9 March 1766
Lecture 28
I am now particularly to show you what is required of them that come to the Lord’s supper – they are to examine themselves. This rule in the Catechism is taken from the rule of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 11:28). Try yourselves by the Scripture standard, to see whether in your state, character and designs you agree to the descriptions given of the people of God, for if you are one of the called, you have the features and general likeness of the whole family. But if you do not at all resemble them, you have no right to their outward privileges, nor can you possibly receive a share of their spiritual blessings. You may indeed approach the table, bow the knee, and eat the bread, but your formal appearance there will neither be acceptable to the Lord nor profitable to yourselves.
The points suggested in the answer are sufficient to determine this enquiry if you are indeed desirous to know the truth. And they [are] all so connected that if you are right in one, you are so with respect to all. If you have truly repented of your former sins, you have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, for true repentance can proceed from no other principle; you have a thankful remembrance of his death, without which you neither could have repented, nor could any repentance have been available, if it had been in your power. You have likewise a steadfast purpose (founded in a dependence upon divine grace) to lead a new life. You have no more desire to return to your former sins, than a person lately recovered from a severe and dangerous sickness, would have to go through the same extremity again. You are likewise in charity with all men – the love of God shed abroad in your heart, teaches you to love others as Christ has loved you, and a sense of the much forgiveness you have received and daily need from God, disposes you to the exercise of forbearance and forgiveness towards men, if you have been injured or have ought against any.
Let us speak a little to these things in the order in which they are laid down in the answer.
1. Examine whether you have truly repented of your former sins. And here take notice that the stress of the enquiry lies upon the word, truly. There are very few persons so hardened, but they have at some time or other seen cause to repent of their evil deeds. Who is there here that has not at times trembled when under an awakening sermon, or an awakening providence? But the answer suggests, what is abundantly taught and confirmed in Scripture, that there are two sorts of repentance, a true and a false. The one unto life, that is surely connected with all the promises of grace and glory – the other vain and ineffectual, which though perhaps often repeated, leaves the soul at last, under the power of sin and the curse of the law. It may [be] worthwhile therefore to point some of the chief differences between a true and a false repentance, that you may know which of them agrees to your experience.
  1.1 That repentance which is only exercised with regard to actual and known sin, is much to be suspected. I acknowledge, that repentance unto life, often begins with conviction and sorrow of some one sin, but then it does not stop here. The true penitent is soon led beyond the first occasion, and sees himself to be a sinner throughout in heart and life. He feels that his whole nature is corrupted and that he has been a transgressor from the womb, that his very prayers have been full of sin, and that he never performed a single action for which he might not have been justly condemned. He is sensible of the guilt of his innumerable sins of omission, and that he has come short of the glory of God in everything. And especially he is convinced of the sin of unbelief – nothing pains him more to the heart than the contempt he once put upon the glorious Gospel – and the low apprehensions he still has of Christ, even since he has been enabled to see something of his goodness and beauty.
  1.2 Those who truly repent of their former sins, give their full consent to the law of God, that it is Holy, Just and Good, even when they fear its threatenings are denounced against them. They have received a sentence of death in themselves, and will acknowledge that if God should refuse them mercy they have no right to complain. They likewise approve the law as a rule of life, and have not the least wish that it should be altered or softened, but they desire to be conformed to it throughout. But there is a repentance, not attended with this approbation of the law. There are persons that if they find a necessity to alter their course of life, for fear of hell, yet they do it grudgingly, not with their free consent. They would be well pleased if there was no law, no future judgement appointed, but that God would suffer them to go in their own wickedness unpunished. And if they were sure of this they would say to repentance as their hearts secretly say to the Lord himself, Depart from us, we desire no knowledge of thy ways.
  1.3 True repentance arises as I have before hinted, from a believing view of Christ as suffering for our sins – this alone can make sin appear truly hateful – this alone can reconcile a sinner to the law of God, when he sees that there is a complete satisfaction, atonement and obedience provided, answerable to its utmost demands. And from hence true repentance is always joined with a love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and a dependence (sincere however feeble) on him alone for salvation. But a false repentance is only a work of terror, maintained by a hope that their constrained repentance will save them from hell, and therefore continues no longer than the heart is filled with apprehensions of fear. If these are lessened or removed, the repentance is at an end, and the poor sinner hardens himself in his evil again, and perhaps his latter end is worse than his beginning. Such repentance we may often see in a condemned malefactor – who is sorry indeed for what he has done, but not from an honest and good principle, but because he sees he is exposed to suffering. And if the king graciously affords such a one his pardon and liberty, how often is the nature of his repentance quickly discovered[uncovered] – being delivered from the impending danger, he returns immediately to his former evil courses.
  1.4 True repentance sets the soul universally against sin of every kind. He avoids and strives against every evil, and is particularly careful of his bosom iniquity, that by which he was most frequently overtaken before. But false repentance is content with a half reformation, and will still give room for the indulgence of some favourite lust, or the omission of some known sin.
  1.5 True repentance, is ever accompanied with a jealousy of self, and a fear of being drawn away by the subtlety of Satan, the snares of the world, and the deceitfulness of the heart. The sincere penitent dares not make one promise in his own strength – for he feels himself poor and weak – therefore his eye and his hope are ever to the Lord, and his cry is to him, lead me and guide me for thy name’s sake. Therefore though a person seems to set out warmly, and there is a great change in his life, yet if he discovers a confidence in his own power, if he is heady, high-minded and thinks himself in no danger, there is reason to fear such repentance is not of the right sort. There is indeed too much of this spirit at first in some sincere souls, but the Lord soon takes occasion to humble them, and to convince them that without him they can do nothing. But if it is so in a remarkable degree and continues long, we are not disappointed to find such persons, grow weary by degrees, and at last turn their backs upon the ways of God.
  1.6 As true repentance is humble before God, it acquires an increasing boldness before men. The soul that is in earnest will not be beat off by the smiles or frowns of the world. It must, it will, it does press forward. It gladly takes a share in the reproach of the Gospel, and dares refuse its consent to evil, however recommended by custom or advantage. Here is a turning point which shows the repentance of too many to be of little worth. They seem to promise fair, if they could be left to live by themselves – but the love of sin, and the fear of man remaining in their hearts, they are afraid or ashamed, to withstand, and withhold their consent when sinners entice them. Thus as the Apostle speaks of some who are always learning yet never come to the knowledge of the truth – so there are some who are always repenting, yet always going on in the same round of sin, and returning like the dog to his vomit, or the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Now examine yourselves by these marks; they are drawn from the Word of God, and confirmed by observation. If your repentance is not true, a few occasional qualms of conscience are not sufficient to entitle you to the Lord’s table.

But if your repentance is such as I have described – if you hate sin and love Jesus, then let not the sense of your unworthiness and the many evils you feel in your hearts, and on the account of which you daily mourn, keep you from the privilege which he has appointed for your refreshment, strength and comfort. You are the persons of whom he says, Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. [1]

[1] John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.


Marylynn Rouse, 02/05/2020