REPENTANCE: Ethically repentance is the feeling of pain experienced by man when he becomes conscious that he has done wrongly or improperly in thought, word, or deed. It always presupposes knowledge of fault, and is usually combined with judgment. It is a natural and involuntary feeling of pain, and is not the result of education, habit, or reflection, nor is it essentially a religious or moral duty. It is manifested in many ways, but must not be confused with the permanent state of mind termed penitence. In dogmatic phraseology repentance is "godly sorrow" (II Cor. vii. 10) and the pain caused by having wronged God through sin (Ps. li. 4). This contrition is carefully distinguished from attrition, which fears only the punishment and the evil consequences of sin. Repentance, moreover, even though necessarily renewed daily by the Christian, is only a process through which sorrow must be put away by an act of will wherein the Christian casts sin from him and surrenders himself to the grace of God. Where this act of will is not performed, repentance is fruitless, and therefore painful. There is no ground for asserting, on the other hand, that a certain amount of penitential pain is necessary to obtain forgiveness, and still less can stress be laid on outward signs of repentance.
The term repentance is also applied to the displeasure felt when good intentions turn out to be ineffectual, and when toil and trouble are taken in vain. Here one can scarcely fail to feel that in some way he has discerned his ill success, but where one really believes himself to be in the right, he should repent of no exertions undertaken in a good cause, nor should he be discouraged or disheartened from the pursuit of right aims. In the latter sense the Bible occasionally speaks .of the repentance of God, as in the creation of man (Gen. vi. 6) and in making Saul king of Israel (I Sam. xv. 11, 35), as well as in cases where he refrained from inflicting punishment as he had intended (Ex. xxxii. 14; Ps. cvi. 45; Jer. xviii. 8, 10, xxvi. 3, 19, xlii. 10; Joel ii. 13-14; Amos vii. 3, 6; Jonah iii. 9-10). On the other hand, such passages as Num. xxiii. 19; I Sam. xv. 29; Ps. cx. 4; Jer. iv. 28; Ezek. xxiv. 14; and Rom. xi. 29 show in what sense repentance is excluded from the nature of God. See PENANCE.