Adams now comes to repentance. The purpose of this discussion of repentance was not give a definition of it but to persuade one to repent.
He begins in an interesting manner for one who seeks to persuade:
Repentance hath much acquaintance in the world, and few friends; it is better known than practiced.
He says that it is “every man’s medicine, a universal antidote.” But, perhaps because of its efficacy, it strangely can be seen an as encouragement to sin, “They make bold to sin, as if they were sure to repent.” And, “There is no such inducement to sin as the presumption that of ready repentance, as if God had no special riches of his own, and every sinner might command them at his pleasure.”
We suck in sin, the poison of that old serpent, and presume to drive it out again with repentance; but how if this herb of grace be not found in our gardens….However for soever we have run out, we hope to make all reckonings even when repentance comes; but what if repentance never comes.
Repentance is not something we can demand or command. Adams uses the language of riches and wealth of a king, which had dispense as he wishes.
Since Thomas Brooks makes the same point, we can consider:
“Device (6). By persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work, and that therefore the soul need not make such a matter of sin. Why! Suppose you do sin, saith Satan, it is no such difficult thing to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me;’ and if you do but this, God will cut the score,1 and pardon your sins, and save your souls, &c. By this device Satan draws many a soul to sin, and makes many millions of souls servants or rather slaves to sin, &c.”
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 31. In Precious Remedies Brooks gives this device and then a number of remedies to cure one of the falsehood. Taking the point that repentance is not something which can demand – it is a gift of grace, a treasure of God’s as Adams puts it:
“Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is seriously to consider, That to repent of sin is as great a work of grace as not to sin.1 By our sinful falls the powers of the soul are weakened, the strength of grace is decayed, our evidences for heaven are blotted, fears and doubts in the soul are raised (will God once more pardon this scarlet sin, and shew mercy to this wretched soul?), and corruptions in the heart are more advantaged and confirmed; and the conscience of a man after falls is the more enraged or the more benumbed. Now for a soul, notwithstanding all this, to repent of his falls, this shews that it is as great a work of grace to repent of sin as it is not to sin. Repentance is the vomit of the soul; and of all physic, none so difficult and hard as it is to vomit. The same means that tends to preserve the soul from sin, the same means works the soul to rise by repentance when it is fallen into sin.”
Another point made by Adams is that repentance is not merely a magic recitation of words,
Nor yet must we think with this one short word, “I repent,” to answer for the multitue of our offenses; as if we, that had sinned in parcels should be forgiven in gross…No let us reckon up our sins ot God in confession, that our hearts may find a plenary absolution. Nor is it enough to recount them, but we must recant them.
Brooks makes a similar point, “Some ignorant deluded souls vainly conceit that these five words, ‘Lord! have mercy upon me,’ are efficacious to send them to heaven; but as many are undone by buying a counterfeit jewel, so many are in hell by mistake of their repentance. Many rest in their repentance, though it be but the shadow of repentance, which caused one to say, ‘Repentance damneth more than sin.’”
Adams makes another point about repentance,
Wheresoever repentance is, she doth not deliberate, tarries not to ask questions and examine circumstances, but bestirs her joints, calls her wits and sense together; summons her tongue to praying, her feet to walking, her hand to working, her eyes to weeping, her heart to groaning. There is no need to bid her go, for she runs to the word for direction, to her own heart for remorse and compunction, to God for grace and pardon; and wheresoever she findeth Christ, she layeth faster hold on him than the Shunamite did on the feet of Elisha.
Repentance does not tarry, because there is no other defense from judgment:
We know there is no other fortification against the judgments of God but repentance. His forces be invisible, invincible; not repelled with sword and target; neither portcullis nor fortress can keep them out; there is nothing in the world that can encounter them but repentance.
Why then do we not repent if it is of such good? We fail to see our own sin aright. We lack humility because we do not understand God correctly. We lack repentance, because we see ourselves in too favorable a light and we see God’s judgment as too unlikely:
If we could truly weigh our iniquities, we must needs find a necessity either of repenting or of perishing. Shall we make God ot frown upon us in heaven, arm all his creatures against us on earth? [Edwards makes a similar point in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.] shall we force his curses upon us and ours; take his rod and teach it to scourge us with all temporal plagues and not repent?
Shall we would our own consciences with sin, that they may wound us with eternal torments; make a hell in our bosoms here, and open the gates of that lower hell to devour us hereafter and not repent?
He then makes this interesting psychological point
If we could see the farewell of sin, we would abhor it, and ourselves for it.
There is a strange about sin where it makes itself welcome by distorting our true view of ourselves, of sin, and of God.