To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10

David Dickson's

Truth's Victory Over Error

Chapter. XV.

Of Repentance.


"IS repentance unto life an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ?"

Yes; Zech. 12.10. Acts 11.18. Luke 24.47. Mark 1.15. Acts 20.21.

Well then, do not the Antinomians err, who maintain, That repentance is not an evangelical grace, and that it ought not to be preached by any minister of the gospel, seeing it leads us away from Christ, and is many ways hurtful and dangerous to us?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because God hath promised in the covenant of grace, that he will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, which shall cause Christians under the gospel to repent and mourn for their sins, Zech. 12.10.

2d, Because repentance is numbered among the saving graces, which shall be bestowed and conferred upon converts, under the gospel, and is sometimes put for the whole conversion of a man to God, Acts 11.15-18.

3d, Because the ministers of the gospel ought to instruct those with meekness, who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth, 2 Tim. 2.25.

4th, Because repentance from dead works, is among the principles of the doctrine of Christ; and is a foundation which ought to be laid, before the hearers of the gospel can go on unto perfection; I say, laid by the ministers of the gospel, Heb. 6.1.

5th, Because Christ himself appointed repentance, no less to be preached through the world, than remission of sins, Luke 24.47.

6th, Because Christ and his apostles preached repentance, no less than faith, Mark 1.15. Matt. 3.2. Nay, the whole sum of the gospel is placed in preaching faith and repentance, Acts 20.20,21.

Quest. II. "Doth a sinner, namely, by repentance, 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 grieve for, and hate his sins, as to turn from them all unto God?"

Yes; Ezek. 18.30. Ezek. 36.31. Isa. 30.22. Jer. 31.18,19. Joel 2.12,13. Amos 5.15. Psalm 119.6,59,106.

Well then, do not the Antinomians err, who maintain, We ought not by repentance, to hate our sins, to mourn for them, and turn from them to God, but only to believe, that Christ in our stead and for us hath repented?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because repentance, being a turning from our sins and evils ways, and turning to God; and Christ, being without sin, could not be capable to repent in our stead, 1 Kings 8.35. Heb. 7.26,27. Joel 2.12,13.

2d, Because they that repent, confess their sins, and are grieved for them, Ezra 10.1. Mark 14.72. They hate their sins, 2 Cor. 7.11. They are ashamed and confounded for them, Jer. 31.19.

3d, Because repentance is a sorrow after a godly manner, in the same very persons that repent, wrought by God, by the preaching of the word, 2 Cor. 7.9. Acts 11.18.

4th, Because repentance is called a renting of the heart, Joel 2.12. And they that repent, hate and loath themselves for their abominations, Ezek. 36.31. They are ashamed, and confounded, Jer. 31.19. They are grieved and pricked in their reins, Psalm 73.21.

5th, Because God promising repentance to the people of the Jews being converted to Christ, after their backsliding, says, I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son, Zech. 12.10. And he shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. But is any man so foolish as to affirm, that when a man doth mourn for his first-born, he believes only that another man hath mourned in his stead?

6th, Because faith is one thing, and repentance, specially so called, is another thing, Mark 1.15. Acts 20.21. Heb. 11.6. In which places, faith, and repentance are numbered two diverse things. And it is evident likewise, that faith is the cause of repentance, but nothing can be the cause of itself.

Do not likewise the Papists err, who maintain, That we are not by repentance converted from our sins to God; which they only make an inducement, or quality, fitting and disposing us for conversion, and meriting it, which, say they, consists in heart contrition, mouth confession, absolution, and satisfaction. By the first, they have heart sorrow for sin. By the second, they confess their sins to the priest. By the third, which can be no part of repentance, seeing it is not a thing done by the sinner, they are absolved by the priest from their sins. By the fourth, they make satisfaction for former sins, in performing some good work willingly undertaken, or enjoined by the priest after absolution; as fastings, chastising of their own bodies, pilgrimages, and hearing of many masses?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the word of God asserts no meritorious work in us, to go before our conversion. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, Titus 3.4-6.

2d, Because the only merit of Christ, is the meritorious cause of our conversion, Heb. 9.14. 1 Cor. 6.11.

3d, Because true repentance is the infallible antecedent, and fore-runner of life, 2 Cor. 7.10. Acts 11.18. and they who truly repent have all their sins pardoned, Acts 2.38, 3.19. Nay, repentance is a piece of the exercise of the life of grace here, and worketh unto life and salvation hereafter. But of no foregoing disposition, or qualification previous to repentance, can these forecited places of scripture be understood.

4th, Because repentance, and turning to God, are sometimes put for the same thing: and the prophets, while they study to excite and stir up the people to repentance, they signify it by the word conversion and turning to God, Acts 11.15,16,18,21. Joel 2.12,13. Ezek. 18.31,32.

5th, Because whatsoever goes before our conversion to God, it cannot be of faith, and therefore it must displease God, Rom. 8.8. 14.23. But true repentance is of faith, and God delighteth in it, Jer. 31.18,19,20.

6th, Because in very many places of scripture, repentance is described by a departing from evil, and a turning to God, Isa. 1.16,17. Isa. 55.7. Psalm 34.14. Hos. 6.1.

7th, Because heart contrition, mouth confession, and satisfaction for former sins, which they call penance, as they are explained by the Papists, may be found in hypocritical repentance, as is evident from the example of Judas and Ahab, Matt. 27.4,5,6. 1 Kings 21.27. There may be true evangelical repentance, without confession of the mouth made to a priest, and without penance. If the mouth and heart confess to God only, it is sufficient, unless there be a public scandal committed against the church of God. As for absolution, it can be no part of repentance, for it is not a thing done by a sinner, but, as I said, conferred by the priest.

Quest. III. "Is repentance to be rested on, as any satisfaction for sin, or cause of the pardon thereof?"

No; Ezek. 36.31,32. Ezek. 16.61,62,63.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, That repentance is a satisfaction for sins, (viz. an imperfect satisfaction) and that it deserves the mercy of God, and pardon of sin?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because Christ did satisfy the justice of God to the full: and it is blood only that purgeth us from all sin, Isa. 53.4,5,6,8,11. 1 John 1.7.

2d, Because to satisfy for sin, is a part of the priestly office of Christ, which cannot be communicated to any, Heb. 2.17. compared with Heb. 7.23,24.

3d, Because the Lord pardoneth our sins, not for our sake, but for his own sake, Isa. 43.25. Ezek. 36.25,31,32.

4th, Because pardon of sin is an act of the free favour of God, Hos. 14.2. Eph. 1.7. But if it be of the free favour of God, then it is no more of works, and repentance, as a satisfaction for sin, Rom. 11.6.

Quest. IV. "Is there any sin so great that it will bring damnation upon those who truly repent?"

No; Isa. 55.7. Rom. 8.1. Isa. 1.16,18.

Well then, do not the Novatians, Anabaptists, and Puritans, called Kathari, err, who maintain, That if any after baptism, and grace received, fall into grievous sins, offend willingly, there is no pardon remaining for them, even though they should repent? Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because God, under the law, appointed daily sacrifices, even for sins that were committed willingly, Num. 28.3. Lev. 6.1-8.

2d, Because God, in the covenant of grace hath promised, that he will not utterly take from them, with whom he is in covenant, his loving kindness; even though they have broken his statutes, and not kept his commandments, Psalm 89.30,31,32.

3d, Because God invites the Galatians and Corinthians, who were guilty of apostasy, and of very many gross scandals, to repentance, from the hope of pardon, Gal. 3.1. and 1.6. and 4.19. 1 Cor. 1.11,12. and 5.1,2,7,8. 2 Cor. 12.21.

4th, Because the apostle John says, even to such as have sinned willingly, after baptism, and grace received, If we truly repent and confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, 1 John 1.9. see also, chap. 2.12.

5th, Because David, after murder and adultery, and Peter, after denying of his master, obtained pardon when they repented, 2 Sam. 12.13. John 21.9. Therefore there remaineth pardon to such as, after baptism, and grace received, have fallen, and repented.

Quest. V. "Is every man bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof?"

Yes; Psalm 51.4,5,7,9. Psalm 32.5,6.

Well then, do not the Antinomians, Libertines, and Anabaptists err, who maintain, That those who are once justified, are not any more obliged to confess their sins, to be grieved for them, or to repent of them?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because whosoever doth call upon God the Father, in their prayers, they ought to seek daily remission of sin, Luke 11.2,3,4.

2d, Because God doth commend the serious confession of sins, and grief for them, in justification, and delighteth therein, Jer. 31.18,19,20. Luke 7.44. Isa. 66.2.

3d, Because pardon of those sins, which justified persons shall confess, is promised, Prov. 28.13. Psalm 32.5. 1 John 1.9.

4th, Because such are declared blessed that mourn, Mat. 5.4.

5th, Because in whom the Spirit dwelleth, it worketh in them, being greatly weighed with the burden of their sins, a continual groaning and sorrow for the same, Rom. 7.23,24. Rom. 8.26.

6th, Because true repentance, is a renewing of the image of God lost, at least greatly defaced, by the committing of sin, which in sanctification is not perfected, but only begun, and doth daily increase through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, Eph 4.19-24.

7th, From the example of justified persons, as David, Josiah, Peter, and others, who after justification confessed their sins, grieved for them, and begged pardon, 2 Sam. 12.13. Psalm 51. 2 Kings 22.19. Neh. 9. from the beginning, Mark 14.72.

Quest. VI. "Do those who confess their sins privately to God, who pray for the pardon thereof, and forsake them, obtain mercy?"

Yes; Prov. 28.13. 1 John 1.9.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, That besides confession of sins made to God, and forsaking of them, an auricular confession, an enumeration of all particular sins committed after baptism, must be made to our own proper priest, as a necessary means for obtaining remission of them?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the Psalmist says, Who can understand his errors, Psalm 19.12. and they being more than the hairs of our head, how can they be mumbled over to a priest? Psalm 40.12.

2d, Because Christ gave an absolution, without an enumeration of every sin, Matt. 9.2. Neither doth he demand an enumeration of all our several sins, tho' we be obliged to reckon, and rehearse all that we are able to remember, Luke 8.48. Luke 18.13,14.

3d, Because there is no command, or example in Scripture, for any man to whisper, and round his sins into the ear of a priest: And therefore, it not being of faith, it is sin, Rom. 14.23.

4th, Because whosoever turneth from his sin to God, and confesseth them, he findeth mercy presently, Ezek. 18.21,28. Prov. 28.13.

Quest. VII. "Ought he who scandalizeth his brother, or the church of Christ, to be willing, by a private or public confession, and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those who are offended?"

Yes; James 5.16. Luke 17.3,4. Josh 7.19. Psalm 51. 2 Cor. 2.8.

Well then, do not the Novatians err, and others too, who maintain, That those, who have offended their brother, or the church of Christ, are not obliged to declare their repentance to the parties offended; and that those who are offended, ought not to require any such thing, as private or public confession and acknowledgement, but presently they ought to be received, without doing any such thing?


And lastly, do not many in these times err, who jeer, and make a mock at all public confessions of sin?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because he that offendeth his brother, ought to return to him saying, I repent, Luke 17.3,4.

2d, Because Christ did even value so much a private man's offence, that he was not to be admitted to the altar with his gift, until he was reconciled to his brother, Matt. 5.24.

3d, Because the incestuous person was not to be received into the communion of the church of Corinth, before he had evidenced his repentance, by satisfying the church, 2 Cor. 2.6.

4th, Because public confession of sin glorifies God, Josh 7.19.

5th, Because those who sin, must be rebuked before all, that others also may fear, 1 Tim. 5.20.

Quest. VIII. "Are those, who are offended, bound to be reconciled to the offending party, by declaring his repentance, and ought they in love to receive him?

Yes; 2 Cor. 2.8.

Well then, do not the Novatians, and Anabaptists err, who maintain, That professors of religion, falling into public scandal, especially in denying the truth in the time of persecution, are no more to be received into the church, even though they repent?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because Christ says, If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him; and if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him, Luke 17.3,4.

2d, Because for a heathen and publican (that is, one casten out from the communion of the church) he only is to be esteemed, who neglecteth to hear the church, Matt. 18.17.

3d, Because such as have offended the church, after submission to the church's censure, ought to be comforted; the church ought to make their love known to them, and receive them again into communion, lest, haply, their grief and sorrow increasing, they be swallowed up, 2 Cor. 2.7,8.

4th, Because if a man be overtaken in a fault, they who are spiritual, ought to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering themselves, lest they also be tempted, Gal. 6.1.

5th, Because if men, repenting of their faults committed against their brethren and fellow Christians, be not received into the communion of the church, both they and the church are in hazard, lest Satan, by his devices, gain an advantage of them, 2 Cor. 2.10,11.

6th, Because Miriam, who for her sedition against Moses, was shut out of the camp seven days, was brought in again, Num. 12.15. So was the incestuous person, received into the communion of the church, 2 Cor. 2.8.