john calvin on repentance


For obviously God, renewing those he wills not to perish, shows the sign of his fatherly favor and, so to speak, draws them to himself with the rays of his calm and joyous countenance. 18. Remitted, namely, because guilt has been removed in the sacrament by which believers are regenerated. OUTWARD AND INWARD REPENTANCE b Now we can understand the nature of the fruits of repentance: c the duties of piety toward God, of charity toward men, and in the whole of life, holiness and purity. 38:2]. Indeed, we label "sin" that very depravity which begets in us desires of this sort. b Truly, they who are held by a real loathing of sin cannot do otherwise. For from "mortification" we infer that we are not conformed to the fear of God and do not learn the rudiments of piety, unless we are violently slain by the sword of the Spirit and brought to nought. 6:1, cf. In this way it pleases the Lord fully to restore whomsoever he adopts into the inheritance of life. Inasmuch as conversion begins with dread and hatred of sin, the apostle makes "the sorrow according to God" the cause of repentance [2 Cor. For there is nothing less reasonable than that God should forgive those sins in which we flatter ourselves, and which we hypocritically disguise lest he bring them to light. 58:6]. CONFESSION OF SIN BEFORE GOD AND BEFORE MEN e Nevertheless, I shall insert this point here: when the term repentance is applied to this external profession, it is improperly diverted from its true meaning, which I have set forth. Repentance is preached in the name of Christ when, through the teaching of the gospel, men hear that all their thoughts, all their inclinations, all their efforts, are corrupt and vicious. But this can be refuted without trouble. What is there said concerning the conversion of the entire heart to the Lord, and concerning the rending not of garments but of the heart, belongs properly to repentance. Accordingly, we must strive toward repentance itself, devote ourselves to it throughout life, and pursue it to the very end if we would abide in Christ. Therefore, believers, according to Isaiah, while they complain and grieve that they have been forsaken by God, set this as a sort of sign of reprobation, that their hearts have been hardened by him [ Isaiah 63:17]. What clearer testimony do we wish than what Paul exclaims in the seventh chapter of Romans? I am speaking concerning a public fast, for the life of the godly ought to be tempered with frugality and sobriety that throughout its course a sort of perpetual fasting may appear. And no wonder! And to move them thoroughly he warns them that it is with God that they have to deal,16 with whom shifts avail nothing, for He hates a double heart [cf. 3:2; 4:17]. For even though the life of man be replete with all the virtues, if it is not directed to the worship of God, it can indeed be praised by the world; but in heaven it will be sheer abomination, since the chief part of righteousness is to render to God his right and honor, of which he is impiously defrauded when we do not intend to subject ourselves to his control. Yet in other passages the Spirit has first condemned uncleanness in the very wellspring of the heart, and then proceeded to the external evidences that mark sincere repentance. Nor can we think of the flesh as completely destroyed unless we have wiped out whatever we have from ourselves. It should not seem absurd that I dare not determine whether they ought to be accounted causes or effects, for either is debatable. Furthermore, when he is touched by any sense of the judgment of God (for the one straightway follows the other) he then lies stricken and overthrown; humbled and cast down he trembles; he becomes discouraged and despairs. Nevertheless, in accordance with the apostles injunction the sinner ought always to beware lest, while he worries himself into dissatisfaction weighed down by excessive fear, he become faint [Hebrews 12:3]. First, it is necessary for the apostle to agree with his Master, who declares that every sin and blasphemy shall be forgivenbut the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is forgiven neither in this age nor in the age to come [ Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10]. It means, rather, the desire to live in a holy and devoted manner, a desire arising from rebirth; as if it were said that man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God. I will soon set before my readers eyes a table of this matter in a description of the life of the Christian. Another passage: If we sin willfully, he says, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no longer a sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, etc. We must then be troubled with an extraordinary disquiet, which both teaches us humility and renders us more cautious thereafter. And after his resurrection the apostles preached this: God raised Jesusto give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins [ Acts 5:30-31]. Just as children who are not froward, while they recognize and confess their errors, plead for pardon, and to obtain it, testify in whatever way they can that they have not at all abandoned that reverence which they owe their parents. Not at all. So long as you live, sin must needs be in your members. The children of God, they assert, restored to the state of innocence, now need not take care to bridle the lust of the flesh, but should rather follow the Spirit as their guide, under whose impulsion they can never go astray. Or, if you would have the matter summed up in fewer words, we teach that all human desires are evil, and charge them with sinnot in that they are natural, but because they are inordinate. Indeed, I am aware of the fact that the whole of conversion to God is understood under the term "repentance," and faith is not the least part of conversion; but in what sense this is so will very readily appear when its force and nature are explained. He was sent to bless the unworthy, but in order that every one may turn from his wickedness [ Acts 3:26; cf. Second, we are purged by his sanctification in such a way that we are besieged by many vices and much weakness so long as we are encumbered with our body. 12:13, 16]. Therefore these words are used interchangeably in the same sense: "Turn or return to the Lord," "repent," and "do penance" [Matt. Indeed, these prickings would not have sufficed against its dullness and blockishness had God not penetrated more deeply in unsheathing his rods. Who, in short, will not grant that guilt is involved wherever there is spiritual misery? Rom. An 'Establishment Orthodoxy' that Opposes Rival Orders is Inescapable. Follow AzQuotes on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Repentance has its foundation in the gospel, which faith embraces. That is, when a man is laid low by the consciousness of sin and stricken by the fear of God, and afterward looks to the goodness of Godto his mercy, grace, salvation, which is through Christhe raises himself up, he takes heart, he recovers courage, and as it were, returns from death to life. Vg.]. But it remains because it prompts the desires against which believers contend." For it is iniquitous that 'the flesh inordinately desires against the Spirit'" [Gal. Likewise, "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek judgment; help the oppressed."

For when anyone has been brought into a true knowledge of sin, he then begins truly to hate and abhor sin; then he is heartily displeased with himself, he confesses himself miserable and lost and wishes to be another man.

There is also another reason why fear of God is the beginning of repentance. The other they call "repentance of the gospel." Not that repentance, properly speaking, is the cause of salvation, but because it is already seen to be inseparable from faith and from Gods mercy, when, as Isaiah testifies, a redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Jacob who turn back from iniquity [ Isaiah 59:20]. No passage, however, better reveals the true character of repentance than Jer., ch. In order that believers may reach this goal, God assigns to them a race of repentance, which they are to run throughout their lives. On this matter Bernards admonition is also useful: Sorrow for sins is necessary if it be not unremitting. Every day we present the best quotes! As far as this pertains to the saints, it loses its dominion on earth and perishes in heaven." But even though they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished.

Now this is not to deny a place for growth; rather I say, the closer any man comes to the likeness of God, the more the image of God shines in him. Yet we must note that this condition is not so laid down as if our repentance were the basis of our deserving pardon, but rather, because the Lord has determined to have pity on men to the end that they may repent, he indicates in what direction men should proceed if they wish to obtain grace. Can true repentance exist without faith? 2. The passage in Book V is even clearer: "Blindness of heart is at once sin, punishment of sin, and the cause of sinsin because by it a man does not believe in God; punishment of sin because by it a proud heart is punished with due punishment; the cause of sin when something is committed through the error of the blind heart. For the Spirit dispenses a power whereby they may gain the upper hand and become victors in the struggle. 27:4]. To distinguish them by some mark, they called one "repentance of the law." a This thought, as it was the simplest of all, so has it seemed to me to agree best with the truth of Scripture. 8:7], the first step toward obeying his law is to deny our own nature. To be stirred by sudden emotions, to grasp in sense perception, to conceive in the mindare not these powers of the soul? Yet it is a popular philosophy among those who are blinded by the madness of lusts and have put off common sense. I am speaking of very many of the Anabaptists, especially those who marvelously exult in being considered spiritual; and of their companions, the Jesuits, and like dregs. Yet, when we refer the origin of repentance to faith we do not imagine some space of time during which it brings it to birth; but we mean to show that a man cannot apply himself seriously to repentance without knowing himself to belong to God. And Augustine does not always refrain from using the term "sin," as when he says: "Paul calls by the name 'sin,' the source from which all sins rise up into carnal desire. This fact indeed stands firm: wherever the fear of God flourishes, the Spirit has worked toward the salvation of man. It would be incredible that a man's mind should fall into such madness, if they did not openly and haughtily blab this dogma of theirs. For we are bidden to "love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our faculties" [Deut. Indeed, God declares that he wills the conversion of all, and he directs exhortations to all in common. Matthew 9:13]. To this also pertains the zeal that he joins directly to it, for it signifies an ardor by which we are aroused when those spurs are applied to us. Death to the Patriarchy? This obedience cannot stand except when the inordinate desires to which these men would slacken the reins have been tamed and subjugated. (Sins for which there is no repentance or pardon, 21-25). Now, both repentance and forgiveness of sinsthat is, newness of life and free reconciliationare conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith. First, Paul speaks there as a man reborn [Rom. When he causes some danger to appear, he announces that he is ready and, after a manner, armed for revenge. The thing is indeed monstrous! In believers sin has lost its dominion; but it still dwells in them. 7:10, cf. Accordingly, they must be reborn if they would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, he hardens and he thunders against the reprobate, whose impiety is unforgivable. What then? With this sort of vengeance the apostle threatens willful apostates who, while they fall away from faith in the gospel, mock God, scornfully despise his grace, profane and trample Christs blood [ Hebrews 10:29], yea, as much as it lies in their power, crucify him again [ Hebrews 6:6]. Then we have a reliable indication from the law by which we can briefly deal with this whole question. Rather, they earnestly seek a knowledge of him from the Scriptures, where these two things are taught concerning him. For this reason, he who does not admit that all desires of the flesh are sins, but that that disease of inordinately desiring which they call "tinder" is a wellspring of sin, must of necessity deny that the transgression of the law is sin. REPENTANCE ACCORDING TO 2 CORINTHIANS 7:11 a. Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith.3 For since pardon and forgiveness are offered through the preaching of the gospel e(b)in order that the sinner, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of vices, may cross over into the Kingdom of God, surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance. Isaiah for this reason satirizes the gauche efforts of hypocrites who were actively striving after outward repentance in ceremonies while they made no effort to undo the burden of injustice with which they bound the poor [Isa. But lacking any semblance of reason is the madness of those who, that they may begin from repentance, prescribe to their new converts certain days during which they must practice penance, and when these at length are over, admit them into communion of the grace of the gospel. Therefore, when these lay themselves open to vain and depraved thoughts, do they not show themselves to be in such degree empty of the love of God? Accordingly, we are restored by this regeneration through the benefit of Christ into the righteousness of God; from which we had fallen through Adam. Vol 3 pages 76-86.

THE OUTWARD PRACTICE OF PENANCE MUST NOT BECOME THE CHIEF THING b Some persons, when they hear weeping, fasting, and ashes spoken of in various passages, and especially in Joel [ Joel 2:12], consider that repentance consists chiefly of fasting and weeping. What then? Whither had I plunged if Gods mercy had not succored me? REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS ARE INTERRELATED b Now if it is true a fact abundantly clear b(a) that the whole of the gospel is contained under these two headings, repentance and forgiveness of sins, do we not see that the Lord freely justifies his own in order that he may at the same time restore them to true righteousness by sanctification of his Spirit? For often Scripture, in exhorting to repentance, means by it a kind of passage and resurrection from death to life. 6:6 p.], that the corruption of original nature may no longer thrive. In the third place it remains for us to explain our statement that repentance consists of two parts: namely, mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit. obviously, that giddy spirit brings forth such fruits that it limits to a paltry few days a repentance that for the Christian man ought to extend throughout his life. 17. Eph. But because, leaving out those questions, we can understand what Paul means, we shall be content with a simple exposition. Hosea's exhortation also shows this: "Come, let us return to Jehovah; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has stricken, and he will cure us" [Hos. David confessed that he sinned greatly in taking a census of the people, but he added, "O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant" [2 Sam. And also by this stratagem, whomever Satan sees overwhelmed by the fear of God he more and more submerges in that deep whirlpool of sorrow that they may never rise again. But no one is truly persuaded that he belongs to God unless he has first recognized God's grace. Therefore, he says that from sorrowaccording to God [2 Corinthians 7:10] carefulness arises. 15:30], and Judas [Matt. No one will gird himself willingly to observe the law but him who will be persuaded that God is pleased by his obedience. 7:23] and are ready to go where their leader calls them. By the word fear Paul means that trembling which is produced in our minds as often as we consider both what we deserve and how dreadful is the severity of Gods wrath toward sinners. 15. Institutes of the Christian Religion (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) Certain Anabaptists of our day conjure up some sort of frenzied excess instead of spiritual regeneration. Such persons have never known the power of repentance, band are moved to feel this way by an unduly slight argument. Thus, then, are the children of God freed through regeneration from bondage to sin. For when this topic is rightly understood it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone, and simple pardon; nevertheless actual holiness of life, so to speak, is not separated from free imputation of righteousness. There are some, however, who suppose that repentance precedes faith,4 rather than flows from it, or is produced by it as fruit from a tree. For this reason, Scripture often mentions judgment when it urges to repentance, as in the prophecy of Jeremiah: "Lest perchance my wrath go forth like fire , and there be no one to quench it, because of the evil of your doings" [Jer. Now these words, if only they have a right interpretation, express well enough the force of repentance; but when they understand vivification as the happiness that the mind receives after its perturbation and fear have been quieted, I do not agree. 7. And the passage from Joel will contribute no little to the understanding of the rest: Rend your hearts and not your garments [Joel 2:13]. 8:2] so abolished in the children of God, that some vestiges remain; not to rule over them, but to humble them by the consciousness of their own weakness.

6:5; Matt. Lastly, there is avenging. For the more severe we are toward ourselves, and the more sharply we examine our own sins, the more we ought to hope that God is favorable and merciful toward us. But sin ceases only to reign; it does not also cease to dwell in them. Through it the sinner is indeed sorely afflicted, but rises above it and lays hold of Christ as medicine for his wound, comfort for his dread, the haven of his misery.11 They offer as examples of "repentance of the law" Cain [Gen. 4:13], Saul [1 Sam. Moreover, they arise from that avenging of which Paul speaks [2 Corinthians 7:11]. (Believers experience sanctification, but not sinless perfection in this life, 1015). And Paul bids Timothy be forbearing and gentle toward unbelievers: If at any time, he says, God may give them repentance to recover from the snares of the devil [ 2 Timothy 2:25- 26]. Whoever is moderately versed in Scripture will understand by himself, without the admonition of another, that when we have to deal with God F114 nothing is achieved unless we begin from the inner disposition of the heart. The apostle, also wishing to exclude apostates from the hope of salvation, gives the reason that it is impossible to restore them to repentance [ Hebrews 6:4- 6 p.]. Only when it puts off its old nature does it bring forth the fruits of works in harmony with its renewal. I beg you to turn your steps back sometimes from troubled and anxious remembering of your ways, and to go forth to the tableland of serene remembrance of Gods benefits. Those who are really religious experience what sort of punishments are shame, confusion, groaning, displeasure with self, and other emotions that arise out of a lively recognition of sin. They also admit that the saints are as yet so bound by that disease of concupiscence that they cannot withstand being at times tickled and incited either to lust or to avarice or to ambition, or to other vices. The Institutes Of The Christian Religion (Annotated Edition), p.527, Jazzybee Verlag, There is a mistake in the text of this quote. At least let it be deprived of mastery. Such was the command the apostles received to preach; such was the order Paul followed, as Luke reports [Acts 20:21]. For Paul does not, as certain austere folk would preposterously have it, cut off hope of pardon from all voluntary sins. It would not be enough duly to discharge such duties unless the mind itself and the heart first put on the inclination to righteousness, judgment, and mercy. As faith is not without hope, yet faith and hope are different things, so repentance and faith, although they are held together by a permanent bond, require to be joined rather than confused. We, on the other hand, deem it sin when man is tickled by any desire at all against the law of God. But experience shows that this will, for the repentance of those whom he invites to himself, is not such as to make him touch all their hearts. c But because that whole matter is to be investigated again where we discuss the discipline of the church, I now touch upon it rather sparingly. We shall bring forward some other statements from which it will better appear what he thought. All the greater is the depravity of that foul wrangler and apostate Staphylus, who babbles that I confuse the state of present life with heavenly glory when from Paul I interpret the image of God [2 Cor.

b For he came to call sinners, but it was to repentance [cf. 36:8, 3, 27, conflated, Vg.]. Rom. For it would be vain for him gently to allure those who are asleep. The Spirit is not giddyto run headlong, thoughtless, through right and wrongbut is full of wisdom and understanding rightly to discern between just and unjust. For if we truly partake in his death, "our old man is crucified by his power, and the body of sin perishes" [Rom. Acts 5:31]. Now, while it is not always necessary to make men open and conscious witnesses of our repentance, yet to confess to God privately is a part of true repentance that cannot be omitted. As if God had declared that for us to be reckoned among his children our common nature must die! "Vivification" they understand as the consolation that arises out of faith. And in referring to a people as having repented, it means that they have been converted from idol worship and other gross offenses.

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