« PreviousContinue »
the wise and holy appointments of divine love; let
ACTS, xxvi. 19, 20.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
THE propriety and address of St. Paul's speech
before Agrippa, Festus, and that august assembly, in whose presence he stood as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, have been generally admired: but the faithfulness and courage, with which he pleaded the cause of the gospel, are perhaps still more deserving of our attention. He paid no court to his illustrious auditors: he attempted not to ingratiate himself with them, or even to shun their contempt or aversion; while he used the most effectual means of convincing them, not only that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but
that faith in him was absolutely necessary to salvation, and that all men without exception ought to repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for 16 repentance."
Having given a brief narration of his own miraculous conversion, he produced his commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; "I have appeared unto thee," says the divine Saviour,— "to make thee a minister and a witness, both of "these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee: delivering thee from the people and the gentiles, "to whom now I send thee; to open their eyes, "and to turn them from darkness to light, and "from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance "" among them which are sanctified, by faith that "is in me. Whereupon," says the apostle, "I
was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but "shewed," first to the Jews and then to the gentiles, "that they should repent and turn to God, "and do works meet for repentance." In doing this, "he was not disobedient to the heavenly "vision: for in his view of Christianity, these practical subjects perfectly accorded with the doctrines of faith and grace. The several Christian graces may, and should, be distinguished, as they have their appropriate nature and use; but they cannot be separated in the person who possesses them. For instance, an impenitent believer,
and an unbelieving penitent are ideal characters: true faith is a penitent faith, and true repentance is believing repentance: yet the nature and use of repentance and faith should plainly be distinguished. This will appear more evidently, while from the text we take occasion to consider,
I. The importance of the subject, as it appears from the scriptures.
II. Certain things which are implied in it.
III. The peculiar nature of repentance and turning unto God.
IV. And lastly. The works meet for repentance.
I. Let me call your attention, my brethren, to the importance or prominence of this subject, as appears from the scriptures, especially from the new Testament.
John the Baptist was the predicted forerunner of the Messiah, who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, when he came in human nature among his ancient people the Jews: but how did he execute his important office? He came preaching, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at "hand." Let me intreat your serious attention to
this circumstance:-notwithstanding the advantages of that favoured nation, with all their notions and form of godliness; there was no order of men, no religious sect, no individual whatever, that did not want repentance, as a preparation for welcoming the Messiah, and sharing the blessings of his spiritual kingdom. Insomuch, that the Baptist said to the Pharisees, as well as to the Sadducees, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring "forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and "think not to say within yourselves, We have "Abraham to our father'." Not long after, our Lord himself condescended to preach the gospel; and he too said, "Repent, for the kingdom of "heaven is at hand." When the apostles went forth at his command, they "preached every "where that men should repent:" and it appears from part of his discourse to the seventy disciples, that they were charged with the same commission; for he said on that occasion, "Woe unto thee, "Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida; for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, "which have been in done in thee, they had a
great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth "and ashes"."
Does our Lord say in one place, "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was
• Matt. iii. 7-10.
2 Luke, x. 10-14.