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by a certain law and commandment bound every day to serve God and please him, or else we are positively and strictly bound instantly to repent of all our sins: because so long as a known sin is unrepented of, we cannot serve God, we cannot do any thing that shall be acceptable to him in Jesus Christ.
9. VII. Every delaying of repentance is one step of progression towards final impenitence; which is not only then esteemed a sin against the Holy Ghost, when a man resolves never to repent, but if by carelessness he neglects, or out of tediousness and an irreligious spirit quite puts off, or for ever passes by, it is unpardonable;-it shall never be forgiven in this world, nor in the world to come.-Now since final impenitence is the consummation and perfection of all sin, we are to remember, that it is nothing but a perseverance of neglecting or refusing to repent. A man is always dying, and that which we call death, is but the finishing of death, the last act of it: so is final impenitence, nothing but the same sin told over so many days; it is a persevering carelessness, or resolution, and therefore it cannot be the sin of one day, unless it be by accident; it is a state of sin, begun as soon as ever the sin is acted, and grows in every day of thy negligence or forgetfulness. But if it should happen that a sinner that sinned yesterday, should die to-day, his deferring his repentance that one day would be esteemed so, and indeed really be a final impenitence. It follows therefore, that to put off our repentance one day, differs only accidentally and by chance from the worst of evils, from final impenitence; it is the beginning of it, it differs from it, as an infant from a man; it is materially the same sin, and may also have the same formality.
10. VIII. The putting off our repentance from day to day, must needs be a sin distinct from the guilt of the action whereof we are to repent; because the principle of it cannot be innocent, it must needs be distinctly criminal. It is a rebellion against God, or hardness of heart, or the spirit of apostasy, presumption, or despair; or at least such a carelessness, as being in the question of our souls, and in relation to God, is infinitely far from being excusable or innocent.
11. These considerations seem to me of very great mo
ment, and to conclude the main proposition; and at least they ought to effect this persuasion upon us, that whoever hath committed a sin cannot honestly, nor prudently, nor safely, defer his repentance one hour. He that repents instantly, breaks his habit when it is in ovo,' 'in the shell,' and prevents God's anger, and his own debauchment and disimprovement:
Qui parvis obvius ibit,
Is nunquam præceps scelera in graviora feretur .
And let us consider, that if we defer our repentance one hour, we do to our souls worse than to our bodies.
If dirt fall into our eyes, we do not say unto the chirurgeon, Stay, sir, and let the grit or little stone abide there till next week, but get it out presently. This similitude, if it proves nothing, yet will serve to upbraid our folly, to instruct and exhort us in the duty of this question. Remember this, that as in God's account ȧpiévai and кparɛïv to 'remit' and to ‘retain' a sin are opposite, so it ought to be in ours. Our retaining and keeping of a sin, though but for a day, is contrary to the designs of mercy and holiness, it is against God, and against the interest of our souls.
A sinful Habit hath in it proper Evils, and a proper Guilliness of its own, besides all that which came directly by the single Actions,
1. By a sinful habit, I mean the facility and easiness, the delight and custom, of sinning, contracted by the repetition. of the acts of the same sin; as a habit of drunkenness, a habit of swearing, and the like; that is, a quality inherent in the soul, whereby we work with pleasure: for that Aristotle' calls the infallible and proper indication of habits, Tv πyνομένην ἡδονὴν, ἢ λύπην τοῖς ἔργοις: and so long as any
5 Nazian. Horat. Ep. i. 2. 39. Ethic. Nicom. 1. 2. c. 3. Wilkinson. p. 56.
man sins willingly, readily, frequently, and upon every temp tation, or most commonly; so long he is an habitual sinner: when he does his actions of religion with pain, and of his sin with pleasure, he is in the state of death, and enmity against God. And as by frequent playing upon an instrument a man gets a habit of playing; so he does in renewing the actions of the same sin, there is an evil quality produced, which affects and corrupts his soul. But concerning the nature of a vicious habit, this also is to be added.
2. That a vicious habit is not only contracted by the repetition of acts in the same kind, but by frequency of sinning in any variety of instances whatsoever. For there are many vicious persons, who have an ambulatory impiety, and sin in all, or most of their opportunities; but their occasions are not uniform, and therefore their irregularities are irregular, and by chance for the instance, but regular and certain in the prevarication. Vetuleius Pavo would be sure to be drunk at the feasts of Saturn, and take a surfeit in the calends of January; he would be wanton at the Floralia, and bloody in the theatres: he would be prodigal upon his birthday, and on the day of his marriage sacrifice hecatombs to his Pertunda Dea, and he would be sure to observe all the solemnities and festivals of vice in their own particulars and instances, and thought himself a good man enough, because he could not be called a drunkard or a glutton for one act, and by sinning singly, escaped the appellatives of scorn, which are usually fixed upon vain persons that are married to one sin. Naturally to contract the habit of any one sin, is like the entertaining of a concubine, and dwelling upon the folly of one miserable woman. But a wandering habit is like a ʻlibido vaga,' the vile adulteries of looser persons that drink at every cistern that runs over, and stands open for them. For such persons have a supreme habit, a habit of disobedience, and may, for want of opportunity or abilities, for want of pleasure, or by the influence of an impertinent humour, be kept from acting always in one scene. But so long as they choose all that pleases them, and exterminate no vice, but entertain the instances of many, their malice is habitual, their state is a perfect aversation from God. For this is that which the Apostle calls, "the body of sink," a compagination of many
* Rom. vii.
parts and members; just as among the lawyers, a flock, a people, a legion, are called bodies and corpus civitatis,' we find in Livy'; 'corpus collegiorum,' in Caius; 'corpus regni,' in Virgil"; and so here, this union of several sins is the body of sin,' and that is, 'the body of death.' And not only he that feeds perpetually upon raw fruit, puts himself into an ill habit of body; but he also does the same thing, who to-day drinks too much, and to-morrow fills himself with cold fruits, and the next day with condited mushrooms, and by evil orders, and carelessness of diet, and accidental miscarriages, heaps up a multitude of causes, and unites them in the production and causality of his death. This general disorder is indeed longer doing, but it kills as fatally and infallibly as a violent surfeit. And if a man dwells in the kingdom of sin, it is all one whether he be sick in one, or in twenty places; they are all but several rooms of the same infirmatory, and ingredients of the same deadly poison. He that repeats his sin, whether it be in one, or in several instances, strikes himself often to the heart, with the same, or with several daggers.
3. Having thus premised what was necessary for the explication of the nature of vicious habits, we must consider that, of vicious habits, there is a threefold capacity. 1. A natural. 2. A moral. 3. A relative, as it denominates a man in relation to God.
1. Of the natural Capacity of sinful Habits.
4. The natural capacity of sinful babits is a facility or readiness of the faculty to do the like actions; and this is naturally consequent to the frequent repetition of sinful acts, not voluntary but in its cause, and therefore not criminal by a distinct obliquity. Οὐχ ὁμοίως δὲ αἱ πράξεις ἑκούσιοί εἰσι, καὶ αἱ ἕξεις· τῶν μὲν γὰρ πράξεων ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς μέχρι τέλους κύριοί ἐσμεν, εἰδότες τὰ καθ ̓ ἕκαστα· τῶν ἕξεων δὲ τῆς ἀρχῆς· ἀλλ ̓ ὅτι ἐφ ̓ ἡμῖν ἦν οὕτως, ἢ μὴ οὕτω χρήσασθαι, διὰ τοῦτο ἑκούσιοι, said Aristotle". Actions are otherwise voluntary than habits. We are masters of our actions all the way, but of habits only in the beginning. But because it was in our choice to do so or otherwise, therefore the habit which is consequent, is called voluntary: not then chosen, because it cannot then n Ethic. lib. 3. c. 5. Wilkinson. p. 106. 2 F
1 B. i. 8. m Æneid, xi. 313. VOL. VIII.
be hindered; and therefore it is of itself indifferent: an evil indeed, as sickness or crookedness, thirst or famine, and as death itself to them, that have repented them of that sin for which they die; but no sin, if we consider it in its mere natural capacity. Nay so, it may become the exercise of virtue, the scene of trouble indeed or danger, of temptation and sorrow, but a field of victory. For there are here two things very considerable.
5. I. That God for the glorification of his mercy can and does turn all evil into some good, so to defeat the devil's power, and to produce honour and magnification to his own goodness.
Ταῦτα μέντοι τοὺς Θεοὺς,
“Αττ ̓ ἂν ὑμεῖς ἐξαμάρτητ ̓, ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιον τρέπειν m.
For so God uses to do; if we sin we shall smart for it, but he turns it into good and St. Austin applies that promise, that "all things shall work together for good to them that fear God," even to this particular; "Etiam ipsa peccata, nimirum non ex naturâ suâ, sed ex Dei virtute et sapientiâ :” “If all things, then sins also, not by their proper efficacy, but by the overruling power and wisdom of God;" like that of Phocylides,
Πόλλ ̓ ἀπατηθῆναι διζήμενον ἔμμεναι ἐσθλόν·
He that will be a good man, must be often deceived;' that is, buy his wit at a dear rate. And thus some have been cured of pride by the shames of lust, and of lukewarmness by a fall into sin, being awakened by their own noddings, and mending their pace by their fall. And so also the sense of our sad infirmities, introduced by our vicious living and daily prevarications, may become an accidental fortification to our spirits, a new spur by the sense of an infinite necessity and an infinite danger.
Αὖθις ἐς τἀρχαῖον ὑμῖν, εἴ τι καξημάρτετε,
For whoever repents after such sad intervals of sorrow and sin, either must do more than other men, or they do nothing to purpose. For besides, that an ordinary care cannot secure them, who have brought tempters home to themselves; a common industry cannot root out vicious customs; a tri
Aristoph. Nub. 588. Brunck.
Aristoph. Nub. 593. Brunck.