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Of True Repentance, And The True Yoke And Cross Of Christ.
They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.—Gal. 5:24.
Repentance, or true conversion, is the work of the Holy Spirit, under the influence of which, man, through the law, acknowledges his sin, and the wrath of God provoked against it; and earnestly mourns over his offences; and then, understanding, through the Gospel, the grace of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, he obtains the remission of his sins. By this repentance, the mortification or crucifying of the flesh, and of all carnal lusts and pleasures, is carried on; together with the quickening of the spirit, or the resurrection of the new man in Christ. Under the exercise of repentance, therefore, the old Adam, with his corruptions, dies within us; and Christ lives in us, by faith (Gal. 2:20); for we must be aware that these two are inseparably connected. The resurrection of the spirit follows the mortification of the flesh; and the quickening of the new man, destroys and annihilates the old man; the ruin of the one, is the life and resurrection of the other. “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” 2 Cor. 4:16. We are, therefore, enjoined to “mortify our members which are upon the earth” (Col. 3:5); and to “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:11.
2. Let us, however, inquire why the flesh is thus to be mortified; and why the whole body of sin is at last to be destroyed. It has been remarked (Chap. II) that, by the fall of Adam, man became earthly, carnal, and devilish; without God, and without love: for being without God, he was also without love. Man was now turned from the love of God to the love of the world, and especially of himself; so that in every situation, and under all circumstances, he now studies, favors, flatters, counsels, and applauds himself; and provides only for his own interest, honor, and glory. All this is the consequence of Adam's fall; who, while meditating how he might erect himself, as it were, into a God, was involved, together with all his posterity, in the same awful sin and perdition. This depravation of human nature must of necessity be entirely removed; and this can be effected only by serious repentance; by godly sorrow; by a faith that apprehends the remission of sin; by the mortification of sensual pleasure; and by the crucifixion of pride and self-love. For true repentance consists not in putting away gross and open sins only; but 12 it requires that a man should enter his heart, and search into its inmost recesses. The secret parts, the windings and the turnings of iniquity are to be laid open; in order that the returning sinner may be thoroughly renewed, and, at length, be converted from the love of himself, to the love of God; from the love of the world, to a life of spirituality; and from a participation of earthly pomps and pleasures, to a participation, through faith, of the merits of Christ.
3. Hence it follows, that a man must deny himself (Luke 9:23); that is, he must mortify his own will, and suffer himself to be entirely led by the will of God. He must no longer love, seek, and esteem himself; but he must account himself to be the unworthiest and most miserable of all creatures. He must renounce all he has for the love of Christ; and trample on the world, its pomps, and its vanities. He must pass by his own wisdom and natural endowments, as though he beheld them not; he must confide in no creature, but in God alone; yea, he must “hate his own life” (Luke 14:26), that is, his carnal will and pleasures; his pride, covetousness, lust, wrath, and envy. He must not please, but rather displease himself; nor must he attribute anything to his own strength or ability. In a word, he must be crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14), to the lust of the eyes and the flesh, and to the pride of life. This, and this alone, is that true repentance and mortification of the flesh, without which no man can ever be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This only is conversion from self, the world, and the devil, unto God (Acts 26:18); without which no one can receive remission of sins, nor be saved.
4. This is the true cross and yoke of Christ; that of which the Saviour spoke when he said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matt. 11:29. As if he had said, “Thy self-love and ambition must be removed by earnest and inward humility, of which thou hast an example in me; and by the example of my meekness, must thy wrath and desire of revenge be subdued.” This, to the new man, is an easy yoke and a light burden; though, to the flesh, it may seem to be a most bitter and afflictive cross. This is to crucify our own flesh, with the affections and lusts. Gal. 5:24.
5. They, therefore, who are acquainted with no other cross than the tribulations and afflictions of this life, greatly err; being ignorant of that true cross, which we ought to bear after our Lord daily; namely, inward repentance, and the mortification of the flesh; submitting to our enemies with great patience; and overcoming the malice of slanderers by humility and mildness, after the pattern which the Lamb of God has left us. For it becomes us to follow the example of Christ, who renounced all worldly splendor and glory, and everything that is commonly esteemed great and noble.
6. This yoke of Christ is the real cross, which when a man bears he truly dies to the world. It is not to retire into monasteries and cloisters, nor to adopt a set of rules and orders for the regulation of life; for while the heart remains disordered, and the love corrupt; while the man is puffed up with spiritual pride, and a pharisaical contempt of others; while he is devoted to lust, envy, hypocrisy, secret hatred and malice; he does not die to the world, but altogether lives to it. This is not the Christian yoke nor is 13 it the cross of Christ; for these consist in mortifying the flesh, with its sinful propensities; in turning away from the world to God; in an inward and constant secret sorrow for our sins; in a daily dying to the world, and living to Christ by faith; in following his steps with sincere lowliness and humility; and in confiding only in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
7. To this unfeigned repentance, this true and inward conversion from the world unto God, hath our blessed Lord called us. The imputation of his righteousness and obedience, together with the remission of all our sins, apprehended by faith, is promised to it alone. If we are destitute of repentance, Christ profiteth us nothing; that is, we cannot then become partakers of his grace and favor, nor of the efficacy of his merits; because these can be applied only by a contrite, penitent, lowly, and believing heart. And truly this is the fruit of the passion of Christ in us, that we die to sin by a sincere repentance; as the fruit of his resurrection is, that Christ may live in us, and we in him.
9. Hence, therefore, let us be instructed in the nature of true repentance; lest we be led away into that common error, that the mere relinquishment of some gross enormity, as theft, fornication, profaneness, blasphemy, is the genuine and only repentance. It is certain, that this is a kind of external repentance; but it is no less so, that all the Scriptures alike inculcate the necessity of an inward repentance, which takes possession of the whole soul. A man under the influence of this repentance, not only supports a fair conversation in the world, but he also denies and hates himself. Renouncing the world and all he calls his own, and crucifying the flesh, he commits himself by faith to God alone; and offers up to him a broken and contrite heart, as the sacrifice most acceptable in his sight. This character of inward repentance is eminently set forth in the Psalms of David, and particularly in those termed Penitential.44 [These are Psalms, 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143.]
10. This is, therefore, the only true repentance, when the heart of the sinner is inwardly torn with grief, and weighed down by heaviness; and when, on the other hand, it is healed by faith and the remission of sin, quickened by the infusion of divine joy, provoked to good works, and thoroughly transformed and changed. Such a frame of mind cannot fail to be attended also with an external reformation of life and manners.
11. But, on the other hand, though a man be very serious in the performance of bodily penances, and, from a dread of punishment, abstain from the commission of notorious sins; yet if he continue unreformed and unregenerate in his heart, and enter not upon that new and inward life which it has been our object to describe, he will prove but a castaway (1 Cor. 9:27) at last, notwithstanding the whole train of his external acts. It will avail him nothing to cry, “Lord, Lord!” He will hear the tremendous declaration, “I never knew you!” For most certain it is, that not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those only who do the will of their Heavenly Father. 14 Matt. 7:21-23. And under this awful sentence of divine majesty, all men are comprised, of what rank or order so-ever, who do not truly and inwardly repent, and who are not new creatures in Christ, for “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Rom. 8:9.
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