« ForrigeFortsett »
abroad, in whom the wife and the servant never saw any thing excellent : a rare judge and a good commonwealth's man in the streets and public meetings, and a just man to his neighbour, and charitable to the poor ; for in all these places the man is observed, and kept in awe by the sun, by light, and by voices : but this man is a tyrant at home, an unkind husband, an ill father, an imperious master. And such men are like 'prophets in their own countries, not honoured at homes and can never be honoured by God, who will not endure that many virtues should excuse a few vices, or that any of his servants shall take pensions of the devil, and in the profession of his service do his enemy single advantages.
4. He that hath passed many stages of a good life, to prevent his being tempted to a single sin, must be very careful that he never entertain his spirit with the remembrances of his past sin, nor amuse it with the fantastic apprehensions of the present. When the Israelites fancied the sapidness and relish of the flesh-pots, they longed to taste and to return.
So when a Libyan tiger, drawn from his wilder foragings, is shut up, and taught to eat civil meat, and suffer the authority of a man, he sits down tamely in his prison, and pays to his keeper fear and reverence for his meat : but if he chance to come again, and taste a draught of warm blood, he presently leaps into his natural cruelty. He scarce abstains from eating those hands, that brought him discipline and food". So is the nature of a man made tame and gentle by the grace of God, and reduced to reason, and kept in awe by religion and laws, and, by an awful virtue, is taught to forget those alluring and sottish relishes of sin : but if he diverts from his path, and snatches handfuls from the wanton vineyards, and remembers the lasciviousness of his unwholesome food, that pleased his childish palate; then he grows sick again, and hungry after unwholesome diet, and longs for
Sic ubi, desuetæ sylvis, in carcere clauso,
the apples of Sodom. A man must walk through the world without eyes or ears, fancy or appetite, but such as are created and sanctified by the grace of God; and being once made a new man, he must serve all the needs of nature by the appetites and faculties of grace; nature must be wholly a servant : and we must so look towards the deliciousness of our religion and the ravishments of heaven, that our memory must be for ever useless to the affairs and perceptions of sin. We cannot stand, we cannot live, unless we be curious and watchful in this particular.
By these, and all other arts of the spirit, if we stand upon our guard, never indulging to ourselves one sin because it is but one, as knowing that one sin brought in death upon all the world, and one sin brought slavery upon the posterity of Cham; and always fearing lest death surprise us in that one sin; we shall, by the grace of God, either not need, or else easily perceive the effects and blessings of that compassion which God reserves, in the secrets of his mercy, for such persons whom his grace hath ordained and disposed with excellent dispositions unto life eternal.
These are the sorts of men which are to be used with compassion, concerning whom we are to make a difference ;
making a difference," so says the text. And it is of high concernment that we should do so, that we may relieve the infirmities of the men, and relieve their sicknesses, and transcribe the copy of the Divine mercy, who loves not to “ quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed.” For although all sins are against God's commandments directly, or by certain consequents, by line, or by analogy ; yet they are not all of the same tincture and mortality.
Nec vincit ratio hoc, tantundem ut peccet idemque,
Et qui nocturnus divům sacra legerit. • He that robs a garden of coleworts, and carries away an armful of spinage, does not deserve hell, as he that steals the chalice from the church, or betrays a prince;' and therefore men are distinguished accordingly.
Est inter Tanaim quiddam socerumque Viselli.- Hor. S. 1. 1. 105.
The poet that Sejanus condemned for dishonouring the memory of Agamemnon, was not an equal criminal with
Catiline or Gracchus : and Simon Magus and the Nicolaitans committed crimes which God hated more than the complying of St. Barnabas, or the dissimulation of St. Peter; and therefore God does treat these persons severally. Some of these are restrained with a fit of sickness, some with a great loss, and in these there are degrees; and some arrive at death. And in this manner God scourged the Corinthians, for their irreverent and disorderly receiving the holy sacrament. For although even the least of the sins that I have discoursed of, will lead to death eternal, if their course be not interrupted, and the disorder chastised; yet because we do not stop their progress instantly, God many times does, and visits us with proportionable judgments; and so not only checks the rivulet from swelling into rivers and a vastness, but plainly tells us, that although smaller crimes shall not be punished with equal severity as the greatest, yet even in hell there are eternal rods as well as eternal scorpions; and the smallest crime that we act with an infant malice and manly deliberation, shall be revenged with the lesser strokes of wrath, but yet with the infliction of a sad eternity. But then that we also should make a difference, is a precept concerning church-discipline, and therefore not here proper to be considered, but only as it may concern our own particulars in the actions of repentance, and our brethren in fraternal correction,
adsit Regula, peccatis quæ penas irroget æquas,
Ne scutica dignum horribili sectêre flagello.- Hor. S. 1. 3. 115. Let us be sure that we neglect no sin, but repent for every one, and judge ourselves for every one, according to the proportion of the malice, or the scandal, or the danger. And although in this there is no fear that we would be excessive ; yet, when we are to reprove a brother, we are sharp enough, and, either by pride or by animosity, by the itch of government or the indignation of an angry mind, we run beyond the gentleness of a Christian monitor. We must remember, that by Christ's law some are to be admonished privately, some to be shamed and corrected publicly; and, beyond these, there is an abscission, or a cutting off from the communion of faithful people," a delivering over to Satan." And to this purpose is that old reading of the
words of my text, which is still in some copies, vai tous lèv ÉRÉYXETE diangivouévous, “ Reprove them sharply, when they are convinced,” or “ separate by sentence.”
separate by sentence." But because this also is a design of mercy acted with an instance of discipline, it is a punishment of the flesh, that the soul may be saved in the day of the Lord; it means the same with the usual reading, and with the last words of the text, and teaches us our usage towards the worst of recoverable sinners.
II. “ Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” Some sins there are, which in their own nature are damnable, and some are such as will certainly bring a man to damnation: the first are curable, but with much danger; the second are desperate and irrecoverable. When a man is violently tempted, and allured with an object that is proportionable and pleasant to his vigorous appetite, and his unabated, unmortified nature, this man falls into death ; but yet we pity him, as we pity a thief that robs for his necessity : this man did not tempt himself, but his spirit suffers violence, and his reason is invaded, and his infirmities are mighty, and his aids not yet prevailing. But when this single temptation hath prevailed for a single instance, and leaves a relish upon the palate, and this produces another, and that also is fruitful, and swells into a family and kindred of sin, that is, it grows first into approbation, then to a clear assent, and an untroubled conscience, thence into frequency, from thence unto a custom, and easiness, and a habit; this man is fallen into the fire. There are also some single acts of so great a malice, that they must suppose a man habitually sinful, before he could arrive at that height of wickedness. No man begins his sinful course with killing of his father or his prince: and Simon Magus had preambulatory impieties; he was covetous and ambitious long before he offered to buy the Holy Ghost. “ Nemo repente fuit turpissimus." And although such actions may have in them the malice and the mischief, the disorder and the wrong, the principle and the permanent effect of a habit and a long course of sin; yet because they never, or very seldom, go alone, but after the predisposition of other ushering crimes, we shall not amiss comprise them under the name of habitual sins : for such they are, either formally or equivalently. And if any man hath fallen into a sinful habit, into a course and order of sinning, his case is
little less than desperate ; but that little hope that is remanent, hath its degree, according to the infancy or the growth of the habit.
1. For all sins less than habitual, it is certain a pardon is ready to penitent persons; that is, to all that sin in ignorance or in infirmity, by surprise or inadvertency, in smaller instances or infrequent returns, with involuntary actions or imperfect resolutions. Εκτείνατε τας χείρας υμών προς τον αυτοκράτορα Θεόν, ικετεύοντες αυτόν ίλεων γενέσθαι, εί τι άκοντες ήμάρτετε, said Clemens in his epistle : “ Lift up your hands to almighty God, and pray him to be merciful to you in all things, when you sin unwillingly;" that is, in which you sin with an imperfect choice. For no man sins against his will directly, but when his understanding is abused by an inevitable or an intolerable weakness, or their wills follow their blind guide, and are not the perfect mistresses of their own actions; and therefore leave a way and easiness to repent, and be ashamed of them, and therefore a possibility and readiness for pardon. And these are the sins that we are taught to pray to God that he would pardon, as he gives us our bread, that is, every day. For “ in many things we offend all,” said St. James; that is, in many smaller matters, in matters of surprise or inevitable infirmity. And therefore Possidonius said, that St. Austin was used to say, that “ he would not have even good and holy priests go from this world without the susception of equal and worthy penances :" and the most innocent life in our account is not a competent instrument of a peremptory confidence, and of justifying ourselves. “I am guilty of nothing,” said St. Paul; that is, of no ill intent, or negligence, in preaching the Gospel ; " yet I am not hereby justified ;” for God, it may be, knows many little irregularities and insinuations of sin. In this case we are to make a difference; but humility, and prayer, and watchfulness, are the direct instruments of the expiation of such sins.
But then, secondly, whosoever sins without these abating circumstances, that is, in great instances, in which a man's understanding cannot be cozened, as in drunkenness, murder, adultery; and in the frequent repetitions of any sort of sin whatsoever, in which a man's choice cannot be surprised, and in which it is certain there is a love of the sin, and a