Chapter 1: A Preliminary Discourse
Paul defends himself before King Agrippa in Acts 26, pointing out three things: the way his life was before his conversion, the way he was converted and the how he lived after his conversion. Says Watson, “When Paul, this ‘vessel of election’, was savingly wrought upon, he laboured to do as much good as previously he had done hurt. He had persecuted saints to death before, now he preached sinners to life.”
Watson speaks also of which comes first, the chicken or the egg repentance or faith. “Doubtless repentance shows itself first in a Christian’s life. Yet I am apt to think that the seeds of faith are first wrought in the heart.” He then compares the light of a candle, when entering a room from a hallway…you see the light from the flame before the candle gets there, but the light emanates from the candle’s burning wick.
He continues to reason that faith must be in the heart prior to repentance being shown active since “repentance, being a grace [a gift from God], must be exercised by one that is living” and that a soul only comes to life through the means of faith (Hebrews 10:38). “Therefore,” he writes, “there must be first some seeds of faith in the heart of a penitent, otherwise it is a dead repentance and so of no value” (emphasis mine). It is not simply an essential command of the Christian to repent; it is, Watson reasons, the essential command, being the foundation-grace given by God (Hebrews 6:1). “…religion which is not built upon this foundation must needs fall to the ground.” More on this in a separate post.
Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works admitted no repentance; there it was: sin and die. Repentance came in by the gospel. Christ has purchased in his blood that repenting sinners shall be saved. The law required personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. It cursed all who could not come up to this: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). It does not say: ‘he that obeys not all things, let him repent’, but ‘let him be cursed.’ Thus repentance is a doctrine that has been brought to light only by the Gospel. (pg. 13)
Repentance, Watson concludes, is brought partly by the preached word and wholly by the Spirit.