CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA – THE STROMATA, OR MISCELLANIES – BOOK II on frequent confessions
CHAP. XIII.–ON FIRST AND SECOND REPENTANCE.
He, then, who has received the forgiveness of sins ought to sin no more. For, in addition to the first and only repentance from sins (this is from the previous sins in the first and heathen life–I mean that in ignorance), there is forthwith proposed to those who have been called, the repentance which cleanses the seat of the soul from transgressions, that faith may be established.
And the Lord, knowing the heart, and foreknowing the future, foresaw both the fickleness of man and the craft and subtlety of the devil from the first, from the beginning; how that, envying man for the forgiveness of sins, he would present to the servants of God certain causes of sins; skilfully working mischief, that they might fall together with himself.
Accordingly, being very merciful, He has vouch-safed, in the case of those who, though in faith, fall into any transgression, a second repentance; so that should any one be tempted after his calling, overcome by force and fraud, he may receive still a repentance not to be repented of. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shah devour the adversaries.” But continual and successive repentings for sins differ nothing from the case of those who have not believed at all, except only in their consciousness that they do sin.
And I know not which of the two is worst, whether the case of a man who sins knowingly, or of one who, after having repented of his sins, transgresses again. For in the process of proof sin appears on each side,–the sin which in its commission is condemned by the worker of the iniquity, and that of the man who, foreseeing what is about to be done, yet puts his hand to it as a wickedness. And he who perchance gratifies himself in anger and pleasure, gratifies himself in he knows what; and he who, repenting of that in which he gratified himself, by rushing again into pleasure, is near neighbour to him who has sinned wilfully at first. For one, who does again that of which he has repented, and condemning what he does, performs it willingly.
He, then, who from among the Gentiles and from that old life has betaken himself to faith, has obtained forgiveness of sins once. But he who has sinned after this, on his repentance, though he obtain pardon, ought to fear, as one no longer washed to the forgiveness of sins. For not only must the idols which he formerly held as gods, but the works also of his former life, be abandoned by him who has been “born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,” but in the Spirit; which consists in repenting by not giving way to the same fault.
For frequent repentance and readiness to change easily from want of training, is the practice of sin again. The frequent asking of forgiveness, then, for those things in which we often transgress, is the semblance of repentance, not repentance itself.
Points that Clement makes which is consistent with Grace Gospel.
1. Clement was a disciple of Apostle John who wrote 1 John.
2. You are forgiven once, that once is for all time:”He, then, who from among the Gentiles and from that old life has betaken himself to faith, has obtained forgiveness of sins once.”
3. Continual asking for forgiveness is to act without faith thus sin: “For frequent repentance and readiness to change easily from want of training, is the practice of sin again”
4. Continual asking for forgiveness is only a semblance of repentance. In fact it is license to sin: “And I know not which of the two is worst, whether the case of a man who sins knowingly, or of one who, after having repented of his sins, transgresses again.” In fact it is “sinning willfully” in according to Hebrews 10:26.
5. Hence the believer confesses his sins once to be forgiven only once. That one forgiveness is total. We do not confess our sins to be forgiven. We confess our sins because we have been forgiven.