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at that rate, either of an habitual wickedness, or else a frequent repetition of single acts of killing and deadly sins, that a sudden death is the ruin of all their hopes, and a perfect consignation to an eternal sorrow. But in this case also, so is a lingering sickness : for our sickness may change us from life to health, from health to strength, from strength to the firmness and confirmation of habitual graces; but it cannot change a man from death to life, and begin and finish that process, which sits not down but in the bosom of blessedness. He that washes in the morning, when his bath is seasonable and healthfull, is not only made clean, but sprightly, and the blood is brisk and coloured like the first springing of the morning; but they that wash their dead, cleanse the skin, and leave paleness upon the cheek, and stiffness in all the joints. A repentance upon our death-bed is like washing the corpse: it is cleanly and civil; but makes no change deeper than the skin. But God knows, it is a custom so to wash them, that are going to dwell with dust, and to be buried in the lap of their kindred earth", but all their lives-time wallow in pollutions without any washing at all; or if they do, it is like that of the Dardani", who washed but thrice all their life-time, when they are born, and when they marry, and when they die; when they are baptized, or against a solemnity, or for the day of their funeral: but these are but ceremonious washings, and never purify the soul, if it be stained and hath sullied the whiteness of its baptismal robes.
God intended we should live a holy life: he contracted with us in Jesus Christ for a holy life: he made no abatements of the strictest sense of it', but such as did necessarily comply with human infirmities or possibilities; that is, he understood it in the sense of repentance, which still is so to renew our duty, that it may be a holy life in the second sense; that is, some great portion of our life to be spent in living, as Christians should. A resolving to repent upon
Lavor honestà hora et salubri, quæ mihi et calorem et sanguipem servet: Rigere et pallere post lavacrum mortuus possum.—Tertul. Apol. c. 42.
Cognatâ fæce sepulti. » Δαρδανείς τους υπό της 'Aλλυρίδος ακούω τρις λούεσθαι μόνον παρά πάντα τον εαυτών Bior, i wdivov, xai yapourraç xai đTo Jarórtas.- Æliun. lib. iv. var. hist. cap. 1.
• Vide Aug. lib. 5. Hom. iv. et Serm. 57. de Tempore. Faustum ad Paulinum Ep. 1. in Biblioth. pp. tom. 5. vet edit. Concil. Arelat. i. c. 3. Carthag. 4. cap. 7,8.
our death-bed, is the greatest mockery of God in the world, and the most perfect contradictory to all his excellent designs of mercy and holiness: for therefore he threatened us with hell, if we did not, and he promised heaven, if we did live a holy life; and a late repentance promises heaven to us upon other conditions, even when we have lived wickedly. It renders a man useless and intolerable to the world; taking off the great curb of religion, of fear and hope, and permitting all impiety with the greatest impunity and encouragement in the world. By this means we see so many Faidas toluypovíovc?, as Philo calls them, or, as the prophets, pueros centum annorum, children of almost a hundred years old, upon whose grave we may write the inscription which was upon the tomb of Similis in Xiphilin'. “ Here he lies, who was so many years, but lived but seven.” And the course of nature runs counter to the perfect designs of piety; and God, who gave us a life to live to him, is only served at our death, when we die to all the world : and we undervalue the great promises made by the holy Jesus“, for which the piety, the strictest unerring piety, of ten thousand ages is not a proportionable exchange: yet we think it a hard bargain to get heaven, if we be forced to part with one lust, or live soberly twenty years; but, like Demetrius Afer (who, having lived a slave all his life-time, yet desiring to descend to his grave in freedom", begged manumission of his lord), we lived in the bondage of our sin all our days, and hope to die the Lord's freed-men. But above all, this course of a delayed repentance must of necessity therefore be ineffective and certainly mortal, because it is an entire destruction of the very formality and essential constituent reason of religion : which I thus demonstrate.
When God made man, and propounded to him an immortal and a blessed state, as the end of his hopes and the
Quis lace suprema
Dimisisse meas serò non ingemit horas ?-Sil. Ital. J. 15. 9 Sic contra rerum naturæ munera nota, Corvos maturis frugibus ova refert. * In Adrian. Σίμιλις μεν εν ταύθα κείται, βιους κατά έτη τόσα, ζήσας δε έτη επτά.
* Vide the Life of Christ, Disc. of Repentance; Rule of Holy Living, chap. iv. Sect. of Repentance ; and volume of Serm. Serm. v, vi.
i Ne tamen ad Stygias famulus descenderet ombras,
Ureret implicitum cùm scelerata lues,
perfection of his condition, he did not give it him for nos thing, but upon certain conditions; which, although they could add nothing to God, yet they were such things, which man could value, and they were his best: and God had made appetites of pleasure in man, that in them the scene of his obedience should lie. For when God made instances of man's obedience, he, 1. either commanded such things to be done, which man did naturally desire; or, 2. such things which contradict his natural desires; or, 3. such which were indifferent. Not the first and the last : for it could be no effect of love or duty towards God for a man to eat, when he was impatiently hungry, and could not stay from eating; neither was it any contention of obedience or labour of love for a man to look eastward once a day, or turn bis back when the north wind blew fierce and loud. Therefore for the trial and instance of obedience, God made his laws so, that they should lay restraint upon man's appetites, so that man might part with something of his own, that he may give to God his will, and deny it to himself for the interest of his service: and chastity is the denial of a violent desire; and justice is parting with money, that might help to enrich me; and meekness is a huge contradiction to pride and revenge; and the wandering of our eyes, and the greatness of our fancy, and our imaginative opinions, are to be lessened, that we may serve God. There is no other way of serving God, we have nothing else to present unto him: we do not else give him any thing or part of ourselves, but when we, for his sake, part with what we naturally desire; and difficulty is essential to virtue, and without choice there can be no reward, and in the satisfaction of our natural desires there is no election, we run to them, as beasts to the river or the crib. If, therefore, any man shall teach or practise such a religion, that satisfies all our natural desires in the days of desires and passion, of lust and appetites, and only turns to God, when his appetites are gone, and his desires cease; this man hath overthrown the very being of virtues, and the essential constitution of religion: religion is no religion, and virtue is no act of choice, and reward comes by chance and without condition, if we only are religious, when we cannot choose ; if we part with our money, when we cannot keep it; with our lust, when we cannot act it; with our
desires, when they have left us. Death is a certain mortifier; but that mortification is deadly, not useful to the purposes of a spiritual life. When we are compelled to depart from our evil customs “, and leave to live, that we may begin to live, then we die to die; that life is the prologue to death, and thenceforth we die eternally.
St. Cyril speaks of certain people, that chose to worship the sun, because he was a day-god : for, believing that he was quenched every night in the sea, or that he had no influence upon them, that light up candles, and lived by the light of fire, they were confident, they might be Atheists all night, and live as they list. Men, who divide their little portion of time between religion and pleasures, between God and God's enemy, think, that God is to rule but in his certain period of time, and that our life is the stage for passion and folly, and the day of death for the work of our life. But as to God both the day and night are alike, so are the first and last of our days: all are his due, and he will account severely with us for the follies of the first, and the evil of the last. The evils and the pains are great, which are reserved for those, who defer their restitution to God's favour till their death. And therefore Antisthenes said well, “ It is not the happy death, but the happy life, that makes man happy.” It is in piety, as in fame and reputation : he secures a good name but loosely', that trusts his fame and celebrity only to his ashes ; and it is more a civility than the basis of a firm reputation, that men speak honour of their departed relatives; but if their life be virtuous, it forces honour from contempt, and snatches it from the hand of envy, and it shines through the crevices of detraction; and as it anointed the head of the living, so it embalms the body of the dead. From these premises it follows, that when we discourse of a sick man's repentance, it is intended to be, not a beginning,
u Cogimur à snetis animum suspendere rebus,
Atque ut vivamus, vivere desinimus.--Corn. Gall.
Castigátque, auditque dolos, subigitque fateri
Cineri gloria sera venit.
Nomen, ab exscquiis quod dare fama solet.
but the prosecution and consummation of the covenant of repentance, which Christ stipulated with us in baptism, and which we needed all our life, and which we began long before this last arrest, and in which we are now to make farther progress, that we may arrive to that integrity and fulness of duty, “that our sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lorda."
Rules for the practice of Repentance in Sickness. 1. Let the sick man consider, at what gate this sickness entered: and if he can discover the particular, let him instantly, passionately, and with great contrition dash the crime in pieces, lest he descend into his grave in the midst of a sin, and thence remove into an ocean of eternal sorrow. But if he only suffers the common fate of man, and knows not the particular inlet, he is to be governed by the following
2. Inquire into the repentance of thy former life particularly; whether it were of a great and perfect grief, and productive of fixed resolutions of holy living, and reductive of these to act; how many days and nights we have spent in sorrow or care, in habitual and actual pursuances of virtue; what instrument we have chosen and used for the eradication of sin; how we have judged ourselves, and how punished; and, in sum, whether we have, by the grace of repentance, changed our life from criminal to virtuous, from one habit to another; and whether we have paid for the pleasure of our sin by smart or sorrow, by the effusion of alms, or pernoctations or abodes in prayers, so as the spirit hath been served in our repentance as earnestly and as greatly, as our appetites have been provided for, in the days of our shame and folly.
3. Supply the imperfections of thy repentance by a general or universal sorrow for the sins, not only since the last communion or absolution, but of thy whole life; for all sins,
a Acts, iii. 19.