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summary ;-"Repentance towards God;"_" Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;"--and “ Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” The first of these embraces the workings of the mind and the emotions of the heart with which a sinner returns to God; the second regards the medium through which a return can alone be effected; and to the third belongs the development of the character arising out of those habits, of mind and heart and life, which indicate the reality and the entireness of the required return. These then are the subjects on the consideration of which we now enter; and let me beseech you to unite with me in earnest prayer, that the blessing of the Father of mercies may rest upon our researches ; and that, by the illuminating influence of his promised Spirit, we may be guided into all that truth, of which the knowledge is essential to our eternal peace!
Commencing then with the consideration of the first of the subjects specified, let me direct your thoughts to the words of inspiration which you will find, in
Acts xx. 21.
Repentance toward God. The pre-eminent importance of the subject announced in these words, sufficiently appears from the frequency, and the emphasis, with which
it is introduced to our regard, in every part of the New Testament. We read, that the substance of John the Baptist's energetic and efficient preaching, was contained in these few words Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We are assured by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, that one of the leading designs of his personal ministry, was “ to call sinners to repentance."
On the authority of an inspired Apostle it is asserted, that “ Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.” In accordance with these statements we find in the chapter before us, that when the Apostle Paul, in the presence of the elders of the Ephesian church, was taking a retrospect of his successful ministry, and of the truths which he was divinely instructed to render most prominent, he specifies, as the very first of all,—~ Repentance toward God.”—“ I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you," said this enlightened teacher,
testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The considerations of principal importance, pertaining to the subject before us, have reference either to the nature of Repentance, or to the motives which urge to its exercise. To the former of these I now request your attention, reserving the latter, with a view to a subsequent discourse.
It is not easy, nor do I think it is important, to draw a line of metaphysical discrimination either between the direct approaches to Repentance, and the workings of Repentance itself; or between those workings of the mind which strictly constitute Repentance, and the effects which are immediately and necessarily produced. Without aiming at this unprofitable accuracy of distinction, I wish rather to trace the stages of that progress, through which the mind of the repenting sinner usually passes, under the influence of the Gospel of Christ, rendered operative and effectual by the power of the Holy Spirit. In all these stages we may trace that process which we might be led to expect, by an attention to the radical meaning, and ordinary acceptation of the Greek terms, employed on this subject by the sacred writers. They denote a change of mind; and are designed to indicate a change of mind towards God, and especially in reference to sin, as committed against the blessed God. They are employed to signify such a change of mind towards God, as naturally and necessarily produces an entire change of character, and a correspondent change of life. The stages through which this change may be traced are, I conceive, Retrospection-Conviction -Contrition-Confession and Conversion. The first of these is a change, as it regards the
employment of the thoughts :-the second is a change, as it regards the decisions of the conscience :--the third is a change, as it regards the emotions of the heart :--the fourth is a change, as it regards the acknowledgments of the lips : and the fifth is a change, as it regards the tenor of the conduct.
Let each of these, in their natural and specified order, engage our consideration.
The First is RETROSPECTION.
There should, assuredly, be some resemblance between the recollections of a sinner, and the book of God's remembrance, in which his sins are recorded.
“ These things hast thou done,” saith Jehovah; “but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”—“Thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed.”“ If they sin against thee,” said Solomon (in his sublime prayer) “ and thou be angry with them, yet if they bethink themselves, and repent and return to thee with all their heart, then hear thou their prayer.”—“ Because he considereth and turneth away from his transgression," saith the Lord, “ he shall surely live.” Thus also, in the beautiful and touching parable of the Prodigal, the abandoned youth, who had so long been heedless and thoughtless, is represented as acting under the impulse of a “ sound mind.” He was the dupe of folly, the sport of Satan, the slave of sin. He scarcely thought at all, and never thought aright. He was intent only on the gratification of the passing moment, neglecting alike the retrospect of the past, and the foresight of the future. Thus is it, alas ! with the
coming to himself,” by salutary retrospection. He was not « himself” before. He was not
gay and the giddy world, with the idler and the trifler. Yes, and as it regards the things of highest importance the concerns of the soul, and of eternity-thus it is also with many a man diligent in his business, and many a man intent on the acquisition of literature and science. Whatever may have been the occupations and habits of the years that are past, the repenting sinner awakes as from a dream. He asks, with a spirit-stirring scrutiny, What have I been doing? To what purpose has my life been hitherto devoted? What object has been attained ? For what end was I brought into existence ? Am I keeping steadily in view the end designed by my Creator, my Preserver, my Judge ? Am I not chargeable with most ungrateful and most criminal forgetfulness of the God who made me, and who requires me, by the primary and essential law of my being, to love him with the best affections of my heart, and to serve him with the best obedience of my life? With all that activity of thought which brings a thousand