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3. These observations teach us the propriety of urging sinners to immediate repentance.
Their present state is a state of extreme guilt and danger. of this it is the duty of every minister to produce, as far as may be, a strong conviction in their minds. Equally is it his duty to show them, what is equally true, that they are under the highest obligations to repent immediately. They are now, they always have been, sinners. Every sin of which they have been guilty demanded their immediate repentance. The only reason which they can allege for delaying their repentance, is the very reason why they have hitherto refused to obey the Divine law; viz. their disinclination. But this is their sin: and sin is itself that which demands their repentance, instead of being a justification of their delay.
But it will be objected, that the sinner cannot, or, in the very language of this discourse, will not, repent of himself. Why then should be be urged to immediate repentance? I will give the answer. So long as the sinner feels himself in any degree excused in delaying this duty, there is every reason to fear that he will be more and more at ease, and more and more disposed to delay. His views will be false and dangerous, and his conduct will eagerly accord with his views. But a full conviction of his duty will create in bim a sense of danger, a conviction of his guilt, and a trembling anxiety concerning his future being. In this situation he will naturally, and almost necessarily, commence those efforts of solemn reflection, that deep attention to the word of God, and those attempts to supplicate for mercy, that conviction of his helplessness, and that strong sense of the absolute necessity of being sanctified by the Spirit of grace, which, in the usual providence of God, precede regeneration.
YOU ; BUT HAVE SHewed YOU, AND HAVE TAUGHT YOU PUBLICLY, AND FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE ; testIFYING, BOTH TO THE Jews, AND ALSO TO THE GReeks, REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD, AND FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
ACTS XX. 20, 21.
In the preceding Discourse I examined the inability of mankind to obey the Divine law. It is evident that, if we are ever to be restored to Divine favour, we must first be restored to a spirit of obedience. The manner in which we may obtain this restoration, becomes therefore the next subject of our inquiry.
St. Paul in the context declares to the elders of the church of Ephesus, and appeals to them for the truth of the declaration, that he had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God concerning their salvation. This, he farther asserts, he did by teaching them both publicly, and from house to house, at all seasons, and amid many temptations and sorrows. While he served the Lord with all humility of mind, and many tears, he confidently avers, that he kept back nothing, which was profitable unto them ;' or, in other words, taught them every thing, which was profitable. Of course he taught every thing which was profitable to mankind at large, as creatures of God, and candidates for immortality. All this, however, he sums up in the second verse of the text in these two
phrases : · Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.'
We are not, indeed, to suppose that, in the literal sense, St. Paul taught nothing but faith and repentance to the Ephesian Christians. There can be no reasonable doubt that he taught the Ephesians generally, what he taught the Christian world at large, and particularly the things contained in the Epistle which he wrote to the church at Ephesus. The meaning of his declaration in the text is, I apprehend, merely that he had taught the doctrines concerning faith and repentance, as pre-eminently the means of salvation. That this view of the subject is just, is sufficiently evident from the context. Here the apostle teaches the elders, to whom his speech was addressed, many things beside these doctrines; and declares that he had heretofore instructed them in the great duty o communicating good to others, as the amount of all that which they owed to their fellow-men. The religion of the Gospel is the religion of sinners: as the religion of the law is that of virtuous beings. The Gospel is a scheme of restoration to beings who have rebelled against their Maker, and are condemned by the law which they have broken, to suffer the punishment due to their sins ; but who yet, in consistency with the character and government of God, may be forgiven. It is a scheme by which these beings may be restored to their allegiance, to a virtuous character, and to the Divine favour. If such beings are ever to be restored to the favour of God, if they are ever to obtain the privileges of good subjects of the Divine government, it is evident that they must, in some manner or other, be restored to the character of good subjects. In other words, if they are ever to possess the rewards of obedience, they must be previously possessed of the spirit of obedience. Whatever accomplishes for them, or becomes the means of accomplishing, this mighty change in their circumstances, must to them be of inestimable importance. As the Gospel contains the religion of sinners in the situation above mentioned, this importance must belong to the Gospel. In a particular manner must it be attributable to such doctrines or duties in the Gospel, as are peculiarly necessary, and absolutely indispensable. From the place which faith and repentance held in the preaching of St. Paul, it is plain, that they are the important things in question; the immediate and
indispensable means of our restoration to obedience, and to the consequent enjoyment of the Divine favour.
This truth is abundantly exbibited in many forms throughout the different parts of the New Testament. In Mark i. 14, 15, is contained the following declaration : 'Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled ; and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent ye, and believe the Gospel ;' or, as in the Greek, “ believe in the Gospel. In this passage we have evidently the substance of our Saviour's preaching; and this is Repentance, and faith in the good tidings of the Divine kingdon, or the glorious dispensation of mercy to sinners through the Redeemer.
In Acts ii. 37, 38, we are informed, that the Jews, being pricked in their hearts' by the preaching of St. Peter, particularly by his pungent exhibition of their guilt in crucifying Christ, inquired of him and John, with extreme solicitude, what they should do to obtain forgiveness and salvation. St. Peter answered them, Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.' To be baptized in the name of Christ, is, as every one who reads the Gospel knows, a public and most solemn profession of faith in him, as the Redeemer of mankind. St. Peter therefore in this answer makes in substance the same declaration with that of St. Paul in the text.
When the jailor inquired of Paul and Silas, Acts xvi. 30, 31,' What he should do to be saved?' they answered, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, with thine house.'-Without faith,' St. Paul declares, Hebrews xi. 6,
it is impossible to please God. He that believeth on the Son,' saith John the Baptist, John iii. 36, “ hath everlasting life. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him.'-He that believeth on him, saith Christ to Nicodemus, John iii. 18, is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already.'
Christ, in Matthew ix. 13, declares the end of his coming to be to call, not the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.' When therefore sinners repent, the end of Christ's coming is fulfilled. In Acts v. 31, He is said by St. Peter to be 'exalted as a Prince, and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins.' Remission of sins is, of course,
consequent upon repentance. In Acts xi. 18, it is said, • Then hath God granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life.' In 2 Cor. vii. 10, St. Paul declares, that' godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation.'—Except ye repent, says Christ to his disciples, Luke xiii. 3, 'ye shall all likewise perish :' and again, . There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and pine just persons that need no repentance,' Luke xv. 7.
In this passage, and indeed in many others, remission, life, and salvation are indubitably and inseparably connected with faith and repentance. Sometimes they are connected with both conjointly, and sometimes with one. The account given of the subject is, however, in all instances the same : because be who possesses one of these Christian graces, is of course, and always, possessed of the other. On the contrary, without these, life, remission, and salvation are plainly declared to be unattainable. It is evident therefore that faith and repentance are the attributes supremely required by the Gospel ; the immediate fulfilment of its two great precepts; in the possession of which mankind are assured of eternal life, and without which they are exposed to eternal death. To produce and perpetuate them in the soul is visibly the great object, so far as map is concerned, which Christ came into the world to accomplish. In other words, they are that essential obedieuce to the Gospel, to which salvation is promised and given, as a reward ; not of debt,' but of the free and sovereign
grace of God.
Having, if I mistake not, placed this truth beyond every reasonable doubt, and thus shown the way in which mankind, although sinners, condemned by the Divine law, and incapable of justification by their own works, may yet be gratuitously justified, return to their obedience, and be reinstated in the Divine favour; I shall now endeavour to explain the nature of this subject; and to exhibit the manner in which the doctrine is true.
The foundation of all religion is the existence, character, law, and government of God. This glorious and perfect being as the Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, of the universe, is, of the most absolute right, the Ruler of the work which he has made, and the Lawgiver of all his moral crea
The law which he bas prescribed to them demands