The Nature of True Repentance

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le generally are all at sea on this subject, as
though insisting that repentance is an arbitrary arrangement on the
part of God. I believe God has made human salvation as easy as the
almighty, infinite, mind could make it! But there is a necessity that
we “repent and turn to God” (Acts 26:20, KJV).

Since repentance is an indispensable condition of
salvation, let us glance at it for a moment and try to find out what
repentance really is. How full of confusion the world and the church
are on this subject!

Repentance is not merely conviction of sin. If it
were, what a different world we would have, for there are tens of
thousands on whose hearts God’s Spirit has done His office by
convincing them of sin. I cannot tell you the numbers of people who, in
our meetings, have grasped my hand and said, “Oh! What would I give to
feel as I once felt! There was a time 15, or 17, or 20 years ago when I
was so deeply convinced of sin that I could scarcely sleep or eat;
…but, instead of going on till I found peace, I got diverted, cooled
down, and now I feel as hard as a stone.” I am afraid there are tens of
thousands in this condition—once convinced of sin.

There are thousands of others who are convinced now. They
say, “Yes, it is true what the minister says. I know I ought to lay
down the weapons of my warfare against God.” They are convinced of sin,
but they go no further.

That is not repentance. They live this week as they did last. There is no response to the Spirit; they resist the Holy Ghost.

Neither is repentance mere sorrow for sin. I have
seen people weep bitterly and writhe and struggle, yet hug their idols,
and in vain you try to shake them from them. If Jesus Christ would only
have saved them with the idols, they would have had no objection at
all. If they could have got through the straight gate with this one
particular idol, they would have gone through long since; but to part
with that is another thing.

Such people will weep like your stubborn child when you
want him to do something he does not want to do. He will cry, and when
you apply the rod, he will cry harder, but he will not yield. When he
yields, he becomes a penitent; but until he does, he is merely a
convicted sinner.

When God applies the rod of His Spirit, the rod of His
providence, the rod of His Word, sinners will cry, and wince, and
whine, and make you believe they are praying and want to be saved, but
all the while they are holding their necks as stiff as iron. They will
not submit. The moment they submit they become true penitents and get

Neither is repentance a promise that you will forsake sin in the future.
If it were, there would be many penitents in our midst. There is
scarcely a poor drunkard that does not promise, in his own mind, or to
his poor wife, that he will forsake his cups—but he does not do it.

Then what is repentance? Repentance is simply renouncing
sin—turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.
This is giving up sin in your heart, in purpose, in intention, in
desire, resolving that you will give up every evil thing, and doing it

Of course, this involves sorrow, for how will any sane
man turn himself around from a given course into another if he does not
repent having taken that course? It implies, also, hatred of sin. He
hates the course he formerly took and turns around from it.

He is like the prodigal, when he sat in the swine-yard
among the husks and the filth, he fully resolved, and at last he acted.
He went, and that was the test of his penitence.

He might have sat resolving and promising till now, if he
had lived that long, and he would never have got the father’s kiss, the
father’s welcome, if he had not started; but he went. He left the
filth, the swine-yard, the husks—he trampled them under his feet; he
left the citizens of that country and gave up all his excuses and went
to his father honestly, and said, “I have sinned!” That is repentance.

Have you done that? Have you forsaken the accursed thing?
Have you cut off that particular thing the Holy Spirit has revealed to
you? You know what it is, and you will never get saved until you
renounce it.

Submission is the test of penitence. My child may be
willing to do a hundred and fifty other things, but if he is not
willing to submit on the one point of controversy, he is a rebel, and
remains one until he yields.

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