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Simeon's Horae Homileticae Horae Homileticae
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ shh/ 2-corinthians-7.html. 1832.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
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SANCTIFICATION WROUGHT BY THE PROMISES
2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
CHRISTIANITY, if viewed aright, is a remedy suited to the necessities of fallen man. Man has lost both the favour and the image of God: and the Gospel restores him to both: to his favour first, and afterwards to his image. The promise made to Adam in Paradise, that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head,” was given without any preparation of heart on Adam’s part, yea, altogether unsolicited and unsought. It was, in fact, not given to Adam personally; but was rather a part of the judgment denounced against the serpent that had beguiled him [Note: Genesis 3:14-15.]. Thus, in the passage before us, the promises in the close of the preceding chapter are given freely to the sons of men: and the sanctification that follows it, is to be the fruit and effect of the promises apprehended by them, and applied to their souls.
To put this matter in a clear light, we shall shew,
The nature and extent of the sanctification required of us—
Sanctification is not a mere removal of evil from the soul, but a positive renovation of the whole man. It is set forth in our text as,
The mortification of all sin—
[As man consists of two parts, flesh and spirit, so sin resides in both, and defiles both: and is therefore distinguished into fleshly and spiritual filthiness; the former assimilating us to the beasts, and the latter to that great enemy of God and man, the devil: as our Lord has said, “Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do [Note: John 8:44.].” By “the filthiness of the flesh,” we understand, all those sins which take their rise from, and are acted by, the body; as uncleanness, intemperance, sloth. By “the filthiness of the spirit,” we understand, those sins which are more independent of the body, and have their proper residence in the mind; as pride, envy, malice, wrath, revenge; discontent, covetousness, deceit; impenitence, unbelief, and numberless other evils. But from all of these we are to be cleansed. If one be retained willingly, deliberately, habitually, it will so defile, as utterly to destroy, the soul: as God has said, “If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:17.].” It is to no purpose for any to plead, that God has given them passions, and that they are not able to restrain them; for God will enable us to restrain them, if we cry to him for help: He has declared, that “his grace shall be sufficient for us.” Neither, on the other hand, must any one think well of himself, merely because he does not indulge any gross corporeal lusts: for he may be “fulfilling the desires of the mind to a vast extent,” even whilst he restrains “those of the flesh [Note: Ephesians 2:3.];” and the indulgence of spiritual lusts is no less hateful in the sight of God, than the gratifications which are more disgraceful in our eyes. A proud Christian, a passionate Christian, a discontented Christian, or an unbelieving Christian, is as palpable a contradiction in terms, as a drunken or a lewd Christian. Evil tempers and dispositions of whatever kind must be subdued and mortified; if but one reign in the soul, we are Christians in name only, and not in deed and in truth: for “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: Galatians 5:24.].” Would to God that professing Christians would more attentively consider this! It is a grievous mistake to imagine, that any notions however scriptural, or any virtues however specious, will be of any avail, as long as one evil temper remains in us unmortified and unsubdued. “If we regard iniquity in our hearts (of whatever kind it be), the Lord will not hear us.”]
The cultivation of universal holiness—
[Not contented with “putting off the old man,” we are to be continually “putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness:” we are to be “renewed in the spirit of our mind [Note: Ephesians 4:23-24.].” This is an expression that deserves to be deeply considered: for it contains the very essence of real sanctification. We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 13:14.Galatians 3:27; Galatians 3:27.],” and have in ourselves the very “mind that was in him [Note: Philippians 2:5.].” Mark his every disposition; his delight in God’s presence, dependence on his care, and zeal for his glory; his self-denying habits of every kind, and, at the same time, his patience and meekness, his compassion and love towards the children of men, even towards his most inveterate enemies: these are to be the dispositions which we are to cultivate, and in which we are to grow up even to perfection [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.]. Whatever we have attained, we are to “forget it all, and press forward for more [Note: Philippians 3:13-14.],” and to “grow up into him in all things as our living Head [Note: Ephesians 4:15.].” All this we are to do “in the fear of God.” This expression must be particularly marked: for in “the fear of God” the perfection of holiness consists. By “the fear of God,” I understand that tenderness of conscience, and watchfulness of mind, that guards against even a thought which would be displeasing to God. There is a susceptibility of impression (such as exists in the apple of the eye when touched by the smallest mote in the air), which we should keep alive in our hearts in reference to sin, and have in uninterrupted exercise. In this the Lord Jesus Christ himself pre-eminently excelled, being “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord [Note: Isaiah 11:2-3.]:” and it is by this that God has engaged to perfect his work within us, “causing us to fear him for ever,” and “putting his fear into our hearts that we may not depart from him [Note: Jer 32:38-40 and Isaiah 11:2-3. These passages should be carefully noticed and compared in this view.].”
This is the crown of all Christian graces and attainments: without which nothing is of any value. It is the lowered tint which marks the ripeness and maturity of our choicest fruit: it is that by which the man of God is perfected, and the image of God is completed in the soul.]
The mention of the promises in connexion with this, leads me to shew,
The use of the promises in the production of it—
St. Peter tells us, that “by the promises we are made partakers of the Divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]:” and to the same effect does St. Paul speak in the words before us. It is by the promises that we are to accomplish the task assigned us in the text. For this blessed work they are well fitted: for they operate,
In a way of motive—
[Who can contemplate the promises in the preceding context, and not feel his obligations to Almighty God so great as to outweigh every other consideration under heaven? Does God promise to “dwell and walk in us” as in his temple? Does he engage to “be our God,” as much as if there were no other creature in the universe besides ourselves that had any interest in him? Does he declare that he will both “receive us,” and act towards us, as the most indulgent Father towards his own beloved “sons and daughters?” Is all this promised to us freely, even to all who will separate themselves from an ungodly world, and seek his face? Who can contemplate this, and not instantly inquire, “What shall I render to the Lord for all these benefits?” Who can have such a hope in him, and not endeavour to “purify himself, even as God is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.]?” It is thus that Paul felt his obligations to the Lord; and it is from the consideration of them that he urges us to an unreserved devotedness of ourselves to God, assuring us that the mercies conferred upon us render an entire consecration of ourselves to him “a reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].”]
In a way of encouragement—
[Any one who should merely contemplate the greatness of the work assigned him, would sit down in despair: “How shall I hope so to cleanse myself from all sin, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God?” But in the promises, he finds ample ground of confidence and joy. “What! has God freely given to me his only dear Son, and will he not with him also freely give me all things?” Would an earthly father not refuse bread to his famished child, and will my Heavenly Father not give his Holy Spirit to me in the measure that I need his influences? To what purpose are all these promises which he has given me, if he will not work in me that measure of sanctification which is necessary to the complete enjoyment of them? But I find holiness amongst the most distinguished of his promises. He has said, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.]:” &c. I will not fear then to engage in the work of “cleansing myself,” since God has promised to perform it in me [Note: Philippians 2:12-13.]: for “if he work, who shall let it?” My weakness, so far from being an obstacle to him, shall rather be an occasion for him to glorify himself the more [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]: and, “through him strengthening me, I can do all things [Note: Philippians 4:13.].”]
In a way of actual efficiency—
[The promises, as contained in the word, effect nothing: it is only as dwelling in the heart, and relied upon in the soul, that they produce any saving operation. Then they are of necessity accompanied by the Holy Spirit, who works in and by them; and who, on that very account, is called “The Holy Spirit of promise [Note: Ephesians 1:13.].” When applied to the soul by him, they have, if I may so speak, a buoyancy, bearing up the soul to high and heavenly things. We know that we, by filling a capacious vessel with air of a lighter species, can cause it to rise by its own buoyancy, and to soar above the clouds: how much more then shall we, when “filled with the Spirit,” and borne up upon the wings of promise, rise in our hearts and minds to the highest heavens! We are aware that this illustration is not to be pressed too far; but neither is it to be discarded altogether as fanciful, since our blessed Lord himself has said, that “his Holy Spirit in us shall be within us a well of water springing up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:14.].” Here the heavenly tendency of the principle within us is plainly asserted: and, whatever be the word which first begets us to the heavenly life, it is the word of promise which brings the soul to its full maturity of Christian perfection [Note: James 1:18. 1 Peter 1:23.Ephesians 5:26-27; Ephesians 5:26-27.]. It was the abundant indwelling of the promises in the Apostle’s soul that filled him with “the love of Christ, and constrained him” to live unto his God and Saviour in a way that no other man ever did, and caused his “conversation to be continually in heaven [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14.Philippians 3:20; Philippians 3:20.].” And in proportion as they are realized in our souls, will be the sanctifying effects produced by them.]
Those who are seeking holiness as their end, without using the promises as the means—
[This is common both in those who are altogether ignorant of the Gospel, and in those whose views of it are yet dim and clouded: in the one, it springs from self-righteous pride; in the others, from mistaken and misplaced humility: but in both it is a fatal evil.
As for the self-righteous formalist, he would reverse the Apostle’s exhortation, and, instead of saying, “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves,” they would say, Having cleansed ourselves, let us expect a fulfilment of all the promises. But no man shall ever attain salvation in such a way as that. No man can ever attain such holiness as God requires, but by the promises: nor, if he could, would such attainments ever purchase him an interest in the promises. They must be received as freely as they are given: they are given to us as sinners, as “ungodly,” as having no works whatever to bring to God [Note: Romans 4:4-6.]: and, if we will not embrace them under this character, renouncing all dependence on our own righteousness, and seeking to be saved by grace alone, we shall never have so much as one of them fulfilled to us [Note: Philippians 3:9. Romans 3:24.Ephesians 2:8-9; Ephesians 2:8-9.].
Nor is the legal Christian in reality building on any better foundation than the self-righteous formalist: for, though he does not profess to found his hopes on his own righteousness, yet he looks to his own attainments as his warrant for relying on the promises of his God. He thinks it would be pre-sumptuous in him to rely on the promises, because he cannot find in himself that measure of holiness which he considers as necessary to qualify him for an interest in them. But this is the very same error which the self-righteous formalist runs into: and the same answer, in a measure, must be given to it: only, whilst to the formalist I say, You must rely upon the promises; to the legal character I say, You may. They are all given as freely as the air you breathe: and precisely as the converts on the day of Pentecost apprehended them, so may you apprehend them freely, without money and without price: and as the jailor was justified by his faith the very instant he believed, so shall you be.
Nor need we be afraid of this doctrine as having a licentious tendency; for what was the effect of it in the apostolic age? the same shall it be in this and every age; the promises of God will always, when duly received, operate to the production of holiness; and every one who embraces them aright, will proceed to cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.]
Those who rest in the promises without regarding the end to be produced by them—
[Such persons there are, and ever have been, in the Church of God; persons, who think it legal to exhort men to holiness, and who make no other use of the promises, than to cherish in themselves an assurance of their own acceptance with God. These persons would correct the Apostle as an ignorant and ill-instructed teacher. They would say, “Having these promises, let us be full of confidence and joy:” but they would never deign to say, “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves:” this, forsooth, is legal. But whether they be right, or the Apostle, judge ye. Let such self-deceiving and conceited professors imagine as they will, God does not make so light of holiness: on the contrary, he tells us, that by our works we shall be judged in the last day, and by our works we are to be judged even now. Yes, by their fruits shall the followers of Christ be known: and if we slight them, we shall find all our pretended faith to be of no effect. “In vain shall we say, Lord, Lord, if we do not the things which he says.” I must entreat all then to shun this deadly heresy; and to search and try themselves, and see what effect the promises have produced upon them; for, as God is true, “without holiness shall no man see the Lord.”]
Those who are seeking the end by the appointed means—
[Shall you fail of success? Assuredly you shall not: for “the word of promise will bring forth fruit in you, as it doth in all the world.” Treasure up in your minds all “the exceeding great and precious promises,” which “in Christ Jesus are yea and Amen;” dwell upon them: plead them before God in prayer: declare to him your affiance in them: expect their accomplishment: limit not the Holy One of Israel in any thing: bear in mind that with him all things are possible. Verily, if you will thus believe, you shall see the glory of God. Sin shall be weakened in you: Satan shall flee before you: all the principalities and powers of hell shall be bruised under your feet: in a word, Christ shall be formed in you, and “you shall be changed into his image from glory to glory by the Spirit of your God.” Strengthened by these, your consolations shall be rich, your progress rapid, your victories secure: and in due time you shall possess the full substance of all the promises in the complete attainment of God’s perfect image, and the everlasting fruition of his glory.]
THE GROUNDS OF A MINISTER’S REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE
2 Corinthians 7:3. Ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.
THERE is in every man a quick sensibility with respect to any thing that may affect his character: even a slight insinuation, that seems to convey reproof, is keenly felt. On this account we ought to be extremely cautious, not only when criminating others, but even when vindicating ourselves; because a necessary self-vindication may easily be construed as an oblique censure upon others. We cannot but admire the delicacy of the Apostle’s mind, when asserting the integrity of his conduct towards the Church at Corinth. There were some in that place who had traduced his character: for the sake of others therefore it was necessary that he should declare his innocence with respect to the things that were laid to his charge. But fearing that, in doing this, he might appear to cast a reflection indiscriminately on the whole body, he adds, with exquisite tenderness and affection, that, so far from intending to condemn them all, he was willing, if his other duties would admit of it, to live and die among them.
In order to promote in all this amiable disposition, we shall consider,
The grounds of the Apostle’s love—
St. Paul felt a love towards the whole human race: but he was filled with a peculiar affection towards the Corinthians on account of,
Their relation to God—
[The Apostle had reason to believe that the Corinthians, notwithstanding some great evils which obtained among them [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:5-8; 1Co 8:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:18-22; 1 Corinthians 14:26.], were truly converted to God; and that the greater part of them were very eminent Christians [Note: 1Co 1:5-7 and 2 Corinthians 8:7.].
This was a just ground for loving them. Indeed, if he had not been penetrated with an unfeigned regard for them, he would have had no evidence of his own love to God: for “he who loveth him that begat, must love those who are begotten of him [Note: 1 John 5:1.].”]
Their relation to himself—
[Having been, in God’s hand, the instrument of their conversion, he stood related to them as their spiritual father [Note: 1Co 4:15 and 2 Corinthians 12:14. with Acts 18:1-18.]. Now, as a peculiar affection subsists between those who bear this relation according to the flesh, so it is reasonable that there should be a mutual regard between those also who are thus united in the bonds of the Spirit. Doubtless the Apostle did not confine his regards to these [Note: Colossians 2:1.]: but, having “travailed in birth with them,” he felt all the anxieties and affections of a parent towards them.]
The fervour of his love will appear from,
The way in which he manifested it—
We may notice in the context,
His affectionate remembrance of them—
[He boasted of them wherever he went: he held them up as peculiarly worthy of imitation [Note: 2Co 7:14 and 2Co 8:24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-2.]: and so great was the satisfaction which he felt in hearing of their welfare, that it far over-balanced all the sufferings he endured. What clearer proof could he give of his affection for them?]
His faithful admonitions—
[Though he loved them, he was not blind to their faults. When he saw them deviating from the path of duty, he performed the office of a monitor and guide. He changed his voice towards them, as he saw occasion: sometimes he spake with the authority of an Apostle [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:18-19.], and sometimes with the tenderness of a friend or parent [Note: 2Co 2:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 4:14.]. This was an eminent proof of his love, because it shewed that his concern for their souls swallowed up every other consideration [Note: Leviticus 19:17. with ver. 12.].]
His devotion to their service—
[He regarded not wealth, or ease, or honour; but would have been contented “to live and die with them” who had but ill requited all his past kindness: yea, he declared, that “he would most gladly spend and be spent for them, though the more abundantly he loved them, the less he were loved [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:15.].” Nothing short of laying down our life for any person could testify more love than this.]
Let us improve our intercourse with each other in life—
[It is the happiness of a minister and his people to have frequent and familiar intercourse with each other. We have through the mercy of our God enjoyed it; but alas! how little have we improved it! Let us look unto our God for his blessing upon us in future [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13.]: for without that “neither Paul can plant, nor Apollos water, to any good purpose [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.].”]
Let us prepare for our separation in death—
[As “the priests under the law could not continue by reason of death,” so neither can we under the Gospel. We must go to give an account of our stewardship; and you to answer for the advantages you have enjoyed. Let us be looking forward to that solemn meeting which we shall have at the bar of judgment. Let us implore help from God, that we may discharge our duties towards each other aright; and meet again, not as witnesses against each other, but as fellow-heirs of his glory. And the Lord grant that we may then be your joy, and that you may be “our joy and crown of rejoicing” to all eternity [Note: 1Th 2:19-20 and 2 Corinthians 1:14.]!]
REPENTANCE EXEMPLIFIED IN THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH
2 Corinthians 7:10-11. Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
IT is sometimes urged against faithful ministers, that they distress the minds of their auditors by their preaching: and it must be confessed that the accusation is true. But it must not be concluded from thence, that they take a pleasure in grieving any, or that they are too harsh in their ministrations: they must declare the mind of God respecting sin and sinners, in order to bring men to repentance: and if they find any persons truly humbled for their sins, they account it the richest reward of their labours.
St. Paul had reproved the Corinthian Church for taking part with the incestuous man, instead of casting him out from their society [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 5:13.]: and his epistle had been the means of producing in them a godly sorrow, together with a suitable demeanour. When he found this to be the case, he wrote again to them, and told them, that it had pained him exceedingly to grieve any of them; but that he rejoiced in seeing their grief operate in so beneficial a manner; this godly sorrow had answered the very end of his admonitions; and he was now ready to pour the oil of joy into the wounds which he had inflicted [Note: ver. 8, 9.].
We shall take occasion, from the words before us, to trace repentance,
In its nature—
[Repentance, as a grace, proceeds from God, the giver of every good gift [Note: James 1:17.], and from Christ, who is exalted to bestow it [Note: Acts 5:31.]; and who alone can produce in the heart that “godly sorrow which worketh it.”
To ascertain what godly sorrow is, we must compare it with “the sorrow of the world,” with which all of us are in some measure acquainted. The sorrow of the world may either relate to that sorrow which arises from worldly troubles, or that sorrow which a worldly man may have in reference to his sins. In either view it is a sorrow which “worketh death.”
The troubles of this life often depress men, so as to indispose them for their proper business, and rob them of all their comfort, and destroy their constitution, and ultimately to bring them to the grave [Note: It is not uncommon to say of such persons, they died of a broken heart.].
Many also are greatly distressed in reference to their sins: they are filled with dreadful apprehensions of God’s wrath; they are harassed with unbelieving fears; they are even brought into the depths of despair, conceiving, that there is no mercy for them—that they are not of the number of God’s elect—that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost—and that it would be either hypocrisy or presumption in them even to offer up a prayer to God. Now this sorrow, like that before-mentioned, worketh only death. It keeps us from God, instead of bringing us to him [Note: Jeremiah 2:25.]; it leads us to cloke and extenuate, rather than to confess and aggravate, our sins; it stimulates only to self-righteous purposes and endeavours, which are invariably frustrated by the power of indwelling corruption; and sometimes it terminates even in suicide itself [Note: Judas.]. At all events it causes hard thoughts of God, and utterly unfits the soul for real humiliation and contrition; so that, whether it be more or less afflictive at present, it equally furthers our eternal condemnation.
In direct opposition to this is that godly sorrow which produces genuine repentance. The fore-mentioned sorrow consists of unbelief, despondency, and fear of punishment; but the most essential ingredients of godly sorrow are faith, hope, and love. The person sorrowing goes to God, believing him to be a rewarder of them that diligently seek him — — — He goes to God through Christ, hoping that for Christ’s sake his sins shall be forgiven him — — — He goes to God with love in his heart, determining to justify God in whatever he shall do, yea, even in his own eternal condemnation — — —
Now this sorrow worketh repentance to salvation: it disposes a man to search out all his sins, and to humble himself for them in dust and ashes: it urges him to plead with earnestness the promises which God has made to returning penitents, and humbly to rely upon them: it causes him to seek after a conformity to God’s image; and determines him to glorify his Saviour with all the powers that he has. Such a repentance as this no man ever yet repented of; nor would he ever repent of it, however distressing the means had been by which it had been wrought in him. Every sorrow, short of this, would only issue in everlasting sorrow: but this sorrow invariably works repentance to life.]
Thus we have traced repentance to its source, and seen it in its cause. Let us proceed to trace it,
In its effects—
[The Apostle enumerates a great variety of effects produced in the minds of the Christians at Corinth: and his words have certainly a primary reference to that particular people on that particular occasion: but they admirably express also the emotions which are universally produced by true repentance, in whomsoever it obtains. We may therefore be permitted to consider them in that view, or, at least, to accommodate them to that subject.
For the sake of an easy distribution of the subject we shall transpose the first word, and consider it last: we shall then see the effects of genuine repentance in reference to our past, present, and future conduct.
The Corinthians, humbled by St. Paul’s reproofs, were studious to “clear themselves” to the world, to the Church, to their monitor, and to God himself; and to shew that they sincerely repented of what they had done amiss. They felt an “indignation” against the sin they had committed, and against themselves for having committed it; nor could they forgive themselves, till they knew that God had forgiven them. Thus will every true penitent endeavour to “clear himself,” and render it conspicuous both to God and man, that he is indeed a new creature — — — He is “indignant,” nor can he endure himself, when he reflects on his past life: when he calls to mind his rebellion against God, and his contempt of Christ’s redeeming love, he is covered with shame and confusion of face — — —
The Corinthians, penetrated with a sense of their misconduct, felt a holy “fear,” lest they should ever relapse into the sin of which they were repenting, or be drawn aside again to any similar enormity. They “vehemently desired” pardon of God for their past transgression, and grace, that they might be enabled to act with more consistency in future. They were animated in this with a “zeal” which nothing could damp, and with a “revenge” which determined them neither to spare the public offender, nor the evil dispositions of their own hearts. And do we not see in them the character of every true penitent? In all who truly repent, there will be an humble “fear” of falling again under the power of those lusts which formerly led them captive — — — a “vehement desire” to serve, to enjoy, to glorify their God — — — a “zeal,” which enables them to set their faces as a flint against the whole world — — — and a “revenge” that determines them to sacrifice their bosom lusts, though dear as a right eye, or useful as a right hand — — —
The Apostle further notices the “carefulness” with which the Corinthians exerted themselves to avoid every thing in future which might turn them aside from the path of duty. What word can more fitly characterize the disposition of a penitent in reference to his future conduct? Once he could walk at large, without taking any heed to his ways; but now he inquires whether the action be pleasing to God or not: he watches over the motives and principles by which he is actuated: he considers what may be the consequences of his actions both to himself and others: he is solicitous to avoid not only what is in itself evil, but whatever may be the means and occasion of evil. Hence he will not readily expose himself to temptation: he keeps at a distance from those amusements, and those companions that have formerly ensnared him: and he begs of God to guide his every step, and to “preserve him blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]
We conclude with inquiring whether the commendation bestowed on the Corinthians in the text, can with propriety be applied to us?
[“Have we in all things approved ourselves to be clear in this matter?” We ask not, whether we have had any repentance at all or not, (though perhaps there are many amongst us that have had no concern for their past sins, and that feel no anxiety about their eternal salvation): but we ask, whether we have had any other sorrow for sin, than such as will spring from worldly principles, and consist with a worldly mind?
Let us inquire whether our sorrow be of an unbelieving, desponding, nature, that is little else than slavish fear; or whether it be of an ingenuous kind, that leads us to rely on Christ in the exercise of an humble hope, and fervent love? — — —
Let us examine throroughly the effects of our sorrow, and see whether they accord with those which were produced in the Church at Corinth? Can we appeal to God, that we have “approved ourselves to be clear in this matter,” so that there is no room to doubt whether our repentance be genuine or not? If God were now to call us to his judgment-seat, could we appeal to him, as the searcher of our hearts, that it has been, and yet is, our daily endeavour to exercise such repentance as this?
Let it be remembered, that all other repentance must, and will, be repented of: all other repentance will leave us short of salvation: all other repentance will deceive us to our ruin. Our blessed Lord has told us, that, “except we repent, we must all perish:” and we have now seen the nature of repentance, not in a mere superficial manner, but as it may be distinguished from every thing that is apt to be mistaken for it. Behold then, life and death are before us; let us beg of God to undeceive us all, and to give unto us that repentance which shall never be repented of.]