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yet it seems naturally impossible that one should have all the feelings, which are implied in the proper idea of repentance, on account of any besides his own personal sins. But I see no difficulty in supposing that a person may as truly repent of heart-sins, as sins of life ; and of a depraved nature, as well as of evil thoughts, volitions, and desires. And that Da. vid's repentance was thus deep, we are plainly led to believe by his confession, Psal. li. 5, “ Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” It is also evident that Solomon con. sidered a conviction and sense of depravity of nature, as being essential to that repentance, without which a sinner can have no reasonable hope of pardoning mercy. This appears evident from his prayer at the dedication of the temple, recorded in the eighth chapter of the first book of Kings. plication,” says he, “ shall be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house; then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive.” And indeed, it seems plainly impossible that a person should have that self-abasement and self-condemnation which true repentance implies, merely from seeing the evil of particular actions, or transient exercises, without having a sense of that depravity of his nature, which alone can constitute a permanently wicked character.
Having considered what sinners must repent of, we will next make some inquiry concerning those exercises and affections of heart, which are implied in true repentance. These are, sorrow, shame, selfcondemnation, hatred of sin, and sincere purposes to forsake it, and desires to be delivered from it.
1. True repentance implies grief and sorrow for one's sins. David says, Psal. xxxviii. 3—6, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger, neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.--I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly ; I go mourning all the day long." And ver. 18, “I will declare mine iniquity ; I will be sorry
2. Shame, is essential to true repentance. Psal. xliv. 15,
My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me.” Jer. xxxi. 19, “ Surely after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh : I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. And chap. iii. 25, “ We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us ; for we have sinned against the Lord our God.”
3. Self-condemnation is implied in true repentance. See Lev. xxvi. 41, “If then their uncir. cumcised heart be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant,” &c. See also 1 Cor. xi. 31,
I , “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” Thus the penitent thief upon the cross condemned himself, saying to his fellow, who scoffed at Christ, “ Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? and we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our evil deeds.” Every sinner who truly repents, is brought to see the justice of God in condemning him, and heartily to approve of the sentence of condemnation passed upon him.
4. True repentance implies hatred of sin, and turning from it in heart, with a sincere desire and fixed purpose to keep the divine law for the time to
This seems to be what the apostle means by it, when he says, “ Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.” He is there telling the Corinthians what he had heard of the good effects his former epistle had had upon them. In the following verse he says, “ For behold, this self same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal.” In vain is that repentance which does not imply a sincere desire and fixed purpose of amendment ; or which is not followed with a lasting reformation.
As to the motives and principles of true repentance, I observe,
1. That it doth not proceed merely from a slavish fear of punishment. A disobedient servant will profess to be sorry for his faults, and will readily promise to do better, when under the rod, or when threatened with severe correction : and in like manner a sinner, when destruction from God is a terror to him, will confess and promise, and feel a kind of sorrow for what he has done or neglected to do, and may have some serious thoughts of doing better. This hath been commonly called legal repentance, because it is owing altogether to the terror of the di. vine law, and the fearful apprehension of the wrath to come thence arising.
2. It ought to be observed, that true repentance doth not originate from mercenary hopes of heaven ; or from a belief of God's electing love and pardoning grace. Something like repentance, in all the forementioned parts and exercises of it, may arise entirely from a persuasion that one is an object of God's peculiar favor, and a subject of his distinguishing mercy. There is hardly any one so totally destitute of natural gratitude, as not to feel some grief and sorrow, shame and self-condemnation, for atrocious offences committed against a kind friend and great benefactor, when a remembrance of his
generous benefits is fresh in mind. Thus, when David had spared the life of Saul, having had a fair opportunity to have slain him while he and all his life-guard were soundly sleeping in the cave; Saul, on being certified of it, said, “I have sinned: return, my son David ; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thy sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” So, an unregenerate sinner will naturally feel a kind of repentance toward God, when he is made to entertain a strong belief of his special love and mercy towards him. There is no need of a new heart in order to this; nor will another spirit be produced in the carnal mind; by any remorse arising from such interested motives.
Indeed, a sense of God's goodness toward them, increases godly sorrow in true penitents, and makes them appear more vile in their own eyes. This is agreeable to what is said in Ezek. xvi. 63, “ That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and ney. er open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” An apprehension of pardoning mercy is not necessary, however, in order to the first feelings of true repentance. Nor is that a repentance unto salvation, which is the fruit of nothing more than a belief that one's sins already are, or ever will be forgiven. But,
3. True repentance arises from disinterested love to God: a foundation for which is laid in the soul by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. When the stony heart is taken out of one's flesh, and a heart of flesh is given, he will repent, not merely as Ahab did at the threatening of Elijah ; nor merely as Saul repented because of the kindness of David: he will feel an ultimate concern for the honor of God, and an ingenuous sorrow and grief for all that he has done to his offence and displeasure ; whether he believes
that God is pacified toward him or not.
When one is created after God in righteousness and true holiness, he will hate sin, and resolve to forsake the ways of it, from that principle, and not merely from a principle of self-love.
II. We now proceed to consider what it is to be converted,
Conversion is often spoken of in such a general sense as to comprehend repentance. Most commonly, by being converted is meant, the whole change in a sinner when he is turned from sin to holiness in heart and life: and the word repentance is also sometimes to be understood in the same extensive signification. But when both these expressions are used together, in the manner which the apostle uses them in our text, it secms necessary to limit the meaning of both of them, so far as that they may communicate ideas somewhat different and distinct.
By being converted, I suppose Peter here means the same, as being persuaded to embrace the gospel. He was addressing himself to some of those who had been concerned in the crucifixion of Christ : who, by their clamorous importunity had constrained the Roman governor, contrary to his own opinion and desire, to pass the sentence of death upon Jesus ; and who, when Pilate washed his hands before them, saying, “ I am innocent of the blood of this just person, see ye to it;” answered boldly, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” The apostle, there- . fore, taking advantage of the consternation excited in these men by a notable miracle wrought in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, counsels them to repent of this, and all their other sins, and to be converted. That is, to give up their prejudices against Christ, and become his disciples : to receive him as their promised Messiah, and return to the Holy One of Israel, through him looking for pardon and salvation on ac