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MADE BY JOHN BRADFORD.
THE life we have at this present is the gift of God, “in whom we live, move, and are:” and therefore is he called Jehovah. F60 For the which life as we should be thankful, so we may not in any wise use it after our own fantasy, but to the end for the which it is given and lent us; that is, to the setting forth of God’s praise and glory, by repentance, conversion, and obedience to his good will and holy laws: whereunto his long-suffering doth, as it were, even draw us, if our hearts by impenitency were not hardened. And therefore our life in the scripture is called a “walking:” for that as the body daily draweth more and more near his end, that is the earth, even so our soul draweth daily more and more near the death, that is salvation or damnation, heaven or hell.
Of which thing in that we are most careless, and very fools, (for we, alas! are the same to-day we were yesterday, and not better or nearer to God, but rather nearer to hell, Satan, and perdition, being covetous, idle, carnal, secure, negligent, proud, etc. ;) I think my labor cannot be better bestowed than with the Baptist, Christ Jesus, and his apostles, to harp on this string, which of all other is most necessary, and that in these days most specially.
What string is that? saith one. Forsooth, brother, the string of Repentance, the which Christ our Savior did use first in his ministry; and as his minister at this present I will use unto you all: “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3.
This sentence thus pronounced and preached by our Savior Jesus Christ, as it doth command us to repent, so to the doing of the same it sheweth us a sufficient cause to stir us up thereunto: namely, for the “the kingdon of heaven,” which is a kingdon of all joy, peace, riches, power, and pleasure, “is at hand” to all such as do so, that is as do repent. So that the meaning hereof is as though our Savior might thus speak presently: “Sirs, for that I see you all walking the wrong way, even to Satan and unto hell-fire, by following the kingdom of Satan which now is colored under the pilled F61 pleasures of this life and foolishness of the flesh, most subtilely, to your utter undoing and destruction, behold and mark well what I say unto you, ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ that is another manner of joy and felicity, honor and riches, power and pleasure, than you now perceive or enjoy, is even ‘at hand,’ and at your backs; as, if you will turn again, that is ‘repent you,’ you shall most truly and pleasantly feel, see and inherit. Turn again therefore, I say, that is ‘Repent:’ for this joy I speak of, even ‘the kingdom of heaven, is at hand.’” Here we may note, first, the corruption of our nature, in that to this commandment, “Repent you,” he addeth a cause, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For, by reason of the corruption and sturdiness of our nature, God unto all his commandments commonly either addeth some promise to provoke us to obedience, or else some such sufficient cause as cannot but tickle us up to hearty laboring of the doing of the same: as here to the commandment of doing penance he addeth this aetiology or cause, saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Again, in that he joineth to the commandment the cause, saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we may learn that of “the kingdom of heaven,” none to whom the ministry of preaching doth appertain can be partaker but such as repent and do penance. Therefore, dearly beloved, if you regard “the kingdom of heaven,” in that you cannot enter therein except you repent, I beseech you all of every estate, as you would your own weal, to repent and do penance. The which thing that you may do, I will do my best now to help you, by God’s grace.
But first, because we cannot well tell what repentance is through ignorance and for lack of knowledge, and false teaching, I will, to begin withal, shew you what repentance is. Repentance or penance is no English word, but we borrow it of the Latinists, to whom penance is a forthinking F62 in English; in Greek a being wise afterwards; in Hebrew a conversion or turning. F63 The which conversion or turning, in that it cannot be true and hearty, unto God especially, without some good hope or trust of pardon for that which is already done and past, I may well in this sort define it, namely, That penance is a sorrowing or forthinking F62 of our sins past, an earnest purpose to amend or turning to God, with a trust of pardon.
This definition may be divided into three parts: that penance or repentance should contain, F64 First, a sorrowing for our sins: Secondly, a trust of pardon, which otherwise may be called a persuasion of God’s mercy by the merits of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins: and Thirdly, a purpose to amend, or conversion to a new life. The which third or last part cannot be called properly a part; for it is but an effect of penance, as towards the end you shall see by God’s grace. But lest such as seek for occasion to speak evil should have any occasion, though they tarry not out the end of this sermon, I therefore divide penance into the three foresaid parts; Of sorrowing for our sins: Of good hope or trust of pardon; and, Of a new life.
Thus you now see what penance is, a sorrowing for sin, a purpose to amend, with a good hope or trust of pardon. [1.] This penance not only differeth from that which men commonly have taken to be penance, in saying and doing our enjoined Lady Psalters, F65 seven Psalms, F66 , fastings, pilgrimages, almose F67 deeds, and such like things; but also from that which the more learned have declared to consist of three parts, namely contrition, confession, and satisfaction. F68 Contrition they call a just and a full sorrow for their sin. For this word, just and full, is one of the differences between contrition and attrition. F69 Confession they call a numbering of all their sins in the ear of their ghostly father. For as, say they, a judge cannot absolve without knowledge of the cause or matter, so cannot the priest or ghostly father absolve from other sins than those which he doth hear. F70 Satisfaction they call amends-making unto God for their sins by their ‘undue works’, opera indebita , works more than they need to do, as they term them.
If a man repent not until he have a just and full sorrowing for his sins, dearly beloved, when shall he repent: For inasmuch as hell-fire and the punishment of the devils is a anciently selected, and known by name as the seven Psalms , or Penitential. ” — Monum. Rit., Maskell, 1846, 2 78.] just punishment for sin; in as much as in all sin there is a contempt of God which is all goodness, and therefore there is a desert of all illness; alas, who can bear or feel this just sorrow, this full sorrow for our sins, this their contrition, which they so do discern from their attrition? Shall not man by this doctrine rather despair than come by repentance?
If a man repent not until he have made confession of all his sins in the ear of his ghostly father; if a man cannot have absolution of his sins, until his sins be told by tale and number in the priest’s ear; in that, as David saith, none can understand, much less then utter all his sins, Delicta quis intelligit? “Who can understand his sins?” in that David of himself complaineth elsewhere how that his “sins are overflowed his head, and as a heavy burden do depress him;” alas, shall not a man by this doctrine be utterly driven from repentance? Though they have gone about something to make plasters for their sores of confession or attrition to assuage this gear, bidding a man to hope well of his contrition though it be not so full as is required, and of his confession though he have not numbered all his sins, if so be that he do so much as in him lieth: dearly beloved, in that there is none but that herein he is guilty, (for who doth as much as he may?) trow ye that this plaster is not like salt for sore eyes? Yes, undoubtedly, when they have all done they can for the appeasing of consciences in these points, this is the sum, that we yet should hope well, but yet so hope that we must stand in a mammering F71 and doubting whether our sins be forgiven. For to believe remissionem peccatorum, that is, to be certain of ‘forgiveness of sins,’ as our creed teacheth us, they count it a presumption.
O abomination! and that not only hereat, but in all their penance as they paint it.
As concerning satisfaction by their opera indebita, ‘undue works, ‘that is, by such works as they need not to do but of their own voluntariness and wilfulness, (wilfulness indeed!) who seeth not monstrous abomination, blasphemy, and even open fighting against God? For if satisfaction can be done by man, then Christ died in vain for him that so satisfieth: and so reigneth he in vain; so is he a bishop and a priest in vain. God’s law requireth love to God with all our heart, soul, power, might, and strength; so that there is nothing can be done to God-ward which is not contained in this commandment; nothing can be done over and above this. Again Christ requireth that to man-ward “we should love one another as he loved us:” and trow we that we can do any good thing to our neighbor-ward which is not herein comprised?
Yea, let them tell me when they do any thing so in the love of God and their neighbor but that they had need to cry, Dimitte nobis debita nostra, “Forgive us our sins:” so far are we off from satisfying. Doth not Christ say, “When you have done all things that I have commanded you, say that you be but unprofitable servants?
Put nothing to my word,” saith God. ‘Yes, works of supererogation’ F72 (superabomination!) say they. “Whatsoever things are true,” saith the apostle St Paul, “whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are convenient, whatsoever things are of honest report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, have you them in your mind, and do them, and the God of peace shall be with you.” I ween this well looked on will pull us from popish satisfactory works which do deface Christ’s treasures and satisfaction.
In heaven and in earth was there none found that could satisfy God’s anger for our sins, or get heaven for man, but only the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, who by his blood hath wrought the work of satisfaction, and alonely is “worthy all honor, glory, and praise,” for he hath “opened the book with the seven seals.”
Blasphemy it is, and that horrible, to think otherwise. “The blood of Christ purifieth,” saith St John, “from all sin.” And therefore he is called “the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world;” because there was never sin forgiven of God, nor shall be, from the beginning unto the end of the world, but only through Christ’s death: prate the pope and his prelates as please them with their pardons, F73 purgatory F73 purgations, F74 placebos, F75 trentals, F76 diriges, F75 offenses works of supererogation, superabomination, etc. “I am he,” saith the Lord, “which put away thine, and that for mine own sake, and will no more remember thine iniquities. Put me in remembrance, for we will reason together; and tell me what thou hast for thee to make thee righteous. Thy first father offended sore,” etc. And thus writeth St John: “If any man sin, we have an advocate,” saith he, “with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation (or satisfaction) for our sins:” as in the fourth chapter he saith that “God hath sent his Son to be a propitiation” or mean for the taking away of F77 our sins, according to that which Paul writeth, where he calleth Christ “a merciful and faithful priest to purge the people’s sins.” So that blind buzzards and perverse papists they be, which yet will prate our merits or works to satisfy for our sins, in part or in whole, before baptism or after. For, to omit the testimonies I brought out of John and Paul, which the blind cannot but see, I pray you remember the text out of Esay which even now I rehearsed, being spoken to such as were then the people of God and had been a long time, but yet were fallen into grievous sins after their adoption into the number of God’s children. “It is for mine own sake,” saith God, “that I put away thy sins.” Where is your parting of the stake now? If it be for God’s own sake, if Christ be the propitiation, then recant, except you will become idolaters, making your works God and Christ. Say as David teacheth, “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to thy name be the glory.”
And it is to be noted that God doth cast in their teeth even the sin of their first father, lest they should think that yet perchance for the righteousness and goodness of their good fathers their sins might be the sooner pardoned, and so God accept their works.
If they had made F78 ‘satisfaction’ for that which is done to the congregation publicly be some notable punishment, as in the primitive church was used to open offenders, F79 sparkles whereof and some traces yet remain, when such as have sinned in adultery go about the church with a taper in their shirts; F80 or if they had made ‘satisfaction’ for restitution to man-ward of such good as wrongfully is gotten, the which true penance cannot be without; or if by satisfaction they had meant a new life to make amends to the congregation thereby, as be their evil life they did offend the congregation, in which sense the Apostle seemeth to take that which he writeth, 2 Corinthians 7, where the old interpreter calleth ajpologi>an ‘satisfaction,’ F81 which rather signifieth a ‘defense’ or ‘answering again:’ If, I say, they had taken ‘satisfaction’ any of these ways, then they had done well, so that the satisfaction to God had been left alonely to Christ.
Again, if they had made ‘confession,’ either for that which is to God privately, either for that which is to the congregation publicly, either for that which is a free consultation with so, no one learned in God’s book and appointed thereunto, as first it was used, and I wish were now used amongst us, F82 either for that which is a reconciliation of one F83 to another, it had been something. Yea, if they had made it for faith, because it is a true demonstration of faith, as in Paul we may see, to the Romans the tenth and to the Hebrews, F84 when he calleth Christ the captain “of our confession,” that is of our faith; and so confessors were called in the primitive church, such as manfully did witness their faith with the peril of their lives: if, I say, they had taken it thus, then had they done right well.
And so ‘contrition:’ if they had left out their subtle distinction between it and ‘attrition’ by this word just or full, making it a hearty sorrow for their sins, then we would never have cried out against them therefore. For we say, penance hath three parts: F85 contrition, if you understand it for a hearty sorrowing for sin; confession, if you understand it for faith of free pardon in God’s mercy by Jesus Christ; and satisfaction, if you understand it not to God-wards (for that only to Christ must be left alone), but to manward in restitution of goods wrongfully or fraudulently got, on, of name hindered by our slanders, and in newness of life: although, as I said before and anon will shew more plainly by God’s grace, that this last is no part of penance indeed, but a plain effect or fruit of true penance.
I might here bring in examples of their penance, how perilous it is to be embraced: but let the example of their grandsire Judas F86 serve, in whom we see all the parts of their penance as they describe it, and yet notwithstanding was he damned. He was sorry enough, as the effect shewed; he had their contrition fully, out of the which he confessed his fault, saying, “I have betrayed innocent blood;” and thereunto he made satisfaction, restoring the money he had received. But yet all was but lost; he hanged up himself, his bowels burst out, and he remaineth a child of perdition for ever. I would wish that this example of Judas, in whom we see the parts of their penance, ‘contrition, confession, and satisfaction,’ would move them to penance, and to describe it a little better, making hope or trust of God’s free mercy a piece thereof; or else with Judas they will mar all.
Perchance these words, ‘contrition, confession, and satisfaction,’ were used as I have expounded them at the first. F87 But in that we see so much danger and hurt by using them without expositions, either let us join to them open expositions always, or else let us not use them at all, but say as I write, that penance is a hearty sorrow for our sins, a good hope or trust of pardon through Christ, which is not without an earnest purpose to amend or a new life. This penance is the thing whereto all the scripture calleth us.
Search therefore your hearts all: all swearers, blasphemers, liars, flatterers, F88 idle talkers, jesters, bribers, covetous, drunkards, gluttons, whoremongers, thieves, murderers, slanderers, idle livers, negligent in their vocation, etc. All such and all other as lament not their sins, as hope not in God’s mercy for pardon, as purpose not heartily to amend, to leave their swearing, drunkenness, whoredom, covetousness, idleness, etc.; all such, I say, shall not nor cannot enter into God’s kingdom, but hell-fire is prepared for them, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Whereunto, alas! I fear me, very many will needs go, in that very many will be as they have been, let us even to the wearing of our tongue to the stumps preach and pray never so much to the contrary, and that even in the bowels of Jesus Christ: as now I beseech you all, all, all, and every mother’s child, to repent and lament your sin, to trust in God’s mercy, and to amend your lives.
Now, methinks, ye are somewhat astonied; whereby I gather that presently you desire this repentance, that is, this sorrow, good hope, and newness of life. The which that you may the rather attain and get to your comforts, as I have gone about to be a mean to stir up in you F89 by God’s grace this desire of repentance, so through the same grace of God will I go about now to shew you how you may have your desire in this behalf.
And first, concerning this part, namely, sorrow for your sins and hearty lamenting of the same; for this, if you desire the having of it, you must beware that you think not that of yourselves or of your own free-will by any means you can get it. You may easily deceive yourselves and mock yourselves, thinking more of yourselves than is seemly. “All good things,” and not pieces of good things, but “all good things,” saith St James, “cometh from God the Father of light.” If therefore penance be good, as it is good, then the parts of it be good: from God therefore do they come, and not of our free-will. “It is the Lord that mortifieth, that bringeth down, that humbleth,” saith the scripture in sundry places. “After thou hadst stricken my thigh,” saith Jeremy, “I was ashamed.” Lo, he saith, “After thou hadst stricken me;” and therefore prayeth he even the last words almost he writeth, “Turn us, Lord, and we shall be turned:” the which thing David useth very often.
Wherefore, first of all, if thou wouldest have this part of penance, as for the whole, because it is God’s gift, so for this part go thou unto God and make some little prayer, as thou canst, unto his mercy for the same, in this or like sort: ‘Merciful Father of our Savior Jesus Christ, because I have sinned and done wickedly, and through thy goodness have received a desire of repentance, whereto this long sufferance doth draw my hard heart, I beseech thy mercy F90 in Christ to work the same repentance in me; and by thy Spirit, power and grace, to humble, mortify, and fear my conscience for my sins to salvation, that in thy time thou mayest comfort and quicken me again, through Jesus Christ, thy dearly beloved Son. Amen.’
After this sort, I say, or otherwise as thou thinkest good, if thou wilt have this first part, contrition or sorrow for thy sins, do thou beg it of God through Christ. And when thou hast asked it, as I have labored to drive thee from trusting in thyself, so now I go about to move thee from flattering of thyself, from sluggishness and negligence, to be diligent to use these means following.
Unto prayer, which I would thou shouldest first use as thou canst, secondly, get thee God’s law as a glass to toot F91 in; for in it and by it cometh the true knowledge of sin, without which knowledge there can be no sorrow. For how can a man sorrow for his sins, which knoweth not; his sins? As when a man is sick, the first step to health is to know his sickness; even so to salvation, the first step thereto is to know thy damnation due for thy sins.
The law of God therefore must be gotten and well tooted in; that is, we must look in it spiritually, and not corporally or carnally as the outward word or letter doth declare and utter. And so our Savior teacheth us in the fifth of Matthew, expounding the sixth and seventh commandments, not only after the outward deed, but also after the heart; making there the anger of the heart a kind of murder, lusting after another man’s wife a kind of adultery.
And this is one of the differences between God’s law and man’s law, that of this (man’s law, I mean) I am not condemnable so long as I observe outwardly the same. But God’s law goeth to the root and to the heart, condemning me for the inward motion, although outwardly I live most holily. As for example: if I kill no man, though in my heart I hate, man’s law condenmeth me not, but otherwise doth God’s law. And why? For it seeth the fountain whence the evil doth spring. If hatred were taken out of the heart, loftiness in looks, detraction in tongue, and murder by hand could never ensue. If lusting were out of the heart, curiosity in countenance, wantonness in words, then F92 boldness in body, would not appear.
In that therefore this outward evil springs out of the inward corruption, seeing God’s law also is a “law of liberty,” as saith St James, and “spiritual,” as saith St Paul, perfectly and spiritually it is to be understand, if we will truly come to the knowledge of our sins: for of this inward corruption reason knoweth but little or nothing. “I had not known,” saith Paul, “that lusting” (which to reason, and to them which are guided only by reason, is thought but a trifle,) “I had not known,” saith he, “this lusting to have been sin, if the law had not said, Non concupisces, Thou shalt not lust.”
To the knowledge therefore of our sin, without which we cannot repent or be sorry for our sin, let us, secondly, get God’s law as a glass to toot in; and that not only literally, outwardly, or partly, but also spiritually, inwardly, and throughly. Let us consider the heart, and so shall we see the foul spots we are stained withal at least inwardly, whereby we the rather may be moved to hearty sorrow and sighing. For, as St. Austin saith, “It is a glass which feareth nobody; but even look what a one thou art, so it paints thee out.” F93 In the law we see it is a foul spot not to love the Lord our God, with all (I say) our heart, soul, power, might, and strength, and that continually.
In the law it is a foul spot not only to make to ourselves any graven image or similitude, to bow thereto, etc., but also not to frame ourselves wholly after the image whereto we are made, not to bow to it, to worship it.
In the law we see that it is a foul spot not only to take God’s name in vain, but also not earnestly, heartily, and even continually to call upon his name only, to give thanks unto him, to believe, to publish, and to live F94 his holy word.
In God’s law we see it is a foul spot to our souls not only to be an open profaner of the Sabbath-day, but also not to rest from our own words and works that the Lord might both speak and work in us and by us; not to hear his holy word, not to communicate his sacraments, not to give occasion to others to holiness by our example in godly works, and reverent esteeming of the ministry of his word.
In God’s law we see it a foul spot to our souls not only to be an open disobeyer of our parents, magistrates, masters, and such as be in any authority over us; but also not to honor such even in our hearts, not to give thanks to God for them, not to pray for them, to aid, to help or relieve them, to bear with their infirmities, etc.
In God’s law we see it a foul spot in our souls not only to be a man-queller F95 in hatred, malice, proud looks, brags, backbiting, railing, or bodily slaughter; but also not to love our neighbors, yea, our enemies, even in our hearts, and to declare the same in all our gestures, words, and works.
In God’s law we see it a foul spot to our souls not only to be a whoremonger in lusting in our hearts, in wanton looking, in unclean or wanton talking, in actual doing unhonestly with our neighbor’s wife, daughter, servant, etc.; but also not to be chaste, sober, temperate in heart, looks, tongue, apparel, deeds, and to help others thereunto accordingly, etc.
In God’s law we see it is a foul spot to our souls not only in heart to covet, in look or word to flatter, lie, color, etc., in deed to take away any thing which pertaineth to another; but also in heart, countenance, word, and deed, not to keep, save, and defend that which pertaineth to thy neighbor, as thou wouldest thine own.
Sin in God’s law it is, we may see, and a foul spot, not only to consent to evil lust or carnal desires; but even the very natural or carnal lusts and desires themselves (for so I may call them, nature F96 itself being now so corrupted,) are sin, as self-love, and many such-like.
By reason whereof, I trow, there is none that tooteth well herein, but though he be blameless to the world and fair to the shew, yet certainly inwardly his face is foul arrayed, and so shameful, saucy, mangy, pocked, and scabbed, that he cannot but be sorry at the contemplation thereof; and that so much more, by how much he continueth to look in this glass accordingly.
The which tooting if we use with prayer, as I said, let us not doubt but at the length God’s Spirit will work, as now to such as believe; for to the unbelievers all is in vain, their eyes are stark blind, they can see nothing; to such as believe (I say) I trust something is done even already.
But if neither by prayer, nor by tooting in God’s law spiritually, as yet thy hard unbelieving heart feeleth no sorrow nor lamenting for thy sin; thirdly, look upon the tag tied to God’s law. For as to man’s law there is a tag tied, that is, a penalty; so is there to God’s law a tag tied, that is, a penalty, and that no small one, but such a great one as cannot but make us to cast our currish tails between our legs, if we believe it; for all is in vain, if we be faithless not to believe before we feel.
This tag is God’s malediction or curse: Maledictus omnis, saith it, qui non permanet in omnibus quae scripta sunt in libro legis, ut faciat eam. [“Cursed is every one who continueth “ “all,” saith God, “which continueth not in all things:” “for he that is guilty of one is guilty of the whole,” saith St James: “in all things” therefore, saith the Holy Ghost, “which are written in the book of the law to do them.” He saith not, to hear them, to talk of them, to dispute of them; but “to do them.”
Who is he now that doth these? Rara avis, F97 ‘ few such birds,’ yea, none at all. For “all are gone out of the way,” though not outwardly by word or deed, yet inwardly at the least by default and wanting of that which is required: so that a child of one night’s age is not pure, but by reason of birth-sin in danger of God’s malediction: much more then we which, alas! have “drunken in iniquity as it were water,” as Job saith. But yet, alas! we quake not.
Tell me now, good brother, why do you so lightly consider God’s curse, that for your sins past you are so careless, as though you had made a covenant with death and damnation, as the wicked did in Esay’s time?
What is God’s curse? At the pope’s curse with book, bell, and candle, F98 O how trembled we which heard it but only, though the same was not directed unto us but unto others! But to this God’s curse, which is incomparably more fell and importable, and is directed, yea, hanging over us all by reason of our sins, alas, how careless are we! O faithless hard hearts! O Jezebel’s guests, rocked and laid asleep in her bed! O wicked wretches, which being come into the deep of sin do condemn the same! O sorrowless sinners, and shameless, shrinking harlots!
Is not the anger of a king death? And is the anger of the King of all kings a matter to be so lightly regarded as we do regard it, which for our sins are so retchless that we slug F99 and sleep it out? “As wax melteth away at the heat of the fire,” saith David, “so do the wicked perish at the face (or countenance) of the Lord.” If, dearly beloved, his face be so terrible and intolerable for sinners and the wicked, what trow we his hand is? At the face or appearing of God’s anger the earth trembleth. But we, earth, earth, yea, stones, iron, flints, tremble nothing at all. If we will not tremble in hearing, woe unto us! for then we shall be crashed a-pieces in feeling. If a lion roar, the beasts quake; but we are worse than beasts, which quake nothing at the roaring of the lion: I mean the Lord of hosts. And why?
Because “the curse of God, hardness of heart,” is already fallen upon us; or else we could not but lament and tremble for our sins, if not for the shame and foulness thereof, yet at the least for the malediction and “curse of God” which hangeth over us for our sins.
And thus much for the third thing to the moving of us to sorrow for our sins, that is, for the tag tied to God’s law; I mean for the malediction and curse of God. But if our hearts be so hard that through these we yet feel not hearty sorrow for our sins, let us, fourthly, set before us examples past and present, old and new, that thereby the Holy Spirit may be effectual to work in his time this work of sorrowing for our sin.
Were not they subject to mortality, travail, labor, etc.? Was not the earth accursed for their sins? Do not we all, men in labor, women in travailing with child, and all in death, mortality, and misery, even in this life feel the same? And was God so angry for their sin, and he being the same God, will he say nothing to us for ours, alas! much more horrible than the eating once of one piece of an apple ?
In the time of Noe and Lot God destroyed the whole world with water, and the cities of Sodoma and Gomorrah, Zeboim and Admah, with fire and brimstone from heaven for their sins; namely for their whoredoms, pride, idleness, unmercifulness to the poor, tyranny, etc.; in which wrath of God even the very babes, birds, fowls, fishes, herbs, trees, and grass, perished: and think we that nothing will be spoken to us much worse and more abominable than they? For all men may see, if they will, that the whoredoms, pride, unmercifulness, tyranny, etc., of England, far passeth in this ago any age that ever was before. F100 Lot’s wife looking back was turned into a salt stone: and will our looking back again, yea, our running back again to our wickedness, do us no hurt? If we were not already more blind than beetles, we would blush. Pharaoh his heart was hardened so that no miracle could convert him. If ours were any thing soft, we would begin to sob.
Of six hundred thousand men alonely but twain entered into the land of promise, because they had “ten times sinned against the Lord,” as he himself saith. And trow we that God will not “swear in his wrath that we shall never enter into his rest,” which have sinned so many “ten times” as we have toes and fingers, yea, hairs of our heads and beards, I fear me; and yet we pass F101 not ?
The man that sware and he that gathered sticks on the sabbath-day were stoned to death. But we think our swearing is no sin, our bibbing, rioting, yea, whorehunting on the sabbath-day, pleaseth God; or else we would something amend our manners.
Helias’ sons, for disobeying their father’s monition, brought over them God’s vengeance: and will our stubbornness do nothing ?
Saul his malice to David, Ahab’s displeasure against Naboth, brought their blood to the ground for dogs to eat: yea, their children were hanged up and slain for this gear. But we continue in malice, envy, and murder, as though we were able to wage war with the Lord.
David’s adultery with Bethsabe was visited on the child born, on David’s daughter defiled by her brother, and on his children, one slaying another, on his wives defiled by his own son, on himself driven out of his realm in his old age, and otherwise also, although he most heartily repented his sin.
And have we a placard F102 that God will do nothing to us ?
Giezi his covetousness, brought it not the leprosy upon him and on all his seed? Judas also hanged himself. But the covetousness of England is of another cloth and color. Well, if it were so, the same tailor will cut it accordingly.
The false witnesses of the two judges against Susanna lighted on their own pates; and so will ours do at length.
But what go I about to avouch ancient examples, where daily experience doth teach? The sweat the other year, F103 the storms the winter following, F104 will us to weigh them in the same balances. The hanging and killing of men themselves, which are, alas! too rife in all places, require us to register them in the same rolls. At the least in children, infants, and such like, which yet cannot utter sin by word or deed, we see God’s anger against sin in punishing them by sickness, death, misshape, or otherwise, so plainly that we cannot but groan and grunt again, in that we a little more F105 have gushed out this gear gorgeously F106 in word and deed.
And here with me a little look on God’s anger, yet so fresh that we cannot but smell it, although we stop our noses never so much: I pray God we smell it not more fresh hereafter. I mean it forsooth (for I know you look for it) in our dear late sovereign lord the king’s majesty. You all know he was but a child in years: defiled he was not with notorious offenses.
Should I speak of his wisdom, of his ripeness in judgment, of his learning, of his godly zeal, heroical heart, fatherly care for his commons, nursely solicitude for religion, etc.? Nay, so many things are to be spoken in commendation of God’s exceeding graces in this child, that, as Sallust writeth of Carthage, F107 I had rather speak nothing than too little, in that too much is too little.
This gift God gave unto us Englishmen before all nations under the sun, and that of his exceeding love towards us. But alas and welaway! F108 For our unthankfulness’ sake, for our sin’s sake, for our carnality and profane living, God’s anger hath touched not only the body, but also the mind, F109 of our king by a long sickness; and at length hath taken him away by death; death! cruel death! fearful death, death! etc.
Oh, if God’s judgment be begun on him, which, as he was the chiefest, so I think the holiest and godliest in the realm of England; alas, what will it be on us whose ‘sins are overgrown so our heads” that they are climbed up into heaven! I pray you, my good brethren, know that God’s anger for our sin towards us cannot but be great, yea, too fell, in that we see it was so great that our good king could not bear it. What followed to Jewry after the death of Josias? God save England, and give us repentance! My heart will not suffer me to tarry longer herein. I trow this will thrust out some tears of repentance.
If therefore to prayer for God’s fear, the tooting in God’s glass and the tag thereto will not burst open thy blockish heart; yet I trow the tossing to and fro of these examples, and specially of our late king, and this troublesome time, will tumble some tears out of thine heart, if thou still pray for God’s Spirit accordingly. For who art thou, think always with thyself, that God should spare thee more than they whose examples thou hast heard? What friends hast thou? Were not of these, kings, prophets, apostles, learned, and coming of holy stocks? I deceive myself, think thou with thyself, if I believe God, being the same God that he was, will spare me whose wickedness is no less but ranch more than some of theirs. He hateth sin now as much as ever he did. The longer he spareth, the greater vengeance will fall: the deeper he draweth his bow, the sorer will the shaft pierce.
But if yet thy heart be so hardened that all this gear will not move thee, surely thou art in a very evil estate, and remedy now know I none. What, said I none? know I none? Yes; there is one which is suresby F110 (as they say) to serve if any thing will serve. You look to know what this is.
Forsooth the passion and death of Jesus Christ. You know the cause why Christ became man, and suffered as he suffered, was the sins of his people, that he might save them from the same. Consider the greatness of the sore, I mean sin, by the greatness of the surgeon and of the salve. Who was the surgeon? No angel, no saint, no archangel, no power, no creature in heaven nor in earth, but only he by whom all things were made, all things are ruled also, even God’s own dearling and only beloved Son becoming man.
O what a great thing is this that could not be (lone by the angels, archangels, potestates, powers, or all the creatures of God, without his own Son; who yet must needs be thrust out of heaven, as a man would say, to take our nature and become man! Here have ye the surgeon: great was the cure that this mighty Lord took in hand.
Now what was the salve? Forsooth dear gear and of many compositions. I cannot recite all, but rather must leave it to your hearty considerations.
Three and thirty years was he curing our sore; he sought it earnestly by fasting, watching, praying, etc. The same night he was betrayed, I read how busy he was about a plaister in the garden, when he lying flat on the ground, praying with tears, and that of blood, not a few, but so many as did flow down on the ground again, crying on this sort, “Father,” saith he, “if it be possible, let this cup depart from me.” That is, ‘If it be possible else mankind’s sins can be taken away, grant that it may be so. Thou heardest Moses crying for the idolaters; thou heardest Lot for the Zoarites; Samuel, David, and many other, for the Israelites; and, dear Father, I only am “thine own Son,” as thou hast said, “in whom thou art well pleased.”
Wilt thou not hear me? I have by the space of three and thirty years done always thy will; I have so humbled myself that I would become an object amongst men to obey thee. Therefore, dear Father, if it be possible, grant my request, save mankind now without any further labor, salves, or plaisters.’ “But yet,” saith he, “not as I wilt, but as thou wilt.”
But, sir, what heard he? Though he sweat blood and water in making his plaister for our sore of sin, yet it framed not. Twice he cried without comfort. Yea, though to comfort him God sent an angel, we yet know that this plaister was not allowed for sufficient until hereunto Christ Jesus was betrayed, forsaken of all his disciples, forsworn of his dearly beloved, bound like a thief, belied on, buffeted, whipped, scourged, crowned with thorns, derided, crucified, racked, nailed, hanged up between two thieves, cursed and railed upon, mocked in misery, and had given up the ghost.
Then “bowed down the head of Christ,” that is, God the Father which is “the head of Christ:” then allowed he the plaister to be sufficient and good for the healing of our sore which is sin. Now would God abide our breath, because the stink, that is, damnation or guiltiness, was taken away by the sweet say our of the breath of this Lamb thus offered once for all.
So that here, dearly beloved, we as in a glass may see, to the bruising of our blockish hard hearts, God’s great judgment and anger against sin. The “Lord of lords,” the “King of kings,” “the brightness of God’s glory,” the Son of God, the dearling of his Father, “in whom he is well pleased,” hangeth between two thieves, crying for thee and me and for us all, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” O hard hearts that we have, which make tuts for sin! Look on this: toot in the very heart of Christ pierced with a spear, wherein thou mayest see and read God’s horrible anger for sin. Woe to thy hard heart that pierced it !
And thus much for the first part of repentance: I mean, for the means of working contrition. First use, prayer; then look on God’s law; thirdly see his curse; fourthly set examples of his anger before thee; F111 and last of all set before thee the death of Christ. From this and prayer cease not till thou feel some hearty sorrow for thy sin: the which when thou feelest, then labor for the other part, that is, Faith, on this sort. [2.] As first, in contrition, I willed thee not to trust to thy free-will for the attaining of it, so do I will thee in this. Faith is so far from the reach of man’s free-will, that to reason it is plain foolishness. Therefore thou must first go to God, whose gift it is; thou must, I say, get thee to the Father of mercy, whose work it is; that, as he hath brought thee down by contrition, and humbled thee, so he would give thee faith, raise thee up, and exalt thee.
On this manner therefore, with the apostles, and the poor man in the gospel that cried, “Lord, increase our faith;” “Lord, help my unbelief,” pray thou and say: ‘O merciful God, and dear Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whom as thou art well-pleased, so hast thou commanded us to hear him; forasmuch as he often biddeth us to ask of thee, and thereto promiseth that thou wilt hear us, and grant us that which in his name we shall ask of thee; lo, gracious Father, I am bold to beg of thy mercy, through thy Son Jesus Christ, one sparkle of true faith, and certain persuasion of thy goodness and love towards me in Christ, wherethrough I being assured of the pardon of all my sins, by the mercies of Christ thy Son, may be thankful to thee, love thee, and serve thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.’
On this sort, I say, or otherwise as God shall move thee, pray thou first of all, and look for thy request at God’s hand without any doubting, though forthwith thou feelest not the same; for oftentimes we have things of God given us, long before we feel them as we would do.
Now unto this prayer use thou these means following:
After prayer for faith, which I would should be first, secondly, because the same springeth out of the hearing, not of masses, matins, canons, councils, doctors, decrees, but out of the hearing of God’s word; get thee God’s word; but not that part which serveth specially to contrition, that is, the law; but the other part which serveth specially to consolation and certain persuasion of God’s love towards thee, that is, the gospel or publication of God’s mercy in Christ, I mean the free promises.
But here thou must know that there is two kinds of promises; one which are properly of the law, another which are properly of the gospel. In the promises of the law we may indeed behold God’s mercy, but so that; it hangeth upon the condition of our worthiness; as, ‘If thou love the Lord with all thy heart, etc., thou shalt find mercy.’ This kind of promises, though it declare unto us God’s love which promiseth where he needeth not, yet unto him that feeleth not Christ, which is the end of the law, they are so far from comforting, that utterly with the law they bring man to great despair; so greatly we are corrupt; for none so loveth God as he ought to do. From these therefore get thee to the other promises of the gospel, in which ‘we may see such plenty and frank liberality of God’s goodness, that we cannot but be much comforted, though we have very deeply sinned.
For these promises of the gospel do not hang on the condition of our worthiness, as the promises of the law do; but they depend and hang on God’s truth; that, as God is true, so they cannot but be performed to all them which lay hold on them by faith, I had almost said, which cast them not away by unbelief.
Mark in them therefore two things, namely, that as well they are free promises without any condition of our worthiness, as also that they are universal, offered to all; all, I say, which are not so stubborn as to keep still their hands, whereby they should receive this almesse F112 in their bosoms, by unbelief. As concerning infants and children you know I now speak not, but concerning such as be of years of discretion. And now you look that I should give you a taste of these promises, which are both free and universal, excepting none but such as except themselves. Well, you shall have one or two for a say.
In the third of John saith our Savior, “So God the Father loved the world, that he would give his dearling, his own only Son, that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Lo, sir, he saith not that some might have life, but “all” saith he. And what “all”? “all” that love him with all their hearts? “all” that have lived a godly life? Nay, “all that believe in him.” Although thou hast lived a most wicked and horrible life, if now thou believe in him thou shalt be saved. Is not this sweet gear?
Again saith Christ, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are laden; and I will refresh you.” Let us a little look on this letter: “Come unto me.” Who should come, Lord? priests, holy men, monks, friars? Yea, cobblers, tinkers, whores, thieves, murderers also, if they lament their sins. “Come unto me,” saith he, “all ye that labor and are laden;” that is, which are afraid for your sins. And what wilt thou do, Lord? “And I will refresh you,” saith he.
O what a thing is this! “And I will refresh you.” Wot you who spake this?
He that never told a lie: he is “the truth:” there “was never guile found in his mouth.” And now will he be untrue to thee, good brother, which art sorry for thy grievous sins? No, forsooth! “Heaven and earth shall pass and perish; but his word shall never fail.”
St Paul saith, “God would have all men saved;” (lo, he excepteth none;) and to Titus, “The grace of God bringeth salvation to all men.” As from Adam all have received sin to damnation, so by Christ all have grace offered to salvation, if they reject not the same. I speak not now of infants, I say; nor I need not to enter into the matter of predestination. In preaching of repentance, I would gather where I could with Christ. “As surely as I live,” saith God, “I will not the death of a sinner.” Art thou a sinner? Yea. Lo, God sweareth he will not thy death: how canst thou now perish? Consider with thyself, what profit shouldest thou have to believe this to be true to others, if not to thyself also? Satan doth so.
Rather consider with Peter, that the promise of salvation pertaineth not only to them which are nigh, that is, to such as are fallen a little; but also “to all whom the Lord hath called, be they never so far off.”
Lo, now by me the Lord calleth thee, thou man, thou woman, that art very far off. The promise therefore per-taineth to thee: needs must thou be saved, except thou with Satan say, God is false: and yet, if thou do so, God “is faithful, and cannot deny himself;” as thou shalt feel by his plagues in hell, for so dishonoring God to think that he is not true.
Will he be found false now? The matter hangeth not on thy worthiness, but it hangeth on God’s truth. Clap hold on it; and I warrant thee Christ is “the propitiation of our sins, yea, for the sins of the whole world.” Believe this, man: I know thou believest it. Say therefore in thy heart still, Domine, adauge mihi fidem. “Lord, increase my faith;” “Lord, help my unbelief.
Blessed are they which see not” by reason this gear, “but yet believe.”
And thus much for a taste of these promises, which are every where not only in the new Testament, but also in the old. Read the last end of Leviticus 26; the prophet Isaiah 30, where he saith, “God tarrieth, looking for thee, to shew thee mercy;” also the fortieth, and so forth to the sixtieth F113 Read also F114 the 2nd Samuel 26.; Psalms 34.; Joel 2; etc. F115 Howbeit, if this gear will not serve, if yet thou feelest no faith, no certain persuasion of God’s love, then unto prayer and diligent considering of the free and universal promises of the gospel; thirdly set before thee those benefits which God hath tofore given thee, and presently giveth thee.
Consider how he hath made thee a man or a woman, which might have made thee a toad, a dog. And why did he this? Verily, because he loved thee. And trowest thou that, if he loved thee when thou wast not, to make thee such a one as he most graciously hath made thee; will he not, trowest thou, now love thee being his handy-work? Doth he hate any thing that he made? Is there unableness with him? Doth he love for a day, and so farewell? No, forsooth, “he loveth to the end:” “his mercy endureth forever.” Say therefore with Job, Operi manuum tuarum porrige dexteram: that is, “To the work of thy hand put thy helping hand.”
Again, hath he not made thee a christian man or woman, where, if he would, he might have made thee a Turk or paynim? This thou knowest he did of love. And dost thou think his love is lessened, if thou lament thy sin?
Is his hand shortened for helping thee? “Can a woman forget the child of her womb? And though she should do it, yet will not I forget thee,” saith the Lord. He hath given thee limbs, to see, hear, go, etc.: he hath given thee wit, reason, discretion, etc.: he hath long spared thee, and borne with thee, when thou never purposedst to repent. And now, thou repenting, will he not give thee mercy? Wherefore doth he give thee to live at this present, to hear me to speak this, and me to speak this, but of love to us all? O therefore let us pray him that he would add to this, that we might believe these love-tokens, that he loveth us: and indeed he will do it. Lord, open our eyes in thy gifts to see thy gracious goodness. Amen.
But to tarry in this I will not. Every man let him consider God’s benefits past and present, public and private, spiritual and corporal, to the confirming of his faith concerning the promises of the gospel, for the pardon of his sins.
I will now go to shew you a fourth mean to confirm your faith of this gear, even by examples. Of these there are in the scriptures very many, as also daily experience doth diversely teach the same, if we were diligent to observe things accordingly: wherefore I will be more brief herein, having respect to time which stealeth fast away.
Adam in paradise transgressed grievously, as the painful punishment which we all as yet do feel proveth, if nothing else. Though by reason of his sin he displeased God sore, and ran away from God, (for he would have hid himself, yea, he would have made God the causer of his sin, in that he gave him such a mate, so far was he from asking mercy;) yet, all this notwithstanding, God turned his fierce wrath, neither upon him nor Eve (which also required not mercy), but upon the serpent Satan; promising unto them a seed, Jesus Christ, by whom they at the length should be delivered. In token whereof, though they were cast out of paradise for their nurture, to serve in sorrow, which would not serve in joy; yet he made them apparel to cover their bodies, a visible sacrament and token of his invisible love and grace concerning their souls. If God was so merciful to Adam, which so sore brake his commandment, and rather blamed God than asked mercy; trowest thou, O man, that he will not be merciful to thee, which blamest thyself, and desirest pardon?
To Cain he offered mercy, if he would have asked it. “What hast thou done?” saith God: “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me out of the earth.” ‘O merciful Lord,’ should Cain have said, ‘I confess it!’ But, alas! he did not so; and therefore said God, “Now,” that is, in that thou desirest not mercy, “now,” I say, “be thou accursed.” Lo, to the reprobate he offered, mercy; and will he deny it thee which art his child?
Noah did not he sin and was drunk? Good Lot also both in Sodom dissembled a little with the angels, prolonging the time, and out of Sodom he fell very foul; as did Judas and the patriarchs against Joseph. But yet, I ween, they found mercy. Moses, Miriam, Aaron, though they stumbled a little, yet received they mercy: yea, the people in the wilderness often sinned and displeased God, so that he was purposed to have destroyed them. “Let me alone,” saith he to Moses, “that I may destroy them:” but Moses did not “let him alone,” for he prayed still for them; and therefore God spared them. If the people were spared through Moses’ prayer, they not praying with him, but rather worshipping their golden calf, eating, drinking, and making jolly good cheer; why shouldest thou doubt whether God will be merciful to thee? having, as ‘indeed thou hast, one much better than Moses to pray for thee and with thee, even Jesus Christ, “who sitteth on the right hand of his Father and prayeth for us,” being no less faithful in his Father’s house, the church, than Moses was in the synagogue.
David, that good king, had a foul foil when he committed whoredom with his faithful servant’s wife Bethsabe; whereunto he added also a mischievous murder, causing her husband, his most faithful soldier Ury, to be slain with an honest company of his most valiant men of war, and that with the sword of the uncircumcised.
In this his sin though a great while he lay asleep, (as many do now-a-days, God give them wyn F117 waking!) thinking that by his sacrifices he offered all was, well, God was content; yet at length, when the prophet by a parable had opened the poke, F117 and brought him in remembrance of his own sin in such sort that he gave judgment against himself, then quaked he.
His sacrifices had no more taken away his sins, than our sir John’s F118 trentals F119 and wagging of his fingers over the heads of such as lie asleep in their sins; out of the which when they are awaked, they will well see that it is neither mass nor matins, blessing nor crossing, will serve. Then, I say, he cried out, saying, Peccavi, Domine: “I have sinned,” saith he, ‘against my Lord and good God which hath done so much for me: I caused indeed Ury to be killed: I have sinned, I have sinned: what shall I do? I have sinned, and am worthy of eternal damnation.’ But what saith God by his prophet? Dominus, saith he, transtulit peccatum tuum: non morieris. “The Lord hath taken away thy sins: thou shalt not die.” O good God, he said but Peccavi; “I have sinned;” but yet from his heart, and not from his lips only, as Pharaoh and Saul did; and incontinently he heareth, “Thou shalt not die: the Lord hath taken away thy sins;” or rather hath laid them upon another, yea, translated them upon the back of his Son Jesus Christ, who bare them; and not only them, but thine and mine also, if that we will now cry but from our hearts, .Peccavimus: “We have sinned,” good Lord, “we have done wickedly :” “enter not into judgment with us,” but “be merciful unto us after thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of thy compassions do away our iniquities,” etc. For indeed God is not the God of David only: idem Deus omnium: “he is the God of all.” So that quicunque invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit : “he or she, whosoever they be that call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” In confirmation whereof this history is written, as are also the other I have recited, and many moe which I might recite; as of Manasses, that wicked king which slew Esay the prophet, F120 and wrought very much wickedness, yet the Lord shewed mercy upon him, being in prison, as his prayer doth teach us. Nabucodonozar, though for a time he bare God’s anger, yet at the length he found mercy. The city of Niniveh also found favor with God, as did many other which I will omit for time’s sake, and will bring forth one or two out of the new Testament, that we may see God to be F121 the same God in the new Testament he was in the old.
Thomas would not believe Christ’s resurrection, though many told him which had seen and felt him; by reason whereof a man might have thought that his sins would have cast him away. “Except I should see and feel,” saith he, “I will not believe.” Ah wilful Thomas! “I will not,” saith he: but Christ appeared unto him, and would not leese F122 him: as he will not do thee, good brother, if that with Thomas thou wilt keep company with the disciples, as Thomas did.
Peter his fall was ugly: he accursed himself if ever he knew Christ, and that for fear of a girl; and this not once, but even three divers times, and that in the hearing of Christ his Master: but yet the third time Christ looked back and cast on him his eye of grace, so that he went out and wept bitterly; and after Christ’s resurrection not only did the angels will the women to tell Peter that Christ was risen, but Christ himself appeared unto him severally, such a good Lord is he.
What a comfort is this! in that he is now the same Christ to thee and me and us all, if we will run unto him; for he is the same Christ today and tomorrow, until he come to judgment. Then indeed he will be inexorable; but now is he more ready to give, than thou to ask. If thou cry, he heareth thee, yea, before thou cry. Cry therefore, be bold, man: he is not partial. “Call,” saith he “and I will hear thee.” “Ask, and thou shalt have; seek, and thou shalt find;” though not at the first, yet at the length. If he tarry awhile, it is but to try thee. Nam veniens veniet, et non tardabit. “He is coming, and will not be long.”
Thus have you four means which you must use to the attaining of faith, or certain persuasion of God’s mercy towards you, which is the second part of penance; namely prayer, the free and universal promises of God’s grace, the recordation of the benefits of God past and present, the examples of God’s mercy. Which although they might suffice, yet will I put one moe to them, which alonely of itself is fall sufficient; I mean the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ; which if thou set before the eyes of thy mind, it will confirm thy placard; F123 for it is the great seal of England, as they say, yea, of all the world, for the confirmation of all patents and perpetuities of the everlasting life whereunto we are all called.
If I thought these which I have before recited were not sufficient to confirm your faith of God’s love towards such as do repent, I would tarry longer herein. But because both I have been long, and also I trust you have some exercise of conscience in this daily (or else you are to blame), I will but touch and go.
Consider with yourselves what we are, misers, F124 wretches, and enemies to God. Consider what God is; even he which hath all power, majesty, might, glory, riches, etc., perfectly of himself, and needeth nothing, but hath all things. Consider what Christ is: concerning his Godhead, co-equal with his Father, even he by whom all things were made, are ruled and governed; concerning his manhood, the only dearling of his Father, in whom is all his joy. Now, sir, what a love is this, that this God which needeth nothing would give wholly his own self to thee his enemy, wreaking his wrath upon himself in this his Son, as a man may say, to spare thee, to save thee, to win thee, to buy thee, to have thee, to enjoy thee for ever! Because thy sin had separated thee from him, to the end thou mightest come eftsoons into his company again, and therein remain, he himself became, as a man would say, a sinner, or rather sin itself, even a malediction or a curse; that we sinners, we accursed by our F125 sin, might, by his F126 oblation or offering for our sins, by his curse, be delivered from sin and F127 from malediction. For by sin he destroyed sin, killing death, Satan, and sin, by their own weapons; and that for thee and me, man, if we cast it not away by unbelief. O wonderful love of God! Who ever heard of such a love? The Father of heaven for us his enemies to give his own dear Son Jesus Christ! and that not only to be our brother, to dwell among us, but also to the death of the cross for us! O wonderful love of Christ to us all, that was content and willing to work this feat for us! Was there any love like to this love?
God indeed hath commended his charity and love to us herein, that when we were very enemies unto him, he would give his own Son for us. That we, being men, might become, as you would say, gods, God would become man. That we, being mortal, might become immortal, the immortal God would become mortal man. That we, earthly wretches, might be citizens of heaven, the Lord of heaven would become, as a man would say, earthly.
That we, being accursed, might be blessed, God would be accursed. F128 That we, by our father Adam being brought out of paradise into the puddle of all pain, might be redeemed and brought into paradise again, God would be our Father, and an Adam thereunto. That we having nothing might have all things, God having all things would have nothing. That we, being vassals and slaves to all, even to Satan the fiend, might be lords of all and of Satan, the Lord of all would become a vassal and a slave to us all, and in danger of Satan.
O love incomprehensible! Who can otherwise think now but, if the gracious good Lord disdained not to give his own Son, his own heart’s joy, for us his very enemies, tofore we thought to beg any such thing at his hands, yea, tofore we were; who, I say, can think otherwise but that with him he will give us all good things? If, when we hated him and fled away from him, he sent his Son to seek us; who can think otherwise than that now we loving him, and lamenting because we love him no more, but that he will for ever love us? He that giveth the more to his enemies, will not he give the less, trow you, to his friends? God hath given his own Son, than which thing nothing is greater, to us his enemies: and, we now being become his friends, wilt he deny us faith and pardon of our sins? which, though they be great, yet in comparison they are F129 nothing at all. Christ Jesus would give his own self for us, when we willed it not: and will he now deny us faith, if we will it? This “will” is his earnest that he hath given us truly to look indeed for the thing willed. And look thou for it indeed; for as he hath given thee “to will,” so will he give thee “to do.”
Jesus Christ gave his life for our evils, and by his death delivered us. O then, in that he liveth now and cannot die, will he forsake us? His heart’s blood was not too dear for us when we asked it not: what can then be now too dear for us asking it? Is he a changeling? is he mutable as man is? can he repent him of his gifts? Did he not foresee our falls? Paid not he therefore the price? Because he saw we should fall sore, therefore would he suffer sore. Yea, if his sufferings had not been enough, he would yet once more come again. God the Father, I am sure, if the death of his Son incarnate would not serve, would himself and the Holy Ghost also become incarnate, and die for us. This death of Christ therefore look on as the very pledge of God’s love towards thee, whosoever thou art, how deep soever thou hast sinned. See, God’s hands are nailed, they cannot strike thee; his feet also, he cannot run from thee: his arms are wide open to embrace thee: his head hangs down to kiss thee: his very heart is open! So that therein see, toot, F130 look, spy, peep; and thou shalt see nothing therein but love, love, love, love to thee. Hide thee therefore, lay thy head there, with the evangelist.
This is the clift of the rock wherein Elias stood: this is the pillow of down for all aching heads. Anoint thy head with this oil: let this ointment embalm thy head and wash thy face. Tarry thou here, and cock-sure thou art, I warrant thee. Say with Paul, “What can separate me from the love of God?” Can death, can poverty, sickness, hunger, or any misery persuade thee now that God loveth thee not? Nay, nothing can separate thee from the love wherewith God hath loved thee in Christ Jesus. Whom he loveth “he loveth to the end.” So that now, where abundance of sin hath been in thee, the more is the abundance of grace.
But to what end? Forsooth that, as sin hath reigned to death, as thou seest, to the killing of God’s Son, so now grace must reign to life to the honoring of God’s Son, who is now alive and “cannot die any more:” so that they which by faith feel this cannot any more die to God, but to sin, whereto they are dead and buried with Christ. As Christ therefore liveth, so do they, and that to God, to righteousness and holiness. The life which they live is in fide Filii Dei; “in the faith of the Son of God.” [3.] Whereby you see that now I am slipped into that which I made the Third part of penance, namely, newness of life; which I could not so have done, if that it; were a part of itself indeed, as it is an effect, a fruit of the second part, that is, of faith or trust in God’s mercy.
For he that believeth, that is, is certainly persuaded sin to be such a thing that it is the cause of all misery, and of itself so greatly angereth God, that in heaven nor in earth nothing could appease his wrath, save alonely the death and precious blood-shedding of the Son of God, in whom is all the delight and pleasure of the Father; he, I say, that is persuaded thus of sin, the same cannot but in heart abhor and quake to do or say, yea, to think any thing willingly which God’s law teacheth him to be sin.
Again he that believeth, that is, is certainly persuaded God’s love to be so much towards him, that, where through sin he was lost and made a firebrand of hell, the eternal Father of mercy, which is the omnisufficient God, and needeth nothing of us, or of any thing that we can do, to deliver us out of hell and to bring us into heaven, did send even his own most dear Son out of his bosom, out of heaven, into hell, as a man would say, to bring us, as I said, from into his own bosom and mercy, we being his very enemies; he, I say, that is thus persuaded of God’s love towards him, and of the price of his redemption by the dear blood of Lamb immaculate, Jesus Christ, the same man cannot but love God again, and of love do that and heartily desire to do better, the which might please God.
Trow you that such a one, knowing this gear by faith, will willingly walter F131 and wallow in his wilful F132 lusts, pleasure, and fantasies? Will such a one, as knoweth by faith Christ Jesus to have given his blood to wash him from his sins, play the sow, to walter F131 in his puddle of filthy sin and vice again? Nay, rather than he will be defiled again by wilful sinning, he will wash often the feet of his affections, watching over the vice still sticking in him, which as a spring continually sendeth out poison enough to drown and defile him, did not the sweet water of Christ’s passion in God’s sight wash it, and his blood satisfy the rigor of God’s justice due for the same.
This blood of Christ shed for our sins is so dear in the sight of him that believeth, that he will abhor in his heart to stamp it and tread it under his feet. He knoweth now by his belief that it is too much, that hitherto he hath set too little by it, and is ashamed thereof. Therefore the residue of his life he purposeth to take better heed to himself than tofore he did: for, because he seeth by his faith the grievousness of God’s anger, the foulness of sin, the greatness of God’s mercy and of Christ’s love towards him, he will now be heedy F133 to pray God to give him his grace accordingly; that as with his eyes, tongue, hands, feet, etc., he hath displeased God, doing his own will, even so now with the same eyes, tongue, ears, hands, feet, etc., he may displease his ownself and do God’s will. Willingly will he not F134 do that which might renew the death of the Son of God. He knoweth the hath too much sin unwillingly in him, so that thereto lie will not add willing offenses.
This willing and witting offending and sinning, whosoever doth flatter himself therein, doth evidently demonstrate and shew that he never yet indeed tasted of Christ truly: he was never truly persuaded or believed how foul a thing sin is, how grievous a thing God’s anger is, how joyful and precious a thing God’s mercy in Christ is, how exceeding broad, wide, high, and deep Christ’s love is. Perchance he can write, prate, talk, and preach of this gear; but yet he in heart F135 by faith never felt this gear: for, did he once feel this gear indeed, then would he be so far from continuing in sin willingly and wittingly, that wholly and heartily he would give over himself to that which is contrary, I mean to a new life, “renewing his youth even as the eagle doth.”
For as we, being in the servitude of sin, demonstrate our service by giving over our members to the obeying of sin, from iniquity to iniquity; even so we, being made free from sin by faith in Jesus Christ, and endued with God’s Spirit, a Spirit of liberty, must needs demonstrate this freedom and liberty by giving over our members to the obedience of the Spirit; by the which we are led and guided from virtue to virtue, and all kind of holiness.
As the unbelievers declare their unbelief by the working of the evil spirit in them outwardly the fruits of the flesh; even so the believers declare their faith by the working of God’s good Spirit in them outwardly the fruits of the Spirit. For, as the devil is not dead in those which are his, but worketh still to their damnation; so is not God dead in them which be his, but worketh still to their salvation: the which working is not the cause of the one or the other being in any, but only a demonstration, a sign, a fruit of the same; as the apple is not the cause of the apple-tree, but a fruit of it.
Thus then you see briefly, that newness of life is not indeed a part of penance, but a fruit of it, a demonstration of the justifying faith, a sign of God’s good Spirit possessing the heart of the penitent; as the old life is a fruit of impenitency, a demonstration of a lip-faith or unbelief, a sign of Satan’s spirit possessing the heart of the impenitent, which all those be that be not penitent; for mean I know none. He that is not penitent, that same is impenitent: he that is not governed by God’s Spirit, the same is governed by Satan’s spirit; for all that be Christ’s are governed with the Spirit of Christ, which Spirit hath her fruits. All other that be not Christ’s are the devil’s: “he that gathereth not with Christ scattereth abroad.”
Therefore, dearly beloved, I beseech you to consider this gear, and deceive not yourselves. If you be not Christ’s, then pertain you to the devil: of which thing the fruits of the flesh doth assure you, as whoredom, adultery, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, witchcraft, envy, strife, contention, wrath, sedition, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, blasphemy, slothfulness, idleness, F136 slandering, etc. If these apples grow out of the apple-trees of your heart, surely, surely the devil is at inn F137 with you, you are his birds, whom when he hath well fed, he will broach F138 you and eat you, chaw F139 you and champ F140 you; world without end, in eternal woe and misery. But I am otherwise persuaded of you all: I trust you be all Christ Jesus his people and children, yea, brethren by faith.
As ye see your sins in God’s law, and tremble, sigh, sorrow, and sob for the same; even so you see his great mercies in his gospel and free promises; and therefore are glad, merry, and joyful, for that you are accepted into God’s favor, have your sins pardoned, and are endued with the good Spirit of God, even the seal and sign manual of your election in Christ before the beginning of the world. The which Spirit, for that he is the Spirit of life, given to you to work in you, with you, and by you, here in this life, sanctification and holiness, (whereunto you are called that ye might be holy, even as your heavenly Father is holy;) I beseech you all by admonition and warning of you, that you would stir up the gifts of God given to you, generally and particularly, to the edifying of his church: that is, I pray you that you would not molest the good Spirit of God, by rebelling against it when it provoketh and calleth you to go on forwards, that he which is holy might yet be more holy, he which is righteous might be more righteous; as the evil spirit moveth and stirreth up the filthy to be yet more filthy, the covetous to be more covetous, the wicked to be more wicked.
Declare you now your repentance by works of repentance: bring forth fruits, and worthy fruits. Let your sor-rowing for your evils demonstrate itself by departing from the evils you have used. Let your certainty of pardon of your sins through Christ and your joy in him be demonstrated by pursuing of the good things which God’s word teacheth you. You are now “in Christ Jesus God’s workmanship, to do good works, which God hath prepared for you to walk in.” “For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation unto all men, hath appeared, and teacheth us that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the mighty God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, which gave himself for us to redeem us from all unrighteousness, and to purge us a peculiar people unto himself, fervently given unto good works.” Again (Titus in.), “For we ourselves also were in times past unwise, disobedient, deceived, serving lusts and divers pleasures, living in maliciousness and envy, full of hatred, and hating one another. But, after that the kindness and love of God our Savior to man-ward appeared, not by the deeds of righteousness which we wrought, but of his mercy he saved us, by the fountain of the new birth, and with the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that we, once justified by his grace, should be heirs of eternal life through hope. This is a true saying.”
But I will make an end, for I am too tedious.
Dearly beloved, repent your sins: that is, be sorry for that which is past; believe in God’s mercy for pardon, how deeply soever you have sinned; and both purpose and earnestly pursue a new life, bringing forth worthy and true knits of repentance. As you have given over your members from sin to sin to serve the devil; your tongues to swear, to lie, to flatter, to scold, to jest, to scoff, F141 to vain jangling, to boasting, etc.; your hands to picking, groping, idleness, fighting, etc.; your feet to skipping, going to evil, to dancing, etc.; your ears to hear fables, lies, vanities, and evil things, etc.; so now give over your members to godliness, your tongues to speak, your ears to hear, your eyes to see, your months to taste, your hands to work, your feet to go about such things as may make to God’s glory, sobriety of life, and love to your brethren; and that daily more and more diligently: for in a stay to stand you cannot; either better or worse you are today than you were yesterday. But better I trust you be, and will be, if you mark well my theme, that is, “Repent you.”
The which thing that you would do, as before I have humbly besought you, even so now yet once more I do again beseech you, and that for the tender mercies of God in Christ Jesus our Lord: “Repent you: ¼ repent you; for the kingdom of heaven” (that is, a kingdom full of all riches, pleasures, mirth, beauty, sweetness, and eternal felicity) “is at hand.” The eye hath not seen the like, the ear hath not heard the like, the heart of man cannot conceive the treasures and pleasures of this kingdom, which now “is at hand” to such as repent; that is, to such as are sorry for their sins, believe God’s mercy through Christ, and earnestly purpose to lead a new life.