Page images

and St. Paul. But however, both they, and better men than they, must be content with those glorious measures of the divine mercy which are described, and upon any terms be glad to be pardoned, and to hope and fear, to mourn and to be afflicted, to be humbled and to tremble, and then to 'work out their salvation with fear and trembling.'

72. III. But then, to advance one step further, there may be a certainty where is no evidence; that is, the thing may be certain in itself, though not known to the man; and there are degrees of hope concerning the final event of our souls: for suppose it cannot be told to the habitual sinner, that his habits of sin are overcome, and that the Spirit rules in all the regions of his soul; yet is he sure that his vicious habits do prevail? is he sure that sin does reign in his mortal body? If he be, then let him not be angry with this doctrine; for it is as bad with him, as any doctrine can affirm. But if he be not sure that sin reigns, then can he not hope that the Spirit does rule? and if so, then also he may hope that his sins are pardoned, and that he shall be saved. And if he look for greater certainty than that of a holy and a humble hope, he must stay till he have a revelation; it cannot be had from the certainty of any proposition in Scripture applicable to his case and person.

73. IV. If a habit be long before it be mastered, if a part of it may consist with its contrary, if a habit may lurk secretly and undiscernibly, all these things are aggravations of the danger of an habitual sinner, and are very true, and great engagements of his watchfulness and fear, his caution and observance. But then not these nor any thing else can evacuate the former truths; nor yet ought to make the returning sinner to despair: only this; if he fears that there may be a secret habit unmortified, let him go about his remedy. 2. If he still fears, let him put himself to the trial. 3. If either that does not satisfy him, or he wants opportunity, let him endeavour to increase his supreme habit, the habit of charity, or that universal grace of the love of God, which will secure his spirit against all secret undiscernible vicious affections.

74. V. This only is certain: no man needs to despair that is alive, and hath begun to leave his sins, and to whom God hath given time, and power, and holy desires. If all

these be spent, and nothing remain besides the desires, that is another consideration, and must receive its sentence by the measures of the former doctrine. But for the present, a man ought not to conclude against his hopes, because he finds propensities and inclinations to the former courses remaining in him, even after his conversion. For so it will be always, more or less, and this is not only the remains of a vicious habit, but even of natural inclination in some instances.

75. VI. Then the habit hath lost its killing quality, and the man is freed from his state of ungraciousness, when the habit of virtue prevails, when he obeys frequently, willingly, cheerfully. But if he sins frequently, and obeys his temptations readily; if he delights in sin, and chooses that; that is, if his sins be more than sins of infirmity (as they are described under their proper title), then the habit remains, and the man is in the state of death. But when sentence is given for God, when virtue is the greater ingredient, when all sin is hated, and laboured and prayed against, the remaining evils and strugglings of the serpent are signs of the Spirit's victory, but also engagements of a persevering care and watchfulness, lest they return, and prevail anew. He that is converted, and is in his contentions for heaven, is in a good state of being; let him go forward. He that is justified, let him be justified still;' but whether just now if he dies he shall be saved or not, we cannot answer, or give accounts of every period of his new life. In what minute or degree of repentance his sins are perfectly pardoned, no man can tell; and it is unreasonable to reprove a doctrine that infers a man to be uncertain, where God hath given no certain notices or measures. If a man will be certain, he must die as soon as he is worthily baptized, or live according to his promises then made. If he breaks them, he is certain of nothing but that he may be saved if he returns speedily, and effectively does his duty. But concerning the particulars, there can no rules be given sufficient to answer every man's case beforehand. If he be uncertain how God's judgment will be of him, let him be the more afraid, and the more humble, and the more cautious, and the more penitent. For in this case, all our security is not to be derived from signs, but from duty.

Duty is the best signification, and God's infinite boundless mercy is the best ground of our confidence.


The former Doctrine reduced to Practice.

It now remains that we account concerning the effect of this doctrine; and first, concerning them that are well and vigorous. 2. Them that are old. 3. Them that are dying. All which are to have several usages and receptions, proper entertainments and exercises of repentance.

The Manner of Repentance and Usage of habitual Sinners, who convert in their timely and vigorous Years.

1. Let every man that thinks of his return, be infinitely careful to avoid every new sin; for it is like a blow to a broken leg, or a burden to a crushed arm. Every little thing disorders the new health, and unfinished recovery. that every new sin to such a person is a double damage, it pulls him back from all his hopes, and makes his labours vain, and he is as far to seek, and as much to begin again as ever, and more. For so may you see one climbing ofa rock, with a great contention and labour and danger, if when he hath got from the foot to the shoulder, he then lets his hold go, he falls lower than where he first set his foot, and sinks deeper by the weight of his own fall. So is the new-converted man who is labouring to overcome the rocks and mountains of his habitual sins; every sin throws him down further, and bruises his very bones in the fall. To this purpose therefore is the wise advice of the son of Sirach; "Hast thou sinned? do so no more, but ask pardon for thy former fault: add not sin to sin, for in one a man shall not be unpunished."

Ergo, ne pietas sit victa cupidine ventris,

Parcite, vaticinor, cognatas cæde nefandâ

Exturbare animas; nec sanguine sanguis alatur.

Let not blood touch blood, nor sin touch sin; for we destroy

■ Metamorph. 15. 173. Gierig.

our souls with impious hands, when a crime follows a habit, like funeral processions in the pomps and solemnities of death.

2. II. At the beginning of his recovery, let the penitent be armed by special cautions against the labours and difficulties of the restitution: and consider, that if sin be so pleasant, it is the habit that hath made it so; it is become easy and natural by the custom. And therefore so may virtue. And complain not that nature helps and corroborates the habits of sin: for besides that nature doth this mischief but in some instances, not in all; the grace of God will as much assist the customs and labours of virtue, as nature doth the habits of vice. And choose whether you will. Take any institution or course of life, let it at first be never so violent, use will make it pleasant. And therefore we may make virtue as certain as vice is, as pleasing to the spirit, as hard to be removed, as perfective of our nature as the other is destructive; and make it by assuefaction as impossible to be vicious, as we now think it difficult and impossible to overcome flesh and blood. But let him remember this also, that it will be a strange shame, that he can be in a state of sin and death, from which it will be very hard to remove, and to confess our natures so caitiff and base, that we cannot as easily be united unto virtue; that he can become a devil, and cannot be like an angel; that he can decline to the brutishness of beasts, and yet never arise up to a participation of the excellent beauties of the intellectual world,

3. III. He that undertakes the repentance of his vicious habits, when he hath strength and time enough for the work, must do it in kind; that is, he must oppose a habit to a habit, every contrary to its contrary: as chastity to his wantonness, temperance to his gluttony or drunkenness: the reason is, because if he had contracted the habit of a sin, especially of youthful sins, unless the habit of virtue be opposed to the instance of his sin, he cannot be safe, nor penitent. For while the temptation and fierce inclinations remain, it cannot be a cure to this to do acts of charity; he must do acts of chastity, or else he will fall or continue in his uncleanness; which in old persons will not be. Here the sin still tempts by natural inclination, and commands by the habit; and therefore as there can be no repentance while the affections remain,

so neither can there be safety as long as the habit hath a natural being. The first begins with a moral revocation of the sin; and the same hath also its progression, perfection, and security, by the extinction of the inherent quality.

4. IV. Let the penitent seek to obstruct or divert the proper principles of evil habits; for by the same by which they be gin, commonly by the same they are nursed up to their ugly bulk. There are many of them that attend upon the prince of darkness, and minister to the filthy production. Evil examples, natural inclinations, false propositions, evil prejudices, indulgence to our own infirmities, and many more: but especially, a cohabitation with the temptation, by which we fell and did enter into death, and by which we use to fall. There are some men more in love with the temptation than the sin; and because this rushes against the conscience rudely, and they see death stand at the end of the progression, therefore they only love to stand upon Mount Ebal and view it. They resolve they will not commit the sin, they will not be overcome, but they would fain be tempted. If these men will but observe the contingencies of their own state, they shall find that when they have set the house on fire, they cannot prescribe its measures of burning.-But there is a secret iniquity in it.—For he that loves to stand and stare upon the fire that burnt him formerly, is pleased with the warmth and splendor, and the temptation itself hath some little correspondences to the appetite.-The man dares not fornicate, but loves to look upon the beauties of a woman, or sit with her at the wine, till his heart is ready to drop asleep. He will not enter into the house, because it is infected with the plague, but he loves to stand at the door, and fain would enter if he durst ;-it is impossible that any man should love to abide by a temptation for a good end.There is some little sensuality in being tempted:-and the very consideration concerning it, sometimes strikes the fancy too unluckily, and pleases some faculty or other, as much as the man dares admit. I do not say, that to be tempted is always criminal, or in the neighbourhood of it; but it is the best indication of our love to God, for his sake to deny its importunity, and to overcome it: but that is only, when it is unavoidable and from without, against our wills, or at least besides our purposes. For in the declination of sin, and

« PreviousContinue »