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3. Gospel repentance can never agree with selfrighteousness.
He alone is the scripture penitent, who feels that he has no goodness, not so much as a righteous thread of his own, wherein to stand before the Judge of all. Repentance, like faith, renounces itself; nor dreams of its ever being able to enter into the composition of that wedding garment, which entitles the wearer to a seat at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Pharisees roll themselves up in the mantle of their supposed good works, as a spider entrenches itself in a web of its own spinning : but where repentance is wrought, the hail of the law sweeps away the refuge of lies (a), and drives the ejected sinner to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Until you see that you cannot be saved by the moral law; and that you never did, nor ever can perform your duty, either to God or your neighbour, in the manner and with the extent which the law requires; as the Lord liveth, you have not yet experienced what Bible repentance
4. If you repent indeed, you will repent practically; by labouring to depart from iniquity, and by ordering your conversation aright. Though we are not saved for our holiness, yet holiness and good works are inseparable attendants on that grace of God which brings salvation. Any repentance which leaves us short of this, is counterfeit and nothing worth.
5. We may perhaps indirectly infer from the passage we have been considering, that angels and saints in glory, are acquainted with each other. If not a single conversion obtains on earth, which is not known among the inhabitants of the upper world, and if those dignified spirits express a friendship for every repenting sinner, by rejoicing over him, and by giving thanks to God on his behalf;
(a) Isai. xxviii. 17.
does it not seem more than probable, that social knowledge, intercourse, and harmony, constitute no small portion of that felicity which is at God's right hand for ever?
6. Observe too, that angels are present with us when we know it not. Not only the Deity himself, but also his ministering spirits, are about our bed, and about our path, and spy out all our ways: though our eyes are withheld, that we cannot discern the millions of immaterial beings, who throng our atmosphere. There is, therefore, no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves (a). As the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; so his angels likewise, disperse themselves at his command, beholding and noticing whatever is done among men.
7. If repentance and conversion be so amiable in the estimation of these holy, unembodied spectators; what ineffable abhorrence must they conceive, when witnesses to the commission of sin! Hence the Jews had a proverb, when an Israelite sins, the angels weep. And St. Austin has a similar observation : “ Quoties benè agimus, gaudent angeli, et tristantur dæmones. Quoties à bono deviamus, diabolum lætificamus, et angelos tuos suo gaudio defraudamus : ”i. e. As often as we do well, angels exult, and satan grieves : as often as we commit evil, we make satan glad, and defraud the angels of their joy. Striking reflection! strongly calculated to impress us with detestation of vice, and incite us to the pursuit of virtue! Greatly superior to that topic, beautiful as it was, from whence the heathen poet derived an argument against the prevailing immoralities of Rome :
-Sed luna videt, sed sidera testes
(a) Job xxxiv. 22.
8. Observe, and imitate, the amiable benevolence which glows in angelic bosoms. The peers of heaven are certain that their own salvation is se. cure. They know that they were loved and elected of God from all eternity; and that, through the efficacy of his confirming grace, they shall never be suffered to deviate from his image, nor to lapse into condemnation. Was their continuance in happiness at all dependent on the conversion of man, self-interest would sufficiently account for those strains of sympathetic joy, with which they celebrate the repentance, or initial salvation, of Adam's revolted sons. But, if the whole buman race were to perish, the dignity of the unfallen angels would still remain unimpaired, their safety unshaken, and their glory unobscured. It is love, therefore, ardent and refined as their own exalted natures; it is benignity, pure as æther, and disinterested as the shining of the sun; which induce those beneficent intelligences to adopt our concerns, and consider human happiness as an addition to their own.
Yet what is the benevolence of angels themselves, when compared with the philanthropy manifested by Jesus Christ! To rejoice at the salvation of sinners, comes easily within the compass of created friendship. But to merit that salvation, by such a series of sufferings, as no mere creature could have undergone, nor will ever be able fully to comprehend and acknowledge, was the matchless effect of infinite compassion, and of kindness properly divine.
Impressed, softened, and assimilated, by the force of these examples, may our bosoms kindle with the fire of celestial affection, and the arms of our charity be expanded wide, like the arms of Jesus when he hung upon the cross! Let every man seek another's welfare (a); rejoicing with them that rejoice,
and weeping with them that weep (a). Who of us is most angelic? Or (which is a still more important question), who among us has drank deepest into the Spirit of Christ? He that is most mild, most liberal, most benevolent, most tender-hearted, most forgiving, most glad of another's felicity, most actively subservient to the temporal and spiritual wants of men. He that is readiest to every good word and work : who not only improves, but seeks all opportunities of promoting the glory of God, the interest of religion, and the happiness of his neighbour.
9. As angels are invisibly dispersed over the planet we inhabit, and expatiate in the atmosphere which surrounds us; so I cannot doubt, that they bear an especial part in the solemnities of our public worship, and note with peculiar attention whatever passes in the house of God.
We are expressly assured, by an unerring pen, that the mysteries of man's redemption and restoration are things which the angels desire to look into (6). Though they themselves, having never fallen from their primitive rectitude, do not stand in need of an atoning sacrifice and a righteousness imputed; yet they wish to be more and more conversant with, in order that they may more and more admire the covenant of grace, as carried into a complete execution by the correspondent work and sufferings of Christ.
There is a remarkable passage, which gives us to understand, that (c) the principalities and powers, in heavenly places, know by the church, the manifold wisdom of God; or, that the various ranks of angelic beings, rise gradually, into clearer and more enlarged acquaintance with the divinely concerted plan of human salvation : partly, by observing the
(a) Rom. xii. 15.
(8) 1 Pet. i. 12.
(c) Eph. iii. 10.
tenor of God's gracious dealings with the souls he regenerates ; and partly, by attending to those sublime truths which Christ's faithful ministers dispense, when they preach his gospel in the congregation of the saints. I question, whether there be an individual minister upon earth, who declares the whole counsel of God with power, and with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven (a); but listening angels are a part of his auditory, and sometimes reap instruction from the lips of a mortal man. Even the private conversations of God's people, when they speak together concerning what he has done for their souls (b), and build up each other on their most holy faith (c), as companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ (d); at such seasons of religious fellowship, do not hovering angels join the company? and may they not derive real improvement, as well as matter of rejoicing, from the spiritual experiences of saints ?
10. But there are multitudes of persons (and perhaps more than a few now under this very roof), who never yet occasioned joy in heaven among the angels of God; but, by the unbelief and hardness of their impenitent hearts, have gratified the angels of the bottomless pit, times and ways without number. Yet, even you shall be received, if you come, as sinners, to the sinners' friend. May God's Spirit bend the gospel bow, and wing an arrow to your hearts! Which of you is willing to make joy in heaven this morning? Over what repenting soul shall the angels of God triumph ? For whom shall Gabriel sing, and Raphael strike his harp? All heaven shall exult on your account, if you close with Christ as your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
(a) 1 Pet. i. 12. (d) Rev. i. 9.