In the second of the “Two Sermons” Howe discusses how we are to approach the command in the text “yield”: “Yield yourselves to God.” Romans 6:13. The second sermon contains two main elements: first a discussion of the manner in which we must yield ourselves; second, an explanation of why we must do so.
By “yielding”, Howe means a serious, repentant submission of oneself to God. This act of “yielding” must be done with full understanding and with the right affections. While not in specific view in Howe’s sermon, I am struck in the tone Howe’s call to repentance when contrasted with the “revival” meetings and “alter calls” I saw growing up.
There is no emotional manipulation; there is no “just come” (although there is a serious come because you are a sinner — there is no get good before you come element) on a whim. Howe is calling one to a deadly serious commitment. His tone is “count the cost and then come.”
He gives cautions and directions for the one who will come.
1 One must come in a manner of repentance: “very deep and serious repentance”. This is to be the form of coming whether one’s initial repentance or the repentance of a long lived believer. One must come with “self-accusing” — how different that is from the speech of our therapeutic age. Yes, Howe will give the most gracious and wooing call at the end of this second sermon. But he does not pass by the seriousness needed for true repentance.
We must repent of our acts, thoughts, affections. We must also repent of our delay:
How can you think of yielding yourselves now at length to God, without being deeply sensible of your having deferred it so long, and that you have not done it sooner; and how great the iniquity was of your former course, that you have all this while committed a continual robbery upon him that gave you breath?
John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, vol. 1 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 397.