Some well-meaning Christians tremble for their salvation, because they have never gone through that valley of tears and of sorrow, which they have been taught to consider as an ordeal that must be passed through before they can arrive at regeneration: to satisfy such minds it may be observed that the slightest sorrow for sin is sufficient if it produce amendment, and that the greatest is insufficient if it do not. Therefore, by their own fruits let them prove themselves: for some soils will take the good seed without being watered with tears or harrowed up by affliction.
Let me remind you that repentance is a duty of greater extent than many are apt to suppose, who, confining their view on such occasions as these to a few of the grosser disorders of their lives, pay little attention to the heart: they are satisfied with feeling a momentary compunction and attempting a partial reformation, instead of crying with the royal penitent, Create in me a clean heart! They determine to break off particular vices,an excellent resolution as far as it goes,without proposing to themselves a life of habitual devotion, without imploring, under a sense of weakness, that grace which can alone renew the heart, making, in the words of our Lord, the tree good, that the fruit may be good also.
Robert Hall: Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis.
The sight of a penitent on his knees is a spectacle which moves heaven; and the compassionate Redeemer, who when he beheld Saul in that situation exclaimed, Behold, he prayeth, will not be slow nor reluctant to strengthen you by his might and console you by his Spirit. When a new and living way is opened into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus, not to avail ourselves of it, not to arise and go to our Father, but to prefer remaining at a guilty distance, encompassed with famine, to the rich and everlasting provisions of his house, will be a source of insupportable anguish when we shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob enter into the kingdom of God, and ourselves shut out. You are probably not aware of what importance it is to improve these sacred visitations; have not considered that they form a crisis which, if often neglected, will never return. It is impossible too often to inculcate the momentous truth, that the character is not formed by passive impressions, but by voluntary actions, and that we shall be judged hereafter, not by what we have felt, but by what we have done.
Robert Hall: Funeral Sermon for the Princess Charlotte.
For any man to put off his present repentance on contemplation of a possibility that his latter repentance may serve the turn, is the most wretchless presumption, and hath no promise of mercy annexed to it.
Repentance, however difficult to be practised, is, if it be explained without superstition, easily understood. Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice from the conviction that it has offended God. Sorrow, and fear, and anxiety, are properly not parts, but adjuncts, of repentance; yet they are too closely connected with it to be easily separated; for they not only mark its sincerity, but promote its efficacy.
There is no vice which is absolutely so, which does not offend, and that a sound judgment does not accuse; for there is in it so manifest a deformity and inconvenience, that peradventure they are in the right who say that it is chiefly begot by ignorance: so hard it is to imagine that a man can know without abhorring it.
Malice sucks up the greatest part of her own venom, and poysons herself. Vice leaves repentance in the soul, like an ulcer in the flesh, which is always scratching and lacerating itself: for reason effaces all other griefs and sorrows, but it begets that of repentance, which is so much the more grievous by reason it springs within, as the cold or hot of fevers are more sharp than those that only strike upon the outward skin.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xcvi.
To neglect God all our lives, and know that we neglect him; to offend God voluntarily, and know that we offend him, casting our hopes on the peace which we trust to make at parting, is no other than a rebellious presumption, and even a contemptuous laughing to scorn and deriding of God, his laws and precepts.
Begin every day to repent; not that thou shouldst ever defer it; but all that is past ought to seem little to thee, seeing it is so in itself. Begin the next day with the same zeal, fear, and humility, as if thou hadst never begun before.