The Future

First it was “Farewell To Storyville”; now it's “The Future”, Leonard Cohen’s dark, dystopian vision of things to come, that is going round and round in my head. I won’t quote it in its entirety: it might be too much for some sensitive souls. I’ll just give you the refrain.

When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant
When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant
When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant

The words and phrases in parentheses are sung by his backing vocalists. If you like Cohen, you’re bound to know this one; if you don’t, you won't be all that impressed. You have to hear it, and even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll find him to your taste.

One of the reasons why it’s been on my mind is because my last two entries have referred to repentance. I was wondering: if anyone asked me, would I be able to explain exactly what repentance really is, in the context of the Christian faith? Hmm. I’m not sure that I could do it as clearly and as concisely as I would like. 

Let me consult Rev. John Farrar’s invaluable “Biblical And Theological Dictionary” (Revised Edition, 1889). Yes, here we have a useful summary. The language is a little archaic, but if you work through it one phrase at a time (perhaps with a dictionary by your side, to help with words like “apprehension”), it might be a blessing. I’ll divide it up for you, and for myself, as follows.

True repentance is a grace of the Holy Spirit,

whereby a sinner,

from a sense of his sins,

and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,

doth with grief and hatred of his sin

turn from it to God

with full purpose of,

and endeavours after,

future obedience.

To this, he appends the following texts for further consideration.

Matthew 3.2: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Acts 3.19: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out”.

Acts 11.18: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”

Acts 20.21: “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He then adds that there is another kind of repentance, one that will do us no good at all.

There is a worldly repentance, implying grief for sin, and turning away from it solely on account of the injury it has done, or is likely to do, the sinner.

To be continued.