REPENTANCE, REFORMATION, AND REGENERATION
He who would be saved must confess his sins, and do the work of repentance.
To confess sins is to recognize evils; to see them within himself; to acknowledge them; to make himself guilty and condemn himself on account of them. This when it is done before God is the confession of sins.
To do the work of repentance is, after he has thus confessed his sins, and from an humble heart has made supplication for remission, to desist from them and lead a new life according to the precepts of faith.
He who only acknowledges generally that he is a sinner, and makes himself guilty of all evils, and does not explore himself, that is see his own sins, makes confession, but not the confession of repentance; for he afterwards lives as before.
He who lives the life of faith daily does the work of repentance; for he reflects upon the evils that are within him, and acknowledges them, guards himself against them, and supplicates the Lord for aid. For of himself man is continually lapsing; but is continually raised up by the Lord. Of himself he lapses when he thinks to will evil; and is raised up by the Lord when he resists evil, and therefore does not do it. Such is the state of all who are in good. But they who are in evil lapse continually, and also are continually elevated by the Lord; but it is lest they fall into the hell of all the basest evils, whither of themselves they tend with all their effort, and to restrain them to a milder hell.
The work of repentance which is done in a state of freedom avails, but that which is done in a state of compulsion is of no avail. A state of compulsion is a state of sickness, a state of dejection of mind on account of misfortunes; a state of imminent death; in a word, every state of fear which takes away the use of sound reason. He who is evil, and promises repentance and also does good in a state of compulsion, when he comes into a state of freedom returns into his former life of evil. It is different with a good man; these states to him are states of temptation, in which he conquers.
Repentance of the mouth and not of the life is not repentance; sins are not remitted by repentance of the mouth, but by repentance of the life. Sins are’ remitted to man continually by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but the sins adhere to the man howsoever he supposes they are remitted, nor are they removed from him but by a life according to the precepts of faith. So far as he lives according to these precepts his sins are removed, and in so far as they are removed they are remitted. For man is withheld by the Lord from evil, and is held in good; and he can be withheld from evil in the other life in so far as he had resisted evil in the life of the body; and he can then be held in good in so far as he had done good from affection in the life of the body. From this it may be seen what the remission of sins is, and from whence it is. He who believes that sins are remitted in any other way is much deceived.
After a man has examined himself, and acknowledged his sins, and done the work of repentance, he must remain constant in good to the end of life. And if afterwards he relapses to the former life of evil and embraces it, he commits profanation; for then he conjoins evil with good; and therefore his latter state is worse than the first, according to the Lord’s words: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, but doth not find; then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, and findeth it empty, and swept, and garnished for himself, then he goeth away and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Matt. xii. 43-45). (AC 8387-8394)