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lines of conscience, and the most general cases of our whole life, even all the doctrine of repentance, upon which all the hopes of man depend through Jesus Christ.
But I have other purposes also in the publication of this book. The ministers of the church of Rome (who ever love to fish in troubled waters, and to oppress the miserable and afflicted, if they differ from them in a proposition) use all the means they can to persuade our people, that the man that is afflicted, is not alive; that the church of England, now it is a persecuted church, is no church at all; and though (blessed be God) our propositions, and doctrines, and Liturgy, and communion, are sufficiently vindicated in despite of all their petty oppositions and trifling arrests, yet they will never leave making noises and outcries; which for my part I can easily neglect, as finding them to be nothing but noise. But yet I am willing to try the rights and excellences of a church with them upon other accounts; by such indications as are the most proper tokens of life, I mean, propositions of holiness, the necessities of a holy life: for certainly that church is most to be followed, who brings us nearest to God; and they make our approaches nearest, who teach us to be most holy, and whose doctrines command the most excellent and severest lives. But if it shall appear that the prevailing doctrines in the church of Rome do consequently teach, or directly warrant impiety, or, which is all one, are too easy in promising pardon, and for it have no defences, but distinctions of their own inventing, I suppose it will be a greater reproof to their confidence and bold pretensions, than a discourse against one of their immaterial propositions, that have neither certainty nor usefulness. But I had rather that they would preach severity, than be reproved for their careless propositions, and therefore am well pleased that even amongst themselves some are so convinced of the weakness of their usual ministries of repentance, that as much as they dare, they call upon the priests to be more deliberate in their absolutions, and severe in their impositions of satisfactions, requiring a longer time of repentance before the penitents be reconciled.
Monsieur Arnauld, of the Sorbonne, hath appeared publicly in reproof of a frequent and easy communion, without the just and long preparations of repentance, and its proper exercises
and ministry. Petavius the Jesuit hath opposed him; the one cries, 'The present church,' the other, "The ancient church;' and as Petavius is too hard for his adversary in the present authority, so Monsieur Arnauld hath the clearest advantage in the pretensions of antiquity and the arguments of truth ; from which Petavius and his abettor Bagot the Jesuit have no escape or defensative, but by distinguishing repentance into solemn and sacramental: which is just as if they should say, repentance is twofold; one, such as was taught and practised by the primitive church; the other, that which is in use this day in the church of Rome: for there is not so much as one pregnant testimony in antiquity for the first four hundred years, that there was any repentance thought of, but repentance towards God, and sometimes performed in the church, in which, after their stations were performed, they were admitted to the holy communion; excepting only in the danger or article of death, in which they hastened the communion, and enjoined the stations to be afterward completed, in case they did recover, and if they did not, they left the event to God. But this question of theirs can never be ended upon the new principles, nor shall be freely argued because of their interest. For whoever are obliged to profess some false propositions, shall never from thence find out an entire truth; but like casks in a troubled sea, sometimes they will be under water, sometimes above. For the productions of error are infinite, but most commonly monstrous : and in the fairest of them there will be some crooked or deformed part.
But of the thing itself I have given such accounts as I could, being engaged on no side, and the servant of no interest, and have endeavoured to represent the dangers of every sinner, the difficulty of obtaining pardon, the many parts and progressions of repentance, the severity of the primitive church, their rigid doctrines and austere disciplines ; the degrees of easiness and complyings that came in by negligence; and I desire that the effect should be, that all the pious and religious curates of souls in the church of England would endeavour to produce so much fear and reverence, caution and wariness, in all their penitents, that they should be willing to undergo more severe methods in their restitution than now they do: that men should not dare to ap
proach to the holy sacrament, as soon as ever their foul hands are wet with a drop of holy rain ; but that they should expect the periods of life, and when they have given to their curate fair testimony of a hearty repentance, and know it to be so within themselves, they may with comfort to all parties, communicate with holiness and joy. For I conceive this to be that event of things which was designed by St. Pauls in that excellent advice; “Obey them that have the rule over you, kaì ÚTTEKETE, 'submit yourselves' (viz. to their order and discipline) because they watch for your souls, as they that must give accounts of them, that they may do it with joy.”
I am sure we cannot give accounts of souls of which we have no notice: and though we had reason to rescue them from the yoke of bondage, which the unjust laws and fetters of annual and private confession (as it was by them ordered) did make men to complain of; yet I believe we should be all unwilling, our charges should exchange these fetters for worse, and by shaking off the laws of confession, accidentally entertain the tyranny of sin. It was neither fit that all should be tied to it, nor yet that all should throw it off. There are some sins, and some cases, and some persons, to whom an actual ministry and personal provision and conduct by the priest's office, were better than food or physic. It were therefore very well if great sinners could be invited to bear the yoke of holy discipline, and do their repentances under the conduct of those who must give an account of them, that they would inquire into the state of their souls, that they would submit them to be judged by those who are justly and rightly appointed over them, or such whom they are permitted to choose; and then that we would apply ourselves to understand the secrets of religion, the measures of the Spirit, the conduct of souls, the advantages and disadvantages of things and persons, the ways of life and death, the labyrinths of temptation, and all the remedies of sin, the public and private, the great and little, lines of conscience, and all those ways by which men may be assisted and promoted in the ways of godliness : for such knowledge as it is most difficult and secret, untaught and unregarded, so it is most necessary; and for want of it, the holy sacrament of the eucharist is oftentimes given to them that are in the
* Heb. xiii. 17.
gall of bitterness: that which is holy, is given to dogs. Indeed neither we nor our forefathers could help it always; and the discipline of the church could seize but upon few: all were invited, but none but the willing could receive the benefit; but however, it were pity that men, upon the account of little and trifling objections, should be discouraged from doing themselves benefit, and from enabling us with greater advantages to do our duty to them. It was of old observed of the Christians ; Πείθονται τοίς ωρισμένους, και τοις ιδίοις Bioiç vikūOL TOùs vóuous: “They obey the laws, and by the excellency of their own lives excel the perfection of the laws :” and it is not well, if we shall be earnest to tell them that such a thing is not necessary, if we know it to be good. For in this present dissolution of manners, to tell the people concerning any good thing, that it is not necessary, is to tempt them to let it alone.
The presbyterian ministers (who are of the church of England, just as the Irish are English) have obtained such power with their proselytes, that they take some account of the souls (of such as they please) before they admit them to their communion in sacraments; they do it to secure them to their party, or else make such accounts to be as their Shibboleth, to discern their Jews from the men of Ephraim : but it were very well we would do that for conscience, for charity, and for piety, which others do for interest, or zeal; and that we would be careful to use all those ministries, and be earnest for all those doctrines, which visibly in the causes of things are apt to produce holiness and severe living. It is no matter whether by these arts any sect or name be promoted; it is certain Christian religion would, and that is the real interest of us all, that those who are under our charges should know the force of the resurrection of Christ, and the conduct of the Spirit, and live according to the purity of God, and the light of the Gospel. To this let us co-operate with all wisdom, and earnestness, and knowledge, and spiritual understanding. And there is no better way in the world to do this, than by ministering to persons singly in the conduct of their repentance; which as it is the work of every man,so there are but few persons who need not the conduct of a spiritual guide in the beginnings and progressions of it.
To the assistance of this work I have now put my sym
bol, having by the sad experience of my own miseries and the calamities of others, to whose restitution I have been called to minister, been taught something of the secret of souls : and I have reason to think that the words of our dearest Lord to St. Peter were also spoken to me; “Tu autem conversus confirma fratres.". I hope I have received many of the mercies of a repenting sinner, and I have felt the turnings and varieties of spiritual intercourses; and I have often observed the advantages in ministering to others, and am most confident that the greatest benefits of our office may, with best effect, be communicated to souls in personal and particular ministrations. In the following book I have given advices, and have asserted many truths in order to all this : I have endeavoured to break in pieces almost all those propositions, upon the confidence of which men have been negligent of severe and strict living: I have cancelled some false grounds upon which many answers in moral theology used to be made to inquiries in cases of conscience: I have, according to my weak ability, described all the necessities, and great inducements of a holy life; and have endeavoured to do it so plainly, that it may be useful to every man, and so inoffensively, that it may hurt no man.
I know but one objection which I am likely to meet withal (excepting those of my infirmity and disability, which I cannot answer but by protesting the piety of my purposes) bui this only, that in the chapter of original sin, I speak otherwise than is spoken commonly in the church of England : whose ninth article affirms, that the natural propensity to evil, and the perpetual lusting of the flesh against the spirit; deserves the anger of God and damnation; against which ! so earnestly seem to dispute in the sixth chapter of my book, To this I answer, that it is one thing to say a thing in its own nature deserves damnation; and another to say, it is damnable to all those persons, in whom it is subjected. The thing itself, that is, our corrupted nature, or our nature of corruption, does leave us in the state of separation from God, by being unable to bear us to heaven: imperfection of nature can never carry us to the perfections of glory; and this I conceive to be all that our church intends : for that in the state of nature we can only fall short of heaven, and be condemned to a 'pæna damni,” is the severest thing that