March 1: School & Family Catechist – WSC Q. 87

by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 87

Q. 87.  What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief, and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavors after, new obedience.


Repentance unto life. –True repentance is that change which takes place in the mind, after the sinner has been made sensible of the evil of his sins.  It means not only grief for sin, but a hatred of it, and a turning from it.  It is called repentance unto life, to distinguish it from the sorrow of the world, which worketh death; and it is called a saving grace, because like faith, it is a free gift of God, and because it is necessary to prepare us for eternal salvation, or everlasting happiness in heaven.   

A true sense of his sin. –Being really convinced of the evil of sin, and of the danger to the soul with which it is accompanied.

Apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. –A discovery of the necessity of the mercy of God, promised to us, and bestowed upon us for the sake of Christ, and a laying hold upon it, or an acceptance of the offers thus made in the gospel.

Full purpose. –A universal, cheerful, and firm resolution of mind.

New obedience. –This obedience is so called, because it proceeds from a new state of mind, a new principle of faith in Christ, and of love to him.  It is also new in the manner, in which it operates, and in the effects which it produces.


The information received from this answer, consists of seven particulars:

1.  We are here first taught, that repentance unto life is a saving grace. –Acts xi. 18. Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

2.  That it supposes a true sense of sin. –Acts ii. 37.  When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Exek. xvi. 61.  Thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed.

3.  That it includes an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.  –Joel ii. 13. Rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  2 Cor. v. 19. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. 

4.  That it implies also a grief for sin, and a hatred of it. –Psal. cxix. 158. I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy word. Ver. 128 I hate every false way.

5.  That genuine repentance is always followed by a turning from sin unto God. –Jer. xxxi. 18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.

6.  That it is accompanied with a full purpose of new obedience. –Psal. cxix. 8. I will keep thy statutes. 7.  That it is not only accompanied with a full purpose of new obedience, but also with endeavors after it. –Psal. cxix. 59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.


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