John the Baptist
Table of Contents
Of Repentance Unto Life
by A. A. Hodge
SECTION 1: REPENTANCE unto life is an evangelical grace,
(1) the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.(2)
SECTION 2: BY it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, (3) purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments. (4)
(1) Zech. 12:10; Acts 11:18.
(2) Luke 24:47; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21.
(3) Ezek. 18:30,31; 36:31; Isa. 30:22; Ps. 51:4; Jer. 31:18, 19; Joel 2:12,13; Amos 5:15; Ps. 119:128; 2 Cor. 7:11.
(4) Ps. 119:6,59,106; Luke 1:6; 2 Kings 23:25.
The Confession now approaches the important doctrine of repentance. Here we shall illuminate the basis and essence of repentance.
1. The grounds of repentance are
(1) A true sense of sin. That spiritual illumination and renewal of the affections which are effected in regeneration brings the believer to see and appreciate the holiness of God as revealed alike in the law and in the gospel (Rom. 3:20; Job 13:5,6); and in that light to see and feel the exceeding sinfulness of all sin, and the utter sinfulness of his own nature and conduct. This sense of sin corresponds precisely to the actual facts of the case, and the man apprehends himself to be just as God has always seen him to be. It includes
(a) Consciousness of guilt; i.e., exposure to merited punishment, as opposed to the justice of God. (Ps. 51:4,9.)
(b) Consciousness of pollution, as opposed to the holiness of God. (Ps. 51:5,7,10.) And
(c) Consciousness of helplessness. (Ps. 51:11; 109:21,22.)
The grounds of repentance are
(2) A bright apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. This is necessary in order to true repentance
(a) Because the awakened conscience echoes God's law, and can be appeased by no less a propitiation than that demanded by divine justice itself; and until this is realized in a believing application to the merits of Christ either indifference will stupefy or remorse will torment the soul.
(b) Because out of Christ God is "a consuming fire," and an inextinguishable dread of his wrath repels the soul. (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29.)
(c) A sense of the amazing goodness of God to us in the gift of his Son, and of our ungrateful requital of it, is the most powerful means of bringing the soul to genuine repentance for sin as committed against God. (Ps. 51:4.)
(d) This is proved by the examples of repentance recorded in Scripture (Ps. 51:1; 130:4), and by the universal experience of Christians in modern times.
2. As to its essence, true repentance consists
(1) In a sincere hatred of sin, and sorrow for our own sin (Ps. 119:128,136). Sin is seen to be exceeding sinful in the light of the divine holiness, of the law of God, and especially of the cross of Christ. The more we see of God in the face of Christ, the more we abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 13:5,6; Ezek. 36:31). "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of." (2 Cor. 7:10.) "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20); and hence "the law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." (Gal. 3:24.)
The essence of repentance consists
(2) In our actual turning from all sin unto God. This is that practical turning, or "conversion" from sin unto God, which is the instant and necessary consequence of regeneration. It is a voluntary forsaking of sin as evil and hateful, with sincere sorrow, humiliation, and confession; and a turning unto God as our reconciled Father, in the exercise of implicit faith in the merits and assisting grace of Christ. This is marked by the meaning of the Greek word used by the Holy Spirit to express the idea of repentance "a change of mind," including evidently a change or thought, feeling, and purpose, corresponding to our new character as the children of God. If this be sincere, it will of course lead to the element of practical repentance, namely,
(3) A sincere purpose of, and a persevering endeavor after, new obedience. (Acts 26:20.)
By these marks it may be seen that repentance unto life can only be exercised by a soul after, and in consequence of, its regeneration by the Holy Spirit. God regenerates; and we, in the exercise of the new gracious ability thus given, repent. Repentance and conversion, therefore, are terms applying often to the same gracious experience. The Scriptural usage of the two words differs in two respects
(1) Conversion is the more general term, including all the various experiences involved in our commencing the divine life. It especially emphasizes that experience as a turning unto God. Repentance is more specific, giving prominence to the work of the law upon the conscience, and especially emphasizing the experiences attending the new birth as a turning from sin.
(2) Conversion is generally used to designate only the first actings of the new nature at the commencement of a religious life, or the first steps of a return to God after a notable backsilding (Luke 22:32); while repentance is a daily experience of the Christian as long as the struggle with sin continues in his heart and life. (Ps. 19:12,13; Luke 9:23; Gal. 6:14; 5:24.)
There is a false repentance experienced before regeneration, and by those never regenerated, which arises simply from the common operations of the truth and the Spirit upon the natural conscience, exciting simply a sense of guilt and pollution, leading neither to the hatred of sin, nor to the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, nor to the practical turning from sin unto God. The genuineness of true repentance is proved (a) By its being conformed perfectly to the requirements and teachings of Scripture, and (b) By its fruits. If genuine, it infallibly springs from regeneration and leads to eternal life.
3. As thus defined, repentance is, like faith, an evangelical grace, given to us for Christ's sake, as well as a duty obligatory upon us. What is here said of repentance is equally true of every characteristic experience of the subject of regeneration and sanctification. Christ is the vine; we are the branches. But we see also free, accountable agents. Every Christian duty is therefore a grace; for without him we can do nothing. (John 15:5). And equally every Christian grace is a duty; because the grace is given to us to exercise, and it finds its true result and expression only in the duty.
That it is thus a gift of God is evident (1) From its nature. It involves true conviction of sin; a holy hatred of sin; faith in the Lord Jesus and his work, which faith is God's gift. (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 2:8. (2) It is directly affirmed in Scripture. Zech. 12:10; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25.)
4. That it should be diligently preached by every minister of the gospel is (1) Self evident from the essential nature of the duty. (2) Because such preaching was included in the commission Christ gave to the apostles. (Luke 24:47,48.) (3) Because of the example of the apostles. (Acts 20:21.)
SECTION 3: ALTHOUGH repentance be not to be rested in, as an, satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof,(5) which is the act of God's free grace in Christ;(6) yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.(7)
SECTION 4: AS there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation;(8) so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.(9)