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been, it might and would be pardoned, if he sought pardon aright; whereas Judas despaired of mercy. This, I apprehend, accords with what I stated as my view of the subject in the former part of this paper. And, as the Homily considers this faith as the third part of repentance, so that the two others, in the order of nature at least, precede it; can any man doubt, that the compilers regarded repentance as uniformly preceding actual forgiveness, preparing the heart to welcome it, and making way for the enjoyment of it?
They 'who do from the bottom of their hearts acknowledge their sins, will not only receive the Physician of their soul, but also with a most 'fervent desire, long for him. Let us repent of ' our staying from so good a Lord; let us confess our unworthiness before him; yet let us trust in 'God's free mercy, for Christ's sake, freely for 'the pardon of the same.' The pardon is always considered as a thing to be hoped for; the repentance to be exercised in hope of it; not as springing from the enjoyment of it. Let those who so confidently maintain that forgiveness, yea, the knowledge or assurance of it, precedes repentance, bring us, if they are able, some clear proof of this order in the divine procedure, either from the scriptures, or, if belonging to the establishment, from our authorized writings.
Our Lord looked on Peter, and Peter went out, and wept bitterly: but did our Lord say to Peter, I have forgiven thee?-Let any man carefully read the prophecy of Zechariah, from the ninth verse of the twelfth chapter to the first verse of the thirteenth, and ask himself, whether the look
ing, with bitterness of spirit, unto the pierced divine Saviour, did not precede the opening of thefountain for sin and uncleanness." Much is spoken of the repentance of those concerned, (the Jews at their future restoration,) as having pierced and murdered their Lord and King; but forgiveness is not once mentioned in the whole passage, nor intimated, till the beginning of the next chapter.
The quotation from Ezekiel only shews, that repentance will be the effect of the pouring out of the Spirit on those concerned; and that their readmission into the full favour of God will increase the depth of their repentance; but not that their forgiveness will precede the beginning of their repentance. Indeed forgiveness, in this prophecy also, is not expressly mentioned. The Lord says concerning Ephraim, in Jeremiah, after describing his deep repentance, "I will surely have "mercy upon him." Not, I have forgiven him.'Nothing had been said to Job about forgiveness, but every thing to overwhelm and overawe him, when he said, "I abhor myself, and repent in "dust and ashes:" the tokens of forgiveness were all made subsequently to this confession. It was not till after Isaiah had beheld the glory of God, and had said, "Wo is me, I am undone, because "I am a man of unclean lips," that the Lord said, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is "purged."3 Nor was it till after Zaccheus had said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my "goods I give to the poor; and, if I have taken
2 Job xlii. 1-10.
'Jer. xxx. 18-20.
any thing from any man by false accusation, I "restore him fourfold," that Jesus said, "This day is salvation come to this house; for the "Son of man is come to seek and to save that "which is lost."-As our Lord was several times guest to a Pharisee, his going to the house of Zaccheus might, indeed, be deemed a hopeful token; but certainly it was not a declaration that his sins, even when not repented of, were pardoned. If such a declaration be found in scripture, let it be produced. The depth of repentance, as the fervent, humble love of the woman who had been a sinner, preceded our Lord's declarations, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven :" Thy sins are forgiven:" "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."2 The prodigal arose, and returned to his father, on a general hope of meeting with such compassion from him, as might induce him to treat him like "one of the "hired servants:" but it was not till he had actually returned, that he was assured of pardon and full reconciliation, and all the privileges of a beloved son.
The question, whether assurance, personal assurance of forgiveness and salvation, be of the essence of faith; and whether saving faith consists in believing the testimony of God concerning his Son, and coming to God, in hope of finding mercy and forgiveness through him: or in believing that Christ died for me personally— hath forgiven me, and will save me: this question, say, has been fully and repeatedly discussed by
'Luke xix. 1—10.
Luke vii. 37-50.
Marshall, Hervey, Booth, and many others on the one side; and by Bellamy, Edwards, Brainerd, and many others, in opposition to them: and I have also thrown my little weight into the latter scale, in a small pamphlet, entitled, The War
rant and Nature of Faith in Christ,' which contains my most matured and deliberate views on the subject. I must, therefore, refer the reader to that publication, and to my 'Discourse on Repentance,' for more particular explications of my sentiments on this subject.
I will only add, that I have always considered the notion of forgiveness preceding repentance as essentially antinomian; and, though maintained by several pious persons, who did not mean to make that use of it, yet as giving a great opening to delusion, presumption, enthusiasm, and a whole train of deplorable evils, and as furnishing an additional plausible argument against the doctrines of the gospel, and an additional prejudice in the minds of many respecting them. As such, I have, for above thirty-five years, with all my influence, every way opposed it; and, if I have not proved my point in all these years, I cannot hope now to do it: yet I will not positively say, that I will take no notice of any thing which may be written in answer to my paper: and, as in commerce, when good men, as they are called, indorse and give currency to bad bills, they unintentionally aid the fraud: so do pious persons by using their influence in circulating antinomian sentiments.
May God, of his infinite mercy, set those of us right, whom he knows to be in error; and
keep those right, whom he knows to have embraced his holy truth; and teach us all what we know not, and help us practically to use whatever we do know, that we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, till an entrance be ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
Aston Sandford, Oct. 9, 1815.
P. S.-The text in Hebrews seems exactly to convey my idea on the encouragement which the gospel gives to repentance; though neither repentance, nor forgiveness, be mentioned in it: "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that c we may obtain mercy, and find," &c. A throne of grace and a faithful and merciful High Priest encourage hope in the convinced and humbled sinner; and so he comes, not because he is forgiven, but in order that he may be forgiven.
ON THE SAME SUBJECT:
IN REPLY TO ANOTHER OLD CLERGYMAN.'
My arguments in my former letter, on the subject of repentance and forgiveness, may be put into the following syllogism: