« ПредишнаНапред »
sceptre and crown, to grant the honours which belong to distinguished services, instead of addressing the king himself; all which would be as fruitless as to kiss the splendour of purple, the glory, light, and golden rays of the sun, and a mere name, instead of the subjects in which they are inherent. It were well for all those who act in this manner to ponder on these words of John: "We are in Him that is true, even in Jesus Christ; this is the true God and Eternal Life: little children keep yourselves from idols," 1 Epistle v. 20, 21.
X. THAT ACTUAL REPENTANCE IS AN EASY DUTY TO THOSE WHO HAVE OCCASIONALLY PRACTISED IT,
BUT MEETS WITH VIOLENT OPPOSITION FROM THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER PRACTISED IT.
561. Actual repentance consists in self-examination, in the knowledge of sins, confession before the Lord, and thus in beginning a new life, according to the description given of it above. In the Reformed Parts of Christendom, which include all such as are separate from the Roman Catholic church, (to whom may be added such as are members of that church but who have never performed any actual repentance,) this is a duty to which they are most refractory; the reason is, that some are not willing, and some are afraid, to look into themselves, and disuse hardens the heart, and begets unwillingness, which is at length confirmed by the reasonings of the understanding; and with some it occasions sorrow, dread, and terror at the thoughts of it. The principal reason why actual repentance is a duty against which the Reformed Part of the Christian world is most refractory, is to be found in their belief that repentance and charity contribute nothing to salvation, which depends wholly on faith alone, from the imputation of which follow remission of sins, justification, renovation, regeneration, sanctification, and eternal salvation, without any regard to man's co-operating of himself, or as of himself: this co-operation
the maintainers of that faith call a vain thing, utterly contradictory, repugnant, and injurious to the merit of Christ; and this doctrine is propagated amongst the vulgar, who are ignorant of the mysteries of that faith, by the mere sound of these words," that faith alone bringeth salvation, and how is it possible for man to do good of himself?" Hence it is that, among the Reformed, repentance is like a nest of young birds forsaken by the old ones, which have been taken and killed by the hawk. To this reason another may be added; that every one of the Reformed, as they are called, is associated, as to his spirit in the spiritual world, only with his like; these are continually infusing this doctrine into the ideas of his thoughts, and so divert him from the track of selfinspection and examination.
562. I have asked many of the Reformed in the spiritual world, why they never performed actual repentance, when yet it is enjoined them as a duty both in the Word and in the ordinance of baptism, and likewise before the participation of the holy communion in all their churches: and they have given me various answers: SOME have said, that contrition is sufficient, attended with a lip-confession of being a sinner: SOME, that such repentance being performed by man's operating from his own will, does not coincide with the faith generally received: soME said, "How is it possible for a man to examine himself, when he knows that he is nothing but sin? this would be like casting a net into a lake full of mud from the bottom to the top, and which contains nothing but noxious worms :" SOME, "Who can so deeply inspect himself, as to discover in himself the sin of Adam, from which all his actual evils take their rise? Besides are they not, all of them, washed away, with that sin, by the waters of baptism, and wiped clean and covered by the merit of Christ? What then is repentance, but an imposition which gives grievous disturbance to tender consciences? And are we not by the
Gospel, under grace, and not under the hard law of such repentance?" SOME said, that whenever they intended to examine themselves, they were seized with a sudden dread and terror, as if they saw a monster by their bedside at daydawn. Hence the reasons appeared, why actual repentance, in the Reformed Parts of the Christian world, is out of use, and rejected. I have also in their presence inquired of some persons belonging to the Roman Catholic communion about their actual confession before their ministers, whether it be a duty at which they feel themselves refractory: and the answer they gave me was, that after they were initiated into it, they were not afraid to recount their sins before a confessor who was not severe, and that they found a degree of pleasure in recollecting them, and could cheerfully confess those of a lighter nature, but the more heinous not without some degree of fear; and that they freely repeated this customary duty every year, and returned after absolution to their former states of festivity; also, that they regard all as impure, who are unwilling to lay open the defilements of their hearts. On hearing this account, the Reformed, who were present, walked off, some laughing and deriding, others wondering and yet commending. Afterwards there approached some of the same persuasion, but who had been brought up in countries amongst the Reformed, and, according to the custom prevalent in those countries, had not been used to make particular confession, like their brethren in other places, but only a general confession before their spiritual guide; these declared, that to examine themselves, to search out and bring to light their actual evils and the secrets of their thoughts, were things to them impracticable, and that they felt as much repugnance and terror at the thought of such duties, as they should in passing a ditch to attack a rampart guarded by armed soldiers, who warned them not to approach. Thus it appears, that actual repentance is an easy duty to such as have been
familiarized to the practise of it, but to such as have never practised it, painful and difficult.
563. It is acknowledged, that custom forms a second nature, and consequently that what is difficult to one, is easy to another; so it is in the case of self-examination, and a confession of the sins that have been discovered. What for instance is more easy, than for a labouring man, a porter, or a husbandman, to work with his hands from morning till evening, when yet a gentleman, or one delicately brought up, could not do the same work for the space of half an hour, without fatigue and difficulty. A running footman, properly habited, finds no difficulty in running before a carriage many miles; and, yet the person accustomed to ride within would find it painful to run the length of a street. Every workman, who is diligent at his work, performs it easily, and with pleasure, and when he leaves it, is glad to return again to it; whereas another, who is perhaps equally skilful in his business, but slothful, can scarce be compelled to set about it. The case is the same in every employment and pursuit. What is more easy than for a man of pious habits to pray to God? and yet what is more difficult, where a person hath been long a slave to habits of impiety? What priest was ever without fear and apprehension, on his first appearing to preach before a king? but when he has been in some degree accustomed to it, he proceeds with boldness. What is more easy than for a manangel to raise up his eyes towards heaven, and for a mandevil to cast down his towards hell? though if the latter be a hypocrite, he too can lift up his eyes towards heaven, but not his heart. It is the end regarded, and the habit thence contracted, which determines every one's particular complexion and constitution.
XI. THAT HE WHO NEVER DID THE WORK OF REPENTANCE, AND NEVER LOOKED INTO AND EXAMINED HIMSELF, COMES AT LAST NOT TO KNOW THE NATURE OF EITHER DAMNATORY EVIL, OR OF SAVING GOOD.
564. As there are but few persons in the Reformed Parts of the Christian world who do the work of repentance, it is expedient here to subjoin this remark; that he who never looks into and examines himself, comes at last not to know the nature either of damnatory evil, or of saving good: for such a one hath no religion to lead him to that knowledge. The evil which a man does not see, know, and acknowledge, remaineth with him, and whatsoever remaineth is rooted in him deeper and deeper, until at length it closes up and obstructs the interiors of his mind, so that he is rendered first natural, then sensual, and lastly corporeal; in all which states he is utterly unconscious of any damnatory evil, or saving good, and becomes like a tree planted on a hard rock, which shooteth a few roots between the clefts, and at length withers away for want of moisture. Every man rightly educated is rational and moral: but there are two ways which lead to rationality, one from the world, the other from heaven: he who is made rational and moral from the world, and not from heaven also, is only so as to his outward speech and behaviour, but within he is a beast, nay a wild beast, acting in unity with the inhabitants of hell, all of whom are of such a quality; but whosoever is made rational and moral from heaven also, is truly rational and moral, because he is so in spirit, in speech and body at the same time, for within the two latter dwells a spiritual principle as their soul, which is the source of action to what is natural, sensual, and corporeal; he also acts in unity with the inhabitants of heaven. There is then a spiritual-rational and moral man, and also a merely natural-rational and moral man, and in this world the latter is