« PoprzedniaDalej »
dent must depend in every case on its sort, kind, or complexion; as whether it be godly or worldly, for example: which will depend again on its relations, as before signified, and chiefly on the object and occasion, as here implied. For the object of godly repentance is God and his favour,-the occasion, his favour lost, or ill requited; with every thought, word, and deed that has the smallest tendency to such an affliction: the object of worldly repentance is the world; and the occasion, the loss of its favour, with that which it favours, being all sorts of vanity. Such may be stated as the difference between godly and worldly repentance, or sorrow, as our translation has it: (Cor. II. vii. 10:) the different effects of which are also intimated by the apostle, and in the same passage; of the one as tending to salvation, of the other to death or perdition.
The effect of a just or godly repentance is such as was never suspected before the light of the Gospel made it apparent. For although the bountiful Creator never left himself without witness; "in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness:" (Acts xiv. 17:) yet before the dawn of Christian revelation men knew not half his goodness, not knowing the grace and efficacy of repentance. They may have felt and lamented the inroads that sin was continually making in some of the fairest provinces of the heavenly Kingdom; as faith, hope, and charity, equity and humility, with others contiguous,-but knew not how to restrain its incursion, or repair its devastation, in these beautiful parts: they saw numbers dying all around them from the effect of worldly sorrow, or of repentance toward the world, without knowing what to look up to like the serpent in the wilderness, (John iii. 14,) or where to look for a remedy; until the "Prophet of the Highest" came before the face of the Lord, "to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited usand he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins:" (Luke i. 76, 77; and iii. 3:) which are three parts of one act or performance in the relation of beginning, medium, and effect.
For baptism is the shadow of repentance, and repentance, a medium to the remission of sins; what the first describes only being effected by the second: which is, a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: such new birth being equivalent to a remission of sins, and dismission likewise. Without repentance baptism is not its shadow, or only a shadow of the same to come; and which not coming, there is no remission of sins: without repentance we are still dead IN sin; with repentance we are dead To sin; our thoughts and affections being preoccupied with that which we are alive to, that is, to righteousness. And therefore the house of Israel is earnestly exhorted to anticipate the evil hour by timely repentance. "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions: (saith the Lord God) so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek. xviii. 30, 31.) Perhaps I should not exaggerate, if I said that this sort of repentance was more than a mean to forgiveness, that it was in fact a part of that process, and the beginning of a new life or creature. We may imagine somewhat of the agreeable effect of such a restoration, by comparing it with the recovery of a maniac from some torturing delusion, when the empire of reason has been restored within him by some kind providence. While, on the other hand, the rareness of such a recovery may warn us at the same time against every shade of guilt and indiscretion, the least of which is an approach, or one step in the way, toward a moral insanity or reprobation and our Saviour's pregnant admonition to the unbelieving
Jews on this head before he entirely withdrew from them is, like his other sayings, well worth remembering by all. "Yet a little while is the light with you: (we may suppose the light of reason and religion :) walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not WHITHER HE GOETH. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." (John xii. 35, 36.) So spake their merciful Saviour to them, but in vain; for they were gone too far in unbelief ever to repent for life.
Consider this, my brethren, I beseech you: and “O consider this ye that forget God," (Ps. 1. 22,) what a horrid condition it must be for any one dying in sin, or without repentance, to wake up hereafter with renewed, if not redoubled, sensibility, and the weight of all his sins pressing upon him at once like the bitter reflections of a drunkard on recovering from his lethargy! Then a man would have reason indeed, to fly from repentance, if it were possible: but at present we should rather welcome. the scourge which we know we deserve; we should fly to it as we hope to be forgiven, and hail its coming as a sign of grace, flying rather from its occasion.
For as I said that the quality of our repentance is regulated by its occasion and object, so we may perceive that its effect or return will likewise bear some proportion hereafter to the Reception it now finds. And therefore it should now be taken in good part: or if we are afraid, as well we may be, of its too violent effect on our tender constitution, "crushing under foot the prisoners of the earth," (Lam. iii. 34,) we should learn to live accordingly. LET US ENDEAVOUR TO ESCAPE SINNING BY CHARITY, AND JUDGMENT BY REPENTANCE. Let us not be like the ungracious wretch, who, according to St. Paul, equally despised his neighbour and his judge. "And thinkest thou, O man, (said he,) that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and
forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom. ii. 3, 4.) But when by God's grace we are inclined to repent, let us favour the gracious impulse with our best exertions. For grace is offered to all, and efficacious for all who accept it; but not irresistible, nor yet efficacious for those who reject it. Cutting off the occasion is a likely way for one, to render the painful task of repentance more tolerable: for which charity has just been mentioned as one medium, and prudence is another. If we cannot bear any trifling reverses or disappointments without impatience and ill humour to those around us, we should take care how we throw ourselves in the way of them and if the hurry of business be too much for our inflammable temper, let us keep away from it as far as we can; or else endeavour not to be so anxious and worldly minded, which is not a temper for Christians.
But pride, without which none of these matters could furnish so much occasion for repentance,-let that be studiously repressed. If the proud man could only know what a torment he carries about with him, he would be almost afraid of himself: for there is nothing so bad or so troublesome, that might not be expected from pride. This fruitful occasion of repentance must be put off, if ever a man would hope to have no more of the passion than he can bear, with every sort of iniquity, which is so chilling to charity. (Mat. xxiv. 12.)
And besides what is to be put off, there is also a great deal to be put on it might be said, the whole armour of righteousness." (Eph. vi. 11.) But a man might feel himself comparatively safe in the corslet of charity. "For charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (Pet. I. iv. 8.) And under this you may "be clothed with humility." (Ib. v. 5.) The Christian's defence is called likewise " an armour of light,” (Rom. xiii. 12,) from its transmission by the light of the Gospel, as before intimated, and is an armour of proof by the Spirit of Christ: which you are re
quired to put on in time, or "that, knowing the time, (as the Apostle says.) that now it is high time to awake out of sleep. For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." (Ib. 11.)
"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast."
Prov. xii. 10.
WHEN one considers the great extent of duty through the number and variety of objects to which it applies; some higher than one's self, some lower, but most among equals, one is truly amazed at the part before one: as it would seem almost impossible to be righteous in an absolute sense, or as our Saviour expresses it, "to fulfil all righteousness." (Mat. iii. 15.) And well may it be said "there is none righteous: no, not one," (Rom. iii. 10,) if righteousness must take within its scope a class of objects so foreign and diffused as that named in my text,—if it be not sufficient to do as much as can be required of us in relation both to God and man, but the very beast, which is our own property, and we think we may do as we like with, must also come in for a share of our attention, and have demands to be satisfied in order to make good our title to the dignity and reward of righteousness. "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," says my text. And cannot a man be righteous without that regard? Suppose he should choose to starve his beast, to work him to death, or to worry him out of his life, may not he be righteous in other and much higher respects? Or may not a man be righteous in this lower respect, and not in any higher, like a brute-fancier for example, who "killeth an ox, as if he slew a man," (Isai. lxvi. 3,) and would not have a dog of his hurt, to save a