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IV. How great is the absurdity of men's believing they have by the gospel a title to heaven, when they reject the very heaven offered in the gospel with abhorrence! The heaven offered is the everlasting enjoyment of God through Jesus Christ. Every one at enmity against God's real character, as exhibited in the law, and declared to be absolutely perfect on the cross of Christ, rejects this heaven with abhorrence! This feast is no feast to him. He is so far from a relish to those heavenly dainties, that his soul loathes this food. To say, that men may come to God by Christ, and find rest and satisfaction in him, while at the same time they are enemies to his real character, is as absurd, as to say, men may come to a feast and eat with pleasure, when they perfectly disrelish every thing set before them. It is true, one who is an enemy to the divine character, may be ravished in a belief his sins are pardoned ! and this he may call a feast. And this belief he may call eating: and with this eating he may be satisfied, so as to live contentedly without God in the world. Yea, his contentment and comfort supposes him to be ignorant of the real character of the true God. But it is absurd to suppose one should choose the true God for his supreme good through Jesus Christ, while at enmity against his real character; for men will not choose that for the object of their delight, which in their hearts they do not like. Nor will men desire a Mediator to bring them to the enjoyment of that which they have no appetite for, and which they do not desire to enjoy. While men are enemies to the divine character, they have no inclination to come to him through Christ; rather their aversion to come is equal to their enmity to his character. Yea, that God should actually become the supreme good and satisfying portion of a sinner, who is of such a taste as that God's real character can give him no delight or satisfaction, but the contrary, is a plain contradiction. We must love an object, or we cannot enjoy it. We must be suited, pleased, enamored with the divine character, or we cannot enjoy the Deity. On this account, therefore, it is absolutely necessary we become new creatures. For “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." A sinner could not enjoy heaven, were he admitted and allowed to live there forever. Besides
Although God can, consistently with his honor, pardon and receive to favor the sinner who returns to him through Jesus Christ, and stands ready to do it, yet it is equally true, that he cannot, consistently with his honor, pardon, and receive to favor, a sinner who refuses to return, while going on obstinate in his rebellion; nor is he at all willing to do it. Christ did not die that impenitent sinners, while such, might be forgiven and received into the divine favor. God can no more pardon an impenitent sinner, consistently with his honor, than if Christ had never died. The decree of Heaven is fixed, and cannot,
, and never will be revoked—“Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” But as this point is of great importance, and is generally denied by Antinomians, so it shall be taken into more particular consideration.
REPENTANCE IS BEFORE FORGIVENESS.
If God is an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable Being, infinitely worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience; and if our disaffection to the divine character and rebellion against God, is altogether inexcusable and infinitely criminal, agreeable to the voice of the divine law, and to the import of the cross of Christ; if God, the great Governor of the universe, views things in this light, and in this view calls unto us from heaven to confess our sins, repent, and turn unto him with all our hearts; if these things are so, - and they are so if the Bible is the word of God, then the meaning of his words is certain, the ideas designed to be conveyed by them are determinate. To repent, beyond dispute, is to change our minds as to the divine character, to lay aside our prejudices, to open our eyes, and begin to look upon God as he is, an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable being; infinitely worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience, and in the light of his glory to begin to view our disaffection and rebellion as altogether inexcusable and infinitely criminal, and in this view, cordially to take all that blame to ourselves which God lays upon us, and to be affected accordingly; saying, “Righteous art thou, O Lord, when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest. Should justice take place, no iniquity could be imputed unto thee. It would not be a blemish, but a beauty in thy character, and all heaven ought forever to love and adore thy glorious majesty, should I receive my just desert, and perish forever. But thou canst have mercy on whom thou wilt, through Jesus Christ. To thine infinite grace and self-moving goodness, through him I look. God be merciful to me a sinner." Repentance stands then in opposition to all our former prejudices against the divine character; and in opposition to that sin-extenuating, self-justifying, lawhating, God-blaming disposition, which reigns in every impenitent soul. God is seen in his beauty; the divine law, as a ministration of condemnation and death, appears glorious; our disaffection and rebellion infinitely criminal. We justify God, approve his law, condemn ourselves, accept the punishment of our iniquity, as worthy of God; and thus we confess, repent, and turn unto the Lord, looking only to free grace through Jesus Christ for pardon.
A man may think himself to blame for Sabbath-breaking, lying, cheating, drunkenness, etc., who never thought himself to blame for being disaffected to the divine character. Also, a man may think himself to blame for not believing that Christ died for him in particular, that God loves him, that his sins are pardoned, or for his being unaffected in this belief, who never thought himself to blame for not loving God as an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable being. Some may be sorry wherein they think themselves to blame through fear of punishment, as was the case with Judas; others, who believe their sins are pardoned, may, from a principle of natural gratitude, be sorry wherein they think themselves to blame, as was the case with Saul, when David spared his life. (1 Sam. xxiv. 16, 19.) Saul lifted up his voice and wept, etc. (Chap. xxvi. 21.) Then said Saul, I have sinned, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly. But he who is ignorant of the beauty of God's true character, is blind to the chief thing wherein his blame lies. And while men do not see their blame, they will see no occasion to repent; and should any charge sin home upon them in such a case, they would justify themselves in their hearts.
The divine law, which requires us to love God, the absolutely perfect, the infinitely glorious, and amiable being, with all our hearts, and yield a perfect obedience to his will on pain of eternal damnation, is holy, just, and good : our blindness to his beauty is wholly criminal; our sin-extenuating, self-justifying pleas are of no weight; all our objections against the divine character and law are only the language of enmity against the glorious Monarch of the universe; we are entirely without excuse, and infinitely to blame. These all are facts. And
, thus God viewed our case when he gave his Son to die ; and thus he views our case when he calls us to confess our sins, repent, and turn unto the Lord ; and in this light, therefore, must we view our case, if ever we become truly penitent. Every sin-extenuating, self-justifying plea, every objection against the divine character and law, is a declaration that we are so far from repentance, that as yet we do not think that it belongs to us to repent, in the sense we are called to in the gospel ; in this case we do not confess, but cover our sins.
In true repentance our eyes begin to be opened to see things as in fact they are; God's character infinitely amiable, and our own infinitely odious; his law wholly right; and our ways as wrong and criminal as that supposes. And in this view we begin to take all the blame to ourselves.* True repentance is therefore in consequence of the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit, and of a nature specifically different from any kind of sorrow for sin a man can experience who is at enmity against God.
Sin is the thing to be repented of; and sin is a transgression of the law. And the first and chief thing required in the law, is supreme love to God. And therefore want of supreme love to God, our disaffection to his character, and rebellion against him, is our great wickedness, which we have to re
But it will not be in our hearts to repent, unless we truly see our blame. We cannot truly see our blame, unless we see that which chiefly renders us to blame. But that which chiefly renders God worthy of love, is what chiefly renders us to blame for not loving God. And so it is the
Question. “How can a finite mind see an infinite object ?" Answer. Not by a full comprehension of it; only by a high sense and lively conviction that it is infinite. As thus : suppose we could see with our eyes a man, for the sake of one sinful pleasure, deliberately leap headlong down into a lake of fire and brimstone, which he and we knew would never be quenched, and out of which there could be no escape, and in which, by God's almighty power, he would be forever held up in existence, his sense of feeling quick and lively; we should pronounce the man guilty of infinite folly. We might see and know that his folly was in fact infinite, although we could by no means fully comprehend the thing. So in this sense we are capable of seeing and knowing that "God is infinitely lovely, and we infinitely odious and ill-deserving, how far soever we be from a full, adequate idea of infinity. We are capable of as great a sense of our infinite obligations to love God, as we be of the infinite dreadfulness of eternal misery. In legal conviction, a sinner begins to have some lively sense of the infinite dreadfulness of eternal damnation ; so in regeneration and repentance, we begin to have some lively apprehension of God's infinite amiableness, and our intinite odiousness. Some say, “ We should leave all infinites out of our scheme of religion.” And so we might, if we were in no connection with infinites. To be consistent, these men should deny the infinite glory of God the Father, the infinite evil of sin, the eternity of hell torments, the divinity of Christ; and then, when thus our connection with infinites at an end, the word, and all notion of the thing, may be excluded out of religion ; but not till then. As soon as these men will prove, that God is not an infinitely amiable being, and that we are to die like the beasts, I will say nothing more about infinites. Till then I shall say that the sinner, who, by rebelling against God, runs headlong into eternal destruction, is guilty of infinite folly as to his own soul, as well as of infinite wickedness towards his Maker, the infinitely glorious Governor of the universe.
amiableness of the divine nature which chiefly renders us to blame for not loving God. It is the amiableness of the divine nature, which chiefly renders God worthy of love. It is a sense of this, therefore, that discovers to us the great evil of sin, and shows us the reason we have to be sorry and repent; and which therefore primarily lays the foundation of true repentance, and without which no repentance is true. If I blame my neighbor for being groundlessly disaffected to my character, I shall not, I cannot, look upon him as a true penitent, till, beginning to look upon my character as I think he ought to, he begins to blame himself as I do. It is contrary to common sense to suppose any other kind of repentance to be true and genuine. And if any man abuses me, in name or estate, through disaffection to my person, no penitence for those abuses can be esteemed genuine, so long as the disaffection from which they arose remains in full strength. I appeal to the universal sense of mankind, who, when it comes to their own case, are every one of this opinion. On this ground it was that David put no confidence in Saul, notwithstanding all the tears and penitence which his generosity extorted from him. He did not suppose that that kind of repentance was any certain sign that he was a new man; yea, he had rather venture himself with Achish, king of Gath, a Philistine, a pagan, than with him. (1 Sam. xxvi. and xxvii.)
As want of love to God, together with disaffection to the divine character, has influence into that whole course of wickedness which mankind in general live in ; so when they are in Scripture called upon to repent of particular sins and turn to God, their want of love to God, and disaffection to the divine character, as manifested in those particular sins, is to be repented of; and a hearty reconciliation to the divine character is implied in the repentance they are called unto. Thus the frequent idolatries of the children of Israel, for which they are often called upon in the Old Testament to repent, were manifest instances of want of love to the God of Abraham, and proofs of their disaffection to his character. So the Jews, hating and murdering the Son of God, the express image of his Father's person, for which they were on the day of Pentecost called upon to repent, was a manifest instance of their want of love to God, and proof of their disaffection to his character. And there is no sin whatsoever that any man is guilty of, but what is an instance of disrespect to God, and disregard of his authority. Therefore it was said in the case of David's sin, that he despised the Lord, and