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his Holy Spirit, to purify this sink of pollution, and to sanctify these depraved affections of my soul ! “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me !” Let this separating wall between God and my soul be broken down ! Let me be partaker of the divine nature, and be brought near to God, whatever else be denied me! 6. Oh that my ways were directed, that I might keep thy statutes ! Oh let me not wander from thy commandments! Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may keep thy word.” -Such as these are the aspirations of a sincere repentance.
A language which flows from a true love to God and his law, and an earnest desire of conformity to both.
will inquire, perhaps, is there no difference between repentance and love to God? Are not these different graces of the Spirit; and have they not their different exercises and operations ? I answer, Yes: they are truly different and distinct; but they always have a joint exercise in a truly gracious soul. As faith is truly distinct from repentance, and yet every child of God is a penitent believer, so is love likewise distinct from repentance, and yet neither of these graces can exist without the other. We cannot truly love God, unless our sins are made hateful to us in repentance.
We cannot sincerely turn to God, until we value his favour, and take pleasure in a conformity to his will. As these graces, therefore, are joint productions of the blessed Spirit in our regeveration, so are they joint companions in the exercise of the divine love. From this reflection, you may see the reason why some of the same things necessarily occur in this discourse of repent
ance, which you met with in my last letter, when treating upon the difference of a true and false faith.
By these hints, you may plainly see the very great difference between a legal and an evangelical penitent. The one looks upon God with dread, terror, and aversion of soul: the other mourns his distance from him, and longs to be more transformed into his image and likeness. The one still loves his sins in his heart, though he mourns that there is a law to punish them: the other hates all his sins without reserve, and groans under the burden of them, because they are contrary to God and his holy law. The obedience of the one is by mere constraint: the imperfections of the other are matter of continual grief; and he is constantly longing and striving after greater degrees of grace and holiness. The one can find no inward and abiding complacency in the service of God: the other runs the
of his commandments with delight, and takes more pleasure in obedience than in any thing else.
4. A legal repentance ordinarily flows from discouragement and despondency; but an evangelical repentance from encouraging hope. I have already considered how a legal repentance is excited and maintained, by terrors of conscience, and fearful apprehensions of the wrath of God. Some, indeed, by their external reformations, pacify their consciences, get settled upon their lees, and cry peace to their souls, and so their repentance and discouragements both come to an end. But whilst their concern continues, their desponding fears are the
Their sins, both for number and na
very life of it.
ture, appear dreadful to their affrighted consciences, as they frequently violate their purposes and promises of new obedience. They are therefore afraid that God will never pardon and accept such rebels as they have been; and though they dare not neglect duty, they come with horror into the presence of God, as to an inexorable judge; and have nothing to keep their souls from sinking into despair, but their good designs and endeavours, which yet are too defective to give them comfortable hope. And what is all this, but a most ungrateful undervaluing the blood of Christ, limiting the goodness and mercy of God, and an implieit denying the truth of the whole Gospel of God our Saviour? Thus they are flying from the mercy of God, while they pretend to fly to it. But I need not enlarge upon this bead, it being so near of kin to what was observed under the last.
I proceed, therefore, to show, on the other hand, that though the true Gospel-penitent may have a deeper impression of the greatness and atrocious nature of his sin and guilt, than even the awakened terrified legalist himself, yet he dares not yield to any despairing thoughts of God's merey. Faith opens the door of hope, and therefore the door of repentance, as I have observed before.
True it is, that the Gospel-penitent may meet with many discouraging doubts and fears; but these are his infirmity, not his repentance. The Apostle tells us,
we are saved by hope.” That is what gives life and activity to every grace; and to repentance in particular, as I have had occasion to hint before. And it is yet needful to observe further, that though
a fear and jealousy of our own sincerity may be consistent with a true repentance, and perhaps sometimes serves to further its progress; yet all doubts of the faithfulness of the Gospel-promises, of the extensiveness of the divine mercy, or of our exemption from the Gospel-offer: all apprehensions of our not being elected, of our having sinned away the day of grace, or of our having sinned against the Holy Ghost : all imaginations that our sins are so circumstanced, as not to admit of pardoning mercy or the likethese are directly destructive of, or inconsistent with, the actings of a true repentance. A sincere penitent looks over the highest mountains, which are raised before him, by the greatness of his sins, his own misgiving heart, or the temptations of Satan, into an ocean of infinite goodness and mercy.
Thither he will fly, and there he will hope, let his case appear ever so dark, and though every thing seems to make against him.
And the more lively and comfortable his hope is, the more he is humbled and abased for his sins, and the more vigorous are his endeavours after a life of new obedience. As repentance is a hatred of, and separation from, all sin without reserve, it must certainly be a flight from, and an abhorrence of, unbelief and despair, the greatest of all sins. And the further the soul flies from these, the more is it conformed to the Gospel of Christ, and the more is it in the way of mercy. It is not, therefore, sufficient for the sincere penitent to be sensible that God is infinitely gracious, and that the blood of Christ is infinitely meritorious, and that there is forgiveness with God for the greatest sinners, if he still maintains some reserve in his mind, with respect to
his own case. But he must be likewise persuaded, that he either already hath, or that he may obtain, a personal interest in this redeeming pardoning mercy, in order to his approaching to God as a Father ; and in order to his being in love with the ways of God, and to his serving him with a cheerfulness and delight. This is not only necessary, in order to the first exercise of a true repentance; but the sincere Christian will always find, that, by whatever darkness, difficulty, or temptation, he is brought into a really discouraged, desponding frame, he is thereby rendered so much the more incapable of godly sorrow for sin, of delighting in God, or of a spiritual performance of any duty of religion. We may be jealous and distrustful of ourselves; but we must not despond and be jealous of God, if we would maintain the exercise of any saving grace.
• I confess,' says the truly penitent soul, that my sins are like the stars in the firmament, and like the sand on the sea-shore for multitude; that they are of a scarlet and crimson dye; and that it is of the infinite patience of God that such a guilty wretch is out of hell: but yet as great, as dreadfully aggravated as my sins be, the merit of a Redeemer's blood is sufficient to atone for them all, and infinite mercy is still greater than my greatest sins. Though my iniquities have abounded, God has encouraged me to hope, that his grace shall abound much more to the returning sinner.
It must be astonishing mercy indeed, if I am saved; but such mercy is offered in the gospel; and blessed be God I am not excluded from that gracious offer. Though I have naturally no power to comply with the terms upon which par