A PENITENT HEART
Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13.3.
When we consider how heinous and aggravating our offences are in the sight of a just and holy God, that they bring down His wrath upon our heads, and occasion us to live under his indignation, how ought we thereby to be deterred from evil, or at least engaged to study to repent thereof, and not commit the same again; but man is so thoughtless of an eternal state, and has so little consideration of the welfare of his immortal soul, that he can sin without any thought that he must give an account of his actions at the day of judgment. This is highly offensive to GodÂ—it is mocking of Him. My brethren, when grace is given us to repent truly, we shall turn wholly to God; and let me beseech you to repent of your sins, for the time is hastening when you will have neither time nor call to repent: there is none in the grave, whither we are going;
but do not be afraid, for God often receives the greatest sinner to mercy through the merits of Christ Jesus.
Paul was an eminent instance of this; he speaks of himself as “the chief of sinners,” and he declares how God showed mercy to him. Christ loves to show mercy to sinners, and if you
repent. He will have mercy upon you. But as no word is more mistaken than that of repentance, I shall:
I. Show you what the nature of repentance is.
Repentance, my brethren, in the first place, as to its nature, is the carnal and corrupt disposition of men being changed into a
renewed and sanctified disposition. A man that has truly
repented is truly regenerated; it is a different word for one and the same thing; the motley mixture of the beast and devil is done: there is, as it were, a new creation wrought in your hearts. If your repentance is true, you are renewed throughout; your understandings are enlightened with the knowledge of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ; and your wills, which were stubborn, obstinate, and hated all good, are obedient and conformable to the will of God. Every man, by his own natural will, hates God; but when he is turned to the Lord,
by evangelical repentance, then his will is changed; then your consciences, now hardened and benumbed, shall be quickened and awakened; then your hard hearts shall be melted, and your unruly affections shall be crucified. Thus, by that repentance, the whole soul will be changed, and you will have new inclinations, new desires, and new habits. I shall now;
II. Show you the parts of it, and the causes concurring thereto.
The parts are, sorrow for, hatred of, and an entire forsaking of sin. Our sorrow and grief for sin must not spring merely from a fear of wrath; for if we have no other ground but that, it proceeds from self-love, and not from any love to God.
Many, in our days, think their crying. God forgive me! or, Lord, have mercy upon me! or, I am sorry for it! is repentance, and that God will esteem it as such; but, indeed, they are mistaken. And till you are sensible of your misery and lost condition, you are a servant to sin and to your lusts, under the bondage and command of Satan, doing his drudgery; you are under the curse of God, and liable to His judgment. Consider how dreadful your state will be at death, and after the day of judgment, when you will be exposed to such miseries as the ear has not heard, neither can the heart conceive, and that to all eternity, if you die impenitent. O be humbled, be humbled, I ,beseech you, for your sins. Having spent so many years in
sinning, what can you do less than be concerned to spend some hours in mourning and sorrowing for the same, and be humbled before God.
Look back, and call to mind your sins, the sins of your youth, as well as of your riper years: see how you have departed from a gracious Father, and wandered in the way of wickedness, in which you have lost the favour of God, the comforts of His spirit, and the peace of your own consciences; then go and beg pardon of the Lord, through the blood of the Lamb, for the evil you have committed, and for the good you have omitted.
You who have been swearers and cursors, you who have been harlots and drunkards, you who have been thieves and robbers, you who have hitherto followed the sinful pleasures and diversions of life, let me beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, that you would no longer continue herein, but that you would forsake your evil ways and turn unto the Lord, for He waits to be gracious to you; He is ready, He is willing to pardon all your sins. Resolve, through grace, to do this, and your repentance is half done; but then take care that you do not ground your resolutions on your own strength, but in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. Resolve to cast yourself at the feet of Christ in subjection to Him, and throw yourself into the arms of Christ for salvation by Him. O take Him upon His own terms, and whosoever you are, how great a sinner soever, this evening. As you value your life and soul, refuse Him not, but stir up your self to accept of the Lord Jesus;
He must be your whole wisdom, your whole righteousness, your whole sanctification, or He will never be your eternal redemption.
Now as to the causes hereof, the first cause is God; He is the Author, “we are born of God,” God hath begotten us, even God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: it is He that stirs us up to will and to do of His own good pleasure: and another cause is. God’s free grace; it is owing to the “riches of his free grace,” my brethren, that we have been prevented from going down to hell long ago; it is because the compassions of the Lord fail not, they are new every morning, and fresh every evening.
III. I shall now, thirdly, show the reasons why repentance is necessary to salvation.
And this, my brethren, is plainly revealed to us in the word of God: “The souls that do not repent and turn unto the Lord, shall die in their sins, and their blood shall be required at their own hands.” If you were to be admitted into heaven with your present tempers, in your impenitent condition, heaven itself
would be a hell to you; the songs of angels would be as enthusiasm, and would be intolerable to you: therefore you must have these tempers changed, you must be holy, as God is: He must be your God here, and you must be His people, or you will never dwell together to all eternity. O my dear brethren, it makes my blood run cold, in thinking that any of you should not be admitted into the glorious mansions above. O that it were in my power, I would place all of you.yea.you my scoffing brethren, and the greatest enemy I have on earth, at the right hand of Jesus; but this I cannot do: however, I advise and exhort you, with all love and tenderness, to make Jesus your refuge: fly to Him for relief! Jesus died to save such as you; He is full of compassion; and if you go to Him, as poor, lost, undone sinners, Jesus will give you His Spirit; you shall live and reign, and reign and live, you shall love and live, and live and love, with this Jesus to all eternity.
IV. I am, fourthly, to exhort all of you to repent of all your sins, and turn unto the Lord.
And first, you who never have truly repented of your sins, and never have truly forsaken your lusts, be not offended if I speak plainly to you; for it is love, love to your souls, that constrains me to speak. While your sins are not repented of you are in danger of death, and if you should die, you would perish forever. There is no hope of any who live and die in their sins, but that they will dwell with devils and damned spirits to all eternity. What are all your pleasures and diversions worth? They last but for a moment, they are of no worth, and but of short continuance.
O the folly and madness of this sensual world! Sure, if there were nothing in sin but present slavery, it would keep an ingenuous spirit from it. But to do the devil’s drudgery! and if we do that, we shall have his wages, which is eternal death and condemnation! O consider this, my guilty brethren, you that think it no crime to swear, whore, drink, or scoff and jeer at the people of God; consider how your voices will be changed; and you that counted their lives madness, and their end without honour, shall howl and lament at your own madness and folly, that should bring you to so much woe and distress.
Now you enjoy the means of grace, ere long they will be over, and you will be no more troubled with them; but then you would give ten thousand worlds for one moment of that merciful time of grace which you have abused. In what a dreadful condition will you then be! What horror and astonishment will possess your souls! Then all thy lies and
oaths, thy scoffs and jeers at the people of God, all thy filthy and unclean thoughts and actions, your mis-spent time in balls, plays, and assemblies, your spending whole evenings at cards, dice and masquerades, your frequenting of taverns and alehouses, your worldliness, covetousness, and your uncharitableness, will be brought at once to your remembrance, and at once charged upon your guilty soul. And how can you bear the thoughts of these things? Consider, that however you may be for putting the evil day away from you, and are now striving to hide your sins, at the day of judgment there shall be a full discovery of all.
O that this would awaken and cause you to humble yourselves for your sins, and to beg pardon for them, that you might find mercy in the Lord. Let me beseech you to cast away your transgressions, to strive against sin, to watch against it, and to beg power and strength from Christ, to keep down the power of those lusts that hurry you on in your sinful ways.
Now you may call this enthusiasm and madness: but at that great day, if you repent not of your sins here, you will find, by woeful experience, that your own ways were madness indeed. But God forbid it should be left undone till then: seek after the Lord while He is to be found; call upon Him while He is near, and you shall find mercy: repent this hour, and Christ will joyfully receive you.
What say you? Must I go to my Master, and tell Him you will not come unto Him, and will have none of His counsels? No; do not send me on so unhappy an errand: I cannot, I will not tell Him any such thing. Shall not I rather tell Him, you are willing to repent and to be converted, to become new men, and take up a new course of life: this is the only wise resolution you can make. Let me tell my Master that you will come unto and will wait upon Him; for if you do not, it will be your ruin in time, and to eternity.
If you would not choose to die in your sins, to die drunkards, to die adulterers, to die swearers and scoffers, &c. live not out this night in the dreadful condition you are in. Some of you, it may be, may say you have no power, you have no strength:
but have you not been wanting to yourselves in such things that were within your power? Have you not as much power to go to hear a sermon, as to go into a playhouse, or to a ball, or masquerade? You have as much power to read the Bible as to read plays, novels and romances; and you can associate as well with the godly as with the wicked and profane: this is but an idle excuse, my brethren, to go on in your sins; and if you will be found in the means of grace, Christ hath promised He will give you strength.
Do not say, that your sins are too many and too great to expect to find mercy: no, be they ever so many, or ever so great, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will cleanse you from aII sins. Have you been blasphemers and persecutors of the saints and servants of God? So was Paul, yet he received mercy. Have you been common harlots, filthy and unclean persons? So was Mary Magdalene, and yet she received mercy. Hast thou been a thief? The thief upon the cross found .mercy. I despair of none of you, however vile and profligate you have been; I say, I despair of none of you, especially when God has had mercy on such a wretch as I am.
What words, what entreaties shall I use, to make you come to the Lord Jesus Christ? The little love I have experienced once I have been brought from sin to God is so great, that I would not be in a natural state for ten thousand worlds. And, O if you repent and come to Jesus, I would rejoice on your account; and we should rejoice together to all eternity when once passed on the other side of the grave. Come, I beseech you to come to Jesus Christ! O that my words would pierce to the very soul! O that Jesus Christ were formed in you! O that you would turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, that He might have mercy upon you! I would speak till midnight, yea, I would speak till I could speak no more, so it might be a means to bring you to Jesus! Let the Lord Jesus but enter your souls, and you shall find peace, which the world can neither give nor take away.
Now, my brethren, let me speak a word of exhortation to those of you who are already brought to the Lord Jesus, who are born again, who do belong to God, to whom it has been given to repent of your sins and be cleansed from guilt; and that is, be thankful to God for His mercies towards you. Now you find more pleasure in walking with God one hour, than in all your former carnal delights, and all the pleasures of sin. Oh! the joy you feel in your own souls, which all the men of this world, and all the devils in hell, though they were to combine together, could not destroy. Then fear not their wrath or malice, for through many tribulations we must enter into glory. A few days, or weeks, or years more, and then you will be beyond their reach, you will be in the heavenly Jerusalem;
there is all harmony and love, there is all joy and delight; there the weary soul is at rest.
Come, then, all of you, come and behold Him stretched out for you; see His hands and feet nailed to the cross! O come, come, my brethren, and nail your sins thereto! Come, come and see His side pierced; there is a fountain open for sin and
for uncleanness! O wash, wash and be clean! Come and see
His head crowned with thorns, and all for you! Can you think of a panting, bleeding, dying Jesus, and not be filled with pity towards Him? He underwent all this for you! Come unto Him by faith; lay hold on Him; there is mercy for every soul of you that will come unto Him! Then do not delay; fly unto the arms of this Jesus, and you shall be made clean in His blood! O what shall I say unto you to make you come to Jesus? Let me beg of you to pray in good earnest for the grace of repentance. I may never see your faces again; but at the day of judgment I will meet you: there you will either bless God that ever you were moved to repentance, or else this sermon, though in a field, will be as a swift witness against you. Repent, repent, therefore, my dear brethren, as John the Baptist, and as our blessed Redeemer Himself earnestly exhorted, and turn from your evil ways, and the Lord will have mercy on you. To Him be ascribed, as is most due, all power, glory, might, majesty, and dominion, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen.