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THE MEANS OF EVANGELICAL REPENTANCE
Zechariah 12:10. I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.
REPENTANCE is a subject, with which every one supposes himself to be sufficiently acquainted, but which is indeed very rarely understood. The Scriptures speak of a repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10.]; intimating thereby, that there is a repentance, which is not unto salvation; and which therefore itself needs to be repented of. The text in this view deserves our deepest attention, since it opens to us,
The nature of evangelical repentance—
The sorrow, produced in the heart of a true penitent, is exceeding deep—
[Nothing can be more pungent than the grief of a parent who has lost “his first-born,” “his only son [Note: Luke 7:12.].” Yet to that is the mourning of a penitent twice compared. In either case, the soul is bowed down greatly; it is indisposed for receiving gratifications from those vanities, with which it was before amused; and loves to indulge in pensive solitude, and painful reflections. The parent’s anguish indeed may be softened by the assiduities of surviving friends; and may wholly lose its pungency through the lapse of time. But nothing can mitigate the pangs of a wounded spirit, nothing silence the accusations of a guilty conscience, till “the balm of Gilead,” the blood of Jesus, be applied to it: nor even then will sin ever cease to be the grief and burthen of the soul [Note: Ezekiel 16:63.].]
But repentance is then only to be called evangelical, when it has immediate respect to Christ—
[Twice is it said in the text, that men shall mourn “for him,” that is, for Christ [Note: Comp. John 19:37.]. Not that the miseries, which Christ endured on the cross, are the proper grounds of a penitent’s sorrow; but rather, it is his grief that he has so dishonoured Christ by his sins, and that he has yet again and again “crucified him afresh” by continuing in sin. Many, who are not really humbled, are concerned for their sins as having subjected them to God’s displeasure [Note: Exo 10:16-17. 1 Kings 21:29.]; but it is the true penitent alone, who mourns for sin, as dishonouring Christ, and as counteracting all the gracious purposes of his love.]
This will more fully appear by considering,
The means by which it is to be attained—
The effusion of the Spirit is the primary means of producing penitence in our hearts—
[The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of grace and of supplication,” because he is the Author and Giver of all grace, and because it is through his agency alone that we are able to pray. And this Spirit Christ will “pour out” upon us. He not only has a right to send the Holy Spirit, as being God equal with the Father, but in his mediatorial capacity he is authorized and empowered to send forth the Spirit, “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,” on purpose that he may impart to us out of his own immeasurable fulness. To him all must look for this blessing [Note: Acts 5:31.]; and all may look with an assurance of obtaining it, provided they truly and earnestly desire it [Note: John 14:13-17.]. The great and learned, “the house of David,” must submit themselves to his influence; nor shall the poorest or most illiterate of “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” be destitute of this mercy, if they will but ask it of their heavenly Father [Note: Luke 11:13.]. Nor till this Spirit convince us of our sin, can any of us know our state, so as to be suitably and abidingly affected with it [Note: John 16:7-8.].]
As a secondary mean, the Spirit turns our eyes unto a crucified Saviour—
[Nothing but a view of Christ as dying for us, can ever thoroughly break our obdurate hearts. But this has a powerful tendency to produce ingenuous sorrow; because, while it shews us the malignity of sin in most awful colours, it discovers to us also the remedy provided for the expiation of sin. In the one view, we are humbled by a sense of our extreme vileness; in the other, we are overwhelmed with a sense of the Redeemer’s love: and a combination of these two effects constitutes that ingenuous shame and sorrow, which may be denominated evangelical repentance.]
We may improve this subject,
[All acknowledge that they need repentance, and profess an intention to repent. But let not any imagine that the slight acknowledgments, and faint purposes of amendment, which are usually made on dying beds, are sufficient. If the comparison in the text be just, nothing will suffice, but a heart broken and contrite under a sense of sin. And precisely such is the view which the Apostles also give of true repentance [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:11.James 4:9; James 4:9.]. O that we may never rest in any thing short of such repentance, lest, instead of looking now on Christ with salutary contrition, we behold him hereafter (as we must do) with endless and unavailing sorrow [Note: Revelation 1:7.].]
[Many are discouraged by reason of the hardness and obduracy of their hearts. Indeed we all feel, that notwithstanding we have so much cause to weep day and night for our sins, and are really desirous to do so, we can rarely, if ever, bring our souls to any measure of tenderness and grief. But let us look more at Christ as dying for us; and not confine our attention, as we too often do, to our sins. Let us particularly beg of Christ to pour out his Spirit upon us, and then the heart of stone shall soon give way to a heart of flesh [Note: Ezekiel 36:26.]. The Spirit of grace and of supplications will easily effect, what, without his aid, is impossible to man: and the rocky heart, once struck by him, shall yield its penitential streams through all this dreary wilderness [Note: Alluding to Numbers 20:11.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany