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It is often better for a person to recognize a sin than to do a good deed. Recognizing a sin makes a person humble. Doing a good deed often can feed a person’s pride. ~ Leo Tolstoy
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. ~ Henry David Thoreau
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent," he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. ~ Martin Luther

Repentance is a change of thought and action to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to deities, ceasing to sin against fellow beings, and resolving to live according to a religious law. It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

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  • O ye powers that search
    The heart of man, and weigh his inmost thoughts,
    If I have done amiss, impute it not!
    The best may err, but you are good.
  • The 'I', the 'self' of the child of God, is born in the midst of the ruins of repented idolatry.



Walter Benjamin

  • Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than a repenting cult. ... An enormous feeling of guilt not itself knowing how to repent, grasps at the cult, not in order to repent for this guilt, but to make it universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself in this guilt.
    • Walter Benjamin, "Capitalism as Religion" (1921), Translated by Chad Kautzer in The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Thinkers (2005), p. 259.
  • REPENTANCE, n. The faithful attendant and follower of Punishment. It is usually manifest in a degree of reformation that is not inconsistent with continuity of sin.
  • Sin. Sin, Sin. You're all sinners. You're all doomed to perdition. You're all goin' to the painful, stinkin', scaldin', everlastin' tortures of a fiery hell, created by God for sinners, unless, unless, unless you repent.


  • To sigh, yet not recede; to grieve, yet not repent!
    • George Crabbe, Tales of the Hall (1819), Book III, "Boys at School," last line.


  • If someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation.


  • Repentance ... implies a conviction, that God is wholly right, and the sinner wholly wrong, and a thorough and hearty abandonment of all excuses and apologies for sin. It implies an entire and universal acquittal of God from every shade and degree of blame, a thorough taking of the entire blame of sin to self. It implies a deep and thorough abasement of self in the dust, a crying out of soul against self, and a most sincere and universal, intellectual, and hearty exaltation of God.
  • Self-loathing is a natural and a necessary consequence of those intellectual views of self that are implied in repentance.


  • The only art her guilt to cover,
    To hide her shame from every eye,
    To give repentance to her lover,
    And wring his bosom, is—to die.


  • The indulgence of self-forgiving is far less vicious than the blindness of self-righteousness which is not aware of aught in the self that needs forgiving.
    • Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (New York: 1954), #156


  • They cling to deceit;
they refuse to return.
I have listened attentively,
but they do not say what is right.
None of them repent of their wickedness,
saying, “What have I done?”
Each pursues their own course
like a horse charging into battle.
  • This is what the LORD says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them."
  • The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light. Through repentance a man regains his true splendor, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light.


  • The godly grief of repentance and the concern of inwardness must above all not be confused with impatience. Experience teaches that to repent at once is not always even the right time to repent, because in this moment of haste, when the engaged thoughts and various passions are still busily in motion or at least tensed in the relaxation, repentance can so easily be mistaken about what really should be repented, can so easily confuse itself with the opposite: with momentary remorse, that is, with impatience; with a painful, tormentingly worldly grief, that is, with impatience. But impatience, however long it continues to rage, however darkened the mind becomes, never becomes repentance; its weeping, however convulsed with sobs, never becomes the weeping of repentance; its tears are as devoid of beneficent fruitfulness as clouds without ran, as a spasmodic shower. But if a person incurred some greater guilt but also improved and year by year steadily made progress in the good, it is certain that year after year, with greater inwardness-all in proportion to his progress in the greater inwardness-he will repent of that guilt from which he year after year distances himself in the temporal sense. It is indeed true that guilt must stand vividly before a person if he is truly to repent, but momentary repentance is very dubious and is not to be hoped for at all simply because it perhaps is not the deep inwardness of concern that sets forth the guilt so vividly, but only a momentary feeling. Then regret is selfish, sensuous, sensuously powerful in the moment, inflamed in expression, impatient in the most contradictory overstatements-and for this very reason it is not repentance.
    • Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, 1846, Hong translation, p. 17.


  • Repentance is as absolute a condition of the covenant of grace as faith; and as necessary to be performed as that … not only a sorrow for sins past, but (what is a natural consequence of such sorrow, if it be real) a turning from them into a new and contrary life. … Repentance is an hearty sorrow for our past misdeeds, AND a sincere resolution and endeavour, to the utmost of our power, to conform all our actions to the law of God. So that repentance does not consist in one single act of sorrow, (though that being the first and leading act gives denomination to the whole,) but in "doing works meet for repentance" in a sincere obedience to the law of Christ, the remainder of our lives.
    • John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures, (1695), page 105.
  • Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons.
  • When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent," he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.


  • The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

  • They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
  • In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
  • When the scourge
    Inexorable, and the torturing hour
    Calls us to penance.


The manic lover does not love his beloved as much as God loves the repentant soul. ~ Saint Nectarios of Aegina
Sinners and those who do not confess due to shame deliver their soul unto death. They suffer in a similar fashion to those who are ill, who do not run to the doctors because of shame. ~ Saint Nectarios of Aegina
  • The manic lover does not love his beloved as much as God loves the repentant soul.
  • Sinners and those who do not confess due to shame deliver their soul unto death. They suffer in a similar fashion to those who are ill, who do not run to the doctors because of shame.


  • The beauty of repentance is that it transforms shame into wisdom, sin into experience.
    • Jason Olson,The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir (with James Goldberg)


  • μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε πρὸς τὸ ἐξαλειφθῆναι ὑμῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας.
  • Of my past wanderings the sole fruit is shame,
    And deep repentance, of the knowledge born
    That all we value in this world is naught.
    • Petrarch, The Sonnets, Triumphs, and Other Poems of Petrarch, p. 117.


  • What then? what rests?
    Try what repentance can: what can it not?
    Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
    O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
    O limed soul, that struggling to be free
    Art more engag'd!
  • Well, I'll repent, and that suddenly, while I am in some liking; I shall be out of heart shortly, and then I shall have no strength to repent.
  • When reason’s voice,
    Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked
    The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
    Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
    Is peace and happiness and harmony;
    When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
    The playthings of its childhood; -kingly glare
    Will lose its power to dazzle, its authority
    Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
    Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
    Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
    Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
    As that of truth is now.
  • On the one hand, there is the type of sinner whom, in present-day language, we would call ‘oppressor.’ Their basic sin consists in oppressing, placing intolerable burdens on others, acting unjustly and so on. On the other hand, there are those who sin ‘from weakness’ or those ‘legally considered sinners’ according to the dominant religious view.

    Jesus takes a very different approach to each group. He offers salvation to all, and makes demands of all, but in a very different way. He directly demands a radical conversion of the first group, an active cessation from oppressing. For these, the coming of the Kingdom is above all a radical need to stop being oppressors.

  • Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, "Can a man lay a new foundation every day?" The old man said, "If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment."


  • Amid the roses, fierce Repentance rears
    Her snaky crest; a quick-returning pang
    Shoots through the conscious heart.
  • The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.
  • It is often better for a person to recognize a sin than to do a good deed. Recognizing a sin makes a person humble. Doing a good deed often can feed a person’s pride.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Path of Life, M. Cote, trans. (2002), p. 108.
  • Above all, repentance; not wholesale repentance: “I have sinned, father, I have sinned,” or, still worse, the admission that I am wholly in sin, that I was born in sin, that every step of mine is sin. This admission, collecting, compacting all the sins in one heap, seems to separate them from me and deprives me of that inevitable spiritual use, which by the mercy of God is attached to every sin. ... We have a terrible habit of forgetting,—of forgetting our evil, our sins. And there is no more radical means for forgetting our sins, than wholesale repentance. All the sins are boiled down, as it were, into one impermeable mass, with which nothing can be done.
    • Leo Tolstoy, “Three phases of life,” L. Wiener, trans. (1905).
  • It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his social and official interests, might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness of what he was defending.


  • Chacun s'égare, et le moins imprudent, Est celui-là qui plus tôt se repent.
    • Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest.
    • Voltaire, Nanine, II. 10.


  • O that we would therefore, while we are on this side of the grave, make our peace with God! Tomorrow may be our dying day; let this be our repenting day.
  • Repentance is purgative; fear not the working of this pill.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 665-66.
  • D'uomo è il fallir, ma dal malvagio il buono
    Scerne il dolor del fallo.
    • To err is human; but contrition felt for the crime distinguishes the virtuous from the wicked.
    • Vittorio Alfieri, Rosmunda, III. 1.
  • When prodigals return great things are done.
    • A. A. Dowty, The Siliad, in Beeton's Christmas Annual (1873).
  • I do not buy repentance at so heavy a cost as a thousand drachmæ.
    • Aulus Gellius, Book I, Chapter VI, 6; quoting Demosthenes to Lais.
  • When iron scourge, and tort'ring hour
    The bad affright, afflict the best.
    • Thomas Gray, Ode to Adversity. Same phrase "the torturing hour" in Campbell—Pleasures of Hope, Part I. Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, scene 1.
  • Restore to God his due in tithe and time:
    A tithe purloin'd cankers the whole estate.
  • Who after his transgression doth repent,
    Is halfe, or altogether, innocent.
  • He comes never late who comes repentant.
  • God dropped a spark down into everyone,
    And if we find and fan it to a blaze,
    It'll spring up and glow, like—like the sun,
    And light the wandering out of stony ways.
  • He [Cato] used to say that in all his life he never repented but of three things. The first was that he had trusted a woman with a secret; the second that he had gone by sea when he might have gone by land; and the third, that he had passed one day without having a will by him.
    • Plutarch, Life of Cato, Volume II, p. 495. Langhorne's translation. Same in Simplicius, Commentary on the Enchiridion of Epictetus, Chapter IX, p. 52 (Ed. 1670).
  • Der Wahn ist kurtz, die Reu ist lang.
  • But with the morning cool repentance came.
    • Walter Scott, Rob Roy, Chapter XII. The Monastery, Chapter III. Note 11. "But with the morning cool reflection came." In Chronicles of Canongate, Chapter IV. "Calm" substituted for "cool" in The Antiquary, Chapter V.
  • Nam sera nunquam est ad bonos mores via.
    Quem pœnitet peccasse, pæne est innocens.
    • It is never too late to turn from the errors of our ways:
      He who repents of his sins is almost innocent.
    • Seneca the Younger, Agamemnon. 242.
  • Nec unquam primi consilii deos pœnitet.
    • God never repents of what He has first resolved upon.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Beneficiis, VI. 23.
  • Cave ne quidquam incipias, quod post pœniteat.
    • Take care not to begin anything of which you may repent.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Velox consilium sequitur pœnitentia.
    • Repentance follows hasty counsels.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • And while the lamp holds out to burn,
    The vilest sinner may return.
    • Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book I, Hymn 88.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • True repentance is to cease from sin.
  • There is one case of death-bed repentance recorded — the penitent thief — that no one should despair; and only one, that no one should presume.
  • Come back then, O, them prodigal, to thy Father. Quit thy sad folly and emptiness, thy reproaches of soul, thy diseased longings, and thy restless sighs. Return again to thy God, and give thyself to Him in a final and last sacrifice. Conquer again, as Christ will help you, the original love, in that to abide and rest.
  • Of all acts is not, for a man, repentance the most divine? The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.
  • It will require more than a few hours of fasting and prayer to cast out such demons as selfishness, worldliness, and unbelief. Repentance, to be of any avail, must work a change of heart and of conduct.
  • No man ever truly repented, and turned away from all his sins, until by faith he accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.
  • Holy practice is the most decisive evidence of the reality of our repentance. " Bring forth fruits meet for repentance."
  • Nor alms, nor deeds, that I have done,
    Can for a single sin atone;
    To Calvary alone I flee;
    O God! be merciful to me.
  • Place not thy amendment only in increasing thy devotion, but in bettering thy life. This is the damning hypocrisy of this age; that it slights all good morality, and spends its zeal in matters of ceremony, and a form of godliness without the power of it.
  • My Saviour, mid life's varying scene
    Be Thou my stay;
    Guide me, through each perplexing path,
    To perfect day.
    In weakness and in sin I stand;
    Still faith can clasp Thy mighty hand,
    And follow at Thy dear command.
    My Saviour, I have nought to bring
    Worthy of Thee;
    A broken heart Thou wilt not spurn;
    Accept of me.
    I need Thy righteousness Divine,
    I plead Thy promises as mine,
    I perish if I am not Thine.
  • With the blood of Christ to wash away the darkest guilt, and the Spirit of God to sanctify the vilest, and strengthen the weakest nature, I despair of none. Too late! It is never too late. Even old age, tottering to the grave beneath the weight of seventy years and a great load of guilt, may retrace its steps and begin life anew. Hope falls like a sunbeam on the hoary head. I have seen the morning rise cold and gloomy, and the sky grow thicker, and the rain fall faster as the hours wore on; yet, ere he set in night, the sun, bursting through heavy clouds, has broken out to illumine the landscape and shed a flood of glory on the dying day.
  • Repentance does not consist in one single act of sorrow, though that, being the first and leading act, gives denomination to the whole; but in doing works meet for repentance, in a sincere obedience to the law of Christ for the remainder of our lives.
  • While repentance is indispensable to eternal life, we are not to regard it in the light of a price paid for its possession. It is not an expiatory grace, or a compensation for moral indebtedness.
  • Not all the drops the human eye can shed will ever quench the fires or blot out the guilt of sin. Do not, I pray you, be deceived on this point; do not permit yourselves to harbor the delusion that the rain-showers from your beclouded eyes can ever fertilize the barren soul, and cause it to blossom as the rose.
  • The Scriptural doctrine in regard to repentance is not, that a man must repent in order to his being qualified to go to Christ; it is rather, that he must go to Christ in order to his being able to repent. From Him comes the grace of contrition as well as the cleansing of expiation.
  • The law stops every man's mouth. God will have a man humble himself down on his face before Him, with not a word to say for himself. Then God will speak to him, when he owns that he is a sinner, and gets rid of all his own righteousness.
  • Repentance is getting out of one train and getting into the other. You are in the wrong train; you are in the broad path that takes you down to the pit of hell. Get out of it to-day. Right-about-face.
  • 'Tis to bewail the sins thou didst commit;
    And not commit those sins thou hast bewailed.
    He that bewails, and not forsakes them too,
    Confesses rather what he means to do.
  • A heart renewed — a loving heart — a penitent and humble heart — a heart broken and contrite, purified by love — that and only that is the rest of men. Spotlessness may do for angels, repentance unto life is the highest that belongs to man.
  • Perhaps yours is a very remorseful past — a foolish, frivolous, disgraceful, frittered past. Well, Christ says, " My servant, be sad," but no languor; there is work to be done forme yet — rise up, be going! Oh, my brethren, Christ takes your wretched remnants of life — the feeble pulses of a heart which has spent its best hours not for Him, but for self and for enjoyment, and in His strange love He condescends to accept them.
  • It is one thing to mourn for sin because it exposes us to hell, and another to mourn for it because it is an infinite evil. It is one thing to mourn for it because it is injurious to ourselves; another, to mourn for it because it is offensive to God. It is one thing to be terrified; another, to be humbled.
  • The true penitent sees that he has broken God's holy law, and resisted the claims of his rightful Sovereign. The thought that most deeply affects him is, that he has sinned against Gvd. In comparison with this, his other crimes vanish to nothing. The language of his heart is, " Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned."
  • True repentance has as its constituent elements not only grief and hatred of sin, but also an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. It hates the sin, and not simply the penalty; and it hates the sin most of all because it has discovered God's love.
  • True repentance consists in the heart being broken for sin and broken from sin.


  • Repentance is never out of season.
    Repentance is a grace of God's Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.<BN>O that we would therefore, while we are on this side of the grave, make our peace with God! Tomorrow may be our dying day; let this be our repenting day.
    In Adam we all suffered shipwreck and repentance is the only plank left us after shipwreck to swim to heaven.
    The first sermon that Christ preached, indeed, the first word of his sermon was 'Repent'.
    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 two great graces essential to a saint in this life are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven.

See also


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