The Reparation of Injuries

by John Yoder on October 10, 2014

Last Sunday night we heard about the blessing of comfort for those who mourn over sin (Mt. 5:4).  The message concluded with a challenge to examine one’s self and check for this characteristic of a true Christian.  This was followed by a brief summary of some evidences which accompany godly sorrow as part of repentance from 2 Cor. 7:11, “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (ESV)

This subject was taken up by John Colquhoun (1748-1827) who was influenced by Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State and became one of Scotland’s greatest preachers and writers.  In his classic work, originally published under the title A View of Evangelical Repentance from the Sacred Records, he expounds on the fruits of true repentance in order to reveal its counterfeit.  The following sign is often overlooked, neglected, or else excused.

  1. Another of the fruits and evidences of evangelical repentance is the reparation of injuries in cases in which proper restitution cannot be made; such as injuries done to persons in their reputation, in their influence and usefulness, in their families or connections, in their peace of mind, in their contentment, and in many other instances.  Hence is this exhortation: ‘Confess you faults one to another.’ [James 5:16]  The evangelical penitent, though he cannot undo what he has done yet will study to counteract the evil arising from the injury, by stooping even to the humblest submissions, and the most ingenuous confessions, how contrary soever to the pride and self-love remaining in his heart.  If he was formerly guilty of such scandalous offenses as impaired the honor of God before the world, exposed religion to the scorn of profane men, and grieved or stumbled the hearts of the godly he will endeavor diligently to counteract the tendency of his former evil conduct.  Or if he formerly propagated errors respecting either doctrine or duty, he will now retract them, and exert himself to undo that part of his conduct.  And as far as his arguments, his persuasions, his influence and example can reach, he will diligently endeavor to stop the further progress of the mischief.  In these and various other instances, true repentance, under the almighty agency of the Holy Spirit, disposes a man to employ every proper means of counteracting the tendency of his former bad conduct.  Indeed, to repent sincerely of such injuries, and yet willfully refuse the conduct by which the honor of God and the credit of religion may in some measure be restored, is impossible.  A man may as well pretend to repent of his having wounded a person, whilst he sees him bleeding to death, and yet refuses, though he has it in his power, to bind up his wounds.  Multitudes, alas! flatter themselves that they have sincerely repented of their sins, who yet will on no account condescend to make the smallest reparation for the injuries they have done.  This indeed shows that their penitence is no better than that of Ahab, who humbled himself, but neither restored Naboth’s vineyard, nor turned from any of his other abominations.

Colquhoun, John, “The Fruits and Evidences of True Repentance,” in True Repentance (Choteau: Old Paths – Gospel Press), 99-100. [some italics added and spelling updated]

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