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St. Paul writes, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh did : and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” (Rom. viii. 1, &c.)
By the preaching of the law exclusively men are driven into a strait from which they know not how to extricate themselves. They are like beasts of prey frightened by horrid cries with fire and faggot into an impenetrable stoccade : but, by the preaching of the gospel, an opening is made for them who will, to escape. It is observed by the forecited St. Paul, how “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal. iii. 13, 14.) This redemption from the curse of the law, of which curse a man may be sensible only by the light of nature, though by the light of nature alone, he cannot appreciate its severity and extent, was what Job, David, and St. Paul himself, among other excellent men, had longed to be released from ; but, while they all equally enjoyed the benefit of such release, the latter had also the further happiness of enjoying the name and knowledge of his Redeemer. "O wretched man that I am! (said he,) who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (meaning that which every man is subject to by law,) I thank God through Jesus Christ.” (Rom. vii. 24, 25.)
And Isaiah is in raptures, when he only anticipates this dear deliverance, without foreseeing particularly either its Bearer, time, or circumstances, perhaps, any further than we read in his prophecy. For example: without knowing exactly, perhaps, who he was in an earthly relation, or who were his father and mother, or where he came from, who “ went about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom," (Matt. ix. 35,) -or who they were whom he chose and ordained his coadjutors in the work, the prophet exclaims, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, THY GOD REIGNETH. Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy; sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem : for the Lord hath comforted his people; he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord HATH made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth SHALL see the salvation of our God.” (Isa. lii. 7, &c.) And where is the watchman or preacher now, that can help. catching the prophet's enthusiasm, and coming forward in the spirit of Isaiah, to proclaim with him “the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him"? (Heb. v. 9.)
I am happy, as a watchman, for one, to avail myself of the opportunity that I have * found for sounding to you so seasonably + what I have espied in the way of salvation by repentance, and a renewed obedience to God in Christ. He told his disciples once, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.
For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them ; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” (Luke x. 23, 24.) And they who hear me now may
* By leave of our curate.
+ In Lent.
perceive likewise more of the efficacy of repentance, as one might of any other good part when displayed in the light of the gospel, than many kings and prophets of old : they may perceive by such light, perhaps, an efficacy in the part, and also a merciful goodness in its allowance, that some of them never suspected; whether we regard 1, the Matter; 2, the Relation; or 3, the Effects of the subject, to wit, of repentance.
§ 1. With regard to the Matter or mere accident of repentance; I shall scarcely need to inform you what it is, or in what a feeling so common as to be generally known by experience may consist. For there is not, perhaps, a man living but has repented iv his time on some occasion or other; nor an occasion of any sort that can happen, I should think, but has been an occasion of repentance. Good itself is an occasion of repentance to some, when they happen to do good inadvertently; though not a good occasion, as we may hereafter observe: but how much more serious and becoming an occasion of the same is evil to those who would do good-but the good they would do they do not: with whom to will is present, but to perform that which is good they find not! (Rom. vii. 18 ) Every one, therefore, must have had some taste of repentance, and know something of its bitterness; which makes a more particular description of the passion or sentiment needless, than that it is a mixture of spirit and intellect,-a painful recollection of something done or suffered either badly or indifferently, that might have been done or suffered better : that is shortly what we seem to mean by repentance, in general. But, when we take notice of the several kinds of repentance, we may perceive some that are not so commonly experienced as some, nor so liable to be repented of, but rather to be desired-like some other rarities. For there are, as it would appear from a distinction of St. Paul's, two opposite sorts or kinds of repentance, godly and worldly, so named by him from their different relations; to which, having observed of the subject or matter as much as seemed necessary, I now proceed :
$ 2. These Relations are 1, the Party calling to repentance; 2, the Party called ; 3, its Occasion and Object; 4, our Room for repentance, and some other particulars.
1. The Party calling to repentance then is Christ : being here expressed in the first person, I; as he says, “I am not come to call ” those, “but” these whom he mentions. And this he does by various means : by the ministry of his immediate precursor, John the Baptist,-than whom among those born of woman, there never was a greater prophet, whatever others might have been ; (Luke vii. 28;) by the prophets before John; by the Messiah's own example and ministry ;--his example, in answering for other men's faults, though he could not repent, if he could suffer, in their stead ; (Luke xix. 41 ;) his ministry, in both living and dying, or “giving his life a ransom for many;" (Matt. xx. 28;) by his gospel in which these things are recorded, and form a continual call to repentance; by his ministers in succeeding ages,--and no age has yet been, nor ever will be, without them, I hope, since every day brings forward so many more things to be repented of, than commended; by the Holy Ghost, sent from the Father and infused into the hearts of his followers according to promise. “ I will send him (the Comforter) unto you (said he). And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, &c." (John xvi. 7, 8.)
It may seem inconsistent for the Comforter to be sent in order to trouble men's consciences,-or, as we are told by St. Paul, that the goodness of God should lead its favoured objects to the bitter fountain of repentance, (Rom. ii. 4,) as to another Siloam ;-but so he does; and leads them, namely, the objects of his favour and goodness, to repentance both directly and indirectly, even by very strange and circuitous routes sometimes. For he leads
It is also more largely handled in Christian Modes
them not only by the inward application of his Holy Spirit directly, as before observed ; but, also, by the outward dispensations of his wondrous providence :---some mortifying enough to human vanity, as they furnish matter for repentance, but more soothing to human infirmity when they are better understood to men-like St. Peter, of righteous principles, though not infallible, and like St. Paul,--who will rather glory in their infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon them. (Cor. II. xii. 9.)
2. But this belongs rather to our second relation, the Party called to repentance-which is not the righteous, of course, as “they that be whole need not a physician;" but sinners. So our Saviour says, “I am not come to call the righteous, (or faultless,) but sinners to repentance.” Thus he declares, both positively and negatively, who are the party called : they are not the first mentioned, but the last,---not the righteous, but sinners. Whence it would
appear, if we looked no farther, that some of us are to be excused from the bitter part of repentance,—that is, the faultless or absolutely righteous : and the righteous may be excused, no doubt. But who are they? Scripture says, “There is none righteous; no, not one." (Rom. iii. 10.) Of course, the call will be general: there is noneno, not one to be excused.
Our Saviour came not on a bootless errand,—to call the righteous, those who cannot answer to their name, those who are not to be found, but he came to call those who abound every where, to call sinners to repentance. And every one may answer, Here am I.
Let no man, therefore, preclude himself from the benefit of our Saviour's call by a false conceit of peculiar righteousness; of being blessed with an immunity and excuse that Job, David and Daniel, Peter, James and Paul, and all the best men of all times, in short, have candidly disclaimed.
“For the Scripture (as you have just heard, my brethren) hath concluded all under sin,