‘Repent ye, and believe the gospel,’ is advice to the young beginner, and it is advice to the old grey-headed Christian, for this is our life all the way through—‘Repent ye, and believe the gospel.’ St Anselm, who was a saint—and that is more than many of them who were called so—St Anselm once cried out ‘Oh! sinner that I have been, I will spend all the rest of my life in repenting of my whole life!’ And Rowland Hill, whom I think I might call St Rowland, when he was near death, said he had one regret, and that was that a dear friend who had lived with him for sixty years would have to leave him at the gate of heaven. ‘That dear friend,’ said he, ‘is repentance; repentance has been with me all my life, and I think I shall drop a tear,’ said the good man, ‘as I go through the gates, to think that I can repent no more.’ Repentance is the daily and hourly duty of a man who believes in Christ; and as we walk by faith from the wicket gate to the celestial city, so our right-hand companion all the journey through must be repentance. Why, dear friends, the Christian man, after he is saved, repents more than ever he did before, for now he repents, not merely of overt deeds, but even of imaginations. He will take himself to task at night, and chide himself because he has tolerated one foul thought; because he has looked on vanity, though perhaps the heart has gone no further than the look of lust; because the thought of evil has flitted through his mind—for all this he will vex himself before God; and were it not that he still continues to believe the gospel, one foul imagination would be such a plague and sting to him, that he would have no peace and no rest.
For meditation: We tend to regard repentance as a step to be taken to begin the Christian life and become a member of Christ’s church, but repentance is a command which he himself has issued to established Christian churches and individuals in them (Revelation 2:5,16,21–22; 3:3,19). Repentance is started, not finished, at conversion.