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mission, by calling on men to repent; and his Great Master, also, began his ministry by preaching repentance. Both of them said, "Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. iii. 2; iv. 17). Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke xiii. 5). The apostles "went out and preached, that men should repent" (Mark vi. 12). Jesus instructed them, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" (Luke xxiv. 47). Peter preached repentance (Acts ii. 38; iii. 19); and Paul preached that "men every where should repent" (Acts xvii. 30). In the Revelation, the Lord, in addressing the seven churches, calls them repeatedly to repentance. For example, to the church of Ephesus he saith, "I will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent" (ii. 2). More might be added if it were necessary, to shew that repentance is indispensable, and that without it, no man can possibly be saved.
From what has been adduced, we may see plainly that repentance is an important subject. It should always be taught as earnestly in the church as it was taught by the Lord and his apostles. But is this indeed done? Do the present teachers in Israel make repentance the foundation-stone of religion? We know, alas! that they do not. We know that the doctrines of faith alone, free grace, imputed righteousness, &c. are made the criteria of "orthodox " belief. If repentance be at all alluded to, it is done in a way to evince that it is little estimated or thought of: it is mystified, and explained away, into a contemptible insignificance. The prevailing errors are such, that what was taught by the Lord and his apostles respecting repentance, is lost upon mankind.
The subject of repentance is not understood: men are ignorant of its real nature. They are wont to say in ordinary discourse, that they repent of having done this or that thing; which means, that they are sorry for having done it, and wish they had acted otherwise; and this idea goes with them when they think on repentance as a religious duty. It is commonly explained to mean, a "godly sorrow for sin, with an intention of future amendment." This godly sorrow we may properly call contrition. It may, as they conceive, instantaneously take place, and the penitent is then entitled to absolution. When sins are thus forgiven, they are thought to be taken away, and man is made a child of grace. According to this view, a man may repent without actually amending his life; for it only requires an intention of future amendment. But let us hear what one of the apostles says on the subject; that apostle whose writings are so supereminently prized.
In one of his epistles we find the words, "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation" (2 Cor. vii. 10). Here, it is plain, that he does not understand godly sorrow to be repentance, but that it precedes it; which is quite another thing. In the verse before this quotation, he makes the same distinction between sorrow and repentance.
We reply, It is a change of mind;
The mind is the man himself;
What, then, is real repentance? a change in the state of man's life. it is the real man. A changed state of the mind is a change of the affections and thoughts, with their activities in outward life. It is not safe to be guided by lexicographers in their definitions of Tavola, i. e. "repentance;" for they may err in conceiving what the religious duty is which it enjoins. We may expect that they will be influenced by the doctrinal opinions they may hold. Besides, it is a fact, that they are not agreed, as to what that Greek word implies in a theological With some it is made to denote "a change of mind, purpose," &c. It should always be remembered, that abstract terms are only conventional symbols of ideas. If we consider the circumstances under which repentance was commanded in the Gospel, we may be able to see clearly in what that duty consists. It was preached when the Lord made his advent to redeem men from their sins, and establish his kingdom on the earth. They were immersed in wickedness, and he would make them righteous. We read that "John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt. iii. 1-3). He called his baptism the "baptism of repentance." Now, the wilderness represented the state of the church at that time, or of the minds of men, in which there was nothing good and true. To prepare the Lord's way, and make straight his paths, was, to remove the things which opposed his entrance; implying, in the spiritual idea, to put away from their minds whatever was contrary to that kingdom of goodness and truth, which he came to establish. Baptism symbolized the washing away of sins, or removal of them from the mind, which is the same as to prepare the Lord's way in the wilderness. This was John's "repentance;" the reason for it being, that "the kingdom of heaven was at hand." This was a change in the minds of men; for when a man, from living in sin, begins to remove it; or oppose it in himself, his mind is in a state of change. It was necessary to make such a preparation, just as it is necessary for the mind of every man to be prepared, by the putting away of evil, for the
coming of the Lord's spiritual kingdom. Sin and holiness, or hell and heaven, cannot dwell together in the same mind. It would be like the dwelling of wolves, tigers, and vultures, with sheep, kids, and doves. It is thus with man and the Lord. As evil beasts must be removed before harmless ones can be introduced, even so must the evils in man's nature be put away, before the Lord, with heavenly graces, can enter and dwell in the mind. This then is repentance. It is a change of the mind, or the putting away of evils as sins. It consists of every thing by which man ceases to will and to do whatever is evil and sinful. It is an actual work. It is as different from mere godly sorrow," as any substance is from the shadow which goes before it. That sorrow is only contrition: it has certainly some connection with repentance; for when a person is awakened to a due sense of the awful nature of sin and its consequences, he will, of course, lament over his previous folly, and purpose amendment. In this way it will lead, if he fulfil his resolutions, to that "actual change of life" which we have described; according to the apostle's words, that "godly sorrow worketh repentance."
Having now given a general view of repentance, we proceed to particulars. If, as was said, it consists of every thing by which evil is put away, it will be obviously seen to comprise the three following duties, viz. self-examination, confession of sins, and their actual renunciation. The necessity of the first is seen from the fact, that until evils are explored, they cannot be discovered and known. Without this, man cannot know himself and his spiritual state. He must be like the merchant, who examines from time to time his accounts, that he may know his losses or his gains; or, like the mariner, who ascertains his place upon the waters, that he may come to his destination in safety. At first it is difficult for a man to examine himself; but if he persevere, it will soon become easy. And in so examining his state, he must not consider his outward actions only, but also the desires and motives which actuate his conduct. External works are only effects proceeding from causes in the mind, which causes should be sought out with especial care and attention: these, being the ends and affections of his life, are what constitute the real man. He is to know if he be in the loves of self and of the world, after first learning what those loves precisely are. To know what are the loves of the will, he must consider what occupies his thoughts, for it is in these
* The "Heads of Self-examination," contained in that excellent work, "A Help to Family and Private Devotion," by the Rev. W. Mason, are earnestly recommended to the reader's attention.
that affections take their form and become visible; he must watch, with careful solicitude, the hourly current of his thoughts, especially when alone; and further, he must not only think upon what he is actually doing, as to his thoughts and deeds, but what he fain would do, if no laws or circumstances restrained him, and he were free to do all his pleasure. He will in this way go to the root of the tree: he must bring every thing to the ordeal of divine truth.
The second duty we have mentioned, is the confession of sins. To confess our sins is not simply for a man to declare with his lips that he is a sinner, for words alone are mere vocal expressions, and of no real use if they are not the result of ideas and thoughts: it is to see and know evils in the mind and practice; to acknowledge them as sins; to think them abominable, and to condemn one's-self as the doer of them: when this is done before the Lord the Saviour, and supplication made to him for mercy, forgiveness, and power to resist evils, it is truly the confessions of sins. Men generally think, that mere lip-confession, and this, too, of sins universally, is sufficient; and they will say, that they are nothing but sin from head to foot, while they are unconscious of a single evil in themselves: they omit to consider the particular evils of which their sin consists. But bring home some of the evils that men may be known to commit: tell the preacher of his pulpit-affectation, and his want of humility; say to the man of sloth and ease that he is not performing uses; tax the avaricious man with extortion; describe to the man of wealth how riches are not to be misapplied; shew to the housewife her mismanagement; to the mother her negligence; and to my lady, her vanity and pride-do these things, and you will find that, although in their prayers they confess themselves sinners, they will take offence, instead of owning the particular evils you have pointed out: you will then be convinced, that to call one's-self an evil doer is a very different thing from seeing and knowing evils in detail, and owning them to be sins. O no; it is the language of lying lips when a person says that he confesses himself a sinner, and yet will not plead guilty to each of the evils he commits, when they are presented to his mind. He is, indeed, a sinner, but he does not make the confession of it.
This is the prinBut in this, as in
The third duty is the actual renunciation of sin. cipal work, the sum and substance of repentance. self-examination, man must not only attend to his external practice, but to the purposes and desires of his heart. If he satisfy himself with merely regulating his words and actions, he will be like a wound which is but externally healed, or like a whited sepulchre, which is
beautiful outward, but within is full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. He must have especial regard to the secret imaginings of his mind, and diligently resist every unholy and uncharitable affection, as it manifests itself in the thoughts. When alone with himself, he must watch, and shun, every thought which is sinful; he must shun the ways of temptation and the appearance of evil; he must have regard to what are thought to be venial faults; and also to sins of omission. For example: he must avoid every thing of pride, conceit, levity, and foolishness; idle and frivolous discourse; unkind words and tempers; rudeness and eccentricity; idleness and selfish ease; inordinate indulgence; repining and fretfulness; unwillingness to read the Word and its authorized expositions; inattention to the duties of piety; neglect and disorder of whatever kind: and he must not think of cherishing some sins while he puts away others; he must shun every known sin without exception. Nor must he work by fits and starts ; repenting to-day and falling off again to-morrow. He must shun evils one day and every day; at all times and in all places; in business or in pleasure; alone or in company; at home or abroad. His work must be constant and continual, until sin is subdued; "yea, he must repent daily during all his stay on the earth. He must also be careful, in shunning evils, to do so from a proper motive; he must shun them as sins against God. He must not consider that this or that evil is contrary to his interests; but the language of his heart must be, The Lord has forbidden this; it is sin, and, therefore, I shun it. It is thus that evil is to be shunned in thought and in deed. All these duties must needs appear at first sight to be arduous; but it is worthy of remark, that if man begins to do them, he soon acquires to himself a habit, which is strengthened and confirmed by perseverance. He begins, as it were, to ascend steps, and every succeeding step becomes more easy. By these duties of actual repentance, a way is prepared for the Lord to descend into the human mind, with the graces and virtues constituent of the heavenly state in man. He is thus regenerated, and made an heir of the kingdom of God.
When the christian penitent has attended to the duties described above, he must, above all things, continue steadfast in goodness, even to the end of life. If he relapse into his former evils, and live in them, he will commit the awful sin of profanation, which is worse than a state of unmixed evil: it is worse, because it conjoins evil with good in the same mind. This is taught by the Lord's words to the man whom he had healed at the pool of Bethesda, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee" (John v. 14). Again, where he saith,