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Almighty God, who is so ready, upon true repentance, to forgive us. As the apostle speaketh, “ Ife we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness :" he will then pardon and put all our iniquities behind his back, &c. The pope he enjoineth confession unto men, as an hard penance, thinking it an easy matter to confess unto God. But, indeed, those who have any true experience of a true confession, know that it is a much harder matter to confess unto God than unto man : that unto man only maketh them ashamed a little; but (as I have said) they are afraid to let God know the same, being sick of Adam's disease, “ I heard thy voice in the garden and was afraid.” But yet, you see, the prophet David, teaching us to strive for the like victory, hath overcome these impediments, giving thanks for his main benefit, the remission of sins. Now, I pray you, what is sin ?
A filthy monster. No man is so ugly as he who hath not his sins forgiven : he is worse than Lazarus, most ugly to be looked upon. The very stench which cometh from him is most abominable. Sin it is the image of a little hell. If thou couldst look upon sin in its natural colours, thou wouldst not, for all the world, commit the least sin against God. I appeal unto a man, if he did see a great fire burning, with a number of sparks flying from it, might he not say that there were fire and sparks which would consume anything put to it, or in it. So when we see the image of rebellion and perverseness in this or that man, when we behold the picture of the devil in his perverse mind and evil deeds, like sparks flying from it, is not this the image of a little hell? I say, to see a natural man in his colours. This, then, must needs be an infinite mercy, to have this sin forgiven and not imputed, to be covered with Christ's righteousness. Sin is of that nature that, like unto the blood of Abel, it crieth still unto heaven for vengeance, it haunteth the sinner continually, it lieth at the door watching us a shrewd turn. St. James saith that the sins of those who keep back the
e 1 John, chap. 1. ver. 9.
hireling's wages calleth unto heaven for vengeance, and their cry entereth into the ears of the Lord of hosts. So is it of all sins. Sin laboureth as an hireling, and would have hire, it crieth still for death. The same apostle, in another place, so compareth it as if it were with child. “ Sin (saith he) when it is conceived (as it is said of the woman in the Revelation) travaileth in pain and crieth, yet at last bringeth forth but death.” So a sinner hath a thousand sins which continually cry for death, and that God would send down in his justice plagues and punishments upon the head of the sinner. What an infinite mercy is this, then, to have a blood to outcry this blood ? a blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel; a blood to cleanse and wash away these sins; a blood which serveth to sprinkle the posts and lintels of our doors from God's devouring justice; a blood of infinite value. There is no end in speaking of it: it is an infinite depth of mercy to be thus purged from our iniquities, that God doth accept us for worthy in the merits of his Son.
So therefore, for this cause, the Lord hath given power unto his ministers to bind and to loose upon earth, to pronounce unto the penitent, in the name of God, the absolution and freedom from their sins, to loose them from their sins. Again, that they may bind and bore the ear of the rebellious and hardhearted sinner unto a post, that they may nail him fast to the devil until repentance.
Now, in the next place he cometh to the second benefit, the healing of his infirmities, wherein he craveth sanctification to cover and hide his infirmities. For as justification giveth life by remission of sins, so sanctification giveth a comfortable life by hiding of infirmities, and so mastering of all the corrupt passions and affections, that the seed of grace groweth with so much the more ease to hide all infirmities; and the shorter thou art of sanctification, thou hast still so much the less comfort. But here some may object, what, do you say when a man is justified is he not then sanctified ? How can we then do good works without sanctification? And if works justify not, why should I do good works ? I answer, that although good works justify not, yet we must bring forth
good works to hide our infirmities, our loathsome leprosy of nature, to be a witness of our faith, and obedience to the will of God. We must practise them to kill the canker of sin, by a continual striving against our corruptions, to assure us of the truth of our justification, salvation, &c. And further, I answer, who would willingly, being stricken with a knife, refuse help, although perhaps he may recover ? Then strive and labour thou with all thy might for sanctification, to hide all thine infirmities. The cruel surgeon, sin, hath already wounded us in many places, and we are all deadly hurt by nature : and for thee to refuse to do good works because thou canst not be justified by them, were more folly than being stricken with a deadly knife to refuse the surgeon's help; this were to stab thyself again, and so fall into a deadly relapse. That were most bitter, to add sin unto sin. Then, beloved, let us labour for sanctification, whereby all our infirmities and wounds may be healed, and we presented without spot and blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then he which sanctifieth, and they which are sanctified, being all one, and we being brethren with him of the blood royal, we shall be assured of the immortal fruition of his glorious kingdom, to reign with him for ever and ever, world without end. But the time hath prevented me that I cannot proceed. Now let us pray for a blessing unto those things which hath been spoken, &c. &c. O, Almighty and everlasting God, &c.
END OF THE THIRTEENTH VOLUME.