. what is faid of fome of them: "And fuch were "fome of you; but ye are wafhed, but ye are justified.”
All these things plainly fhew (I fay not the certainty that you fhall be, but) the poffibility that you may be pardoned; which is a mercy and encouragement unfpeakable.
§ III. The converfion of profane ones highly probable.
ND because Satan labours to difcourage them that are gone in fin fo far as you are, by cutting off all hopes of mercy from them, and bringing them to this defperate conclufion; damned we know we fhall, and must be; and therefore as good be damned for more, as lefs. If we had lived fober, and civil lives, we might have had fome hope; but because we have no hope, it is as good for us to take our full fwing in fin, as to think of returning by repentance and converfion, fo late in the day as this is.
To obviate this deadly fnare of Satan, I fhall here further add, That there is not only a poffibility of your recovery, but, in fome refpect, a ftronger poffibility, that fuch as you may be converted and faved, than there is for those who have led a Imoother, and more civil life in the world, and wholly truft to their own civility for their falvation, inftead of the imputed righteousness of Chrift.
This plainly appears, by that convictive expreffion of Chrift to the Scribes and Pharifees, Matth. xxi. 31. " Verily, I fay "unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the king"dom of heaven before you." Publicans, the most infamous among men; and harlots, the worst of women; yet these are fooner wrought over to Chrift by faith and repentance, than the more civil, and felf-righteous Scribes and Pharifees.
And indeed, it is far easier to come at the confciences of fuch finners by conviction, than at the others; they having nothing to ward off the ftroke of conviction, it must fall directly, and immediately upon their confciences. The most fmooth, and civil part of the world, truft to their own righteoufnefs; and this felf-confidence, like armour of proof, refists all attempts to bring them to Chrift for righteoufnefs. Nothing fixes men in a state of evil, more than a strong conceit that their condition is good.
But fuch as you are, whofe whole lives have been polluted with profaneness, and all impiety, your confciences will more easily receive convictions of your prefent danger, and of the neceffity of a speedy, and thorough change. You cannot think, as others do, that you need no repentance, or reformation. In this refpect, therefore, you lie nearer the door of hope and mercy, than other finners do.
If therefore it fhall pleafe the Lord, (whofe grace is rich and free to the vileft of finners) to pluck out fuch as you, as brands out of the burning, by thorough converfion to Chrift; you will not only become real Chriftians, (as all true converts are) but the most excellent, ufeful, and zealous amongst all Chriftians. As you will be most eminent inftances of his grace, fo you will be the moft eminent inftruments for his glory. As you have gone beyond other finners in wickednefs, fo you will ftrive to exceed them all in your love to Chrift. Luke vii. 47. "She "loved much, for much was forgiven her." You will never think you can do en ugh for him, who hath done fuch great things for you.
Who more fierce, and vile, before converfion, than Paul,
who was a blafphemer, a perfecutor, and injurious? 1 Tim. i. 13. and who, among all the fervants of Chrift, loved or laboured for him more than he? How did he rather fly, than travel up and down the world, in a flame of zeal for Chrift? As you have been ringleaders in fin, fo you will not endure to come behind any in zeal and love to the Lord Jefus : Yet not thinking this way to make him a requital for the injuries you have done him; (that would be the most injurious act of all the reft) but to teftify this way the deep fenfe you have of the riches and tranfcendency of his goodness and mercy to you, above all others.
§ IV. Converfion frequently and fatally mistaken.
UT here I muft warn you of fome common, but most dangerous mistakes, committed in the world, with reipect to converfion unto God: Except these be feasonably prevented, or removed, none of you will ever ftir, or move further than you are towards Chrift. Amongst others, be ware efpecially of these three following fatal mistakes; that of, 1. Baptifmal regeneration.
2. Common profeffion of Chriftianity. 3. Formality in religious duties.
1. There is a notion fpread among men, and almost every where obtaining, that the fcriptures mean nothing elfe by converfion, but to be baptized in our infancy into the visible church ; and that this ordinance having paffed upon them long ago, they are fufficiently converted already; and that men make but a needless stir and buftle in the world, about any other, or further converfion,
But, firs, I befeech you, confider how dangerous a thing it is, to take your own fhadow for a bridge; and venturing upon it, drown yourselves. If baptifm be converfion enough, why doth Chrift fay, Mark xvi. 16. "He that believeth, and "is baptized, fhall be faved; but he that believeth not, shall be
damned?" Baptifm, without faith, fignifies nothing to falvation; but faith, without baptifm, (where it cannot be had) fecures falvation. And why doth the apostle fay, Gal. vi. 25. "Neither circumcifion, nor uncircumcifion availeth any thing, "but a new creature?" Or what needed Chrift to have preffed and inculcated the indifpenfible neceffity of regeneration upon Nicodemus, as he doth, John iii. 3, 5, 7. who had been many years a circumcifed Jew? This your dangerous dependance upon your baptismal regeneration, is what hath given fuch deep offence, and prejudice to many (though without just