Chapter 9. TRUE AND FALSE REPENTANCE.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to berepented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 2 Corinthians7:10.
In this chapter the apostle refers to another epistle whichhe had formerly written to the church at Corinth, on a certainsubject, in which they were greatly to blame. He speaks here ofthe effect that it; had, in bringing them to true repentance.They sorrowed after a godly sort. This was the evidence that theirrepentance was genuine.
"For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed aftera godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearingof yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, whatvehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all thingsye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."
In the verse which I have taken for my text, he speaks of twokinds of sorrow for sin, one working repentance unto salvation,the other working death. He alludes to what is generally understoodby two kinds of repentance. And this is the subject of discoursetonight.
TRUE AND FALSE REPENTANCE.
In discoursing on the subject, I design to show,
I. What true repentance is. II. How it may be known. III. Whatis false and spurious repentance. IV. How it may be known.
It is high time professors of religion were taught to discriminatemuch more than they do in regard to the nature and character ofvarious exercises on the subject of religion. Were it so the churchwould not be so overrun with false and unprofitable professors.I have, of late, been frequently led to examine, over and overagain, the reason why there is so much spurious religion, andI have sought to know what is the foundation of the difficulty.That multitudes suppose themselves to be religious, who are notso, unless the Bible is false, is notorious. Why is it that somany are deceived? Why do so many, who are yet impenitent sinners,get the idea that they have repented? The cause is doubtless awant of discriminating instruction respecting the foundation ofreligion, and especially a want of discrimination respecting trueand false repentance.
I. I am to show what is true repentance.
It involves a change of opinion respecting the nature of sin,and this change of opinion followed by a corresponding changeof feeling towards sin. Feeling is the result of thought. Andwhen this change of opinion is such as to produce a correspondingchange of feeling, if the opinion is right and the feeling corresponds,this is true repentance. It must be right opinion. The opinionnow adopted might be such an opinion as God holds respecting sin.Godly sorrow, such as God requires, must spring from such viewsof sin as God holds.
First. There must be a change of opinion in regard to sin.
1. A change of opinion in regard to the nature of sin.
To one who truly repents sin looks like a very different thingfrom what it does to him who has not repented.
Instead of looking like a thing that is desirable or fascinating,it looks the very opposite, most odious and detestable, and heis astonished at himself, that he ever could have desired sucha thing. Impenitent sinners may look at sin and see that it willruin them, because God will punish them for it; but, after all,it appears in itself desirable; they love it; they roll it undertheir tongue. If it could end in happiness, they never would thinkof abandoning it. But to the other it is different; he looks athis own conduct as perfectly hateful. He looks back upon it, andexclaims, "How hateful, how detestable, how worthy of hell,such and such a thing was in me."
2. A change of opinion of the character of sin as respectsits relation to God.
Sinners do not see why God threatens sin with such terriblepunishment. They love it so well themselves, that they cannotsee why God should look at it in such a light as to think it worthyof everlasting punishment. When they are strongly convicted, theysee it differently, and so far as opinion is concerned, they seeit in the same light that a Christian does, and then they onlywant a corresponding change of feeling to become Christians. Manya sinner sees its relation to God to be such that it deserveseternal death, but his heart does not go with his opinions. Thisis the case with the devils and wicked spirits in hell. Mark,then! a change of opinion is indispensable to true repentance,and always precedes it. The heart never goes out to God in truerepentance without a previous change of opinion. There may bea change of opinion without repentance, but no genuine repentancewithout a change of opinion.
3. A change of opinion in regard to the tendencies of sin.
Before the sinner thinks it utterly incredible that sin shouldhave such tendencies as to deserve everlasting death. He may befully changed, however, as to his opinions on this point withoutrepentance, but it is impossible a man should truly repent withouta change of opinion. He sees sin, in its tendency, as ruinousto himself and everybody else, soul and body, for time and eternity,and at variance with all that is lovely and happy in the universe.He sees that sin is calculated in its tendencies to injure himselfand everybody else, and that there is no remedy but universalabstinence. The devil knows it to be so. And possibly there aresome sinners now in this congregation who know it.
4. A change of opinion in regard to the desert of sin.
The word rendered repentance implies all this. It implies achange in the state of the mind including all this. The carelesssinner is almost devoid of right ideas, even so far as this lifeis concerned, respecting the desert of sin. Suppose he admitsin theory that sin deserves eternal death, he does not believeit. If he believed it, it would be impossible for him to remaina careless sinner. He is deceived, if he supposes that he honestlyholds such an opinion as that sin deserves the wrath of God forever. But the truly awakened and convicted sinner has no moredoubt of this than he has of the existence of God. He sees clearlythat sin must deserve everlasting punishment from God. He knowsthat this is a simple matter of fact.
Secondly. In true repentance there must be a correspondingchange of feeling.
The change of feeling respects sin in all these particulars,its nature, its relations, its tendencies, and its deserts. Theindividual who truly repents, not only sees sin to be detestableand vile, and worthy of abhorrence, but he really abhors it, andhates it in his heart.
A person may see sin to be hurtful and abominable, while yethis heart loves it, and desires it, and clings to it. But whenhe trulyrepents, he most heartily abhors and renounces it.
In relation to God, he feels towards sin as it really is. Andhere is the source of those gushings of sorrow in which Christianssometimes break out, when contemplating sin. The Christian viewsit as to its nature, and simply feels abhorrence. But when heviews it in relation to God, then he weeps; the fountains of hissorrow gush forth, and he wants to get right down on his faceand pour out a flood of tears over his sins.
Then as to the tendencies of sin, the individual who trulyrepents feels it as it is. When he views sin in its tendencies,it awakens a vehement desire to stop it, and to save people fromtheir sins, and roll back the tide of death. It sets his hearton fire, and he goes to praying, and laboring, and pulling sinnersout of the fire with all his might, to save them from the awfultendencies of sin. When the Christian sets his mind on this, hewill bestir himself to make people give up their sins. Just asif he saw all the people taking poison which he knew would destroythem, and he lifts up his voice to warn them to beware.
He feels right, as to the desert of sin. He has not only anintellectual conviction that sin deserves everlasting punishment,but he feels that it would be so right and so reasonable, andso just, for God to condemn him to eternal death, that so farfrom finding fault with the sentence of the law that condemnshim, he thinks it the wonder of heaven, a wonder of wonders, ifGod can forgive him. Instead of thinking it hard, or severe, orunkind in God, that incorrigible sinners are sent to hell, heis full of adoring wonder that he is not sent to hell himself,and that this whole guilty world has not long since been hurleddown to endless burnings. It is the last thing in the world hewould think to complain of, that all sinners are not saved; butO, it is a wonder of mercy that all the world is not damned. Andwhen he thinks of such a sinner's being saved, he feels a senseof gratitude that he never knew anything of till he was a Christian.
II. I am to show what are the works or effects of genuine repentance.
I wish to show you what are the works of true repentance, andto make it so plain to your minds, that you can know infalliblywhether you have repented or not.
1. If your repentance is genuine, there is in your mind a consciouschange of views and feeling in regard to sin.
Of this you will be just as conscious as you ever were of achange of views and feelings on any other subject. Now, can yousay this? Do you know, that on this point there has been a changein you, and that old things are done away and all things havebecome new.
2. Where repentance is genuine, the disposition to repeat sinis gone.
If you have truly repented, you do not now love sin; you donot now abstain from it through fear, and to avoid punishment,but because you hate it. How is this with you? Do you know thatyour disposition to commit sin is gone? Look at the sins you usedto practice when you were impenitent how do they appear to you?Do they look pleasant and would you really love to practice themagain if you dared? If you do, if you have the disposition tosin left, you are only convicted. Your opinions of sin may bechanged, but if the love of that sin remains, as your soul lives,you are still an impenitent sinner.
3. Genuine repentance worketh a reformation of conduct.
I take this idea to be chiefly intended in the text, whereit says "Godly sorrow worketh repentance." Godly sorrowproduces a reformation of conduct.
Otherwise it is a repetition of the same idea; or saying, thatrepentance produces repentance. Whereas, I suppose the apostlewas speaking of such a change of mind as produces a change ofconduct, ending in salvation. Now, let me ask you, are you reallyreformed? Have you forsaken your sins? Or, are you practicingthem still? If so, you are still a sinner. However you may havechanged your mind, if it has not wrought a change of conduct,an actual reformation, it is not godly repentance, or such asGod approve.
4. Repentance, when true and genuine, leads to confession andrestitution.
The thief has not repented while he keeps the money he stole.He may have conviction, but no repentance. If he had repentance,he would go and give back the money. If you have cheated any one,and do not restore what you have taken unjustly; or if you haveinjured any one, and do not set about rectifying the wrong youhave done, as far as in you lies, you have not truly repented.
5. True repentance is a permanent change of character and conduct.
The text says it is repentance unto salvation, "not tobe repented of." What else does the apostle mean by thatexpression but this, that true repentance is a change so deepand fundamental that the man never changes back again? Peopleoften quote it as if it read, repentance that does not need tobe repented of. But that is not what he says. It is not to berepented of; or, in other words, repentance that will not be repentedof so thorough, that there is no going back. The love of sin istruly abandoned. The individual who has truly repented, has sochanged his views and feelings, that he will not change back again,or go back to the love of sin. Bear this in mind now, all of you,that the truly penitent sinner exercises feelings of which henever will repent. The text says it is "unto salvation."It goes right on, to the very rest of heaven. The very reasonwhy it ends in salvation is, because it is such as will not berepented of.
And here I cannot but remark, that you see why the doctrineof the Saints' Perseverance is true, and what it means. True repentanceis such a thorough change of feelings and the individual who exercisesit comes so to abhor sin, that he will persevere of course, andnot go and take back all his repentance and return to sin again.
III. I am to speak of false repentance.
False or spurious repentance is said to be worldly, the sorrowof the world; that is, it is sorrow for sin, arising from worldlyconsiderations and motives connected with the present life, orat most, has respect to his "own happiness" in a futureworld, and has no regard to the true nature of sin.
1. It is not founded on such a change of opinion as I havespecified to belong to true repentance.
The change is not on fundamental points. A person may see theevil consequences of sin in a worldly point of view, and it mayfill him with consternation. He may see that it will greatly affecthis character, or endanger his life; that if some of his concealedconduct should be found out, he would be disgraced, and this mayfill him with fear and distress.
It is very common for persons to have this kind of worldlysorrow, when some worldly consideration is at the bottom of itall.
2. False repentance is founded on selfishness.
It may be simply a strong feeling of regret, in the mind ofthe individual, that he has done as he has, because he sees theevil consequences of it to himself, because it makes him miserable,or exposes him to the wrath of God, or injures his family or hisfriends, or because it produces some injury to himself in timeor in eternity. All this is pure selfishness. He may feel remorseof conscience biting, consuming remorse and no true repentance.It may extend to fear deep and dreadful fear of the wrath of Godand the pains of hell, and yet be purely selfish, and all thewhile there may be no such thing as a hearty abhorrence of sin,and no feelings of the heart going out after the convictions ofthe understanding, in regard to the infinite evil of sin.
IV. I am to show how this false or spurious repentance maybe known.
1. It leaves the feelings unchanged.
It leaves unbroken and unsubdued the disposition to sin inthe heart. The feelings as to the nature of sin are not so changed,but that the individual still feels a desire for sin. He abstainsfrom it, not from abhorrence of it, but from dread of the consequencesof it.
2. It works death.
It leads to hypocritical concealment. The individual who hasexercised true repentance is willing to have it known that hehas repented, and willing to have it known that he was a sinner.He who has only false repentance, resorts to excuses and lyingto cover his sins, and is ashamed of his repentance. When he iscalled to the envious seat, he will cover up his sins by a thousandapologies and excuses, trying to smooth them over, and extenuatetheir enormity. If he speaks of his past conduct, he always doesit in the softest and most favorable terms. You see a constantdisposition to cover up his sin. This repentance leads to death.It makes him commit one sin to cover up another. Instead of thatingenuous, openhearted breaking forth of sensibility and frankness,you see a palavering, smooth-tongued, half-hearted mincing outof something that is intended to answer the purpose of a confession,and yet to confess nothing.
How is it with you? Are you ashamed to have any person talkwith you about your sins? Then your sorrow is only a worldly sorrow,and worketh death. How often you see sinners getting out of theway to avoid conversation about their sins, and yet calling themselvesanxious inquirers, and expecting to become Christians in thatway. The same kind of sorrow is found in hell. No doubt all thosewretched inhabitants of the pit wish to get away from the eyeof God. No such sorrow is found among the saints in heaven. Theirsorrow is open, ingenuous, full and hearty. Such sorrow is notinconsistent with true happiness. The saints are full of happiness,and yet full of deep and undisguised, and gushing sorrow for sin.But this worldly sorrow is ashamed of itself, is mean and miserable,and worketh death.
3. False repentance produces only a partial reformation ofconduct.
The reformation that is produced by worldly sorrow extendsonly to those things of which the individual has been stronglyconvicted. The heart is not changed. You will see him avoid onlythose cardinal sins, about which he has been much exercised.
Observe that young convert. If he is deceived, you will findthat there is only a partial change in his conduct. He is reformedin certain things, but there are many things which are wrong thathe continues to practice.
If you become intimately acquainted with Him, instead of findinghim tremblingly alive to sin every where, and quick to detectit in every thing that is contrary to the spirit of the gospel,you will find him, perhaps, strict and quick-sighted in regardto certain things, but loose in his conduct and lax in his viewson other points, and very far from manifesting a Christian spiritin regard to all sin.
4. Ordinarily, the reformation produced by false sorrow istemporary even in those things which are reformed.
The individual is continually relapsing into his old sins.The reason is, the disposition to sin is not gone, it is onlychecked and restrained by fear, and as soon as he has a hope andis in the church and gets bolstered up so that his fears are allayed,you see him gradually wearing back, and presently returning tohis old sins. This was the difficulty with the house of Israel,that made them so constantly return to their idolatry and othersins. They had only worldly sorrow. You see it now everywherein the church. Individuals are reformed for a time, and takeninto the church, and then relapse into their old sins. They loveto call it; getting cold in religion, and backsliding, and thelike, But the truth is, they always loved sin, and when the occasionoffered, they returned to it, as the sow that was washed to herwallowing in the mire, because she was always a sow.
I would you should understand this point thoroughly. Here isthe foundation of all those fits and starts in religion, thatyou see so much of. People are awakened, and convicted, and by-and-bythey get to hope and settle down in false security and then awaythey go. Perhaps, they may keep so far on their guard as not tobe turned out of the church, but the foundations of sins are notbroken up, and they return to their old ways. The woman that loveddress loves it still; and gradually returns to her ribands andgewgaws. The man who loved money loves it yet, and soon slidesback into his old ways, and dives into business, and pursues theworld as eagerly and devotedly as he did before he joined thechurch.
Go through all the departments of society, and if you findthorough conversions, you will find that their most besettingsins before conversion are farthest from them now. The real convertis least likely to fall into his old besetting sin, because heabhors it most. But if he is deceived and worldly minded, he isalways tending back into the same sins. The woman that loves dresscomes out again in all her glory, and dashes as she used to do.The fountain of sin was not broken up. They have not purged outiniquity from their heart but they regarded iniquity in theirheart all the time.
5. It is a forced reformation.
The reformation produced by a false repentance, is not onlya partial reformation, and a temporary reformation, but it isalso forced and constrained. The reformation of one who has truerepentance is from the heart; he has no longer a disposition tosin. In him the Bible promise is fulfilled. He actually findsthat "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all herpaths are peace." He experiences that the Savior's yoke iseasy and his burden is light. He has felt that God's commandmentsare not grievous but joyous. More to be desired are they thangold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and thehoneycomb.
But this spurious kind of repentance is very different: itis a legal repentance, the result of fear and not of love; a selfishrepentance, anything but a free, voluntary, hearty change fromsin to obedience. You will find, if there are any individualshere that have this kind of repentance, you are conscious thatyou do not abstain from sin by choice, because you hate it, butfrom other considerations.
It is more through the forbiddings of conscience, or the fearyou shall lose your soul, or lose your hope, or lose your character,than from abhorrence of sin or love to duty.
Such persons always need to be crowded up to do duty, withan express passage of scripture, or else they will apologize forsin, and evade duty, and think there is no great harm in doingas they do. The reason is, they love their sins, and if thereis not some express command of God which they dare not fly inthe face of, they will practice them. Not so with true repentance.If a thing seems contrary to the great law of love, the personwho has true repentance will abhor it, and avoid it of course,whether he has an express command of God for it or not. Show mesuch a man, and I tell you he don't need an express command tomake him give up the drinking or making or vending of strong drink.He sees it is contrary to the great law of benevolence, and hetruly abhors it, and would no more do it than he would blasphemeGod, or steal, or commit any other abomination.
So the man that has true repentance does not need a "Thussaith the Lord," to keep him from oppressing his fellow men,because he would not do anything wrong. How certainly men wouldabhor any thing of the kind, if they had truly repented of sin.
6. This spurious repentance leads to self-righteousness.
The individual who has this repentance may know that JesusChrist is the only Savior of sinners, and may profess to believeon him and to rely on him alone for salvation, but after all,he is actually placing ten times more reliance on his reformationthan on Jesus Christ for his salvation. And if he would watchhis own heart, he would know it is so. He may say he expects salvationby Christ, but in, fact he is dwelling more on his reformation,and his hope is founded more on that, than on the atonement ofChrist, and he is really patching up a righteousness of his own.
7. It leads to false security.
The individual supposes the worldly sorrow he has had to betrue repentance, and he trusts to it. It is a curious fact, thatso far as I have been able to get at the state of mind of thisclass of persons, they seem to take it for granted that Christwill save them because they have had sorrow on account of theirsins, although they are not conscious that they have ever feltany resting in Christ. They felt sorrow, and then they got reliefand felt better, and now they expect to be saved by Christ, whentheir very consciousness will teach them that they have neverfelt a hearty reliance on Christ.
8. It hardens the heart.
The individual who has this kind of sorrow becomes harder inheart, in proportion to the number of times that he exercisessuch sorrow. If he has strong emotions of conviction, and hisheart does not break up and flow out, the fountains of feelingare more and more dried up, and his heart more and more difficultto be reached.
Take a real Christian, one who has truly repented, and everytime you bring the truth to bear upon him so as to break him downbefore God, he becomes more and more mellow, and more easily affected,and excited, and melted, and broken down under God's blessed word,so long as he lives and to all eternity. His heart gets into thehabit of going along with the convictions of his understanding,and he becomes as teachable and tractable as a little child.
Here is the grand distinction. Let churches, or individualmembers, who have only this worldly repentance, pass through arevival, and get waked up, and bustle about, and then grow coldagain. Let this be repeated and you find them more and more difficultto be roused, till by-and-by they become as hard as the nethermill-stone, and nothing can ever rally them to a revival again.Directly over against this are those churches and individualswho have true repentance. Let them go through successive revivals,and you find them growing more and more mellow and tender untilthey get to such a state, that if they hear the trumpet blow fora revival, they kindle and glow instantly, and are ready for thework.
This distinction is as broad as between light and darkness.It is every where observable among the churches and church members.You see the principle illustrated in sinners, who, after passingthrough repeated revivals, by-and-by will scoff and rail at allreligion, and although the heavens hang with clouds of mercy overtheir heads, they heed it not, but reject it. It is so in churchesand members; if they have not true repentance, every fresh excitementhardens the heart and renders them more difficult to be reachedby the truth.
9. It sears the conscience.
Such persons are liable at first to be thrown into distress,whenever the truth is flashed upon their mind. They may not haveso much conviction as the real Christian. But the real Christianis filled with peace at the very time that his tears are flowingfrom conviction of sin. And each repeated season of convictionmakes him more and more watchful, and tender, and careful, tillhis conscience becomes, like the apple of his eye, so tender thatthe very appearance of evil will offend it. But the other kindof sorrow, which does not lead to hearty renunciation of sin,leaves the heart harder than before, and by-and-by sears the conscienceas with a hot iron. This sorrow worketh death.
10. It rejects Jesus Christ as the ground of hope.
Depending on reformation and sorrow, or any thing else, itleads to no such reliance on Jesus Christ, that the love of Christwill constrain him to labor all his days for Christ.
11. It is transient and temporary.
This kind of repentance is sure to be repented of. By-and-byyou will find such persons becoming ashamed of the deep feelingsthat they had. They do not want to speak of them, and if theytalk of them it is always lightly and coldly. They perhaps hustledabout in time of revival, and appeared as much engaged as anybody, and very likely were among the extremes in every thing thatwas done. But now the revival is over, and you find them opposedto new measures, and changing back, and ashamed of their zeal.They in fact repent of their repentance.
Such persons, after they have joined the church, will be ashamedof having come to the anxious seat. When the height of the revivalhas gone by, they will begin to talk against being too enthusiastic,and the necessity of getting into a more sober and consistentway in religion. Here is the secret they had a repentance of whichthey afterwards repented.
You sometimes find persons who profess to be converted in arevival, turning against the very measures, and means, and doctrines,by which they profess to have been converted. Not so with thetrue Christian. He is never ashamed of his repentance. The lastthing he would ever think of being ashamed of, is the excitementof feeling he felt in a revival.
1. We learn from what has been said, one reason why there isso much spasmodic religion in the church.
They have mistaken conviction for conversion, the sorrow ofthe world for that godly sorrow that worketh repentance unto salvation,not to be repented of. I am convinced, after years of observation,that here is the true reason for the present deplorable stateof the church all over the land.
2. We see why sinners under conviction feel as if it was agreat cross to become Christians.
They think it a great trial to give up their ungodly companions,and to give up their sins. Whereas, if they had true repentance,they would not think it any cross to give up their sins. I recollecthow I used to feel, when I first saw young persons becoming Christiansand joining the church. I thought it was a good thing on the wholeto have religion, because they would save their souls and getto heaven. But for the time, it seemed to be a very sorrowfulthing. I never dreamed then that these young people could be reallyhappy now. I believe it is very common for persons, who know thatreligion is good on the whole, and good in the end, to think theycannot be happy in religion. This is all owing to a mistake respectingthe true nature of repentance. They do not understand that truerepentance leads to an abhorrence of those things that were formerlyloved. Sinners do not see that when their young friends becometrue Christians, they feel an abhorrence for their balls and parties,and sinful amusements and follies, that the love for these thingsis crucified.
I once knew a young lady who was converted to God. Her fatherwas a very proud worldly man. She used to be very fond of dress,and the dancing school, and balls. After she was converted, herfather would force her to go to the dancing school. He used togo along with her, and force her to stand up and dance. She wouldgo there and weep, and sometimes when she was standing up on thefloor to dance, her feelings of abhorrence and sorrow would socome over her, that she would turn away and burst into tears.Here you see the cause of all that. She truly repented of thesethings, with a repentance not to be repented of. O, how many associationswould such a scene recall to a Christian, what compassion forher former gay companions, what abhorrence of their giddy mirth,how she longed to be in the prayer-meeting, how could she be happythere? Such is the mistake which the impenitent, or those whohave only worldly sorrow, fall into, in regard to the happinessof the real Christian.
3. Here you see what is the matter with those professing Christianswho think it a cross to be very strict in religion.
Such persons are always apologizing for their sins, and pleadingfor certain practices, that are not consistent with strict religion.It shows that they love sin still, and will go as far as theydare in it. If they were true Christians, they would abhor it,and turn from it, and would feel it to be a cross to be draggedto it.
4. You see the reason why some know not what it is to enjoyreligion.
They are not cheerful and happy in religion. They are grievedbecause they have to break off from so many things they love,or because they have to give so much money. They are in the fireall the time. Instead of rejoicing in every opportunity of self-denial,and rejoicing in the plainest and most cutting exhibitions oftruth, it is a great trial to them to be told their duty, whenit crosses their inclinations and habits.
The plain truth distresses them. Why? Because their heartsdo not love to do duty. If they loved to do their duty, everyray of light that broke in upon their minds from heaven, pointingout their duty, would be welcomed, and make them more and morehappy.
Whenever you see such persons, if they feel cramped and distressedbecause the truth presses them, if their hearts do not yield andgo along with the truth, hypocrite is the name of all such professorsof religion. If you find that they are distressed like anxioussinners, and that the more you point out their sins the more theyare distressed, be you sure, that they have never truly repentedof their sins, nor given themselves up to be God's.
5. You see why many professed converts, who have had very deepexercises at the time of their conversion, afterwards apostatize.
They had deep convictions and great distress of mind, and afterwardsthey got relief and their joy was very great, and they were amazinglyhappy for a season. But by-and-by they decline, and then theyapostatize. Some, who do not discriminate properly between trueand false repentance, and who think there cannot be such "deep"exercises without divine power, call these cases of falling fromgrace. But the truth is, They went out from us because they werenot of us. They never had that repentance that his and annihilatesthe disposition to sin.
6. See why backsliders are so miserable.
Perhaps you will infer that I suppose all true Christians areperfect, from what I said about the disposition to sin being brokenup and changed. But this does not follow. There is a radical differencebetween a backslidden Christian and a hypocrite who has gone backfrom his profession. The hypocrite loves the world, and enjoyssin when he returns to it. He may have some fears and some remorse,and some apprehension about the loss of character; but after allhe enjoys sin. Not so with the backslidden Christian. He loseshis first love, then he falls a prey to temptation, and so hegoes into sin. But he does not love it; it is always bitter tohim; he feels unhappy and away from, home. He has indeed, at thetime, no Spirit of God, no love of God in exercise to keep himfrom sin, but he does not love sin; he is unhappy in sin; he feelsthat he is a wretch. He is as different from the hypocrite ascan be. Such an one, when he leaves the love of God, may be deliveredover to Satan for a time, for the destruction of the flesh, thatthe Spirit may be saved; but he can never again enjoy sin as heused to, or delight himself as he once could in the pleasuresof the world. Never again can he drink in iniquity like water.So long as he continues to wander, he is a wretch. If there isone such here tonight, you know it.
7. You see why convicted sinners are afraid to pledge themselvesto give up their sins.
They tell you they dare not promise to do it, because theyare afraid they shall not keep the promise. There you have thereason. "They love sin." The drunkard knows that heloves rum, and though he may be constrained to keep his promiseand abstain from it, yet his appetite still craves it. And sowith the convicted sinner. He feels that he loves sin, that hishold on sin has never been broken off, and he dares not promise.
8. See why some professors of religion are so much opposedto pledges.
It is on the same principle. They love their sins so well,they know their hearts will plead for indulgence, and they areafraid to promise to give them up. Hence many who profess to thinkthey are Christians, refuse to join the church. The secret reasonis, they feel that their heart is still going after sin, and theydare not come under the obligations of the church-covenant. Theydo not want to be subject to the discipline of the church, incase they should sin. That man knows he is a hypocrite.
9. Those sinners who have worldly sorrow, can now see wherethe difficulty lies, and what is the reason they are not converted.
Their intellectual views of sin may be such, that if theirhearts corresponded, they would be Christians. And perhaps theyare thinking that this is true repentance. But if they were trulywilling to give up sin, and all sin, they would not hesitate topledge themselves to it, and to have all the world know that theyhad done it. If there are any such here, I ask you now to comeforward, and take these seats. If you are willing to give up sin,you are willing to promise to do it, and willing to have it knownthat you have done it. But if you resist conviction, and whenyour understanding is enlightened to see what you ought to do,your heart still goeth forth after your sins, tremble, sinner,at the prospect before you. All your convictions will avail younothing. They will only sink you deeper in hell for having resistedthem.
If you are willing to give up your sins, you can signify itas I have named. But if you still love your sins, and want toretain them, you can keep your seats. And now, shall we go andtell God in prayer, that these sinners are unwilling to give uptheir sins, that though they are convinced they are wrong, theylove their idols, and after them they will go? The Lord have mercyon them, for they are in a fearful case.
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