This is the second book that I am reviewing for this blog. The first can be found by clicking this link: Book Review: What is a Healthy Church Member?
To be honest, I must say that I love the Puritans. I love the way they wrote, preached, thought, and everything in-between. Last May, I had the opportunity to buy a ton, and I do mean a ton, of Puritan books. So, you would think that almost a year later I would be through them all right? Wrong. Mostly my fault. However, I was able to read a couple of them. One such book was this one, The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson. Here is what the back cover has to say about the book:
A good case could be made out for believing that ‘repentance’ is one of the least used words in the Christian church today. In a world that will no tolerate the mention of sin, and in churches where it has been defined only in sociological terms, the biblical teaching on repentance has inevitably been ignored.
Knowing what repentance is, and actually repenting are essential to true Christianity. Jesus Christ himself said that if we do not repent, we will perish! It is vital, therefore, to read and study what Scripture has to say about this theme.
Few better guides have existed in this or any other area of spiritual experience than Thomas Watson. He was a master of both Scripture and the human heart, and wrote with a simplicity and directness that keeps his work fresh and powerful for the 21st Century.
Thomas Watson, minister of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook in the 17th Century, was one of the leading spiritual guides of his day. He was the author of A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes, and All Things for Good.
“It is a great duty incumbent upon Christians solemnly to repent and turn unto God.” With this phrase, Watson kicks off a powerful discourse on what repentance is, what repentance is not, the nature of true repentance, an exhortation to repent, the powerful motives to repent, reasons for speedy repentance, the comfort repentance brings, things standing in the way of repentance, and lastly some means for repentance: serious considerations and prudent comparison.
That is basically the outline of the whole book. So, let me briefly touch on these.
“To discover what true repentance is, I shall first show what it is not,”- Watson. One deceit of repentance is legal terror. What Watson means here is that there is guilt felt after sinning that leads to terror. The person who sins only feels guilty, but feeling guilty and terrified does not change the heart. Another deceit about repentance is the leaving of many sinful ways. Sin may be parted with, yet without repentance. He lists 3 ways this happens. First, a man may part with a sin only to keep other sins dear to him. Second, a man may forsake one sin to entertain another. Third, a man leaves a sin only because it does not interest him any longer. It must be noted that “true leaving of sin is when the acts of sin cease from the infusion of a principle of grace, as the air ceases to be dark from the infusion of light.”
The Nature of True Repentance:
“Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” Repentance consists of six ingredients: sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred for sin, and turning from sin. Each of these must be present in repentance.
Sight of sin: “Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for.”
Sorrow for Sin: An inward sorrow from the heart and for the root of sin, the heart! Godly sorrow is ingenuous. A sorrow for the offense rather than for the punishment. A person should grieve for sinning against that free grace which has pardoned him. Godly sorrow is trustful. It is mixed with faith not despair. Godly sorrow is a great sorrow. “Sorrow for sin should be so great as to swallow up all other sorrow… 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. Repay what you have wrought, either to God or to man. Godly sorrow is abiding. It is habitual.
Confession of Sin: It must be voluntary. It must be with resentment. It must be sincere. It must paralyze sin. It must be done by charging our nature, not another for our sin. Sin must be confessed with all its circumstances and aggravations. Confess sins against knowledge, grace, vows, experiences, judgments, and so on. In confession, we must so charge ourselves as to clear God. It is not God’s fault that we sin, for he is righteous. Confess sin with the purpose not to act them again.
Shame for Sin: Every sin makes us guilty. In every sin, there is much unthankfulness, which should be shameful to us. Sin makes us naked. Our sins have put Christ to shame. We sent him to the cross. Sin is folly.
Hatred for Sin: A man’s spirit must be set against sin. It must also be universal in respect of the faculties and of the object. Hatred of sin is against all forms of sin. Oppose sin in others too.
Turning from Sin: It must be a turning from sin with the heart. Turn from all sin. Turn from sin and then turn to God. Do not return to sin.
Exhortation to Repentance:
Repentance is necessary (Lk 13:5). It is necessary for all people (Acts 17:30). It is necessary for all sins.
Powerful Motives to Repentance:
Sorrow and melting of heart fits us for every holy duty. It subscribes to God’s will. Repentance yields mercy for the soul. It ushers in blessings great and small. It makes joy in heaven (Lk. 15:10). Repent, for the day of judgment is coming.
Exhortation to Speedy Repentance:
Now is the season of repentance, and everything is best done in its season. The sooner you repent the fewer sins you will have to answer for. The sooner we repent, the more glory we may bring to God. It is dangerous to put off repenting for sin.
The Comfort for the Penitent:
Your sins are pardoned if you repent. God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you. Conscience will now speak peace to you. You can go to God boldly in prayer.
Impediments to Repentance:
Being ignorant of your need to repent is an impediment. Presuming upon God’s mercy is an impediment. Taking pleasure in sin is an impediment. The fear of being corrected for your sin is an impediment to repentance. A love for the world is also an impediment to true repentance.
Means for Repentance:
Consider what sin is. It is a recession from God. It walks contrary to God. It is an “injury” to God for it violates his law. Consider the mercies of God. God has been holding you up while you are slipping. Look at the blessings of God in your life! Determine to leave sin. Labor for faith. Faith breeds union with Christ. Conform to His image by fighting sin and pursuing righteousness in faith.
Overall, this is probably the most helpful book, other than the Bible, to help the Christian fight sin. True repentance is something that will not come easy. The whole Christian walk is one of labor and difficulty, but God will carry you through it all. A recognition of sin and what it does should lead a person to their knees before God to repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).