Imatges de pàgina
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of the faith, but to the actual acceptance of the offers made, and our actual admission by Baptism into the church; the distinction, though correct, is often of little importance in practice. In the exhortations to the one, the other is in every case either implicitly contained, or obviously supposed. Thus, in St. Peter's address at the beautiful gate of the temple, Repent and be converted, Baptism, the immediate object, is supposed ; in that of Ananias to St. Paul, Be baptized and wash away thy sins, repentance,

the preliminary step to accepting the benefit, had clearly gone before. And both having reference ultimately to our admission to the church of Christ, the one is, in fact, a direct exhortation to come in, the other, to lay aside every impediment to our entrance.

In this view of the subject, so far is the variety of address adopted on different occasions by the Apostle from throwing any doubt

upon the propriety of the interpretation of his words, for which I have contended in the particular case before us, that it does in fact in no degree affect it; and the question raised in the objection, whe

ther it be more agreeable to reason and Scripture, to attribute to repentance or to Baptism the promises contained in the text, may perhaps appear to be in truth a question, whether the prize in the race is to be considered as obtained by reaching the goal, or by running so as to reach it; or whether a child is rewarded for knowing and saying his lesson, having learnt it; or for so learning, that he knows, and is ready to say it. At all events it is clear, that in whatever degree the repentance called for may conduce to the attainment of the benefits in question, they are altogether unattainable, but through the medium of that sacrament, upon our participation in which our claim to the privileges of the Christian church is ultimately founded.

It will doubtless have been observed, that I have, throughout this discussion, considered the repentance called for by St. Peter as special, and referring rather to the change of mind and views as to the authority of particular religions, which must precede the adoption of a new mode of faith, than to that moral change, that turning from sin to

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holiness of life, to which, from the circumstances of our own more immediate situation, it is usually referred.

We are so much, I may almost say so exclusively, accustomed to the latter signification, that we are apt to overlook this its earlier and more appropriate use by the first preachers of Christianity. Exhortations to repent indeed, though founded in all cases on the same leading idea of a change in the mind, as constituting the essence of repentance, will of necessity vary in their meaning as applied to persons in different situations, and requiring a different change. The distinction, in this respect, between proselytes and professed Christians is obvious. As applied to the former, repentance would seem to consist in the simple act of turning in heart and affections from the old to the new religion ; as applied to the latter, it is clearly a growing grace, an improving habit ; one which we must constantly labour to perfect, and in the advancement of which we must be employed to our dying day. But even in reference to proselytes to the religion, the

repentance called for will vary with the diversity of obstacles, which the particular situation or character of individuals may oppose to the reception of the truth. In some, dissoluteness of life, in some, pride, in some, indifference, will be the impediment to be surmounted; and with respect to which a change must take place in the mind of the convert. And in almost all, as more especially in the case before us, attachment to a previous system will exert a commanding and hostile influence. The particular meaning therefore of that exhortation to repentance, which is addressed to all, the particular point in which change is called for, must in every case be determined by the peculiar circumstances of the parties, and their situation in reference to the object in view.

Now the attribution of the special meaning we have given to the exhortation, in the two texts we have been considering, is supported by the following reasons deduced from the circumstances and situation of the parties. First, that it is not naturally to be supposed, that a single exhortation of the Apostle, though enforced with the authority of the most convincing miracles, could suddenly have produced that moral change of mind and heart, implied in the idea of repentance, in its most comprehensive sense.

Secondly, that to suppose such an effect to have been produced by the immediate operation of the Spirit would be a gratuitous assumption ; and therefore, though the possibility of such an exertion of divine power be not denied, not to be taken for granted unnecessarily.

Thirdly, that to the restricted meaning, for which we contend, alone, does the whole tenor of the Apostle's address in both instances lead us. Neither in the previous discourse of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, nor in his address to the people after the cure of the impotent man at the temple, is to be found any direct and proper reference to repentance from sin, as such, or to the evil consequences of persevering in it. In the Epistles of the same Apostle, which is well worthy of remark, addressed to those who had already tasted of the hea

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