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nests,” Matt. xiii. 31, 32: when you see a little mustard seeil, you will say, it is impossible; can ever this mustard seed grow to that bigness, that the fowls of the air should there make their nests? The kingdom of heaven is like Christ himself? Can this be the Messiah ? it is the carpenter's son; can this carpenter's son be the Messiah? So the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed: comes with a small motion : may be the child makes a motion to his father, Oh, father, let there be prayer in our family, oh, let there be reading the word of God in our family. May be the servant comes and makes a motion to the mistress; Oh, mistress, let us go to such a sermon, let us go to such a meeting, let us go to prayer: the kingdom of heaven may come in such a motion ; by the hand of a child, by the hand of a servant: take heed therefore if you have not submitted to this offer; oh, take heed, take heed how you neglect so great salvation. I say the kingdom of heaven may come in such a small motion as you despise. And therefore, if ever the Lord breathe upon any
your hearts; if the wind come about; man and woman, up with thy sails, now for thy life, now for thy eternity ; if this gale be lost, may be thou shalt never have such a gale again: the kingdom of heaven does approach and draw near unto us, before we draw near unto it: well therefore, when it comes, see that you accept of it.
Repent ye : for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:” (or hath
approached.)-Matt. 111. 2. THESE words are part of that sermon which John the Baptist preached, when he first began for to preach the gospel. They contain, ye see at the first view, an exhortation to repentance, with a motive, or encouragement thereunto : “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I take it for granted, that ye understand what is the notion of repentance. And my design is not to fall into the common place of repentance; but only to speak to it so far as it hath relation to this motive.
Some there are, that think these words are to be understood of a legal repentance; as if John the Baptist's ministry were a legal ministry : and in that sense he himself a forerunner of Jesus Christ. This, methinks, is to lower the ministry of John the Baptist. And if you look into Luke i., you will find, that John's ministry was not a legal ministry, but a gospel ministry: verses 76, 77, “ Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the highest: for thou shalt
before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways: to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” And if ye look into the following verse to the text, ye shall find the interpretation of this repentance : “ Repent ye : 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.” So that preparing the way of the Lord, and making his paths straight, is all one with that which is going before. Now is any one able to make his paths straight, before he do come to Christ; why then do we come to Christ if we be able to make our paths straight, before we do come unto him?
And besides, As the motive is, such is the repentance that is founded on it. The motive here is evangelical : “ Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The motive is evangelical, surely therefore the repentance here required, is not a legal, but an evangelical repentance.
But what is it then? what is here meant by the kingdom of heaven; and the kingdom of heaven being at hand, or approaching?
In the language of the New Testament, the kingdom of heaven is sometimes put for the kingdom of glory; sometimes it is put for the church of Christ under the New Testament: sometimes it is put for the gospel, and the preaching of the gospel: sometimes for the whole kingdom of grace. I take it here for the whole state of the Messiah: the kingdom of grace, the preaching of the gospel, and the dispensations thereof. And he says here, That the kingdom of heaven hath approached : therefore do you turn, therefore do ye repent.
There are these two notes that lie before ye.
First, The kingdom of heaven does approach unto us, before we do come unto it. Repent ye: or turn ye: because
the kingdom of heaven hath approached unto you; so in the beginning.
Secondly, That the appropinquation, approaching, or drawing near of the kingdom of heaven, is the highest and the greatest motive in the world unto true repentance.
I have spoken to the former, in a congregation not far distant: and my desire is to speak unto the second.
The appropinquation, approaching, or drawing near of the kingdom of heaven, is the highest and the greatest motive in the world unto true repentance.
This is the motive that John uses here; thus John begins, when he began for to preach the gospel. And if you look into chap. iv., ye shall find, that our Saviour Christ begins to preach repentance upon the same motive: verse 17,“ From that time Jesus began to preach, and say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The same words. And if ye look into Matt. X., ye shall find, that when he sent out his apostles for to preach, he put the like words into their mouths also : verse 7, “ And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
There the word, repent, is not, you will say: but if you look into Mark vi. 12, ye shall find that it is said there, “ Then they went out and preached that men should repent." It was part of their commission : and thus they were to preach repentance upon this motive, “ That the kingdom of heaven is at hand, or the kingdom of heaven is approaching.” Surely therefore, this is the great motive, the motive of motives. In the invitation to the great supper spoken of in the gospel, what is the motive used, for to bring men unto the supper, but this ? “ Come, for all things are now ready;" mercy is ready, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is ready, come, for all things are now ready; this is the motive that is used there. And if ye look into Rom. xii. 1, ye shall find that when the apostle doth exhort them to present themselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, he persuades by this motive of mercy : “ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” I beseech ye therefore. That therefore, sends us unto the former chapter, to inquire what these mercies were. At verse 30, of the former chapter, he says unto them, “ For as ye in times past have not believed
God, yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief.” The Jews were cast off: and the gentiles, these Romans, received to mercy, the kingdom of heaven did come to them, the gospel effectually preached to them, the doctrine of free remission of poor sinners : now, says he, I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. The Scripture is full of this.
But for our better opening, and clearing of this truth: let us, I pray, descend into the particulars of repentance, and consider how the grace, and mercy, and love of God in Christ, which is the substance of this kingdom of heaven, hath an influence upon them all; and how all of them are caused thereby,
A man that does repent, must see and know his sins : true sight of sin is requisite to true repentance. Indeed, a man may in some measure attain unto the knowledge, and discovery of his sin by some affliction : when Adonibezek had his fingers and toes cut off, you know what he said: “ Thus have I done." Afflictions do unleave a man, take off his leaves: when the leaves are off the hedges, ye see those birds-nests that ye could not see before when the leaves were on; and so when affliction hath made one naked, and taken one's leaves off, a man is able to see those nests of corruption in his own heart that he never did see before.
The apostle says, “ By the law is the knowledge of sin :" but now, though by the law, as by a rule, we come to the knuwledge of our sin; and by affliction we are helped to see the nests of our own hearts : yet notwithstanding, a man cannot see his sins fully but by gospel light; it is a work of the Spirit to convince of sin : “ I will send the Spirit, the Comforter, and he shall convince the world of sin.” And where does the Spirit breathe, but in the gospel, the kingdom of heaven, the preaching of the gospel? “ Received ye the Spirit, (says the apostle) by works of the law, or by the preaching of faith?” When once Isaiah the prophet had had a sight of Christ out, he cries out, Ve mihi, “I am undone; woe is me, I am undone, I am unclean."
Again, for I will but touch upon these; as a man must know his sin, so if he will repent truly, he must be grieved and hurnbled for it. If you look into Luke vii., ye may see what work it had. A woman, a great sinner, comes to Christ,
and she washes his feet with her tears; what made her do so?
She loved much, for much was forgiven her. So that the more the love and mercy of God in Christ is opened in the gospel, or does make its approach unto a soul, the more the soul is set a weeping and mourning for sin committed.
Again, As a man repenting must be grieved for sin committed, so he must and he will loathe himself; self-loathing is requisite to repentance. If a man have taken a surfeit by eating or drinking, he does not only loathe the meat which caused the surfeit, but he loathes the very vessel that hath the smell of the meat or the liquor in it. So now when a man comes to repent, he does not only loathe his sin, but he loathes himself, the vessel where the sin was. Oh, these filthy eyes of mine; oh, these vile hands; oh, this vile heart of mine : he loathes himself. But what causes this self-loathing ? The prophet Ezekiel will tell ye, in chap. xx. 41, 42, 43: “ Then shall ye loathe yourselves when I am pacified;" or when God had shewn them mercy, caused his love to approach unto them. Then should they loathe themselves. It is not all your afflictions, nor all my threatenings, says God, that will make ye to loathe yourselves; but when ye see my love, my grace, my pardoning mercy, then shall ye loathe yourselves : not your sins only, but yourselves also.
Again, A repenting person does not only loathe himself for his sin, but he is ashamed of it; he is ashamed of his former
6 What fruit have ye of those things whereof ye are now ashamed ? " not before, but whereof ye are now ashamed. So long as a man walks in the dark, he does not blush, he is not ashamed, though his clothes be ragged and torn, and his naked flesh appears, because he is in the dark; but if he comes to the light, then he blushes that his nakedness appears. And so long as men are in their sins and are in darkness, they are not ashamed of their sins, because they are in darkness; but when once they come to the light, then they blush, and then they are ashamed. What light is that, that will ashame one of sin ? There is light enough in hellfire, for the damned there to read their sins by, but that does not make them ashamed; where the light of the gospel, the opening of the kingdom of heaven is, and pardoning love is, there is shame. Ye shall see, therefore, how Ezra blushes when he considered the love of God and their sins together;