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- men should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet
for repentance.”: “Repent, and be converted,” or | - rather convert, as it is in the original language; “that your sins may be blotted out.” “Turn § turn ye,” is the emphatical language of God to his rebellious people, * for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel!” It is hence evident, that repentance is a perfectly free and voluntary act of the sinner, performed in the full possession of moral liberty and free agency. , 2. It is equally plain from scripture, however, that repentance and conversion are the gift of God; and are the effects of his own infinite power and grace. On the day of Pentecost, the distressed and convicted multitude, who were pricked in the heart, and who cried out “Men and brethren, what shall we do P” were directed to repent. This was their indispensable duty, and an imporfant and necessary condition of their salvation. But the three thousand converts were evidently brought to repentance, by the power of the Holy Ghost. That day was memorable, on account of the work of the Lord, and not on account of anything effected by human * '. If so. then repentance and conversion are the gift of God.
This point is further established, by what is said con- cerning the success of the gospel at the house of Cornelius. When Peter had distinctly rehearsed this matter | to the christian brethren at Jesusalem, they glorified God, o saying, “Then hath God also to the gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Repentance, it appears, is a heavenly gift, a rich grant from the Father of mercies.
In the prophecy of Jeremiah, we have a plain testimony of divine agency, in producing genuine repentance, and a saving conversion to God. “Turn thou ine, and 1 shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed,” or spiritually taught, “I smote upon my thigh;” a token of contrition. Ezekiel also bears the same testimony. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart oflesh ; and I will put my Spirit within you, and
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cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities, and for your abominations. Repentance is invariably, the free act of the humble and contrite heart; and yet it is invariably, the effect of divine influence on the heart. This matter is set in the clearest and most conspicuous light, in Paul's noted charge to Timothy. The doctrines of divine and human agency are, in a manner blended together in these words; “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure, will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Thus evident it is from the scriptures, that although God gives repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth, by his own infinite power; yet the subjects of it are never deprived of free agency, for a single moment; but, in an important sense, they do, by their active penitence, recover themselves from the slavery of sin and satan. This is agreeable to our own observation. We are sometimes witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners: and, at the same time, witnesses of the voluntary agency of the converts, in their penitence, and holy conversation. . . . . 3. We remark, that repentance does not imply a sorrow for sin, considered merely as an event of Providence, which will be overruled for the general good. On this ground, Joseph administered comfort, rather than rebuke to his wicked and cruel brethren. “Now therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.” “As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”. You acted a criminal part; but the event brought about by your conduct, was as important as the existence of the church. The same may be said respecting ali the sin in the universe. In itself considered, it is an awful and inexcusable evil; but as an event, which is necessary for the richest display of the glory of
God, in the great work of redemption; and for the great-
sorrow of the world, that worketh death. True repentance and conversion, beget no gloominess and horror of mind, no painful sensations, except such as are conducive to godliness. It is a chosen and pleasing exercise of the renewed heart. The valley of humiliation is a Fo valley. Conscious of a broken and contrite eart, the true penitent draws sensibly near to God, and offers such sacrifices, as he will not despise. In his own view, he sinks to nothing; that God may be all in all, His chief object, for time and eternity, is to glorify God, and to see his glory. . He accounts it a privilege to be humble, and to abhor his selfish heart; and he cherishes these views and exercises, as the only preparation for the inheritance of the glories of the heavenly state.
The Christian Faith. * , HAving discussed the doctrine of repentance, it is in systematic order, to attend, in the next place, to the doctrine of the christian faith. For these two ingredients constitute all the essentials of the christian character. The primary and literal meaning of the word, faith, is believing. To believe what a man testifies, is to have faith in his testimony. To believe in what God testifies, is to have faith in God. Faith has respect to things which cannot be absolutely known ; but which depend for their proof on certain testimony. Where absolute knowledge ends, there faith begins. And faith in divine testimony is a proper and necessary substitute for knowledge. In matters which exceed the knowledge and comprehension of men, we have to confide in God, who gives ample testimony and proof of whatever he declares. But this is not all that belongs to the definition of the christian faith. For all that is implied in this belief of the divine testi
mony, is nothing more than a speculative faith, which the devils, as well as men, may possess. But in the christian faith, much more is implied, than a simple concession and a cold assent to the divine testimonies. Sinners may believe, speculatively, in all the testimonies of God, being rationally convinced of their truth. They may believe, and even contend for the truth, respecting the character and government of the Most High ; and respecting the perfections of that law, by which they stand condemned to utter and eternal destruction. They may indeed believe in all the doctrines, precepts and institutions of the gospel, with a heart bitterly opposed to all the articles of their speculative faith. This faith, however clear and strong it may be, is far from being the christian faith; for the christian faith, is a faith which works by love.” Holy love is the source and fountain, from whence proceed all the christian virtues, and all christian conduct. Repentance, and humility of heart, as well as the christian faith, work by love. Hope and confidence in Christ work by love. When the heart is renewed, by regenerating grace, every christian exercise flows spontaneously from it, as streams from a copi
ous fountain. Repentance takes the lead, and faith, hope
and joy in God, follow in close succession. All the fruits of the Spirit are, by the Apostle, resolved into one head or fountain. “ The fruit of the Spirit is LovE.” Thence follow the whole concatenation of virtues, “joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Among the rest we find, that faith holds a conspicuous rank : * Faith which works by love.”
From these general remarks on the christian faith, we may now proceed to a more strict definition. In the holy scriptures, we find many things recorded, which serve to explain this doctrine. The most correct definition, Heb. xi. is in these words; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The objects of evangelical faith are always invisible, during the present life. They are things, concerning which we can have no knowledge, except so far as we are informed by divine revelation. But, by faith in