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and have perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going down to the pit, and his life shall see the light.” Apply even yourself to conscience, and hear what the Scriptures have said so long. “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,” and to you, my friend, he hath given abundant assurance of this, by raising him from the dead.
Yes, if it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, it was that“ repentance and remission of sins should be proclaimed in his name among all nations.” Yes, in his name, by his authority, and with his approbation, you are at this moment addressed. Repentance, however unwelcome to you naturally, which the law of innocence knew nothing of, and for which the law of God makes no provision, constitutes one-half of the Saviour's mandate or commission, or last and parting charge One-half, too, and that the first-mentioned, of the doctrine which Paul, his servant, preached, not only in public, but observe, from house to house.
It is however observable, that, though the law speaks not of repentance, it is the appointed instrument for producing that persuasion and conviction which lead to repentance : and as an instrument for this end, the law is invaluable. Once read with enlightened eyes, its doomsday sentence cannot be erased from the heart by any means, save one. And for what end is the weight and pressure of such conviction but this, that since as much justice or equity as there is in the law which condemns, so much of divine favor is there in the glorious remedy by which I am relieved ? For you, therefore, my friend, to see the grace or favor in the one case, you must see the justice in the other.
Besides, repentance has an immediate reference to your specific character,--to your way,—to your thoughts : and as no radical change can take place without a distinct reference to the evil and enmity of the heart as thus displayed, so the truth of the divine law is invaluable as an instrument of conviction. For this end, among many others, it is holy in its own nature, just in its operation, and good in its effects.
The adaptation of this law for conviction is equally to be admired with the adaptation of the atonement to relieve. Nay, it is the burden of guilt, thus ascertained by such conviction, from which the atonement in every case delivers. Oh, yes, the spirit of bondage, however it is deprecated by some and denounced by others, is, after all, my friend, a “received” spirit, as well as the spirit of adoption. There is great moral beauty in the perfect harmony of these two means. " The righteousness of God,” his one method of justifying you or any,“ without the law is manifested ; but the law itself and the prophets bear witness to it:and while this obedience and sacrifice of Jesus relieves, according to law, from the burden and curse of a neglected, and abused, and despised authority, instead of blunting the edge of any man's keen persuasion of his own personal guilt, the cross exhibits at once a Saviour to preserve from despair, and that view of sin which in the divine mind had been hitherto revealed in threatenings to be fulfilled, or shadowed forth in types and sacrifices which had not perfected as relating to the conscience. Yes, in Him who bled, and groaned, and died, however mysteriously, yet truly
There Vengeance and Compassion join
But that vengeance which was there unfolded belongs still unto God : and you would do well to consider it, as it is,
the prerogative of Him who thus bowed his head on Calvary. He is coming—and coming, too, as the Judge both of quick and dead, to take vengeance on them who, after all this, know not God, and obey not his gospel. You will be judged at last by Him who has been sometimes profanely called “the Carpenter's Son," though in this there was no disgrace : and rely upon it in time, He is too strong for you. Hence it is, that faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ is thus urged upon you and me in the Sacred Scripture.
Yes, in immediate connection with repentance towards God—the evidence of acquiescence in his character and claims, must ever be enforced,—faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ-our acceptance of his obedience and death, and our exclusive trust in these for acceptance with God.
Once separate these, and the glory of his incarnation and death cannot be seen. Even then, indeed, you may hear some speak of them as glorious, but it is not because of his having then met all the demands of God's most righteous law, but merely because the atonement is suitable to our condition, and as containing good news, which, they tell us, must first be enforced, in order to conciliate the heart of man to God. But is this indeed an interpreter, one among a thousand ? or does he show unto man God's uprightness, that God may be gracious unto him? Certainly not. The basis of reception into the divine favor must surely be explained, ay, and received, otherwise the conciliation, so called, will be feigned and hollow. Can the heart be healed before it is broken? Can conciliation possibly take place, before the loftiness of man is brought low? No, no, gratitude is neither the beginning nor the end of genuine Christianity, nor can the gift be received until the character and claims of the giver be admitted. Indeed, until the heart is touched with the evil of the sins to which the party has been most
addicted, the core of the disease must ever remain. Though help and cure are just at hand, it is pitiful and distressing, in the extreme, to see the wound healed slightly ; nor, alas ! will that heart, can that heart, turn unto God.
Nay, what is still more affecting, if it is possible for a man thus addressed, to abuse and insult one perfection of the Divine Name more than another, that perfection will be his mercy and his good-will, poured forth to us in the gift and sufferings of his own Son. Lean upon the cross, indeed, professedly he may, to save him from falling into endless misery ; but one lust, his ruling passion, by that cross will he not crucify. A transient glow of animal feeling, mistaken for genuine gratitude, you may excite without having referred either to the character or the claims of God, as God. But what then? The Israelites of old, as a body, on the banks of the Red Sea especially, were so affected, but two years had not elapsed before they were for turning back to Egypt again. The expressions of such spurious gratitude may well be preserved. The very song which these Israelites sung, being put on record, became a witness for God against them; and so, my friend, it must always be, where benefits are received professedly from God, without previous recognition of his character, and his claims upon us.
„Nor will any analogy, borrowed from human benevolence and outward reformation, ever reach this case, or profitably explain it. Howard might perambulate the globe, and ameliorate; kindness and courtesy may, and will, if anything will, soften the ferocity of felons in a jail ; but the impenetrable hardness of the heart towards God is not to be, alas! cannot be, so softened.
Of all the gifts his hand has bestowed, there is not one which has been so neglected, so despised, so presumed upon, as his favor and mercy through Christ Jesus. Witness the present state
of Great Britain. When, therefore, I approach towards this heart with a wish to save it, and turn it effectually to God, I must not forget the conscience, and that there is an order in divine truth, as there is a time for everything under the sun. Let me state truth as I may, if heedless or indifferent about this order, all my toil is vain. “ Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness : in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and he will not behold the majesty of Jehovah."
Nor is there any difficulty in accounting for all this. The truth is, that that to which the heart of man is so averse,
is not any one perfection of the divine name to the exclusion of others; but since, in Scripture, all his perfections in union are held up as constituting the divine name or character, it is this character to which we feel, naturally, such disinclination. The stupendous obedience and death of our blessed Lord are suited indeed to us as fallen; and they are suited to our guilty and forlorn circumstances, but in no sense whatever either to our evil or selfish propensities. Until therefore the heart is affected by some persuasion of the equity of the divine government, a cordial and saving reception of the atonement, for the injuries done to that government, is, in the nature of things, impossible. In one word, the atonement was offered and accepted upon certain principles; and hence the necessity for the faithful interpreter of the divine record, commending himself to every man's conscience as in the sight of God.
To you, therefore, my reader, permit me to say, while your own character must by you be recognized, recognized in the way of conviction, and confession, and repentance towards God, yet whatever that character be, and to whatever extent you
there is here for you, broad as all your guilt, and far exceeding your warmest wish. You may, nay, you have, by sin,