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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of Saving Repentance.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after new obedience.


Q. 1. Who is the author of saving repentance?
A. The Spirit of God is the author of it the heart by nature is so hard, that none but the Spirit can break it; Ezekiel 36:26-27. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, &c.

Q. 2. In what act doth all true repentance begin?
A. It begins in a true sight and sense of sin, and the danger and misery we are in by sin; Acts 2:37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, &c.

Q. 3. Why doth God work such a sense of sin and misery?
A. He doth it to make Christ desirable in the sinnerís eyes, that he may fly to him; Matthew 11:12-13. But when Jesus heard that, be said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, and I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Q. 4. Is the sight of sin sufficient to repentance?
A. No; there must he apprehension of mercy and forgiveness with God, or else no man can sincerely repent; Romans 2:4. Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. And this mercy must be discerned in and through Christ; Zechariah 12:10. And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth or his only son, and s a e in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.

Q. 5. Wherein doth repentance chiefly consist?
A. It consists in real inward sorrow for sin, as committed against God: Psalm 51:3-4. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, &c. A loathing of ourselves for it; Ezekiel 36:31. And shall lothe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities, and for your abominations. And of our best duties, as sinful and insufficient things; Isaiah 64:5-6. We are all as an unclean thing; and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, &c.

Q. 6. Wherein else doth it consist?
A. In turning from sin, as well as grieving for it; Isaiah 55:7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, &c. Proverbs 28:13. He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy.

Q. 7. Is turning from sin sufficient?
A. No, that is but the negative part of religion; there must be also a sincere turning to God; Psalm 119:59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies; Acts 11:23. And exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

Q. 8. Is all sorrow for sin saving?
A. No; there is a repentance that doth no good; Matthew 27:3. Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself; &e. And a repentance unto life; Acts 11:18. Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Q. 9. What are the signs of true repentance?
A. Fear of sin; care to preserve ourselves from it; and zeal to honour God by hew obedience; 2 Corinthians 7:11. For behold, this self. same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge? In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Q. 10. Is there a necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness?
A. Yes, there is; and they are therefore conjoined in scripture; Acts 5:31. For to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And destruction threatened to the impenitent: Luke 13:3. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Q. 11. What is the first inference hence?
A. That it is a false doctrine which teaches us that sins are actually forgiven from eternity; and therefore no need either of repentance or prayer, save only for the manifestation of pardon.

Q. 12. What is the second inference hence?
A. That an hard heart is a dreadful sign of a lost state of soul; Romans 2:5. But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the (lay of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

Q. 13. What is the last inference hence?
A. That there is no cause to despair of the vilest sinner, seeing there is power enough in the Spirit of God to break the hardest heart; Ezekiel 36:26. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

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