« VorigeDoorgaan »
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. 24. That every man is a sinner: "In many things we offend all;" and, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves ":" 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 all." 25. 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. 26. That he, that will not quench the smoaking 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, iii. 2. u 1 John, i. 8.
x Rom. v. 8.
y 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 sins 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 original 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 knowledge; 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 hea
ven: 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
own riches, and the wealth of my hope: there will I look; and 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 Manasses, 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; 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, 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 mat
b Vixi, peccavi, pœnitui, naturæ cessi.
ter 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