Repentance that’s too late and the tale of the backslider

3 Mar

From JC Ryle:

Matthew 27:

Now when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death–and they bound him, and led him away, and delivered him up to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that Jesus was condemned, felt remorse, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood.”

But they said, “What is that to us? You see to it.”

He threw down the pieces of silver in the sanctuary, and departed. He went away and hanged himself.

We see, in the end of Judas, that there is such a thing as repentance which is too late. We are told plainly that “Judas was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders.” We are even told that he went to the priests, and said, “I have sinned.” And yet it is clear that he did not repent unto salvation.

This is a point which deserves special attention. It is a common saying, “that it is never too late to repent.” The saying, no doubt, is true, if repentance be true; but unhappily late repentance is often not genuine. It is possible for a man to feel his sins, and be sorry for them–to be under strong convictions of guilt, and express deep remorse–to be pierced in conscience, and exhibit much distress of mind–and yet, for all this, not repent with his heart. Present danger, or the fear of death, may account for all his feelings, and the Holy Spirit may have done no work whatever in his soul.

Let us beware of trusting to a late repentance. “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.” ONE penitent thief was saved in the hour of death, that no man might despair, but ONLY ONE, that no man might presume. Let us put off nothing that concerns our souls, and above all not put off repentance, under the vain idea that it is a thing in our own power. The words of Solomon on this subject are very fearful. “I will not answer when they cry for help. Even though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.” (Prov. 1:28.)

]Also], let us see in the case of Judas, to what a miserable end a man may come, if he has great privileges, and does not use them rightly. We are told that this unhappy man “departed and went and hanged himself.” What an dreadful death to die! An apostle of Christ, a former preacher of the Gospel, a companion of Peter and John, commits suicide, and rushes into God’s presence unprepared and unforgiven.

Let us never forget that no sinners are so sinful as sinners against light and knowledge. None are so provoking to God. None, if we look at Scripture, have been so often removed from this world by sudden and fearful visitations. Let us remember Lot’s wife, Pharaoh, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and Saul king of Israel. They are all cases in point. It is a solemn saying of Bunyan, “that none fall so deep into the pit, as those who fall backward.” It is written in Proverbs, “he that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Prov. 29:1.) May we all strive to live up to our light. There is such a thing as sin against the Holy Spirit. Clear knowledge of truth in the head, combined with deliberate love of sin in the heart, go a long way towards it.

And now what is the state of our hearts? Are we ever tempted to rest on our knowledge and profession of religion? Let us remember Judas and beware. Are we disposed to cling to the world, and give money a prominent place in our minds? Again, let us remember Judas, and beware. Are we trifling with any one sin, and flattering ourselves we may repent by and bye? Once more, let us remember Judas and beware. He is set up before us as a beacon. Let us look well at him, and not make shipwreck.

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