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23 March, 2013

The Doctrine Of Repentance - Part 3

 By Thomas Watson, 1668
The NATURE of true repentance

Question 1. Suppose a person has wronged another—and the wronged man is dead. What should he do?

Answer: Let him restore his ill-gotten goods to that man's heirs and family. If none of them are living, let him restore to God—that is, let him put his unjust gain into God's treasury by relieving the poor.

Question 2. What if the party who did the wrong is dead?

Answer: Then those who are his heirs ought to make restitution. Mark what I say—if there are any who has an estate left to them, and he knows that the one who left his estate had defrauded others and died with that guilt upon him—then the heir who now possesses the estate, is bound to make restitution, otherwise he entails the curse of God upon his family.

Question 3. If a man has wronged another and is not able to restore, what should he do?
Answer: Let him deeply humble himself before God, promising to the wronged party full satisfaction, if the Lord makes him able, and God will accept the will for the deed.

6. Godly sorrow is ABIDING. It is not a few tears shed in a passion, which will serve the turn. Some will fall a-weeping at a sermon—but it is like an April shower, it is soon over—or like a vein opened and presently stopped again. True sorrow must be habitual. O Christian, the disease of your soul is chronic and frequently returns upon you; therefore you must be continually medicating yourself by repentance. This is "godly sorrow."
Application: How far are they from repentance, who never had any of this godly sorrow! Such are:

(1) Deluded Papists, who leave out the very soul of repentance, making all penitential work consist in external fasting, penance, pilgrimages, in which there is nothing of spiritual sorrow. They torture their bodies—but their hearts are not torn. What is this, but the carcass of repentance?

(2) Carnal Protestants, who are strangers to godly sorrow. They cannot endure a serious thought, nor do they trouble their heads about sin. One physician 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 put a drop of repentant tears in God's bottle, nor do they 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!

There is a two-fold sorrow: Firstly, there is a rational sorrow, which is an act of the soul whereby it has an animosity against sin, and chooses any torture rather than to admit sin. Secondly, there is a sensitive sorrow, which is expressed by many tears. The first of these is to be found in every child of God—but the second, which is 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. We usually weep for the loss of some great good; by sin we have lost the favor of God. If Micah did so weep for the loss of his idols, saying, "You've taken away all my gods, and I have nothing left!" (Judges 18:24). Then well may we weep for our sins, which have taken away the true God from us!

Some may ask the question—whether our repentance and sorrow must always be at the same level. Although repentance must be always kept alive in the soul—yet there are two special times when we must renew our repentance in an extraordinary manner:

(1) Before the receiving of the Lord's Supper. This spiritual Passover is to be eaten with bitter herbs. Now our eyes should be fresh broached with tears, and the stream of sorrow overflow. A repenting frame is a sacramental frame. A broken heart and a broken Christ do well agree. The more bitterness we taste in sin—the more sweetness we shall taste in Christ! When Jacob wept—he found God: "Jacob named the place Peniel—face of God—for I have seen God face to face!" (Gen. 32:30). The way to find Christ comfortably in the sacrament, is to go weeping there. Christ will say to a humble penitent, as to Thomas: "Put your hand into the wound in my side" (John 20:27), and let those bleeding wounds of mine heal you.

(2) Another time of extraordinary repentance is at the hour of death. This should be a weeping season. Now is our last work to be done for heaven, and our best wine of tearsshould be kept until such a time. We should repent now—that we have sinned so much—and wept so little; that God's bag of our sins has been so full—and his bottle of our repenting tears has been so empty (Job 14:17). We should repent now—that we repented no sooner; that the garrisons of our hearts held out so long against God before they were leveled by repentance. We should repent now—that we have loved Christ no more—that we have fetched no more virtue from him and brought no more glory to him. It should be our grief on our death-bed that our lives have had so many blanks and blots in them—that our duties have been so tainted with sin, that our obedience has been so imperfect—and we have gone so lame in the ways of God. When the soul is going out of the body—it should swim to heaven in a sea of tears!

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. Gregory Nazianzen calls 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: