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saint on earth, why should it be supposed, that the least conceivable spark of true holiness, even when not discerned, must lead the new convert to a self-righteous confidence, and indispose him to seek the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ?
Saul of Tarsus, when a proud Pharisee, expressed the most contemptuous enmity against the holy Jesus, and “ breathed out threatenings and “ slaughter” against his harmless disciples. But view this same person, prostrate on the ground, trembling with apprehensions of merited vengeance, supplicating undeserved mercy, and saying to the Saviour,“ Lord, what wilt thou have
me to do?” Then observe him, when“ what “ things were gain to him, those he counted loss “ for Christ ;” and determine whether no 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
“ 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 “ to 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 exercises 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 the 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 condemnation : 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,“ When 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
himself,” 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 : “How many hired servants of my father's “ 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 the concluding words, as superseded by the undeserved and unexpected recep
tion 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 decisive, 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 salvation by faith in his name. It suffices to say, that true repentance is a believing repentance, and true faith 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.
for the king“ dom of heaven is at hand.” Repent ye, and “ believe the gospel." “ Repent and be convert
ed, that your sins may be blotted out."
pentance 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 them“ selves out of the snare of the devil, who are “ taken captive by him at his will."
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 a 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 “ form of knowledge." True repentance implies an entire