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trusts in that vicarious atonement, which the Son of God once made, and which is of infinite value and efficacy; and through which "God is JUST, "and the Justifier of the believer." That repentance, which is depended on for justification, is a proud, unbelieving repentance, and not the humble repentance here treated of.
But in fact repentance, where it is genuine, is the gift of God. Thus St. Paul speaks on this subject to his beloved Timothy: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God
peradventure 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 will."* In like manner the Apostle Peter, before the Jewish rulers, declared concerning Jesus whom they had crucified: "Him hath God exalted to be a Prince "and a Saviour, for to give repentance unto Israel, "and forgiveness of sins." And, when the same apostle gave his brethren and the church at Jerusalem an account of the conversion of Cornelius and his household; they "glorified God, saying, "Then hath God to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." +
This accords, to the prediction, or promise, which JEHOVAH gave by the prophet Zechariah; "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon "the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace "and of supplications: and they shall look upon "me whom they have pierced, and they shall "mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only
2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
+ Acts v. 31. xi. 28.
"son."* This was fulfilled, in part, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the crucifiers of Christ, on the day of Pentecost, and when, being "pricked in the heart," and inquiring of the apostles, "what they must do ;" three thousand obeyed the call to " repent and be baptized in the
66 name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." In entire harmony with these decisive testimonies of holy writ, are those petitions in our excellent Liturgy, which, alas! are often so familiar to the ear, as scarcely to excite the attention of the understanding, and not at all to affect the heart, of many professed worshippers in the established church: Let us beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit: That it may please thee to give us true repentance:
' and make in us new and contrite hearts:' with expressions implying the same important truth, which continually occur in many parts of our truly scriptural Liturgy.
In fact, though we have so much cause for repentance, and are in duty bound to repent; yet our proud carnal hearts are naturally destitute of the least disposition or inclination to this duty. The shame therefore of our obstinate impenitency belongs to us: but the whole glory of our repentance, when the grace of God disposes and enables us to repent, is due to him, "who worketh in us "to will and to do, of his good pleasure." So far then are we from meriting any thing by repenting, that we are laid under fresh obligations to him, "who hath granted us repentance unto life."
*Zech. xii. 10.
"Do not err, my beloved brethren, every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and "cometh down from the Father of lights."-Yet, on the other hand, let us not regard those, who represent our natural want of inclination, as an excuse for impenitence; not considering that the dominion of pride, and the love of sin, in the heart, which renders us incapable of our duty, forms itself the very essence of that impenitent heart, which God abhors and will condemn, and which cannot be its own excuse.
Nor is the most penitent person in the world perfect in his repentance. No man hates sin in a degree equal to its hatefulness: no man condemns, abases, and abhors, himself, so much as he ought to do; or so much as he would do, did he more perfectly behold the glory of God, the excellency of the law, the evil of sin, and the multitude of his own transgressions; or had he more fixed views of the nature and glory of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. He that is habitually most penitent finds his repentance capable of increase, when his views are enlarged, and his heart is peculiarly affected with these discoveries: but, even in these seasons, his enlarged godly sorrow is little in comparison to what it ought to be, and would be, did he, instead of "seeing through a
glass darkly," "see face to face." How far then does the general frame of his spirit, when his mind is comparatively dark and unaffected, come short of the perfection of repentance! Over this every sincere Christian mourns, and for this seeks forgiveness.
For similar reasons the fruits of repentance do
nothing towards atoning for our sins, meriting a reward, or justifying us before God. Take a familiar illustration. You owe your tradesman a sum of money; and you now continue to deal with him for ready money only; yet the old debt is not by this diminished. But, should you daily purchase to the value of a crown, and only pay daily one shilling, your debt would rapidly increase. Perfect obedience is no more than what is due to our Creator: so that, after we have by sin for years run in arrear with him, did we obey during all the remainder of a long life, as perfectly as an arch-angel, our love and obedience would be no more than his due for the present, and could do nothing towards discharging the old account: even with the apostle Paul's obedience the debt would rapidly increase. Sure I am, whilst I now write, that I this moment am more deeply deserving of condemnation than ever; because, though I hope sincerely penitent, I daily add recent transgressions to my former sins, and shall certainly perish, if Jesus do not plead for me, "Deliver him from going down into the pit-be"hold the ransom."
This salvation, through the ransom and intercession of the Son of God, every true penitent cordially approves, and thankfully embraces, and shall certainly participate. An impenitent believer and a penitent unbeliever are ideal characters, which have no existence unless in some men's imagination: except where the repentance is counterfeit, and the faith dead. Genuine repentance and faith are twin graces produced together, thriving together, and forwarding each
other's growth. It is true, some exercises of faith precede, and produce repentance in the regenerate soul but repentance precedes, and makes way for that exercise of faith, which interests the soul in the merits of Christ for salvation. The belief of the existence and perfections of God, his law and government; of our relations, obligations, and accountableness to him; of the future state, the day of judgment, heaven and hell; always precedes repentance, and is influential in leading men to it: a belief of several truths respecting Jesus Christ and his salvation, generally, though perhaps not always, precedes. But he must be already in some degree penitent, who can cordially approve and embrace that salvation: for, whilst a man remains impenitent, his proud heart will have insuperable objections to it; insuperable, I say, in any other way, than by that change of judgment and disposition, which is denominated repentance.
The salvation revealed in the gospel exalts God upon the throne, and requires the sinner to submit to his authority and righteousness, and give him the whole glory of his salvation. This appears most equitable to the true penitent, and to him alone. Let God be glorified,' he says, ' by all in ' heaven and earth, whatever becomes of me: but, 'should he mercifully save so vile and worthless a ' rebel, I shall be an eternal monument of the 'riches of his mercy, and the power of his grace.' -The gospel is intended to put honour upon the law: It is holy, just, and good,' says the penitent soul: I consent unto it, that it is good,' and I ' have deserved its awful curse for my vile transgressions: I rejoice to see this holy law mag