The Interest of Repentance in the Pardon of
††††††††† We spoken before, chapter 28, of repentance in order to the first pardon of sins, or to justification; and in the foregoing chapter we showed that the continuance of justification did not depend on our
works, as the condition thereof: But now the question will be moved touching repentance; whether it may not be said to be required, as a condition of the continuance of justification; or at least, as a condition of the pardon of sins committed after justification. Concerning which we would premit these things.
††††††††† 1. It is granted, that repentance is not only necessary, at the first conversion of a sinner, but it is a grace, that it is constantly to be exercised, by a believer, so long as he lives; both in respect of its terminus a quo, and of its terminus ad quem, or both in respect of its aversive, and of its conversive part; for he is still more and more to depart from sin, and to turn unto God, and to all the ways of his commandments, Psalm 119: 59. The very body of death is constant matter of groaning and mourning unto him, Romans 7: 24, and his daily iniquities and transgressions ought to keep him low, and to put him to this exercise. Besides what at extraordinary times of public wrath or judgment against the land, Church, or place he lives in, or judgments upon his own near relations, family, &c. or upon occasion of his own more heinous out breakings: as in David, Psalm 51.
††††††††† 2. It is also granted that where there is no repentance, or no true repentance, for sins committed, there is no ground for that man to suppose that his sin is pardoned: I do not here speak of the measure or expressions of repentance; for there may be mistakes on both hands; some thinking their repentance is naught, because not in such a sensible measure, as they think is required; may therefore infer that their case is worse, than indeed it is, others, upon the other hand, may suppose they have repented, when it is not so; and so infer pardon, when they have no ground. But this is granted, that where true and sincere repentance is not, there is no pardon from God of sins, whereof such are guilty: for to such, as he minds to pardon, he also gives a spirit of repentance, as both Scripture and experience prove.
††††††††† 3. Yet notwithstanding of this, it is true, that an outward repentance; where there is no inward, real and sanctified change wrought, may hold off for a time, prorogue the inflicting of temporal strokes; as we see in Ahab, Nineveh and others.
††††††††† 4. It will be granted also by all the orthodox, that repentance is no proper, meritorious cause of pardon; nor doth it make any satisfaction to God, to appease his wrath and anger.
††††††††† 5. I shall also grant that where there is true and unfeigned repentance, after some sin committed, there that person may safely infer that his sin is pardoned: repentance is a good sign of remission; because it is a good evidence, that the man hath run to the fountain, to the blood of Jesus, and there hath washed himself, and made himself clean. See Isaiah 1: 16, 17, 18.
††††††††† 6. The exercise of repentance is very useful, to make sin become bitter, mercy welcome, and to make the soul more careful and watchful in time to come.
††††††††† But the question is whether repentance be a proper condition of pardon
of sins, committed after justification, or not? And when we speak of repentance here, we consider it by itself, and not as being the sensible signification and expression of faith; for the question is not, whether faith acting in and through repentance, or working the soul up unto unfeigned repentance, be the condition of remission; for the is not repentance, but faith, accompanied with, and acting the soul to repentance; but the question is of repentance considered in itself, and as a distinct grace from faith: and speaking of repentance, as such, and considered in itself, I say, that it is not the condition of remission of after-sins; but faith only, acting in a gospel manner, on Jesus Christ, and his blood and merits.
††††††††† And the reasons are: 1. Because it is faith and not repentance, that carries the sinner away to the blood of Jesus Christ, and to his merits, through whom, and by which alone remission is had, Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 1: 14, Zachariah 13: 1, Hebrews 9: 14, 22, Revelation 1: 5. Repentance as such, lays not hold on Christ, grips not his merits, makes no application of these; but is wholly exercised about another object, about sin.
††††††††† 2. This would give man too great a ground of boasting in himself: if upon his mourning, sorrow, and repentance, pardon were to be had; and would give occasion to think, that there were some merit and worth, in that work, and something satisfying or appeasing to God: for the man hereby is kept within himself: and upon the account of something within himself, or done by him, is he pardoned, as he might suppose.
††††††††† 3. This should be derogatory to the blood and merits of Christ, by which alone we have pardon first and last; and the Gospel is so contrived, as that Christ must have all the glory; and all the methods, means and order of the Gospel, and new Covenant, are in like manner framed, so that man may be abased, free grace exalted, Christ acknowledged the only Redeemer; but if our repentance were made such a condition, there should be no application made of Christ and of his blood by the sinner; no acting on him, and on his merits, in order to the obtaining of pardon; and so, no occasion of exalting free grace, and love in Christ; no occasion of wondering at the wise contrivance of the Covenant of Grace, in all points: If it be said, there is no derogating from Christ and his merits here, because it is by virtue of his merits, that repentance is made such a condition: I answer: -This is not cleared from Scripture, nor is it suitable to the frame of the gospel covenant; for the whole of it is so contrived, as that Christ is immediately to be made use of: but this way keeps the soul off all immediate going to, applying of, and resting upon Christ, in order to remission of new sins; and sets them only upon the exercise of sorrow and repentance within themselves.
†††††††† 4. The Apostle John points out the way to believers of obtaining remission of sins, I John 2: 1, 2 ĖAnd if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins. Now, repentance doth not make use of Christ, as an Advocate, and as a propitiation; but faith doth. And it is the proper work of faith, in order to remission,
to make use of Christ, in his priestly office, and to carry the soul away to his propitiation and intercession.
††††††††† 5. The daily experience of the saints evidences this, when upon conviction of sin, they betake themselves to the free mercy of God, in Christ, to the blood of sprinkling, crying out for pardon for the Lordís sake, and seeking to be washed in his blood. It is not their repentance, or sorrow, that they flee to, as the ground of their hope of pardon; but the merits of Christ, held forth in the New Covenant, is that fountain, wherein they must wash and be clean. See Psalm 25: 11 and 51: 7.
††††††††† 6. This was sufficiently held forth under the Law, when for their errors, failings and daily transgressions, the people were to bring their sacrifices to the Priest, which were to be offered up, as types of Christ and they were to lay their hands upon the head of the sacrifice, in sign of their resting upon the sacrifice typified, and of rolling their sins upon that only sacrifice, and of expecting acceptance and pardon, through it alone. See Leviticus 4: 20, 26, 31, 35 and 5: 10, 13, 16, 18 and 6: 7, 19, 22.
††††††††† 7. If repentance be the condition, then this must either be said of that part of repentance, which precedes the acting of faith, or of that which follows. This last cannot be said; for then it would follow, that upon the acting of faith, that precedes, there were no remission; and so faith laying hold on Christ and his merits, should be utterly excluded from having any interest in the pardon of sins. Nor can the first be said, for then there should be remission, before and without all application made of Christ by faith: Yea and the very imperfect beginnings of repentance should be judged sufficient for remission: which cannot be said. If it be said that this is meant of complete repentance, then I answer: complete repentance cannot be without faith: and it is against what is said, to make repentance, considered alone and by itself, or as abstracted from faith, the only condition; seeing this would be a manifest exclusion of faith altogether. If it be said that repentance and faith may be considered together, and as joined together called the condition of pardon, I answer: Seeing it is manifest, that both do not, and cannot act one and the same way on Christ; they cannot be considered as equally sharing in the place and interest of a condition: and therefore, I judge it safest to say, that faith, acting in and by repentance, or so discovering itself to be true and lively, is the sole condition of pardon.
††††††††† 8. As at first, so always that holds true, which Peter says, Acts 10: 43, To him (i.e. to Jesus) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins. As the stung Israelite was always, in order to his cure, to look to the brazen serpent: so is the believer, that would be cured of the guilt of new transgressions, to have his recourse by faith unto the Mediator, crucified and lifted up, John 3: 14, 15.
††††††††† Objection: It is said that repentance is necessary both as commanded, and as an appointed mean for attaining remission of sins, and therefore must be the condition of remission. Answer: The consequence is not good; for this same may be said of prayer, and other duties; which yet cannot be called
proper conditions of pardon. That prayer is a commanded duty, no one will deny; that a praying sinner may be said to be using the means to attain unto pardon, and to be in the way of obtaining it, will also be granted: and so in that respect, prayer may be accounted a mean: and yet it cannot be called the condition; for then everyone that prays should have pardon, though he act not faith: And if it be said that it must be prayer in faith, James 5: 15, I answer: True, but then the condition is not prayer, but faith exerting itself, and acting in and through prayer: and the same we say of repentance, and so keep it in its due place, and press it in the Gospel way and method.
††††††††† Objection 2. It is said that there is a kind of congruity and suitableness, in this order, by subjoining the promise of pardon to it; for it is more suitable that a penitent sinner should have pardon, than an impenitent. Answer: So this same may be said of prayer; for it is also more suitable that a praying sinner be pardoned, than a sinner that never once asks pardon: and this tends more also to the exalting of free grace. But the truth is, in pardon there is not only a declaration and exalting of grace and mercy; but also of divine justice, Romans 3: 25, 26, and unto this, faith is singularly fitted, because it lays hold on the propitiation, and on blood, for the declaration of Godís righteousness for remission of sins; and hereby is the Lord declared to be just, when he is the justifier and pardoner of the believer. So that neither prayer, nor repentance, nor self searching, &c. can be properly called the condition, but faith acting in and by these.
††††††††† Objection 3. It is said, that repentance qualifies the sinner, in reference to the promise of pardon, or puts him within the reach of the promise; so that he may take hold of the promise of pardon: and it disposes him to accept the offered salvation freely, and to rest upon Christ alone, for that end. Answer: (1.) What disposes to accept of salvation &c. cannot for that cause be called the condition of pardon, unless we speak improperly; as felt poverty in a beggar, though it disposes him to receive offered alms thankfully, yet it is not the proper condition: No more is self conviction, in our case, a condition of pardon. (2.) If it qualifies for the receiving of the offered salvation; then it qualifies immediately for faith, and but mediately and remotely for pardon. (3.) The promise of pardon is not made to the penitent properly, and as such; but to the penitent believer; that is, to faith acting and exerting itself in and by repentance.
††††††††† Objection 4. Isaiah 1: 15, 16. put away the evil of your doings, cease to do evil, &c. This is repentance: and then verse 18, full pardon is promised, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, &c. Answer: Yet withal he bids them wash and make clean; which could only be, by the blood of the Messiah, for that only cleanses, I John 1: 7, and this they had neglected, in going about their sacrifices, which therefore were abominable in the eyes of the Lord, verse 11, 12, 13, because not accompanied with faith, that purifies the heart, Acts 15: 9.
††††††††† Objection 5. II Chronicles 7: 14, the Lord promises to forgive sin, if his people would turn from their wicked ways. Answer: But withal it is required there,
that they seek the face of God, and that was in and through the Messiah, typified by the Temple, to which their prayers were to be directed, as we see in Chapter 6: 20, 24, 26, 29, 31, 34, 38.
††††††††† Objection 6. Proverbs 28: 13 ĖHe that confesseth his sin and forsaketh it shall find mercy. answer: True, because none will do that aright, but the believer; who lays hold on the merits of Christ. And so this and the like places, are not exclusively to be taken, but principally to be understood of faith so acting, and evidencing itself to be true and lively, and of the right stamp, by its acting so.