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Penance vs. Penitence

by John Parker

In Nathaniel Hawthome'sThe Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale, a conscience-stricken minister in Puritan New England, is lamenting over his sin of adultery years before with Hester Prynne. Hester tries to convince him that his sin has been forgiven because of the service that he has rendered in the years following: "You have deeply and sorely repented. Your sin is left behind you, in the days long past. . . . Is there no reality in the penitence thus sealed and witnessed by good works?"
But Arthur knows that Hester is confusing penance (works one does as punishment for sin and in attempt to atone for sin) with penitence (repentance): "No, Hester, no! . . . Of penance I have had enough! Of penitence there has been none!" He knows that to be forgiven he must confess his sin and repent of it, which he does at the close of the novel.
God wants our sins to be forgiven:
The Lord. . . is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
( 2 Peter 3:9)
We can have forgiveness, but not by works which we do in an attempt to make up for our sins:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We are saved by confession and repentance:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ( 2 John 9)

April 11, 1999

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Mt. Juliet Church of Christ
1940 N. Mt. Juliet Road
P.O.Box 248
Mt.Juliet, TN 37122-0248

Worship Services:
Sunday Early Worship: 8AM
Sunday Bible Study: 9:15AM
Sunday Late Worship: 10:15AM
Night Worship: 6PM
Wednesday Bible Study: 7PM