Have We Forgot About the Doctrine of Repentance?

Without doctrine, we are at risk of declaring all things right and doing what is right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25)

I’ve been reading a great piece entitled “The Doctrine of Repentance” by puritan preacher Thomas Watson (1620-1686). I recommend it to you to read and consider his arguments from Scripture. From section three, Reasons Which Enforce Repentance, Watson argues ten necessary reasons for God’s own people, who have a real work of grace, must offer up a daily sacrifice of repentance. Consider them in brief below, read the entire work (I highly recommend) here.

Repentance is an ongoing work. It is the “outlet of godly sorrow” and must not be stopped until death. Like many of the puritan writers, Watson employs a broad and rich vocabulary that will be best met with a dictionary. And, like many others, the imagery used in the language is helpful. Prepare yourself “with the candle of the Word into your hearts – and see if you can find no matter for repentance there.”

In short here are ten necessary reasons for God’s own people to repent, daily.

  • Repent of your rash censuring. Instead of praying for others, you are ready to pass a verdict upon them. It is true that the saints snail judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2)—but wait your time; remember the apostle’s caution in 1 Corinthians 4:5: “judge nothing before the time, wait until the Lord comes”.
  • Repent of your vain thoughts. These swarm in your minds as the flies did in Pharaoh’s court (Exod. 8:24). What bewilderings there are in the imagination! If Satan does not possess your bodies, he does your imaginations. “How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you?” (Jer. 4:14). A man may think himself into hell. O you saints, be humbled for this lightness in your head.
  • Repent of your vain fashions. It is strange that the garments which God has given to cover shame—should reveal pride! The godly are bid not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). People of the world are garish and mirthful in their dresses. It is in fashion nowadays—to go to hell. But whatever others do—yet let not Judah offend (Hos. 4:15). The apostle Paul has set down what outer garment Christians must wear: “modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9); and what undergarment: “be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5).
  • Repent of your decays in grace. “You have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). Christians, how often is it low water in your souls! How often does coldness of heart come upon you! Where are those flames of affection, those sweet meltings of spirit—which you once had? I fear they are melted away. Oh repent for leaving your first love!
  • Repent of your non-improvement of talents. Health is a talent; estate is a talent; wit and abilities are talents; and these God has entrusted you with, to improve for his glory. He has sent you into the world as a merchant sends his steward beyond the seas to trade for his advantage—but you have not done the good you might. Can you say, “Master, your talent has earned five more talents” (Luke 19:18)? O mourn at the burial of your talents! Let it grieve you that so much of your life has not been time lived but time lost; that you have filled up your golden hours more with froth than with devotion.
  • Repent of your forgetfulness of sacred vows. A vow is a binding one’s soul to God (Num. 30:2). Christians, have you not served for common uses after you have been the Lord’s by solemn dedication? Thus, by breach of vows, you have made a breach in your peace. Surely this calls for a fresh laver of tears.
  • Repent of your unanswerableness to blessings received. You have lived all your life upon free grace. You have been bemiracled with mercy. But where are your returns of love to God? The Athenians would have ungrateful people sued at law. Christians, may not God sue you at law—for your unthankfulness? “I will recover my wool and my flax” (Hos. 2:9); I will recover them by law.
  • Repent of your worldliness. By your profession you seem to resemble the birds of paradise—which soar aloft and live upon the dew of heaven. Yet as serpents you lick the dust! Baruch, a good man, was taxed with this: “do you seek great things for yourself?” (Jer. 45:5).
  • Repent of your divisions. These are a blot in your coat of armor, and make others stand aloof from true religion. Indeed, to separate from the wicked, resembles Christ, who was “separate from sinners” (Heb. 63 7:26). But for the godly to divide among themselves, and look askew one upon another—had we as many eyes as there are stars, they were few enough to weep for this! Divisions eclipse the church’s beauty and weaken her strength. God’s Spirit brought in cloven tongues among the saints (Acts 2:3)—but the devil has brought in cloven hearts. Surely this deserves a shower of tears!
  • Repent for the iniquity of your holy things. How often have the services of God’s worship been frozen with formality and soured with pride? There have been more of the peacock’s plumes—than the moans of the dove. It is sad that pious duties should be made a stage for vainglory to act upon. O Christians, there is such a thick crust upon your duties, that it is to be feared there is but little substance left in them for God to feed upon. Behold here repenting work, cut out for the best. And that which may make the tide of grief swell higher, is to think that the sins of God’s people do more provoke God, than do the sins of others (Deut. 32:19). The sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s side. The sins of the godly go to his heart! Peter’s sin, being against so much love, was most unkind, which made his cheeks to be furrowed with tears: “When he thought about it, he began to weep” (Mark 14:72).

I highly recommend reading “the Doctrine of Repentance” by Thomas Watson.

“Make hast to repent.”

One Response to Have We Forgot About the Doctrine of Repentance?
  1. theoldadam says:

    Thesis #1 (of the 95 Theses) was this;

    “The entire life of the Christian is one of repentance.”

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