Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 4
(... continued from part 3) 

Chapter 3. 
3. Regeneration by faith. Of repentance. 
    This chapter is divided into five parts. I. The title of the 
chapter seems to promise a treatise on Faith, but the only subject 
here considered is Repentance, the inseparable attendant of faith. 
And, first, various opinions on the subject of repentance are 
stated, sec. 1-4. II. An exposition of the orthodox doctrine of 
Repentance, sec. 5-9. III. Reasons why repentance must be prolonged 
to the last moment of life, sec. 10-14. IV. Of the fruits of 
repentance, or its object and tendency, sec. 15-20. V. The source 
whence repentance proceeds, sec. 21-24. Of the sin against the Holy 
Spirit, and the impenitence of the reprobate, sec. 25. 
1. Connection of this chapter with the previous one and the 
    subsequent chapters. Repentance follows faith, and is produced 
    by it. Reason. Error of those who take a contrary view. 
2. Their First Objection. Answer. In what sense the origin of 
    Repentance ascribed to Faith. Cause of the erroneous idea that 
    faith is produced by repentance. Refutation of it. The 
    hypocrisy of Monks and Anabaptists in assigning limits to 
    repentance exposed. 
3. A second opinion concerning repentance considered. 
4. A third opinion, assigning two forms to repentance, a legal and 
    an Evangelical. Examples of each. 
5. The orthodox doctrine of Repentance. 1. Faith and Repentance to 
    be distinguished, not confounded or separated. 2. A 
    consideration of the name. 3. A definition of the thing, or 
    what repentance is. Doctrine of the Prophets and Apostles. 
6. Explanation of the definition. This consists of three parts. 1. 
    Repentance is a turning of our life unto God. This described 
    and enlarged upon. 
7. 2. Repentance produced by fear of God. Hence the mention of 
    divine judgment by the Prophets and Apostles. Example. 
    Exposition of the second branch of the definition from a 
    passage in Paul. Why the fear of God is the first part of 
8. 3. Repentance consists in the mortification of the flesh and the 
    quickening of the Spirit. These required by the Prophets. They 
    are explained separately. 
9. How this mortification and quickening are produced. Repentance 
    just a renewal of the divine image in us. Not completed in a 
    moment, but extends to the last moment of life. 
10. Reasons why repentance must so extend. Augustine's opinion as to 
    concupiscence in the regenerate examined. A passage of Paul 
    which seems to confirm that opinion. 
11. Answer. Confirmation of the answer by the Apostle himself. 
    Another confirmation from a precept of the law. Conclusion. 
12. Exception, that those desires only are condemned which are 
    repugnant to the order of God. Desires not condemned in so far 
    as natural, but in so far as inordinate. This held by 
13. Passages from Augustine to show that this was his opinion. 
    Objection from a passage in James. 
14. Another objection of the Anabaptists and Libertines to the 
    continuance of repentance throughout the present life. An 
    answer disclosing its impiety. Another answer, founded on the 
    absurdities to which it leads. A third answer, contrasting 
    sincere Christian repentance with the erroneous view of the 
    objectors. Conformation from the example and declaration of an 
15. Of the fruits of repentance. Carefulness. Excuse. Indignation. 
    Fear. Desire. Zeal. Revenge. Moderation to be observed, as most 
    sagely counseled by Bernard. 
16. Internal fruits of Repentance. 1. Piety towards God. 2. Charity 
    towards man. 3. Purity of life. How carefully these fruits are 
    commended by the Prophets. External fruits of repentance. 
    Bodily exercises too much commended by ancient writers. Twofold 
    excess in regard to them. 
17. Delusion of some who consider these external exercises as the 
    chief part of Repentance. Why received in the Jewish Church. 
    The legitimate use of these exercises in the Christian Church. 
18. The principal part of repentance consists in turning to God. 
    Confession and acknowledgment of sins. What their nature should 
    be. Distinction between ordinary and special repentance. Use of 
    this distinction. 
19. End of Repentance. Its nature shown by the preaching of John 
    Baptist, our Savior, and his Apostles. The sum of this 
20. Christian repentance terminates with our life. 
21. Repentance has its origin in the grace of God, as communicated 
    to the elect, whom God is pleased to save from death. The 
    hardening and final impenitence of the reprobate. A passage of 
    an Apostle as to voluntary reprobates, gives no countenance to 
    the Novatians. 
22. Of the sin against the Holy Ghost. The true definition of this 
    sin as proved and explained by Scripture. Who they are that sin 
    against the Holy Spirit. Examples: - 1. The Jews resisting 
    Stephen. 2. The Pharisees. Definition confirmed by the example 
    of Paul. 
23. Why that sin unpardonable. The paralogism of the Novatians in 
    wresting the words of the Apostle examined. Two passages from 
    the same Apostle. 
24. First objection to the above doctrine. Answer. Solution of a 
    difficulty founded on the example of Esau and the threatening 
    of a Prophet. Second objection. 
25. Third objection, founded on the seeming approval of the feigned 
    repentance of the ungodly, as Ahab. Answer. Confirmation from 
    the example of Esau. Why God bears for a time with the ungodly, 
    pretending repentance. Exception. 
    1. Although we have already in some measure shown how faith 
possesses Christ, and gives us the enjoyment of his benefits, the 
subject would still be obscure were we not to add an exposition of 
the effects resulting from it. The sum of the Gospel is, not without 
good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; 
and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion 
concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost 
useless. Now, since Christ confers upon us, and we obtain by faith, 
both free reconciliation and newness of life, reason and order 
require that I should here begin to treat of both. The shortest 
transition, however, will be from faith to repentance; for 
repentance being properly understood it will better appear how a man 
is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, 
real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free 
imputation of righteousness. That repentance not only always follows 
faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy, (see 
Calvin in Joann. 1: 13.) For since pardon and forgiveness are 
offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, 
delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the 
miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it 
is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without 
retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right 
path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. Those 
who think that repentance precedes faith instead of flowing from, or 
being produced by it, as the fruit by the tree, have never 
understood its nature, and are moved to adopt that view on very 
insufficient grounds. 
    2. Christ and John, it is said, in their discourses first 
exhort the people to repentance, and then add, that the kingdom of 
heaven is at hand, (Matth. 3: 2; 4: 17.) Such too, is the message 
which the Apostles received and such the course which Paul followed, 
as is narrated by Luke, (Acts 20: 21.) But clinging superstitiously 
to the juxtaposition of the syllables, they attend not to the 
coherence of meaning in the words. For when our Lord and John begin 
their preaching thus "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," 
(Matth. 3: 2,) do they not deduce repentance as a consequence of the 
offer of grace and promise of salvation? The force of the words, 
therefore, is the same as if it were said, As the kingdom of heaven 
is at hand, for that reason repent. For Matthew, after relating that 
John so preached, says that therein was fulfilled the prophecy 
concerning the voice of one crying in the desert, "Prepare ye the 
way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," 
(Isaiah 40: 3.) But in the Prophet that voice is ordered to commence 
with consolation and glad tidings. Still, when we attribute the 
origin of repentance to faith, we do not dream of some period of 
time in which faith is to give birth to it: we only wish to show 
that a man cannot seriously engage in repentance unless he know that 
he is of God. But no man is truly persuaded that he is of God until 
he have embraced his offered favor. These things will be more 
clearly explained as we proceed. Some are perhaps misled by this, 
that not a few are subdued by terror of conscience, or disposed to 
obedience before they have been imbued with a knowledge, nay, before 
they have had any taste of the divine favor, (see Calvin in Acts 20: 
21.) This is that initial fear which some writers class among the 
virtues, because they think it approximates to true and genuine 
obedience. But we are not here considering the various modes in 
which Christ draws us to himself, or prepares us for the study of 
piety: All I say is, that no righteousness can be found where the 
Spirit, whom Christ received in order to communicate it to his 
members, reigns not. Then, according to the passage in the Psalms, 
"There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared," (Psalm 
130: 4,) no man will ever reverence God who does not trust that God 
is propitious to him, no man will ever willingly set himself to 
observe the Law who is not persuaded that his services are pleasing 
to God. The indulgence of God in tolerating and pardoning our 
iniquities is a sign of paternal favor. This is also clear from the 
exhortation in Hosea, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he 
has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us 
up," (Hos. 6: 1;) the hope of pardon is employed as a stimulus to 
prevent us from becoming reckless in sin. But there is no semblance 
of reason in the absurd procedure of those who, that they may begin 
with repentance, prescribe to their neophytes certain days during 
which they are to exercise themselves in repentance, and after these 
are elapsed, admit them to communion in Gospel grace. I allude to 
great numbers of Anabaptists, those of them especially who plume 
themselves on being spiritual, and their associates the Jesuits, and 
others of the same stamp. Such are the fruits which their giddy 
spirit produces, that repentance, which in every Christian man lasts 
as long as life, is with them completed in a few short days. 
    3. Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days 
and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the 
rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, 
mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of 
soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the 
divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of 
sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin. He also is sincerely 
dissatisfied with himself, confesses that he is lost and undone, and 
wishes he were different from what he is. Moreover, when he is 
touched with some sense of the divine justice, (for the one 
conviction immediately follows the other,) he lies terrorstruck and 
amazed, humbled and dejected, desponds and despairs. This, which 
they regarded as the first part of repentance, they usually termed 
contrition. By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced 
by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and 
smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and 
the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, 
begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death 
unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly 
enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to 
their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels 
after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly 
means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the 
new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he 
may begin to live unto God. 
    4. Others seeing that the term is used in Scripture in 
different senses, have set down two forms of repentance, and, in 
order to distinguish them, have called the one Legal repentance; or 
that by which the sinner, stung with a sense of his sin, and 
overwhelmed with fear of the divine anger, remains in that state of 
perturbation, unable to escape from it. The other they term 
Evangelical repentance; or that by which the sinner, though 
grievously downcast in himself, yet looks up and sees in Christ the 
cure of his wound, the solace of his terror; the haven of rest from 
his misery. They give Cain, Saul and Judas, as examples of legal 
repentance. Scripture, in describing what is called their 
repentance, means that they perceived the heinousness of their sins, 
and dreaded the divine anger; but, thinking only of God as a judge 
and avenger, were overwhelmed by the thought. Their repentance, 
therefore, was nothing better than a kind of threshold to hell, into 
which having entered even in the present life, they began to endure 
the punishment inflicted by the presence of an offended God. 
Examples of evangelical repentance we see in all those who, first 
stung with a sense of sin, but afterwards raised and revived by 
confidence in the divine mercy, turned unto the Lord. Hezekiah was 
frightened on receiving the message of his death, but praying with 
tears, and beholding the divine goodness, regained his confidence. 
The Ninevites were terrified at the fearful announcement of their 
destruction; but clothing themselves in sackcloth and ashes, they 
prayed, hoping that the Lord might relent and avert his anger from 
them. David confessed that he had sinned greatly in numbering the 
people, but added "Now, I beseech thee O Lord, take away the 
iniquity of thy servant." When rebuked by Nathan, he acknowledged 
the crime of adultery, and humbled himself before the Lord; but he, 
at the same time, looked for pardon. Similar was the repentance of 
those who, stung to the heart by the preaching of Peter, yet trusted 
in the divine goodness, and added, "Men and brethren, what shall we 
do?" Similar was the case of Peter himself, who indeed wept 
bitterly, but ceased not to hope. 
    5. Though all this is true, yet the term repentance (in so far 
as I can ascertain from Scripture) must be differently taken. For in 
comprehending faith under repentance, they are at variance with what 
Paul says in the Acts, as to his "testifying both to the Jews and 
also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord 
Jesus Christ," (Acts 20: 21.) Here he mentions faith and repentance 
as two different things. What then? Can true repentance exist 
without faith? By no means. But although they cannot be separated, 
they ought to be distinguished. As there is no faith without hope, 
and yet faith and hope are different, so repentance and faith, 
though constantly linked together, are only to be united, not 
confounded. I am not unaware that under the term repentance is 
comprehended the whole work of turning to God, of which not the 
least important part is faith; but in what sense this is done will 
be perfectly obvious, when its nature and power shall have been 
explained. The term repentance is derived in the Hebrew from 
conversion, or turning again; and in the Greek from a change of mind 
and purpose; nor is the thing meant inappropriate to both 
derivations, for it is substantially this, that withdrawing from 
ourselves we turn to God, and laying aside the old, put on a new 
mind. Wherefore, it seems to me, that repentance may be not 
inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto 
God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting 
in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the 
quickening of the Spirit. In this sense are to be understood all 
those addresses in which the prophets first, and the apostles 
afterwards, exhorted the people of their time to repentance. The 
great object for which they labored was, to fill them with confusion 
for their sins and dread of the divine judgment, that they might 
fall down and humble themselves before him whom they had offended, 
and, with true repentance, retake themselves to the right path. 
Accordingly, they use indiscriminately in the same sense, the 
expressions turning, or returning to the Lord; repenting, doing 
repentance. Whence, also, the sacred history describes it as 
repentance towards God, when men who disregarded him and wantoned in 
their lusts begin to obey his word, and are prepared to go 
whithersoever he may call them. And John Baptist and Paul, under the 
expression, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance, described a 
course of life exhibiting and bearing testimony, in all its actions, 
to such a repentance. 
    6. But before proceeding farther, it will be proper to give a 
clearer exposition of the definition which we have adopted. There 
are three things, then, principally to be considered in it. First, 
in the conversion of the life to God, we require a transformation 
not only in external works, but in the soul itself, which is able 
only after it has put off its old habits to bring forth fruits 
conformable to its renovation. The prophet, intending to express 
this, enjoins those whom he calls to repentance to make them "a new 
heart and a new spirit," (Ezek. 38: 31.) Hence Moses, on several 
occasions, when he would show how the Israelites were to repent and 
turn to the Lord, tells them that it must be done with the whole 
heart, and the whole soul, (a mode of expression of frequent 
recurrence in the prophets,) and by terming it the circumcision of 
the heart, points to the internal affections. But there is no 
passage better fitted to teach us the genuine nature of repentance 
than the following: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, 
return unto me." "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among 
thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the 
foreskins of your heart," (Jer. 4: 1-4.) See how he declares to them 
that it will be of no avail to commence the study of righteousness 
unless impiety shall first have been eradicated from their inmost 
heart. And to malice the deeper impression, he reminds them that 
they have to do with God, and can gain nothing by deceit, because he 
hates a double heart. For this reason Isaiah derides the 
preposterous attempts of hypocrites, who zealously aimed at an 
external repentance by the observance of ceremonies, but in the 
meanwhile cared not "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the 
heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free," (Isaiah 58: 6.) In 
these words he admirably shows wherein the acts of unfeigned 
repentance consist. 
    7. The second part of our definition is, that repentance 
proceeds from a sincere fear of God. Before the mind of the sinner 
can be inclined to repentance, he must be aroused by the thought of 
divine judgment; but when once the thought that God will one day 
ascend his tribunal to take an account of all words and actions has 
taken possession of his mind, it will not allow him to rest, or have 
one moment's peace, but will perpetually urge him to adopt a 
different plan of life, that he may be able to stand securely at 
that judgment-seat. Hence the Scripture, when exhorting to 
repentance, often introduces the subject of judgment, as in 
Jeremiah, "Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can 
quench it, because of the evil of your doings," (Jer. 4: 4.) Paul, 
in his discourse to the Athenians says, "The times of this ignorance 
God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 
because he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world 
in righteousness," (Acts 17: 30, 31.) The same thing is repeated in 
several other passages. Sometimes God is declared to be a judge, 
from the punishments already inflicted, thus leading sinners to 
reflect that worse awaits them if they do not quickly repent. There 
is an example of this in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy. As 
repentance begins with dread and hatred of sin, the Apostle sets 
down godly sorrow as one of its causes, (2 Cor. 7: 10.) By godly 
sorrow he means when we not only tremble at the punishment, but hate 
and abhor the sin, because we know it is displeasing to God. It is 
not strange that this should be, for unless we are stung to the 
quick, the sluggishness of our carnal nature cannot be corrected; 
nay, no degree of pungency would suffice for our stupor and sloth, 
did not God lift the rod and strike deeper. There is, moreover, a 
rebellious spirit which must be broken as with hammers. The stern 
threatening which God employs are extorted from him by our depraved 
dispositions. For while we are asleep it were in vain to allure us 
by soothing measures. Passages to this effect are everywhere to be 
met with, and I need not quote them. But there is another reason why 
the fear of God lies at the root of repentance, viz., that though 
the life of man were possessed of all kinds of virtue, still if they 
do not bear reference to God, how much soever they may be lauded in 
the world, they are mere abomination in heaven, inasmuch as it is 
the principal part of righteousness to render to God that service 
and honor of which he is impiously defrauded, whenever it is not our 
express purpose to submit to his authority. 
    8. We must now explain the third part of the definition, and 
show what is meant when we say that repentance consists of two 
parts, viz., the mortification of the flesh, and the quickening of 
the Spirit. The prophets, in accommodation to a carnal people, 
express this in simple and homely terms, but clearly, when they say, 
"Depart from evil, and do good," (Ps. 34: 14.) "Wash you, make you 
clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease 
to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed," 
&c., (Isaiah 1: 16, 17.) In dissuading us from wickedness they 
demand the entire destruction of the flesh, which is full of 
perverseness and malice. It is a most difficult and arduous 
achievement to renounce ourselves, and lay aside our natural 
disposition. For the flesh must not be thought to be destroyed 
unless every thing that we have of our own is abolished. But seeing 
that all the desires of the flesh are enmity against God, (Rom. 8: 
7,) the first step to the obedience of his law is the renouncement 
of our own nature. Renovation is afterwards manifested by the fruits 
produced by it, viz., justice, judgment, and mercy. Since it were 
not sufficient duly to perform such acts, were not the mind and 
heart previously endued with sentiments of justice, judgment, and 
mercy this is done when the Holy Spirit, instilling his holiness 
into our souls, so inspired them with new thoughts and affections, 
that they may justly be regarded as new. And, indeed, as we are 
naturally averse to God, unless self-denial precede, we shall never 
tend to that which is right. Hence we are so often enjoined to put 
off the old man, to renounce the world and the flesh, to forsake our 
lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Moreover, the very 
name mortification reminds us how difficult it is to forget our 
former nature, because we hence infer that we cannot be trained to 
the fear of God, and learn the first principles of piety, unless we 
are violently smitten with the sword of the Spirit and annihilated, 
as if God were declaring, that to be ranked among his sons there 
must be a destruction of our ordinary nature. 
    9. Both of these we obtain by union with Christ. For if we have 
true fellowship in his death, our old man is crucified by his power, 
and the body of sin becomes dead, so that the corruption of our 
original nature is never again in full vigor, (Rom. 6: 5, 6.) If we 
are partakers in his resurrection, we are raised up by means of it 
to newness of life, which conforms us to the righteousness of God. 
In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration, the only 
aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was 
sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam. So the 
Apostle teaches when he says, "We all with open face beholding as in 
a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from 
glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." Again, "Be renewed in 
the spirit of your minds" and "put ye on the new man, which after 
God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Again, "Put ye 
on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him 
that created him." Accordingly through the blessing of Christ we are 
renewed by that regeneration into the righteousness of God from 
which we had fallen through Adam, the Lord being pleased in this 
manner to restore the integrity of all whom he appoints to the 
inheritance of life. This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a 
moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by 
slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his 
elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his 
temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that 
during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that 
death is the only termination to this warfare. The greater is the 
effrontery of an impure raver and apostate, named Staphylus, who 
pretends that I confound the condition of the present life with the 
celestial glory, when, after Paul, I make the image of God to 
consist in righteousness and true holiness; as if in every 
definition it were not necessary to take the thing defined in its 
integrity and perfection. It is not denied that there is room for 
improvement; but what I maintain is, that the nearer any one 
approaches in resemblance to God, the more does the image of God 
appear in him. That believers may attain to it, God assigns 
repentance as the goal towards which they must keep running during 
the whole course of their lives. 
    10. By regeneration the children of God are delivered from the 
bondage of sin, but not as if they had already obtained full 
possession of freedom, and no longer felt any annoyance from the 
flesh. Materials for an unremitting contest remain, that they may be 
exercised, and not only exercised, but may better understand their 
weakness. All writers of sound judgment agree in this, that, in the 
regenerate man, there is still a spring of evil which is perpetually 
sending forth desires that allure and stimulate him to sin. They 
also acknowledge that the saints are still so liable to the disease 
of concupiscence, that, though opposing it, they cannot avoid being 
ever and anon prompted and incited to lust, avarice, ambition, or 
other vices. It is unnecessary to spend much time in investigating 
the sentiments of ancient writers. Augustine alone may suffice, as 
he has collected all their opinions with great care and fidelity. 
Any reader who is desirous to know the sense of antiquity may obtain 
it from him. There is this difference apparently between him and us, 
that while he admits that believers, so long as they are in the 
body, are so liable to concupiscence that they cannot but feel it, 
he does not venture to give this disease the name of sin. He is 
contented with giving it the name of infirmity, and says, that it 
only becomes sin when either external act or consent is added to 
conception or apprehension; that is, when the will yields to the 
first desire. We again regard it as sin whenever man is influenced 
in any degree by any desire contrary to the law of God; nay, we 
maintain that the very gravity which begets in us such desires is 
sin. Accordingly, we hold that there is always sin in the saints 
until they are freed from their mortal frame, because depraved 
concupiscence resides in their flesh, and is at variance with 
rectitude. Augustine himself dose not always refrain from using the 
name of sin, as when he says, "Paul gives the name of sin to that 
carnal concupiscence from which all sins arise. This in regard to 
the saints loses its dominion in this world, and is destroyed in 
heaven." In these words he admits that believers, in so far as they 
are liable to carnal concupiscence, are chargeable with sin. 
    11. When it is said that God purifies his Church, so as to be 
"holy and without blemish," (Eph. 5: 26, 27,) that he promises this 
cleansing by means of baptism, and performs it in his elect, I 
understand that reference is made to the guilt rather than to the 
matter of sin. In regenerating his people God indeed accomplishes 
this much for them; he destroys the dominion of sin, by supplying 
the agency of the Spirit, which enables them to come off victorious 
from the contest. Sin, however, though it ceases to reign, ceases 
not to dwell in them. Accordingly, though we say that the old man is 
crucified, and the law of sin is abolished in the children of God, 
(Rom. 6: 6,) the remains of sin survive, not to have dominion, but 
to humble them under a consciousness of their infirmity. We admit 
that these remains, just as if they had no existence, are not 
imputed, but we, at the same time, contend that it is owing to the 
mercy of God that the saints are not charged with the guilt which 
would otherwise make them sinners before God. It will not be 
difficult for us to confirm this view, seeing we can support it by 
clear passages of Scripture. How can we express our view more 
plainly than Paul does in Rom. 7: 6? We have elsewhere shown and 
Augustine by solid reasons proves, that Paul is there speaking in 
the person of a regenerated man. I say nothing as to his use of the 
words evil and sin. However those who object to our view may quibble 
on these words, can any man deny that aversion to the law of God is 
an evil, and that hindrance to righteousness is sin? In short, who 
will not admit that there is guilt where there is spiritual misery? 
But all these things Paul affirms of this disease. Again, the law 
furnishes us with a clear demonstration by which the whole question 
may be quickly disposed of. We are enjoined to love God with all our 
heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. Since all the 
faculties of our soul ought thus to be engrossed with the love of 
God, it is certain that the commandment is not fulfilled by those 
who receive the smallest desire into their heart, or admit into 
their minds any thought whatever which may lead them away from the 
love of God to vanity. What then? Is it not through the faculties of 
mind that we are assailed with sudden motions, that we perceive 
sensual, or form conceptions of mental objects? Since these 
faculties give admission to vain and wicked thoughts, do they not 
show that to that extent they are devoid of the love of God? He, 
then, who admits not that all the desires of the flesh are sins, and 
that that disease of concupiscence, which they call a stimulus, is a 
fountain of sin, must of necessity deny that the transgression of 
the law is sin. 
    12. If any one thinks it absurd thus to condemn all the desires 
by which man is naturally affected, seeing they have been implanted 
by God the author of nature, we answer, that we by no means condemn 
those appetites which God so implanted in the mind of man at his 
first creation, that they cannot be eradicated without destroying 
human nature itself, but only the violent lawless movements which 
war with the order of God. But as, in consequence of the corruption 
of nature, all our faculties are so vitiated and corrupted, that a 
perpetual disorder and excess is apparent in all our actions, and as 
the appetites cannot be separated from this excess, we maintain that 
therefore they are vicious; or, to give the substance in fewer 
words, we hold that all human desires are evil, and we charge them 
with sin not in as far as they are natural, but because they are 
inordinate, and inordinate because nothing pure and upright can 
proceed from a corrupt and polluted nature. Nor does Augustine 
depart from this doctrine in reality so much as in appearance. From 
an excessive dread of the invidious charge with which the Pelagians 
assailed him, he sometimes refrains from using the term sin in this 
sense; but when he says (ad Bonif.) that the law of sin remaining in 
the saints, the guilt only is taken away, he shows clearly enough 
that his view is not very different from ours. 
    13. We will produce some other passages to make it more 
apparent what his sentiments were. In his second book against 
Julian, he says, "This law of sin is both remitted in spiritual 
regeneration and remains in the mortal flesh; remitted, because the 
guilt is forgiven in the sacrament by which believers are 
regenerated, and yet remains, inasmuch as it produces desires 
against which believers fight." Again, "Therefore the law of sin 
(which was in the members of this great Apostle also) is forgiven in 
baptism, not ended." Again, "The law of sin, the guilt of which, 
though remaining, is forgiven in baptism, Ambrose called iniquity, 
for it is iniquitous for the flesh to lust against the Spirit." 
Again, "Sin is dead in the guilt by which it bound us; and until it 
is cured by the perfection of burial, though dead it rebels." In the 
fifth book he says still more plainly, "As blindness of heart is the 
sin by which God is not believed; and the punishment of sin, by 
which a proud heart is justly punished; and the cause of sin, when 
through the error of a blinded heart any evil is committed: so the 
lust of the flesh, against which the good Spirit wars, is also sin, 
because disobedient to the authority of the mind; and the punishment 
of sin, because the recompense rendered for disobedience; and the 
cause of sin, consenting by revolt or springing up through 
contamination." He here without ambiguity calls it sin, because the 
Pelagian heresy being now refuted, and the sound doctrine confirmed, 
he was less afraid of calumny. Thus, also, in his forty-first Homily 
on John, where he speaks his own sentiments without controversy, he 
says, "If with the flesh you serve the law of sin, do what the 
Apostle himself says, 'Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal 
body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof,' (Rom. 6: 12.) He 
does not say, Let it not be, but Let it not reign. As long as you 
live there must be sin in your members; but at least let its 
dominion be destroyed; do not what it orders." Those who maintain 
that concupiscence is not sin, are wont to found on the passage of 
James, "Then, when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin," 
(James 1: 15.) But this is easily refuted: for unless we understand 
him as speaking only of wicked works or actual sins, even a wicked 
inclination will not be accounted sin. But from his calling crimes 
and wicked deeds the fruits of lust, and also giving them the name 
of sins, it does not follow that the lust itself is not an evil, and 
in the sight of God deserving of condemnation. 
    14. Some Anabaptists in the present age mistake some 
indescribable sort of frenzied excess for the regeneration of the 
Spirit, holding that the children of God are restored to a state of 
innocence, and, therefore, need give themselves no anxiety about 
curbing the lust of the flesh; that they have the Spirit for their 
guide, and under his agency never err. It would be incredible that 
the human mind could proceed to such insanity, did they not openly 
and exultingly give utterance to their dogma. It is indeed 
monstrous, and yet it is just, that those who have resolved to turn 
the word of God into a lie, should thus be punished for their 
blasphemous audacity. Is it indeed true, that all distinction 
between base and honorable, just and unjust, good and evil, virtue 
and vice, is abolished? The distinction, they say, is from the curse 
of the old Adam, and from this we are exempted by Christ. There will 
be no difference, then, between whoredom and chastity, sincerity and 
craft, truth and falsehood, justice and robbery. Away with vain 
fear! (they say,) the Spirit will not bid you do any thing that is 
wrong, provided you sincerely and boldly leave yourself to his 
agency. Who is not amazed at such monstrous doctrines? And yet this 
philosophy is popular with those who, blinded by insane lusts, have 
thrown off common sense. But what kind of Christ, pray, do they 
fabricate? what kind of Spirit do they belch forth? We acknowledge 
one Christ, and his one Spirit, whom the prophets foretold and the 
Gospel proclaims as actually manifested, but we hear nothing of this 
kind respecting him. That Spirit is not the patron of murder, 
adultery, drunkenness, pride, contention, avarice, and fraud, but 
the author of love, chastity, sobriety, modesty, peace, moderation, 
and truth. He is not a Spirit of giddiness, rushing rashly and 
precipitately, without regard to right and wrong, but full of wisdom 
and understanding, by which he can duly distinguish between justice 
and injustice. He instigates not to lawless and unrestrained 
licentiousness, but, discriminating between lawful and unlawful, 
teaches temperance and moderation. But why dwell longer in refuting 
that brutish frenzy? To Christians the Spirit of the Lord is not a 
turbulent phantom, which they themselves have produced by dreaming, 
or received ready-made by others; but they religiously seek the 
knowledge of him from Scripture, where two things are taught 
concerning him; first, that he is given to us for sanctification, 
that he may purge us from all iniquity and defilement, and bring us 
to the obedience of divine righteousness, an obedience which cannot 
exist unless the lusts to which these men would give loose reins are 
tamed and subdued; secondly that though purged by his 
sanctification, we are still beset by many vices and much weakness, 
so long as we are enclosed in the prison of the body. Thus it is, 
that placed at a great distance from perfection, we must always be 
endeavoring to make some progress, and daily struggling with the 
evil by which we are entangled. Hence, too, it follows, that, 
shaking off sloth and security, we must be intently vigilant, so as 
not to be taken unawares in the snares of our flesh; unless, indeed, 
we presume to think that we have made greater progress than the 
Apostle, who was buffeted by a messenger of Satan, in order that his 
strength might be perfected in weakness,, and who gives in his own 
person a true, not a fictitious representation, of the strife 
between the Spirit and the flesh, (2 Cor. 12: 7, 9; Rom. 7: 6.) 
    15. The Apostle, in his description of repentance, (2 Cor. 7: 
2,) enumerates seven causes, effects, or parts belonging to it, and 
that on the best grounds. These are carefulness, excuse, indignation 
fear, desire, zeal, revenge. It should not excite surprise that I 
venture not to determine whether they ought to be regarded as causes 
or effects: both views may be maintained. They may also be called 
affections conjoined with repentance; but as Paul's meaning may be 
ascertained without entering into any of these questions, we shall 
be contented with a simple exposition. He says then that godly 
sorrow produces carefulness. He who is really dissatisfied with 
himself for sinning against his God, is, at the same time, 
stimulated to care and attention, that he may completely disentangle 
himself from the chains of the devil, and keep a better guard 
against his snares, so as not afterwards to lose the guidance of the 
Holy Spirit, or be overcome by security. Next comes excuse, which in 
this place means not defense, in which the sinner to escape the 
judgment of God either denies his fault or extenuates it, but 
apologizing, which trusts more to intercession than to the goodness 
of the cause; just as children not altogether abandoned, while they 
acknowledge and confess their errors yet employ deprecation; and to 
make room for it, testify, by every means in their power, that they 
have by no means cast off the reverence which they owe to their 
parents; in short, endeavor by excuse not to prove themselves 
righteous and innocent, but only to obtain pardon. Next follows 
indignation, under which the sinner inwardly murmurs expostulates, 
and is offended with himself on recognizing his perverseness and 
ingratitude to God. By the term fear is meant that trepidation which 
takes possession of our minds whenever we consider both what we have 
deserved, and the fearful severity of the divine anger against 
sinners. Accordingly, the exceeding disquietude which we must 
necessarily feel, both trains us to humility and makes us more 
cautious for the future. But if the carefulness or anxiety which he 
first mentioned is the result of fear, the connection between the 
two becomes obvious. Desire seems to me to be used as equivalent to 
diligence in duty, and alacrity in doing service, to which the sense 
of our misdeeds ought to be a powerful stimulus. To this also 
pertains zeal, which immediately follows; for it signifies the ardor 
with which we are inflamed when such goads as these are applied to 
us. "What have I done? Into what abyss had I fallen had not the 
mercy of God prevented?" The last of all is revenge, for the 
stricter we are with ourselves, and the severer the censure we pass 
upon our sins, the more ground we have to hope for the divine favor 
and mercy. And certainly when the soul is overwhelmed with a dread 
of divine judgment, it cannot but act the part of an avenger in 
inflicting punishment upon itself. Pious men, doubtless, feel that 
there is punishment in the shame, confusion, groans, 
self-displeasure, and other feelings produced by a serious review of 
their sins. Let us remember, however, that moderation must be used, 
so that we may not be overwhelmed with sadness, there being nothing 
to which trembling consciences are more prone than to rush into 
despair. This, too, is one of Satan's artifices. Those whom he sees 
thus overwhelmed with fear he plunges deeper and deeper into the 
abyss of sorrow, that they may never again rise. It is true that the 
fear which ends in humility without relinquishing the hope of pardon 
cannot be in excess. And yet we must always beware, according to the 
apostolic injunction, of giving way to extreme dread, as this tends 
to make us shun God while he is calling us to himself by repentance. 
Wherefore, the advice of Bernard is good, "Grief for sins is 
necessary, but must not be perpetual. My advice is to turn back at 
times from sorrow and the anxious remembrance of your ways, and 
escape to the plain, to a calm review of the divine mercies. Let us 
mingle honey with wormwood, that the salubrious bitter may give 
health when we drink it tempered with a mixture of sweetness: while 
you think humbly of yourselves, think also of the goodness of the 
Lord," (Bernard in Cant. Serm. 11.) 
    16. We can now understand what are the fruits of repentance; 
viz., offices of piety towards God, and love towards men, general 
holiness and purity of life. In short, the more a man studies to 
conform his life to the standard of the divine law, the surer signs 
he gives of his repentance. Accordingly, the Spirit, in exhorting us 
to repentance, brings before us at one time each separate precept of 
the law; at another the duties of the second table; although there 
are also passages in which, after condemning impurity in its 
fountain in the heart, he afterwards descends to external marks, by 
which repentance is proved to be sincere. A portraiture of this I 
will shortly set before the eye of the reader when I come to 
describe the Christian life, (infra, chapter 6) I will not here 
collect the passages from the prophets in which they deride the 
frivolous observances of those who labour to appease God with 
ceremonies, and show that they are mere mockery; or those in which 
they show that outward integrity of conduct is not the chief part of 
repentance, seeing that God looks at the heart. Any one moderately 
versant in Scripture will understand by himself, without being 
reminded by others, that when he has to do with God, nothing is 
gained without beginning with the internal affections of the heart. 
There is a passage of Joel which will avail not a little for the 
understanding of others: "Rend your heart, and not your garments," 
(Joel 2: 13.) Both are also briefly expressed by James in these 
words: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye 
double-minded," (James 4: 8.) Here, indeed, the accessory is set 
down first; but the source and principle is afterwards pointed out, 
- viz., that hidden defilements must be wiped away, and an altar 
erected to God in the very heart. There are, moreover, certain 
external exercises which we employ in private as remedies to humble 
us and tame our flesh, and in public, to testify our repentance. 
These have their origin in that revenge of which Paul speaks, (2 
Cor. 7: 2,) for when the mind is distressed, it naturally expresses 
itself in sackcloth, groans, and tears, shuns ornament and every 
kind of show, and abandons all delights. Then he who feels how great 
an evil the rebellion of the flesh is, tries every means of curbing 
it. Besides, he who considers aright how grievous a thing it is to 
have offended the justice of God, cannot rest until, in his 
humility, he have given glory to God. Such exercises are often 
mentioned by ancient writers when they speak of the fruits of 
repentance. But although they by no means place the power of 
repentance in them, yet my readers must pardon me for saying what I 
think - they certainly seem to insist on them more than is right. 
Any one who judiciously considers the matter will, I trust, agree 
with me that they have exceeded in two ways; first, by so strongly 
urging and extravagantly commending that corporal discipline, they 
indeed succeeded in making the people embrace it with greater zeal; 
but they in a manner obscured what they should have regarded as of 
much more serious moment. Secondly, the inflictions which they 
enjoined were considerably more rigorous than ecclesiastical 
mildness demands, as will be elsewhere shown. 
    17. But as there are some who, from the frequent mention of 
sackcloth, fasting, and tears, especially in Joel, (2: 12,) think 
that these constitute the principal part of repentance, we must 
dispel their delusion. In that passage the proper part of repentance 
is described by the words, "turn ye even to me with your whole 
heart;" "rend your heart, and not your garments." The "fastings", 
"weeping," and "mourning," are introduced not as invariable or 
necessary effects, but as special circumstances. Having foretold 
that most grievous disasters were impending over the Jews, he 
exhorts them to turn away the divine anger not only by repenting, 
but by giving public signs of sorrow. For as a criminal, to excite 
the commiseration of the judge, appears in a supplicating posture, 
with a long beard, uncombed hair, and coarse clothing, so should 
those who are charged at the judgment-seat of God deprecate his 
severity in a garb of wretchedness. But although sackcloth and ashes 
were perhaps more conformable to the customs of these times, yet it 
is plain that weeping and fasting are very appropriate in our case 
whenever the Lord threatens us with any defeat or calamity. In 
presenting the appearance of danger, he declares that he is 
preparing, and, in a manner, arming himself for vengeance. Rightly, 
therefore, does the Prophet exhort those, on whose crimes he had 
said a little before that vengeance was to be executed, to weeping 
and fasting, - that is, to the mourning habit of criminals. Nor in 
the present day do ecclesiastical teachers act improperly when, 
seeing ruin hanging over the necks of their people, they call aloud 
on them to hasten with weeping and fasting: only they must always 
urge, with greater care and earnestness, "rend your hearts, and not 
your garments." It is beyond doubt that fasting is not always a 
concomitant of repentance, but is specially destined for seasons of 
calamity. Hence our Savior connects it with mourning, (Matth. 9: 
15,) and relieves the Apostles of the necessity of it until, by 
being deprived of his presence, they were filled with sorrow. I 
speak of formal fasting. For the life of Christians ought ever to be 
tempered with frugality and sobriety, so that the whole course of it 
should present some appearance of fasting. As this subject will be 
fully discussed when the discipline of the Church comes to be 
considered, I now dwell less upon it. 
    18. This much, however, I will add: when the name repentance is 
applied to the external profession, it is used improperly, and not 
in the genuine meaning as I have explained it. For that is not so 
much a turning unto God as the confession of a fault accompanied 
with deprecation of the sentence and punishment. Thus to repent in 
sackcloth and ashes, (Matth. 11: 21; Luke 10: 13,) is just to 
testify self dissatisfaction when God is angry with us for having 
grievously offended him. It is, indeed, a kind of public confession 
by which, condemning ourselves before angels and the world, we 
prevent the judgment of God. For Paul, rebuking the sluggishness of 
those who indulge in their sins, says, "If we would judge ourselves, 
we should not be judged," (1 Cor. 11: 31.) It is not always 
necessary, however, openly to inform others, and make them the 
witnesses of our repentance; but to confess privately to God is a 
part of true repentance which cannot be omitted. Nothing were more 
incongruous than that God should pardon the sins in which we are 
flattering ourselves, and hypocritically cloaking that he may not 
bring them to light. We must not only confess the sins which we 
daily commit, but more grievous lapses ought to carry us farther, 
and bring to our remembrance things which seemed to have been long 
ago buried. Of this David sets an example before us in his own 
person, (Ps. 51.) Filled with shame for a recent crime he examines 
himself, going back to the womb, and acknowledging that even then he 
was corrupted and defiled. This he does not to extenuate his fault, 
as many hide themselves in the crowd, and catch at impunity by 
involving others along with them. Very differently does David, who 
ingenuously makes it an aggravation of his sin, that being corrupted 
from his earliest infancy he ceased not to add iniquity to iniquity. 
In another passage, also, he takes a survey of his past life, and 
implores God to pardon the errors of his youth, (Ps. 25: 7.) And, 
indeed, we shall not prove that we have thoroughly shaken off our 
stupor until, groaning under the burden, and lamenting our sad 
condition, we seek relief from God. It is, moreover to be observed, 
that the repentance which we are enjoined assiduously to cultivate, 
differs from that which raises, as it were, from death those who had 
fallen more shamefully, or given themselves up to sin without 
restraint, or by some kind of open revolt, had thrown off the 
authority of God. For Scripture, in exhorting to repentance, often 
speaks of it as a passage from death unto life, and when relating 
that a people had repented, means that they had abandoned idolatry, 
and other forms of gross wickedness. For which reason Paul denounces 
woe to sinners, "who have not repented of the uncleanness, and 
fornication, and lasciviousness which they have committed," (2 Cor. 
12: 21.) This distinction ought to be carefully observed, lest when 
we hear of a few individuals having been summoned to repent we 
indulge in supine security, as if we had nothing to do with the 
mortification of the flesh; whereas, in consequence of the depraved 
desires which are always enticing us, and the iniquities which are 
ever and anon springing from them, it must engage our unremitting 
care. The special repentance enjoined upon those whom the devil has 
entangled in deadly snares, and withdrawn from the fear of God, does 
not abolish that ordinary repentance which the corruption of nature 
obliges us to cultivate during the whole course of our lives. 
    19. Moreover if it is true, and nothing can be more certain, 
than that a complete summary of the Gospel is included under these 
two heads, viz., repentance and the remission of sins, do we not see 
that the Lord justifies his people freely, and at the same time 
renews them to true holiness by the sanctification of his Spirit? 
John, the messenger sent before the face of Christ to prepare his 
ways, proclaimed, "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," 
(Matth. 11: 10; 3: 2.) By inviting them to repentance, he urged them 
to acknowledge that they were sinners, and in all respects condemned 
before God, that thus they might be induced earnestly to seek the 
mortification of the flesh, and a new birth in the Spirit. By 
announcing the kingdom of God he called for faith, since by the 
kingdom of God which he declared to be at hand, he meant forgiveness 
of sins, salvation, life, and every other blessing which we obtain 
in Christ; wherefore we read in the other Evangelists, "John did 
baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for 
the remission of sins," (Mark 1: 4; Luke 3: 3.) What does this mean, 
but that, weary and oppressed with the burden of sin, they should 
turn to the Lord, and entertain hopes of forgiveness and salvation? 
Thus, too, Christ began his preaching, "The kingdom of God is at 
hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel," (Mark 1: 10.) First, he 
declares that the treasures of the divine mercy were opened in him; 
next, he enjoins repentance; and, lastly, he encourages confidence 
in the promises of God. Accordingly, when intending to give a brief 
summary of the whole Gospel, he said that he behaved "to suffer, and 
to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and 
remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations," 
(Luke 24: 26, 46.) In like manner, after his resurrection the 
Apostles preached, "Him has God exalted with his right hand, to be a 
Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and 
forgiveness of sins," (Acts 5: 31.) repentance is preached in the 
name of Christ, when men learn, through the doctrines of the Gospel, 
that all their thoughts, affections, and pursuits, are corrupt and 
vicious; and that, therefore, if they would enter the kingdom of God 
they must be born again. Forgiveness of sins is preached when men 
are taught that Christ "is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, 
and sanctification, and redemption," (1 Cor. 1: 30,) that on his 
account they are freely deemed righteous and innocent in the sight 
of God. Though both graces are obtained by faith, (as has been shown 
elsewhere,) yet as the goodness of God, by which sins are forgiven, 
is the proper object of faith, it was proper carefully to 
distinguish it from repentance. 
    20. Moreover, as hatred of sin, which is the beginning of 
repentance, first gives us access to the knowledge of Christ, who 
manifests himself to none but miserable and afflicted sinners, 
groaning, laboring, burdened, hungry, and thirsty, pining away with 
grief and wretchedness, so if we would stand in Christ, we must aim 
at repentance, cultivate it during our whole lives, and continue it 
to the last. Christ came to call sinners, but to call them to 
repentance. He was sent to bless the unworthy, but by "turning away 
every one" "from his iniquities." The Scripture is full of similar 
passages. Hence, when God offers forgiveness of sins, he in return 
usually stipulates for repentance, intimating that his mercy should 
induce men to repent. "Keep ye judgment," saith he, "and do justice: 
for my salvation is near to come." Again, "The Redeemer shall come 
to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob." 
Again, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him 
while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the 
unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and 
he will have mercy upon him." "Repent ye, therefore, and be 
converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Here, however, it is 
to be observed, that repentance is not made a condition in such a 
sense as to be a foundation for meriting pardon; nay, it rather 
indicates the end at which they must aim if they would obtain favor, 
God having resolved to take pity on men for the express purpose of 
leading them to repent. Therefore, so long as we dwell in the prison 
of the body, we must constantly struggle with the vices of our 
corrupt nature, and so with our natural disposition. Plato sometimes 
says, that the life of the philosopher is to meditate on death. More 
truly may we say, that the life of a Christian man is constant study 
and exercise in mortifying the flesh, until it is certainly slain, 
and the Spirit of God obtains dominion in us. Wherefore, he seems to 
me to have made most progress who has learned to be most 
dissatisfied with himself. He does not, however, remain in the miry 
clay without going forward; but rather hastens and sighs after God, 
that, ingrafted both into the death and the life of Christ, he may 
constantly meditate on repentance. Unquestionably those who have a 
genuine hatred of sin cannot do otherwise: for no man ever hated sin 
without being previously enamored of righteousness. This view, as it 
is the simplest of all, seemed to me also to accord best with 
Scripture truth. 
    21. Moreover, that repentance is a special gift of God, I trust 
is too well understood from the above doctrine to require any 
lengthened discourse. Hence the Church' extols the goodness of God, 
and looks on in wonder, saying, "Then has God also to the Gentiles 
granted repentance unto life," (Acts 11: 18;) and Paul enjoining 
Timothy to deal meekly and patiently with unbelievers, says, "If God 
per adventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the 
truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the 
devil," (2 Tim. 2: 25, 26.) God indeed declares, that he would have 
all men to repent, and addresses exhortations in common to all; 
their efficacy, however, depends on the Spirit of regeneration. It 
were easier to create us at first, than for us by our own strength 
to acquire a more excellent nature. Wherefore, in regard to the 
whole process of regeneration, it is not without cause we are called 
God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which 
God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2: 10.2) 
Those whom God is pleased to rescue from death, he quickens by the 
Spirit of regeneration; not that repentance is properly the cause of 
salvation, but because, as already seen, it is inseparable from the 
faith and mercy of God; for, as Isaiah declares, "The Redeemer shall 
come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob." 
This, indeed, is a standing truth, that wherever the fear of God is 
in vigor, the Spirit has been carrying on his saving work. Hence, in 
Isaiah, while believers complain and lament that they have been 
forsaken of God, they set down the supernatural hardening of the 
heart as a sign of reprobation. The Apostle, also, intending to 
exclude apostates from the hope of salvation, states, as the reason, 
that it is impossible to renew them to repentance, (Heb. 6: 6;) that 
is, God by renewing those whom he wills not to perish, gives them a 
sign of paternal favor, and in a manner attracts them to himself, by 
the beams of a calm and reconciled countenance; on the other hand, 
by hardening the reprobate, whose impiety is not to be forgiven, he 
thunders against them. This kind of vengeance the Apostle denounces 
against voluntary apostates, (Heb. 10: 29,) who, in falling away 
from the faith of the gospel, mock God, insultingly reject his 
favor, profane and trample under foot the blood of Christ, nay, as 
far as in them lies, crucify him afresh. Still, he does not, as some 
austere persons preposterously insist, leave no hope of pardon to 
voluntary sins, but shows that apostasy being altogether without 
excuse, it is not strange that God is inexorably rigorous in 
punishing sacrilegious contempt thus shown to himself. For, in the 
same Epistle, he says, that "it is impossible for those who were 
once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were 
made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of 
God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away to 
renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify the Son of God 
afresh, and put him to an open shame," (Heb. 7: 4-6.) And in another 
passage, "If we sin willingly, after that we have received the 
knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 
but a certain fearful looking for of judgment," &c. (Heb. 11: 25, 
26.) There are other passages, from a misinterpretation of which the 
Novatians of old extracted materials for their heresy; so much so, 
that some good men taking offense at their harshness, have deemed 
the Epistle altogether spurious, though it truly savors in every 
part of it of the apostolic spirit. But as our dispute is only with 
those who receive the Epistle, it is easy to show that those 
passages give no support to their error. First, the Apostle must of 
necessity agree with his Master, who declares, that "all manner of 
sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy 
against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men," "neither in 
this world, neither in the world to come," (Matth. 12: 31; Luke 12: 
10.) We must hold that this was the only exception which the Apostle 
recognized, unless we would set him in opposition to the grace of 
God. Hence it follows, that to no sin is pardon denied save to one, 
which proceeding from desperate fury cannot be ascribed to 
infirmity, and plainly shows that the man guilty of it is possessed 
by the devil. 
    22. Here, however, it is proper to consider what the dreadful 
iniquity is which is not to be pardoned. The definition which 
Augustine somewhere gives, - viz., that it is obstinate 
perverseness, with distrust of pardon, continued till death, - 
scarcely agrees with the words of Christ, that it shall not be 
forgiven in this world. For either this is said in vain, or it may 
be committed in this world. But if Augustine's definition is 
correct, the sin is not committed unless persisted in till death. 
Others say, that the sin against the Holy Spirit consists in envying 
the grace conferred upon a brother; but I know not on what it is 
founded. Here, however, let us give the true definition, which, when 
once it is established by sound evidence, will easily of itself 
overturn all the others. I say therefore that he sins against the 
Holy Spirit who, while so constrained by the power of divine truth 
that he cannot plead ignorance, yet deliberately resists, and that 
merely for the sake of resisting. For Christ, in explanation of what 
he had said, immediately adds, "Whosoever speaketh a word against 
the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh 
against the holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him," (Matth. 12: 
31.) And Matthew uses the term spirit of blasphemy for blasphemy 
against the Spirit. How can any one insult the Son, without at the 
same time attacking the Spirit? In this way. Those who in ignorance 
assail the unknown truth of God, and yet are so disposed that they 
would be unwilling to extinguish the truth of God when manifested to 
them, or utter one word against him whom they knew to be the Lord's 
Anointed, sin against the Father and the Son. Thus there are many in 
the present day who have the greatest abhorrence to the doctrine of 
the Gospel, and yet, if they knew it to be the doctrine of the 
Gospel, would be prepared to venerate it with their whole heart. But 
those who are convinced in conscience that what they repudiate and 
impugn is the word of God, and yet cease not to impugn it, are said 
to blaspheme against the Spirit, inasmuch as they struggle against 
the illumination which is the work of the Spirit. Such were some of 
the Jews, who, when they could not resist the Spirit speaking by 
Stephen, yet were bent on resisting, (Acts 6: 10.) There can be no 
doubt that many of them were carried away by zeal for the law; but 
it appears that there were others who maliciously and impiously 
raged against God himself, that is, against the doctrine which they 
knew to be of God. Such, too, were the Pharisees, on whom our Lord 
denounced woe. To depreciate the power of the Holy Spirit, they 
defamed him by the name of Beelzebub, (Matth. 9: 3, 4; 12: 24.) The 
spirit of blasphemy, therefore, is, when a man audaciously, and of 
set purpose, rushes forth to insult his divine name. This Paul 
intimates when he says, "but I obtained mercy, because I did it 
ignorantly in unbelief;" otherwise he had deservedly been held 
unworthy of the grace of God. If ignorance joined with unbelief made 
him obtain pardon, it follows, that there is no room for pardon when 
knowledge is added to unbelief. 
    23. If you attend properly, you will perceive that the Apostle 
speaks not of one particular lapse or two, but of the universal 
revolt by which the reprobate renounce salvation. It is not strange 
that God should be implacable to those whom John, in his Epistle, 
declares not to have been of the elect, from whom they went out, (1 
John 2: 19.) For he is directing his discourse against those who 
imagined that they could return to the Christian religion though 
they had once revolted from it. To divest them of this false and 
pernicious opinion, he says, as is most true, that those who had 
once knowingly and willingly cast off fellowship with Christ, had no 
means of returning to it. It is not, however so cast off by those 
who merely, by the dissoluteness of their lives, transgress the word 
of the Lord, but by those who avowedly reject his whole doctrine. 
There is a paralogism in the expression casting off and sinning. 
Casting off, as interpreted by the Novatians, is when any one, 
notwithstanding of being taught by the Law of the Lord not to steal 
or commit adultery, refrains not from theft or adultery. On the 
contrary, I hold that there is a tacit antithesis, in which all the 
things, contrary to those which had been said, must be held to be 
repeated, so that the thing expressed is not some particular vice, 
but universal aversion to God, and (so to speak) the apostasy of the 
whole man. Therefore, when he speaks of those falling away "who were 
once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were 
made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word 
of God, and the powers of the world to come," we must understand him 
as referring to those who, with deliberate impiety, have quenched 
the light of the Spirit, tasted of the heavenly word and spurned it, 
alienated themselves from the sanctification of the Spirit, and 
trampled under foot the word of God and the powers of a world to 
come. The better to show that this was the species of impiety 
intended, he afterwards expressly adds the term willfully. For when 
he says, "If we sin willfully, after that we have received the 
knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," 
he denies not that Christ is a perpetual victim to expiate the 
transgressions of saints, (this the whole Epistle, in explaining the 
priesthood of Christ, distinctly proclaims,) but he says that there 
remains no other sacrifice after this one is abandoned. And it is 
abandoned when the truth of the Gospel is professedly abjured. 
    24. To some it seems harsh, and at variance with the divine 
mercy, utterly to deny forgiveness to any who retake themselves to 
it. This is easily disposed of. It is not said that pardon will be 
refused if they turn to the Lord, but it is altogether denied that 
they can turn to repentance, inasmuch as for their ingratitude they 
are struck by the just judgment of God with eternal blindness. There 
is nothing contrary to this in the application which is afterwards 
made of the example of Esau, who tried in vain, by crying and tears, 
to recover his lost birthright; nor in the denunciation of the 
Prophet, "They cried, and I would not hear." Such modes of 
expression do not denote true conversion or calling upon God, but 
that anxiety with which the wicked, when in calamity, are compelled 
to see what they before securely disregarded, viz., that nothing can 
avail but the assistance of the Lord. This, however, they do not so 
much implore as lament the loss of. Hence all that the Prophet means 
by crying, and the apostle by tears, is the dreadful torment which 
stings and excruciates the wicked in despair. It is of consequence 
carefully to observe this: for otherwise God would be inconsistent 
with himself when he proclaims through the Prophet, that "If the 
wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed," - "he 
shall surely live, he shall not die," (Ezek. 18: 21, 22.) And (as I 
have already said) it is certain that the mind of man cannot be 
changed for the better unless by his preventing grace. The promise 
as to those who call upon him will never fail; but the names of 
conversion and prayer are improperly given to that blind torment by 
which the reprobate are distracted when they see that they must seek 
God if they would find a remedy for their calamities, and yet shun 
to approach him. 
    25. But as the Apostle declares that God is not appeased by 
feigned repentance, it is asked how Ahab obtained pardon, and 
averted the punishment denounced against him, (1 Kings 21: 28, 29,) 
seeing, it appears, he was only amazed on the sudden, and afterwards 
continued his former course of life. He, indeed, clothed himself in 
sackcloth, covered himself with ashes, lay on the ground, and (as 
the testimony given to him bears) humbled himself before God. It was 
a small matter to rend his garments while his heart continued 
obstinate and swollen with wickedness, and yet we see that God was 
inclined to mercy. I answer, that though hypocrites are thus 
occasionally spared for a time, the wrath of God still lies upon 
them, and that they are thus spared not so much on their own account 
as for a public example. For what did Ahab gain by the mitigation of 
his punishment except that he did not suffer it alive on the earth? 
The curse of God, though concealed, was fixed on his house, and he 
himself went to eternal destruction. We may see the same thing in 
Esau, (Gen. 27: 38, 39.) For though he met with a refusal, a 
temporal blessing was granted to his tears. But as, according to the 
declaration of God, the spiritual inheritance could be possessed 
only by one of the brothers, when Jacob was selected instead of 
Esau, that event excluded him from the divine mercy; but still there 
was given to him, as a man of a groveling nature, this consolation, 
that he should be filled with the fulness of the earth and the dew 
of heaven. And this, as I lately said, should be regarded as done 
for the example of others, that we may learn to apply our minds, and 
exert ourselves with greater alacrity, in the way of sincere 
repentance, as there cannot be the least doubt that God will be 
ready to pardon those who turn to him truly and with the heart, 
seeing his mercy extends even to the unworthy though they bear marks 
of his displeasure. In this way also, we are taught how dreadful the 
judgment is which awaits all the rebellious who with audacious brow 
and iron heart make it their sport to despise and disregard the 
divine threatening. God in this way often stretched forth his hand 
to deliver the Israelites from their calamities, though their cries 
were pretended, and their minds double and perfidious, as he himself 
complains in the Psalms, that they immediately returned to their 
former course, (Psalm 78: 36, 37.) But he designed thus by kindness 
and forbearance to bring them to true repentance, or leave them 
without excuse. And yet by remitting the punishment for a time, he 
does not lay himself under any perpetual obligation. He rather at 
times rises with greater severity against hypocrites, and doubles 
their punishment, that it may thereby appear how much hypocrisy 
displeases him. But, as I have observed, he gives some examples of 
his inclination to pardon, that the pious may thereby be stimulated 
to amend their lives, and the pride of those who petulantly kick 
against the pricks be more severely condemned. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 4

(continued in part 5...)

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