[I have been looking for a long time for the writings of Harry Ironside. This morning, the Lord directed me to a site that had a wonderful treasure written by this beloved and great, classic Christian. It will be a lengthy article but well worth the effort! I will do it in installments. So, here goes ...]
Except Ye Repent
Fully convinced in my own mind that the doctrine of repentance is the missing note in many otherwise orthodox and fundamentally sound circles today, I have penned this volume out of a full heart. I hope and pray that God will be pleased to use it to awaken many of His servants to the importance of seeking so to present His truth as to being men to the only place where He can meet them in blessing. That place is the recognition of their own demerit and absolute unworthiness of His least mercies and a new conception of His saving power for all who come to Christ as lost sinners, resting alone upon His redemptive work for salvation, and depending upon the indwelling Holy Spirit to make them victorious over sin's power in daily life.
The pages have been written during a busy sumer, as I have gone from place to place trying to preach and teach the very truths herein emphasized. Most of the book was scribbled out in Pullman cars while speeding from one appointment to another. If there seems at times to be lack of continuity of thought, I hope the manifest defects of the treatise may not hinder the reader from getting the message I have endeavored to set forth as clearly as possible, under difficult circumstances.
I have not written for literary critics or for theological quibblers, but for earnest people who desire to know the will of God and to do it. And so I send forth this message, in dependence on Him who has said, "Cast thy bread upon the waters: and thou shalt find it after many days." If He be pleased to use it to arouse some at least to a deeper sense of the importance of reality in dealing with souls, I shall be grateful.
Harry A. Ironside
Chapter 1 - Repentance: Its Nature and Importance
More and more it becomes evident that ours is, as Carlyle expressed it, an "age of sham." Unreality and specious pretence abound in all departments of life. In the domestic, commercial, social, and ecclesiastical spheres hyposcrisy is not only openly condoned, but recognized as almost a necessity for advancement and success in attaining recognition among one's fellows.
Nor is this true only where heterodox religious views are held. Orthodoxy has its shallow dogmatists who are ready to battle savagely for sound doctrine, but who manage to ignore sound living with little or no apparent compunction of conscience.
God desires truth in the inward parts. The blessed man is still the one "in whose spirit there is no guile." It is forever true that "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." It can never be out of place to proclaim salvation by free, unmerited favor to all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. But it needs ever to be insisted on that the faith that justifies is not a mere intellectual process - not simply crediting certain historical facts or doctrinal statements; but it is a faith that springs from a divinely wrought conviction of sin which produces a repentance that is sincere and genuine.
Our Lord's solemn words, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," are as important today as when first uttered. No dispensational distinctions, important as these are in understanding and interpreting God's ways with man, can alter this truth.
No one was ever saved in any dispensation excepting by grace. Neither sacrificial observances, nor ritual service, nor works of law ever had any part in justifying the ungodly. Nor where any sinners ever saved by grace until they repented. Repentance is not opposed to grace; it is the recognition of the need of grace. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." "I came not," said our blessed Lord, "to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
One great trouble in this shallow age is that we have lost the meaning of words. We bandy them about until one can seldom be certain just how terms are being used. Two ministers were passing an open grocery and dairy store where, in three large baskets, eggs were displayed. On one basket was a sign reading "Fresh eggs, 24 cents a dozen." The second sign read, "Strictly fresh eggs, 29 cents a dozen." While a third sign read, "Guaranteed strictly fresh eggs, 34 cents a dozen." One of the pastors exclaimed in amazement, "What does that grocer understand "fresh" to mean?" It is thus with many Scriptural terms that to our forefathers had an unvarying meaning, but like debased coins have today lost their values.
Grace is God's unverited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. Repentance is the sinner's recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate and, thus, of his need of grace. Yet there are not wanting professed preachers of grace who, like the antinomians of old, decry the necessity of repentance lest it seem to invalidate the freedom of grace. As well might one object to a man's acknowledgment of illness when seeking help and healing from a physician, on the ground that all he needed was a doctor's prescription.
Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man's sinfulness and guilt, calling on "all men everywhere to repent," results in shallow conversions; and so we have a myriad of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that "faith without works is dead"; and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradition to justification by faith before God. We need to reread James 3 and let its serious message sink deep into our hearts, that it may control our lives. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." No man can truly believe in Christ, who does not first repent. Nor will his repentance end when he has saving faith, but the more he knows God as he goes on through the years, the deeper will that repentance become. A servant of Christ said: "I repented before I knew the meaning of the word. I have repented far more since than I did then."
Undoubtedly one great reason why some earnest Gospel preachers are almost afraid of, and generally ignore, the terms "repent" and "repentance" in their evangelizing is that they fear lest their hearers misunderstand these terms and think of them as implying something meritorious on the part of the sinner. But nothing could be wider of the mark. There is no saving merit in owning my true condition. There is no healing in acknowledging the nature of my illness. And repentance, as we have seen, is just this very thing.
But in order to clarify the subject, it may be well to observe carefully what repentance is NOT and then to notice briefly what it is.
(continued with # 2)