Apr 25, 2010

Acts 8:22 - William Tant

The last portion we have to notice is, Acts 8:22. " Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee." This has been thought a very conclusive proof, that spiritual exhortations to unregenerate men, and offers of the gospel, are scriptural. But Peter told Simon Magus, at the time he gave the exhortation, that " he had neither part nor lot in the matter, and that he was in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity;- therefore I do not think the apostle alluded to spiritual but natural repentance, anticipating the judgment of God to fall upon Simon Magus, for the particular sin of offering money for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Peter does not tell him to repent of his sins, but " repent of this thy wickedness." Natural repentance is referred to in Judges ii. 6. where it reads, " the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, there is one tribe cut off from Israel this day." They had not a spiritual matter to concern them, but that which was wholly natural, therefore their repentance was natural. And Solomon refers to the same sort of repentance, when he says, " If they (the children of Israel) shall bethink themselves, in the land whither they are carried captives, and repent," and make supplication unto thee, in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, " we have sinned and done perversely, we have committed wickedness, and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward this land which thou gayest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name : then hear thou their prayer, and their supplication, in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause," 1 Kings 47, 48, 49. All this repentance, supplication, and prayer, which Solomon anticipated Israel addressing to God, must be natural;* for he supposes them looking towards the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple he had built, while in the land of their enemies. Whereas, to be spiritual in our repentance, we must be looking to Christ the land of promise, where the majestic mountains of divine attributes, the fertile valleys of sorrow, sufferings, and death, the flowing rivers of mercy, grace, and love, the wide-spreading firmament of an everlasting covenant, and the wholesome atmosphere of gospel liberty, are beheld in all their order, suitability, virtue, preciousness, and glory. We must be looking at the vision of peace through the blood of the cross. And our attention must be fixed upon the chief corner stone which infinite wisdom contrived, and almighty skill fixed, in the counsels of heaven, for the resting place of all the "precious stones" of that mystical temple, which forms the everlasting dwelling place of Jehovah. Nineveh, as I have before noticed, naturally repented, and Nineveh was naturally saved ; and so natural repentance God has required; and has been practiced; where no spiritual act has been commanded, nor one spiritual desire after God existed. Therefore Peter's exhortation to Simon Magus being wholly natural, is no proof that spiritual exhortations to unregenerate men are scriptural.

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