On Repentance by Tertullian
Chapter VIII.--Examples from Scripture to Prove the Lord's Willingness to Pardon.
This if you doubt, unravel the meaning of |what the Spirit saith to the churches.| He imputes to the Ephesians |forsaken love;| reproaches the Thyatirenes with |fornication,| and |eating of things sacrificed to idols;| accuses the Sardians of |works not full;| censures the Pergamenes for teaching perverse things; upbraids the Laodiceans for trusting to their riches; and yet gives them all general monitions to repentance -- under comminations, it is true; but He would not utter comminations to one unrepentant if He did not forgive the repentant. The matter were doubtful if He had not withal elsewhere demonstrated this profusion of His clemency. Saith He not, |He who hath fallen shall rise again, and he who hath been averted shall be converted?| He it is, indeed, who |would have mercy rather than sacrifices.| The heavens, and the angels who are there, are glad at a man's repentance. Ho! you sinner, be of good cheer! you see where it is that there is joy at your return. What meaning for us have those themes of the Lord's parables? Is not the fact that a woman has lost a drachma, and seeks it and finds it, and invites her female friends to share her joy, an example of a restored sinner? There strays, withal, one little ewe of the shepherd's; but the flock was not more dear than the one: that one is earnestly sought; the one is longed for instead of all; and at length she is found, and is borne back on the shoulders of the shepherd himself; for much had she toiled in straying. That most gentle father, likewise, I will not pass over in silence, who calls his prodigal son home, and willingly receives him repentant after his indigence, slays his best fatted calf, and graces his joy with a banquet. Why not? He had found the son whom he had lost; he had felt him to be all the dearer of whom he had made a gain. Who is that father to be understood by us to be? God, surely: no one is so truly a Father; no one so rich in paternal love. He, then, will receive you, His own son, back, even if you have squandered what you had received from Him, even if you return naked -- just because you have returned; and will joy more over your return than over the sobriety of the other; but only if you heartily repent -- if you compare your own hunger with the plenty of your Father's |hired servants| -- if you leave behind you the swine, that unclean herd -- if you again seek your Father, offended though He be, saying, |I have sinned, nor am worthy any longer to be called Thine.| Confession of sins lightens, as much as dissimulation aggravates them; for confession is counselled by (a desire to make) satisfaction, dissimulation by contumacy.