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with variety of rules and cautions of carefulness and a lasting holiness; nor think concerning any action or state of life, whether it be lawful or not lawful; for it is all one whether it be or no, since neither one nor the other will easily change the event of things.
For let it be imagined, what need there can be that any man should write cases of conscience, or read them, if it be lawful for a man thus to believe and speak.
I have indeed often in my younger years been affrighted with the fearful noises of damnation, and the ministers of religion, for what reason they best know, did call upon me to deny my appetite, to cross my desires, to destroy my pleasures, to live against my nature; and I was afraid as long as I could not consider the secrets of things; but now I find that in their own books there are for me so many confidences and securities, that those fears were most unreasonable; and that as long as I live by the rules and measures of nature, I do not offend God, or if I do I shall soon find a pardon. For I consider, that the commandments are impossible, and what is not possible to be done we are not to take care of: and he that fails in one instance, cannot be saved without a pardon, not by his obedience; and he that fails in all, may be saved by pardon and grace. For the case is so, that we are sinners naturally, made so before we were born; and nature can never be changed until she be destroyed: and since all our regularities spring from that root, it is certain they ought not to be imputed to us, and a man can no more fear God's anger for being inclined to all sin, than for being hungry, or miserable: and therefore I expect from the wisdom and goodness of God some provisions, which will so extinguish this solemn and artificial guilt, that it shall be as if it were not. But in the meantime the certainty of sinning will proceed. For besides that I am told that a man hath no liberty, but a liberty to sin, and this definite liberty is in plain English a very necessity, we see it by a daily experience that those who call themselves good men, are such who do what they would not, and cannot do what they would; and if it be so, it is better to do what I have a mind to quietly, than to vex myself, and yet do it nevertheless: and that it is so, I am taught in almost all the discourses I have read or heard upon the seventh chapter to the Romans: and therefore if I may
have leave to do constantly to what I am taught to believe, I must confess myself to be under the dominion of sin, and therefore must obey; and that I am bidden to obey unwillingly, and am told that the striving against sin is indeed ordinarily ineffective, and yet is a sign of regeneration; I can soon do that, strive against it, and pray against it; but I cannot hope to prevail in either, because I am told beforehand, that even the regenerate are under the power of sin: they will and do not; they do and will not; and so it is with me; I would fain be perfect if I could; but I must not hope it; and therefore I would only do my actions so reasonably, that I would not be tied to vex myself for what I cannot help; or to lose the pleasure of my sin by fretting at it, when it is certain it will be done, and yet I shall remain in the state of regeneration. And who can help all this, but God, whose mercy is indeed infinite; and although in the secret dispensation of affairs, he hath concluded all under sin, yet he had no purpose we should therefore perish; but it was done that he might have mercy upon all; that is, that we may glorify him. for supplying our needs, pardoning our sins, relieving our infirmities? And therefore when I consider that God's mercy hath no limit in itself, and is made definite only by the capacity of the object, it is not to be doubted, but he loves his creatures so well, that we shall all rejoice in our being freed from eternal fears. For to justify my hopes, why may not I be confident of heaven for all my sins, since the imputation of Christ's righteousness is that by which I shall be justified? my own is but like a menstruous rag,' and' the just falls seven times a day;' but Christ's cross pays for all. And therefore I am confident I shall do well. For I am one of those for whom Christ died; and I believe this; this faith is not to be reproved, for this is that which justifies, who shall condemn me? It is not a good life that justifies a man before God, but it is faith in the special promises; for indeed it being impossible to live innocently, it is necessary that a way of God's own finding out should be relied upon. Only this indeed I do, I do avoid the capital sins, blasphemies, and horrid murders; I 'am yevvalwç åμaprávwv, I sin like a gentleman,' not like a thief, I suffer infirmities, but do not do like a devil; and though I sin, yet I repent speedily, and when I sin again, I repent again, and my spiritual state is like my natural, day
and night succeed each by a never-failing revolution. I sin indeed in some instances, but I do my duty in many; and every man hath his infirmities; no man can say, My soul is pure from sin; but I hope that because I repent still as I sin, my sins are but as single actions; and since I resist them what I can, I hope they will be reckoned to me but as sins of infirmity, without which no man is or can be in this state of imperfection. For if I pray against a sin, and my spirit does resist it, though the flesh prevails, yet I am in the state of grace. For that I may own publicly what I am publicly taught; a man cannot be soon out of the state of grace, but he may be soon in; God's love is lasting and perpetual when it hath once begun; and when the curtain is drawn over the state of grace by the intervening of a sin, yet as soon as ever we begin to cry for pardon, nay, when we do but say, we will confess our sins, nay, when we do but resolve we will, God meets us with his pardon, and prevents us with some portions of it. And let things be at the worst they can, yet he that confesseth his sins to God, shall find mercy at the hands of God; and he hath established a holy ministry in his church to absolve all penitents: and if I go to one of them, and tell the sad story of my infirmity, the good man will presently warrant my pardon, and absolve me. But then I remember this also, that as my infirmity that is unavoidable shall not prejudice me, so neither shall any time prejudice my repentFor if on my death-bed I cry unto God for pardon, and turn heartily unto God in the very instant of my dissolution, I am safe; because whenever a man converts to God, in the same instant God turns to him, or else it were possible for God to hate him that loves God, and our repentance should in some periods be rejected, expressly against all the promises. For it is an act of contrition, an act of the love of God, that reconciles us; and I shall be very unfortunate, if in the midst of all my pains, when my needs increase, and my fears are pregnant, and myself am ready to accept pardon upon any terms, I shall not then do so much as one act of a hearty sorrow and contrition. But however, I have the consent of almost all men, and all the schools of learning in the world, that after a wicked life my repentance at last shall be accepted. St. Ambrose, who was a good probable doctor, and one as fit to be relied on as any man else, in his funeral
oration of Valentinian hath these words; " Blessed is he truly, who even in his old age hath amended his error; blessed is he, who even just before the stroke of death turns his mind from vice. Blessed are they whose sins are covered, for it is written, Cease from evil, and do good, and dwell for evermore. Whoever therefore shall leave off from sin, and shall in any age be turned to better things, he hath the pardon of his former sins, which either he hath confessed with the affections of a penitent, or turned from them with the desires of amends. But this prince hath company enough in the way of his obtaining pardon; for there are very many who could in their old age recall themselves from from the slipperiness and sins of their youth; but seldom is any one to be found, who in his youth with a serious sobriety will bear the heavy yoke." And I remember that when Faustus bishop of Rhegium, being asked by Paulinus bishop of Nola, from Marinus the hermit, whether a man who was involved in carnal sins and exercised all that a criminous person could do, might obtain a full pardon, if he did suddenly repent in the day of his death? did answer peevishly, and severely, and gave no hopes, nor would allow pardon to any such; Avitus the archbishop of Vienna reproved his pride and his morosity, and gave express sentence for the validity of such a repentance: and that gentleness hath been the continual doctrine of the church for many ages; insomuch that in the year 1584, Henry Kyspenning, a canon of Zante, published a book, entitled, 'The Evangelical Doctrine of the Meditation of Death, with Solid Exhortations and Comforts to the Sick, from the Currents of Scripture, and the Commentaries of the Fathers,'-where teaching the sick man how to answer the objections of Satan, he makes this to be the fifteenth '; ' I repent too late of my sins.' He bids him answer, ' It is not late if it be true and to the thief upon the cross Christ said, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise' and afterward, a short prayer easily pierceth heaven, so it be darted forth with a vehement force of the spirit. Truly the history of the Kings tells, that David, who was so great a sinner, used but three syllables; for he is read to have said no more but Peccavi,' I have sinned. For St. Ambrose said, the flame of the sacrifice of his heart ascends up to heaven. Because we have a
⚫ Epist. 4.
f Lib. 3. c. 11.
merciful and gentle Lord: and the correction of our sins needs not much time, but great fervour.'-And to the same purpose are the words of Alcuinus the tutor of Charles the Great: "It behoves usto come to repentance with all confidence, and by faith to believe undoubtedly, that by repentance our sins may be blotted out: etiamsi in ultimo vitæ spiritu commissa pœniteat,' ' although we repent of our sins in the last breath of our life.""
Now after all these grounds of hope and confidence to a sinner, what can be pretended in defiance of a sinful life; and since men will hope upon one ground, though it be trifling and inconsiderable, when there are so many doctrinal grounds of hopes, established propositions, parts of religion and articles of faith, to rely upon (for, all these particulars before reckoned, men are called upon to believe earnestly, and are hated and threatened and despised, if they do not believe them), what is there left to discourage the evil lives of men, or to lessen a full iniquity, since upon the account of the premises, either we may do what we list without sin, or sin without punishment, or go on without fear, or repent without danger, and without scruple be confident of heaven?
And now if moral theology rely upon such notices as these, I thought my work was at an end before I had well finished the first steps of my progression. The whole sum of affairs was in danger, and therefore I need not trouble myself or others with consideration of the particulars. I therefore thought it necessary first to undermine these false foundations; and since an inquiry into the minutes of conscience, is commonly the work of persons that live holily, I ought to take care that this be accounted necessary, and all alse warrants to the contrary be cancelled, that there might be many ‘idonei auditores,' 'persons competent to hear' and read, and such who ought to be promoted and assisted in their holy intendments. And I bless God there are very many such; and though iniquity does abound, yet God's grace is conspicuous and remarkable in the lives of very many, to whom I shall design all the labours of my life, as being dear to God, and my dear brethren in the service of Jesus. But I would fain have the churches as full as I could before I begin; and therefore I esteemed it necessary to publish these papers before my other, as containing the greatest