An excellent friend has sent me an excellent little book on The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson. In a similar vein to my mini-review of key points of John Owen’s On Temptation and Sin in Believers, &c, I will be offering reviews on this blog of this work which will no doubt have effect on me that I will only be able to dream of at present.
In his “Epistle to the Christian Reader,” Watson makes some interesting observations.
Christians, do you have a sad resentment of other things and not of sin? Worldly tears fall to the earth, but godly tears are kept in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). Judge not holy weeping superfluous. Tertullian thought he was born for no other end but to repent. Either sin must drown or the soul burn. … O that we would therefore, while we are on this side of the grave, make our peace with God! Tomorrow may be our dying day; let this be our repenting day.
There are many, many things for which I do not have a sad resentment which are indeed sin. And there are many things which grieve me that are not sin. I remember specifically talking with a friend of mine who, at my lamenting my single status relationally, rebuked me rather sharply telling me that I should be grieving over sin, not being uncomfortable. He then proceeded to name such sins for which I should repent. This might have been cruel had it not been completely true. That particular exhortation to repent for sin and not waste time on mourning things which are not sin has come to mind many, many times in the years since my hearing, and I thank God for the friend who was faithful to wound me in that way (and indeed, it hurt much), since we know the Spirit says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).
Also in passing, it would seem that repentance would be the antidote for embitterment. A scripture passage I return to often is in the seventy-third psalm, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You” (verses 21-22). Asaph has been describing the observable ways of the wicked and he even considers his keeping his heart pure to be folly until he repents: going to the house of the Lord and discerning the end of those whom he envies. I can’t begin to describe how apt a description this has been of me in the last three years. I can’t wait to meet Asaph in heaven…he and I understand each other perfectly.
But repentance! such a challenging task: daunting, even impossible. But the Spirit who gave life to Adam gives the gift of repentance to those who believe. And it is a wonderful gift, even if it’s not captivating at first.