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Crofton beings the “fourth conclusion” (the fourth point) of his sermon on repentance as follwos:

Turning from all sin to God, is the formality of true repentance.—Sincere conversion is the summa totalis and ratio formalis of a gospel-penitent.”

The act of turning from sin to God is the action of repentance, it is the form of repentance. “Ratio formalis”, the formal reason. This is a reference to Aristotle’s four aspects of causation. The “formal cause” is the form. For instance, if we were to consider the formal cause of a sculpture making a statute, the “formal cause” would be the shape of the statute.

Turning from sin and to God is what we do in repentance. Having said this, he now proves up his point. First, he proves it by way of negative argument: What if you had other elements of sin without this turning, would that be repentance?

“Remorse for sin, without a return from sin, will afford you no comfort. Sin is an aversion from God; and repentance a conversion to God.” This is an interesting argument, he will make a detailed Scriptural argument in a moment, but he begins with looking at the subject effects.

Sin causes us to be move from God, it is an “aversion to God.” If I merely feel sorrow for sin, but do not also have the ability to move toward God to relieve that sorrow, I will be in the untenable place of both hating my sin and having no one to relief the burden. This is the picture of Christian at the outset of Piligrim’s Progress: he knows the great burden on his back, but he has no way to relieve the weight of that burden.

This is a state the Puritans often referred to as “legal terrors” or “legal conviction”, rather than the work of Grace which would not merely cause one to see sin as a matter of guilty but also bring one to Christ for relief of that guilty and shame. Another common analogy, used by Crofton, compares false repentance to Judas, “All Judas-conviction and confession, nay, contrition and condemnation, will not constitute a gospel-penitent, for want of conversion.”

He then picks up this argument from a different point, the way in which the term is defined, “The common call of sinners unto repentance is, to “turn,” and “return to God.” (Isai. 44:22; 55:7; Jer. 4:1; 18:11; and many other places.) Whenever repentance is promised, or predicated and spoken of in scripture, it is ordinarily by this term, of “turning,” and “returning to the Lord,” (Isai. 19:22; 59:20;) and that not only in the Old, but also in the New, Testament: “We were as sheep going astray; but now are returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.” (1 Peter 2:25.)”

The very term repentance entails that turning from and turning to.  Until we turn to, we are in a very grave state: “Like the prodigal, we are out of our wits, until by a spirit of repentance we recover our sound mind, and return to our Father, from whom we have madly run away; so that the very formality of repentance is “returning.””

Think of the psychological effects described in Romans 1:18-32. The passage begins with the action of suppressing the knowledge of the wrath of God against sin. But that process leads to a kind of madness which permeates the rest of the passage. We come to irrationality and finally the approval that we make of one-another in a plunge into sin. It is the sort of mutual encouragement to some stupid action that adolescents are famous for providing. And while it might be comical in minor instances, the overall effect is devastating.

This change in direction is a change in life, the repentant person is a “changeling.” “Old things are done away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17.) But what precisely is the nature of that change. He first gives two negative explanations:

First, the change is “not in his substance.” Before and after conversion, we still human beings made of the same stuff.  Second, it is not a change in “quantity, measure, and degree, as common Christians too commonly dream.”

What then is the change: “in quality, nature, frame, and disposition.” We might venture to say the change is a psychological change, a change in how we think and feel with respect to certain matters: “The soul and body, in regard of their essence, powers, faculties, proper and natural actions, remain the same after that they were before repentance.”

The transformation is seen is the disposition, not the destruction of the life before conversion,  “sorrow, fear, joy, love, desire, natural passions and affections, are indeed altered, not annihilated; restrained, nay, regulated, not ruined: but the whole man is, in respect of property, bent, and disposition, no more the same, but a very changeling.”

He then provides examples from Scripture of this transformation described, “[so] that it may be said of them, as of Onesimus, “In time past unprofitable, but now profitable;” (Phil. 11;) or as of the Corinthians, [that] they were thieves, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, what not? but [that] they are washed, they are cleansed, they are sanctified. (1 Cor. 6:9–11.)”