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REPENTANCE.

Covington, GA., Nov. 16, 1868.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Several months since I received a letter from a brother in Kentucky, requesting my views through the SIGNS, on Acts 2:38. It appears he heard me use the text in preaching somewhere in Kentucky, and desired me to write out my views for publication. I wrote to him rather declining to do any such thing; for while I might have a disposition to accede to his wishes, I had not the time, nor ability to do justice to the subject. I have concluded, however, to make the attempt, as I have a little spare time from the cares of this life, and though a consciousness of my inability still remains, yet it is not supposed I am called upon to preach or write only according to the ability which God giveth. As to a disposition to serve my brethren, I hope God has given me such a disposition, as I was never willing, through the volition of my own will, to be a servant to the church for Jesus’ sake.

The passage of scripture upon which my views are desired, reads as follows: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The first gospel sermon we have on record that was preached after the ascension of the dear Redeemer to glory, was preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost. A large crowd were present to hear it. They were greatly astonished to hear those Galileans, unlearned and ignorant men, speak the wonderful works of God in the different languages wherein they were born. For there was dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. They were confounded and knew not what to say. Some mocked, however, and charged the apostles with drunkenness. Peter, who by the way was a very forward man, but on this occasion was full of the Holy Ghost, lifted up his voice and plainly preached the truth to them. He spake as the Spirit gave utterance. He refused the charge of drunkenness, and boldly declared that this which they saw and heard was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, for God was pouring out his Spirit agreeable to the prophet’s testimony; and repeated a considerable portion of the prophet’s language. The Holy Ghost was in Joel, centuries before, and was now in Peter, and the other apostles, and testified the truth. Peter, in the fulness of the Spirit, charged upon the very men who were present, and who had said in relation to Jesus, “His blood be upon us, and upon our children,” that they were the murderers of the Lord Jesus. Peter declared the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God in his crucifixion and death, and their wickedness in putting him to death. Yet that same Jesus, God had raised from the dead, and he was both Lord and Christ. Peter’s sermon was fraught with power and divine excellency.

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” A great change in their condition all at once, and in their language. Pricked in their heart. Will-worshipers foolishly contend that Peter’s preaching was the means of their being pricked in their heart, as though God worked through Peter as an instrument in their salvation. A gentleman remarked to me not long since, in relation to a sermon he heard me preach in Walton County, GA., that God worked through my preaching in the conversion of sinners, and also through Sunday Schools. I remarked that God worked through Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners, and in no other way. Though he could not see the point, yet it is a very important point. They were pricked in their heart upon the same principle that the Holy Ghost came suddenly upon the apostles. They were circumcised in heart and ears with that circumcision made without hands. They were heretofore alive without a knowledge of the law, and of their sins. Their heart was impervious to truth until the commandment came from God, and they heard the voice of the Son of God. A wound in heart is a death wound. The wound was in their heart. They felt the power and force of Peter’s preaching, and that they were blood-red sinners. Is there any hope for us? Where shall we go? What shall we do? The word of God, which was quick and powerful, had entered their heart, sin revived, and they were in a dying condition. There was distress, anguish and pain. They felt the burden of their sins on their heart, and past offenses were painful to them. This agrees with the experience of the saints in all ages and in all countries.

In reply to their anxious inquiry, Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized,” &c. In the promises we have this great truth presented, that God poured out his Spirit that day on a class of sinners who had before said in relation to Jesus, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.” They were present before the apostles, under arrest and trial before the God of heaven, and the apostles sitting in judgment on their case. “Repent,” says Peter. There was a marked demonstration of the truth that they were alive from the dead, and in a state to confess and forsake their sins. They were sensible penitent sinners, not through the volition of their own will, or the exercise of their mental powers, but upon the principle that Jesus is exalted in his Mediatorial character to give repentance to Israel and the remission of sins. Upon this principle repentance and the remission of sins in the NAME of Jesus, agreeable to the royal mandate of Zion’s King. Luke 24:47. Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. Repentance is not the act of the creature, or something which the creature can exercise or control; but the creature is made subject to repentance by the working of godly sorrow in him, which produces a change in a man’s life and conduct. This follows from a knowledge of sin, and its heinous character before a holy and all-wise God. These Jews were the worst kind of sinners. Repent, says Peter, and they did repent. The workmonger says that repentance is a condition of salvation, and supposing they had not repented, or complied with the condition, they would have been lost. The truth was they were already lost, and were sensible of their need of deliverance. Grace controls sinners in the work of salvation, and sinners don’t control grace. The ideas, or notions of sinning away the day of grace, gospel hardened sinners, and sending the gospel to the heathen, all originate in the weak conceptions of an ignorant and deluded mind. Men dead in trespasses and sins are not under grace, the gospel is not offered to them on terms and conditions, by rejecting which their hearts are hardened; and the gospel is not sent to the heathen as an article of merchandise to be bought or sold, or bartered away at the will and choice of depraved mortals. Living men in a spiritual sense possess the functions of the Life which is the light that shineth in the hearts of those who believe in the Son of God. Penitent sinners are gospel characters; and they hunger and thirst after righteousness, and are in excruciating misery on account of their sins. They turn from their sins to God, and it is as involuntarily of themselves as it is for a man when in deep distress to desire and seek relief. Peter directed those repenting Jews to a consideration of the important truth that there was relief for them in the same Jesus they had crucified and slain, notwithstanding the heinousness of their crimes. He came to seek and save lost sinners. He is the bread of life, and the great Physician of souls.

The law, which was given to national Israel on Mount Sinai, with its covenant, rites, ceremonies and precepts, was a ministration of death, and revealed the majesty, holiness, justice and judgments of God, in thunder tones. The soul that sinneth it shall die. The transgressor is under the curse of the law continually; for cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. This law in its spiritual character and import holds all the human family, Jews and Gentiles, under its power, and sentence of condemnation. None are discharged therefrom, but gospel characters who are the called according to God’s purpose.

While the old covenant dispensation remained in existence, there was a people under it who had no hope of salvation, only in the promised Messiah that was to come. When John, Christ’s harbinger, came in the wilderness of Judea, preaching the baptism of repentance, saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven {Christ’s church & kingdom} is at hand,” multitudes were baptized confessing their sins. As new wine in a cluster, so there was a spiritual people in that national house. The kingdom of God was revealed, or manifested on the day of Pentecost. Thousands repented and believed the gospel. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The gospel was preached in its fulness and glory by Peter and others on that memorable occasion, and their hearers obeyed the word of the Lord in turning away from the old covenant system of works, upon which they formerly depended, to the doctrine of Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the ministration of salvation, life and peace. They gladly received the word preached to them, and were baptized, confessing their sins, and experiencing the remission of their sins. In their repentance and baptism an open expression of the work of salvation was manifest in them and by them. Their repentance was to salvation, not to be repented of. None but gospel characters have this repentance and remission of sins. The line of demarcation between law characters, who are alive to a righteousness of their own, as those Jews formerly were, and gospel characters, who are dead to the law by the body of Christ, and are justified by grace, is as clear and distinct as the separation between heaven and hell. The law demands everything in the way of obedience of the sinner, and furnishes nothing, brings him no relief or remedy. The gospel demands nothing of the penitent sinner in a legal sense, but brings deliverance, pardon, justification, joy and peace. Those only who pass from a state of death under the law, to a state of life under grace, are suitable subjects for gospel baptism, and for membership in a gospel church. About three thousand of those believing Jews were baptized in the NAME of Jesus Christ. We have every reason to believe that every one of them who said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do,” repented, and were baptized in the NAME of Jesus for the remission of sins, agreeable to the apostolic direction or command.

There is considerable corresponding scripture testimony in accordance with the subject presented in the text. The instance of the jailor and his household is of special interest as illustrating the work of grace, and its fruits. Acts 16:29-34. The cases of Cornelius and his baptism, in Acts 10, and Paul’s account in Acts 22, of his own experience, and the language of Ananias to him, as follows, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord,” are all striking instances of the truth that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and produced its corresponding fruits. Will-worshippers and legalists are so ready to ascribe to the creature, in part at least, the work of salvation, that they will seize upon such instances as the foregoing to sustain their views of salvation being founded in some way upon contingencies, or depending upon the obedience of the creature. Perhaps some of the children of God get entangled in the meshes of human theological training on these points.

The language in the text is peremptory, and will not admit of any evasion. Jesus says to them to whom he had given rest, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” In bowing to the yoke, denying himself, and bearing the cross, he gives an expression of love to Jesus, and in following him finds rest. If he confers with flesh and blood, and holds back from obedience to the command of Christ, he smarts for it, and has to come at last under whip and spur. At no time can a child of God obey his Lord and Master more readily, and with less embarrassment, than when the path of obedience is first made manifest to him. We have no authority in holy writ for any delay or negligence under the command of our Lord, or in the testimony of his apostles.

Repentance, baptism, and the remission of sins, are in the NAME of Jesus Christ, and not in the name of men, nor ministers, nor the church, nor any of the religious societies and institutions of men. Paul, speaking of the condescension, humility, under the law, and obedience unto death of the adorable Redeemer, says, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11. For reasons stated by Paul, he says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Eph. 3:14,15. All the family of God manifest in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth, have their spiritual existence and immortality in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are heirs of God, and joint heirs with him in an indissoluble union and oneness of life. In their fallen and condemned situation as sinners in Adam, they are under the law and under its curse; but of their saved and justified condition, they are in Jesus Christ. Peter and John testified in relation to Jesus, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Again, “In his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Speaking of the glorious gospel day, and of the righteous Branch, a King that shall reign and prosper, Jeremiah says, “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jer. 22:6. Treating upon the same subject in another place, he says, “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name wherewith he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jer. 33:16. Here the Bride, the Lamb’s wife is recognized in close relation with her exalted Maker and Husband, for she is addressed as follows: “For thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” Isa. 54:5. His name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. These, and numerous other passages or quotations could be adduced on this interesting and important subject.

To be in Jesus Christ in an experimental sense is the first in the order of manifestation, and to be in him in the profession of his name is the next in order. Those Jews, on the day of Pentecost, in the profession of Christ’s name, confessed that Jesus was Lord to the glory of God the Father. The ordinance of baptism has occasioned a great deal of discussion in the religious world; yet, the church of Christ has undergone no change, I presume, since the apostolic age, on the point. When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and in a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In the three offices, or manifest relations which the God of heaven sustains to his church and people, they are all presented in the baptism of Jesus. They are all presented in that ordinance, with becoming solemnity, embracing believers in Christ alone. This includes the profession of his name, “For there are three that bear record {or testimony} in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” How imposing and solemn is baptism in its nature and character, and what a wonderful display we have on record in the second chapter of Acts, with the sanction of him who cannot lie, and agreeable to his authority.

Some suppose they can get into Jesus Christ simply by a profession of his name in a verbal acknowledgement of a repentance and belief in Jesus, and submitting their bodies to the water in his name. In doing this their sins are remitted, and they are born again. Thousands of men and women become members of what are called christian churches in this bogus manner of perverting the scriptures in their practical course. To profess the name of Christ while they are still alive to the system of works in point of justification, and dead in sins, is a disgrace to the very name of Christianity, as well as a great sin against God.

And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everything appertaining to salvation is a gift, and is bestowed without the consideration of any worthiness or fitness on the part of him who is the recipient of salvation. Those on whom salvation is bestowed are not only manifest as believers in the profession of Christ’s name, but receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. They do not receive this gift on the principle of their own worthiness and fitness, as though their repentance and baptism was the cause of their receiving this gift, but on the principle of grace abounding to sinners. The Holy Ghost is the Comforter which was promised to the disciples by the Lord Jesus, and which he prayed the Father to bestow upon them, and is called the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. “But,” says Jesus to his disciples, “ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” This gift is bestowed upon all the followers of Jesus, and is manifest as the Comforter to teach and to guide into all truth; for as Jesus in his exaltation has ascended into the heavens, never more to appear until he comes the second time, without sin unto salvation, so the Comforter will abide, or continue with the saints forever. He makes an application of the truth in their experience in the promises and comfort they receive from on high. He is the still small voice that enlightens, cheers, encourages and consoles the pilgrim in his lonely and disconsolate hours. He testifies, or bears witness to the truth, because the Spirit is truth. It is the spirit of adoption, whereby the saints are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, and are enabled to call Jesus, LORD. The Spirit beareth witness with their spirit that they are the children of God. The saints are the temple of God, and it is holy; “which temple,” says Paul, “ye are,” addressing the Corinthian brethren. Why is it holy, and the temple of God? Because the Spirit of God dwelleth therein. The personal pronouns he and it are used in relation to the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, as identifying the same personage, or distinctive character, as I understand it.

The promise of salvation, or eternal life, was to those believing Jews and their children, and to them that were afar off, as believing Gentiles, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Many other words did Peter testify and exhort, saying, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Deliver yourselves, or come out from among them, and be a separate people.

This will apply at the present time. The political, religious, and social elements appear to be supercharged with malignancy, fanaticism, destruction and death. The followers of Jesus should save themselves from all such abominations, as far as in them lies, for they are not of this world, even as their Lord and Master is not of this world.

I have extended this article to a great length, and I fear unprofitably, though I hope not. I hope the brother in Kentucky will be able to decide correctly as to whether my views expressed on paper correspond with my preaching on the text.

Yours in hope of eternal life,
Joseph L. Purington.