Essex Congregational Remembrancer
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying…
The wise man hath said, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him." Without waiting for the reasons of the apostle's conduct, his Jewish brethren had contended with him. They listened to his explanation, and their reproaches are converted into praise. Upright minds may err in opinion and feeling, but they are accessible to evidence. They deny not themselves the pleasure and advantage of fresh discoveries in the path of truth, because they cannot endure the proof of their own fallibility.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. In general. Repentance is distinguished by infallible signs. Not only does it awaken fear, by considerations of consequences, but hatred, by a perception of its intrinsic malignity. Such a repentance never fails to produce meet fruits. The subject of it abandons the sins he mourns, and enters on a new and holy course. Such was David's repentance, but not Herod's or Judas's.
2. This repentance is unto life. The life with which it is connected is of the highest order; not animal life, alike the gift of worms and man; not mere intellectual life, by which man bears resemblance to angels, whether holy or fallen; but spiritual life, consisting in a right bias and employment of natural powers; its business, the service — its bliss, the enjoyment of God. True repentance originates in a principle of this life, implanted by the Holy Spirit, introduces into a course of it on earth, and issues in the eternal perfection of it in heaven.
II. ITS AUTHOR AND GIVER. So hardening is the deceitfulness of sin, that repentance to life would never have become the inmate of the human bosom, but as a gift from God.
I. Who, except the merciful Author of our being, grants space and opportunity to repent? Why was not the persecuting Saul cut down in his sins? The prolongation of existence is the continuance of opportunity to return to God. He is "long suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The long suffering of God waited on the people of the old world. They disregarded, and they perished. Let their example be our warning.
2. He who grants the opportunity also bestows the means. Are some awakened by the preaching of the gospel? It is His appointment. Are others affected under the reading of the Word? All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Is a third aroused by afflictions? They are the chastisements of their heavenly Father's hand. If, in a further instance, the counsel and prayers and holy example of friends have been instrumental, whose gift are they? And, if in any cases the effect has been the result of a concurrence in these various kinds of subordinate agency, from whom do they all descend?
3. The best adapted means, however, will be unavailing unless the Father of lights bestow the Spirit of repentance. Jesus is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, that He may give repentance. Shall the necessity of this heavenly gift be pleaded to excuse a neglect of the means of repentance? Nothing can excuse it. Penitence is God's command as well as His gift; and the Spirit which produces it is promised to him who seeks.
III. ITS EFFECTS ON CHRISTIAN BEHOLDERS. The joy here was —
1. Benevolent. The good man knows the way of transgressors to be hard. He thinks of the tremendous end that awaits them; of the felicities in which penitence results.
2. Devout joy. He beholds in the repentance of a sinner a glorious triumph of almighty power over the might and artifice of Satan, and the ignorance, pride, and obstinacy of the human mind; of Divine mercy over its awful demerit. He contemplates an immortal mind debased and polluted by subjection to sin, emerging from its degradation, and resuming its primitive beauty. And thus it is an exultation like that of the angels of God. Such a blessing granted to an individual may well kindle joyful admiration of Divine goodness and power, but extended to many the effect should be proportionably augmented. If the bestowment of this blessing on others be a just ground of exultation, what pleasure and gratitude should it awaken when conferred on ourselves? Of a blessing, so preeminently important, can any regard themselves as destitute, and abide in tranquillity?
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
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.