In his little book, The Grace of Repentance, Sinclair Ferguson took note of “a medieval darkness encroaching on evangelicalism.” Dr. Ferguson went on to enumerate five signs of this encroaching darkness, the first of which had to do with repentance:
“1. Repentance is seen as an initial emotion, not as a vital part of a lifelong restoration of godliness.” (Sinclair Ferguson, The Grace of Repentance, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010; p. 41).
Contrary to that popular misperception, Calvin sets his readers’ feet on the right path. If we look back to last week’s assignment, we find the following definition of repentance (3.3.5):
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.
We see from this that repentance is tied to the new birth, but doesn’t end there, but commences a lifelong process of mortification and vivification that never ends in this life, as Calvin went on to say in 3.3.9:
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.
So what are some encouraging signs or fruits of repentance that one may expect during this journey of faith? Calvin provides three (3.3.16):
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.
Calvin’s Institutes are hence as relevant today as they were five hundred years ago.
Links to Reformation 21 blogs through the Institutes: