And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
I. ITS NATURE.
1. A true sense of sin. This is naturally the first step, for until an individual has been made conscious of his sin, it is utterly hopeless to expect that he will turn from it. Most men are willing to admit in general terms the truth that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," but few in comparison possess an enlightened and sincere conviction of their personal guilt and impurity in the sight of God. When the Spirit enlightens the mind of the sinner to discern the extent, strictness, and spirituality of the law of God, as taking cognizance of every thought, word, and action, and as requiring absolute perfection in all things, his conscience is awakened to a sense of his transgressions, so that he is ready to sink under the burden of his guilt.
2. Godly sorrow on account of sin. There is a spurious sorrow which does not regard sin itself so much as the misery which is its fruit. It is possible, too, that a man may be really sorry for particular sins, and yet he may be an utter stranger to true repentance. Of this we have a fearful example in the case of Judas Iscariot. But the sorrow of a true penitent is for sin, as committed against God, as rebellion against His rightful authority, as a violation of His holy law, and as a most base, ungrateful return for all his goodness.
3. An apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ to such as are penitent. Had we no reason to cherish the hope that God would pardon our sins, we could never return to Him as sincere penitents, but must inevitably sink into despair.
4. A turning from sin unto God, with a sincere purpose and endeavour to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments. This constitutes the grand distinction betwixt true repentance and all false appearances. Accordingly St. Paul exhorted both Jews and Gentiles, not only that they should "repent and turn to God," but also "do works meet for repentance."
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH OUGHT TO LEAD US TO IT.
1. A regard to the Divine authority and to our own real interest. No injunction can be more explicit than this which is binding upon all men of every rank and character. Dare we thus pour contempt on His authority, especially now when "the times of ignorance which God winked at" are over, and the Dayspring from on high hath risen over our once benighted land. Consider what must be the consequence of such aggravated guilt. Jesus Christ hath declared, "Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish."
2. The many encouraging declarations and promises addressed to such as are exercising repentance.
3. The examples with which the Word of God furnishes us of sinners, whose guilt was peculiarly great, but who, notwithstanding, on repentance were pardoned and saved.
4. The great day of judgment. This is the grand reason which the apostle assigns for God commanding men everywhere to repent.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: