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Repentance as an Obligation

Repentance as an Obligation

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Published by glennpease
BY FRANCES POWER COBBE.


The various relations held by man to God divide them-
selves very distinctly to our consciousness into those
which concern us simply as His Creatures, and those
which concern us as Sinners. In the first class of
relations we are called on to love our Father, to be
grateful to our Benefactor, to adore our Moral Ideal,
to obey our Lord, to learn from our Teacher, to*
sympathize in the beauty of our Parent's works.
BY FRANCES POWER COBBE.


The various relations held by man to God divide them-
selves very distinctly to our consciousness into those
which concern us simply as His Creatures, and those
which concern us as Sinners. In the first class of
relations we are called on to love our Father, to be
grateful to our Benefactor, to adore our Moral Ideal,
to obey our Lord, to learn from our Teacher, to*
sympathize in the beauty of our Parent's works.

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Published by: glennpease on May 05, 2014
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REPETACE AS A OBLIGATIOBY FRACES POWER COBBE.The various relations held by man to God divide them- selves very distinctly to our consciousness into those which concern us simply as His Creatures, and those which concern us as Sinners. In the first class of relations we are called on to love our Father, to be grateful to our Benefactor, to adore our Moral Ideal, to obey our Lord, to learn from our Teacher, to* sympathize in the beauty of our Parent's works. In these relations all seems clear and inexpressibly happy. On the other side, when we attempt to scan the position in which we stand as Sinners, the whole scene is altered, and, instead of love and joy, " there remains nothing but a certain fearful looking for of judgment ; " that is, till we have found how these two relations may harmonize and have, by Repentance, blended into one sentiment of humble love the discordant elements of our condition. On the right comprehension of these relations, on the attaching of sufficient weight to both classes of them, depends, in a great measure, the healthfulness of all our religious life. He who forgets how near and dear is his natural tie to his Father in heaven will take views of the alienation produced by REPETACE. 229 sin so dark and unnatural, that he will either sink into despair, or grasp at the most monstrous schemes suggested for his salvation. On the other hand, he who forgets how completely his sins have altered the footing of creaturehood will be tempted to assume a position before God so false and presumptuous as to be fatal to any real religious progress whatever.* othing is more difficult than practically to hit the just medium
 
in these matters; our temperaments inclining us to one view or the other, and the instructions we receive in youth but. too frequently deterring us from venturing to place our instinctive, childlike trust in the inexhausti- ble goodness of God.f In the ensuing pages I shall * The myths of a " Fall " and Golden Age of Innocence show the antiquity and universality of the recognition of the grand distinction between these classes of relations between man and God. The antecedency of the first to the second is also pointed out by its supposed chronological priority. Malt has always felt that he is first God's beloved son, and only secondarily a rebel. f The practical difficulties of this subject have been also increased by the false ideas respecting the natural history of the soul which have been perpet- uated by the pedantry of divines. It is afways assumed by the Evangelical school that the inner life of all men has been one of unvaried sin till trans- formed suddenly or gradually by conversion. If there be any exceptions admitted, they are supposed to be rare cases of early piety, wherein the conversion took place in childhood. ow it would rather seem that it is only a small minority of persons whose lives can be thus described, who live up to full manhood and consciousness in unvarying wilful transgression, and then begin to ask that question (so dear to their dogmatic instructors), " What shall I do to be saved ? " Repentance seems more common, as well as more beautiful, in childhood than in later life. ine out of ten of those who ever become religious in this world have surely repented over and over again, and tried the whole penitential systems of their respective sects, before they arrive at any decided course of ^Vitwfc, — \^\&^\^ 20
 
230 RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIOS. endeavor to define, as well as may be, that Religious Duty of Man which arises out of the modification introduced by his sins into his relation to Grod; namely, the Duty of Repentance. And I may here remark that (strange though it be) it is precisely this Duty of Repentance which has the highest part to play in our religious life, whose per- formance, more than all others, brings us into the innermost sanctuary of the temple. Paradoxical as it may seem, we have all a vague sense of this: that our prayers of penitence more closely concern our souls, are more personal, more intimate, more awful by far, than our Thanksgivings or acts of Adoration, or even prayers for light and help. We repeat these other prayers and praises in public, or speak of God's benefits to any sympathizing friend. But our Repentance is profaned by almost any exposure save that needed by restitution. How is this anomaly to be accounted for? I believe we may find the explana- tion in the profound words of McLeod Campbell : " It is on the side of a sense of sin that the sinful creature must first come into contact with infinite Holiness. 97 All the great preachers of the past, and all the preachers who may touch men's hearts in time to come, must work through this one* channel to the depths of our nature. If we are ever to know that " the Kingdom of Heaven merely of special sins or lapses, as " converted " persons are admitted to do, but of whole courses of irreligion, breaking all continuity in their spir- itual history.

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