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On the Conversion of St. Paul.....

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SERMON I.

MATTHEW III. VERSE I.

In those days came John the Baptist, preach

ing in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

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In treating of the duty of repentance we must particularise those signs which are to be considered as characteristic of a repentance efficacious to Salvation; and I think we may say, that such repentance should be sincere, timely, continuous, and just.

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| First. The greatest of all follies is a mockery of God by insincere repentance,

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by that fluctuation between sin, and sorrow, resolution, and infringement, by that endless circle of penitence, and crime, which they tread, who know virtue only by its labors, and extract nothing from guilt but remorse. The first stage of repentance is in every man's power, and almost in every man's practice. If sighs and tears could purchase the kingdom of Heaven, and a sad face expiate a wicked life, hardness of heart would indeed be weakness of understanding: but, though God is merciful, he is not fallible, nor will he take the odour of sacrifices, or the incense of words, in the lieu of a solid, laborious virtue. In the Christian religion there is no composition, no arrangement, no shifting, no fluctuation, no dalliance with duties, no deference to darling vices: if the eye offends us we must pluck it out; if the hand is sinful, we must cut it off.- Better to merit Heaven by every suffering, than eternal punishment by every gratification.

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We

may see, by this striking passage, the absolute necessity of abandoning the vice, before repentance can be effectual to salvation. Our blessed Saviour departs from his

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