Billeder på siden

pardon and save the penitent. This saving faith nat urally follows repentance, but can never go before it; because love to Christ necessarily pre-supposes selfabasement and self-abhorrence for sin. Accordingly the apostle, after the example of Christ, places repentance before faith. This is the natural order of these two gracious affections, and they are always exercised in this order, by all who cordially embrace the gospel. And since he knew, that none could derive any sav ing benefit from the gospel without complying with the terms of life; he did for this reason describe those gracious exercises of heart, which are the essence of repentance and faith, and which are absolutely neces sary to obtain pardon and acceptance with God, through the atonement of Christ.

3. The apostle made it his universal practice in preaching, not only to explain the gospel to his hearers, and teach them what it was to comply with it, but urged them to repent and believe immediately. He says in the text, that "he testified both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." As soon as he had taught sinners the nature, design, and terms of the gospel he exhorted them to embrace it without the least deJay. He concluded his discourse to the stupid and ignorant Athenians, with a solemn exhortation to repentance. He told them, that God had winked at their former ignorance, but now commanded them to repent immediately. To the Corinthians he said, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled to God." He held the same imperative language to the Ephesians.

In addressing the sinner he said, "awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give

thee light." The apostle Paul not only instructed, but exhorted his hearers. He addressed not only the understandings, but the consciences of sinners. He always meant to fasten upon their minds a sense of their immediate obligation to renounce their enmity to God, and become reconciled to him upon the terms of the gospel. Though he very well knew the moral weakness and impotence of sinners, arising from the native depravity of their hearts, yet he solemnly testified, that it was their immediate and indispensable duty to exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. This was his constant, uniform practice in preaching the gospel to those, who were dead in tresspasses and sins.

Let us now consider,

II. The propriety of the apostle's urging sinners to embrace the gospel immediately. He undoubtedly saw the propriety of this mode of preaching; and perhaps, we shall all see the propriety of it, if we candidly and impartially attend to what may be offered in favor of his exhorting the impenitent and unbelieving to an immediate compliance with the gospel.

1. There was a propriety in the apostle's mode of preaching, because sinners are capable of embracing the gospel as soon as they understand it. They possess all the powers and faculties, which are necessary to constitute them free, moral agents. They are capable of knowing God and hating him; and of knowing Christ and hating him. Hence says our Savior to the unbelieving Jews, "ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father." Though the moral depravity of sinners has weakened their intellectual powers; yet it has by no means destroyed them. All their moral corruption lies in the heart, and consists in loving themselves supremely: and though this selfishness dis


poses them to say unto God, "depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" yet when their attention is awakened, they are capable of seeing the perfections of God displayed in his works, and of understanding his will revealed in his word. They have therefore, precisely the same natural capacity to embrace the gospel as to understand it. And upon this ground, the apostle did, with great propriety, "testify both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Though Jews and Gentiles were all under sin, yet they were all capable of loving God and believing in Christ, as soon as the apostle had explained the gospel, and plainly taught them the terms of salvation. the same moment, that he conveyed the true knowl edge of the gospel to their understanding, they felt a conviction in their own minds of the propriety of his exhorting them to believe it immediately. This warranted him to say, that "by manifestation of the truth, he had commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. The bare knowledge of truth always creates an immediate obligation to feel and act agreeably to it. "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." All men act upon this principle in their common conduct. The legisla tor first instructs, and then commands the subject. The officer first instructs, and then commands the soldier. The parent first instructs, and then commands the child. The master first instructs, and then commands the servant, After any person has instructed another in duty, there is a propriety in his exhorting him to an immediate compliance. This holds in regard to religious instruction, as well as to any other. There was, therefore, a plain propriety in the apostle's calling,

upon all to whom he preached the truth, to receive it in love immediately.

2. Paul preached agreeably to the directions which Christ had, from time to time, given to his ministers. Mark tells us, that when Christ called the twelve apostles, and sent them forth by two and two, to preach the gospel, he said unto them, "in what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent." By this commission Christ authorized the twelve apostles to call upon sinners to repent and believe the gospel, the very first time they heard it, upon pain of their future and aggravated destruction. Soon after this, Christ gave a commission, of precisely the same import, to seventy more, whom he sent forth to preach the gospel in his name. And just before his ascension to heaven, he gave a general commission to his apostles ard to all their successors in the gospel ministry to the end of time, in these memorable words: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." These repeated directions of the great head of the church laid the apostle under indispensable obligation to testify both to the Jews. and Gentiles, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a part of his. ministerial duty, to urge sinners to give an immediate and cordial reception to the gospel which he preached by divine authority. He would have been unfaithful

to Christ and to the souls of men, if he had neglected. to warn sinners to flee immediately from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life. He had no

warrant from Christ, to preach the gospel without inculcating the immediate duty of repentance and faith. There is no more room, therefore, to call in question the propriety of his mode of preaching, than to call in question the propriety of his obeying that divine authority, by which he preached.

3. The example of all the sacred instructors, who went before the apostle Paul, illustrates and confirms the propriety of his mode of preaching. He addressed sinners in the same manner in which the ancient prophets addressed them. They called upon the disobedient and rebellious, to repent and return to God immediately. Let us attentively consider their mode of addressing sinners.

Isaiah the evangelical prophet having, in the first chapter of his prophecy, described the ingratitude and stupidity of the openly vicious and profligate, exhorts them to immediate repentance and reformation. "Wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings; cease to do evil; learn to do well." Similar to this is his exhortation in the fifty fifth chapter. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

The prophet Jeremiah was commanded to address the backsliders in Israel in this pointed language, "Return, ye backsliding children, saith the Lord. Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.” Here sinners are solemnly exhorted to change their hearts, and return to God immediately.

« ForrigeFortsæt »