THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 87. What is repentance unto life?

ANSWER: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.


Q. 1. Why is the repentance, described in the answer called repentance unto life? Acts 11:18.

A. Because being a saving grace, it is inseparably connected with salvation, of which it is a part; and likewise to distinguish it from the "sorrow of the world," which "worketh death," 2 Cor. 7:10.

Q. 2. What is meant by the sorrow of the world working death?

A. The meaning is, that the legal sorrow, or horror of conscience, which the men of the world may have, from a dread of God, as a vindictive judge, ready to pour out the vials of his wrath and vengeance upon them, without any conception or belief of his mercy through Christ, is nothing else but the beginning of eternal death, and inconceivable misery; as was the case with Cain, Judas, and others.

Q. 3. Whether is repentance a transient action or an abiding principle?

A. It is an abiding principle, continually disposing the person to mourn for sin, and to turn from it all the days of his life, Isa. 38:14, 15.

Q. 4. Is repentance then to be considered as a thing that is over with the first days of one's religion?

A. No; but it is to be viewed as a permanent grace, an habitual frame of soul, inclining those who are privileged with it, to mourn daily for sin, till "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," in heaven, Rev. 21:4.

Q. 5. Who is the proper subject of repentance?

A. None but a sinner can be the subject capable of it: for just or righteous persons "need no repentance," Luke 15:7.

Q. 6. By whom is it wrought in the heart of a sinner?

A. "By the Spirit of God," Zech. 12:10."[103]

Q. 7. What is the instrument or means, by which the Spirit works this grace?

A. "The word of God," Acts, 11:18, 20, 21."[104]

Q. 8. What is the instrumentality of the word, in the hand of the Spirit, for working repentance?

A. In the word there is a display of the holiness of the divine nature and law, to which we ought to be conformed, Lev. 19:2; the word also discovers the necessity of union with Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness, as the foundation of true holiness, 1 Cor. 1:30; together with the inevitable ruin of all who go on in their trespasses, Psalm 68:21, and all these powerfully set home, by the Spirit, upon the conscience of the sinner.

Q. 9. In what consists a true sense of sin?[105]

A. In a "sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of sin, Ezek. 36:31,"[106] as contrary to the holiness of God, and, consequently, as highly offensive to him, Psalm 51:4.

Q. 10. How is a true sense of sin begotten in the soul?

A. By faith, or an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.

Q. 11. May there not be a sense of sin without this apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ?

A. Yes; but not a true sense; there may be a sense of sin as hurtful to the person, Gen. 4:13; but not as hateful to God, Hab. 1:13.

Q. 12. Why is the mercy of God said to be apprehended in Christ?

A. Because though God is essentially merciful, yet his mercy can have no egress towards any sinner of mankind, consistent with the honour of his justice and holiness, except through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, Ex. 34:6, 7.

Q. 13. What is it to APPREHEND the mercy of God in Christ?

A. It is the same with faith, or believing; it being by faith only, that we can lay hold upon his mercy, Psalm 13:5.

Q. 14. Is it from faith then that repentance flows, as the proper source of it?

A. Yes; for though faith and repentance are graces given together, and at once in respect of time; yet, in the order of nature, the acting of faith goes before the exercise of repentance, Zech. 12:10.

Q. 15. How does it appear, from scripture, that faith goes before repentance, in the order of nature?

A. The scriptures set forth the blessed object of faith, and the promises of rich grace, as powerful motives and inducements to repentance, Jer. 3:14; Joel 2:13; by which it is evident that it must be by a believing application of this glorious object, brought nigh in the promise, that a sinner is enabled to exercise true repentance, Acts 11:21 -- "And a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord."

Q. 16. How may the precedency of faith be evinced from the nature of repentance itself?

A. Repentance is turning from sin unto God; but there can be no turning to God, but through Christ, John 14:6; and no coming to Christ except by faith, chap. 6:35.

Q. 17. Is not repentance placed before faith in scripture, Mark 1:15 -- "Repent ye, and believe the gospel"?

A. The reason is, repentance being the end, and faith the means to that end; though the end be first in one's intention, yet the means are first in practice. Thus, in the text quoted, Christ commands sinners to repent; but then in order to their repenting, he commands them to believe the gospel, as the only way to do it.

Q. 18. How are we sure, that where repentance is named before faith in scripture, it is to be understood of repentance as the end, and of faith as the only way and means?

A. From Acts 20:21:"Testifying -- repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" where it is obvious, that if "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" is not the "means of repentance toward God," that fundamental truth would be destroyed, that "Christ is the only way to the Father," as he himself affirms, John 14:6 -- "No man cometh unto the Father but by me."

Q. 19. Is repentance to be separated from faith?

A. No; though these graces are to be distinguished, yet they are never to be separated from one another; being conjoined in the same promise, Zech. 12:10 -- "They shall LOOK upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall MOURN for him."

Q. 20. What is the evil of maintaining that none but true penitents have a warrant to embrace Christ by faith?

A. It sets sinners upon spinning repentance out of their own bowels, that they may fetch it with them, as a price in their hand to Christ, instead of coming to him by faith, to obtain it from him, as his gift, Acts 5:31.

Q. 21. What are the constituent parts, or ingredients, of true repentance, as flowing from faith?

A. Grief and hatred of sin; turning from it unto God; with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.

Q. 22. What is that grief which is an ingredient of true repentance?

A. It is a real, inward and abiding sorrow for sin, as offensive and dishonouring to a holy and gracious God, Job 40:4, 5.

Q. 23. What is that hatred of sin, which accompanies true repentance?

A. It is not only a loathing and abhorring of our sin, but of ourselves, on account of it, Isa. 6:5.

Q. 24. What are the qualities of this hatred?

A. It is universal, against all sin, Psalm 119:104; and irreconcilable to any known sin, Psalm 101:3.

Q. 25. What is the formal nature of evangelical repentance, or that which property completes it?

A. It is when a sinner doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God.

Q. 26. From what does the sinner turn in repentance?

A. He turns from sin; because a continuance in the practice of sin is inconsistent with repentance, Ezek. 14:6 -- "Repent and turn -- from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations."

Q. 27. How can penitents be said to turn from sin, when it remains in them, and they are daily offending while in this life?

A. Though they cannot shake themselves loose of the being and remains of sin, yet they turn from it, not only in their life and conversation, but likewise in their heart and affection.

Q. 28. How do they evidence that they turn from it in their life and conversation?

A. By resisting the outbreakings of sin, and all temptations to it, Psalm 18:23; by watching against all occasions of it, Prov. 4:14, 15; and endeavouring to "have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men," Acts 24:16.

Q. 29. How do they manifest their turning from sin in heart and affection?

A. In as much as though sin cleaves to them, they do not cleave to it, as formerly, but hate and loathe it, Psalm 119:104, 113.

Q. 30. To what does the sinner turn in repentance?

A. He turns unto God, Hos. 6:1 -- " Come, and let us return unto the Lord."

Q. 31. Do not many turn from one sin to another, and never to God?

A. Yes; "They return, but not to the Most High," Hos. 7:16.

Q. 32. What is the true cause of the sinner's turning to God?

A. It is his being turned unto God first, Jer. 31:19 -- "Surely, after that I was turned, I repented."

Q. 33. How is the sinner turned unto God first?

A. By the Spirit's working faith in him, whereby he receives and rests on Christ for salvation, of which remission of sin, and repentance, are a part, Acts 5:31.

Q. 34. In what does the sinner's turning to God consist?

A. It consists in his turning to the loving of God, as his Lord and Master, Isa. 26:13; and to his duty to him as such, Acts 9:6.

Q. 35. How does the returning sinner express his love to God, as his Lord and Master?

A. By a voluntary choice of him as his only Lord, Hos. 2:7; and by looking upon his service as the greatest freedom and happiness, Psalm 84:4.

Q. 36. How does he testify his returning to his duty to God, as his Lord and Master?

A. By a full purpose of, and endeavour after new obedience.

Q. 37. What is the nature of this purpose of duty to God, into which the true penitent enters?

A. It is a purpose or resolution to return to the practice of every known duty, Psalm 119:106, and to spirituality in it, Phil. 3:3.

Q. 38. Why called a FULL purpose?

A. Because it is not only a resolution of what a person will do hereafter, but a resolution which is immediately put in execution, without delay, Psalm 119:60 -- "I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments;" like the prodigal, who says, "I will arise, and go to my father;" and immediately he arose and went, Luke 15:18, 20.

Q. 39. What is the inseparable concomitant of this full purpose in all true penitents?

A. An endeavour after new obedience.

Q. 40. Why is a full purpose of new obedience connected with an endeavour after it?

A. Because purposes, without endeavours, are but like blossoms without fruit, which can never prove one to be a true penitent, Matt. 21:30.

Q. 41. Why called an endeavour after new obedience?

A. Because, though the penitent is sensible he cannot perform this kind of obedience in his own strength, yet he aims at it, and at no less than perfection in it, Phil. 3:14 -- "I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Q. 42. Why is the obedience which the true penitent purposes and endeavours after, called new obedience?

A. Because it is such an obedience as flows from a new principle, is influenced by new motives, performed in a new manner, and is aimed at a new end.

Q. 43. What is the new principle from which this obedience flows?

A. A principle of faith, Rom. 14:23, and a principle of love, John 14:15.

Q. 44. What are the new motives by which this new obedience is influenced?

A. The "grace of God," Tit. 2:11, 12; and the "love of Christ," 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.

Q. 45. What are the motives by which men, in a natural state, are influenced to duties?

A. The dictates of a natural conscience, Rom. 2:15; their own interest and reputation, Matt. 6:5, a mercenary hope of heaven, Micah 6:6, 7, or a slavish fear of hell, Isa. 33:14.

Q. 46. What is the new manner in which new obedience is performed?

A. It is performed in the strength of Christ, Phil. 4:13; or in a dependence on the furniture secured in the promise, 2 Cor. 12:9; it is done with delight, Isa. 64:5; and with the whole heart, Psalm 119:69.

Q. 47. What is the new end at which it aims?

A. The glory of God is the ultimate end of it, 1 Cor. 10:31.

Q. 48. What is the difference between legal and gospel repentance?

A. Legal repentance flows from a dread of God's wrath, Matt. 27:3-6; but gospel repentance from the faith of his mercy, Psalm 130:4; in legal repentance, the sinner is taken up mostly with the fatal consequences of sin, Isa. 49:9-12; in gospel repentance, he is chiefly affected with the evil nature of it, as contrary to the holy nature and law of God, Luke 15:21.

Q. 49. What are the motives that should produce repentance?

A. The command of God, Acts 17:30; the suffering of Christ, Zech. 12:10; and the certain danger of impenitency, Luke 13:5.

Q. 50. What are the evidences of true repentance?

A. The very same that are mentioned by the apostle, 2 Cor. 7:11 -- "For behold, the self-same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge?

Q. 51. What is that carefulness which is a mark of the true penitent?

A. It is carefulness about the one thing needful, that good part which shall not be taken away, Luke 10:42.

Q. 52. Upon what ground will the true penitent clear himself?

A. Only upon the ground of the surety-righteousness imputed to him, Isa. 45:24.

Q. 53. What is the principal object of his indignation?

A. It is sin, as striking immediately against God, Psalm 51:4, compared with Psalm 119:104.

Q. 54. What is that fear, which is an evidence of true repentance?

A. It is a filial and reverential fear of God, or a standing in awe to offend him, Gen. 39:9.

Q. 55. What is that vehement desire, with which a true penitent is privileged?

A. It is an earnest and ardent desire after conformity to God, and fellowship with him, Psalm 27:4.

Q. 56. What kind of zeal is it, that is evidential of gospel repentance?

A. It is zeal for the glory of God, and the interest of Christ in the world, Psalm 137:5, 6.

Q. 57. What is that revenge, which is competent to a true penitent?

A. It is Such a revenge against sin, as aims at its utter ruin and extirpation, Rom. 7:24.

Q. 58. In what respects is repentance necessary?

A. It is necessary in respect of the command of God, Acts 17:30, and as evidential of the reality of faith, of which it is the native fruit, and effect, Zech. 12:10.

Q. 59. May not this duty be delayed or put off for a while?

A. No; because of the uncertainty of time, Luke 12:19, 20, and of the continuance of the Spirit's striving, Gen. 6:3.

Q. 60. When should the Lord's people apply to him, for the exercise of this grace of repentance, in a more especial and particular manner?

A. After great falls, 2 Sam 12:13; when under severe trials, or deep affliction, 2 Sam. 15:26, 30; and when they are to ask of God some singular favour or mercy, Dan. 9:8, compared with verses 18, 19.

Q. 61. By what means may the lively exercise of repentance be attained?

A. By looking on it as the gift of Christ, Acts 5:31; and by viewing our sins as laid on him, who was pierced for them, Zech 12:10; together with searching and trying our ways, Lam. 3:40.


[103] Larger Catechism, Question 76.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Originally question 10 and so forth until end of section.

[106] Larger Catechism, Question 76.


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