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is not the fear of God's wrath, nor the greatest external reformation of life; it is not the most diligent external attendance upon all known duty, nor the most quieting persuasion of having made our peace with God; nor all these together, that will denominate a man sincerely penitent. For all these may be, and have been, attained to by mere hypocrites, and often are found with the false as well as the true professor.
Having, by way of precaution, given you these remarks, I now proceed directly to consider the important case before us. And,
1. A legal repentance flows only from a sense of danger, and fear of wrath; but an evangelical repentance is a true mourning for sin, and an earnest desire of deliverance from it. When the conscience of a singer is alarmed with a sense of his dreadful guilt, it must necessarily remonstrate against those impieties which threaten him with destruction and ruin. Thence those frights and terrors which we 80 commonly see in awakened sinners. Their sins (especially some grosser enormities of their lives) stare them in the face, with their peculiar aggravations. Conscience draws up the indictment, and sets home the charge against them. The law passes the sentence, and condemns them without mercy. And what have they now in prospect, but a fearful lookingfor of fiery indignation to consume them! Now with what distress will they cry out, of the greatness and aggravations of their sins !
With what amazement will they expect the dreadful issue of a sinful course! How ready are they now to take up resolutions of a more watchful and holy life! Now they are brought
upon their knees before God, to acknowledge their sins, and to cry for mercy; and now conscience, like a flaming sword, keeps them from their former course of impiety and sensual gratifications. And what is all this repentance, but mere terror and fear of hell? Let but conscience be pacified, and their fear blown over, and the dog will quickly return to his vomit again, till some new alarm revive the conviction of their sin and danger, and their former process of repentance. Thus some will sin and repent, and repent and sin, all their lives, and yet lie open to eternal repentance after all. Or, if the distress of conscience make so deep an impression, and fix such an abiding awe of particular sins upon the mind, that there remains a visible and continuing reformation; yet their lusts are but dammed up by their fears; and were but the dam broken down, they would run again in their former channel with renewed force. It is true, the law sometimes proves a school-master, to drive sinners to Christ; and conviction of sin, and a legal repentance, is a necessary preparative to a saving conversion : but this alone gives no claim to the promise of the Gospel. The house may be thus empty, swept, and garnished, but for the reception of seven worse spirits than were driven out of it; and a sinner may thus “ escape the pollutions of the world," and yet have “his latter end worse than his beginning.”
If, on the other hand, we consider the character of a sincere Gospel repentance, though such legal terrors may lead to its exercise, they do not belong to its nature, nor are they any part of its description. Sin itself becomes the greatest burden and aversion
to a truly penitent soul. “I hate," says the Psalmist,
every false way.” 66 O wretched man that I am,” says the Apostle, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”
Thus the penitent groans, being burdened; not from fear of hell, such fear being no part of a true repentance, though it may sometimes accompany a sincere and godly sorrow for sin. But this sorrow arises from an affecting, humbling, mourning sense of sin; from a view of the sin of nature, with the hardness of the heart, and universal depravity of the affections which flow from it; and from a view of the numerous sins of practice, with their special aggravations. This is the grief, this the distress, of a repenting sinner.
It is necessary, from the nature of a true repentance, that it must have respect both to the sin of nature and practice; though both of these are not at all times actually in the mind, and particularly thought of, and mourned for, by the repenting sinner. The language of a true repentance is such as that—“I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as a heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me.
Deliver me from all my transgressions. Let not my sins have dominion over me.
Innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of mine head; therefore my heart faileth me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me.”—As the true penitent longs for more and more victory over his corruptions, so is he most watchful, prayerful, and in earnest, to mortify his lusts, and to cut off all
supplies of sin. He mourns for all, he hates all his lusts; and is willing to spare none, no not so much as a right hand or a right eye. As there is nothing so grievous to him as sin, so there is nothing he so earnestly desires and pursues, as a nearer approach to that blessed state, where “nothing can enter which defileth or worketh abomination."
Here you see an apparent difference between being struck with fear, restrained by terror, and driven from a course of sinning by the lashes of an awakened conscience : between this, I say, and loathing ourselves in pur own sight, for all our iniquities and abominations, with a groaning after grace and strength to conquer and mortify our corruptions, and be free from the empire of sin. That is merely the fruit of self-love, which prompts the soul to fly from danger. This is the exercise of a vital principle, which separates the soul from sin, and engages the whole man in a continued opposition against it.
2. A legal repentance flows from unbelief, but an evangelical repentance is always the fruit and consequence of a saving faith.
I have shown you already, that a legal repentance is effected by fearful apprehensions of hell and damnation. And whence is this amazing and distracting fear and terror ? Has not the Gospel provided a glorious relief for such distresses, and opened a blessed door of hope for the greatest sinners ? Is not pardon and salvation freely offered to all that will accept a blessed Saviour and his saving benefits ? Is not the blood of Christ sufficient to cleanse from all sins, however circumstanced, and however aggravated they may
be? Why then do not they cheerfully fly for refuge to this hope set before them? Alas, they can see no safety in it! The law of God challenges their obedience, and condemns their disobedience. Conscience joins in, both with the precept and sentence of the law; and thence their only refuge is resolutions, reformations, duties, penance, or some such self-righteous methods, to pacify God's justice, to quiet their consciences, and to lay a foundation of future hope. The defect of their endeavours and attainments creates new terrors ; their terrors excite new endeavours : and thus they go on without
attaining the law of righteousness; because they seek it not of faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law.” They may, it is true, have some respect to Christ, in this their legal progress. They may hope that God will accept them for Christ's sake. They may use his name in their prayers for pardon, while they dare not depend upon the merits of his blood for the remission of their sins, and a freedom from condemnation. And what is all this, but a secret hope that the redemption of Christ will add such merit to their frights and fears, reformations and duties, as to make them effectual to atone for their sins, and purchase the favour of God? that all their penitential shows and appearances are nothing but the workings of unbelief.
Let us now take a view of an evangelical repentance, and we shall find the characters of it directly repugnant to what has been considered.
This must always be the consequence of a saving faith, and can never go before it. The sinner must have a realizing apprehension of the purity and holiness of