The second “conclusion” or introductory point is “The believing sinner is the subject of gospel-repentance.”
First, only a sinner can repent, because repentance is a turning from sin. Thus, before the Fall, Adam could not repent. Repentance “is the work of a transgressor.”
Second, repentance is only the work of one who believes, who is seeking grace. To merely see one’s sin, to merely experience conviction is insufficient make for repentance. The sinner will repent only if he “see[s] a pardon procured for sin committed.”
Faith and unbelief thus stand as the basic components of one’s spiritual life toward God: “Faith must be the formal qualification of a gospel-penitent, as the very foundation and fountain of true repentance; unbelief is the very ground of impenitency, and lock of obduracy.” That last phrase is great, “lock of obduracy” a lock which cannot be moved or altered.
Faith permits a certain sort of understanding. When faith looks upon its proper object, the sight becomes an argument in favor of seeking the pardon: “Hence it is that the objects of faith become arguments, and the promises of grace persuasions, to repentance.” Faith argues for repentance.
Here he makes an interesting argument, “The approach of “the kingdom of God” is the only argument urged by John the Baptist, and our Saviour, to enforce repentance. (Matt. 3:2; 4:17.) The Gospels begin with Jesus and John the Baptist saying repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. The text does not record a different basis upon which one is to repent: God is here, repent.
When the cross is seen by faith, it shows the proof of the sight by repentance.
He then enters into the argument of the order of salvation: does faith or repentance come first?
In terms of cause and effect, faith must come before repentance. But in terms of our personal experience, the order is opposite: we repeat and then have the knowledge of our faith. “In order of sense and man’s feeling, repentance is indeed before faith; but, in divine method and the order of nature, faith is before repentance, as the fountain is before the stream.”
So faith makes plain to the sinner, his state of sin and need for pardon. Faith looks upon Christ. The sight of Christ by faith, draws out repentance because the sight of Christ provokes hope of pardon matched with the knowledge of sin.