I do not know a more perplexing question than this, to a really anxious soul. I met a person lately who had spent years in trying to ascertain how much repentance is required before a person may be quite sure he is saved.
"Which of the two repentances have you been trying?" said I.
"Why, are there two kinds?" he enquired.
"Oh yes," I replied: "the repentance of the law, was a man trying to forsake all sin, and do all righteousness, and thus be saved. (See Ezek. 18:30.) But the repentance of the gospel is the giving up all pretensions to righteousness." The meaning of the word we translate "repentance" is simply a change of mind. The kind of change of mind depends on the connection in which it stands. It may be of sorrow, or it may be of joy, unto death or unto life. The change of mind, or the repentance of the law, was on the principle of works. The change of mind, or repentance of the gospel, is not of works at all, but entirely of grace. Sorrow for sin, and forsaking sin, and living to God — if anything are works, these are. If thus seeking salvation by works, you can never have enough of this repentance to get saved. It is a thorough mistake to think of getting saved by the good works of the repentance of the law.
You may think it a light thing to go on in sin. Oh, you can easily repent some day. Fearful, fatal, delusion. You are becoming more hardened every day.
Let me now turn to the repentance of the gospel.
God is a God of truth, and the truth is that man is a lost sinner, utterly without righteousness; as it is written, "There is none righteous, no not one." Now man's mind is in total darkness as to this. He thinks he is not so bad as to be past mending.
And there is another thing.
God loves man in this lost and guilty condition. He sent His beloved Son from the throne of glory; and with burning love for the poor, guilty sinner. He died on the cross — "the Just for the unjust." Oh look at that dying Lamb of God. See from that pierced side the blood of atonement. He bowed His head and died. All was finished. God hath raised him from the dead; and now God can meet thee through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He does meet thee. He does love thee, poor broken-hearted sinner. God meets thee in love! Thou thoughtest He could only meet thee in deserved wrath. He commands thee in the gospel to change thy mind. What is that? To believe what is true. That thou hast nothing but sin in which to meet Him. Give up, only give up all pretensions to righteousness, and as a lost sinner I point thee to the cross; and I tell thee, as surely as thou art brought to know thyself as a lost sinner, feeling thy utter need of Christ, God meets thee through the finished work of Christ, and pointing to the cross on which all thy sins were borne, He says, There sinner! now I have nothing against thee. It is not thy meeting God with the works of thy repentance; but God meeting thee through the death of Christ.
May the goodness of God thus lead thee, my reader, to repentance, even to the full moral judgment of thyself in His presence, and the full knowledge of His wondrous love to thee, a lost sinner, and thou shalt find these glad tidings the power of God unto salvation.
By the Spirit of God thou shalt have godly sorrow for sin and power to forsake it; yea, God shall work in thee to will and to do. These things certainly accompany salvation, but are never its conditions, otherwise grace would no more be grace.