"This then is the great and blessed lesson, which the Publican teaches us by his prayer: that true and unfeigned repentance is never present without true faith. Through the one the sinner loses life in himself and through the works of the law, and through the other he finds life everlasting through mercy in Christ. When a sinner is truly penitent, then his heart is wholly laid low through a heavy burden of his sins and of God's righteous condemnation and terrifying wrath. This burden presses the poor man as it were down to the earth and he becomes completely exhausted under it. If he could not now have a view by faith of the merciful majesty of God in Christ, and could not with the serpent-bitten Israelites look upon the uplifted brazen serpent, the crucified Son of man, then the miserable and dejected sinner would utterly succumb and perish, for he finds no means whereby his life can be saved and preserved, apart from Christ and mercy. The hypocrite, in his hour of greatest need, when in danger of drowning, is always able to lay hold of a plank of self-rghteousness, and on that he floats along until he comes here or there to land at last. But a true penitent who is quite cast down under the burden of sins and God's anger, can find no salvation in tears or good desires, through sudden joy or vain delusion, nor through anything else. He sees and feels himself for all that, completely and eternally lost. There remains nothing for him but the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and God's pure mercy, promised freely to truly penitent and despondent sinners in the sacred Gospel. How should he die then, without laying hold on that? Shall the name of the Lord be for us a strong tower, and shall a truly penitent soul who can find no refuge elsewhere, not run into it, and be safe? Either repentance is not complete, or it must surely lead on to faith, to which it is God's ordained pathway. For a true repentance can never end in delusion or despair, for then the Holy Spirit's own work would be in vain, which he begun solely in order to save poor sinners."
quoted from The Publican's Prayer by Theodore van der Groe published by Gospel Mission Books, £1.95