« AnteriorContinuar »
the case already alluded to. Now, we have much the same kind of exception to allege against the term reformation, that we have alleged against the term repentance. The term repentance is inadequateand why? because, in the common use of it, it is equivalent to regret, and regret is short of the saving change that is spoken of in the New Testament. On the very same principle, we count the term re-, formation to be inadequate. We think that, in common language, a man would receive the appellation of a reformed man upon the mere change of his outward habits, without any reference to the change of mind and of principle which gave rise to it. Let the drunkard give up his excesses--let the backbiter give up his evil speakings—let the extortioner give up his unfair charges—and we would apply to one and all of them, upon the mere change of their external doings, the character of reformed men. Now, it is evident that the drunkard may give up his drunkenness, because checked by a serious impression of the injury he has been doing to his health and his circumstances. The backbiter may give up his evil speaking, on being made to perceive that the hateful practice has brought upon him the contempt and alienation of his neighbours. The extortioner may give up his unfair charges, upon taking it into calculation that his business is likely to suffer by the desertion of his customers. Now, it is evident, that though in each of these cases there has been what the world would call reformation, there has not been scriptural repentance. The deficiency of this term consists in its having been employed to denote a mere change in the deeds or in the habits
of the outward man; and if employed as equivalent to repentance, it may delude us into the idea that the change by which we are made meet for a happy eternity is a far more slender and superficial thing than it really is. It is of little importance to be told that the translator means it only in the sense of a reformed conduct, proceeding from the influence of a new and a right principle within. The common meaning of the word will, as in the former instance, be ever and anon intruding itself, and get the better of all the formal cautions, and all the qualifying clauses of our Bible commentators.
But, will not the original word itself throw some light upon this important question? The repentance which is enjoined as a duty-the repentance which is unto salvation—the repentance which sinners undergo when they pass to a state of acceptance with God from a state of enmity against him—these are all one and the same thing, and are expressed by one and the same word in the original language of the New Testament. It is different from the word which expresses the repentance of sorrow; and if translated according to the parts of which it is composed, it signifies neither more nor less than a change of mind. This of itself is sufficient to prove the inadequacy of the term reformation-a term which is often applied to a man upon the mere change of his conduct, without ever adverting to the state of his mind, or to the kind of change in motive and in principle which it has undergone. It is true, that there can be no change in the conduct without some change in the inward principle. A reformed drunkard, before careless about health or fortune,
may be so far changed as to become impressed with these considerations; but this change is evidently short of that which the Bible calls repentance toward God. It is a change that may, and has taken place in many a mind, when there was no effectual sense of the God who is above us, and of the eternity which is before us. It is a change, brought about by the prospect and the calculation of worldly advantages; and, in the enjoyment of these advantages, it hath its sole reward. But it is not done unto God, and God will not accept of it as done unto him.
Reformation may signify nothing more than the mere surface-dressing of those decencies, and proprieties, and accomplishments, and civil and prudential duties, which, however fitted to secure a man's acceptance in society, may, one and all of them, consist with a heart alienated from God, and having every principle and affection of the inner man away from him.
True it is, such a change as the man will reap benefit from, as his friends will rejoice in, as the world will call reformation; but it is not such a change as will make him meet for heaven, and is deficient in its import from what our Saviour speaks of when he says, “ I tell you nay, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
There is no single word in the English language which occurs to us as fully equal to the faithful rendering of the term in the original. Renewedness of mind, however awkward a phrase this may be, is perhaps the most nearly expressive of it. Certain it is, that it harmonizes with those other
passages of the Bible where the process is described by which saving repentance is brought about. We read of
being transformed by the renewing of our minds, of the renewing of the Holy Ghost, of being renewed in the spirit of our minds. Scriptural repentance, therefore, is that deep and radical change whereby a soul turns from the idols of sin and of self unto God, and devotes every movement of the inner and the outer man, to the captivity of his obedi
This is the change which, whether it be expressed by one word or not in the English language, we would have you well to understand; and reformation or change in the outward conduct, instead of being saving and scriptural repentance, is what, in the language of John the Baptist, we would call a fruit meet for it. But if mischief is likely to arise, from the want of an adequate word in our language, to that repentance which is unto salvation, there is one effectual preservative against it-a firm and consistent' exhibition of the whole counsel and revelation of God. A man who is well read in his New Testament, and reads it with docility, will dismiss all his meagre conceptions of repentance, when he comes to the following statements : Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “ Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." “ The carnal mind is enmity against God; and if ye live after the flesh, .ye shall die: but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
“ By the washing of regeneration ye are saved.” 66 Be not then conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your minds."
Such are the terms employed to describe the process by which the soul of man is renewed unto repentance; and, with your hearts familiarized to the mighty import of these terms, you will carry with you an effectual guarantee against those false and flimsy impressions, which are current in the world, about the preparation of a sinner for eternity.
Another delusion which we shall endeavour to expose, is a very mischievous application of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, contained in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel by Matthew. The interpretation of this parable, the mischief and delusion of which we shall endeavour to lay open, is, that it relates to the call of individuals, and to the different periods in the age of each individual at which this call is accepted by them. We almost know nothing more familiar to us, both in the works of authors, and in the conversation of private Christians, than when the repentance of an aged man is the topic, it is represented as a case of repentance at the eleventh hour of the day. We are far from disputing the possibility of such a repentance, nor should those who address the message of the gospel ever be restrained from the utterance of the free call of the gospel, in the hearing of the oldest and most inveterate sinner whom they may meet with. But what we contend for, is, that this is not the drift of the parable. The parable relates to the call of nations, and to the different periods in the age of the world at which this call was addressed to each of them, and not as we have already observed, to the call of individuals, and to the different periods in