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the connexion is that of a meritorious ground or procuring cause, we unhesitatingly refuse; for these, amongst other reasons :
First :-No provision was made for repentance in the original moral constitution under which man was placed, and the necessity of maintaining which inviolate has already been shown. 'In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die—The soul that sinneth it shall die,' is the language in which that constitution expressed its sanctions. There is no stipulation of repentance; not even a hint of such a thing being so much as admissible. It is never spoken of but in connexion with a widely different constitution, in which, as we shall see, it springs from, rather than stands as a substitute for, atonement.
Secondly:-Penitence does not remove guilt, or the legal desert of punishment. It changes, indeed, the character of the sinner, but it leaves his liability to suffer the penalty of the law the same as before. No compensation whatever is made by it to the claims of justice; the guilt is lessened in no degree : it cannot, therefore, be enough to secure pardon, which is the remission of guilt.
Thirdly :-Penitence can never repair the consequences of sin. By sin the majesty of God is insulted; repentance has no effect in wiping off this reproach. By sin a debt is contracted to the divine law and justice; penitence makes no compensation for this debt. In case of the breach of human laws, repentance is never looked upon as making legal compensation or removing the consequences of guilt. It is never known among men that the thoughtless speculator who has involved himself in bankruptcy, on giving signs of repentance, receives a discharge from his creditors, and takes again the same honourable place which he formerly held in the commercial world. The intemperate voluptuary who has ruined his character, and fortune, and health, by his criminal indulgences, does not find these all retrieved, on his barely repenting of his misconduct. It does not even happen that the penitent finds immediate and permanent relief from the painful reflections of self-dissatisfaction; and if not satisfied with himself for having repented, how dare he have the presumption to fancy that God will be satisfied with him for it? It is contrary to all our notions of rectitude that punishment should continue longer than criminality, that the consequences of guilt should be perpetuated after satisfaction for guilt has been given. But it consists with the facts of daily experience, that compunctions and other effects of criminality remain after men have repented; and, as these are the natural punishments of crime, their continuance after repentance demonstrates its utter incompetency to form a legal compensation.
Fourthly:-- It does not appear that, without an atonement, there could ever exist such a thing as genuine repentance. That deep sense of guilt which is essential in every case of penitence, would seem to be otherwise incapable of being produced. If all that God had done had been to make known his readiness to receive repentant sinners, we have the best reason to conclude, from what we know of man, that, instead of inclining him to repent, it would have tended rather to render him easy under his guilt, to harden his heart, and to encourage him to sin with a higher hand than ever. True mourning for sin is a thing unknown, excepting among those who have been taught 'to look on Him whom they have pierced.' Repentance is a state of soul which can only be produced at the foot of the cross. • He who receives the atonement weeps not to wash away his sins, but because they are washed away he weeps.
Fifthly:-The sinner is as incapable, in himself, of repentance, as of making an atonement. This important remark is so happily illustrated by an able theologian of our own day, that I cannot resist laying his remarks before the reader. “When it is said,' remarks Mr Dods, 'that God is willing to pardon us upon our repentance, without any atonement, it is taken for granted that we can repent when we please. For, if repentance be something entirely out of our power, then it can afford us no comfort to tell us, even if it were true, that repentance will purchase our pardon. For, besides that it seems just as difficult to perceive the connexion between repentance and pardon, as to perceive the connexion between atonement and pardon, I know not that even the most determined rationalism, has ever promulgated a tenet more clearly absurd, or more decidedly opposed to all experience, than the tenet that a man can repent of himself, without being led to do so, and enabled to do so, by the Holy Spirit. Many a sinner
is no doubt soothing himself to peace by the promise of a future repentance. But he neither knows as yet what repentance is, nor his own need of repentance, else he would build himself up in no such foolish delusion. For what does the sinner do, when he promises himself a future repentance? He just says, to-day, nothing shall induce me to abstain from indulging every appetite and every desire, nothing shall lead me to think of God at all, or to think of him without dread and aversion; nothing can make me delight to contemplate his perfections, or find any pleasure in drawing near to him: to-morrow, I will sit down and mourn, in the utmost anguish of spirit, those indulgences from which nothing will induce me to-day to abstain, and wish a thousand times that I had never yielded to them; nothing shall give me such delight as the contemplation of those glorious perfections which to-day I hate to think of; and I shall account nothing such a privilege as to draw near to that throne of grace before which nothing shall induce me to-day to bend the knee. This is exactly what the sinner says when he promises himself a future repentance. He promises that to-mor
he will hate with the most cordial detestation, that to which, to-day, he clings with the most ardent affection. He who says, to-day I am bowed down with all the weight of threescore years and ten, but to-morrow I am resolved that I shall flourish in all the vigour of unbroken youth, forms a resolution quite as rational, and quite as much within his power to accomplish, as he who says to-morrow I will
He who says to himself, I will make to myself a new heaven and a new earth, makes a promise just as much within his power to accomplish, as he who says, I will make to myself a new heart and a new spirit. Repentance and renovation are not sacrifices which we give to God as the price of our justification; but gifts which God bestows upon us, and which God only can bestow, in consequence of our having been freely justified. That man has surely little reason to lay claim to the appellation of rational, who goes so directly in the face of common sense and of all experience, as to teach the sinner that he is capable of repenting, and that repentance will purchase his pardon; a tenet which, whether it be more deplorably absurd, or more fearfully fatal, I shall not take upon me to determine.'
Not less inefficacious is the scheme of future amendment. Good works can as little secure the pardon of sin as repentance; yet by such as deny the atonement, the worth of man's own doings, is unblushingly taught. As in the case of repentance, it is not our intention to deny the importance of good works in the scheme of man's salvation; neither to dispute their connexion with pardon. We are too well convinced of the ‘necessary uses' they are designed to subserve, with regard at once to believers themselves, to their fellow men, and to God; and we are too well aware of their being the necessary fruits and indispensable evidences of a justified state,
7 Dods on Incarnation, pp. 158–160.