Foote: The Necessity of Genuine Repentance

But there is one other lesson from this passage, on which I am especially desirous of fixing your attention, namely, the necessity of genuine repentance. Our Lord himself here says twice, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Consider, then, what is implied in repentance unto salvation; and seek to become possessed of it.

It implies, and indeed chiefly consists in, a change of mind. So the original word employed here exactly signifies. It mainly consists in an inward and radical change. It is true that Christian penitence corrects outward crimes; but then, it has that good effect chiefly by its having made a lodgement in the inner man, and having produced a decided revolution there. It traces the polluted streams to the fountain; it detects the origin of the evil in the disordered state of the soul, and it comes along with the discovery and the rectification of the blindness of the understanding, the perversion of the will, and the disaffection of the heart. It is plain that there may be some outward amendment, where there is no such inward change; that a regard to reputation, worldly interest, and various other inadequate considerations, may produce a restraint on actual habits of sin, where the heart is still hankering after them; that actions may be good, as to their letter and matter, but bad as to their spirit and motives; and that his acquaintances may be pleased, and look on a man as a reformed man, when God considers him as still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. Hence the Psalmist, in his desire after repentance, begins at the source, confessing that he was “shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin,” and applying for a thorough inward change, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Thus, though repentance has other characteristics, it is, when traced up to its first principles, essentially the same with the great saving change called regeneration, and conversion.

But more particularly, true repentance implies a conviction of sin—a conviction not merely of the fact of sin, but of the evil of sin—of its unreasonable, base, odious, and defiling nature—of its exceeding sinfulness. It implies grief on account of sin, and a hatred of it;—not merely in reference to its painful consequences (though that view of it is not to be excluded), but in reference to its own enormity. That man has obviously not truly repented of his profligate habits, who is sorry, only because they have ruined his health, or substance, or character, and who would have continued quite easy in his mind, if none of these disagreeable consequences had followed. So, in general, that is not true repentance, which is only a hatred and a dread of hell, and not a hatred and a dread of sinning—only a regret that a man has disregarded his own happiness, and not a regret that he has been guilty of the baseness and ingratitude of disregarding God. The true penitent says, “Against thee,” O Lord, “thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” It implies, too, actual reformation. Who would believe that man to be sincere, who, having injured a person, came repeatedly to express his sorrow, but always persevered in the same conduct? But the life of some people seems to be a perpetual struggle between conscience and vice, or carelessness—a perpetual alternation of a certain kind of repenting, and of actual sinning. Such repentance is spurious and useless. There is an inseparable connexion between true repentance and actual reformation. “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin.”—“Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

Foote, J. (1849). Lectures on the Gospel according to Luke (Second Edition, Vol. 2, pp. 445–447). Edinburgh; London: John Johnstone.

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