TRUE repentance is always the gift of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. Man, left to himself, continues in sin. If he turns from his iniquity, it is because God turns him. By nature, his mind is set on mischief; and if that mind be changed, as it is in genuine repentance, it must be because the Lord Himself has changed it. That repentance which a man works in himself, without the Spirit of God, will turn out to be a repentance that needs to be repented of; but that godly sorrow for sin, which the Spirit of God produces in the heart, is a sure indication of spiritual life.
Whosoever unfeignedly repents of sin, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, is a saved man; he shall be among the blessed ones in that day when Christ comes to judge the quick and the dead; and he shall be among the glorified forever.
The remembrance of sin committed is the Holy Spirit’s frequent if not constant method of bringing men to weep over their wrong-doing, and to turn from it. In the case of Peter, the agency employed was thought about his sin: “When he thought thereon, he wept.” There is no doubt that multitudes of sinners have been led to repentance in this way; and, in some respects, this must be the universal way by which the Spirit of God conducts men to the goal of true penitence. As long as they live carelessly and thoughtlessly, they go on in their evil ways; but if they are stopped in their mad career, if they are made to consider, if they begin to think over their sin, if God, the Holy Ghost, convinces them of the guilt of it, He uses that thought and conviction to lead them to trust in Jesus Christ.
LET US STUDY PETER’S CASE, AND USE IT FOR OUR OWN INSTRUCTION. The details of this sad story are familiar to you, yet I may remind you of them in order that we may see in how many points we have been like him.
As Peter heard the cock crow, he thought, first, that he had actually done what Christ had said he would do, he remembered that he had denied his Lord. That which had seemed impossible to him had, nevertheless, been done three times. He would not believe even his dear Lord and Master when he told him that it would be so; but now it was literally the fact that Peter, one of the first to follow Christ, one who had even walked on the water to go to Jesus, one who had seen Christ’s miracles, — Peter, the most earnest and enthusiastic of Christ’s followers, always to the front, ready to brave anything for his Lord, — Peter, who, with his sword, cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, — he realizes that he is the very same man, and that he has actually denied his Master, declaring positively that he was not one of Christ’s disciples. “When he thought thereon, he wept,” as well he might. Ah, what castles in the air had vanished! What self-confidence had passed away!
Then, as he looked to the end of the hall where he could see his Master, he reflected upon the excellence of the Master whom he had denied. Ah, Peter! thou hast denied the best, the most loving, the most lovely, the most tender, the most generous, the most compassionate, the most self-denying, the most pure, the most heavenly of leaders. If there had been some fault in Him, if He had played thee false, if He had been unkind to thee, or if He had lied unto thee, and thou hadst found Him out, or if thou hadst seen some infirmity or imperfection about Him when thou didst watch Him in His privacy, thou mightest be excused. But to deny such a Master, — well mayest thou weep, and cover thy face for very shame. He is perfection, yet He permitted thee to follow Him, — thou who art such a poor untrustworthy creature. How couldst thou say, “I am not his disciple;” and say it three times over, so positively and so plainly, when, but a little while ago, it was thy joy, thy glory, thy delight, humbly to follow in his footsteps, and to call Him Master and Lord?
Then, next, he recollected the position in which his Lord had placed, him. Peter, thou art not only a disciple, thou art one of the twelve apostles. Thy Master singled thee out, at least on one occasion, and spoke to thee words that put thee in a place of great eminence in His Church. Thou wast endowed with the power to work miracles, thou wast exalted above the seventy evangelists, and called to be one of the twelve pillars of the future Church to be built upon Christ Jesus. Yet thou hast denied Him. Oh, how this thought must have struck his heart, like the point of a dagger, for, by so much as Christ trusts us, by so much is it a shameful thing for us to betray that trust; by so much as Christ puts honour upon us by using us, by just so much is it an intolerable shame that we should put Him to shame, and grieve Him by denying that we are His. We can do this by our actions as well as by our words. You can deny Christ quite as much by acting inconsistently as by standing up, and boldly saying, “I know not the man.”
Peter remembered that his Lord had favoured him. Up on the mountain where the Lord was transfigured, and His garments became whiter than any fuller could make them, and the glory of the Lord shone upon the Well-beloved, there were only three disciples who were permitted to be there; and Peter was one of those who “were with Him in the holy mount.” And in the garden of Gethsemane, when eight of the apostles were left as a picket to watch at the gate, there were three who accompanied the Saviour to within a stone’s throw of the place where He agonized, amongst the three who constituted the innermost body-guard of their suffering was Peter.
There was still more for Peter to think of; he recollected that he had been solemnly forewarned by his Master. Jesus had said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” And He had also said to him, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” No warning could be more explicit than that. If a man plunges into a ditch when he is told where it is, or puts his foot into a trap when it is pointed out to him, or, being warned of his weakness in a particular direction, nevertheless takes no heed, he really doubles the guilt of his offence, for he has sinned against special light.
He told him plainly what he was going to do; yet the boastful man declared that he would not do it, and then went straight away and did it. This thought might well make him weep. Peter had said, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.” He had to eat his own words, and to confess that he had proved false to his own most solemn declarations, and that might well cause him to weep as he thought over it.
When everybody else forsook Christ, Peter not only forsook Him, but he denied that he even knew Him. If a man is really a friend, he certainly will stand by his friend when others turn away from him; yet there stands the blessed Lamb of God, buffeted, mocked, delivered up by cruel men to be crucified, and it is at such a time that Peter denies Him, — denies Him when He is about to lay down His life for Peter and for all His loved ones, — denies Him when He is owning us, and standing before the tribunal in our stead to suffer for our sin.
LET US STUDY OUR OWN LIVES
The backslider. There are, alas! many who have denied Christ in this way. After having followed Him for years, they have gradually grown cold, and have turned aside from Christ, their Lord and Master. I want you, dear friend, to turn this matter over very carefully and prayerfully.
You were converted in a very remarkable manner; you were, by Divine Grace, kept for years from sins into which you had formerly plunged; you had much joy and peace in believing; and, sometimes, in the services of the Lord’s house, and especially at the communion table, you have felt as if you could sit and sing yourself away to everlasting bliss; you have often talked to your friends and kinsfolk about the bliss that dwells in the name of Jesus your Saviour; yet now you are a backslider! I cannot go into the details of your sin; perhaps it would not be right or profitable to mention such matters in public; but will you think thereon? I pray you, think of it; turn over all the details in your mind. This may seem to you to be a very bitter task, but the result of it will be sweet one day. You do not like to remember your sin; but, if you remember it, God will forget it; whereas, if you forget it, God will remember it against you.
In going astray from Him, you have turned aside from happiness, and from peace. You know that you are not happy, you also know that you never can be happy while you continue in your present condition. You must go forward ; there is something within you which tells you that you must; and I believe you will find that it will help you to go forward if you think over the sin that led to your departure from the right road, and that has made you, who used to teach others, now need to be yourself taught.
I hope, however, that I am addressing some who are moved to penitence by thinking of their sin. I hear one say, “As I think over my sin, I am moved to great sorrow. I do desire to have that sin put away, for I long to be wholly delivered from it, and I do want to be reconciled to God.” I am glad to hear you say that, and I will tell you something that ought to move you even more than the thought of your sin, something that ought to make your heart leap within you. Do you ask, “What is that?” Why, it is this, — that, though you have denied Christ, as Peter did, with many aggravations of your guilt, He still loves you, and He bids you come unto Him, for He has blotted out all your transgression.
May He make you to hear the cock crow this very hour, awakening your slumbering conscience, and may you go out to weep bitterly over your terrible sin! Return, O prodigal child; come back to thy Father’s house and heart! The door of His house is open to receive thee, and His heart is waiting to welcome thee!
Return, return, return!
Excerpts from the sermon titled “Fountains of Repentant Tears” ( Mark 14:72) by CH Spurgeon dated 24 October 1880. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/fountains-of-repentant-tears/#flipbook/