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in him," for their object; as God the Father, who is the great law-giver and governor of the universe. Repentance and conversion to God, imply a special and cordial acknowledgment of the justice of the law, and an approbation of the divine government. “ The law of the Lord is perfect,” says the true penitent, “converting the soul.” The truly penitent soul returns to God, with humility of heart, and godly sorrow; not so much from the hope of forgiveness and salvation, as from a sense of the justice and importance of the divine law, and the hatefulness of all transgression. Repentance implies self-loathing, and self abhorrence. “I abhor myself,
" and repent in dust and ashes.” It implies true submission, unconditional submission to God. 6 Not my will, but thine be done.” It implies a hearty approbation of his righteous judgments. « Seven times a day will I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments."
Thus it appears, that true repentance, and conversion to God are the first, and the immediate fruits of that change of heart, which is effected by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. All who are the happy subjects of renewing and sanctifying grace, find themselves and one another walking in a new course, pursuing new objects; renouncing in a good measure, the things of the world; seeking first the king, dom of God, and the righteousness thereof.
« Old things are passed away, and, behold! all things are become
EXPLANATORY AND PRACTICAL REMARKS.
1. Repentance and conversion to God, are evidently, the free and voluntary exercises of the human mind! In these exercises, the true penitent is not passive, but altogether active. On this ground it is, that sinners are exhorted and commanded, immediately to repent, and turn from all their transgressions. “God now commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.” A summary of all that God requires of sinners, is no less than this, « That
men should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." "Repent, and be converted," or
“ rather convert, as it is in the original language; “ that your sins may be blotted out."? Turn ye, turn yc," is the emphatical language of God to his rebellious people, 5 for why will ye die, o house of Israel!" It is hence evident, that repentance is a perfectly free and voluntary act of the sinner, performed in the full possession of moral liberty and free agency.
2. It is equally plain from scripture, however, that repentance and couversion are the gift of God; and are the effects of his own infinite power and grace. On the day of Pentecost, the distressed and convicted multitude, who were pricked in the heart, and who cried out “ Men and brethren, what shall we do ;” were directed to repent. This was their indispensable duty, and an important and necessary condition of their salvation. But the three thousand converts were evidently brought to repen. tance, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Ghost. That day was memorable, on account of the work of the Lord, and not on account of any thing effected by human agency. If so, then repentance and conversion are the gift of God.
This point is further established, by what is said concerning the success of the gospel at the house of Cornelius. When Peter had distinctly rehearsed this matter to the christian brethren at Jesusalem, they glorified God, saying, “ Then bath God also to the gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Repentance, it appears, is a heavenly gift, a rich grant from the Father of mercies.
In the prophecy of Jeremiah, we have a plain testimony of divine agency, in producing genuine repentance, and a saving conversion to God. 55 Turn thou ine, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed,” or spiritually taught, " ! smote upon my thigh ;" a token of contrition. Ezekiel also bears the same testimony. 6 A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, ar I will give you an Beart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and
cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good ; and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities, and for your abominations. Repentance is invariably, the free act of the humble and contrite heart; and yet it is invariably, the effect of divine influence on the heart. This matter is set in the clearest and most conspicuous light, in Paul's noted charge to Timothy. The doctrines of divine and human agency are, in a manner blended together in these words; “ In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure, will 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 bis will.” Thus evident it is from the scriptures, that although Gorl gives repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth, by his own infinite power; yet the subjects of it are never deprived of free agency, for a single moment; but, in an important sense, they do, by their active penitence, recover themselves from the slavery of sin and satan. This is agreeable to our own observation. We are sometimes witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners: and, at the same time, witnesses of the voluntary agency of the converts, in their penitence, and holy conversation.
3. We remark, that repentance does not imply a sorrow for sin, considered merely as an event of Providence, which will be overruled for the general good. On this ground, Joseph administered comfort, rather than rebuke to his wicked and cruel brethren. "Now therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before
to preserve life.” “ As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” You acted a criminal part; but the event brought about by your conduct, was as important as the existence of the church. The same may be said respecting ali the sin in the universe. In itself considered, it is an awful and inexcusable evil; but as an event, which is necessary for the richest display of the glory of
God, in the great work of redemption; and for the greatest final good and happiness of the intelligent system; it is not to be considered as a subject of regret. l'hus it appears, that evangelical repentance, or godly sorrow for sin, does not imply a sorrow that God has suffered sin to take place in the universe. Such a sorrow as this, would be reproachful to the ever blessed God.
4. Scarcely any other christian virtue is so visible in its fruits, as genuine repentance. Hence we see the pertinency of the exhortation, “Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance." It produces so great a change of views, of sentiments, of conduct and conversation, that the fruits must be visible to every candid ob
Instead of self-justification, which is so congenial to the natural heart, the language of the true penitent is, “ Behold, I am vile !" I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” The truly penitent distinguish themselves from the world, by refraining from all vain company, all filthy conversation, all lying and slander, all profanity, rioting and lewdness; all railing and strife ; all oppression, injustice and knavery. By the truly penitent, the sabbath is “ called a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable. It is reinembered and sanctified. The worship of God, social and secret, family worship in particular, is constantly, and delightfully observed. The ordinances of Christ are devoutly celebrated. The true penitent is also humble, solemn, circumspect ; always ready to confess his faults, always disposed to esteem others better than himself, more worthy of honor --and he 66 seeks not the honor that cometh from men, but that which cometh from God only.” He is sober, chaste, temperate in all things. By these precious fruits of repentance, the subjects of this grace are easily distinguished from the impenitent and the ungodly.“ By their fruits ye shall know them."
5. In the discussion of the doctrine of repentance, we see how widely different it is from that compunction, and horror of conscience, which drove Judas Iscariot, and which has driven thousands of wretched mortals to despair and suicide. We see how widely it differs from the
sorrow of the world, that worketh death... 'True repentance and conversion, beget no gloominess and horror of mind, no painful sensations, except such as are conducive to godliness. It is a chosen and pleasing exercise of the renewed heart. The valley of humiliation is a pleasant valley. Conscious of a broken and contrite heart, the true penitent draws sensibly near to God, and offers such sacrifices, as he will not despise. In his own view, he sinks to nothing; that God may be all in all, His chief object, for time and eternity, is to glorify God, and to see his glory. He accounts it a privilege to be humble, and to abhor his selfish heart; and he cherishes these views and exercises, as the only preparation for the inheritance of the glories of the heavenly state.
The Christian Faith.
Having discussed the doctrine of repentance, it is in systematic order, to attend, in the next place, to the doctrine of the christian faith. For these two ingredients constitute all the essentials of the christian character.
The primary and literal meaning of the word, faith, is believing. To believe what a man testifies, is to have faith in bis testimony. To believe in what God testifies, is to have faith in God. Faith has respect to things which cannot be absolutely known ; but which depend for their proof on certain testimony. Where absolute knowledge ends, there faith begins. And faith in divine testimony is a proper and necessary substitute for knowledge. In matters which exceed the knowledge and comprehension of men, we have to confide in God, who gives ample testiinony and proof of whatever he declares. But this is not all that belongs to the definition of the christian faith. For all that is implied in this belief of the divine testi