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REPENTANCE AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

DEAR BROTHER WILLIAM: - You may if you think proper, publish the following.

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31.

While the inspired writer no doubt refers more particularly to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, he at the same time holds him to view in his mediatorial character, as exalted or set up even from everlasting to be a Prince and Savior, for the very purpose of giving repentance to Israel, &c. Of course in this character he existed as much before his resurrection as afterwards, and being the eternal God, as well as the Son of God, or Mediator between God and men, he had the same power to lay down his life that he had to take it again, and in his saving character, was found the sum and substance of the gospel with all its spiritual blessings, quickening grace, repentance, faith, hope and charity – all these were given to Israel before his crucifixion and exaltation upon the same principle they have been given to his chosen people since, that is, according to the election of grace, or choice made in Him, Christ, before the foundation of the world. Thus, being Christ’s, they are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise, and remain under the law until life is communicated to them, and then repentance follows. Here I ask, can it be said that the sinner by repenting discharges his duty to God, or does he repent because he is unable to discharge his duty by rendering sinless obedience to the demands of the law? I am of opinion that repentance towards God, nor faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, neither of them are duties performed by the subjects of grace, because they are a spiritual consequence of quickening grace realized because Jesus has given them to be in operation in the bosom of the quickening sinner, until God is revealed in his justice, and Jesus revealed as having rendered to the law all its dues or demands against the sinner, and then the sinner is made free, not because he discharged his duties of faith and repentance, but because Jesus has paid all the debt to the law. The sinner receives all the grace of the gospel, which prepares him to discharge his duty; not to the law, for he is no more under the law, but under law to Christ; not as a servant, but a son free from the law of sin and death, by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. I think this means the gospel, which binds none, but sets at liberty all its subjects. What the law saith it saith to them which are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world become guilty before God. Why? Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and none are able to discharge their duty, nor render to the law {which alone has claims upon them while under it,} the least particle of all its demands, and nothing but discharge of duty can remove the demands of neither the law, nor the gospel. Then destroy the idea that Christ did represent his people, and by his obedience pay to and removed all the demands of the law on their part, and he is not a sufficient Savior. Establish the doctrine that sinners are to be saved in or by discharging their duties of repentance, and all are equally lost; because by nature all lack the principle, and when repentance is given and exercised in the sinner it can never be said that he by this has discharged his duty. For instance: A owes B a hundred dollars and is insolvent, C as representative pays up the money and sets A at liberty. Can it be said that A has discharged his duty, no matter how much he repents? But C had discharged the duty or paid what was due to B. A goes free because C has paid all, then A becomes under law to C, not according to the old demand, for that is dead and buried, but according to C’s good pleasure, and now he is under every obligation to reverence, honor, and obey C, who has delivered him from all the demands B held against him. This simple figure is used simply to represent the demands of the law, as paid up by Christ, and his grace bestowed on his people by him, their surety and representative, and to show that what sinners owe while under the law is due to the demands of the law, while they owe nothing to the gospel, neither does it require anything of them. You may be ready to say, ah! don’t forget the text, “but now commandeth all men, everywhere to repent.” This is a subject of much importance and should be attended to with great care, as some say gospel repentance is a law requisition and comes from the law department, while others say it comes from the gospel, and that it is the duty of all sinners to repent, and we should tell them so, and exhort them to repent, &c. In order to come to the subject fairly, I will notice first the law given to Adam, who was a natural man of the earth, earthy. This law requires obedience; but when transgressed by man, repentance could never do any good, for it had no such demand, but remained in full force requiring of man obedience which he could not then render. The law of ten commandments given by Moses, was only given to Israel, while other nations were not under it; but all human beings were under what Paul calls the law of sin and death, all transgressions by Adam’s disobedience. The law given to Israel, with the Decalogue and ceremonies, was conditional and required obedience, but made provisions for the pardon in some cases of such as repented or turned from wickedness; all however was national and pertained to this world. The righteousness of that law was attained to by obedience to it; while death was the consequence of disobedience, unless the disobedient repented or turned from his wickedness and done that which was lawful and right, though there were some crimes which could not be pardoned, nor time allowed the guilty to repent. It is important however to notice that the righteousness of this law was not the righteousness of faith in which sinners alone are justified, so as to enjoy eventually eternal or everlasting life; but was natural, pertaining alone to this life, and the death consequent upon disobedience was natural and pertained to this world, and repentance of the guilty had nothing to do with another world, but only prepared its subjects for the further enjoyment of the blessings God had promised the obedient pertaining to this world, such as, “If ye will be obedient, then shall ye live and eat the good of the land,” &c. These things were confined alone to the national Israel of God, with all the ceremonies and offerings under that law which were typical and continued until the anti-type was fully manifested in the coming of Christ, and the setting up his gospel kingdom, the gospel church, and after the crucifixion and ascension of Jesus – the Jews still continued to observe the ceremonial law with the traditions of the Elders, with their altars and inscriptions, when Paul preached at Athens after beholding their devotions, {which were ceremonial,} with their inscription, “to the unknown God, &c.,” he tells them the time of this ignorance – what ignorance? Why, bowing to their idols made with hands and continuing to observe these ceremonies and traditions, God winked at, or let it be so, and has borne with it, till now the gospel kingdom is set up, and these things are no longer necessary or they at least, were only typical. But now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, or turn from that manner of devotion and render service to God that made the world, that needs noting from mortals, seeing He gives to all life and breath and all things; from this consideration it is but due from mortals that they should repent, or be sorrowful and ashamed of their conduct towards the God of all their mercies.

The obligation to repent arises neither from the violated law, given to Adam, the law, given by Moses, nor yet from the gospel; but from the fact that God gives to all men life, being, and all things, and that mortals are entirely dependent on him for all temporal as well as spiritual blessings, in consequence of these things, mortals are under the strongest obligations to repent or turn from wicked practices; but though one should do all this to the uttermost, it would come so far short of gospel repentance, that it would still leave the sinner under the law with its claims of perfect obedience. The apostles preached that men should repent, Jesus taught them that except they repented they should all likewise perish, but none of them ever taught that repentance as a duty performed, would pay any part of the demands of justice, or that salvation would be obtained as the consequence of discharging duty; no, this would be so contrary to the doctrines of grace, for if sinners were to be saved by discharging duty, every single one would have to be performed, and then salvation would be what they were justly entitled to, and in that case nothing like grace would appear, and the praise would be due to sinners and not to God. But I will now notice to some extent that repentance which Jesus is exalted to give not to the world, but to Israel, or his own elect; repentance which godly sorrow worketh, unto salvation, not to be repented of; a repentance that is not offered to the world, neither is it given to the world, but to Israel, such as Paul speaks of in the following text, “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” II Tim.1:9. Here we notice that they were saved and called. From this it seems that their being called, was in consequence of their being saved only in Christ, in whom grace including repentance and every other spiritual blessing was given before the world began. Hence I conclude that all his chosen as related to Adam, are children of wrath, even as others, dead in trespasses and sins; but in Jesus Christ eternal life and salvation is given them; for this reason they are called and quickened by the Holy Spirit, or by the Spirit of the Son of God, sent into their hearts, crying, Abba Father. This is the Spirit of the gospel, and repentance is its gift, and a poor sinner never can have gospel repentance until quickened by this Spirit and then with all his natural propensities in operation he cannot prevent his sorrow for sin, because he has love and faith towards God, therefore he hates sin, and greatly desires to be free from it, whether saved or lost. In his case reformation is not the cause of life and repentance, but quickening grace is the cause of repentance and reformation, he is not seeking to go to heaven or to escape hell, but wishes to please God because he loves him, does not pray because he feels it is his duty, but of necessity he bows before God as a poor beggar in shame and sorrow; he does not repent because he considers it his duty, but because a supernatural power over which he has no control, is working in his bosom, and leading him by a way he had not known and in paths he had not seen. Thus the poor soul is brought to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the justice of God in his condemnation. When Jesus is revealed in mercy as his Savior, and Redeemer, does the sinner discharge duty, when he believes on Jesus? No; for he had never thought of it, until it was already effected in him, and his song is that of grace. I am astonished at many who speak of becoming christians by discharging their duty. Great God! How can a man perform a duty when he knows nothing about it, with eyes that could not see, ears that could not hear, and a heart that could not understand, which is the awful condition of men and women, in a state of nature. May God pity fallen mortals and deluded religionists.

D.W. Patman.
Oglethorpe Co., Georgia, March 1, 1856.