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own riches, and the wealth of my hope: there will I look ; ánd whatsoever I can need, that I will depend upon. For certainly, if we could understand it, that which is infinite (as God is) must needs be some such kind of thing: it must go, whither it was never sent, and signify, what was not first intended, and it must warm with its light, and shine with its heat, and refresh when it strikes, and heal when it wounds, and ascertain where it makes afraid, and intend all when it warns one, and mean a great deal in a small word. And as the sun, passing to its southern tropic, looks with an open eye upon his sun-burnt Ethiopians, but at the same time sends light from its posterns, and collateral influences from the back-side of his beams, and sees the corners of the east, when his face tends towards the west, because he is a round body of fire, and hath some little images and resemblances of the Infinite: so is God's mercy: when it looked upon Moses, it relieved St. Paul, and it pardoned David, and gave hope to Manesses, and might have restored Judas, if he would have had hope, and used himself accordingly. But as to my own case, I have sinned grievously and frequently b; but I have repented it; but I have begged pardon: I have confessed it and forsaken it. I cannot undo what was done, and I perish, if God hath appointed no remedy, if there be no remission; but then my religion falls together with my hope, and God's word fails, as well as I. But I believe the article of forgiveness of sins; and if there be any such thing, I may do well, for I have, and do, and will do that, which all good men call repentance, that is, I will be humbled before God, and mourn for my sin, and for ever ask forgiveness, and judge myself, and leave it with haste, and mortify it with diligence, and watch against it carefully. And this I can do but in the manner of a man: I can but mourn for my sins, as I apprehend grief in other instances; but I will rather choose to suffer all evils, than to do one deliberate act of sin. I know, my sins are greater than my sorrow, and too many for my memory, and too insinuating to be prevented by all my care: but I know also, that God knows and pities my infirmities; and how far that will extend, I know not, but that it will reach so far, as to satisfy my needs, is the matter
of my hope. But this I am sure of, that I have, in my great necessity, prayed humbly and with great desire, and sometimes I have been heard in kind, and sometimes have had a bigger mercy instead of it; and I have the hope of prayers, and the hope of my confession, and the hope of my endeavour, and the hope of many promises, and of God's essential goodness; and I am sure, that God hath heard my prayers, and verified his promises in temporal instances, for he ever gave me sufficient for my life, and although he promised such supplies, and grounded the confidences of them upon our first seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, yet he hath verified it to me, who have not sought it, as I ought; but therefore I hope he accepted 'my endeavour, or will give his great gifts and our great expectation even to the weakest endeavour, to the least, so it be a hearty, piety. And sometimes I have had some cheerful visitations of God's Spirit, and my cup hath been crowned with comfort, and the wine, that made my heart glad, danced in the chalice, and I was glad, that God would have me so; and therefore, I hope, this cloud may pass : for that, which was then a real cause of comfort, is so still, if I could discern it; and I shall discern it, when the veil is taken from mine eyes. And, blessed be God, I can still remember, that there are temptations to despair; and they could not be temptations, if they were not apt to persuade, and had seeming probability on their side; and they that despair, think they do it with greatest reason : for if they were not confident of the reason, but that it were such an argument as might be opposed or suspected, then they could not despair. Despair assents as firmly and strongly as faith itself; but because it is a temptation, and despair is a horrid sin, therefore it is certain, those persons are unreasonably abused, and they have no reason to despair, for all their confidence: and therefore, although I have strong reasons to condemn myself, yet I have more reason to condemn my despair, which therefore is unreasonable because it is a sin, and a dishonour to God, and a ruin to my condition, and verifies itself, if I do not look to it. For as the hypochondriac person, that thought himself dead, made his dream true, when he starved himself, because dead people eat not; so do despairing sinners lose God's mercies, by refusing to use and to believe them. And I hope it is a disease of judgment, not an intolerable condition, that I am falling into; because I have been told so concerning others, who therefore have been afflicted, because they see not their pardon sealed after the manner of this world, and the affairs of the Spirit are transacted by immaterial notices, by propositions and spiritual discourses, by promises, which are to be verified hereafter; and here we must live in a cloud, in darkness under a veil, in fear and uncertainties, and our very living by faith and hope is a life of mystery and secrecy, the only part of the manner of that life, in which we shall live in the state of separation. And when a distemper of body or an infirmity of mind happens in the instances of such secret and reserved affairs, we may easily mistake the manner of our notices for the uncertainty of the thing: and therefore it is but reason, I should stay, till the state and manner of my abode be changed, before I despair : there it can be no sin, nor error; here it may be both; and if it be that, it is also this; and then a man may perish for being miserable, and be undone for being a fool. In conclusion, my hope is in God, and I will trust him with the event, which I am sure will be just, and I hope full of mercy. However, now I will use all the spiritual arts of reason and religion to make me more and more to love God, that if I miscarry, charity also shall fail, and something that loves God shall perish and be damned ; which if it be possible, then I may do well.
These considerations may be useful to men of little hearts and of great piety: or if they be persons, who have lived without infamy, or begun their repentance so late, that it is very imperfect, and yet so early, that it was before the arrest of death. But if the man be a vicious person, and hath persevered in a vicious life till his death-bed, these considerations are not proper. Let him inquire, in the words of the first disciples after Pentecost, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved ?” and if they can but entertain so much hope as to enable them to do so much of their duty, as they can for the present, it is all, that can be provided for them : an inquiry, in their case, can have no other purposes of religion or prudence. And the minister must be infinitely careful, that he do not go about to comfort vicious persons with the comforts belonging to God's elect, lest he prosti
for things, and he encouraged when he
tute holy things, and make them common, and his sermons deceitful, and vices be encouraged in others, and the man himself find, that he was deceived, when he descends into his house of sorrow. . But because very few men are tempted with too great fears of failing, but very many are tempted by confidence and presumption; the ministers of religion had need be instructed with spiritual armour to resist this fiery dart of the devil, when it operates to evil purposes.
Considerations against Presumption. I have already enumerated many particulars to provoke a drowsy conscience to a scrutiny and to a suspicion of himself, that by seeing cause to suspect his condition, he might more freely accuse himself, and attend to the necessities and duties of repentance; but if either before, or in, his repentance, he grow too big in his spirit, so as either he does some little violences to the modesties of humility, or abate his care and zeal of his repentance, the spiritual man must allay his forwardness by representing to him, 1. That the growths in grace are long, difficult, uncertain, hindered, of many parts and great variety. 2. That an infant grace is soon dashed and discountenanced, often running into an inconvenience and the evils of an imprudent conduct, being zealous, and forward, and therefore confident, but always with the least reason, and the greatest danger; like children and young fellows, whose confidence hath no other reason but that they understand not their danger and their follies. 3. That he that puts on his armour, ought not to boast, as he that puts it off; and the apostle chides the Galatians for ending in the flesh, after they had begun in the spirit. 4. That a man cannot think too meanly of himself, but very easily he may think too high. 5. That a wise man will always in a matter of great concernment think the worst, and a good man will condemn himself with hearty sentence. 6. That humility and modesty of judgment and of hope are very good instruments to procure a mercy and a fair reception at the day of our death; but presumption or bold opinions serve no end of God or man, and is always imprudent, ever fatal, and of all things in the world is its own greatest enemy; for the more any man presumes, the greater reason he hath to fear. 7. That a man's heart is infinitely deceitful, unknown to itself, not certain in his own acts, praying one way, and desiring another, wandering and imperfect, loose and various, worshipping God, and entertaining sin, following what it hates, and running from what it flatters, loving to be tempted and betrayed ; petulant like a wanton girl running from, that it might invite the fondness and enrage the appetite of the foolish young man, or the evil temptation that follows it; cold and indifferent one while, and presently zealous and passionate, furious and indiscreet; not understood of itself, or any one else, and deceitful beyond all the arts and numbers of observation. 8. That it is certain, we have highly sinned against God, but we are not so certain, that our repentance is real and effective, integral and sufficient. 9. That it is not revealed to us, whether or no the time of our repentance be not past; or, if it be not, yet how far God will give us pardon, and upon what condition, or after what sufferings or duties, is still under a cloud. 10. That virtue and vice are oftentimes so near neighbours, that we pass into each other's borders without observation, and think we do justice, when we are cruel; or call ourselves liberal, when we are loose and foolish in expenses; and are amorous, when we commend our own civilities and good nature. 11. That we allow to ourselves so many little irregularities, that insensibly they swell to so great a heap, that from thence we have reason to fear an evil : for an army of frogs and flies may destroy all the hopes of our harvest. 12. That when we do that, which is lawful, and do all that we can in those bounds, we commonly and easily run out of our proportions. 13. That it is not easy to distinguish the virtues of our nature from the virtues of our choice: and we may expect the reward of temperance, when it is against our nature to be drunk; or we hope to have the coronet of virgins for our morose disposition, or our abstinence from marriage upon secular ends. 14. That, it may be, we call every little sigh or the keeping a fish-day the duty of repentance, or have