Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 18 (1903)
Ms 35, 1903
False Repentance: What is It?
April 27, 1903 [typed]
This manuscript is published in entirety in RH 08/19/1971.
One who is truly penitent does not forget his past failures and sins as soon as he obtains a sense of pardon. He does not go on as before, unconcerned about his mistakes and errors. The more clearly he sees and realizes the merciful compassion of God, and the divine favor manifested to him, the more grievous and abhorrent do his sins appear to him. As he realizes how terrible sin really is, he loathes and condemns himself. He sees wherein he has been striving for recognition and self-exaltation. He recognizes pride as a deadly foe, producing in him frequent exhibitions of a corrupt human nature and revealing a carnal spirit. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 1
With many these evil traits of character are intermingled with their religious services, and they become hypocrites, puffed up with ideas of their own righteousness. Again and again have these poor souls gone over the same ground, until they have lost their power to discern between the evil and the good. They need to experience a genuine repentance, which needeth not to be repented of. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 2
Repentance is a daily, continuous exercise and must be so until mortality is swallowed up of immortality. Repentance, and humiliation, and sorrow of soul must be our daily meat and drink, until we cease to carry with us so many imperfections and failures. But this experience cannot be ours while the mind and will are subject to satanic influences, and we are the sport of Satan’s temptations. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 3
Ambitious pride, a desire for self-exaltation, caused Satan’s downfall. Every soul should humble himself, striving for perfect mastery over the desire for self-uplifting. By forgetting his repentance and walking again in the paths of pride and self-worship, a man becomes further and further separated from God. If he would learn to walk humbly with God, his proud spirit would be abased, and he would realize his need of a daily conversion. Unless he receives daily a fresh supply of grace, he will frequently stumble and fall, and finally it will be said of him, He “is joined to his idols; let him alone.” [Hosea 4:17.] 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 4
A false repentance carries with it grief of mind, but only for a short time. Those who have this repentance are humiliated only by their most grievous and glaring sins. When they think themselves pardoned, they cease to feel their need of humiliation and walk once more in crooked paths, forgetting that they were purged from their old sins. True repentance would give them a constant realization of the wickedness of their past course. But they soon forget their falsehoods and their prevarications, and sin no longer appears to them so grievous. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 5
False repentance produces only a false reformation. True repentance brings a complete change of heart, a turning away from sin to God. When men retain fondly cherished sins, which may have become as the right hand or the eye, Satan uses them as snares. Fired by a zeal which is not according to knowledge, while professing to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, they dishonor God by manifesting a proud, ambitious spirit. The secret sins of the heart they do not regard. By a great outward show of grief, they seek to obtain sympathy. Apparently their souls are deeply burdened with sorrow and repentance. Yet envy, secret pride, self-preference, and unbelief are cherished in the heart. Whatever progress they may seem to make in the religious life, their hearts are strangers to the power of true godliness. While they rise to a state of assumed ecstasy, they are no more imbued with the Spirit of God than was Satan in his rebellion. For a time they may deceive those whom God has chosen, but time will reveal them in their true light. Like the Laodicean church they are neither cold nor hot. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 6
One who truly repents lies low at the feet of Jesus. Christ is magnified in his life. His grief is not a pretense, but a reality. His heart is sad as he sees the evil in his nature. Then Christ can enter his life. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” [Isaiah 57:15.] 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 7
The Lord understands the heart. He can discern between true repentance and that which is assumed. The root of idolatry with all its abominations is an evil heart of unbelief. He who has such a heart daily acts a lie, because his thoughts and motives are not pure. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 8
A true penitent will be constantly on guard against the wiles of a corrupt heart. Though not having already attained, he presses on toward the perfection of a Christian character. He will be tempted to glorify self; but if as he is tried, the fruits of humility appear in his life, he will endure the test. He will manifest heavenly kindness, charity, patience, forgiveness of supposed injuries. God calls for contrition of soul. 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 9
The language of the truly penitent will be: “I desire my feet to be kept from every evil way. I would walk in Thy house with a perfect heart. I know that my God trieth the heart and hath pleasure in uprightness; therefore would I set the Lord always before me. I know that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; therefore I am humbled in my own eyes. Yet my desire is before the Lord, and my groaning is not hid from Him. I can say in truth, I hate my thoughts; but God’s law do I love. O that God would give me understanding that I might keep His law with my whole heart. I would serve God without reserve. I esteem His precepts above all things; therefore I have inclined my heart to keep His statutes always, even unto the end.” 18LtMs, Ms 35, 1903, par. 10