« PreviousContinue »
SECTION II. Of Repentance in general ; or Conversion. 1. "REPENTANCE' and faith in Scriptures signify sometimes more generally; and, in the federal sense, are used for all that state of grace and favour, which the holy Jesus revealed, and brought into the world. They both signify the Gospel : for the whole Gospel is nothing else but that glad tidings which Christ brought to all mankind, that the covenant of works, or exact measures, should not now be exacted, but men should be saved by second thoughts, that is, by repentance and amendment of life, through faith in the Lord Jesus. That is, if we become his disciples (for that is the condition of the covenant), we shall find mercy, our sins shall be blotted out, and we shall be saved if we obey heartily and diligently, though not exactly. This becoming his disciples, is called ' faith ;' that is, coming to him, believing him, hoping in him, obeying him; and consequent to this is, that we are admitted to repentance, that is, to the pardon of our sins. “ For him hath God exalted on his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour douvai petávolav kai åpeolv åpapriūv, to give repentance and remission of sins h.” This is the sum total of the Gospel. That we have leave to repent, supposes that God will pardon what is past. But then that we have leave to repent, supposes us also highly bound to it. It is in mere pity to our infirmities, our needs, and our miseries, that we have leave to do it: and this is given to mankind by faith in Jesus Christ, that is, by becoming his disciples; for he hath power to pardon sins, and to
take them away, and to cleanse us from all unrightousness, viz. which we have committed. This is that which all the world did need, and longed for; it was the kpuntò arò tūv aióvwv, the hidden mystery from all ages, but revealed in Christ;" whose blood (as St. Clement expresses it) Tavrì töö κόσμω μετανοίας χάριν υπήνεγκεν, « brought to all the world the grace of repentance."
2. This is the Gospel.--For the Gospel is nothing else but faith and repentance. The Gospel is called ' faith' by St. Paul, mpò toŨ Osiv trv Tioriv,“ before that faith came,
bo Acls, r. 31.
we were under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealedi;” that is, to the Gospel, or the glad tidings of repentance; which is called åkon miorewc," the hearing of faith*." For · faith' being here opposed to the law,' that is, the covenant of mercy to the covenant of works, must mean,' the covenant of repentance.' And therefore, although, if we consider them as proper and particular graces and habits, they have differing natures and definitions; yet in the general and federal sense of which I now speak, faith and repentance are only distinguished by relations and respects, not by substance and reality. “Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ!;" that is, repentance for having sinned against God; a repentance, I say, through faith in Jesus Christ; that is, a repentance procured, and preached, and enjoined, by Christ, being the sum of his discipline. And that it may appear faith and repentance to be the same thing, and differing only in name and manner of expression, St. Paul confounds the distinction which he formerly made, and that which he called "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus," in his sermons in Asia; in his Epistle to the Hebrews, he calls
repentance from dead works and faith in God.” And the words are used for each other promiscuously in St. Luke; for that which the rich man in hell called μετανοήσουσιν, , Abraham called πεισθήσονται. “If one comes from the dead they will repent:" no, said Abraham, “ if they will not hear Moses and the prophets, then if one come from the dead, they will not believe, or be persuaded.” And St. Peter", giving an account of the delaying of the coming of the Lord for the punishment of the obdurate Jews and enemies of Christ, says, it is because God of his infinite goodness expects even them also to be converted to the faith, or becoming Christians, as the whole design of the place infers; and this he calls eię jetávorav xwpñoai, "a coming to repentance," that is, to the faith of Christ. And therefore the Gospel is nothing else but a universal publication of repentance and pardon of sins in the name of Christ, that is procured for all them who are his disciples: and to this we are baptized, that is, adopted into the religion, into that discipleship under which God requires holiness, but not perfect mea:
k Verse 2. | Acts, XX. 21.
i Gal. jji. 23.
m 2 Pet. iii. 9. 15.
sures; sincerity without hypocrisy, but not impeccability or perfect innocence.
3. And as the Gospel is called faith, and faith is repentance, that is, it is the same covenant of grace and mercy, with this only difference, that it is called faith, as it relates to Christ who procured this mercy for us, repentance, as it signifies the mercy itself so procured: so baptism, by the same analogy, is called “ the baptism unto repentance," Bántioua tñs detavolac, “the baptism of repentance ;' so it is called in the Jerusalem creed; that is, the admission to the grace of the Gospel ; which the fathers of Constantinople, in their appendage to the Nicene creed, thus express : “I believe one baptism for the remission of sins ;" that is, to remission of sins we are admitted by baptism alone; no other way shall we have this grace, this title, but by being once initiated into the Gospel to be disciples of Jesus. Not that it is to be supposed, that our sins, are only pardoned when we are baptized; but that by baptism we are admitted to the state and grace of repentance and pardon of sins. And this is demonstratively certain, not only upon those many instances of baptized penitents admitted to pardon, and baptized criminals called upon in Scripture to repent,but upon the very nature of the evangelical covenant, and the whole design of Christ's coming. For if we were not admitted to repentance after baptism, then we were still to be judged by the covenant of works, not by the covenant of faith; and we should inherit by the law, or not at all, and not be heirs according to promise;' and then Christ were dead in vain, we are yet in our sins ;' and all the world must perish, because all men have sinned, and so none should go to heaven but newly-baptized infants, or newly-baptized catechumens : and how then could the Gospel be a new covenant, it being exactly the same with the law; for so it must be, if it promise no mercy or repentance to them that sin after our admittance to it. But baptism is a new birth, and by it we are ανακαινιζόμενοι εις μετάνοιαν, “renewed unto repentance," unto that state of life which supposes holiness and imperfection, and consequently needs mercy all the way: according to that saying, “ Justus ex fide vivet,” “ The just shall live by faith ;" that is, all our righteousness, all our hopes, all our spiritual life, is conserved by, and is rely
ing upon, this covenant of mercy, the covenant of faith, or repentance: all his life-time the just shall still need pardon, and find it, if he perseveres in it,--that is, endeavours to obey according to the righteousness of faith, that is, sincerely, diligently, and by the measures of a man. Of this, we shall, in the sequel, make use.
4. For the present I consider, that repentance or conversion admits of degrees according to the necessities of men. For that repentance which Christ and his apostles preached at the opening of the kingdom, was a universal change of life, which men did lead in the darkness of heathen ignorance and idolatrous impieties among the Gentiles, and the more than heathen crimes among the Jews; the whole nation being generally false, superstitious, bloody, persecutors, proud, rebellious, and at last rejecters and crucifiers of their Messias, whom they had longed for ever since they were a people: but in the persuasion and effecting of this repentance, there was some difference of dispensation and ministry.
5. John the Baptist began, and he preached repentance to the Jews, that they might believe in the Messias, and so flee from the wrath to come,' that is, from the destruction of their nation, which he prophetically foretold should come to pass, for their rejecting him whom the Baptist did foresignify. Christ and his apostles pursued the same doctrine, still thrusting forward the design, that is, preaching such a repentance as was proportionable to his purpose ; that is, obedience to the Gospel, the admission of such doctrines which did destroy the gaieties and cursed usages of the world. So that the repentance which was first preached, was in order to faith ; that is, the Baptist, and Christ, and Christ's apostles, preaching repentance, did mean such a conversion or change as would take them off from those crimes which so prepossessed their hearts, that by them they were indisposed to receive Christ's person and doctrine, both which were so contrary to their prejudices of pride and covetousness, malice and ambition.
6. And therefore among the Jews, repentance was to go before faith : for they were already sufficiently disposed to believe the revelations of God, they had been used to prophets, and expected the Messias, and prayed for his day, and longed passionately for it; so that they were by nothing
hindered in their faith, but by their lusts and secular thoughts; and the way to make them believe, was to cure their pride. “ How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another ?” Their hunting after praise among the people, did indispose them to the believing and receiving Christ's person and doctrine. Therefore until they did repent of that, they could not believe; and accordingly our blessed Saviour complained, that when they saw the light which shined in the ministry of John the Baptist,“ yet they would not repent, that they might believe.” But afterward the Jews, when they were invited to the religion, that is, to believe in Jesus, were first to be called to repentance, because they had crucified the Lord of life: and if they should not repent for crucifying an innocent person, they would be infinitely far from believing him to be the Lord of life, and their long-desired Messias.
7. But the repentance that was preached to the Gentiles, though it had the same design, as to the event of things, yet it went in another method. Their religion taught them impiety, lust and folly were placed upon their altars, and their gods bore in their hands smoking firebrands kindled with the coals of Sodom: they had false confidences, and evil examples, and foolish principles; they had evil laws, and an abominable priesthood; and their demons, whom they called gods, would be worshipped with lusts and cruelty, with drunkenness and revellings; so that their false belief and evil religion betrayed them to evil lives, therefore they were to be recovered by being taught a better belief, and a more holy religion, therefore in these, faith was to go before repent
“ Pænitentiæ stimulus ex fide acciderat," as Tertullian's expression is : “ Faith was the motive of their repentance.”—Iliotewe ni jetávoia katópiwa. So St Clemens Alexandrinus : Έαν γαρ μη πιστεύση αμάρτημα είναι η προκατείχετο, ουδέ μεταθήσεται καν μη πιστεύση κόλασιν μεν επηρτησθαι το πλημμελουντι, σωτηρίαν δε τω κατά τας εντολάς βιουντι, ουδ' ούτος μεταβαλείται ήδη δε και η ελπίς εκ πίστεως συνέστηκεν,
Repentance is the perfection and consummation of faith. For unless the sinner believes his action to be a sin, and that evil is his portion if he sins, and that he shall be happy if he live by the rule of the commandments, he can never be con
n John, v. 44.
o Strom. 2.