“Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

Matt 4:17

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…”

Acts 3:19

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 5:31



Order of Contents


Mere External Repentance is Not Repentance
Making Confession of Sins, & Auricular Confession
Relation of Repentance to Faith & Justification



Definition of Repentance

WCF 15.2

“By it [repentance unto life] a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God,[c] purposing and endeavouring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.[d]

[c] Ezek. 18:30,31. Ezek. 36:31. Isa. 30:22. Ps. 51:4. Jer. 31:18,19. Joel 2:12,13. Amos 5:15. Ps. 119:128. 2 Cor. 7:11
[d] Ps. 119:6,59,106. Luke 1:6. 2 Kings 23:25″





Welch, John – ‘On Repentance’ Sermons 3-10 on Rev. 2  †1622  in 48 Select Sermons  PoD



Colquhoun, John

A View of Evangelical Repentance from the Sacred Records  Buy  1825

‘The Difference Between True and Counterfeit Repentance’  8 points in 37 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

‘A Word to the Impenitent’  7 points in 10 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

‘The Fruits and Evidences of True Repentance’  10 points in 14 paragraphs, from his Evangelical Repentance

Buchanan, James – New Birth Repentance and Faith  1847, 10 paragraphs, from The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit

Hodge, Charles – ‘Faith and Repentance’  from his Way of Life, chs. 6 & 7



Berkhof, Louis – Conversion  1950, 31 paragraphs, form his Systematic Theology



Beeke, Joel – ‘Escape for Your Life’  condensed from a sermon preached on Sept. 16th, 2011, 16 paragraphs




Archibald Symson

Heptameron, The Seven Days: That is, Meditations & Prayers upon thw work of the Lord’s Creation, together with other Certain Prayers & Meditations...  p. 3

“I will condemn myself, that You may absolve me.  I will have my sins before my eyes, that You may cast them behind your back.  I will remember them, that You may forget them.  I will repent of them and You will forgive them…  I am content that I am shamed, if thereby honor comes to you that You may be just when you speak and pure when You judge.”


Thomas Watson

The Doctrine of Repentance, Useful for These Times  (London: Printed by R.W. for Thomas Parkhurst, 1668), pp. 77-8

“There are two sorts of persons who will find it harder to repent than others:

1. Such as have sat a great while under the droppings of God’s ordinances, but grow no better. The earth which drinketh in the rain, yet beareth thorns and briars, is nigh unto cursing (Heb. 6.8). The metal which hath lain long in the fire, but is not melted and refined, there is little hope of it. When God hath sent his ministers one after another, exhorting and persuading men to leave their sins, but they settle upon the lees of formality, and can sit and sleep under a sermon; it will be hard for these ever to be brought to repentance; they may fear lest Christ should say to them as once to the fig-tree, Never fruit grow on thee more.

2. They will find it harder to repent, who have sinned frequently against the convictions of the Word, the checks of conscience, and the motions of the Spirit. Conscience has stood as the angel, with a flaming sword in its hand; it has said, ‘Do not this great evil;’ but sinners regard not the voice of conscience, but march on resolvedly under the Devil’s colors: these will not find it easy to repent (Job 24.13). They are of those that rebel against the light. It is one thing to sin for want of light, and another thing to sin against light.  Here the unpardonable sin takes its rise; first men sin against the light of conscience, and so proceed gradually to the despighting the Spirit of grace.”


John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

“We…  have cause to fear, not that the kingdom of God should become extinct, but lest it should be taken from us, and given to a nation that would bring forth the fruits of it.”



Mere External Repentance is No Repentance

Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 27, ‘Whether our Darkness & Incapacity to Believe…’, p. 323 (356)

“([Margin Note:] The Magistrate commands the outward man, and yet commands not sin and carnal repentance)

The sword produces no repentance at all, for external repentance is no repentance either in name or thing.  The Lord commands indeed external repentance, but precepts are not given to the outward man, as to the adequate and proper object of the commandment of God.”



On Making Confession of Sins, & on Auricular Confession


James 5:16 says, ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’

If we sin against another, we ought confess that sin to the person we sinned against, and pray for each other.  If we commit private sins, or feel the weight of our sinfulness, it is also good to confess that to other trusted brothers or sisters in the Lord in order to find help.

Romanism, through time, twisted this Biblical teaching into one being obligated to use a confessional to a ‘priest’, with the attendant corruptions of sacramentalism and the ‘priests’ forgiving people’s sins.



Leonard Rijssen

A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology & of as Much Didactic Theology as is Necessary  trans. J. Wesley White  MTh thesis  (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009), ch. 17, ‘The Sacraments’, p. 239-40

§X. And since before the Eucharist, priests are accustomed to hear confession, we add this. We admit public confession of sins:

1. Made by the whole Church to God.
2. Of particular parts of the whole Church (2 Cor. 2:6).

And private:

1. Made to God.
2. To those whom we have injured.
3. By the troubled and doubting conscience to any believer who can console us.

§XI. But we disapprove of confessions:

1. Being forced,
2. Of all sins,
3. Including secret sins.
4. Only to the ears of the priest.
5. For obtaining from the priest remission of sins.

Controversy – Is it necessary for someone seeking remission of sins to tell his secret sins to a priest? We deny against the Papists.


1. Christ remits the sins of the one who believes, including those not recounted in detail (Mt. 9:2), “and as the Father sent him, so He sends us” and wants us to do the same (Jn. 20:21).

2. Saints who confessed their sins only to God obtained remission (Ps. 32:5, Lk. 18:13-14).

3. No one has to reveal his own wickedness (Jude v. 13).

4. God alone, not priests, can remit and wipe away sins (Lk. 5:21).

5. This is pure tyranny over consciences.


1. Then, for what purpose was the power of remitting sins given (Jn. 20:23, 2 Cor. 5:19)? Reply: This is nothing else than proclaiming remission of sins in the name of God to the penitent.

2. “Many confessed their sins” (Acts 19:18). Reply: Those who had lived profanely before conversion and performed magic confessed publicly not to a priest in the ear that they had lived wickedly.

3. Confess your sins one to another (Jas. 5:16). Reply: Then why not the priests to the people? This refers to someone who is afflicted on account of sins. We are warned concerning these sins that we should not deny them.

4. If we confess our sins, He will remit them (1 Jn. 1:9). Reply: If we confess to God, God remits.”



Ussher, James – ‘Of Confession’ & ‘Of the Priest’s Power to Forgive Sins’  †1656  75 pp.  being chs. 4 & 5 of Answer to a Jesuit and other Tracts on Popery, pp. 74-149

In the context against Romanism, Ussher surveys the Early Church on the confession of sin and how this turned into the Romanist bondage of the Confessional.


Latin Article

Alting, Henry – “The State of the controversy is:  Whether private confession and absolution is necessary? [No]  Whether bowing of the knees and an uncovering of the head is at the mention of the name of Jesus has been commanded? [No] and lastly, whether Latin songs may be allowed in public assemblies? [No] The Lutherans affirm; we deny.” in A Syllabus of Controversies with the Lutherans, pt 2, ‘Controversies About Ceremonies’, Controversy 2, ‘Of Other Certain Rituals’  in A Logical & Theological Exegesis of the Augsburg Confession…  (Amsterdam, 1647), pp. 274-8



The Relation of Repentance to Faith & Justification

Ball, John – 2nd Pt., Ch. 5, p. 349  of A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace  (London, 1645)



On Forgiveness


John Calvin

Commentary on Mt. ch. 18, verse 21

“But the words of Luke give rise to another question; for Christ does not order us to grant forgiveness, till the offender turn to us and give evidence of repentance.

I reply, there are two ways in which offenses are forgiven. If a man shall do me an injury, and I, laying aside the desire of revenge, do not cease to love him, but even repay kindness in place of injury, though I entertain an unfavorable opinion of him, as he deserves, still I am said to forgive him.

For when God commands us to wish well to our enemies, He does not therefore demand that we approve in them what He condemns, but only desires that our minds shall be purified from all hatred.  In this kind of pardon, so far are we from having any right to wait till he who has offended shall return of his own accord to be reconciled to us, that we ought to love those who deliberately provoke us, who spurn reconciliation, and add to the load of former offenses.

A second kind of forgiving is, when we receive a brother into favor, so as to think favorably respecting him, and to be convinced that the remembrance of his offense is blotted out in the sight of God.  And this is what I have formerly remarked, that in this passage Christ does not speak only of injuries which have been done to us, but of every kind of offenses; for he desires that, by our compassion, we shall raise up those who have fallen.

This doctrine is very necessary, because naturally almost all of us are peevish beyond measure; and Satan, under the pretense of severity, drives us to cruel rigor, so that wretched men, to whom pardon is refused, are swallowed up by grief and despair.

But here another question arises. As soon as a man by words makes profession of repentance, are we bound to believe him? Were this done, we must of necessity go willingly and knowingly into mistake; for where will be discretion, if any man may freely impose on us, even to the hundredth offense?

I answer, first, the discourse relates here to daily faults, in which every man, even the best, needs forgiveness.

Since, then, amidst such infirmity of the flesh, our road is so slippery, and snares and attacks so numerous what will be the consequence if, at the second or third fall, the hope of forgiveness is cut off? We must add, secondly, that Christ does not deprive believers of the exercise of judgment, so as to yield a foolish readiness of belief to every slight expression, but only desires us to be so candid and merciful, as to stretch out the hand to offenders, provided there be evidence that they are sincerely dissatisfied with their sins. For repentance is a sacred thing, and therefore needs careful examination; but as soon as the offender gives probable evidence of conversion, Christ desires that he shall be admitted to reconciliation, lest, on being repulsed, he lose courage and fall back.

Thirdly, It must be observed that, when any man, through his light and unsteady behavior, has exposed himself to suspicion, we may grant pardon when he asks it, and yet may do so in such a manner as to watch over his conduct for the future, that our forbearance and meekness, which proceed from the Spirit of Christ, may not become the subject of his ridicule. For we must observe the design of our Lord himself, that we ought, by our gentleness, to assist those who have fallen to rise again.

And certainly we ought to imitate the goodness of our heavenly Father, who meets sinners at a distance to invite them to salvation. Besides, as repentance is a wonderful work of the Spirit, and is the creation of the new man, if we despise it, we offer an insult to God himself.”


William Perkins

The Whole Treatise of the Cases of Conscience…  (Legat: Univ. of Cambridge, 1606), bk. 3, ch. 3, question 1, ‘How may a man carry himself in respect of injuries and offences done unto him?’, pp. 492-3

“First in general; It is demanded how a man should and ought to forgive an injury?

Answer:  In forgiveness there be four things:

The first is forgiveness of revenge, that is of requiting evil for evil, either by thought word or deed.  This must always be practiced.  For vengeance is not ours, but the Lord’s, and great reason then that we should ever-more forgive in regard of revenge and ha­tred.  This the apostle teaches, when he says, 1 Cor. 13:5, Love is not provoked, it never thinks, much less speaks or does, evil.

The second is forgiveness of private pu­nishment; which is, when men return punish­ment for injuries done in way of requital; and this must always take place with us, because as vengeance itself, so also punishment in way of revenge is God’s alone.

The third is, forgiveness of judgment, when we judge an injury done to be an injury.  This judgment we are not bound to forgive unto men.  For we may with good conscience judge a sin and a wrong to be as they are.  And yet notwithstanding, if a man make satisfaction for the wrong done, then there ought to be forgiveness, even in regard of judgement.

The fourth is forgiveness of satisfaction.  This we are not alway[s] bound to remit, but we may with good conscience, alway[s] require satisfaction where hurt is done.”




Davenant, John – Question 33, ‘When Guilt is Remitted, its Punishment is Remitted’  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 391-393  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

This is on the completeness of God savingly forgiving sinners.



Bosserman, Brant – ‘All Things Forgiveness’  (2022)  30 long paragraphs

Bosserman is a PCA pastor and a professor of philosophy.  This article is excellent and one of the most helpful on this topic.



Ought One to Forgive a Brother who does not Repent?  Yes.

Bible Verses

Gen. 8:21-22  “…the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.  While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.'”

Gen. 45:4-8, 15  “Joseph said unto his brethren, ‘Come near to me, I pray you.’  And they came near. And he said, ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.  Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life…  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God…  Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.”

Num. 14:18-20, 23, 35, this occurs after the 10 spies bring back a bad report of the promised land, and remain in their sin, unrepentant.  Moses pleads God’s merciful nature:

“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the LORD said, ‘I have pardoned according to thy word…’…

Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it…  I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.”

Isa. 26:10  “Let favor [chesed] be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.”

Mk. 11:25  “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Lk. 6:35-36  “…and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

Jn. 8:10-11  “,,,He said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’  She said, ‘No man, Lord.’  And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’”

Acts 7:59-60  “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

1 Pet. 4:8  “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”



Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1642), pt. 1, ch. 1, section 1, p. 16

“But I answer, the place 2 Cor. 2:10 is controverted, and we doubt not, but [that it is] of that same nature with the power of excommunicating, 1 Cor. 5:4.  But for private forgiving, it is not the Church-forgiving here meant, because:

1.  The private forgiving is a duty of charity commanded in the Law of Nature to all, even out[side] of [a] Church-state, and obliges the excommunicate[d], who, though they be cast out of the Church, are not exempted from the Law that binds all, Mt. 6:12,14-15; Mt. 5:44-45, but the Church-forgiving is an act of obedience to a positive Church-Law of Christ.

2.  Private Christians are to forgive their enemies whether they repent or not, even as Christ forgave those who crucified Him, Col. 3:13; Lk. 23:34; and when the party repents not, this forgiveness is not ratified in Heaven, yet are we obliged to forgive and to commit vengeance to God;

But the authoritative forgiving is a thing that the Church is not obliged unto, absolutely; nor may they, or can they forgive, except the offender repent: and if they see that he repents not, they cannot lawfully forgive; but, being in God’s room, must take vengeance on all disobedience, and their retaining of sin and forgiving is valid in Heaven, because they are in God’s place.

Now any forgiving or retaining of sin but these two, together with God’s forgiving and retaining, we know not.  But Peter’s forgiving his offending brother seventy times seven times, is common to all private Christians, even out[side] of [a] Church-state…”


The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), ch. 8, question 4, p. 309

“A private man is to forgive an injury even though the offender repent not, Mt. 14:15; Rom. 12:19-20; Col. 3:13…”



Ferry, Brenton C. – ‘When to Forgive Others’  (2009)  12 paragraphs  in Ordained Servant (Jan. 2009) of the OPC

Jones, Mark – ‘Charleston: Forgiveness without Repentance?’  (2015)  16 paragraphs



On Penance

See also On the 7 Sacraments of Romanism.




Davenant, John – The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846)  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

Question 8, ‘Works of Penance are Not Satisfactions to Divine Justice’, pp. 262-65

Question 33, ‘When Guilt is Remitted, its Punishment is Remitted’, pp. 391-3

Question 36, ‘The Sacrifice Made by Christ is Alone Truly Expiatory’, pp. 404-408


Whether the Latin Vulgate says “Do Penance”?  No

Charles Johnson

“Why the Roman Church is being dishonest when it says the Vulgate supports their sacrament of penitence when it says “poenitentiam agite” (Mt. 3:2):

1. The term that the reformers preferred for repentance, resipiscentia, is nowhere used in the Vulgate.  In fact it’s not common at all in ancient Latin texts.  So either the early Church had no concept of repentance, or they referred to it with the term poenitentia.

2. The Vulgate uses the term poenitentia throughout the Old Testament, before the sacrament of penance was instituted according to the Roman view.  So something else is clearly in view.

3. The Vulgate uses poenitentia to refer to repentance at the time of conversion, whereas in the Roman view the sacrament of penance is for restoration for sins committed after baptism. For example Acts 19:4, “Joannes baptizavit baptismo poenitentiae populum“, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance”.

4. The term poenitentia is sometimes used to express how God does not turn from his plans, which is more fitting to the idea of repentance than penance.  For example Rom. 11:29, “Sine poenitentia enim sunt dona et vocatio Dei.”, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance”.  See also 1 Sam. 15:29, “Porro triumphator in Israel non parcet, et poenitudine non flectetur: neque enim homo est ut agat poenitentiam.”  It is even used positively in reference to God, such as Jer. 18:10, “Si fecerit malum in oculis meis, ut non audiat vocem meam, poenitentiam agam super bono quod locutus sum ut facerem ei.”

5. Poenitentia is often parsed in the Vulgate as a turning aside from sin.  1 Sam. 15:29, “Porro triumphator in Israel non parcet, et poenitudine non flectetur: neque enim homo est ut agat poenitentiam.”

6. 1 Kings 8:47 says that poenitentia may be done in one’s heart, which does not fit the nature of the sacrament of penance. “et egerint poenitentiam in corde suo in loco captivitatis“.”


Romanist Material

Pope John XXIII – Paenitentiam Agere: Encyclical of Pope John XXIII
on the Need for the Practice of Interior & Exterior Penance’  (July 1, 1962)  44 paragraphs

Note that there appears to be some inconsistency in this encyclical’s claim that “Doing penance for one’s sins is a first step towards obtaining forgiveness and winning eternal salvation”, as Romanists Catechisms tend to put the sacrament of baptism before penance.




“Repentance is the vomit of the soul.”

Thomas Brooks



“Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”

Acts 8:22

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

Acts 11:18

“…that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

Acts 26:20




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