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

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    Notice some of the characteristics or evidences of impenitence.

    1. A manifested indifference to the sins of men is evidence of an unrepentant and sin-justifying state of mind. It is impossible that a repentant soul should not be deeply and heartily opposed to all sin; and if heartily opposed to it, it is impossible that he should not manifest this opposition, for the heart controls the life by a law of necessity.

    2. Of course a manifest heart complacency in sin or in sinners is sure evidence of an unrepentant state of mind. "He that will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Heart-complacency in sinners is that friendship with the world that is enmity against God.

    3. A manifest want of zeal in opposing sin and in promoting reformation is a sure indication of an unrepentant state of mind. The soul that has been truly convinced of sin, and turned from sin to the love and service of God, cannot but manifest a deep interest in every effort to expel sin out of the world. Such a soul cannot but be zealous in opposing sin, and in building up and establishing righteousness in the earth.

    4. A manifest want of sympathy with God in respect to His government, providential and moral, is an evidence of impenitence of heart. A repentant soul, as has been said, will and must of course justify God in all his ways. This is implied in genuine repentance. A disposition to complain of the strictness and rigor of God's commandments to speak of the providence of God in a complaining manner, to murmur at its allotments, and repine at the circumstances in which it has placed a soul is to evince an unrepentant and rebellious state of mind.

    5. A manifest want of confidence in the character, faithfulness, and promises of God, is also sure evidence of an unrepentant state of mind. A distrust of God in any respect cannot consist with a repentant state of heart.

    6. The absence of peace of mind is sure evidence of an unrepentant state. The repentant soul must have peace of conscience, because penitence is a state of conscious rectitude. It also must have peace with God, in view of, and through confidence in, the atonement of Christ. Repentance is the turning from an attitude of rebellion against God, to a state of universal submission to His will, and approval of it as wise and good. This must of course bring peace to the soul. When therefore there is a manifest want of peace, there is evidence of impenitence of heart.

    7. Every unequivocal manifestation of selfishness is a conclusive evidence of present impenitence. Repentance, as we have seen, consists in the turning of the soul from selfishness to benevolence. It follows of course that the presence of selfishness, or a spirit of self-indulgence, is conclusive evidence of an unrepentant state of mind. Repentance implies the denial of self; the denial or subjection of all the appetites, passions, and inclinations to the law of the intelligence. Therefore a manifest spirit of self-indulgence, a disposition to seek the gratification of the appetites and passions, such as the subjection of the will to the use of tobacco, of alcohol, or to any of the natural or artificial appetites, under light, and in opposition to the law of the reason, is conclusive evidence of present impenitence. I say, "under light, and in opposition to the law of the reason." Such articles as those just named, are sometimes used medicinally, and because they are regarded as useful, and even indispensable to health under certain circumstances. In such cases their use may be a duty. But they are more frequently used merely to gratify appetite, and in the face of a secret conviction that they are not only unnecessary, but absolutely injurious. This is indulgence that constitutes sin. It is impossible that such indulgence should consist with repentance. Such a mind must be in impenitence, or there is no such thing as impenitence.

    8. A spirit of self-justification is another evidence of impenitence. This manifestation must be directly the opposite of that which the truly repentant soul will make.

    9. A spirit of excuse-making for neglect of duty is also a conclusive evidence of an unrepentant heart. Repentance implies the giving up of all excuses for disobedience, and a hearty obedience in all things. Of course, where there is a manifest disposition to make excuses for not being what and all God requires us to be, it is certain that there is, and must be an unrepentant state of mind. It is war with God.

    10. A want of candor upon any moral subject relating to self, also betrays an unrepentant heart. A repentant state of the will is committed to know and to embrace all truth. Therefore a prejudiced, uncandid state of mind must be inconsistent with penitence, and a manifestation of prejudice must evince present impenitence. An unwillingness to be searched, and to have all our words and ways brought into the light of truth, and to be reproved when we are in error, is a sure indication of an unrepentant state of mind. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20-21).

    11. Only partial reformation of life, also indicates that the heart has not embraced the whole will of God. When there is a disposition manifested to indulge in some sin, no matter how little, it is sure evidence of impenitence of heart. The repentant soul rejects sin as sin; of course every kind or degree of iniquity is put away, loathed, and abhorred. "Whoso keepeth the whole law and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all" (James 2:10), that is, if a man in one point unequivocally sins or disobeys God, it is certain that he truly from the heart obeys Him in nothing. He has not an obedient state of mind. If he really had supreme respect to God's authority, he could not but obey Him in all things. If therefore it be found, that a professor of penitence does not manifest the spirit of universal obedience; if in some things he is manifestly self-indulgent, it may be known that he is altogether yet in sin, and that he is still "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:23).

    12. Neglect or refusal to confess and make restitution, so far as opportunity and ability are enjoyed, is also a sure indication of an unjust and unrepentant state of mind. It would seem impossible for a repentant soul not at once to see and be impressed with the duty of making confession and restitution to those who have been injured by him. When this is refused or neglected, there must be impenitence. The heart controls the life by a law of necessity; when, therefore, there is a heart that confesses and forsakes sin, it is impossible that this should not appear in outward confession and restitution.

    13. A spirit of covetousness, or grasping after the world, is a sure indication of impenitence. "Covetousness is idolatry." It is a hungering and thirsting after, and devotion to this world. Acquisitiveness indulged must be positive proof of an unrepentant state of mind. If any man love the world, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

    14. A want of interest in, and compassion for, sinners, is a sure indication of impenitence. If one has seen his own guilt and ruin, and has found himself sunk in the horrible pit and miry clay of his own abominations, and has found the way of escape, to feel deeply for sinners, to manifest a great compassion and concern for them, and a zeal for their salvation, is as natural as to breathe. If this sympathy and zeal are not manifested, we may rely upon it that there is still impenitence. There is a total want of that love to God and souls that is always implied in repentance. Seest thou a professed convert to Christ whose compassions are not stirred, and whose zeal for the salvation of souls is not awakened? Be assured that you behold a hypocrite.

    15. Spiritual sloth or indolence is another evidence of an unrepentant heart. The soul that thoroughly turns to God, and consecrates itself to Him, and wholly commits itself to promote His glory in the building up of His kingdom, will be, must be, anything but lazy. A disposition to spiritual idleness, or to lounging or indolence of any kind, is an evidence that the heart is unrepentant. I might pursue this subject to an indefinite length; but what has been said must suffice for this course of instruction, and is sufficient to give you the clue by which you may detect the windings and delusions of the unrepentant heart.

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