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veriest profligate can be, with this most offensive addition to their guilt, that they justify themselves and make void and of none effect the wise and merciful appointments of God to save them.
Of the third class there is not one entitled to the name of religious who does not take to him and herself in the true and genuine sense, the appellation of sinner, and who feels not both the duty and the privilege of that repentance to which they are called.
To all, then, the appellation of sinners, made use of in the text, is found to apply; while there is, nevertheless, a sense in which it is more specially to be understood, and in that sense, whoever is not righteous in the Scriptural sense of the word, is a sinner who is called to repentance, who is exhorted to avail himself of this privilege, and thereby secure the salvation of his soul. For there are but two classes of persons in the world, the righteous and the wicked; in the sight of God there is no middle or neutral ground between these two. There are, indeed, degrees in sin, and consequently in guilt ; but sin in any degree unrepented of is fatal, for the Scripture saith, whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Hence the danger of allowing ourselves in what are called little sins, of thinking lightly of and neglecting the ordinances of religion, of comforting ourselves that we are not as great sinners as some others are. For, take notice, my hearers, we may be as notorious and open sinners in the sight of God as the most vicious profligates are in our sight; so that if a man perform ever so many duties, if there be any wbich he doth not perform, or if he avoid ever so many sins, and yet there be any he doth not avoid, he is still a sinner, who, without repentance, must perish for ever.
I come now, in the
The original and direct meaning of the word is an after thought, a reaction of the mind, and may accordingly apply to any change of mind whatever, but in the case before us is to be considered exclusively as respects things moral and spiritual.
In this connexion, then, it will mean such an after thought as produces a change of mind or disposition on the serious suba jects of God and religion. This after thought, the result of reflection and consideration impressed on the mind by the Spirit of God, produces such a conviction in the heart of the guilt and danger of sin, as conmitted against the holiness and the command of God, as to fill the sinner with fear and dismay at the consequences, and with desire to be delivered from its power and from its condemnation. Hence arises that godly sorrow mentioned in the Scriptures, which worketh repentance unto life, and is opposed in the same Scriptures to the sorrow of the world—the mere regret for the consequences of sin, whether present or future, which worketh death. For sincere and genuine sorrow for sin as an offence against God is always accompanied with a change of conduct, or, as it is expressed in Scripture, brings forth fruits meet for or answerable to true repentance, whereas, mere sorrow for the consequences of sin as it has in it no element of godliness—of either the fear or the love of God-produces no such fruits; the love of sin remains, and wants but a suitable opportunity to be again indulged in.
Thus we see that true repentance does not consist singly in a change of mind or alteration of conduct, but in the union of both, springing from a religious motive. The true penitent does not only hate sin, but fears it and flees from it. He does not forsake some, say the grosser and more open sins of his life, but all and every sin. . He does not content himself with the outward restraint of sin, but labours and strives for the destruction of its power in his heart. He does not only cease to do evil, but he learns to do well-becomes earnest, active, and diligent in the use and application of those means of grace which are appointed in the word of God, which he once neglected, perhaps despised. Behold he prayeth, is the mark by which the angels of God discern the penitent; and the penitent who prays through the mediation of Jesus Christ learns, sooner or later, that the prayer of faith is mighty to obtain the blessing of that God who is ever ready to receive humble and penitent sinners for his dear Son's sake ; like the poor prodigal mentioned in the gospel, he comes to himself, he recovers his senses, he remembers his father's house-I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and
before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. He is seen entering the house of God, engaging in the worship of God, walking with the people of God; and the joy felt in heaven over the sinner that repenteth, spreads its gladsome feeling over the Church on earth ; every child of God rejoices to see another wanderer brought back to the fold of Christ-another immortal soul snatched as a brand from the burning.
Such, my brethren and hearers, is the true Scripture notion of repentance. Not merely a change of conduct, but a revolution of sentiment, a renovation of heart in its whole progress, wrought by the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ, whereby the mind or disposition is wholly taken off from sin, turned round or converted to God, and set to obey his commandments. This is the repentance our Lord means in the text, that repentance to which he calls sinners by the gospel, that repentance without which there is no hope for them, without which they must perish for ever.
IV. Fourthly, I am to inquire what we are to understand by bis calling sinners to repentance.
As sin originally separated us from God, so, while persisted in, it precludes us from all possible return to his favour. It must, therefore, be repented of and forsaken. That this might be rendered both practicable and acceptable, the ever blessed Son of God undertook the redemption of fallen man, by expiating their sins in his own person, and thereby procuring for them easier conditions of salvation than the rigour of the law demanded or the holiness and justice of God permitted, without an adequate atonement.
To this end, he took our nature upon him, suffered death upon the cross, and having thereby made satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, he became the mediator of a new covenant, in which, by repentance towards God, and faith in the LORD Jesus CHRIST, sinners might be delivered from the curse and condemnation of the law, and restored to the hope and the attainment of eternal life. This is the foundation of the gospel, and the subject matter of those glad tidings of great joy, which angels proclaimed at his birth, and which through the mercy of God have reached even unto us. By our LORD's calling sinners to repentance, then, we are to understand his making known to them the terms and conditions of the covenant of grace, purchased by his blood, whereof repentance is the first ; together with the invitations, exhortations, promises, and threatenings of the gospel, whereby he requires, persuades, and commands them, in consideration of what he hath done and suffered for them, to forsake their sins, throw down the weapons of their rebellion, and follow bim in the bright example of his holiness, humility, faith, and patience; giving them full assurance, by his glorious resurrection from the dead, that he had fully accomplished the mighty work of redemption, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers—that as he hath redeemed them to God by his blood, so hath he also purchased grace, or renewal of spiritual power, lost by sin, to enable them to fulfil the conditions required of them. This is properly his calling them to repentance; and thus in every gospel land are sinners called, by the word and Spirit of God, to forsake the foolish, and live, to turn from the error of their ways, flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.
Thus have I laid before you, my hearers, the outline of this leading doctrine of the gospel of Christ; of the persons to whom it applies, and of the authority by which it is pressed upon your attention. Take heed, then, how ye hear, for he that despiseth, despiseth not man but God. As an ambassador of Christ I pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God; I testify to all present, that except they repent they shall perish.
Lastly, to apply what has been said.
It is not my province, generally speaking, my friends, to pronounce who are the righteous, and who the sinners; but from the word of God, to lay before men those marks by which they may try themselves and their ways, aud decide on their true condition in the sight of God.
By what you have this day heard, then, and by what your Bibles shall further teach you on this and every other subject connected with your eternal salvation, let me counsel you to examine whether you have repented or no. Many are the calls you have had, not only outwardly by the word, but inwardly by the strivings of God's Holy Spirit within you. To-day, then,
if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Every neglected call weakens your power and inclination to listen to the next, until you may be left to the hardness of an impenitent and blinded heart. Oh, did you but know your danger, could you but apprehend how much may depend on this little moment, a last warning, perhaps, before eternity lays hold of some poor sinner present, you would not cast it from you with the neglect so many exhibit. But whether you will hear or whether you
will forbear, I must deliver my own soul. Therefore I call upon them in the name of Christ, to repent of their sins, to flee to the mercy of God revealed through Jesus Christ for pardon and salvation, believing what Christ hath spoken, relying on what he hath promised, and observing whatsoever he hath commanded.
Assuring every sinner present, that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him, and that there is none other name or means under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved, only the name and grace of JESUS CHRIST of Nazareth. 0, ask yourselves now, what it will profit you in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, when the LORD JESUS shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel—what will it profit you, to have enjoyed all the pleasures of sin in this life, at the price of eternal misery in the next? Your most merciful Saviour now offers himself to you, in the words of peace and love ; but in that day he will appear as your inexorable Judge. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
And you, my brethren, who through faith in the LORD JESUS Christ are accounted righteous before God, think not that you are unconcerned in this great and universal duty. Sinless perfection is not the attainment of this life, and daily experience must teach you how far short you come even of that which you know, and desire, and strive to attain unto. And herein is continual occasion for watchfulness, for self-abasement, for penitential sorrow, that we receive so much and return so little to the giver of every good and perfect gift to his creatures. Let this sense, then, of the goodness of God deepen your repent