« PreviousContinue »
'nified, in the obedience unto death of God incarnate: I long to have it written in my heart by the finger of the Spirit: and my prayer is, " O that my ways were directed to keep thy righteous precepts!"-The gospel shews sin to be exceedingly sinful, and discovers its infinite odiousness and just demerit: the true penitent, and he alone, irreconcileably hates all sin, even that which was his most darling indulgence. The gospel abases the sinner, silences his excuses, rejects his pleas, strips him of his distinctions; and, without regard to his learning, wisdom, wealth, honour, morality, or amiable character among men, treats him as a sinner condemned to die, deserving and fitted for destruction. To this the true penitent, and he alone, cordially submits. "I loathe and "abhor myself." "To me belongs shame, and "confusion of face:" is the genuine expression of his humbled heart.
The gospel honours Christ, as the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the All in all. Thus he appears to the true penitent, and to none else. In his person, undertaking, righteousness, atonement, resurrection, mediatorial exaltation, offices, (as King, Priest, and Prophet,) intercession, instructions, example, and Spirit of grace, he appears to the humbled sinner altogether suitable, sufficient, and precious. On every other side despair lowers the glory of God, and the honour of the law, demand his destruction: but here hope brightens here he sees God glorious and sinners saved here he sees every thing exactly suited to his wants and his desires: here he may have his sins pardoned, his corruptions subdued, his igno
rance removed, grace communicated, strength renewed, and every thing bestowed freely, "without money and without price," which can raise him from the brink of hell, and the borders of despair, to the "lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading." Christ appears to him "the pearl of great price,” "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." "He counts all but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of him." To him he flees, though with trembling heart, lest he should meet with a repulse: with trembling hand he lays hold on this only hope to him he cleaves in the midst of discouragements and delays, and answers every rising despondency with, "Lord, to whom shall I go, "thou hast the words of eternal life?" Nothing but impenitent pride, and love of sin, render men blind to the glory, deaf to the voice, or negligent of the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ: nor can any thing but a penitent sense of the evil of sin, and the misery of a sinner, reconcile the proud heart of man to this salvation.
Though repentance therefore does not in any degree merit pardon, yet it is that disposition of mind which both prepares the soul to receive it, and renders the possessor a meet object on whom a holy God may honourably bestow it: and, no further obstacle remaining; divine justice being satisfied in the sufferings of the Redeemer; the point yielded by the sinner's repentance, that he did deserve to perish, and is saved by free grace; and his heart being now rendered willing to be saved in the appointed way; he shall, without all
doubt or delay, have salvation, and the consolation which springs from it.
Were more encouragement needful, I might lead your attention to the many examples, with which the word of God furnishes us, of sinners, who had committed the most atrocious crimes, and borne the most infamous characters, for complicated, long-continued guilt, who on repentance were pardoned and saved. It will be enough to recite a few of their names: such were Manasseh ; the woman who was "a sinner," a scandalous and notorious sinner; the thief on the cross; Saul the persecutor; and the very men who crucified the Prince of Life! These instances are doubtless recorded purposely for the encouragement of those, who are ready to conclude that their sins are toọ many and too great to be forgiven; and they form a very important proof and exemplification of our doctrine, that no degree of guilt can exclude the true penitent from forgiveness through the blood of Christ. For, although our Lord speaks of some who sin against the Holy Ghost, and shall never be forgiven; and the apostle John mentions a sin unto death, which they who have committed should not be prayed for; yet St. Paul extricates us out of this difficulty, by informing us, " that it is im"possible to renew them to repentance;" which forms indeed an awful warning, to those who harden their hearts against conviction, and in impenitency, but affords no exception to our doctrine, and need give no discouragement to the penitent soul.
And now, sinners, you see the necessity of re
pentance, the real nature of it, and the abundant encouragement you have to repent. I would hope that, from regard to your eternal welfare, you will set about it in good earnest; not only in preference to your vain amusements and dissipations, but even to your most important business and interests, which are of no consequence in comparison with this "one thing needful." Arise then, and be doing, and the Lord will both assist and prosper your endeavours.
THE PROPER SEASON FOR REPENTANCE.
Such persons as are but superficially acquainted with the credulity of man, and the artifice of Satan; as have taken but little notice of the workings of their own hearts, and made but little observation of what passes around them; may be apt to conclude this part of our subject needless : yet, I trust, it will be found to be of great importance, and essentially necessary, to discourse concerning the proper season of repentance.
The words of the Psalmist, quoted by the Apostle, comprise what I shall urge on this head: To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart." The present time alone is our's: yesterday is irrecoverably gone; to-morrow we may be in eternity! Were then all of you in the prime of youth, I would endeavour to enforce on all the necessity of early repentance.
To such then I first address myself. Consider, young sinner, that custom is second nature; thy innate depravity forges the chains which hold thee in bondage, but custom rivets them upon thee. This is not mere speculation; it is the language of inspiration. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may he, who is ACCUSTOMED to do evil, learn to do well."
Repentance may be considered, either as the work of divine grace in us, or as our own work by the assistance of divine grace. "Work out your