True Repentance: Special Mercy from God
"True repentance is a special mercy from God. He gives it. It comes from none other. It is impossible for poor fallen nature so far to recover herself by her own strength as truly to repent. The heart is wedded to its own ways and justifies its own sinful courses with incurable obstinacy, until divine grace makes the change. No motives to good are strong enough to overcome depravity in the natural heart of man. If ever we attain this grace, it must be through the great love of God to perishing men. . . .
. . . 'Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.' [Acts 11:18; II Timothy 2:25; Psalm 51:1-4; Joel 2:13; Luke 15:7, 10; Acts 2:37; Jeremiah 31:18-19; Luke 1:16-17; I Thessalonians 1:9; II Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 119:57-64; II Corinthians 7:10; Westminster Larger Catechism Q.76; Shorter Catechism Q.87]
True repentance is sorrow for sin, ending in the reformation of heart, thought and life. Mere regret is not repentance, neither is mere outward reformation. It is not an imitation of virtue, it is virtue itself . . .
He who truly repents is chiefly sorry for his sins; he whose repentance is spurious is chiefly concerned for their consequences. The former chiefly regrets that he has done evil, the latter that he has incurred evil. One sorely laments that he deserves punishment, the other that he must suffer punishment. One approves of the Law which condemns him; the other thinks he is hardly treated, and that the Law is rigorous. To the sincere penitent, sin appears exceeding sinful. To him who sorrows after a worldly sort, sin in some form appears pleasant. He regrets that it is forbidden. One says it is an evil and bitter thing to sin against God, even if no punishment followed; the other sees little evil in transgression if there were no painful consequences sure to follow. If there were no hell, the one would still wish to be delivered from sin; if there were no retribution, the other would sin with increased greediness. The true penitent is chiefly averse to sin as it is an offence against God. This embraces all sins of every description."
Dr. William S. Plumer (1802-1880), American Presbyterian Minister
From Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety, Sprinkle Publications
"The need for repentance is another fundamental postulate of the Christian faith, and it is also one of the truths that people most resent. Teaching about repentance utterly infuriates people today, as it did these rulers in Jerusalem. There is no difference whatsoever in this respect between the first and the twentieth centuries. The fact that the message of repentance is regarded as a very great insult is further proof of that fatal self-righteousness that is always the greatest hindrance to acceptance of the Gospel message."
Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), Pastor, Westminster Chapel, London