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In Puritan Sermons, Volume 5 (James Nichols) we find the sermon of Zachary Crofton, A.M., “Repentance not to be Repented” defines repentance as follows: “Repentance is a grace supernatural, whereby the believing sinner, sensibly affected with and afflicted for his sin as committed against God, freely confessing, and fervently begging pardon, turneth from all sin to God.” (372)

On the first element, a “supernatural grace” Crofton makes a distinction which is not often heard: repentance is the principle animating the action, not the action itself: “it is a habit, power, principle, spring, root, and disposition; not a bare, single, and transient action.” (373) He then furthers this point by adding repentance is distinct “from all penitential acts: sighing, self-castigation, and abstinence from all sinful actions, are fruits and expressions of repentance, but not the grace itself.”

As such, it is easier to understand his insistence that repentance is a supernatural grace given by God. This grace, that is gift of God, causes the human being to act in accordance therewith, “The power and principle is divine; but act and exercise of repentance is human: God plants the root whereby man brings forth fruit worthy repentance.”

The first of Luther’s 95 theses was, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” When thought of as action, the statement seems difficult to understand. However when understood as a principle, a disposition (as is in Crofton), such a life of repentance makes sense, “Repentance is not the work of an hour, or a day; but a constant frame, course, and bent of the soul, on all renewed guilt flowing afresh, and bringing forth renewed acts.” (373)

It is a principle which when exposed to guilty responds with penitential action. It is a relationship to sin of abhorrence.  Notice also that repentance differs from mere guilt at being exposed to the law. Instead, repentance is a supernatural gift of the Gospel:

“Repentance is not the result of purest nature, nor yet the effect of the law; but a pure gospel-grace; preached by the gospel, promised in the covenant, sealed in baptism, produced by the Spirit, properly flowing from the blood of Christ; and so is every way supernatural.” (374)