Which Comes First, Repentance or Justification?

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

cropped-Evangelist-Pointing-Out-the-Wicket-Gate

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.

 

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

 

The Necessary Importance of Shame in… THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 9.

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

Ingredient 4. SHAME for Sin

120406-tdy-relationships.grid-6x2The fourth ingredient in repentance is shame: “that they may be ashamed of their iniquities” (Ezek. 43:10). Blushing is the color of virtue. When the heart has been made black with sin, grace makes the face red with blushing: “I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face” (Ezra 9:6). The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sinfulness, that he thought himself not worthy to be called a son any more (Luke 15:21). Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. If Christ’s blood were not at the sinner’s heart, there would not so much blood come in the face. There are nine considerations about sin which may cause shame:

Every sin makes us guilty…

…and guilt usually breeds shame. Adam never blushed in the time of innocency. While he kept the whiteness of the lily, he had not the blushing of the rose. But when he had deflowered his soul by sin—then he was ashamed. Sin has tainted our blood. We are guilty of high treason against the Crown of heaven. This may cause a holy modesty and blushing.

In every sin there is much unthankfulness…

…and that is a matter of shame. He who is upbraided with ingratitude will blush. We have sinned against God when he has given us no cause: “What iniquity have your fathers found in me?” (Jer. 2:5). Wherein has God wearied us, unless his mercies have wearied us? Oh the silver drops which have fallen on us! We have had the finest of the wheat; we have been fed with angels’ food. The golden oil of divine blessing has run down on us from the head of our heavenly Aaron. And to abuse the kindness of so good a God—how may this make us ashamed!

Julius Caesar took it unkindly at the hands of Brutus, on whom he had bestowed so many favors, when he came to stab him: “What, you, my son Brutus?” O ungrateful—to be the worse for mercy! One reports of the vulture, that it draws sickness from perfumes. To contract the disease of pride and luxury, from the perfume of God’s mercy—how unworthy is that! It is to requite evil for good, to kick against our feeder, “He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape. Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. He abandoned the God who made him and scorned the Rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:13-15). This is to make an arrow of God’s mercies—and shoot at him! This is to wound him with his own blessing! O horrid ingratitude! Will not this dye our faces a deep scarlet? Unthankfulness is a sin so great, that God himself stands amazed at it: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: I have nourished and brought up children—and they have rebelled against me!” (Isaiah 1:2).

Sin has made us naked…

mixburdons3…and that may breed shame. Sin has stripped us of our white linen of holiness. It has made us naked and deformed in God’s eye—which may cause blushing. When Hanun had abused David’s servants and cut off their garments so that their nakedness appeared, the text says, “the men were greatly ashamed” (2 Sam. 10:5).

Our sins have put Christ to shame…

…and should not we be ashamed? The Jews arrayed him in purple; they put a reed in his hand, spit in his face, and in his greatest agonies reviled him. Here was “the shame of the cross”. And that which aggravated the shame, was to consider the eminency of his person—as he was the Lamb of God. Did our sins put Christ to shame—and shall they not put us to shame? Did he wear the purple—and shall not our cheeks wear crimson? Who can behold the sun as it were blushing at Christ’s passion, and hiding itself in an eclipse—and his face not blush?

Many sins which we commit are by the special instigation of the devil

…and should not this cause shame? The devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ (John 13:2). He filled Ananias’ heart to lie (Acts 5:3). He often stirs up our passions (James 3:6). Now, as it is a shame to bring forth a child illegitimately, so too is it to bring forth such sins as may call the devil father. It is said that the virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)—but we often conceive by the power of Satan. When the heart conceives pride, lust, and malice—it is very often by the power of the devil. May not this make us ashamed to think that many of our sins are committed in copulation with the old serpent?

Sin turns men into beasts (2 Peter 2:12)

CWGMovie061020…and is not that matter for shame? Sinners are compared to foxes (Luke 13:32), to wolves (Matt. 7:15), to donkeys (Job 28 11:12), to swine (2 Pet. 2:22). A sinner is a swine with a man’s head. He who was once little less than the angels in dignity—has now become like the beasts. Grace in this life does not wholly obliterate this brutish temper. Agur, that good man, cried out, “Surely I am more brutish than any!” (Proverbs 30:2). But common sinners are in a manner wholly brutified; they do not act rationally, but are carried away by the violence of their lusts and passions. How may this make us ashamed, who are thus degenerated below our own species? Our sins have taken away that noble, holy spirit which once we had. The crown has fallen from our head. God’s image is defaced, reason is eclipsed, conscience stupified! We have more in us of the brute, than of the angel.

In every sin there is folly (Jer. 4:22).

A man will be ashamed of his folly. Is not he a fool who labors more for the bread which perishes—than for the bread of life! Is not he a fool who for a lust or a trifle—will lose heaven! They are like Tiberius, who for a drink of water forfeited his kingdom? Is not he a fool who, to safeguard his body, will injure his soul? As if one should let his head be cut, to save his shirt! Is not he a fool who will believe a temptation of Satan—before a promise of God? Is not he a fool who minds his recreation more than his salvation? How may this make men ashamed—to think that they inherit not land—but folly (Proverbs 14:18).

That which may make us blush

…is that the sins we commit are far worse than the sins of the heathen. We act against more light. To us have been committed the oracles of God. The sin committed by a Christian is worse than the same sin committed by a heathen, because the Christian sins against clearer conviction, which is like weight put into the scale, which makes it weigh heavier.

luciferOur sins are worse than the sins of the devils.

The fallen angels never sinned against Christ’s blood. Christ did not die for them. The medicine of his merit was never intended to heal them. But we have affronted his blood by unbelief. The devils never sinned against God’s patience. As soon as they apostatized, they were damned. God never waited for the angels—but we have spent upon the stock of God’s patience. He has pitied our weakness, borne with our rebelliousness. His Spirit has been repulsed—yet has still importuned us and will take no denial. Our conduct has been so provoking as to have tired not only the patience of a Job, but of all the angels. The devils never sinned against example. They were the first that sinned and were made the first example. We have seen the angels, those morning stars, fall from their glorious orb; we have seen the old world drowned, Sodom burned—yet have ventured upon sin. How desperate is that thief who robs in the very place where his fellow hangs in chains. And surely, if we have out-sinned the devils, it may well put us to the blush.

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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.

Sorrow, and the Willingness to Let Go of Sin …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 6.

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

man-alone-empty-room[In this series we are looking at all the ingredients necessary for true repentance. In todays thoughts, we are going a bit further in looking at both sorrow for sins and the practical aspects of how this sorrow works out.  Once again, notice how Thomas Watson demonstrates a rare depth to this discussion by bringing forth uniquely pointed admonition and compassion from scripture. Now, let us look again at the second 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.

. . .

Sorrow for sin must be as great as for any worldly loss.

‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn as for an only son’ (Lech. 12.10). Sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow. We must grieve more for offending God than for the loss of dear relations. ‘In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth’ (Isa. 22.12): this was for sin. But in the case of the burial of the dead we find God prohibiting tears and baldness (Jer. 22.10; 16.6), to intimate that sorrow for sin must exceed sorrow at the grave; and with good reason, for in the burial of the dead it is only a friend who departs, but in sin, God departs.

Sorrow for sin should be so great as to swallow up all other sorrow…

…as when the pain of the stone and gout meet, the pain of the stone swallows up the pain of the gout. We are to find as much bitterness in weeping for sin as ever we found sweetness in committing it. Surely David found more bitterness in repentance than ever he found comfort in Bathsheba.

Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight. The physic shows itself strong enough when it has purged out our diseases The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out.

Godly sorrow in some cases is joined with restitution

Whoever has wronged others in their estate by unjust fraudulent dealing ought in conscience to make them recompense. There is an express law for this: ‘he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed’ (Num. 5:7). Thus Zacchaeus made restitution: ‘if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold’ (Luke 19.8). Augustine said, ‘Without restitution, no remission’. And it was a speech of old Latimer, If ye restore not goods unjustly gotten, ye shall cough in hell.

Suppose a person has wronged another in his estate and the wronged man is dead, what should he do?

Let him restore his ill-gotten goods to that man’s heirs and successors. If none of them be living, let him restore to God, that is, let him put his unjust gain into God’s treasury by relieving the poor.

What if the party who did the wrong is dead?

Then they who are his heirs ought to make restitution. Mark what I say: if there be any who have estates left them, and they know that the parties who left their estates had defrauded others and died with that guilt upon them, then the heirs or executors who possess those estates are bound in conscience to make restitution, otherwise they entail the curse of God upon their family.

If a man has wronged another and is not able to restore, what should he do?

Let him deeply humble himself before God, promising to the wronged party full satisfaction if the Lord make him able, and God will accept the will for the deed.

It is not a few tears shed in a passion that will serve the turn. Some will fall a-weeping at a sermon, but it is like an April shower, soon over, or like a vein opened and presently stopped again. True sorrow must be habitual.

Carnal Protestants, are strangers to godly sorrow.

They cannot endure a serious thought, nor do they love to trouble their heads about sin. Paracelsus spoke of a frenzy some have which will make them die dancing. Likewise sinners spend their days in mirth; they fling away sorrow and go dancing to damnation. Some have lived many years, yet never know what a broken heart means. They weep and wring their hands as if they were undone when their estates are gone, but have no agony of soul for sin.

 But there is a sensitive sorrow, which is expressed by many tears; a sorrow running out at the eye, all have not. Yet it is very commendable to see a weeping penitent. Christ counts as great beauties those who are tender-eyed; and well may sin make us weep.

Thomas Watson, May 25, 1668

Christ, who died for men, who died for me,
I fall before thy feet, and cannot see
Aught else beside my grievous sins and thee.

How great my work of evil, thou dost know.
Thou who for me didst grieve and suffer so.
Thou who for me upon the cross didst go.

Whatever thing I see, or hear, or speak,
My sin is still before me; Lord most meek.
Thy strong and gracious help alone I seek.

That help can put my guilt forever by,
And make me strong when sin again is nigh;

Forgiving Savior, give it or I die!


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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