I. In their very nature, faith and repentance are closely
united. One never exists without the other. "They shall look upon me whom
they have pierced"—there is faith; "and they shall mourn for him, as one
mourns for his only son"—there is repentance. Zech. 12:10. Jesus in his
preaching united these things: "Repent, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15.
So did his apostles. See Acts 20:21. In the Scriptures both faith and
repentance are required to salvation. Matt. 3:2; Acts 16:31. Repentance
essentially belongs to the religion of sinners. Without it there is no true
piety on earth. Luke 13:3, 5.
II. Many good writers call both faith and repentance
conditions of salvation. They do not mean that there is any merit in
either of these graces. They do not deserve God's favor. They are in no
sense the price we pay for life and mercy. But without them we would not be
saved; we could not please God. If the beggar would be nourished by the
bread offered him, he must take it and eat it. If a title to an estate is
offered to one, and he refuses to accept it, it is not his in fact or in
law. The thirsty soul must not only know that there is water, but he must
drink it, or his thirst will rage on.
III. True repentance is not a transient act of the mind,
nor a temporary emotion. It is a glorious habit of the soul. It implies a
fixed principle in the renewed mind. It is the hypocrite and self-deceiver
who repents and sins, and continues to sin and repent. Genuine repentance
produces a permanent change in men's characters.
IV. In Scripture much is said of repentance. It is
mentioned in that very ancient poem, the book of Job. There are as many as
seven penitential Psalms, namely, the 6th, 32d, 38th, 51st, 102d, 130th, and
143d. Indeed, some have thought that the 25th, 69th, and 86th, were also
penitential Psalms. It is very much spoken of by the prophets, by Christ, by
the evangelists and apostles.
V. When repentance is genuine, it is always the work of
God's Spirit, and comes to us through the mediation of Christ, who is placed
on the hill of Zion a Prince and a Savior to grant repentance and
forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31. When the Gentiles repented, it was by God's
mercy and grace. Acts 11:18. The weeping prophet says, "Turn me, and I shall
be turned: for you are the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I
repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh." Jer.
31:18, 19. In his repentance David felt so keenly his dependence on divine
grace, that he cried very earnestly, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me."
Psalm 51:11. On that occasion his first expression of hope was this: "In the
hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom." That is the best and last
hope of any sinner, that he shall ever do better than he has done.
VI. Two kinds of repentance are often spoken of, legal
and evangelical. In legal repentance the motives are chiefly drawn
from the law and the consequences of sin. In evangelical repentance,
they are drawn from the gospel and the nature of sin. The latter would turn
from sin, if there were no hell; the former would sin on, if there was no
fear of wrath. The goodness of God leads the latter to repentance; but the
former despises the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and
long-suffering. Romans 2:4.
VII. True repentance embraces these things:
1. A knowledge of sin. When Nathan convinced David
of his sin, he cried for mercy. Men will not repent of sins of which they
think themselves innocent.
2. Humility, deep and genuine abasement of soul
before God. The penitent says: "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you?"
"O God, you know my foolishness." Job 40:4; Psalm 69:5. True penitents "know
every man the plague of his own heart." 1 Kings 8:38.
3. Sincere and hearty confession of sin. "He who
covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them
shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13. "I said, I will confess my transgressions
unto the Lord; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." Psalm 32:5. Compare
Psalm 51:3; Jer. 3:13; 1 John 1:9.
4. Shame belongs to genuine repentance. So said
David: "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to
look up." Psalm 40:2. So Ezra: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up
my face to you." Ezra 9:6. Compare Ezek. 36:31, 32. Nor does the pious blush
cease when pardon comes. Far from it. Ezek. 16:63.
5. With shame is joined sorrow, ingenuous grief
for sin. "Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of."
2 Cor. 7:9, 10. To these are added,
6. Self-loathing, self-abhorrence. Job 42:6; Ezek.
6:9; 20:43. Of course one thus exercised also has,
7. Hatred of sin, sin in every form. Psalm 66:18;
97:10; 119:104, 128. All these exercises are accompanied with
8. Love of holiness—a delight in the law of God
after the inner man. Romans 7:22; Psalm 119:140. Such a great change leads
9. An amendment of life, a thorough reformation,
works meet for repentance. Matt. 3:8. "If I have done iniquity, I will do no
more." Job 34:32.
VIII. Such repentance has rich and abundant promises made
to it in all the Scriptures. It is called repentance unto life, because it
ends in eternal happiness. Acts 11:18. It is more than once connected with
the remission of sins. Mark 1:4; Acts 3:19. "He looks upon men, and if any
say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me
not, he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall
see the light. Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man." Job
33:27-29. "Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my
sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the
oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are
like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as
crimson, they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:16-18. "Thus says the high and
lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and
holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive
the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Indeed, the Scriptures declare that God is never better
pleased with anything he sees upon earth than he is with godly sorrow for
sin. "You desire not sacrifice, else would I give it: you delightest not in
burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a
contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16, 17. In our Lord's
great sermon on the mount the first thing he said was: "Blessed are the poor
in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The next thing he said was
like it: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." Matt.
IX. Men cannot be in too much earnest in seeking
repentance. Very tenderly does God call them to this work: "Let the wicked
forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return
unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will
abundantly pardon." And lest any should doubt the divine readiness to
forgive so flagrant sins, the Lord shows why we may expect remission,
adding: "For my thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah
55:7-9. "Truly God is long-suffering to us, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Pet. 3:9.
X. Very few men intend or expect to live and die without
repentance. The very thought of such an end would make them shudder. Why
will they defer repentance! Death is approaching. The Spirit is striving.
Christ is inviting. Hell threatens. The gates of heaven are open. "Behold,
now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."