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ACTS II. 37.

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

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THE first step in repentance is a due sense of our sins. This sense of sin is the beginning of true religion in the heart; and it is substantially the same in all who are converted unto God. Man is a transgressor of the divine law; and till he is deeply sensible of this, he will not forsake his iniquities, or seek for the pardon of them through the atonement of Jesus Christ, or begin a new course of life. The chief object of the Christian ministry, so far as irreligious persons are concerned, should, therefore, be the same with that of the Apostle Peter in the sermon connected with the text, to produce conviction of sin. The circumstances may indeed vary; but the end to be pursued is the same and it is by the plain statement of truth that God is pleased to impress men with the


sense of their condition and danger. In endeavouring then to explain the nature of that sorrow, or compunction, of mind which is the beginning of real repentance, I shall consider, from the words before us,

I. The instructions which are the means of producing it;

II. The sorrow or compunction itself;
III. And the inquiry to which it leads.





It is particularly stated in the text, that the Jews to whom St. Peter addressed his sermon, When they heard this, that is, his declaration that Jesus whom they had crucified was Lord and Christ, were pricked in their hearts. The means which God used, therefore, awaken their minds was the word of truth. St. Peter demonstrated in a plain argumentative discourse that Jesus was the true Messiah: he proved that the gift of tongues was a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel; that God had accomplished his own purposes in the death of Christ; and that the resurrection of Jesus was expressly foretold in the book of Psalms. He boldly declared that he and his brethren were witnesses of this resurrection, and that the miracles which followed were the effects of his exaltation to the right hand of the Father. He then demon

strated, from the 110th Psalm, that the Messiah was seated on the right hand of God, in order that his foes might be made his footstool: and he concluded by affirming, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ. Similar was the method

pursued by the Apostles in several other sermons recorded in the Acтs. They appealed to the Old Testament, which their audience regarded as the Oracles of God; they proved from this that Jesus was the true Messiah; they charged upon the Jews the guilt of his death; and then they exhorted them to repentance and conversion. Their instructions consisted of faithful statements of those truths which were best adapted to convince them of their sins, and of bold and forcible appeals to their consciences. Thus numbers were pricked in their heart, and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Ver. 47.)

In like manner, the preaching of the word of God is, in every age, the usual means of producing sorrow for sin in the minds of the impenitent. Truth is the instrument of conviction. Our congregations are not now, indeed, in the same circumstances with those whom the Apostles addressed. The Saviour does not come in person to them, or work his miracles, or de

liver his divine discourses in their presence; they have not rejected him personally, or given their voices for his crucifixion. The statement of truth therefore, adapted to bring them to repentance, is not exactly the same with that of the Apostles. Ministers now have not the same occasion to prove to them that Jesus is the Christ, nor can they charge them with the immediate guilt of his death. But if men, though called Christians, have neglected this Saviour, have rejected his offers of mercy, have crucified him afresh by their sins, have lived in practical ignorance of his person and work and sufferings and atonement and resurrection and glory; if, though they acknowledge the facts of his history to be true, they know nothing really of his character as Jesus the Messiah; and understand nothing of his grace as Lord and Christ; then they as much need to be taught these fundamental doctrines, as the Jews needed to be told the particular truths to which I have adverted. And it is only so far as instructions such as these are plainly given, that they are likely to be brought to serious piety.

What is it then, my brethren, that you hear in our instructions? You hear that you are immortal creatures, accountable to God for all you do; that God has given you a just and holy law; that this law is spiritual, and demands

perfect obedience; that the soul that sinneth, it shall die; that you have all broken this law a thousand times in thought, word, and deed; that some of you have done this by open vice and profligacy, others by covetousness and the love of the world, others by pride and ambition, others by pleasure and indolence, others by indifference and thoughtlessness; and all of you by not loving God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and your neighbour as yourselves. You hear also what is a necessary inference from all this, that there is none righteous, no not one; that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin; that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and that the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God. This is what you are instructed in.

You hear, besides, that God has so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life; that repentance and remission of sins are preached in his name among all nations; that he is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him; that whosoever will, may come and take of the water of life freely; that God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his way and live; and that it is accord

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