He who wishes to be saved must confess his sins and do repentance.
To confess sins is to become thoroughly acquainted with evils, to see them in oneself, to acknowledge them, to regard oneself as guilty, and to condemn oneself on account of them. When this is done before God, it is to confess sins.
To do repentance is after one has thus confessed his sins and from a humble heart has made supplication for their forgiveness, to desist from them and to lead a new life according to the commands of faith.
He who merely acknowledges that he is a sinner like all others, and who regards himself as guilty of all evils, and does not examine himself – that is, see his sins – does indeed make confession, but not the confession of repentance, for he lives afterward as he had done before.
He who leads a life of faith does repentance daily; for he reflects upon the evils that are in him, acknowledges them, guards himself against them, and supplicates the Lord for aid. For from himself man is continually falling, but is continually being raised up by the Lord. He falls from himself when he thinks what is evil with desire; and he is raised up by the Lord when he resists evil, and consequently does not do it. Such is the state with all who are in good; but they who are in evil are continually falling, and also are continually being uplifted by the Lord; but this to prevent them from falling into the most grievous hell of all, whither from themselves they incline with all their might: thus in truth uplifting them into a milder hell.
The repentance that is done in a state of freedom avails; but that which is done in a state of compulsion avails not. A state of compulsion is a state of sickness, a state of dejection of mind from misfortune, a state of imminent death; in a word, every state of fear which takes away the use of sound reason. When an evil man who in a state of compulsion promises repentance and also does what is good, comes into a state of freedom, he returns into his former life of evil. The case is otherwise with a good man, such states being to him states of temptation in which he conquers.
Repentance of the mouth and not of the life is not repentance. Sins are not forgiven through repentance of the mouth, but through repentance of the life. Sins are continually being forgiven man by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but sins adhere to the man, however much he may suppose that they have been forgiven, nor are they removed from him except through a life according to the commands of faith. So far as he lives according to these commands, so far his sins are removed; and so far as they are removed, so far they have been forgiven. For by the Lord man is withheld from evil, and is held in good; and he is so far able to be withheld from evil in the other life, as in the life of the body he has resisted evil; and he is so far able to be held in good then, as in the life of the body he has done what is good from affection. This shows what the forgiveness of sins is, and whence it is. He who believes that sins are forgiven in any other way, is much mistaken.
After a man has examined himself, and has acknowledged his sins, and has done repentance, he must remain constant in good up to the end of life. If however he afterward falls back into his former life of evil, and embraces it, he commits profanation, for he then conjoins evil with good, and consequently his latter state becomes worse than his former one, according to the Lord’s words:
When the unclean spirit goeth out of a man he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, but findeth none; then he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he is come, and findeth it empty, and swept, and garnished for him, then goeth he, and joineth to himself seven other spirits worse than himself, and having entered in they dwell there; and the last things of the man become worse than the first (Matt. 12:43-45).