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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 22
Verse 22. Repent therefore. Here we may remark,
(1.) that Simon was at this time an unconverted sinner.
(2.) That the command was given to him as such.
(3.) That he was required to do the thing; not to wait or seek merely, but actually to repent.
(4.) That this was to be the first step in his conversion. He was not even directed to pray first; but his first indispensable work was to repent, that is, to exercise proper sorrow for this sin, and to abandon his plan or principle of action. And this shows,
(1.) that all sinners are to be exhorted to repent, as their first work. They are not to be told to wait, and read, and pray, in the expectation that repentance will be given them. With such helps they can obtain, they are to do the thing.
(2.) Prayer will not be acceptable, or heard, unless the sinner comes repenting, that is, unless he regrets his sin, and desires to forsake it. Then, and then only, will he be heard. When he comes loving his sins, and resolving still to practise them, God will not hear him. When he comes desirous of forsaking them, grieved that he is guilty, and feeling his need of help, God will hear his prayer. See Isa 1:15; Mic 3:4; Pr 1:28; Ps 66:18.
And pray God. Having a desire to forsake the sin, and to be pardoned, then pray to God to forgive. It would be absurd to ask forgiveness until a man felt his need of it. This shows that a sinner ought to pray, and how he ought to do it. It should be with a desire and purpose to forsake sin, and in that state of mind God will hear the prayer. Comp. Da 4:27.
If perhaps. There was no certainty that God would forgive him; nor is there any evidence either that Simon prayed, or that he was forgiven. This direction of Peter presents another important principle in regard to the conduct of sinners. They are to be directed to repent, not because they have the promise of forgiveness, and not because they hope to be forgiven, but because sin is a great evil, and because it is right and proper that they should repent, whether they are forgiven or not. That is to be left to the sovereign mercy of God. They are to repent of sin; and then they are to feel, not that they have any claim on God, but that they are dependent on him, and must be saved or lost at his will. They are not to suppose that their tears will purchase forgiveness, but that they lie at the foot of mercy, and that there is hope—not certainty—that God will forgive. The language of the humbled sinner is—
"Perhaps he will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish I will pray,
And perish only there.
"I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away, I know
I shall for ever die."
The thought, etc. Your purpose, or wish. Thoughts may be, therefore, evil, and need forgiveness. It is not open sin only that needs to be pardoned; it is the secret purpose of the soul.
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