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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

Thomas Vincent

LXXXVI I. Ques. What is repentance unto life?
Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of; and endeavour after, new obedience.

Q. 1. Why is repentance called repentance unto life?
A. Repentance is called repentance unto life, because it is a saving grace, and a necessary mean for the attaining life and salvation; and that it might be distinguished from the sorrow of the world which worketh death. "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."— Acts 11:18. " If the wicked will turn from all his sins," &c., "he shall surely live."— Ezek. 18:21. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death."— 2 Cor. 7:10.

Q. 2. Can any repent of their sins by the power of nature?
A. None can repent of their sins by the power of nature, because the hearts of all men and women by nature are like a stone, insensible of sin, and inflexible unto God's will; therefore there is need of the Spirit of God to work this grace in the heart, which he hath promised to do in the new covenant. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them "— Ezek. 36:26, 27.

Q. 3. Wherein doth repentance unto life consist?
A. Repentance unto life doth chiefly consist in two things— 1. In turning from sin, and forsaking it. "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin."— Ezek. 18:30. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy."— Prov. 28:13. 2. In turning unto God. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."— Isa. 55:7.

Q. 4. What is requisite unto the turning from sin in repentance?
A. It is requisite unto the turning from sin in repent. ance, that there be— 1. A true sight of sin. 2. An appreliension of the mercy of God in Christ. 3. A grief for sin. 4. A hatred of sin.

Q. 5. Wherein doth the true sense of shi consist which is requisite in repentance?
A. The true sense of sin, which is requisite in repentance, doth consist in such an inward feeling of our miserable and low estate, by reason of the wrath and curse of God, and that eterual vengeance of hell, which for our sins we are exposed unto, as putteth us into great perplexity and trouble of spirit; so that our consciences being hereby pricked and wounded, can find no quiet, and take no rest in this condition. "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"— Acts 2:37.

Q. 6. What need is there of this sense of sin unto true repentance?
A. There is need of this sense of sin unto true repentance, because, without this sense of sin, sinners will not forsake sin, nor apply themselves unto the Lord Jesus for pardon and hearing. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." — Matt. 9:12, 13.

Q. 7. What apprehensions of God's mercy are requisite in this repentance?
A. There is requisite in true repentance, that we have apprehensions of God's mercy, as he is both slow to anger and of great kindness; as he is most ready to forgive, and most ready to be pacified unto repenting sinners. "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, atid abundant in goodness arid truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin"— Exod. 34:6, 7. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering? iiot knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."— Rom. 2:4.

Q. 8. Can we apprehend pardoning mercy in God only through Christ?
A. We can truly apprehend pardoning mercy in God only through Christ, because God is so infinitely just and jealous, and a consuming fire unto sinners out of Christ, and he is reconcilable unto sinners only through his Son, who hath given satisfaction unto his justice for sin. "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ."— 2 Cor. 5:18.

Q. 9. What need is there of the apprehension of God's mercy in Christ, in order to our repentance?
A. There is need of the apprehension of God's mercy in Christ in order to our repentance, because without the apprehension of this mercy of God, and willingness through his Son to be reconciled unto us, upon conviction of and contrition for sin, we shall either east off our trouble, and run more eagerly unto the commission of sin than before; or, if we cannot cast off our trouble, we will sink under tormenting despair and be in danger of making away with ourselves, as Judas did: whereas the apprehension of God's mercy in Christ is an encouragement to us to forsake our sins and to turn to him, and a mean to affect our hearts with kindly and godly sorrow for sin.

Q. 10. Wherein doth true grief for sin consist?
A. True grief for sin doth consist in our mourning and sorrowing for sin, not only as it is like to bring ruin upon ourselves, but chiefly as it hath brought dishonour upon God's name; not only as it hath wounded our consciences, but chiefly as it hath wounded our Saviour; not only as without repentance it is like to damn our souls, but also as it hath debased and defiled our souls. "I will declare mine iniquity: I will be sorry for my sin"— Ps. 38:18. "I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight."— Ps. 51:3, 4. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn."— Zech. 12:10. "We have sinned; we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."— Isa. 64:5, 6.

Q. 11. May we not truly grieve for sin, though we do not weep for it?
A. 1. If we can readily weep for other things, and cannot weep for sin, the truth of our grief is very questionable. 2. There may be true and great grief for sin without tears, in them that are of a dry constitution, and are not prone to weep upon any account; and as there may be in some many tears in the eye, where there is no grief in the heart, so in others there may be much grief in the heart, where there are no tears in the eye.

Q. 12. Why is grief for sin needful in repentance?
A. Grief for sin is needful in repentance, because it further works the heart unto a willingness to leave sin; because God doth require it, and hath promised mercy unto such as mourn for sin. "Be afflicted and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness."— James 4:9. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned: for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even coilfounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Fphraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."— Jer. 31:18-2O.

Q. 13. What is hatred of sin, which is requisite unto true repentance?
A. Hatred of sin, which is also requisite unto true repentance, is an inward deep loathing and abhorrence of sin, as the most odious thisg in the world, which is accompanied with a loathing of ourselves, as being rendered by sin most loathsome and abominable in the eyes of God. "Them shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings which have not been good, and shall loathe your selves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations."— Ezek. 36:31.

Q. 14. Why is hatred of sin needful unto true repentance?
A. Hatred of sin is needful unto true repentance, because no affection of the heart will more engage us against sin than our hatred; and when grief for sin is much spent, hatred of sin will put weapons into our hands to fight against it.

Q. 15. What is that turning from sin which is part of true repentance?
A. The turning from sin which is a part of true repentance, doth consist in two things— 1. In a turning from all gross sins, in regard of otir course and conversation. 2. In a turning from all other sins, in regard of our hearts and affections.

Q. 16. Do such as truly repent of sin never return again unto the practice of the same sins which they have repented of?
A. 1. Such as have truly repented of sin do never return unto the practice of it, so as to live in a course of sin, as they did before; and where any, after repentance, do return unto a course of sin, it is an evident sign that their repentance was not of the right kind. 2. Some have truly repented of their sins, although they may be overtaken and surprised by temptations, so as to fall into the commission of the same sins which they have repented ol; yet they do not lie in them, but get up again, and with bitter grief bewail them, and return again unto the Lord.

Q. 17. Wherein doth turning to the Lord (the other part of true repentance) consist?
A. Turning to the Lord doth consist-i. In making application of ourselves unto him for the pardon of sin and his mercy. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving.kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions."— Ps. 51:1. 2. In our making choice of him for our God and chief good. "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God. "— Jer. 3:22. "They shall call on my name, and I will hear them; I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God."— Zech. 13:9. 3. In our delivering up ourselves unto his obedience. "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies."— Ps. 119:59.

Q. 18. What is that obedience which we must deliver ourselves up unto, in our returning to the Lord?
A. The obedience which we must deliver up ourselves unto, in our returning to the Lord, is the new obedience of the gospel.

Q. 19. Why is the obedience of the gospel called new obedience?
A. The obedience of the gospel is called new obedience, because it is required in the new covenant, and because it must proceed from newness of spirit, the new nature, or now principle of grace and spiritual life, which is put into the soul by the Spirit of God. "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, that we shotild serve in newness of spirit."— Rom. 7:6.

Q. 20. When do we deliver up ourselves unto this new obedience?
A. We deliver up ourselves unto this new obedience— 1. When we have full resolutions and purposes of it. "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments."— Ps. 119:106. "And exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord."— Acts 11:23. 2. When we are diligent in our endeavours after it, that we may constantly walk in the ways of new obedience, without offence either to God or man. "And they were both righteous before God, walk. mg in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."— Luke 1:6. "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men."— Acts 24:16.

Q. 21. Do all that truly repent fully perform new obedience?
A. None that truly repent do here in this life perform new obedience fully, without any failure or defect, but they diligently endeavour to do it; and wherein they fall short, it is their glief and trouble. "For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me."— Ps. 38:17.

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