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fall short of the heinousness of our guilt. Can you believe of God, however compassionate, that he will immediately be reconciled to you, after you have expressly denied and betrayed your faith, after you have given an avowed and solemn preference to your estate before him, and after you have polluted his temple by filling it with profane and forbidden meats? Can you suppose that he will be so ready and so hasty to take pity on you, who have deliberately disdained all relation to him? No! You must ask more fervently, must continue a great while instant in prayer and supplication, must spend whole days in sorrow, and whole nights in tears, and every hour of your time in mourning and lamentation. "In returning and rest shall ye be saved ; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not." "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." "Turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." He therefore can grant you the forgiveness for which you are so earnest and so much in haste; he can mitigate the sentence denounced upon your sin; he can pardon his humble supplicants, his sincere penitents, such as bring fortli fruits meet for repentance. And then the soldier of Christ will rally his broken forces, renew the contest with his enemy, and will fight with the more ardour and courage, from a sorrowful and shameful remembrance of his fall. He who shall thus endeavour to appease the anger of God; he whom an humble sense of his sin shall inspire with greater degrees of constancy and firmness for any future encounter, will derive upon himself the favourable assistance of God, and will contribute as much to the joy and triumph of the church, as before he had contributed to her dejection and grief; nor will he then merely receive the pardon of his sin, but even a crown of glory.
ON THE GRACE OF GOD.
This tract was written soon after Cyprian's conversion; and the person to whom it is inscribed is supposed to have been the companion of his studies, as well as of his baptism. The design of it was to expose the wickedness of heathen life and practice, to display the excellence of the religion he had so lately embraced, and to give the reasons which induced him to exchange the Pagan for the Christian worship.
1. I am not now, my dear Donatus, bespeaking the affections of a giddy populace with the common arts of rhetoric, but delivering the plain truths of the gospel, and the mercies contained in it, which are best represented in their own native simplicity. Hear therefore from me what must be felt before it can be learnt; what proceeds not in the usual way of gradual improvements, but is the surprising result of a more compendious grace. When I lay covered and overwhelmed with a midnight darkness, and floating uncertainly upon the waves of an unsanctified life, knowing not where to fix my feet, nor how to order my steps, and utterly a stranger to the light and truth; under those dispositions of heart and mind which then prevailed with me, I thought very hardly of the gospel promises, and that the method of salvation pro
pounded by it was utterly impracticable, since a man must be born again in order to obtain it, and must derive from the sacred laver of regeneration the principles of a new life, must put off the old man, and without any change of his bodily constitution, must be entirely renewed in the spirit of his mind. For how, thought I, is so great an alteration possible or practicable? How shall I leave off on a sudden, and as it were upon the instant, radicated and habitual customs, which time and continuance have made natural to me, and which are closely rivetted to the very frame of my being? These, and such as these, were frequently my soliloquies; for as I was deeply entangled and ensnared in the errors of my former life, which I judged it impossible for me ever to disengage from, so 1 really seconded the evil propensities of my nature by my choice, added strength to them by indulgence, and, despairing of any possible cure, I began to look upon them as parts of myself, and to favour them as my own proper attainments. But when the saving waters of baptism had purged away the filth of my former conversation; when the light of heavenly truth shone in upon me, and found my soul purified and prepared thereby to receive and entertain it; when the Spirit of God had descended upon me, and I was thence become a new creature, begotten again unto a lively hope; presently all my doubts were settled, all obscurities became plain to me, the light shone in after a wonderful manner upon .my former darkness; things appeared easy to me which before looked difficult and discouraging; and what seemed heretofore impracticable, I was now convinced was very possible to be done. I distinguished thenceforwards that earthly principle which, being born of the flesh, exposed me to sin and death; and that new principle which, being derived from the Spirit of God, had now entirely devoted and attached me to his service. You are my witness, and will recollect with me from what fatal mischiefs that death unto sin hath delivered us, as well as what blessings that living unto righteousness hath conferred upon us. You, I say, know all this without my recital of it: nor need I therefore make any invidious excursions into my own praises; although it should rather indeed be interpreted as a mark of gratitude than of boasting, to mention those virtues which are the gifts of God, and expressly ascribed to the glories of his grace. So that now if we cease from sin, 'tis agreed to be owing entirely to his favour and to the faith which is in him, as before our faults were justly chargeable upon human depravity. From God alone, I say, we derive our powers; in him we live, by him we are enabled to will and to do, and even in our present state are encouraged to look beyond it, and to forebode to ourselves a farther and future good. Only let a religious fear and caution preserve us blameless; that so the