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same effect is also signified and exhibited in the whole power of the keys, which, if it extends to private sins, sins done in secret, it is certain it does also to public. But this is a greater testimony of the certainty of the remissibility of our greatest sins : for public sins, as they always have a sting and a superadded formality of scandal and ill example, so they are most commonly the greatest; such as murder, sacrilege, and others of unconcealed nature, and unprivate action; and if God, for these worst of evils, háth appointed an office of ease and pardon, which is, and may, daily be administered, that will be an uneasy pusillanimity and fond suspicion of God's goodness, to fear, that our repentance shall be rejected, even although we have committed the greatest or the most of evils. 15. And it was concerning baptized Christians that St. John said, “ If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, and he is the propitiation for our sins;" and concerning lapsed Christians St. Paul gave instruction, that, “ If any man be overtaken in a fault, ye, which are spiritual, restore such a man in the spirit of meekness ; considering, lest ye also be tempted.” The Corinthian Christian committed incest, and was pardoned : and Simon Magus, after he was baptized, offered to commit his own sin of simony; and yet St. Peter bid him pray for pardon : and St. James tells, that “ if the sick man sends for the elders of the church, and they pray over him, and he confess his sins, they shall be forgiven him.” 16. That only one sin is declared to be irremissible, “ the sin against the Holy Ghost, the sin unto death,” as St. John calls it, for which we are not bound to pray, for all others we are: and, certain it is, no man commits a sin against the Holy Ghost, if he be afraid he hath, and desires that he had not; for such penitential passions are against the definition of that sin. 17. That all the sermons in the Scripture written to Christians and disciples of Jesus, exhorting men to repentance, to be afflicted, to mourn and to weep, to confession of sins, are sure testimonies of God's purpose and desire to forgive us, even when we fall after baptism : and if our fall after baptism were irrecoverable, then all preaching were in vain, and our faith were also vain, and we could not with comfort rehearse the Creed, in which, as soon as ever we profess Jesus to have died for our sins, we also are condemned by our own conscience of a sin, that shall not be forgiven; and then all exhortations, and comforts, and fasts, and disciplines were useless and too late, if they were not given us before we can understand them; for most commonly, as soon as we can, we enter into the regions of sin; for we commit evil actions before we understand, and together with our understanding they begin to be imputed. 18. That if it could be otherwise, infants were very ill provided for in the church, who were baptized, when they have no stain upon their brows, but the misery they contracted from Adam : and they are left to be angels for ever after, and live innocently in the midst of their ignorances, and weaknesses, and temptations, and the heat and follies of youth ; or else to perish in an eternal ruin. We cannot think or speak good things of God, if we entertain such evil suspicions of the mercies of the Father of our Lord Jesus. 19. That the long-sufferance and patience of God is indeed wonderful; but therefore it leaves us in certainties of pardon, so long as there is a possibility to return, if we reduce the power to act. 20. That God calls upon us to forgive our brother seventy times seven times; and yet all that is but like the forgiving a hundred pence for his sake, who forgives us ten thousand talents : for so the Lord professed, that he had done to him, that was his servant and his domestic. 21. That if we can forgive a hundred thousand times, it is certain God will do so to us; our blessed Lord having commanded us to pray for pardon, as we pardon our offending and penitent brother. 22. That even in the case of very great sins, and great judgments inflicted upon the sinners, wise and good men and presidents of religion have declared their sense to be, that God spent all his anger, and made it expire in that temporal misery; and so it was supposed to have been done in the case of Ananias; but that the hopes of any penitent man may not rely upon any uncertainty, we find in holy Scripture, that those Christians, who had, for their scandalous crimes, deserved to be given over to Satan to be buffeted, yet had hopes to be saved in the day of the Lord. 23. That God glories in the titles of mercy and forgiveness, and will not have his appellatives so finite and limited as to expire in one act, or in a seldom pardon. 24. That man's condition were desperate, and like that of the fallen angels, equally desperate, but unequally oppressed, considering our infinite weaknesses and ignorances (in respect of their excellent understanding and perfect choice), if he could be admitted to no repentance after his infant-baptism : and if he may be admitted to one, there is nothing in the covenant of the gospel, but he may also to a second, and so for ever, as long as he can repent, and return and live to God in a timely religion. 25. That every man is a sinner : “ In many things we offend allt ;” and, “ if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves u :" and therefore either all must perish, or else there is mercy for all; and so there is upon this very stock, because “ Christ died for sinners *,” and, “ God hath comprehended all under sin, that he might have mercy upon ally.” 26. That if ever God sends temporal punishments into the world with purposes of amendment, and if they be not, all of them, certain consignations to hell, and unless every man, that breaks his leg, or in punishment loses a child or wife, be certainly damned, it is certain, that God, in these cases, is angry and loving, chastises the sin to amend the person, and smites, that he may cure, and judges, that he may absolve. 27. That he, that will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed, will not tie us to perfection, and the laws and measures of heaven upon earth : and if, in every period of our repentance, he is pleased with our duty, and the voice of our heart and the hand of our desires, he hath told us plainly, that he will not only pardon all the sins of the days of our folly, but the returns and surprises of sins in the days of repentance, if we give no way, and allow no affection, and give no place to any thing, that is God's enemy; all the past sins, and all the seldom-returning and ever-repented evils being put upon the accounts of the cross.
An Exercise against Despair in the Day of our Death.
To which may be added this short exercise, to be used for the curing the temptation to direct despair, in case that the hope and faith of good men be assaulted in the day of their calamity.
I consider that the ground of my trouble is my sin ; and if it were not for that, I should not need to be troubled : but
* James, iij. 2.
u 1 John, i. 8.
Rom. y. 8.
Rom. xi. 32.
the help, that all the world looks for, is such, as supposes a man to be a sinner. Indeed if, from myself, I were to derive my title to heaven, then my siņs were a just argument of despair; but now that they bring me to Christ, that they drive me to an appeal to God's mercies, and to take sanctuary in the cross, they ought not, they cannot infer a just cause of despair. I am sure it is a stranger thing, that God should take upon him hands and feet, and those hands and feet should be nailed upon a cross, than that a man should be partaker of the felicities of pardon and life eternal : and it were stranger yet that God should do so much for man, and that a man that desires it, that labours for it, that is in life and possibilities of working his salvation, should inevitably miss. that end, for which that God suffered so much. For what is the meaning, and what is the extent, and what are the significations of the Divine mercy in pardoning sinners ? If it be thought a great matter, that I am charged with orie ginal sin, I confess I feel the weight of it in loads of temporal infelicities, and proclivities to sin: but I fear not the guilt of it, since I am baptised ; and it cannot do honour to the reputation of God's mercy, that it should be all spent in remissions of what I never chose, never acted, never knew of, could not help, concerning which I received no commandment, no prohibition. But, blessed be. God, it is ordered in just measures, that that original evil, which I contracted without my will, should be taken away without my know, ledge; and what I suffered, before I had a being, was cleansed before I had an useful understanding. But I am taught to believe God's mercies to be infinite, not only in himself, but to us; for mercy is a relative term, and we are its correspondent: of all the creatures which God made, we only, in a proper sense, are the subjects of mercy and remission. Angels have more of God's bounty than we have, but not so much of his mercy: and beasts have little rays of his kindness, and effects of his wisdom and graciousness in petty donatives; but nothing of mercy : for they have no laws, and therefore no sins, and need no mercy, nor are capable of any, Since therefore man alone is the correlative or proper object and vessel of reception of an infinite mercy, and that mercy is in giving and forgiving, I have reason to hope, that he will so forgive me, that my sins shall not hinder me of heaven: or because it is a gift, I may also, upon the stock of the same infinite mercy, hope, he will give heaven to me; and if I have it either upon the title of giving or forgiving, it is alike to me, and will alike magnify the glories of the Divine mercy. And because eternal life is the gift of God”, I have less reason to despair : for if my sins were fewer, and my disproportions towards such a glory were less, and my evenness more; yet it is still a gift, and I could not receive it but as a free and a gracious donative; and so I may still : God can still give it me; and it is not an impossible expectation to wait and look for such a gift at the hands of the God of mercy: the best men deserve it not; and I, who am the worst, may have it given me. And I consider, that God hath set no measures of his mercy, but that we be within the covenant, that is, repenting persons, endeavouring to serve him with an honest single heart; and that, within this covenant, there is a very great latitude, and variety of persons, and degrees, and capacities; and therefore, that it cannot stand with the proportions of so infinite a mercy, that obedience be exacted to such a point, which he never expressed, unless it should be the least, and that to which all capacities, though otherwise unequal, are fitted and sufficiently enabled. But however, I find, that the Spirit of God taught the writers of the New Testament to apply to us all, in general, and to every single person in particular, some gracious words, which God, in the Old Testament spake to one man, upon a special occasion, in a single and temporal instance. Such are the words, which God spake to Joshua: “ I will never fail thee, nor forsake thee :" and, upon the stock of that promise, St. Paul forbids covetousness, and persuades contentedness, because those words were spoken by God to Joshua in another case. If the gracious words of God have so great extension of parts, and intention of kind purposes, then how many comforts have we, upon the stock of all the excellent words which are spoken in the prophets and in the Psalms ! and I will never more question, whether they be spoken concerning me, having such an authentic precedent so to expound the excellent words of God : all the treasures of God, which are in the Psalms, are my