Except Ye Repent by H.A. Ironside, American Tract Society, 1937.
I have the original, antique copy of this exceptional book by H.A. Ironside. It has been re-published since 1937 and used print copies can be found on-line, but it does not appear to be currently in print. Moody Press (since Ironside was pastor at Moody Church for years) should consider re-publishing this book. It is that worthwhile. I do see it is available as a kindle book on amazon for only .99 cents.
You might call this book “Christian living” but not in the modern genre use of this word as a book category, as today Christian living can sadly be light and superficial. Except Ye Repent is about the Christian life, and the place of repentance in it. It has depth of content, challenging at times, and is very readable. My copy is 17 chapters in 190 pages, and each chapter delves into repentance considering it in various books of the Bible (Job), or as addressed by biblical figures (such as John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul), specific Bible passages, and clarifying the nature of repentance. In this sense, you might consider it a “reference” book as it would be a good book to pull off the shelf if you are studying a biblical passage that mentions repentance, to review and remind yourself of Ironside’s thoughts on it.
The last chapter of the book defends why a book on repentance, and repentance itself, is even needed or desirable. If this book was reprinted, I think this chapter would better be moved to the beginning of the book, and someone could write a new introduction in light of developments in culture since 1937.
In this final chapter, Ironside addresses the humanistic (power of self, as in self affirmation and an elevation of the power of thoughts) movement that was underway at the time – in conflict with the very idea of repentance and Christianity. What is interesting, is that in 1937, while these philosophies were influential, they were still more on the fringe and had not yet been taken to the masses. It wasn’t until the 1950s when Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking that these strange philosophies were watered down, in order to appeal to the masses, and the rest is history. Our nation and culture was sadly heavily influenced and changed by these anti-Christian teachings focused on the self. (I wrote my own book about this, as many of you know!)
If the idea of a humble view of self, an awareness of sin, and the need of repentance was a tough sell in 1937, it exponentially became a harder and harder sell as each year of the 20th century passed after that! Here we sit today. Sigh.
But Ironside’s book only brought that up in the last chapter, and the rest of the book solidly and carefully looks at repentance in the Bible. There is much “quote worthy” in the book or just places where Ironside makes clear statements of differentiation, bringing clarity, where there could be confusion. Here are some highlights:
- The book of Job in the Old Testament can be thought of as a book about suffering and why godly people suffer, but that is the secondary point of Job, not the primary point! Job could be titled “The Book of Repentance” because that is how it culminates in the end, and it is about the repentance of a saint, not a sinner. To clarify, some can think of repentance as something only “extra sinful” people must do, or something you only do when you initially become a believer, but Job was considered a godly man. And if Job, who was “blameless and upright” still needed to repent, then what about us? Yikes.
- One chapter brings good clarity about what repentance is, and is not. Repentance is not to be confounded with penitence, and penance is not repentance. Reformation is not repentance either. These things may be related to repentance, or spring out of it, because – after all – if someone has truly repented they should want to right any wrong done to others. We should observe some change of life. But repentance is a work of God in the soul, not just outward change. It is an inward state produced by the Holy Spirit. (Another chapter of the book looks at Judas Iscariot, and distinguishes between mere remorse or regret, and repentance.)
Ironside says: “Reformation is like watch repairing. Repentance is like the recognition of the lack of a watch.” (page 14) Repentance “literally means a change of mind. This is not simply the acceptance of new ideas in place of old notions. But it actually implies a complete reversal of one’s inward attitude…To repent is to change one’s attitude toward self, toward sin, toward God, toward Christ.” (page 15)
- Many places in the book emphasize the need for an awareness of sin, not to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to point us to our need of salvation through Christ and shed light on the amazing grace of God. Some quotes:
“Years ago I was amazed to hear an eloquent French preacher, Paul J. Loizeaux, exclaim, ‘Oh, how hard it is to find sinners! If only I could find one, I have a marvelous message for him.’ A moment’s thought made his meaning clear. To be a sinner is one thing; to know it is another.” (page 34)
“I am persuaded revival would come to believers and awakening to the lost if there were more faithful preachers of the John the Baptist type, who would… solemnly show the people their sins and call them in the Name of the Lord to repent, remembering that he who justifies himself must be condemned by God, but he who condemns himself will find complete justification in Christ.” (page 35)
“The fallow ground must first be broken up before it is ready for the good news of the gospel…To cry, ‘Believe! Believe!’ to men who have no sense of need is folly. None plowed deeper than Paul before urging men to decision for Christ.” (pages 60,64)
Perhaps a word of clarification. There are people out there who fully realize how sinful they are and are burdened by it, and these folks need an emphasis on the love and mercy of God – to know their sin has not put them out of God’s reach. But sadly, more often, many rationalize their sin, overlook it, and see themselves as mostly good. Or maybe they are aware of their sin but they just don’t care about it. Either way, there is no sense of need, no realization they are lost – and that is the problem.
Even believers need to maintain a sense of their need, and one chapter looks at the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and how most were told to repent. “Spiritual fervor is maintained only where there is a constant sense of our weakness” (page 98) remembering our daily need of Christ.
I feel like these excerpts and the review has not done the book justice! I highly recommend it to you. I don’t use an e-reader, but .99 cents on kindle is certainly worth “the risk” if you are unsure about this book!
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