I Need Two Things; Or,
Repentance and Faith
by James Smith, 1860
It is no uncommon thing, for many people to look too much to their feelings — and to judge of their spiritual state thereby. such people never enjoy settled peace. Such people very often set up a standard for God to work by, and except texts of Scripture are applied to the mind, producing sudden joys — they cannot conclude that they are the children of God.
Now however profitable these things may be, they are never set forth in God's Word, as necessary to salvation, or even as the evidences of it. Men are to be known, like trees — by their fruits; and salvation is to be known by its effects. Without faith in Christ, repentance toward God, and love to the brethren — there cannot be salvation; but there may be all these — without the impressions, manifestations, and sensations, which some people talk of, and require as essential to salvation.
A minister, some short time ago, was in company with one of his hearers, who had fallen into this mistake. He had experienced a great change in himself, he prayed privately and publicly, his moral conduct was good, and he had regularly sat under the gospel for twenty years. But because he had no singular manifestations, no striking texts suddenly applied to his soul, which he had been looking for in vain for years — he had no joy in God, no peace in believing, no assurance of salvation. His one great complaint is, "I do not feel, what I want to feel — even in prayer, I do not feel what I say, as I want to feel it. I am afraid after all that I shall be lost. I know," said he, "that I need two things, that is repentance and faith."
It is a great mercy to be convinced of our need of spiritual things, for when the Lord shows us our need, and gives us the desire to posses them — in his own time, he intends to confer them. Then the promise is ours, and will be fulfilled to us, where it is said, "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him, he also will hear their cry, and will save them." But we often imagine we need, what we have already gotten, and I have no doubt the friend referred to, has both repentance and faith already; for if he had not, he would neither feel, desire, act, or talk, as he does.
But does he understand what repentance and faith are? Or, has he mistaken the nature of things, which he says he needs, and which are indeed necessary to salvation? I apprehend this is the case with many, let us therefore look at these two points a little.
REPENTANCE, is a change of mind. It supposes that we have thought wrongly — and have therefore felt, and acted wrongly. When therefore it is said, "Repent and believe the gospel," the meaning is, "Change your minds in reference to God's kingdom, the Messiah, etc, and believe the good news I bring you." So when it is said, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." It supposes that they had wrong views, and therefore false expectations, in reference to the kingdom of God; and they are required to change their views, and expect the kingdom of God at once. So when Peter says, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you," etc. He means change your minds in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, and by baptism profess faith in his name.
Repentance towards God — is changing the mind in reference to God's nature, purposes, and designs towards us; so that instead of looking upon him as wrathful, purposing to punish us, and intending to sacrifice us to his justice — we believe him to be love, that his purposes are gracious, and that he intends to do us good and bless us. Then we look upon God in Jesus, as gracious, merciful, and long suffering; we believe that he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner — but would rather he should turn from his wickedness and live, even though it cost him the life of his own dear Son to save him. And we see that he is so desirous of being on good terms with us — that he beseeches us to be reconciled unto him, promising that he will not impute our trespasses unto us, or place one of our sins to our account.
This is God's own representation of himself, and it is totally different from man's conceptions of him, he therefore commands us to repent, to give up all our false ideas of him, and receive his own representations of himself.
This will be sure to change our feelings toward him, and instead of hating him, dreading him, or wishing to flee from him — we shall begin to love him, draw near to him, and mourn and grieve that we have ever sinned against him, or in any way grieved or offended him. This is godly sorrow for sin, which is the effect of a change of mind in reference to God; and this godly sorrow flows forth most freely, and is felt most deeply, when we perceive the depth of God's love to us, as it is seen in the gift of his Son, and in the agony and bloody sweat, the crucifixion and death of that Son for us, and for our salvation.
Godly sorrow for sin, always leads us to hate the sin we are sorry for, and to forsake the sin in our lives. By repentance therefore we generally mean the whole three:
a change of mind,
a change of feeling, and
a change of conduct.
In proportion to our former wrong views of God, our misconduct toward God, and our change of mind respecting him — will be the depth of sorrow for thinking wrongly of him, and acting wrongly toward him; so also will be the marked difference in our outward conduct and conversation.
A man therefore may have true repentance, who has had no very dreadful feelings in reference to sin, or intense and overwhelming sorrow. It may have been given him to receive into his mind right views of God, and by these — right feelings may have been produced, and from both a consistent course of conduct may flow.
The man loves God, as he views him in Jesus. He is sorry that he ever sinned against him, especially that he sins against him now; and desires and aims so to walk, so to speak, and so to live — as to please him. Such an one is a true penitent, and has experienced, yes, does daily experience the repentance that is unto life; which repentance is the gift of Jesus, who is exalted to give it, with the remission of sins.
FAITH, what is faith?
Faith in GOD, is believing that he is, and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. It is believing, and receiving into the mind, all that he has said of himself in his own holy Word; which leads us to exercise confidence in him, and expect good things from him.
Faith in CHRIST, is believing him to be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world; and that he has done and suffered all that the law and justice of God required, in order to the salvation of all those who trust in him.
Faith in his blood, is believing that his blood made a full atonement for all sin, and that it cleanses from all sin — all who depend upon it.
In a word, faith in Christ, is renouncing all and everything, as a ground, or cause of our acceptance with God, and depending on him alone, to save us fully, freely, and forever. It is not believing that I am savingly interested in Christ, or even that Christ died for me in particular, though this will grow out of our faith; but it is simply trusting Christ to be, and to do, as be has said in his Word.
If therefore, I renounce all dependence on my own works, if I refuse to place any confidence in my feelings — and trust alone in what Christ is, what Christ has done, what Christ is doing — then I have faith, saving faith in Christ.
And this faith will produce good works, for while I depend on Christ alone to save me, and expect salvation by his grace alone — how can I do otherwise than feel grateful to him? And if I feel grateful to him, surely I shall seek to please him. And how can I please him — but by keeping his commandments? And what is keeping his commandments — but performing good works?
REPENTANCE toward God, then, implies, that we have wronged God in our thoughts of him, and in our feelings and conduct towards him; but that now, we have changed our minds, and think of him as he wishes us to do — in consequence of which we are sorry, heartily sorry that we have ever grieved, or dishonored him, either in our hearts or lives, and therefore we seek to do only those things which please him.
FAITH in Christ, is depending upon Christ alone for life and salvation — or trusting in Christ to save us — as he has promised to do in his holy word. Out of which faith, springs a desire to honor Christ and serve him, on account of his great love to us, and wondrous work for us.
Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, are essential to salvation; but as to many of the feelings, manifestations, and singular experiences which some men talk of, however desirable some may think them, or however much some may be depressed because they are strangers to them — they are not necessary to salvation.
Then, as to our FEELINGS, they will be very much regulated by our faith; though they will be a good deal influenced by . . .
the books we read,
the company we keep,
the ministry we sit under, and
our own natural temperament.
Some are naturally gloomy, others cheerful; some are nervous and fearful, others stout and courageous; we must not therefore set up any standard to which all alike must come, or draw any rule according to which the Holy Spirit must work — for he will exercise his sovereignty, while he displays his power. Whatever therefore may be your feelings, whatever your defects; complain as you will, or fear as you may, the Holy Spirit, by the apostle affirms,
"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10
Reader, have you repented?
You once thought highly of sin — and therefore you preferred it to holiness;
you thought highly of the world — and preferred it to the Savior;
you thought highly of self — and preferred it to God.
Have you changed your mind?
Do you now look upon SIN as that abominable thing which God hates? Do you hate it? Do you forsake it?
Do you look upon the WORLD as God's enemy, see that the works of it are evil, and that it lies in the wicked One; as the consequence have you come out of it, separating yourself from it, refusing to touch the unclean thing?
Do you look upon SELF with loathing, and abhor yourself, repenting in dust and ashes?
Do you hate sin, cleave to the Savior, and love God?
Have you faith in Christ? Have you committed yourself to Jesus, to be saved by him? Do you look to him alone for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? He is able to save you — he is willing to save you — he waits to save you, if you are not saved. To you his word at this moment is, "Look unto me — and be saved! For I am God, and there is none else." And for your instruction and encouragement, he has said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes on him should not perish — but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish — but have everlasting life."
Believe and live. Look to Jesus — and eternal life is yours. Not by works of righteousness — but according to his mercy he saves us. By grace we are saved, through faith.
Let us not then torment ourselves, because our experience is not just like the experience of some of whom we have heard or read. Neither let us doubt or despond, because we do not feel just as we wish, or think we ought to do. Neither let us listen to the lies, and misrepresentations of Satan; but let us cast ourselves on God's mercy, commit our souls to Jesus, trust him with them, and give him credit for being faithful and true to his word — and so we shall be saved!