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is convinced of sin. He sees that it is the greatest evil in the universe-not only as it is the cause of his sufferings, and has exposed him to the miseries of hell-but because it is the pollution of his soul, and the degradation of his nature, and has rendered him vile and abominable in the eyes of God. Hence he feels shame, self-loathing, abhorrence, grief, and contrition-especially when he apprehends the goodness of God, which has spared him under all his offences, provided for him a ransom, and through a suffering Saviour is willing to receive him graciously. This dissolves the heart, and makes him sorrow after a godly sort. For the tear of evangelical penitence drops from the eye of faith: and faith, while it weeps, stands under the cross. "And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born."
The pressure of these varicus feelings constitutes what we mean by having the heart broken for sin. But the man has now, new dispositions and resolutions; and hence, a new course of life. He is delivered from the love of sin-the love of all sin, however dear before. He is freed from the dominion of sin-so that it no longer reigns in his mortal body, that he should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yields he his members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yields himself unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and his members as instruments of righteousness unto God." He avoids also the
occasions of sin, and abstains from all appearance of evil. And this is what we mean by having the heart broken from sin.
And what is forgiveness? It is simply the removal of all obligation to punishment. It does not render a man innocent of the crimes which he has committed: for a man can never appear otherwise to God than he really is; and it will be everlastingly true, that Job cursed the day of his birth, and Peter denied his master. But sin contracts guilt, and guilt binds over to punishment: now forgiveness cancels this obligation, and restores the offender to safety. And, frequently at least, among men, forgiveness extends no farther. But it does with God. He takes pleasure in those whom he pardons, as if they had never sinned, and indulges them with the most intimate friendship.
When two individuals have been at variance, the hardest to believe in reconciliation is the offender. The blame is his; and judging under a consciousness of his desert, he can hardly be persuaded that the party he has injured does not feel like himself. History informs us, that when a man had offended Augustus, the emperor, to show his greatness of mind, declared that he pardoned him. But the poor creature, who expected only destruction, astonished beyond measure, and fearing the declaration was too good to be true, in all the simplicity of nature instantly desired his majesty to give him some present as a proof that he had really forgiven him. Thus anxious is the awakened sinner. Such a free and full forgiveness after all his heinous provocations, seems incredible: he therefore desires a token for good: and many pledges of the most perfect re
conciliation, the God of all grace affords in his dealings with his people. He hears their prayer; he is with them in every trouble; he delivers them and honours them; he makes all things to work together for their good; and engages to receive them to glory.
II. Let us glance at the union of these blessings: repentance and forgiveness of sins are mentioned together. Now let it be observed, that there is not a meritorious connexion between repentance and forgiveness-as if the one deserved the other-for they are both given, as you will presently hear-and how can one gift merit another?
But there is between them, first, a connexion of propriety. It would not accord with the wis dom of God, to deliver from hell a man, who would be miserable in heaven; to forgive one incapable of enjoying or serving him-yea, one who abhors him. Without repentance, we should never value the blessing of forgiveness, and therefore, we should neither be happy in, or thankful for, the possession, of it. If a servant or a child were to behave improperly, though goodness may incline you to pardon, you would naturally require a proper state of mind, and signs of sorrow, confession, and reformation; otherwise your forgiveness would look like connivance at the transgression, or indifference to the offence, and encourage a repetition of disobedience.
Hence there is between them also a connexion of certainty. They are indissolubly united-no one ever really enjoyed forgiveness without repentance; and no one ever truly exercised repentance without forgiveness. And hence, it follows, that the best way to ascertain our state
before God, is not a reference to dreams, and visions, sudden impulses, and accidental occurrences of scripture to the mind-no-but an examination of our character; a comparison of ourselves with the features of pardoned sinners portrayed in the gospel. To know whether we are justified, let us inquire whether we are renewed in the spirit of our minds: and be assured of this, that he is not the partaker of divine forgiveness, who is not the subject of genuine repentance.
On the other hand-as there is an inseparable connexion between these-if you have been humbled for your sins; if your hearts have been broken for them and from them, you should not despair of acceptance; but view this experience as the authorized evidence of divine favour.Believe in God. He cannot deny himself. And he has said, "He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall find mercy. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
III. We remark the source of these blessings: -He gives repentance unto Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Some think repentance a very legal subject, and are ready to condemn the man who preaches it-as a stranger to the gospel. But there never was a greater mistake than this. For, not to mention that our Lord "came to call sinners to repentance," and that the apostles "went forth preaching every where, that men should repent" -I would observe that repentance is a subject peculiarly evangelical. The law has nothing to
do with repentance-it does not even command it-all it has to do with the transgressor, is to condemn him. It allows him neither liberty nor ability to repent-but the gospel gives him both. And, indeed, to little purpose would it give us the one without the other. But here is our encouragement-the gospel not only gives us space, but grace for repentance. What in one view is a duty, is, in another, a privilege: and what is commanded is also promised. The broken heart and the contrite spirit is not only a sacrifice which he will not despise, but it is also a sacrifice which he must provide!
And he does provide it. He gives repentance unto life. For having ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, "He received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." The chief of these was the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. By his influence, the understanding is enlightened, and the conscience awakened; the heart of stone is taken away, and a heart of flesh given! and sinners, before weak, and averse to holiness, are enabled to "walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments, and do them." Thus the word is rendered effectual; and the events of providence are sanctified: afflictions made them acknowledge their offence, and the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance."
And if repentance be not derived from ourselves can forgiveness of sins? If the former be a gift-can the latter be a purchase?" He gives repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins." And hence, two things follow:
First. If we possess these blessings-we learn to whom we are to address our praise.