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06 April, 2013

The Doctrine of Repentance - Part 11

By Thomas Watson, 1668

The Nature of true repentance

(4) Look upon sin in the CONSEQUENCE, and it will appear hateful. Sin reaches the BODY. It has exposed it to a variety of miseries. We come into the world with a cry—and go out with a groan! It made the Thracians weep on their children's birthday—to consider the calamities they were to undergo in the world. Sin is the Trojan horse out of which comes a whole army of troubles. I need not name them because almost everyone feels them. While we suck the honey—we are pricked with the briar. Sin puts a dreg in the wine of all our comforts. Sin digs our grave (Romans 5:12).

Sin reaches the SOUL. By sin we have lost the image of God, wherein did consist both our sanctity and our majesty. Adam in his pristine glory, was like a herald who has his king's coat of arms upon him. All reverence him because he carries the king's coat of arms—but pull this coat off, and no man regards him. Sin has done this disgrace to us. It has plucked off our coat of innocency. But that is not all. This virulent arrow of sin would strike yet deeper. It would forever separate us from the beautiful vision of God, in whose presence is fullness of joy. If sin be so foully sinful, it should stir up our implacable indignation against it. As Ammon's hatred of Tamar was greater than the love with which he had loved her (2 Sam. 13:15), so we should hate sin infinitely more, than ever we loved it. 

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. What though one could, with Niobe, weep himself into a stone—if he did not weep out sin? True repentance, like acid, eats asunder the iron chain of sin! Therefore weeping fro sin, and turning from sin—are put together, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning!" (Joel 2:12). After the cloud of sorrow has dropped in tears, the sky of the soul is clearer: "Repent, and turn 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 (Isaiah 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), as 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 unwholesome speech. 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 great 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 a heart of 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 different—that all men wondered at the change (Acts 9:21). Repentance changed the jailer into a nurse and a servant (Acts 16:33). He took the apostles and washed their wounds and set food 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 heaven-ward.

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 scarcely have believed it was the same city—because it was so transformed and reformed. Such a visible change does repentance make in a person—it is as if another soul lodged in the same body!

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

1. It must be a turning from sin with the HEART.
The heart is the first thing which lives—and it must be the first thing which 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 true religion—the heart is all. If the heart is not turned from sin—it is no better than a pretense: "her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense" (Jer. 3:10). 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 "unfaithful" Judah—that is, "treacherous". She pretended to a reformation—but it was not in truth. Her heart was not for God—she did not turn with the whole heart. It is odious to make a show of turning from sin—while the heart is yet in league with sin! 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 an idol. God will have the whole heart turned from sin. True repentance must have no reserves or idols.