THE NATURE OF REPENTANCE.
Acts Xx. 21.—"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God."
Paul, in the passage before us, refers to the main things on which he insisted in his preaching. As a leading point he "testified" or bore witness to the necessity of exercising repentance toward God. The necessity of this he urged on all of the two great divisions of the human family to whom he had access"—the Jews and the Greeks:—that is, he urged it on all classes alike; on every human being. He in reference to whom repentance was to be exercised was God: " repentance toward God." It was his law which had been violated. Transgressions in their most important bearings always terminated on him. He had aright to take cognizance of them. He only could pardon those who had committed them. Paul, therefore, in all places laid it down as one of the primary doctrines of religion, and one of the things essential to salvation, that every human being should exercise repentance toward God.
I propose, at this time, to enter on the consideration of the subject of repentance—a subject occupying a primary place in all systems of religion which regard man as in any sense a sinner. It was a primary doctrine in the system of Lord Herbert, the first and the best of British Deists ; it was the leading doctrine of John the Baptist—of the Saviour himself—of Paul. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye : for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matt, iii. 1, 2. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matt. iv. 17. So Paul here says that he had " taught the Ephesians publicly, and from house to house, testifying repentance toward God."
There are many interesting and important inquiries in regard to repentance which a minister of religion ought to be able to answer. What is repentance? What is the reason of its appointment as a condition of salvation? Why could not men be saved without it? What is its efficacy in a system of revealed religion ? How is true repentance distinguished from false ? Why will not that regret which every man feels when he has done wrong be sufficient for salvation, even though he should not embrace the gospol ? These and kindred inquiries always occur to thinking minds when the subject of repeutance is suggested; and on these I propose to submit some views which I trust will show the reason of the place assigned to it in a system of revealed religion.
The first question which presents itself is, What is repentance ? To that inquiry I intend at present to confine my remarks. The views which I entertain of the nature of repentance, I will express in a few propositions, which I trust will make it plain to all.
I. Repentance, in general, is a state of mind which springs up in view of"perceived personal guilt. I say "in general," because I wish under this head to describe it as a mere mental operation experienced by all men, or as it exists in the mind of every one when he is made sensible of wrong-doing. Every man experiences repentance of some kind. If he did not, you could not define it so that he could understand it, any more than you can define colours to a blind man, or harmony to the deaf. The peculiar nature of evangelical repentance will be the subject of a distinct proposition. The inquiry now before us is, What is repentance as a mental operation, distinguished from other mental operations 1
The proposition which I have laid down is, that it is a state of mind which springs up in view of perceived personal guilt. Let us analyze this, and see whether we cannot find here all the essential elements of which the mind is conscious when it exercises repentance.
(1.) It is in view of perceived guilt. I mean that the mind must perceive or see that it has done wrong. You must see that something has been done or omitted for which you are blameworthy. The mind cannot repent without this. It never does. You cannot make a man repent for the colour of his hair, or for having a deformed limb, or for a natural impediment in his speech, however much he may regret its existence, or seriously feel its disadvantage. In relation to an action which a man perlbrms, you cannot make him repent unless he perceives that it is wrong, and that he deserves blame for it. If he esteems what he has done to be right, all arguments are vain to induce him to exercise repentance. Your appeals are powerless as long as he does not see that he is blameworthy for what he has done. If he thinks that circumstances justified what he has done, though others may think that it was wrong; if his mind is so little enlightened that he does not know what was right or wrong in the case; if he is so debased by vice, or superstition, or ignorance, that his moral perceptions are Hunted and paralyzed, you. may labour in vain to awaken in his bosom the feelings ■which constitute repentance. If, for instance, he has killed a man, and is conscious that he did it in self-defence, however much he may regret the necessity of the act, while he retains the belief that it was justifiable and right you can never excite in his bosom the feelings of repentance.
(2.) The second thing in my statement of what constitutes repentance in general is, that it must be in view of personal guilt. I mean by this, that a man cannot repent for the act of another. Repentance always has metes and bounds, and is always limited by what we ourselves deserve. There is no other guilt but that which is personal; and you can never make a man l■eel any other. The human mind has been so created that it can repent for no other: and every theory formed ou the supposition that one man can repent for the sin of another, and every instance in which a man has attempted to persuade himself that he has done it, must be false. The soul of man has not been made in a manner so loose, and so regardless of laws, that either of these things is possible. You may regret what another man has done; you may suffer on account of it in person, in property, in health, or in your family; you may weep over it all your life, but you do not repent of it. The son of an intemperate father has abundant occasion to regret the career which his father has pursued. It may have deprived him of property which he would otherwise have inherited ; it may have made him the early victim of disease; it may have subjected him to the passionate outbreaks of one who has been made a madman by intoxication ; it may have separated him from the respectable society which he might otherwise have enjoyed ; it may have prevented his acquiring an education, and preparing himself for honourable usefulness; it may have compelled him to enter on life every way under disadvantage, and many a time he may have wept over it, but it is an abuse of language to say that he has ever repented of it. Between his feelings, deep and pungent as they may be, and what they would have been if he had been himself the drunkard, there is a line which is never crossed; and God has so made the human soul that it never can be crossed. So of the shame which an erring daughter may bring on a family; so of the deep sorrow which invades the soul when a son is reckless and abandoned. The blood which mantles your cheek then, is made to mount there by a different law from that which diffuses the shame and sorrow of repentance when you yourself have done the wrong.—The principle which I am here laying down is uersal. Your our own mind can never exercise repentance for what another has done, nor can repentance with you bo connected with any of his acts, except so far as he is your agent, or you have authorized him to act in your place, and then tho repentance is not for what he does, but for what you did in appointing him. That class of theologians who suppose that it is the duty of men to repent of the sin of Adam, advance a dogma which is against all tho laws of the human mind ; and they who work themselves up into a belief that they do repent for what he did thousands of years before they had any being, however amiable their tears may be, and however their sorrows may assume the semblance of piety, must be ignorant of the nature of their own mental operations. That they may regret what he did; that they may mourn over tho ravages of sin introduced by his guilty act, no one can doubt;—that they should repent of what he or any other man ever did, the laws of our nature render impossible. A man can as properly take to himself credit for the virtuous deeds performed by another, and claim a reward for them, as exercise repentance for his vices and his follies.
(3.) The third thing which is implied in my statement is, that repentance is a state of mind which springs up by a law of our nature when our personal guilt is perceived. What I mean is, that when it exists at all, it is originated by this law. I will not say that repentance always in fact exists when guilt is perceived, for I know that it is possible for a man by an effort of will, or under the influence of some strong perverted purpose, to oppose the regular operations of the laws of his own mind, and to resist conclusions which the fair exercise of reason would reach if there were no perversion and no opposition. Such may be the stubbornness of his will, such the determination not to see a certain result in a process of reasoning, that he may set aside the clearest testimony; and evidence, which according to the laws of his nature might to make a deep impression on him, may in fact make none, while evidence which may in fact have no real force, may seem to him " strong as proof of holy writ." So, I admit, it may bo in regard to repentance. It is possible that a man may perceive his guilt, and yet may hold his mind in stern resistance to the laws which would lead him to repentance. He may resolve not to feel; not to weep; not to make confession ; not to allow the usual marks of guilt to be depicted in the eye, the cheek, the frame. He may even tremble under the consciousness of guilt, and yet resolve not to abandon his course, though to persevere in it may require him to drive his purposes over all the finer feelings of his nature.
What I mean is, that where repentance does exist, it springs up in accordance with one of the regular laws of our nature. It is not the object of creative power. It is not brought about by the agency of God irrespective of the laws of the mind. It is not the operation of the Divine Mind. It is our own mind that repents ; our own eyes that shed forth tears; our own hearts that feel; our own souls that resolve to do wrong no more. God cannot repent for us; nor can he produce repentance in us in any other way than by causing our own minds to perceive their personal guilt, and by some agency securing the proper action of the mental laws which he has ordained. 1
As this is a point of great importance on the question whether men are bound to exercise repentance, and whether they are able to do it, it is desirable that it should be made as clear as possible. I would observe, then, that this is a matter of plain common sense, and would be clear to all men if it had never been mystified by theologians. All men understand the nature of repentance. "All understand how it springs up in the mind. All have experienced it a thousand times. You cannot find a person who at some time has not exercised repentance. You cannot find a child, who, if ho should look into his own mind, would need to be told what is meant when he is required to repent for having done a wrong thing; and in the emotions of a child when he feels sorrow that he has done wrong, and resolves to make confession of it and to do so no more, you have the elements of all that God requires of man iu repentance as a condition of salvation. You recollect your own feelings when a child. You broke the commands of a father. His law was plain; his will was clear. When the deed was performed, you reflected on what you had done. You saw that his command was right; that you had done wrong by breaking his law, and had incurred his displeasure. He had always treated you kiudly; his precepts had never been unreasonable, and you could not justify yourself in what you had done. By a law of your nature—a law which you did not originate, though its operations you might have checked and controlled—you felt pain and distress that you had done the wrong. That feeling of distress sprang up in the mind as a matter of course, and without any perceivod foreign agency, and you resolved that you would go and confess the fault, and would he guilty of the wrong no more. This is repentanco; and this is the whole of it. You have a friend. He has a thousand times, and in a thousand ways, laid you under obligation. He has helped you iu pecuniary distress ; shared your losses ; attended you in sickness ; defended your reputation when attacked. He himself in turn suffers. Wicked men defame his character, and in an evil hour ymir mind is poisoned, and you join in the prevalent suspicion and error in regard to him, and give increased currency to the slanderous reports. Subsequently you reflect that all this was wrong ; that you acted an ungrateful part; that you suffered your ruind to he too easily influenced in forgetting your benefactor, and that you have done him great and lasting injury. You are pained at the heart. Then spring up in the soul, by a law of your nature, bitter feelings of regret for what you have done; and you resolve that you will go to him and relieve your own mind, and do him justice, by making confession; that you will implore forgiveness ; that you will endeavour as far as possible to undo the evil, and that you will never repeat the wrong again. This is repentance; and this is the whole of it. Let these simple elements be transferred to God and to religion, and you have all that is included iu repentance. Be as honest toward God as you have been many a time toward a parent or a friend ; suffer the laws of your nature to a*ct as freely and with as little obstruction towards your Maker, as you have done in your treatment of your fellow-beings, and you will have no difficulty on the subject. You will see that repentance, as a leading doctrine of all religion, is neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. The difficulty is, that when you approach religion you are determined to find something unintelligible, severe, and harsh, and you at once suppose that God in his arrangement there is arbitrary and unkind.
(4.) If the views thus far exhibited are well-founded, then they will do much in explaining the nature of the Divine agency iu producing repentance. It is true that there is an important sense in which ho is the Author of it. It was true, as the disciples said when Peter visited Cornelius, and saw the effects of the gospel on his mind, that " God had granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life," Acts xi. 18. It is true that the Lord Jesus was exalted "to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins," Acts v. 31. But it is also true that the Divine Mind does not repent for us. It is true that repentance is not created by mere physical power. It is true that the nature of the Divine agency is not to produce it independently of the laws of the mind itself, and of the efforts of the soul. It is your own mind that is to repent; your own heart that is to feel; your own tongue that is to make confession; your own soul that is to resolve that you will do wrong no more. The effect of the Divine agency, if I understand it, and if the views already suggested are correct, is to bring truth before the mind ; to make the mental vision clear, so that it shall be perceived; to remove the obstructions to the fair operations of the mental laws, and repentance follows as a matter of course. And in like manner when he commands men to repent, it is not a command to create emotions iu their souls by an act of their own will; to originate feeling by merely resolving to do it:—it is, to allow their minds to act according to their nature; to permit guilt, when perceived, to produce its legitimate effect on the soul; to he as honest towards him, as they expect their children to he towards themselves. He presumes that every man understands the nature of repentance; and that all that is required is, to secure the fair operation of the mental laws which he has ordained.
II. In the second place, evangelical repentance, or repentance as connected with true religion in the soul, is a state of mind which arises from the perception that all sin is committed against God. My meaning is, that when true repentance exists, the primary and main ground of the sorrow is, that the crime has heen committed against him ; that his law has heen violated; that he has heen offended. It is not that it is disgraceful in the view of the community ; it is not that it will he attended with the loss of favour or popularity among men; it is not that a father, or a child, or a neighbour has been wronged ; nor is it that it will be followed by punishment in this world or the next;—but it is that God regards it as an evil thing, and that its chief evil is in the fact that it is a violation of his law. In cases when wrong has been done to a human being—to a neighbour, or relative, or stranger—the chief evil in it, as viewed by a true penitent, is not the injury that has been done to man, but the wrong that has been done to God. In true repentance, the wrong that has been done to man may be comparatively forgotten, and the attention fixed wi th absorbing and overpowering interest on the crime regarded as an offence against God.
As this is a point of much importance, and one which is not very clear to most persons, I propose to show that it is so, and why it is so.
(a) In my text, repentance is spoken of particularly in its relation to God:—" testifying repentance toward God." In the parable of the prodigal son, the penitent is represented as saying, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee," Luke xv. 18. When he came to his father, he■ said, " Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight." The errors and follies of his life appeared to have been primarily against heaven; the sins which he had committed against his father were, in his view, secondary in the magnitude of their evil to the same offences regarded as committed against God. So David, in the fifty-first Psalm, says, " Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," ver. 4. And so in 2 Sam. xii. 13, where he refers to the same offence, he says, "I have sinned against the Lord." We are not to suppose that the prodigal son was not sensible that he had been guilty of a great wrong towards his father; but that it was secondary in the magnitude of the evil as compared with the sin against God. We are not to suppose that David was not sensible of the wrong that he had done to Uriah, or to the laws of the land, or of the injury which his example would do to men. Of all this, he might have had, and probably did have, the deepest conviction; but all this, when compared with the magnitude of the sin as committed against God, was so comparatively trifling, that he said, " Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." The mind was turned away from everything else, and fixed on the amazing offence regarded as committed against God. In that, the thoughts were absorbed and lost; and it was that which overwhelmed the soul of the penitent monarch.
These instances are evidently set forth in the Bible as examples of true repentance; and the design is to show that in genuine repentance sin is contemplated primarily as committed against God, and as an evil in his sight. It derives its chief aggravation from that fact, and the principal sorrow of the soul is, that he has been offended.
(b) I proposed to explain to you why this is so, and show that it is reasonable that it should be so. When we attempt to show that this is the nature of repentance, and when we urge you to regard all your sins as deriving their main aggravation from the fact that they are committed against God, there is often a feeling which arises in the mind that this is unjust. You have wronged a neighbour. You see the evil; confess it; ask his forgiveness; obtain it: and why is not that the end of it? The injury was done to him; it has been repaired: why is not that all? AVhy should it be carried up before God ? Above all, why should your main distress of mind be not that your neighbour was wronged, but that God was offended ? You violate the command of a parent. You reflect on it; regret it; confess it; are forgiven. Why is not that all? It was in the domestic circle ; it was known nowhere else ; the wrong has been repaired; the breach has been healed. Why is not that an end of it? Why should you be required to make another "issue" in regard to it, and go over, with all the sorrows of repentance, and the humiliation of a confession, before another being—making a double confession necessary for a single offence, and leaving nothing done till he is pacified ? What if in childhood you had a quarrel with another boy, and had " made it up," and then another person should come in and should demand that you should make it up with him also ?
To explain this, I Tvill submit to you a few remarks :— (1.) There is a kind of repentance which arises from the contemplation of a wrong regarded as committed against man. That is the common form in which it exists in the world, and that we have all experienced. A neighbour has been wronged by you. You see it, confess it, and obtain his pardon, and the matter between you and him is settled. You have done all that you could to repair the evil; he professes to be satisfied, and it would now be wrong for him to insist on anything further, or to allow this to affect his future treatment of you. But does this do anything towards settling the matter between you and God ? That is wholly another thing, aud should be made the most important thing. Your neighbour is not in the place of God; nor is he authorized to act for him ; nor can he take upon himself to forgive the offence as committed against him. Two boys have a quarrel. One is greatly in the wrong, and greatly injures the other. When the deed is committed, he sees the wrong, regrets his passion, goes and makes humble confession, and is forgiven. That settles the matter so far as they are concerned, and perhaps so far as the entire group of boys are concerned among whom it happened. But there is another view of the case much more important, it may be, than this ; and this hushing up of the quarrel does nothing in regard to that. The boy that did the wrong lias a father, and the law of that father has been violated. He told him not to go to that place. He commanded him to have nothing to do with that boy. He trained him to be gentle, and kind, aud inoffensive; to restrain his passions; to avoid all occasions of brawls; to honour him; to fear God. His law now has been ■violated; his counsels disregarded; his government despised; himself, as a father, dishonoured. The offence which the boy committed against the other was the act of tt moment, produced under the excitement of passion ; it was a single act of wrong:— the offence as committed against a father was a sin against long and careful training; it involved the whole question whether the father is to he obeyed or disobeyed, and had a direct bearing on the whole subject of paternal government. Now it is clear that the son, when he has settled the matter with the injured boy, has done nothing to settle it with his own injured father; and that the act, as viewed against him, is a much more serious evil than as viewed against the boy who was directly wronged. If that son now has true repentance, he will not only be affected by the offence viewed as committed against his playmate, but ha will feel that there is a much more important matter than this to be adjusted in his own father's house.
(2.) This leads me to observe, that on a similar principle the offences which we commit are to be regarded in their direct relation to those who are immediately wronged, and to their much higher bearing on God. You do wrong to a neighbour, or brother, in the church; a wife, a lover, a stranger. You become sensible of the wrong, confess it, repair it as far as possible, receive forgiveness, and the matter between you and the offended party is settled. You give each other the hand, and are friends again. But that does not affect another and a more important point—the relation of the offence to God. For illustration of this, there has been no better case than that of David. That he had done a great and grievous wrong to Uriah and his family there can be no doubt. But could all that wrong have been repaired, there was another and a much more important light in which it was to be viewed. He had violated two of the positive commands of God. A professor of religion ; a prince ; the head of the covenant-people; a man signally favoured by God; occupying a most prominent position in the world,—he had disregarded the law of his Maker, and trampled his statutes in the dust. His sin had been public, and of a most aggravated character; and contemplating all its relations, the offence as committed against Uriah, in comparison with the same sin regarded as committed against God, was a trifle; and he, therefore, under the feeling of genuine repentance, cried out, " Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight."
(3.) This suggests, then, another thought in regard to true repentance. It may have been often exercised towards your fellow-creatures whom you have offended, and you may have obtained their forgiveness; and still the great matter pertaining to true repentance may he yet unsettled. You may have violated the commands of a parent, and may have repented of it and obtained his forgiveness; yon may have wronged a neighbour, and may have confessed the wrong and obtained pardon; you may have been unfaithful in a public trust, and may then have done all you could to repair the evil considered as an offence against the laws of society; you may have led the innocent into error or sin, and then may have done all yon could to repair the wrong so far as they are concerned; and still the most important questions pertaining to those offences are unaffected. Chey all have a relation to God and his government. They are all to be considered as violations of his law; as so many wrongs done to him. Nothing has been done in regard to that matter, nor do you meet either the primary or the full requirements of repentance until you go and say, "I have sinned against heaven;" "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight."
III. In the third place, true repentance, as a part of religion, involves not only regret for past sin as an evil in the sight of God, hut a purpose to abandon it and to do it no more. This point is so obvious that it will he necessary to dwell on it only for a moment. It is clear that if there he no such purpose to abandon the sin, there can he no genuine repentance. If David had intended to repeat the sin, over which he mourned, as soon as that was forgiven, nothing would he more plain than that all his sorrow for the crime would have been hollow and insincere. His sorrow in that case could have arisen only from an apprehension of punishment, and not from any genuine hatred of transgression. Had the prodigal son made his confession solely with a view to obtain the favour of his father, and acquire another portion of the estate, intending then to repeat his acts of ingratitude and profligacy, it is clear that there could have been no genuine repentance; no regret for his sin as such. In all cases of genuine repentance there must bo a purpose to abandon the sin, and not to repeat the wrong. This principle, so familiar to us in our treatment of each other, is not less true in our relations to God. There, also, it is true in its largest, broadest sense — for all sin is regarded as committed against him. When one man has done wrong to another, all that he who has been injured can require in order to his extending forgiveness is, that the offender should make acknowledgment and restitution for that particular offence. He could not demand that there should be an acknowledgment to him of all his sins, nor even that he should change his conduct in regard to others. But in reference to repentance toward God, it is required that there should be sorrow for every sin, and an uersal purpose to forsake the ways of transgression. He that comes before God professing to exercise repentance, with a purpose to indulge in any one sin of any kind, shows that his repentance is as really false and hollow, as he does who intends to make a confession to his neighbour for any one act of wrong, and yet purposes to repeat the offence as soon as he has an opportunity. No man, therefore, can be a true penitent who does not intend to abandon all sin. No one beeoines a true Christian who does not purpose to break away from every form of transgression, and to lead a holy life. Men who become Christians are indeed imperfect. They are liable to fall into sin. They do many things over which they have occasion to mourn. But he who professes to become a Christian, intending that this shall be so, purposing to repeat any sin and then to repent of it, manifestly knows nothing of true repentance, and can have no evidence of piety. " If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me," Psa. lxvi. 18.
In view of the thoughts suggested in this discourse, we may remark, in conclusion,—
(1.) That as a mere mental operation repentance in religion does not differ from repentance exercised dn other subjects. As a mere act of mind, repentance toward God does~ not differ from repentance as exercised toward an injured parent or friend. How can it? The difference is in the ohject towards which repentance is exercised, not in the act of repenting, as a mere exercise of mind. Yet repentance, as a mental operation, is easily understood, and all are familiar with it. Who is there that has never repented of anything that he has done ? Who that has not confessed a wrong ? Who that does not now feel that he has much to regret in the past, and that there is much which he might to confess ? Be as honest toward God as you have been toward a parent, lover, or friend, and you would have no difficulty on the subject of repentance. It would be easy to be understood, and all your difficulties would soon vanish. Religion, if this be so, is not unreal, arbitrary, and impossible; it is a practicable thing, and it accords with all the laws of the human mind.
(2.) It follows from the views presented, that repentance is not beyond the proper exercise of the power of man. Every man practises it. Every child repents. Every one has at different times felt regret for something that he has done; has made confession ; has resolved to transgress no more ; has turned from the evil course. This is repentance; and no one in such a case has resorted to any plea that it was impossible, or that it was unreasonable. No one who has injured a friend; no child who has violated the command of his father, when he is convinced of the wrong, and when the duty of proper acknowledgment is pressed upon him, ever thinks of taking shelter under the plea that repentance is beyond his power, and that he cannot exercise it. It is only in religion that we ever hear any difficulty suggested on the subject; there only that we are told thatrit is beyond a man's power, and that we must wait for a Divine influence before it can be exercised. But why should it be beyond a man's power in reference to religion more than anywhere else ? Why easy elsewhere ; why impossible here ? The answer is plain. Men wish to find an excuse for not repenting; and regardless of any reflections on the character of their Maker, rather than forsake their sins they charge him with requiring that which is impossible, and coolly attempt to satisfy themselves by saying that they have no power to obey his commands.
(3.) It follows, from what has been said, that it is the sinner who is to repent. It is not God who is to repent for him—for God has done no wrong. It is not the Saviour who is to repent for him—for it is not lie who has violated the law. It is not the Holy Spirit who is to repent for him—for how can that Messed Agent feel such sorrow, or why should he ? My impenitent friend, it is your own mind that is to repent; your own heart that is to feel sorrow; your own foot that are to turn from the evil way; your own mouth that is to make confession. I know and am persuaded that, if it is ever done, it will he hy the aid of the Holy Ghost; but I know equally well that you yourself are to he the penitent, and that this is a work that cannot be done for you hy another. The mind that has done the wrong must repent. That very heart that has sinned must feel all the sorrows of repentance that are ever felt in the case; those very eyes that have looked with desire on forbidden objects must weep, and must do all the weeping in the case ; and those very lips that have been profane, or false, or impure, must make confession, and the confession can be made hy them alone.
(4.) Finally, it is right and proper to call on men to repent of their sins. If they repent when they have wronged a friend, or violated the law of a parent; if repentance is an operation of the mind, with which all aro familiar; if it is not beyond the proper reach of the human faculties; and if the sinner himself is actually to feel sorrow, and to make confession,—then it is right to call on men to repent of their sins committed against God. The gospel, in approaching men, commends itself to their common sense, and requires of them only that which they themselves see to be reasonable and proper. It comes to them, and says that they have sinned against God; that all sin may be regarded as terminating on him, and as a violation of his law; that for that sin there should be sorrow felt in the heart; that there should be willingness to go to him and make penitent acknowledgment, and implore forgiveness; and that there should be a solemn purpose to repeat the wrong no more. This is what the gospel demands of every sinner as a primary and essential condition of salvation. Is it wrong in its demands? is it unreasonable in its claims? What less could it ask ? And how could it meet the convictions of your own minds in regard to what may be reasonably required, if it did not demand this ? When we summon you, therefore, to repentance, we urge the appeal no less by the conviction in your own minds of what is right, than by the authority of God.