BROTHER CALLAHAN, at the close of his communication on page 109, requests our views on this subject. We have neither time or space at present to do it justice; a few brief remarks must for this time suffice.
The general meaning of the term, as used in the scriptures, is to express a turning from one thing to another, and frequently implies a conviction of error in a former course, together with sorrow and remorse on the part of the penitent; but it does not always mean or imply a godly sorrow for sin, nor does it always stand connected with such sorrow. The term is used in the cases of Esau, Judas and others, not to express godly sorrow, but selfish remorse, and in such cases is connected with the sorrow of the world, which worketh death. It is sometimes used in reference to God, when of course it can neither mean conviction of wrong, sorrow or remorse, but, as we understand, merely a change of ministration, as that brought about by the deluge, the destruction of Ninevah, &c. This term is sometimes used in a general, temporal or national point of view; as Ninevah repented by general external performances, such as dressing man and beast in sackcloth, fasting, &c.; their repentance was national and temporal, and only shielded them from national and temporal calamities. The term is sometimes used in reference to christians. “If thy brother offend thee, and turn again, saying, I repent, forgive him,” &c. This description of repentance is common to the children of God throughout their pilgrimage, after having passed from death unto life. The instances are numerous where the term is used without involving the idea of regret, remorse or sorrow, as, “The Lord sware, and will not repent, (change) thou art a priest,” &c. - Heb. vii. 21. The repentance preached by John (not to an unregenerate people) to a people prepared by God, (See Luke i. 17,) was also of the same sort, requiring all that portion of Judah and Jerusalem, and the regions round about Jordan, whom God hath prepared by his grace, to come out from Judaism, from the legal covenant, from Jewish rites and ceremonies, and by baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus, with a profession of faith in his name, to embrace christianity and own their allegiance to Christ. This preaching of repentance was continued by Christ himself after John was put in prison. “Jesus came from Galilee preaching, &c., saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel.” If the repentance preached by John’ and by the Master had been what the Fullerites and Arminians of our day would represent it to be, why had John failed to warn the scribes and pharisees, the generation of vipers, to flee from the wrath to come? He had preached no repentance to them; they were not a people prepared by God for that kind of preaching; this he gave them to understand. Those whom God had sent him to make ready by the preaching and baptism of repentance, were living fruitful trees which brought forth fruit meet for repentance, (or the change from the old to the new covenant order;) and not like themselves pleading the old covenant, and claiming Abraham to their father. And again, on the same supposition, why did our Lord add, as the reason why this repentance was necessary, that the kingdom of heaven (gospel church) was at hand, (about to be set up,) if the repentance then required was a requisition of the gospel, to be obligatory on all men to whom the gospel should be preached, and designed (as the Fullerites and Arminians would represent) to increase the damnation of those who were already justly condemned by the law, and who could not escape the perdition of ungodly men?
We have only time to glance at the subject. Widely differing from every description of repentance treated on in the above remarks, as also from that mentioned by Paul to the men at Athens, in which all men as the creatures of God are commanded to turn from dumb idols, &c., is that repentance which is unto life, and which needeth not to be repented of. The latter is a change produced by a display of quickening power and grace on the hearts of God’s people when they pass from death unto life, and is preceded by “a godly sorrow for sin which worketh repentance (or a change) unto life, which needeth not to be repented of.” This repentance is sometimes distinguished from the other by the saints as evangelical repentance; it cannot be produced by sulphuric fumes of Arminian slang, anxious benches, or any of the machinery of human device; for it is the gift of God, and Jesus Christ our Lord is exalted a Prince and Savior to give it to Israel, and with it, invariably, the remission of sins. This is not a cause or means of grace, or of salvation, but an effect; none but quickened sinners ever felt its power or realized its salutary effects. It is the work of an exalted Prince and Savior to give it, not of a dead sinner to manufacture it; it is a fruit of the Spirit wrought in the heart by him who worketh in his people, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. It is not demanded of unregenerate sinners by the gospel, for the gospel is not a supplement to the law, nor a system of extra demands on a set of bankrupts; nor are sinners condemned and damned for failing to exercise faith and repentance; for the gospel is good news, glad tidings, great joy, &c., to all to whom it is sent; nay, it is Christ, and he came not to condemn the world. Those who are finally lost, are condemned and damned for violating the law of God, which requires perfect and perpetual obedience of all who are under it, and that, too, on pain of everlasting damnation; but gospel damnation is what time scriptures never taught, nor authorized us to teach or believe.
The gospel teaches what true repentance is, shows the necessity of it, its source, its operation on the hearts, lives and conversation of the people of God; and furthermore shows to the heirs of salvation that no manner of repentance but that which comes alone from God can insure the remission of sins, or the inheritance of life.
These hasty remarks on repentance are respectfully submitted to the consideration of brother Callahan, the Lexington Association of New York, and to our brethren and readers in general; and may the Lord bless them to the edification of his people, and the declarative glory of his great name.
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
July 15, 1839.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 509 – 512