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two expressions, used by the apostles on similar "God hath granted to the Gentiles re"pentance unto life:" "God hath opened the "door of faith unto the Gentiles." Much instruction may be derived from comparing them together. When "God grants repentance unto life," he 66 opens the door of faith." When" he opens the "door of faith," he " grants repentance unto life.” "Repent ye and believe the gospel." Certainly one way of salvation was spoken of in both places, and not two different ways.
I design at present
I. To shew that repentance is a principal part of the Lord's plan of mercy and grace to sinners in the gospel. And,
II. To inquire into the nature and effects of repentance unto life.
I. Repentance is a principal part of the Lord's plan of mercy and grace to sinners in the gospel.
I express myself thus, because many suppose that repentance does not properly belong to the gospel ; and that, when we insist on repentance, and "works meet for repentance," we do not preach evangelically for they seem to think that salvation by grace is salvation for sinners continuing impenitent; and they charge us with returning to the law and bringing them into bondage, when we maintain the contrary. But indeed, if we distinguish, as no doubt we ought, between the law and the gospel, repentance has nothing to do with the law, except as a man repents that he has broken it. The law says, "Do this and live:""the soul that "sinneth, it shall die." "Cursed is every one "that continueth not in all things written in the
"book of the law, to do them." It does not so much as command repentance, by any immediate injunction. It condemns the transgressor, and leaves him under condemnation.
Would it not be thought a strange thing in an act of parliament, if, after death had been decreed as the punishment of the crime specified, a clause should be added commanding the criminal to repent, and promising pardon to the penitent? The king indeed may extend mercy to the transgressor, if he judge it expedient. But this is grace, and not law, which does not require repentance: indeed pardons always tend to weaken the authority of the law.
When God delivered the ten commandments from mount Sinai, the people "could not endure "the things which were spoken;" but no mention was made of repentance. It was from mount Zion and mount Calvary, that the command to repent was given to mankind. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ:" and the mercy, revealed through his redemption and mediation, has made way for "repentance and remission of sins to be
preached in his name unto all nations, beginning "at Jerusalem." Every motive or encouragement to repentance is taken from the gospel; by the grace of which alone is any sinner enabled truly to repent. In every view, and in all respects, repentance belongs entirely to the gospel, and forms an essential part of its glorious and gracious plan.
For what is that plan, my brethren? Is it not the design of God to bring sinners into a state of reconciliation and friendship with himself, by a
method calculated to display the glory of his own name, and the dreadful nature and effects of sin: and thus to teach them to love him, and glorify him, and find their felicity in his favour? And, if this be the plan of the gospel, can its ends be answered unless the sinner is brought to repentance?
Look through the whole New Testament. Consider how the gospel was first introduced, and afterwards propagated. John, the forerunner of Christ, came preaching, " Repent ye, for the king"dom of heaven is at hand." "Bring forth there-"fore fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our 66 Father. For now is the axe laid to the root of "the trees; every tree therefore that bringeth not "forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the "fire."
Our Lord himself has told us expressly what he came for; "I came not to call the righteous, but "sinners to repentance :" and his decision surely ought to be final. He has declared that there is "joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." He multiplied parables to illustrate the nature of repentance, to encourage the penitent, and to warn and rebuke the impenitent. And he sent his apostles to "preach repen"tance and remission of sins in his name to all "nations." Accordingly they preached repentance wherever they went. Hear St. Peter: "Repent "and be converted, that your sins may be blotted "out." Hear St. Paul, at Athens: "The times "of this ignorance God winked at; but now com"mandeth he all men every where to repent." And before Agrippa; "I was not disobedient to
"the heavenly vision; but shewed first unto them "at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout "the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, "that they should repent, and turn to God, and "do works meet for repentance :" And before the Ephesian elders: "Testifying both to Jews "and Greeks repentance towards God, and faith "towards our Lord Jesus Christ."
Did the apostle speak of a sin that is never pardoned? he added, "It is impossible to renew to "repentance" those who have committed it. He exhorts Timothy "in meekness to instruct those "that oppose themselves, if peradventure God "would 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."
Without repentance, therefore, it is as plain and clear, as the testimony of Christ and his apostles can make it, that there is no salvation. "Except
ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." Without repentance, faith is dead, hope is mere presumption, and religious affections are delusive, transient, and inefficacious.
But let it also be remarked that, wherever true repentance is found, there is life eternal: "Then "hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance "unto life." He has so arranged the plan of the gospel that repentance is inseparably connected with forgiveness, righteousness and complete salvation. 66 Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto "salvation, not to be repented of." "When the "wicked man turneth away from his wickedness,
"and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall "save his soul alive." "Repent and turn from "all your transgressions; and so iniquity shall "not be your ruin." "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and "let him return unto the Lord, and he will have 66 mercy on him, and to our God for he will abun"dantly pardon." These passages, and many others, are so expressed, and marked with such precision, that if there be any meaning in words true repentance is inseparable from eternal salvation.
Some however object, that this does not consist with the doctrine of salvation by grace, and justification by faith alone. But I would ask, Whether the apostles did not use this language, as well as preach that doctrine? And, as none can disprove, and few will deny, that they did both, I inquire whether they were inconsistent with themselves, and with each other?
That salvation is by grace, and justification by faith alone, is certainly the doctrine both of the scriptures and of our church: but if faith be "alone," it is "dead." If alms are offered to a beggar, his hand alone receives the alms: but a dead hand could not receive them.
None, who understand Christianity, doubt but that repentance, hope, fear, and love, exist in every true believer; yet faith alone justifies him before God: because the righteousness and atonement of Christ are the sole ground of our justification; and faith alone receives Christ, that we may "be made the righteousness of God in him." But this