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  • REPENTANCE AND IMPENITENCE - B,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    2. Such, also, is the connection of the will and the sensibility, that the turning of the will, or evangelical repentance, implies sorrow for sin as necessarily resulting from the turning of the will, together with the intellectual views of sin which are implied in repentance. Neither conviction of sin, nor sorrow for it, constitutes repentance. Yet from the correlation which is established between the intelligence, the sensibility, and the will, both conviction of sin, and sorrow for it, are implied in evangelical repentance, the one as necessarily preceding, and the other as often preceding, and always and necessarily resulting from repentance. During the process of conviction, it often happens, that the sensibility is hardened and unfeeling; or, if there is much feeling, it is often only regret, remorse, agony, and despair. But when the heart has given away, and the evangelical turning has taken place, it often happens that the fountain of the great deep in the sensibility is broken up, the sorrows of the soul are stirred to the very bottom, and the sensibility pours forth its gushing tides like an irresistible torrent. But it frequently happens, too, in minds less subject to deep emotion, that the sorrows do not immediately flow in deep and broad channels, but are mild, melting, tender, tearful, silent, subdued.

    Self-loathing is another state of the sensibility implied in evangelical repentance. This state of mind may and often does, exist where repentance is not, just as outward morality does. But, like outward morality, it must exist where true repentance is. Self-loathing is a natural and a necessary consequence of those intellectual views of self that are implied in repentance. While the intelligence apprehends the utter, shameful guilt of self, and the heart yields to the conviction, the sensibility necessarily sympathizes, and a feeling of self-loathing and abhorrence is the inevitable consequence.

    It implies a loathing and abhorrence of the sins of others, a most deep and thorough feeling of opposition to sin to all sin, in self and everybody else. Sin has become, to the repentant soul, the abominable thing which it hates. It implies a holy indignation toward all sin and all sinners, and a manifest opposition to every form of iniquity.

    3. Repentance also implies peace of mind. The soul that has full confidence in the infinite wisdom and love of God, in the atonement of Christ, and in His universal providence, cannot but have peace. And further, the soul that has abandoned all sin, and turned to God, is no longer in a state of warfare with itself and with God. It must have peace of conscience, and peace with God. It implies heart-complacency in God, and in all the holy. This must follow from the very nature of repentance. It implies confession of sin to God and to man, as far as sin has been committed against men. If the heart has thoroughly renounced sin, it has become benevolent, and is of course disposed, as far as possible, to undo the wrong it has committed, to confess sin, and humble self on count of it, before God and our neighbor, whom we have injured. Repentance implies humility, or a willingness to be known and estimated according to our real character. It implies a disposition to do right, and to confess our faults to God and man, as far as man has a right to know them. Let no one who has refused, and still refuses or neglects to confess his sins to God, and those sins to men that have been committed against them, profess repentance unto salvation; but let him remember that God has said, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy" (Prov. 28:13), and again, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (James 5:16).

    Repentance implies a willingness to make restitution, and the actual making of it as far as ability goes. He is not just, and of course is not repentant, who has injured his neighbor in his person, reputation, property, or in anything, and is unwilling to make restitution. And he is unwilling to make restitution who neglects to do so whenever he is able. It is impossible that a soul truly repentant should neglect to make all practicable restitution, for the plain reason that penitence implies a benevolent and just attitude of the will, and the will controls the conduct by a law of necessity.

    Repentance implies reformation of outward life. This follows from reformation of heart by a law of necessity. It is naturally impossible that a repentant soul, remaining repentant, should indulge in any known sin. If the heart be reformed, the life must be as the heart is.

    It implies a universal reformation of life, that is, a reformation extending to all outward sin. The repentant does not, and remaining repentant, cannot, reform in respect to some sins only. If repentant at all, he must have repented of sin as sin, and of course of all sin. If he has turned to God, and consecrated himself to God, he has of course ceased from sin, from all sin as such. Sin, as we have seen on a former occasion, is a unit, and so is holiness. Sin consists in selfishness, and holiness disinterested benevolence: it is therefore sheer nonsense to say that repentance can consist with indulgence in some sins. What are generally termed little, as well as what are termed great sins, are alike rejected and abhorred by the truly repentant soul, and this from a law of necessity, he being truly repentant.

    4. It implies faith or confidence in God in all things. It implies, not only the conviction that God is wholly right in all His controversy with sinners, but also that the heart has yielded to this conviction, and has come fully over to confide most implicitly in Him in all respects, so that it can readily commit all interests for time and eternity to His hands. Repentance is a state of mind that implies the fullest confidence in all the promises and threatenings of God, and in the atonement and grace of Christ.

    What impenitence is not.

    1. It is not a negation, or the mere absence of repentance. Some seem to regard impenitence as a nonentity, as the mere absence of repentance; but this is a great mistake.

    2. It is not mere apathy in the sensibility in regard to sin, and a mere want of sorrow for it.

    3. It is not the absence of conviction of sin, nor the consequent carelessness of the sinner in respect to the commandments of God.

    4. It is not an intellectual self-justification, nor does it consist in a disposition to cavil at truth and the claims of God. These may and often do result from impenitence, but are not identical with it.

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