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Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”—Matt. 11. 2.
Or thus, si
Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven hath approached.” THESE words are the words of John the Baptist, when he first began to preach the gospel of Christ; and if you look into the next chapter, Matt. iv. 17, ye shall find that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself does preach the same doctrine in the same words, “ Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our Saviour Christ, the better preacher, is not ashamed to tread in John's steps and words: John honoured Christ, and Christ honoured John. Ministers should strengthen the hands one of another. And if ye look into Matt. x., ye shall find, that when our Saviour sent out his disciples for to preach the gospel, he commands them to preach the same doctrine too, in the same words, ver. 7, “ Go ye, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But, here is no Repent? Yes, that was in their commission too, as ye may read in Mark vi. 12; they would not preach a word beyond their commission : “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” So that their commission also was to preach thus, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven hath approached,” or hath drawn near unto you. Surely there is somewhat more than ordinary in these words, that John and our Saviour Christ and all the disciples, should begin thus, for to preach in these words, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." They were all ministers of the gospel, and the ministers of the -gospel are not barely to preach repentance, but they are to preach repentance upon gospel motives : “ the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
In the words ye have an exhortation, “ Repent ye;" a motive unto the work of repentance, “ for the kingdom of heaven hath approached.”
Repent ye;" that is, be not only sorrowful for sin committed, but mend your lives. Repentance is sometimes taken in a large sense for amendment of life. Sometimes repentance is taken only for godly sorrow, in a more strict and a narcow sense.
Sometimes it is taken largely, for the amendment of our life; not only for godly sorrow, but all obedience and reformation. And so it may be taken here, as ye may perceive by ver. 3, where this word Repent, is explained : “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.” Preparing the way of the Lord, and making straight paths, all one with repentance. There is a legal repentance, and there is an evangelical repentance. Some think it is a legal repentance that is here required : and thereupon they urge a necessity of legal preparation before a man does come to Christ : as there is John Baptist before Christ, so, say they, there must be a legal work of necessity before a poor soul can have any admittance to Jesus Christ.
But I pray consider the words, and you will find, that not a legal repentance, but evangelical, is here required. Did our Saviour Christ himself preach legal repentance? They are the words of our Saviour Christ, he uses them too.
The repentance is, as the consideration is, that this work is to be founded on, as the motive is. What is the motive? The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent; let your repentance be upon this ground, because the kingdom of heaven hath approached, because the kingdom of heaven hath drawn
He does not say, Repent, because the kingdom of hell is near; but, because the kingdom of heaven is near: the motive being evangelical, the repentance is so; it is not a legal, but an evangelical repentance that is here required. Besides, these words, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” are not spoken only to the ungodly, but unto the godly also of those times, who were to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make straight their paths. And, therefore, not to be understood of a repentance only preparatory to that in the heart.
But what then are we to understand here by the kingdom of heaven; and the approaching of the kingdom of heaven?
For the kingdom of heaven hath approached or drawn near
The kingdom of heaven sometimes, in the language of the New Testament, notes, the glorious condition of the other world that we are going to. Sometimes it notes the state of the church ; it is used for the church of Christ; and sometimes for the gospel of Christ. I take it here for the whole state of the Messiah : the kingdom of grace, Christ, and all his benefits, grace, mercy and free remission published in the gospel, in the several dispensations and administrations thereof. This is called the kingdom of heaven; for this motive, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, is set and used here in opposition unto the motives that were used among the Jews. When the Jews were excited and put upon any duty, they were stirred up thereunto upon such motives as these : for the kingdom of Canaan is at hand; if you do so and so, God will bring you into the land of Canaan, and give you that land. Now under the gospel here are other motives, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not like those Jewish motives: the kingdom of Canaan is at hand, or the kingdom of the Jebusites is at hand. Christians are not only or especially to be stirred up by such motives as these, but by higher and greater motives, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; and may carry an Hebraism with it; the kingdom of heaven, that is, a heavenly kingdom; as the law is called, the law of fire, in the Hebrew, a fiery law. The Jews expected the Messiah, and dreamed of an outward, glorious, and pompous kingdom: now, says John the Baptist, the Messiah is come, his kingdom is come; but it is not an outward, glorious, and pompous kingdom, but it is an heavenly kingdom, and therefore, repent, and prepare yourselves for the receiving of it, make your way plain, for the kingdom of heaven, an heavenly kingdom, is now at hand.
“ Is at hand," we read it; but according to the original rather thus, “ The kingdom of heaven hath approached;" appropinquavit. As if he should say thus: Do you turn to God, because God hath turned to you;
draw near to God, because the kingdom of grace and free remission hath drawn near to you.
There are two notes that lie here before us, that I shall commend unto your consideration.
The first is this, That the kingdom of heaven, of grace, mercy, and of free remission, does approach unto us before we do come unto it.
And secondly, that the appropinquation, or drawing near of the kingdom of heaven is the highest, and greatest argument and motive in the world unto true repentance.
The kingdom of heaven, I say, the kingdom of grace, mercy, and free remission of sin, does approach to us, before we draw near to it; repent, turn ye, for the kingdom of heaven hath approached, or it hath come near to you, and therefore do you come to it.
Thus it lies in the words : and thus you will find it all along.
Thus God hath promised; thus Christ hath parabled ; thus God fulfilled.
Thus God hath promised. Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee : what voice is that, but the voice of mercy, and the voice of
and of free remission? 66 Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee:" when thou art going away from God, and when thou hast thy back upon God, thou shalt hear a voice of mercy behind thee; it shall follow after thee before thou dost come to it.
And thus you have a clear parable for it, which you may read, fully speaking this truth in Luke xiv. 16–18, and so on, “ A certain man made a great supper, and bad many; and sent his servant at supper time, to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuses : so that the servant came (verse 21) and shewed his Lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry, said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind." Mark, here are invitations of mercy sent out to those that never thought of it. “And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded and yet there is room.
And the Lord said unto the servant, (verse 23) Go out into the highways, and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” See I pray, how the kingdom of grace, and mercy, and free-remission is brought near unto a people, before ever they did make after it.
And this, I say, you shall find fulfilled. So God hath
dealt by the world. So by particular kingdoms and nations in the world. So by particular towns and countries in a kingdom. So by particular families in a town. And so by particular persons in a family.
Thus God hath dealt with the world, he hath brought near the kingdom of grace, and mercy, and free-remission to the world, before ever the world did make after it. When the whole world had sinned in the fall, and lay in wickedness, and never thought of returning unto God; “ God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son to them,” John ïï. 16. When Adam did not think of Christ, nor the world in him; the Lord gives out a promise, “ The seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head,” Gen. iii. 15. Thus mercy, and grace made its approach towards the world, before ever the world did seek after it.
So in regard of a nation, in regard of a kingdom in the world : “ Go (says our Lord and Saviour Christ unto his disciples) and teach all nations." The nations did not come to Christ and say, Lord, the Jews have refused the gospel, and therefore we beseech thee that the gospel may be preached unto us, and we will receive it: no, but before ever they sent any such message to have the gospel come down to them, the gospel is sent to them, “Go (says our Saviour) go preach to all nations.” But Lord they might say, Suppose that in those nations we meet with such a man as Herod, such a man as Pilate; shall we preach the gospel and free remissions of sins then to such a one? Go, says Christ, I make no exceptions; go, and preach to all nations. But suppose that a Judas come in when we are preaching the gospel. Says Christ, I make no exceptions, if a Judas will come and submit, go preach to all, go preach the gospel, go preach to all nations.
And was it not thus with the nation of the Jews, as ye read in Ezek. xvi., when they were first taken into God's love? “ None eye pitied thee (verse 5.) to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion on thee.” Verse 6.,“ When I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live : yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” And so it will be with this people, the Jews, again, when they shall be converted in the latter days of the world : the Lord speaks