Book: THE OBEDIENCE OF A CHRISTIAN MAN & How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern

PENANCE is a word of their own forging, to deceive us withal, as many others are. In the scripture we find poenitenti a, “repentance:” agite poenitentiam, “do repent;” poeniteat vos, “let it repent you:” metanoyte, in Greek, “for-think ye,” or “let it forthink you.” Of repentance they have made penance, to blind the people, and to make them think that they must take pains, and do some holy deeds, to make satisfaction for their sins; namely such as they enjoin them. As thou mayest see in the chronicles, when great kings and tyrants (which with violence of sword conquered other kings’ lands, and slew all that came to hand) came to themselves, and had conscience of their wicked deeds; then the bishops coupled them, not to Christ, but unto the pope, and preached the pope unto them; and made them to submit themselves, and also their realms, unto the holy father the pope, and to take penance, as they call it; that is to say, such injunctions as the pope and bishops would command them to do, to build abbeys, to endote them with livelihood, to be prayed for for ever; and to give them exemptions and privilege and licence to do what they lust [desire] unpunished.

Repentance goeth before faith, and prepareth the way to Christ, and to the promises. For Christ cometh not but unto them that see their sins in the law, and repent. Repentance, that is to say, this mourning and sorrow of the heart, lasteth all our lives long: for we find ourselves, all our lives long, too weak for God’s law, and therefore sorrow and mourn, longing for strength. Repentance is no sacrament: as faith, hope, love, and knowledge of a man’s sins, are not to be called sacraments. For they are spiritual and invisible. Now must a sacrament be an outward sign that may be seen, to signify, to represent, and to put a man in remembrance of some spiritual promise, which cannot be seen but by faith only. Repentance, and all the good deeds which accompany repentance, to slay the lusts [desires] of the flesh, are signified by baptism. ‘For Paul saith, Romans 6, as it is above rehearsed: “Remember ye not (saith he), that all we which are baptized in the name of Christ Jesus are baptized to die with him? We are buried with him in baptism for to die;” that is, to kill the lusts [desires] and the rebellion which remaineth in the flesh. And after that he saith, “Ye are dead, as concerning sin, but live unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord.” If thou look on the profession of our hearts, and on the Spirit and forgiveness which we have received through Christ’s merits, we are full dead: but if thou look on the rebellion of the flesh, we do but begin to die, and to be baptized, that is, to drown and quench the lusts [desires], and are full baptized at the last minute of death. And as concerning the working of the Spirit, we begin to live, and grow every day more and more, both in knowledge and also in godly living, according as the lusts [desires] abate: as a child receiveth the full soul at the first day, yet groweth daily in the operations and works thereof.