The Apostasy of the Enlightened, and the Impossibility of Their Repentance

Taken and adapted from, “Studies in the Scriptures”
Written by, Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

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“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”—Hebrews 6:4-6

This passage is one of the most solemn in the Hebrews’ Epistle, yea, to be met with anywhere in the New Testament.

Probably few regenerate souls have read it thoughtfully without being moved to fear and trembling. Careless professors have frequently been rendered uneasy in conscience as they have heard its awe-inspiring language. It speaks of a class of persons who had been highly privileged, who had been singularly favored, but who, so far from having improved their opportunities, had wretchedly perverted them; who had brought shame and reproach on the cause of Christ; and who were in such a hopeless condition that it was “impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Well does it become each one of us to lift up his heart to God earnestly, beseeching Him to prevent us making such a shipwreck of the faith…

The chief difficulty connected with our passage is to make sure of the class of persons who are there in view. Is the Holy Spirit here describing regenerated or unregenerated souls? The next thing is to ascertain what is meant by, “If they shall fall away.” The last, what is denoted by “It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Anticipating our exposition, we are fully assured that the “falling away” that is here spoken of signifies a deliberate, complete, and final repudiation of Christ—a sin for which there is no forgiveness…

…To prepare the way for our exposition of these verses, the contents of which have so sorely puzzled many, let us recall once more the condition of soul into which these Hebrew Christians had fallen. They had “become dull of hearing” (5:11), “unskillful in the word of righteousness” (5:13), unable to feed upon “strong meat” (5:14). This state was fraught with the most dangerous consequences. “The Hebrews had become lukewarm, negligent, and sluggish. The Gospel, once clearly seen and dearly loved by them, had become to them dull and vague; the persecutions and contempt of their countrymen a grievous burden, under which they groaned and under which they did not enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Darkness, doubt, gloom, indecision, and consequently a walk in which the power of Christ’s love was not manifest, characterized them. Now, if they continued in this state, what else could be the result but apostasy? Forgetfulness, if continued, must end in rejection, apathy in antipathy, unfaithfulness in infidelity.

“Such was their danger. And if they yielded to it, their state was hopeless. No other Gospel remains to be preached, no other power to rescue and raise them. They had heard and known the voice which saith, ‘Come unto me…and I will give you rest’ (Mat 11:28). They had professed to believe in the Lord Who died for sinners and to have chosen Him as their Savior and Master. And now they were forgetting and forsaking the Rock of their Salvation. If they deliberately and willfully continued in this state, they were in danger of final impenitence and hardness of heart.” — Adolf Saphir

“A clear and growing faith in heavenly things was needed to preserve Jewish Christians from relapse. To return to Judaism was to give up Christ, Who had left their house ‘desolate’ (Mat 23:38). It was to fall from grace and place themselves not only under the general curse of the Law, but that particular curse that had brought the guilt of Jesus’ blood on the reprobate and blinded nation of His murderers.” — Arthur Pridham

It should be pointed out, however, that it is just as easy and the attraction is just as real for a Gentile Christian to return to that world out of which the Lord has called him, as it was for a Jewish Christian to go back again to Judaism. And just in proportion as the Christian fails to walk with God daily, so does the world obtain power over his heart, mind, and life; and a continuance in worldliness is fraught with the most direful and fatal consequences…

Three things claim our careful attention in coming closer to our passage: The persons here spoken of, the sin they commit, the doom pronounced upon them. In considering the persons spoken of, it is of first importance to note that the Apostle does not say, “us who were once enlightened,” nor even “you”; instead, he says “those.” In sharp contrast from them, he says to the Hebrews, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you”…It is scarcely accurate to designate as “mere professors” those described in verses 4-5. They were a class who had enjoyed great privileges, beyond any such as now accompany the preaching of the Gospel. Those here portrayed are said to have had five advantages, which is in contrast [to] the six things enumerated in verses 1-2, which things belong to man in the flesh under Judaism…Yet were they not true Christians. This is evident from what is not said. Observe: they were not spoken of as God’s elect, as those for whom Christ died, as those who were born of the Spirit. They are not said to be justified, forgiven, and accepted in the Beloved. Nor is anything said of their faith, love, or obedience. Yet these are the very things that distinguish a real child of God.

First, they had been “enlightened.” The Sun of righteousness had shone with healing in His wings, and as Matthew 4:16 says, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Unlike the heathen, whom Christ in the days of His flesh visited not, those who came under the sound of His voice were wondrously and gloriously illumined.

The Greek word for “enlightened” here signifies “to give light or knowledge by teaching.” It is so rendered by the Septuagint in Judges 13:8; 2 Kings 12:2; 17:27. The Apostle Paul uses it for “to make manifest” or “bring to light” in 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 1:10. Satan blinds the minds of those who believe not, lest “the light of the gospel should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4), that is, give the knowledge of it. Thus, “enlightened” here means to be instructed in the doctrine of the Gospel, so as to have a clear apprehension of it. In the parallel passage in 10:26, the same people are said to have “received the knowledge of the truth” (cf. also 2 Peter 2:20-21). It is, however, only a natural knowledge of spiritual things, such as is acquired by outward hearing or reading, just as one may be enlightened by taking up the special study of one of the sciences. It falls far short of that spiritual enlightenment which transforms (2 Corinthians 3:18). An illustration of an unregenerate person being “enlightened,” as here, is found in the case of Balaam (Numbers 24:4).

Second, they had “tasted of the heavenly gift.” To “taste” is to have a personal experience of, in contrast from mere report. “Tasting does not include eating, much less digesting and turning into nourishment what is so tasted; for its nature being only thereby discerned, it may be refused, yea, though we like its relish and savor on some other consideration. The persons here described then are those who have to a certain degree understood and relished the revelation of mercy. Like the stony-ground hearers, they have received the Word with a short-lasting joy.” The “tasting” is in contrast from the “eating” of John 6:50–56.

Opinion is divided as to whether the “heavenly gift” refers to the Lord Jesus or the person of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is not possible for us to be dogmatic on the point. Really, the difference is without a distinction; for the Spirit is here to glorify Christ, as He came from the Father by Christ as His ascension “Gift” to His people. If the reference be to the Lord Jesus, John 3:16, 4:10, etc., would be pertinent references; if to the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38, 8:20, 10:45, 11:17. Personally, we rather incline to the latter. This Divine Gift is here said to be “heavenly” because it is from Heaven and leading to Heaven in contrast [with] Judaism (cf. Act 2:2; 1 Peter 1:12). Of this “Gift,” these apostates had “tasted” or had an experience of. Compare Matthew 27:34 where “tasting” is opposed to actual drinking. Those here in view had an acquaintance with the Gospel, as to gain such a measure of its blessedness as to greatly aggravate their sin and doom. An illustration of this is found in Matthew 13:20-21.

Third, they were “made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” First, it should be pointed out that the Greek word for “partakers” here is a different one from that used in Colossians 1:12 and 2 Peter 1:4, where real Christians are in view. The word here simply means “companions,” referring to what is external rather than internal. It is to be observed that this item is placed in the center of the five, and this because it describes the animating principle of the other four, which are all effects. These apostates had never been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6), still less were their bodies His “temples” (1 Corinthaians 6:19). Nor do we believe this verse teaches that the Holy Spirit had at any time wrought within them, otherwise Philippians 1:6 would be contradicted. It means that they had shared in the benefit of His supernatural operations and manifestations: “The place was shaken” (Acts 4:31) illustrates. We quote below from Dr. J. Brown:

“It is highly probable that the inspired writer refers primarily to the miraculous gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit by which the primitive dispensation of Christianity was administered. These gifts were by no means confined to those who were ‘transformed by the renewing of their minds.’ The words of our Lord in Matthew 7:22-23 and of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 seem to intimate that the possession of these unrenewed men was not very uncommon in that age. At any rate, they plainly show that their possession and an unregenerate state were by no means incompatible.”

Fourth, “And have tasted the good word of God.” “I understand by this expression the promise of God respecting the Messiah, the sum and substance of all. It deserves notice that this promise is by way of distinguished superiority, termed by Jeremiah ‘that good word’ (33:14). To ‘taste,’ then, this ‘good word of God,’ is to experience that God has been faithful to His promise—to enjoy, so far as an unconverted man can enjoy, the blessings and advantages that flow from that promise being fulfilled. To ‘taste the good word of God,’ seems just to enjoy the advantages of the new dispensation.” –John Brown. Further confirmation that the Apostle is here referring to that which these apostates had witnessed of the fulfillment of God’s promise is obtained by comparing Jeremiah 29:10: “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”

Observe how studiously the Apostle still keeps to the word taste, the better to enable us to identify them. They could not say with Jeremiah, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (15:16). “It is as though he said, I speak not of those who have received nourishment; but of such as have so far tasted it, as that they ought to have desired it as ‘sincere milk’ and grown thereby.”  A solemn example of one who merely “tasted” the good Word of God is found in Mark 6:20: “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”

Fifth, “And the powers of the world to come” or “age to come.” The reference here is to the new dispensation that was to be ushered in by Israel’s Messiah according to O. T. predictions. It corresponds with “these last days” of Hebrews 1:2 and is in contrast [with] the “time past” or Mosaic economy. Their Messiah was none other than the “mighty God” (Isa 9:6), and wondrous and glorious, stupendous and unique were His miraculous works. These “powers” of the new Age are mentioned in Hebrews 2:4…Of these mighty “powers” these apostates had “tasted” or had an experience of. They had been personal witnesses of the miracles of Christ and of the wonders that followed His ascension, when such glorious manifestations of the Spirit were given. Thus, they were “without excuse.” Convincing and conclusive evidence had been set before them, but there had been no answering faith in their hearts. A solemn example of this is found in John 11:47-48.

“If they shall fall away.” The Greek word here is very strong and emphatic, even stronger than the one used in Matthew 7:27, where it is said of the house built on the sand, “and great was the fall thereof.” It is a complete falling away, a total abandonment of Christianity that is here in view. It is a willful turning of the back on God’s revealed truth, an utter repudiation of the Gospel. It is making “shipwreck of the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). This terrible sin is not committed by a mere nominal professor, for he has nothing really to fall away from, save an empty name. The class here described are such as having had their minds enlightened, their consciences stirred, their affections moved to a considerable degree, and yet who were never brought from death unto life. Nor is it backsliding Christians who are in view. It is not simply “fall into sin,” this or that sin. The greatest “sin” that a regenerated man can possibly commit is the personal denial of Christ: Peter was guilty of this, yet was he “renewed again unto repentance.” It is the total renunciation of all the distinguishing truths and principles of Christianity, and this not secretly, but openly, which constitutes apostasy.

“If they shall fall away.” “This is scarcely a fair translation. It has been said that the Apostle did not here assert that such persons did or do ‘fall away’; but that if they did—a supposition which, however, could never be realized—then the consequence would be they could not be ‘renewed again unto repentance.’ The words literally rendered are ‘and have fallen away’ or ‘yet have fallen.’ The Apostle obviously intimates that such persons might and that such persons did ‘fall away.’ By ‘falling away,’ we are plainly to understand what is commonly called apostasy. This does not consist in an occasional falling into actual sin, however gross and aggravated; nor in the renunciation of some of the principles of Christianity, even though those should be of considerable importance; but in an open, total, determined renunciation of all the constituent principles of Christianity and a return to a false religion, such as that of unbelieving Jews or heathens, or to open infidelity and open godlessness.”

“It is impossible…if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” Four questions here call for answer. What is meant by “renewed unto repentance”? What is signified by “renewed again unto repentance”? Why is such an experience “impossible”? To whom is this “impossible”? Repentance signifies a change of mind: Matthew 21:29 and Romans 11:29 establish this. It is more than a mental act, the conscience also being active, leading to contrition and self-condemnation (Job 42:6). In the unregenerate, it is simply the workings of nature; in the children of God, it is wrought by the Holy Spirit. The latter is evangelical, being one of the things that “accompany salvation.” The former is not so, being the “sorrow of the world,” which “worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This kind of “repentance” or remorse receives most solemn exemplification in the case of Judas (Matthew 27:3, 5). Such was the repentance of these apostates…

But what is meant by “renewing unto repentance”? “To be ‘renewed’ is a figurative expression for denoting a change, a great change, and a change for the better. To be ‘renewed’ so as to change a person’s mind is expressive of an important and advantageous alteration of opinion, character, and service. And such an alteration the persons referred to had undergone at a former period. They were once in a state of ignorance respecting the doctrines and evidences of Christianity, and they had been ‘enlightened.’ They had once known not of the excellency and beauty of Christian truth, and they had been made to ‘taste of the heavenly gift.’ They once misunderstood the prophecies respecting the Messiah and were unaware of their fulfillment, and of course were strangers to that energetic influence that the N. T. revelation puts forth. They had been made to see that ‘good word’ was fulfilled and had been made partakers of the external privileges and been subjected to the peculiar energies of the new order of things. Their view, feelings, and circumstances were materially changed. How great the difference between an ignorant, bigoted Jew, and the person described in the preceding passage! He had become, as it were, a different man. He had not indeed become, in the sense of the Apostle, a ‘new creature.’ His mind had not been so changed as to believe in sincerity ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’; but still, a great and, so far as it went, a thorough change had taken place.”—John Brown

Now it is impossible to “renew again unto repentance” those who have totally abandoned the Christian revelation. Some things are “impossible” with respect unto the nature of God, as that He cannot lie or pardon sin without satisfaction to His justice. Other things that are possible to God’s nature are rendered “impossible” by His decrees or purpose (see 1 Samuel 15:28-29). Still other things are “possible” or “impossible” with respect to the rule or order of all things God has appointed. For example, there cannot be faith apart from hearing the Word (Romans 10:13–17). “When in things of duty God hath neither expressed command thereon, nor appointed means for the performance of them, they are to be looked upon then as impossible [as, for instance, there is no salvation apart from repentance, Luke 13:3 (A.W.Pink)] and then, with respect unto us, they are so absolutely and so to be esteemed. And this is the ‘impossibility’ here principally intended. It is a thing that God hath neither commanded us to endeavor, nor appointed means to attain it, nor promise to assist us in it. It is therefore that which we have no reason to look after, attempt, or expect, as being not possible by any law, rule, or constitution of God…

“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh.” This is brought in to show the aggravation of their awful crime and the impossibility of their being renewed again unto repentance. By renouncing their Christian profession, they declared Christ to be an Imposter. Thus, they were irreclaimable. To attempt any further reasoning with them would only be casting pearls before swine. With this verse should be carefully compared the parallel passage in 10:26-29. These apostates had “received the knowledge of the truth,” though not a saving knowledge of it. Afterward they sinned “willfully”: there was a deliberate and open disavowal of the truth. The nature of their particular sin is termed a “treading underfoot the Son of God (something which no real Christian ever does) and counting (esteeming) the blood of the covenant an unholy thing,” that is, looking upon the One Who hung on the Cross as a common criminal. For such, there “remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Their case is hopeless as far as man is concerned; and the writer believes, such are abandoned by God also.

“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” “They thus identify themselves with His crucifiers—they entertained and avowed sentiments that, were He on earth and in their power, would induce them to crucify Him. They exposed Him to infamy, made a public example of Him. They did more to dishonor Jesus Christ than His murderers did. They never professed to acknowledge His divine mission; but these apostates had made such a profession—they had made a kind of trial of Christianity and, after trial, had rejected it.”

Such a warning was needed and well-calculated to stir up the slothful Hebrews. Under the O. T. economy, by means of types and prophecies, they had obtained glimmerings of truth as to Christ, called “the word of the beginning of Christ.” Under those shadows and glimmerings they had been reared, not knowing their full import until they had been blessed with the full light of the Gospel, here called “perfection.” The danger to which they were exposed was that of receding from the ground where Christianity placed them and relaxing to Judaism. To do so meant to re-enter that House that Christ had left “desolate” (Matthew 23:38) and would be to join forces with His murderers, and thus “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh,” and by their apostasy “put him to an open (public) shame”…

Taking the passage as a whole, it needs to be remembered that all who had professed to receive the Gospel were not born of God: the Parable of the Sower shows that. Intelligence might be informed, conscience searched, natural affections stirred, and yet there be “no root” in them. All is not gold that glitters.

THE ATONEMENT: Why it means WE ARE NOT SUPERMAN

Taken and adapted from, The Necessity of the Atonement and the Consistency Between that and Free Grace, in Forgiveness.
Written by, Jonathan Edwards

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If we could have atoned, by any means, for our own sins…

…it must have been either by our repentance and reformation, or by enduring a punishment, less in degree or duration, than that which is threatened in the law as the wages of sin. No other way for us to atone for our own sins appears to be conceivable. But if we attend to the subject, we shall find that we can make no proper atonement in either of these ways.

We could not make atonement for our sins by repentance and reformation. Repentance and reformation are a mere return to our duty, which we ought never to have forsaken or intermitted. Suppose a soldier deserts the service into which he is enlisted,and at the most critical period not only forsakes his general and the cause of his country, but joins the enemy and exerts himself to his utmost in his cause, and in direct opposition to that of his country; yet after twelve months spent in this manner, he repents and returns to his duty and his former service: will this repentance and reformation atone for his desertion and rebellion? Will his repentance and return, without punishment, support the authority of the law against desertion and rebellion, and deter others from the like conduct equally as the punishment of the delinquent according to law? It cannot be pretended. Such a treatment of the soldier would express no indignation or displeasure of the general at the conduct of the soldier: it would by no means convince the army or the world, that it was a most heinous crime to desert and join the standard of the enemy.

Just so in the case under consideration: the language of forgiving sinners barely on their repentance is, that he who sins shall repent; that the curse of the law is repentance; that he who repents shall suffer, and that he deserves no further punishment. But this would be so far from an effectual tendency to discourage and restrain from sin, that it would greatly encourage to the commission and indulgence of it; as all that sinners would have to fear, on this supposition, would be not the wrath of God, not any thing terrible, but the greatest blessing to which any man in this life can attain, repentance. If this were the condition of forgiving sinners,not only no measures would be taken to support the divine law, but none to vindicate the character of God himself, or to shew that he acts a consistent part, and agreeably to his own law; or that he is a friend to virtue and an enemy to vice. On the other hand, he would rather appear as a friend to sin and vice, or indifferent concerning them.

What would you think of a prince who should make a law against murder, and should threaten it with a punishment properly severe; yet should declare that none who should be guilty of that crime or should repent, and should be punished? Or if he did not positively declare this, yet should in fact suffer all murderers who repented of their murders, to pass with impunity? Undoubtedly you would conclude that he was either a very weak or a very wicked prince; either that he was unable to protect his subjects, or that he had no real regard to their lives or safety, whether in their individual or collective capacity.

Neither could we make atonement by any suffering short of the full punishment of sin. Because the very idea of atonement is something done, which to the purpose of supporting the authority of the law, the dignity and consistency of divine government and conduct, is fully equivalent to the curse of the law, and on the ground of which, the sinner may be saved from that curse. But no sufferings endured by the sinner himself, short of the curse of the law,can be to these purposes equivalent to that curse; anymore than a less number or quantity can be found equal to a greater. Indeed a lessor degree or duration of suffering endured by Christ the Son of God, may, on account of the infinite dignity and glory of his person, be an equivalent to the curse of the law endured by the sinner: as it would be a far more striking demonstration of a king’s displeasure, to inflict, in an ignominious manner, on the body of his own son, forty stripes save one; than to punish some obscure subject with death.

But when the person is the same, it is absurd to suppose that a less degree or duration of pain can be equal to a greater, or can equally strike terror into the minds of spectators, and make them fear and no more do any such wickedness. Deut. 13:11. Besides; if a less degree or duration of punishment, inflicted on the sinner, would answer all the purposes of supporting the authority of the divine law, etc., equally as that punishment which is threatened in the law; it follows that the punishment which is threatened in the law is too great, is unjust, is cruel and oppressive: which cannot be as long as God is a just being. Thus it clearly appears, that we could never have atoned for our own sins. If therefore atonement be made at all, it must be made by some other person: and since as we before argued, Christ the Son of God hath been appointed to this work, we may be sure, that it could be done by no other person of inferior dignity.

Which Comes First, Repentance or Justification?

Excerpts taken and adapted from, “Evangelical Repentance.”
Written by, John Colquhoun

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The gospel teaches needy sinners to come as sinners…

…to come empty-handed to the market of free grace for the remission of sins and all the other blessings of a free salvation (Isa 55:1; Rev 22:17; Acts 16:31). But he is far from coming empty-handed who brings the exercise of true repentance with him. If any say that faith, which he is understood to bring with him, is still something; it must be observed that, in the affair of justification, faith is not considered either as an inherent quality, or as a work, but only as the sinner’s receiving the gift of that surety-righteousness, by which he is justified. “Therefore it is of faith,” says our apostle, “that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Rom 4:16). Repentance is in this respect very different.

There is no spiritual grace which has more of the nature of giving, than true repentance, for it is a turning of the whole man from the love and practice of sin to the love and practice of holiness. There is nothing, therefore, to which a convinced sinner should be farther from allowing any place, among the means of his justification in the sight of God. The abettors of the opinion in question would do well to consider whether, instead of the covenant of grace, they are not taking up with a sort of covenant of works, the tenor of which is, “Do this: turn sincerely from all sin to God, though thou canst not turn perfectly, and thou shalt live in His favour.” This scheme is evidently of the same nature as that of the covenant of works; for in both, doing is the previous condition of acceptance with God. The difference between the doing in the one, and the doing in the other, as to the degree of obedience, makes no difference in the nature of the two schemes. The one is manifestly a covenant of works, as well as the other.

The blessed Gospel affords an ample warrant to any sinner of mankind who hears it, to receive the free offer which it makes of pardon in and through Christ, immediately upon hearing and understanding the import of it. But according to the false doctrine in question, no man can have a warrant for doing so, till he is satisfied that he has attained the exercise of true repentance. It is laid down by the apostle Paul, as an established maxim, that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23); that is, if we do any thing, whilst we doubt in our conscience whether it be agreeable to the will of God or not, it is sin. It is evident from the context that the apostle speaks there of the faith of God’s command. Suppose, then, that a convinced sinner believes the pardon of sin to be offered in the Gospel to none but the true penitent; and, suppose that he is doubting of himself, whether he be such a one or not; he cannot, in that case, without sin, embrace the offered pardon. To him it is forbidden fruit. Nay, before he so much as attempts to receive it, his conscience must be satisfied that his repentance has all the marks which distinguish a true and evangelical repentance from a false and legal repentance. And as it is impossible for a man to discern any thing spiritually good in himself, previous to his first acts of saving faith, he will never be able, according to the self-righteous opinion in question, to find his way to the offered pardon.

When I say that the first exercise of true repentance is after justification, I speak not of the order of time, but only of the order of nature; for no justified person is, or can be impenitent. For the exercise of repentance is either legal or evangelical. It is either under the influence of the law as a covenant of works, and the domination of a legal spirit; or under the influence of the covenant of grace, and of an evangelical spirit. It is readily granted that legal repentance is exercised before justification; but not that which is evangelical. The first exercise of evangelical repentance does not in order of nature go before, but comes after, justification or the judicial pardon of sin.

To pretend that we may exercise true repentance before the first acting of faith in Jesus Christ, is contrary to all those passages of Scripture which assert the necessity of faith in order to our living, standing, or walking in a spiritual manner; or in order to our performing any other duty in a manner acceptable to God (Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 1:24; 5:7; Heb 11:6; John 15:4,5). It is true, as already hinted, that repentance is, in some passages, mentioned before faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21). But things are not mentioned in Scripture, always according to the order of nature. For instance, it is not according to that order that, in 2 Peter 1:10, the calling of believers is put before their election; and that, in the apostolic benediction, 2 Corinthians 13:14, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is put before the love of the Father. So in the places in which repentance is mentioned before faith, what is intended is not to shew the natural order; but rather, first to propose repentance as the end, and then faith, as the instituted means of compassing that end.

I conclude, then, that as the first exercise of true repentance is after the first acting of faith in Christ, so it is after the pardon of sin in justification, which is received by faith only.

 

Evidences of Regeneration, and Evidences of the Doctrine of the Saint’s Perseverance.

Written by, William G. T. Shedd.
Taken from, “Sermons to the Spiritual Man.”
Edited for thought and space. 

i-hate-you-but-not-reallyThe duty of the Christian is, to assure himself upon scriptural grounds of his regeneration…

…and then to “work out his salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in him to will and to do.” The fact that he is a new creature, if established, is a proof that God is helping him in the struggle with indwelling sin; and when God helps, victory is sure in the end. Believers are commanded to “examine themselves,” not for the purpose of seeing whether they are perfectly sanctified, but “whether they be in the faith.” We may make our self-examination minister to our discouragement, and hindrance in the Christian race, if, instead of instituting it for the purpose of discovering whether we have a penitent spirit, and do cordially accept Christ as our righteousness, we enter upon it for the purpose of discovering if we are entirely free from corruption.

Remainders of the old fallen nature may exist in connection with true faith in Christ, and a new heart.

Paul bemoans himself, saying: “The good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not that I do.” But Paul was certain that he trusted in the blood of Christ for the remission of sin; that he was a new man in Christ Jesus, and influenced by totally different motives from those that actuated him when he persecuted the Church of Christ; that he loved Christ more than the whole universe, and “counted all things but dung that he might win Christ,” and become a perfect creature in him.

The first and chief thing, therefore, which the Christian should have in his eye, in all his self-examination, is, to determine upon scriptural grounds whether he is a renewed man. The evidences of regeneration are plain, and plainly stated. We have already hinted at them. A sense of guilt and cordial acceptance of Christ’s atonement, a desire to be justified by his precious blood, a peaceful confidence in God’s righteousness and method of justifying a sinner –this is the first and infallible token of a new heart, and a right spirit. Then, secondly, a weariness of sin, “a groaning, being burdened” under its lingering presence and remaining power, a growing desire to be entirely delivered from it, and a purer simpler hungering after holiness –these are the other evidences of regeneration.

Search yourselves to see whether these things be in you,

…and if you find them really, though it may be faintly and feebly, in your experience, do not be discouraged because along with them you discover remaining corruption. Remember that as a man struck with death is a dead man, so a soul that has been quickened into life is a living soul, even though the remnants of disease still hang about it and upon it. The “new man” in Christ Jesus will eventually slay stone-dead the “old man” of sin. The “strong man” has entered into the house, and bound the occupant hand and foot, and he will in time “spoil his house.”

The truth that God will carry forward his work in the renewed soul, and that the principle of piety implanted by Divine grace will develop to perfection, may indeed be abused by the false Christian; but this is no reason why the genuine child of God should not use it for his encouragement, and progress in this divine life.

One of the evidences of regeneration, however, if considered, will prevent all misuse of the doctrine of the saint’s perseverance.

A “groaning, being burdened” by the remaining presence of sin, is a sign of being a new creature. How can a man have this grief and sadness of heart at the sight of his indwelling corruption, and at the same time roll sin as a sweet morsel under the tongue? How shall one, whose great burden it is, that he is tied to the body of sin and death, proceed to make that burden heavier and heavier, by a life of ease, indifference and worldliness? “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?”

No, my brother, if you really groan, being burdened because you are still so worldly, so proud, so selfish, so sinful, you are a new creature.

You never did this in the days of your impenitency. You were “alive without the law,” then. You did not feel the heavy, weary, weight pressing down upon you. You did not say with the Psalmist, as you now do: “My sin is ever before me.” This very imperfection which you now painfully feel, is the very evidence that you are on the way to perfection; it is the sign that there is a new principle of holiness implanted in your soul, one of whose effects is this very consciousness of remaining corruption, and one of whose glorious results will be the final and eternal eradication of it, when the soul leaves the body and enters paradise.

The child of God therefore, should not be discouraged because he discovers indwelling sin, and imperfection, within himself. 

A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ ought never to be discouraged. He ought to be humble, watchful, nay, sometimes fearful, but never despondent, or despairing. David, Paul, and the Colossian church were imperfect. But they were new men in Christ Jesus, and they are now perfectly holy and happy in heaven.
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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  William Greenough Thayer Shedd (1820 –1894), was an American Presbyterian Theologian born in Acton, Massachusetts.

In 1835, Shedd enrolled at the University of Vermont, He graduated from University of Vermont in 1839 and taught school for one year, during which time he began to attend the Presbyterian Church. Being called to the ministry, Shedd entered Andover Theological Seminary in 1840 and studied under theologian Leonard Woods. He graduated in 1843.

After a short pastorate at Brandon, Vermont, he was successively professor of English literature at the University of Vermont (1845–1852), professor of sacred rhetoric in Auburn Theological Seminary (1852–1854), professor of church history in Andover Theological Seminary (1854–1862), and, after one year (1862–1863) as associate pastor of the Brick Church of New York City, of sacred literature (1863–1874) and of systematic theology (1874–1890) in Union Theological Seminary. He died in New York City on November 17, 1894.

Dr. Shedd was a high Calvinist and was one of the greatest systematic theologians of the American Presbyterian church. His great work was Dogmatic Theology (3 vols, 1888–1894). He served as editor of Coleridge’s Complete Works (7 vols, New York, 1894), and he also wrote: Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1856), in which he applied to history the doctrine of organic evolution. Discourses and Essays (1856) A Manual of Church History (2 vols, 1857), a translation of Guericke A History of Christian Doctrine (2 vols, 1863) Homiletics and Pastoral Theology (1867) Sermons to the Natural Man (1871) Theological Essays (1877) Literary Essays (1878) Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1879) Sermons to the Spiritual Man (1884) The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (1885)

 

Turning From Sin …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 9.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Taken from, “THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE.”
Published in 1668.

In this series we are looking at all the ingredients necessary for true repentance. In today’s thoughts, we are looking at “Turning From Sin.” Today, observe how Thomas Watson skillfully puts together the Biblical case.  Now, let us look again at the sixth of these respective ingredients. –MWP]

Turning-from-Sin_wide_t_nv1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

REMEMBER: If any one ingredient is left out, repentance loses its virtue.

Ingredient 6: Turning from Sin

The sixth ingredient in repentance is a turning from sin. Reformation is left last to bring up the rear of repentance. True repentance, like aquafortis [nitric acid], eats asunder the iron chain of sin. Therefore, weeping and turning are put together (Joel 2:12). After the cloud of sorrow has dropped in tears, the firmament of the soul is clearer: ‘Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations’ (Ezek. 14:6).

This turning from sin is called a forsaking of sin (Is. 55:7)

as a man forsakes the company of a thief or sorcerer. It is called ‘a putting of sin far away’ (job 11:14), Paul Put away the viper and shook it into the fire (Acts 28:5). Dying to sin is the life of repentance. The very day a Christian turns from sin he must enjoin himself a perpetual fast. The eye must fast from impure glances. The ear must fast from hearing slanders. The tongue must fast from oaths. The hands must fast from bribes. The feet must fast from the path of the harlot. And the soul must fast from the love of wickedness.

This turning from sin implies a notable change.

There is a change wrought in the heart. The flinty heart has become fleshly. Satan would have Christ prove his deity by turning stones into bread. Christ has wrought a far greater miracle in making stones become flesh. In repentance, Christ turns a heart of stone into flesh. There is a change wrought in the life. Turning from sin is so visible that others may discern it. Therefore it is called a change from darkness to light (Eph. 5:8). Paul, after he had seen the heavenly vision, was so turned that all men wondered at the change (Acts 9:21).

Repentance turned the jailer into a nurse and physician (Acts 16:33).

He took the apostles and washed their wounds and set meat before them. A ship is going eastward; there comes a wind which turns it westward. Likewise, a man was turning hell-ward before the contrary wind of the Spirit blew, turned his course, and caused him to sail heavenward. Chrysostom, speaking of the Ninevites’ repentance, said that if a stranger who had seen Nineveh’s excess had gone into the city after they repented, he would scarce have believed it was the same city because it was so metamorphosed and reformed. Such a visible change does repentance make in a person, as if another soul did lodge in the same body.

That the turning from sin be rightly qualified, these few things are requisite:

It must be a turning from sin with the heart. The heart is the primum vivens, the first thing that lives, and it must be the primum vertens, the first thing that turns. The heart is that which the devil strives hardest for. Never did he so strive for the body of Moses as he does for the heart of man; In religion the heart is all. If the heart be not turned froirn sin, it is no better than a lie: ‘her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly’ (Jer. 3:10), or as in the Hebrew, ‘in a lie’. Judah did make a show of reformation; she was not so grossly idolatrous as the ten tribes. Yet Judah was worse than Israel: she is called ‘treacherous’ Judah. She pretended to a reformation, but it was not in truth. Her heart was not for God: she turned not with the whole heart.

It is odious to make a show of turning from sin while the heart is yet in league with it, I have read of one of our Saxon kings who was baptized, who in the same church had one altar for the Christian religion and another for the heathen. God will have the whole heart turned from sin.

True repentance must have no reserves or inmates.

It must be a turning from all sin ‘Let the wicked forsake his way’ (Isa. 55:7). A real penitent turns out of the road of sin. Every sin is abandoned: as Jehu would have all the priests of Baal slain (2 Kings 10:24) — not one must escape — so a true convert seeks the destruction of every lust. He knows how dangerous it is to entertain any one sin. He that hides one rebel in his house is a traitor to the Crown, and he that indulges one sin is a traitorous hypocrite.

freed_from_sin-249x300It must be a turning from sin upon a spiritual ground.

A man may restrain the acts of sin, yet not turn from sin in a right manner. Acts of sin may be restrained out of fear or design, but a true penitent turns from sin out of a religious principle, namely, love to God. Even if sin did not bear such bitter fruit, if death did not grow on this tree, a gracious soul would forsake it out of love to God.

This is the most kindly turning from sin. When things are frozen and congealed, the best way to separate them is by fire. When men and their sins are congealed together, the best way to separate them is by the fire of love. Three men, asking one another what made them leave sin: one says, I think of the joys of heaven; another, I think of the torments of hell; but the third, I think of the love of God, and that makes me forsake it. How shall I offend the God of love?

It must be a turning from sin and a turning unto God. This is in the text, ‘that they should repent and turn to God’ (Acts 2 6.2 o). Turning from sin is like pulling the arrow out of the wound; turning to God is like pouring in the balm. We read in scripture of a repentance from dead works (Heb. 6:1), and a repentance toward God (Acts 20:21). Unsound hearts pretend to leave old sins, but they do not turn to God or embrace his service. It is not enough to forsake the devil’s quarters, but we must get under Christ’s banner and wear his colours. The repenting prodigal did not only leave his harlots, but he arose and went to his father. It was God’s complaint, ‘They return, but not to the most High’ (Hos. 7.16). In true repentance the heart points directly to God as the needle to the North Pole.

True turning from sin is such a turn that has has no return. ‘Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?’ (Hos. 14:8). Forsaking sin must be like forsaking one’s native soil, never more to return to it. Some have seemed to be converts and to have turned from sin, but they have returned to their sins again. This is a returning to folly (Ps. 85:8). It is a fearful sin, for it is against clear light.

It is to be supposed that he who did once leave his sin felt it bitter in the pangs of conscience. Yet he returned to it again; he therefore sins against the illuminations of the Spirit. Such a return to sin reproaches God: ‘What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me?’ (Jer. 2:5).

He that returns to sin by implication charges God with some evil. If a man puts away his wife, it implies he knows some fault by her. To leave God and return to sin is tacitly to asperse the Deity. God, who ‘hateth putting away’ (Mat. 2:16), hates that he himself should be put away.

To return to sin gives the devil more power over a man that ever. When a man turns from sin, the devil seems to be cast out of him, but when he returns to sin, the devil enters into his house again and takes possession, and ‘the last state of that man is worse than the first’ (Matt. 12:45). When a prisoner has broken prison, and the jailer gets him again, he will lay stronger irons upon him. He who leaves off a course of sinning, as it were, breaks the devil’s prison, but if Satan takes him returning to sin, he will hold him faster and take fuller possession of him than ever.

Oh take heed of this!

A true turning from sin is a divorcing of  it, so that it will never to come near it any more. Whoever is thus turned from sin is a blessed person: ‘God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities’ (Acts 3:26).

Is turning from sin a necessary ingredient in repentance?

If so, then there is little repentance to be found. People are not turned from their sins; they are still the same as they were. They were proud, and so they are still. Like the beasts in Noah’s ark, they went into the ark unclean and came out unclean. Men comes to ordinances impure and go away impure. Though men have seen so many changes without, yet there is no change wrought within: ‘the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth’ (ha.9.13). How can they say they repent who do not turn? Are they washed in Jordan who still have their leprosy upon their forehead?

May not God say to the unreformed, as once to Ephraim, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols: l will leave him alone’(Hos. 4:17) Likewise, here is a man joined to his drunkenness and uncleanness, let him alone; let him go on in sin; but if there be either justice in heaven or vengeance in hell, he shall not go unpunished.

The conscience reproves those who are but half-turned.

And who are these? Such as turn in their judgment but not in their practice. They cannot but acknowledge that sin, has a bad aspect and influence and will weep for sin, yet they are so bewitched with it that they have no power to leave it. Their corruptions are stronger than their convictions. These are half-turned, ‘almost Christians’ (Acts 26:28). They are like Ephraim, who was a cake baked on one side and dough on the other (Hos. 7:8). They are but half-turned who turn only from gross sin but have no intrinsic work of grace. They do not prize Christ or love holiness.

It is with civil persons as with Jonah; he got a gourd to defend him from the heat of the sun, and thought that he was safe, but a worm presently arose and devoured the gourd. So men, when they are turned from gross sin, think their civility will be a gourd to defend them from the wrath of God, but at death there arises the worm of conscience, which smites this gourd, and then their hearts fail, and they begin to despair. They are but half-turned who turn from many sins but are unturned from some special sin. There is a harlot in the bosom they will not let go. As if a man should be cured of several diseases but has a cancer in his breast, which kills him.

It reproves those whose turning is as good as no turning…

…who expel one devil and welcome another. They turn from swearing to slandering, from profuseness to covetousness; such turning will turn men to hell.

Let us show ourselves penitents in turning from sin to God.

There are some persons I have little hope to prevail with. Let the trumpet of the word sound never so some flashes of hell-fire be thrown in their faces, yet they will have the other game at sin. These persons seem to be like the swine in the Gospel, carried down by the devil violently into the sea. They will rather damn than turn: they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. But if there be any candour or sobriety in us, if conscience be not cast into a deep sleep, let us listen to the voice of the charmer, and turn to God our supreme good.

How often does God call upon us to turn to him? He swears, ‘As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways’ (Ezek. 33.11). God would rather have our repenting tears than our blood.

Turning to God makes for our profit.

Our repentance is of no benefit to God, but to ourselves. If a man drinks of a fountain he benefits himself, not the fountain. If he beholds the light of the sun, he himself is refreshed by it, not the sun. If we turn from our sins to God, God is not advantaged by it. It is only we ourselves who reap the benefit. In this case self-love should prevail with us: ‘If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself (Prof. 9.12).

If we turn to God, he will turn to us.

He will turn his anger from us, and his face to us. It was David’s prayer, turn unto me, and have mercy upon me’ (Ps. 86.16). Our turning will make God turn: ‘Turn yo unto me, saith the Lord, and I will turn unto you’ (Zech. 1.31). He who was an enemy will turn to be our friend. If God turns to us, the angels are turned to us. We shall have their tutelage and guardianship (Ps. 91.11). If God turns to us, all things shall turn to our good, both mercies and afflictions; we shall taste honey at the end of the rod.

Thus,we have seen the several ingredients of repentance.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686

 

Elements and Characteristics of Confession …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 7.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Taken from, “THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE.”
Published in 1668.

images[In this series we are looking at all the ingredients necessary for true repentance. In today’s thoughts, we are looking at “True Confession.”  Today, observe how Thomas Watson uses scripture with both faith and imagination to bring home his points on Confession. Now, let us look at the third of these respective ingredients. –MWP]

1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

REMEMBER: If any one ingredient is left out, repentance loses its virtue.

Ingredient 3. CONFESSION of Sin

Sorrow is such a vehement passion—that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping, and at the tongue by confession. “The children of Israel stood and confessed their sins (Neh. 9:2). “I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence” (Hos. 5:15). This is a metaphor alluding to a mother who, when she is angry, goes away from the child and hides her face until the child acknowledges its fault and begs pardon.

Confession “a salve for a wounded soul.”

Confession is self-accusing: “I have sinned!” (2 Sam. 24:17). When we come before God, we must accuse ourselves. The truth is—that by this self-accusing we prevent Satan’s accusing. In our confessions we accuse ourselves of pride, infidelity, passion, so that when Satan, who is called “the accuser of the brethren”, shall lay these things to our charge, God will say, “They have accused themselves already; therefore, Satan, you have no suit; your accusations come too late.”

The humble sinner does more than accuse himself…

…he, as it were, sits in judgment and passes sentence upon himself. He confesses that he has deserved to be bound over to the wrath of God. Hear what the apostle Paul says: “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Cor. 11:31). But have not wicked men, like Judas and Saul, confessed sin? Yes! but theirs was not a true confession. That confession of sin may be right and genuine, these eight qualifications are requisite:

1. Confession must be VOLUNTARY.

It must come as water out of a spring—freely. The confession of the wicked is extorted, like the confession of a man upon a rack. When a spark of God’s wrath flies into their conscience, or they are in fear of death—then they will fall to their confessions! Balaam, when he saw the angel’s naked sword, could say, “I have sinned!” (Num. 22:34). But true confession drops from the lips—as myrrh from the tree, or honey from the comb—freely. “I have sinned against heaven, and before you” (Luke 15:18). The prodigal charged himself with sin, before his father charged him with it.

2. Confession must be with REMORSE.

The heart must deeply resent it. A natural man’s confessions run through him as water through a pipe. They do not affect him at all. But true confession leaves heart-wounding impressions on a man. David’s soul was burdened in the confession of his sins: “as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:4). It is one thing to confess sin—and another thing to feel sin’s wounds.

3. Confession must be SINCERE.

Our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin—but loves it; like a thief who confesses to stolen goods—yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips—but roll them as honey under their tongue. Augustine said that before his conversion he confessed sin and begged power against it—but his heart whispered within him, “not yet, Lord”. He really did not want to leave his sin. A good Christian is more honest. His heart keeps pace with his tongue. He is convinced of the sins he confesses, and abhors the sins he is convinced of.

4. In true confession a man PARTICULARIZES sin.

A wicked man acknowledges he is a sinner in general. He confesses sin by wholesale. A wicked man says, “Lord, I have sinned”—but does not know what the sin is; whereas a true convert acknowledges his particular sins. As it is with a wounded man, who comes to the surgeon and shows him all his wounds—here I was cut in the head, there I was shot in the arm; so a mournful sinner confesses the various sins of his soul. Israel drew up a particular charge against themselves: “we have served Baal” (Judg. 10:10). The prophet recites the very sin which brought a curse with it: “Neither have we hearkened unto your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name” (Dan. 9:6). By a diligent inspection into our hearts, we may find some particular sin indulged—point to that sin with a repentant tear!

5. A true penitent confesses sin in the FOUNTAIN.

He acknowledges the pollution of his nature. The sin of our nature is not only a privation of good—but an infusion of evil. It is like rust to iron or stain to scarlet. David acknowledges his birth-sin: “I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). We are ready to charge many of our sins to Satan’s temptations—but this sin of our nature is wholly from ourselves; we cannot shift it off to Satan. We have a root within, which bears gall and wormwood (Deut. 29:18). Our nature is an abyss and seed of all sin, from whence come those evils which infest the world. It is this depravity of nature which poisons our holy things; it is this which brings on God’s judgments. Oh confess sin in the fountain!

6. Sin is to be confessed with all its circumstances and AGGRAVATIONS.

Those sins which are committed under the gospel horizon, are aggravated sins. Confess sins against knowledge, against grace, against vows, against experiences, against judgments. “The wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest of them. For all this they sinned still” (Psalm 78:31-2). Those are killing aggravations, which enhance our sins.

7. In confession, we must so charge ourselves as to clear God.

Should the Lord be severe in his providences and unsheath his bloody sword—yet we must acquit him and acknowledge he has done us no wrong. Nehemiah in his confessing of sin vindicates God’s righteousness: “Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved” (Neh. 9:33). Mauritius the emperor, when he saw his wife slain before his eyes by Phocas, cried out, “Righteous are you, O Lord, in all your ways”.

8. We must confess our sins with a resolution not to commit them over again.

Some run from the confessing of sin—to the committing of sin, like the Persians who have one day in the year when they kill serpents; and after that day allow them to swarm again. Likewise, many seem to kill their sins in their confessions, and afterwards let them grow as fast as ever. “Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). It is vain to confess, “We have done those things we ought not to have done”, and continue still in doing so. Pharaoh confessed he had sinned (Exod. 9:27)—but when the thunder ceased he fell to his sin again: “he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart” (Exod. 9:34).

Origen calls confession “the vomit of the soul whereby the conscience is eased of that burden which did lie upon it.”

Now, when we have vomited up sin by confession—we must not return to this vomit! What king will pardon that man who, after he has confessed his treason, practices new treason? Thus we see how confession must be qualified.
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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.

Counterfeits of Repentance: THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 3.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Taken from, “THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE.”
Published in 1668.

imagesTo discover what true repentance is, I shall first show what it is not…

There are several counterfeits of repentance, which might occasion that saying of Augustine that “repentance damns many”. He meant a false repentance; a person may delude himself with counterfeit repentance:

1. The first counterfeit of repentance, is LEGAL TERROR.

A man has gone on long in sin. At last God arrests him, shows him what desperate hazard he has run—and he is filled with anguish. But after a while, the tempest of conscience is blown over, and he is quiet. Then he concludes that he is a true penitent because he has felt some bitterness in sin. Do not be deceived! This is not true repentance! Both Ahab and Judas had great trouble of mind. It is one thing to be a terrified sinner—and another to be a repenting sinner. Sense of guilt is enough to breed terror in the conscience. Only infusion of divine grace, breeds true repentance. If pain and trouble were sufficient to repentance, then the damned in hell should be most penitent, for they are most in anguish. “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done!” Revelation 16:10-11. Repentance depends upon a change of heart. There may be terror—yet with no change of heart. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” Acts 26:20

2. Another counterfeit about repentance, is RESOLUTION AGAINST SIN.

A person may purpose and make vows—yet be no penitent. “You said, I will not transgress” (Jer. 2:20). Here was a good resolution. But see what follows: “but still you would not obey me. On every hill and under every green tree, you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols!” Notwithstanding her solemn engagements, they played fast and loose with God—and ran after their idols!

We see by experience what protestations against sin, a person will make when he is on his sick-bed, if God should recover him again. Yet if that person does recover—he is as bad as ever. He shows his old heart in a new temptation. Resolutions against sin may arise:

(1) From present extremity; not because sin is sinful—but because it is painful. This kind of resolution will vanish.

(2) From fear of future evil, an apprehension of death and hell. “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hell was following close behind him!” (Rev. 6:8). What will a sinner not do—what vows will he not make—when he knows he must die and stand before the God in judgment? Self-love raises a sickbed repentance. But if he recovers—the love of sin will prevail against it. Trust not to a such passionate resolution; it is raised in a storm—and will die in a calm!

3. The third counterfeit about repentance, is the leaving of many sinful ways.

It is a great matter, I confess, to leave sin. So dear is sin to a man—that he will rather part with a child than with a lust! “Shall I give the fruit of my body—for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7). Sin may be parted with—yet without repentance.

(1) A man may part with some sins and keep others. Herod reformed many things which were amiss—but could not leave his beloved Herodias.

(2) An old sin may be left in order to entertain a new sin—as you get rid an old servant to take another. This is to exchange a sin. Sin may be exchanged—and the heart remained unchanged. He who was a profligate in his youth, turns to be a miser in his old age. A slave is sold to a Jew; the Jew sells him to a Turk. Here the master is changed—but he is a slave still. So a man moves from one vice to another—but remains an unrepentant sinner still.

(3) A sin may be left not so much from strength of grace—as from reasons of prudence. A man sees that though such a sin is for his pleasure—yet it is not for his best interest. It will eclipse his credit, harm his health, or impair his estate. Therefore, for prudential reasons, he dismisses it. But true leaving of sin, is when the acts of sin cease from a principle of grace infused into the soul—as the air ceases to be dark from the infusion of light.

  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
— Hebrews 13:3

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686