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and such as the prodigal son represented, is primarily intended.
In general, the repentance of one sinner, of whatever class or description, is the event which causes joy in heaven; and not merely the repentance of hundreds and thousands, as on the day of Pentecost, and in the times which immediately succeeded. The repentance of one, while perhaps all around him are hardened in impenitence; and while possibly the minister, by whose means the effect has been produced, is lamenting, under deep discouragement, over the want of success in his labours. Perhaps this one penitent, also, is so overwhelmed with convictions of guilt, and with sorrow, fear, and remorse, that he can find no relief from his inward anguish, except by tears, and, bemoanings, and prayers: and, were the Saviour now on earth, he is prepared to imitate her who "washed "his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs "of her head." "Behold he prayeth!" Hear also his words: "While I kept silence, my bones waxed "old through my roaring all the day long. For "day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my "moisture is turned into the drought in summer.— "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and my iniquity "did I not hide. I said, I will confess my trans"gressions unto the Lord : and thou forgavest the "iniquity of my sin."1
Hear also what the Lord says of him: "I have "surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a "bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Turn thou "me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord "my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I re"pented; and, after I was instructed, I smote upon "my thigh: I was ashamed, yea even confounded, "because I did bear the reproach of my youth.— "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child i "for since I spake against him, I do earnestly re"member him still: therefore my bowels are trou"bled for him. I will surely havemercy upon him, "saith the Lord."1
1 Psalm xxxii. 3,5.
As an instance illustrating the subject, let us think of the penitent thief upon the cross, who by his own express confession deserved that dreadful doom for his crimes. View him, then, surrounded by the scoffing and blaspheming priests, and elders, and people, who with cruel taunts insulted the crucified Redeemer: view, I say, this poor dying malefactor, in deep repentance, and in genuine faith, confessing him who hung by his side extended on the cross, as the Messiah and Lord of all; and praying to him, "Lord, remember me, "when thou comest into thy kingdom." Then hear the Saviour's answer, " Verily I say unto thee, "this day shalt thou be with me in paradise."— Over this transaction "there was joy in the pre"sence of the angels of God ;" as there is over every instance of the same nature. "He.looketh "upon men; and, if any say, I have sinned, and "perverted that which was right, and it profited "me not; he will deliver his soul from going into "the pit, and his life shall see the light."
1 Jer. xxxi. 18—20. VOL. VI. Q
To describe particularly, on this occasion, the nature and effects of true repentance, would too much interrupt our main subject 5 so that a few hints must suffice. The true penitent condemns himself for breaking the " holy, just, and good" laws of his Creator and Benefactor: he is unfeignedly " sorry for his sin;" and unreservedly confesses, and forsakes it. He fears and deprecates the wrath of God, as conscious of having deserved it: he "submits to the righteousness of God," and trusts only in unmerited mercy. He never thinks of his repentance being any atonement or compensation for his crimes; and is always dissatisfied that he is not more deeply humbled, ashamed, and grieved on account of them: he becomes " poor in spirit," and " contrite in heart." Above all, when he has received adequate instruction, he always, like the penitent, thief, fixes his faith and hope on the crucified Saviour, and comes and seeks to him as he did, " Lord remember me" also: Christ becomes to him " the pearl of great "price :" like Saul the penitent, or Paul the apostle, " He counts all things but loss for the excel"lency of the knowledge of Christ; that he may "win Christ, and be found in him." Every true penitent, when properly instructed, receives Christ Jesus as " his wisdom, righteousness, sanctifica"tion, and redemption :" while abhorrence of sin, and love of the Saviour, under the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, combine their influence in producing " newness of life."
True repentance is, therefore, equally remote from self-righteous pride and rejection of the gospel, and an antinomian perversion of it. It is, according to the remarkable expression of the apostle, one of " the things which accompany salvation,"1 invariably, in all possible circumstances. "Repent "ye and believe the gospel." "That repentance "and remission of sins should be preached in my "name among all nations, beginning at Jerusa"lem." "Repent and be baptized every one of "you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remis"sion of sifts." "Testifying both to the Jews "and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."2 Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are united in scripture, and uniformly connected with forgiveness of "sins. The same Holy Spirit, " which convinces "men of sin, of righteousness and of judgment," likewise "glorifies Christ, receives of his, and "shews it" to the humbled sinner, making the Saviour glorious in his eyes, and precious to his heart.3 These things are inseparable in themselves, and in the experience of all true Christians; and only separated in the notions and disputations of some controversialists.
Every true penitent, then, has "passed from "death unto life ;" is " delivered from the power "of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of "God's beloved Son; in whom he hath redemp"tion through his blood, even the forgiveness of "his sins." He "is turned from darkness to light, "and from the power of Satan unto God; that he "might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance "among all them that are sanctified, by faith in "Christ."1 He is pardoned, justified, reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and adopted into his family; and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, " the "Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," he has " his fruit "unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."'2 Many indeed profess to repent, who are not thus humbled and changed; and who do not " submit "to the righteousness of God," and welcome his salvation. And many profess faith in Christ, who do not so enter into the grand design of his crucifixion for us, as to abhor all sin, to repent in dust and ashes, and, " constrained by the love of Christ," to live devoted to him in all holy obedience. But the penitent, over whom there is joy in heaven, is not of this description. He is a true believer also in proportion to his measure of light and knowledge, which are continually increasing. Faith, indeed, alone justifies us, by receiving Christ " the "Lord our Righteousness;" but a faith, which is alone, being separated from other "things that "accompany salvation;"3 especially, from "re"pentance, and works meet for repentance ;" can no more justify, than the eye apart from the body can see, or the ear apart from the body can hear. The living members, in the living body, perform their several functions, and no one of them can perform that of the others: and so faith, as living, and co-existing with repentance, hope, love, and the other graces of the Spirit, justifies; and no other grace can do any thing towards performingthis its peculiar function.
1 Heb. Ti. 9. 'Mark 1.15. Luke xxiv. 47. Acts ii. 48. xx.21. 'John xvi. 8, 15.