When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying…
1. A blessing granted; repentance unto life; so called, to distinguish it from legal repentance, and the sorrow that is unto death. This true repentance is unto life; for, by God's appointment, it must go before eternal life; and whoso have it shall be sure of that.
2. The parties to whom it was granted; "the Gentiles," those who were once without hope and without God in the world.
3. The author of it, "God." It is His gift, as well as faith is. He works it in the heart. The doctrine of the text is, "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience;" Note —
I. The KINDS of repentance.
1. Legal, such as was in Judas, and is not saving (Matthew 27:3), being produced by law terrors, without gospel grace changing the heart.
2. Evangelical, which is that in the text, and is the only true and saving repentance. The general difference betwixt them lies here, that in this last, one repents of his sin as it is sin, or offensive to God, as David did (Psalm 51:4); in the other, only as it brings wrath on him (Genesis 4:13).
II. Its GENERAL NATURE. It is a saving grace (2 Timothy 3:25), disposing the soul unto all the acts of turning from sin unto God.
1. It is not a transient action, a sigh for sin, a pang of sorrow for it, which goes away again; but an abiding grace, a new frame and disposition, fixed in the heart, disposing one to turn from sin to God on all occasions (Zechariah 12:10).
2. Nor yet a passing work of the first days of one's religion, but a grace in the heart, setting one to an answerable working all their days.
3. It is a saving grace, distinguishing one from a hypocrite, and having a necessary connection with eternal life.
III. Its AUTHOR.
1. Not men themselves; it is not owing to one's natural powers (Jeremiah 22:23). The stony heart is beyond man's power to remove.
2. It is God's free gift, and wrought by the power of His Spirit in the heart (Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Jeremiah 31:18, 19). Sometimes notorious sinners become penitents, as Manasseh, Paul, etc. The knottiest timber is as easy for the Spirit to work as any other. The means the Spirit makes use of is the Word; hence we read of preaching repentance. And(1) The law serves to break the hard heart (Jeremiah 23:29). It is like the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah's coming. Hence it is called "the Spirit of bondage" (Romans 8:15).
(2) The gospel serves to melt the hard heart, like a fire (Jeremiah 23:29); and so bow and bend it toward God. The soul is driven by the law, but drawn by the gospel.
IV. Its SPRINGS.
1. A true sense of sin.
(1) A sight of it (Psalm 51:3). The man's eyes are opened to his sinfulness; the evil of his sin, its misery and danger to himself, and the dishonour it does to God.
(2) A painful feeling of it (Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30). This is necessary, because otherwise the sinner will never part with his sin, nor prize Christ and His grace (Revelation 3:17).
2. An apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ (Joel 5:12, 13). Not mercy for mercy's sake, bug Christ's sake. This is necessary. For without it, one will either —
(1) Go on in secret despair, casting off the thoughts of his case, and making the best of it he can (Jeremiah 2:25); or(2) Lie down in tormenting despair, like Judas. Both which will fix sin in the heart, and bar out repentance.
V. Its PARTS.
1. Humiliation. The sinner goes from God by the highway of pride and self-conceit, but always comes back the low way of humiliation. Grace pulls him down from the seat of the scorner, and lays him at the Lord's feet (1 Peter 5:6). In it there is —
(1) Sorrow for sin;
(2) A holy shame for sin (Romans 6:21). They see now their spiritual nakedness and pollution.
(3) Self-loathing (Ezekiel 36:31; Luke 18:1.13).
(4) Penitent confession (Jeremiah 3:13), accusing and condemning themselves.
2. Conversion, or returning —
(1) From sin,
(2) To God and holiness.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.