Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

able life and conversation. Those men are egregiously mistaken, concerning the nature of true repentance, who rest in sorrow for sin, in confessions and tears, and in religious inclinations and purposes ; as if these things constituted its essence. The sacred writers, with one voice, uniformly, represent it as the great design of christianity to “ redeem us from all

iniquity ;" and insist upon putting away “the evil of our doings, ceasing to do evil, “ and learning to do well,” as an essential part of our conversion unto God. And if it be not allowed that these things are, properly speaking, a part of repentance, yet, at all events, it must be granted, that, they are its natural fruit, and its only evidence. For how can we know that our sorrow of mind has been genuine, or our change of heart real, without that obedience to which such a sorrow and change must naturally dispose us ? Thus does the apostle Paul speak of the effects of godly sorrow, 2 Cor. vii. 11. “ Behold, this self same thing, “ that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what “ carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what

clearing of yourselves, yea, what indigna-
tion, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement
desire, yca, what zeal, yea, what revenge!"

[ocr errors]

In the same manner, John the baptist thus addressed himself to those who had come to his baptism, and who had confessed their sins in Jordan. “ O generation of vipers, who hath “ warned you to face from the wrath to come ?

Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” By which he, plainly, insinuated that without these fruits, their repentance was neither real nor valuable.

II. Let us now inquire into those new motives which the gospel affords to the performance of this duty.

The law of nature, as it, only, pointed out to man his duty, without any provision in case of a departure from it, laid him under no immediate obligation to repentance. Itlaid him, however, under a virtual obligation : because to repent of his crimes, and return unto God, after he had transgressed his law, was the only compensation which he could make, and was the most reasonable course which he could pursue. For, even without the light of the gospel, man could not but perceive the guilt and danger of transgression ; and though nature could not discover to him that repentance, of itself, would have any influence in procuring pardon, yet it must have informed him, that,

[blocks in formation]

there was a great difference between that guilt of sin which was obstinately persisted in, and that which was repented of and forsaken.But these considerations were weak and ineffectual, compared with those strong and powerful motives by which the gospel enforces the duty of repentance.

1. A powerful motive to repentance, considered as a part of the gospel scheme, is the promise of success which that scheme gives; the assurance that those who repent and are converted shall have their sins blotted out.The information of the light of nature concerning the efficacy of repentance in seeking to obtain pardon, is not only unsatisfactory but highly discouraging. A slight attention to the course of providence must convince us that it is not considered by the Governour of the world as any proper satisfaction to divine justice.The intemperate man often feels the punishment of his debauchery and intemperance, in a broken and ruined constitution, long after he has repented of his crimes, and been reclaimed from them. Now, if this be God's stated method of dealing with men in the ordinary course of his providence, we have not the smallest reason to think that he'will do otherwise in his final adjustment of rewards and punishments. Neither does a consideration of the nature of repentance tend to give us any encouragement. Of what have we seen it to consist ? Of sorrow of the heart for that which is past, a change of mind, and a return to obedience for the future. But this change of mind, and return to obedience, are nothing but our duty under a new name in consequence of a former deviation. This new name gives it no new worth.

It may be accepted as a part of our duty, but it cannot be considered as any compensation for the omission of it. With respect to sorrow for sin; it is, indeed, a passion in itself uneasy; but it is the consequence of guilt, and, if it arise from the foresight of inevitable punishment, it possesses not the smallest merit.

A villain who deserves the punishment of death deserves no praise for living in continual fear of it. Nay, though it be that genuine, rational sorrow which has been described, it can have no efficacy in procuring pardon. For, it would be the greatest folly imaginable, in any lawgiver, to annex threatenings to his laws, and yet pardon every person who transgressed them upon his testifying his sincere sorrow for his crime. If it be said,

that, it would be so in men who cannot judge of the sincerity of professions, and who, consequently, might be apt to class together the innocent and the guilty, but not in God who

, knoweth the thoughts and secrets of the heart; it must be allowed, that, God neither has annexed nor possibly could annex (consistently with his divine rectitude) this condition to the law of nature, when he first promulgated it, “ that though any man lived in downright “ disobedience to the law, he would be for

given and received into favour when he be“ came truly sorry for his offence.” This would enervate the force of all laws, and would be nothing but an invitation to sin. How then is it proper for God to do that which it is absolutely improper for him even to promise or profess? Or how is it fit that we should live by one rule, and be judged by another? The information of the gospel is much more pregnant with comfort, and much more encouraging to penitent sinners. In it, we learn that the demands of divine justice are satisfied, that God is reconciled to us if we will be but reconciled to him, that the supreme Being has no pleasure in the death of sinners, but, rather, wishes that they would return, repent, and

« PreviousContinue »