« AnteriorContinuar »
artifices of mercy; it is not likely that he will condemn as without great provocations of his majesty, and perseverance in them. 8. That the covenant of the Gospel is a covenant of grace and of repentance, and being established with so many great solemnities and miracles from heaven, must signify a huge favour and a mighty change of things; and therefore that repentance, which is the great condition of it, is a grace, that does not expire in little accents and minutes, but hath a great latitude of signification and large extension of parts, under the protection of all which persons are safe, even when they fear exceedingly. 9. That there are great degrees and differences of glory in heaven; and therefore, if we estimate our piety by proportions to the more eminent persons and devouter people, we are not to conclude, we shall not enter into the same state of glory, but that we shall not go into the same degrees. 10. That although forgiveness of sins is consigned to us in baptism, and that this baptism is but once, and cannot be repeated; yet forgiveness of sins is the grace of the gospel, whieh is perpetually remanent upon us, and secured unto us so long as we have not renounced our baptism: for then we enter into the condition of repentance; and repentance is not an indivisible grace, or a thing performed at once, but it is working all our lives; and therefore so is our pardon, which ebbs and flows, according as we discompose or renew the decency of our baptismal promises; and therefore it ought to be certain, that no man despair of patdon, but he that hath voluntarily renounced his baptism, or willingly estranged himself from that covenant. He that sticks to it, and still professes the religion, and approves the faith, and endeavours to obey and to do his duty, this man hath all the veracity of God to assure him and give him confidence, that he is not in an impossible state of salvation, unless God cuts him off, before he can work, or that he begins to- Work when he can no longer choose. II. And then let him consider, the more he fears, the more he hates his sin, that is the cause of it, and the less he can be tempted to it, and the more desirous be is of heaven; and therefore such fears are good instruments of grace, and good signs of a future pardon. 12. That God in the old law, although he made a covenant of perfect obedience, and did not promise pardon at all after great sins, yet
he did give pardon, and declared it so to them for their own and for our sakes too. So he did to David, to Manasses, to the whole nation of the Israelites, ten times in the wilderness, even after their apostacies and idolatries. And in the prophets1, the mercies of God and his remissions of sin were largely preached, though, in the law, God put on the robes of an angry judge, and a severe lord. But therefore in the gospel, where he hath established the whole sum of affairs upon faith and repentance, if God should not pardon great sinners, that repent after baptism with a free dispensation, the gospel were far harder than the intolerable covenant of the law. 13. That if a proselyte went into the Jewish communion, and were circumcised and baptized, he entered into all the hopes of good things, which God had promised, or would give, to his people; and yet that was but the covenant of works. If then the gentile proselytes, by their circumcision and legal baptism, were admitted to a state of pardon, to last so long as they were in the covenant, even after their admission, for sins committed against Moses's law, which they then undertook to observe exactly; in the gospel, which is the covenant of faith, it must needs be certain, that there is a greater grace given, and an easier condition entered into, than was that of the Jewish law: and that is nothing else, but that abatement is made for our infirmities, and our single evils, and our timelyrepented and forsaken habits of sin, and our violent passions, when they are contested withal, and fought with, and under discipline, and in the beginnings and progresses of mortification. 14. That God hath erected in his church a whole order of men, the main part and dignity of whose work it is to remit and retain sins by a perpetual and daily ministry: and this they do, not only in baptism, but in all their offices to be administered afterwards; in the holy sacrament of the eucharist, which exhibits the symbols of that blood which was shed for pardon of our sins, and therefore by its continued mystery and repetition declares, that all that while we are within the ordinary powers and usual dispensations of pardon, even so long as we are in any pro^ bable dispositions to receive that holy sacrament. And the
• 'Esek. xviii. Joel, ii.
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, hath 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 all';" and, " if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselvesu:" and therefore either all must perish, or else there is mercy for all; and so there is upon this *ery 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. "1 John, i. 8. * Rom. v. 8. y Rom. xi. 32.