Reasons in Favor of Repentance
And they went out and preached that men should repent. - Mark vi:12.
The preachers here referred to were the apostles of Jesus Christ. Commissioned by their Lord to proclaim the kingdom of heaven was at hand, they went forth in prosecution of their work, and preached that men should repent. Repentance was the topic on which they dwelt, a fact which shows that repentance is no trivial matter. The nature, the necessity, the happy consequences of repentance, are frequently made the theme of the pulpit. They are important, too, and should be thoroughly discussed - discussed with a frequency proportionate to their interest. At present, however, I have in view a different object. That object is to assign some reasons why sinners should repent. The apostles preached that sinners should repent.
Why Should Men Repent?
1. Because they are sinners. - They have transgressed God's holy law. The Scripture has concluded all under sin. When God looked down from heaven, to see if there were any that did do good, he announced as the result of his world
wide observation - "There is none that doeth good - no, not one." Now, I argue that men should repent because they are sinners. If they were holy, they would be exempt from obligation to repent. Repentance could with no propriety be enjoined on angels in heaven, for they are in a state of sinless perfection. If men were not personally guilty, they could not repent; for repentance always implies a personal consciousness of sins, which they themselves have committed. As men are sinners, and as sin is an insult to the majesty of heaven, being a violation of the divine law, they ought to be sorry that they have sinned. Considerations of reverence for the Lawgiver, and of regard for his law, should awaken feelings of deep repentance on account of sin; for sin is opposed to God, and comes into direct collision with the principles of righteousness embodied in his law. Every sinner is under obligation to repent, because he is a sinner. This reason is amply sufficient, if there was no other. Sin is a great wrong - a grievous wrong - the capital wrong of the universe. Every rational creature, who has committed this wrong, ought to be sorry for it. Whether repentance is connected with the forgiveness of the wrong, is another matter. The duty of repentance is a duty irrespective of all hopes of pardon. If men ought to repent because they are sinners, their obligation to repent will remain in full force as long as they are sinners. This is too plain to need illustration.
2. Because, while they continue impenitent, they are virtually and practically guilty of falsehood. - Sin is a great evil; its tendency is to jeopardize and even ruin the best interests of the universe. Men, as we have seen, are sinners, and as long as they refuse to repent, they virtually justify themselves in sinning. They, in effect, say that sin is not wrong. In continuing impenitent, they practically affirm that impenitence is right. But this is false, and therefore the impenitent are virtually guilty of falsehood. Impenitence is sinful on other accounts, but it is evidently criminal because it involves virtual and practical falsehood. Sinners, I know, do not say in words that impenitence is right, but this is the language of their actions; for if they regarded it as wrong, would they persist in it? There is another consideration. When sinners are brought to repentance, they always justify God and condemn themselves. They feel profound self-abasement and self-abhorrence. Their repentance is condemnatory of themselves. If this be so, impenitence is a virtual justification of those who refuse to repent. In other words, the refusal, in effect, declares impenitence to be right, which is false. Impenitence is, therefore, in fact, the declaration of a falsehood. Hence, sinners ought to repent, because while they continue impenitent, they are virtually and practically guilty of falsehood.
3. Because God pardons no sinner while in an impenitent state. - The constitution of the plan of redemption is such that there can be no extension
of forgiving mercy to those who do not repent. God's wisdom, aud his regard for the interests of holiness, appear in this arrangement. If sinners were pardoned in their impenitence, it would operate as an encouragement to the commission of sin. The wicked, influenced by a love of iniquity, would construe it into a license to continue in their wickedness. The sinner's heart must be broken on account of sin before he can obtain forgiveness. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, who will abundantly pardon." We see from this passage of Scripture, that God pardons after "the wicked forsakes his way," etc., and this abandonment of his way is the proof of a sinner's repentance. It is manifest, then, that repentance precedes, and is indispensable to, the exercise of pardoning mercy. Surely this fact furnishes a most conclusive reason why men should repent - a reason which should be as influential in its operation as the salvation of the soul is desirable. Indeed, it is a reason which has a direct bearing on the subject of personal salvation, for there is no salvation without pardon, and there is no pardon without repentance.
4. Because God commands all men everywhere to repent. - It is needless to argue that the creature is under obligations to obey the Creator. This will be admitted. We are bound to obey the commands of God, whether we can see the propriety of them or not. We can, however, see
the propriety of the command, repent. Remember it is the great God who issues his edict from his throne, requiring his creatures to repent. He is your Creator, by whose Omnipotent volition you were caused to emerge out of the abyss of nothingness. From him you have received numberless providential blessings, and the richer blessings of redemption have been earnestly offered you. The God who commands you to repent, will, ere long, erect the throne of judgment and cause the nations to stand before him. Dare you disobey him? Can you trifle with his authority? "Will you, by disregarding his injunction, excite his wrath ? His command is surely a valid reason why you should repent. Paul said in Athens, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
5. Because they will perish in sin, unless they repent. - Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." And what called forth language so fearful? Some told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Said the Savior, "Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." As if he had said, do not suppose that calamities will befall only those whom you imagine to be the greatest of sinners. There is a terrible destruction awaiting you all, whatever may be the measure of your iniquities, provided
you live and die impenitent. For "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." But what is it to perish? Alas! who can fully tell? It is to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. It is to be consigned to the gloomy chambers of eternal despair. It is to be engulfed in the deep sorrows of perdition. It is to feel the tortures of the undying worm. It is to endure the fierceness of unquenchable fire. Ah! who can paraphrase the word perish, when used to denote the sinner's damnation? Its meaning is unutterable, inexhaustible. Alas! no sinner will fully know what it is to perish, till experience becomes his teacher, and then it will be too late to profit by the lessons of experience. If final impenitence will insure the ruin of the soul, do you not see an all-sufficient reason for repentance?
1. Repentance is a reasonable duty. It accords with every principle of reason, that sinners should be sorry that they have sinned against God. Sin is an enormous wrong, and it is right to condemn and deplore, and forsake whatever is wrong. If it is reasonable for children to repent when they disobey their parents, it is infinitely more reasonable that sinners should repent for having transgressed God's holy law. Will you, impenitent man, perform this reasonable duty?
2. Repentance is an important duty. Who can
tell how important? Ask the angels in heaven, who rejoice when a sinner, when one sinner repents. Their joy can be justified only by the importance of the event over which they rejoice. Is not repentance important? Ask the rich man in hell, who, failing to secure a mitigation of his torment, desired that Lazarus might be sent from Abraham's bosom to warn his "five brethren," arging that "if one should go to them from the dead they would repent." Will you, impenitent pinner, perform this important duty?
3. Repentance is a universal duty. It is a duty incumbennt on all classes of sinners. The obligation to its performance rests on the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the bond, the free, the wise and the ignorant. The king on his throne and the beggar in the street are equally incapable of throwing off that obligation. Who will perform this universal duty? God commands all men to repent.
4. Repentance is an immediate duty. God now commands all men to repent. That repentance is the immediate duty of all men, arises from the fact that they have already violated the divine law. A reasonable, important, universal duty must be an immediate duty. Dying sinner, will you not, without delay, perform this duty?
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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