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things, and the persuasion of propositions, that God in every present commands us to repent; and therefore in every present in which we remember our sin and repent not, we offend God, we prevaricate his intentions, we sin against his mercies, and against his judgments, and against his commandments. I end this with the plain advice of Alcimus Avitus;
Dum patulam Christi cunctis clementia sese
In which words, besides the good counsel, this argument is insinuated, that because we must repent even of the days of our negligence, and be sorry for all our mispent time, and weep for having stayed so long from God,-it follows that the very deferring of our repentance, our very neglecting of it, is a direct sin, and increases the causes of repentance; and therefore makes it the more necessary to begin the sooner, by how much we have stayed the longer.'
32. As an appendage to this great case of conscience, it is a useful inquiry to ask, Whether a man is bound to repent, not only the first time, but every time that he thinks of his sin?
33. I answer, that he is; but to several purposes; and in differing measures and significations. If he hath never repented, then upon the former accounts, every remembrance of his sin is a specification and limit to the indefinite and affirmative commandment; and the second thought of it, because the first not being attended to, hath increased the score, and the time being so much the more spent,-hath increased the necessity and the haste: and if the second be neglected, then the third still calls louder; and every succeeding thought does not only point us out the opportunity, and the still-proceeding season of doing it, but it upbraids every preceding neglect, and presses the duty stronger by a bigger weight of the same growing arguments. For no man is safe but he that repents at least to-day; but he was wise that repented yesterday. And as it is in human intercourse, he that hath done wrong, and runs presently to confess it, and offer amends,
shall have easier terms of peace than he that stands out at law, and comes not in till he be compelled: so it is in our returns to God; the speedy penitent shall find a ready and a prepared mercy, but he that stays longer, will find it harder, and, if he stays to the last, it may be, not at all. But then if we have repented at the first monition or memory of sin, we must never any more be at peace with it: it will perpetually make claim, it will every day solicit, it will break into a flame upon the breath of every temptation; it will betray thy weakness and abuse thy credulity; it will please thy fancy and abuse thy understanding; it will make thee sin again as formerly, or desire to sin, to fall willingly, or very hardly to stand; and after all, if thou hast sinned, thou art under a sad sentence, and canst not tell when thou shalt have a certain peace. So that whenever thou thinkest of thy sin, thou hast reason to be displeased, for thou art always the worse for it; always in danger, or always uncertain: thou hast always something to do, or something to undo; something to pray for, and many things to pray against. But the particular causes of a perpetual repentance for our past sins are reducible to these two.
34. (1.) Whenever we have sinned, and fallen into the divine displeasure, we dwell for ever after in the dark: we are sure we have sinned, and God's anger is plainly revealed against sinners: but we know not how far this anger will extend, nor when it will break out, nor by what expressions it shall be signified, nor when it will go off, nor at what degree of sorrow God will be appeased, nor how much industry shall be accepted, nor how many actions of infirmity shall be allowed;-nothing of this is revealed. But we are commanded to do an indefinite duty, we are to have an unlimited watchfulness, we are called upon to have a perpetual caution, a duty that hath no limit, but all our time and all our possibilities; and all the fruit of this is growing in the paradise of God, and we shall not taste it till the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. In the meantime we labour and fear; we fear and hope; we hope and are uncer-. tain; we pray and cannot see what will be the event of things. Sometimes we are confident; but that pertness comes, it may be, from the temper of the body, and we cannot easily be sure, that it comes from God: and when we are cast down, it may
be, it is nothing but an effect of the spleen, or of some hypochondriacal propositions, or some peevish company, and all is well with us, better than we think it is; but we are under the cloud, and, which is worst of all, we have always but too much reason to fear, and consequently to be grieved for, the causes of all this darkness, and all this fear, and all this danger.
35. (2.) Besides all this, our sin is so long in dying, and we kill it with such lingering circumstances, and reprieve it so often, and it is often laid aside only until the day of temptation, and our repentance is so frequently interrupted, or made good for nothing, and even in our weepings for sin we commit folly, that a man can never tell when he hath done, and when he is to begin again. For these reasons we find it very necessary to hate our sin perpetually, and for ever to deplore our calamity in the divine displeasure, to remember it with sorrow, and to strive against it with diligence. Our sins having made so great an alteration in our persons, and in the state of our affairs, we cannot be so little concerned as to think of them with indifference; a sigh at least, or a tear, will well become every thought; a prayer for pardon or an act of indignation against them; a 'Domine, miserere,' or a' Me miserum peccatorem!' 'Have mercy upon me, O God,' or, Miserable man that I am!' something of hope, or something of fear. Own it but as a cause of sorrow, or an instance of thy danger; let it make thee more zealous or more patient; troubled at what is past, or cautious for the time to come and if at every thought of thy sin it be not easy to do a positive act of repentance, yet the actions must be so frequent that the repentance be habitual; ever in preparation, and ever apt for action; seeking occasions of doing good, and omitting none; praying and watching against all evil, and committing none. At this rate of repentance a man must always live, and in God's time expect a freedom from sin, and a confirmation in grace. But then as to the main issue of the question;
36. It is not intended, that a man should, every time, weep when he thinks of his sins; sometimes he must give thanks to God for his escape, and rejoice in the memory of the divine mercies, and please himself in the promises of pardon, and do acts of eucharist and holy festivity. But
even these acts of spiritual joy, if they endear our duty, they destroy our sin; if they make us to love God, they make us to hate sin; if they be acts of piety, they are acts of repentSo that when it is said, at every thought of your sin you must do something of repentance, if you do any act at all, this is nothing else but a calling upon us for the particulars, and to pursue the methods of a good life. For repentance is the conversion of the whole man, an entire aversation from evil, and a full return to God; and every action of amendment, every prayer for pardon, and every mortification of our desires, every observation and caution against danger, all actions of a holy fear, and every act of hope, even our 'alms and mercy to the poor, is a breaking off our sins"," and therefore an action of repentance. So that if there can be any time of our life, in which a sinner may not serve God and yet be innocent, then it will be allowed at some time to think of our sin and consider it, and yet not to do an act of repentance; but in no case else can it be allowed.
37. So that by this discourse we have obtained all the significations of 'hodie,' ' to-day,' and they all relate to repentance. For though it signifies the present time as to the beginning of this duty, yet it signifies our whole life after that beginning, that is our hodie,'' to-day,' we must begin now and continue to do the same work all our days. Our repentance must begin this day by the computations of time, and it must not be put off one day, yet it must go on by the measures of eternity. As soon as ever and as long as ever we can say 'Hodie,' it is To-day,' so soon and so long we must repent. This is as certain in divinity as a demonstration in the mathematics.
38. The sum is this; If, by repentance, we mean nothing but sorrow, then it hath its season, and does not bind always to all times. But if, by repentance, we understand a change of life, to which sorrow is only instrumental and preparatory, then it is our duty always to repent. That is, if you do any thing at all, it must be good: even to abide in goodness, to resolve not to sin, to love not to sin, to proceed or to abide in innocence by choice and by delight, by custom and resolution, are actions of an habitual repentance; but repentance is never safe till it be habitual, but then also it
n Dan. iv,
is so much the more perfect, by how much it is the more actual.
39. To conclude this inquiry, we must pray often, but we must repent always: and it is in these affirmative precepts as it is in the matter of life and eating; we must eat at certain times and definite seasons, but we must live continually. Repentance is the new life of a Christian; and therefore we must no more ask when we are bound to repent, than when we are by nature required to breathe. The motion. must return speedily, or we die with strangling.
Because the Laws of Jesus Christ were delivered in Sermons to a single Person, or a definite Number of Hearers, we are curiously to inquire and wisely to understand, when those Persons were only personally concerned, and when they were Representatives of the whole Church.
1. THIS rule I learn from St. Austin"; "Erit igitur hoc in observationibus intelligendarum Scripturarum, ut sciamus alia omnibus communiter præcipi, alia singulis quibusque generibus personarum: ut non solum ad universum statum valetudinis, sed etiam ad suam cujusque membri propriam infirmitatem medicina pertineat:" "Some things are given to all; others but to a few; and some commands were to single persons and single states: God having regard to the wellbeing of societies, and to the health even of every single Christian."-That there is a necessity of making a distinction is certain; but how this distinction is to be made is very uncertain, and no measures have yet been described, and we are very much to seek for a certain path in this intricacy. If we do not distinguish precept from precept, and persons from states of life, and states of life from communities of men, it will be very easy for witty men to bind burdens upon other men's shoulders with which they ought not to be pressed; and it will be very ready for scrupulous persons to take loads upon themselves which appertain not to them,
Lib. 3. de Doctrina Christiana, cap. 17.