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eral, repentance is a change of the dispositions of the mind from evil to good : it is an enlightening of the understanding, which formerly was dark ; it is a renewal of the heart and conduct, which, formerly, were depraved. It is, also, called a conversion unto God, and with great propriety, for, the sinner who repents, deserts the slavery of sin and the devil, chooses God for a king to reign over him, and dedicates himself to his service. But, we are now prepared for a particular view of each step of the penitential progress.
1. The first part of repentance consists in a deep sorrow for sin, in grief and contrition of heart for having been guilty of its commission. This sorrow may arise from two causes ; the dread of punishment, and the sense of guilt. A man must, naturally, be grieved for having brought himself into misery, and for having rendered himself liable to eternal wrath. But sorrow which proceeds from no other motive than this, is not that sorrow which is a part of true repentance.
Indeed such sorrow is, properly speaking, no sorrow for sin at all. The sorrow of a man, for example, who laments the ill consequences of his debauchery, or the punishment of his crimes by the hands of civil justice, is nothing but a painful sense of natural evil. For, it would have been the same had his health or fortune been ruined by disease, or had he suffered unjustly. It may have some respect to the man himself, but it has none to God, towards whom repentance ought to be directed. It is that worldly sorrow which, as the Apostle says, worketh death.It only produceth that wounding of the spirit, which cannot be borne, and those terrours which distract the soul. On the other hand, that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of, is of a veту
different nature. It arises, chiefly, from a sense of guilt. The person who is actuated by it, is sorry for having trespassed the law of his nature, and for having offended that holy God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, that generous Benefactor who hath loaded him with so many benefits, that kind and indulgent Parent who hath treated him with so much forbearance. Genuine sorrow of this kind is niuch more pungent than what arises from
any loss which we may have sustained in our temporal interests. It is greater than grief for the death of an only son or of a first born. It makes the penitent to go mourning all the
day. There is no rest in his bones because of his sin, and his sorrow is continually before him.
This sorrow is attended with self-condemnation. A man under the influence thereof produces no excuses to palliate his crime, pleads not the ignorance or weakness of human nature, but condemns himself as, perfectly, inexcusable before God. This first part of repentance was pure, and genuine, and complete in the prodigal son, He did not lament the ruin and disgrace which he had brought upon himself, the injury which he had done to his character and fortune, the poverty and distress into which he had fallen.
He was sorry, only, for having offended his father, and sinned against his God. “ Father,” said he, “ I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy
sight, and am no more worthy to be called “ thy son.” As sorrow for sin produces selfcondemnation, so it is itself produced by it. For, as that pleasure is most pure and exquisite which proceeds from a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man, so that anguish is unspeakable, which springs from remorse and self-disapprobation. But the wound must be probed before it can be cured ; and consequently these are symptoms of a resoration commenced.
2. The next and second step in repentance is a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness
; a removal of bad and an acquisition of good dispositions. This (every part of repentance being the link of a connected chain) is the necessary consequence of the former. For, we must, undoubtedly, abhor that line of conduct which we grieve to have followed, and love that which we lament to have forsaken. Thus says the psalmist, “ I hate vain thoughts, but
thy law do I love.” Besides, it is absolutely necessary that the heart and affections be totally changed, in order to make repentance of any value, or, in any respect, acceptable in the sight of God. For it is impossible that the Father of mercies can have any pleasure in the sorrow of his creatures, merely for it's own sake; otherwise the hopeless anguish of the damned would be more grateful to him than the ingenuous mourning of the penitent. Nor could it answer any good purpose, or be in any way consistent, to be grieved for what we still love and resolve to pursue : and to confess such sorrow and our own guilt before God, is to mock him with a worthless sacrifice.
This important change of character and temper and disposition, is represented by va
rious images in sacred writ. It is called a new creation ; because, by the operation of the spirit, virtuous principles are formed in that soul, where all before was without form and void. It is styled the new birth ; because it introduces us into a new world, gives us, as it were, new faculties, and makes us acquainted with new pleasures, and a new manner of life. It is represented under the idea of a resurrection from the dead ; because those who were dead in trespasses and sins, are thereby made alive unto God. St. Paul describes it as 'a putting off the old, and a putting on the new man; and, elsewhere, as a crucifixion of the affections and lusts. By this variety of expression we learn the great necessity of such a change, and that it is an essential part of true repentance.
3. But a no less essential part of it, is the fruit and consequence of this, viz. the practice of holiness, and a sincere endeavour after new obedience. This alone makes repentance complete and effectual. For, not only must the heart be changed, but the conduct also must be altered.
We must, not only, resolve to keep God's righteous judgments, but we must also follow these resolutions with