Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

stained his course of life: and till he enters into a particular scrutiny, let him only revolve in his mind what his general course hath been ; and in the way of prudence, let him say whether it was laudable and holy, or only indifferent and excusable : and if he can think it only excusable, and so as to hope for pardon by such suppletories of faith, and arts of persuasion, which he and others used to take in for auxiliaries to their unreasonable confidence; then he cannot but think it very fit, that he search into his own state, and take a guide, and erect a tribunal, or appear before that, which Christ hath erected for him on earth, that he may make his access fairer, when he shall be called before the dreadful tribunal of Christ in the clouds". For if he can be confident upon the stock of an unpraised or a looser life, and should dare to venture upon wild accounts, without order, without abatements, without consideration, without conduet, without fear, without scrutinies and confessions, and instruments of amends or pardon, he either knows not his danger, or cares not for it, and little understands how great a horror that is, that a man should rest his head for ever upon a cradle of flames, and lie in a bed of sorrows, and never sleep, and never end his groans or the gnashing of his teeth.

This is that, which some spiritual persons call a wakening of the sinner by the terrors of the law; which is a good analogy or tropical expression to represent the threatenings of the Gospel, and the dangers of an incurious and a sinning person : but we have nothing else to do with the terrors of the law ; for, blessed be God, they concern us not. The terrors of the law were the intermination of curses upon all those, that ever broke any of the least commandments, once, or in any instance : and, to it the righteousness of faith is opposed. The terrors of the law admitted no repentance, no pardon, no abatement; and were so severe, that God never inflicted them at all according to the letter, because he admitted all to repentance, that desired it with a timely prayer, unless in very few cases, as of Achan, or Korah, the gatherer of sticks upon the sabbath day, or the like: but the state of threatenings in the Gospel is very fearful, because

n Illi mors gravis incubat, qui notus nimis omnibus, ignotus moritur sibi. Thyest. 401.

the conditions of avoiding them are easy and ready, and - they happen to evil persons after many warnings, second

thoughts, frequent invitations to pardon and repentance, and after one entire pardon consigned in baptism. And in this sense it is necessary, that such persons, as we now deal withal, should be instructed concerning their danger.

4. When the sick man is either of himself, or by these considerations, set forward with purposes of repentance, and confession of his sins, in order to all its holy purposes and effects, then the minister is to assist him in the understanding the number of his sins, that is, the several kinds of them, and the various manners of prevaricating the divine commandments : for as for the number of the particulars in every kind, he will need less help; and if he did, he can have it no where but in his own conscience, and from the witnesses of his conversation. Let this be done by prudent insinuation, by arts of remembrance, and secret notices, and propounding occasions and instruments of recalling such things to his mind, which either by public fame he is accused of, or by the temptations of his condition, it is likely, he might have contracted.

5. If the person be truly penitent, and forward to confess all, that are set before him or offered to his sight at a half face, then he may be complied withal in all his innocent circumstances, and his conscience made placid and willing, and he be drawn forward by good nature and civility, that his repentance in all the parts of it, and in every step of its progress and emanation, may be as voluntary and chosen as it can. For by that means if the sick person can be invited to do the work of religion, it enters by the door of his will and choice, and will pass on toward consummation by the instrument of delight.

6. If the sick man be backward and without apprehension of the good-natured and civil way, let the minister take care, that by some way or other the work of God be secured ; and if he will not understand, when he is secretly prompted, he must be hallooed to, and asked in plain interrogatives, concerning the crime of his life. He must be told of the evil things that are spoken of him in markets and exchanges, the proper temptations and accustomed evils of his calling and condition, of the actions of scandal: and in all those actions,

which are public, or of which any notice is come abroad, let care be taken, that the right side of the case of conscience be turned toward him, and the error truly represented to him by which he was abused; as the injustice of his contracts, his oppressive bargains, his rapine and violence : and if he hath persuaded himself to think well of a scandalous “action, let him be instructed and advertised of his folly and his danger.

7. And this advice concerns the minister of religion to follow without partiality, or fear, or interest, in much simplicity, and prudence, and hearty sincerity; having no other consideration, but that the interest of the man's soul be preserved, and no caution used, but that the matter be represented with just circumstances, and civilities fitted to the person with prefaces of honour and regard; but so that nothing of the duty be diminished by it, that the introduction do not spoil the sermon, and both together ruin two souls, of the speaker, and the hearer. For it may soon be considered, if the sick man be a poor or an indifferent person in secular account, yet his soul is equally dear to God, and was redeemed with the same highest price, and therefore to be highly regarded : and there is no 'temptation, but that the spiritual man may speak freely without the allays of interest, or fear, or mistaken civilities. But if the sick man be a prince, or a person of eminence or wealth, let it be remembered, it is an ill expression of reverence to his authority, or of regard to his person, to let him perish for the want of an honest, and just, and a free homily.

8. Let the sick inan, in the scrutiny of his conscience and confession of his sins, be carefully reminded to consider those sins, which are only condemned in the court of conscience and no where else. For there are certain secrecies and retirements, places of darkness and artificial veils, with which the devil uses to hide our sins from us, and to incorporate them into our affections by a constant uninterrupted practice, before they be prejudiced or discovered. 1. There are many sins, which have reputation, and are accounted honour; as fighting a duel, answering a blow with a blow, carrying armies into a neighbour-country, robbing with a navy, violently seizing upon a kingdom. 2. Others are permitted by law; as usury in all countries : and because

every excess of it is a certain sin, the permission of so suspected a matter makes it ready for us, and instructs the temptation. 3. Some things are not forbidden by laws; as lying in ordinary discourse, jeering, scoffing, intemperate eating, ingratitude, selling too dear, circumventing another in contracts, importunate entreaties, and temptation of persons to many instances of sin, pride, and ambition. 4. Some others do not reckon, they sin against God, if the laws have seized upon the person; and many that are imprisoned for debt, think themselves disobliged from payment; and when they pay the penalty, think they owe nothing for the scandal and disobedience. 5. Some sins are thought not considerable, but go under the title of sins of infirmity, or inseparable accidents of mortality; such as idle thoughts, foolish talking, looser revellings, impatience, anger, and all the events of evil company. 6. Lastly, many things are thought to be no sins; such as mispending of their time, whole days of months of useless and impertinent employment, long gaming, winning men’s money in greater portions, censuring men's actions, curiosity, equivocating in the prices and secrets of buying and selling, rudeness, speaking truths enviously, doing good to evil purposes, and the like. Under the dark shadow of these unhappy and fruitless yew-trees the enemy of mankind makes very many to lie hid from themselves, sewing before their nakedness the fig-leaves of popular and idle reputation, and impunity, public permission, a temporal penalty, infirmity, prejudice, and direct error in judgment, and ignorance. Now, in all these cases, the ministers are to be inquisitive and observant, lest the fallacy prevail upon the penitent to evil purposes of death or diminution of his good; and that those things, which in his life passed without observation, may now be brought forth, and pass under saws and harrows, that is, the severity and censure of sorrow and condemnation.

9. To which I add, for the likeness of the thing, that the matter of omission be considered ; for in them lies the bigger half of our failings; and yet, in many instances, they are undiscerned, because they very often sit down by the conscience, but never upon it; and they are usually looked upon as poor men do upon their not having coach and horses, or as that knowledge is missed by boys and hinds, which they

never had : it will be hard to make them understand their ignorance : it requires knowledge to perceive it; and therefore he, that can perceive it, hath it not. But by this pressing the conscience with omissions, I do not mean recessions, or distances from states of eminency or perfection : for although they may be used by the ministers as an instrument of humility, and a chastiser of too big a confidence; yet that, which is to be confessed and repented of, is omission of duty in direct instances and matters of commandment, or collateral and personal obligations, and is especially to be considered by kings and prelates, by governors and rich persons, by guides of souls and presidents of learning in public charge, and by all other in their proportions.

10. The ministers of religion must take care, that the sick man's confession be as minute and particular as it can, and that as few sins, as may be, be entrusted to the general prayer of pardon for all sins; for by being particular and enumerative of the variety of evils, which have disordered his life, his repentance is disposed to be more pungent and afflictive, and therefore more salutary and medicinal : it hath in it more sincerity, and makes a better judgment of the final condition of the man; and from thence it is certain, the hopes of the sick man can be more confident and reasonable.

11. The spiritual man, that assists at the repentance of the sick, must not be inquisitive into all the circumstances of the particular sins, but be content with those, that are direct parts of the crime, and aggravations of the sorrow; such as frequency, long abode, and earnest choice in acting them; violent desires, great expense, scandal of others; dishonour to the religion, days of devotion, religious solemnities, and holy places; and the degrees of boldness and impudence, perfect resolution and the habit. If the sick person be reminded or inquired into concerning these, it may prove a good instrument to increase his contrition, and perfect his penitential sorrows, and facilitate his absolution, and the means of his amendment. But the other circumstances, as of the relative person in the participation of the crime, the measures or circumstances of the impure action, the name of the injured man or woman, the quality or accidental condition : these and all the like are but questions springing from curiosity, and

« AnteriorContinuar »