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he escapes, was he obliged for all that? He was, because he knew not that he should escape. By the same reason is one obliged, because whether he shall or shall not escape the next minute, he knows not. And certainly, it was none of the least reasons of God's concealing the day of our death, that we might ever stand ready. And this is plainly enough taught us by our blessed Saviour, laboriously persuading and commanding us not to defer our repentance, by his parable of the rich man who promised to himself the pleasures of many years: he reproved that folly with a "Stulte, hac nocte ;" and it may be any man's case; for.
Nemo tam divos habuit faventes,
But he adds a precept; "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights shining, and ye yourselves like men that wait for their Lord." And, "Blessed are those servants whom their Lord when he cometh, shall find watching." And much more to the same purpose. Nay, that it was the reason why God concealed the time of his coming to us, that we might always expect him, he intimated in the following parable; "This know, that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched. Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." Nothing could better have improved this argument, than these words of our blessed Saviour; we must stand' in procinctu,'' ready girded,' kroíμws πρòç vπηрeσíav Exovτes, “ready for the service," always watching as uncertain of the time, but in perpetual expectation of the day of our Lord. I think nothing can be said fuller to this purpose. But I add the words of St. Austin; " Verum quidem dicis, quòd Deus pœnitentiæ tuæ indulgentiam promisit; sed huic dilationi tuæ crastinum non promisit:" "To him that repents, God hath promised pardon, but to him that defers repentance, he hath not promised the respite of one day." It is certain therefore, he intended thou shouldest speedily repent; and since he hath by words and deeds declared this to be his purpose, he that obeys not, is in this very delay, properly and specifically, ' a transgressor.'
3. II. I consider, that although the precept of repentance
be affirmative, yet it is also limited, and the time sufficiently declared, even the present and none else. As soon as ever you need it, so soon you are obliged. “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." That is, defer not to hear him, this day; for every putting it off is a' hardening your hearts.' For he that speaks to-day, is not pleased if you promise to hear him to-morrow. It was Felix's case to St. Paul," Go away, I will hear thee some other time." He that calls every day, means every day that we should repent. Foralthough to most men God gives time and leisure, and expects and perseveres to call, yet this is not because he gives them leave to defer it; but because he still forbears to strike, though their sin grows greater. Now I demand, when God calls us to repentance, is it indifferent to him whether we repent to day or no? Why does he call so earnestly, if he desires it so coldly? Or if he be not indifferent, is he displeased if we repent speedily? This no man thinks. But is he not displeased if we do not? Does not every call, and every expectation, and every message, when it is rejected, provoke . God's anger, and exasperate him? Does not he in the day of vengeance smite more sorely, by how much with the more patience he hath waited? This cannot be denied. But then it follows, that every delay did grieve him and displease him, and therefore it is of itself a provocation distinct from the first sin.
4. III. But further let it be considered: if we repent to day, it is either a duty so to do, or only a counsel of perfection, a work of supererogation. If it be a duty, then to omit it is a siu. If it be a work of supererogation, then he that repents to-day, does not do it in obedience to a commandment: for this is such a work (by the confession of the Roman schools) which if a man omits, he is nevertheless in the state of grace and the divine favour; as he that does not vow perpetual chastity, or poverty, is nevertheless the servant of God; but he that does not repent to-day of his yesterday's sin, is not God's servant, and therefore this cannot be of the nature of counsels, but of precept and duty respectively. But to put it past all question: it is expressly commanded us by our blessed Saviour," Agree with thine adversary Taxù quickly."-For as it is amongst men of merciful dispositions, he that yields quickly, obtains mercy; but he
that stands out as long as he can, must expect the rigour of the law: so it is between God and us; a hasty repentance reconciles graciously, whilst the delay and putting it off provoke his severe anger. And this the Spirit of God was pleased to signify to the angel or bishop of the church of Ephesus; "Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; if thou doest not, pxoμa σoi raxi, I come unto thee quickly, and will remove the candlestick out of its place, unless thou do repent"." Christ did not mean to wait long and be satisfied with their repentance, be it when it would be; for he comes quickly, and yet our repentance must prevent his coming. His coming here is not by death or final judgment, but for scrutiny and inquiry: for the event of the delaying their repentance, would have been the removing of their candlestick. So that ἔρχομαι ταχὺ is, ‘I come speedily' to exact of thee a speedy repentance, or to punish thee for delaying; for so the antithesis is plain, pxoμai raxd and làv μǹ μetavohons, "I come quickly, unless thou dost repent,” viz. quickly ; εἰ μὴ παραχρῆμα μετάμελος εἰσῆλθεν αὐτῷ, κατέγνω τῶν πεπραγμένων (that I may use the words of Libanius), God will condemn our actions, unless we appear before him with a speedy repentance.
5. IV. Add to this, that though God gives time and respite to some, yet to all he does not. God takes away some in their early sins, and gives them no respite, not a month, not a week, not a day; and let any man say, whether this be not a sufficient indication, not only that no man can be secure, but he alone that repents instantly, but that God does intend that every man should presently repent; for he that hath made it damnation to some for not repenting instantly, hath made it damnable to all, and therefore to repent speedily is certainly a duty. The earth does not open and swallow up all rebels in the day of their mutiny; but it did so once, and by that God did sufficiently consign to all ages his displeasure against rebellion. So it is in the deferring repentance. That some have smarted for it eternally, is for ever enough to tell us, that God is displeased with every one that does defer it; and therefore commands us not to defer it. But this consideration is sufficiently heightened upon this account for there is no sinner dies but he is taken away withb. Rev. ii. 5.
out one day's respite. For though God did many times forbear him, yet now he does not; and to his last sin, or his last refusal to hear God, either he afforded no time, or no grace of repentance.
6. St. Paul's discourse and treaty of the Corinthians is sufficient to guide us here: he feared that at his coming again God' would humble him,' that is, afflict him with grief and sorrow to see it, that himself should be forced to bewail many,' that is, to excommunicate, or deliver to Satan ⚫ them that have sinned already, and have not repented.' If they had repented before St. Paul's coming, they should escape that rod; but for deferring it, they were like to smart bitterly. Neither ought it to be supposed, that the not repenting of sins is no otherwise than as the being discovered of theft. The thief dies for his robbery, not for his being discovered; though if he were not discovered, he should have escaped for his theft. So, for their uncleanness, St. Paul would have delivered them over to Satan, not for their not repenting speedily. For the case is wholly differing here. A thief is not bound at all to discover himself to the criminal judge; but every man is bound to repent. If therefore his repenting speedily would prevent so great a calamity as his being delivered over to Satan, besides the procuring his eternal pardon, it is clear that to repent speedily was great charity, and great necessity; which was that which is to be proved. Satan should have power over him to afflict him for his sin, if he did not speedily repent; but if he did repent speedily, he should wholly escape; therefore to repent speedily is a duty which God expects of us, and will punish if it be omitted.
Hodiè jam vivere serum est.
Ille sapit, quisquis, Postume, vixit herid.
Think it not a hasty commandment that we are called upon to repent to-day. It was too much that yesterday passed by you, it is late enough if you do it to-day.
7. V. Not to repent instantly, is a great loss of our time, and it may, for aught we know, become the loss of all our hopes.
1 Cor. xii. 21.
Nunc vivit sibi neuter (heu), bonosque
d Mart. v. 59.7.
e Martial, v. 21.11.
And this, not only by the danger of sudden death, but for want of the just measures of repentance: because it is a secret which God hath kept to himself only, and he only knows what degrees of repentance himself will admit of; how much the sin provoked him, and by what measures of sorrow and carefulness himself will be appeased. For there is in this a very great difference. To Simon Magus it was almost a desperate case; "if, peradventure, the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven:" it was worse to Esau; "there was no place left for his repentance." It was so with Judas; he was not admitted to pardon; neither can any one tell, whether it was not resolved he should never be pardoned. However it be for the particulars, yet it is certain there is a great difference in the admitting penitents. "On some have compassion, others save with fear, pulling them out of the firef." Now since for all our sins we are bound to ask pardon every day, if we do so, who dares say it is too much, that it is more than needs? But if to repent every day be not too much, who can be sure, that if he puts it off one day, it shall be sufficient? To some men, and at some times, God is implacably angry; some men, and at some times, God hath in his fury and sudden anger seized upon, with the appprehensions of death and saddest judgments, and broken them all in pieces and as there is a reign and kingdom of mercy, so there are sudden irruptions of a fierce justice, of which God hath therefore given us examples, that we may not defer repentance one day. But this mischief goes further. For,
8. VI. So long as we lie in the guilt of one sin unrepented of, though we do not add heaps upon heaps, and multiply instances of the same or equal crimes, yet we are in so unthriving a condition and so evil a state, that all that while we lose all the benefit of any good thing that we can do upon the interest of any principle whatsoever. For so long as we are out of God's favour, under the seizure and arrest of eternal guilt, so long as we are in a state of enmity with God, and all our actions are like the performances of heathens, nothing to eternal life, but mispendings of our powers, and prodigalities of reason and wise discourses; they are not perfective of our being, neither do they set us forward to heaven until our state be changing. Either then we are not Jude, 22, 23.