What Is Repentance? A Moving Description by Charles Octavius Boothe

By repentance is meant a true godly sorrow for sin; that is, a sorrow which arises from the understanding that sin, in its worst forms, is an act of disobedience or of positive enmity to God, who demands our best obedience, and who is worthy to be loved by all men with all their heart and soul and might and mind and strength. But Paul says:

The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom 8:7)

David, after his fearful crimes against Uriah and his wife, was brought to real godly sorrow, for he said:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 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. (Psalm 51:14).

He did not mean to say that he had committed no crime against his faithful soldier and his wife; but his sense of the majesty and glory of God, and of the obedience that was due to him, was so great that, for the time being, he was overwhelmed with shame and sorrow on that account, and appears scarcely able to think of anything else.

A great change has taken place when one can say: “What God says of himself and of his just claims, and of me and of my opposition to these claims, is all true.”

It will be seen that there is in a sinner’s repentance toward God a new view, and a true view, of the character of God and what is due to him, and also a new view, and a true view, of himself and of the folly and wickedness of his own wrong thoughts of God, of his neglect of him, his disobedience and his enmity to him. This is a complete change of mind in regard to God and in regard to what his own feelings and conduct toward God ought to have been. A great change has taken place when one can say: “What God says of himself and of his just claims, and of me and of my opposition to these claims, is all true.”

One who can say this cannot help feeling deep sorrow and a real desire to make a change, which means a real desire to lead a new life, in which God’s will shall rule and his will shall be submitted to the will of God. All this means confession, honest confession of sin, which is simply saying about his former life, his thoughts and feelings and actions toward God, exactly what God says about them. This is what is meant by John when he writes:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

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This article is adapted from Plain Theology for Plain People by Charles Octavius Boothe (Lexham, 2017). It is part of the Lexham Classics series.

Charles Octavius Boothe (1845–1924) was a Baptist pastor and educator. He was the founding minister of Dexter Avenue—King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and one of the founding fathers of Selma University.

Comments

  1. Wesley Paddock says:

    Godly sorrow is only a small part of repentance. The term in both the OT and NT refers to making a change of direction. It means we stop going in the wrong direction and turn the focus of our lives toward God. Whoever wrote this needs to work harder on word studies in both Greek and Hebrew

  2. In Luke 10 Jesus tells the disciples they are blessed to see what they see. So much time is spent trying to explain visions and dreams one might have had but not very often do we see men mourn their sin or watching others sinning. The only way one can see sin is by God’s imparted holiness. The heart of evangelism comes from men who see sin and are willing to warn the world of the wrath that is coming.

  3. Abraham says:

    I believe that this repentance and confession occurred at the cross with one of the thieves. He confessed that he had done wrong and deserved to be crucified. He then acknowledge God thru Christ and asked for His mercy.

  4. Greg Luecht says:

    This speaks of what is the goal of repentance or what repentance may consist of….but not how one gets there. David was a man after God’s heart but did he ever get there of himself? The OT saints (including David) looked forward to the time of restored intimacy with God(Ps 32:1): a time when God would “put His law in our hearts”(Jer 32:38). It is God’s kindness (“in Christ”) that finally leads man to repentance(Rom 2:4). It is ONLY “in Christ” that man’s heart can be changed. The NT repentance consists of changing one’s mind from his self effort to dependence solely on God even to provide the repentance spoken of above.

  5. Greg Luecht says:

    More complete references would include Ps 32:1-2 and Jer 32:38-40.

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