Principles Concerning Repentance

Principles Concerning Repentance

Theodore Beza & Antoine de la Faye

Theses Theologicae in Schola Genevensi

Propositions and Principles of Divinity
Propounded and Disputed in the University of Geneva
by Students (1586)

XL. Principles Concerning Repentance

1. Seeing the wickedness of man’s nature is such, that not only no man can perform the Law of God, but not so much as perfectly fulfill the least part thereof; and therefore, no man in this corrupt flesh can live without sin; it will not be amiss, now that we have done with the opening of the law, to set down the treatise concerning Repentance. For even as by the diligent reading over of a thing, the faults escaped in writing are oft corrected—so the sins of our life are amended by Repentance.

2. Repentance therefore, which the Hebrews call תשובה from turning again, and the Greeks μετάνοια from the changing of the mind, may be thus aptly defined.

Repentance defined.

3. Repentance is the true conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from the true and sound fear of God, whereby, the sinner leaving the folly of sin, cometh home again, and changeth the former purpose of his mind into a better.

A change in the very soul itself.

4. Two things are diligently to be noted in this definition: the one (where we speak of the conversion unto God) that there is required a renewing, not only in our works, but also in the very soul itself, which then doth cast off the old man, when as, it bringeth forth the fruits of works that are answerable unto the renewing thereof.

Therefore, the preposterous endeavors of hypocrites are to be reprehended, who externally make a shew of outward Repentance, when as in the mean time, they never go about to untie the bundles of iniquity, which they have within them.

Repentance arises from the true fear of God.

5. The other, in that we teach that it ought to arise from the true fear of God. For the soul of a sinner must be touched with the sense of God’s judgment, before such time as it can be drawn to Repentance. For such is the obstinacy of our flesh, that unless it be bruised with threats, as with a hammer, the slothfulness thereof will never be amended.

Two parts: Mortification & Quickening.

6. Now of Repentance there are two parts: Mortification of the old man, and the Quickening of the Spirit.

7. Mortification of the old man, is the abolishing of our natural corruption, which is done by the Spirit of God, and is by little and little, perfected by the same.

8. The Quickening of the Spirit, or the gift of the new man, we define to be that power, which by little and little, coming into the place of the abolishing of our natural corruption (as the day succeedeth the driving away of the darkness), maketh that after we have known and allowed the will of God, wee begin to do and to will, that which is good.

Popish Repentance.

The Papistical division of Repentance into contrition of the heart, confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of the deed we allow, if it be rightly expounded: but we refuse the same, as altogether false and ungodly in that sense that they bring and understand it.

9. For they do understand nothing else by the contrition of the heart, than that biting, whereby, sin doth gnaw the conscience, either when it standeth in the fear of the judgment, of God, or of man’s, that hangeth over it, or when it suffereth the punishment imposed by men.

Genuine Contrition.

10. But we call that a contrite heart, whereby the conscience is marvelously grieved indeed, and that not with out the biting of sin, but properly by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; not so much for fear of punishment, as because a man hath offended his God, and by reason of the hatred of sin. The which heaviness, the Apostle, that he might distinguish it from the other, which begetteth desperation, calleth sorrow or heaviness according unto God [2 Cor. 7:9-10].

Popish Contrition.

11. Again, most foul, and most contumelious against the grace of God, is that other errour of theirs, whereby, they make that biting of sin, which is altogether deadly, unless it be healed by the grace of God, to be a part of that punishment, which should be paid as a recompense for sin.

Confession of Sin.

12. So also we acknowledge, that the Scripture doth make mention of a double confession. The one, which is done either unto God alone, and that either privately by one man, or publicly by the whole Church: or that which is done unto God and the Church, by those who have offended the Church by some public scandal or offense. The other which is done unto our neighbour, being hurt by some private injury.

13. Now, this latter confession have the Papists, contrary unto the whole Law of God, turned unto an auricular confession: setting down a law, whereby with unspeakable tyranny they have bound miserable consciences to reckon up their sins both all and some that they have committed, in the ear of the sacrificing Priest.

Popish penance.

14. The punishments also called ἐπιτιμία of the Grecians being ordained not for every one, but for those only who sin with the public offense of the Church, and who have their cause made known before the Presbytery, not that any satisfaction should thereby be made unto God, as though the penalty were satisfied, but to the end that the pride of the sinner being beaten down, the Church might have a sure testimony of his Repentance. Those punishments (we say) have the said Papists changed, with manifest impiety into certain forms of penalties, that partly are full of superstition, and partly altogether blasphemous—which also they teach to be such a satisfaction of the penalty in the presence of God, as deserveth remission of sins.

Purgatory & Indulgences.

15. Unto this most foul delusion, they join an other twofold error, to wit, Purgatory, and Indulgences. Whereas indulgence was nothing else at the first, but some mitigation of the severity of the Canons, whereby upon good grounds, some favour was shewed unto those that had offended, lest they should have been swallowed up with over much heaviness.

We detest therefore that whole fable of Purgatory, as being an execrable impiety, and mere contrary unto our free reconciliation by Christ.

Repentance & Faith.

16. The Law is properly the object of Repentance, as the promises of the Gospel are of Faith.

Therefore to speak properly, Faith is the mother, and not a part of Repentance.

17. Yet if by Repentance we will understand the whole change of man unto better, we acknowledge, that Faith is a principal part thereof, whereby a man is changed from being an unbeliever, to be a believer.

Repentance—a free gift of God.

18. Now we rightly gather by the former things, that Repentance is a mere gift of God, and that it is ridiculously said, to arise from our natural free will—seeing by nature we are servants unto sin.

19. And seeing that the flesh doth in some sort remain in us, two things do follow thence: First, that continual Repentance is required of us, as long as we are in this life. Secondly, that Repentance is acceptable unto God, not by any merit thereof, but only by his mere free mercy.

20. We condemn the Novatians, who deny Repentance unto them that are once fallen.

21. And the Anabaptists, who dream that they have attained unto a perfect degree of righteousness in this life.

22. And that over great severity of the Canons, who did exclude the ministers of the Church, after they had once made public Repentance, from all hope of being received again.

Defended by Daniel Doolegianus a Low-country man.

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