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obtain pardon; for that love which fills and warms and expands and elevates the soul; for that repentance which extinguishes the love of sin; for that hope which sheds the light of heaven over the darkest scenes of earth; we are indebted to the rich and sovereign mercy of God. He sought us and found us when we were lost; he justified us when we were ungodly; he quickened us when we were dead; he saved us when we were helpless. Eternal life is the gift of God to us; to us, who deserved the deepest perdition. Gratitude should fill our hearts and control our lives: We should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again. If it cannot be infinite in degree, it can be eternal in duration. In no small degree is it the joy of earth; it will be the joy of heaven. Without ceasing, we will ascribe blessing, and glory, and wisdom,
and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, unto our God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2. Impenitent sinners are left entirely inexcusable. To say, indeed, that there can be an excuse for sin, is a plain contradiction in terms; yet a great many are alleged, either publicly or secretly, by those who are determined to reject the gospel and live in sin. These excuses are frequently derived from the perversion of important truth. It is a truth, that, as it regards the great work of salvation, we are helpless; yet no careless, impenitent sinner on earth believes this. He has heard and learned to repeat the word; but to him, remaining unconcerned in his guilt, it is a word without meaning. While he alleges this as an excuse, he is conscious to himself, that this is not the reason why he lives in sin, but because he loves it. Against the conviction of this truth, his proud spirit makes the hardest and longest effort. It is the last work of the Spirit, in preparing the heart for the reception of Christ, to produce this conviction. Every truth, when believed, will produce its appropriate effects. The effect of this truth is as far from that provoking indifference, which so generally prevails, as the east is from the west. The belief of this truth will produce a state of the most deep and intense feeling. The want of this feeling proves the want of belief in this truth. You are helpless, indeed, 0 ye impenitent sinners! but this is one powerful reason why you should come to Christ, that you may obtain mercy. You are indeed sinful and depraved, your hearts are hard as the rock; surely, then, you ought to come to that blood which cleanses from sin, to that God who has promised to give a new heart, to take away the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh. Your excuses imply, that if they were removed out of the way, you would come; if you were not sinful, not guilty, not helpless, would you then come! But for what would you then come! For pardon!--the guilty alone need pardon. For the cleansing blood of Christ?-the sinful and defiled alone need this blood. For the quickening power of the Spirit--the helpless aloné need this aid. The excuses you allege for not coming, are the reasons why you should come. Come, then, to the Saviour who has died for you, and who is able to save unto the uttermost all who come to God through him. God, for Christ's sake, will pardon your sins, purify your hearts by faith, strengthen you with might, by his Spirit in the inner man, and will bring you in safety, through all the trials of life to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven.
MARK 1:15. The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is
at hand. Repent ye and believe the gospel.
WHEN Jesus heard that John was cast into prison, he well knew what would be the melancholy issue. That his ministry and his life were soon to close by the cruelty and injustice of the effeminate Herod. The ministry of John being now closed, Christ enters into Galilee and upon his office. Galilee, as it seems, was a place of thickest moral darkness. Of this place the prophet spoke, in special reference to the light that now shone upon it, saying: “ The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, and they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isa. 9: 2. Matt. 4: 15,16. The time of accomplishing this prediction is now fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, says Christ, and believe the gospel.
Μεταμελομι and Μετανοεω are the only two words used in the New Testament for repentance. The former is never, that I know of, used to signify gospel repentance. It is used in its appropriate sense, Matthew 21:29. “A father said to his elder son, Go work to-day in my vineyard, and he answered and said I will not; but afterwards Metausandsis, he repented and went; or, he became concerned about his contempt of his father's order and went.” Judas when he saw the innocent Jesus, whom he had betrayed, condemned, repented, (uetauernbeis) became deeply concerned, &c. MeravoEW signifies a change of mind and behavior under a sense of past wrong. So it is used Matt. 11:21. “Wo unto you Coråzin; wo unto you Bethsaida, for if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented(just svonsav) long ago in dust and in ashes." In this sense its use is frequent. The exhortation before us is to repentance,
evangelical, deep, and sincere; and to faith unfeigned and saving. The latter clause, believe the gospel, should rather be literally translated, “ believe in the gospel,” since it implies the credit of its truth, together with the reliance of the soul upon it for salvation.
Two ways of access, and only two, to rest and heaven, have ever been made known to men. The one by obedience to the law, whole and perfect: " he that doeth these things (what the law requires) shall live by them.” The other by the acceptance of Christ's righteousness, and repentance. On the first plan salvation is now unattainable, "the law having become weak (or unable to save) through the flesh.” On the latter, faith in the righteousness of Christ, it is attainable; through the ample provision which has made to repair all the breaches which sin has occasioned on the claims of law and justice, and for healing all diseases with which, through sin, our natures are infected. To be saved by Christ's righteousness, it must, by an act of grace in God, be reckoned ours; and our souls must be brought to a cordial acceptance of it. Our sin must be washed away and our natures made holy.
Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin, flowing from a lively apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ towards creatures so lowly degraded by sin, which produces a turning from sin unto God and duty; and to repent, in our text, seems to imply the whole reformation which is embraced in the work of sanctification.
In the injunction contained in our text, repentance precedes faith,though in the work of grace it follows faith as its fruit or effect. The reason of which may be found in the extensive meaning with which the word is used, viz. including the whole work of grace upon the soul. Besides, there is a form of repentance, that precedes faith. This arises from a view of the law as passing sentence against us, from a deep conviction of our sinfulness, and a fearful apprehension of instant wrath. Filled with consternation and alarm, the sinner beholds incensed justice, with the cherubim and flaming sword pointing every way, to bar his escape from punishment. Yet all this may consist with a hatred of God's law and with the love of sin which it condemns. It is a sorrow, which, in some melancholy instances, worketh death. It is usually, however, in a lesser or greater degree comprehended in the work of God upon the soul by which it is brought to Christ. Still faith, or believing, is the first saving contact of the soul with Christ. In relation to this primary exercise of faith, it is called, “coming to Christ.” On the accomplishment of the work of regeneration, faith, the divinest gift, is bestowed, as an instrument to put in operation the new-made man. Though it first embraces Christ as a priest, since through this office provision is made for pardon, which is that, for which a guilty soul so loudly calls, yet he cordially embraces Christ in all his offices. He embraces him as a willing Saviour, as one suited to his case. He exults in the discovery that the offer is free. He is fully convinced, that no salvation can be his, but that which is without money and without price. By faith the sinner first obtains an interest in salvation; and by the same grace of faith, he lives to Christ. He soon finds that “without faith it is impossible to please God," or obtain meetness for enjoying him. With whạt words, more fitly spoken, could Christ have opened his important ministry than with these, “ Repent ye, and believe the gospel?”
These words may be considered as a warning or entreaty. When our Lord sent forth his disciples by two and two, “ They went and preached that men should repent.” Paul, in declaring the fulfilment of his commission, to which he was so marvellously set apart, told Agrippa that he had showed to all to whom he had been sent, “ that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” In this was intimated, the duty which they owed, as well as the deep interest which they had in performing it. Perseverance in sinning can never fail to bring with it, the loss of soul and body in hell. Yet however universal this conviction may be, the consciences of men slumber under it, and they need to be reminded of the necessity of turning from their evil ways. The time, too, had come when the blessings of Christ's kingdom were prepared; when the Spirit was to shed down his abundant influences upon men; when pardons were to be bestowed upon multitudes, gentiles as well as Jews. A time had come, most auspicious for guilty men, in seeking grace to repent, and the opening of their hearts for the reception of the Holy Ghost. Vainly do any look for success in proposing to men the blessings of salvation, until they are convinced of sinfulness, and taught their need of repent
An apostle, and even Christ himself, could be no better to them, “ than a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument,” until their hearts were restless and sore under the charge of their guiltiness. Most aptly, therefore, did Christ and his apostles address the understandings and consciences of their hearers; saying,
56 Ye should repent.” The same voice warns and entreats them. Pressed to repent, impending danger is announced; pressed to repent, the hope of escape is presented. How_lovely and attractive are the ways of mercy with sinful men! Entreaty, persuasion, and warning, how divinely commixed in the addresses of God to them, whom he would rescue from hell, and raise to heaven! The gospel comes not to men in the storm that rends the rocks and cleaves the mountains; nor in the earthquake that shakes and bursts the earth, while its groans are heard afar; nor in the fire which threatens and brings instant ruin: it comes “ with a still small voice,” to which the ear may listen with delight. To which the heart may respond with gladness. To the self-condemned wretch it says, 66 You are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire; nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest; and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice, they that heard entreated that it should not be spoken unto them any more: for they could not endure