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particular as to the person who commits it, particular as to those against whom it is committed, particular in its circumstances, and its consequences.
Did we deal with ourselves according to truth, or did we deal with ourselves half so acutely as we treat other concerns, these circumstances would rise up to our recollection. They would help the argument; they would help, along with more general religious reasons, to impress us with a sense of the malignity of sin ; a sense which few have as they ought to have, though perhaps none want it entirely; and also the utter improbability that we should be able by repentance to atone for such malignity. Undoubtedly the sinner's refuge is repentance; it is all which the sinner can do. But still, as touching salvation, we ascribe an efficacy to repentance which does not belong to it, or rather, we get into a way of looking upon that as the natural fruit and consequence of repentance which is no such thing, but which is the consequence of repentance only by the appointment and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. The same thing may be said of repentance which has been said of good works; it is the condition, not the cause, of salvation. It is the condition ; for there is no salvation for unrepented sin, for unrepenting sinners. It is not, nevertheless, the cause; for of itself it would have no such effect as to procure salvation; it has no right or title to look for any such thing.
This matter is not well understood ; yet it easily may be. There never was a malefactor brought before a judge who did not repent. Yet does that save him, even when it is most sincere? Does the judge go about to inquire whether the criminal before him repent, or whether his repentance be sincere? He makes not that 'inquiry, because repentance will not save the malefactor from the denounced punishment of his offence. It is not therefore of the nature of repentance, it is not appertaining to its nature as such, to save even from punishment; no, not when it is most sincere. But our salvation, the salvation
. which we look for in Christ Jesus, comprehends much more than being saved from punishment; it includes the happiness of heaven, the reward of an immortal soul, above all price, and beyond all comparison the greatest thing we can gain. Can this, then, naturally belong to repentance, when even being saved from punishment does not? Simply to be saved from punishment is not the natural effect of repentance ; for, in point of fact, it does not do it; how, then, to entitle us to the supremest of all gists, the greatest of all blessings; how can that be ascribed to repentance, as by its own operation, and of its own
nature? Observe, therefore, repentance has this to do with salvation; it is an essential condition; we cannot be saved without it; but then as to its being the cause of our salvation, or of salvation flowing or following from it, as its natural fruit, its due reward, its proper effect and consequence, it is no such thing. On this ground it resembles any other of our good works. It stands upon no other; I mean, it does not supersede at all the agency, the want, the efficacy of a redeemer.
Observe, that I am speaking only of that repentance which is sincere. Of a planned, concerted, prefixed repentance, I account nothing ; because it is impossible it should ever be sin
Observe also, that whatever has been said of the imperfection of our good works may be said against the imperfection of our repentance; it as seldom attains to what it should be, as any one duty which we perform. But this also lies out of the question. For the present we contend, that even suppose it be proper, it has no necessary tendency to do away punishment ; for in fact, it has not this effect, even in this world. If it cannot of itself do away punishment, it is impossible it can deserve heaven; if it cannot do the less, it cannot do the greater. When we refer, therefore, our salvation, which is the attainment of heaven, to some other and higher cause than either our virtue, or innocence, or our penitence, we judge not either superstitiously or enthusiastically upon the subject, but according to the truth of the case, rightly understood.
Something beyond ourselves as the cause of our salvation, is wanting even according to sound principles of natural religion. When we read in scripture of the free mercy of God enacted towards us by the death and sufferings of Jesus Christ, then we read of a cause beyond ourselves, and that is the very thing which was wanted to us.
RELIGION NOT A MERE FEELING, BUT AN ACTIVE
MATTHEW VII. 21.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
These words are addressed to mankind at large. They are not, like some of our Lord's discourses, relative to the particular circumstances of those who stood round him at the time. Christ here speaks to all his disciples, in whatever country of the world they may live, or in whatever age of the world they might come to the knowledge of his name. He speaks, in this text, as much to those who are assembled here in his worship, as to the very people who received the words from his mouth. The words themselves are the conclusion of our Saviour's celebrated sermon on the mount, and they close that divine discourse most aptly and solemnly.
When the fame of our Lord's miracles had drawn great numbers after him from every quarter of the country, from Galilee, you read, from Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judea, and from beyond Jordan, he deemed that a fit opportunity to acquaint them with those great moral duties which they must discharge, if they meant to be saved by becoming his followers; for which purpose he went up into a mountain, for the conveniency, it is probable, of their hearing and of his own retirement, and also in imitation, perhaps, of Moses, who delivered the blessings and curses of the old law from the summit of a hill. When the people in great multitudes were assembled round him, he pronounced that great lesson of duty, that summing up of weighty precepts, that statement of christian morals, and of a right christian disposition, which you read in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St Matthew; and when he had finished the particular precepts he had given them, the several distinct commands which he enjoined upon his followers, he concluded with this reflection, which was applicable to them all, and was indeed the great point he wished to leave upon their minds, and not only upon theirs, but upon the hearts and souls of all who should afterwards profess his religion ; ‘not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.'
It was very natural for those who attended our Lord to feel a glow of zeal and affection, to be transported with admiration, to cry out Lord, Lord, from the very fervency and ardor of their love and reverence, when they beheld the astonishing works which he wrought, and heard the words of salvation which flowed from his lips, or saw the sufferings which he underwent, or his meekness and resignation under them. It was natural for them, and the same thing is natural for us. When we meditate at all upon these subjects; when we turn our thoughts towards the great author and finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ; when we reflect that he is our way and our life, that what we know concerning the life to come proceeds from him, that our hopes of attaining it are through him, that he is our guide and our instructer, our redeemer and mediator, that he came to lead his followers to heaven, that he laid down his own life to give them eternal life, that he still sits at the right hand of God to interest in our behalf; when we reflect, I say, upon the infinite, unutterable importance of saving
, our souls, and what he has done, and continues to do towards it, we cannot help crying out, Lord, Lord;' we cannot help feeling ourselves overwhelmed, as it were, with the vastness and immensity of the subject, and the deep obligation which we owe to the Saviour of the world. This sentiment is still more apt to come upon the mind when any worldly distress or affliction drives us to take refuge in religion ; to fly for succour to God Almighty's protection, and to the dispensation of his righteous will in another world ; to take hold,' as St Paul speaks, of the anchor of hope,' and the strong consolation which is ministered to us by the gospel of Christ. It is upon these occasions that we find religion to be our only stay, trust in God to be the only firm ground we can set our foot upon. No wonder, therefore, if we be drawn almost involuntarily to cry out, “Lord, Lord;' that we are constrained by his love; that we feel our dependence upon him; that we are brought to understand, that to be saved in the day of judgment is that concern which wraps up all others; that there is none other name under heaven, whereby we can be saved, only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder, I say, that in moments like these our affection towards Christianity is increased, our thoughts serious, and our devotion sincere.
Sometimes, also, without any external causes, or any cause that we are acquainted with, strong impressions of futurity, aw
ful apprehensions of our great change, come over the mind. The things of this world are diminished to nothing, when we place them by the side of that great event which will arrive, and in a short time, to all of us. Life appears what it is, a
, span; inconsiderable at the longest; liable every day to be put an end to. What shadows we pursue, what shadows we are ! The unsatisfactoriness of all our worldly enjoyments, the uncertainty of all our worldly hopes, seizes the imagination with irresistible force. Here then again the soul turns to God. Beaten and repulsed from every other source of confidence and contentment, it seeks them in the future mercies of a faithful Creator.
Or again, it may and does happen, that a sudden glow, a certain warmth and elevation of heart, as to the concerns of religion, spring up at particular times in our breast; we cry,
Lord, Lord !' with rapture; the promises, the views, the consolations of Christianity, fill our hearts; we rejoice, as St Paul, who felt much of this animation, expresses it, in the hope of our calling, and in the joy of the Holy Ghost.
Now concerning all these various states of mind and affection, the first thing to be said is, that they are all good. Whatever draws the soul to God, whether it be reflection
the astonishing history of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ardor of his love, the patience of his sufferings, undertaken and undergone for our sakes; whether it be some outward visitation and discomfiture, some stroke of Providence, which brings us to ourselves, which makes us serious in the business of religion ; whether it be some inward sinking and misgiving of the mind, some cloud which overcasts the spirits; or whether, on the contrary, we be raised and lifted, as it were, towards heaven by the life and flow of our devotions, still all is good. We ought to regard and accept these stirrings and motions of the mind towards religion, from whatever cause they proceed, as favorable and hopeful intimations of a righteous principle forming within us. We are to invite, cherish, and cultivate them; wait and desire
l the return of them; above all, be thankful for them, and account
1 even calamities as blessings, when they tend to make us religious. It is a sorrow not to be repented of, when it leads to salvation.
Nothing that our Lord says in the text ought by any means to be construed to the undervaluing or discouraging of devout feelings of any kind, or from any cause ; but the great misfortune is, these thoughts are apt to be shortlived; they are wont to be soon forgotten, and forgotten entirely. In the night we cry, Lord, Lord !' in the morning we return to our sins; that