Repentance implies that a measure of divine wisdom is communicated to the sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. His mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations are changed, and that in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct. It need scarcely be remarked that, in this state, a man feels deep anguish of soul, because he has sinned against God, unfitted himself for heaven, and exposed his soul to hell. Hence a true penitent has that sorrow whereby he forsakes sin, not only because it has been ruinous to his own soul, but because it has been offensive to God.
Though many have, no doubt, repeatedly felt smart twinges in their conscience, they have endeavoured to quiet them with a few such aspirations as these, “Lord, have mercy upon me! Lord, forgive me, and lay not this sin to my charge, for Christ’s sake!” Thus of the work of repentance they know little. They have not suffered their pangs of conscience to form themselves into true repentance–a deep conviction of their lost and ruined state both by nature and practice. Conviction of sin and contrition for sin have only had a superficial influence upon their hearts. Their repentance is not a deep and radical work. They have not suffered themselves to be led into the various chambers of the house of imagery (Ezk. 8:7-12) to detect the hidden abominations that have everywhere been set up against the honour of God, and the safety of their own souls. When they have felt a little smarting from a wound of sin, they have got it slightly healed. Their repentance was partial and inefficient, and its end proves this. They have not, through the excess of sorrow for sin, fled to lay hold on the hope set before them, and refused to be comforted till they felt that word powerfully spoken into their hearts, “Son! daughter!–be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” No man should consider his repentance as having answered a saving end to his soul, till he feels that “God for Christ’s sake has forgiven him his sins,” and the Spirit of God testifies with His Spirit that he is a child of God.
Guilt For Sin
How few ingenuously confess their own sin! They see not their guilt. They are continually making excuses for their crimes. The strength and subtlety of the tempter, the natural weakness of their own minds, the unfavourable circumstances in which they were placed, etc., etc., are all pleaded as excuses for their sins. Thus the possibility of repentance is precluded, for till a man take his sin to himself, till he acknowledge that he alone is guilty, he cannot be humbled, and consequently cannot be saved. Reader, thou alone art responsible for all thy iniquities, there is no hope of thy salvation.
Reader, learn that true repentance is a work, and not the work of an hour. It is not passing regret, but a deep and alarming conviction that thou art a fallen spirit, hast broken God’s laws, art under His curse, and in danger of hell fire.
Deep and overwhelming sorrow does not depend merely on the degree of actual guilt, but rather on the degree of heavenly light transfused through the soul. Man is a fallen spirit. His inward parts are very wickedness. In his fall he has lost the image of God. Let God shine into such a heart; let Him visit every chamber in this house of imagery; let Him draw every thing to the light of His own holiness and justice, and, put the case that there had not been one act of transgression, what must be his feelings who thus saw, in the only light that could make it manifest, the deep depravity of his heart! Sin becoming indescribably sinful, the commandment ascertaining its obliquity, and illustrating all its vileness! He who sees his inward parts in God’s light will not need superadded transgression to produce compunction and penitence.
Confession of sin is essential to true repentance, and till a man take the whole blame on himself, he cannot feel the absolute need he has of casting his soul on the mercy of God that he may be saved.
A genuine penitent will hide nothing of his state. He sees and bewails not only the acts of sin which he has committed, but the disposition that led to these acts. He deplores not only the transgression, but “the carnal mind, which is enmity against God.” The light that shines into his soul shows him the very source whence transgression proceeds. He sees his fallen nature, as well as his sinful life. He asks pardon for his transgressions and he asks washing and cleansing for his inward defilement.
If every penitent were as ready to throw aside his self-righteousness and sinful incumbrances as the blind man was to throw aside his garment, we should have fewer delays in conversion than we now have, and all that have been convinced of sin would have been brought to the knowledge of the truth.
Every true penitent admires the moral law, longs most earnestly for a conformity to it, and feels he can never be satisfied till he awakes after this divine likeness. He hates himself because he feels that he has broken it and that evil passions are still in a state of hostility to it.
There is one doctrine relative to the economy of divine providence little heeded among men. I mean the doctrine of restitution. When a man has done wrong to his neighbour, though on his repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, God forgives him his sin, yet He requires him to make restitution to the person injured, if it lie in the compass of his power. If he do not, God will take care to exact it in the course of His providence. Such respect has He for the dictates of divine justice that nothing of this kind shall pass unnoticed. No man should expect mercy at the hand of God who, having wronged his neighbour, refuses, when he has it in his power, to make restitution. Were he to weep tears of blood, both the justice and mercy of God would shut out his prayer, if he made not his neighbour amends for the injury he may have done him. The mercy of God, through the blood of the cross, can alone pardon his guilt, but no dishonest man can expect this, and he is a dishonest man who illegally holds the property of another in his hand.
Don’t Wait for a Future Time
No man should defer his salvation to any future time. If God speaks today, it is today that He should be heard and obeyed. To defer reconciliation to God to any future period is the most reprehensible and destructive presumption. It supposes that God will indulge us in our sensual propensities, and cause His mercy to tarry for us till we have consummated our iniquitous purposes. It shows that we prefer, at least for the present, the devil to Christ, sin to holiness, and earth to heaven. And can we suppose that God will be thus mocked? Can we suppose that it can at all consist with His mercy to extend forgiveness to such abominable provocation? What a man sows that shall he reap. If he sows to the flesh, he shall of the flesh reap corruption. Reader, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Saving Faith in Christ
As all had sinned against God, so all should humble themselves before Him against whom they have sinned. But humiliation is no atonement for sin. Therefore repentance is insufficient, unless faith in our Lord Jesus Christ accompany it. Repentance disposes and prepares the soul for pardoning mercy, but can never be considered as making compensation for past acts of transgression. This repentance and faith were necessary to the salvation both of Jews and Gentiles, for all had sinned and come short of God’s glory. The Jews must repent who had sinned so much, and so long, against light and knowledge. The Gentiles must repent, whose scandalous lives were a reproach to man. Faith in Jesus Christ was also indispensably necessary, for a Jew might repent, be sorry for his sin, and suppose that, by a proper discharge of his religious duty and bringing proper sacrifices, he could conciliate the favour of God. No, this will not do. Nothing but faith in Jesus Christ, as the end of the law, and the great and only vicarious sacrifice, will do. Hence he testified to them the necessity of faith in this Messiah. The Gentiles might repent of their profligate lives, turn to the true God and renounce all idolatry. This is well, but it is not sufficient. They also have sinned and their present amendment and faith can make no atonement for what is past. Therefore they also must believe on the Lord Jesus, who died for their sins and rose again for their justification.
Penitent sinner! thou hast sinned against God, and against thy own life! The avenger of blood is at thy heels. Jesus hath shed His blood for thee. He is thy Intercessor before the throne. Flee to Him! Lay hold on the hope of eternal life which is offered to thee in the gospel! Delay not one moment!
Thou art never safe till thou hast redemption in His blood! God invites thee! Jesus spreads His hands to receive thee!
God hath sworn that He willeth not the death of a sinner, then He cannot will thy death. Take God’s oath, take His promise, credit what He hath spoken and sworn! Take encouragement! Believe on the Son of God and thou shalt not perish, but have everlasting life!