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despair. I am sure he hath less reason to say he cannot live, than there is to say, such a person hath no promise that he shall be saved without performing the condition. But the physician, if he be a wise man, will say, so far as he understands by the rules of his art, this man cannot recover; but some secret causes of things there are, or may be, by which the event may be better than the most reasonable predictions of his art. The same answer I desire may be taken in the question of his soul. Concerning which the curate is to preach the rules and measures of God, but not to give a resolution concerning the secret and final sentence. 2. The case of the five foolish virgins, if we may construe it as it is expressed, gives a sad account to such persons: and unless that part of the parable be insignificant, which expresses their sorrow, their diligence, their desire, their begging of oil, their going out to buy oil before the Bridegroom came, but after it was noised that he was coming, and the insufficiency of all this, we may too certainly conclude, that much more than a single act of contrition, and a moral revocation, that is, a sorrow and a nolition of the past sins, may be done upon our death-bed without effect, without a being accepted to pardon and salvation. 3. When things are come to that sad state, let the man hope as much as he can; God forbid that I should be author to him to despair. The purpose of this discourse is, that men in health should not put things to that desperate condition, or make their hopes so little and afflicted, that it may be disputed whether they be alive or no. 4. But this objection is nothing but a temptation and a snare; a device to make me confess that the former arguments (for fear men should despair) ought to be answered, and are not perfectly convincing. I intended them only for institution and instruction, not to confute any person or any thing, but to condemn sin, and to rescue men from danger. But truly, I do think they are rightly concluding (as moral propositions are capable); and if the consequent of them be, that dying persons after a vicious life cannot hope, ordinarily, for pardon, I am truly sorrowful that any man should fall into that sad state of things; as I am really afflicted and sorrowful that any man should live vilely, or perish miserably; but then it ought not to be imputed to this doctrine, that it makes men despair, for the purpose and proper con
sequent of it is, that men are warned to live so, that they may be secured in their hopes, that is, that men 'give diligence to make their calling and election sure,' that they may take no desperate courses, and fall into no desperate condition. And certainly, if any man preach the necessity of a good life, and of actual obedience, he may as well be charged to drive men to despair; for the sum of the foregoing doctrine is nothing else, but that it is necessary we should walk before God in all holy conversation and godliness. But of this I shall give a large account in the fifth section.
Obj. 3. But if things be thus, it is not good or safe to be a criminal judge, and all the discipline of war will be unlawful and highly displeasing to God. For if any one be taken in an act of a great sin, and as it happens in war, be put to death suddenly, without leisure and space of repentance, by the measures of this doctrine, the man shall perish, and consequently the power by which he falls is uncharitable.
I answer; that in an act of sin the case is otherwise than in a habit, as I have already demonstrated in its proper place: it must be a habit that must extirpate a habit; but an act is rescinded by a less violence and abode of duty: and it is possible for an act of duty to be so heroical, or the repentance of an hour to be so pungent and dolorous, and the fruits of that repentance putting forth by the sudden warmths and fervour of the spirit, be so goodly and fair, as, through the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, to obtain pardon of that single sin, if that be all.
II. But it is to be considered, whether the man be otherwise a vicious person, or was he a good man, but by misfortune and carelessness overtaken in a fault? If he was a good man, his spirit is so accustomed to good, that he is soon brought to an excellent sorrow, and to his former state, especially being awakened by the sad arrest of a hasty death: and if he accepts that death willingly, making that which is necessarily enforced upon him, to become voluntary by his acceptation of it, changing the judgment into penance, I make no question but he shall find mercy. But if the man thus taken in a fault was otherwise a vicious person, it is another consideration. It is not safe for him to go to war; but the officers may as charitably and justly put such a person to death for a fault, as send him upon a hard service.
The doing of his duty may as well ruin him, as the doing of a fault; and if he be reprieved a week, he will find difficulty in the doing what he should, and danger enough besides.
III. The discipline of war, if it be only administered where it is necessary, not only in the general rule, but also in the particular instance, cannot be reproved upon this account. Because by the laws of war, sufficiently published, every man is sufficiently warned of his danger; which if he either accept, or be bound to accept, he perishes by his own fault, if he perishes at all. For as by the hazard of his employment he is sufficiently called upon to repent worthily of all his evil life past, so is he by the same hazardous employment, and the known laws of war, cautioned to beware of committing any great sin: and if his own danger will not become his security, then his confidence may be his ruin, and then nothing is to be blamed but himself.
IV. But yet it were highly to be wished, that when such cases do happen, and that it can be permitted in the particular without the dissolution of discipline, such persons should be pitied in order to their eternal interest. But when it cannot, the minister of justice is the minister of God, and dispenses his power by the rules of his justice, at which we cannot quarrel, though he cuts off sinners in their acts of sin, of which he hath given them sufficient warning, and hath a long time expected their amendment: to whom that of Seneca may be applied; " Unum bonum tibi superest, repræsentabimus mortem." Nothing but death will make some men cease to sin; and therefore, "quo uno modo possunt, desinant mali esse." God puts a period to the increase of their ruin and calamity, by making that wickedness shorter, which, if it could, would have been eternal. When men are incorrigible, they may be cut off in charity as well as justice; and therefore, as it is always just, so it is sometimes pity, though a sad one, to take a sinner away with his sins upon his head. Ἐπειδὰν οὐχ οἷόν τε ἄλλως καὶ τούτῳ γε οὖν τῷ τρόπῳ ἀπολυθέντες τοῦ ἐνταῦθα δεσμοῦ τῆς κακίας πορίσωνται puy. When it is impossible to have it otherwise, this is φυγήν. the only good that he is capable of", to be sent speedily to a lesser punishment than he should inherit, if he should live
u Ingeniis talibus vitæ exitus remedium est: optimúmque est abire ei, qui ad so nanquam rediturus est. Senec. de Benef. 7. 10.
longer. But when it can be otherwise, it were very well it were so very often. And therefore the customs of Spain are in this highly to be commended, who to condemned criminals give so much respite till the confessor gives them a bene discessit,' and supposes them competently prepared. But if the lawgivers were truly convinced of this doctrine here taught, it is to be hoped, they would more readily prac tise this charity.
57. Obj. 4. But hath not God promised pardon to him that is contrite? "A contrite and broken heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." And, "I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord: and so thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin." And the prodigal was pardoned immediately upon his confession, and return. Cœperat dicere, et mox illum pater complectitur," said St. Basil"; "his father embraces him when he began to speak."-And St. Chrysostom; "In that moment," says he, "he wipes away all the sins of his life." And St. Austin upon that of David before quoted; "My confession came not so far as my mouth, and God heard the voice of my heart."
58. To this I answer, first concerning the words of David: then concerning the examples. I. Concerning contrition, that it is a good beginning of repentance, is certain, and in its measure acceptable to God, and effective of all its proper purposes. But contrition can have but the reward of contrition, but not of other graces, which are not parts but effects of it. God will not 'despise the broken and contrite heart;' no, for he will receive it graciously, and bind up the wounds of it, and lead it on in the paths of righteousness, and by the waters of comfort.
59. II. But a man is not of a contrite heart as soon as he hath exercised one act of contrition. He that goes to break a rock, does something towards it by every blow, but every blow does not break it. A man's heart is not so easily broken; I mean broken from the love of sin, and its adherence to it. Every act of temperance does not make a man temperate; and so, I fear, will it be judged concerning contrition,
60. III. But suppose the heart be broken, and that the man is contrite, there is more to be done than so. God indeed does not despise this, but he requires more. God did
x Psal. li. 17.
y Psal. xxxii. 6.
Homil. de Pœnit.
not despise Ahab's repentance, but it did not do all his work for him. He does not despise patience, nor meekness, nor resignation, nor hope, nor confession, nor any thing that himself commands. But he that commands all, will not be content with one alone; every grace shall have its reward, but it shall not be crowned alone. Faith alone shall not justify, and repentance alone, taken in its specifical, distinctive sense, shall not suffice; but faith, and repentance, and charity, and patience, and the whole circle and rosary of graces and duties, must adorn our heads.
61. IV. Those graces and duties which are commanded us, and to which God hath promised glorious rewards, must not be single or transient acts, but continual and permanent graces. "He that drinks of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst again."-" He that eats of this bread, shall live for ever."-" He that believes in me, rivers of living water shall flow from his belly."—" He that confesseth his sins and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."—" Repent and believe, and wash away your sins."-Now these words οf πίνων, τρώγων, πιστεύων, μετανοῶν, are of extended and produced signification, as divines observe, and signify a state of duty, such as includes patience and perseverance. Such also are these. "He that doth the will of my Father, abideth for ever."—"If we confess our sins, he is just and faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity e;" --and "they that do such things, shall possess the kingdom of heaven." And, "I will deliver him, because he hath put his trust in me."-And, "If ye love him, he also will love us." And, "Forgive and ye shall be forgiven."-These and many more do not intend that any one grace alone is sufficient, much less any one act of one grace, proceeding from the Spirit of God, can be sufficient to wipe off our leprosies. But these signify states of duty and integrity; not transient actions, or separate graces. And besides the infinite reasonableness of the thing, this truth is consigned to us plainly in Scripture: God" will render to every man according to his deeds to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life"." And if men had pleased, they might as well have fallen upon
d 1 John, ii. 17.
a John, iv. 14.
b vi. 58.
e vii. 38.