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Christian Conduct | Charles E. Orr


The Scripture tells us that repentance is a godly sorrow for sin, or, that “godly sorrow worketh repentance.”* (2 Corinthians 7:10) This is unlike the sorrow of the world. When a man has committed a wrong, and because this wrong is made public and he stands in danger of punishment by the law, he experiences a sorrow, his sorrow is only of the world. A child who, having disobeyed its parents, grieves through fear of punishment does not sorrow in a godly sense, and such sorrow contains but little or no merit. But when through force of temptation he disobeys his parents and sorrows because he has wronged a parent who loves him, he may be said to sorrow in a godly sense. When man wails and laments and seeks a Christian life merely to escape the torments of hell and to gain heaven, he is not truly penitent; but when in his very soul he grieves and sorrows because he has sinned against a God of love, having no thought of reward or punishment, but only sorrows because he has wronged a being who loves him—then he experiences a godly sorrow.

When a man sorrows in this manner he will turn away from his sins and forsake them. It must be obvious to the reader that man cannot be said to be truly sorry for his sins when he continues in them. But when in true penitence he turns away from his sinful life, God will pardon him. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil.”* (Isaiah 1:16) “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him: and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”* (Isaiah 55:7)

When a man is truly sorrowful because he has sinned against God, he not only ceases to walk in the ways of sin, but he gladly makes right, as far as he can, all the wrongs he has done. We do a kind act toward God by doing it toward man, as Jesus says: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”* (Matthew 25:40); and we wrong God when we wrong our fellow man. Consequently, when a man truly repents, he will make right, as far as he can, all the wrongs he has done to his fellow man. We have this exemplified in the repentance of Zacchaeus when he said: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him four fold.”* (Luke 19:8) Jesus, upon seeing such penitence, said, “This day is salvation come to this house.”* (Luke 19:9) The law governing the restitutions of wrong in true repentance is recorded in Ezekiel 33:15: “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.” The fruit of repentance is the forsaking of sin, of making right the wrongs we have done, of forgiving those who have wronged us, and of confessing our sinfulness to Him who sees and knows the heart; and, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”* (1 John 1:9) When pardoned, man experiences a change of affections; he experiences a change in his feelings and exterior life; he is no longer a sinner but a Christian. This experience is termed—