« AnteriorContinuar »
pressly exhorting us to it, upon that very inducement'. 11. That confession of sins is so necessary a duty, that, in all Scriptures, it is the immediate preface to pardon, and the certain consequent of godly sorrow, and an integral or constituent part of that grace, which, together with faith, makes up the whole duty of the gospel. 12. That in all ages of the gospel, it hath been taught and practised respectively, that all the penitents made confessions proportionable to their repentance, that is public or private, general or particular. 13. That God by testimonies from heaven, that is, by his word, and by a consequent rare peace of conscience, hath given approbation to this holy duty. 14. That by this instrument, those, whose office it is to apply remedies to every spiritual sickness, can best perform their offices. 15. That it is by all churches esteemed a duty, necessary to be done in cases of a troubled conscience. 16. That what is necessary to be done in one case, and convenient in all cases, is fit to be done by all persons. 17. That without confession, it cannot easily be judged concerning the sick person, whether his conscience ought to be troubled or no, and therefore it cannot be certain, that it is not necessary. 18. That there can be no reason against it, but such as consults with flesh and blood, with infirmity and sin, to all which confession of sins is a direct enemy. 19. That now is that time, when all the imperfections of his repentance and all the breaches of his duty are to be made up, and that, if he omits this opportunity, he can never be admitted to a salutary and medicinal confession. 20. That St. James gives an express precept, that we Christians should confess our sins to each otherf, that is, Christian to Christian, brother to brother;, the people to their minister; and then he makes a specification of that duty, which a sick man is to do, when he hath sent for the elders of the church. 21. That, in all this, there is no more lies upon him; but " if he hides his sins, he shall
• 1 Cor. xi. 31.
f Si tacuerit qui percussus est, et non egerit pcenitentiam, nee vulnus suum fratri et magistro roluerit confiteri, magister qui linguam habet ad curandum, facile ei prodesse non poterit. Si enim erubescat aegrotus vulnus medico confiteri, quod ignorat medicina non curat. St. Hierom. ad caput, x. Eccles. Si enim hoc fecerimus, et revelaverimus peccata nostra non solum Deo, sed et his qui possunt mederi vulneribus nostris atque, peccatis, delebuntur peccata nostra. — Orig. Horn. 17- in Lucam.
VOL. IV. L L.
not be directed," so said the wise man: but ere long he must appear before the great Judge of men and angels: and his spirit will be more amazed and confounded to be seen among the angels of light with the shadows of the works of darkness upon him, than he can suffer by confessing to God in the presence of him, whom God hath sent to heal him. However, it is better to be ashamed here, than to be confounded hereafter. "Pol pudere praestat quam pigere, totidem Uteris »." 22. That confession, being in order to pardon of sins, it is very proper and analogical to the nature of the thing, that it be made there, where the pardon of sins is to be administered: and that, of pardon of sins God hath made the minister the publisher and dispenser: and all this is besides the accidental advantages, which accrue to the conscience, which is made ashamed, and timorous, and restrained by the mortifications and blushings of discovering to a man the faults committed in secret. 23. That the ministers of the gospel are the ministers of' reconciliation, are commanded to restore such persons, as are overtaken in a fault; and to that purpose they come to offer their ministry, if they may have cognisance of the fault and person. 24. That in the matter of prudence, it is not safe to trust a man's self in the final condition and last security of a man's soul, a man being no good judge in his own case. And when a duty is so useful in all cases, so necessary in some, and encouraged by promises evangelical, by Scripture precedents, by the example of both Testaments, and prescribed by injunctions apostolical, and by the canon of all churches, and the example of all ages, and taught us even by the proportions of duty, and the analogy to the power ministerial, and the very necessities of every man; he that for stubbornness, or sinful shamefacedness, or prejudice, or any other criminal weakness, shall decline to do it in the days of his danger, when the vanities of the world are worn off, and all affections- to sin are wearied, and the sin itself is pungent and grievous, and th at we are certain we shall not escape shame for them hereafter, unless we be ashamed of them here h, and use all the proper instruments of their pardon; this man, I say, is very near death, but very far off from the kingdom of heaven.
* Plaut. Trinum. Tam facile et pronum est superos contemnere testes, si mortalis idem nemo sciat Juv. Sat. 13.
h Qui homo culpam admisit in se, nullus est tam parvi pretii quin pudeat, quin purget sete.—Plant. Aulul. Act. 4. So. 10. 60.
2. The spiritual man will find in the conduct of this duty many cases and varieties of accidents, which will alter his course and forms of proceedings. Most men are of a rude indifferency, apt to excuse themselves', ignorant of their condition, abused by evil principles, content with a general and indefinite confession; and if you provoke them to it by the foregoing considerations, lest their spirits should be a little uneasy, or not secured in their own opinions, will be apt to say, they are sinners, as every man hath his infirmity, and he as well as any man: but, God be thanked, they bear no ill-will to any man, or are no adulterers, or no rebels, or they have fought on the right side; and God be merciful to them, for they are sinners. But you shall hardly open their breasts farther: and to inquire beyond this, would be to do the office of an accuser.
3. But, which is yet worse, there are very many persons, who have been so used to an habitual course of a constant intemperance, or dissolution in any other instance, that the crime is made natural and necessary, and the conscience hath digested all the trouble, and the man thinks himself in a good estate, and never reckons any sins, but those which are the egressions and passings beyond his ordinary and daily drunkenness. This happens in the cases of drunkenness, and intemperate eating, and idleness, and uncharitableness, and in lying and vain justings, and particularly in such evils which the laws do not punish, and public customs do not shame, but which are countenanced by potent sinners, or evil customs, or good nature, and mistaken civilities.
Instruments by Way of Consideration, to awaken a careless Person, and a stupid Conscience.
In these and the like cases, the spiritual man must awaken the lethargy, and prick the conscience, by representing to him, 1. That Christianity is a holy and a strict religion. 2. That many are called, but few are chosen. That the number of them, that are to be saved, is but a very few in respect of those that are to descend into sorrow and everlasting darkness. That we have covenanted with God in baptism to live a holy life. That the measures of holiness in the Christian religion are not to be taken by the evil proportions of the multitude, and common fame of looser and less severe persons; because the multitude is that, which does not enter into heaven, but the few, the elect, the holy servants of Jesus. That every habitual sin does amount to a very great guilt in the whole, though it be but in a small instance. That if the righteous scarcely be saved, then there will be no place for the unrighteous and the sinner to appear in, but places of horror and amazement. That confidence hath destroyed many souls, and many have had a sad portion, who have reckoned themselves in the calendar of saints. That the promises of heaven are so great, that it is not reasonable to think that every man, and every life, and an easy religion, shall possess such infinite glories. That although heaven is a gift, yet there is a great severity and strict exacting of the conditions on our part to receive that gift. That some persons, who have lived strictly for forty years together, yet have miscarried by some one crime at last, or some secret hypocrisy, or a latent pride, or a creeping ambition, or a fantastic spirit; and therefore much less can they hope to receive so great portions of felicities, when their life hath been a continual declination from those severities, which might have created confidence of pardon and acceptation, through the mercies of God and the merits of Jesus. That every good man ought to be suspicious of himself, and in his judgment concerning his own condition to fear the worst, that he may provide for the better. That we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. That this precept was given with great reason, considering the thousand thousand ways of miscarrying. That St. Paul himself, and St. Arsenius, and St. Elzearius, and divers other remarkable saints, had, at some times, great apprehensions of the dangers of failing of the mighty price of their high callingk. That the stake that is to be secured, is of so great an interest, that all our industry and all
1 Verum hoc se amplectitur uno,
Hoc amat, hoc laudat, Matronam nullam ego tango.
Horat. Ser. 1. 1. Sat. 2.
the violences we can suffer in the prosecution of it, are not considerable. That this affair is to be done but once, and then never any more unto eternal ages. That they who profess themselves servants of the institution, and servants of the law and discipline of Jesus, will find, that they must judge themselves by the proportions of that law, by which they were to rule themselves. That the laws of society and civility, and the voices of my company are as ill judges as they are guides; but we are to stand or fall by his sentence, who will not consider or value the talk of idle men, or the persuasion of wilfully abused consciences, but of him who hath felt our infirmity in all things but sin, and knows where our failings are unavoidable, and where, and in what degree, they are excusable; but never will endure a sin should seize upon any part of our love, and deliberate choice, or careless cohabitation. That if our conscience accuse us not1, yet are we not hereby justified; for God is greater than our consciencesTM. That they who are most innocent, have their consciences most tender and sensible. That scrupulous persons are always most religious; and that to feel nothing, is not a sign of life, but of death. That nothing can be hid from the eyes of the Lord, to whom the day and the night, public and private, words and thoughts, actions and designs, are equally discernible. That a lukewarm person is only secured in his own thoughts, but very unsafe in the event, and despised by God. That we live in an age, in which that which is called and esteemed a holy life, in the days of the apostles and holy primitives would have been esteemed indifferent, sometimes scandalous, and always cold. That what was a truth of God then, is so now; and to what severities they were tied, for the same also we are to be accountable; and heaven is not now an easier purchase than it was then. That if he will cast up his accounts, even with a superficial eye, let him consider how few good works he hath done; how inconsiderable is the relief which he gave to the poor; how little are the extraordinaries of his religion; and how inactive and lame, how polluted and disordered, how unchosen and unpleasant were the ordinary parts and periods of it: and how many and great sins have
1 1 John, iii. 20. m 1 Cor. iv. 4.