Review: The Doctrine of Repentance

Thomas Watson, Banner of Truth, 1668, 128 pages


Thomas Watson is my favorite Puritan because of his unrivaled usage of metaphor. “Your Best Life Now” just isn’t winsome after reading “the sword of God’s justice lies quiet in the scabbard till sin draws it out” (49) or “there is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears” (63). The pastor who dwells with such men is bound to preach like them.

This book is great for its endless lists: the six ingredients of repentance, the six qualifications of godly sorrow, the nine ways sin brings shame, the ten impediments to repentance, the sixteen motives to excite repentance. It is also holistic in scope–when is the last time you heard a preach urge you to “repent of…your non-improvement of talents” (71)? Like tuxedos and Converse All-Stars, Puritan sermons are timeless. I could preach through this book to my rural African congregation and they wouldn’t be lost or lethargic.

This is because the Puritans placed all of their sermons on accessible pedestals. Pedestals in that everyone could see and understand them. Grannies can comprehend propositions like “It is not falling into water that drowns, but lying it” or “turning from sin is like pulling the arrow out of the wound; turning to God is like pouring in the balm.” Their sermons are accessible in that they are on matters to which everyone can relate. For example, his fifth ingredient of repentance is the hatred of sin. “Christ is never loved till sin be loathed” (45). Then he argues that if there is a real hatred, we must not oppose sin in ourselves only but in others as well. Then he gives five passages to prove this. Who cannot relate with that?

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