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by the grace of which alone is any sinner enabled truly to repent. In every view, and in all respects, repentance belongs entirely to the gospel, and forms an essential part of its glorious and gracious plan.
For what is that plan, my brethren? Is it not the design of GoD to bring sinners into a state of reconciliation and friendship with himself, by a method calculated to display the glory of his own name, and the dreadful nature and effects of sin: and thus to teach them to love him, and glorify him, and find their felicity in his favour? And, if this be the plan of the gospel, can its ends be answered, unless the sinner is brought to repentance?
Look through the whole New Testament. Consider how the gospel was first introduced, and afterwards propagated. John, the forerunner of Christ, came preaching, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of "heaven is at hand." "Bring forth therefore fruits "meet for repentance, and think not to say within
yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father. For "now is the axe laid to the root of the trees; every "tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, is "hewn down, and cast into the fire."
Our LORD himself has told us expressly what he came for; "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance :" and his decision surely ought to be final. He has declared that "there is joy in the
presence of the angels of GoD over one sinner that "repenteth." He multiplied parables to illustrate the nature of repentance, to encourage the penitent, and to warn and rebuke the impenitent. And he sent his apostles to "preach repentance and remission of sins
"in his name to all nations." Accordingly, they preached repentance wherever they went:-Hear St. Peter, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may "be blotted out."-Hear St. Paul, at Athens, "The "times of this ignorance GoD winked at; but now "commandeth he all men every where to repent: "And before Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the "heavenly vision; but shewed first unto them at "Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout the "coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they "should repent, and turn to GoD, and do works meet "for repentance :" And before the Ephesian elders, "Testifying both to Jews and Greeks, repentance "towards GOD, and faith towards our LORD JESUS "CHRIST."
Did the apostle speak of a sin that is never pardoned? he added, "It is impossible to renew to repen. tance," those who have committed it. He exhorts Timothy "In In meekness to instruct those that oppose "themselves, if peradventure GoD would give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and "that they may recover themselves out of the snare "of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his "will."
Without repentance, therefore, it is as plain and clear, as the testimony of CHRIST and his apostles can make it, that there is no salvation. "Except ye. repent, ye shall all likewise perish."-Without repentance, faith is dead, hope is mere presumption, and religious affections are delusive, transient, and inefficacious.
But let it be also remarked, that wherever true repentance is found, there is life eternal-" Then hath "GOD also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto "life." He has so arranged the plan of the gospel, that repentance is inseparably connected with forgive. ness, righteousness, and complete salvation. " Godly "sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to "be repented of."-" When the wicked man turn"eth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive."— Repent and turn from all your transgressions; and so iniquity shall not be your ruin."-" Let the "wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man "his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, "and he will have mercy on him, and to our GOD, "and he will abundantly pardon." These passages, and many others, are so expressed, and marked with such precision, that if there be any meaning in words, true repentance is inseparable from eternal salvation.
Some, however, object that this does not consist with the doctrine of salvation by grace, and justification by faith alone. But I would ask, Whether the apostles did not use this language, as well as preach that doctrine? And as none can disprove, and few will deny, that they did both, I enquire whether they were inconsistent with themselves, and with each other?
That salvation is by grace, and justification by faith alone, is certainly the doctrine both of the Scriptures and of our church: but if faith be alone, it is dead. If alms are offered to a beggar, his hand alone re
ceives the alms: but a dead hand could not receive them.
None, who understand christianity, doubt, but that repentance, hope, fear, and love, exist in every true believer: yet faith alone justifies him before Gon; because the righteousness and atonement of CHRIST are the sole ground of our justification, and faith alone receives CHRIST, that we may "be made the righteousness of GoD in him." But this faith is the faith of the penitent, and not of the impenitent: it works by love, and it brings forth holy fruit.
While the poor criminal, who fled for refuge to the altar, laid hold of the horns with his hand alone; his heart would beat, his blood circulate, and his other limbs and senses perform their proper functions. Thus the sinner, by faith alone lays hold of CHRIST; yet his soul is alive to GoD, and all the graces of the Spirit of life are at the same time exercised according to their proper nature and function. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest "of these is charity.
The text suggests yet one more remark; "Gon "grants repentance unto life." This means more than that he has opened a way for the penitent sinner to come to him and live; or that he calls on sinners to repent. It implies that repentance is the gift of Gon. "If peradventure GOD may give them repentance." "CHRIST is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance—and forgiveness of sins.”—“ The Spirit convinces men of sin, of righteousness, and "of judgment:" and when the LORD " pours out
"the Spirit of grace and supplication, men look on "him whom they have pierced, and mourn."
How often, in our excellent liturgy do we unite in prayer, that GoD would give us repentance and his Holy Spirit? The language we have been lately using, is very emphatical: Create and make in us new and 'contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, ' and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain ' of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through JESUS CHRIST.'*
While we preach repentance, we would pray to GOD, that he may bestow on you the invaluable gift of repentance unto life: and you should pray in behalf of yourselves and each other, for the same blessings. For both true repentance and living faith spring up in that heart, and that alone, which is 'quicken'ed from the death of sin unto the life of righteous
II. We consider the nature and effects of repentance unto life.
Many distinctions on this subject have been made by divines, which have often tended to perplex, rather than satisfy, anxious enquirers. Doubtless, some exercises of the mind, have the semblance of repentance, which are not genuine. When, for instance, a man has made a bargain, and it turns out worse than he expected, he is sorry that he made it; but he is not humbled under a sense of criminality. And when a sinner finds that his sinful pursuits are
likely to cost him
much dearer than he imagined; having discovered
• Collect for Ash Wednesday.