26 September 2021 by Published in: John Hazelton, Sermons No comments yet

A Sermon Preached by Mr. Hazelton, At Mount Zion Chapel, Chadwell Street, Clerkenwell, On Lord’s-Day Evening, 29th November, 1874.

“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Acts 20:21

The Apostle Paul as the great Apostle of the Gentiles was greatly honoured of God. In Thessalonica he preached the gospel of God’s grace, and became the spiritual father of the church in that city. He preached and became the founder of the church of Christ at Philippi. He went to the city of Ephesus and preached the gospel of our God, and became the spiritual father of that large and import­ant church. The circumstances connected with the introduction of the gospel into the city of Ephesus, are recorded in the preceding chapter. We find that the members of the church of Christ at Ephesus were regenerated, and therefore, spiritual men and women. The Apostle, it is said, preached the gospel in the synagogue “for the space of three months.” A considerable disturbance arose in consequence of the fact that so novel a doctrine as that of Christianity had been introduced into the city; nevertheless, the great Apostle proceeded with his work. He did not much heed the uproar and disturbance which he himself was the occasion of. It is said in the 17th verse that “fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” In these few words we have a very full de­scription of the character of the members of the church at Ephesus, and of the fact also that the Apostle Paul was, under God, the spiritual father of that body.

In the next place, if we turn to that marvellous letter which he wrote to the church at Ephesus, we cannot help inferring from its depth and fulness, that the Ephesian believers were great-minded men and women. Not only were they spiritual, because regenerated; we must, I think, conclude from the matter of that letter, and the sublimity of the doctrines which it contains, that many of the members of that church had naturally very capacious minds. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is very great; his Epistle to the church at Philippi contains many great and submarine doctrines; but it seems to me that Paul was, as it were, near the third heavens when he penned the Epistle to the church at Ephesus, and if the members of that church understood Paul, and comprehended the great truths which he brought before them, they were highly favored men and women.

The Apostle was an old man when he uttered the words of my text, and they were addressed to the elders of the church at Ephesus. And as Paul was, at least occasionally moved by the spirit of prophecy, he, on this occasion, looked forward into the future, and was obliged to say, “For I know this, that after my departures, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” And when the Apostle was in heaven, a letter recorded in the Book of the Revelation by the authority of Jesus Christ himself was addressed to the church at Ephesus; and one of the charges brought by Christ against that church was this:—“I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Churches here on the earth are imperfect; and it is true of the church corporately, as well as individually considered, “Through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom.”

Well, the apostle, when he spoke the words of my text, was in a very inter­esting position. He had left Ephesus, and was going to Jerusalem; and he felt persuade—and expressed the fact that sorrow, affliction, persecution, trouble, and probably death, awaited him there. And since the church at Ephesus was so near his heart, he sent for its elders, and said, “Ye know from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations which befel me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewn you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith, toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us make a few observations, first, upon the two blessings indicated—“Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Secondly, contem­plate for a few minutes, the glorious doctrine implied. I will tell you what that is when I reach this part of our subject; and in the third place, if we have time, we may make one of two remarks upon the equality mentioned, “Testifying both to the Jews and Gentiles, repentance toward God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I. In the first place let us make a few remarks upon the two blessings indicated in our text,—repentance and faith. First, repentance; but look at the two as connected and inseparable graces, in their subject, and in their operation. We may say that both are the gifts of our risen Lord, for “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of their sins;” and we read,—“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith;” so that both repentance and faith are the gifts of our risen Redeemer. They flow from the throne of God and the Lamb. Divine and sovereign grace is their spring and source. And if it is so, there can be no repentance without grace; and no saving belief, no belief for death and eternity, without the intervention of the blood and power of the reigning Christ of God. And both these graces are saving, that is, both of them are inseparable from salvation, or from a saved state. I have no idea that a sinner can go to heaven, or can be said to be going to heaven who is not a penitent, who is a stranger to repentance, a stranger to godly sorrow. I cannot as some ministers have done, and are doing,—set up a standard of Christian experience in relation to repentance, but I am bound, with the Apostle Paul, to “testify both to the Jews and also to the Greeks,” the necessity of “repentance towards God, and of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” And it is remarkable that both these graces are terminable graces. Both of them are to live for a time,—for a measured period only. Religion itself, as a great principle and power, is deathless, is immortal like its great Author, and will go into eternity with us, and live in all eternity before the throne of God. We shall everlastingly love our Savior, streams of gratitude will everlasting flow from our perfected spirits, songs of praises will everlastingly be addressed by God’s people to the Christ of God in heaven; but there will be no repentance there,—there will be no faith there. Repentance will cease when sin ceases to exist in us, and faith will be swallowed up in sight when we enter into the joy and presence of our Lord. And therefore, whilst both these graces are the gifts of our risen Lord, and both are saving—or inseparable from a saved state, both of them, we must say, are terminable” and will cease to work and exist when the spirit shall have returned to God that gave it.

But what is repentance? Well, usually it is thus well defined: a gracious change, accompanied by sorrow,—a change of the heart towards God Never suppose that repentance involves a change of God toward the sinner, a change of God towards the penitent, a change of God towards the man who is brought to believe. This is the theology or divinity of modern times,—that when a sinner repents, God changes towards him, because he changes towards God. My dear friends, God does not change towards the penitent. Repentance is a change of the sinner towards God, and not a change of God towards the sinner. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” God not being capable of changing,—for this is one of the things which our God cannot do, and it is not an imperfection but a perfection, and the glory of his nature,—God being incapable of changing, and his love having been fixed upon his people in eternity, he is pleased in due time to put his grace into the sinner’s heart, and repentance towards God is the inevitable result; and therefore repentance is a change, accompanied by sorrow, of the sinner towards God himself. But let us try to be a little plainer if we can, for repentance is a very important grace, and its existence in the mind gives rise to very important operations therein. What is the nature of repentance? What does that sorrow flow from which is inseparable from repentance? Well, I apprehend that the saved sinner does not repent towards God on account of the terrible fact that punishment must follow sin. There are many criminals in our land, and in other countries, who are very sorry that they ever committed crime, because they are in prison, and because they are suffering for the crimes they have committed. They do not hate the crimes they have committed. They do not loathe them­ selves on account of their conduct and their course. The consequences of their crimes are now upon them and round about them, and they are therefore sorry that they ever committed them. Well, that is a kind of repentance,—a natural repentance; but it is attended by no self-loathing, by no loathing of sin, by no loathing of crime, and therefore if there were no hell,—I wish to be explicit and well understood here,—if there were no eternal torment, God’s people, having realized what the nature of sin is, would be deeply penitent in the sight of God and would fall before the throne of Divine Majesty, and mourn, and weep, and sigh, and groan, on account of their guilt and sinnership; and therefore repentance does not flow from legal fear. Repentance is the result of a spiritual, a true, and evangelical realization of the nature of sin. One is brought to see and to feel,—to feel, my friend! to feel!—for we must have more than theory here—one is brought to see and to feel that it is both an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God, not only to see and to feel that hell will follow sin, and hell must be the portion of the sinner,—that is not the source of that repentance which “needeth not to be repented of,—the sinner is brought to see and feel what the nature of sin isn, and to hate and loathe both himself and it on account of the fact that he is a vile transgressor in the sight of a heart-searching, a good, and a holy God.

Now, let me dwell on this for a moment or tow. A revelation is made by God the Holy Spirit to the heart, for we have not abandoned that doctrine yet, the doctrine of the necessity of spiritual and special revelations from God to the heart, we do not believe that that faith is saving faith which is like cold water round the soul. We believe that both repentants and faith are living powers and principles in the mind, communicated to the breast by no less a person that God the Holy Spirit. Now, there is a revelation made by God to the mind; but in order to be as precise and particular as possible, let me observe that repentance follows regeneration. Regeneration does not follow repentance,—repentance follows life,—repentance is a sign of life,—repentance is the fruit and evidence of life,—repentance is the motion of life, and it is that motion of the heart towards God, which indicates the germ of godliness in the immortal mind. Well, there is first the new birth, and the eye having been opened, a revelation is made by God the Spirit to the opened eye, to the quickened heart, to the man that has been bom again, although, at present, he does not feel satisfied that regeneration has taken place. It is my business, however,—and I feel I am in a solemn place, and am doing a solemn work,—it is my business to try and place these matters before you in the order in which they lie in the gracious government of God. We observe, then, that regeneration takes place in the heart under the hand of the Spirit, and then a revelation is made to the new-born mind,—to the mind that is capable of spiritually judging between right and wrong, between heaven and hell, and between sin and holiness. Man is not capable of forming a correct judgment before the understanding is quickened and sanctified. The revelation is made, and a twofold view of God is seen through a twofold medium. First, God as the great Lawgiver through the medium of his law: “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Here is the medium,—the law of God, and through that just and holy law the sinner sees a sin-hating Lawgiver, and he contrasts himself,—he cannot help it,—as this revelation is made in order that this contrast, this operation of the mind, might follow. He contrasts his character with that law, and himself with the holiness and spotless purity of the great Lawgiver there, and the result of the contrast is that you hear him say: “I am a lost man! I am lost and ruined! I have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Now, will he sink into despair? Will justice meet him, and sweep him into hell!—No. There is another view of God had through another medium. The sinner having seen the Lawgiver through the law, is now brought to see the same Being as the God of love and pity, and compassion, through the agonies and death of his crucified Son; and seeing a loving God through the medium of precious blood, a hope is kindle in his heart, and that very hope thus kindled in his heart, pervades every power and faculty of the mind, which melts, and sorrow begins to flow, and the question, the all-absorbing question is asked—

“Was it for times that I had done,
He groaned upon the tree?”

May I hope that Jesus died for me, and expiated my crimes?

“Amazing pit, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!”

He sees first that he is a sinner in the light of law; he sees, secondly, that there is a way of salvation in the light of the cross of Calvary, and that God is a God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin.” This is revealed to him through the medium of a crucified Savior, and his heart is melted, his eyes fill, his soul overflows, streams of godly sorrow and poured out before the throne; he hopes and dears, and fears and hopes; he loathes himself, and loathes sin on account of its own nature, condemns himself, and uses very hard words when describing himself. And if he does to hear the gospel preached, and the minister that he happens to be hearing uses hard words, and speaks strongly, and draws human nature in very dark colors, he is not offended. “Oh, no,” he says, “you cannot go too far there; I am black, I am guilty, I am vile; and if I had received from the hand of God what I have merited, instead of sitting in God’s sanctuary, and hearing with a little hope, I had been in hell, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” And then he retires to his closet again, and his eyes fill with tears, and there is a little hope and a little faith in his heart; he drops down upon the atonement of the Saviour, and says, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” But we go further. If repent­ance is deep before the God of justice, it is deeper before the God of love. If the sinner repents in the light of God’s moral glory, his repentance is warmer, more intense, and deeper before the bleeding heart of incarnate God ; and therefore, for my part,—I do not know how it may be with my friends generally, for my part, I am praying that streams of godly sorrow may flow in my heart ail the days of my life. The Christian is a paradox in the estimation of the world; he would always mourn and rejoice, he would always sigh and. sing, he would always have godly sorrow in his heart, and yet love and adore his God. Yes, he can mourn without being miserable; he can be contrite without being absolutely wretched. He mourns over sin and over the Saviour, and when he sees his sins upon the Saviour, repentance flows most freely. Repentance in this sense is a godly sor­row for sin, a godly hatred of sin, a godly aversion to sin. Sin seen upon the dear Redeemer is loathed and hated, and the sinner detests and denounces it, and renounces himself. Thus, Christian friends, repentance is wrought in the hearts of God’s dear people.

But, testifying not only the nature of repentance, but the uses of it, what are the uses of repentance? One of the first visible things that it does is to dissolve all ruinous and destructive associations. We said in the morning, “The wounded deer leaves the herd,”—a quotation it is, as most of you know:—the wounded deer leaves the herd, while the herd moves on,—an arrow, ora bullet in its side,— the wounded one leaves the herd, and seeks retirement. And when the arrow of divine truth enters the conscience of a poor sinner, that sinner stops, and the world moves on, and leaves him behind, and he seeks the closet, a secret place, in which to pour out the new feelings of his heart,—in which to pour out before God the new experience and wants of his mind. He is bleeding, for his conscience is lacerated. God is nor disappointed. Heaven’s purposes are not to be frustrated. God aimed at him, and the arrow of divine truth entered his heart, and he is separated from the world for ever. The world may go on; it has left him behind ; he is in a new position, and he is a new creature; he is inquiring the way to heaven, with his face towards that glorious world. “What is the matter with Mr. So-and-so, do you know? He seems to have something on his mind; he has lost all his vivacity; he is not jocular ; ho used to be a good companion, but now it seems as if there were a burden, or something on his mind.” And there is a burden on his mind. There is something in his heart. God has put it there. He will never be what he has been. God has saved him. He is a penitent in the sight of God. You, my friend, may see no danger; you may have no appre­hension of the being of a God; but there is a God, and that God has apprehended that man, and he will never be of you again. He is a penitent weeper in the sight of the God that has saved him, and into whose presence he will shortly enter. He is a spiritual penitent. Moreover, penitence prepares the heart for God’s presence. One of the sweetest promises recorded in the Bible is to the weeping penitent. “Thus saith the High and Lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” God dwells with the heart that bleeds,—God dwells with the conscience that is lacerated,—God dwells with the man that mourns over the fact that he is a guilty, lost, and ruined sinner. My brother, if I have such a one here tonight, let me remind you of the fact, that you are not far from God as you fear you are. God is not so far from you as you fear He is. You were afar off, now you are near, and because you are near, your heart is wounded, and your spiritual grief is deep and keen. Moreover, repentance prepares the heart fro God’s balm,—for God’s pardon. God never lays the balm of Gilead upon an unwounded heart,—he never lays the plasters of eternal love upon an uncontrite and unfeeling spirit. He wounds to heal; and whilst with one hand he makes the wound, in the other, at the same moment, he holds the balm. He makes the wound, and produces the pain, and the tear flows; and by-and-bye the balm of Gilead is applied, pleasure is produced in the heart, and God gets the glory of his work. You see, friends if there were no wounds, no want, no deep and piercing necessity, and God applied pardon and spiritual blessings, no pleasure would be felt. It is the suffering patient that feels the pleasure, when, after the application of the remedy, the pain is removed, or mitigated! and so God prepares the heart for pardon, by giving repentance; and when his pardon drops upon the penitent, pleasure is produced and songs of gratitude are sung to our pardoning God. And then, lastly, repentance demonstrates,—I hope my friends will give this fact all the attention they can, because there are many trembling ones in the family of God,—repentance demonstrates one’s interest in the atonement of Jesus Christ. I use the word “demonstrate” advisedly, and I lay all possible stress upon it. It is an infallible evidence of your interest in the atonement of Christ. Sin loathed, is atoned for. Sin hated, was imputed to the Saviour. Sin, if it is a burden to the conscience, was penally a burden upon the Lord Jesus Christ; and if sin is so seen that the sinner longs for blood, the blood that he longs for was shed for him, and shall be sooner or later applied. My friends, I go if possible, further. Sin repented of here, can never damn the sinner; sin loathed here, can never sink the sinner into condemnation and ruin. God would never have caused you to loathe sin, and to repent of it, if he had not intended for ever and ever to pardon and forgive you. “Well, that is wonderful! it melts my heart,” one says. To be sure it does! And that melting of heart is another degree of repentance towards God.

As to the position of repentance, what is that? Its position in the government of God? Does it stand on law ground, or gospel ground? It stands on gospel ground. There is no room, no place for it on law ground. The law does not admit of it. If there are wrongs to repent of, wrongs to be sorry for, the law examines that fact, and curses at once, and leaves the sinner. It does not require repentance,—the law does not. The law requires perfect obedience, and if there is not perfect obedience, the law leaves its curse, and leaves the sinner in a state of condemnation. What is the position, then, of repentance? Christ comes and does “that which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh” The law requires, not repentance, but a perfect obedience; and Christ, the sinner’s substitute, puts a perfect obedience upon the law, ana then presents the sinner before God, and the sinner then repents of sin,—indeed he does, deeply and truly. Whilst he sees that the agonies and sufferings, and death of incarnate God were the meritorious cause of his salvation and acceptance, he loathes himself, and loves the dear Redeemer; so that repentance may be said to be a loathing of sin, and a loving, by the same heart, of the sinner’s Substitute and Surety.

Now, friends, if repentance were all—just put things together very rapidly—if repentance were the only operation of the mind in relation to sin, the sinner might drop down into despair. If God revealed sin to the sinner, and did not give him “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” then the sinner would drop down into despair; and therefore, you see we have the two graces:—repentance toward God—I am lost, and loathe myself; faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a way of salvation provided by God, perhaps after all God will have mercy upon me. So that here are the two graces,—“repentance towards God and faith towards Christ.” And what is faith towards Christ? It is a coming to Him. I do not know that I can define it more accurately or scripturally. It is a coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. This involves leaving all behind, all one’s former self, and former proceedings, and former doings, and all other things behind. There is a point, the spot, I used to occupy. I have left it by faith, and am coming, dear Lord, to thee.—

“The more I strove against its power,
I sinned and stumbled but the more;
Till late I heard my Saviour say,
Come hither, soul, I am the way.

Lo! glad I come; and thou blest Lamb,
Shall take me to thee as I am.”

Faith is a coming from sin, the world, self, all creature excellency to the Lord Jesus Christ. And then it comes to him only. It is not coming to the sacraments first. Ritualism and Popery tell us that we must come to Jesus Christ through the sacraments. “You, sir, certainly are not going to make any depreciating observations upon the sacraments!” No; only that I do not like the word “sacrament” as applied to the ordinances of God’s house. I love the ordinances of God’s house, but I love Christ first. I love baptism, but baptism is not the way to Christ;—Christ is the way to baptism. I love the Lord’s supper, but the Lord’s supper is not the way to Christ;—Christ is the way to the Lord’s supper. Therefore, the first object is Christ, and then the “sacraments,” if you please to call them so, then the ordinances of God’s house. We come through the cross to the institutions of our God, and not through the sacraments to the cross of Jesus Christ. No; faith is a coming to Christ, and Christ only: and faith is that power which will not, and cannot stop short of Christ. There may be ministers in the way, and priests in the way, and saints in the way,—faith is that power which must come to the Lord Jesus Christ through all the crowds of priests, and saints, and angels; it goes through them, and over the Virgin Mary, and over all creatures, and does not stop until the Christ of God is reached; and when Christ is reached, faith embraces him, and—what then? She stays there for ever. She comes to him, is helped to embrace him, commits her all to him, and then cleaves to him with full purpose of heart for ever,—at least all the days of the believer’s pilgrimage. Faith lights the soul through Christ, up to the threshold of heaven, and sees the soul over the threshold of heaven, and then she sinks, she disappears to be seen no more. Her services will be required no further than that. Testifying of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

II. The doctrine involved is that of mediation. I just beg that you will think over the subject at your leisure. Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Now you see here is God first, and secondly, Christ—Christ standing between a sin-hating God, and a repenting sinner; so that repent­ance is spoken of in relation to God, and faith is spoken of in relation to the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. I look at God that hates my sin, and tremble and am afraid; I look at God through the Mediator and do not tremble, am not afraid; on the contrary have a comfortable hope, notwithstanding that, in myself considered I am a lost and ruined sinner. I cannot look at God otherwise than through Christ, and thus Christ is God’s way to the sinner—the sinner’s way to God, the great meeting-place of God that hates sin, and of the penitent sinner. And thus, here is a sin-pardoning God in Christ, and the penitent sinner coming unto Christ, and God with his pardon meets the sinner with his penitence, and drops the pardon on his heart saying, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” I make an observation for the sake of my younger brethren and sisters. You may distinguish, by looking at this verse, between natural and revealed religion. Natural religion discovers no way of escape for the sinner, no way of salvation for the sinner. Natural religion is perfectly silent upon the system of mediation. There is one God, nature says. Ah! And that man, that infidel is deaf indeed, stubbornly,—and forgive me if I say stupidly, (I had almost said willfully)—deaf, who does not hear the loud voice of nature—There is a God—That is what nature says; and if we were not sinners, that is all we should require, and we could go up through nature to nature’s God. But we are sinners, fallen men and women; we want what nature does not reveal, we want a revelation from heaven—revealed religion. There is one; and this revelation says,—and one Mediator between God and man. This, says Paul, you know that “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; but have showed you and taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

III. Then as to the equality. Paul made no difference, whether he preached to Jews or Gentiles, for we are all one naturally, of one blood are all the kin­dreds of the earth; one morally—all owe perfect obedience to God; one in sin—“all have sinned,” (Jew and Gentile) “and come short of the glory of God”; all one that are saved—all perfectly equal on the ground of salvation—one Lord is rich to all them that believe, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; and the level will be perfect and eternal in heaven. In heavenly joy and glory, Jew and Gen­tile will be equal. All the saints will be equal. I have no idea that some thrones will be higher than others, that some songs will be louder than others, that some of the children of God will shine brighter than others. We are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ; and Abraham, though a great man here, and tall as a cedar, and strong as a cedar too,—Abraham there appears in all the sweet and heavenly perfection of a son, and Abraham’s weakest child down here, shall be like his father there—perfect and full of heaven, and satisfied and com­plete for ever. Therefore, there is but one law for Jew and Gentile, one Gospel for Jew and Gentile, and one salvation for Jew and Gentile, and one heaven for Jew and Gentile; and—

“When God makes up his last account,
Of natives in his holy mount,”

may you and I be found among them, for Christ’s sake. Amen.



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