« PreviousContinue »
defined as a mere abstraction, unconnected with a change of moral character. It cannot consist in a naked speculation in the mind. It involves a change—such a change—a new life, a life of holiness. Wherever it exists in the soul, there is regeneration in all its completeness.
II. We are to consider the necessity of this repentance.
1. Repentance is rendered necessary to our happiness by the very constitution of our nature. It is not the want of suitable objects on which to rest his desires and affections, that renders the sinner miserable. It is a state of heart that will make him so wherever he is placed, and whatever he may possess. In hell, among congenial spirits, he must be miserable. In heaven, among glorified saints, he must be miserable. On earth, and every where, with this heart of sin, he must be miserable. When brought to a true view of his situation, he adopts the language of Milton's fiend, as truly expressive of his feelings :
“ Me miserable ! which way shall I fty?
Which way I fly is hell ; myself am hell;
Never can a ray of light kindle in such a soul, nor hope impart its influence there, until he has exercised true repentance for his sins.
2. Repentance is necessary because the law of God cannot be honored without it. The unyielding terms of the law are, " The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The wisdom of God has devised a plan, by which this law may be executed, and the penalty averted from the sin
But in the execution of this benevolent purpose, the sinner must be the subject of repentance, which shall embrace a moral renovation of the heart. It is sometimes said that God is of infinite power, and can do as He pleases-can pardon sin without repentance. True, God can do as He pleases; and it has pleased Him not to pardon sin without repentance. But, although omnipotent, God cannot deny himself. He is unchangeable. Such also is the eharacter of His law. The sinner, therefore, must change. Hence the necessity of repentance.
3. Repentance then is necessary, because God's mercy cannot be extended without it. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He manifests all the tender concern of a parent. He is plenteous in mercy, but he can in no wise clear the guilty. He can never accept of sinners with the spirit of rebellion rankling in their hearts. Their hatred must be changed to love. To effect this, they must approve of God's character and law, and consequently must abhor themselves as the violators of that law, and as opposed to it. Here they are made to stand in opposition to themselves. Repenta ance of sin prepares for the remission of it through the vicarious sufferings of Christ, on whom the penitent fixes his faith. How excellent soever may be the attribute of mercy in God, the sinner will never be the happier for it without repentance. No one can approach a God of mercy, nor realise the favor of a God of love, without first abhorring himself, and repenting in dust and ashes.
4. The necessity of this repentance is universal. All have sinned, and are guilty. Not one is exempted. Not one can say, I have made myself clean; I have no sin. No circumstances of difference in life constitute a difference here. These all vanish when we are arraigned in common as sinners. The points of distinction in this life relate to time, and end with it. Gold and silver, robes and titles, the dignities of office, the attainments of learning, the reputation of wisdom, the sealed parchment, the securities of property, every thing earthly will be buried in oblivion, or burnt up with the world. Man alone survives, naked before God : he stands in the simple character of a sinner. His morality cannot save him. He is a sinner still. Morality forms no adequate ground of acceptance with God. The only refuge is in Christ, and repentance opens the only way to the cross.
5. The necessity of this repentance is immediate. In order to salvation, “ God now commands all men every where to repent.” This command is imperative. Now is the accepted time. As soon as the sinner is cut off from time, he is cut off from all hope. It is, therefore, necessary he should repent immediately. Repentance is delayed by some, through a blind presumption on the
God has spared them so long that they think to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. Thus they reason from one set of facts only. God spared the old world long in their sins, but He also destroyed them in awful judgment. He sent preachers of righteousness to the cities of the plain, but He also rained fire and brimstone upon them. I want but one hour to prepare for death, once said a presumptuous sinner, determined to live in sin, and the next moment he was launched into eternity by the judgment of God. The church at Fern in Scotland fell in during divine service, and buried the whole congregation in one common grave! No man has the security of a moment. The necessity of repentance is, therefore, immediate.
Repentance is delayed by others because they are young. And do young sinners never die? Read the public. obituaries. Go to the sculptured memorials of the dead, and there learn the danger of this delay. But who is willing to spend the best of his days in sin? God may not accept the remnant. “Oh, that I had served my God with as much fidelity as I have served my king," once said a rejected cardinal,
mercy of God.
who had put his trust in princes, “and he would not have cast me off in my old age to the fury of my enemies."
Others again excuse themselves, because they are not as great sinners as some others. But what say the Scriptures ? " He that offendeth in one point is guilty of the whole." A single sin unrepented will sink the soul to hell. Who can say he has not sinned ? Say not, then, yout will delay repentance. Repent immediately.
III. A consideration of some of the evidences of repentance is also. necessary to a full view of the subject. These evidences may be very properly divided into two classes, internal and external; or those that enter into the essential experience of the Christian, which are, therefore, the subject of his own consciousness, and those which are obvious to others. Of the former class are all those exercises, which are essential to true repentance-a conviction of sin as heinous and personal, consequent self abhorrence, right views of the character of God as a moral governor, of Christ as a Saviour, of himself in relation to them, and to eternity-all resulting in a hatred and forsaking of sin, and a love of holiness.
These evidences, wherever they exist, will develop others to public observation. They will influence the life. They will furnish a train of evidences in the life and conversation, which will be decisive of the moral action of the heart. “He has put off the old man with his deeds, and has put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." "He has put off all these things, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, out of his mouth, and has put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing and forgiving, even as Christ hath forgiven him.” Moreover," he puts on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” “The word of Christ dwells in him richly, and whatsoever he does, in word or deed, he does all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; and they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
In the subject, has now been presented the true answer to the absorbing question, which possesses the anxious and entire attention of the convicted sinner. You see the nature of true repentance, the duty, necessity, and evidences of it. Nor is it the work of a moment. It is the work of life. The true penitent lives a life of repentance.
Consider carefully, then, a subject, which involves your eternal life. Delay not so important, so necessary a work. “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Amen.
THE ADMONITORY SEASON, OR LESSONS FROM AUTUMN:
Isaiah lxiv. 6. And we all do fade as a leaf. EVERY circumstance calculated to better the heart should be noticed and improved. Even those things which tend to beget sadness should not be avoided, inasmuch as they harmonize with the actual state of human existence. “ Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward;" yet great aim seems to be to defeat this repulsive decree, and whatsoever savors of it, or whatsoever seems to remind him of it, is generally an unwelcome topic of conversation. But this avoidance of every thing sombre in its aspect is not a politic measure; for, when evil comes -as come it must upon all-it falls upon us with the more overwhelming shock. It seems to be with many, a main object to drive away from the mind all consideration of the certainty and circumstances of their mortality. They cannot endure a book that paints its moral by a reference to such subjects. Even the gathering gloom of autumn is to such minds often disagreeable, and would if possible be avoided. But, happily, the Creator has so arranged the vicissitudes of the seasons, as to convey through the eye a salutary lesson upon the heart. From this none can escape. It addresses its wholesome instruction to the dark and skeptical mind, and to the careless votary of the world. They, who would scorn to be moved to seriousness by the plain admonition of a gospel minister, are awe-struck and sedate, as they witness the departing glories of the year, and see a funeral-pall silently spreading itself over the face of nature. Can they fail to recur to their own dissolution ? Such was the effect upon the pious and poetical mind of the prophet, when he witnessed the autumnal leaf fading and falling, to be swept away by the blasts of winter. He thought at once of the mortality of man. He saw in this leaf a striking emblem of our frailty, and he exclaimed,“ We all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away."
The subject is appropriate for two reasons. It is the season when
our thoughts should be seriously impressed by the lesson which our Creator is reading to us from his works. It seems but yesterday, that the surrounding hills and valleys were clad in verdant beauty. Every thing was fresh and full of promise. The eye, and the ear, and all the senses were cheered and regaled. But how great a change has now passed upon them! The autumnal frosts have invaded their glories, and after a transient flush-like the hectic of death-they begin to decay and depart forever. Soon the fierce blasts of winter will come and sigh through the naked branches, and whirl in eddies these fallen leaves of the forest.
My hearers, is there not an admonitory voice in all this? You must surely admit a striking analogy between this and the desolating stroke of death, which will send us all to the tomb like the leaves of the forest, and bury us in as deep an oblivion.
But there is another reason why this subject is appropriate. It is not the leaves only that are falling in this season of general decay. There seems to be a fall also of vigorous manhood and of youthful beauty, and the grave is gathering in its harvest from among the fairest and firmest of our community.* God is thus giving us a two-fold lesson. Most impressively does he speak to us, and say, “ All flesh is grass, and the glory of man is as the flower of grass.”
The text presents us with the idea of a progressive decay, preparatory to the actual fall. It declares, that as the leaf withers and theu dies, so man fades away and is gone. The places that knew him shall know him no more forever.
The comparison is as beautiful as it is solemn, and I shall call your attention to several particulars showing its appropriateness.
First; As to our corporeal powers, we fade like the leaf.
Our bodies are of such make and material, that their continuance should be more a matter of surprise than of expectation. The pliant flesh, the brittle bones, the countless channels of the blood, the delicate nerves issuing from the brain; the heart, with rapid action, making the whole physical machinery fearfully to vibrate ; the lungs, in contact often with unwholesome air--all these, amid the innumerable casualties of life, make the continuance of our bodies for a term of years a sort of standing miracle.
But whilst these powers are in play, it is evident there must be some waste of the vital principle--some wear and tear of the mortal framework. And this is admitted to be the case.
In infancy and youth-which is the forming state--the body expands and acquires tone rapidly. But soon it arrives at its acme. It reaches with wonderful rapidity its full development. Then it seems, for a brief moment, to wave like the well expanded leaf in all its matured glories; and then it shows evidences of decay.
I am sure, my hearers, you must have been struck with the rapid transition from childhood to maturity, and from maturity to speedy decline. You have seen the face that yesterday wore no trace of care, coupled with a form from which a statuary might have framed his designs—where all was youth, and health and serenity-sink, as it were,
* Several interesting youth in the congregation had been suddenly called away by death.