by William Perkins
Updated to modern English
God has blessed us with great prosperity and peace, along with an abundance of all the material blessings one could desire, for many years in this land.
However, this prosperity has been misused and has led to numerous grievous sins against both God's commandments and teachings. Specifically, there has been a rise in atheism, neglect of worship, contempt for the Scriptures, desecration of the Sabbath, and misuse of the sacraments, among other things.
These sins, along with others of similar nature, have provoked divine judgment upon us for quite some time. Moreover, the preaching of the word of God has had little impact in bringing about any positive change in our lives.
As a result, God has now started to bring His judgments upon us, particularly through plagues and epidemics. These afflictions have struck even the most prominent regions of our land. In this way, God is warning and calling upon us to repent, as Job stated, speaking loudly in our ears.
Therefore, it is crucial that we take immediate action and assess our current situation. If we haven't repented thus far, it is high time we do so. And if we have repented in the past, we should do so even more earnestly.
If we stubbornly continue to harden our hearts against God's word and His judgments, attempting to push away the imminent day of reckoning, then we can undoubtedly expect far more terrifying punishments than we have ever experienced before. In fact, we may face eternal destruction. Let us learn from the examples of the past: the people of the old world who disregarded Noah's warning and perished in the flood, Lot's sons-in-law who mocked their father's advice and were consumed by heavenly fire and brimstone, and the foolish virgins who were found sleeping instead of preparing their lamps and were shut out from the marriage feast of the lamb.
And to guide you somewhat in the practice of repentance, I have written this short treatise. Use it for your own benefit and make sure to put it into action, unless you want to willfully murder and destroy your own soul.
In the past, two sermons on Repentance have been published in English, one by M. Bradford Martyr and the other by M. Arthur Dent. These sermons have indeed been very beneficial. My intention is not to add anything new or teach different doctrines, but rather to refresh and revive the teachings they have imparted.
Do not be troubled by the fact that the prominent theologians of this age, whom I follow in this treatise, may seem to have different approaches to the subject of repentance. Some consider it as a fruit of faith consisting of two parts: mortification and vivification. Others include faith as a part of repentance, dividing it into contrition, faith, and new obedience. The difference lies not in the essence of the doctrine but in the logical manner of presenting it. The variation in presentation arises from the diverse understandings of repentance. Repentance is generally understood in two ways: in a comprehensive sense, referring to the complete conversion of a sinner, which may include contrition, faith, and new obedience; and in a specific sense, pertaining to the renewal of one's life and behavior, which is a fruit of faith. In this treatise, I only follow the latter sense.
Additionally, I have included a few lines depicting the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, as repentance and this internal struggle are interconnected. One cannot be practiced without the other, as evident in the interpretation of Psalm 51.
Spirit: Have mercy on me, O God, in accordance with your unfailing love.
Flesh: Yes, but your adultery encompasses countless sins. Therefore, do not expect any forgiveness.
Spirit: In your great compassion, remove my iniquities.
Flesh: This sin has deeply rooted itself within you, making it difficult to be pardoned.
Spirit: Cleanse me thoroughly from my iniquity and wash away my sins.
Flesh: Your major transgression is against humanity.
Spirit: Against you, and you alone, have I sinned, etc.
Flesh: Apart from this one sin, your life is blameless.
Spirit: Behold, I was born in sin, etc.
Yes, even the most righteous person, in their pursuit of godliness, often appears to deviate from their true nature. The reason behind this is the ongoing spiritual struggle. At times, the flesh causes them to lament, mourn, and walk with a heavy heart. However, shortly thereafter, the spirit fills them with renewed strength and enables them to triumph over the desires of the flesh, the temptations of the devil, and the allure of the world. Moses displayed courage at the Red Sea, but faltered at the Waters of Meribah. Job initially praised God, only to later utter blasphemies. David frequently experienced moments of despair, yet soon found revival. Therefore, it is fitting that the contemplation of repentance and the spiritual struggle go hand in hand. This ensures that no one, once they have embarked on the path of repentance, would entertain the notion of comfort for their flesh, as if they could enter heaven while lying on beds of ease. Rather, we should be resolved that whenever we undertake actions that please God, we should expect nothing but continuous challenges from our corrupt and sinful nature.
Written in the year 1593, on November 17, which marks the Coronation Day of our esteemed Queen Elizabeth, may her reign be long-lasting by God's grace.
Table of Contents
To the Reader
The Nature and Practice of Repentance
CHAPTER I: WHAT REPENTANCE IS
CHAPTER II: THE CAUSES OF REPENTANCE
CHAPTER III: THE PARTS OF REPENTANCE
CHAPTER IV: THE DEGREES OF REPENTANCE
CHAPTER V: THE PERSONS WHO MUST REPENT
CHAPTER VI: THE PRACTICE OF REPENTANCE
-- A Guide for Examining the Conscience
CHAPTER VII: LEGAL MOTIVES TO REPENTANCE
Chapter VIII: EVANGELICAL MOTIVES
Chapter IX: THE TIME OF REPENTANCE
Chapter X: CERTAIN CASES OF REPENTANCE
Chapter XI: CONTRARIES TO REPENTANCE
Chapter XII: CORRUPTIONS IN THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE
BOOK II: THE COMBAT OF THE FLESH AND SPIRIT