Thomas Watson’s little booklet on repentance is an excellent resource on confessing sin. In chapter seven he gives a list of “powerful motives to repentance.” Here are some of them, edited a bit for length and readability. What are the benefits of a repentance and humility? Why should we truly repent of our sins?
1) Sorrow and melting of heart fits us for every duty. A piece of lead, while it is in the lump, is of no use; but melt it, and you can form it into any shape, and it is made useful. So a heart that is hardened by sin is good for nothing, but a heart softened by repentance is useful. A melting heart is fit to pray (Acts 9:11). A melting heart is fit to hear the word (2 Chr. 34:19). A melting heart is fit to obey (Acts 9:6).
2) Repentance is acceptable to God. The Lord will not despise a contrite and broken heart (Ps. 51:17). Augustine said Mary’s tears were better than the ointment she brought Jesus (Luke 7:38). Tears are loud cries for mercy. They are silent, but they have a voice: ‘The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping’ (Ps. 6:8).
3) Repentance commends all our services to God. Prayer is delightful to God when it ascends from the altar of a broken heart. No prayer touches God’s ear but what comes from a heart touched with the sense of sin; consider the publican for example (Luke 18:14). We know God hears us when we repent; this is a great blessing.
4) Repentance is bitter and sweet. Repentance, though bitter in itself, yet it is sweet in the effects. It brings inward peace. Augustine said, ‘Let a man grieve for his sin and rejoice for his grief.’ A woman in childbirth has sorrow, but once the child is born there is joy (John 16:21). The sorrow of repentance is met with joy from God.
5) Great sins repented of shall find great mercy. Though our sins are of a scarlet color, God’s mercy can wash them away (Is. 1:18). You say, ‘Oh, but my sins are too many to number!’ Do not make them greater by not repenting. Repentance unravels sin and makes it as if it had never been. With the Lord is plentiful forgiveness. We sinned, Christ bled.
6) Repentance makes joy in heaven. The angels rejoice when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10). When men neglect the offer of salvation and freeze in sin, this delights the devils, but when a soul is brought home to Christ by repentance this makes joy among angels.
7) Lack of repentance means a hard heart – and a hard heart is the worst heart. It is called a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). Hard-heartedness is a sin that grieves Christ (Mark 3:5). A hard heart is not malleable; it is untuned for every duty. Weep with Peter in repentance, for a hard heart is the anvil on which the hammer of God’s justice will be striking to all eternity.
8) The days of our mourning will soon be over. After a few showers fall from our eyes we will have perpetual sunshine. Christ will provide a handkerchief to wipe off his people’s tears (Rev. 7:17). You who repent will shortly put on garments of praise; you’ll exchange your sackcloth for white robes, and instead of your sighs you will have shouts of triumph. This will happen when Christ returns and makes all things new. The repentant soul shall at the last day lift up his head with comfort and be acquitted by the Judge himself.
The entire section can be found in Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, chapter 7.
rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)