Matthew 3:8. Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance That is, a change of temper and behaviour, answerable thereto; forsake, as well as confess, your sins, and let the integrity, regularity, holiness, and usefulness of your lives, manifest the sincerity of your repentance. It is a metaphor taken from trees, which discover what quality they are of by the fruits they bear; in allusion to which, pious men are called trees of righteousness, Isaiah 61:3; and their works, fruits of righteousness, Philippians 1:11. Let it be observed, further, that as the original word, μετανοια , here rendered repentance, properly signifies a change of mind, from the approbation and love of sin to an aversion and hatred to it, in consequence of a deep conviction of its evil nature and destructive tendency; (see on Matthew 3:2;) so, wherever this is, there will, of course, be an entire reformation of life, a ceasing to do evil, in all respects, according to the knowledge and ability of the penitent, and a learning to do well. Hence it is styled repentance from dead works, Hebrews 6:1; and repentance unto salvation not to be repented of, 2 Corinthians 7:10; that is, such as is not reversed by any voluntary returning or relapsing into our former sins. And, seeing God is unchangeably holy, and must for ever hate all sin with a perfect hatred, it is certain, from his very nature, that he cannot be reconciled to or have communion with the sinner, till a change be wrought in his spirit and conduct, and he cease from the commission of known iniquity. For a change there must be in God or man; and, since God’s nature is immutable, and it cannot be in him, it must of necessity be in man. Now it is evident, both from reason and experience, that confession of sins, a present sorrow for them, and displeasure against them, with a warm resolution to forsake them, are by no means always attended with this change, and, therefore, that these alone cannot be fruits meet for repentance. And O, how necessary was this admonition for the men of that age, who placed their repentance, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, in a mere verbal confession of their sins; and is it not equally necessary for too many of our own age?
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