510. I. REPENTANCE IS THE FIRST THING OF THE CHURCH IN MAN.
The communion called the church consists of all men in whom the church is, and the church enters into man when he is becoming regenerate, and everyone becomes regenerate by abstaining from the evils of sin, and shunning them as one would an infernal horde with torches in hand, endeavoring to overtake him and throw him upon a burning pile. There are many means by which man, as he progresses in his early years, is prepared for the church and introduced into it; but the means whereby the church is established in man are acts of repentance. Acts of repentance are all such things as cause man not to will and consequently not to commit evils, which are sins against God; for until this takes place man stands outside of regeneration, and if any thought respecting eternal salvation should then creep into his mind, he turns toward it, but immediately turns away from it; for it enters the man no further than into the ideas of his thought, and from that goes forth into the words of his speech, and also, it may be, into some gestures conformable to speech. But when such thought enters the will, it is in the man; for the will is the man himself, because in it his love resides, while thought is outside of the man, except when it proceeds from his will, and then will and thought act as one, and both together constitute the man.
From this it follows, that, for repentance to be repentance, and to be effective in man, it must be a repentance of the will and from that of the thought, and not of the thought only; therefore that it should be actual repentance, and not merely verbal. That repentance is the first thing of the church, is very evident from the Word. John the Baptist, who was sent beforehand to prepare men for the church which the Lord was about to establish, when he baptized preached at the same time repentance; and therefore his baptism was called the baptism of repentance, for the reason that baptism signified spiritual washing, which is a cleansing from sin. This John did in Jordan, because Jordan signified introduction into the church, for it was the first boundary of the land of Canaan where the church was. The Lord Himself also preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins, teaching thereby that repentance is the first thing of the church, and that so far as man repents his sins are put away, and so far as they are put away, they are forgiven. And still further, the Lord commanded His twelve apostles, and also the seventy whom He sent forth, to preach repentance. From all this it is clear that the first thing of the church is repentance.