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3. It is of perpetual use while here; it is an eye, hand, and foot to the soul, Psal. xxvii. 3; and at death it does the last office to the man, supports him when all other comforts fail, Heb. xi. 13.
4. Lastly, Seek faith, to have it wrought, actuated, and strengthened in you; and for that cause, diligently attend ordinances, the preaching of the word particularly; for 'faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17.
or Zion's fons earthen pitchers, Lam. iv. 2; or the nations really lefs than emptiness, Ifa. xl. 17; though they were fo reckoned. Pof. VI. Upon the fame grounds, faith is therefore faid to be imputed for righteousness; not that God judgeth it to be the righteousness of a perfon before him, but because he treats faith as if it were that righteoufnefs; namely, justifying the perfon who hath it, pardoning all his fins, and accepting him as righteous in his fight, immediately upon his act of believing. Even as the leviathan treats iron as ftraw, Job xli. 24. though he does not judge it to be, ftraw; and Laban treated his own daughters, Gen. xxxi. 15; and Job's fervants their mafter, Job xix. 15; as if they had been ftrangers; and Zion's enemies, her fons as earthen pitchers, Lam. iv. 2; though furely they did not judge them to be fo. And even as God treats the nations as if they were lefs than emptinefs: Ifa. xl. 17. though he infallibly knows they are more than emptinefs and as Job thought himself treated of God, as if he had been his enemy, Job xiii. 24; while in the mean time he knew, that God did not judge him to be an enemy to him. Pof. VII. Though faith is not really and in itself the righteousness of a guilty man before the Lord: yet being so in effect, to wit, relatively and inftrumentally; for as much as it lays hold on, prefents, and pleads the righteoufnefs of Chrift, it is on good grounds, faid to be imputed for righteoufuefs; even as the flatterer's bleffing is reckoned a curse, Prov. xxvii. 14; as being fo in effect. Pof. VIII. and laft. The righteoufnefs which is the relative and object of faith, viz. the righteousness of Chrift, is reckoned or imputed to believers, as really theirs, as well as their faith; theirs, I fay, antecedently to the imputation of it at God's bar; though the former is not indeed inherent in them, as the latter is. This is evident from the true sense of the fifth phrase, reckoning a thing to a perfon, established by the inftances of it above adduced. Chrift's righ. teousness becomes ours, by faith uniting us to him: from which union immediately refults a communion with him in his righteousness; which being legally found at the bar of heaven, that perfect righteoufuefs is reckoned or imputed to us, fet down on our fcore, put on our account, as really ours: even as the guilt of blood is reckoned to the man, Lev. xvii. 4; as really his guilt; and as the plot of ground, Joh. xiii. 3; was reckoned to the Canaanites, as really theirs, or belonging to them, &c. And thereupon we are juftified on the account of that righteoufnefs truly being and reckoned to be ours.
OF REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE.
ACTS xi. 18.-Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
EPENTANCE is an inseparable companion of faith, so
in Christ also
endowed with repentance towards God.
This is a conclusion drawn by the believing Jews from the account Peter had given them of what passed with respect to his receiving the Gentiles into Christian fellowship, with which they rest satisfied, namely, That God had given repentance to the Gentiles. Where consider,
1. A blessing granted; repentance unto life; so called, to distinguish it from legal repentance, and the sorrow that is unto death. This true repentance is unto life; for, by God's appointment, it must go before eternal life; and whoso have it shall be sure of that.
2. The parties to whom it was granted; the Gentiles, those who were once without hope and without God in the world.
3. The author of it, God. It is his gift, as well as faith is. He works it in the heart.
The doctrine of the text is,
DocT. To those whom God designs for life, he gives repentance unto life. They come all through this strait gate who enter into life.' Or, Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.'
Here I shall shew,
I. What are the kinds of repentance.
II. The general nature of repentance unto life.
III. Who is the author of this repentance.
IV. The springs of it.
V. The parts thereof.
VI. Deduce an inference or two for application.
I. I am to shew, what are the kinds of repentance. They
1. Legal repentance, such as was in Judas, and may be in other reprobates, and so is not saving, Matth. xxvii. 3. being produced by law terrors, without gospel-grace changing the heart.
2. Evangelical repentance, peculiar to the elect, which is that in the text, and is the only true and saving repentance, of which we speak. The general difference betwixt them lies here, that in this last, one repents of his sin as it is sin, or offensive to God, as David did, Psal. li. 4. saying, 'A gainst thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight;' in the other, only as it brings wrath on him,
Gen. iv. 13.
II. I proceed to shew, the general nature of repentance unto life. It is a saving grace, 2 Tim. iii. 25. disposing the soul unto all the acts of turning from sin unto God.
1. It is not a transient action, a sigh for sin, a pang of sorrow for it, which goes away again; but it is an abiding grace, a new frame and disposition, fixed in the heart, disposing one to turn from sin to God on all occasions, Zech. xii. 10. I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.'
2. Nor yet a passing work of the first days of one's religion; but a grace in the heart, setting one to an answerable. working all their days. The heart being smitten with repentance at conversion, the wound is never bound up to bleed no more, till the band of glory be put about it.
3. It is not a common grace, as legal repentance is, but a saving one; distinguishing one from a hypocrite, and having a necessary connection with eternal life.
HI. I shall shew, who is the author of this repentance. 1. Not men themselves; it is not owing to one's natural
powers, Jer. xxii. 23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.' The stony heart is beyond man's power to remove.
2. It is God's free gift, and wrought by the power of his Spirit in the heart, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. A new heart also 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 of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,' Jer. xxxi. 18, 19.
I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Sometimes notorious sinners become penitents, as Manasseh, Paul, &c. Where he is the matter, the knottiest timber is as easy for the Spirit to work as any other, Zech. xii. 10. forecited.
The means the Spirit makes use of is the word; hence we read of preaching repentance. And (1.) The law serves to break the hard heart, Jer. xxiii. 29. Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?' It is like the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah's coming. Hence it is called the Spirit of bondage,' Rom. viii. 15. (2.) The gospel serves to melt the hard heart, like a fire, Jer xxiii. 29. forecited; and so to bow and bend it from sin unto God. The soul is driven by the law, but drawn by the gospel. the still small voice.
The Lord comes in
IV. I proceed to shew, the springs of this repentance. There are two opened in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
1. A true sense of sin. And in this there are two things. (1.) A sight of it, Psal. li. 3. My sin is ever before me.' The man's eyes are opened, and he sees his sinfulness of nature, heart, lip, and life; the evil of his sin, in the misery and danger of it to himself, and the dishonour it does to God, (1.) A painful feeling of it, Acts ii. 37. The sin which sat light on them before, becomes a burden which they are
not able to bear; for now they are roused out of their lethargy and feels their sores: it is a burden on their spirits, backs, and heads. They are filled with terror, anguish, and remorse, at the sight, as was the Philippian jailor, Acts xvi. 30. This is necessary for repentance, because otherwise the sinner will never part with his sin, nor prize Christ and his grace, Rev. iii. 17. He will reign as king without Christ, till he feel his lost estate, as did the prodigal, Luke xv.
2. An apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, Joel ii. 12, 13. Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rent your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.' The eye of faith is opened to see and believe, that there is forgiveness and mercy with him to a poor sinner, that though the sinner has destroyed himself, yet in God is his help; there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. This can only be apprehended aright through Jesus Christ, Zech. xii. 10. foreçited. Not mercy for mercy's sake, but Christ's sake: 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, &c. This is necessary. For without it, one will either, (1.) Go on in secret despair, casting off the thoughts of his case, and making the best of it he can, Jer. ii. 25. Thou saidst There is no hope. No: for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.' Or, (2.) Lie down in tormenting despair, like Judas. Both which will fix sin in the heart, and bar out repentance. And since God is a consuming fire to the workers of iniquity, and without satisfaction there can be no remission, there is no apprehending of mercy but through Christ.
V. I proceed to shew, the parts of repentance. These are two, humiliation and conversion, Joel ii. 12, 13. above quoted.
1. Humiliation. The sinner goes from God by the highway of pride and self-conceit; but always comes back the low way of humiliation. Grace pulls him down from the seat of the scorner, and lays him at the Lord's feet, 1 Pet. v. 6. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.' It makes him like Benhadad's servants, who came to the king of Israel girded with