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we receive the testimonials of our Saviour's dying love, without a cordial faith in him, and an entire reliance upon his merits alone, for acceptance with God ?–These are questions which conscience alone can answer. If its testimony be against us, it behoves us to “remember from whence we are fallen, and to repent; to turn unto the Lord with all the heart, with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning ; and to supplicate the aids of his grace, that we may be delivered from the condemnation of such as profane his holy ordinances.
If, on the other hand, the testimony of our conscience is, that “in simplicity and godly sincerity ; with some humble hope of having been renewed in the temper of our minds; with some spiritual understanding of what is signified by the symbols of the Lord's Supper, we desire to approach its affecting solemnities as an expression of attachment to their Author, and of entire reliance on his merits ; then let us feel encouragement and consolation. We may have occasional doubts and fears : our views of the doctrines of religion may be imperfect : we may discover remains of sin in our hearts; but these alone are not obstacles in the way of a worthy participation of the Lord's Supper. They prove, indeed, our lukewarmness and our guilt ; they call for sincere and hearty repentance ; they should teach us to be humble before God. But if thus penitent and humble, we need not hesitate to celebrate the dying love of Him who is the
Friend of the lowly and the contrite, and of whom it is said, for our comfort and encouragement, that
a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory."'.
MATTHEW iii. 8.
Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were sects of eminent distinction among the Jews. They occupied the highest civil and religious offices, and were venerated by the common people for the supposed sanctity of their lives. By a strict observance of all the outward forms and ceremonies of religion ; by a zealous defence of some idle traditions ; by a perpetual warfare about speculative and erroneous doctrines, they would fain appear to be of all men the most holy. But very many of them, we have reason to think, were mere hypocrites. Nor will this judgment appear to be rash or uncharitable, if we only call to mind the severe rebukes which they so often received from our Saviour. He saw through their false disguises, and charged them, notwithstanding their ostentatious display of the most exalted virtue, with being full of all manner of wickedness. The Forerunner of Christ, too, treated them with no more lenity. When he came preaching in the wilderness
of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, there went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, “ O generation of vipers ! who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance." As if he had said, “ So vile and corrupt do I know most of your sects to be ; so inflated with pride and self-righteousness ; so dependant upon your own superior holiness for acceptance with God, that I am filled with astonishment to see you come to my baptism. For I preach the doctrine of repentance, and they who become my disciples are not backward to confess their sins with the deepest sorrow and contrition of heart. What voice has roused you from the sluinber of death, and filled you with anxiety to escape the just vengeance of God ? But if your penitence is indeed sincere, let it be marked as such by its inseparable attendant, a thorough and permanent reformation.” “Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance.'
Our text, my brethren, thus explained, enforces upon our most serious attention this important truth, that no repentance can be genuine without a radical reformation of heart and life.
In endeavouring to unfold the meaning of this doctrine, let us consider, first, the reasons on which
it is founded; and, secondly, the nature of that
; reformation which it inculcates.
I. We are to consider the reasons on which the doctrine is founded, that no repentance can be genuine, without a radical reformation of heart and life. These reasons will be very evident, if we attend but a little to those causes which, under the influence of the Spirit of God, produce repentance in the heart of the sinner.
1. Repentance is in part founded on a deep conviction of the justice of the law of God, and of the awful nature of its penalty. It was said by the venerable Dr. Watts, than whom scarcely any servant of Christ has been favoured with a more deep insight into the Christian character, that, with the exception of one or two instances, all the cases of genuine repentance which had happened within the sphere of his ministry were to be traced to the fear of future punishment. And, without doubt, , this is more generally the fact than is apt to be imagined. The Gospel is a system of motives adapted to our hopes and our fears : and“ what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Our Supreme Lawgiver has seen fit to disclose to us the tremendous penalty of his violated law; and he urges us by all the horrors of its awful execution to flee from the wrath to come. The terrors of the Lord persuade men. The sinner is alarmed at his danger. He sees that the law which he has broken is holy, and just, and good. He trembles with fearful despon