…is indivisible, Declines to separate one part of life from every part, Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead, Matches every thought or act by its correlative, Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement, Knows that the young man who composedly peril’d his life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt, That he who never peril’d his life, but retains it to old age in riches and ease, has probably achiev’d nothing for…
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To atone for sins is a common religious theme.
Approved forms of faith, practice, and conduct were laid down as consistent with orthodoxy, and deviation from these standards had to be confessed and atoned for by a prescribed form of penance.
Dictionary of the History of Ideas -- http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-50(retrieved 05/20/06)