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3. A legal repentance flows from an averfation to God and to his holy law; but an evangelical repent. ance from love to both. The distress, the terror and amazement, that awakened finners are under, arises from their dreadful apprehensions of God, and his terrible justice. They know, that they have greatly provoked him, are afraid of his wrath, and therefore want some covert where they may hide themselves from his presence. They might before, perhaps, have some pleasing apprehensions of God, while they considered him as being all mercy without justice ; and while they could hope for pardon, and yet live in their sins. But now, they have some sense of his holiness and justice ; he appears an infinite enemy, and therefore most terrible to their souls. They are consulting indeed fome way to be at peace with him, because they are afraid the controversy will issue in their de. struction. They resolve upon new obedience from the same motives that saves obey their severe, ty. rannical masters; while the rule of their obedience is directly contrary to the bent, bias, and difpofition of their souls.Were the penalty of the law taken away, their aversion to it would quickly appear, and they would soon embrace their beloved lufts, with the same pleasure and delight as formerly. This is frequently exemplified in those who wear off their convictions and reformations together, and, notwithstanding all their former religious appearances, discover the alienation of their hearts from God and his laws, by their sinful and sensual lives; and (as the Apostle expresseth it) shew themselves enemies in their minds, by their wicked works.
But, on the contrary, the sincere gospel.penitent sees an admirable beauty and excellency in a life of holiness; and therefore groans after higher attainments in it. He is sensible how much he has tranf,
gressed gressed the law of God, how very far he is depart. ed from the purity and holiness of the divine nature. This is the burden of his soul. Hence it is, that he walks in heaviness, and waters his couch with tears.
He mourns, not because the law is so strict, or the penalty fo févere ; for he esteems the law to be hely, and the commandment holy, just and good; but he mourns, that though the law he Spiritual, he is carnal, fold under fin.--He mourns, that his nature is so contrary to God, that his prac. tice is so contrary to his will; and that he can make no better progress in mortifying the deeds of the flesh, in regulating his affections, appetites, and passions, and in living to God : So that with the mind he-bimself serves the law of God, though in much imperfection; and though, by reason of his remaining carnality, he is forced to acknowledge and lament, that with the Aelb he serves the law of pn.---The true penitent is breathing with the fame earnestoess after sanctification, as after freedom from wrath. He does not want to have the law bend to his corruptions; but to have his heart and life fully fubjected to the law and will of God. There is nothing he so much defires, besides an interest in Chrift and the favour of God, as a free dom from sin, a proficiency in faith and holiness, and a life of communion and fellowship with God. "Oh (says the penitent believer) what a wicked “ heart have I, that is so estranged from the holy
nature of God, and from his righteous law ! “ What a guilty wretch have I been, who have " walked fo contrary to the glorious God, have “ trampled upon his excellent perfections, violated « his holy law, and made to near an approach even
to the nature of the devil!-O for the cleansing “ efficacy of the blood of Christ, and the renewing « influences of his holy Spirit, to purify this fink
" of pollution, and to fanctify these depraved af"fections of my soul. -Create in me
a clean " heart, O God, and renew a right fpirit within me! “ Let this feparating wall between God and my • soul be broken down! Let me be partaker of " the divine nature, and be brought near to God, 66 whatever else be denied me that my ways
were directed, that I might keep thy statutes! O let " me not wander from thy commandments, but deal “ bountifully with thy fervant, that I may live and “ keep thy word.”_Such as these are the aspirations of a sincere repentance: A language which flows from a true love to God and his law, and an earneft defire of conformity to both.
But you will inquire, perhaps, Is there no dif. ference between repentance and love' to God?Are not these different graces of the Spirit ; and have they not their different exercises and operations! I answer, Yes; they are truly different and distinct; but they always have a joint exercise in a truly gracious soul. As faith is truly distinct from repentance ; land yet every child of God is a peni. tent believer, fo is love likewise distinct from re. pentance; and yet neither of these graces can exist without the other. We cannot truly love God, unless our fins are made hateful to us in repentance. We cannot fincerely turn to God, until we value his favour, and take pleasure in a conformity to his will. As these graces, therefore, are joint produc.' tions of the blessed Spirit in our regeneration, so are they joint companions in the exercise of the divine love.From this reflection you may see the reason why some of the same things necessarily occur in this discourse of repentance, which you met with in my last letter, when treating upon the dif. ference of a true and false faith.
By these hints, you may plainly see the very great difference between a legal and an evangeli. cal penitent.--The one looks upon God with dread, , terror, and aversation of soul. The other mourns his distance from him, and longs to be more trans. formed into his image and likeness. The one ftill loves his sins in his heart, though he mourns that there is a law to punish them. The other hates all his sins without reserve, and groans under the burden of them, because they are contrary to God and his holy law.-The obedience of the one is by mere constraint. The imperfections of the other are matter of continual grief; and he is constantly longing and striving after greater degrees of grace and holiness. The one can find no inward and abiding complacency in the service of God. The other runs the ways of his commandments with de. light, and takes more pleasure in obedience than in any thing else.
4. A legal repentance ordinarily flows from difcouragement and defpondency; but an evangelical re. pentance from encouraging hope.--I have already considered, how a legal repentance is excited and maintained by terrors of conscience, and fearful apprehensions of the wrath of God. Some indeed, by their external reformations, pacify their confciences, get settled upon their lees, and cry peace to their souls ; and so their repentance and difcouragements both come to an end. But whilft their concern continues, their defponding fears are the very life of it.—Their fins, both for number and nature, appear dreadful to their affrightened consciences, as they frequently violate their purposes and promises of new obedience. They are there. fore afraid, that God will never pardon and accept such rebels as they have been ; and though they dare not neglect duty, they come with horror into
the presence of God, as to an inexorable judge ; and have nothing to keep their souls from sinking into defpair, but their good designs and endeavours, which yet are too defective to give them comfortable hope.-And what is all this, but a most ungrateful undervaluing the blood of Christ, limiting the goodness and mercy of God, and an - implicit denying the truth of the whole gofpel of God our Saviour?-Thus they are flying from the mercy of God, while they pretend to fly to it. But I need not enlarge upon this head, it being, fo near of kin to what was observed under the last.
I proceed therefore to shew, on the other hand, that though the true gspel-penitent may have a deeper impression of the greatness and atrocious nature of his fin and guilt, than even the awakened, terrified legalist himself, yet he dares not yield to any despairing thoughts of God's mercy, Faith opens the door of hope, and therefore the door of repentance, as I have observed before. True it is, that the gospel-penitent may meet with many discouraging doubts and fears; but thefe are bis infirmity, not his repentance.-The Apostle tells us, we are saved by hope: That is what gives life and activity to every grace, and to repentance in particular, as I have had occasion to hint before. And it is yet needful further to obferve, that though a fear and jealousy of our own sincerity, may be con. fiftent with a true repentance, and perhaps sonie.. times serves to further its .progress, yet all doubts of the faithfulness of the gospel-promises, of the extensiveness of the divine mercy, or of our exemption from the gospel-offer : All apprehen, fions of our not being elected, of our having finned away the day of grace, or of our having sinned against the Holy Ghost: All imaginations that our fins are so circumftanced, as not to admit of pardon.