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210 LoRD ClaRen Don's Essays.
this, or did not think at all, which yet it may be is better than thinking this, we should not spend our time as we do, commit so many follies and wickednesses, and give no cause to the most charitable man to believe that we are in any degree sorry for either, when he sees us so constantly practise both, and live as we did really think that we are only to account for the last moment of our life, and therefore that it is enough if we provide that that shall be commendable and full of devotion. The other as extravagant imagination, that a man may repent so heartily one particular sin, that he may be well satisfied that God hath accepted his humiliation and sealed his pardon, and yet retain and practice some other sins, of whose iniquity he is not yet thoroughly convinced, or of which he takes farther time to repent, hath gotten so much credit with many of us, who are willing to persuade other men, and it may be ourselves, that we do heartily detest and abominate some sin we have formerly practised, and have cordially repented it, though we do too much indulge some other natural infirmity, which leads us into great transgressions of another kind. If nothing of this argumentation did prevail upon us, we could not at the same time pretend to have, with agrievous sense of our guilt, repented our rebellion, or any such act of outrage, and have washed our souls clean from that sin with our tears, when yet we retain our ambition, and have the same impatient appetite for preferment that we had before, and which it may be led us into that rebellion; that we have thoroughly repented every act of oppression that we have committed, though we have still avarice and desire to be rich, that hath not left us. It may be, the practice of repentance hath not been more obstructed by any thing, than by the customary discourse, and the senseless distinction, of true and false, perfect and imperfect repentance; whereas, if it be not true and perfect, it is not repentance; if it be not as it should be, it is not at all. There are indeed many preparations, many approaches towards it, which, well entered upon and pursued, will come to repentance at last; there must be recollection, and there must be sorrow, and sorrow stretched to the utmost extent, before it can arrive at repentance; and it must be repentance itself, none of those preparatives, that must carry us to heaven; and that repentance is no more capable of enlargement and diminution, than
the joys of heaven are, which are still the same, neither more nor less. If we do repent any one sin we have committed, we can have no more inclination to commit any other, of how different a kind soever from the other, than we could desire, if we were in heaven, to return to the earth again; it is sin itself, in all the several species of it, in all the masks and disguises that it hath ever presented itself to us in, which we detest, if we are arrived at repentance. And because, as hath been said before, we cannot make too strict a scrutiny into our own actions, nor take too much care in the compounding this precious cordial that must revive us and make us live after we are dead, we shall do well frequently to confer with pious men upon the most proper expedients to advance this duty in us; and because examples are more powerful motives towards any perfection than precepts, we cannot do better than recollect as many of those as our own experience, or histories of uncontroverted veracity, or the observation of other men, can suggest to us; that by observing the steps they made towards it, and the manifestation they gave of it, we may the better comport ourselves towards the attaining our end, and the assurance that we have attained it: and having for some years lived in a country, where there is as great evidence of sins committed, and as little of repentance as in any other country; and having met with there a rare example of this kind, and so much the more rare as it is in a person of the most illustrious family in France, the house of the king himself, and a thing so known that there is no room to doubt the truth thereof; I think it very pertinent to the design of this short discourse, to insert so much of it as to my understanding may exceedingly work upon the minds of other men: the person is the prince of Conti, younger brother to the prince of Condé, next prince of the blood to the children of the crown, and to the king's own brother, who died in the year 1664, in Paris. This prince having great endow- ments of mind, but educated in all the licence of that nation, and corrupted with the greatest license of it, some years before his death had the blessing to make severe reflections upon the past actions of his life; and thereupon imposed upon himself great strictness and rigour, in a notorious retirement from the court, in the conversation of the most pious and devout men, and in the exercise of all those actions of devotion which become a Christian resolution, in the faith in which he had been educated; and being in perfect health, but well knowing by the ill structure of his body that he could not live, the crookedness and stooping of his head and shoulders making his respiration very difficult, and increasing, suffocated him, he made his last will, beginning in these words: “This day, the 24th of May, 1664, I, Armand de Bourbon, prince of Conti, being in my house in Paris, sound in body and mind, and not willing to be surprised by death without making my will, do make this my present testament.” And then making that profession of his religion, and disposing his soul in that manner as becomes a pious man in that church, whereof he was a very zealous member, he enters upon the disposal of his estate, and used these words: “I am extremely sorry to have been so unhappy as to find myself in my younger age engaged in a war contrary to my duty; during which I permitted, ordered, and authorized violences and disorders without number; and although the king hath had the goodness to forget this failing, I remain nevertheless justly accountable before God to those corporations and particular persons, who then suffered, be it in Guienne, Xantoinge, Berry, la Marche, be it in