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LUKĘ xiii. 5.
THE greatest sufferers in this world, are not always the greatest sinners. We have clear proof of this, both in the case of Job, and in the two cases mentioned in the preceding verses. “Suppose ye (says Christ) that those Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem, because they suffered such things? I tell you nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
From these words, we shall enquire, first, what is implied in repentance: and secondly, prove the certainty of perishing without repentance.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN REPENTANCE?
True repentance implies a knowledge of sin, à sorrow for it, a turning from it, and a turning to God.
1. Å knowledge of sin. A man sees no need of repentance till he sees himself a sinner. “I came not (says Christ) to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." A thoughtless sinner, ignorant of himself, imagines all is well, when perhaps a cloud of divine vengeance is just ready to burst over his devoted head. We see this illustrated in the common affairs of life, in which a man sées no need of repentance till he is convinced of some impropriety in his conduct. Thinking his whole conduct right, he goes from one error to another, till ruin comes
him as an armed man. The true penitent, before God, is fully awakened from the sleep of sin. With open eyes he sees what the law requires, and wherein he has deviated from its holy precepts both in heart and life; and he humbly acknowledges, “ Verily I am guilty." Viewing the law on one hand, and his own conduct on the other, his sins appear more numerous than the hairs of his head. He did not before conceive himself guilty of so many crimes. With his eyes partly opened, he thought he had sinned only in a few instances ; but he is now fully convinced that his whole life has been sinful; that his best works have come short of God's requirements; and that he deserves to suffer all those dreadful
punishments, which God has threatened in his holy word.
2. Hence follows a sorrow for sin. A sight of sin is so grievous and distressing, that it leads the penitent to mourn and weep bitterly; like Peter, when he reflected upon his base conduct towards his Master. Sin is now a heavy burden, which the
penitent can neither bear nor remove; and it remains upon him both day and night. He often cries out, “O wretched man that I am!” No sorrow is like his sorrow. “The spirit of man will sustain his infirmity ; but a wounded spirit who
who can bear?”. With this wounded spirit he sighs and groans as one without hope. Many think he is going mad; but it is certain he is becoming wise, Thoughtless men direct him to company, amusement, and sensual pleasure, as the best cure of melancholy and dejection; but wise and good men direct him to a throne of
grace. Ask him the cause of his sorrow. Does he give you the answer of a madman? No: he
says, • I have sinned against the best of beings; I have destroyed myself; I am under a curse ; and, continuing in my present state, hell will be my portion !!
3. The next thing in repentance is a turning from sin. Sin now appears hateful. The penitent abhors and detests it, and flees from it as from the face of a serpent. God has said, “Let the wicked frrsake his way.” The penitent obeys this command. He quits at once both sin and sinful companions, resolving never more to offend a holy God. We do not suppose he has absolute power over sin at present; but he endeavours to conquer it. Death appears less dreadful to him than sin;, and he had rather die than yield to its baneful influences. If this be not the case, he is not a sincere penitent. He may profess it before men; but God, who sees the heart, will not approve. It is an easy thing to deceivè men, and we may deceive ourselves; but God cannot be deceived. We never read of a penitent in the word of God who did not forsake all his evil ways. The thing, indeed, will speak for itself. What we pursue we love. We cannot pursue sin without a love for it; and if we love and pursue it, how can we be said to repent?
4. Another important part of repentance is a turning to God. “ Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord." The penitent returns with a humble, broken, contrite heart, confessing his sins to God. He comes as the publican in the temple, saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner. The justice of God appears dreadful; but there is hope in his mercy, He goes boldy to a throne of grace through Jesus his mediator and advocate. He seeks the Lord in all the means of grace, and joins himself to the people of God. He returns in his affections, desiring God above all things. He returns to his duty, saying, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Such a one is not far from the kingdom of God. His sorrow will soon be turned into joy. The gloomy, dismal state of penitence, will vanish as clouds and darkness before the sun; and the glorious Sun of Righteousness will arise upon him with healing in his wings.
II. The CERTAINTY OF PERISHING WITHOUT REPENTANCE.
1. It must be allowed that all men have sinned and
short of the glory of God. “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside ; they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one." Every soul of man is guilty.
- 2. It is equally clear that sin must either be pardoned or punished. Every man must fall either into the hand of justice' or of mercy. This is a nécéssary consequence of our probationary state. God has placed us here in a state of awful trial for eternity, and we must soon