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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      Repentance and faith is orthodoxy with some, and faith and repentance heterodoxy. With others, faith and repentance is orthodoxy; and repentance and faith heterodoxy! When doctors differ, what shall the people do? We answer, believe neither the one nor the other.

      In all such cases we make our first appeal to the original text--to the language which the Holy Spirit himself employed to reveal to us the will of God. We first view the whole currency or use of the words in debate, found in the Greek Scriptures. In doing this we note every passage in which they are found, and ponder upon the context to ascertain the precise meaning or significance of the words in their whole currency or use in the Christian Scriptures.

      We state as prefatory another fact: we find two words in the Greek New Testament, both translated by one English word. This unquestionably was and is unjustifiable on the part of King James and his translators. Whenever and wherever the inspired evangelists and apostles use two words in their own language, we should employ two words to represent them in our language, and in every language into which they are translated. And should we not have two such words in our language, we should in that case transfer them, and leave the decision of their sense to the reader himself. This is neither more nor less than honesty. But, in this case, we have two words in our language, the meaning of each of which can be clearly and satisfactorily ascertained from their contextual currency. These words are metamelomai and metanoeoo. These both are verbs. The former occurs only in the verbal form, and in all only six times; the latter occurs in the verbal form thirty-four times, and in the substantive form twenty-four times; in all, fifty-eight times. And, strange to tell, in the King James version they are, without exception, both rendered by the same family words, repent and repentance! In our opinion this is manifest injustice to the English reader. When the inspired ambassadors of the Lord Messiah used two words of diverse meaning, why, to the eye and ear of conscience, should we present only one?

      But to the question--"Does repentance precede faith, or faith repentance?" This yet is, and long has been, a mooted question amongst ecclesiastic metaphysicians, and one of the most uncalled for in the category which Paul commanded his son Timothy to avoid. See his second letter to Timothy, ii. 23, and to Titus, iii. 9.

      That any man could be called to repent of a sin against a God in whom he did not believe, or against a Christ of whom he had not heard, and, consequently, knew not his claims upon the faith of man, is to my mind, one of the mysteries of mystic Babylon itself. [29]

      When Peter preached repentance to the Jews on Pentecost, it was after and not before they believed the testimony he had laid before them. They believed all that he preached to them before they exclaimed--"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" He did not command one of them to believe, for in truth they had confessed their faith in all that he had said of God and of his Christ in the very propounding of the question;--conceding your premises, admitting all that you have testified concerning Jesus of Nazareth, tell us, Peter, what we ought to do to escape the impending consequences!

      He, therefore, conceded their faith, and commanded them to repent, and to be every one of them immersed for the remission of the sins which they had committed, and confessed in propounding to him the question--Men and brethren, believing or conceding all that you have charged against us--on these premises, what shall we do? Did he say to them believe! He was not such a simpleton. He was not so discourteous. They had already believed, or admitted every sin he had charged upon them--and, therefore, he did not treat them as unbelievers or infidels--by preaching to them the faith which they had confessed in propounding the question.

      Repent, rather reform, and be every one of you immersed epi too onomati Ieesou Christou, eis aphesin amartioon, etc.--"upon the name (or authority) of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Here, then, we have faith, repentance, and immersion apostolically propounded, in terms the most precise and unambiguous which the most definite language ever spoken on earth could afford; and in an order or arrangement perfectly consentaneous with the immutable necessities and relations of things.

      We must see before we can desire it, love it, hate it, choose it, or refuse it, "Faith comes by hearing," and hearing by some one speaking. If a person speak to us, we must hear him before we respond, yea or nay. Hence the oracle of Paul--"Faith comes by"--regeneration? No! Paul declares that "faith comes by hearing;" and whence comes hearing? From some one speaking. In this case God speaks. We hear and then believe.

      Believing before hearing is quite as preposterous as seeing before light. And repenting Godward before we have believed his oracles, is quite as irreconcilable to reason and Scripture as believing without testimony, hearing without ears, or repenting without conviction of sin or wrong.

      To produce repentance without conviction of sin, is as impossible as to sin without law, or to violate a precept which never existed. A testifier without testimony, or testimony without a testifier, is quite as conceivable as conviction of sin against a God or a Lord of whom [30] we never heard. Sin without law, faith without testimony, hope without promise, and love without the recognition of the beautiful and the good, are equally beyond the pale of reason and of revelation.

      The Universe owes its origin to a speech. Who made that speech?

      To submit the question in Anglican style, Was it God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit? Rather a startling question! Reflecting reader, what think you? what say you? You respond, God the Father! Why, then, says Paul, "that all things were created by Jesus Christ, and for him?" And again, "God created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. iii. 9). And, again, he says to the Colossians, "By him were all things created, both in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that among1 all things, (or in all respects,) he may have the pre-eminence." He, indeed, is the "Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last."

      There is, despite the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, a dumb and blind skepticism, now and then peering out through the crevices of the ragged tents and tabernacles of an empty and a deceitful philosophy.

      We live not under a Jewish Theocracy, but under the blood-stained banner of a genuine Christocracy. We have not a Theology only, but a Christology, on which, and in which, concentrate all the glories of the absolute Jehovah Elohim. Every attribute of Divinity concentrates in it, and radiates from it, culminating in Emmanuel, and in his ransomed heritage.

      But we must allude to the sectarisms and their infelicitous speculations, which so enervate the gospel and its life-giving powers and hallowing influences when cherished in good and honest hearts.

      The life-giving principle in the Christian Institution, is not faith in God absolute, but faith in the Lord Jesus--the Christ. Repentance is the first fruit of this faith. It has not God, as absolute JEHOVAH, for its object, but "God manifest in the flesh." According to Paul, the mystery or secret of godliness is--"God manifest in human flesh, justified" or sustained by the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, in all the fulness of the Lord Jehovah; waited upon by hosts of angels, announced to all nations, cordially received by multitudes of them, and gloriously translated into the heaven of heavens.

      His plenipotentiary ambassador is the Holy Spirit, who inspired the twelve apostles, stood by them and dwelt in them in all their ministrations, down to the last words of the beloved John; to whom, and [31] through whom, to the church and to the world, he gave prospectively the fortunes of his Kingdom in all coming time till his return.

      The plurality of personalities in the Theiotees, or Godhead, (a word but twice found in the Christian Scriptures--used only by Paul to the Romans, chap. i. 20, translated Godhead; and in the adjective form, Theios, three times--Acts xvii. 29; II. Pet. i. 3, 4--translated Divine twice, and Godhead once,) is clearly indicated by John, chap. v. 7. There are three Divine and heavenly witnesses of this transcendent fact "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit." And there are three monumental institutions in perpetual attestation of the sacrificial death, the burial, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ--the grandest official personage in the universe. For us, indeed, a child was born, a son, a dearly beloved. son, was given, on whose shoulders the government of the entire universe rests. His name, indeed, is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, (or the Father of the future age), the Prince of Peace--of the increase of his government and peace shall be no end. He shall rule upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom--to arrange and establish it with judgment and justice henceforth and forever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will do this."--Boothroyd and Bernard. From such a faith, repentance will follow as a necessary fruit; but from no repentance could such a faith as this germinate or follow. God will give grace, and he will give glory, each in its proper place--not glory first and grace afterward.

A. C. [32]      

      1 "Among all things."--Bernard.

      Alexander Campbell. "Repentance and Faith? Faith and Repentance?" The Millennial Harbinger 32
(January 1861): 14-18.


[MHA2 29-32]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)