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but sinners can need mercy or repentance; and Jesus Christ expressly declares," he came not to call the righteous,” that is, such as the Pharisees, who thought themselves righteous; “ but sinners, to repentance." Now, all men are sinners; not the most profane and openly wicked only, but the most moral, religious, and blameless people among us; for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
The word repentance signifies a change of mind, or after-thought; a great change in the mind and disposition of a person, especially about himself, as a sinner; a change that occasions an anxious and painful apprehension, arising from consciousness of preceding guilt.” For this purpose the Holy Spirit opens his eyes to see the holy law of God, as contained in the ten commandments. This law requires of every person love to God, and love to man. It requires us to love God supremely, and our neighbours as ourselves. It requires perfect, constant, unsinning obedience, all our lives long.-It does not demand only sincere obedience, doing as well as we can, but doing all, and doing it always: so that if a man fail only in one point, he is thereby made a sinner; the law is broken; the curse follows; and if he be not pardoned through the blood of Christ, hell must be his portion.
In general, the repenting sinner is first' alarmed on account of some great and open sin, if he has committed such; as the woman of Samaria, when Christ charged her with adultery; or as Paul was, when convinced of his murderous persecution of the saints. But conviction will not stop here; it will trace the streams of sin to the spring, namely, that corrupt nature we brought into the world with us.-We shall freely confess, with David, that
we were born in sin, and in iniquity did our
mothers conceive us, " Psalm li. 5. We shall acknowledge, with Paul, that “in us," that is, in our flesh, our corrupt nature,
o there is no good thing;” but that “every imagination of the thought of our hearts is only evil continually," Gen. vi. 5. The penitent will readily own he has been a rebel against God all his life; that he has indeed “left undone those things which he ought to have done; and has done those things which he ought not to have done."
The law of God is spiritual ; it reaches to the most secret thoughts, desires, wishes, and purposes of the mind. It forbids and condemns the sins of the heart, as well as those of the lip and the life. A convinced sinner is sensible of heart-sins, thousands and millions of them. He sees that his best duties and services are mingled with sin; even his prayers, and all his religious exercises. He sees that he has, all his life, lived without God in the world, and paid no regard to his will and glory; that he has loved himself, the world, and the creature, far more than God: and that he had been doing all this contrary to light and knowledge; notwithstanding the checks of his conscience, and many resolutions to the contrary, and notwithstanding the mercies and the judgments which God had sent to reclaim him.-Wherever there is this conviction, it will be accompanied with contrition.
II. Contrition, or a genuine sorrow for sin, and pain of heart on account of it. This is that “ soft heart” or “heart of desh,” which God has promised to give his people; instead of that “ heart of stone," with which we are born, and which has no spiritual feeling.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm li. 17. Men despise broken things.-So the Pharisee despised the broken
hearted publican in the temple; but God did not despise him. So far from it, that he accounts the sorrow and shame of a penitent sinner more valuable than many costly sacrifices of rams and bullocks. A heart that trembles at the word of God; a heart breaking, not in despair, but in humiliation: a heart breaking with itself, and breaking away from sin. So Peter, when duly affected with the sin of denying his master, “went out and wept bitterly;" and Mary Magdalene, sensible of former iniquities, " washed her Saviour's feet with her tears.”
There is, indeed, a false sorrow, which many mistake for the true. When a person is sick, and fears he shall die, it is not uncommon to hear him say he is sorry for sin ; and if God will spare his life, he will amend his ways. But too often, such an one is only sorry that God is so holy, that the law is so strict, and that he is in danger of being damned for his sins. He is not grieved that he has offended God, his best friend and benefactor, who has followed him with goodness and mercy all his life. But the rottenness of this repentance often appears when the sick person recovers; when the fright is over, he returns to the same carnal course as before. This sorrow is no better than that of some criminals at the gallows; very sorry they are that they have forfeited their lives : but they are not affected with the criminality of their actions. Felix trembled, but did not repent; and Judas was sorry for what he had done, but not in a godly manner. And this shows how very uncertain, for the most part, is the repentance of a dying bed. God forbid we should delay our repentance to that season!
But the sorrow of a true penitent is for sin, as committed against a holy and good God. Such was the penitence of David, who says, Psalm li. 4.
“ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” It is true that he had sinned against his fellow creatures; against Uriah, and Bathsheba, and Joab, and all Israel: doubtless he lamented this; but what cut him to the heart was his sin against God; that God who had raised him from the sheep-fold to the throne; who had saved him from the hand of Saul, and given him his master's house; and if that had been too little, would have given him more; for thus Nathan the prophet aggravated his sin : Against thee, O Lord,” said this broken-hearted penitent, “ against thee only have I sinned.” Thus, “the goodness of God led him to repentance.” Observe, likewise, the tone of the returning prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father, and say, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” He might have said, Sir, I have spent my fortune, destroyed my health, become a beggar, and am ready to starve; be pleased to relieve me.- No: his heart is affected with his sin and his folly.--So it is with a repenting sinner. He considers the majesty of that holy being he has offended; the reasonableness of his commands, the obligations he has broken through, and especially the base ingratitude of his conduct. Then he will feel the force of those affecting words, Isa. i. 2, 3. “ Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
The goodness of God to a sinner, in the way of providence, may well excite this godly sorrow; but how much more the consideration of redeeming love! What! did God “so love the world of rebel men as to send them his only begotten Son?” And did he send his Son, “not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved ?"-O love beyond degree, beyond example, beyond expression !
Let the penitent also remember Jesus ; the innocent, the amiable, the benevolent Jesus. Jesus, who left his throne of glory, and became a poor and afflicted man. Why was he despised and rejected of men ? Why a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Why had he not a place where to lay his blessed head? Why did he endure the contradiction of sinners? Why was he oppressed and afflicted? Why was his visage so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men ?
I know the reason, may the weeping penitent say, “Surely he hath borne my griefs, and carried my sorrows; he was wounded for my transgressions, and bruised for my iniquities.”
“ 'Twere you my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were:
And unbelief the spear,
" "Twere you that pull’d the vengeance down
Upon his guiltless head:
Aud let my sorrows bleed."
III. Confession of sin will also be made by the true penitent. By nature we are rather disposed to conceal, deny, and excuse our sins; to say, we are no worse than others; that we could not help committing them; and that we see no great harm in them. But it is not so where true repentance is found. We shall take the advice that Joshua gave to Achan. “My son, give glory to the Lord, and make confession to him.” To hide or deny our sin, is to dishonour God; as if he did not see, or would not