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To explain this, I will submit to you a few remarks ::
(1.) There is a kind of repentance which arises from the contemplation of a wrong regarded as committed against man. That is the common form in which it exists in the world, and that we have all experienced. A neighbour has been wronged by you. You see it, confess it, and obtain his pardon, and the matter between you and him is settled. You have done all that you could to repair the evil; he professes to be satisfied, and it would now be wrong for him to insist on anything further, or to allow this to affect liis future treatment of you. But does this do anything towards settling the matter between you and God? That is wholly another thing, and should be made the most important thing. Your neighbour is not in the place of God; nor is he authorized to act for him ; nor can he take upon himself to forgive the offence as committed against him. Two boys have a quarrel. One is greatly in the wrong, and greatly injures the other. When the deed is committed, he sees the wrong, regrets his passion, goes and makes humble confession, and is forgiven. That settles the matter so far as they are concerned, and perhaps so far as the entire group of boys are concerned among whom it happened. But there is another view of the case much more important, it may be, than this; and this hushing up of the quarrel does nothing in regard to that. The boy that did the wrong has a father, and the law of that father has been violated. He told him not to go to that place. He commanded him to have nothing to do with that boy. He trained him to be gentle, and kind, and inoffensive;
to restrain his passions; to avoid all occasions of brawls; to honour him; to fear God. His law now has been violated; his counsels disregarded ; his government despised; himself, as a father, dishonoured. The offence which the boy committed against the other was the act of a moment, produced under the excitement of passion; it was a single act of wrong : the offence as committed against a father was a sin against long and careful training; it involved the whole question whether the father is to be obeyed or disobeyed, and had a direct bearing on the whole subject of paternal government. Now it is clear that the son, when he has settled the matter with the injured boy, has done nothing to settle it with his own injured father ; and that the act, as viewed against him, is a much more serious evil than as viewed against the boy who was directly wronged. If that son now has true repentance, he will not only be affected by the offence viewed as committed against his playmate, but he will feel that there is a much more important matter than this to be adjusted in his own father's house.
(2.) This leads me to observe, that on a similar principle the offences which we commit are to be regarded in their direct relation to those who are immediately wronged, and to their much higher bearing on God. You do wrong to a neighbour, or brother, in the church; a wife, a lover, a stranger. You become sensible of the wrong, confess it, repair it as far as possible, receive forgiveness, and the matter between you and the offended party is settled. You give each other the hand, and are friends again. But that does not affect another and a more important point--the relation of the offence to God. For illustration of this, there has been no better case than that of David. That he had done a great and grievous wrong to Uriah and his family there can be no doubt. But could all that wrong have been repaired, there was another and a much more important light in which it was to be viewed. He had violated two of the positive commands of God. A professor of religion ; a prince; the head of the covenant-people; a man signally favoured by God; occupying a most prominent position in the world,-he had disregarded the law of his Maker, and trampled his statutes in the dust. His sin had been public, and of a most aggravated character; and contemplating all its relations, the offence as committed against Uriah, in comparison with the same sin regarded as committed against God, was a trifle; and he, therefore, under the feeling of genuine repentance, cried out, “ Against thee, theo only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.”
(3.) This suggests, then, another thought in regard to true repentance. It may have been often exercised towards your ellow-creatures whom you have offended, and you may have obtained their forgiveness; and still the great matter pertaining to true repentance may be yet unsettled. You may have violated the commands of a parent, and may have repented of it and obtained his forgiveness; you may have wronged a neighbour, and may have confessed the wrong and obtained pardon; you may have been unfaithful in a public trust, and may then have done all you could to repair the evil considered as an offence against the laws of society; you may have led the innocent into error or sin, and then may have done all you could to repair the wrong so far as they are concerned ; and still the most important questions pertaining to those offences are unaffected. They all have a relation to God and his government. They are all to be considered as violations of his law; as so many wrongs done to him. Nothing has been done in regard to that matter, nor do you meet either the primary or the full requirements of repentance until you go and say, "I have sinned against heaven;" “against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.”
III. In the third place, true repentance, as a part of religion, involves not only regret for past sin, as an evil in the sight of God, but a purpose to abandon it and to do it no more. This point is so obvious that it will be necessary to dwell on it only for a moment. It is clear that if there be no such purpose to abandon the sin, there can be no genuine repentance. If David had intended to repeat the sin, over which he mourned, as soon as that was forgiven, nothing would be more plain than that all his sorrow for the crime would have been hollow and insincere. His sorrow in that case could have arisen only from an apprehension of punishment, and not from any genuine hatred of transgression. Had the prodigal son made his confession solely with a view to obtain the favour of his father, and acquire another portion of the estate, intending then to repeat his acts of ingratitude and profligacy, it is clear that there could have been no genuine repentance; 110 regret for his sin as such. In all cases of genuine repentance there inust be a purpose to abandon the sin, and not to repeat the wrong. This principle, so familiar to us in our treatment of each other, is not less true in our relations to God. There, also, it is true in its largest, broadest sense -for all sin is regarded as committed against him. . When one man has done wrong to another, all that he who has been injured can require in order to his extending forgiveness is, that the offender should make acknowledgment and restitution for that particular offence. He could not demand that there should be an acknowledgment to him of all his sins, nor even that he should change his conduct in regard to others. But in reference to repentance toward God, it is required that there should be sorrow for every sin, and an universal purpose to forsake the ways of transgression. He that comes before God professing to exercise repentance, with a purpose to indulge in any one sin of any kind, shows that his repentance is as really false and hollow, as he does who intends to make a confession to his neighbour for any one act of wrong, and yet purposes to repeat the offence as soon as he has an opportunity. No man, therefore, can be a true penitent who does not intend to abandon all sin. No one becomes a true Christian who does not purpose to break away from every form of transgression, and to lead a holy life. Men who become Christians are indeed imperfect. They are liable to fall into sin. They do many things over which they have occasion to mourn. But he who professes to become a Christian, intending that this shall be so, purposing to repeat any sin and then to repent of it, manifestly knows nothing of true repentance, and can have no evidence of piety. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” Psa. lxvi. 18.
In view of the thoughts suggested in this discourse, we may remark, in conclusion,
(1.) That as a mere mental operation repentance in religion does not differ from repentance exercised on other subjects. As a mere act of mind, repentance toward God does not differ from repentance as exercised toward an injured parent or friend. How can it? The difference is in the object towards which repentance is exercised, not in the act of repenting, as a mere exercise of mind. Yet repentance, as a mental operation, is easily understood, and all are familiar with it. Who is there that has never repented of anything that he has done? Who that has not confessed a wrong? Who that does not now feel that he has much to regret in the past, and that there is much which he ought to confess? Be as honest toward God as you have been toward a parent, lover, or friend, and you would have no difficulty on the subject of repentance. It would be easy to be understood, and all your difficulties would soon vanish. Religion, if this be so, is not unreal, arbitrary, and impossible; it is a practicable thing, and it accords with all the laws of the human mind.
(2.) It follows from the views presented, that repentance is not beyond the proper exercise of the power of man. Every man practises it. Every child repents. Every one has at different times felt regret for something that he has done; has made confession; has resolved to transgress no more; has turned from the evil course. This is repentance; and no one in such a case has resorted to any plea that it was impossible, or that it was unreasonable. No one who has injured a friend ; no child who has violated the command of his father, when he is convinced of the wrong, and when the duty of proper acknowledgment is pressed upon him, ever thinks of taking shelter under the plea that repentance is beyond his power, and that he cannot exercise it. It is only in religion that we ever hear any difficulty suggested on the subject; there only that we are told that it is beyond a man's power, and that we must wait for a Divine influence before it can be exercised. But why should it be beyond a man's power in reference to religion more than anywhere else? Why easy elsewhere; why impossible here? The answer is plain. Men wish to find an excuse for not repenting; and regardless of any reflections on the character of their Maker, rather than forsake their sins they charge him with requiring that which is impossible, and coolly attempt to satisfy themselves by saying that they have no power to obey his commands.
(3.) It follows, from what has been said, that it is the sinner who is to repent. It is not God who is to repent for him--for
God has done no wrong. It is not the Saviour who is to repent for him—for it is not he who has violated the law. It is not the
— Holy Spirit who is to repent for him for how can that blessed Agent feel such sorrow, or why should he? My impenitent friend, it is your own mind that is to repent; your own heart that is to feel sorrow; your own feet that are to turn from the evil way; your own mouth that is to make confession. I know and am persuaded that, if it is ever done, it will be by the aid of the Holy Ghost; but I know equally well that you yourself are to be the penitent, and that this is a work that cannot be done for you by another. The mind that has done the wrong must repent. That very heart that has sinned must feel all the sorrows of repentance that are ever felt in the case; those very eyes that have looked with desire on forbidden objects must weep, and must do all the weeping in the case ; and those very lips that have been profane, or false, or impure, must make confession, and the confession can be made by them alone.
(4.) Finally, it is right and proper to call on men to repent of their sins. If they repent when they have wronged a friend, or violated the law of a parent; if repentance is an operation of the mind, with which all are familiar; if it is not beyond the proper reach of the human faculties; and if the sinner himself is actually to feel sorrow, and to make confession---then it is right to call on men to repent of their sins committed against God. The gospel, in approaching men, commends itself to their common sense, and requires of them only that which they themselves see to be reasonable and proper. It comes to them, and says that they have sinned against God; that all sin may be regarded as terminating on him, and as a violation of his law; that for that sin there should be sorrow felt in the heart; that there should be willingness to go to him and make penitent acknowledgment, and implore forgiveness; and that there should be a solemn purpose to repeat the wrong no more. This is what the gospel demands of every sinner as a primary and essential condition of salvation. Is it wrong in its demands? is it unreasonable in its claims ? What less could it ask? And how could it meet the convictions of your own minds in regard to what may be reasonably required, if it did not demand this? When we summon you, therefore, to repentance, we urge the appeal no less by the conviction in your own minds of what is right, than by the authority of God.