You see, then, the nature of true repentance; you see how different it is from the flimsy restraints, the unbelieving and fruitless mental horrors, the outward mortifications and observances, the professed sorrow without real amendment, and the self-righteous feelings and doings which are substituted for the atonement of Christ, or for the justifying grace of faith—and, in short, from the various delusions which, under the name of penance, are imposed on superstitious Romanists, or which, under the name of repentance, pass current with too many among ourselves. It is not enough, however, to have learned the correct theory of repentance: you must yourselves be true penitents. Think again of the absolute necessity of this. Listen attentively to the words of Christ himself, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Inquire, I beseech you, whether you have repented or not. Consider whether you have undergone the change which repentance implies—whether the gospel, brought home to your souls by the power of the Holy Ghost, have humbled, and saved, and reformed you. However it may have been heretofore with you, in order that you may be stirred up to renewed exercises, or brought to the first exercise of repentance, carefully use the means which, under God, are calculated to make you truly contrite. Compare your character with the law of God; for, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Study deeply the wondrous display, at once of the evil of sin, and of the love of God, given in the atonement of his Son: and look to God for pardon and purification.
“God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent;” he therefore commandeth all of you to repent, and that whatever may be your state. You all need repentance. Those of you who have already repented and believed the gospel, still need to repent, as well as to believe. Repentance should be your daily work; for, what a mixture of imperfection is there in your whole character! Nay, so far is it from being the case that repentance is not a proper exercise for those who are in a state of favour with God, that, whatever convictions of a certain kind may be felt before (as we have already seen), repentance unto life does not, and cannot come but along with the reception of the divine favour; and it is after God has forgiven sinners, that their contrition is most deep and most ingenuous. “I will establish my covenant with thee: and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” Let, then, his reconciled people humble themselves greatly before him at this time.
But surely those of you who have never yet repented, are especially called on, by this passage, to repent and turn to the Lord. And, if you feel, and are ready to acknowledge that you ought to do so, what do you think will be the best time for it? Do you say, “When we are near the grave,” or, “When we are sick,” or, “A year hence,” or, “To-morrow?” Put not off this concern even till to-morrow. You may not live to see to-morrow: or, though you live long, you may still think that you have no leisure, and that there is no danger; and you may still feel altogether averse from serious consideration. Think if you can by any possibility provide for your safety, if your days be numbered while you are yet impenitent. Whither can you haste for security? to whom can you look for help? what swiftness can convey you beyond the reach of danger? what power can resist omnipotence? what stratagem can elude omniscience? what darkness can conceal you from God’s eye? what arguments can prove that you ought not to suffer? what multitudes, joining hand in hand, can cause you to pass unpunished? How can you but perish, if you do not repent? How can you escape, if you neglect the great salvation? It is only now that true repentance is possible: it is only now that is the accepted time, and now that is the day of salvation. Now God is willing to receive the worst of you into favour, if you come to him in the way of his appointment. Now, then, before your consciences, be entirely seared, and your evil habits be irrevocably confirmed, and your faculties be impaired, and stupor seize you, and terror freeze you, and your eyes close on the things of time, and your ears shut to the calls of mercy: now—before you retire in self-righteous complacency, or thoughtless indifference, or sullen despair, to lay you down and die: now—before you be prematurely plucked off the tree, like green fruit, or fall down into perdition by the inevitable progress of corruption, as rotten fruit drops to the ground by its own weight: now—before the hour come when you shall find no place for repentance, though you seek it carefully with tears: now—while the Father of mercies waits for you, and the Son of his love pleads with you, and the Spirit of grace strives with you, and the voice of the preacher calls to you, and your own bosoms, it may be, respond with at least some faint echo to the call, and so many favourable circumstances occur which may never occur again: now, suffer an adequate conviction of your guilt, misery, and danger, to come home to you, and welcome, at the same time, the message of salvation. “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death and make it gross darkness.” Now, not only form the purpose in God’s strength, but carry it into immediate execution. Let joy be occasioned in heaven among the angels of God by your present repentance. Let the purpose, too, so far accomplished, be yet ever present to your minds for its more full accomplishment. Leave it not behind you here, as if all were done. Carry it in your breasts to your homes. Bear it along with you through life. Let your hearts be always tender; and walk ever softly before the Lord. Thus, though you sow in tears, you shall reap in joy. The Lord will put off your sackcloth, and gird you with gladness; and the trials of your faith and the sorrows of your penitence, shall be forgotten in the fruition of heavenly sight, and in the triumphs of a blessed eternity.
Foote, J. (1849). Lectures on the Gospel according to Luke (Second Edition, Vol. 2, pp. 449–451). Edinburgh; London: John Johnstone.