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own evil ways, and his doings which have not been good, loathes himself, in his own sight, for his iniquities and abominations &." His language will be this: "I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned: mine iniquities are gone over my head as an heavy burden; they are too heavy for me. Deliver
me from all my transgressions, and let not my sins have dominion over me!" Here is a deep hatred of all sin, and a real grief of soul for having committed it: here is a desire that no lust should be spared, though dear as a right eye.
We see, then, a striking "difference between the restraints of fear, and casting away sin, because compelled for a season by the lashes of a guilty conscience; and loathing ourselves for what we have done, and the very temptations and motives with which we so vilely and readily complied ;-between a mere regard to our own safety, and ardent fixed desires to conquer corruption in every shape, and live for God alone."
2. False repentance seeks relief from its fears, and builds its hopes on better obedience, whilst it distrusts the mercy of God.
The law of God challenges the obedience of a false penitent, and loudly condemns his transgressions. Conscience concurs with the precept and sentence of the violated law. In order, therefore, to pacify conscience, satisfy the law, and lay a good foundation, as he thinks, of hope, he makes resolutions and promises of amendment, attempts to live more religiously, submits to penances and austerities, and forms a variety of self-righteous schemes: but his palpable defects in all these things still subject him
Ezek. xxxvi. 31.
1 Psalm xxxviii. 4.
to slavish fears, which again excite him to new endeavours. But all this time he is without saving faith; and, therefore, though a door of hope is opened for sinners of the worst description, he does not enter though pardon and salvation are offered, without money and without price, through Christ, whose blood cleanseth from all sin, unbelief prevents him from accepting it. Thus, though a false penitent may use the name of Christ in prayer, yet he dare not confide in his sacrifice for eternal life: notwithstanding the strength of his convictions, he still seeks righteousness by his works; he still has a secret hope, that his sorrow, if it were but more sincere, his reformation, if more exemplary, and his performance of duties, if more exact, would recommend him to the favour of God more than Christ's merits can, and prove a better security against punishment.
The nature of true repentance is in every respect different. A true penitent approaches' his muchinjured Maker, feeling his desert of eternal rejection; but he comes before a mercy-seat. He confesses, that were God to mark iniquity, he could not stand before him; yet he remembers "there is forgiveness with him that he may be feared, and plenteous redemption." He looks to the blood of Christ alone, to cleanse his soul, and take away the curse due to his great offences. "Wash me throughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin; purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." This hope of mercy embitters to him all his sins, makes him loathe them, and cry for deliverance.
Have I, saith the true penitent, sinned against the goodness of God? Is sin so heinous, that an
'Psalm li. 2-8.
atonement for it could only be made by Christ, the righteous one? How wicked, then, must I appear in his eyes! My offences have greatly dishonoured God, and brought Christ under the agonies of an accursed death; and shall I take pleasure in them again? It is high time for me to cast away every . iniquity, and to live in obedience to God.
"How plain is the opposition here, between flying from God in fear, like Adam after his fall, and an humble self-condemning approach to him, like the prodigal son to his Father!-between proud, though earnest attempts to obtain favour with God by newness of life, and dependence for pardon on the blood of Christ alone!-between distresses from regard to personal safety, and grief and shame for sin, as the greatest evil in the world, and the basest return to God and Christ!"
3. False repentance manifests aversion to God and the strictness of his holy law. Those terrors which awakened sinners feel, arise from lively apprehensions of God's justice. They know they have greatly provoked him, and, therefore, want some covert from his wrath; and, having some idea both of his holiness and power, he appears an insupportable enemy. They desire, therefore, to be at peace with him, lest the quarrel should end in their everlasting destruction. Upon this account, they resolve to obey him as slaves do a tyrannical master, though their inclination be directly contrary to their work. Thus, were the penalty of the law removed, they would presently return to their old course with delight.".
"The true penitent, on the contrary, sees great excellency in obedience, and strives, for this reason, to ü 2 Pet. ii. 22,
obey with all exactness. He grieves, not because the law is so strict, or its penalty so terrible, (for he esteems "the law to be holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good",) but that he is carnal, sold under sin; that, from a nature opposite in its bent to God, he can make no better progress in his ways and service. He breathes earnestly. after holiness, esteeming it no less a blessing than deliverance from condemnation: he does not desire the law shall bend to his corruptions, but that his heart should become fully subject to it. To partake of the redemption that is in Jesus, to make a progress in conquering every vile affection, and to live in communion with God, is the whole wish of his soul."
4. False repentance is temporary in its nature and effects. There are many instances of persons who, for a time, appear very sorrowful for their sins, and yet they return to them with greediness: as soon as the alarming convictions, which first attended them, subside, they relapse into their former evil courses. Thus, the seed which fell by the way-side, upon a rock, and among thorns, was soon blasted and destroyed. Thus, Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, and did many things; but his convictions soon wore off, and he became as depraved as ever. And thus false repentance is transient "as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away m
Some try to quiet their consciences, by reflecting upon the distress they once were in for their transgressions; and take comfort from a view of their partial reformation of manners, and formal course of religious duties. This causes them to become lukewarm and secure. Some of this character will even 1 Mat. xiii. 3-8. m Hosea vi. 4.
Rom. vii. 12.
boast of their experience, and the joy which they falsely imagine they have had in God, whilst they are unhumbled for their manifold corruptions, imperfect duties, and numerous failings. Hence their prayers are presented to Heaven in a cold unbelieving spirit, without expecting an answer; the great things of God's law are but mean in their eyes; and their whole scheme of religion is reduced to a lifeless form, hateful to God, and unprofitable to themselves.
True repentance, on the contrary, is always attended with a lasting abasement of soul before God, on account of remaining corruptions, and a view of the Lord's perfect goodness. When a penitent looks back, and reflects what he has been, and duly considers his present state of mind, he "is filled with confusion," and renews his confession and sorrow, He can recollect many instances of transgression in his past life, which once either escaped his notice, or caused him no pain and remorse: and, now that he is awakened to perceive the high demerit of sin, he discovers such frequent workings of a carnal, worldly, unbelieving spirit; so little love to God or man; such a taint of pollution on his mind, which exposes him to envy, pride, anger, impurity, and discontent, though his fellow-creatures see it not, that he often groans under the burden of his evil nature, saying, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death"?" When he beholds, too, the unspotted holiness of God shining through his law, the dispensations of his providence and grace, he breaks out with Isaiah, and says, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the
"Rom. vii. 24.