Thursday, August 30, 2007

Colquhoun on "legal" and "evangelical" repentance

Are you really grieved by your sin?

A football star indicted for a crime stands before the cameras and expresses regret for his actions in hopes of saving future playing contracts and endorsement deals. A high profile politician is caught in a morally questionable situation and appears before the cameras to explain his behavior in hopes of saving his political career. A celebrity crashes her car while intoxicated and enters rehab.

Might these be examples of how we, as believers, deal with our sin? Do we express sorrow for our actions and desire to work on resisting our sin only after we get caught red-handed in it? Do we behave well on the outside, but sinful desires eat us up on the inside? Do we follow the rules merely because we want to avoid the scandal and pain of getting caught? Can you be sober for all the wrong reasons?

Colquhoun contrasts the falsehood of "legal" repentance with the genuine article of "evangelical" repentance:

In the exercise of legal repentance, the sinner mourns for sin only as it has wounded his own soul; which shows that his remorse flows merely from a natural spring, and rises only to a natural height. But in the exercise of evangelical repentance, the believer mourns for sin as it has wounded his dear Redeemer, as it has pierced that heart which loves him, and spilled blood which redeems him (p. 90).

A man may abhor sin more for the shame which attends it than for the malignity and odiousness which are in it; and he may hate one sin because it is contrary to another which he loves dearly. The sincere penitent, on the contrary, hates all sin as sin, and abhors it chiefly for the evil that is in it. A man may even forsake most of his transgressions without exercising true repentance. If he forsake open, and yet retain secret sins, or if he leave sin and yet continue to love it, or if he let one sin go in order to hold another faster, or if he forsake sin, but not as sin, he is not a true penitent. He who forsakes any sin as sin, or because it is sin, relinquishes all sin. The sincere penitent forsakes all iniquity from right principles, by right motives, in a right manner, and to a right end. Let every man take heed, then, that he do not impose upon himself by mistaking a false for a true repentance. And if he begin to suspect that his repentance is legal and counterfeit, let him without delay trust cordially in Jesus Christ for grace to exercise evangelical repentance (pp. 91-92).

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