Genuine repentance, farther, cannot be without faith in the Redeemer. Without this, repentance can only be the sorrow of the world that worketh death. Natural convictions of sin may, and indeed must, arise before there is any true religion: but, in order to convictions of that kind being of any use, there must be a discovery of the way of pardon; and in order to their issuing in repentance unto salvation, there must be an actual apprehension, or laying hold of that pardon. Now, the gospel scheme clearly teaches that the divine mercy flows to sinners through the meritorious obedience and death of Christ, by faith. Hence, repentance is neither the ground of forgiveness, nor the means of obtaining it. They greatly err who speak, or think, of making atonement for their sins by repentance; or, of being forgiven for Christ’s sake through repentance. All the atonement which ever can be made for sin, is made already, and made by Jesus Christ: and he is “set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Repentance unto life, being a particular description of the saving change, comes in the way of the knowledge and belief of the truth: it neither goes before, nor tarries long behind, the reception of the gospel; but it comes in immediate connexion with it. The Christian preacher, therefore, testifies both “repentance towards God, and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, nothing but the believing view, the actual apprehension of the love of God in Christ, can excite feelings of genuine, holy, filial contrition. As long as God is looked on as an enemy, there can be no adequate feeling of the baseness of offending him; but when he is seen to be a friend and a reconciled Father, then sin, which is committed against him, is seen to be exceedingly vile and abominable. It is right that the law should be preached in all its terrors, that the tremendous consequences of sin should be dwelt on in all their bearings, and that remorse should be felt in all its bitterness: but these are only like the messenger of the wilderness preparing the way for the Messenger of the covenant; these are useful to alarm the conscience, but they cannot pacify, or purify it; these may sweep away the refuges of lies, but they cannot conduct to a place of safety; these may shake the heart, but they cannot soften it. Something more is necessary to turn into repentance unto life that first repentance, of which it is difficult to know how it may terminate. Something more is wanting to melt down the soul into true contrition, to effect a permanent and decided change on the mind itself, to draw off the affections from the love of sin, and to operate as a constant and sweetly constraining motive to outward reformation; and that is found in the gospel—that is felt in the grace of God which bringeth salvation—that is received in the reception of pardon—that is clearly seen in the believing looking unto Jesus, even Jesus crucified for our sins. According to Zechariah, it is in looking to Him whom they have pierced, that sinners mourn aright. This union of repentance with faith and love is finely illustrated in the case of the woman who was a sinner: “She brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at Jesus’ feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”—“And he said unto the woman, Thy sins are forgiven,”—“Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
To all this let there be added the consideration that true repentance is the gift of God. Nature cannot produce such fruit Conscience, if not utterly seared, may be stung with remorse; fear, the companion of guilt, may agitate the mind which still clings to its idols; and the determined dwelling of a man’s own thoughts on his state, or the faithful warnings of his monitor, may excite an apprehension of coming wrath, but it is only the Author of our nature that can renovate it; it is only the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost that can root out the love of sin, and implant the love of holiness. Speaking of Jesus who was crucified, Peter says (Acts 5:31), “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Let this be habitually remembered, so that when the duty of repentance is placed before us, we may also look on it as a grace, and when we are commanded to repent and turn ourselves from all our transgressions, we may betake ourselves to God in the prayer, “Turn thou us and we shall be turned, for thou art the Lord our God.”
Foote, J. (1849). Lectures on the Gospel according to Luke (Second Edition, Vol. 2, pp. 447–449). Edinburgh; London: John Johnstone.