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Repentance, and of true Reconciliation unto God.
JT1HERE is nothing that the Holy Ghost doth so much _|_ labour in all the Scriptures to beat into men's heads, as repentance, amendment of lise, and speedy returning unto the Lord God of Hosts. And no man-el why; for we do daily and hourly, by our wickedness aud stubborn disobedience, horribly fall away from God, thereby purchasing unto ourselves (if he should deal with us according to "his justice) eternal damnation. So that no The dot- doctrine is so neceffary in the church of God, as is the tnne of re- doctrine of repentance and amendment of lise. And vemost'rwces- "ty tne true preachers of the Gospel of the kingdom of fiiy. heaven, and of the glad and joyful tidings of falvation, have always in their godly sermons and preachings unto the people, joined these two together; I mean repentance and forgiveness of sins, even as our Saviour Jesus Christ did appoint himself, faying, So it hehoved Chrijl to suffer, and to rise again the third day; and that repentante and forgiveness of fins jhould he preached in his name among all nations. And therefore the holy Apostle doth in the Acts speak after this manner: / have witnessed loth to the Jews and to the Gentiles, the repentance towards God, ami faith towards our Lord Jesus Chrift. Did not John Baptist, Zacharias's son, begin his ministry with the doctrine of repentance, faying, Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand? The like doctrine did our Saviour Jesus Chrift preach himself, and commanded his Apostles to preath the fame.
I might here allege very many places out of the Prophets, in the which this most wholesome doctrine of repentance is very earnestly urged, as most needful for all degrees and orders of men: but one (hall be sussitient at this present time.
r These These are the words of Joel the Prophet. Therefore^'"also now the Lord faith, Return unto me with all jour heart, with fasfing, weeping, and mourning. Rend jour hearts, and not jour clothes, and return unto the Lord jour God; for he is gracious and merciful, jhw to anger, and of great companion, and ready to pardon ivickedness. Wherebv it i& given U6 to understand, that we have here a perpetual A perpetuil rule appointed unto us, which ought to be observed and TM1ie'J,(^'eh kept at all times, and that there is none other way, f0now. whereby the wrath of God may be pacisied, and his anger affuaged, that the sierceness "of his fury, and the plagues of destruction, which by his righteous judgment he liad determined to bring upon us, may depart, be removed, and taken away. Where he faith, But now therefore, faith the Lord, return unto me: it is not without great importance, that the Prophet spcaketh so. For he had before set forth at large unto them the horrible venceance of God, which no man was able to abide, and therefore he doth move them to repentance, to obtain mercy; as if he should fay, I will not have these things to be so taken, as though there were no hope of grace left. For although ye do by your sins deserve to be utterly destroyed, and God by his righteous judgments hath determined to bring no lmall destruction upon you, yet know that ye are in a manner on the very edge of the sword: if ye will speedily return unto him, he will moll gently and most mercifully receive you into favour again. Whereby we are admonished, that repentance is never too late, so that it be true and earnest. For sith that God in the Scriptures will be called our Father, doubtlese he doth follow the nature and property of gentle and merciful fathers, which leek nothing lo much, as the returning again, and amendment of their children, as Christ doth abundantly teach in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Doth not the Lord himself lay bv the Luke xr. Prophet, J will not the death of the wicked, hut that heKzektarn from his wicked ways, and liver' And in another place, ,'j^^ii If we confess our fin, God is faithful and righteous to fbrgh/e us our fins, and to make us clean jrom all wickednejs. Which most comfortable promises are conssirmed by many examples of the Scriptures. When the Jews did willingly receive and embrace the wholesome counsel of the Prophet Ilaiah, God by and by did reach his helping hand.Huah liii. unto them, and by his angel did in one night (lay the most worthy and valiant soldiers of Sennacherib's camp. Whereunto may King Mauasles be added, who after all 2 Chron.
manner of damnable wickedness, returned unto the Lord, and therefore was heard of him, and restored again into his kingdom. The fame grace and favour did the sinful
Lukevii. woman Magdalen, Zacchcus, the poor thief, and many other seel. All which things ought to serve for our comfort against the temptations of our consciences, whereby the Devil goeth about to shake, or rather to overthrow our faith. For every one of us ought to apply the fame unto himself, and fay, Yet now return unto the Lord: neither let the remembrance of tby former life discourage thee; yea, the more wicked tbat it batb heen, the more fervent and. earnejl let tby repentance or returning he, and forthwith thou shalt seel the ears of the Lord ivide open unto tby prayers. But let us more narrowly look upon the commandment of the Lord touching this matter. Turn unto me, faith he by the holy Prophet Joel, ivish all your hearts, with fajlhig, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, and not your garments, we. In which words he comprehendeth all manner of things that can be spoken of repentance, which is a returning again of the whole man unto God, from whom we be fallen away by sin. But that the whole discourse thereof may the better be borne away, we shall sirst consider in order four principal points; that is, from what we must return, to whom we must return, by whom we may be able to convert, and the manner how to turn to God.
From First, from whence, or from what things, we must re
m^nLiT turn. Truly, we must return from those things, whereby u "we have been withdrawn, plucked, and led away from God. And these generally are our sins, which, as the holy Prophet Ifaiah doth testify, do separate God and us, and hide his face, that he will not hear us. But under the name of sin, not only those gross words and deeds, which by the common judgment of men are counted to be silthy and unlawful, and so consequently abominable sins; but also the silthy lusts and inward concu
Cal. v. piscences of the slesh, which, as St. Paul tesiisieth, do resist the will and Spirit of God, and therefore ought earnestly to be bridled and kept under. We must repent of the false and erroneous opinions that we have had of God, and the wicked superstition that doth breed of the fame, the unlawful worshipping and service of God, and other like. All these things must they forfake, that will truly turn unto the Lord, and repent aright. For
Ephes. R. sith that for fuch things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience, no end of punishment
ought Ought to be looked for, as long as we continue in such things. Therefore they be here condemned, which will seem to be repentant sinners, and yet will not forfake their idolatry and superstition. Secondly, we must see unto whom we ought to return. Revertimini usque ad me, Unio faith the Lord: that is, Return as far as unto me. Wewhom we mujl then return unto the Lord;yea, we mujl return unto him iarn_ abjne : for he alone is the truth, and the fountain of all goodness: but we must labour that we do return as far as unto him, and that we do never cease nor reft till we have apprehended and taken hold upon him.
But this must be done by faith. For lith that God is a spirit, he can by no other means be apprehended and taken hold upon. Wherefore, sirst, they do greatly err, which do not turn unto God, but unto the creatures, or unto the inventions of men, or unto their own merits. Se- jjy Whom condly, they that do begin to return unto the Lord, and we mud rc. do faint in the midway, before they come to the mark £TM uni0 that is appointed unto them. Thirdly, because we have of our own selves nothing to present us to God, and do no less slee from him after our fall, than our sirst parent Adam did, who, when he had sinned, did seek to hide himself from the sight of God, we have need of a Mediator for to bring and reconcile us unto him, who for our lins is angry with us. The fame is Jesus Christ, who being true and natural God, equal and of one substance with the Father, did at the time appointed take upon him our frail nature, in the bleffed Virgin's womb, and that .of her undesiled substance, that so he might be a Mediator between God and us, and pacify his wrath. Of him doth the Father himself speak from heaven, faying, Tbis is my well-heloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Mauh. iii. And he himself in his Gospel doth cry out and fay, 1 am^^n ■iv. the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the John i. Father, but by me. For he alone did with the sacrifice of his « body and blood make fatisfaclion unto the jujlicc of God for our fins. The Apostles do testify that he was exatted for to Act* v. give repentance and remiffion of sins unto Israel. Both f-uke x*it. which things he himself did command to be preached inJonnxvhis name. Therefore they arc greatly deceived that preach repentance without Christ, and teach the simple and ignorant that it consisteth only in the works of men. They may .• indeed speak many things of good works, and of amendment of lise and manners: but without Christ they be all vain and unprositable. They that think that they have done much of themselves towards repentance, are so much
G g more
more the farther from God, because they do seek those things in their own works and merits, which ought only to be sought in our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in the merits of his death, and passion, and bloodshedding.. Fourthly, this holy Prophet Joel doth lively express the manner of this our returning or repentance, comprehending all the inward and outward things that may be here observed. First, he will have us to return unto God with our whole heart, whereby he doth remove and put away all hypoThe mar.- crisy, lest the fame might justly be faid unto us: Tb'u ner of our pcopie drawetb near unto me -wiib their mouth, and worship
iurning. r r . . err
tuiahxxix. we ivitb tbiir tips; but tbeir heart is jar ojjJrom me.
Manh. xv. Secondly, he requireth a sincere and pure love of godliness, and of the true worshipping and service of God, that is to fay, that, forfaking all manner of things that are repugnant and contrary unto God's will, we do give our hearts unto him, and the whole strength of our bodies and fouls, according to that which is written in the Law:
Deut.ti. Thoujhalt love the Lord thy God ivitb all tby heart, wiib all tby foul, and with all tby jlrength. Here therefore nothing is left unto us, that we may give unto the world, and unto the lusts of the slesh. For sith that the heart is the fountain of all our works, as many as do with their whole heart turn unto the Lord, do live unto him only.
Haliing on Neither do they yet repent truly, that, halting on both sides,
boih sides. (j0 otlier whiles 0bey God, but by and by do think, that, laying him aside, it is lawful for them to serve the world and the slesh. And because that we are letted by the natural corruption of our own slesh, and the wicked affections of the fame, he doth bid us also to return with fasting: not thereby understanding a superstitious abstinence and choosing of meats, but a true discipline or taming of' the slesh, whereby the nourishments of silthy lusts, and of stubborn contumacy and pride, may be withdrawn and plucked away from it. Whereunto he doth add weeping and mourning, which do contain an outward prosession of repentance, which is very needful and neceffary, that so we may partly set forth the righteousness of God, when by such means we do testify that we deserved punishments at his hands, and partly stop the offence that was openly given unto the weak.
Psi'.m. sxv. Thus did David see, who, being not content to have bewept and bewailed his sins privately, would publicly in his Pfalms declare and set forth the righteousness of God, in punishing sin, and also stay them that might have abused Bis example to sin the more boldly. Therefore they are