The self-centered regret which a man feels when his sin has found him out -- the wish, compounded of pride, shame, and anger at his own inconceivable folly, that he had not done it: these are spoken of as repentance. But they are not repentance at all... It is the simple truth that that sorrow of heart, that healing and sanctifying pain in which sin is really put away, is not ours in independence of God; it is a saving grace which is begotten in the soul under the impression of sin it owes to the revelation of God in Christ. A man can no more repent than he can do anything else without a motive; and the motive which makes evangelic repentance possible does not enter into his world till he sees God as God makes Himself known in the death of Christ. All true penitents are children of the Cross. Their penitence is not their own creation: it is the reaction towards God produced in their souls by his demonstration of what sin is to Him, and of what His love does to reach and win the sinful.

source: James Denney, The Atonement and the Modern Mind [1903] tags: Repentance