The Sin-sick Soul and Repentance

This is a long post but it is worth the read…

J.C. Philpot on the sin sick soul: No one, as I before observed, knows anything spiritually and experimentally of soul sickness, until God the Spirit quickens him from a death in sin. Then for the first time a wound is made in his conscience by an arrow shot from the bow of the Almighty. Now spiritually, as well as naturally, when a man is groaning and languishing under a wound, will he not anxiously desire a surgeon to bind it up? Let a man meet with what is called an accident; let him fall from a ladder, or be run over by a carriage. Will not the bystanders gather together in a moment, and take him off to a hospital? And even the poor man himself, if he retain his senses, is glad to be taken thither as soon as possible. But what has made the labourer, who just before was standing careless upon the scaffold, now all pale and trembling upon a shutter, crying to be taken to the surgeon? Is it not the broken rib or fractured limb that in a moment has produced the change? So spiritually, there was a time when the vessel of mercy ridiculed spiritual things, cared for neither heaven nor hell, nor had one pang of concern about his immortal state; but the wound came, the bones were broken, distress of mind followed, and the soul pined and languished away, fearing the “second death.” But no sooner was this felt, than a Physician was wanted, one able and willing to heal. At first, perhaps, through ignorance, he looked out and sought after “physicians of no value,” running hither and thither for ease, and not seeking only to the Lord. But, sooner or later, being baffled in all his attempts to find relief from human help, he is brought to apply to “Jehovah that healeth thee” Ex 15:26; and finds there is “balm in Gilead,” and a “physician there.”

John Gill explains true (evangelical) and false (legal) repentance. The whole chapter is excellent.

False: Though some men have the means of repentance, yet grace not being given them of God they repent not; the word, unless attended with power, is ineffectual; the most severe judgments inflicted on men are insufficient, as the plagues on Pharaoh, whose heart was the worse and more hardened under them (Ex. 11:10), and though the children of Israel were smitten with famine, with the pestilence, and with the sword, yet they repented not, nor returned unto the Lord (Amos 4:6-11), so the fourth and fifth vials poured forth on men, which will scorch and fill them with pains and sores, instead of repenting of their deeds they will blaspheme the God of heaven and his name (Rev. 16:8-11).

True: The pardon of sin; for though this is not procured by tears of repentance, by humiliation for sin, and confession of it, but by the blood of Christ only; yet to those who repent of sin sincerely, and are truly humbled for it, a manifestation and application of pardoning grace and mercy is made; and these two, repentance and remission of sins, are joined together in the ministry of the word, to encourage repenting sinners to hope in Christ for the forgiveness of their sin, who as he gives the one gives also the other (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31), none that ever truly repented of sin and confessed it, but had his sins pardoned; such as forsake their sinful ways and turn to the Lord, he pardons and abundantly pardons; his justice to the blood and sacrifice of his Son, and his truth and faithfulness to his word and promises, leave no room to doubt of it (Isa. 55:7; 1 John 1:9).

True evangelical repentance, which is God’s gift, and a grant of his grace, is “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). It is not by repentance indeed by which men live spiritually, that is by faith in Christ; yet men begin to live spiritually when they are quickened by the Spirit of God, and have repentance from dead works given unto them; and though men by repentance do not procure eternal life, that is the free gift of God through Christ, yet true, special, spiritual, and evangelical repentance issues in eternal life, and is inseparably connected with it; though all impenitent sinners shall certainly perish, who by their hardness and impenitent hearts treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and righteous judgment of God; yet all that come to true repentance none of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life.

Evangelical repentance, the work of godly sorrow, is “repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10), it is not the cause of salvation; Christ is the captain, cause, and author of salvation; but the means through and by which God saves his people; as they are saved “through faith”, so through repentance, and through both as “the gift of God”, flowing from his sovereign grace (Eph. 2:8), as he “that believes” with the heart unto righteousness, so he that truly repents of sin “shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).

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