« PreviousContinue »
harmless disciples.—But view this same person, prostrate on the ground, trembling with apprehensions of merited vengeance, supplicating undesérved mercy, and saying to the Saviour, “ Lord, what wouldest thou have
me to do?”—Then observe him, when “ what things
were gain to him, those he counted loss for Christ;" and determine whether nó degree of genuine humiliation was connected with his first exercises of faith in the Son of God.
But if we carefully examine the language of Scripture, we must be convinced, that humility is a radical and most important part of holiness; and especially that humiliation for sin is essential to the existence of holiness in the heart of a fallen creature. - To this man “ will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite “ spirit, and that trembleth at my word.”
« Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the kingdom of « heaven.” “ God resisteth the proud, and giveth his
grace unto the humble.” Nay, a great part of the holiness of redeemed sinners, even in heaven, seems to consist in a disposition to ascribe all their salvation “ tô “ Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb " that was slain;" and in feeling, and acting consistently with, the recollection of their own deep guilt, and their inexpressible obligations to the special mercy and love of the Redeemer. Indeed if pride were the first sin of apostate spirits, humility must be most essential to the holiness even of angels.
The degree of genuine humility, connected with the sinner's first actings of faith in Christ, may be very small: but will any Christian say, that there is absolutely none at all? Or that pride is at that moment in full dominion? Can a sinner embrace the salvation of Christ in a cordial manner, without the least disposition to abase and condemn himself? Can he, when merely alarmed by the dread of a punishment, which he does not allow that he deserves, sincerely seek the deliverance from free unmerited mercy? Can he sincerely seek this mercy, in the most humiliating way imaginable, without the least degree of humiliation? And if his professed reliance on free grace through Emmanuel's atoning blood, be insincere, will a heart-searching God justify him on account of a hypocritical pretension? “Blessed is the
man, to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity, and “ in whose spirit there is no guile.”
In a word, it has often been said, and it never has been disproved, that there can be no more mercy in the
sinner's salvation, -than there was justice in his con
demnation:' it is therefore absolutely impossible for any one cordially to welcome salvation altogether of mere mercy, unless he sincerely allow' that he might justly have been left under condemnation.
Again, did our Lord, in the parable of the prodigal son, design to represent the returning sinner as driven merely by distress to seek deliverance from God? What did he then mean by the expression, IVhen he came to himself ?- The prodigal is supposed to have felt his misery before, (as devils and damned spirits do,) with proud and determined alienation of heart from his father and the rules of his family : but “ when he came to him“ self,” he awaked-as out of sleep, he recovered as from intoxication, he was restored as from insanity; and then he became sensible of his sin and folly:-Other thoughts now arise in his mind concerning his father's character, authority, and conduct; and his own past behaviour and present situation: and he breaks out into this exclamation;
my father's servants have bread “ enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger ! I will “ arise, and go to my father; and will say unto him, “ Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, “and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Are not these expressions of sorrow and humiliation for sin, and of deep self-abasement ? No extenuation or excuse is so much as thought of by the self-condemned penitent; but he deduces his whole encouragement to return home, from the known kindness and compassion of his offended father.— Thus is he represented as resolving to return home, from right principles and in a right spirit: and when welcomed with immense kindness, and without any upbraidings, by his loving parent; he alters not the terms of his intended confession, except by leaving out
66 How many
the concluding words, as superseded by the undeserved and unexpected reception he met with. As this parable was purposely framed by our Lord, to illustrate the dealings of our merciful God towards the vilest of sinners, who come to him in his appointed way: it is absolutely decisivé, that he considered godly sorrow, humiliation, and unreserved confession of guilt, as never failing attendants on saving faith'. And the arrangement of the parable contains a demonstration, that regeneration is at all times antecedent to faith, as the cause is antecedent to the effect.
Every serious student of the Scriptures must have observed, that they always represent repentance and faith as inseparably connected. It is not indeed worth while formally to dispute, which of these twin-graces is first exercised by the newly regenerated sinner: a belief of some divine truths may shew him his need of repentance; and some degree of a penitent disposition may render him sensible, that he wants an interest in Christ's salvaition by faith in his name. It suffices to say, that true repentance is a believing repentance, and true faith is a penitent faith. -A general belief of God's mercy and readiness to forgive seems essential to genuine repentance; but more explicit views of the way in which mercy is vouchsafed, are not always requisite : yet repentance is doubtless rendered more deep, spiritual, and ingenuous, in proportion as the glory of the gospel is understood, and its consolations experienced.-- We ought not, however, to overlook, much less to invert, the order in which the inspired writers mention repentance and faith. Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at * hand.”
Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” “ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted
Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.”- -“ If peradventure God will
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 66 will 2.” i Luke xv.
2 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
If it please God to give repentance to an opposer of his gospel, he will then acknowledge the truth, believe in Christ, and be saved: but if God do not give him repentance, he will continue an unbeliever held fast in the snare of the devil. This at least completely proves, that true repentance always accompanies the first actings of saving faith. And a man's views must certainly be unscriptural, when he cannot support them without inverting or altering the language of inspiration.
The word translated repentance denotes a change of mind: but surely no Christian will deliberately maintain, that this change takes place only in the understanding, without at all influencing the will and affections ! Or that it is merely a change of opinion about the doctrine of justification! Yet incautious expressions to that effect are not uncommon.
We read however not only of " an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the
living God;" but also, of an hard and impenitent heart, " through which sinners treasure up to themselves “wrath against the day of wrath.” So that, beyond all dispute, the change of mind, which is called repentance, peculiarly relates to the heart ; without which every change of opinion can at most only amount to a dead faith and a form of knowledge. True repentance implies an entire revolution in a man's views and judgment respecting himself, and every thing to which he stands related ; and in all his corresponding dispositions and affections. But though this internal change be especially denoted by the word tlrus translated : yet when the term is used in a popular sense, and as distinguished from regeneration, it includes fear of divine wrath, godly sorrow, humiliation, hatred of sin and all its pleasures and. profits, forsaking sin, turning to God with ingenuous confession and cries for mercy, and entering on a new course of life. It is needless in this place to enter further on the subject, as the publick has long been in possession of the author's deliberate thoughts upon it": but if any man doubt of what has been here advanced ; let him carefully and impartially consider the scriptures
1 Discourse ou Repentance.
referred to, with the several contexts; and I apprehend he will find it impossible to resist conviction'. In the last passage referred to, the apostle speaks of godly sorrow as preceding, and “working repentance unto salva“ tion, not to be repented of :" surely then no repentance is saving or genuine, which is unconnected with godly sorrow !
Repentance is both the command and the gift of God. It is our duty; but without divine grace we are wholly indisposed to perform it: and in this respect it resembles all other dụties, each of which is the subject of promises as well as of precepts; and none of them are performed in the right manner, except as the Lord gives us a new heart and a new spirit. " God" (by the gospel) “ commandeth all men every where to repent.” * Jesus is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give
repentance--and forgiveness of sins." Repentance belongs entirely to the gospel and to the covenant of grace; and has nothing to do with the law, and the covenant of works; except in our being grieved and humbled at kcart for violating them, and in our humbly consessing that we deserve that wrath of God which is denounced against every transgressor.--The gospel alone gives the call to repentance, the encouragement to repentance, and the grace of repentance: it is therefore most astonishing that the preaching of repentance should have ever been called legal, or thought inconsistent with the free grace of the gospel! Or that repentance should ever have been almost excluded from the list of evangelical graces, the constituent parts of true holiness. But says our Lord, “ What think ye? A certain
had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answer“ ed and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented “ and went.
And he came to the second, and said like“ wise; and he answered and said, I go Sir, and went '.
not.-Verily, I say unto you, the publicans and har“ lots enter into the kingdom of heaven, before you. “ For John came unto you in the way of righteousness,
1 Job xlii. 6. Jer. xxxii. 19. Ezek. xviii, 28. Matt. iii. 8–10. xxi. 29–32. Luke xv. 10, 17, 21.
2 Cor. vii. 9-11.