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THE DUTY OF THE UNCONVERTED,
“Repent ye; and believe the gospel."-MARK i. 15.
How various soever may be the modifications of character in a human point of view, the word of God divides all mankind into but two grand classes; the believing and the unbelieving; the righteous and the unrighteous; the people of CHRIST and the children of Belial. This is a most important division, ever to be carefully observed in spiritual things; especially in administering spiritual counsel. He, who assumes this office, must make a difference,' rightly dividing the word of truth, so as to give to each his portion of meat in due season.
What constitutes this vast distinction between persons is CONVERSION. This it is which draws that strong, though invisible, line of demarcation between the church and the world; between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Apollyon; and, crossing which the person is passed from death unto life.
Now we shall address first, those who have not
Cor. vi. 14
made this momentous transition; in which class, be it observed, are included-not merely the vicious and profligate, but also all those, who, though as to outward conduct unexceptionable, and even estimable, are yet not truly and vitally religious ; who keep in an external manner) the commandments of the second table, but neglect those of the first : who perform their duty toward their neighbour, but omit their duty toward their Maker. “ Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength :” this is the first and GREAT commandment:' and therefore, whoso keepeth not this, however amiable and commendable he may be in the eye of Man, is in the
of Him who demands the heart, essentially wicked. The neglect of the greatest duty must be the greatest sin.
Let such then suffer a word of affectionate exhortation. I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say. I write, dear Reader, with a hearty desire and prayer for
your benefit; and, to “the law and to the testimony,' if I write not according to this word, it is because there is no light in me.
Your immediate duty then, under the circumstances considered, is expressed in that sentence of our Saviour The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” 1
1 Mark i. 15.
Repentance is a most solemn and indispensable duty. The occasion, or necessity for it, is our deplorable state by nature and practice: a state wherein we are dead in trespasses and sins; walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. I Accordingly our Lord declares, that “except we repent, we shall all perish ;” that ".except we be born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God.” The impenitent person treasures up unto himself “ wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”? Repentance, therefore is repeatedly inculcated throughout both Testaments, and without it there is no possibility of salvation. 3
But what is denoted by the term ? Notwithstanding the numerous sermons preached, and the many excellent treatises published, respecting it, there is reason to fear that much misapprehension still prevails as to its real nature; and of course, this, on a subject so vitally important, must be peculiarly dangerous. • Take heed' says an old divine, of mistaking in the great work of believing and repenting. Faith and repentance are the two great gospel graces : and the reason why so many miscarry to all eternity is not for want of them, but upon a mistake in thinking they have them,
1 Eph. ii. 1-3. 3 See Ezek. xviii. 0, 31 ; V. 31.
3 Romans ii. 5. Luke xxiv. 47.
Acts iii. 19;
Isa. lv. 7.
when they bave but a shadow of them. Where one goeth to hell by desperation, hundreds go thither by presumption.'
I shall therefore endeavour, as far as my limits will allow, somewhat to elucidate the subjeet : and with this view shall commence by stating, in the first instance, what is not repentance.
First, then, any thing of the nature of penance or bodily suffering, is not this work. We read in the fifth chapter of the Acts, that Christ “ gives repentance:" but the idea of his giving penance or suffering, is manifestly absurd; besides, he himself promises “ rest,” not suffering, to them that come to him. But indeed, to prove this point we need only recur to the original Greek term (metavoia,) which undeniably denotes a change of mind. Therefore, every thing of a mere extraneous character falls short of repentance.
Secondly; Mere sorrow for sin is not. The gambler, or the drunkard, or the fornicator, for example, may be mightily grieved for his transgression, on the mere ground of the loss of money, or of reputation, or of health, or of mental quiet, which it has occasioned to him: yet such sorrow may be very far removed from genuine repentance, as is evidenced by the fact, that as soon as opportunity recurs, each seeks bis sin again.
Thirdly; A temporary abstinence from transgression is not the change in question. Pharaoh,
Dr. CALAMY's 'Godly Man's Ark.' 2 Verse 31.
3 Matt. xi. 28–30.
under the immediate pressure of his plagues, humbled himself beneath the mighty hand of God, and yielded to the divine requirements; yet we know that his goodness, like the morning cloud, speedily vanished away, and was succeeded by a greater obduracy than ever. The same also was the case with the Israelites. 1
Fourthly ; Not even outward morality, if outward only, is the thing inquired after. Several of the heathens, as for instance Aristides, Socrates, and Pythagoras, were perfect exemplars of external virtue and integrity; yet they could not be termed penitents; for repentance is an evangelical grace. Even hypocrites have been famous for their reformations. The unclean spirit often goes out of the formal hypocrite, by an external reformation; and yet still retains his proprietary in them. Many that will never escape the damnation of hell, have yet escaped the pollutions of the world, and that by the knowledge of the Son of God.' There is a reformation, the mere effect of inability to offend-a forced, not a willing amendment, arising from disease, or imprisonment, or old age. In such cases, the vessel ceases to sail, only because forsaken of the wind and tide. The person has not left his sins, but his sins have left him. The power to transgress is suspended ; the inclination remains.
In none of these instances therefore, may the
1 Psalm lxxviii. 34—37.