Quotes From Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance

(Luke 24:45-47  ESV)  (45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  (46) and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  (47) and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

I am reading The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson (1668) and it is great. I have to share some of the quotes I am coming across in it as they really nail down what real repentance is (If you have a Kindle, you can get the The Works of Thomas Watson for only $3.99; at least most of his works are included and very well indexed. He is one of the most readable of the Puritans.):

Repentance is purgative [i.e., purifying]; fear not the working of this pill.

Moist tears dry up sin and quench the wrath of God.

Either sin must drown [in tears] or the soul must burn.

It is better to go with difficulty to heaven than with ease to hell.

Tomorrow may be our dying day; let this be our repenting day.

When the Apostle Paul was savingly worked upon, he labored to do as much good as previously he had done hurt.

Repentance is a foundation grace….Any religion which is not built upon it must fall to the ground.

The apostles did all beat upon this string: “They went out and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12).

Self-love raises a sickbed repentance. But if he recovers, the love of sin will prevail against it. Such a passionate resolution is raised in a storm, and will die in a calm.

Well that is just a sample. I hope it moves you to read Watson’s book. Let me leave off with the following paragraph from him which emphasizes the rich mercy of God in Christ toward us:

Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works admitted no repentance; there it was, sin and die. Repentance came in by the gospel. Christ has purchased in his blood that repenting sinners shall be saved. The law required personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. It cursed all who could not come up to this: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3.10). It does not say, he that obeys not all things, let him repent, but, let him be cursed. Thus repentance is a doctrine that has been brought to light only by the gospel.

(Watson, Thomas (2011-08-25). The Essential Works Of Thomas Watson (Kindle locations 5836-5840). GLH Publishing. Kindle edition.)

[April 9, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 9, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

4 thoughts on “Quotes From Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance”

  1. It is better to go with difficulty to heaven than with ease to hell

    Once upon a time, I built my false heaven on earth. It proved to be hell. In that hell on earth, God came to me and by His grace, I turned around and was set free. Little did I know that I would build another false heaven, this time under the guise of a Biblical covenant, and it would also prove to be hell on earth. Until there was a turnaround in thinking, a change of mind, there was no escape from this torture. Again, by God’s grace, deliverance came. Yes, the road has been fraught with difficulty, but it sure is worth it. I watch my abusers live with ease — albeit a deceptive one — but it is the road that will take them to hell.

  2. Anyone ever hear this advice? He said he was sorry, you must forgive him, accept his repentance and then “think the best”. Love commands us to “think the best”, and then they quote 1 Corinthians 13. What do you do with this advice? I guess it means to start expecting the best, something different than all the abuse you know. How do you do that?

    1. Jesus knew what was in the heart of men and did not entrust Himself to them. Whatever thinking the best means, it doesn’t mean having our head in the clouds and being totally naive about wicked people. There is no reason to expect anything good from someone who persists in unrepentant evil. And sorry, of course, doesn’t cut it. Sorry is so easy to say.

    2. Yes, that is what I used to do. Maybe that advice was from someone who got it from me! I like Pastor Crippen’s answer — Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men (John 2:24). Now, my opinion is that to “think the best” can be a general policy when it comes to dealing with people, especially when you don’t have evidence for anything else, but when you KNOW, either by experience or by the knowledge of the dynamics of violence (i.e., crying is not repentance), then thinking the best is not living in truth, and God is a God of truth, and whatever is not true is not of God.

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