By J. GOODMAN, D. D. Rectour of Hadham.


S. Chrysost.

LONDON, Printed by E. Flesher, for R. Royston, Bookseller to His most Sacred MAJESTY, An. Dom. MDCLXXIX.

Imprimatur hic Liber cui Titulus, The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Guil. Sill, R. P. D. Henr. Episc. Lond. à Sacris Domesti­cis.

To the Right Honourable ARTHUR, Earl of Essex, VICOUNT Malden, BARON of Had­ham, LORD LIEUTENANT of the County of Hartford, One of the LORDS of his MAJESTIE's Most Honoura­ble Privy Council, &c.

My Lord,

I Have so deep a sense of those manifold and great Favours which through the course of many years without interrup­tion it hath pleased your Lordship to confer upon me, That though I know it is impos­sible for me to make any proportionable re­turn, yet it is equally impossible for me to omit any opportunity of making my just ac­knowledgments. And forasmuch as my obli­gations to your Lordship are as well known to the World as great in themselves, I think it [Page] becomes me, and am persuaded all men (but your Lordshp) expect it from me, that I should make some publick expression of my gratitude.

I will therefore do that right to my self to acknowledge, that when I first deliberated about the adventuring these Papers to the Press, it was a principal argument to deter­mine me so to do, because by the Dedicati­on of this part of my Studies to your Lord­ship's Name, I should have opportunity of performing so just a duty, and of doing ho­nour to so great Vertue and Goodness.

But, my Lord, I must needs confess, that when I came to make reflection upon the Subject, and the tenour of the present Dis­course, I was quickly sensible how great an errour my zeal was likely to betray me into, in Intitling a work almost wholly levelled a­gainst debauchery, to a Personage of so se­vere Vertue and Sanctity; for I considered your Lordship's early, as well as eminent and habitual Piety, and what need (thought I) is there of Physick to those that are in [Page] perfect health? and if as S. Paul asserts, The Law is not made for a Righteous man, because such are able to be a Law to themselves; much less is the Doctrine of Repentance suitably Preached to those that (in the words of our Saviour) need no Repentance: Thus I felt a conflict within my self, my discretion opposing the designs of my gratitude, and my present reason staggering my former resolution.

But then, my Lord, I considered also on the other hand, that seeing the Divine Ma­jesty himself is well pleased with those Ob­lations that are beneficial to the World though they are not usefull to himself, nor make any addition to his own glory and happiness; I could not doubt but your Lord­ship who hath so great a zeal to the common good of mankind, would permit your Name to be made use of to countenance a design of bringing men home to God, to themselves, and their own happiness; and of recovering the Age from the mischiefs of extravagancy and debauchery, which it too lamentably groans under.

[Page] And this, my Lord, re-fixed my resoluti­ons to Intitle your Lordship to this plain Piece of Practical Divinity; and so much the rather, because it is reasonable to hope, that the directing men's eyes and thoughts to so great and rare an Example of clear and unspotted Vertue, amidst all the disturbances of business, and the temptations of a plenti­full fortune, will be able to confute all their objections against the possibility of hero­ick goodness; and may have as much effica­cy to convince and shame them out of their follies, as the very reason of this Discourse to incourage their amendment.

And should I now, as well in pursuance of the design of my Book, as of my gratitude, make a draught of your Lordship in your full proportions; that is, endeavour to represent you as great as your own Vertues added to the Nobility of your Bloud have made you, I might (if my skill failed me not) exhibit to the World a piece of that Masculine per­fection wherein the most curious would not [Page] know what to desire, nor the most envious what to suspect. Forasmuch as not only this whole Kingdom, and that of Ireland, but several of the Neighbour States and Kingdoms also, can bear witness to your Lordship's steadiness in the Protestant Re­ligion; your Loyalty to your Prince, your Piety, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Prudence, Courage, and all other great and Illustrious Ornaments.

Nor do I fear by such a Character to de­rive any envy upon your Lordship, since very few of your Lawrels were the meer Favours of Fortune, but tht Rewards of Vertue, the Acquests of Prudence and Conduct, and won by Wise Counsels, by Generous Resolutions, and Noble Employ­ments; and in such a case it is to be hoped that Men will not have the Impudence to En­vy the Effects, when they have not the Bra­very to Imitate the Causes.

Thus my Lord, I could satisfy my own Conscience and do right to the World, in [Page] setting before them such a Pattern as would at once inflame the Generous, and shame the Slothfull and Vicious. But I know your Lordship's Temper, and the Greatness of your Mind too well to think, that hereby I should do an Acceptable Service to your Lordship; wherefore I add no more but my Hearty Prayers, that it will please Almigh­ty God to Bless your Lordship, and your most Noble and Pious Countess with long Life and Prosperity, to succeed your Lord­ship's Studies and Endeavours, to the benefit of Religion, your Prince and Countrey, and to preserve your hopefull Off-spring that they may Uphold your Family, Name and HOnour to after Generations. This my Lord, is the Constant Duty, and shall be the Incessant Desire of

My Lord,
Your Lordship's Most Humble Servant, JO. GOODMAN.
Octob. 1. 1678.

The Preface to the Reader.

IT is not unlikely that these Papers may a little sur­prize some of those into whose hands they may fall. Not so much in regard that this Subject hath been hand­led by others, for I modestly hope, that notwithstanding any thing I have seen or heard of from other Pens, this Discourse may have its place and use; but because I am aware that some of my Friends who have been privy to my Intentions, and to the course of my Studies, have made me a debtor to the Publick of a Work of a different nature from this which I now present. And I am not unwilling so far to own the Obligation, as to acknow­ledge that I have now for a good time applied my thoughts to the Discovery and Explication of the Nature and Reason of Religion in general; and I do hope, if it please God to continue me life and health, that in due time I shall in some good measure acquit the credit of my Friends in that point, and satisfy the expectation of so­ber men.

But because a Work of that nature and importance requires the most mature deliberation, and exactest dis­cussion; And because I willingly confess my self to be none of those who are as wise at the first prospect of a bu­siness, as ever they intend to be; and who, as if they had an intuitive knowledge, presently jump into an Infallibi­lity [Page] of Opinion, which they can never after find in their hearts to retract or outgrow: I therefore think it both fittest and safest that a Work of that nature should be di­gested by several reflections upon it, and ripened by time, which certainly is the best Counseller in the World. Ʋpon this account kind Reader, it comes to pass, that in­stead of a more close and speculative, this plain and practical Discourse is now put into thy hand, and recom­mended to thy candour; which notwithstanding, if all things be duely considered, is not altogether so remote from the design of the other, as may at first glimpse be imagined.

For it is very considerable, that the Apostle S. Paul, Gal. 5. 20. reckons heresies, amongst the works of the flesh, as if the exorbitancy of men's Opinions were occa­sioned by the irregularity and violence of their passions, and the sentiments of men's mind depraved and byassed by the corrupt inclinations of the animal powers.

And if we observe the World, we shall find not only very witty men to be oftentimes most absurdly and barba­rously vicious, but which is more strange, we shall see very bad men of very good Opinions; and on the contrary, very good and vertuous persons under most silly and des­picable persuasions. By which it plainly appears, that reason and the right notion of things do not so much go­vern the World, as either natural probity, or a [...] in the last mentioned case; or else interest and humour in the other.

From whence it comes to pass, that as the Platonist [Page] said, [...]. One may cal­culate what religious pretensions most men will be of, from the contemplation of their temper or interests.

For so we shall see a swaggering Hector become an easy Proselyte to the Hobbian Philosophy; a licentious Voluptuary presently commences an Epicurean Atheist; and an undevout temper sets up for a Theist; or some­thing worse.

Ʋpon consideration of all which, I am of Opinion that the most successfull way of recovering the generality of men to right notions of Religion, and putting them under the power of them, is to imitate Physicians, who when the Head is ill affected, apply not immediately to that (which though it be the principal part, is seldom primarily affected) but to the Stomach, or Hypochon­dria, or some other inferiour faculty which influence upon it, and make it bear a share of the consequences of their respective disorders.

Agreeably whereunto I have endeavoured in this Treatise to strike at Debauchery, as at the Root of most of the calamities of Religion; and which doth not more deform men's lives, then distort their reason; and either stifle or pervert the very principles of their Mind and Conscience. And though I will not be guilty of Libelling the Age we live in, by ripping up the disorders thereof, thereby to raise the value of this small performance; yet I am certain of these two things, that I have both designed publick good in this undertaking, and not varied from [Page] the substance of that which I have told thee was my first projection.

But dismissing all further considerations of that kind, as for the present discourse, I have neither such a fondness to my own production, nor am so much a stran­ger either to the humours of men, or the condition of the Times, but that I think it had been much easier to have gratified the curiosity of both some other way: Notwithstanding, since it is apparent that there is now a daies more light then heat, and less seriousness then either; and consequently more need that the prin­ciples of Conscience should be stirred up, then any notion started, or controversy moved: I am therefore apt to hope this Labour will not seem unseasonable; or however, I am well content to be one of those that had rather save one Soul then please ten thousand.

I know there is nothing so serious but may be exposed to Drollery by Atheistical Wits, who have had the im­pudence not to spare the sacred Scripture it self: and I know the World is never free from a sort of idle invidious persons, who finding it a far easier matter to find faults then to mend, carp at every thing that is made publick under this only security, that by reason of their own un­profitableness and sloth, no body can find any thing of theirs wherein to pay them in their own coin.

Neither of these sorts of men will I trouble my self a­bout, and as for wise men I know they will see many im­perfections in this Book, but they will also pardon them; [Page] especially considering that no man can think or write in all things just to the gust of another, but only those that have mercenary Pens, and parasytical prostituted Con­sciences.

It may be some of those whom I design to profit by this Discourse will think they observe some very necessary things omitted, or but slightly touched upon; such as especially concerning Faith in Christ Jesus, &c. To which my answer is, that I would as gladly, and as copiously have discoursed on that Point as any other, had either the nature of my Design, or indeed the series of the Parable lead me thereto.

Ʋpon the whole matter I have endeavoured to do good to as many as I could, and to give offence to none; neither to the Jew nor to the Greek, nor to the Church of God: If any thing seem obscure in any one part of this Book, I am persuaded that he that reads on shall find it cleared up in some other place. But if any thing be unadvisedly delivered (which God forbid) that is, ei­ther not agreeable to the Doctrine of the Church of Eng­land, or to the sense of wise and good Men, I wish it un­said, and hereby retract it under my Hand.

The Bookseller was not unwilling to be at the charge to re­present the principal parts of the Parable in Sculpture, which if it serve either to illustrate the matter, or to invite thy at­tention, the cost is well bestowed.

The Contents of the several Parts and Chapters of this Work.


  • THE Curious and admirable Structure of the Pa­rable of the Prodigal Son briefly represented. Page 1, 2.
  • The special design and meaning of it; the usefullness of explaining it, and the intention of the Author in the present explication. p. 3, 4, 5.
  • Of Parables in general. Of the obscurity of the Gentile Oracles, Old Philosophers, &c. and of the figurative way of the Holy Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testament. p. 5, 6.
  • Some reasons of the affected obscurity of Pagan Writers. p. 7.
  • Reasons of the Allegorical way of the Old Testament, p. 8, 9.
  • Of the Figures and Parables of our Saviour. p. 10, 11, 12.
  • Of the danger and mischief of Allegorical interpretati­ons. p. 13.
  • And the caution of the Author in this particular. p. 15.
  • [Page]The self-contradiction amongst the Adversaries of Chri­stianity, both Jews and Gentiles, some accusing it as too difficult an institution, others as a doctrine of looseness. p. 17, 18.
  • A famous but feigned Story of Constantine M. to that purpose. p. 19.
  • The special occasion of the Jew's mistake of our Savi­our's designs. p. 20.
  • Three ranks of the Jewish Religionists; a mistake of theirs built upon that distinction. p. 23.
  • Their misunderstanding the design of God in the cove­nant made with them on Mount Sinai, and conse­quently of the meaning of the Prophets. p. 25.
  • Ʋpon account of both which it is no wonder that they mistake our Saviour, who therefore vindicates him­self by this Parable. p. 27.
  • A literal Paraphrase of this Parable. p. 28.
  • Particularly who is meant by the Elder, and who by the Younger Son. p. 35.
  • The division and parts of the Parable. p. 43.
  • The three sorts of Laws mankind is under, (viz.) Na­tural, Divine, and Humane; and that all sin is a violation of some of these: the mischief of mistake herein. p. 45.
  • Sin is a violation of a known Law, and that God hath some way or other sufficiently promulged his Laws. p. 51.
  • The danger of mistake herein. p. 54.
  • All sin is voluntary. Cautions in that point. p. 56.
  • [Page] A remarkable passage in S. James paraphrased. p. 61.
  • The difference between sins of infirmity and presumpti­on. p. 65.
  • Instances of sins of infirmity. p. 66.
  • Instances of presumptuous sins. p. 68.
  • S. John 1 Ep. 3. Chap. 4. Vers. opened. p. 69.
  • About reluctancy of Conscience, and whether that abates of the guilt of sin. p. 71.
  • Of the several stations of Vertue, and divers ranks of Sinners. p. 74.
CHAP. IV. The Sinner's Progress.
  • Pride is ordinarily the first beginning of a sinfull course, As appears in the Apostasy of Angels, the Fall of Man, the Temptations of our Saviour, and the Me­thod of the Gospel. p. 83.
  • Neglect of God's Worship, &c. the second step towards a wicked life: the dependence between Piety and Mo­rality. p. 92.
  • Riot and Intemperance the third step towards Hell; an account of the Talents God ordinarily vouchsafes men, and how vice imbezils them. p. 96.
  • When men have abused their faculties, and mis-spent their talents, they become slaves to Sathan. p. 106.
  • The drudgery he puts them to. p. 109.
  • The desolate condition of an habitual sinner when the pleasures of sin fail him. p. 116.
CHAP. V. The import of the phrase [when he came to himself.]
  • That sin is a kind of madness. p. 121.
  • [Page] Proved by the description of madness, and the usual symptoms of it. p. 123.
  • An objection against this assertion answered. p. 129.
  • The application and conclusion of the First Part. p. 130.

Of Repentance.

  • THE general importance of Repentance; and why notwithstanding, little notice is taken of it in the Law of Moses. p. 135.
  • Three parts of Repentance. 1. Consideration. What is meant thereby, and the great necessity thereof. p. 140.
  • It is usually affliction which brings vicious men to consi­deration; prosperity rendring them light and vain. p. 149.
  • The special considerations and thoughts of a Penitent. p. 153.
  • Of Resolution, the second step towards Repentance. What is meant thereby, and the force and efficacy there­of, against the Devil, Sense, Custom, Example, and Reason it self. p. 162.
  • The properties of a penitent resolution. p. 167.
  • First, It is serious and deliberate, not rash and sudden. Secondly, It is peremptory. p. 171.
  • Thirdly, It must be present, not dilatory. p. 173.
  • Lastly, It is uniform and universal. p. 176.
  • [Page] The principal motives that bring the Sinner (when he considers) to a resolution of Repentance. 1. That it will be acceptable to God, even yet. p. 179.
  • 2. Not impossible to reform. p. 187.
  • 3. That it is easy. p. 191.
  • 4. Absolutely necessary. p. 194.
CHAP. III. Of Confession and Contrition.
  • The nature and instances of hearty contrition. p. 199.
  • The efficacy and availableness thereof, as doing right to the Divine Sovereignty; to his Wisedom, Justice and Goodness; to his Omniscience, to the holiness and pity of his Nature. p. 205.
  • It gives security against relapses into sin. p. 208.
CHAP. IV. Of Actual Reformation.
  • It consists in, 1. A singular care of God's Worship in all the parts thereof. p. 212.
  • 2. Conscientious obedience to his commands. p. 216.
  • 3. Submission to his providence. p. 221.
  • A recital of several opinions which debauch men's minds in this great affair of Repentance. p. 226.
  • Several arguments demonstrating the absurdity of all those opinions jointly, and the necessity of such refor­mation as is before described. p. 229.
  • Exceptions removed. p. 238.


CHAP. I. Of Reconciliation.
  • THE passionate Story of Jacob and Joseph paral­lel to this of the Prodigal Son. p. 242.
  • The notice God takes of the beginnings of goodness, and the use of that consideration. p. 247.
  • God's Spirit assists all beginnings of good. p. 250.
  • A memorable Story out of Eusebius, and reflections thereupon. p. 254.
  • God fully and freely pardons all sin upon Repentance. p. 257.
  • 1. Great and many sins. p. 259.
  • 2. Relapsed sinners. p. 261.
The Novatian Doctrine.
  • 3. Without Reservation. p. 263.
  • Applications of the former Doctrine. 1. The comfor­tableness of a state of pardon. p. 265.
  • 2. The great obligation to love God. p. 267.
  • 3. That we imitate the Divine Goodness in our dealing with our Brethren. p. 268.
  • 4. It should lead us to repentance. p. 269.
CHAP. II. Of Sanctification.
  • What is meant by the Best Robe. p. 273.
  • In what sense Sanctification goes before Justification, and in what sense it follows after it. p. 275.
  • [Page] Three remarkable differences in the measures of Sancti­fication in a beginner, and in a grown Christian. p. 277.
  • By what means those fuller measures of Sanctification are attained. p. 284.
  • Of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that by the Ring this is intimated. p. 290.
  • The difference between the motions of God's Spirit, and the gift or residence of it. p. 291.
  • The great advantages of the residence of the Holy Spi­rit in several respects. p. 293.
  • A passage of the Revel. 2. 17. opened. p. 297.
  • Whence it comes to pass that some good men have no experience of the residence of the Holy Spirit. p. 300.
  • How to distinguish the motions of God's Spirit from our own fancies, or the illusions of Sathan. p. 303.
  • The great trust God reposes in those he pardons, and their obligations to faithfullness and activity in his service. p. 306.
  • Several ways wherein a pious man may be serviceable to the Souls of men without invading the Ministerial Office. p. 312.
  • The peculiar fitness of those that have been converted from an evil course, for this purpose in many re­spects. p. 314.
  • A brief description of a perfect Christian. p. 319.
CHAP. V. The splendid entertainment, or the joys of Heaven.
  • That by the Feast upon the Fatted Calf those are intend­ed. p. 324.
  • [Page] Several figurative expressions of that state in Holy Scrip­ture: (viz.) Paradise, Rest, a City, a Kingdom, a Feast. p. 329.
  • An essay of describing the felicities of the World to come, according to the Scriptures; especially in four parti­culars: 1. The Resurrection of the Body; the won­derfullness and comfortableness whereof, although it be not doubted but Souls are happy before. p. 331.
  • 2. The perfection of all the powers of Soul and Body, and suitable objects to all those powers. p. 336.
  • 3. The eternity of that State. p. 345.
  • 4. The blessed and glorious Society of God, the Holy Je­sus, Angels, and Spirits of just men made perfect. p. 349.
CHAP. Last.
  • A Vindication of the Divine Goodness in all the afore­said dispensation, or in his thus treating penitent sin­ners. p. 357.

S. Luke, Chap. XV.

Vers. 11. A Certain man had two Sons:

12. And the Younger of them said to his Father, Father, give me the por­tion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13. And not many daies after, the Younger Son gathered all together and took his journey into a far Countrey, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15. And he went and joined himself to a Citizen of that Countrey; and he sent him into his fields to feed Swine.

16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the Swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

17. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my Father have Bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger?

18. I will arise, and go to my Fa­ther, & will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee,

19. And am no more worthy to be called thy Son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

20. And he arose, and came to his Father. But when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21. And the Son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son.

22. But the Father said to his ser­vants, Bring forth the best Robe, and put it on him, and put a Ring on his hand, and Shoes on his feet.

23. And being hither the fatted Calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry.

24. For this my Son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25. Now his Elder Son was in the field: and as he came, and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26. And he called one of the ser­vants, and asked what these things meant.

27. And he said unto him, Thy Brother is come; and thy Father hath killed the fatted Calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his Father out, and intreated him.

29. And he answering, said to his Father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment, and yet thou never gavest me a Kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30. But as soon as this thy Son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted Calf.

31. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy Brother was dead, and is alive a­gain; and was lost, and is found.



The peculiar Excellency of this Parable of our Saviour; and touching Parables in General.

  • § I. The curious Scheme and admirable structure of this Parable, the special Design of it, and the intention of the Authour of this Discourse in handling it.
  • § II. The Obscurity of the Gentile Oracles, Old Philoso­phers, and Ancient Writers of all kinds. Of the Al­legories of the Old Testament, and the Figurative way of our Saviour in the New.
  • § III. The reasons of the Pagan obscurity, and of the Figures of the Old Testament; especially of our Sa­viour's so much use of Parables.
  • § IV. Of the danger of Allegorical Interpretations: the peculiar advantage and security of doing it in this Parable: the caution of the Authour therein.

§ I. I Verily persuade my self that there is no intel­ligent person who shall happen to reade the passage of Holy Scripture now before us, but will presently, and at the first prospect of it, [Page 2] take notice of a very beautifull and affecting scene of things represented to him: wherein it will be very hard for him to determine, whether the variety of mat­ter, just proportions of the particulars, or decent and natural order of things, do more vie with each other, or more equally conspire to fill his imagination, and affect his heart. For in the very letter of this Parable he will see described, first, the Benignity, indulgence and condescension of a Father to his Son, together with the Folly and licentiousness of youth; then the Gradual progress and sad catastrophe of a course of debauchery; after this the usual misgivings of heart and change of mind upon such change of affairs, the serious reflexions upon, and late repentance of such follies: Then again a description of Parental affecti­ons; the exorableness of a Father upon his Son's sub­mission; the profuseness of his kindness upon his re­formation; and, lastly, the transports of his joy upon his plenary recovery. And indeed the most power­full passions of humane nature are here drawn with that admirable skill as to equal the very life it self.

It was not therefore pronounced at adventure by the Learned Hugo Grotius, but agreeably to his usual sagacity,Inter omnes Christi Pa­rabolas, haec sanè est ex­imia, plena affectuum, & pulcher­rimis picta coloribus. when he said, This Parable of the Prodigal Son is the most remarkable of all those which were delive­red by our Saviour, as being the most passionate and af­fecting, set out and adorned with the most lively co­lours, and beautifull similitudes. All which is discer­nible upon the most transient glance upon it. But he that,H. Grot. in v. 20. not contenting himself with so superficial a view, shall defix his thoughts, and maturely consider the intendment of our Saviour in this Figure, will partly by the Occasion upon which it was delivered, and partly by the thread of the Parable it self, most assuredly be led into an apprehension of some greater [Page 3] mystery therein contained. For taking his view from such station, and thence attentively surveying the whole scope and design of this Scripture, he will find in the general, that herein is traced out the jour­ney from Aegypt (a state of servitude) to the Land of Promise, through a troublesome and disconsolate wil­derness; or the passage from the brink of Hell to the gates of Heaven. More particularly he will observe the unhappy onset and beginnings, the crooked and anfractuous proceedings, the dangerous precipices, and the horrid and fatall mischiefs of a sinfull course, graphically described: He will also descry the direct, but laborious, the sorrowfull, but certain way of re­covery: And lastly, the glorious triumph, the com­fortable condition, and the sure station of him that hath happily conquered the aforesaid difficulties, and is arrived at the serene top of Vertue; together with the general applause, and universal Jubilee of Heaven and Earth upon such an atchievement.

And in confidence that all these things are pointed at, and intended in the scene before us, (as I do not doubt but will be evident by and by,) I do de­sign to take occasion from hence to discourse some­what fully and practically of these three very impor­tant particulars. (viz.)

  • 1. Of the nature of Sin, and the mischiefs of a wic­ked course.
  • 2. Of the nature and admirable efficacy of Repen­tance.

Lastly, Of the exorableness of the Divine Maje­sty, and the unexpressible benignity and graciousness with which he entertains returning sinners.

And, provided the management prove answerable to the design, I cannot in the least mistrust the accep­tableness of a work of this nature to any sort of men, [Page 4] who have so much seriousness and manly sense in them, as to value things in proportion to their real useful­ness; forasmuch as there is not that subject to be trea­ted of, which comes more close and home to the great­est concerns of all mankind. For,

In the first place, There are scarcely any so prodigi­ously vain, as not to acknowledge themselves to be sinners: and what can be of more use to him that makes that acknowledgement, then to understand what it is which makes Sin to be sinfull, what gives it its malignity, and makes guilt inseparably to adhere to it, what are the several states of sin and sinners, and especially what is the natural course and tenden­cy, the sudden growth and unhappy progress of sin? since hereby his conscience being inlightned, will be both better able to make just reflexions upon what is past, and also be made more cautious and diligent for the time to come.

And although it be true that every man hath not run the same mad risk of sin which is here decyphe­red in the Prodigal Son: yet as that is owing to the especial providence and preventing grace of God, where-ever the case is such; so that happy person will, by observing the wild extravagancies, the extreme follies and horrid mischiefs, which others incurr be­fore conversion, be the more provoked to adore the Divine Goodness in his own preservation.

Again, What can be of more moment to those that are apprehensive of the Majesty and Purity of God, of the holiness of his Laws, of the certainty of a Judgement to come, and withall are sensible of the frailty of humane nature, and conscious of their own many and great miscarriages, then to behold the na­ture of Repentance plainly described, and to be in­structed in the methods of making good their retreat, [Page 5] of redintegrating themselves, and successfully recom­mending their deplorable estate and condition to the Divine Philanthropy and mercy?

Lastly, What can be more ravishingly comfortable to a contrite sinner, then to understand the efficacy of true Repentance, to see a door of hope open to the worst of sinners upon their coming to themselves, and returning to their duty, to be assured of the hearty compassions of the Divine Majesty, to see the arms of the Almighty open to receive and embrace retur­ning Children; and all this as it were in perspective, lively represented?

§ II. But in regard it is a Parable which we have in hand, I think my self obliged (in order to the lay­ing a good foundation of what we shall afterwards build upon it) here in our entrance to premise some­thing briefly, first, touching the ancient use of this Schematical and Figurative way of expression, and the Reason of such usage; secondly, touching the Explication and Application of such kind of discourses.

And for the first of these, I cannot reasonably ima­gine, that any man who shall peruse these papers, should be so great a stranger to all that hath past in former times, as not to be aware, that it was the ge­neral custome of Wise men of old, to deliver their Sentiments after this manner and in such a style; and this not onely in meer humane and common Writings, but even in Sacred Writ it self.

To say nothing of the famous Oracles of the Gen­tiles, which in other circumstances as well as in this of Mysteriousness, have been observed to Ape and imitate those of the true God: And to pass by the ancient Poets, who were reputed as both the Divines and the Philosophers of the Ages in which they lived, [Page 6] and who were well known to have affected an Ora­cular obscurity, as much as the Oracles affected their way of versifying: If we take notice of the ancient Proverbs of Nations, which are supposed to carry the marks of the wisedom of their respective times and people, these we find for the most part obscure and Aenigmatical. And for the ancient Philosophers, and men of renown, such as the Wise men of Greece, dis­tinctively so called, or such as Pythagoras, Socrates, &c. who were no whit inferiour to the former, he knows nothing of them that is not sensible, not onely of accidental, but also of designed obscurity in their writings and sayings.

As for the Sacred Writings of the Old Testament, though with all good men I worthily adore that Di­vine Spirit which made choice of and directed the Pen-men of Holy Scripture; and readily acknow­ledge both the plainness and perspicuity thereof in the necessary rules of life, without which it could not have answered the ends of the Divine Wisedom in the enditing of it; and also that wheresoever it is ab­struse, it is as far from phantastry and affected obscurity, as the Pagan Oracles were notoriously guilty thereof: notwithstanding it cannot be denied, but that as well the Prophets as other holy Pen-men, do frequently make use of Metaphors, Allegories, and other Sche­matical forms, which must needs be attended with competent obscurity, these being as it were a veil drawn over the face of Divine Truth. Hence it is that Solomon makes the words of the wise, Prov. 1. 6. and their dark sayings, to be two expressions denoting the same thing: for, as he in another place speaks, their dis­courses are like Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver; Prov. 25. 11. that is, besides a truth and beauty in the outside or case of the letter, they had a more rich and precious [Page 7] meaning within. And accordingly we may observe the Apostles of our Lord, in the New Testament, fre­quently to fix upon and pursue a mystical sense of some of those passages in the Old Testament, which would to an ordinary Reader have seemed most strictly and literally to be understood.

Yet I do not think this will prove a sufficient war­rant for Philo, or some other Jewish Writers, to turn all those sacred records into Allegory: nor that it will altogether excuse those ancient Learned Christians from all mistake, who thought there was no way of reaching the full sense of the Old Testament, but by tracing a perpetual Metaphor, and looking every­where beyond the letter.

However their practice makes it sufficiently evi­dent, that it was the common sense of Antiquity, that the style of those Writings was mysterious and figura­tive, which is enough for my present purpose.

§ III. If now we proceed to enquire into the Rea­sons of this usage; so far as concerns the Pagan My­steries, we may say with justice enough, that it was their interest to hide those things from the light, that could not endure the trial of it: and for a great many of their Philosophers, they designed more to procure a veneration to their own persons, then to benefit the world; and chose rather to seem wise themselves, then endeavoured to make others to be so. [...]. Clem. A­lex. Strom. lib. 1. Or at least the not improbable account which S. Clement of Alexandria gives of this matter may sa­tisfie us; whose words are these, The manner and style in which the Greek Philosophers handled their Philoso­phy was like to that of the Hebrews, dark and aenigma­tical: for from them, whom they esteemed and called Barbarians, did those admired Sages (as that Learned [Page 8] Authour shews at large) borrow or steal most of that which was remarkable amongst them: and then no wonder if they took the Casket with the Jewel; the manner of delivery, as well as the matter they deli­vered.

But now if our curiosity lead us farther, to consi­der, what should be the reasons why the Sacred Wri­ters themselves observed this style, there are several things may be noted as of great moment in the case. Namely,

1. Forasmuch as the Divine Wisedom saw it fit in the infancy of the world, to exhibit a discovery of his mind and will, suitable to the capacity of the men and the Age, reserving the more full and ade­quate delivery of himself to the fulness of time, when the minds of men, having been opened and inlarged by degrees, should by those previous applications be prepared and made capable of those brighter beams of Divine Truth, which he ultimately intended to display: Hereupon it was necessary, that the Pro­phets and holy Pen-men should be directed in such sort, as that on the one hand, and in the letter, their discourses should condescend to the present dispensa­tion; but yet withall should on the other hand re­flect and glance upon, and give some hints of, that which was principally intended, and hereafter to be clearly revealed. From whence it must needs come to passe, (both the aforesaid purposes being jointly to be pursued) that there must be a frequent use of Figures and Allegories, and consequently some Obscu­rity.

2. But then, secondly, Because it was not the mind of God, wholly to cloud and obscure the glo­ries that were afterwards to appear, he ordered it so, that such a thin veil drawn over the matter should [Page 9] not more set off the beauty, then stir up the attention of the mind, and allure men to a very dili­gent inquisition. For, as much as utter obscurity of the matter, or absolute impossibility of accomplishing what is designed, do discourage and blast both en­quiry and endeavour: so much doth moderate and not insuperable, either difficulty or obscurity, in­flame a generous mind to comprehend and conquer; and as none but fools reach at plain impossibilities, so none but ignoble and little spirits are beaten off by meer difficulty. Thus in effect this way of writing became a Lapis Lydius, or Touchstone of minds, fit for and capable of excellent improvements. And this is the very account which S. Justin the Philosopher and Martyr gives of this matter.Justin in dial. cum Try­phone Ju­daeo. The Prophets (saith he) did cover the things they delivered under Types and Parables, [...]. insomuch that it was not easie for every one to understand many of those things which they spoke of, and the rather because they would exercise the diligence and study of those that applied themselves to their instructions.

Again thirdly, this way of expression recommen­ded it self upon this account, that whatsoever was represented in this Parabolical way, was apt to insinu­ate more closely, and work more powerfully upon the affections. Forasmuch as in this case the mind was not onely addressed to, by the meer dint of reason, but truth was in a manner made visible, and set off in such lively colours, that the imagination being impregnated, the passions were easily carried along too. To which adde, that hereby also the memory was exceedingly fortified; for such things as we feel [Page 10] and see, or which our imaginations have an expresse image of, and our affections relish, those things al­ways stick by us. All which considerations laid toge­ther, will amount to a satisfaction of the reasonableness of that figurative obscurity, which we observe in the writings of the Old Testament, and may in part also extend to whatever is of that kind in the New. But yet perhaps there may remain some difficulty, why our Saviour who came to make a full, clear and ul­timate discovery of the mind of God to the sons of men, should think fit to use this figurative way of expression at so great a rate, as that the Evangelist saith, without a parable spake he not unto them. Touch­ing which I have these things further to say.

First, by what hath been said already it appears, the people of the Jews, amongst whom our Saviour came, had been always trained up in an Allegorical way, and had it in such esteem, that they thought no man fit to teach that could not handsomely conceal and shade his sense, si quis noverit uti perplexiloquio, lo­quatur, sin minùs taceat. And therefore by an ad­mirable dexterity in the use of Parables, he marvel­lously recommended his discourses to the gust of that people; and had it not been that they were filled with intolerable prejudices against him for the mean­ness of his outward appearance, and upon other such like accounts, they must of necessity have had his wisedom in great veneration.

But besides this general account, our Saviour him­self gives us a peculiar reason of this his practice, es­pecially upon that kind of people, in these words, Mat. 13. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. To you it is given (speaking to his Disciples) to understand the mysteries of the King­dom of Heaven. But to them (meaning the genera­lity of the Jews) it is not given; for whosoever hath, [Page 11] to him shall be given, and he shall have more abun­dance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in Parables, because they seeing see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the Prophecie of Isaiah, saying, hearing ye shall hear, &c. As if our Saviour had said, ‘You my Disci­ples who are of an humble and docible temper, and are content to use means, and to resort to me for the understanding of such things as I deliver; to you it shall be no disadvantage that they are cloathed in Parables: for besides that I am ready to interpret every thing to you, my discourses are so ordered, as to become plain and intelligible to such unpre­judicate minds; the truth will shine through the veil, and the shadow shall guide you to the body and substance. But as for these proud and concei­ted Pharisees, that are transported with their own prejudices, and will neither understand nor pra­ctise things plainly delivered; for the just hardning of them, and such as they are, I deliver my self in such a manner as will not readily be apprehended by men of their temper. They shall choak them­selves with the husks whilest you feed upon the ker­nel. Much like to this is the account which Iambli­cus gives of the obscurity of Pythagoras; [...]. saith he, Pythagoras studied some obscurity in his dictates, to the intent that those onely who were vertuously disposed and so prepared for his notions, might be benefited by his discourses; but as for others, they as (Homer saith of Tantalus) should be surrounded with such things as were in themselves very desirable, but not be able to touch or taste them.

[Page 12] To which I adde in the last place, this way of Pa­rables, which our Saviour made such use of, in many cases came more home to men's consciences, and carri­ed more conviction with it, then any other more ex­presse and direct way of speaking. For the Parables were commonly taken, è medio, from the common affairs of life, and grounded upon experience or ac­knowledged maximes: and now whilest men readily ac­knowledged that in the Protasis or former part of the Parable, not knowing whither it tended, or what the [...] would be, they were utterly surprized and confounded afterwards by the patness of the applica­tion. For though they could have been willing to have disallowed what they saw touched their concern; yet having already unawares granted that from which it would unavoidably follow, they were intangled in a net and could neither go backward nor forward: for if they went forward, they came over to him and quitted their principles; and to go backward, was basely to deny their own concessions. Thus it fared with David in the famous Parable of Nathan, upon occasion of the Adultery with Bathsheba and Murther of her husband Ʋriah, the King presently condemns the fact, so long as he knew not the Malefactour, and therefore when the Prophet came over him saying,2 Sam 14. thou art the man, he was left without all evasion or apo­logy, and so brought to repentance. And in like man­ner the same David was intrapped by a like Parable which Joah put into the mouth of the woman of Te­koah, for the re-calling of Absolom. And after this rate our Saviour several times circumvents the Phari­sees, and especially in this present Parable, as will evi­dently appear anon when we come to open the occa­sion of it, but so much for the first point.

[Page 13] § IV. 2. Touching the Second, viz. the applica­tion of this kind of discourses, I am well aware that sundry Judicious Divines both of former and later times, have complained of great mistakes in doctrine, and many mischiefs done to religion by the too curi­ous and particular Interpretations of Parabolicall pas­sages of Scripture: and not without cause; for it is too easie to observe those that having taken their rise from the letter of a Text, have soared so aloft in a strain of allegory, that they have gone a pitch beyond all sober sense, at least out of the ken of all ordinary understan­dings, and strained a metaphor so far that they have broken all in pieces. Others have forced similitudes to run of all four, and upon some obscure and far fetched resemblance have given countenance to their own dreams and phansies, and represented the Holy Spirit of God as intimating what he never in­tended. I remember also what an acute person of the last Age pronounced,L. Bacon Advanc. that it was not to be called an exposition, but a divination, which departed from the letter; and he that used such liberty was rather a law-maker then an interpreter of laws, and might dictate whatsoever he pleased at this rate. All this is well said. But then on the other side it must be acknow­ledged too, that at least the general design and greater lines of a sacred Parable are argumentative, otherwise our Saviour would not have made such use of them as he did, nor would they have had that effect they had frequently upon the hearers: and if this were not true, a great part of the Gospels would be onely Ro­mance to amuse us, and not Doctrine to instruct us. And although it be true that such proof will not be convictive upon some kind of men, yet that is no ob­jection in the case, forasmuch as no other, the most [Page 14] direct proofs, will serve the turn with some persons: nor was it the design of God as I have intimated al­ready to put a flat necessity upon men, and to render it impossible for them not to believe; it is sufficient to the intention of the Holy Scripture that an honest mind, may by considering the occasion, and compa­ring therewith the make and fabrick of a Parable, discern what is drove at through the whole.

But besides, I think this Parable before us hath pe­culiar advantages of all other, and that it was design­ed by the wisedom of our Saviour, not onely to fit the occasion in general, but also to carry a resemblance in particular, and graphically to describe the very nature and manner of the thing he was discour­sing of. And that which confirms me in this persua­sion (besides the natural accord of things, and won­derfull easiness of application without force or strain­ing) is, that I observe men of the greatest learning and judgement both ancient and modern, and who are apparently the most free and untainted with the afore­said humour of Allegorizing, to follow the traces of the figure with a moral application quite through this Parable. Out of the great number of which I will select onely two for instances, St. Jerome amongst the ancients, and Hugo Grotius for the modern. The former of which at the intreaty of no less a man then Pope Damasus, makes a particular interpretation of this Parable in all the branches of it, which is the substance of his 146.Videtur au­tem praeter similitudi­nem totius, etiam par­tibus in­esse [...]. Epistle, whose exposition I have for the most part followed in this present discourse. The other, I mean the Judicious Hugo Grotius, to the words I lately cited from him, for the excellency of this para­ble subjoins these following, (in ver. 22.) Besides a gene­ral resemblance of the thing, it seems to carry on the alle­gory through the particular parts also. And again a while [Page 15] after,Sicut non anxiè con­quirendae sunt [...], in partibus comparati­onum; ita hic non negligendae, cùm cas aliorum locorum comparatio suggerat. Though (saith he) we are not sollicitously to in­quire for a moral meaning of every passage in these allu­sive discourses; yet in this Parable where the phrases made use of are by other Scriptures interpreted to such a particular sense, it is unreasonable to neglect it.

These reasons and authorities together, will (I doubt not) justifie a particular application of this Parable: Notwithstanding, that there may be the ful­lest security against the mischiefs specified in the en­trance of this point, I will take care that in the follow­ing discourse, no doctrine shall be obtruded upon the bare warrant of similitude or figurative resemblance, but whatsoever shall be delivered, shall be both groun­ded upon some express and literal Texts of Scri­pture, and attested by the consent of the Ancient Fa­thers.

And now (these things premised) I proceed more closely to pursue my purpose in the particular handling of the Parable.

The occasion and exposition of this Parable.

  • § I. The adversaries of our Saviour's Doctrine contra­dict each other, some accusing it of too great difficulty, others as a Doctrine of licentiousness, the occasion of this latter misprision of it amongst the Gentiles, a fa­bulous story of Constantine's conversion, the occasion of the Jew's misapprehension.
  • § II. Three ranks of Jews, a maxime of theirs built up­on that distinction, the crasse sense they had of the Mosaick Covenant, which things in special gave rise to their calumnies against his doctrine and practice, from which he vindicates himself by this Parable.
  • § III. A literal paraphrase upon the Parable.
  • § IV. The true interpretation of the Parable, who is meant by the elder, and who by the younger brother, the parts of the Parable, and of the ensuing dis­course.

IT is a necessary rule amongst all Expositors to look attentively on the occasion, and from the rise to judge of the scope and tendency of the discourse: and this is most especially requisite to be done in the in­terpretation of figurative passages, in regard there is no­thing so like but it is also unlike, nor so resembles any one thing but in some respects it may resemble another, [Page 17] and therefore here like those that sail in a narrow channel, where the Stars or the Card are too general directors, they are forced to sail by coasting as they call it, so must we in the explication of a Parable (where there is not alwaies to be expected a determi­nate and necessary sense of every phrase as in more di­rect discourses,) govern our selves by the general aim, and be sure to set out right at first from the design of it.

Now in order to the discovery of the true occasion of this Parable it is of use to note, That as it was the lot of our Saviour himself when he was arraigned by the Jews, to be accused by such as agreed no better amongst themselves then with the truth; and whose several testimonies more impeached the credit of each other then pressed him against whom they were subor­ned: so it hath often fared with his Doctrine and Re­ligion, to be accused of things inconsistent with each other; insomuch that commonly the several imputa­tions mutually confuting each other, have jointly vindicated (instead of aspersing) Christianity.

The special instance which I am now concerned to assign of this matter, is, that the same institution hath by different persons been accused of difficulty and fa­cility; as an intolerable burthen by some, as a doctrine of looseness and licentiousness by others. The former of these accusers have commonly been a sort of loose pretenders to Christianity, who because the Gospell requires that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and soul, and strength, that we live in all good conscience both towards God and man, that we re­strain not onely the outward acts of sin, but subdue the very passion and inclination thereto, and upon such like accounts cry out durus sermo, that it is a strict and severe Law, and if this be Evangelical obe­dience, [Page 18] it is impossible, and who then can be saved? And to help themselves out of these difficulties they run into wild persuasions, that either Christ Jesus himself (who delivered this institution) must in his own person so perform it instead of all that are to be saved, as to excuse them the doing it, or else God must be pleased by miracle to overbear them into the performance of it. But since these men profess Christia­nity, I leave them to be silenced by the express de­claration of our Saviour, Matth. 11. 10. My yoke is easie, and my burthen is light.

The contrary sort are those I am more concerned in at present, namely such as reproach Christianity as a doctrine of ease and looseness. Touching whom it is plain by the former objections, that this second sort of men must be absolute strangers to the tenour of the Religion they thus accuse, i. e. they must be ei­ther Jews or Gentiles.

For the Pagans, they either hearing that Faith was insisted upon as the prime qualification of a Christian, looked therefore upon the whole Religion as [...], a bare credulity, a meer facility of mind, or a supine abandoning ones self to the dictates and sugge­stions of others; or else considering that this Religion neither required nor practised the troublesome and costly sacrifices then in use amongst other people, nor so much as made any account of those nice observan­ces, and very austere rites, that were in great reputa­tion with all the world besides, judged it therefore to be a very cheap and easie thing to be a Christian: or lastly observing that many who were conscious of having lived wickedly heretofore, betook themselves to, and found both cure and comfort in this instituti­on, they thereupon concluded it to be an Asylum and Sanctuary to looseness and debauchery.

[Page 19] Upon some or all of these accounts, the Pagans were generally abused into the aforesaid misprision of Christianity, touching the third and last of which stumbling blocks I think it will not be unacceptable to the Reader that I rehearse a famous story from the Ecclesiastical Historians to this effect.

When the great Constantine to his own immortal glory, and the great advantage of Christianity, es­poused that Religion; the Pagans to slurr him and Religion together, devised this tale of him. That he having basely murthered his brother Crispus, and o­thers of his near kindred, and feeling some remorse in his conscience for so great Barbarities, applied him­self to Sopater the Philosopher and Successor of Ploti­nus, to be directed by him to some [...] or ex­piation, But Sopater tells him, that Philosophy affor­ded no remedy in so desperate a case. He then (saith the Story) goes to the Christian Bishops to get ease to his guilty and affrighted conscience; and they rea­dily receiving and incouraging him that a little Bap­tismal water would wash out all that stain, and ease the smart; he hereupon finding this a Religion where­in a man might reconcile the gratification of the most exorbitant passions with a quiet mind, became a Chri­stian.

Theodoret who relates this fable, thinks (as well he might) that it concerned his profession of Christia­nity to shew the falshood of it. And therefore after he had first retorted it upon the Pagans themselves, shewing that if it had been true, it was no more then had been allowed amongst them in the case of their famous Hercules; he afterwards demonstrates the ut­ter absurdity and impossibility of the fiction, in re­gard it might appear by Authentick records, that Crispus was alive long after Constantine became Chri­stian, [Page 20] surviving to the twentieth year of his reign, and subscribing laws with him. Notwithstanding the Story sufficiently evidences, that the Pagans had entertained such a sinister conceit of Christianity, as that it favou­red vice and licentiousness, and thereupon were pre­judiced against it.

But to pass over their crasse misapprehensions, and come to the Jews, they also had alike dishonourable opinions of the Christian institution as a doctrine of looseness. And these they seem to have taken up, partly upon occasion that they observed our Saviour to lay no great stress upon their idle traditions, which they were infinitely scrupulous about; partly also be­cause though they could not but observe that he was a most holy and diligent observer of the Law, yet in some cases, as that of the Sabbath, and such like, he interpreted it ex aequo & bono, and made the letter submit to the reason and sense of it, whereupon they cried out he dissolved the law. Neither was it a small accession to their suspicions, that upon all occasions he exposed the sanctimoniousness of their admired Pharisees, whose reputation was so great with them, that they were ready to think all Religion was struck at, when the inward rottenness of those painted se­pulchres was discovered. But above all they seem to have been confirmed in this ill opinion of Christ Jesus and his doctrine, when they noted that where­as the grave and demure Pharisees, the learned Scribes, the chief Priests and Rulers, and all the zealots of their Religion stood at a distance, and defied this new doctrine, those that resorted to our Saviour, and became his disciples, were generally persons not only of mean quality, but had been many of them former­ly infamous for their life and conversation, for so we find in the first and second verses of this Chapter, [Page 21] Then drew near unto him all the Publicans and sinners for to hear him, and the Scribes and Pharisees murmur­ed, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them, whereupon our Saviour takes up this and other Parables in this Chapter.

For the more clear understanding of which occasi­on, and consequently of the scope of the whole Pa­rable, these things following are to be considered.

§ II.Arias Mon­tanus in dilucid. 1. That the Jews (as to the affair of Religi­on) were wont to distinguish themselves into three ranks or classes, the first and most eminent amongst them were the Pharises or Separatists, (as their name from [...] properly imports) called also frequently in their own writings [...], which we may appositely render Frieries or Fraternities: a very precise and strict sort of men in their way, as who obliged them­selves to the most strict measures of ritual observance, fasting twice a week, frequent and curious in their washings, long in their prayers, broad in their phy­lacteries, demure in their behaviour, stately in their meine, starched and stiff in every thing. They had a custome of disfiguring their faces to seem pale and mortified: and as they had artificial faces, so they had consciences too, wondrous tender and sensible of lit­tle punctilio's, and the veriest trifle that was out of the road of their sect, but brawny and insensible of the highest violations of the laws of God. Their Religion was a kind of clock-work drawn up by the hand, and moving in a certain order, but without life or sense. In short, they had all the outward shews of admirable men, but nothing else; their devotions being calculated to take men, not to please God, and to better their interest and reputation with the peo­ple, not to benefit the world, or improve their▪ [Page 22] own tempers. However what by their own confident pretensions, and what by the credulity of those that take all for gold that glisters, these men obtained the reputation of the first rate of Religionists.

In the second rank were those which were called Sapientum discipuli, the disciples of the wise men; these did not constitute a peculiar sect as the former, neither did they oblige themselves to all the punctua­lity and phantastry which the other did, but they were such as applied themselves diligently to the study of the law, and governed themselves by the traditi­ons of the great Rabbins, and by such interpretati­ons as they had been pleased to make upon the Text. These I take it are those who are commonly called by the name of Scribes in the New Testament, and some­times Lawyers also, for that those two names were of the same signification, seems to be evident by S. Luk. 11. 44, 45. When our Saviour had a great while in­veighed against the Pharisees, and at last had joined the Scribes with them, Then answered one of the Law­yers and said, Master, now thou reproachest us also. And these men whether called Lawyers, or Scribes, or Wise men, though they distinguished themselves by no peculiar garb and cognizance as the former, nor made a sect in Religion, yet because they devoted themselves to the study of their religious writings, were looked upon as conservators of their Religion, and arrived at a great opinion of sanctity. Insomuch that there is a well known saying amongst the Jews, that if but two men were to be saved, or have a part in the other world, the one would certainly be a Pharisee and the other a Scribe. And in relation to this opinion of theirs, our Saviour saith to his disci­ples, Matth. 5. 20. Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall not [Page 23] enter into the Kingdome of heaven, i. e. if you be my disciples indeed, you must outstrip those two admired sorts of men, as much as they are supposed to outgoe all others.

The third rank were ordinary Jews, called in con­tempt populus terrae, the people of the land, who li­ved a common life without any nicety of observation, or peculiar note of distinction. These men might per­haps live honestly, and it may be also exceed both the former in real vertues of the soul; but forasmuch as they exacted of themselves nothing singular, nor af­fected any curiosity, they had no remark upon them, but were valued much after the rate that we common­ly signify when we say a good honest moral well­meaning man.

But now for such as were found guilty of living in any open and scandalous sins, such as fornication, and the like; these were held (and that deservedly e­nough) in no rank of Religion, and amongst these they reckoned Publicans also; that is, such as being native Jews, became instruments of the Roman power, collecting tribute for them of their own Na­tion, and both the one and the other of these were in no other estimation then Heathens, for so we find Publicans and Sinners, Heathens and Publicans, com­monly joined together under the same brand of re­proach and contempt in the Gospel.

2. It is to be observed in consequence of the for­mer distinction, that whereas for the third sort of men of whom they had no great esteem, it was accounted no wonder that they being filii terrae, men of a meer secular character, did hold correspondence, and had intercourse with Publicans and Sinners, that is, such as were proscribed the Cense of Religion;Vid. Qui­storp. in loc. Neverthe­less for any person of the two first ranks so to have [Page 24] done, namely, to be found maintaining any kind of society or friendly conversation with such infamous per­sons, was held not only dishonourable and unbecoming, but flatly unlawfull. For according to a tradition yet extant in their writings, it is reckoned as one of the six scandals that those higher Orders of Religionists are charged by all means to avoid, namely, to dine, eat or drink with such. Now this seems to be the first occasion of quarrel against our Saviour, that he pre­tending to be some extraordinary person, at least a student of the law, did not use such branded persons with the same supercile and disdain that their great men were wont to do, but familiarly discoursed, eat and drank with them. For so we read, Matth. 9. 10, 11. And it came to pass as Jesus sate at meat, ma­ny Publicans and Sinners came and sate down with him and his disciples, and when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with Publicans and Sinners, &c.

Let it be farther noted in the third place,

That the covenant which God made with this peo­ple on Mount Sinai, admitted of propitiation by sa­crifice, and thereby gave hopes of pardon onely to some smaller offences, but seemed to exclude all great and notorious transgressors, shutting them up under wrath, and appointing them to be cut off from amongst their people. And the minds of the Jews not being elevated above this literal dispensation, nor being able to distinguish betwixt this political transaction, and the eternal standard of justice and mercy in the divine mind, they were induced to believe, that God would exercise mercy upon no other terms then what he therein proclaimed, and that he was inexorable and implacable in all other cases beyond the tenour of that indulgence: whence it came to pass that they [Page 25] themselves in proportion (as they thought) to the divine proceedings, abandoned all the aforesaid kinds of notorious sinners as castaways, conceiving neither hopes of their pardon, nor usefulness of indeavour­ing to bring them to repentance.

And although the excellent discourses of the Pro­phets might have instructed them with better and more worthy notions of God, yet they superstitiously contracting those Evangelical expressions in the Pro­phets to the narrow sense of the Law, rather then improving the text of the Law by the divine Com­mentaries of the Prophets, continued still under the same mean and narrow apprehensions of divine mercy, and consequently thereof must needs pronounce very sad and dismal dooms upon all great sinners.

But forasmuch as they could not but remember the very great and foul miscarriages of some (otherwise) very holy men in the Old Testament, and particular­ly of David in his Adultery with Bathshebah, Vid. Grot. in ver. 2. and the Murther of Ʋriah, for neither of which sins any sacri­fice or propitiation was appointed in the Law, but the offender in such cases was to be cut off without mer­cy: therefore that they might not be constrained in consequence of the aforesaid persuasion, to exclude such men from all hopes of pardon too, they had ar­tifices of extenuating such mens sins, (as no doubt they had of their own) and rather then forgoe their hide­bound notion of God, chose against all sense to make those black crimes, meer peccadillo's, lest by the ex­ample of such great men (as David, &c.) other sin­ners should be incouraged to hope for mercy, beyond the tenour of their Law.

Now our Saviour preaching repentance, and gi­ving hopes of pardon to the greatest of sinners, upon condition of their present, hearty, and thorough re­formation; [Page 26] several poor souls who had been reproba­ted and damned by these severe Interpreters of the Law, were marvellously transported at so comforta­ble a doctrine, and with great affection and frequency resort to it. Hereupon these demure but dogged Le­guleians are offended, and insinuate a suspicion of our Saviour, that he was a friend and favourer of lewd and vicious persons. This (I take it) is the true state of the case, and the rise of the excellent discourses in this Chapter.

For in answer to their unjust imputation, our Sa­viour who could (if he had pleased) have shewed the sandy foundation of all their aforesaid Hypothesis, by discovering the designs of the divine wisedom in that manner of transaction with that people in that cove­nant, or by large deductions from the Prophets have demonstrated the uncircumscribedness of the divine goodness, or with admirable wisedom silenced them by a Philosophick discourse of the divine Philanthropy; He I say that could have vindicated his own doctrine and practice, and both baffled their arrogance, and shamed their ignorance, any of these or other ways, waves all this, and takes a more plain and popular ar­gument, confounding them by an appeal to the com­mon sense of mankind, much after the manner that God silences the petulant disgusts of the Prophet Jo­nah. Jonah was angry with God for being more exo­rable towards the Ninevites then he expected, and would needs have had a vast and populous City de­stroyed, meerly to make good his own prediction. But God convinces him of his unreasonableness by a live­ly Emblem. There was a Gourd suddenly sprung up which refreshed the Prophet with its verdure, and covered him with its shadow. God who had caused the Gourd to grow, quickly smites it; hereupon Jo­nah [Page 27] is angry again, and expostulates the matter with his Maker.Jon. 4. 10, 11. Thou hadst pity on a contemptible Gourd for which thou didst not labour, and which came up in a night and perished in a night, And should not I spare Nineveh that great City, (upon their repentance) wherein are more then one hundred and twenty thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left, &c.

In like manner our Saviour here silences the mur­murings of these hard-hearted Jews, by three Para­bles: The first concerning a Lost Sheep, vers. 4. The second concerning a Lost Groat, vers. 8. And the third of a Lost Son, vers. 11. In all which he appeals to common experience and the sense of humanity, for evidence of the fitness of his proceedings, and the absurdity of their complaints; shewing that it is the common course of men, to express most solicitude for that which is lost, and most joy upon the recovery of that which was given up as desperate. And forasmuch as the souls of men must needs be more valuable with a wise God, and a gracious Creatour, then those other things can be with men, he leaves it to them to infer how reasonable it is to think that the divine goodness is both highly pleased with the recovery of lost sinners, and with the means thereunto subservient. The con­sequence of which would be, that they must certainly see great reason to admire our Saviour's compassion, and condescension to the needs and sad condition of such men, as hugely agreeable and conducent to the ends of divine goodness, and none at all of traducing either his doctrine or carriage, as guilty of giving in­couragement to looseness and extravagancy.

Thus we see the occasion which led our Saviour to make use of this Parable, and thereby we are directed to the main scope and drift of it, by advantage where­of [Page 28] of we will in the next place make the following pa­raphrastical exposition of it.

§ III.

As if our Saviour had exprest himself more at large to this effect: A certain man had two sons, one whereof, and he the eldest, continued always in his family, content with his provision, subject to his government, and in diligent obedience to all his commands. But the other, (viz.) the youn­ger, full of juvenile heat and confidence, considers himself at the age of discretion, grows impatient of restraint, and desirous of liberty, especially fancying that he could live better to his own content, and every whit as well provide for himself, if he were at his own disposal. Therefore he desires his Fa­ther to set him out his share, and to put his portion into his own hands, and leave him to his own con­duct. The Father gratifies him in all his desires, gives him his portion and his liberty. Which done, the Son, as if his Father's presence or vicinage would put too great a restraint upon him, and give check to his freedom, betakes himself to another Country, out of his Fathers eye, reach, and controll, and there indulges himself the highest surfeit of licenti­ousness. By which means in a short time (whilest he injoying the present took no care for the future) the stock his Father allotted him was utterly ex­hausted, and with that his pleasures also fail, the roots that ministred to them being thus dryed up. And where his pleasures end, his cares begin; for now he hath leisure to look a little about him, and finds himself in a bad case, having no course left, but either to return to his Father, and confessing his folly implore his compassion; or to put himself a servant to a stranger, thereby to get a mean liveli­hood. [Page]

The younger son gathers all together and took his journey into a far Country. St. LVKE. 15. 13.

Non mulla posi institutionem humani aeneris, placuit animae per liberum arbitrium serre secum quandam velut potentiam naturae [...].

[Page] [Page 29] The former of these he was yet loth to come to, having not as he thought tryed sufficiently the folly of his own counsels; and to take to himself the shame of his own ill conduct by so plain a re­treat, was thought a sharper calamity then any he yet felt: therefore he resolves upon the latter, as if the severities of a stranger were more tolerable then the reproaches of a Father; for he concluded a man was not perfectly miserable that had no body to upbraid his folly. And now being in a strange Countrey, he comforted himself with this, that if he should find none to pity him, he was sure there would be none could torture him with the grating remembrance of what he was and might have been. Well, he becomes a servant, and he that could not brook the grave restraint of paternal authority, now feels the heavy yoke of servile obedience; for he is put to the base drudgery of feeding Swine, and hath the coursest fare for his maintenance, the swine and the servant seed alike, upon husks, onely with this difference, some body cares for the hoggs but no body for the slave; and the former have e­nough of that which agrees with them, but the latter is pinched with hunger, having not allowance of that sordid dyet answerable to the importunity of his needs. Being sorely afflicted with this, he that formerly dreamed of nothing but the sweets of liberty, and the surfeits of voluptuousness, and ne­ver once thought of that hungry wolf, want and ne­cessity, which now stands at his door, after many a sad sigh, discourses thus with himself: Ah fool that I was who knew not when I was well, that under­stood not contentment without satisfaction, nor could take up with the substance but must grasp at shadows till I lost both; that knew not what it was [Page 30] to be happy, but by the sad experiment of beco­ming miserable; that could not distinguish between the chastisements of a Father and the wounds of an enemy, nor believe but all yokes were equal, untill I was convinc'd by trial; that could not brook the government and restraints of my Father's family, though indeared by the reverence of my relation, and sweetned by the benignity of his countenance and liberal provision for all necessity and delight; nor be satisfied of my Father's wisedom, but by the effects of my own rashness and folly. Time was when I had the respect and dignity of a Son at home, who now find the contempt of a servant abroad. I was then put to no drudgery, nor had other task then to serve the honour and interest of my Father: and in so doing I consulted also mine own; for my duty and my happiness were then united. But I am now put to the basest office, to the vilest em­ployment, as if my drudgery were not so much im­posed in order to my Master's profit, as to my own contumely. But that which comes nearer to me yet, and pinches me very sore, is, that whereas in my Father's house I could neither feel nor fear want, I can now hope for nothing else: There the mean­est servant had bread, not onely to the full, but to superfluity; much less was any thing wanting to me then a Son. Now the case is sadly alter'd, I that seldome had so much hunger as might serve for sawce to the plenty of my Father's table, feel now the difference between the liberal hand of a Father, and the evil and niggardly eye of a hard Master. Oh the difference between the sweet sumes of plen­ty, and the gnawing pains of wind and emptiness! what would I give now for what I have formerly wasted or despised! Then I loathed wholsome food, [Page 31] and now feed upon husks. How do I now envy the meanest servant in my Father's house; they have enough of all things, and I the want of all things; they surfeit and I starve.

‘But alas it is to no purpose to complain here, the swine I feed cannot pity me, and the Master I serve will not. There is no other choice left me now, but I must return to my Father or perish; little did I think what would come of it when I forsook him, and perhaps as little doth he think what I have suf­fered since. If my sufferings have brought down my proud heart and taught me submission, it may be my deplorable condition may move his bowels. It is true he cast me not out, but I forsook and a­bandoned him; my youthfull heat and folly preci­pitated me upon my own ruine: but as he hath more wisedom then I, so perhaps the affections of a Father are more strong then those of a child; and the more he sees my foolishness, the more arguments will he find to shew me mercy.’

‘At least I will make trial of his clemency, I will humbly prostrate my self before him, I'le embrace those knees that educated me, I'le lick the dust of that threshold which I contemptuously forsook, I'le own my fault and take shame to my self, and so both magnify his mercy if he receive me, and justi­fy his proceedings if he reject me.’

‘I know my Father is subject or obnoxious to no body; who shall blame him for pardoning, or set li­mits to his mercy? nay who can tell the measure of a Father's bowels? It may be too there is irresistible eloquence in misery, and the spectacle of a sons ad­versity may have rhetorick enough in it to carry the cause where a Father is Judge. Or if he provoked by my folly at first, and extravagancy since, will [Page 32] no more own me as a son, perhaps he may receive me as a servant; for if my rebellion hath extinguish­ed in him the peculiar affections of a Father, yet it hath not destroyed the common passions of huma­nity, mercy and pity. If he will receive me in that lower quality, I am now broken to the condition of a servant, and shall think his yoke easy hereafter, having been inured to so sharp and heavy an one; I will chearfully submit my ear to be bored to his door-post, and be his servant for ever.’

‘Or lastly, if he will not trust a runnagate, nor believe that he will ever prove a constant and per­petual servant that hath once deserted his station, let him be pleased to take me as an hired servant whom he may turn off at pleasure; make trial of me, and admit me only upon good behaviour. But if all fail, and he should utterly cast me off, (which yet I hope he will not) I can but perish, and that I doe however.’

‘Well, this being resolved, he casts a longing look towards his Fathers house, and puts himself on his way thither. But no sooner was he on his way, (though yet a great way off) but his Father spies him: those lean and wan cheeks, and the hol­low sunken eyes his extremity had reduced him to, had not so disfigured him, nor those rags unable to cover his nakedness so disguised him, but his Father knew him; and the memory of his former disobedi­ence had not so cancelled the interests of a son, or shut up the bowels of a Father, but that the sight of his present misery kindled his compassion. And whilest the son, partly through that weakness which his vices and his sufferings had conspired to bring upon him, and partly through a combination of shame and just fear of his Fathers indignation, [Page 33] with difficulty makes towards him; the Father prompted by paternal affection, and transported between joy and pity, runs to meet him, falls on his neck and kisses him.’

‘The Son, though astonished at this condescension, and surprized with the unexpected benignity of such a reception, yet could not but remember what his Fathers joy made him forget; namely, his for­mer disingenuity and rebellion: And therefore humbly falls on his knees again, and with shame and remorse makes his contrite acknowledgement after this manner. Father (for so this admirable good­ness of yours gives me incouragement to call you, more then the bloud and life which I derived from you,) I have I confess forfeited all the interest the priviledges of my birth might have afforded me in your affection, having become a rebel both towards God and you; had I not first neglected him, I am sure I had never grieved you; and having forsaken you, I have not onely violated the greatest obliga­tion I had upon me, (save that to his divine Maje­sty) but also despised and affronted a goodness like to his: whatsoever therefore I have suffered was but the just demerit of my folly and contumacy, and whatsoever sentence you shall pass upon me further I submit to, and here expect my doom from you: I condemn my self as no more worthy to be called your Son, be pleased to admit me but into the con­dition of your meanest servant, and I have more then my miscarriages give me reason to hope for.’

Whilest the Son was going on at this rate, the Fa­thers bowels yearned too earnestly to admit of the de­lay of long Apologies, and therefore chooses rather to interrupt him in his discourse, then to adjourn his [Page 34] own joys or the others comfort: And because he thought words not sufficient in the case, he makes deeds the interpreters of his mind, commanding his servants forthwith ‘to bring out the best robe and to put it upon his Son, together with a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;’ i. e. in all points to habit him as his Son, and as the Son of such a Father, by all which he maketh the full demonstration of a perfect reconciliation: And not content herewith to give vent to his own joy, that it might not overpower him whilest he confined it to his own bosom, and perhaps also that those who had shared with him in his sorrows for the loss of a beloved Son, might par­ticipate also in the joy of his recovery, he goes on, ‘Bring out also the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my Son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found: and they began to be merry.’

In the midst of this extraordinary jollity, it happens the Elder Son, who (as we said before) had always continued in his duty towards his Father, comes out of the fields where he had been negotiating his Fathers affairs, and wonders at the unusual Jubilee: And when (demanding the occasion) they of the family had made him acquainted with the whole matter, he takes it ill, and interpreting this marvellous transport of joy at his Brothers return to be in derogation from himself; as if his Father was too easy and inclinable towards him, but severe to himself, and unmindfull of the long and faithfull service he had done him, be­gins to expostulate the matter somewhat warmly with his Father. But the good old man mildly replies, ‘Son I am very sensible of, and set a just value upon the long course of your obedience, and I have it both in my power and in my will to reward you: [Page 35] 'tis true I have not hitherto made such solemn ex­pressions of my love to you, as I have now done upon this occasion, for the case did not require it; you, as you have been always dutifull to me, so you have had my house and all I have constantly to accommodate you; as you have never rebelled a­gainst me, so you have never felt the hardships your poor Brother hath undergone by his foolishness; and as you that have never offended me never could di­strust my favour, nor need such demonstrations of my reconciliation, which the former guilt and extrava­gancies of your now penitent Brother renders ne­cessary in his case; so also was I never overwhelm­ed with grief for you who were never lost. But forasmuch as we have beyond all expectation recei­ved your Brother again, whom we long since de­spaired of, and had given up for lost, you cannot wonder, and you must allow me this unusual trans­port; for I say again this your Brother was lost and is found, was dead and is alive again.’

Thus far the [...] or letter of the Parable, where­in all things are so lively and natural, and the divine wisedom of our Saviour hath so accurately described the workings of humane minds, the natural motions of all the passions; as that if the Parable became mat­ter of history, it could not be otherwise acted. But now for the [...] or application of the Parable to the matter in hand.

§IV. In the first place it is certain, that by the Fa­ther of the two Sons in the mystical sense is meant God Almighty; of whom the whole family of heaven and earth is called. But who should be the two Sons is not so universally agreed.Theophy­lact. in loc. Some of the Ancients have been of opinion, that by the Elder Son, was [Page 36] meant that higher order of intellectual Beings which never forfeited their Station, nor revolted from their Allegeance: and by the Younger Son, the whole race of mankind under Adam their head; on whom (being fallen) God had such compassion, as he did not shew to the Rebel Angels; for which cause amongst other they are supposed to conceive hatred against God, and envy against men. But this interpretation is re­jected by others, and not without great cause; for in this same Chapter, vers. 10. our Saviour tells us the holy Angels rejoyce at the conversion of a sinner: and therefore they cannot be represented, as expostulating and murmuring at the favour extended towards such, which is said here of the Elder Brother.

Again,St. Austin Q. Evang. l. 2. others have imagined that by the two Bre­thren were meant the Jews and Gentiles; the Jews representing the Elder Brother, as having been God's ancient people; and the Gentiles the Younger, as who ran on in a long course of Idolatry, and estran­gedness from God, till they were by the grace of God in the Gospel, admitted into the birthright and privi­ledges of the Jews, to their great regret and indigna­tion. And indeed besides the opinion of the Anci­ents, it is not improbale in it self, but that our Savi­our foreseeing the emulation which would afterwards happen between those two ranks of mankind, might have respect to it, and deliver himself suitably thereto in this Parable; notwithstanding that cannot be sup­posed to be the primary meaning, which is utterly besides the occasion of the discourse: for as St. Jerome well observes, the controversy was not yet risen be­tween Jew and Gentile about priviledges, the latter being not yet called nor admitted to the grace of the Gospel; but the question was only, whether great and notorious sinners (though Jews) should be admitted [Page 37] to hopes of pardon upon repentance: and the Pub­licans in the Text, though they were Ministers of the Roman Power, and reputed Instruments of the Jew­ish servitude, and therefore hated by them; yet were not Gentiles but a looser sort of Jews, as the same St. Jerome fully makes appear.

Therefore by the two sons here must be understood any two men, or any two sorts of men, (whether Jews or Pagans it matters not) who as to piety and vertue have for a great while run a quite contrary course, but at last happen to meet at the same point of sincere goodness. Namely, by the Elder Son are described those, who from their younger years and minority, have been by the preventing grace of God, preserved from the common extravagancies and corrup­tions of the world; and by the blessing of God upon pious education or otherwise, have been by degrees trained up, and insensibly led on in the ways of Religi­on. As our Saviour elsewhere saith of the Corn, that it grows whilest men sleep and wake, that is, we can see it doth grow, but cannot discern the gradual pro­gress it maketh: so such persons become sincerely good and run a race of vertue, though we cannot see where and when they set out, nor assign any date of their conversion, by reason the change was not so palpably great, nor so sudden as in the conversion of notorious sinners.

Such a person as we are now speaking of seems to have been Obadiah, 1 Kings 18. 12. who sticks not to say of himself, I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. And such another was Timothy, concerning whom we have the testimony of the Apostle, 2 Tim. 1. 5. that by the carefull instructions of his Grandmo­ther Lois, and his Mother Eunice, he had been from his youth principled with a sense of piety and religion.

[Page 38] To these instances I will adde for the nearness of matter what Pontius Diaconus saith of St. Cyprian, Praeproperâ pieratis ve­locitate, paenè antè coepit per­fectus esse quàm dis­ceret. He so early and presently conceived a sense of piety, that his proficiency almost prevented all instruction. Nor can I forget what [...], St. Greg. Nazianzen hath left upon record touching his own Father, He was (saith he) a Sheep of Christ's flock before he came into his fold, and a Christian before he came within the Church; Pont. Diac. in vit. S. Cyprian. the pro­bity of his temper, and singular vertues of his life, made him a Christian as it were by anticipation. But per­haps these last expressions are somewhat too florid and rhetorical, that which I am saying is plain and ea­sy, that there are some persons of whom the Grace of God takes early hold, and the good Spirit of God inhabiting them,Greg. Naz. Orat. 19. not onely prevents the enterprizes of the Devil, but carries them on in an even and constant course of holiness: their Christianity bearing equal date with their manhood, and reason and reli­gion, like warp and woof running together, make up one web of a wife and vertuous life.

This is a most happy case wherever it happens, for besides that there is no more sweet nor beautifull thing in the whole world then the early buds of pie­ty, upon which account it is probably supposed, that our Saviour (who was far from a soft fondness of youth or admiration of external beauty) gave such signal tokens of affection to St. John, that he was cal­led the beloved Disciple. Besides this, I say, it is so much a more comfortable thing to escape the pollutions that are in the world through lust, by an early ingage­ment in a holy course, as it is more desirable to escape shipwreck, then to be saved by a plank; or to have no wound, then to experiment the most sovereign balsom; which if it work a cure, yet usually leaves a sear behind. Moreover he that begins his race be­times [Page 39] hath all along the comfort of his progress and proficiency, and feels himself daily approaching to­wards his desired end: whereas he that sets out wrong hath the hard and uncomfortable part of going quite back again, and undoing all he hath done, besides the agonies of conscience, and the strong convulsions which he must suffer, that casts off a long settled and habitual course of sin. To which adde, that whate­ver diligence or zeal of God's glory a late Convert that comes into the vineyard, as it were at the ele­venth hour, may express at last, yet it is certain he hath done God a great dishonour heretofore: where­as he we now speak of, is one that coming in at the first hour, labours all day in God's work, and equal­ly carries on the affair of God's glory and his own comfort here, and salvation hereafter. Now all these things considered, if there shall be any man so rash and injudicious, as notwithstanding to press all men without distinction in order to their title to the mer­cies of God and hopes of Heaven, to make the same severe reflexions upon themselves, or to shew the like sensible and discernible change in their lives, let them know by this unskilfulness of theirs, they unreasona­bly minister trouble to the best and happiest of men; and have a design quite contrary to that of our Savi­our, who professed he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. And in the seventh verse of this Chapter he speaks of just men which need no repen­tance; that is, have no need to make a change of their whole course and begin a new, as notorious sin­ners ought to doe. Both which places, I take, to be clearly interpreted, and to the sense we are assigning to them, by that other passage of our Saviour, Jo. 13. 10. He that is washed, needeth not, save to wash his feet onely: that is, he that is already ingaged in a holy [Page 40] course, and habituate to the ways of piety, hath only need to be duely cleansed from those occasional soils and defilements, which the infirmity of humane nature and conversation in the world suffer no man wholly to escape, but not to enter upon a new state, or begin a whole course of repentance. To which effect I under­stand those words of Origen in his Books against Celsus, [...]. Christ Jesus (saith he) was sent indeed a Physician to cure and recover sinners, but to improve and instruct those fur­ther in the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, that were already vertuous. I'le conclude and confirm all I have said of this kind with the sense of Manasses, which he expresses in his famous penitential prayer. Thou O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed re­pentance to the just, as to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, &c. but thou hast appointed repentance unto me who am a sinner, &c.

This I take to be sufficient for the determination who is meant by the Elder Brother, and then we can­not be much to seek who is denoted by the Younger; for what we have now said being granted, it necessa­rily follow, that by the Younger Son, are described all such persons as have run a dangerous risk of sin and impiety, that have committed gross and hainous transgressions, and continued in a state of disobedience and impenitency, after such manner as the Publicans and Sinners in the text are supposed to have done: These are said to forsake their Father's house and pre­sence, to mispend their portion in riotous living, who yet at last being reduced to extremity, come to them­selves, turn serious penitents, bewail their folly, re­solve upon amendment, implore pardon, double their diligence and care for the time to come, and of old sinners become young Saints, whereupon they are by a gracious God admitted to pardon and reconciliation, [Page 41] and adoption; for these the best robe is fetched out, the fatted calf slain, and upon their conversion as a thing utterly despaired of and unexpected, there is joy in Heaven, and amongst the holy Angels. These were dead in trespasses and sins, but are now quickned and revived by the grace of God; they were Stran­gers and Aliens from the covenant of Grace, but now become of the houshold of God, and heirs of eternal life.

And now these two points being resolved of, we have a key by which we may easily open all the cir­cumstances of the whole Parable, so that it will not be necessary that I insist longer upon a general inter­pretation. Neverthelesse lest there should seem one difficulty not sufficiently provided against, or any man should yet be at a losse, how if the Elder Brother denote sincerely good men, it can stand with their character to grumble at the mercifull reception of poor penitents, as here he is represented to doe. And moreover it may raise another doubt, if the Elder Brother be set to describe men of constant and unble­mished Sanctity, how such a person should be fit to denote the Scribes and Pharisees, who were certainly very evil and corrupt men. Unlesse a plain account can be given of these, it must follow, that either we have not hit the occasion of the Parable, or the Pa­rable did not answer to the occasion. Wherefore to these I answer joyntly, That our Saviour the more effectually to convince these Jews that reproached and censured him, proceeds with them upon their own Hypothesis; namely, taking it for granted that they were as eminently good and holy men, as they either took themselves, or pretended to be; and that the Publicans and Sinners were indeed as bad as they esteemed them: I mean he doth not intend to sig­nifie [Page 42] that these censorious persons were indeed good men, for upon all occasions (we see) he upbraids their rottennesse and hypocrisie; but because they out of opinion of their own sanctity and contempt of others, reproached his carriage in this matter, there­fore the designs to shew them, that if that was true which is utterly false, and they as good men as they were extremely bad, yet upon due consideration they ought not to blame his management of himself, and gracious condescension to sinners. As if he had said: ‘You Scribes and Pharisees wonder that instead of applying my self to your conversation, who are men of great note for sanctity and devotion, and never blemished with any great disorder; I rather chuse to lay out my self upon the recovery of flagi­tious and desperate sinners: now see your own un­reasonablenesse in this instance; You will allow a Father to be more passionately concerned for, and expresse a greater joy upon the recovery of a Lost Son, then he usually doth about him that was al­ways with him and out of danger; and if that Son who had never departed from his Father, and so never given him occasion for those change of passions, should expostulate with his Father for his affectionateness in such a case, you would in your own thoughts blame him, as envious and undutifull. Now apply this to your selves, and think as well as you can of your selves, yet upon the premisses, you will see no reason to calumniate my endeavours of reclaiming sinners, or my kind­nesse and benignity towards them upon their re­pentance.’

By this time I doubt not but the whole drift of the Parable is made plain and perspicuous to an ordinary capacity. Wherefore now I proceed to handle the [Page 43] particular branches of it: of which there are these three most remarkable in the Parable, and which as I have already intimated, are the designed subject of the sub­sequent discourse.

First, we have here a graphical description of the state and condition of an habitual sinner before repen­tance, from vers. 11. to vers. 17.

Secondly, a type or portraicture of true repentance and turning to God, from vers. 17. to vers. 20.

Thirdly, an Emblematical representation of God's unspeakable mercy in the gracious reception of such penitents, from vers. 20. to the end of the Chapter, but especially to vers. 24.

Of these three points I will treat in order according as the series of the Parable leads me. But yet because I apprehend it will be not onely profitable in it self, but also peculiarly subservient to the present design, that before I apply my self to a direct prosecution of the traces of the Parable, I give a strict and Philoso­phical account of the Nature of Sin, and the several Stations of Sinners, as which will give both light and weight, especially to the first of the mentioned par­ticulars, and in good measure to all the rest; This therefore I will endeavour in the next immediate Chapter.

Of the Nature of Sin, and of the di­vers States of Sinners.

  • § I. A definition of sin: the three sorts of Laws man­kind is under; (viz.) Natural, Divine, and Hu­mane. All sin is a violation of some or other of them. The mischief of mistake herein.
  • § II. A law that obliges must be known or knowable. Several ways of promulging the Divine Laws. The guilt of sin rises in proportion to the clearnesse of the promulgation of that law whereof it is a violation. The mischiefs of mistake herein, and the remedy.
  • § III. All sin is voluntary. Cautions for the right un­derstanding of that assertion: the proofs of the truth of it, and absurd consequences of the contrary.
  • § IV. A passage of S. James, Chap. I. vers. 13. &c. explained, and the nativity of sin thereby discovered.
  • § V. The usefulnesse of the foregoing definition, and explication. The distinction between presumptuous sins, and sins of infirmity, and their different effects.
  • § VI. Of reluctancy of Conscience, and whether that extenuates or increases the guilt of sin.
  • § VII. Of the several states and mansions of sinners, upon the consideration of which return is made to the Parable.

[Page 45] § I. IF we take just measures of the nature of sin (at least so far as it falls under our present conside­ration, for it is not within the compass of my subject to treat of Original sin,) it is thus to be Defined, namely, Sin is a voluntary breach of a known Law. Or to speak more fully and distinctly, there are these three things concurrent to make man guilty, or to denominate any action of his sinfull.

1. That by some act or omission of his, there be a going contrary to, and violation of some Law in being.

2. That the Law so violated, be such as is, or might have been known to the Offender.

3. That the Action or Omission by which such Law is violated, be consented to, and the breach vo­luntary.

All these three things together in conjunction are the ingredients which make up the deadly poyson of sin. And for defect of due consideration of the necessary concurrence of all of them to that unhappy production, It is hard to say whether greater Errours have ensued in Doctrine, or more Vices in practice; whether more perplexities have infested mens Con­sciences, or more uncharitableness hath imbittered their Spirits. For if the first ingredient be left out, Sin is thereby rendred either nothing at all or of so indefinite and uncertain a nature, as that loose and profane men will laugh at it: and on the contrary good and devout persons will never be free from sus­picions of it. If the second be omitted, the conse­quence will be, that severe and sad judgments will be passed upon the finall estate of the greatest part of mankind, and therewith very unworthy refle­ctions be made upon the Divine Majesty; And if the [Page 46] third branch be omitted, the number of sins will be vastly multiplied, but the nature and guilt thereof so extenuated, as that men will be tempted to be more afraid of God then of sinning against him. But all this and a great deale more will better appear upon a breif explication of the particulars.

First then, wherever there is sin there is a breach of some Law in being: this though it be not the full and adequate notion, yet is the first reason of sin. And accordingly we may easily observe that in most if not in all Languages, the very words that are made use of to express moral evil or sin, do all import the breach of some Law or rule of action. Especially the Hebrew Tongue (which is most significant in this kind) hath three words most usuall in the case which we find all together, Psal. 32. v. 1, 2. and all lead­ing us directly to this notion of sin. Blessed is be whose Transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered: blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not Ini­quity. The first word [...] which we render trans­gression, properly signifying to pass set Bounds or transgress prefixed Limits. The second [...] which we translate sin, denoteth a missing of the aim or mark we were to have directed our selves towards. And the last of the three [...] iniquity, implies the ma­king of a crooked and wandring path. So that we see whatever kind, condition or degree of sin it be that is spoken of, it is still expressed by respect to some Law or Rule, in deviation from which it consists. The like may be observed in the Greek Tongue, in the words [...], &c. and generally in other Languages.

But we need not insist upon niceties, when that which we are saying is the express assertion of two Apostles St. Paul and St. John, the former telling us, [Page 47] Rom. 4. 15. Where there is no Law, there is no Trans­gression. The other, Ep. 1. chap. 3. vers, 4. He that sinneth transgresseth also the Law: for sin is a transgres­sion of the Law.

Now for that Law which sin is a violation of, it is threefold, (viz.) Either first the Law of nature and reason, that is, those differences of good and evill which the mind of man is of it self able to col­lect by attentive consideration of the nature of God, and our relation to him, the state of the whole Crea­tion, and the mutuall aspects of the severall parts thereof upon each other, and upon our selves; (of which we shall have occasion to speak more here­after.) Or secondly the express and positive decla­rations of the Divine will concerning things to be done or avoided by us, which is commonly called Revelation or Divine Law. Or thirdly, the institu­tions, commands and prohibitions of such men as it hath pleased God to invest with Authority (under himself) of obliging others, which we call Humane Law.

To these some would adde Custome as a fourth rule of action, because they observe there are many cases wherein (all the former ceasing) wise and good men are wont to govern themselves by laudable and pre­vailing customs; but this so far as it is obliging, may be reduced to Humane Law. Others also would adde the Law of Charity, or of avoiding scandall as a fifth, but this is both provided for by the positive Law of God, and also deducible from naturall principles. Therefore the three aforesaid measures comprize all that which can fall under the notion of Law, and consequently every such thing as is to be esteemed a sin must consist in a deviation from or going cross to either all or some one or other of them.

[Page 48] For it is evident of it self that every thing is free till something restrain and circumscribe it, and it can­not be evill but good to make use of that liberty, which derogates from no other, which infringes no Authority, being retrenched by none. And it is as evident that we owe account of our selves and carri­age only to God ultimately, forasmuch as we derive our being and we have and are from him and him only: he therefore who gave us our being and all our powers and faculties and their respective ac­commodations, and who continually supports us in the exercise of them, may justly prescribe to us and set us what boundaries shall seem fit to his infinite Wisedome.

Now there are but three ways wherein he hath imposed any obligation or restraint upon us. viz. Either by such footsteps of his Will, as the mind of man may trace in the order of the Creation, those in­timations of good and evill which are interwoven in the very nature and order of things, and to be ob­served by naturall reason. Or secondly by extraor­dinary interposition, expresly dictating his mind and will to the sons of men. Or lastly, delegating Au­thority to those whom his Providence hath constitu­ted in Superiority, to prescribe to us in all such things as were not foreprized by the two former, i. e. that in all cases where neither the Laws of na­ture nor the Divine Law were infringed, there it was his will we should govern our selves by the Laws of men.

These I say are all the ways God hath thought fit, and all that are imaginable of laying any obligation upon us. Therefore wherever there is sin, either some plain dictate of Reason is contradicted, or some positive Law of God violated, or the Sanction of hu­man [Page 49] authority opposed; and where neither of these is done, there can be no sin upon the forecited rea­son of the Apostle, where there is no law there is no transgression.

WHICH plain truth we have thus carefully de­duced principally for the prevention or remedy of two mistakes very rife in this matter. The former is of certain honest and well-meaning, but timorous and superstitious persons, who not content to approve themselves to the aforesaid measures, nor thinking it sufficient for their security, that neither the Law of Nature, nor any expresse either divine or humane Law disallow their actions, are afraid of their own shadows, and suspect sin and danger they know not why nor whence; their heart misgives them, when there is nothing in the case, but either that the thing they are about is contrary to the course of their edu­cation, or forbidden by the imperious dictate of some person, to whose usurped authority they have prosti­tuted their judgments. Now would such persons be induced to consider, that lawfull and unlawfull are relative terms, and respect some definite rule or other, which must determine any action to be this or that; that God is well pleased that his laws be observed, and is not so severe and rigid as to oblige us negatively, that is, that we shall doe nothing but what he com­mands; that there is a great field of liberty interjacent between expresse sin and expresse duty, and in that we may expatiate without offence; that all actions are good within that scope, and though they admit of such different degrees as that some may be much bet­ter then others, yet none are evil that touch not upon the bounds and limits of Law: If, I say, these things were considered, which are no more then the effect of what I said before, then would those honest minds [Page 50] be undeceived and enfranchised, who for want of such consideration are put to the unhappy choice, ei­ther to be dispoiled of all liberty, or deprived of all peace; besides that by such jealousies they tempt both themselves and others to think hardly of God, and consequently of that, provoke all such men as are stran­gers to Religion to nauseate and abhorr it.

THE other mistake which we here seek to pre­vent, is of those that quite contrary to the former, are so far from thinking the three Rules of Action we laid down to be insufficient, that they persuade themselves it is no great matter for Law or Rule. The persua­sion of a man's own conscience, an honest intention and a zeal of God are able to bear out and justifie an undertaking, though against the expresse and literal direction of some Law in being. This conceit, (strange as it is,) hath neverthelesse had its Patrons and Pro­selytes both amongst Jews and Christians, and been the cause of mischief enough to both. Now it is true that it is within the power of Conscience, to make that which was before indifferent in the general, to become good and laudable in particular; or contra­riwise by its dissent to render it evil and vicious, be­cause God having given it a judicature, its consent is to be had in what we doe; in which sense, I take it, that of the Apostle is to be understood, Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and for that reason an erring consci­ence (as I shall shew by and by) is also some mitiga­tion of a miscarriage in practice. But it is far from that prerogative of being able to legitimate any acti­on prohibited by any of the aforesaid rules, for it is but a Judge not a Law, and must be governed by the measures forelaid. Or if we allow too, that the light of conscience is one of those measures, (as we doe) yet must it not bear down both the other; that is, it is [Page 51] onely a Law, and justifies an action when neither di­vine nor humane Laws have restrained it, and not else. Wherefore upon the whole matter it is apparent, that the three Rules aforesaid in conjunction make up the standard of good and evil; every thing is a sin that goes contrary to any of them, and nothing is so, that doth not.

§ II. 2. BUT Secondly, to render any action of ours culpable, it is not sufficient that some Law in being be broken, unlesse that Law be also promul­ged; i. e. such as is or may be known, for otherwise in effect it is no Law. And that government would justly be accounted arbitrary and tyrannical, and the Sovereign rather thought to lie at catch for the penal­ty then to desire just obedience, who shall impute that for a fault, which he had not given sufficient caution against by a plain declaration of his will and pleasure. For non esse & non apparere aequiparantur in Jure, that which cannot appear is in Laws all one as if it were not at all; because an unknown Law can have no influence upon those it should concern, nei­ther directing them what to do, nor forewarning what to avoid; neither giving notice of their duty, nor their danger; and consequently works neither upon their reason, nor their passion, and therefore not at all.

IT is true that all Laws have not the same way and manner of publication, for even amongst men several Nations have their several and peculiar forms of doing it. The old Romans by Tables hung up in the Market, and places of publick congresse; some have done the same thing by the voice of a publick Herald, or by the sound of Trumpet, &c. but how­ever they differed in the circumstance, they all agreed [Page 52] in the thing, that Laws were not perfect and obliging till they were promulged. And so it is with the Laws of God Almighty, he never expects that men should govern themselves by the secret decrees of Heaven, nor leaves them to guesse at the transactions in his Cabinet-Counsel, but first publishes his Law, and then requires conformity to it; though that in divers manners, as it seemed best to his divine wisedom. Sometimes he exprest himself by an audible voice from Heaven, wherein the Angels were employed as his Ministers, namely, when he gave his Laws upon Mount Sinai: other times by inspiration of Prophets and Holy Men, and making them the Interpreters of his mind to the world. When to give the more full assurance that it was he that sent and instructed them, he was wont also to send along with them some mira­culous power or other, as his Credential Letters un­der his privy Signet. But most gloriously of all did he proclaim his mind, when he sent his Son into the world, whose every circumstance from the miracles of his Birth to the glories of his Resurrection and As­cension, sufficiently proclaimed him the Messias, the Messenger of the Covenant.

AND for the Laws of Nature, these, though by some perverse men they have been denied to have the nature of Laws obligatory, because they have not had the like solemnity of publication, as others have had, yetTouching this matter let the Learned Reader consult Mr. Cum­berland de Leg. Nat. forasmuch as these have ei­ther been written upon the fleshly tables of men's hearts, where all that will look inward may read them, or rather, (as I have intimated already) are ingraven and inserted into the very nature of things, and texture of the universe, where whosoever hath not unmanned himself, and debauched his reason, may be able to discover them. And besides they have [Page 53] manifestly the sanction of rewards and punishments, in the constant experience of good and evil, attending the observation and contempt of them respectively, upon which accounts they must needs seem to all ho­nest and unprejudiced minds, sufficiently promulged.

SO that constantly some way or other accord­ing as it seemed best to him, God hath always been pleased to make his mind sufficiently and cer­tainly known to all those upon whom he intended it should have the force and obligation of a Law, and he never required obedience otherwise then in pro­portion to such manifestation. Accordingly we ob­serve, that when he had given Laws to the people of the Jews, and proclaimed them very gloriously and solemnly as aforesaid; yet in regard such proclamation could not certainly reach to all other Nations, (for that as well as for other reasons,) he did not exact of any other people conformity to those institutions, nor judged them thereby. So the Apostle assures us, Rom. 2. 12. Such as have sinned without the Law, shall perish without the Law; and as many as have sin­ned under the Law, shall be judged by the Law.

AND it is further very remarkable, that even the Gospell it self, which was (what the Religion of the Jews was not, namely) an Institution fitted for all Countries, Nations, and Ages; and which therefore our Lord Christ took care by his Apostles as his He­ralds to proclaim all the world over: This Gospell I say, till it was fully published, and untill men had time given them to consider well of it, and to over­come their prejudices against it, made a favourable interpretation of men's unbelief. This I take to be the import of those words of our Saviour, Joh. 9. 39. 41. For judgment am I come into the world, that they that see not might see; and that they that see, [Page 54] might be made blind. If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, we see, therefore your sin remain­eth. And to the same purpose, Joh. 15. 22. If I had not come, and spoken amongst them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. And of the truth of this, S. Paul himself was a great instance, for so he tells us, 1 Tim. 1. 13. I obtained mercy, be­cause I did it ignorantly in unbelief. q. d. I lay under mighty prejudices by reason of my education in the stiff way of a Pharisee; and it required a great sin­cerity to be willing to listen to new proposals, a huge sagacity to be able to see through those mists that were cast before my eyes, and a most generous resolution to break through these and all other difficulties; in consideration whereof, God was pleased to make abate­ments of the guilt of my unbelief in proportion to the temptations I had thereto. It is indeed both a well known, and as well received a Maxime, Ignorantia Juris non excusat, that it is no excuse of a fault to say non putâram, I did not know the Law; because when a Law is once promulged, every man is bound to take notice of it, and it can be imputed to nothing else but supine and affected ignorance, if he shall then continue ignorant. Notwithstanding upon the self same supposition it seems to be granted, that where the case is otherwise, that is, where the Law not be­ing sufficiently published, cannot be known, by an honest diligence, there ignorance is no fault, because indeed (as I said) there the Law is no Law.

THOSE who consider not this point, must needs be tempted to passe very dismal and damnatory sentences against the greatest part of mankind, and consequently cannot avoid very hard thoughts of God: for the prevention of both which great evils, as also to confirm what hath been now said, there is nothing [Page 55] more usefull then to study well the Parable of our Saviour concerning the Talents, Matt. 25. 14. by the due consideration whereof, we shall amongst other instructions be led into the apprehension, that God proceeds not with men Arithmetically, but Geome­trically, and that the vertue or vice which God re­wards or punishes consists not in puncto, but is estima­ted according to men's diligence or neglect of impro­ving those means and advantages which have been af­forded them. For as there is the same proportion between 1. and 2. as between 5. and 10. so he that having but half (suppose) of the advantages which another man enjoyed, proves to be as good as that other, is really much better. Whereas he that having double the advantages, is not better then he whom he this way so much excells, is not good at all, nor will be acceptable to God when he shall be weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary. Because whosoever had been furnished with true internal probity of mind, and was of an obedient temper, and had a sin­cere love of godnesse, would most certainly have ad­vanced in the measures of vertue proportionably to the opportunities he had of so doing; i. e. in the words of our Saviour, He that was faithfull in little, would have been so in much. And on the contrary, he that under great advantages hath not been propor­tionable in the improvements of his temper and life, it may truely be said of such a man, God hath been very good to him, but he for his part is not good at all. Which consideration will be of use, both to make us more wary in pronouncing concerning the final estate of other men, and also enable us to passe a better judgment of our own actions and state; forasmuch as it hereby appears, that it is not the bare conformity or inconformity of our actions to a Law or Rule [Page 56] from whence their value or their guilt arises, but respect is had to the knowledge or knowablenesse of that Rule. And so we have the second ingredient of sin.

§ III. 3. LASTLY, to render sin compleat and perfectly criminal, it is neither enough that for the matter of it, it be against some Law, nor that such Law be known, but the act or omission must be voluntary; that is, not what a man was overborn into by some fatal necessity, or compelled to by the force of some violent impression, not what he could neither help nor hinder; but what was so far subject to his own free choice, that he willingly did what he did, and could have done otherwise, or omitted do­ing if he had been so pleased. For whatsoever is not of this nature is not properly an humane act, and therefore cannot involve him in the guilt of sin, no more then the effects and productions of natural cau­ses can be esteemed vicious. And though men have understanding which those other causes are destitute of, yet that being onely the Criterion or Test of truth and falshood, not of moral good and evil, there­fore vertue and vice are not imputable to the under­standing but to the will, which being the Helm of the soul determines all its motions, and accordingly is accountable for them. For the more clear under­standing of which, and of whatsoever I may have oc­casion to say hereafter touching this matter, I think it usefull to precaution these three things.

1. THAT it is not to be doubted, but that notwithstanding the liberty which the will of man hath to chuse evil, yet it is not so uncontrollable in its elections, but that it is subject to the power of God's grace to be checked and controlled by him at [Page 57] his pleasure; for the divine wisedom may well be sup­posed to have a thousand ways of diverting man from his course without offering any direct violence to his faculties, some of which might easily be instanced if it were needfull; nay there is no reason to question, but divine omnipotence may (if it so please) irresi­stibly incline, move, and determine it to that which is good, of which some instances also may be assigned, though these last must be expected to be very rare, partly because that ordinarily to invert the nature of things, and put his creation out of course, makes not so much for his wisedom as it may seem to doe for the demonstration of his power, and partly also be­cause thus taking away the natural and evident reason of rewards and punishments, would obscure that ju­stice which he designs to glorifie. But this is all that is asserted at present, that whatsoever God may please to doe, either for the hindring of evil, or the effect­ing of good, he doth not necessarily determine or over­rule the wills of men to that which is evil, but therein they are left to themselves.

2. AS some excellently good men may arrive at such a perfection, such a new nature, and such habits of goodnesse, as that it shall be morally impossible they should chuse evil; (of which I shall treat more at large hereafter) so on the other side, it is neither impossible nor unusual for evil men to forfeit the free­dom of their wills, so far as to bring not onely a biass upon their spirits, but a kind of fatal propension to evil, and render it in a manner necessary that they sin. Namely, by long custome and inveterate habits of sin, they lose the aequilibrium and balance of their souls, and thenceforth wholly incline to evil. But forasmuch as this (wherever it comes to passe) is one­ly the effect of their own choice, it contradicts not [Page 58] what we are asserting; for whereas the habits were voluntarily contracted, the effects are interpretably so too. And therefore as we noted before under the former Head, that the reason why ignorance of the Law did not excuse a default, was because the Law being once sufficiently promulged, such ignorance must needs be supine and affected, that is, volunta­ry; for the same reason such men as we now speak of, cannot excuse their miscarriages, by laying the blame upon their present necessity or impotency; be­cause having first crippled themselves voluntarily, their actual halting afterwards is so too, in as much as it was free in its causes, though not in the special in­stances.

3. BUT that which is principally to be consi­dered, is, that there is a vast difference betwixt the power or capacity of doing good, or of avoiding evil; or willing so to doe on the one side, and of doing or willing that which is evil on the other. For to the former of these there is a necessity of the concurrence of divine grace and assistance, which no man can de­ny without falling in with the Pelagians; and there­fore when a man is said to have it in his power to doe good, that which is true is no more but this, that such grace and assistance which is necessary, is always ready and at hand; which jointly concludes for God's good­ness and man's liberty, making the actions of man pu­nishable when he doth evil, because grace was ready to have assissed him otherwise if he had not refused it; and rewardable when he doth well, because when he might have refused God's help he did not; and in short gives God the glory of what-ever is good, be­cause it could not be done without him; and leaves no man without incouragement of his diligence and industry, because God will not be wanting to him. [Page 59] But for the latter, namely, the doing or willing that which is evil, there is nothing more requisite, but the will it self (provided God extraordinarily inter­pose not to hinder it.)

THESE things premised, I am not aware of the least suspicion that can lie against what we are assert­ing; namely, that a necessary and principal ingredi­ent of sin, is the voluntarinesse thereof; and of the truth hereof, the proofs are as many and pregnant, as the absurdities of the contrary are manifest. For what ground can there be imaginable, why God should use exhortations and persuasions, reproofs and expostulations with men for sin, if it were not in their power to withstand it? wherefore should he upbraid them for their wilfullnesse, condemn them for stub­bornnesse, and after all severely punish them for what they could not help? If the insupportable weight of necessity lies upon them, or some latent and irresistible cause overpower them, they are patients rather then agents, and deserve pity rather then blame or punish­ment. It was a discreet saying of Porphyry, [...]. A man that is moved by force onely, is properly enough said to be where he was, as if he had not been moved at all. For whatsoever seeming alteration necessity and vio­lence may make for the present, when once the force is over,Porphyr. de abst. lib. 1. every thing returns to its own nature again, and is what it was before; but without doubt in all moral consideration, man is reasonably to be inter­preted to be in that state all the while, where he was by his own choice,Magnum humanae imbecilli­tatis patro­cinium, ne­cessitas, quae quicquid cogit excu­sat. Sen. and would have continued had not force expulsed him. And Seneca said very well, Necessity is the great sanctuary of humane infirmity; which whosoever can lay claim to, obtains protection. for it perfectly excuses all the faults it commits. What­ever can justly be pretended to be necessary, if it be [Page 60] evil, is a natural one and not a moral, and an unhappi­nesse or punishment rather then a sin.Mentem peccare non corpus, & unde consi­lium abfu­erit, pecca­tum abesse. So the Romans judged also in a well known case, It is the free mind which onely is capable of guilt, dull matter and body, whatsoever is passive cannot be blamed, because they can­not chuse.

NEITHER is it possible any man should re­pent of doing what he could not but doe, or of omit­ting to doe what was never in his power to effect; no more then that he cannot fly like a Bird, or move like an Angel. What remorse, or shame, or trouble of conscience can there be, that a man is not another kind of creature then he was made, that he did what was natural and necessary for him to doe, or for such things as may indeed be said to be done by him, and yet not be his act, that is, the act of a man, because he could not doe otherwise? God hath set up Con­science as his Vicegerent, and a judge within us; but as we said before, it is not so absolute as to judge without a Law, so neither can it be so unjust and ab­surd, as to condemn and torture without conviction of guilt. And though there is no doubt of the pre­rogative of God to impose what Laws he pleases; yet we have the manifold security of his goodnesse, wisedom and justice, besides his truth and faithfull­nesse, that he will not oppresse us with his sovereign­ty, but in all his dispensations will consider our frame and circumstances, and remember that we are but dust and ashes.

IN short, if there be any so absurd, as to affirm sin to be any way necessary, to all other absurdities they bring in the surly paradox of the Stoicks, and make all sins equal, representing the most pitiable in­firmities of humane nature, equal to the most disso­lute enormities: they infinitely increase the number [Page 61] of sins, but take off the weight and guilt, render it little more then a notion, and teach men to have no horrid apprehensions of it. They excuse man, and lay the fault (if there be any) somewhere else; but wherever that is, it will revolve at last upon God blessed for ever.

§ 4. BUT I persuade my self I need not proceed further in exaggerating this matter; wherefore both to close and to confirm what I have said, I will only subjoin the Authority of the Apostle S. James, in that remarkeable passage of his Epistle, Chap. 1. vers. 13, 14, 15. wherein he describes the concepti­on, formation, growth, perfection and nativity of sin. The words are these; Let not any man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God is not tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and inticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Upon which, let me crave leave to use the liberty of this lesse strict Paraphrase. As if he had said, ‘Let no man imagine, that God by any act of his providence, provokes or prompts, or much lesse puts any necessity upon men to sin; for as he by the perfection of his divine nature is infinitely above the reach of any temptation to act it himself, so it is so contrary to him that he abhorrs it wherever it is, and therefore can by no means contribute to it, nor have any hand in the produ­ction of it. And though several of his designs sup­pose it, and his providence be exercised about the regulation of it; yet this is no argument that he ei­ther ordained it, or effects it. For his wisedom is sufficient to inable him to see through all the series [Page 62] of causes, and to foreknow what they are pregnant with, and what they will in their respective times be delivered of, without peremptory determination of them thereunto. And again, although it be true, that sin could not have been in the world unlesse he had thought fit to permit it, yet it is never the more by him, since it takes its rise from nothing else, but the unhappy use of that great blessing and privi­ledge of liberty which he endowed rational crea­tures withal. Would you then understand more particularly the generation of this sponte-nascent? take it thus.’

‘FIRST then you are to know, that the great and wise Creatour of all things for weighty rea­sons thought fit to create mankind of a middle nature and condition, betwixt purely spirituall beings, and the inferiour world of meer animal and natural, making him participate of both; and agree­ably hereunto, endowed him both with intellectu­al and sensitive powers. The former whereof, namely the intellectual, were to enable him to serve his Creatour, to render him capable of noble and excellent delights, and that he might by them or­der and govern the inferiour and sensitive faculties. And these latter were given him, partly to relax his mind by a moderate and seasonable condescension to the sweetnesse of the senses, but principally to be a field and exercise for those active, vigorous and noble capacities of the mind.’

‘AGAIN, Secondly, you are to consider, that as that wise and benign Majesty never made any thing but what was good in its kind, and happy according to its proportion; so especially in this part of his workmanship, he prepared and appor­tioned objects suitable to the aforesaid different ca­pacities, [Page 63] and allowed the use and exercise of both, onely with this remarkable difference, that the ob­jects and entertainments of sense were little and nar­row, but present at hand; those of the intellectu­al powers great, but out of view and at distance; by which means it became somewhat difficult, but not impossible, for those higher faculties to main­tain that authority over the inferiour which he de­signed them for, and expected from them.’

‘3. THEN further to afford those higher pow­ers opportunity to shew themselves, he retrenches in some measure the liberty of the sensitive facul­ties, forbidding some kinds of enjoyments of their proper objects; in which case those strong, but un­judging faculties, being restrained in those things which were natural to them, and wherein they found a quick relish and delight, have (as it can­not be expected but they should) a pronenesse and inclination to such things, notwithstanding the di­vine prohibition. This is that which the Apostle calls [...], Lust; and which I think the School­men mean by motus primo-primi; and although sin takes its rise hence, yet hitherto there is no sin; for did the higher faculties now quit themselves as they might and ought, and in consideration of the reverence due to the divine Majesty, and those boundaries he hath set, give check to these inclina­tions, all were well.’

‘BUT now begins the mischief; For whilest those objects of sense continually present them­selves to, and court their proper powers and rea­son, not stepping in to disturb and forbid the parly, that pronenesse or connaturalnesse (of which we spake) quickly starts up into the desire of such things as God hath forbidden, in which consists the [Page 64] first conception of sin: and hitherto the higher fa­culties are guilty as accessories only, because they did not interpose to hinder these beginnings. But then in the next place, phansie and imagination be­ing employed about the object so desired, do in that manner paint and set it out, or by a kind of Chy­mistry so wonderfully sublime and heighten it, that the value is mightily raised, the desire inflamed, and in despight of all danger must not be denied. Thus the Embryo is cherished in the womb of the soul, and gathers strength. And now it was high time for the higher powers to correct their first error, to rally their forces, to call in all the aids of Religi­on, and set in vigorously, and stop the further pro­gresse of the mischief. But reason either laid asleep by the fumes of sense forgets the danger, and lets fall its scepter; or those higher powers, either prevented in their preparations, or corrupted by the charms of pleasure, connive at the disorder, and making but a faint and superficial resistance, the second errour be­comes worse then the first, and sin goes on and grows ripe for the birth: till at last passion still swelling, and reason yielding, consents as it were to its own de­position, and lust getting the consent of the will, hath the reins put into its hands, and so all the mem­bers of the body are subject to its command, and then is sin brought forth perfect and consummate.’

§ 5. THUS I have as briefly and plainly as I could, opened the nature of sin; by the tenour of which discourse we may gain this double advantage: first, to understand what it is which fills sin with that malignity, as to make it the just hate of God and man; and secondly, to be able to distinguish the se­veral degrees of guilt, or principal aggravations of [Page 65] sin. For touching the former of these, we may ea­sily perceive by what has been said, that guilt is not a meer arbitrary stamp that God sets upon actions, nor punishment an effect of harshnesse or severity, forasmuch as all that which God puts under that cha­racter, and punishes as such, is in the first place a con­tradiction to the divine will, and to that law and or­der of things he hath constituted in the world; and secondly, is a contempt also of the divine wisedom, in that the sinner either turns his back upon the pro­claimed Laws of Heaven by affected ignorance, or takes himself to be lawless, and confronts God Al­mighty; and lastly, there is wilfullness and contu­macy in it too; for whereas it pleased God out of special favour, to endow men with freedom, to the intent they might serve him both more honourably and more chearfully, they in sinning perversely turn this priviledge against their Maker.

AND for the second of these, though sin admits of many heads of abatement or aggravation; as namely, either from the matter of it, or the Law it violates, whether natural, divine or humane; or from the clearness or dimness of the light, under which men sin, the greatness or littleness of the temptation which they have to offend, and several other consi­derations of that kind which it is not uneasie to spe­cifie: yet the most general and the most usefull di­stinction is taken from that which I reckoned, as the third and last ingredient of sin; namely, from the consent of the will in the commission of it; for so if we observe we shall find, that both in the esteem of Scripture and Conscience, the degrees of guilt are principally reckoned in proportion to the imperfect­ness or fullness of its consent and concurrence to any vicious action. Insomuch that herein that great di­stinction [Page 66] of sin into infirmity and presumption hath its foundation; namely, when there is but an imper­fect compliance of the will, the miscarriage is of the former kind; but when it fully yields and consents, it is a sin with a high hand. Which being a matter wherein the peace of men's Consciences here, and their eternal welfare hereafter is concerned, I shall not suspect it will be unacceptable to the Reader, that I speak a little more fully to it.

AND first, to reckon up the most common in­stances of sins of infirmity, I take them to be pro­perly such as these following. (viz.) The first be­ginnings of sin not pursued, when a man unadvisedly enters the confines of evil, but recovers and withdraws himself as soon as he considers the consequents, and apprehends the mischief and danger. Or when by the nearness of the allurements of sense, and the quick motion of bodily passions, he begins to take fire; or when the extraordinariness of the temptation surpri­zed him, or the mighty prevalence of example over­bore him beyond his course and intention, before he well understood where he was; and he had no time to recollect himself, and to call in the aids of Reason and Religion. Perhaps a mighty fear may hurry a man to some degree of indecency, or an huge advan­tage may sway him a little aside, till he can so far re­cover himself, as maturely to consider; and then to set himself upright, he bends himself quite the other way. Now in all these cases, where there was no room for deliberation, there could be no perfect judgment; and consequently but an imperfect con­sent.

AGAIN, whilest a man is bending himself with all his might against some one extreme which he knows to be evil, and therefore carefully declines; [Page 67] he may perhaps in detestation of that, incline too much to the other: or whilest a man endeavours di­ligently to carry on both the affairs of this life, and the concerns of Religion too; it may happen that the solicitude and cares of the former, may some­times unseasonably crowd in, and disturb him in the latter. Nay once more, through the infirmity of memory, compared with the multiplicity of affairs, which a wise and good man's care extends to, it may not infrequently fall out, that such a person for the present forgets, or omits some duty of Religion. Now it cannot be said that any of these cases are perfectly involuntary, because it was not impossible, but that extraordinary diligence and watchfullness might have provided against them, nevertheless they are not deli­berate sins, nor was there any full consent of the will to them; as is evident both by what we have said al­ready, and also by this, that such persons we speak of very quickly feel remorse for them, their hearts smite them upon the first reflexion upon what hath past, and they presently recover themselves, and dou­ble their watch and guard, where they have thus found themselves overtaken. These therefore and all other of the nature of these, are properly called sins of infirmity.

BUT now on the other side, when the matter of fact is notorious and palpable, that it can admit of no dispute whether it be evil or no; when a man is not surprized, but makes his election; doth not in­sensibly slip awry whilest he was in his right way, but takes a wrong course; is not overborn by an huge fear, but is allured by the pleasures of sense; when he hath time to consider, and yet resolves upon that which is forbidden him; here is little or nothing to extenuate the fact, or mitigate his guilt; it is a volun­tary, [Page 68] and therefore a presumptuous sin. Such a di­stinction as this David seems to make, Psal. 19. 12, 13. when he prays that he may understand his errours, to the intent that with holy Joh, where he had done ini­quity, he might doe so no more, but earnestly begs that he may be kept from presumptuous sins; i. e. from such voluntary and wilfull miscarriages as we have but now spoken of: so, saith he, shall I be innocent and free from the great transgression. For though sins of infirmity in the most proper sense are not without guilt, at least if God should proceed in rigour with men, yet in consideration of the goodness of God, together with the evident pitiableness of their own circumstan­ces, they leave no horrour upon the mind, no stain or ill mark upon the person, much less a scar or a maim; but the other besides their great guilt, either terribly afflict, or lay waste and stupify the Conscience; they harden the heart, break the powers of the soul, and quench the Spirit of God; as we shall have occa­sion to speak more at large hereafter.

AT present I think it may be very pertinent to observe, that whereas S. John, Ep. 1. Chap. 3. vers. 4. seems to give a brief and compendious description of sin in these words, [...], which we render, Sin is a transgression of the Law; it is not altogether improbable, but that the Apostle intended to express something more then is commonly under­stood by those words in English; for besides that it seems a flat saying, he that sinneth transgresseth the Law, for sin is a transgression of the Law; it is noted more­over by Learned men, that the Apostle calls not sin [...], which had been the most proper word to denote a meer breach or transgression of the Law, but uses the word [...], which signifies a great deal more; namely, lawlesness and dissoluteness, the li­ving [Page 69] without, or casting off the yoke of the Law: for so we find it elsewhere used in Scripture, particu­larly, 1 Tim. 1. 9. where we have [...], lawless and disobedient, or ungovernable joyn­ed together. And thus the phrase of the Apostle be­fore us will import, not so much the meer matter of sin, (viz.) the violation of a Law, but the aggrava­tion of it as a presumptuous sin; namely, the wilfull­ness and stubbornness of the sinner. And if this gloss may be allowed we shall with much ease be able to understand a following passage in this Apostle which hath not a little exercised the heads of Divines, nor less perplexed the Consciences of many serious per­sons. (Viz.) vers. 9. of this Chapter he writes thus, he that is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed re­maineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. Now if we take sin strictly and rigorously here, for every thing that is contrary to the perfecti­on of the Divine Law, then it will be absolutely ne­cessary, that by the phrase, he that is born of God, we can understand none but our Saviour himself; (which is altogether besides the business) forasmuch as he only was without sin in that sense: but if we take the phrase in the latitude before intimated; that is, for voluntary, wilfull, and deliberate sins; then the sense is both easie and comfortable; namely, that the man who is truely a Christian, having not only the profession, but the new nature, temper and spirit of the Gospel; though being a man, and so in­compassed with temptations and difficulties, as every one is in this world, he cannot avoid all surreptions; yet the powerfull principles of Christianity setled in his heart, will not fail to preserve him (at least ordi­narily) from rebellion and wilfull disobedience.

[Page 70] AND this way of interpreting these and the like passages of the New Testament, is strongly countenanced by what we find Luk. 1. 6. where it is said of Zachary and Elizabeth, that they were both of them righteous be­fore God, walking in all the commandments and ordinan­ces of the Lord blameless. That is, they were sincerely good and vertuous persons, their hearts were principled with the fear and love of God; and though they were not without the errours and failings incident to hu­manity, yet they strictly made Conscience of their duty, and did not deliberately depart from the way of God's commandments. And that passage concern­ing David, 1 King. 15. 5. seems sufficient to put the matter out of doubt, where it is said, David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Ʋriah the Hittite. Notwithstanding the Scripture reckons up several fail­ings of David; his passion for Absalom, his numbring the People, his approaching too near the Lord's An­nointed when he cut off the skirt of Saul's Garment, (for which his heart smote him) his despondency of mind and mistrusts that he should one day fall by the hand of Saul, his rage against Nabal, &c. But in re­gard these were but imperfectly voluntary, therefore they make no blot in his Character. But in the mat­ter of Ʋriah the fact was horrible, there was time for deliberation, the use of cunning and contrivance, and therefore full consent. Wherefore this was quite of another consideration from all the rest, and left such a stain upon him, as required many tears and prayers, and a very serious and signal repentance to cleanse him from.

[Page 71] § VI. THUS much I had thought sufficient for the clearing the distinction between sins of infirmity and presumption; but I cannot but take notice of a mistake equally common and dangerous, which where­ever it takes place, doth not only render all we have hitherto said useless, but is of fatal consequence to the souls of men. It is to this effect: When men are about the commission of some great and enormous sin, it is not unusual for them to find some reluctancy and abhorrence within themselves. Now for the sake of this they think, that although they yield to the temptation, and commit the sin; yet it will not be esteemed altogether a voluntary transgression, but will admit of great abatements, by reason of such com­bate and conflict which they found in themselves. And to this purpose they apply that passage of the A­postle, Rom. 7. 15. That which I doe I allow not, for what I would that doe I not, but what I would not that I doe. And that which follows also, vers. 17. So then it is no more I that doe it, but sin that dwelleth in me. But to remove so dangerous a mistake, it would be well considered in the first place, that however some have learned to call such a reluctancy as aforesaid, by the specious name of the combat between the flesh and spirit, or the regenerate and unregenerate part, as the same men love to speak; it is certainly nothing else, but meerly some remains of natural Conscience in men, and is to be found in some measure in the ve­ry worst of men; that is, in all but those whose Con­sciences are seared, and utterly insensible. It is the very nature of Conscience it self, which is nothing else but a kind of internal sense of good and evil im­planted by God in the nature of man; and a man may more easily destroy any of his outward senses, then quite extinguish this. The Apostle takes notice of it [Page 72] in the Romans, Chap. 2. vers. 15. whose vices were yet so notorious, as that they were utterly out of ca­pacity of being accounted regenerate men. Indeed, if a man found in himself so quick a sense of his duty, and were so tender of all degrees of evil, that his Con­science not only checkt, but called him off, and re­strained him upon the first appearance or approaches of sin; this (as I have intimated before) would be a good sign of regeneration; and such beginnings of evil so resisted, will not be imputed as wilfull trans­gressions.

BUT when a man's Conscience only checks him, but he goes on and commits the sin, the best that can be made of it, is only that it is not a seared Consci­ence; and yet such a man is in a fair way to that also; for as a part of the body by being often rubbed and hurt, grows at last callous and insensible, so the Con­science being often resisted in its intimations, and stifled and over-born by the fury of lust and passion, grows at last stupid and dead. So the Apostle tells us, Rom. 1. 28. because they liked not to retain God in their minds he gave them up to vain imaginations, and be­cause they gave themselves to sensuality, he gave them up to unnatural lusts; and so by degrees [...] [...], to a reprobate mind; to a state of stupidity, a spi­rit of injudiciousness to lose the feeling of good and evil. And in the mean time it is so far from extenua­ting the guilt of a man's sin, that his heart smote him for it; that on the contrary, it is a great aggravation of his presumption, that he went on to the commission of it notwithstanding. If a man could say he did not so well know his duty as he should, and therefore his Conscience not being rightly informed, did not give him warning of it; or that he was in a hurry, and could not consider; or confesses his rashness and precipi­tancy; [Page 73] these are some mitigations, for (as S. Clemens well pronounces, [...].) That which is involuntary is sudden; and where a man cannot deliberate,Clem. A­lex. pae­dag l. 1. c. 2. he scarcely con­sents. But when the case is such, that a man must acknowledge he knew what he did, he thought of it and condemned it, and yet did it; this surely is an aggravation, if any thing in the world be so. It is (saith a generous Heathen, [...]. Plutarch by name,) a most unmanly and brutish thing for a man that knows what he should doe, softly and effeminately to give him­self up to the swing of intemperate passions. In short, if when a man (confessing the truth) must say, he had reason against what he did, but confronted it; his conscience shamed him, but he resolved to be shameless; he had weapons in his hand to resist temp­tation, but he cast them down and yielded: (all which is implied, when a man saith his Conscience smote him when he went about a sin, but neverthe­less he persisted and committed it;) I say, if this be not a voluntary sin, there is no such thing incident to mankind.

§ VII. THUS much concerning the guilt or ma­lignity of sin in the general: Now briefly for the va­rious states and mansions of sinners: Which we shall the more easily understand, if we first consider the se­veral degrees of vertue; or so many higher and lower capacities as there are of being good and holy. And I know not where to find these more exactly reckon­ed up and described, then by S. Clement of Alexan­dria, who makes four stations of perfection. [...]. 1. Not to sin at all, Which (saith he) is the felicity of the divine nature, and to be sure not the condition of any meer man in this world. 2. Not to commit any wilfull or voluntary sin, which is the attainment of the perfect man [Page 74] or true Gnostick, [...]. Clem. Alex. paedag. lib. 1. as he uses to speak. 3. Rarely to be guilty of inadvertency, or involuntary Lapses; which is the condition of a good proficient in religion. 4. and Lastly, When a man hath sinned, to recover himself early by repentance, and not lie under the guilt, nor much less grow into a habit of sin. Which lowest degree, though it be vastly different from every of the for­mer; yet it is tolerable, and acceptable, through the mercy of God, as we shall see anon.

NOW in some proportion to this discourse, we will suppose 4 stations or degrees of wickedness: 1. Such as do nothing but sin, which we only mention for method­sake, for as we are certain non datur summum malum, or that there is no being absolutely evil, (as the Ma­nichees imagined) so it is very questionable whether the very Devil himself do nothing but what is evil; but it is out of all question with me, that the worst and most viciously inclined men do some good. And for those that can assert the most vertuous actions of unregenerate men to be express sins, they may pre­tend what Patrons they will of their opinion; but I am sure neither Scripture nor reason will countenance it: for though it be true that the best actions of such men are not acceptable as the conditions of eternal life, because they are disjoined from habitual sanctifi­cation and true holiness; yet that they are not therefore sins will sufficiently appear by what we have said not long since in the description of the nature of sin. Nei­ther because they are defective in some circumstances do they cease to be good, or become sins; for then the best performances of the best men in this world would be sins too, because they are also defective in circumstances.

[Page 75] 2. THE second (or rather first) rank of sin­ners, consists of such as live in the habitual practice of great and enormous sins, whether of one kind or of many; I confess at the first sight, one would think these should be divided into two classes, whereof the first should be those profligate wretches and sons of Belial, who perfectly abandon themselves to the temptation of the Devil, and the fury of their own lusts; and adde drunkenness to thirst, as the Scripture expresseth it; or run from one kind of sin to another with a kind of greediness, as if (were it possible) they loved evil for its own sake, or had a spite both at God and their own souls. And the second should be those more reserved and cautious sinners, who perhaps may carry it very demurely in many respects, but maintain some bosome sin which is as dear to them as their right eye, and as necessary as their right hand; and this they hope God will indulge them, Oh it is a little one, and their souls shall live. I say I should in civility have provided these a form by themselves, and not set them with the open and scandalous sinners, but that I observe God makes no difference between them: His servants ye are (saith the Apostle) to whom ye obey; and it is no matter whether a man have many Masters or one, he is equally a slave that is led cap­tive either way. And so 8. James in that most remar­kable passage, Chap. 2. vers. 10. Whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all. Of which seeming Paradox he gives account in the next Verse; For he that said, Do not commit adul­tery, said also, Do not kill, &c. i. e. The reverence of every branch of God's Law, is built upon the consi­deration of his sovereignty and right to prescribe to us; which he impeaches whosoever dispenses with himself in the habitual breach of any one of his com­mands. [Page 76] For whatever particular he chooses to trans­gress in, he derogates from the authority of the whole. Besides, it is to be considered, that all sins cannot stand together; some sins are as repugnant and contradictory to each other, as all are to vertue; and moreover, non omnis fert omnia tellus, it may be not the humour, or interest, or not sutable to the constitution of some man to act some sin; when yet it is neither love of vertue, nor the fear of God which makes him abstain from it. These therefore are just­ly joyned together; namely, all such as live in the habitual practice of one or more notorious sins.

3. A THIRD rank are such as, though they live not in the habit, yet are guilty of the act of some ve­ry great and flagitious crime: for there are some sins very deadly, even in single acts; as either con­taining a complication of many wickednesses toge­ther, as sacriledge, adultery, sedition; or such as can never be revoked, nor amends be made for them, as taking away a man's life; or never repeated nor repented of, as to murther a man's self, and several others. Now these being of so deadly a nature, eve­ry man that hath any sense of vertue or care of his own soul, ought ever to be sufficiently guarded against them, and at utter defiance of them; and he that can be so careless as to be found guilty of any such, betrays the great Atheism and security of his heart. And for this reason the miscarriage of David, in the busi­ness of Bathshebah and Ʋriah, lays such an horrible blot upon him; and needed all that repentance where­of we have the footsteps in the 51. Psalm.

4. THE fourth and last rank are they that avoid both the habit and the act of greater sins, yet allow themselves in the frequent commission of lesser, and persevere in them without repentance. By lesser sins I [Page 77] mean, both such as I reckoned up before under the name of infirmities, and more particularly such as these following. When a man dares not give himself up to beastly sensuality, yet will too much humour and caress his body in meats and drinks, and plea­sures; or will not steal and couzen, but will be co­vetous, and have his heart too much upon the world; that dares not cast off the duties of Religion, but will indulge himself to be remiss and flat in them; and se­veral of this nature too easie to be observed. Now these kinds of sins are the more dangerous, in that partly our Consciences not being presently startled at them as at greater crimes, we more easily admit them, or they insensibly steal upon us: from whence it comes to pass that they become frequent, and so arise to a great number, and seem to equal that way what they have not in weight. These therefore if they be suf­fered to pass unregarded, grow to a great danger, since no danger is little when once it is esteemed so: and besides, though these may pass for inadvertencies when they are once or rarely committed; yet it must be a vicious neglect of our selves, when they are fre­quent and ordinary, forasmuch as all sincere vertue is awakened to greater diligence by every sensible de­clension: to which adde especially, that whatsoever sin, and how little soever it be, is not repented of when it is come to our knowledge, is by that means become a voluntary transgression, increasing its guilt ex post pacto. These are the principal stations of sin, or the several ways upon which a man is denominated a sinner in the language of Scripture, and of wise men.

BUT to the end we may render this important point as clear as we can, and now also come more directly to the Parable before us; we will take no­tice [Page 78] of the Psalmist David's distribution of sinners in­to a three-fold Classis; Psal. 1. vers. 1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornfull.

First, some he calls ungodly, ( [...] the LXXII render it,) such as having not a true sense of piety in them, stand fair for any temptation. The Hebrew [...], properly signifies turbulent, male-content, and seditious persons, fit for any mischief. And such is the case of those that have not God before their eyes, nor the principles of Religion in their hearts; they are ready to list themselves for the Devil's ser­vice; therefore the Psalmist describeth them as stand­ing in counsel, as it were deliberating a defection.

The second rank he calls by the name of Sinners: that is, actual transgressors; such as are not only dis­posed for the Devil's service, by the looseness of their principles, and the turbulency of their spirits, their vicious inclination, but have actually entred into it, have ingaged themselves in a way and course of sin, and therefore are said to stand in the way: i. e. not only resolved upon their course, but proceeding and making progress from sin to sin towards destru­ction.

3. The third sort he call Scornerss, those that have not onely debauched the light of their own Conscience, and all other principles of vertue, but have extinguished them too; and therefore be­ing now arrived at the pinnacle of prophaneness, laugh at that which they formerly feared, and endea­vour to make the reasons of Religion as ridiculous and contemptible to others, as they are insignificant with themselves. These are in the highest form of wickedness, and therefore are said to sit in the seat of [Page 79] Scorners, as being setled in their way, and very sel­dome or never reclaimed.

And this brings me to the Prodigal Son, as we have him described in the Parable: He is gone beyond the first form, being not in the deliberative, but in the actual pursuit of a sinfull course; and yet he is not arrived at the seat of the Scorner, but he is in the way of Sinners. And we are now to discover and trace him in that his way and course of sin; which we shall endeavour to doe, guiding our selves by the thread of the Parable.

S. Luk. 15. vers. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

12. The younger Son said to his Father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided to them his living.

13. And not many days after, the younger Son ga­thered all together, and took his journey into a far coun­trey, and there wasted his substance with riotous li­ving.

15. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15. And he went and joyned himself to a Citizen of that Countrey; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

The Prodigal's Risk; or Sin's Pro­gress.

  • § I. Pride is ordinarily the first beginning of a sinfull course, proved by the fall of Angels, of Men, the temptation of our Saviour and his first doctrine, in order to the recovery of men.
  • § II. The second instance of defection, is, casting off the sense of God, and a Providence, and laying aside the duties of worship; the intimate conjunction and de­pendence [Page 82] of piety and morality upon each other mu­tually.
  • § III. Habitual sin not onely brings a guilt, but de­stroys the powers of the soul: what talents God be­stows upon the generality of mankind: of free will, na­tural reason, conscience, providence, and divine illu­mination; and how vice imbezils them all.
  • § IV. When men have abused their powers and talents, they become slaves of the Devil; how such a conditi­on lays them both open to him, and fits them for his service.
  • § V. Sin is extreme drudgery in all the instances thereof.
  • § VI. And makes very had returns, not affording any tolerable satisfaction when a man hath yielded to it; particularly the unsatisfactoriness of bodily pleasure, worldly riches, and applause.
  • § VII. The sad and desolate condition of an habitual sinner at last, when the pleasures and profits of sin fail and desert him.

IN the words of our Saviour, now recited, we may plainly observe this to be the method of the Prodigal's ruine.

  • 1. He is impatient of the restraints of his Father's Family, and not being content with his provision, he therefore desires to be at his own disposal; which having obtain'd,
  • 2. Then he departs from his Father's house, and goes into a far Countrey.
  • 3. Being there, he mis-spends his stock in riotous living.
  • 4. Having mis-spent his own stock, and being thereby reduced to want, he is constrained to become a slave or servant.
  • [Page 83] 5. In his service he is put to extreme drudgery, being appointed to keep swine.
  • 6. Besides the baseness of his employment, he is used with great severity and hardship, forced to feed on husks.
  • 7. So deplorably dealt with, as not to have husks enough to supply nature, and therefore is ready to pe­rish.

And these Seven steps are as plainly discernable in the course of the mystical Prodigal, as of the literal; I mean, in him that goes on in a way of sin against God, as in him that rebells against an earthly Pa­rent: as shall be now made appear in particular.

First, the praeludium to the Son's defection, is his impatience of the restraint of his Father's family and government; together with an opinion of his own sufficiency to dispose of and shift for himself. There­upon he comes to his Father, Father give me the por­tion, &c. as if he had said, ‘I am now come to years of discretion, and doubt not but I am able to govern my self and manage my own affairs; set me out therefore my share, that I may but have whereupon to employ my self, and grant me my li­berty, and I shall give you no further trouble. Under the notion of a Son, make me not always a boy; give me but leave to be a man once, and I fear not to acquit my self as such.’ And thus it is with the sinner; pride, elation of mind, and self-confidence make the first step to his ruine. Pride goes before a fall, (saith Solomon) and a high mind before destructi­on. It intoxicates the understanding, and makes the mind giddy and inconsiderate; it suffers a man to take no sober counsel, to hearken to nothing but what sooths and flatters him; and thence he becomes rash, precipitant, and adventurous; it permits him [Page 84] not to take true measure of himself, but overrates his deserts, and overvalues his capacity.

AND thus being blown up with a conceit of him­self, he presently grows malecontent with his condition; and finding himself restrained, the proud waves of his passion rage and swell against all that bounds and checks them, and this rage casts up mire and dirt, wherewith divine providence it self is bespattered: as if either God knew not what was good for such a man, or envied his felicity, or grudged his satisfaction; or at least pleased himself in putting unnecessary restraints upon him. He finds his condition not to his mind, and not being willing to bring his mind to that, he is tempted to run upon adventures, and to make expe­riments, that he may give his mind full scope and contentment. Hence it is (as I observed before) that the wicked in the Sacred Language are called Reshagnim, unquiet, seditious and turbulent: pride and discontent prompting them to unruly attempts against God, disputing his prerogative, and breaking down the laws and boundaries he hath settled. Ei­ther such men conceit God hath not been benign enough, in the provisions of his care and providence; or the instances of duty are too many and too hard, and too great intrenchments made upon humane li­berty thereby; that God consulted his own preroga­tive in the constitution of his Laws rather then his wisedom, and the reason of things, and good of his Creatures; that man might be more happy if he were left to his own counsels. Would God permit them, they think nothing so sweet, as meram haurire liber­tatem, pure and unconfined liberty; that all restraint is intolerable slavery to a generous mind; and imagin­ing there must needs be some admirable delights in those things God forbids, have thereupon a mighty [Page 85] mind and huge impetus upon them, to try those things above all other, whatever come of it. Such kind of mutinous thoughts, such jealousies and suspicions are the immediate issue of pride, and the seminalities of all rebellion against God.

IT is the current opinion of Divines, that it was only this height of pride which ruined the Apostate Angels: for indeed, it is not easily imaginable what else should doe it, in regard they being (before their Fall) bright intellectual Beings, no cloud of igno­rance could probably so overwhelm them, as to be­tray them to that fatal miscarriage: And being also pure spiritual Substances, they lay under no corpore­al allurements. It seems therefore necessary to con­clude, that an overweening reflexion upon their own height, fooled them into that presumption to forget themselves, and to vie with the Almighty. And this seems to be plainly enough glanced at by the Pro­phet, when he describes the fall of proud Sennache­rib; Isa. 14. 12, 13, 14. How art thou faln from hea­ven, O Lucifer, son of the morning?—For thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:—I will be like the most High, &c.

AND undoubtedly this was the ruine of our first Pa­rents, when mankind first turned Prodigal. God had dealt most liberally & benignly with them, as a gracious Father; he brought not them into the world, till he had furnished it like a large house, with all things necessary for their accommodation and delight; night and day were distinguished, sea and land separated, the earth blessed, a paradise planted with all delicacies; and then he brings this his younger Son, Man, as to a plentifull Table of most delightfull entertainments. Besides this, he put all inferiour Creatures in subjection to [Page 86] him, as to their young Lord and Master; nay, makes that higher order of glorious Spirits, the Angels, to minister to him, and keep watch about him; and above all placed him in his own eye, under the light of his countenance, designed him for yet greater and unspeakable felicities, as his favourite and darling.

NOW if after all this, it had pleased God to have put somewhat a severe restraint upon him, it ought justly to have seemed easie and reasonable, being sweetened by so great obligations. But the Divine Majesty, to shew that in this also he remembred the kindness of a Father, makes his Laws and Govern­ment as gentle as his favours were great: for in the midst of an huge indulgence, and that large scope of all the Trees in the Garden, he laid an interdict but upon one, saying, Of all the Trees in the Garden you may freely eat; save onely the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the Garden; of that ye shall not eat lest ye die. Who could now think any thing should become a temptation strong enough in this case to debauch mankind? Notwithstanding, here the Serpent finds occasion to set pride on work, and to raise a discontent; and first he begins thus, Gen. 3. 1. Hath God said, &c. q. d. ‘Is it not a mistake that you are forbidden that Fruit? was that the meaning of the Almighty? possibly your gracious Creatour had no such intention; for why should you be restrained in this? why not left perfectly to your own election? have not you faculties to choose, and desires to gratifie? why should they be curbed or denied? sure he never made a power which was not to come into act, nor a capacity that was not to be satisfied: nay, this one abridg­ment despoils you perfectly of your liberty; law and freedom are incompetible; you are not used like [Page 87] Sons, if you be thus chained up. And what necessi­ty is there to set such a fence about that one Tree above all the rest? is it to exercise authority ar­bitrarily over you, or to tempt your patience? or rather, is there not some great good which he knows in that Fruit, and envies you the participation of? why should not you that were made in his image, be like Gods in this also, knowing good and evil?’ After this manner the old enemy of God and man tempers his poisons; partly seeming to doubt of the meaning of the command, partly insinuating suspici­ons of God's goodness, but principally blowing them up with pride and self-conceit; which whilest they swell withall, they break to pieces, and thus fell our first Parents.

And the same Tempter, both knowing now the nature of man, and encouraged also with this success, attempts the Second Adam, Christ Jesus, after the same manner, Matt. 4. for though it be true, (which is commonly observed) that the Devil was put to it, to try all his artifices upon our Saviour, and to assail him both by the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; yet if we carefully consider we shall find, that the effort of ruining him by pride and vain-glory, was that which he principally trusted to, and aimed at in all the temptations; but more con­spicuously in the two former of them; for so vers. 3. when finding him an hungred, he begins thus: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Our Saviour came not long since from his Baptism, and then as we reade in the last verse of the foregoing Chapter, a voice came to him from Hea­ven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Of which the Devil endeavouring to make his advantage, addresses himself to him. q. d. ‘If [Page 88] God own thee as his Son, (as he pretends to doe) let him do something prodigious and pompous that may give remarkable testimony to it: use thy in­terest in him for some signal miracle, especially to supply thy necessity now thou art hungry; for cer­tainly he will rather do that, then suffer his beloved Son to famish. Ordinary men must depend upon common providence, but sure you may expect something more signal and worthy of that relation, if it be true, that you are the Son of God. No (saith our Saviour) Man lives not by bread only, &c. If I am the Son of God, as I am assured I am; I must so much the more be at my Father's disposal, and not prescribe to him. He hath several ways to supply my necessity, and I will leave the particular manner of it to his election.’ Then the Devil ta­keth him, and sets him upon a pinacle of the Tem­ple, and urges him, If thou be the Son of God, east thy self down; for it is written, he shall give his Angels charge over thee, &c. q. d. ‘To be the Son of God, and to have it set off with no pomp nor illustrious circumstance, is a very mean thing, unworthy of you, and useless to you. Assure your self, if he own you in that quality and relation, he will in­terpose between you and the greatest danger you can incurr; and by some such experiment you shall draw the eyes of all men upon you.’ Both this and the former attack are like to that of his Brethren, Jo. 7. 4. If thou do these things, shew thy self to the world. q. d. Consult thy same and reputation, aggrandize thy self by some magnificent circumstance or other. But (saith our Saviour) it is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. i. e. ‘I am not to require other proofs of God's power or providence over me, then he thinks fit to give; I must not thrust my [Page 89] self upon danger, but when he casts me upon it then I may assure my self of his interposition for my, safety.’

NOW since this temptation to pride was the en­gine with which the first Adam was ruined, and the second Adam assaulted; there can be little reason to doubt, but it is so also with the generality of men. And albeit the more visible and immediate motives to some sins may be profit or pleasure, yet that which is the first wheel, and sets all on work, is (as I have hinted) an arrogant opinion of our own worth or wisedom, and derogation from the Divine Wisedom or justice in the frame of his Laws, and methods of his providence: as if he had not consulted so well the conveniency of our natures, but that we could pro­vide better for our selves then he hath done, if we were permitted to be our own carvers; from whence proceeds an impatience of his government, and an in­clination to rebell, and cast off his yoke; as it were easie to make appear in all the instances of sin, whe­ther intemperance, fornication, injustice, or any the like; but that I think it needless in so plain a case.

BUT there is one thing I cannot omit to observe in further confirmation of this point; namely, that our Saviour when he came into the world to restore man­kind, knowing well their disease, (like a wise Physi­cian of Souls) finds it necessary to cure them by the contrary: therefore in the first place, he prescribes to them a profound humility, as the most sovereign An­tidote against sin, and the onely principle of stability in vertue; he I say, considering they had fallen by pride, lays the foundation of their recovery in lowli­ness of spirit; injoyning that men submit their own reasonings to the wisedom of God, and by faith de­pend upon him. And declaring that those who will [Page 90] enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, or receive his re­ligion, must do it as little children; that is, must come to it without pride or prejudice, and be ready to believe what he dictates to them, without dispute or diffidence: and in short, must deny themselves and follow him. Which one lesson if we thoroughly learn, we cut off all the Avenues of Satan, and ever­lastingly secure our selves against all temptation to Apostasy from Religion and rebelling against God.

2. THE second instance of the Son's defection, is his departure from his Father. He gathers all toge­ther, and takes his journey into a far Countrey. Where­as the Elder Son always abides with his Father, this Youngster, as he desired not to be at his Father's pro­vision, so he was equally unwilling to be under his eye, and the awe of his presence: the inspection of a Father would check his freedom, and restrain him in the full swing of pleasure he designed to take. Home was an homely thing, dull and tedious to him; but a foreign Countrey would gratify his curiosity, and minister some new delights to him. Besides, there he should be without controll, accountable to no body, which was the very thing his pride had made most valuable with him.

NOW that he had obtained what he desired, his portion and his liberty, he valued not the comfort of his Father's countenance; nor needed his counsel, nor set by his blessing:Sciendum est non lo­corum di­stantiâ, sed affectu nos esse cum Deo, vel ab eo rece­dere. for indeed, he intended so to live, as that he could not hope for it.

THUS the Prodigal Son, and every habitual sinner treads in his steps, Longinqua Regio, (saith S. Austin, Q. Evan. l. 2. c. 33.) is oblivio Dei: by the far Country is meant forgetfulness of God. And saith S. Jerome, To depart from God is not local, S. Hierom. ep. 146. (for God is every-where pre­sent) but to be alienated in our minds and affections [Page 91] from him. Agreeably to which in the 73. Psal. v. 26. where we reade, They that forsake the Lord shall perish, the vulgar Latine strictly following the Hebrew, hath it, qui elongant se à Deo, those that put themselves as far off from God as they can. And so Holy Job, chap. 21. 14. notes it to be the humour of profane and pro­fligate persons, to say to the Almighty depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy way. For it is mani­fest, that as the sense of God is the great support and comfort of all good men in trouble, their great ani­mation and encouragement in all good duties, and of mighty efficacy upon them to preserve them from all temptation to evil; so it is equally the dread and tor­ture of all wicked men, and that which if it doth not check and restrain their wickedness, will be sure to deprive them of the pleasure of it. Wherefore when they cannot hinder that observant Majesty from over­looking them, they are forced for their own quiet to be so absurd, as to put the grossest gullery upon themselves, and content themselves with the sottish security, of turning away their eyes from beholding him.

THUS Adam when he had sinned hid himself in the Garden from the presence of the Lord; for not only the Majesty, Power and Justice of God, strike a terrour to a guilty Conscience, but the very contemplation of such purity and perfection, shames and reproaches it. Nor is the apprehension of God only troublesome to the offender after he hath committed sin, but it is able to blast the very Embryo; to nip it in the bud, to disturb the deliberations, and to be sure defeats much of the pleasure of conception. For if the presence of a grave and vertuous man carries that awe, as that the sinner is rendered impotent to his purposes, as if he were un­der a charm, (the truth of which we see confirmed by [Page 92] frequent experience) how much more must needs the thoughts of an omni-present Majesty, an all-see­ing eye, a holy and righteous Judge, cool the heats, abate the courage, and stop the carreer of a sinner? To which purpose it is the observation of several Learned men upon that passage of the Psalmist, Psal. 14. 1. The fool hath said in his heart there is no God. They conceive, That it might as well, and as consi­stently with the Original be rendered, The fool hath said to his heart, &c. i. e. Wicked men (to the intent that they might go on the more comfortably, and uncontrolledly in their sins,) would fain persuade themselves there is no God.

BUT to speak a little more closely and par­ticularly to this matter; forasmuch as I noted even now from S. Jerome, that God being an Infinite Ma­jesty, we can neither approach him, nor depart from him strictly and locally: there are therefore these three ways, by which (according to the language of the Holy Scripture) we can come near to God; (viz.) either 1. by acts of immediate worship, as prayer and praises, and the like; or 2. by living under a quick sense of his providence; or 3. by yielding obedience to his commands: which three things in conjunction make up the whole nature of true Piety and Religion. And in respect to these the Holy men of old, such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, &c. are said to have walked with God. That is, they framed themselves to obe­dience to all his commands; they composed themselves to a submission unto, and compliance with, his pro­vidential dispensations; and (to the intent that they might be assisted and animated in both those) they constantly addressed themselves to him, by acts of worship for his influence and blessing. And again, on the other side, those evil men who are said to de­part [Page 93] from God, were such as either cast off the yoke of his obedience, or lived without a sense of his su­perintendence, or laid aside the care of his worship. And which is further observable, these three are hardly to be found separate from one another, because of the reciprocal influence they have upon each other.

FOR as in the former Triad or instances of piety, whosoever lives under a sense of a providence, will endeavour to propitiate the Divine Majesty to himself, by all worshipfull dutifull observance, and he that makes Conscience of that, cannot ordinarily be so absurd, as to hope for the favour of a Wise and Holy Majesty, by the meer importunity of his devo­tions, without Conscience of obeying his commands; with respect to which it was well said by a pious man in way of advice, Leave not off praying to God, for either praying will make thee leave sinning, or continu­ing to sin, will make thee desist praying. Again, he that worships and obeys a God, most certainly lives under a sense of him; for otherwise he could give no account to himself, why he should put himself to the trouble of worship, and the care of obedi­ence.

AND then for the other Triad, or the three in­stances of impiety, he that lives wickedly, will in time lose all sense of a providence, and consequently all Conscience of the duties of worship: and on the other side, he that extinguishes either the belief of a providence, or (in a fair way to it) casts off all care of religious worship, will not fail to run riot in his life, when he hath rid himself of those awfull princi­ples that did curb and restrain him: of the truth of all which we have a memorable example, Gen. 4. Cain had betrayed a great remisseness in Religion, by the carelesness of his Sacrifice; whereas Abel, who [Page 94] believed firmly in God, thinking nothing too good for his service, brought of the fattest and best of his flock to God; Cain thought any thing would serve turn, and accordingly carried away the tokens of God's displeasure and disdain; but vers. 8. he invites his Brother Abel into the field; where, as the Sama­ritan version intimates, some discourse passed between them: and the Jerusalem Targum tells us particularly, that Cain stiffly denied a providence which Abel as strenuously asserted; and this doctrine of Cain was very agreeable to his negligent worship before, and his exsecrable practice after: for from this denial of a providence, he presently proceeds to the murder of his Brother; and not long after that, vers. 16. we read Cain went out from the presence of the Lord: he now agreeably to those principles, and consequent­ly of such villanous practices, cast off, renounced, and defied Religion. And the text further adds, he went and sojourned in the Land of Nod, which, who so listed to interpret allegorically, would very agree­ably to the series of my present discourse say, meant that he vagrant-like, wandered on in a course of dis­soluteness, having now lost all card and compass to direct him.

BUT what need we farther evidence in so plain a case, to which our own experience, and the obser­vation of all the world gives testimony: for what is it that encourages any man in a generous undertaking where the exercise of vertue is attended with hazzard and difficulty, with labour and trouble, with pati­ence and self-denyal, but the belief of a providence? what bears him up, that the privacy of the fact abates not his edge, nor the tediousness of accomplishment wearies out his endeavours, nor the opposition quails his spirit, but only this, that he sees him that is invi­sible, [Page 95] and having God before him, thinks himself up­on the most ample Theatre, and is sure of success and reward. And what is there that keeps alive this sense of God and Providence, that neither Atheistical suggestions debauch his Principles, nor multitude of ill examples cool his heat, and corrupt his resolution, but his approaches to God by exercises of devotion, whereby he refreshes the worthy notions of his mind, and hath them as it were new engraven, and made more legible upon the tables of his heart? He goes by the duties of Religion like Moses into the Mount of God; and returns with the Tables of God's Law written a fresh by the finger of God. Such a man is ashamed of sin, and disdains every ungenerous action, coming newly from the presence of God, the approa­ches of such a glory diffuse some rays upon him, and his face shines as the same Moses's did upon the like occasion. In short, he cannot without great violence to himself, condescend to entertain the Devil into his bosome, which is yet warm with that divine Guest the Holy Ghost. Contrariwise, take a man that lives without a sense of God, and he hath no care of, nor value for himself; he hath not a mind large enough for any generous design, he is poor spirited, hurried by every fear, baffled by every danger, surprized and carried away by every temptation. The vigorous notions of God are either extinct by the profaneness of his life, or languish by the neglect of religious du­ties: there is no Angel Guardian about his Soul, no generous disdain of sin in his heart, he hath neither the help of God, nor the strength of a man. Upon all which it is apparent, that departing from our Fa­ther's House, living beside the notions of God, and without the exercises of devotion to actuate those no­tions, is the ready way to all sin and folly. Where­fore [Page 96] as pride and self-conceit begin the mutiny in our Souls against God, so neglecting his presence, suf­fers it to grow to a dangerous head; and as that was the first step towards a wicked course, this is the se­cond.

3. THIRDLY, the Prodigal having now got­ten from under the eye of his Father, gives himself a full swinge of liberty, lives [...], sottishly, and vi­ciously; and by that means quickly exhausts the stock his Father had given him. Wherever there is tempe­rance and prudent management a little will suffice, and will quickly grow to great riches: by frugality and in­dustry most of the great States and Kingdoms in the world have been raised, as well as private fortunes; but luxury and riot have dilapidated and destroyed both the one and the other. For these making continual abstractions, without addition, quickly reduce the greatest summe to a Cypher, and bring him to want of all things, who before had need of nothing, but grace and wisedom to use that which he had. This the Prodigal Son finds true by sad experience. And so it fares also with the sinner, or mystical Prodigal; when once he hath withdrawn himself from God's presence, that is, hath cast off the sense of God and Religion, and broken those reins that restrained his extravagancy, he presently rushes into all kind of debauchery; and in so doing, besides the black guilt he derives upon his Conscience, he wastes and imbe­zils the very talents and abilities God had endowed him with. For the more clear understanding of which, we will briefly, but distinctly consider these two things. 1. What is that portion or stock which God sets mankind up withall. 2. How and in what manner vice and dissolution of manners mispend and exhaust it.

[Page] [Page]

The younger son wasted his substance with riotous living. St LUKE. XV, 13.

[...]. Theogn:

[Page] [Page 97] And for the former of these though it is not to be doubted, but that God according to his paternal pre­rogative and wisedom, may and doth variously dis­pense his gifts to his Children; yet it is certain he sends none of them out into the world without some talents to employ themselves upon, and to make a vertuous improvement of. And amongst all of that kind these four following are both the most rich and valuable in themselves, and also (such is the divine bounty) most generally bestowed. (viz.) 1. Free­dome of choice. 2. Understanding, Mind, or Con­science. 3. Experience of a wise and gracious inter­texture of favours and chastisements in the course of Providence. 4. Special intimations of his own mind and will.

IN the first place I recount freedom of chusing for our selves as part of the common portion of mankind in general: which I do the rather because I observe the Fathers generally to understand this to be the spe­cial intendment of this passage of the Parable. Di­visit iis substantiam, He divided unto them his living: that is, (saith S. Dedit eis liberum ar­bitrium, de­dit mentis propriae li­bertatem, & ut vive­ret unus­quisque non ex imperio Dei, sed ex obsequio suo. i. e. non ex necessitate sed ex vo­luntate, ut virtus ha­beret locum, ut à caeteris animanti­bus distare­mus, dum ad exem­plum Dei, permissum est robis fa­cere quod velimus. Jerome) He bound not man under the rigid bonds of necessity, whereby he should be forcibly overruled and determined to one thing, but put him in a capacity of making his own choice, to the end that be­ing hereby distinguished from beasts, and more like his Maker, he might be capable of vertue and reward: and that as nothing should make him miserable without his own act and consent, so he might have the comfort and delight of co-operating freely towards his own good and felicity.

THAT this accomplishment of humane nature is a great and inestimable talent no man can doubt, for­asmuch as hereby man is made to be what he is, that is, to be master of himself and his own actions, and [Page 98] obnoxious to none but God himself; being neither drawn by invisible wires, but moved voluntarily, and from an inward principle, nor hurried by external accidents, but steers his own course, is not at the mer­cy of every temptation, but can make his own choice in spite of the Devil.

AND that God set out man into the world thus endowed, there is as little reason to question. For in the first place, we are sure God made all things good, that is, designed for good ends, and also capable of at­taining them. And he that sitted all the inferiour Creation for their proper ends, most certainly did not leave that excellent piece of his workmanship so de­fective, as not to be endowed with powers sufficient for the pursuit and attainment of his peculiar happiness. At least, it cannot be imagined, that infinite wise­dom should contrive such a Creature as should be on­ly able to cross and act contrary to himself, but not to comply with him; which must be true if man had not originally a power of chusing good as well as evil. Again, were it not for this, there would be an absolute impossibility of giving account how sin came into the world, and of vindicating the providence of God in tying that clog of an earthly Body to an immor­tal Soul, but that by this concession the latter is made capable of governing the former; and abundance other great Phaenomena of providence (which it is no time now to insist upon) are plainly insoluble otherwise then upon this supposition. But we need not insist upon the proof of fact that this was the condition of man in his first Greation, when he came out of the hands of God, for it is acknowledged by all Divines; and if it be otherwise with him since,Chap. 3. we have inti­mated already where the fault lies,Sect. 3. and shall shew it more particularly by and by.

[Page 99] 2. THE second Talent of mankind is Mind or Conscience, and I make use of both those terms, be­cause I intend to join together both that which is cal­led Synteresis, and that which is called properly Sy­neidesis, or Conscience. By the former of which, man having as it were a Standard within himself of good and evil, he may guide himself in the choice of his actions; and by the latter he is able to reflect upon himself, and comparing his actions and carriage with the Standard or Law of reason in his own mind, pass a judgment upon himself; that is, either blame and condemn, or acquit and comfort him­self accordingly.Just. Mart. Apol. 1. This Talent the old Saint Justin calls [...], and [...]. A particle of the Divine and Original Wisedom, or a scien of the true [...], or eternal word ingrafted upon the Soul of every man. [...] &c. And it is that which Theophylact takes to be especially meant in this text. The substance (saith he) which the Fa­ther divided amongst his Sons was Reason, which God gave in common to all mankind, and that in conjuncti­on with freedom of mind; for every being that hath the use of reason, hath also liberty of election; the latter af­fording a Field or Theatre for the former to act upon, and the former enabling him to use the latter well. And indeed, it was wondrous expedient that since God had given mankind the Talent of liberty, that he should there­with bestow upon him a principle of reason to restrain and govern that liberty; that so having not only Sails to move him, but a Compass to direct him, he might shape his course agreeably to those ends God designed him for; or more plainly, having a copy of the divine mind implanted in his Soul, he might make the elections of his will conformable to those of his Maker. For since (as I said before) Men and [Page 100] Angels are not naturally and necessarily carried to their ends as other beings are, but may either move regularly towards them, or decline from them at their own choice; had not God put upon them this bias of reason to incline them the right way, they would have been in danger to have made such an exorbi­tant use of their freedom, as to have given the whole Creation much greater disturbance then yet they have done. And as well the truth of this assertion, as the value of this Talent, will appear most remarkably if we do but consider what great improvements some have attained to by the alone use of Reason, having never any other Talent of supernatural revelation af­forded them that we know of.Quod com­prehensio­nem dedis­set quasi nor mam scientiae & principium sui. In contemplation of which Tully recounts it a prime favour of the divine Ma­jesty to humane nature, That he had endowed their minds with natural notions, which are to them the seeds and principles of knowledge and vertue. Sine qui­bus nec in­telligi quic­quam, nec quaeri nec disputari possit. And he further adds, Were it not that God hath thus furnished the mind with such a stock of proleptick principles of knowledge, we could not have ever come to understand any thing, and all industry, study and inquity had been utterly lost and fruitless; but by the means of these natural noti­ons we have a kind of anticipation, an intellectual taste and relish of truth and falshood,Tully A­cad. lib. 1. & 4. good and evil, and so a measure to govern our selves by in our ele­ctions and prosecutions.

3. The third Talent given to all mankind for their improvement is the observable wise order and method of Divine Providence, wherein there is such an ad­mirable intertexture of mercies and afflictions, as that neither a constant series of adversities and cros acci­dents shall break their spirit, or ingulph men in de­spair; nor yet such a constant course of perpetual prosperity as to render them too light and airy, but a [Page 101] moderate interchange of both, to make them grave and serious. And besides, both these dispensed not fortuitously, but with such discrimination, as that or­dinarily men may not only be assured of a Providence in the general, but be able to observe the divine dis­pleasure against sin and wickedness by the one, and his approbation of honesty and goodness by the other; and so consequently be both directed in their choice, and provoked to an answerable prosecution.

AND although it be very true that such exact course of providence be not now ordinarily observa­ble in the world, because God having now made a full and clear discovery of his whole mind to the Sons of Men by extraordinary revelation; as there is no need of this lesser light when a far greater shines clearly, so also it seems good to his divine wisedom to make the course of his providence more involved and intricate in many cases, both for the tryal of good men, and the just hardening of the wicked and unbe­lieving, Nevertheless it is not credible that such a cryptick method should be the common course of his providence where those reasons cease, and where he hath afforded no better light.

AND besides, we are sure de facto, that there was such a legible providence as we speak of in the most ancient and Patriarchal times; when it was com­mon to observe the finger of God by some calamity or other, pointing out and branding the offender, and his blessing visibly descending upon and crowning worthy and vertuous persons.

THUS God (whilst as yet there was no revealed Law) did confirm and bear testimony to the laws of reason, and provide against the staggering and fluctu­ation of men's minds, in deducing those natural con­clusions by which they were then to govern them­selves, [Page 102] by the suffrage of his own providence. Conso­nantly to which it was, that the Scripture or Holy Writ concerning those times, is little more then an hi­story of providence, or remarks of the good and evil that befell men according to the demerits of their ei­ther vertuous or vicious behaviour; as whosoever considers the Books of Moses must acknowledge.

AND for the people of the Jews it is notorious, that the course of divine providence ran all along a­bove ground amongst them, (although they were not without written laws and the lively Oracles of God,) of which without prying into the counsels of the Al­mighty, we may easily satisfie our selves by a double account: namely, partly to afford the more full te­stimony to those sanctions of his amongst a hard hearted People, partly also to supply the visible defect of those Laws in the most material rules of vertue; it pleased God to give intimation of his mind, and confirmati­on to the dictates of nature by such extraordinary at­testations of his providence.

BUT as for the Gentiles who were destitute of the aforesaid advantage, having not the more sure word of Prophecie (as the Apostle calls it) there is no doubt to be made but the divine goodness did supply that defect, as to the greater lines of vertue and vice, by the plain legibility of his providence; at least ordi­narily and far beyond what he doth amongst those that live under the full light of the Gospel: which whoso will not be induced to believe, must justifie his incredulity by perverseness, and call in question the faith of all the Histories of those times and Coun­treys. And although we cannot deny, that it plea­sed God sometimes, even amongst those people, to walk in the dark, suffering the good and evil things that befell men to be no sure indications of his favour [Page 103] or displeasure, yet the rarity of the case appears by the salvo they found out for this Phaenomenon: namely, they imagined that when rewards and pu­nishments, or rather good and evil, were mismatched, and did not apply themselves to vertue and vice re­spectively;See Euseb. praepar, E­vang. l. 6. c. 6. that it proceeded from some fatal necessi­ty, which was superiour to the Gods, and not to be withstood or hindred by them. By which it appears, that for the most part they observed a just Nemesis, and righteous distribution of rewards and punishments in the course of the world. Which direction of provi­dence added to the two former talents might be of great advantage to them, if not to make them truely good, yet certainly to make them less evil. And be­ing thus general as I have shewed, may be well cal­led a third Talent of mankind.

4. BUT I add in the fourth and last place, God hath so far consulted the good of mankind, and is so open handed to his Children, that besides all the aforesaid, he frequently vouchsafes them some intimations or other of his mind, to enable them the better to un­derstand their duty, and pursue their happiness.

AS for such as are placed in his Church under the full and certain light of revelation, that are pressed upon by the mighty motives of unspeakable rewards and punishments in another world; and these incul­cated upon them by a publick ministry maintained by God for that purpose, and above all are under the vi­tal operations of his Holy Spirit; exciting their minds, fortifying their apprehensions, fixing their attentions, and giving them as it were a view of the transactions in the other world: This must be acknowledged a peculiar favour, and not common to all, as the other were; yet if we consider well, we shall find that the advantages of God's Church do in some respects ex­tend [Page 104] beyond the pale of it: for as we see the Sun af­fords some light to those upon whose Horizon he doth not appear, so we find that Pythagoras and several of the industrious and vertuously disposed Pagans reaped great benefit by those Oracles that were not given to them, but to the Nation of the Jews. And we may easily discover a great improvement in the moral discourses of Pagans, since our Saviour came into the World; divine light reflecting as it were from the Church, (upon which the direct beams thereof fell) to the rest of the World. Besides which it is no way probable, that a good God should so far neglect so great a part of mankind as was called Pagan, as to afford them no intimations of his mind, towards the bettering of their reasonings in those matters of im­portance which he principally created them for. In respect to which Tully spake admirably,Tully de Divinat. Nemo unquam vir magnus sine afflatu divino, That there was never a great and brave man in the World, but had some impul­ses and inspirations from the Almighty. And indeed, when I seriously consider either the divine Attributes, or the experience of men, I see great reason to doubt whether ever there was that man that had not more or less some such kind of assistances from his Maker, till he himself rendered himself unworthy thereof. Which brings me to the second thing I promised to speak to; (Viz.)

2. SECONDLY, how vice and dissolution of manners spend and exhaust this stock God hath set mankind up withall: and of this the account is very easy. For in the first place it is plain, that habits and facility of doing any thing, are procured by frequent and repeated acts: and as the more vertuous actions of any kind a man doth, the more prone he is to doe so again; so every vicious action which a man commits [Page 105] begets a propension and inclination to others of the same kind. When a man hath used to subdue his pas­sions to his reason, they easily submit and bear the yoke; but he that hath accustomed them to their full scope, they swell and rage, and will not easily be brought into order; and this will be true although those two men were supposed to have equally violent passions naturally, be it of what kind soever. Cu­stome we call a second nature, but it hath the power to supplant the first and original nature, putting new propensions as another bias upon the Spirit.Tanta au­tem est cor­ruptela ma­lae consue­tudinis ut ab eatan­quam igni­culi à natu­ra dati ex­tinguuntur, Cic. de leg. l. 1. By which we see clearly how vice destroys the first ta­lent of mankind, that freedom which God set them up withall. Which point gained, affords us resolu­tion of another question (though not of this place) namely, hereby we see how it comes to pass, that good and vertuous men rejoyce in the easiness and de­lights of a vertuous course, when contrariwise evil and vicious men complain of impotency, and pretend the horrible difficulties thereof; for these contrary ef­fects proceed from the same cause, and shew the migh­ty power of custome on both sides.

AND then for the second talent of natural rea­son or understanding, nothing is more plain then that vicious practices blind the eyes of the mind, partly as the steams of lust and passion send up a cloud which dulls the higher regions of the Soul; partly also as luxury commonly brings a stupid slothfullness upon the Spirits of men, that they chuse rather to bury that talent, then be at the trouble to employ it; but principally as all wickedness prejudices men, making it become their seeming interest to shut their eyes lest they should behold their shame, or make the prose­cution of that more uneasie and uncomfortable to them, from which they are resolved not to desist. And [Page 106] for that faculty which is properly called Conscience, we have intimated already, that the frequent injuries done to it render it callous and insensible.

AS for that which we called a third Talent, name­ly, the testimony which God in his providence usu­ally gives to vertue, and the discountenance to vice: these the vicious man either Atheistically imputes to blind chance, because he observes some exceptions and irregularities in the method of their dispensation; or else turns the arguments God affords him of gratitude into grounds of security, or his fatherly chastisements into occasion of fullenness and desperation, or one way or other renders this talent unusefull.

BUT if it please God to do something extraordi­nary, and awaken him by a peculiar address to him;Tit. Liv. lib. 40. he doth as the Romans when Petilius fortunately digged up and brought to light the sacred Writings of Numa Pompilius, which probably would have put them up­on a better devotion then they were willing to com­ply with. The Consul swore the Books were Dissol­vendarum Religionum; q. d. not calculated for the present Age, whereupon they commanded them to be burnt. So the sinner stubbornly opposes the light which would reproach his practice, and disturb his security. And thus we have seen what stock God sets men up with, and how they mis-spend it.

4. [...] &c. Chrysost. in locum. BUT to go on with the Parable, the next news we hear of the Prodigal, is, that having spent all his patrimony in careless and riotous living, and a famine succeeding his profusion, he is now reduced to extremity, and knows not whither to betake him­self; wherefore having no other choice, he is con­strained to join himself to a Citizen of that Country; that is, to become a slave. It was wisely and truely said by one of the Ancients, that frugality and tempe­rance [Page 107] were [...], homebred Philoso­phy; or the most cheap and compendious way of at­taining all moral wisedom and happiness: for they make life easie, and temptation little; they prevent care, and shut out fear; they raise the spirit of a man by bestowing on him a kind of self-sufficiency; such a man doth not maliciously despise the world, be­cause he cannot attain it, for he finds it in his power to arrive at much, and in his temper to need but lit­tle, and so is truely above it.

THESE with their inseparable companion Indu­stry, are as it were the roots of a Patrimony, which not only keep it alive and flourishing, but also make it fruitfull and multiply; but the contrary vices are such sottish sins that they destroy the very stock they grow upon, and undermine their own foundation; that is, they eat out themselves and that which raised them, and should have maintained them. And which is yet worse, they do not only starve themselves, but cut off a man's retreat, and cast him into a condition that he could not live comfortably if he should return to sobriety. For it is in this case as Cicero said of Di­onysius of Syracuse, Salvus esse non potuit, si sanus es­se coepisset. Tuse. Q. 5. He had lived so wickedly, and ex­ercised so much tyranny and cruelty, that having procu­red the common hatred of mankind, it was too late to think of redintegrating himself by taking up and changing his course. His wickedness had been too great to let his conversion be believed real, and his injuries too many to hope for security in a way of mildness. Sce­lus scelere protegendum est, he must now go on and justify, or at least protect his former villanies by more and greater.

SO it is with voluptuous persons, by a long habit they have made excesses almost necessary to their bo­dies, and such excesses do so harrass men's fortunes, [Page 108] that they cannot long correspond with such unreaso­nable occasions; together herewith ease and sloth the concommitants of luxury do so relax men's nerves and infeeble their constitution, that they are rendered incapable of supplying the defects of their fortune by their own industry; so that between the necessity of expending much, and the impossibility of gaining any thing, the difficulties of returning to sobriety be­come as great and discouraging, as the pleasures of riots are charming and bewitching.

HENCE it comes to pass, that such men usually reason with themselves, as the unjust Steward in the Gospel, Dig I cannot, and to beg I am ashamed; wherefore they must apply themselves to some remedy as desperate as the disease; some bold and daring course, some great and horrible sin must relieve them out of the straits former wickedness hath cast them into. And thus the Prodigal having spent all, joins himself to a Citizen. Who this Citizen is S. Jerone tells us, it is the Devil, he is the busy Negotiatour of this World, that goes about seeking whom he may devour, and is ready to list those into his service, who (ha­ving mispent their Talents) are by a vicious necessity disposed for his purposes. For such as have forfeited their own liberty are fit to be his slaves; such as have driven away the good Spirit, shall be sure to be haun­ted with this evil spirit. And they that have put out their own eyes, and blinded their minds, are fit sub­jects of the kingdom of darkness.

NONE but such as have been accustomed to de­bauch their own faculties and stifle their Consciences, can yield him ready obedience. But those that have sotted themselves with sensuality, are swollen with pride or malice, or by some vicious habit or other have lost the command of themselves, and the pro­tection [Page 109] of the Almighty; these fall readily into his snare,2 Tim. 2. 26. and according to the phrase of the Apostle are taken captive by him at his will. And the use he puts them to we shall see in the next particular. For,

5. THE Prodigal is put to feed Swine. It is amongst the great calamities of a riotous life that first it effeminates men by soft indulgencies whilst their fortunes hold out, and then afterwards breaks their spirits when adversity befalls them, by a shamefull reflexion upon their beastly folly. And between these two such men are seldome or never after capa­ble of any generous and manly employment; from whence it comes to pass, that they are ordinarily by the just judgment of God condemned either to the most ridiculous and contemptible, or to the most sor­did and vile offices. And such we may be sure will be the case of the Mystical Prodigal being now be­come a slave to Satan.

IT was a sad instance of the tyranny and insolence of the Devil over apostate mankind, that he fooled them to such a base abjection of mind, as to give him a kind of religious worship, appearing to them under the form of a Goat, or some other the most infamous of brute Creatures. This is too well known to have been commonly done amongst the Pagans; and it seems probable that this vile Idolatry was invented and required by that malicious spirit, not more to af­front the Almighty by intercepting his worship, then to scorn and insult over humane nature by such a sor­did prostitution. But it is not onely Idolatry, but all kind of sin is the Devil's work. 1 Jo. 3. 8. And whosoever renders himself up to the power of any sin, doth his drudgery as truely as those poor abused Heathens; for though he doth not with the same formalities ri­diculously bow himself to a beast, he doth the same [Page 110] thing in effect when he prostitutes himself to brutali­ty. What more ignoble thing then for him that hath an immortal Soul, an understanding Mind and free faculties, by which he is fit for the conversation of God and Angels, to forget all this, and humble him­self to serve a beast? Nor is it any matter of difference whether a man serve his own beast or another man's, I mean the beast within him or without him; some beast or other every vicious man serves.

HE that indulges rage and passion ministers to a Tiger; and he that addicts himself to sordid craft and subtlety worships a Fox. He that basely plays the Hypocrite serves the Dog, or the Hyaena. He that gives himself up to lasciviousness, worships a Goat; and he that is a servant of meat and drink, makes a God of his Belly, and very properly may be said to serve Swine.

IT is a well known passage in Plato, where he supposes, that when men's Souls are departed from their present Bodies, they are adjudged to actuate and inform some such Creatures as they had most re­sembled in their humour and practice whilst they were alive; but without such a transmigration after death, which we are sure is both false and ridiculous, all vicious men may be said to be transformed in this life as aforesaid: for though they retain the outward shape, they have the inside and temper of Brutes. But it is not the onely calamity of serving the Devil that a man must debase his nature to the vilest condi­tion, in compliance with his commands; for there is this farther instance of the severity of that Aegyptian Taskmaster, that he puts those that are under his power, to make brick without straw, I mean, (God in just judgment permitting it so to be) the Devil drives so furiously towards man's destruction, that he will [Page 111] ordinarily prompt and hurry them on in sin beyond their interests; nay their very vicious inclmation, and even the capacity of their circumstances and con­stitution. As if he designed that they should not one­ly treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, but be miserably rackt and tortured here, and tormented be­fore their time.

WE count the water rack a very severe torture, to have that Element forced down a man's throat, till all the vessels of his Body are stretched and Tympani­zed; so that in stead of Air he draws in Water with his breath, ready to stifle him. And yet this torture we see the drunkard submit himself to at the Devil's command.

IT is very dreadfull to have our limbs and nerves distended by pullies and such other engines. And the lascivious man is sensible of something like this, when he forces nature to comply with his vicious phancy, and a prevalent temptation. When in some kind of executions they poured scalding lead down the throat of the malefactour, which the Jews called the burning of the Soul; it was doubtless very terri­ble: but he that suffers revenge to fry in his bosome and eat out his very heart and bowels, undergoes something not very much inferiour.

TO say no more, what more horried torments can any Tyrant invent or inflict, or what more abomi­nable ignominy can his malice expose any man to, then the usual effects of sensuality do either execute upon a man's person, or stigmatize his name withall? We see in the course of nature the several parts of the Universe give place to the interest of the whole; or as we commonly speak, private nature gives place to publick, as the water ascends to prevent vacuity, &c. But in this little world, man, when the Devil hath [Page 112] got interest in him, publick nature, humanity it self is violenced for the lust of a private person, of which the Apostle gives us too sad an instance in the de­bauched Heathen, Rom. 1. 26, 27. which passage I have no mind to explain.

THIS is the condition of the Devil's service, in respect of which, the difficultest parts of God's ser­vice are easy and voluptuous. I'll conclude this particular,Ecce quid faciat prae­ceps cupi­dit as, ci­vem in pe­regrinum, locupletem in egenum, filiumin mercenari­um conver­tit, junxit porcis quem à patre piissimo sejunxit, ut serviret coenoso pecori, qui pietati sanctae parere con­temserit. and summe up what hath been hitherto said in the words of Chrysologus: Behold (saith he) the sad Catastrophe of rash and incogitant voluptuousness, it turns him out into a strange Countrey that might have lived happy in his Father's house; makes a beggar of one that was rich, changes the condition of a Son into that of a Slave, compells him to feed nasty Swine, who declined the service of a gracious Father. But this is not the full end of the sinner's Tragedy. For,

6. THE Prodigal's fare is as course as his employ­ment was sordid, he is forced to feed upon husks: some take the word in the Original to signify Bran, ac­cording to that of the Poet,Plin. Nat. hist. l. 15. c. 24.vivis siliquis & pane secundo. But the word [...], properly signifies the seed of the tree Ceronia or Charob, which afford­ed a course fare, which extream necessity sometimes drove men to be content withall. But let us see the moral of it; Origen understands by Husks the delights of wanton Poetry, with which the Devil usually feeds and entertains loose persons, making them both fit and willing to his service. I remember somewhere to have read, (and I think it is in Clemens of Alexan­dria) that it was his opinion, that Pagan Philosophy was hereby meant, which being but the exterior [Page 113] Cortex or Husk of true knowledge, served notwith­standing to amuse and busy the Gentile World. But I think our Saviour meant nothing else hereby, then to represent to us the pitifull entertainment, the emptiness and unsatisfactoriness of all the Incomes of sin. That all the gratifications by which the Devil allures men into the basest drudgery, prove upon tri­al the Appels of Sodom, perform nothing of what they promise. Solomon hath told us, that an whorish woman will bring a man to a morsel of bread; and it is true, in proportion, of all the instances of riot and luxury, which is so much the more severe calamity to such kind of persons, because they usually in their prosperity caressing themselves at the highest rate imaginable, pampering themselves and their lusts to­gether, must needs feel the change from one extream to the other to be exceeding sharp and painfull. But let us see this a little more particularly, in order to which the Apostle Saint John hath summed up all the returns of sin in these words, 1 Jo. 2. 16. The things that are in the world are the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; or in other words, bodily pleasure, worldly profit, and vain glory. And all these when duly considered, will prove but Husks, such as our voluptuous Prodigal, now the Devils vassal, is constrained to feed upon.

FIRST, for bodily pleasure, that is notori­ously the entertainment of beasts rather then of men. For it is they that have the quickest sense and relish of it; man is ashamed of himself when he yields to it, and therefore seeks recesses and the dark, as being aware that he condescends below himself when he stoops to it; therefore certainly God intended it as fodder for beasts, not food for men. Sawce is the most that it can be allowed to be, and he is not to be [Page 114] reckoned a man that can content himself with it, or live as if he were made for it. For besides that all wise men who have tried it pronounce it to be but chaff and vanity, even those who are so silly as to pursue it with the greatest eagerness and appetite, finding themselves empty and disappointed, are constrained to hunt after variety, and to weary themselves in going from one pleasure to another, in hopes to find that sa­tisfaction which is never there to be had. Bodily pleasure is fitly represented by the Stories we have of the Feasts and Junkettings of Witches and Fiends; in which, after great appearance of delicacies, where­withall the Guests seem to satiate themselves, they notwithstanding find themselves as empty as before the Banquet. The mind of man is of another make, and of a greater capacity then to be filled with such trash. It is onely intellectual pleasure, the contents of wisedome, the peace of a good Conscience, the re­flections upon having done some good, which are the repast of a man, and these are solid and lasting; there is more true and manly delight in any one such instance then in all the caresses of the Epicure.

AND then for Profit, it is very inconsiderable gain that is brought in by sin, if accounts be justly cast up. For all those sins which have either any gusto of pleasure, or air of credit attending them, are usually costly and expensive; and for those profitable sins of injustice, covetousness, oppression, &c. they are usually incumbred with so much anxiety, followed with such guilt, branded with so much reproach, that there needs a new Arithmetick to be devised to make out the profit of them. Above all, if we consider that thus to gain a whole world and to lose a man's Soul, is the most sad and unfortunate bargain. For it is to possess a great deal for the short lease of life, and then [Page 115] to be turned out of all to all eternity; and whilst he doth possess it, it is so far from satisfying his mind, or appeasing his conscience, as that it cannot allay the Gout, asswage the Tooth-ach, nor cure any disease of the Body. In summe, what is that gain which neither makes the wiser, nor the better, nor the more comfortable man?

BUT then for glory and fame, these are not usu­ally the attendants of sin, but of some kind of ver­tues: the portion of sin is shame and infamy, foras­much as it is an irregularity, a deformity, and in the mildest sense, it is a confession of folly, weakness and impotency. Notwithstanding it is too true, some sins carry applause with them, but amongst whom? com­petent Judges of honour, wise and good men? No, but the silly Vulgar, or at least such as have a feeling in the cause, and are partakers in the guilt. But let us see the instances: Some man glories, that in his pot valour he can drink down whom he pleases, no man can stand before him, and upon this he swaggers as a mighty Champion, whereas in truth he is but a great Hogshead or a nasty Sink through which a great deal of good liquor runs, and his only ability is, that he changes and corrupts it in the passage. Another vaunts his courage and daring, hee'l lay down his life upon the least provocation. But shall we think that man is conscious to himself of any worth, that will stake his life down for every trifle? is he worthy of his life that despises it? is he either wise or just that will cast that away in a frolick or a rage, which is owing to the service of his Prince and Countrey? O but the great Heroes of the World, that ransack kingdoms, and set up the monuments of their victo­ries in every place! These are they that fools indeed flatter, because they fear them. Nevertheless whilst [Page 116] these live in all their greatness, they cannot avoid the horrible curses and imprecations of those they have made fatherless or childless: and these usually have that effect upon them, that they seldom descend with­out bloud to their Graves.

Ad generum Cereris sinè caede & sanguine pauci
Descendunt Reges & siccâ morte Tyranni.

And when they are gone, their memory is blasted in the Annals of time, and their great atchievements re­puted magna latrocinia. But take worldly honour at the best that can be made of it, it is but a blast, a bubble, there is nothing of solidity in it, nothing that can really satisfy the mind of a man; this is the thin and pitifull diet the Devil feeds his slaves with; all those therefore that dote upon pleasure, or riches, or glory, feed upon husks with the Prodigal.

7. BUT that's not the worst of his condition yet, if the Prodigal could have had husks enough, he would have thought his condition not intolerable as the case stood, but saith the Text, he desired to fill his belly with husks, but no man gave unto him. And now his condition is sad indeed. He that formerly loathed delicates, now to come to want necessaries; he that surfeited upon viands, now to starve for want of husks; this breaks his heart. And in this the Em­blem of a sinner is still carried on: all those husks of pleasure, and gain, and applause, are a course fare for a man that hath an immortal Soul. But some could so far forget the dignity of their nature, and con­tract themselves, that they could be content if they might but have enough of these. If I say men could always swim in pleasure, flow with riches, and mount aloft in glory, they would think the wages of sin [Page 117] well paid; but the time will come when these will be denied them too. As for bodily pleasure, that quick­ly growes out of date, and we soon lose the relish of such things as were formerly most gratefull in this kind; the most delicious viands are nothing to him that hath no palate, and the most ravishing musick to him that hath no ear; and what do all the charms of beauty signify to a languid Body and effete Nature? The time comes on apace upon every man when he shall say with old Barzillai, 2 Sam. 19. 35. Can I tast what I eat or drink? or can I hear any more the voice of singing men or singing women? Or as Solomon ele­gantly describes the case, Eccles. 12. 2, 3, 4, 5. &c. When the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out at the windows be darkened, &c. When a man shall have his winding­sheet in his eye, and his last knell in his ear; when with great difficulty and continual labour at the pump of life, he hardly keeps his Leaky Vessel from sink­ing; what then do all the objects of the Senses grati­fy him, when the Senses themselves are now shutting in their windows, and bidding everlasting good night? Then those entertainments become not only dull and flat, but irksome and tormenting, and only serve to upbraid his impotency. For when a man shall say with Sampson, I will rouze my self as at other times, alas Dalilah hath shaven his locks, betrayed his strength, and bound him down to a state of inactivity. And which is further considerable, the more a man hath indulged himself the full enjoyment of these things in his youth, the more he accelerates these infir­mities and loathings of age, and far the sooner lo­ses all gust of them. And then like Tantalus, he is tormented with the sight of what he can­not [Page 118] reach, for he feels himself sinking and perish­ing.

THEN for the Riches and gain of the World, though it be commonly observed that men are so ri­diculous as to be most earnest in making provision for their voyage, when they are almost at their journeys end, most carking and reaching after the World, when they have least concern in it; yet this their way is their folly, and in a little time it will be said, Thou fool this night shall thy soul be taken from thee: His beloved bags must be left behind to he knows not who; his possessions have a new owner, his beautifull habita­tion another inhabitant, whilst he that gathered all these is close prisoner in the grave, and hath not so much as the beholding them with his eyes. But be­sides, what do these things advantage him in the mean time? can they prolong the term of life, or bribe and stave off death? can they support his Spirit, or comfort his mind? nay they are so far from that, that it's well if they call not to his remembrance the unjust ways by which he heaped them together; or if that sad circumstance be escaped, they are but mo­numents of his folly, that set his heart on those things that will be sure to desert him in his need: and in fine, which serve onely to make him do that unwillingly which must be done in spight of him: that is, instead of securing him from death, or preparing him for it, or fortifying him under it, they do in every respect the quite contrary; his riches perish, and he perishes with them, and it may be by them.

LASTLY, for that gawd of fame and worldly glory, it is of so thin a contexture, that it is disputa­ble whether it have any substance at all or no; or any being otherwise then in phancy and conceit. But to be sure it is far too slight to last long, and too airy to [Page 119] give any satisfaction to a languishing Spirit or a dying man. When a man's mind comes to be serious, to retreat into it self, to feel remorse for former follies, what will it avail him that he hath a name amongst men, that he hath carried it fairly, and raised a repu­tation with those that see not into the inside of things? that he hath appeared bravely upon the Stage, but is stripped of all behind the Curtain; is taunted and condemned by his own Conscience, and by God who is greater then his Conscience, and knows all things. It is not all the plumes of Fame, together with popular breath, can lift a man up when his own weight sinks him, and his guilt casts him down. E­specially when death approaches, how ridiculous will it be to goe about to comfort a man's self with report when he is going into the land of forgetfullness? A good name indeed for brave and vertuous actions, embalms a man's memory to all ages; but the name of the wicked shall rot, in despight of all the spicery of flatterers and Parasites. What is there in being talk­ed of, when I shall be no more seen? what to be mentioned in History, unless my name be written in the Book of Life? Tully somewhere disputes with himself, Longam an latam famam mallet, Whether was most desirable, a spreading or a lasting name? whether to be talked of in many Countries, or to be remem­bred to many Ages? But the matter is not great which of the two, nor will both of them joyned to­gether be of any moment, if a man either cease to be, or be in such a condition that it had been good for him never to have been. For Notus nimium omnibus qui ignotus moritur sibi, He that hath not made it his care so to know himself as to secure himself of a blessed immortality, it will be little comfort or antidote against death that he shall be talked of far and near when he is [Page 120] gone. So that upon the whole matter in these things consisting all the maintenance and incouragement the Devil can give his Servants, and these being so mean and slight in themselves, and failing men too at last, they have a most uncomfortable bondage that give up themselves to his service.

The Habitual Sinner's case stated, or a reflection upon what hath been said in the foregoing Chapter.

  • § I. The import of the phrase [when he came to him­self] shews, that the Prodigal was all this while hi­therto not well in his wits, and that the habitual sin­ner is in a like condition.
  • § II. The truth of which appears by considering either the most usual causes, or effects of distraction.
  • § III. Objections against this inference answered.
  • § IV. The application and conclusion of this First Part of the Parable.
Vers. 17.

And when he came to himself he said, &c.

WE have in the foregoing Chapter traced the Prodigal from the freedome and felicities of his Father's house, to the extremity of misery and ser­vitude which his extravagant humour cast him into: and in him, and the issues of his way, we have seen the beginnings, the progress, and the result of a sin­full course lively represented. Now summing up all together, and reflecting upon what hath been said, it is evident that the person here described, especially [Page 122] if he resolve to continue in this condition, cannot be in his right wits. The truth of which all men that se­riously consider the premises cannot but bear wit­ness to. And besides, it is plainly suggested by our Saviour himself in these words, vers. 17. when he came to himself, &c. [...], which phrase either signifies a man dead, (or in a swound at least) and coming to life again; or a man drunk, dispelling at last the cloud of his fumes, and recovering the use of his limbs and senses; or a man distracted, and return­ing to his wits and understanding again.

AND indeed, all these are applicable enough to an habitual sinner, he is morally or spiritually dead, Eph. 2. 1. You hath he quickened who were dead in tres­passes and sins. The disease of willfull sin doth so de­prave men's natures and disable their powers, that there appears no hope of recovery to a sense of God and goodness, no more then of a man naturally dead, unless God be pleased to breathe into him the breath of life. He is drunk, the steams of lust have clouded and besotted his understanding, and oppressed all his vital powers, that for the present he is not able to guide, nor fit to govern himself; he hath rather the shape then the sense of a man, no man takes his judgment, nor regards what he saith or doth, but every man looks upon him as a beast; and were it not that there is hope of his recovery, would think him fit with Nebuchadnezar to be turned out to grass. But because this disturbance is usually short, it doth not therefore come so home to the condition of the sinner; for sin is a lasting phrenzy or distraction, and agrees thereto both in the causes, and in the sym­ptomes.

THE true account of the cause of Distraction (as I take it) is this, when the Animal Spirits, by some [Page 123] accident or other, are so over-heated, that they become unserviceable to cool and sedate reasoning. And then reason being thus laid aside, phansy gets the ascendent, and Phaeton like, drives on furiously and inconsistently. This combustion of the spirits happens sometimes by over great intention of the mind in long and constant study, sometimes by a feaver which inflaming the bloud, that communicates the incendi­um to the spirits which take their original from it. But most usually by the rage and violence of some of the passions, (whether irascible or concupiscible, as they are wont to be distinguished) a man setting his heart vehemently upon some object or other, the spi­rits are set on fire by the violence of their own mo­tion; and in that rage are not to be governed by rea­son. This we have sad examples of, in Love, in Grief, in Jealousie, in Wrath and Vexation; and indeed, Bethlehem is filled with the instances. And this ac­count fits but too well the case we have in hand, namely, of the willfull and habitual sinner. He ha­ving passionately addicted himself to some one or other of those worldly objects we lately spoke of all his spirits are ingaged in the pursuit of it, and with that heat and vehemency that nothing can stop their car­rier, nor bring them under the reins of reason. No considerations of God, or a World to come, can come into play, no checks of Conscience are attended to, whatsoever comes on't the passion must be obey­ed, lust must have its full swing, be the danger or consequence of it what it will.

THEN for the usual symptoms of distraction, if we see a man that hath unspeakable danger over his head, insomuch that every man that sees him bewails and pities him, but he pities not himself; if we see him disporting upon the brink of a precipice, and the [Page 124] ground breaking away under him; nay, if we shall see him court danger, tear his own flesh, and delight in his own mischief: or again, suppose we observe a man to have rich offers made him, but he despises them, and prefers trifles before them; or to be most fierce and injurious to those who are most earnest to do him good, do we not account these the tokens of distraction? And is not the case the very same, when a man shall be found to go on in a course of sin that God and his own Conscience have denounced dam­nation to, and be secure when there is nothing be­tween him and utter destruction but the frail thred of life, the most uncertain thing in the world; when a man shall in fondness to some sin or other, despise the counsels of God's word, slight his promises, laugh at his threatnings, and even defy the Almighty; when he shall express so much hate and indignation against none as those that reprove his folly, advise him for his good, and forewarn him of his danger; in short, that is every moment ready to drop into hell, and yet goes on carelesly and jollily, is not this laughter of his Risus Sardonius, i. e. plainly and notoriously phrenetical in the highest degree? We reade, Acts 26. 25. that Festus was of opinion that much study had made St. Paul mad, when he took notice of such a wonderfull zeal in him for Christianity, that no dif­ficulties would abate his edge, no allurements or flatteries withdraw him, no menaces affright him, nor no sufferings prevail at all upon him. But St. Paul sufficiently clears himself of that suspicion, giving a just and manly account of his persuasion, and the rea­sons of his resolution. And withall, vers. 11. he con­fesses time was when he was mad indeed, when he was hurried by his own passions and prejudices to make all the opposition he was able against Christia­nity, [Page 125] [...], (saith he) I was ex­ceedingly mad and outragious against it. But there were a great many allowances to be made in his case, he had been bread a Pharisee, the education in which Sect had put him under the greatest prejudices against Christianity that could be possibly; the Gospel was a new thing in the World, which Character was enough to condemn it; but besides, it lay open to a great many disadvantages which it is unseasonable here to mention, by reason of all which he thought he should do God good service to oppose it: he therefore only obeyed his erring Conscience, followed the best reason he then had, and what he did amiss he did it ignorantly, and accordingly God had mercy on him. But what can be pretended on the behalf of the habitual sinner against the common law of reason and morality? can he plead ignorance, or pretend Conscience? is morality a new opinion, or was debauchery ever espoused for the Dogma of any famous Sect? was it ever a disputable point whether injustice, adultery, and other sensuali­ty, were vices or vertues? did ever any man think he should do God good service by complying with these? nay, is it not evident, that the men we speak of contradict the very principles of reason, the inti­mations of their own Consciences? they violate all the laws of wisedome, goe cross to all rules of pru­dence; nay their very interests, and the principles of self-preservation. May we not therefore direct our discourse to such men, as Herod is said to have done a Letter to Cassius, [...], in short, Cassius thou art mad?

BUT let us come to particulars, and we will be­gin with Injustice: hath not God said, that the un­nighteous shall have no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ or of God? and have we not seen the experi­ment [Page 126] of those that have raked and torn for riches as if that were the onely thing valuable and desirable, and counted all clear gain that could be gotten, who yet when death hath summoned them to the righte­ous Tribunal of God, would gladly have refunded all again, and have chosen to have lived the poorest life in the world, so they might have gone out of it with a good Conscience? Is there not just reason to ex­pect that all unjust acquisitions will one day prove like a barbed Arrow in a man's flesh, that must either be pluckt back again, (and that not to be done without horrible pain and anguish,) or else will destroy him eternally? Are not these courses condemned by Heathens, and by all the reason of mankind? doth not such a man make himself the hate and scorn of others, and a shame to himself? What is there then prevails with any man to continue such a practice? is there any necessity presses him to it? must a man be starved else? is there any such unspeakable felici­ty in being rich, that the temptations thereof are ir­resistible? doth any man live more comfortably by his ill-gotten goods? nay in truth, these imbitter the delights of all the rest. Doth riches afford a man such security, quiet and repose, that no man can be at ease till he have attained it; or is it not certain on the contrary, that the solicitude of acquiring it macerates a man with cares and projects night and day; and when he hath attained his ends, he lies at once under the joint inconveniences of abundance and of poverty; the cares of the one, and the burden of the other? Wherefore upon the whole matter there is nothing in the case but the impetuousness of a gree­dy grasping humour, that bears down his reason, fools him and destroys him. And if a milder name then madness be due to this condition, let sobermen judge.

[Page 127] NOW take the Voluptuous man to whom no fruit is pleasant but that which is forbidden, and who knows no measure of pleasure but a surfeit; in the first place it is very doubtfull whether the quest of pleasures be not as troublesome as the enjoyments of them are sweet; at least if we lay together the tedi­ous expectations, the frequent frustrations, the cer­tain expence of time, fortune and health, the secret guilt, the constant fear of detection, the shame and reproach upon discovery, the pressing importunities of passion before enjoyment, the follies and dangers in the midst, and the irksomness and loathing after their gratification: the little time of pleasure, and the long hours of shame and repentance, the dull re­lish of the bodily Senses, to the quick and pungent sense of the Mind and Conscience; we shall be put out of doubt and assured of the unreasonableness of such a course. But if we consider withall the severe denunciations of the Almighty, the inconsistency of such a course with any interest in the joys of another life, the no compare between a fools paradise of se­suality and the felicities of the Kingdom of Heaven, we cannot pronounce of such a man as (notwitstand­ing all these considerations) shall give himself up to these bruitish passions, otherwise then that he hath forfeited his reason, forgoing his greatest interests for the veriest trifle, and selling his birthright for a mess of pottage.

THE like may be said of Drunkenness; To see a man tunn up himself like a barrel, and fill his head with froth, which his tongue discharges again; to see a mans face deformed, his eyes staring, his feet faul­tering, his motions antick his thoughts open and un­decent, his speech much, and reason little: And herewith to observe his estate poured down a com­mon [Page 128] sewer, and his credit and reputation utterly rui­ned; but above all, his Soul indangered to come into everlasting burnings, and all this for the love of drink: who can chuse but in his thoughts score up such a man as fit for Bethlehem?

LET us take only one instance more, and that shall be in that passion which hath gotten the name from all the rest, I mean Anger. Every man knoweth that health is best preserved by calmness and evenness of mind, that mens interest is best secured by gentleness and an obliging temper, their safety by cession and pla­cableness, that reason is highest when rage is down; that business is best carried on by the most sedate prose­cution; insomuch that no men count him wise whom they observe to be violent, nor do they think those to be valiant that they see huff and swagger. Besides, passion disguises a man's very countenance, dries up his body, brings wrinkles upon his face, gray hairs upon his head, hollowness of eyes, withers and de­stroys him: It puts him upon the most foolish, shame­full, and dangerous adventures, which at the same time it usually renders him impotent to effect, or if he effect them, he only makes matter for his own re­pentance as long as he lives; or it may be work for the Executioner to shorten his unhappy days. Above all, it is contrary to the nature of God who is a God of peace, to the temper of the blessed Jesus, who was an example of meeknesse and patience; it utter­ly unfits a man for the peacefull and amicable society of Saints and Angels in the Kingdom of Heaven, and disposes him for the horrid fellowship of fell and desperate Fiends in the regions below. All which things considered, when we see a man boil with cho­ler, foam with rage, pale with envy, and indulging himself in this humour; what can we say or think [Page 129] of this man, but that he hath lost the [...], the very principles of manhood?

BUT perhaps it may be said, that all this while we have but maintained a Stoical Paradox; and for all this that hath been said, vicious men cannot be reputed mad, because upon other occasions we see many of them give proof of wit and parts. To which I answer, that neither do I in all this intend to intimate that they are in all respects mad, (though it were well for many of them that it were strictly true.) But when men shall betray the most egregi­ous folly, and act the most extravagantly in the mat­ters of greatest moment, I may leave it to themselves in their sober moods to judge what name they ought to be called by, whatever ingenie they may disco­ver in lesser occasions. Besides, neither is it the con­dition of all those that are acknowledged mad, to do nothing soberly or ingeniously; all or most have their Lucid intervals, and there are some in whom the humour betrays it self in some peculiar instances onely. Melancholici quoad hoc, (as they say.) Talk with them in the general and they are like other men, but touch upon some peculiar point and they rave presently. So it is with these men we speak of: As to common conversation and the affairs of the world they may be ingenious, and perhaps in some repartee, or other trifle, (by reason of the heat of their Spirits aforesaid) beyond other men; but as to the businesse of their Souls and Eternity, they have no manly sense at all. And indeed, there is nothing can be more pat to verify what I have been saying then this very circumstances; for when men that other­wise have sense and understanding in lesser matters shall be so extreamly absurd in that which especially requires the most manly proceedings, it is the very [Page 130] Symptom that we have been all this while describing.

WHICH being so, the consequence is, that in the first place it is an absurdity next to theirs to follow the counsell or example of such men. The Psalmist makes it the first step to felicity, not to stand in the counsel of the ungodly. Will any man think it reaso­nable to imitate the mad freaks of a Bedlam, because he sees him jolly and brisk when he plays them? no more let any man incourage himself in wickednesse because he sees the high rants of sinners: rather let him say in the words of our Saviour, Father forgive them, they know not what they doe. Fools they are with a witnesse that make a mock of sin; little do they think how ill this jollity becomes them, and lesse do they forethink what will be the end of such courses.

NOR let the authority of the number or quality of such persons bear us down, for folly is folly, let who will be the Patron of it. Can precedent change the nature of things? is there any prescription against reason? will publick vogue justify Conscience, or multitude of voices carry it against God? Unlesse wicked men could not only efface the principles of their own minds and Consciences, but also remove the Pillars of the world, change the course of na­ture, and by a Gigantick enterprize wage war against and conquer Heaven; i. e. force the Almighty to alter his opinion, repeal his laws, and revoke his threatnings: sin will everlastingly be folly, and per­severance therein madnesse, in spight of multitude, fashion, custome and example. Shall I therefore follow their examples that thwart God, that contra­dict their own Consciences, whom all men at least ta­citly condemn, even those that bruitishly and sillily are lead by them? Shall I make those my guide who [Page 131] have so little foresight as not to see beyond the short stage of life? Shall I make them my Counsellors that make so foolish a bargain, as to give eternal life in exchange for momentany pleasure? that have so bad memories as to forget they have immortal Souls, or so little reason as to think there is no God? In a word, shall I take them for wise men that have so little of man in them as to live like beasts, and to wish they might die so too? Or (which equals any of the for­mer) that can be so sottish as to imagine they can goe on in a course of rebellion against God, and escape eternal destruction?

AGAIN Secondly, upon the premises it is mighty reasonable, that every man in this condition should in his Lucid intervals apply himself most effectually to the means of recovery. 'Tis not the custome of Physicians to administer remedies in a Pa­roxysm, (but such as may abate the symptoms only) because nature is then perverted and out of order to comply with the help offered to it; and it were mad­nesse little inferiour to that of these Spiritual Luna­ticks we speak of, to deal with them in the heat and rage of their passion, as to reprove a man when he is drunk, to preach meeknesse to a man in a fury, &c. all we can doe then is to pity and pray for them. But when the fit is over and the patient in a sedate temper, then is the time for application; and it is the greatest uncharitablenesse in the world not to help them what we can, or to forbear to admonish them as the Angel did Lot when he had drawn him out of Sodom, Escape for thy life, look not back, &c. But especial­ly when the sinner is in his right mind, apprehensive of his former folly, sees the emptinesse of what he so eagerly pursued, nauseates his own choice, and either feels or foresees the consequence of it; Then is the [Page 132] only time for him to call in his thoughts, to deplore his unreasonablenesse, to shame himself and feel re­morse for his wickednesse, to take a just measure of things, to renew his vows, to fortify his resolutions, to beg God's grace, and to lay all the obligations pos­sible upon himself, to withstand all the occasions of relapsing. To which purpose let him consider with himself, ‘It was God's unspeakable patience and mercy to me, that I was not snatcht away in the midst of my riot and debauch. I that abused so much goodnesse, broke so righteous a Law, and affronted so great a Majesty, it had been just with God to have cut off the thred of my life and let me drop into Hell. Oh what absurd folly possessed me, that I dust and ashes should oppose my Maker! I that could not assure my self of one moments life, should yet live so as I durst not die, or if I did must expect to have been damned eternally! Or what if God sparing my life had given me up to a repro­bate mind, to a profane spirit, had never solicited me by his Spirit, nor awakened my Conscience more, but had said, Let him that is unjust be unjust still, and him that is filthy be filthy still, &c. and so I had gone blind-fold to destruction? Blessed be his holy name, and happy is it for my poor Soul that I have lived to see my shame, feel my disease, and bewail my folly. O my Soul sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to thee.

And this brings me to the Second Part of the Pa­rable, (viz.) The Prodigal's return.

[Page] [Page]

And he would faine have filled his belly with the husks that ye swine did eat: St. LVKE. XV. [...]

[...], &c. Maxim. Tyr. differ. 31.

The Penitent, or the Prodigal returning.

S. Luke 15. Vers. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

And when he came to himself, he said, how many hi­red Servants of my Father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.

I will arise and goe to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee,

And am no more worthy to be called thy Son: make me as one of thy hired Servants.

And he arose, and came to his Father. But when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the Son said to him, Father, I have sinned a­gainst Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more wor­thy to be called thy Son.

Of Consideration.

  • § I. The general concern of Repentance. The reason why, notwithstanding, there is little mention made of it in the Law of Moses. The peculiar necessity of it to those who have been great sinners: the parts thereof as they are alluded to in this Parable.
  • § II. Of the nature of Consideration; and that it usu­ally begins conversion.
  • § III. Affliction usually brings men to Consideration, prosperity commonly rendring them either light and incogitant, or confident and presumptuous.
  • § IV. The peculiar meditations of a returning sinner.

HITHERTO in the former part of the Pa­rable, in the person of a light incogitant young­man, we have seen the deplorable effects of rashnesse and folly, pride and curiosity, insolence and disobe­dience, how they work jointly and severally toge­ther and by turns, till by degrees they have trained him on to his utter ruine. His pride raises him so high that he must fall, his licentiousnesse betrays him to slavery, and his luxury to extream necessity. And under this Type we have seen lively pourtrayed the beginnings, the progresse, the upshot, the causes and the effects of a sinfull course.

IT was high time for the Prodigal to think of re­turning to his Father, when he was perishing by his [Page 135] disobedience, and had no other refuge but in his Fa­ther's clemency; and sure it is time for the sinner to repent and return to God, when (if he be sensible of any thing) he cannot but be apprehensive that in the course he is in, the danger of his eternal ruine is as certainly impendent as it is more intolerable.

AND thus far we have sadly observed the steps of descent towards Hell: we come now in this Second Part to descry the way of recovery, to trace out a plain path towards Heaven: that is, to lay open the beginnings, the motives, the whole nature and pro­cesse of repentance. And the divine wisedom of our Saviour hath so contrived this Parable, that all the lines of this great work are as plainly discernible in the narrative of the Prodigal's return, as we have al­ready seen the progresse of sin delineated in his former extravagancy. Wherefore as I cannot but hope that the genuine efficacy of plain truth, especially invi­gorated by so curious a scheme, as in the former part, must needs have put every man into some concern, who hath stained his Conscience with guilt, but not quite extinguished it: So I see lesse cause to doubt but that this Second Part will be very acceptable and usefull to all those upon whom the former made any impression. For if he that could pretend to be able to direct those who have bankrupt their fortunes, how they might certainly repair their losses, and redinte­grate their estates, shall be sure to have a great many attentive Auditors; and he that should under­take the cure of those that have received a sentence of death within themselves, and have been given up as no longer men of this world, would be sure to have good store of Patients: There is far greater rea­son to expect it, that such a discourse as pretends to give relief to guilty Consciences, to open a sure port [Page 136] for all troubled Souls, should find acceptance with all such as are not in the very extremity of one of those fits of madnesse we lately spoke of.

TERTƲLLIAN writing a discourse of the na­ture and efficacy of repentance, Cum ipse omnium no­tarum sim peccator & nulli rei natus nisi poenitentiae, non facile possum su­per illâ [...]a­cere, quum ipse quoque & stirpis humanae, & offensae in dominum princeps A­dam, exo­mologesi re­stitutus in Paradisum suum non tacet. gives this serious ac­count of so doing in the latter end of the Treatise, Being conscious (saith he) to my self that I am a great sinner, I cannot easily be silent concerning repentance, especially since it is preached and recommended to all po­sterity by our first Parent Adam, as that which he found by experience to have been the onely expedient of restoring him again to Paradise, after he had sinned against God. And not onely our first Parents but all their Off-spring have been sensible of the necessity of repentance, for­asmuch as all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, And if God should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, no man living could be justified.

REPENTANCE is (as the same Authour calls it,) the Pharos or Watch-tower, which gives light by night to those who are bewildered by their own vanity and the illusion of the Devil, and are ready to sink of their own leaks. 'Tis the great A­sylum and Sanctuary of humane infirmity, the Port of a troubled Soul, a Plank to a ship-wreckt Conscience, a Sovereign Plaister to the Sore and Wounded, Phy­sick to the Sick, nay, life from the dead, and resur­rection from the Grave. Repentance is the miracle of divine goodnesse, the reconciler of the divine Attri­butes, Justice and Mercy, the relief and succour of humane frailty, the envy of Devils as that which they cannot attain to, and the peculiar and inestimable priviledge of mankind, that which their amendment, comfort and eternal salvation depends upon.

THEREFORE it may justly seem a wonder that the Law of Moses takes little or no notice of it, [Page 137] but the reason is, because the Mosaical institution was never intended as the method of attaining eternal life, but principally as a Political Law, and accordingly it takes notice only of matter of fact, allows no retrieval, but saith, Cursed is he that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the Law to doe them. But the Prophets all along earnestly recommend repentance; with this both our Saviour and S. Jo. Baptist began their Preaching, and indeed, this is the summe of the whole Gospel. That God will wink at the times of former igno­rance, and now commands all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, &c. Act. 17. 30, 31.

IT is true, (as we have intimated already) all have not the same necessity of repentance, or at least not of the same measures and circumstances, because all have not run the same risk of folly, nor blackened their Souls with the same enormous commissions that some others have, and therefore cannot have such bitter reflections, for which they have given no cause, nor can find such difficulty of recovering themselves, having never been habituated to a course of sin, and therefore as our Saviour said, He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance: so we intend not this discourse principally for such persons: but for those that have run a long course of notorious sin, that have provoked God, offended their Conscience, deformed their natures, and put themselves under just and dreadfull apprehensions of a sad account hereafter; it is the infinite concern of such men, if they do not desperately abandon themselves to eternal misery, to attend to this happy expedient which now I am to ex­plain.

TO come therefore to the businesse. Our Sa­viour in the part of the Parable before us, repre­sents [Page 138] the Prodigal making his retreat in this order.

1. He becomes a thinking and considerative per­son, and debates his own case with himself. When he came to himself he said, How many hired Servants of my Father's, &c. Before he drove on furiously, con­sidering nothing present, reflecting on nothing past, nor regarding any thing that might come after: now he grows cool, reasons the case, and deliberates what is like to be the issue of his present state, and what is fittest to be done for the future. And thus the peni­tent sinner; the first essay of repentance is a relenting thoughtfullnesse, a serious and pensive considerate­nesse. As soon as he is gotten out of the noise of the world, the charms of pleasure, and the hurry of his own passions, he sits down and considers, he practi­ses to see with his own eyes, and not be led by rumour and example; he exercises his reason, and re­solves to judge impartially of things: and from this point of time the first conceptions of good in him bear date.

2. From the aforesaid deliberation he proceeds to resolution. I will arise and goe to my Father, and say unto him, &c. q. d. ‘I foolishly hurried on hi­therto, and was upon the brink of destruction be­fore I apprehended my danger; I dreamed of new discoveries, of fresh pleasures in my bold adven­tures, but I now perceive there is but one way with me, I must try my Father's clemency or perish. Whether he will receive me or no I cannot tell, but that I find must be the way or none, therefore I will make the experiment: It is better to retract my folly and live, then obstinately to maintain my post and die miserably; there is some hope this way, and none at all the other: therefore jacta est alea, I will return. Thus also the penitent sinner: Now [Page 139] (saith he) mine eyes are opened, and though very late, yet now at last I see my danger, and blessed be God that I see whither I was going, before the case be utterly desperate; I am sure to be damn'd if I continue my course, what-ever come on't there­fore I'll return. Whatsoever discouragements for my acceptance, my former rebellions set before me; or whatsoever difficulty there may be for an old ha­bituate sinner to change his bias, I am resolved how­ever not to perish foolishly with my hands folded up in my bosome, I will arise, I will try.’

3. THIS resolution is followed by execution and actual returning. So he arose and went to his Father. He that considers and comes to no resolution, is like the man that ploughs his ground but sows nothing up­on it; and he that resolves, but executes not, is yet more sottish, for he is at all the cost, and takes all the pains, but reaps no fruit of his labours. There is such a near connexion between consideration, reso­lution and execution, and they are so naturally con­sequent upon one another; that as on the one side, consideration brings on resolution, and that practice; so much more on the other, from a man's practice we may ordinarily pronounce of his resolutions, and from that certainly calculate his meditations. But to the point in hand: ‘I (saith the Pro­digal) have delayed too long already, I may con­sider and make resolutions, and yet sit and starve; it must be doing must rescue me from my misery.’ So he arose, and so doth the true Penitent.

BUT these things are not to be passed over thus superficially, therefore we will handle them particu­larly. And accordingly

§ II. I Begin with the first, viz. Consideration or De­liberation. [Page 140] By which I mean not a mopish and in­effective dozinesse, when men seem to think pro­foundly, but apprehend nothing at all distinctly; their understandings being amused and baffled with a new and strange prospect, as if looking back upon their former miscarriages had (with Lot's Wife) transformed them into a Pillar of Salt. Much lesse do I mean a solemn austerity of temper, and rigid fixation of spirits; as if men had forgone all touches of humanity, and were become a kind of walking Ghosts. Both these are passions of the body, not motions of the mind, and if they are not counterfeit, tend more to desperation then conversion; and there is danger lest such men are falling from a vicious phrenzy (as we not long since called it) to a strictly literal, and more incurable madnesse.

BUT by Consideration, so far as concerns the bu­siness in hand, I understand nothing more nor less, but a manly and a serious application of our minds to take a just and impartial view of our selves, and of all such things as most concern us, to the end that we may govern our determinations and carriage accordingly. For the fuller apprehension of this, we are to remem­ber (what I have in part intimated before) that the mind of man hath these four priviledges.

1. IT hath not only a perceptive power of such things as are present, which is common to the inferi­our and animal faculties, but hath a large sphere of cognizance, recalling things past, and having a solici­tude and forethought of things to come.

2. THE rational powers of the Soul are not meerly passive as the inferiour are, which only take notice of such images of things in transitu and glance, as are reflected upon them from the Senses, but these can fix themselves, and their objects can hold the [Page 141] images of things steddy, and stay and arrest their own motions towards them.

3. THE mind of man doth not take so superfici­al a view of things, as to discern only the pleasantness or unpleasantness of them, wherein natural good and evil consists, but is able to discern and pronounce of an higher and more exquisite beauty or deformity, ex­cellency or turpitude from the relation to God, to the community, to the nature of our own Souls, and to the time to come; wherein consists that which we call moral good and evil. And this is that rational sense or relish, the Criterion or standard of the Soul I formerly spoke of.

LASTLY, the Soul is able also to reflect upon it self, to measure its own motions, and its own state, by the standard aforesaid; and so becomes aware of, and corrects its own errours for the time past, and takes better aim for the time to come.

NOW the exercising of these several capacities of the Soul, is that which we mean by Consideration. Namely, then a man considers when in the first place he suffers not himself to be carried away with the pre­judice of Sense, nor confines his thoughts to such things as are thereby presented to him; but inlarges his prospect, looks round about him, takes one thing with another, and embraces in his mind the whole nature, tendency, and all the circumstances of things. This is well intimated by the Latines in ei­ther of these words, Contemplari and Considerare, which seem to allude to Astronomical Calculations, wherein men ought not ad pauca respicere, to confine their observations to some one appearance, but to look round about them, to survey the whole Orb, and salve all the Phaenomena. Thus a man considers morally that observes his own actions, that recollects [Page 142] what hath befallen himself, or other men upon so doing, and forecasts what may befall him or them hereafter.

AGAIN, when a man lives not extempore, but premeditates, nor suffers himself to be overborn, ei­ther by the presence and importunity of sensual ob­jects, or by the solicitation and hurry of passions, but checks his own carrier, and gives himself leisure calm­ly and maturely to understand the just nature of things, defixes his thoughts, and suspends his deter­mination till he see plain reason to incline him this way, or that this is a considerative man. Especially when a man takes not things in the gross, as if all were alike trivial, or alike momentous, nor suffers himself to be led along by common custome, opinion and example; that takes not the price of things from publick fame, but appeals to and estimates all things by the just standard of reason, and accordingly go­verns his desires and prosecutions: the man I say, that distinguishes and makes a discrimination betwixt one thing and another, that goes not by tale and number, but by weight and proof; is justly esteemed a think­ing and serious person. For so the Greek words used in this case import. [...], signifying to confer, compare, and distinguish: as also [...], to state the matter, to cast up accounts; and so also the Latine word deliberare, which Festus derives from libra, as, deciding the matter by the scale; in like man­ner, examinare, to observe, quà lanx exeat, which way the scale turns.

LASTLY, when a man turns his eyes inward, studies himself, makes himself his theam, and com­ments upon himself and his own actions, hath his eyes in his head, minding his own way, having propound­ed a destined mark and aim of his actions; keeps it con­stantly [Page 143] in his eye, and shapes his course accordingly; not like the fool in the Proverbs of Solomon, that hath his eyes roving, and in the ends of the earth. This is that the Hebrews express by the phrase [...], to lay to heart; or in the other phrase of the Psalmist, Psal. 4. 4. To commune with ones own heart. This is that which we mean by considerativeness, or in other words, the working of Conscience, and the discharge of both its offices.

AND by such kind of consideration as this doth the grace of God and his holy Spirit begin the work of conversion; and herein do the first strictures and essays of piety discover themselves.

It was wont to be said by the Platonists, that know­ledge is nothing but remembrance, and that all the discovery of truth, which we in this state are able with all our labour and diligence to make, is but a revival and recovery of those Idea's of things we had in a for­mer state, and which now became obscure and con­fused by our being immersed in matter and body. But let that be as it may, it is true in the present case, that the first point of true practical wisedom is gained by studying a man's self, and by making himself the subject of his meditations. For as there is nothing wherein we betray more folly, nothing by which we shipwreck our Consciences, and lose our selves so fa­tally, as by permitting our selves to run adrift with­out Card or Compass, Port or Pilot; so on the other hand, there is nothing gives greater hopes of recove­ry, then being able and disposed to collect our selves, to call in our thoughts by serious consideration and reflection. [...], To which purpose it was worthily said by Philo, That the source of all our danger, and the first reason of our miscarriages, lay in our running on with the boisterous tide of passion; and the first hopes of [Page 144] safety was in being able to stay our selves, and soberly to reason the matter. But we have greater authority for it then Philo's. For upon defect of this, God him­self lays the blame of men's ruine; and in this he places the first signs of recovery. So we find him complaining of his people Israel as in a very desperate condition, Isa. 1. 3. My people will not consider: and therefore often calls upon them by the Prophets in these words, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways. But most emphatically doth he express him­self, Isa. 46. 8. Remember and shew your selves men: bring it again to mind O ye transgressours. And it is very observable, that in that famous Chapter, Ezek. 18. where above any other passage in the Old Testament, God most solemnly proclaims and ratifies the efficacy of repentance, he describes the first lines at least of it to consist in consideration, vers. 14. A Son that consi­dereth, &c. Again, vers. 28. Because he considereth and turneth, &c. To all these adde the advice of the Psal­mist, Psal. 4. 4. Stand in awe and sin not; commune with your own hearts upon your bed, and be still. As if the serious treating with our selves was the onely way, both to stifle the temptation to, and to extinguish the guilt of sin. The Septuagint render the last phrase of the Psalmist, [...], q. d. consider so seriously with your selves at your best retirements, the evil of your ways, and the danger of your course, that you may feel remorse and compunction. The Chaldee Targum paraphraseth thus, Let your hearts concur with your mouths in saying your prayers, and think of the God of death: q. d. Affect your hearts seriously in secret with a deep apprehension of the danger of sin.

AND if we look into the N. Testament, nothing can more illustriously set forth this which we are asserting, then those two Parables of our Saviour, Luk. 14. 28. &c. [Page 145] of the man that intends to build a Tower, and a King going to war. In both which, the design of our Sa­viour is to shew, that serious debating, and prudent forecasting all the difficulties of the whole course of Christianity, is no less necessary to him that intends successfully to undertake it, then those grave delibe­rations of Princes, or projections of private persons, when the one intends to enter into a dangerous war, and the other a costly building.

IF indeed conversion to God were nothing else but a meer melancholy qualm, or a fright: if I say re­pentance were only a Paroxysm of devotion, and the Divine Majesty so soft and easy as to be taken with an agony of mind, or a kind of love-fit: then an in­considerate man might be esteemed a penitent. But repentance being nothing less then the change of a man's whole temper and life, the entring into a whole course of severe and constant vertue, the subduing our most potent passions, the denying our selves some of the most pleasant gratifications of flesh and bloud, the breaking off old and radicated customs and ha­bits: it must be absolutely necessary, that whosoever goes through with it, do maturely consider the en­terprize, and call in all his force for the atchievement of it.

OR again, if a man could be so vain and unreaso­nable, as to hope that God would save men by force, [...]. doe violence to their natures, over-bear or supersede their faculties, and plant grace in their hearts by a meer act of his omnipotency,S. Chrys. loc. priks citat. and new make them af­ter the manner he created them at first without their own concurrence, then indeed there would be no use of consideration; and it would be as fruitless and unnecessary to contribute any endeavour, as impossi­ble to make any opposition. But those that dream at [Page 146] this rate, neither understand God nor themselves; neither what is fit for him to confer, nor for them to expect. They know not what vertue means, nor apprehend whence comfort arises; they consider not what a righteous judgment to come supposes, nor what the very notion of reward and punishment speaks; they make no difference between free and natural Agents, and condomn themselves to senseless and stupid Machines, in hopes to be made Saints per sal­tum, and to come at Heaven such a way as never any man did or can doe; that is, without their own endeavour.

OR lastly, if a man could perswade himself, that themeans of grace, (viz.) the Word and Sa­craments did use to work physically upon men, and made them good ex opere operato, (as some speak) af­ter the manner of food and medicine to the Body, which take place whether men consider it or no, and oftentimes work the better the less the mind is em­ployed in thinking of that or any thing else: upon such a supposition there were no reason why any man should put himself to the trouble of that we have been speaking of. But on the contrary, it is most certain that all the means of grace have effect upon men's Souls, no otherwise then by awakening the sense of the mind, and making men considerative, and then men's hard hearts are made contrine by ope­rating upon themselves, as the Diamond is known to be cut by its own dust. For it is as impossible that Sermons, Counsels, or any other discourses, should edi­fy the mind of a man, unless his understanding bring them close, and make application of them to his Con­science, by the way of consideration; as it is for a man's Body to be nourished by meats who hath no digestive faculty, to be or cured by medicine, where all the powers of nature are extinguished. In short, to [Page 147] think otherwise, is to turn devotion into conjuring, and all the divine institutions into charms and amulets.

AND all this is so true that nothing can be ob­jected to it but what will convince the objector of utter strangeness and unacquaintedness with convert­ing grace; for we may safely appeal either to the ex­perience of every such convert as we are speaking of, or to the observation of all those who have taken no­tice of others in that condition, whether any thing hath been more remarkably visible in such a Crists, then a pensive, serious, and considerative temper. And it were easy to bring abundance of egregious in­stances hereof; such as Justin Martyr, St. Austin, and others: but to what I have said already, I will only subjoin two or three Scriptural observations. And the first shall be what David saith of himself, Psal. 119. vers. 59. I thought upon my ways, and turned my feet to thy precepts. In the next place I cannot but take notice in the story of Isaac, Gen. 24. 63. the Scripture saith of him, He went out into the fields to meditate in the evening. The LXX render it, he went out [...], to talk with himself, to entertain discourse with his own heart; and for the conveni­ence of doing this, he chose the solitude of the Fields, and the cool and quiet of the Evening. And by this practice the Holy Ghost characterizes him, as (though a young man yet) beginning to be both a wise and a pious person. Nor is it to be omitted which is re­corded of Ahab, 1. King. 21. 27. That when God threatned him with the utter extirpation of his family for his wickedness, he put on Sackcloth, sprinkled himself with Ashes, and especially amongst the rest he walked softly: that is, although he did not hear­tily repent, yet he knew well how to dissemble the doing it, and acted the part of a penitent in that se­rious [Page 148] and considerative posture. I will conclude this point with a passage of the Prophet Jeremiah, Chap. 31. Vers. 18, 19. the words are these: I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chasti­sed me and I was chastised; as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after I was turned I repented, and after I was instructed I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. A memorable Scripture very full and apposite to my present purpose, and withall so pathetick as that it is almost match for this Parable of our Saviour we have before us. The reflection upon both which together lead me.

IN the second place to observe the occasion, or what it was which put the Prodigal into a considera­tive temper; and that was the pressure of his wants: whilest wind and tide favoured him, and his affaris were prosperous, he made no reflections, nor struck sail to any thing; but now the tide forsaking him he is becalmed, and then considers. In like manner,

§ III. IT is usually some affliction or other which first awakens habitual sinners into consideration, and the rudiments of piety and religion. Or as serious considerativeness begins conversion, so commonly some sharp affliction or other begins that seriousness. It cannot be doubted but that the most easy and most frequently successfull way of begetting a sense of God and of piety in the minds of men is by holy educati­on in their youth, whilest their hearts are tender and tractable, not prejudiced by actual ingagements, not confirmed by example, nor hardened by long cu­stome and practice; and when the grace of God an­ticipates the Devil, and prevents all his enterprises: [Page 149] and perhaps if we look over the state of mankind, we shall find amongst those that are sincerely good, the number of those that have become so after a long course of sin, to be very small in comparison. We may also allow it for truth which is made a common maxime, that ingenuous minds are most wrought up­on by obligation and favour, that the strongest efforts are those which are made by kindness and goodness, that this latter method will melt and dissolve such as would be broken in pieces by violence. But this prejudices not the business in hand, for we speak of such as have lost their ingenuity; old hardened sin­ners, who must first be broken by the hammer of af­fliction before they will dissolve by the benign warmth of mercy and kindness. These last indeed carry on the work and make a perfect change, but fear and pain usually begins it. But I will not stick to grant that perhaps it may fall out, that some old sinner may have been reclaimed by the reading of a good book, hearing a serious Sermon, or by the grave admonition of a faithfull Friend, without any pressing affliction to prepare him for it, or as it were extort it from him. Notwithstanding I verily believe, if an estimate could be taken, the instances of this kind would be found to be exceeding rare. We find Pharaoh and Nebu­chadnezzar humbled by adversity, and their stiff Necks submitted to those acknowledgements of God's power and sovereignty, which no kindness or mercy would bring them to. And Manasses comes out a true convert, a new man out of the furnace of affli­ction. And David himself confesses of himself, That before he was afflicted he went astray, but thereby he had learnt to keep God's Commandments, Psal. 119. vers. 67. But the whole Scripture affords no one instance that I know of, of such a person as we speak [Page 150] of, cured by any other method then this. And for the whole Nation of the Jews God himself saith thus, Hos. 5. 15. I will go and return to my place till they ac­knowledge their transgression and seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me early. q. d. I will not only afflict my people, but I will leave them under the ‘pressure thereof; and by this rack as it were extort from them a confession of my sovereignty and their own guilt: for I have found by long trial that no­thing else will work upon a stiff-necked genera­tion, but in their affliction I am sure they will ear­nestly and instantly seek after me.’

IT was not the peculiar jealousy of Fabius con­cerning the Romane State which made him say, Se se­cunda magìs quàm adversa timere, That their danger was greater lest they should become rash and confident by some slight successes, then that their spirits should be bro­ken by a disaster. For all men that understand them­selves, and value their safety above their pleasure, find they have reason more to suspect the soft charm of ease, peace and plenty, then the rough attacks of adversity. Because (amongst other things) a constant and stiff gale of prosperity carries men with too full sail to be checkt or controuled by counsel: it pre­sents them with too many and great temptations to be easily resisted, ministers to their confident presum­ption, that either they are good enough already be­cause they have so many arguments of the divine fa­vour, or at least that he overlooks their miscarriages. And Conscience is either out-faced, or hath been so of­ten silenced and baffled, that it dares scarce mutter till the apprehension of some great danger or misery au­thorize and provoke it: but then it recovers its speech and tells its errand.

TO this purpose we have a famous instance in the [Page 151] Brethren of Joseph, Gen. 37. They, prompted by en­vy, had maliciously plotted the death, or at least the perpetual servitude of their Brother; and proceeded so far in it, that to their thinking it had taken effect. Then they unworthily contrive to abuse the affecti­ons of their good old Father, with feigned probabi­lities that his beloved Son was devoured by wild Beasts. And now they thought all was well, they had reaked their malice, and concealed their guilt, they kept their countenances, fed upon the sweets of revenge, and all this while their Conscience felt no re­gret. Till at last, as God would have it, they them­selves fall into the hands of him they thought they had made away; their necessities compell them to goe down to Aegypt, and there the man, the Gover­nour of the Land lookt sternly upon them, pretends to take them for Spies, and threatens to deal severely with them. Then courage fails them, and Conscience recovers: We are verily guilty (say they) of the bloud of our Brother, when we saw the anguish of his Soul, &c. What is the matter now, what alters the case, how comes Joseph to their minds now, who had been so long forgotten? Now they find they stand in need of mercy, and therefore sadly remember how merci­less they had been before; now they pity poor Jo­seph, for whom before they had no compassion; now they have bowels, when their own case was sad, and their punishment leads them to a remembrance of their guilt.

THUS we see affliction if it doth not make men good, yet at least it will not suffer them to be at ease in their sin, and so disposes them towards repentance. But contrariwise, prosperity raises the passions and de­presses Conscience: it hath made many from hopefull and tolerable become bad and intolerable, but scarce­ly [Page 152] ever improved any from bad to good. It is a well known story of Zeno, who was as intent as any other man upon the amassing of wealth, and as much taken with the gaiety of the world, so long as his Merchan­dize succeeded: but when he shipwrackt his Fortunes he recovered his reason, and applied himself to the stu­dy of Philosophy and the inriching of his mind. Nau­fragio tutus & foelix infortunio, his undoeing was his making, and his misfortune proved his recovery. And this the Holy Psalmist observes to be a common case, for Psal. 55. 19. he gives this account of mens obsti­nate impiety, because (saith he) they have no chan­ges, therefore they fear not God. And Saint Peter also, 2 Pet. 3. 4. represents it as the common argument upon which such men incourage themselves in the contempt of all Religion, where (say they) is the promise of his coming? for since the Fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were, &c. as if he had said, whilest there were visible interpositions of the Divine Provi­dence in the world, and that God was wont present­ly by some remarkable judgment or other to revenge himself upon those that violated his Laws and affront­ed his Majesty, so long the world was kept in some awe and Religion reverenced; but from such time as there hath been a constant calme and no interruption of the course of common causes, men have called in que­stion, whether there be any Providence at all in this World? and if once they can perswade themselves God hath left off to mind the affairs of the present world, they will confidently and with some colour of reason infer, that then he will not call things to account hereafter. Wherefore it is the usuall method of the Divine Wisdome to make way for the reasons and motives of Religion by affliction: first softning the obdurate heart by some sharp cross, taking down [Page 153] the pride, confuting the Atheism, curing the wanton­ness and delicacy of men's tempers, and so bringing them to a cool and thoughtfull condition; and to reason with themselves as the Prodigal in the Text.

FROM all which we learn both the hardness of a vicious heart, in that nothing can pierce it but affli­ction, and also the blindness and folly of men who so passionately desire prosperity, together with the great usefullness of affliction: and from all these, that it proceeds not from harshness and severity in God that he sends calamities upon the sons of men, but there is an illustrious instance of his wisedom, and of his goodness, in those providential dispensations, since this is the only way of recovering and making men good and happy.

§ IV. LET us now see in the last place somewhat particularly what are the considerations the Prodigal entertains his thoughts upon in this his afflicted con­dition. And consulting the Text, and carrying along with us a just notion of the nature of the case, we shall find those reducible to these four points.

I. HE considers what the condition was he is faln from, and how happy he might have been, had it not been for his own folly. How many hired Servants, &c. q. d. ‘I that am pinched with want now, felt none in my Father's house; I was liberally maintained, honourably treated, wanted nothing but the wise­dom to understand my own felicity, and in this con­dition I might have continued: for neither did my Father's estate complain of the burden of my ac­commodations, nor was he strait handed, or abated any thing of his Fatherly affections towards me; it was nothing but my own folly ruined me.’ And then [Page 154] 2. HE proceeds to deplore the sad estate he is fallen into: ‘When I set out from my Father's house in quest of liberty, did I ever dream of becoming a Slave? when I despised the liberal provisions of his Family, did I or cou'd I have thought I should come to want bread, to feed upon husks? How sad is the change, how severe is my fate, which I know no more how to bear then how to avoid!’ But that's not the worst yet. For

3. HE forethinks what is like to be the issue of this. ‘It is not only feeding upon husks, but I pe­rish for hunger. I have a prospect of nothing but death before me in the case I am in; I am lost, un­done, undone in the most dreadfull circumstan­ces; for I perish, and it is with hunger; death makes its sure approaches, and that in the most ghastly shape: vivens vidénsque pereo, I see and feel my self dying.

4. But yet in the last place, he looks about him to see if there be not some escape. ‘I am dying, (saith he) but not quite dead. Whilest there is life there is hope; Who will not catch hold of any thing rather then perish? And it agrees not with my condition to stick at any thing that can minister the least probability of safety. Am not I a Son, though I am here a Slave? have I not a Father, and hath not he pity? why then do I stand still and die, and not rather make the utmost experi­ment?’

AFTER this manner we may feel the pulse of the Prodigal Son to beat, and the thoughts of a sin­ner, whom God hath awakened by affliction, move much after the same rate. For first, as soon as his eyes are opened, he cannot choose but call to mind the blessedness of a state of innocency, and reason [Page 155] with himself on this wise. ‘What-ever my case is now, sure I was made in the image of God, pla­ced under the eye of his Providence, as it were of his Family and Table, Heaven and Earth ministred to me, I was Lord of the lower, and Favourite of the upper World, as if the one was made on purpose to exercise and divert me, and the other to receive and reward me. I have a nature capable of immor­tality, and had eternal life designed for me as the inheritance of a Son: and my task of obedience was as easie and honourable as my hopes were glori­ous. For I had no hard burthen laid upon me, no­thing required of me but what was proportionable to my powers, and agreeable to the reason of my mind; no restraint was laid upon my passions, but such as was evidently both necessary for the World and good for my self; that it could not be drawn into an argument of harshness and severity in God, nor make apology for my transgression. All my faculties were whole and intire, I was neither tem­pted by necessity, nor oppressed by any fate; I was therefore happy enough, and why am I not so still? It is true that humane nature hath miscarried since it came out of the hands of God, and I carry the Skar of that common Wound; yet is the dam­mage of the first Adam so repaired by the second, that mankind is left inexcusable in all its actual trans­gressions; but especially in a dissolute and impeni­tent course of rebellion. Besides, I see others whose circumstances were in all points the same with mine, and their difficulties and temptations no less, to live holily and comfortably, having either escaped the too common pollutions of the world by an early compliance with the grace of God, or at least, quickly recovered themselves by repentance. I [Page 156] find therefore that I might have lived in the light of God's countenance, in serenity of mind, quiet of conscience, sense of my own integrity, and com­fortable hopes of unspeakable glory; in contem­plation of which I might have defied death, and lived in Heaven upon Earth: but I have been meerly fooled by my own incogitancy, and undone by my own choice. For proceeds he’

2. ‘I have forfeited all this by sinning against God, and been so sottish as to prefer the satisfaction of my own humour before all the aforesaid felicities. I have been ingratefull towards my great benefactour, broken the law of my Creation, confronted the wisedom of the most High, been insolent towards a mighty Majesty, violated just and righteous com­mandments, sinned against light, knowledge and conscience, added presumption to folly, wilfull­ness to weakness, despised counsels, exhortati­ons, promises, assistances; my sins are many in number, horrible in their aggravations, deadly in their continuance, and my perseverance in them. By this means I have not onely wrought disorder in the world, but disordered my own Soul, spoiled my own powers, suffered passion to get head of my reason, clouded my understanding, and so by for­mer sins rendered it in a manner necessary that I sin still. For when I would doe good, evil is present with me; I find a law in my members rebelling against the law of my mind, and carrying me into captivity to the law of sin. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? I have driven away the good Spirit of God, and put my self under the power of Satan, become his slave and drudge. I know nothing now of the comforts of innocence, of the joy of a good Con­science, [Page 157] mine is a continual torture to me, I have lost the light of God's countenance, and the very thoughts of him are dreadfull to me; by all which together life is a burden, and yet the thoughts of death are intolerable.’ Such reflections and consi­derations as these break the very heart of a sinner, and resolve him into sighs and tears.

3. BUT this is not the worst of the case, for in the third place he considers what is like to be the issue of this. ‘This miserable life (saith the sin­ner) cannot last always, death will arrest me short­ly, and present me before a just Tribunal, the grave will e're ong cover me, but not be able to conceal me, for I must come to Judgment. Methinks I hear already the sound of the last Trump, Let the dead arise, let them come to judgment. I see the Angels as Apparitors gathering all the world toge­ther, and presenting them before that dreadfull Tribunal. How shall I be able with my guilty Conscience to appear upon that huge Theatre, be­fore God, Angels and Men? Methinks I see the Devil standing at my right hand to aggravate those faults which he prompted me to the commission of. I behold the Books opened, and all the debauche­ries, extravagancies and follies of my whole life laid open, Christ the Judge of all the World co­ming in flaming fire to take vengeance upon them that have not known him, nor obeyed his Gospel. How shall I endure his presence? how shall I escape his eye? I cannot elude his judgment, nor evade his sentence; come then ye Rocks and fall upon me, and ye Mountains cover me from the face of the Lamb, and from him that sitteth upon the Throne. But the Rocks rend in sunder, the Sea and the Earth disclose their dead, the Earth dissolves, [Page 158] the Heavens vanish as a Scroll, and I hear the dread­full Sentence, Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels. Methinks I hear Christ Jesus thus upbraiding me: You have li­stened to the Devil and not to me, I would have saved you, but you would not be ruled by me; you have chosen the way of death, now therefore you shall be filled with your own ways: I forewarned you what would be the issue of your courses, but you would have your full swing of pleasure for the present, whatever came of it hereafter; you laughed at judgment, and it is come in earnest; you have had your time of jollity and sensual transports, and now your portion is weeping, and wailing, and gnash­ing of teeth. O therefore (saith the sinner) that I had never been born, cursed be the day that brought me forth, and the Sun that shone upon me; would the womb had been my grave, and I had never seen the light. Thus my guilty Con­science anticipates its own punishment, and I am tormented before my time.’

4. ‘BUT is there no hope left? must I lie down thus in sorrow and despair? These things I may justly expect, but they are not yet incumbent up­on me; I am yet alive, and they say there is hopes in the land of the living; the door is not yet shut against me, Hell hath not yet closed her mouth up­on me. I have heard God is a mercifull God, and thereupon I presumed hitherto, and abused his goodness; but sure his mercies are above the mea­sure of a man; if they be infinite like himself, he hath more goodness then I have ingratitude. Pos­sibly there may be some hope left in the bottom of this Pandora's Box of calamities; if there be none, it is in vain to repent, fruitless to weep, endless to [Page 159] bewail, madness to adde to my own infelicities. If there be a rigid fate upon me, I will curse God and die. But sure whilest there is a God there must be goodness, his Name speaks his Nature; will he break a bruised reed? will he contend with dust and ashes? Can infinite perfection be implacable and inexorable? It is true he hath no need of me, but for the same reason he cannot delight in my mi­sery. He cannot repent and change his mind, be­cause his wisedom foresaw from the beginning all possible contingencies; but if I repent and change my mind, the same inchangeableness of his will oblige him as well then to save me, as before to destroy me. How far he will extend mercy, and what instances he will make of it I cannot define; but who knows but he may yet admit of my sub­mission? however, I cannot be worse then I am, and it is possible my condition may be better; here I perish certainly, if I cast my self upon his good­ness I can but perish, therefore I will try, I will arise and go to my Father, &c. And thus his deli­beration brings him to resolution, which is the second Stage of Repentance.

Of Resolution.

  • § I. That Consideration, and all those other previous acts of the mind mentioned in the former Chapter fre­quently miscarry, and are nothing till they are fixed by Resolution.
  • § II. The nature of Resolution of the will, and the force and efficacy thereof; which is shewed to be such, as that the Devil, nor any other being under God can force it. The importance of that truth briefly shewed, and the proof of it from experience.
  • § III. The properties of a true Penitent Resolution. 1. That it be not rash but deliberate. 2. That it be peremptory. 3. Present. And 4. uniform and uni­versal.
  • § IV. The Inducements of a Penitent Resolution. 1. Its availableness with God by the exorableness of his Na­ture. 2. The possibility of performing it. And 3. The easiness of it by the power of his grace. 4. The flat necessity of coming to it.

§ I. WE have seen in the foregoing Chapter the motions of an awakened Consci­ence, the working of a troubled minde, and there­in the first glimpses of hope, and signs of recovery. But let not any man think that when he is arrived at this condition, his work is done, his peace made with God, and he become a true Convert. For if [Page 161] he stay here he perishes as certainly as if he had ne­ver made any reflection, or considered at all. It is one thing to be apprehensive of ones danger, and a far greater to have escaped it. The discovery of a disease is necessary in order to the cure, but it is far from the cure it self. It is an unhappy but not an un­usual sight, to see men upon whom either the pain of some present affliction, or the fearfull prospect of divine vengeance hereafter, may have so far prevailed, as to make them with great shame and abhorrence re­flect upon their former disorders, and cast up their pleasant morsels, who yet shall quickly return again to their own vomit, and resume their usual extrava­gancies. A Rock it self may be observed to drop upon change of weather, which nevertheless relents not, but is as hard, and as much a Rock as ever. And some extraordinary accident may rouze the most care­less sinner, and put him upon an effort of purging off his impurities, who yet when the storm is over, shall settle again upon his Lees. It is no very rare thing to observe men dissolve into tears, and weep as heartily over their old sins, as ancient friends doe when there is a necessity of parting; and yet (like them) wish and hope to meet and enjoy each other again.

THEREFORE as we see the formerly disso­lute, but now relenting Son in the Text, contents not himself with passionate expressions, or ineffective wishes, but resolves upon action, I will arise (saith he) and goe to my Father: So the true penitent sin­ner that is in earnest to save his Soul, sits not down under a dozing melancholy, pleases not himself with wishing and complaining, spends not his time in doubt­ing and disputing, but puts himself forward upon the business: ‘For (saith he) whilest I sit still, time [Page 162] passes away, life flies away apace, and death and judgment are coming on, wherefore some speedy course must be taken, and there is but one way what affords any hope, which is that of real reformati­on; in which case no deliberations shall hold me longer in suspence, no floth shall benumb me, no­thing shall tempt me to delay any longer. I am re­solved I will make the experiment of becoming a new man from an old sinner, and upon these terms I will cast my self upon God's mercy, and if I perish I perish.’

§ II. THIS is the second Stage of Repentance, (viz.) Resolution, which I am now further to treat of. But it is evident by what we have said already, that the Resolution we are to speak of, is not a meer logical conclusion by way of inference from premises, that such or such a thing is best and fit to be done, for every man that uses his reason cannot choose but speculatively assent to this as his duty and his interest, the proceedings of reason being as natural and neces­sary as those of sense. Insomuch that it is not in a man's power to deny a plain consequence, or disbe­lieve what there is evident reason for. There is therefore no moral vertue in such a conclusion, and so a man may perish notwitstanding: as it is too no­torious that many dōe, who act contrary to such con­clusions of their reason. But the Resolution we here intend, and which we make the second step of Re­pentance is practical, and the act of the will; name­ly, its decretory and definitive sentence for the actual prosecution of such a course, as by Consideration and the former process of reason is discovered to be fit and necessary. Or rather, it is the wills actual application of it self to the business, in conformity to which, all [Page 163] the inferiour powers are put into action also, as being subject to its authority, influenced upon by its power, and carried about with the swinge of this primum mo­bile, this first and great Orb of the Soul.

FOR the more clear understanding of this power of the will, and of the nature of Resolution, let us suppose Reason and Sense as two parties pleading their respective causes and interests; in which case, if we should suppose a kind of drawn battel between them, and the matter left in aequilibrio; notwith­standing, it is within the power of the will to give the cause which way it pleases; or suppose also, that Reason acquitts it self never so well, and baffles its adversary, yet all will be but a speculation, and no effects follow till the will interposes its sovereignty, and decrees peremptorily what shall be done. And then whatever the merits of the cause be, the inferi­our powers without dispute apply themselves to the execution. For (to use another allusion) Reason is as the Card which directs the course, and shews what is fittest to be done: but the Will is as the Helm and Rudder that turns about the whole Fa­brick. This is that which is called [...], i. e. not a lawlesness or authority to do what we will, nor yet an ability to effect whatever we please; but a capacity within our selves of determining our selves, and making our own choice.

NOW that we have indeed such a capacity is mat­ter of daily experience; for we cannot but have ob­served, that oftentimes when Reason and Religion have recommended such things to us, and convinced us of the importance of them, yet we have followed our passions notwithstanding, and done quite contra­ry to the clearest dictates of our mind, in the words of the Apostle, Rom. 7. 23. We have found a law in [Page 164] our members rebelling against the law of our mind, and leading us captive to the law of sin. And contrariwise, sometimes we have checked and subdued the impor­tunities of our passions, and cast the Scale on the side of Conscience and Religion, and both these out of the freedom of our own Souls. It is true, that very ordinarily in the former of these cases, the Devil may promote the business by his temptations; and in the latter it is certain (as we heretofore have given cau­tion) that there is the concurrence of the Divine Grace, and influence of the Holy Spirit; but both in the one and the other man acts freely nevertheless, suffering no violence nor compulsion. For though there can be no doubt, but that God (who made man, and can dissolve him when he pleases) by the exercise of his Omnipotence may controul the electi­ons of men, or overrule them to whatsoever he will; yet it is not reasonable to think he will, or doth or­dinarily doe so. Determine them to evil he cannot, upon the account either of his own purity, justice, or wisedom; and for his over-bearing them to the do­ing of that which is good, besides that we cannot understand how it leaves any room for reward in such a case; it seems as much to reproach his wisedom in the first creation of such beings, as to display his power in controuling their actions and elections, and would be as unseemly a Phaenomenon, as for him to cross and pervert the common course of naturall causes.

AND for the Devil, though he by the order of his Creation be of an higher rank, and of greater power then we; yet he is by no means able to force our wills, or to rescind the decrees of a free mind. God permits him to use his cunning, and to shew his malice, in contriving baits to allure and catch us, [Page 165] and several ways to give us disturbance; but if he should allow him to force us, we may be sure there should never have been any one good man in the world.

THE objects that present themselves to us from without, can but court our acceptance, not ob­trude themselves upon us: they knock at our door but cannot break in upon us; or they present us mo­tives to alter our resolutions, but it is in our power still, whether we will revoke them.

FOR Example, and the common usage of the world, the power of which is so much magnified by some men, as if they thought it sufficient to make an apology for all our follies; It is so inconsiderable in this case, that if we duely consider its efficacy, we must pronounce of it, that it works only metaphorically not physically, and is at most but an Ideal cause, (if we will call it so) sufficient to abuse men of soft and easie minds, but not the manly and generous. As for the lower and meerly animal powers in us, they (as we noted be­fore) may corrupt the imagination, and begin to form a seditious party within us; but it is still in the power of the will (till it dethrones it self) so to suppress them that they shall never be successfull in their rebellion.

BUT then in the last place, for Reason it self, which some men governing themselves by an old maxime, (voluntas semper sequitur dictamen intellect ûs) suppose to prescribe so authoritatively to the will, as that the priviledge of freedom belongs rather to the former then the latter; if that were true, (i. e. if the will must proceed upon the dictates of reason) there would be no such thing as liberty at all, because it is not in our power what light our understandings shall have, and as I have noted before, we cannot believe what we will, nor understand things other­wise [Page 166] then they are represented to us; therefore if the will have not a power of acting contrary to our un­derstanding, as perfect a fatality is introduced, as is to be found amongst natural agents. Besides, we find by constant observation of our selves and the world, that in passion, in love, in the pursuit of riches, and honour, and most of our prosecutions, we sometimes follow our reason, sometimes go before it, and sometimes quite cross it. It is true indeed, we ordinarily have some (either reason or pretence of reason) or other, to countenance our elections, be­cause otherwise it could not be called choice where there is no end propounded, or design aimed at, (which I think is all that the aforesaid obsolete ma­xime intends.) Nevertheless since it is manifest we oftentimes follow that which we know, not to be the best reason, even then when we follow it, we may thereby be sufficiently convinced of the arbitrary power of our own wills.

THIS which we have been asserting is a truth of that importance, that the denial thereof cuts the ve­ry sinews of all industry, destroys the differences of good and evil, takes away all principles of Consci­ence, all arguments of Repentance, (as we have shewed before) and herewith makes that natural passion of ingenuous shame, which mankind is pecu­liarly endowed with, utterly senseless and unaccoun­table. But the truth of this supposed, we easily un­derstand both the nature and force of Resolution, which is the only thing we have aimed at.

TO proceed therefore; The Son in the Text con­scious of this truth, and as well sensible of his own liberty, as certain of the necessity of taking some course or other to relieve himself, saith in the words before recited, I will arise, I will go to my Father, [Page 167] I will say unto him, &c. And the Resolutions of eve­ry Penitent are to the same effect; (viz.) ‘I will not fit with my hands folded up as a man infatua­ted and fitted for destruction; I will spend no more time doubting and disputing, nor abandon my self to desperation; I'le endeavour both to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well; I will take shame to my self, acknowledge my folly, and accept the punishment of my iniquity. I will earnestly deprecate the divine displeasure, and implore his mercy and pardon. In short, whatsoever difficulty appear in the business, or whatsoever temptations may assault me, I will desist my former course, and make it my care to undoe all that was amiss, and make amends for my former follies by my future zeal and diligence.’

§ III. BUT that these things may be the more evident, let us now in the next place see the proper­ties and essential requisites of a true Penitent Reso­lution. And they are these four.

  • 1. It is deliberate, and taken up upon mature consi­deration.
  • 2. It is peremptory.
  • 3. It is a resolution de praesenti.
  • 4. Lastly, It is universal.

FIRST, a true Resolution is serious and deli­berate, not like those rash vows which men make in a fit or an agony; and which last no longer then the heat, or the distress. Many men there are that now and then take a pet at their old sins, when they have found themselves disappointed of either the pleasure or the security which they promised themselves in [...] [Page 166] [...] [Page 167] [Page 168] the enjoyment of them; or that for their sake they are surprized with some calamity they did not expect; and whilest that disgust lasts, they seem mightily re­solved for ever to break with them; but as soon as that mood is over, like old friends, they are quickly reconciled, and return to their former graciousness. It is not to be doubted but that the Prodigal Son had many a Lucid interval before this; and as often as he met with any sharp cross or vexation in his way, had relenting thoughts, and wished himself again at his Father's house; but it was but a flash, an extem­pore motion, a passion, not a cool rational choice; there was no deliberation, and therefore no Resolu­tion, and so nothing came of it.Infigi de­bet persua­sio ad to­tam vitam pertinens, hoc est quod decretum voco. Sen. Ep. 95. That (saith Sene­ca) which amounts to a Resolution must be settled in the mind, founded in reason, rooted in the judgment, not loose, occasional, and upon emergency. When a man having considered all the pleasures and advantages of sin on the one hand, and all the difficulties and self­denial of vertue on the other, hath measured the hopes and the fears, compared the present with the future, and represented the whole Series of things to his own mind; and then comes to a conclusion, this is Resolution.Jos. 24. 15. Such a determination as this Joshua puts the people of Israel upon; on the one hand he represents to them the great reasons they had to ad­here to, and serve the true God of Israel; and on the other, the difficulties of so doing; the sincerity and accuracy which his Worship and Service required, and the danger of his severity if they neglected it: and then he exhorts them to lay their hand upon their heart, to consider all things with themselves, to resolve of nothing rashly, but upon the fullest sa­tisfaction: vers. 15. If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve, &c. [Page 169] and vers. 16. the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other Gods, &c. and then lastly, vers. 26. He writes all these passages in a Book, makes an authentick record thereof & withal sets up a stone of memorial to make the greater impression, and to give the more solemnity to the whole business.

AND this same thing is that which our Saviour himself intends in those two famous Parables, con­cerning the man about to build a Tower,Luk 14. 28, &c. and the Prince going to War; which we have taken notice of before. Our Saviour would have men that come to him, and pretend to imbrace his Religion, to count the cost of it, to know the worst of things, to reckon upon all that may happen: and so also Je­sus the Son of Syrach advises, Eccles. 2. 1, 2. My Son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy Soul for temptation. q. d. If thou designest to enter upon a course of vertue, thou must forethink the impedi­ments as well as the incouragements, the conflict as well as the crown, and arm thy self with resolution accordingly.

IT is the artifice of the Devil to represent only the fair side of things to men, to hide the hook with the bait. It's noted by the Evangelist, that he shewed our Saviour the Kingdoms of the world, Matt. 4. 8. and the glory of them; he set forth no Scene of the troubles, vexations, vanities and disappointments of the world, but all was beauty and glory. For he designs to sur­prize and lies at catch for men, and knows it is his interest they should not consider, nor curiously in­quire into the just state of things, but take a transient glance only, and do all in a hurry.

BUT it is not God's way to surprize men, and make advantage of their inadvertency, for he is not pleased with the sacrifice of fools; it is a reasonable [Page 170] service he requires, (viz.) that men consider what they do, and chuse him wisely and seriously. NOR is it the condition of vertue to have an alluring outside, to tempt men's passions, or impose upon their imagina­tions; it hath a matronal beauty, no meretricious paint; it consists in a real and substantial excellency, which only can work upon him that considers: so that no man falls in love with it upon a glance, nor espouses it suddenly, but upon clam debate of its real and inward perfections. And his love is founded in reason, matured by time, and confirmed by experi­ence. Or if there be any man that pretends to ver­tue upon other terms, it is no uncharitableness to prophesie, that whatever his present heats and trans­ports may be, they will quickly cool and come to nothing.Matt. 13. Such cases being fitly resembled by our Sa­viour to the stony ground, which received the Seed with joy at first, and promised fair for a mighty har­vest; but having not depth of earth brought nothing to perfection: Psal. 129. 7. The Mower filled not his hand therewith, nor the Reaper his bosome.

AND indeed herein seems to lie the true and im­mediate reason of most or all of those shamefull apo­stasies, by which the name of God and Religion are so much dishonoured: (viz.) that men fall off from hopefull beginnings, and end in the flesh, after they had begun in the Spirit, as the Apostle's phrase is, namely, there was not depth of earth, no sufficient serious consideration of what they undertook. For it is certain, there are no insuperable difficulties in Religion, no irresistible temptations to the contrary; God is not worse then his word, nor doth change his terms, nor can any man see any reason to alter his mind if he calculated as he might have done at first; but they considered not, counted not the cost, and [Page 171] so are surprized and beaten off. And the holy Gos­pel gives us no less a man then St. Peter himself, for instance hereof: He in a great pang of devotion to his Master goes out before the Camp of Israel, defies Goliah and all the uncircumcised Philistins, dares and challenges danger it self; and Lord (saith he) If all men should forsake thee, yet will not I: If I must die for thee, I will not forsake thee. But it was only an heat, and a bravery of the Apostle; he had not seriously considered the business, nor forecasted what might ensue; there was no mature deliberation, no preparations for a real encounter, and therefore it sped accordingly, and he came off shamefully: and in him we have a standing example of the frailty of the greatest passion, and of the necessity that coun­sel and deliberation ground our Resolutions. By which means also they will become

2. DECRETORY and Peremptory, which is the second property of vertuous Resolution. There are some men whom an affectionate discourse, a seri­ous Sermon, or any notable accident, will put into a fit of devotion, which shall last only untill some­thing else come in the way, and then theformer im­pressions give way to the latter. These we common­ly call good natured men, whose facility of temper puts them at the mercy of every contingency, and they are good and bad as occasion serves: Clouds they are without water, carried about of every wind, (as St. Jude expresses it, vers. 12.) or as St. James, Dou­ble minded men, and unstable in all their ways; Jam. 1. 8. that have no settled principle, nothing fixed and constant to govern themselves by. To these the Prophecie of Jacob concerning his Son Reuben, may fitly be applied, Gen. 49. 4. Ʋnstable as water, there­fore thou shalt not excell: such irresolute tempers [Page 172] can never arrive at any excellency of vertue. THE people of the Jews had no doubt a good mind to be in possession of the land of Canaan, notwithstanding when-ever they met with any difficulty, then would to God we were again by the flesh-pots of Aegypt; and none of these light and mutable persons ever came to the good Land. There were Anakims and Giants, and a thousand difficulties ran in their heads which enfeebled them for the enterprize; only Joshua and Caleb, and such as were animated by their brave ex­ample, and said, Come let us go up, for we are able to conquer: only such I say came to the possession of it. 1 Kings 18. 21. How long halt ye between two opini­ons? (said the Prophet to the men of Israel) If Baal be God serve him, but if Jehovah be God then serve him. q. d. Whether you serve the true God or the false, irresolution spoils all devotion either way; for whilst you doubt and dispute your way, you do but halt towards your end and design. Accordingly Mo­ses indeavours to raise a generosity of mind in the men of Israel, by those words, Deut. 26. 17. Thou hast vouched the Lord this day to be thy God. q. d. It now becomes you to be religious in earnest, to serve God with a perfect heart and a willing mind, for you have now put it past all dispute, you have chosen and re­solved the Lord to be your God, and therefore be consistent with your selves.

THERE is no vertue in a faint velleity, when men shall speak as Agrippa in the Acts, Almost thou per­suadest me to be a Christian. It is no wisedome to put in Cautions now, 'tis only the language of the sluggard, to say there is a Lion in the way. Post­quam consulueris maturè facto opus est. All gallantry of mind is now (after deliberation) to take up an im­moveable resolution; for Vertue is neither a wary dif­fidence [Page 173] nor a hot fit of zeal, but a constant vital heat, and a settled temper of mind. The young man in the Gospel, St. Mark 10. 22. comes to our Saviour, Good Master what good thing shall I doe that I may in­herit eternal life? He thought it a fine thing to be a candidate of the other World: eternal life which our Saviour preached and promised, was a glorious and very desirable thing; and he could be well con­tent to become a Disciple of Christ, and to do some ve­ry good thing that he might attain it. For indeed, eter­nal life is that which no man can chuse but desire; to have a mind to be saved is no sign of grace; for a man must expresly hate himself should he do other­wise. Thus far therefore he was right; but after all this he went away sorrowfull without his errand; he had not throughly resolved with himself to go through with it, he could not find in his heart (like the wise Merchant) to sell and part with all he had to purchase this pearl of inestimable price. But the true Penitent sets down an immoveable resolution to go through what-ever it cost him. ‘I have faultered too long already (faith he) now stat sententia, it is as the Law of the Medes and Persians with me, nothing shall dispense with my purpose, or assoil my resolu­tions. I will now return. And that brings me to the

3. THIRD property of a vertuous resolution: It is de praesenti, a present Resolution; like that of the Psalmist, Psal. 119. vers. 59, 60. I thought upon my ways, and turned my feet to thy precepts. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy righteous judgments. q. d. ‘My consideration lead me to resolution of amend­ment, and I found the nature and consequence of that was such, as to admit of no delay; I therefore set presently about it.’ A resolution of amendment [Page 174] which commences not presently, but intends to do it hereafter, is no repentance nor any good sign of grace; forasmuch as it is probable that there is no man in the whole world, at least under the light of the Gospel, and who hath ever reflected upon him­self, or thought of God and another life, but hath some time or other resolved to become a new man. And indeed, this is the most fatal cheat men put up­on themselves, and I fear now there are multitudes entered into the chambers of darkness, and an irreversible estate, that for a great part of their lives carried along with them both convictions of the ne­cessity of reformation, and resolutions one time or o­ther to set about it.The Rea­der is desi­red to pe­ruse three short but sad stories to this pur­pose in Dr. J. Taylor's Great Ex­emplar. For as I said before, it is but self-love to desire eternal life; and no man that con­siders at all, can think but something must be done for the attainment of it; or (so thinking) can so desperately abandon himself as not to intend to do it. But he understands not sufficiently either the evil or the danger of sin, much less hath any true sense of vertue,Part 3. that can find in his heart to procrastinate and adjourn the resolution of casting off the former and applying himself to the latter:Disc. 19. For where the mischief is intolerable on the one hand,Sect. 5. and the good and happiness the most unspeakable and highest that can be, on the other; there can be neither wise­dom nor safety in any other course then that which Solomon directs, Eccles. 9. 10. Whatever thy hand finds to doe, doe it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisedom in the grave whither thou goest. When once death hath closed our eyes, the time of probation is over, the day of grace certainly shuts in, and the night cometh when no man can work: And who that either under­stands the frail contexture of his body, or the many [Page 175] thousand accidents it is subject to, can be warrantie for his own life one moment beyond the present? or if that should be continued, who shall secure us that a day of grace shall last as long as we live? Who shall prescribe to the Almighty that he shall wait our leisure, and accept us at last? All which things considered, he that only resolves to amend hereafter, is certainly resolved not to amend now; and there­fore is in no state of repentance, nor in the way of mercy.

WHEREFORE the true Penitent resolves presently to arise, ‘I have trifled too long already (faith he) It is no dallying any longer in a business of this nature. I have been couzened by my own heart oft enough, I will trust my self for day no longer. I do not find my heart either more willing or more able to perform by all the time I have given it: but quite contrary, my ability is less, and my debt greater; my heart harder, my affections more ingaged, and lesse willing to come off. I do not find that the longer I serve the Devil, he is ever the likelier to manumit me; nay I feel the longer I serve him, the heavier chains he lays upon me. If he can persuade me that it is yet too soon to return to God, he will by the same Logick persuade me hereafter that it is too late. And I find by experi­ence that if my heart be bad to day, it is likely to be worse to morrow: I cannot think it reasonable to expect that God's Spirit will strive with me the more I resist him; nor dare I trust that grace should abound the more my sin abounds. A day neglected now, for ought I know, may be as much as my Soul is worth, and may cost me eternity: now by God's grace I find it in my heart to return, and now I'll put it in execution. I will no more venture [Page 176] upon uncertainties, nor forgo what is in my power for what is not: I will not promise to pay hereafter what I am not willing now to perform. No more therefore of the sluggard, Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. I will now arise and return to my Father; and to my du­ty,’ which is

4. The Fourth and last property of vertuous reso­lution: namely, it is a through and uniform resolu­tion which takes in the whole business and compass of Religion. The Historian observes of the Romans in the degenerate times of their Common-wealth, that now all their disputes were not an servirent sed cui, not for liberty, but who should be their Lord: and they fought not to assert or recover their freedom, but meerly to have the choice of their yoke, and so who­ever conquered they were certainly slaves. In like manner some men being under convictions of Consci­ence of the evil and danger of the way they are in, resolve upon a change, but it is not to change them­selves but their sins, one for another. The Drun­kard becomes covetous, the loose and licentious per­son exchanges his levity for morosity, and from a com­mon scandal becomes a busy body, a judge, and ve­ry censorious. And so the man is disguised rather then amended; and hath a new master, but is never­theless a slave. Others perhaps there are who will go further, and part with a sin without a succedane­um, or entertaining any other in its room, because it might happen that such a sin was grown less agree­able to their constitution, too chargeable for their profit, too dangerous to their reputation, and per­adventure also too uneasy for their Consciences; but there are some other sins they can by no means think of forgoing. Thus the Scripture observes of some [Page 177] Kings of Israel that were great reformers, and expres­sed a mighty zeal against the Idolatry of Ahab and other corruptions; who yet all their days stuck close to the sin of Jeroboam the Son of Nebat: that kind of Idolatry was bound up with their interest, and there­fore must not be laid aside.

INDEED, if we consider the matter well, we shall find the power of an inlightned Conscience to be such, as to prevail with any man to resolve either to forsake any one sin upon condition he might securely enjoy all the rest; or at least not to stick at any one duty of Religion, if thereby he might expiate his other commissions and omissions. And the Jews had a corrupt Doctrine amongst them very agreeable to this humour: namely, that if a man observed some one remarkable precept of the Law, it was enough to excuse him upon the whole; and that notion of theirs seems to have given occasion to that question so often put to our Saviour;Matt. 22. 35. Which is the great command­ment of the Law? For they disputed amongst them­selves upon that supposition,Mark 12. 28. which was the one su­rest point to trust to,Luk. 18. 18. whether to Sacrifice as some held, or to Circumcision as others, or to the observa­tion of the Sabbath as a third, &c. I say their in­tent was to ask his opinion what branch of the Law God most insisted upon, that in compliance there­with they might compendiously secure their own in­terest without the trouble of universal obedience: but our Saviour being aware of the subtlety directs them in all the places forementioned to that Para­graph of the Law which was comprehensive of the whole: (viz.) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy Soul, &c.

THE Devil is so wary and frugal a Trader that he will comply with the Market, and is content as I [Page 178] noted before, to barter one sin for another; or rather to compound for half then to lose all: and is also so good a Philosopher as to know malum oritur ex quoli­bet defectu & bonum constat ex integris causis, That the volùntary omission of any one part of our duty nulls our obedience, and that one sin will damn a man as well as many. For he that retains a love to any one sin cannot be said to have a resolution against sin, or to hate sin for it self; and God is resolved to have us intirely his, or not at all. For he that makes any ex­ceptions or reservations, that capitulates with God, deals not with him as with a God. He therefore that takes up a penitent resolution is uniform and univer­sal therein, fully decrees with himself to omit nothing that he knows to be his duty, nor to dispense with himself in the practice of any thing (how gratefull so­ever to him) that he knows to be a sin. ‘I know (saith he) God by his sovereignty hath a just title to my whole life and to all my powers; he hath obliged me beyond all that ever I can correspond with; he is jealous of his honour, and hates to be served deceitfully and by halves; he will admit of no rival, no sharer with him; he sees all my wan­drings, and will be sure to revenge my hypocrisy. I know he is able and ready to reward sincerity above desert, above expectation, beyond all thought and imagination. I am sensible that hitherto I have not only loitered in his service, but declined it; nay opposed, affronted, rebelled against him; I have listed my self under his professed enemy, and under that banner I have spent a great part of my time. Now may it please his infinite goodness to accept me at last; I vow to be intirely his, I'll dispute no commands, I'll make no exceptions, but I'll double my diligence, and say with the exem­plary [Page 179] Convert St. Paul, what wilt thou have me to doe Lord?

§ IV. THUS we have seen the nature and proper­ties of that which we called the hinge of conversion; but let us now see what are the springs or plummets that set this great Engine on work; or what are the considerations by way of motive, that put men upon a resolution of repentance; and they are principally these four.

  • 1. A persuasion that it will not be unsuccessfull and unacceptable to God if we truely repent at last though we have been great sinners before.
  • 2. An apprehension that it is not impossible to become perfectly new men, notwithstanding our pre-ingagements in the ways of sin.
  • 3. That it is not onely possible but easie so to doe if we set about it in earnest.
  • 4. A clear perception, that whether it be easie or dif­ficult there is a plain necessity of it, and it must be done.

1. THE first motive to a resolution of repentance is a persuasion of mind that God is not inexorable, but that repentance may find acceptance with him. It is a memorable story concerning the Tusculani, a little people in Italy, who had so highly provoked the Romans that Camillus was leading his Army to­wards them to take revenge: but they growing quickly apprehensive of their danger, took an effe­ctual course to appease a generous enemy; for they made no shew of resistance, but set open their Gates, and were found every man hard at his ordinary af­fairs, submitting all to the will of those they knew [Page 180] themselves unable to contend with. Whereupon the brave Camillus speaks to them to this purpose. You (saith he) amongst all people have only found out the true way of abating the Romane fury, Soli vos Tus [...]ulani veras vi­res, vera arma qui­bus abira Romano­rum vos [...]u [...]aremini invenistis. and your sub­mission hath been your best defence; upon these terms we can no more find in our hearts to injure you, then upon other terms you could have found power to oppose us. To whom the chief Magistrate on the other side thus replies.Crimina nostra vel fateri tu tum cense­mus, cùm tam serio poenituit. Livy Hist. lib. 6. We have (saith he) so in good earnest repented us of our former folly, that in confidence of that satisfa­ction to a generous enemy, we are not afraid to acknow­ledge our fault.

NOT much unlike to this is the sense of the re­lenting Son in the Text: ‘For (thinks he) what I have done amiss I can neither answer to my self, nor to my Father; I can neither deny the fact, nor defend it; therefore I must try what repentance will doe, and appeal from his justice to his mercy. It is true I forsook my Father, but it was a Father I forsook, and that name speaks benignity; and what may not a Son hope for from a Father? There is Rhetorick in confession, and contrite sub­mission hath mighty prevalence upon all ingenuous natures. Quem poenitet peccasse paenè est innocens. Repentance uses to have the success even of innocency it self, and I that have failed of the one will try the other. My acknowledgment will prevent my accusation. If I condemn my self, I save my Father a labour; and when I abhor my self, I move his pity: espe­cially if I become another man, he will see the same reason to receive me then, as he hath to reject me now.’

AND so the penitent towards God. ‘I have of­fended the Divine Majesty, but he is a God, and that name speaks goodness; if he be not as good [Page 181] as can be, he is not God; and if he be, nothing but what is good can proceed from him; and no­thing that is good, but may be expected from him; therefore there is hope of pardon.’

THE wisedome of all the world hath agreed to make it the constant stile of God, Optimus Maximus, the greatest Goodness, or the best Greatness: good­ness and mercy are as essential to him as power and justice; nay the very latter inferr the former. For what is there can tempt an infinitely perfect Being to be cruel and inexorable? He that hath all fullness in himself, can certainly envy nothing; can hate nothing that he hath made, but must needs pity those that are below him, and delight to communicate himself to such as need him. Envy and cruelty are the issues of meer weakness, fear, want, and impotency. The poor are apt to envy the rich because they enjoy what they want; and we commonly observe, that the weakest and most timorous Creatures are most re­vengefull and implacable: The Coward is deadly and sanguinary because he is not secure of his own strength, and therefore dares not slip his opportunity, but strikes home and mortally lest the danger should re­coil upon himself. But what rich and great man en­vies the beggar? or what valiant man was ever re­morsless and sanguinary? The former hath all the ar­guments to pity because he cannot want, and the latter all the inducements to pardon because he cannot fear. God is above all danger, can be hurt by no­thing, needs nothing, hath nothing to receive, but much to bestow; he cannot therefore be prompted to take advantage against his Creatures, or delight in their misery, since the only ends he hath to serve upon them, is the enjoying his own fullness by reflection, the diffusing and communicating [Page 182] himself to them, and thereby making them happy.

WHEN God was highly provoked by the sin of David in numbring the people, in which fact there was a complication of many evils, there was disobe­dience to an express Law, there was distrust of the divine providence, and a vain confidence in the arm of flesh; It pleased the Divine Majesty to notify his displeasure by the Prophet Nathan; and withall, gives David his choice either of Pestilence,2 Sam. 24. Famine, or Sword: the King refers it back again to God, whether he would please to punish by the Famine, or by the Pestilence; for (saith he) Let us fall into the hands of God, for his mercies are great; but let us not fall into the hands of men. He had rather trust the mercies of an incensed God, then lie at the mercy of mortal men. He knew they were transported with rage and fury, but God was pitifull; they of­ten forgot themselves, but God remembred sinners were but men,St. James 2. 13. and dust and ashes. They would plague one another maliciously, but God chastised in wisedom and measure. And that with him according to the phrase of St. James, mercy [...] re­joiceth against, glorieth and triumpheth over ju­stice.

THE Discourse of a brave Heathen is excellent to this purpose. [...] We think it just (saith he) to give both thanks and reward to him that cures our bodily in­firmities, though he do it not without some pain and trouble to us; and why should we not rather love God's methods as the Physician of Souls? there is no passion, nor much less revenge, in his proceedings with us; he neither cuts and lances us cruelly, nor uses any other sharpness then the case necessarily requires; he doth no­thing with intention to hurt or grieve us, but proceeds with art and care designing our greatest good: and in a [Page 183] word, [...], &c. is in all his actions agreeable to the goodness and benignity of his own nature. The summe of all which, and of what we intend further to say, is that of the Apostle, God is good, and the goodness of God lead­eth to repentance, Rom. 2. 5. For the consideration of that is the spring of hope, and of all motion by way of return.

THERE are indeed some men who having en­tertained very crude notions of the Divine Majesty, do sometimes assert on the one hand that vindictive justice is essential and natural to God, so that he is bound up to require strict satisfaction, and without it cannot properly pardon any transgression. And others on the other hand, talk at the same wild rate of his mercy and goodness, as if all the instances he makes thereof were also natural and necessary, and that he could not insist upon his own right, but must make all the expressions of kindness that are possible towards his Creatures. But both these notions are equally false and mischievous: the former of them representing God a rigid Majesty, and tending to desperation; the other an easy and soft Deity, and tempting men to presume upon him: the one making him an object of horrour, and the other of contempt; for who can love him that cannot pity, and who can reverence him who hath it not in his power to do otherwise? The truth is therefore that all parti­cular instances both of the one kind and of the other are subject to his wisedom; that he can exercise ei­ther mercy or severity as he sees occasion; for af­ter this manner the Scripture speaks of him, that sometime he hath mercy because he will have mer­cy; and that when he will he hardeneth sinners for destruction.

[Page 184] AND to think otherwise of God, especially in the case of mercy and pardon, as if he could not dis­pense it as he pleases, is to bring in a rigid fatality with the Stoicks instead of a God; and is so far from aggrandizing the Divine Majesty, that it is the great­est diminution of his power and glory, and renders him less then a man: for we can recedere à nostro jure, remit of our own rights, and give mercy a triumph over strict justice. And although the sinner when he offends against God, forfeits himself into the divine hand, and gives God just cause to punish him if he will, yet certainly he cannot by any act of his put a Law upon God, or oblige him to punish, or if he think fit, to shew mercy.

AND then for the interest of God's Rectourship and government of the world, it is not a necessity of punishment that conserves that, but the power or free­dom of punishing or remitting accordingly as it shall seem good to his own wisedom. Whereby when men are both provoked to amendment by the hopes of par­don, and restrained from disobedience by the fear of punishment. For the liberty of dispensing either of these at pleasure, is that which produces a reverence towards the Divine Majesty; that is, a complication of love and fear, wherein the very notion of Reli­gion consists.

It is not an impertinent passage to this purpose which we have in the Historian, when the young Gentlemen in the new Roman Common-wealth had a design to restore the Kingly Government in the Fa­mily of the Tarquins, they had Speeches made amongst them to this effect. Apud Re­gem esse gratiae lo­cum, esse beneficio, & irasci, & ign [...]sce­re posse. To be bound up by the rigour of Laws which had no compassion, nor made allowance for contingency, was very harsh and unsafe considering humane infirmity: But under Kingly Government there [Page 185] was power of dispensation, possibility of indulgence, li­berty of interpretation, room for mercy and pardon: a man that fell,Leges verè rem sur­dam & in­exorabilem esse, nihil laxamenti neceveniae habere, periculosum esse in tot humanis erroribus, solâ innocentiâ vivere. Liv. Hist. lib. 2. did not necessarily there miscarry. For there was place for intercession, repentance might relieve him; and the prerogative of the Prince was the security of the Subject.

NOW that repentance is available with God we have all the assurance that can be desired; for be­sides what we have said already from the considerati­on of the perfections of the Divine Nature, and the interest of his Government, Repentance is the great and principal Doctrine of the Gospel, which the Son of God himself came to proclaim by his Preaching, to confirm by his Miracles, to make way for, and to procure acceptance to by his Death and Sacrifice, and to render throughly effectual and successfull by his Intercession at God's right hand in Heaven. Wherefore as Manoah's wife reasoned when her Hus­band had dreadfull apprehensions of the Majesty of God,Judg. 13. 23. who had appeared to them and concluded they should die, Because they had seen God, No (saith she) if God intended to destroy us he would not have appear­ed to us, or much less have accepted a Sacrifice at our hands: So assuredly if God had not great compassion to mankind, and did not design to accept them upon repentance, he would never have given his own Son to be a Sacrifice for sin. Can any man suspect that God is indifferent whether men be saved or no, when he hath sent his Son to save them? Can any man imagine him implacable towards those whose nature he sent his Son to assume, and thereby to make an union betwixt the divine and [Page 186] humane Natures? Will any man think him inexo­rable to sinners who pitied them, healed them, conversed with them, and died for them? Let Devils despair who have not only no promise, and no Saviour, but nothing pitiable in their case; having had no tempter to abuse them; no flesh or body to clog them, no infirmity to extenuate their presumption, they are without hope, and there­fore incapable of repentance, and so go on eternally to hate and blaspheme the God that will not pardon them. But there is no cause man should do so, who as he hath all the arguments of pity in his case, so hath all the assurances of pardon from God upon his repentance.

TO say no more, the very constant experience of all Ages, and the common sense of all mankind, leaves us without all doubt that this method of repentance pacifies the Almighty; insomuch that when he hath most exprest his angry resentments, and seems to have been most peremptory and decretal in his threat­nings, yet all but mad and desperate persons have in­couraged themselves to hope for impunity upon re­pentance, even then when there hath not been the least intimation of any such condition in his denun­ciations: for thus when the Prophet Jonas had from the mouth of God proclaimed expresly, Yet forty days and forty nights and Nineveh shall be destroyed; Not­withstanding the absoluteness of the sentence, and the nearness of the execution, the Ninevites were not out of hope, but that if repentance were inter­posed, their ruine might yet be prevented; and it succeeded accordingly with them, for as they belie­ving God's word by the Prophet, expected no­thing but sudden destruction if they had not repented, so they trusting in the goodness and exorableness of [Page 187] the Divine Majesty upon repentance, applied them­selves seriously thereto, and were preserved.

WHEREFORE saith the relenting sinner, ‘Forasmuch as although I know not the limits of the Divine Mercy, yet this I know that nothing can set limits thereto but his own wisedom; and he is never so straitned but that if the case be pitiable, and he see reason of mercy, he can shew it; consi­stently with his Justice; here I will cast anchor, I will indeavour to render my self an object of mer­cy, and trust upon his goodness; I never yet heard that any man miscarried in this bottome, or that a Penitent was cast away. I have often heard that God would have saved men, but they would not; but I never heard of any that resorted penitently to his mercy and were reje­cted, nor do I think that Hell it self can fur­nish one instance of the man that can upbraid God's goodness, and say I would but God would not. Thus the consideration of the Divine Nature is ever­lastingly pregnant of incouragements to repentance, and is the spring of all motion to Godward; were it not for which, never any had been reclaimed from a course of sin, or begun a reformation. But so much of that.

2. IN the Second place another incouragement to this penitent resolution (we are speaking of) is an apprehension that it is not impossible to become per­fectly new men, notwithstanding our pre-ingage­ments in the ways of sin. Opinion of absolute im­possibility (as we have noted before) is equal to real impotency, checks all motion, nips all indea­vour in the very bud, stifles and lays asleep all the powers of the mind. But hope and apprehension of feasibleness spirits all industry, actuates all faculties, [Page 188] raises the spirits, and is the spring of all the great actions in the world. Some daring men have effe­cted things beyond their own expectations, but no brave exploit was ever performed by such as despaired of accomplishing it; nor was ever any force defeated that did praelibare victoriam, and resolve to conquer. When once a conceit had possessed the Midianites that they should be conquered by Gideon's Army,Judg 7. though grounded only upon an odde dream of a brown Loaf tumbling down upon their Tents, their hearts presently melted in them, their spirits were emasculated, and a mighty Host became an easy prey to the inconsiderable numbers which Gideon led against them. And the Lord of hosts would never suffer Israel to be led on to the conquest of the Land of Canaan so long as the rumor of Giants and Anakims and walled Cities ran in the minds of the people; nor untill they were brought to a confidence that they were able to conquer that good Land. In like manner if the sinner think either his sins too great to be forgiven, or that it is too late to mend; i. e. ei­ther despair of God's grace or of his mercy, he is utterly lost indeed; that therefore which puts him forward upon resolution is an apprehension that God's grace is sufficient for him.

THE returning Prodigal saith, ‘It is true, I find I have gone a great way from my Father's house, and wearied my self with my own wandrings, yet sure it is not impossible but I may reach home a­gain. And I, saith the sinner, have gone a great way towards my own undoing, having indulged my passions, and dethroned my reason, inslaved my will, weakned all my powers, and hardened my own Conscience by a long course and custome of sin; yet (in the words of Holy Job) There is [Page 189] hope of a tree if it be cut down that it will sprout a­gain, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease; though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant, Job 14. 7, 8, 9. Though I have weakened my powers, yet I am a man still; though I have destroyed my self, yet there is hope in the God of Israel, and his hand is not shortened that he cannot save.’

TƲLLY is reported to have affirmed repentance to be impossible;Lact lib 6. de vero Cultu, cites such a pas­sage out of Tullie's Third Book of Acade­mies, which is lost. namely, for a man to retrieve himself, and take up a new course contrary to that to which he hath been long habituated: and no doubt it is very difficult so to do, as may sufficiently appear, both by what we have said already, and also by that of the Prophet, Jer. 13. 23. Can the Aethio­pian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to doe evil. Where the Holy Ghost intimates inveterate cu­stome to be equal to nature it self, and accordingly we find by too sad experience, that there are very few that doe exuere hominem, shake off the yoke of custome; Facilis descensus Averni, Sed revocare gra­dus, &c. And upon this account it is, that the conversion of old sinners is called a New Birth, and a New Creation, in the language of Holy Scripture. Notwithstanding, as our Saviour said of rich men, That it was harder for a Camel to goe through the eye of a needle then for such a man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; yet to prevent mistakes, adds, With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possi­ble: So it is in this case, He can cause dry bones to live; and of Stones raise up Children to Abraham. The Holy Spirit can awaken those powers that were [Page 190] in a dead sleep; Conscience is not so callous but it may be rendered soft and sensible again; the will and other faculties of men, though they are pervert­ed, yet are not extinct; and being stirred up by the grace of God may exert themselves in a new strain, oppose their old customs, and introduce new habits.

AS custome bore down and overgrew Nature for­merly, so new customes may supplant the old ones, and make a new Nature. It is a well-known Story that when Zopyrus (a great pretender to the skill of reading men's temper and inclination in their countenances) had pronounced of Socrates that he was a lewd and intemperate man; the Company who knew well the remarkable vertue of Socrates, laughed the cunning man out of countenance till Socrates re­lieved him, saying, that indeed his inclination was naturally such as Zopyrus had pronounced, but that Philosophy and the culture and care of himself had altered him to what he was.

BUT the Holy Scriptures as they contain both more excellent institutions of vertue and holiness then all Philosophy, and more effectual methods of re­claiming and recovering men from vice and debauche­ry; so in the History thereof, they afford us the most frequent and most remarkable instances of such con­versions. In the Old Testament we have Manasses who was an Idolater,2 King. 21. a Witch, and did evil in the sight of the Lord above all the abominations of the Amo­rites, (who seem to have been the most profligate people in the world) and yet became at last a true penitent, a holy and a vertuous person. In the New Testament, to omit St. Paul, who saith of him­self, that from a blasphemer, a persecutour, and the chief of sinners, he became an exemplary Christian, and a zealous Apostle and Preacher of the Doctrine which [Page 191] before he destroyed; We have great numbers of the most obstinate and wicked Jews converted, and no less of Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and of all other Cities and Countries who had grown old and hardened in a course of sin, but became new and holy men. Particularly the Apostle assures us of the Corinthians, That they had been Fornicators, Idolaters, Adulterers, Effeminate, Thieves, Covetous, Drunkards, And yet were washed, were sanctified, were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. 6. 9, 10, 11.

‘It is not therefore impossible (saith the sinner) but I may also recover my self out of the snares of the Devil; I found it in my power to chuse evil, why may I not hope to be able to chuse good? nothing determined or necessitated me heretofore to sin, why may I not then cast off the yoke of cu­stome, and by the grace of God apply my self to my duty?’ This is a second consideration which inflames the Penitent to a resolution of amendment; which when he hath in earnest entered upon, he finds

3. AS his third inducement, not onely to be possi­ble, but also easy; at least, far beyond what he here­tofore imagined. It was perhaps not an extenuating but a just reflection which the Historian makes upon all the famous exploits of Alexander the Great, in Asia and in the Indies, which had swelled his name to such a bulk, Primus ausus est vana contemnere, that it was not so much his more then humane courage or conduct which gave him those successes, but that he had the luck or the sagacity, to see through and de­spise the pageantry and empty shew of force and for­midableness which those soft and luxurious Nati­ons were only furnished with. So it is in this case, [Page 192] he that can but once despise those Ludibria oculorum, those scare-crows and phantastical Ideas, which men's own fear and cowardise represent to them; he will presently find the business of Religion easy and expe­dite, and that it is but resolving generously, and the thing is done.

The way of vertue, though through the folly of men it be an unfrequented path, yet is it no sad and uncomfortable way; no man abridges himself the de­light of life by becoming vertuous, no just content­ment is denied him; no power, or so much as passion he hath, that is altogether denied its proper satisfa­ction: There is no inhumane austerity required of us, no contradiction to our reason, or violence to our na­ture imposed upon us. God is no hard Pharaoh that seeks to break us with bitter bondage, requiring the tale of bricks without straw. He doth not bid us con­tinue in the fire and not burn, or require us to con­verse with the occasions of sin, and escape the pollu­tion; but only to moderate our desires, to mind our selves, to set our intentions right; and in a word, to resolve to doe what we can both to avoid the oc­casion, and to escape the infection.

AND as for that great bug-bear Custome, why may we not break the fetters of our own making, and dissolve an habit of our own beginning? Sin it self was weak, and timorous, and bashfull at first; but it got strength by time, and by degrees, and in the same manner it is to be supplanted; oppose be­ginnings of good to beginnings of evil, and an habit will be obtained, and we shall confront one custome with another, He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoycing, and bringing his sheaves with him.

[Page 193] THE way of vertue is therefore easy because it is recommended by our own reason; though sense op­pose it for the present, let us be true to the former, and the latter must and will give way. A Law en­acted by our own consent uses to find a ready and chearfull compliance, that which is voted within us, and carried by the free suffrage of our minds, surely can never be accounted harsh and difficult: and such are all the laws of vertue; the rules thereof are con­venient for the community, suitable to our own na­tures, and as fit for us to consent to, as for God to enact.

ALL the opposition which the Devil or the flesh can make to the determination of our minds will quickly cease if we stand firm to our selves; reason is as able to restrain sense, as that is to bewitch and fas­cinate our minds; or at least if we stop our ears we shall avoid all its charms, charm it never so cunning­ly. Besides, all the importunities of the flesh will from such time as they begin to be denied, grow sen­sibly weaker and weaker. And for the Devil there is nothing so much incourages his attempts as our irresolution and feeble opposition; he is both a more proud and a more cunning enemy, then to endure too many repulses without hopes of success. He knows well enough he cannot force us, and if he cannot corrupt us, will not long labour in vain. This the Apostle St. James assures us of, Resist the Devil and he will flee from you, St. James 4. 7.

ABOVE all the Holy Spirit of God will not fail to set in with us, and make all easy to us, if we cease to resist and quench his motions. How that worketh in and upon us is not easy to discover: for As the wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but know not whence it cometh, 3 Joh. 3. nor whither it goeth; [Page 194] so is every one that is born of the Spirit: S. Joh 3. 8. notwithstand­ing we are assured that God will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it; S. Luke 11. 13. and that that Spirit hath a migh­ty influence upon us without doing any violence to us, and that its aids are incomparably greater then the Devils opposition;1 Joh. 4. 4. For greater is he that is in us, then he that is in the world: Phil. 2. 13. and this is our great in­couragement to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because God worketh in us to will and to doe of his good pleasure.

THE mischief of all is therefore our want of re­solution, that we do but dally and trifle in this great business: and hence all the difficulty arises. Quo mi­nùs timoris eo minùs fermè periculi. Cowards run the greatest dangers in war, and irresolute men find the most opposition, and the greatest difficulty in a course of vertue. Did we but collect our selves, we should quickly find the face of things altered, and all discou­ragements vanish.

‘ALL this methinks is plain (saith the Penitent) and I am resolved to make experiment of it, for I am not out of hopes, considering the premises, and especially the promise of my Saviour, that I shall find his yoke easy, and his burden light; and that I may doe his commandments and not find them grie­vous.

4. BUT the last and greatest inducement of resolu­tion is yet behind, and that is an apprehension of abso­lute necessity; that whether it be easy or difficult, it must be done.Pythag. It is a well-known saying of Pythagoras, [...],Aurea Carmina. That power dwells next door to necessity: Hierocl. in Aurea Carmina. For as Hierocles expounds it, [...], When necessity lies upon a man it makes him confess an ability he would not acknowledge before; it [Page 195] puts his powers as it were upon the rack, and extorts those secrets of nature which sloth would have concealed. Who knoweth not that we owe to necessity most of the rarest discoveries and greatest improvements in all arts and sciences; and all Histories observe what great atchievements this hath been authour of. Pur­suant whereof those who have the conduct of great affairs, make it usually their care to put those which they make use of as instruments in their enterprizes, under as quick apprehensions of necessity as they can possibly, by that means to sharpen their resolution. And on the contrary, endeavour to keep their ene­mies and those they conflict with, from necessity, as being loth to experiment the efficacy of it against themselves.

SO it is in the present case, so long as an old inve­terate sinner can find any refuge, he scarcely ever ap­plies himself to repentance; but when having consi­dered, he finds himself reduced to extremity, that this must relieve him or nothing; then and not till then he earnestly applies himself to it, as ad sacram Anchoram, to his last and only remedy. ‘For (saith the sinner) I cannot stand at the bar of God's justice, my appeal therefore must be to his mercy, and there can be no room for that but upon terms of submis­sion and repentance; either God must change, or I must resolve either to change or perish. I have gone astray to the very brink of Hell, and it is un­reasonable to expect God should fetch me back by irresistible power since he hath no need of me, and therefore I must seek him in the way in which he will be found. It is in vain to trust to his absolute and secret decrees, against the tenour of his known laws; or to hope that notwithstanding all my for­mer miscarriages, and my present impenitency [Page 196] added to them, my name may be written in the book of Life. Since God is a righteous Judge, and will without respect of persons render to every man according to his doings. What shall I then do? If I persevere in my old course, adding sin to sin, I make my case daily worse, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath; and if I sit still, my neg­lect will as certainly ruine me as my sin. Whilest I delay the remedy, I cannot adjourn my own de­struction; for the judgment slumbereth not. Shall I hope time may extricate me out of these difficulties? Alas, that will aggravate them, and whilest I delay I perish. It cannot be now too soon to set about it, because I know not how soon it may be too late: Nor will I be fooled with that suggestion that it is now too late, for I am sure if I do it not now the time will come when I shall wish I had done it; and if it be too late now, it will be more so hereafter. Especially this would be the highest aggravation of my misery, if I should wholly abandon my self, and move nothing at all towards my own recovery. All other ways are beset with insuperable difficulties; there is but one way of hope, and this is it; Anceps remedium potiùs quàm nullum, therefore what-ever the success be, this I am resolved to make trial of.’

Thus the four Lepers who were without the Gates of Samaria, 2 Kings 7. 3. when the famine was within, and the enemy laying close siege round about it, If (say they) we stay here we die, and if we go into the City the famine is there, and we die also. Let us therefore venture upon the Camp of the Syrians, if they kill us we can but die; and if they spare us, we shall live. So the sinner, ‘I am beset with difficulties, within are fears, without is despair; Hell and damnation [Page 197] are round about me; there is but one plank of escape, and that is repentance; whether I can effect it, or God will accept it from me is a question: but hope is as cheap as despair; if it be lost labour, it is but labour lost; and the most doubtfull expe­riment is better then certain damnation.’

THUS by all these powerfull inducements the sinner is brought at last to a resolution, and that brings him to actual returning, as we shall shew by and by.

Of Confession and Contrition.

  • § I. Contrition consists of four parts. 1. Confession of Guilt. 2. Aggravation of the fault. 3. Self-Con­demnation. 4. Deprecation. All which are ex­plained.
  • § II. The efficacy of Contrition demonstrated. 1. As doing right to God's Sovereignty. 2. To his Wise­dom, Justice, and Goodness. 3. To his Omnisci­ence. 4. To his Holiness and Purity. 5. It gives the best security against relapses into sin.

§ I. IN the foregoing Chapter we left the Pro­digal in a good mind, and well resolved what course to take; now therefore no doubt we shall find him putting in practice those ingenuous [Page 198] purposes. And taking the whole series of this part of the Parable together, our Saviour represents him as wholly taken up with these two things. First, in a contrite and remorsefull confession of his former of­fences. Secondly, in the actual returning to his Father, and to his duty; for as on the one hand (con­sidering his former miscarriages) he could not take the confidence to appear before his injured Father without ingenuous shame and sorrow; so on the other side, he could neither content his own mind, nor hope for pardon from his Father without real amend­ment and actual reformation. Wherefore he joins both together, that by the former, (viz.) his Con­trition, he may appease his Father's just wrath and indignation; and that by the latter, (viz.) Refor­mation, he may be re-instated in his favour. Now the first of these is answerable to, and that which is most genuinely meant by the Greek word [...] and the second, that which they express by the other word [...]: both which together make up the intire nature of true Repentance, and there­fore must be handled by us particularly.

TO begin with the former, (viz.) Contrition. The Son expresses himself thus, Father I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son. Make me but as one of thy hired Servants, &c. In which words there are these four things observable.

  • 1. His confession of Guilt, I have sinned.
  • 2. Aggravation of the fact, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.
  • 3. The severe judgment he passes upon himself, I am no more worthy to be called thy Son.
  • 4. Lastly, His deprecation, Yet make me as one of thy hired Servants. All which deserve a little consi­deration, [Page 199] the rather because we shall find them all exactly and literally exemplified in the true Peni­tent.

1. Then the Son assumes to himself his own guilt, and takes shame to himself. I have sinned, &c. Non in aetatem, non in malos consiliarios culpam rejicit, sed nudam parat sine excusatione Confessionem, (saith the excellent H. Grotius:) He excuses not himself by the injudiciousness of his youth, nor casts the blame up­on his evil Counsellors; neither accuses God nor man, but himself by a plain and ingenuous acknowledge­ment.

IN like manner the true Penitent knows it is to no purpose to play the Hypocrite with God, Because all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to doe. He seeth not as men see, beholding the out­ward appearance; but he searches the hearts and tries the reins of the Children of men. He remembers that he that hideth his sins shall not prosper, but that he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy. There­fore with blushing and confusion of face, saith, I have sinned and done very foolishly. Thus the poor Publican is represented by our Saviour, S. Luk. 18. 13. whenas the Pharisee stood upon his own justification, and with a brazen impudence out-faces Heaven, God I thank thee that I am not as other men are, &c. He standing afar off (as not thinking himself worthy to approach so great a Majesty) not daring to lift up his eyes to Heaven, (as dejected with the apprehension of his own demerits) smites upon his breast with in­dignation against himself, and brings out onely this contrite sigh, God be mercifull to me a sinner. And so the Psalmist David in that penitential Psalm of his, Psal. 51. vers. 3. I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee onely have [Page 200] I sinned, and done evil in thy sight. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my Mother conceive me, &c. And this is the course of every Penitent, for though it be too true that Confession may be without true and compleat Repentance, yet it is im­possible that Repentance should be true without Con­fession.

I enter not into a discourse of Confession to men, because my Text leads me not to it, further then as it concerns the person injured; in which case it is of­ten necessary for the satisfaction of our Consciences, and where-ever there is any ingenuity in the offend­ed person, it must needs be very prevalent towards his forgiveness. But as for the Divine Majesty, who is always injured in every transgression, and can ne­ver have any reparation otherwise then by it, it must needs be always reasonable and necessary, as we shall shew more fully by and by.

2. BUT the Son contents not himself with a bare acknowledgment of his fault in general, but goes on to aggravate it. I have sinned against Heaven and before thee. If we consider the letter of those words, they import, I have sinned both against God and thee my earthly Parent, for so the Jews were wont to express themselves, calling the Divine Ma­jesty by the name of Heaven, as we may observe S. Luke 20. 4. The Baptism of John, was it from Hea­ven or of men. i. e. Was it it of God's institution, or man's invention? So also 1 Macc. 3. 18. It is all one with Heaven to save with few or with many, i. e. with the God of Heaven. And we may easily take notice that in most of the Parables of our Saviour, that which is sometimes called the Kingdom of God, is otherwhile expressed by the name of the Kingdom of Heaven; and by both nothing else is meant but [Page 201] the Gospel, that divine institution of Religion: but if we attend to the intent of this acknowledgement of the Prodigal Son, the words import an aggravati­on of his disobedience. q. d. ‘There was no neces­sity lay upon me to transgress; thy yoke was easy and reasonable, and therefore in disobeying thee, I disobeyed God too: Or I must first have cast off all reverence of God, before I could be undutifull towards thee. It was not the harshness and severi­ty of my Father that drove me away, but my own levity and folly that betrayed me, and my stub­bornness that I forsook him.’

And the same consideration affects the heart of the Penitent: ‘For (saith he) I have not only offend­ed the Divine Majesty, but rebelled both against a rightfull and a gracious Sovereign; have broken wise, and just, and equitable Laws; been ingrate­full towards him that had obliged me by infinite fa­vours; have slighted the most glorious propositions, and neglected the most gracious and condescending conditions of being happy. There was no invin­cible temptation upon me, it was not in the power of example to debauch me: I was not opprest by fate, but have chosen my own destruction. It is not the Apostasy of Adam that can excuse me, for it was my own act: I cannot say, the Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the Children's teeth are set on edge: for I sinned against light and Conscience with full consent, and against the motions of God's Spirit to the contrary.’

AFTER this manner the Penitent is apt to lay load upon himself, no body can think or speak worse of him then he thinks and confesses of himself; so far is he from extenuating his crimes, that no malice can paint them worse, then grief and indignation at [Page 202] himself doth. In short, with St. Paul, he esteems himself the chiefest and worst of sinners.

THIS is a quite contrary course to that which men use to take when they plead at humane Tribu­nals, either they deny the fact, or extenuate, or ju­stify it; either they plead ignorance, or pretend ne­cessity, or prescribe for it from the custome and pre­vailing example of the world: but none of these ways are of use before God, and therefore are not the pleas of the Penitent. The Argument of the Psalmist (though it may seem a very strange one) is frequent with such men, Psal. 25. 10. O Lord par­don my sin, for it is great. q. d. ‘I am only fit to mag­nify thy mercy, for I have sinned beyond any mercy but thine; my guilt is too great a burden for me to bear, if thy unspeakable mercies relieve me not. What shall I do unto thee,’ O thou redeemer of men? Such a Soul is not only ashamed, but loaths and ab­hors himself; his Spirit is broken, his countenance dejected, his confidence dismounted, he feels pain and remorse, he goes heavily, he is pricked to the heart, and cries out in the anguish of his Soul What shall I doe? But

3. HE goes on not only to accuse, but to con­demn himself also; I am not worthy to be called thy Son. I deserve to be utterly abandoned, excluded your care, and cast out of your thoughts, as I cast my self out of your family. And so the Penitent: I am so far Lord from deserving thy favour or eter­nal life, that I deserve not the least Crum from thy Table; less then the least of all thy mercies. Nay I acknowledge I have deserved to goe with sorrow to my grave, and to undergo the dreadfullest viols of thy wrath.’

[Page 203] IT is very remarkable that the Prodigal doth not only thus condemn himself whilest he anxiously stands expecting his doom from his Father, but even then when his Father had expressed compassion to him, had ran to meet him, and kissed him, for so vers. 21. we find him repeating his own condemnation in the same words as before: And in like manner we observe the Apostle St. Paul after he had obtained pardon, and the great favour of Apostleship, to be continu­ally ripping up his former sins, and condemning him­self for them; as if the wound bled afresh as often as it was touched.

THUS the Penitent always judges and condemns himself, that he may not be judged of the Lord. By severity towards himself he recommends himself to the Divine Mercy;Tert. de Poenit. for as Tertullian expresses it, In quantum non peperceris tibi, in tantum Deus tibi parcet. If we like Phineas stand up and execute judgement, the Plague will be stayed. He that anticipates the day of Judgment by erecting a private, but impartial Tribunal, prevents the dreadfullness of that day. In short, if we be just, God will be mercifull; and there­fore when the Penitent hath been accuser, witness and judge against himself, he may then with hopes of suc­cess become

4. IN the fourth place Intercessour for himself al­so, and deprecate the divine displeasure, and implore his favour. So the Son doth here, make me as one of thy hired servants. q. d. ‘Let me not be utterly cast out of thy Family, but have at least this in­stance of thy favour, that I may still retain some re­lation to thee.’ And so the Penitent now that he hath received his sentence of condemnation within himself, sues out his pardon. ‘O take not my con­fession meerly as an argument of my guilt, but as [Page 204] an evidence of my contrition, Break not the bruised reed, nor quench the smoaking flax. 'Tis thy prero­gative O Lord, to pardon, and what pleasure is there in my blood? Will the Lord be angry for ever? will his jealousy burn like fire? O consider my frame! remember I am but dust and ashes, call to mind thy mercies of old, thou art God and not man, and as much as the Heavens are higher then the Earth, so are thy mercies above the mer­cies of a man:’ Turn thy face away from my sins, and blot out all my transgressions. Make me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit in me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Give me the comfort of thy help again, and stablish me with thy free Spirit, &c. Psal. 51. 9, 10, 11, 12.

SAINT Cyprian reports it to have been the Cu­stome of the Primitive Penitents out of their quick and pricking sense of sin, and the more effectually to recommend themselves to the mercies of God, and the favour of his Church, earnestly to implore the Martyrs, that in the midst of their sufferings and sharpest agonies, they would remember them in their prayers, thinking such affectionate intercession of those that poured out their blood and requests toge­ther, must needs be available both with God and man. But the Penitent addresses himself also to a higher and more prevalent Advocate, who adds the incense of his own sacrifice to the prayers of men, and makes them come up as sweet odours before the Al­mighty; and who is exalted at God's right hand to this end that he may give success to the prayers of such contrite persons. To which adde, that not only the deep apprehensions of guilt and of danger which such a person (we now speak of) is under, must needs [Page 205] mkee him ardent and importunate, and to cry migh­tily to God; but also the Scripture assures us that the Holy Ghost is wont to assist such with sighs and groans which are unutterable.

§ II. NOW for the acceptableness of this penitent confession of which we are speaking. Although it be certain that our heavenly Father takes no delight in the pityfull moans, in the tears and lamentations of his Creatures, and most true that he is not to be wrought upon by addresses and complemental forms, by the accent of men's voice, by the rhetorick of tears, nor any thing of that nature; because he is not sub­ject to passions as men are: yet having demonstrated already in the former Chapter that the Divine Ma­jesty hath no restraint upon him but what himself pleases, and that all his actions towards his Creatures are so subject to his wisedom, that when-ever there is just cause for mercy he can shew it notwithstand­ing the unchangeableness of his Nature, the rigour of his Laws, or the demand of his Justice; If now we also make it appear from his own mouth, and from those discoveries which he hath been pleased to make of himself, that the aforesaid humble and con­trite addresses are agreeable to the designs of his wisedom, and therefore required by him as the con­ditions of pardon; then there can be no doubt but that they will in their kind be as acceptable to his Divine Majesty, and as successfull on the part of the sinner, as the penitent Son's submission was with his earthly Parent.

AND this will be easily evident if we consider that whereas the evil of sin lies principally in the dis­honour it reflects upon the divine perfections, such penitential acknowledgments as we have described, [Page 206] do in great measure repair that injury, and do right to all the Divine Attributes, as we will instance in particular.

1. SIN is an invasion of God's Authority and So­vereignty over us, inasmuch as he that willfully breaks any Law of God proclaims himself sui Juris, or Law­less, and saith with those in the Gospel, we will not have this Lord to rule over us. Now penitent ac­knowledgment though it cannot recall the act which is past, yet it revokes and retracts the affront, and settles God's authority again.

2. SIN is an impeachment of God's wisedom, ju­stice and goodness at once; for he that allows him­self in the commission of a sin, lays an imputation upon God, as if he had either not foreseen what li­berty was fit to be allowed to his Creatures, or had not ordered the frame and constitution of things with that decency and benignity that mankind could comfortably acquiesce in, without temptation to in­trench upon that for his own necessary accommoda­tion. Now on the contrary, confession takes shame and folly, and unreasonableness to our selves, and justifies the wisedom and equity of all God's consti­tutions. In this sense we may take that expression, Luk. 7. 29. The Publicans justified God, being bapti­zed with the baptism of John. i. e. They entring in­to a penitential state which John's baptism initiated them into, condemned themselves, and proclaimed the righteousness of God's methods.

3. SIN is a tacit denial of God's omniscience, the sinner saith with them in the Psalmist, Tush, doth God see, and is there knowledge in the most High? Psal. 73. 11. And with those other in Job, How doth God know, can he judge through the dark Clouds? Thick Clouds are a covering to him that he seeth not, [Page 207] and he walketh in the circuit of Heaven, Job 22. 13, 14. Either they conclude with the Epicureans that it is be­low the Majesty of God to mind the affairs of men, or that it would create him too much trouble and busi­ness, or some odd conceit or other they may well be presumed to have, who dare adventure to sin, forasmuch as the consideration of an all-seeing eye would give the most curbing check to sin that can be. And in­deed, this Attribute is one of the most glorious per­fections of the Divine Nature; and so necessary that it is not intelligible how he should be God, that is, how he should govern the world for the present, or judge it hereafter, without it: and consequently it is (if not the only foundation, yet) the immediate obligation to all worship and religious observance. For suppose a God as the Epicureans did, that either could not, or would not mind the actions of men, and make him otherwise as great, excellent and ado­rable as we will, yet will it be impossible to restrain men from hypocrisy and contempt of him whilst they are under no apprehensions that their actions and car­riage towards him are eyed by him. Now he that ingenuously confesses his sin, and takes shame to him­self for it, doth honour to this Divine Perfection, and upholds the pillar of the world, and thereby re­commends himself to the Divine mercy.

IT was the saying of Joshua to Achan, Jos. 7. 9. My Son give glory to God, and confess thy fault. q. d. Thou hast dishonoured God by thy sin, and both re­proached his wisedom in making such a Law, and also called in question his Omniscience by thy da­ring to violate it: now therefore make him the best amends thou canst by an ingenuous confession, and make it appear, that though when thou wast tempt­ed to doe wickedly, thou wert so foolish as to pro­mise [Page 208] thy self security; yet now upon more deliberate thoughts, thou acknowledgest there is nothing can hide thee from him.

4. SUCH acknowledgements as aforesaid, do right to the holiness and purity of God: for thereby the sinner expressing his shame, and blushing at his own impurity, seems to loath himself for his unlike­ness to the Divine Majesty, who is the chief and ori­ginal perfection.

TO which add in the last place, that besides that in this confession of sin, the sinner places himself in the nearest posture, and under the very eye of God, and the quickest apprehensions of him, and the greatest awefullness of his Majesty; he also puts a brand and odious mark upon all sin, and by his thus suf­fering for sin in the sense of his Soul condemns sin in the flesh; and withal expresses a great distast of it, shews an abhorrence, a mind alienated from it, and so consequently by that sense of the bitterness of it, gives the best security against relapses into it again. Upon all which it is not untruely said, quem poenitet peccâsse paenè est innocens; and though it be best of all not to sin, yet he is in a good degree towards inno­cency, who is thus penitent for his offences; and consequently in a fair way for pardon.

WITH respect to which the Psalmist who both could and would (if that would have done as well) have brought the most costly Sacrifices to God to have atoned his sin, and made his peace with him, yet pro­nounces the Sacrifice of God to be only a contrite Spirit, and that a broken and contrite Spirit God would not de­spise. Those other Sacrifices it seems though God per­mitted them, and in some cases accepted, yet were not of his institution at first, only they were ways which men thought apt to express their homage and depen­dance [Page 209] upon God, or by which to acknowledge their gratitude, or by the cost of them to impose a mulct upon themselves for offending, or otherwise by being converted to the use of those that attended immedi­ately upon him, might be supposed to be a means to propitiate him towards them; as if in the language of our Saviour men sought this way to make to them­selves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness: Not­withstanding in themselves all those costly oblati­ons seemed to reflect dishonour upon God; as repre­senting him a necessitous and indigent Deity; for which cause several of the wisest and best Philoso­phers of old forbad all costly Sacrifices, and required only such things as might properly be reputed [...], (as the Platonists express it) i. e. the worship of a full and perfect Being: and such especially is this of a broken and contrite heart, which as it is that which every man hath to give that will, so is fittest to be the sacrifice of all mankind to the com­mon Father of them; and as it costs them least, so it doth the truest honour to him.

AND whereas Paganism admitted no repentance, and in their Philosophick writings we meet often with expiations, and lustrations, but no such thing as repen­tance; the reason must be because they had no right notions of God, commonly considering him only under the notion of rigid fate, or of absolute sovereignty, without any apprehension of benignity or compassion in him: which whoso rightly understands God, must needs conceive to be in him in an eminent degree, as we have shewed before; and he that so considers him, can have no reason to doubt but those instances of penitence we are now upon, are very acceptable to him, especially if they come attended with real reformation, which we come now in the next place [Page 210] to speak of, as the second part of the Penitent's Re­solution, and the last and principal point of Repen­tance.

Of Actual Returing, or Refor­mation.

Actual Reformation consists in three things. 1. Care of God's Worship. 2. Conscience of all his Commands. 3. Submission to his Providence. All which are de­scribed according to such measures as are practicable in themselves, necessarily required by God, and con­scientiously observed by all true Converts.

WE have hitherto in the letter of the Parable seen the (formerly extravagant) Son per­forming the first part of his resolution, confessing his fault, condemning his folly, falling at his Father's feet, and imploring his pardon. But there was some­thing else meant when he said I will return to my Fa­ther; and he was not ignorant that filial reverence and obedience for the future, was the best apology for his former transgressions: for though he knew how great an interest the very relation of a Son gives in the affections of a Father, and that the saying of the Apostle is especially and most remarkably verifi­ed in the charity of Parents, that it beareth all things, [Page 211] hopeth all things, believeth all things; for they readily believe well of their Children, because they so passi­onately desire it should be so: notwithstanding, the Son could not think his Father so soft and easy as to be imposed upon with words and ceremonies, and himself was not now so ill natured as to go about to abuse so much goodness, if it it had been in his power. Wherefore the Text saith, vers. 20. So he arose and came to his Father, i. e. he did not only change his note, his address, his countenance, but he changed his course; he returned to his Father, and to the du­ty of a Son.

AND we have under this type (in the former part of it) seen described the preface and introducti­on to repentance towards God; namely, the sinner bewailing his sin, taking shame to himself, under agonies of mind, pricked to the heart, humbly im­ploring the divine favour, and crying earnestly for mercy. But this is not all that repentance means, the principal part of it is yet behind, (viz.) Actual Re­formation. This is that which every awakened Con­science in its agonies promises and resolves upon; this God expects, and every sincere Convert really per­forms: For without this all the rest is but empty pomp and pageantry, and meer hypocrisy, as we shall shew anon. But when this is added to the former, such a person from thenceforth is a new man, and in a new estate; he hath compleatly made his return to God, as the Son in the Text is said to have actually returned to his Father.

I have noted heretofore that all irreligion and pro­faneness is wont in the language of the Scripture to be expressed by the phrase of departing from God, or going out from him, or forsaking him; and so the whole practice of Religion is contrariwise set forth [Page 212] by drawing nigh to, or coming to God; particularly Hebr. 11. 6. [...], he that cometh to God, q. d. he that becomes a Proselyte to Religi­on, (for from thence doth that word Proselyte take its original.) Wherefore now we will first observe what is implyed by this phrase of the Son's returning or coming to his Father; and in proportion thereto de­scribe this most important business of the Penitent's returning to God, which is his Actual Conversion or Reformation: and in the former these three things seem plainly to be comprehended.

  • 1. That the Son now returns home to his Father's family and presence.
  • 2. That he returns to the duty of a Son, by obedi­ence and compliance with his Father's commands.
  • 3. That he submits to his Father's government and provision.

Therefore in the latter, namely, conversion to God, these three things must semblably be implied.

  • 1. That the Penitent puts himself under the eye of God, and lives in a constant practice of piety and devo­tion.
  • 2. That he frames himself to universal obedience to all God's commands.
  • 3. That he gives himself up to the divine disposal, and intirely submits to his providence and govern­ment.

1. CONCERNING the first of these, there is nothing more evident or remarkable to all experi­ence and observation, then the great fervor of devo­tion in all true Converts from an evil life; insomuch [Page 213] that there is not that man to be found under such a character, but presently with great solemnity and seri­ousness he sets up the worship of God; to which pur­pose we find in the history of the Acts of the Apo­stles, [...],V. Mede, disc. 3. in Act. 17. 4. Worshippers, or Devout persons, to be the common name by which Converts to Religion are expressed; and these, Acts 13. 48. are said to be [...], Candidates of eternal life, or put into order and disposed for salvation. Compare vers. 43. with 48. More particularly it is observable of St. Paul, that when from a superstitious Pharisee and bitter enemy of Christianity, he was reclaimed and made a Christian; the assurance that God gives to Ananias of the truth of his conversion, is Acts 9. 11. Behold he prays. And so of Manasses, 2 Chron. 33. 18. amongst the instances of his real reformation the Scripture takes especial notice of the prayer that he prayed.

AND this is so universal a truth, that I think from hence it cometh to pass, that those who have a mind hypocritically to put on the guise and appea­rance of Religion, are wont to be notably carefull in this point: for so the Pharisees cloaked all their vil­lanies with this garb of piety. Now hypocrisy would miss altogether of its design if it did not resemble the truth of things; and usually their over solicitude and overdoing herein betrays them to act a part only in Religion.

BUT it is not only the duty of prayer which the true Penitent expresses his conversion by, (though this be by some too phantastically called Duty, as if all piety consisted in that only,) for as the literal Prodigal returns to his Father's house and family, so the mystical returns to God's house which is his Church, and associates himself with God's servants in [Page 214] all the offices of Religion: (viz.) in hearing the word, reading, meditation, Sacraments, &c. Now he thinks a day spent in God's Courts better then a thousand; and had rather be a door-keeper in the house of the Lord, then to dwell in the tents of the wicked. This one thing he desires of the Lord, and is most passionate in, that he may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, Psal. 27. 4. and to inquire in his Temple. And he so high­ly values the priviledge of God's Church, that no private opinion, no trifling scrupulosity, nor petty disgust, shall ever alienate him from it. Here he finds himself fortified and incouraged by the great ex­amples of holy men, his prayers strengthened by the concurrence of all good people; here he is under the publick dispensations of the means of grace and know­ledge, the very plainness and simplicity of which he now with the great Convert St. Austin values, and ad­mires more then all the Greek or Roman eloquence of Speech, or subtilty of Philosophy; to which every thing else seemed flat and insipid before. Above all, the holy Sacrament puts him into an ecstasy; in this he thinks himself in God's presence in an extraordina­ry manner, and admitted a guest at his Table, the Crums of which he thinks himself unworthy of: here he refreshes his hungry Soul with the Bread of Life, and his wounded Conscience by the Bloud of his crucified Saviour; and in both he thinks he sees his provoked, but compassionate Father, stand with open arms to receive him. This he approaches with great reve­rence, with shame and sorrow for his sins past, toge­ther with faith and hope in God's mercy, and will therefore never be negligent of it.

IN these and all other duties of Religion, both publick and private, the Convert expresses such an [Page 215] excellent spirit, and extraordinary zeal as cannot but be very observable; nay, his fervor is so great in these things, that the only danger is of running into some excess, lest he outgo the health and strength of his Body, and forget the necessity of the common affairs of life.

IT is true, there is great diversity in these passio­nate expressions of devotion, according to the diffe­rence of men's tempers and constitutions; but yet in every true Convert, it is at the lowest quite another thing from the common flatness and formality that is too easy to be seen in other men: nay, the transports of this kind in new Converts are usually so great, that it often gives them occasion afterwards to question their station, and to doubt whether they have not apostati­zed and faln from their first love; when they find they cannot maintain those spring-tides constantly at the same height through the whole course of their lives. For the sake of which this is to be added; that it is no argument against a man's sincerity, that he wants some of the passionate expressions of devotion which he had at first, in regard then the fresh sense he had of his miscarriages, of his horrible danger, together with the ravishing joy at the first glimpse of God's mercy in Christ, were able strangely to move all his powers, and to draw even those bodily passions into compliance with the sense of the mind which must certainly flag afterwards. And therefore though it be a sure sign he is no Convert, (I mean, from a de­bauched and wicked life) who had no experience of something extraordinary in this kind at first; yet on the other side, it is no sign of decaying in grace, if he find not the like all along.

2. BUT to proceed: secondly, when the Son arose and went to his Father, it is implied, that he became [Page 216] obedient to his commands, as well as that he lived in his presence and family. And accordingly the Penitent in the next place contents not himself with any or all of the forementioned acts of devotion; as not intend­ing to put off God with complementall addresses, (for all worship without obedience is no better) but applies himself with all humility and seriousness to frame his life according to his commands. Hereto­fore he was a Son of Belial, lawless and disobedient, but now he saith with St Paul upon his conversion, Acts 9. 6. What wilt thou have me to doe Lord? He hath now found what hard service the Devil puts his vassals to, and having had so bad a Master of him, he doth not discourage himself with suspicions, but sub­mits his neck to the yoke of Christ Jesus, and doth not say it is grievous, as being of opinion with the Falisci, Livy, lib. 5. who told Fabricius, Melius nos sub vestro imperio quàm sub nostris legibus victuri sumus. God's service is perfect freedom, and it is liberty enough to obey wisedom and goodness.

ACCORDINGLY he indeavours from henceforth to live in all the statutes and commandments of the Lord blameless, and exercises himself to have a Conscience void of offence both towards God and man. He confines not his care to some one branch or part of his duty, which is the common guise of hypocrites, but resolves to be universally good and holy: For he not only considers that one sin is sufficient to ruine a man as well as many, (as one disease may destroy a man's life as well as a complication) but also he ob­serves, that the main difficulty of vertue lies in that men do not uniformly carry on the whole business before them, and so the Devil gets that ground in one place which he seems to lose in another. Be­sides, the very principle that acts and governs him is [Page 217] the hearty love of God and goodness, which makes him have an equal hatred to all sin, and a zeal of eve­ry duty.

HE forsakes all his debauches for the pleasure of a good Conscience, and makes experiment whe­ther victory over his passions be not as delightfull as the gratification of them; and whether intellectual joys be not as ravishing as sensual enjoyments; and a regular conversation as easy and agreeable as the law­less and licentious. He brings his senses in subjection to his reason, and makes all those powers and facul­ties tributary to Religion which before made war against it. ‘This head of mine (saith he) which was wont to be employed in contrivances for the world, or in catering for my lusts, shall now be exercised in studying how I may doe most honour to my Maker. This wit which was wont to goe out in froth, or in scoffing at all that was serious, shall now make apologies for what before it blas­phemed. This tongue shall learn to bless, that was used to cursing and swearing. My hands shall now dispense as liberally to charitable purposes, as they have sordidly raked together before; I will be as exemplary for sobriety and chastity, as ever I was notorious for excesses; and wherever I have wrong­ed any body in my dealings, I will now spare from my self to make them a recompence. In short, by the grace of God from henceforward there is nei­ther pleasure shall tempt me, nor profit allure me, nor ambition corrupt me, nor example sway me to doe any thing which I know to be evil; and on the other side, there shall neither difficulty discou­rage me, nor tediousness of the course weary me in the race of vertue and holiness.’

[Page 218] And to the intent that he may always make good this ground, and persevere in this course, he calls in all the Auxiliaries of Divine Grace, places himself under the most advantageous circumstances, and re­trenches himself against all assaults or surprisals. Here­withal he hath a principal care to keep his thoughts pure and holy, that there may be no combustible matter in him for the Devil's fiery darts to take hold of, nor any beginning of a mutiny within him of the flesh a­gainst the spirit, by which means a passage may be opened to the enemy. And yet when this is done he will be always upon his guard too, not trusting wholly to the innocency of his intentions, as knowing both the subtilty and enterprizing nature of the Devil. And that this watch may be constantly kept up, he is sure not to allow himself the least degree of intem­perance which would at least weaken his reason, and inflame his passion: and farther, he is very choice of his company, and very desirous to fortify himself by good neighbourhood and acquaintance, that he may be quickened by their examples: and lastly, he will be always doing some good thing or other, that tem­ptation may not find him at leisure to give it enter­tainment.

MOREOVER, in consideration that he hath lived a great while unprofitably, and done far less then his duty, he will strive if it be possible to do more then is matter of express duty now to make a­mends for fomer failing, and therefore is far from the cold and frugal piety of those men that make a great stirr in seeking the minimum quod sic, as if they would divide a hair in Religion, and be sure to do no more then needs must; and were afraid of loving God too much, or bidding too high for the Kingdom of Heaven: for though it be true that there are no works of super­erogation, [Page 219] erogation, as some vainly speak, i. e. whereby we may make God a debter to us, or that we shall have an overplus, and be able to contribute towards a pub­lick stock besides our own necessitie; yet if a man, conscious of his own many failings, shall therefore (to shew that notwithstanding he loves God sincere­ly) oblige himself, suppose to pray oftener, or give alms more liberally then is expresly required of him, this sure will not be blameable.

AND again, being heartily troubled for what evils he hath committed heretofore, he indeavours to retract and undoe them as much as is possible, not on­ly labouring to prevent the contagion of his example, but where the case will admit it rescinding and nulli­fying the very effects. So Manasses, that had set up Ido­latry, effectually reformed it; and Zacheus, besides the half of his goods which he gave to the poor, made a four­fold restitution wherever he had wronged nay. The Jay­lor washes the stripes he had inflicted, & S. Paul zealous­ly preached the doctrine which before he persecuted.

Lastly, Such is the indignation which the true Con­vert hath against himself for his former rebellions, and such an holy jealousy hath he over himself lest he should relapse, that he is in danger of another ex­tream; for whereas heretofore he too much indulged the humour of his body, now he is ready to abridge it to such a degree as to indanger his health: perhaps in times past he lived in too much gaiety, and now so gravely that there is some danger his strictness should sour into austerity; heretofore he lived lawlesly, and now is ready by an [...], a vehement in­clining the contrary way to fall into scrupulosity, and in the words of S. Austin, Factum horretur licitum ob vi­cinitatem illiciti, which I render by those of our Saviour, He strains at a Gnat now, that was wont to swallow a Camel.

[Page 220] THOSE that have had experience of new and zealous Converts know this which I have last said to be too true, and therefore those that are concerned in the management of such persons, find it becoming their prudence, not only to instruct them in the ho­ly ways of the Gospel, but also to interpret to them the liberty of the Gospel. For in defect of such care and prudence, it very often unhappily comes to pass, that evil men and seducers, working upon that well meant but intemperate zeal, find advantage of insinuating their curiosities, their superstitions, nay, their very morosi­ties, and the distinctive badges of their peculiar fa­ctions; and in consequence thereof both indispose these honest minds to some of that which is their duty in Church and State, and render them uncomfortable in themselves, and scandalous to Religion.

BUT abating this last thing (which is a bad weed, but an argument of a good soil) all that which I have been saying otherwise, is in the temper and practice of every true Convert, as is most eminently to be seen in all the Primitive Christians, who were converted from Paganism or Judaism to Christ Jesus, but especially the former; the whole world saw them strangely improved and metamorphosed, to use the word of the Apostle,Rom. 12. 2. [...]. upon which account the Pri­mitive Fathers, Origen, Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Lactantius, &c. gloried in the efficacy of the Gospel, and shamed the blind Pagans out of their contempt of it; they despised it for the plainness and familiari­ty of the phrase, but could not deny but it was mighty in operation, far beyond all the admired writings of Philosophers;Non ab­scendit vi­tia sed ab­scindit. Lact. li 3. cap. 26. for whereas all the effica­cy of them usually extended no further then to fur­nish men's heads with notions, or to guild the outside; this changed them thoroughly, made the drunkard be­come [Page 221] grave, the lascivious person chaste and modest, the griping oppressour mercifull and liberal; and in short, made the vicious and debauched become uniformly holy and vertuous. And this is the second thing in­timated in the Son's returning to his Father, he re­turned to his duty and obedience. But

3. THIRDLY and lastly, when the Son re­turned to his Father, it is implied that he then submit­ted himself to his Father's providence and accommo­dations; that whereas heretofore the way of his Fa­ther's Family was too frugal and parsimonious for him, he must live at an higher rate, and be better provi­ded for; and therefore desired to have his portion in his own hands, that he might please himself: now the case is altered, for he found that his prodigality had brought him to rags, and his riots to hunger, and the danger of being starved: this therefore had like to have broke his heart, but to be sure it hath broke his spirit; and now he will not capitulate, nor prescribe rules to his Father, but be content with any thing; make me but as one of thy hired ser­vants, &c.

IT was the custom of Penitents of old to put on Sack-cloth, and to sprinkle themselves with Ashes, as acknowledging themselves to be vile Earth, and unworthy of the meanest accommodations. And what was thus done Emblematically on the solemn times of humiliation, is really accomplished in every sin­cere Convert. He is sensible that (as we have dis­coursed heretofore) pride began his ruine, and there­fore humility must recover him. Time was, that he swelled against God, as the proud waves against their banks, strove to break down and overrun all the re­straints of providence; because he could not bring his condition to his mind, therefore he swelled and [Page 222] murmured, raged and blasphemed: ‘why must he be poor and limited, sick or of short continuance? why (since the world was made for man) should not he have his full swing, and like Leviathan, sport himself therein?’ He was ready to suspect some ma­levolent or evil genius governed the world, and not such a wise and benign Being as men talk of. In short, as the laws of God were too strait, so was his provi­dence, and he could brook neither of them.

BUT as we have seen (upon this change) his compliance with the former, so we shall now see his conformity to the latter. He hath now like Nebuchadnezzar, been turned out to grass, till by his afflictions he was brought to acknow­ledge that the most High ruleth in the Kingdoms of men; and now the Clay hath learned not to dispute with the Potter, why hast thou made me thus? Now whatever condition it pleases God to put him in, he acknowledges it is better then he deserves; if he will that he be a beggar, in disgrace, sickness, prison; where and what he pleases, so he have mer­cy upon his Soul. He hath learnt to say with Jacob, Less then the least of all God's mercies; Gen. 32. 10. and with the Israelites humbled by their captivity; Thou always pu­nishest us less then our iniquities have deserved; or with the same in the Lamentations, It is the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, and wherefore doth a living man complain, a man, for the punishment of his sins? He not only considers the irresistible power of God, and yields, as knowing there is no contend­ing with him; but he acknowledges also his sove­reignty, and the right which the great Creatour of the world hath to dispose of him and all other Crea­tures as he pleases; and therefore quarrels not prero­gative, but saith with Old Eli, It is the Lord, let [Page 223] him doe what seemeth him good; and with the Psal­mist, I was dumb and opened not my mouth, for it was thy doing. q. d. ‘If I saw nothing but rigid fate over­bearing me, though I knew it was even then to no purpose to contend, yet I should be tempted to re­pine at my hard fortune; but when I saw God in it, I laid my hand upon my mouth; for that word speaks wisedom, justice, and goodness, as well as power; every of which are infinitely above my match. And when I reflect upon my self, I cannot but discover, that it is not meer power and will in God that op­presses me, but it was just with him to appoint me this adversity; nay, I cannot but own his wisedom too in it; he understands my frame, and therefore is best able to judge what is good & necessary for me: My heavenly Father knows what things I have need of: And consequently I must conclude (since he hath or­dered it so) that it was best for me that I should be put into the condition I am in: He saw I was not able to bear a full tide of prosperity, and therefore sent cross winds to check me; he foresaw I should be apt to luxuriate and run riot again, should he have planted me in the warm Sun, and therefore he made choice of the shade for me.’

UPON all these considerations, and especially that which I first suggested; namely, his modest re­flection upon his own demerits, and therewithall the contemplation of that transcendent happiness in ano­ther world, which will abundantly compensate all defects in this; the Penitent is brought intirely to surrender himself to the divine will. So that he doth not only patiently abide what he cannot help, but in some good measure of chearfullness, harmoniously falls in with the divine providence. ‘I will (saith he) no longer have any will of my own but thy [Page 224] will be done: as I will indeavour to frame the course of my life and actions by thy Laws and re­vealed will, so my mind, my will and passions; shall be shaped in conformity to thy secret will.’

THIS temper every true Penitent must and doth arrive at in good measure, for untill this be done, the principle of pride, which was the first spring of apostasie, is not destroyed in him; and it will be impossible that he should discharge the former part of active obedience, unless this passive frame be in conjunction with it; since a malecontent and murmur­ing spirit can never become a good and dutifull sub­ject of God's Kingdom, because he plainly betrays that he neither loves nor reverences him, and there­fore will not obey him. Besides, that most assured­ly such a temper affords perpetual invitation and in­couragement to the Devil to be attempting upon him to inflame him into some rebellion against God. Whereas the man that is contented with his conditi­on, that submits to God, discourages Satan in all his attempts of stirring up sedition, he gives him no hold, he disarms and defeats him.

THIS therefore with the two former make up the summ of Religion, and consequently the intire character of a true Convert, and the just terms of his reconciliation with the offended Majesty of Heaven. By these three steps the Son recovered himself and his Father's favour: And thus the sinner returns to God.

Of the necessity of Actual Refor­mation.

  • § I. A recital of several loose opinions about repentance, which debauch men's practice in this important af­fair.
  • § II. Four arguments demonstrating the absurdity of all those opinions jointly, and the necessity of bring­ing forth such fruits of repentance as are described in the former Chapter. 1. From Scripture. 2. From the nature of God. 3. From the nature of Heaven and Hell. 4. From the nature of Conscience.

WHILST in the foregoing Chapter I indea­voured in three instances plainly and accu­rately to describe actual returning to God, as the condi­tion of reconciliation with our heavenly Father, as I think I out-went not the figurative intimations of the Parable, so I am most confident that therein I dealt faithfully with the Souls of all such men as are con­cerned in that discourse; neither requiring more, nor admitting less then what is both fit for God to accept, and for men to yield to him: therefore it was reasonably to be hoped that men's judgments be­ing convinced herein, they would practise according­ly, and so I might proceed immediately to the third and last part of the Parable; and there shew the ad­mirable [Page 226] success of this method, and the comfortable greeting betwixt the Father of Spirits and his return­ing Children.

NOTWITHSTANDING, partly because I am aware in the general how willing men are even to put a cheat upon themselves for a cheap and an easy cure; and that to such that which we have been dis­coursing will seem to be durus sermo, a hard Chapter, (as we say;) and partly also I am not ignorant that there are abundance of Mountebanks in Theology, who pretend to administer comfort to troubled Con­sciences upon far easier terms: that therefore I may wholly omit nothing that I conceive usefull in this important affair, I will here (though briefly) de­monstrate the truth and absolute necessity of what we have now laid down; but first I think it not amiss to take notice of the principal of those mistakes which make it necessary that I so doe; and they may be re­duced to these four heads.

1.Kimch. in Isa. 59. IT was the opinion of some of the Jewish Do­ctours that when the Messias came there would be no necessity of repentance at all, as if his intercession should perfectly excuse men all the trouble of working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. And a like absurd conceit hath possessed some Christians, that nothing is to be done by us but trusting and re­lying upon Christ Jesus, and his sacrifice and satisfa­ction; as if he had not only satisfied for the transgres­sions of the old covenant, but having brought in no new one, had set men perfectly at liberty from all moral obligation; or as if it were a derogation from the merits of Christ's death that any thing should be required of us in order to justification. This is the doctrine of the Antinomians. Which some carry yet higher, and suppose justification from eternity, found­ed [Page 227] meerly in the secret decree of God, and so not only exclude repentance, but even the mediation of Christ Jesus himself.

2. THERE is a second sort of men, and those cal­led Christians too, that require something on man's part though very little, and that they call Attrition, by which they mean some slight sorrow for sin, which they say together with the sacrament of pe­nance or confession, will reconcile a man to God, without so much as contrition, or true and hearty sorrow for the evil of sin:C. Trent. this is the express doctrine of the Church of Rome, Sess. 4. cap. 4. and is very like the common doctrine of the Jews, that confession and sacrifice were sufficient for repentance and reconciliation;Maim. in Teshubha apud Lightf. Hor. Hebr. as if sin had no great evil in it self, or no great contra­riety to the divine nature, only for form or order sake he thought fit that some shame or mulct should be put upon it; and so a few tears, or something of no great moment, shall quit all the old score, and purchase a new licence to sin again.

3. ANOTHER opinion goes further yet, re­quiring not only external expressions, and the forms and solemnities of repentance, but real and hearty sorrow for sin; that a man's Conscience be really troubled, and in great anguish for his sin; and when this is done all is well; from such trouble of Consci­ence they date their conversion, and this they are always reflecting upon as a security, not only against the sins committed before it, but that from that time God sees no more sin in them; as if, like as it was at the Pool of Bethesda, when the Angel had moved the waters, all that stept in were healed. These men or­dinarily please themselves with melancholy complaints of themselves, cry out of a naughty heart, a hard heart, &c. and think this will doe their business, as [Page 228] if so soon as the Patient is grown sensible of his case he were cured, and to feel the smart were all one as to have the sore healed.

LASTLY, a fourth sort go further yet, and require not only contrition, but resolution of obe­dience; but content themselves, and incourage men to a great degree of confidence, though this resoluti­on be never put in execution. Thus a great many Saints are canonized from the Gallows, and the Cli­nick or death-bed repentance is greatly countenanced. Men commence Saints per saltum as they say, as the Romans made Gentlemen; Momento turbinis exit Marcus Dama, in the turning of an hand a lewd and flagitious person starts up a great Saint. The ground of this opinion is, they suppose that which is un­doubtedly true, that God knows men's hearts; but then they infer that which is very dangerous, that therefore so that be turned right, it is no matter with him whether there proceed any fruits worthy of re­pentance, and amendment of life.

TO all these I might further adde, those that rec­kon the change of opinion, being of an admired Sect, coming over with great zeal to a new party, a de­mure garb, an austere temper, or at most some par­tial reformation to be sufficient signs of regeneration, which fancy agrees too well to the humour of a great part of men of this age; but I shall not need to pro­ceed further in reckoning up these mistakes, nor do I think it necessary to apply a particular confutation to doctrines so very absurd at the first view: but I will now, as I promised, demonstrate the necessity of the doctrine I have asserted, which will be an effectual detection of the fallacy of all these other now reci­red, And this I will do by these four arguments.

[Page 229] § II. FIRST, if God in the Holy Scripture doth require of those that have lived wickedly, as the condition of their absolution and reconciliation to himself, that they be not only sorry for their sins, and resolve upon a new course, but expresly calls for actual performance of such resolutions and real refor­mation; then those must be strangely bold and pre­sumptuous men that will conceive hopes of pardon up­on any other terms. But that this which we assert, and nothing less, is the declared condition of mer­cy, these following passages amongst innumerable o­thers do abundantly evince. The first I take notice of is that of the Prophet Isaiah, Chap. I. Vers. 11, 13, &c. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacri­ces unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt­offerings of Rams, and the fat of fed Beasts; and I delight not in the bloud of Bullocks, or of Lambs, or of He-Goats. Bring no more vain oblations, incense is abomination to me, the new Moons and Sabbaths, the calling of Assemblies I cannot away with, it is ini­quity, even the solemn meeting. And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of bloud. Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, Learn to doe well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the Fatherless, plead for the Widow. Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as searlet, they shall be as white as snow, &c. Of like import is that of the Prophet Eze­kiel, Chap. 18. Vers. 21, 22, 28. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and doe that which is lawfull and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All the trans­gressions that he hath committed, they shall not be men­tioned [Page 230] unto him.—Because he considereth, and turn­eth away from all his transgressions that he hath com­mitted, he shall surely live, he shall not die. So also Micah 6. 6, 7, 8. Wherewithall shall I come before the Lord, and bow my self before the High God? shall I come before him with the burnt-offerings, with Calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of Rams, or with ten thousand rivers of Oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my Body for the sin of my Soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to doe justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

IN all which places God puts a slight upon all the most solemn expressions of penitence, when they are dis-joined from actual amendment of life. And touching Sacrifice, it is very remarkable that though that was a rite of God's own allowance for the expia­tion of sin, and had also conjoined with it the guil­ty persons confession of his fault, and that particu­larly (as Maimonides assures us) and considering the usual cost of the oblation was a mulct upon the sin­ner, and some kind of reparation to God, yet this is declared of no efficacy without reformation.

THUS it was in the Old Testament, and in the New the case is plainer if it be possible; for thus John the Baptist preaches, that they should not think it sufficient to submit to the baptism of repentance: But bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, Matt. 3. 8. And such is the discourse of our Saviour himself, Matth. 7. 21. Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in Heaven. q. d. It is not all the importunity of prayers or ad­dresses, that will avail without obedience. So the [Page 231] Apostle St. Paul, 2 Tim. 2. 19. The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth who are his, and let him that nameth the name of Christ de­part from iniquity. q. d. The election of God shall not be frustrate, nor the ends of Christ's death de­feated; nevertheless let no man pretend to be con­cerned in the one, nor interested in the other, but he that is really a good and holy man. And (not to heap up Scriptures unnecessarily in so plain a case) upon this account it is, that Religion is described by a walk, a course, a warfare, a life, &c. because that which God requires indispensably of men is not an agony or passion for their miscarriages, or a resoluti­on of amendment, but an habit of vertuous conver­sation; and all this is graphically represented by our Saviour in a Parable not unlike this before us, Matt. 21. vers. 28, 29, &c. What think you? a certain man had two Sons: and he said to the first, Son, go work to day in my Vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterwards he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answer­ed and said, I goe Sir, but went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his Father, &c. The case was this, the Scribes and Pharisees, and Rulers of the Jews made a great shew of piety; they complement­ed God with prayers and other addresses, and seemed ready prest for his service, whereas the Publicans and Harlots had lived with as little pretence of piety as morality, yet these at last being convinced of their danger come to repentance, and really perform what the other did but promise. And this puts me in mind of a story in Plutarch very applicable to the present purpose.Plutarch. Reip. ger. praecept. It happened that the Image of Minerva the great Goddess of Athens was to be new made; and in a case which they esteemed of so great moment, all [Page 232] care was taken to employ the most accurate and able Workman; whereupon every Artist both desirous of the honour and profit, by some means or other recommends himself to the employment; but amongst the rest, appears one, who in a long and eloquent Oration, magnifies his own ability in that kind, and drew all men's eyes upon him, till at last another rises up, and uses only this short, but signifi­cant saying, What-ever that man hath said I will per­form. This man no doubt was entertained for the employment; and most assuredly the man who actu­ally performs his vows, and doth what others talk of, or make pretences to, is the only person that finds ac­ceptance with the Almighty. For

SECONDLY, it would beget in the minds of men very mean and unworthy notions of God as an easy Majesty, should he suffer himself to be put off with complemental addresses, or divert his just indig­nation without honourable satisfaction; and to think to prevail with him by costly Sacrifices and Oblati­ons would speak him a necessitous Deity, that could either be pleased with such trifles, or were fond of such empty things as men dote upon: it would also take away all the veneration of his Laws, and divest him of that glorious Attribute of Justice, if he could be supposed to dispense with obedience upon any of these conditions. To imagine that sighs and tears, and melancholy reflections upon our selves would propitiate him, charges him with severity and cruel­ty, as if he took pleasure in the calamities and suffer­ings of his Creatures; it makes him appear like to the Pagan Idol Baal, whose Priests not onely with ve­hement importunity called upon him from Morning till Noon, O Baal hear us, 1 Kings 18. but in a fran­tick mood leaped upon the Altar, and cut themselves [Page 233] with Knives and Lancets till the bloud gushed out, that by this means they might move his compassion towards them. And which is worse yet, no man that considers these things, can reasonably doubt, but God may abate his Creatures these things, if he plea­ses; and then the consequence is very sad, for if he be supposed to require those things, as the conditions of his favour, which he may abate, all Religion is made arbitrary, and the most fundamental reason of obedience destroyed; and the horrible imputation laid upon God, that if he damn any, it is because he rigidly insists upon such things as he might have in­dulged.

NOW all these things being intolerable, it must needs be true, that the only way of propitia­ting the Divine Majesty, is by being sincerely good, by ingenuous compliance with his Laws, by actual re­formation; for this renders him truely great, and just, and good; this is a reasonable service worthy of his excellency, when all the powers of man are made subject to him, and we love him with all our might, and soul, and strength.

BUT if it be said, all this may be done by the re­solution of the mind to amend, though no such thing actually follow, because God sees things in their cau­ses, and knowing the hearts of men, needs not the fruits, since he foresees it in the roots. To this I answer, that where it pleases God by cutting off the thread of men's lives to interrupt the prosecution of their intended reformation, there it is reasonable to hope that he will accept the will for the deed; but wherever he affords opportunity of executing men's intentions, there at least can be no just expectation that he should admit of less then what is both so a­greeable to his revealed will, and also so much ne­cessary [Page 234] to the interest of his glory, inasmuch as it is fit, that the divine sovereignty, as well as the justice and wisedom of his Laws (all which have been vio­lated by sin) should be vindicated and justified by the sinners retracting his own act, and doing contra­ry to that wherein he had offended, and that by let­ting his good works shine before men, he may glorify his heavenly Father, as heretofore he hath dishonoured him by his neglects and disobedience. But

THIRDLY, if it were both consistent with the declaration of the divine will, and also with his glo­ry and interest to admit of any thing less then actual reformation at the hands of the sinner; and could God be supposed inclinable to dispense with it, yet the very condition of Heaven, and the state and con­dition of the other world will necessarily require it. The Apostle tells us, Hebr. 6. 9. there are [...], i. e. some things that carry such a relati­on to the other world, that a man cannot be damned with them nor saved without them. Or as the same A­postle saith elsewhere, 1 Col. 12. there are certain things that make men [...], meet to be partakers of the inheri­tance with the saints in light; and on the other hand, it is in the nature of other things to make men vessels of wrath, and to sit them for destruction. If there­fore we should suppose sin to doe no wrong to God, yet it doth wrong to our own nature, unfitting us for our ends, and making us incapable of our happi­ness; and if a course of vertue be not profitable to God, nor can make him any amends, yet it amends us both in our faculties, and in our capacities. For certainly God doth not by a fatal sentence doom men to the pit of Hell, nor by his Almighty power preci­pitate them thither, untill their own wickedness had prepared them, and disposed them for that state. In [Page 235] which sense I see no reason (with the pardon of a late Learned Person) but to take that passage, Acts 1. 25. where it is said of Judas, that he went to his own place. For Hell is the proper place of sin, and sin thrusts a man down thither; or the Central powers of those infernal regions, as it were draw and suck in the sinner. And therefore the very damned can ne­ver think hardly of God, as if he took pleasure in their misery, but must for ever curse their own folly, which made it fit and necessary that God should do what he doth.

THE Apostle tells us, Rom. 14. 17. The King­dom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost: which saying is in­deed to be understood of the state of Christianity; notwithstanding, if we will consider, it will appear to us that Heaven it self as it signifies the state of bles­sedness in the other world, consists not so much in the external glory of a palace, or any other circum­stances, either to accommodate the body, or to en­tertain the imagination, as in a state of perfect purity, peace and love, clear knowledge of the mind, just order of all the powers, the light of God's countenance, ready and chearfull compliance with his will, comfor­table reflections upon our former carriage, blessed so­ciety of Saints and Angels, and everlasting life for the durable enjoyment of all these unspeakably good things. And on the other side, Hell is not so dread­full for the horrid circumstances of the place, (though that be sad enough) as that there a man is banished from God, and all his powers in confusion, he is filled with rage, horribly and perpetually lashed by his own Conscience, and scorned and tortured by infernal Furies, to whose company he is for ever condemned without hopes of recovery.

[Page 236] NOW though it cannot be said that every holy and vertuous man must naturally and necessarily be intitled to the happiness of Heaven, because the glo­ries of that state are of God's special provision, and therefore must be at his disposal; and besides, there is no man whose vertue hath been such as to render him capable thereof, without the interposition of the divine mercy in Jesus Christ: Yet it is evident, that there is a great suitableness between the temper of a brave man, and the state of Heaven; a just, wise, chaste, temperate and peaceable person, is pre­pared and disposed as a Candidate for that state; and on the contrary, a debaucht and vicious man is ut­terly unfit for it, and carries the very ingredients of Hell about him.

TAKE for example a cruel, malicious, and mis­chievous man, whose soul is in his spleen, and who continually sacrifices to those accursed fiends, rancour and revenge; let any man be judge, whether such a man can be a fit inhabitant of those peacefull regions above, and that amicable society of Saints and An­gels? or what can be more natural to him, and pro­per for him, then the company of Devils which he so exactly resembles? Or take a turbulent and sediti­ous person, a Boutefeau, whose only pleasure hath been to disturb the world, that never discerned the beauty of order, nor tasted the sweets of peace, nor framed himself to duty and obedience; what should such a man do in Heaven where all is order and har­mony? he is only fit for the infernal hurry, and we may very aptly apply the stately expression of the Prophet to his case, Isa. 14. 9. Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee: and art thou become like unto us, &c. Once more, take a man wholly addicted to sensua­lity, [Page 237] and the beastly pleasures of the body, to eat and drink, and live voluptuously, what should this man do in Heaven? What is there for him, where there is no use of the belly; and where the pleasures are sublime and intellectual? what delights can the presence of an holy Majesty, a blessed Jesus, and the harmony of an heavenly Quire, minister to him that hath never relished other musick then the wild roar­ings of a debauch, or the soft charms of sensuality? He that is capable of that blessed state, and of those en­tertainments, must be such an one as hath been habitu­ate to sobriety and chastity, that hath learned to de­ny and castigate the importunities of his Senses, that hath laboured to live out of the body whilest he was in it. Now this is not to be performed by a sudden pang of devotion, nor by a meer resolution or inten­tion of becoming vertuous, (howsoever serious that may be) but by long exercise, serious indeavour, a habit and a new nature.

4. BUT in the fourth and last place, if we could suppose, that neither the nature and state of the world to come, did necessarily require such habitual vertue, as we have shewed it doth; nor that God had resolved to insist upon the actual performance of our resolutions: I say, if God would pardon a man upon the meer acknowledgement of his offence, and sorrow for it, yet would not the penitent pardon himself in this case: I mean, it would be impossible for him to find any quiet in his bosom, till he had in some measure effaced the memory of his former wick­edness by a course of generous vertue. For when once a man's eyes are open to see his shamefull folly, and his heart made so sensible as to relent at his mis­doing, he will have such an abhorrence of himself for his own unreasonableness, that he will be so far from [Page 238] looking up to God with comfort, or towards men with confidence; that he will not be able to endure his own face, untill he have by a singular diligence indeavoured to rescind his own act, and in some mea­sure repaired the injuries his lewd extravagancies have made him guilty of. Accordingly St. Paul, as we have noted before, seems to carry about him a bleed­ing sense of his former miscarriages, but 1 Cor. 15. 10. he had this to support him, that although he was as one born out of due time, coming late into Christ's ser­vice; yet from that time he laboured more abundant­ly then those that came earlier into the vineyard.

IT is a most impertinent inquiry which some me­lancholy persons have been taught to make; have I been humbled enough for sin? is the measure of my sorrow sufficient for my guilt? have I lain long e­nough under the terrours of the Law, and the spirit of bondage? For God requires not sorrow for it self, but for its end; and it is no satisfaction to him that his Creatures lie under affrightfull apprehensions, besides our own Consciences will tell us, we may then dry our eyes and be comfortable when the cause is taken away, and not before; for then is it Godly sorrow when it bringeth forth repentance not to be repented of, 2 Cor. 7. 10.

AND herein lies the great uncomfortableness of a death-bed repentance, for (besides the horrible mad­ness of trusting the issues of eternity, upon extempo­re preparations) if it should please God to give a man both the grace and the opportunity, then at last seriously to bethink himself, to feel remorse for his sins, to make resolutions, and to renew his baptismal Cove­nant; yet then he can give no proof to himself of his own sincerity, because he cannot repair God's honour, he can make no conquest over Satan, he can leave no [Page 239] example to the world, he cannot by habit and exercise make the ways of God become easy and natural to himself, he cannot be said to have lived the life of the righteous, and therefore cannot comfortably con­clude that he shall die the death of such.

AS for the penitent Thief in the Gospel, that ac­companied our Saviour in his sufferings upon the Cross, to whom our Saviour pronounced, that he should that day be with him in Paradise; his case was peculiar, probably he had lived in great darkness and ignorance, and never had the means of grace till now; but however it was not unagreeable to the divine wisedom and goodness to do something extraordinary at that great time, and to signalize the efficacy of our Saviour's Mediatourship by some remarkable instance at such a time, when the dignity and glory of his person was most clouded and obscured; and as there never was nor will be such another occasion as this, so it is great and desperate folly for any man to trust to such an experiment. And whereas in the Parable, Matth. 20. vers. 12. those Labourers that came into the Vineyard at the eleventh hour are rewarded e­qually with those that had born the burden and heat of the day; It is in the first place to be observed, that though they came late, yet not so late, but that they did really work in the Vineyard; and then besides, here is nothing contrary to what we are pressing, for we are far from intention of discouraging any to re­turn at last, or from limiting the mercies of God, who is able to foresee what a late Convert would have done if he had opportunity, and may accordingly extend mercy to him. All therefore which I say, is, that this is a most uncomfortable state, when a man's Conscience cannot give security for him; nor is there any thing that affords him positive grounds of hope, [Page 240] having not performed the conditions of the New Co­venant, only he hath a general refuge in the merits of Christ and in God's mercy.

WHEREFORE there is all the reason, and all the wisedom in the world, that a man should not trust to prefaces and praeludia, beginnings and first eslays of repentance, but let it have its perfect work; that with the Prodigal Son, he not only sit down and bewail his misery, or take up resolutions of returning to his Father, but that he forthwith set about it and effect it; So he arose and came to his Father. What entertainment he meets with from his Father upon so doing, I am now to shew in the third and last Part of the Parable.

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The father said to the servants, bring forth the best robe and put it on him, &c. St. LVKE. 15. 22.

Non patitur contriti cordis holocaustum repulsam. Quotiens te in conspectu Domini video suspirantem, Spiritum sanctum non dubito aspirantem: cum intu [...]or flentem, sentio ignoscentem. Cypr: serm: de coena. Page. 240. 241.

The Prodigal received and reconci­led, or God's gracious reception of a Penitent Sinner.

S. Luke 15. Vers. 22, 23, 24.

But the Father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

And bring hither the fatted Calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and be merry.

For this my Son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found, &c.

Of Reconciliation, or Justification.

  • § I. The passionate story of Joseph, Gen. 37. parallel to this Parable before us.
  • § II. God takes notice of the first beginnings of good in men. The use of that consideration.
  • § III. God's compassion and tenderness to men under agonies of mind, yet without the weakness of humane passion.
  • § IV. God not only takes delight in beginnings of good, but promotes them by his grace. The famous story in Eusebius of St. John, and a dissolute young man; and several usefull observations thereupon.
  • § V. The greatness of God's pardoning mercy, and the fullness and compleatness thereof upon repentance, set out in several great instances, full of unspeakable con­solation to the Penitent, and wherein God's mercies outgo those of mercifull men: the greatness of the sin of our first Parents, and of the Jews in crucifying our Lord; which notwithstanding were both pardoned.
  • § VI. Of the Novation Heresy, and the mischiefs of it.
  • § VII. Practical reflections upon Justification.

§ I.Gen Chap. 37 conti­nued to Chap. 45. IT is a very lively and pathetick story which Moses gives us concerning Jacob and his Sons, especially his beloved Son Joseph, to this effect. The Brethren of Joseph envying him that great share he [Page 243] had in his Father's affections, resolve some way or other to dispatch him out of the way; but that they might not imbrue their hands in his bloud they con­clude to sell him a slave to the Midianites, (that happened at that time to come in the way) and to hide their own fault from their Father, they kill a Kid, and dip Joseph's Coat in the bloud, and telling a de­mure story to the old man, impose upon his belief that some wild Beast had devoured his Son. Which when the good man was possest of, he most tenderly resents the affliction, rends his Cloaths, puts Sack­cloth upon his Loins, and mourned many days. Whereupon his Sons and Daughters, and even those especially that had raised the tragedy, personate so well as to take upon them to be his comforters; but the wound was too deep to be easily cured, for he refuses consolation: No (saith he) I will go down to the grave to my Son mourning: my grief shall only wear away with my life, and only the land of oblivi­on shall make me forget Joseph. At last, after a long and sad time of lamentation, there comes the surprizing news to the good man, Joseph thy Son is yet alive, and Ruler of all the Land of Aegypt. The aged Father faints at the tidings, the News was too good to be true; the apprehension of his Son's death had seized him so long, that he could not believe a­ny thing to the contrary now; and by the report of his life his wounds bleed afresh, and the grief for the loss of him was so renewed, that the good man sinks into a Deliquium.

BUT when they had opportunity to report the whole business, to relate the message was brought from Joseph, and especially came to real proof, shewing him the Wagons which his Son had sent to bring him down into Aegypt, Then (saith the Text) the Spirit of their [Page 244] Father revived; and he is as ready to be transported with an ecstasy of joy now, as to be overwhelmed with sadness before; but he recovers himself, And Israel said, It is enough, Joseph my Son is yet alive, I will goe down and see him before I die.

THE story, besides the unquestionable authority of sacred record, carries the natural marks of truth upon it; all things being represented so done, as they must needs be done upon supposition of the fact. And for the lively strokes of passion in it, I know not whether any thing in all history be able to match it, grief and joy, great as their several causes, taking place successively, vying with, and setting off each other.

NOW although the business which we have at present before us be only a Parable, yet it is not much unlike that history; for here we find a beloved Son at different times under the extremities of good and evil; one while as miserable as folly and misfor­tune can make him, another while recovering him­self and his station again, and in all this diversity of fortune, a good Father passionately concerned with him, grieving and rejoycing respectively, as the con­dition of his Son gave him occasion, and all exprest with equal life, as in the former history; as if it were not a representation of what might be done, but what was really matter of fact.

WE have hitherto seen the tragical part only, the Son's folly and misery, and the Father's grief; the Son running on from one intemperance to another till his Father despaired of him, and he found himself ruined; but then by a great providence he comes to himself and returns, but (as we say) by weeping cross.

BUT now the scene is changed; the Son is reco­vered [Page 245] and the Father revived, and all is joy and glad­ness. Here the good Shepheard bringeth his lost Sheep home on his shoulders rejoycing; here we see the good Samaritan pouring in wine and oyl, and binding up the wounds of him that was miserably wounded, and in a deplorable condition. In short, here we have a kind Father owning, receiving and indowing his returning Son; and here we have God Almighty the Father of Spirits, pardoning and bles­sing penitent sinners.

§ II. But to come to particulars, whether we at­tend to the literal or the mystical sense of the Parable; in this last part of it we shall easily observe these four remarkable passages.

  • 1. The passionate interview, the benign aspect and kind greeting the Father affords his Son upon his first appearance in his way homewards.
  • 2. The kind and present supply of the Sons wants, or he ornaments which the Father bestows upon him being t now returned.
  • 3. The splendid reception and entertainment he makes for him.
  • 4. And fourthly and lastly, his apology for so doing.

I begin with the first, (viz.) the passionate greet­ing at the first interview expressed thus, vers. 20, 21, 22. But when he was yet a great way off his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the Son said to his Father, Father, I have sinned, &c.

THE Son relents, and the Father melts into com­passion; the Son is ashamed, and the Father's bow­els yern towards him; the affections of a Father pre­vent [...] [Page 244] [...] [Page 245] [Page 246] the Son's humiliation and acknowledgments, and yet the Father's kindness will not discharge or supersede the Son's duty: there is a noble contention between them; the one would demonstrate more love, and the other strives to equal that with inge­nuity. It is hard to observe order in passion; how­ever, in the Father's carriage we take notice of these four steps.

FIRST, he takes knowledge of his Son at a distance, whilest he was yet a great way off, though probably his former vices had disfigured him, and his poverty disguised him, long absence might have estran­ged him, and age had somewhat altered him; yet pa­ternal affection is quick and sagacious, he discovered and distinguished him notwithstanding.

SECONDLY, his sight affects his heart, when he saw him, [...], he had compassion, his bow­els yerned towards him; far sooner is the heart of a Father dissolved into kindness, then that of a Son in­to obedience; a great deal of consideration and re­solution at last brings the Son to recover his sense of duty, but the Father takes fire presently, and the flame is not to be concealed. For

THIRDLY, the greatness of his passion prompts him beyond the gravity of his years, the dig­nity of his relation, and above the remembrance of his just offence; for he ran to meet his Son.

And then lastly, he indulges his affections, or can­not command them; he falls on his neck and kisses him; he forgets all former undutifullness and provo­cation, he stands not rigidly expostulating the matter, nor scrupulously weighing formalities, but makes the fullest expressions of joy and indearment.

NOW in a due proportion to all these particulars (making only a just allowance for the Majesty of God) [Page 247] is the condescension of our heavenly Father towards returning sinners, as I will shew by drawing the pa­rallel in all the aforesaid particulars something more at large.

FIRST, as an earthly Parent that has lost a Son, carries the image of him in his thoughts, and never so loses the remembrance of him, but that upon eve­ry the least occasion he occurrs to his mind, and there­fore he will be quick in apprehending the first ap­proaches of him, if he happen to return: so God our heavenly Father hath so tender a love to men, and such a concern for their good and happiness, that he takes notice of their first motions towards himself; he discerns the first reasonings, the reletings, the agonies of mind, the first dawnings towards a resolu­tion of returning.

WE see not the Corn grow, only we discover when it is grown; nor do we discern how our own members are fashioned in the womb; but the curious eye of God observes the first lines and traces of na­ture, the first essays and palpitations of life, upon which account the Psalmist admires the divine provi­dence, Psal. 139. 14, 15, 16. I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:—My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance being yet imperfect, and in thy book all my member were written, which in process of time were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. And much more doth he observe the most weak and imperfect essays of the new birth, or as the Apostle expresses it when Christ is beginning to be formed in men. I saw thee (saith our Saviour to Na­thanael) S. Joh. 1. 48. when thou wast under the fig­tree; when thou wast reasoning about me whether I [Page 248] was the Messias or not. I was privy to that conflict of thy thoughts, between the report of the miracles wrought by me, and the prejudicate opinion con­cerning the supposed place of my nativity; I was not so much offended with thy objections, as pleased with thy sincerity, in that thou didst diligently inquire, honestly debate, and proceed to resolution upon rati­onal satisfaction.

Most apposite to this purpose is that passage of the Prophet Jeremiah, Chap. 31. vers. 18, 19, 20. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock un­accustomed to the yoke: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned I repented; and after that I was in­structed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. And after he had thus passionately described the first kindlings of repentance in the hearts of the people of Israel, he then introduces God, taking notice and expressing his compassions in the next words. Is Ephraim my dear Son? is he a plea­sant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. By all which we see that God despiseth not the day of small things.

NOW the consideration of this affords mighty incouragement to sinners to begin their motion to God-ward; who would not put himself upon the way, when the first attempt of returning shall be ta­ken notice of? If a man do but consider, if he doe but pray, if but breathe and pant after God, there is a gracious eye upon him, it is not altogether lost la­bour; Nay, (saith our Saviour) A cup of cold water [Page 249] given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward. And if such mean performances pass not unrewarded, much less doth any thing of good escape God's notice and observation.

And upon the same consideration there is great reason of caution, and that men take heed of dis­couraging any (though never so small) hopes of good, and buddings of reformation in others; for seeing God takes notice of beginnings, he must needs be offended with those that obstruct them, and will be sure severely to resent it. Let therefore those that scoff at prayer and devotion as preciseness, at seriousness and self-reflection, as melancholy degeneracy of spi­rit, that either press men forward into the same ex­cess of riot with themselves, and labour to divert or stifle all workings of Conscience by the means of sen­sual entertainments, or treat those with contumely, who boggle at their extravagancies, and begin to take up and reform: let all such, I say, consider well what they doe, when God's eye is upon such begin­ings of good, lest they be found fighters against God. And let all that have any sense of goodness themselves, or but so much as a reverence of God's all-seeing eye, think it becomes them to incourage such beginnings, to indeavour to kindle such sparks, and blow them up into a flame of love to God and goodness; to which purpose I take liberty to apply a passage of the Prophet Isaiah, Chap. 65. vers. 8. Thus saith the Lord, as the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for there is a blessing in it. q. d. The wise Master of the Vineyard (especially in an unfruitfull time) takes special notice of those few Grapes in a cluster that have good juice in them, and will neither permit them to be carelesly crushed with the hand, nor cast away amongst refuse. So will [Page 250] the God of Israel do by his Vineyard the House of Israel; he will take notice of the few that are good in the midst of a bad generation, and not destroy all together: And in like manner, he will not despise the first essays of emergency from former vice and wickedness. But thus I am led to the second pa­rallel.

§ III. 2. The Father as soon as he saw his Son, had compassion; so hath God to mankind, especial­ly when he sees them on their way homeward. He had always good will towards them as they were his Creatures, made in his own image, designed for his service, and for the enjoyment of himself; and up­on all these accounts hath a propension to do them good. But so long as any man continues in a course of rebellion against him, all the issues and expressions of this good will are obstructed; which nevertheless as soon as ever he begins to relent and come to him­self, break out again and discover themselves. For (as the Psalmist tells us,) Like as a Father pitieth his Children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him, Psal. 103. 13.

NOT that we are to imagine the Divine Maje­sty to be subject to the weakness of humane passion in a strict and proper sense, so as to feel any pain or trouble upon the account of his concern for mankind, for that the spirituality of his nature, the perfection of his understanding and his self-sufficiency, will by no means admit of. But he is pleased in Holy Scrip­ture to represent himself after that manner, to the in­tent that we may be incouraged to hope and to in­deavour, since we are assured that he is not a meer spectator of the conflicts and agonies of a Penitent, but hath a real inclination to do him good, and [Page 251] would by no means have him perish. To this pur­pose Ezek. 33. 11. he swears, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wic­ked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die O house of Israel? What greater passion can any Father express towards his beloved Son, then God here condescends to? and what greater assurance can God give of his earnestness and reality, then that of an Oath by himself?

WHILEST men are at the worst, the divine goodness finds out some arguments of pity, for he considers he made them fallible Creatures, that he gave them not the bright and piercing intellects of Angels, he joyned matter and spirit together in their composition, by means whereof there is a continual contest between sense and reason, a constant dispute betwixt bonum utile, and jucundum; that their trans­gression is not like that of Devils, who sinned pro­prio motu, without a tempter; he knows the power of example, the prejudices of education, the long fol­lies of Child-hood; and therefore, as I have shewed before, is not implacable towards mankind, whilest the state of life and this world lasts. But when he takes notice that any man begins to recollect himself, to emerge out of his folly, to remember his Father's house, and to thirst after eternal life; he is infinitely pleased with it, and cherishes such blossoms.

THUS it was prophesied of the Messias, and interpreted and applied to our Saviour by the Evan­gelist, Matth. 12. 20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoaking flax shall he not quench, untill he send forth judgment into victory. i. e. He will neither pre­cipitate those upon utter ruine who are very near it, and have cast themselves upon the brink of danger, [Page 252] so long as there is any hopes remaining of their reco­very; nor much less will he despise and extinguish the least sparks and beginnings of good, but incou­rage and promote them.

AND this we observe to be verified in the young man in the Gospel,Mark. 10. 21. of whom we have taken notice before; he made some Conscience of his ways, and inquired after eternal life, and was willing to do something to attain it; wherefore though he was far from being generously good, nevertheless the Text tells us, Jesus look'd upon him, and loved him.

IN short therefore, whatsoever God's proceedings shall be with impenitent and incurable sinners in the other world, who have withstood the whole day of grace, and abused all his patience and kindness; I say, whatever severity his wisedom and justice may then require, when men have treasured up wrath against the day of wrath, and fitted themselves for destructi­on: yet certainly in this life, and whilst there is any hope, God is compassionate towards them; he pi­ties those he cannot love, and loves those that pity themselves; and delights in those that love him. But this pity of the Almighty, which yet is one of the lowest instances of his benignity, consists not as it doth often in men, in a soft sympathy with the mi­serable, or ineffective wishes of their good; but is like himself, great and powerfull in its effects. For in the next place,

§ IV. 3. As the Father not only admits his Son when he returns to him, but runs to meet him; so doth the Almighty help and bring on sinners in their way to himself. St. Jerom I confess understands this passage (in the mystical sense) to point at the Incar­nation of our Saviour, wherein God may very pro­perly [Page 253] be said to meet man, taking our humane nature that he might make us partakers of his Divine. But I rather apply it to the efficacious assistance which God gives by his Grace to all beginnings of good in men. Senec. Ep. 73. Miraris homines ad Deos ire (saith Seneca) Deus ad homines venit, imò (quod propiùs est) in ho­mines venit, nulla sine Deo mens bona est. And a lit­tle before he had said, Non sunt dii fastidiosi, non in­vidi, admittunt, & ascendentibus manus porrigunt. Which words of his may thus be rendred in a Scripture phrase. God though he be the high and lofty one, in­habiting eternity, yet is not stately and disdainfull; he neither envies nor grudges men's happiness; and though he dwell in the high and holy place, yet to this man will he look that is of a broken and contrite spirit: and he will be so far from repulsing his endeavours of ascending up to him, that he reaches out a hand of mer­cy to pull him up to himself. Wonder not then that men attain to God, when he vouchsafes to come down to them, nay, to come in to them; for never was any vertuous mind without his help.

TO that purpose speaks the excellent Moralist, but the Holy Scripture most expresly, Phil. 2. 12. It is God that worketh both to will and to doe: and Jo. 6. 44. No man cometh unto me, except my Father which hath sent me draw him. And this temper is that which the Prophet magnificently describes the Messi­as by, Isai. 40. 11. He shall feed his flock like a Shep­heard, he shall gather the Lambs with his arms and car­ry them in his bosome, and shall gently lead those that are with young: And thus also the Prophet Hosea sets forth God's dealing with his people Israel, Hos. 11. 3. I taught Ephraim to goe, taking them by their arms: I drew them with the cords of a man, with the bands of love. In which passages, though God by [Page 254] the Prophets describe the way of his providence with literal Israel the Jewish Nation, yet as that People was a type of the spiritual Israel, so did God's me­thods with them resemble the gracious condescension he uses towards the Souls of men in their conversion to himself.

I cannot upon this occasion omit a most affecting and remarkable story which Eusebius reports upon the credit both of St. Irenaeus, Euseb. Eccles. Hist. li. 3. cap. 17. and Clemens Alexan­drinus to this effect. St. John the Apostle in his vi­sitation of the Churches near about Ephesus, happens there to fix his eyes upon a certain young man, who he conjectured (from the comeliness of his shape, vi­gorous chearfullness of his eyes, and other indications of a generous spirit) might become an eminent and usefull person, if effectual care was taken of his edu­cation. He therefore calls to the Bishop of the place, and solemnly conjures him in the presence of Christ and his Holy Church, to spare no pains or care in cultivating the mind and manners of the young man. The Bishop undertakes it, and accordingly takes him into his own house, uses him as his own Son, instructs him, baptizes, and at length confirms him in the Chri­stian Faith: which having done, he thinks now he might be a little more secure of him, and trust him to his own conduct. But he had no sooner done so, but certain loose young men presently insinuate them­selves into his acquaintance, and first debauch him with light caresses, and jovial assignations; and then (as it often happens) to maintain those excesses, they draw him into a confederacy of robbery: and in that flagitious society, this young man quickly becomes so great a proficient, as to be Captain and leader of the Fraternity. At this season (as God would have it) the Apostle returns again into those parts, and [Page 255] presently requires an account from the Bishop, of the young man committed to his trust: the good old man with sorrow in his heart, and tears in his eyes, replies, Alas he is dead! dead, I say, to God and all goodness; he is become a common Thief and cut­throat, hath deserted the Church where I trained him up, and now keeps his station in the Mountains hard by, from whence he makes his frequent sallies to commit all kind of villany. The Apostle (aged as he was) considers not his own infirmity, but the recovery of the young man; and therefore calling for an Horse and a Guide, presently issues forth into the Mountains where he had been told his haunts were. There he no sooner arrives, but he is arrested by the Centinel Thief: whereat he betraying no fear or surprizal, as having in part attained what he sought, Shew me (saith he) your Captain. The Captain hearing this, and wondring what should be the errand, presents himself armed to receive him, till he soon perceived who it was; but then, seized with shame, he makes from him with all the speed he could. The Apostle forgetting his age and gravi­ty, follows him with all his might, crying out ‘My Son, my Son, dost thou fly thy Father? thy aged un­armed Father? Fear me not, I come not armed to de­stroy thee, but desirous to save thee; I'll pray for thee, I'll intercede with Christ Jesus on thy behalf; I am ready to lay down my life to save thy Soul.’ The re­volted youth hearing this, makes a stand, and then with eyes cast down, and weapons laid aside, begins to tremble, and at last weeping bitterly, is in the words of the Historian, Re-baptized in his own tears. Then S. John embracing him, prays for him, fasts with him, in­structs him, and leaves him not till he had not only re­stored him to the society of the Church, but settled him in the publick Ministry thereof.

[Page 256] THE story is very admirable in all the parts of it, as wherein, amongst other things, we may observe in the first place, how quickly bad company insinuates its contagion, and corrupts youthfull minds; and that neither fine parts, nor the best education, are sufficient security for a vertuous course, unless Apollos water, as well as Paul plant, and God also give the increase.

AGAIN, it is worth observing how easy and sudden the transition is from a luxurious to a lawless life. This young man began his risk in riot, and ends it in robbery. Although this be no strange thing, for besides that intemperance makes men bold and rash, and fit for any desperate enterprize, they that are come to that, that they care not what they spend, are usually forced not to regard how they get it. We note also from this story, that great Wits, and curious tempers are like razor mettle quickly turned, and if they miscarry, they become the most notorious Debauchees; but if they be well set, and hold right, become most eminently usefull. More­over, we may here also take notice how a sense of guilt and dis-ingenuity baffles a man's spirit, dejects his courage, disarms and subdues him; whereas on the other side, conscience of sincerity and good de­signs, spirits and actuates a man above his age, tem­per, and common capacity. But that which I prin­cipally remark in the story, is, the paternal affecti­on in the aged Apostle toward this dissolute and lost young man; how fresh the concern for him was in his thoughts, when he came into those parts again where he left him? with what strictness he requires the depositum of the Bishop, how he forgets himself to recover him; what charms there were in the coun­tenance, voice, motion, of the aged Father; how [Page 257] strange a thing it was to be young Hector, running away from an old Apostle; an armed Captain not da­ring to stand before unarmed and infirm old age: to observe the spirit, the passion, the flaming love of a good man to the Soul of a desperate sinner; and in all this, to see a lively resemblance of God's goodness to men. For God doth not only (as I have said before) receive men upon their return, but moves towards them, invites, nay, draws them to himself. He is so far from positively hardening sinners, that he takes off their hardness; he allures them by his pro­mises, prevents them by his grace, way-lays them by his providence, calls upon them by his word, melts them by his kindness, works upon them by his Spi­rit; and this Spirit takes all advantageous seasons, watches the mollia tempora fandi, suggests thoughts to their minds, holds their minds close and intent, gives them a prospect of the other world; and by several other ways (without violence to their facul­ties) helps forward their return to God.

§ V. 4. LASTLY, As the Earthly Father for joy of his Sons return, forgets all his anger, and the causes of it; passes by his ingratitude and dissolution of manners, and treats him with infinite demonstrations of kindness, falling on his neck, and kissing him: So doth our Heavenly Father cast all the iniquities of the penitent' behind his back, blots them out of his book; makes no severe reflections, no bitter expostulations, no upbraidings, but passes an act of perfect amnesty and oblivion. Justin Martyr in his Work against Trypho, brings in our Saviour, saying, [...]. The words are no where to be found in the Gospel, but the sense is, That God takes men as they are, and considers not how [Page 258] evil they have been, so that now they become sin­cerely good. This the Prophet Ezekiel frequently proclaims on the behalf of God, Chap. 18. especially vers. 22. All his sin that he hath committed shall not be once mentioned against him; but in his righte­ousness that he hath done, he shall live. For as if men apostatize from hopefull and vertuous begin­nings, it shall not at all avail them that they set out well, and began in the Spirit, whenas they end in the Flesh, (upon which account it is a very vain thing for them to goe about to comfort themselves against their present looseness, by remembring the time of their conversion, and the great passion they have sometime had for Religion, but which now they have apostatized from,Rev. 2. 4. having lost their first love:) so on the contrary, he that was a sinner, but now is not; i. e. is now sincerely returned from his licenti­ousness to his duty, shall never have his former diso­bedience imputed to him by God.

THIS truth Philo represents handsomly in his Allegorical way; Philo lib. de Abra­hamo. when glossing upon what the Scrip­ture saith of Enoch, After his translation he was not found, because God had translated him; he paraphrases on this manner: God (saith he) having changed him from an evil to a vertuous man, the traces of his former wickedness were no more to be found, then if no such thing had ever been committed.

BUT this gracious procedure of God with peni­tent sinners deserves to be more fully and particular­ly unfolded; and if we diligently consider what the Scripture assures us of the greatness of God's pardon­ing mercy, we shall observe these three remarkable circumstances all pregnant of unspeakable consola­tion.

  • [Page 259]1. He pardons great and many sins, not onely lighter provocations.
  • 2. He forgives repeated follies, and relapsed sin­ners.
  • 3. His pardon is full and absolute.

1. FIRST, amongst men there are some sins that are scarcely (if at all) thought to be pardonable, as where there is malice and treachery involved in the fact, or where there is contumely added to the injury. And sometimes the greatness of the person injured so inhances the offence; as that it is not thought fit to pardon: as for instance, in Treason against the Supream Power. But most certainly there are all these, and many more aggravations in most voluntary sins committed against God, and yet he pardons: Exod. 34. 7. He pardons iniquity, transgres­sion and sin, i. e. sin of all kinds and degrees whatsoe­ver, excepting only the sin against the Holy Ghost; which our Saviour hath told us shall never be forgiven. And that sin it self (whatsoever it consists in) is on­ly upon this account unpardonable, because it hath a finally impenitent temper joyned with it; otherwise were it possible that such a sinner should repent, there would be no doubt of his pardon; but bating that peculiar case, there is no sin but God hath par­doned and will pardon.

I will not take upon me to say which were the greatest sins that ever were committed by mankind; but I will instance in two that must needs be acknow­ledged to have been very great, which yet have ob­tained pardon; and they are the sin of our first Pa­rents, and the sin of the Jews in crucifying our Savi­our.

[Page 260] IN the former of these there was the breach of a known Law, and that so newly given, as that it could not be forgotten; and it was also an easy and reasonable Law: God having allowed them all the Trees in the Garden, and laid an interdict only upon that one; and it was no hard matter to have denied themselves that for God's sake, especially considering they came newly out of his hands, and saw so freshly the display of his power and wisedom in the Creati­on of the World, and had so many and great instan­ces of his goodness towards themselves: besides, they had as yet no vitiated faculties, nor so much as one example of sin before them, but that of the Devils, which they had seen to be most severely vindicated. It was a hard thing to be first in the transgression, and a bold thing to venture to provoke God, and to be the first instance of sin to all posterity: they had the concern of all mankind upon them, as who (they knew) must stand or fall with them; and having frequent tokens of God's presence with them, to sin under his eye, and to hearken to the suggestions of a vile Beast, the Serpent, against God, was prodigi­ously strange, and yet they did it; and God was pleased to pardon them.

IN the latter of the instances, namely, the Jews crucifying our Saviour; besides the greatness of the Person against whom they sinned, putting to death the Lord of life and glory, there was designed ma­lice, perjury and subornation; contumely towards an holy Person, ingratitude towards one that had done them all the good they were capable of; there was contradiction to the plainest evidence of miracles of all kinds, and to the conviction of their own Con­sciences; Notwithstanding all which, the same St. Pe­ter who, Acts 2. 23. had charged them home in these [Page 261] words, Ye men of Israel have with wicked hands cru­cified and slain Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God by him did in the midst of you, as ye your selves know, &c. yet in the 38. Verse, he exhorts the same men to repentance, and to be baptized, that they may receive remission of sins, and the singular favour of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

TO these and several other instances of great sins (which might easily be added) we may cast in for the greater evidence of the vastness of the divine mercy, that he pardons not only single acts of sin, (how hainous soever) but long courses and habits of sin, and those of several natures and kinds; as in Ma­nasses, and in the Publicans and Harlots; but that we may rise higher yet in admiration of the divine clemency, we observe.

2. IN the second place, that he pardons also re­lapsed sinners. They have a saying, Non licèt in bel­lo his peccare, that the first faults in war are severely vindicated; because there all errours are fatal, and searce leave a capacity of being repeated. And there are some relations so near and intimate, and their li­gaments so nice and curious, that a breach in them can never be repaired to knit again. But the relati­on of a Father, and the goodness of a God, leave al­ways room for pardon. Nay further, They say (saith the Prophet Jeremiah) if a man put away his Wife, and she goe from him, and become another man's, shall he return to her again? But thou (O Israel) hast plaid the harlot with many lovers, yet return again unto me, saith the Lord, Jer. 2. 1, 2.

§ VI. The doctrine of the Navatians carried a great breadth with it in the Primitive times, which denied [Page 262] repentance to those that sinned after Baptism; and for that reason it is thought many holy men in those days deferred their Baptism as long as they could, that they might not defile their garments, but goe from that washing unspotted out of the world. The opinion seemed to proceed from extraordinary pu­rity and holiness, and therefore as I said prevailed much, and had a great reputation in those times, and it seems it took its rise from a mistake of a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chap. 6. 4. However, it was damned by the most learned and holy Fathers of the Church, and particularly St. Basil and Gr. Na­zianzen call it a damnable doctrine, and destructive of Souls, in that it discouraged and kept men off from repentance, which God is always ready to ad­mit of if it be sincere, and such as we have before de­scribed.

IT is true which Clemens of Alexandria hath said, [...], &c. that to make a common practice of sinning, and then pretending repentance, (as if we would give God and the Devil their turns) is an argument both of an impenitent and unbelieving temper; for as he saith afterwards, [...]. These frequent repentances as it were of course, betray rather an intention of sinning again, then any design of leaving it, and therefore find no accep­tance with God. And it is also certain, that a man that hath frequently relapsed, having thereby ex­ceedingly multiplied his guilt, must needs feel very bitter pangs and sharp remorse when he doth return, and will be ever after very apt to question his own sincerity; and which is worse, it is to be feared, that like as it is with bones which have been often out and set again, they will be very apt to slip awry; so this person will be justly looked upon as in great dan­ger, and therefore hath a necessity of extraordinary [Page 263] watchfullness over himself. But notwithstanding all this, if such a man, after several falls and slips shall stand right and firm at last, and demonstrate the truth of his now penitent state by the following course of an holy life, there is no question to be made of his acceptance with a mercifull God. For God doth not proceed with men upon such terms as we do, our passions are stirred many times, and the provocation is too great for us to be able to concoct; but he is pure mind and reason, hath no boiling passion, no revenge, seeks only the good of his Creatures, and so they become at last capable of his favour and bles­sing; he is contented, and hath his end. Besides, he that hath made it our duty,Luk. 17. 4. that as often as our Bro­ther offends against us and repents, so often we should forgive him, doth not certainly intend to be outdone by us in mercy the most glorious of all his attributes.

3. God's pardon of sin upon repentance is full and compleat without any reservation; he retains no old grudge, hath no concealed spite, never rips up the old quarrel, never upbraids men with former follies, but casts all behind him, and buries them in oblivion. It is not usually thus with men, they have a distin­ction, they will forgive (they say) but not forget; and it is common with Princes to seem to pardon only till they have opportunity of a full revenge. It was strange that a man of such sincerity as David should have such a reserve, and yet so it was, that after he had promised and sworn to Shimei, that he should not die, 2 Sam. 19. 23. notwithstanding 1 King. 2. 9. He gives it in charge to his Son and Successor Solomon, that he should not suffer his hoary head to come to the grave without blood. But it is not thus with God, his acts of grace are without repentance on his part, he never retracts or revokes them, never clogs them [Page 264] with conditions, nor finds out evasions afterwards; if he pardon, all is well and secure, he will never de­part from it, unless the sinner depart from his repen­tance, and so exclude himself from pardon.

THE Italians have a proverbial saying, that they will forgive an enemy, but never trust him; for fashion sake they will seem to forgive, that is, they will cease to quarrel, or they will not directly revenge themselves, but they will only rake up the fire in its own ashes; they will retain a perpetual jealousy of such a person, and malign him; it shall not be said they hate him, but it shall appear they do not love him.

THUS like those long burning Lamps which have been discovered in old monuments, whilst they are kept close under ground they burn more slowly, but so much the more lastingly. So men suppressing only their passion perpetuate it; whereas perhaps it was more desirable they should give it vent that so it might expire. But God is not of a vindictive na­ture, as we have shewed before, he needs not conceal his anger, because he can execute it when he will, and there can lie no necessity upon his affairs to tempt him to pretend reconciliation when it is not cordial; no, he is a God of peace and of truth, his mercies are as the great mountains, stable and firm, those re­pent he pardons, and those whom he pardons he loves, and those he loves, he will trust and admit them to honour, and treat them as friends, with the greatest security and confidence. By this means he demonstrates the greatness of his own mind, the largeness of his heart, and the infallibility of his wise­dom; that he is above fear, and above surprizal; hereby he assures the great value he hath for true goodness, that it alone, and nothing else comparably [Page 265] sways with him: and hereby he lays the mightiest obligations upon men to be good,Joseph. and to persevere so. Thus Augustus made Herod of a formidable enemy become a faithfull friend,Antiqu. li. 15. c. 10. and several others have made the like experiment. And now this would lead me immediately to the second Stage of this part of the Parable, namely, the accumulative kindness the Father shews to the Son; but I will crave the Readers patience a little whilst I make a few practical reflections upon this we have said al­ready.

§ VII. And in the first place, besides all we have yet behind, this that we have discoursed hitherto re­presents to us the blessed and comfortable condition of justification and peace with God. O blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord impu­teth not iniquity, Psal. 32. 1, 2.

TO have all a man's debts cancelled, his follies past over and buried in forgetfullness, his deformities covered, his Conscience quieted, and the light of God's countenance to shine upon him; to have no fright­full reflection upon what is past, no dismal prospect of what is to come, no old story ripped up, no for­mer quarrel revived, no latent displeasure, no ran­cour nor jealousy harboured against us: This must needs fill a man with chearfullness in all conditions, and bear him up above all adversities, above pover­ty, reproach, sickness, confinement, and whatsoever can befall us in this world. Such a man shall not need to resort to drink and jollity, to relax his thoughts, to divert his anxiety, to bear up his spirit; he hath comfort from within, a continual feast in his own Conscience. Who shall lay any thing to his charge? it [Page 266] is God which justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died,—Who shall separate him from the love of God? shall tribulation, or distress, &c. Rom. 8. 33, 34, 35. The sting of all these things is taken out, since God hath pardoned his sin.

BUT on the contrary, when a man knows God is angry with him, and his own Conscience upbraids and dogs him, the sad remembrance of his many pro­vocations terrify him, and the fearfull expectation of wrath to come alarms him; he must needs be in a case like that of Belshazzar, Daniel 5. when the fingers of an hand were seen writing upon the wall over him in the midst of all his jollity, His countenance was changed, his thoughts were troubled, the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. All the entertainments of sense do little in this case; nay, they are flat and insipid, and the smiles of the world no whit chear a man so long as God frowns upon him.

IT was an ingenious device whereby a Gentle­man of this Nation represented his condition in a pub­lic entertainment at Court; he sets out a Ship bit­terly opprest by a tempest, and ready to perish under its difficulties; and in the mean while a Rain-bow appearing, towards which this word is addressed, quid tu si pereo? q. d. ‘What am I the better for hopes and smiles, for Court favour and countenance, whilst in the mean time my condition admits no delay, and I am ruined in my private fortunes?’

BUT as the torments of guilt are incomparably more severe then the afflictions of outward fortune, so it is far more unreasonable to think to allay them by the blandishments of the world, then the other by Court Holy Water. No, it is nothing but God's mercy in the pardon of sin that can alleviate the trou­bles, [Page 267] and abate the anguish of Conscience; and when he is pleased upon repentance to do that, then he saith to the Soul, as Christ Jesus said to the Paralytick, Matth. 9. 2. Son be of good chear, thy sins are forgiven thee; or as the same our Saviour to Zaccheus, This day is salvation come to thy house.

2. SECONDLY, since God pardons sinners in that ample manner we have before exprest; i. e. so frankly as that neither the greatness, multitude, repetition, or other aggravation of sin hinders him; and so fully as that no old score remains upon record against the Penitent: it may raise in us great admi­ration of his infinite goodness, beget the most amia­ble notions of him in our minds, and provoke us to love him with all our hearts. So our Saviour con­cludes in the Gospel, that where most is forgiven, there must undoubtedly lie the greatest obligations of love and gratitude. The Apostle tells us Rom. 5. 7. That scarcely for a righteous man will one die, but for a good man some would even dare to die. All God's At­tributes of power, and wisedom, and holiness, are very amiable and lovely, but this of his goodness in forgiving sins comes most home to us, in that he doth not rigidly insist on his own right, but comply with our necessity, and relieve our misery. To give and bestow benefits upon us is goodness, but to forgive is greater, because here he divests himself of his own right, recedes from his own claim, and that for our unspeakable benefit. In short, he seems not to con­sider himself but us only, in the dispensations of his mercy: he is as good as good can be, and therefore there is all the reason in the world that we should love him as much as is possible. And one of the best and most acceptable ways of expressing that is that which.


[Page 268] 3. THIRDLY, I make a third inference, viz. that we imitate this goodness and mercifullness of his; this is prest upon us by our Saviour, Be ye mercifull as your Father in Heaven is mercifull. It is said of Cato that the strict sanctity of his own life made him a severe and rigid Magistrate; he knew not how to pardon in other men what he would not permit in himself. If God who is a holy and immaculate Being should severely animadvert our failings, we could not blame him though we were undone by it; nay, it ought to be the greatest wonder to us in the whole world that he doth not do so, considering the great­ness of his Majesty, the justice and wisedom of his Laws, and such other things of this nature, as we have formerly represented. But it is the most absurd thing in nature, that we who are great offenders our selves, that have infinite need of mercy at God's hands, that we should be cruel and vindictive towards each other; that God should cover our follies, and we blazon those of other men; shall he pardon us worms, and we be remorsless towards our Brethren? doth he consider humane infirmity, bind up the wounds of the contrite, so as to leave no scar or blemish be­hind of all their former miscarriages? and do we rake in the wounds, proclaim the follies, uncover the na­kedness and shame of our neighbour? is it tolerable for us to equal our selves with God? or are offences greater against us then against him? shall we dare to do what we dare not wish should be done to us? Do not we pray, Enter not into judgment with thy Ser­vants? &c. and confess, That if God be extream to mark what we have done amiss, that none can a­bide it; and do we scrupulously weigh, severe­ly aggravate, and rigorously animadvert the sins of others against our selves? doth God forgive us [Page 269] by talents, and we unmercifully exact the utmost farthing?

INDEED, we may observe it to be the genius and custom of evil men, to remember invidiously the faults which penitent men have forsaken, to the end that they may revenge themselves upon them for that change which condemns their own obstinate per­severance in such courses; or as hoping to excuse or justify their constant naughtiness, by remarking the temporary compliance of those other with them, whose contrary course now shames and reproaches them: But it is quite otherwise with all good men, they partly out of a sense of humanity, partly to in­courage men to repentance, and partly also to con­firm and secure such as have repented from all tempta­tions to apostasy, draw a curtain over their former misdemeanours, and forget what they have forsaken and God hath forgiven; therefore if we will either take pattern by God or them, we ought to doe so too.

LASTLY, but above all the rest, the conside­ration of God's pardon, and the egregious circum­stances thereof, should be a mighty incouragement to all sinners to repentance; when we remember how gracious a Father we grieve by a willfull destroying of our selves, how much he pities us, and longs for our return; what a serene countenance, hearty wel­come, full pardon, gracious reception; and how in­numerable and inestimable blessings we shall have poured out upon us at our so doing. And this brings me again to the second part of the penitent Son's en­tertainment, to which therefore I now proceed.

Of Sanctification.

  • § I. What is meant by the best Robe: and that it is the usual phrase of Scripture to set out the ornaments of the mind by those of the body.
  • § II. Sanctification (in different respects) both goes before, and follows after Justification.
  • § III. Three remarkable differences betwixt the measure of Sanctification which God requires, and that which he accepts for the present: or the different stature of Grace before Justification and after it.
  • § IV. The ways by which God works men up to those higher measures of Sanctification which he requires. As 1. By mighty obligation, working upon their gra­titude and ingenuity. 2. By the efficacy of Faith.
  • 3. By the gift of the Holy Ghost.

§ 1. THERE is a never failing spring of kindness and good will in Parents towards their Children, which flows with that life and vigour that nothing is able to dam it up or interrupt it so, but that if it be obstructed one way, it breaks out and discovers it self another. If the Children prove singularly good and vertuous, then paternal affection bears a mighty stream, over­flows all its banks; the Parents feel an unspeakable delight and satisfaction, and their Children are then the Crown of their age, their joy and triumph. If [Page 271] they happen to be but tolerable, they are ready to interpret all to the best, and prone to heap blessings and kindnesses upon them. And if they degenerate and prove very bad and undutifull, this though it checks the tide, yet cannot divert the current; for at worst they cannot cease to pity them. There is in like manner an everlasting propension in Almighty God to do good to men, insomuch that when they are very bad he pities them; as soon as they begin to be good he loves and blesses them, but when they become generously vertuous and holy, he takes com­placency in them; and all these different degrees of divine favour we have lively represented to us in the Parable before us. But we are now upon the second of them, namely, the great and singular blessings which the Father frankly bestows upon his Son now that he hath repented of his extravagancy, and is re­conciled to him. And under this rank we may rec­kon these three special instances.

FIRST, whereas the Father observed his Son to return in a very pitifull plight, either quite naked, or at most covered with rags; he therefore calls for the best Robe and puts it on him, that not only necessity may be provided for, and his naked­ness covered, but he will have him appear in an equi­page suitable to the Son of such a Father.

AGAIN Secondly, whereas the Son in contem­plation of his present distress and former miscarriages, had no higher ambition then to be admitted into the condition of an hired Servant; now the Father on the other side will have him adorned with the Ensigns of a person of quality, and of a Son, and therefore puts a Ring on his Hand which hath in all Ages, and amongst most Nations been used to denote either eminent qua­lity, or singular favor.

[Page 272] THIRDLY, the Son in the time of his rebel­lion, amongst other misfortunes became a slave (as we have observed before) and amongst most Nations it hath been the custom for such to goe bare-foot, and only Freemen to be shod; now the Father in token of his Son's emancipation, commands to put shooes on his feet.

ALL which three things together amount to this, That the Father having forgiven his Son upon his sub­mission and return, now puts him into as good a con­dition in all respects as he was in before his rebellion. And from thence according to the Analogy of the Parable we may infer, that our Heavenly Father up­on the sincere repentance of sinners is so fully recon­ciled to them, that they stand upon the same terms with him as if they had never sinned; they are resto­red to as good a condition as that of Adam in inno­cency. And we might content our selves with this general application, but that St. Chrysostom, St. Jerom, St. Austin, Theophylact, and the generality of the An­cients carry it further, and make a particular interpre­tation of these several passages; in conformity to whose judgments we will thus render the meaning of the three aforesaid favours.

  • 1. By the best Robe is to be understood the excellent ornament of more compleat holiness and fuller Sanctifi­cation, which God works in, and bestows upon a sinner upon his reconciliation to himself.
  • 2. By the Ring is intimated the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is conferred upon those men that are justi­fied and sanctified as the pledge of their adoption, and earnest of their inheritance.
  • 3. By the Shooes, the honour of being imployed in the service of God for the drawing others home to him. The [Page 273] grounds of which interpretations I will assign as I han­dle the particulars severally, and I begin with the first.

1. THE Best Robe, Stolam (saith St. Jerom) quam Adam peccando perdiderat, stolam quae in alia parabola dicitur indumentum nuptiale, The Robe which A­dam lost when he sinned, and in defect of which he co­vered himself with Fig-leaves, that Robe which in ano­ther Parable is called the Wedding Garment. Chrysost. homilia [...]. And St. Chrysostom, [...], &c. The Gar­ment of an heavenly contexture, the white Robe which they are cloathed with that are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with Fire; agreeably herewith Theophy­lact, the best or first Robe, (for so the Greek word in the Text imports) that is, (saith he) [...], the ancient Robe, which we wore before we sinned, that which the Scripture means when it saith put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, put ye off the old vicious habits and practises, and imitate the example of Christ Jesus, and put on the holy temper of the Gospel.

WHOSOEVER hath been ever so little con­versant in the Holy Scripture, cannot but have ob­served it to be the usual stile thereof, to denote both the inward qualities of the mind, and the outward accustomary actions of the life by the garments of the body; and it would be unnecessary, and therefore tedious, to recite the many passages there to be found to that purpose. But I cannot omit that in the Revelations, Chap. 19. Vers. 8. To her was given to be arrayed in fine linnen, clean and white, for white linnen is the righteousness of Saints. By the Woman is there meant the Church of Christ, called the Lamb's wife, whose ornaments are righte­ousness [Page 274] and holiness, and they are metaphorically re­presented by white garments.

AND if we consider all the uses of Garments, there is nothing more exactly corresponds therewith, nor more fit to be figuratively expressed by allusion to them, then holy and vertuous qualifications. For if Garments are used for distinction, what makes a greater and truer distinction betwixt man and man then their lives and tempers? It is not being high or low, rich or poor, noble or ignoble, learned or idi­otical, which makes so great a difference betwixt them; as when one is good and vertuous, and ano­ther vicious and prophane.

IF Garments are for ornament, and to cover our uncomeliness, what is there represents a man more lovely and beautifull then the ornament of a quiet mind, a just temper, an holy life? and what disgui­ses and deforms men like to vice and debauchery?

IF again, Garments are for defence against the in­juries of weather, and other accidents, what is there that gives a man that security and confidence which innocency of life and sincere piety affords him? and on the other side, what exposes and lays a man open to all the calamities of this life, and to the wrath of God in the world to come, but naughty and evil pra­ctises, proceeding from a corrupt and vicious temper? Wherefore there is both plain reason, and good autho­rity of all kinds to make this application of the first favour, which the reconciled Father vouchsafes his returning Son, and to say that thereby is denoted in the figurative sense, that God when he hath pardon­ed the penitent, then confers further measures of san­ctification upon him.

[Page 275] § II. BUT if it shall be said that Sanctification must goe before Justification, inasmuch as though an earthly Parent may be reconciled to his Son that is not truely good, yet God cannot be reconciled to sinners continuing so, or untill they become new men; and therefore some other allegory is to be sought here, and not that which we (concurrently with the Fa­thers) have pitched upon. I answer, the doctrine is true which this objection is grounded upon, but the inference therefrom will not reach us; for I have shewed already, that some measure of real sanctifica­tion must goe before justification and pardon, because God though he bear a constant good-will to mankind, yet (as the objection well suggests, and we have ac­knowledged before,) is he not transported with any fondness towards any man's meer person, so as to be reconciled to him whilst he stands at defiance with himself, because he is a pure, holy and just Majesty, and consequently cannot without denying himself, and contradiction to his own nature, either delight in a vicious person, or hate a good man. And be­sides, if it were consistent with his nature, yet will not his wisedom, and the interest of his government of the world permit that he cause the Sun of his coun­tenance and favour to shine alike upon the vicious and the vertuous, him that feareth him, and him that feareth him not. And therefore he requires of all those sinners that hope to recover his favour, that they have not only a serious sense of, and hearty remorse for their sins; but actual reformation of their evil ways, at least so far as they have opportunity, in which consists that repentance which we carefully described under the second part of this Parable. Not­withstanding, it is true also, that he accepts begin­nings, and pardons as soon as the conversion is true [Page 276] and real, and before those vital principles of grace attain their full maturity and perfection. Wherefore being both an holy and a mercifull God, as his be­nignity on the one hand prompts him to receive such into mercy, who have sincere though weak begin­nings of the divine life; so on the other hand, the pu­rity and perfection of his nature puts him upon requi­ring fuller measures of conformity to himself in those he makes the objects of his mercy and favour, then what for the present he accepts of; in consequence of which it is, that having (as we have shewed) received the penitent to pardon, he then proceeds to make him a vessel of honour fit for his use, by con­ferring upon him further degrees of sanctification, i. e. putting upon him the best robe.

AGREEABLY to which sense speak these fol­lowing Scriptures, Jo. 15. 2. Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bear more fruit, Ephes. 5. 14. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. And again, Phil. 1. 6. He that hath begun a good work in you, will also per­form (or perfect, [...],) it till the day of Jesus Christ. All which Scriptures plainly intimate thus much, that some measures of sincere sanctification goe before justification, the full accomplishment of which is by the grace of God to be gradually attained afterwards.

IT was amongst the well known Paradoxes of the Stoicks, [...], that all vertues were equal, and that all goodness consisted in puncto, in a very point; which notionNihil in­venies re­ctius recto non magìs quàm vero verius; om­nis in modo virtus est, modus est certa men­sura. Seneca confirms and ex­plains thus, That as there is but one truth, for that no­thing can be more then true, and therefore no one thing can be truer then another that is true; so (saith he) there is but one rectitude of humane actions, Senec. Ep. 65. vertue con­sists in a certain proportion, which whatsoever exactly [Page 277] observes not, is not vertue. And agreeably hereto Plu­tarch reports the saying of Aristo of Chios, Plutarch, de virt. moral. that there could be but one vertue, which therefore he calls [...], or the health of the mind. But notwithstand­ing all these sayings of that stubborn Sect, and what­ever else may be pretended by such as tread in their steps, there is without doubt a great deal of diffe­rence between what God will mercifully accept, and what he may and doth righteously require; between those lower degrees of grace that may be sincere, and find acceptance for the present, and that generous state of holiness which God designs to bring men to by the methods of the Gospel: or to follow their Metaphor, as there is a vast difference betwixt Ath­letick health, and that proper for a student, so is there no less between the strength of a new convert, and the attainment of an old, stable, and well exercised Christian; and consequently allowing the sincerity of the former, there is still room for further improve­ments, and this fuller sanctification which we here understand by the Best Robe.

FOR the clearer eviction of which, both because it may be of use to comfort beginners for the present, and also to cure their sloth and security for the future, I subjoin these three particulars to lay open the dif­ference betwixt the usual stature of beginners, and the highest attainments of great proficients in Reli­gion.

§ III. 1. WHEN a sinner is newly converted from his evil ways, although the change be very sin­cere, and such as in time will draw after it an univer­sal reformation, yet usually it expresses it self at first, by a remarkable zeal against the most gross and no­torious miscarriages which such a person hath been [Page 278] liable to, and doth not presently amend all the lesser deviations of his life, partly because perhaps he doth not yet discern them, and partly because it is possible he hath yet so much to doe of the former kind, as to employ all his intention and power for the present. The new birth is frequently in the Scripture represent­ed by the natural, and in nothing doth the resem­blance hold more true then in this, viz. as in nature there is not a perfect man formed at first, with all his members, and in his just dimensions, but only a salient particle, a little fountain of life that bubbles up, and by degrees displays it self in all the curious lines of humane shape; so here in the works of grace, there is a vital principle, a divine particle, that in its first essays draws only a heart or some of the great viscera of the new man, but being lively and vigo­rous, in process of time displays it self in all the functi­ons of holy life. They therefore that talk of an in­stantaneous conversion in such sort, as to imagine that a man dead in trespasses and sins should present­ly start up sound and perfect, and without so much as his grave-cloaths about him, neither understand themselves, nor have any experience of the or­derly and almost insensible progress of the divine grace.

IT is true, in every regenerate person there is from the very beginning, a resolution against all sin, a detestation of, and declared hostility against, all the works of the Devil; but the war is not finished as soon as it is proclaimed or commenced. He that fights against Principalities and Powers must war a great while, and perhaps have the fortune of the Romans, who were said, Praelio saepe, bello nunquam superati, they get ground daily upon the whole, though sometimes defeated in particular designs: there [Page 279] is no decretorian battel, nor is the business decided upon a push: it is sincerely done to conquer our be­loved lusts and greater enormities, though yet some smaller infirmities be not vanquished, so long as they are honestly resolved against; for it is well and wise­ly done, first to break the head and main body of the enemy, and then it will be easy to glean up the straglers. If once the principal disease be remedied, the symptoms will by degrees be out-grown, and most men of that rank I am speaking of, find it a great while before they come to have nothing to doe but to conquer wandring thoughts, imperfect duties, and beginnings of evil.

BESIDES, it is very considerable that sins are not only contrary to vertue, but to each other: and as it is usual with wise Princes against a powerfull enemy, to associate not only their friends and ancient Allies, but also those they do not love, so long as they are enemies to the common enemy; so it hap­pens here, that a Convert zealously combating against some one vice, in studious declension of that, insen­sibly slips into some degrees of the other extream, and then finds it a fresh difficulty, vincere eos per quos vi­cisti, to conquer that other infirmity by which he conquered the former.

TO which purpose it is remarkable concerning that holy man St. Jerom, whilst he lived in the afflu­ence of the City, and used a free conversation, he felt frequent temptations of the flesh, and setting himself with all his might to mortify these, and to do it ef­fectually, retired into a desart, that he might both take away the cause, and the occasions of those dangers; but whilst in that retirement he exer­cises himself to great severity and austerity, he insensibly grew into a blameable asperity of tem­per [Page 280] which needed a second labour to subdue.

I will not say as some do, that as God would have some remainders of the seven Nations preserved a­mongst the Children of Israel in the Land of Canaan, to be continually as thorns in their eyes, and goads in their sides; so he orders it that there should be some remainders of the old Adam in us to keep us al­ways humble and employed; for certainly God would have all sin expelled our natures. But this I say, that as Israel was truely in possession of the Land of Canaan, from such time as Joshua had conquered those powers that made head against them, and had put the chief Cities and places of strength into their hands, notwithstanding that a long time after some of those old inhabitants remained amongst them, and were no very good Neighbours; so I affirm that so long as there is not only a resolution against all sin, but a constant hostile pursuit of it, and that a man goes on conquer­ing and to conquer; such a man is a true Israelite, though he have not perfected his conquest; nor can yet say with St. Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, and therefore henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righ­teousness.

BUT now forasmuch as God, both for his own glory and service, the comfort of the Convert's own Soul, and his greater capacity of the Kingdom of Heaven, designs to bring men to higher degrees of sanctification then what he was pleased to accept of when he first received the Penitent to mercy, there­fore he afterwards puts upon him the Best Robe.

2. IT is to be considered that the beginnings of all things (that are any way notable especially) are wrought with pain and difficulty; insomuch that ne­mo repente fit turpissimus, no man finds it very easy at [Page 281] first to doe any egregious wickedness. Men become e­vil by degrees, and there is proficiency even in the Devil's school; and therefore much more reasonably may it be expected that those that first enter into a strict course of vertue, should be sensible of difficulty in their first undertaking.

IT was an ingenious answer which Plutarch reports to have been given by a Lacedemonian Turor,Plutarch. de prof. in virt. when he was asked what he pretended to, and of what a­vail his indeavours were; I make (saith he) that to become easy and delightfull which is of it self good and necessary. It is true, Christ Jesus tells us his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, and without doubt it is so, but it is a yoke and a burden still, and no man finds it easy untill he have exercised himself to it: rewards and punishments set before us, and reason and reso­lution working thereupon will prevail with men to doe their duty; but only practice and assuetude makes it become easy and familiar so to doe; especi­ally supposing (as we do in the present case) a man but lately accustomed to indulge himself in a course of sin, let such a man's conversion be never so real and hearty, however it cannot be expected that he should presently do Christ's commands, and say they are not grievous. It is certain such a man, if he be what we suppose him, that is, sincere, will resist his inclination, and change his course; but because it was lately a course, there will yet be an inclination towards it, and consequently a conflict and difficulty in avoyding it; for (as we said before) it is only one custome can perfectly supplant another, and only habit can imitate nature, and make easy: the cutting off our corrupt members is a hard task, till by time and degrees they become mortified, and then it is done without any considerable pain or difficulty. [Page 282] Whosoever hath any principle of divine life, or true sense of God in him, will not allow himself in the neglect of God's worship, yet he will find it no easy business to hold his heart intent and constant in it, till it have become customary and natural to him; and then it is so far easy and delightfull to him, that he knows not how to live without it. Now although that state which tuggs at the Oare, and draws on hea­vily, may be sincere, because it discharges its duty ho­nestly, though with great difficulty; and therefore find acceptance with a good God: yet forasmuch as his intention is that we should become partakers of the divine nature, and that it be our meat and drink to doe his will, that the way of his commands be to us as our necessary food, that we should do his will with that alacrity on earth with which it is done by the Angels in Heaven, that our wills should be perfectly conformed to his, and Religion become natural to us, partly to the end that we may do him the more ho­nour (for there is nothing doth so much reputation to the divine Law and government, as the chearfull obe­dience of his Subjects) partly also that we may be the more fit for the Kingdom of Heaven, for those most easily fall in with the heavenly Quire who have pra­ctised their part beforehand; therefore since he de­sires that we should not only be not evil, but gene­rously good; nor meerly draw on heavily and un­comfortably, but fly as upon the wings of a Cherub in his service; it seems good to him when he hath pardoned a penitent to confer upon him greater mea­sures of Sanctification.

3. A young Convert though he have all the parts and members of a perfect man in Christ, and should also be supposed in great measure to have overcome the difficulties which always attend vertuous begin­nings, [Page 283] yet he is but a beginner, and must needs be conceived weak and feeble in his whole contexture; he is not only apt to be abused with Sophistry, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but less able to bear the burdens and to resist the temptations he must expect to meet with; the traces of his former course are not yet worn out, and so he is the apter to return; he is not at the top but going up hill, and may easily faint or slip; he hath not such experience of the wiles of the Devil, but he may be imposed up­on; he is not so flesht with victory, but his heart may fail him; in short, grace is rather a disposition then an habit in him, and vertue more an inclination then a nature, and therefore he may fall away. But there is a virile state of vertue attainable when duty is turned into nature, and that which is best in it self is also most pleasant and delectable. When a man is so long exercised in the ways of holiness that it is as much a road to him, as the course of sin was, ei­ther heretofore to him, or is now to others; and neither the length of the race is tedious to him, nor the dispatch difficult; when a man shall neither stag­ger in his choice, nor be flat and formal in his prose­cution; he hath tasted the Grapes of Canaan, and never more longs to return to Aegypt, but disdains the Flesh-pots, the Onion, and the Garlick thereof as much as he formerly groaned under the servitude. Such a man having put on the whole armour of God, [...]. is strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, and defies all the powers of darkness: the Devil himself is ashamed to tempt him, having been so often baffled by him; and he stands immovable as a Rock, stable as an Angel,Just. Mart. Ep. ad Di­ognet. and all the Gates of Hell cannot prevail against him. Now because this admirable condition is both desirable and possible, and that which God [Page 284] designs to bring men to, therefore he proceeds to su­per-adde to the Convert further measures of sanctifi­cation.

NOW for the way of effecting this, besides those secret ways of working which we cannot penetrate into, by which it pleases God to bring about this glo­rious design, there are these three ways following which fall within our understanding.

§ IV.By what means the further sanctifica­tion of the penitent is carried on. FIRST, there is nothing more plainly discernible in a Convert then that the first workings of the grace of God in his heart revive a true in­genuity of spirit in him, which is the very ground­work and foundation of all improvements; and then God being pleased graciously and freely to give him the pardon of all his sins, lays so mighty an obligati­on upon that ingenuity, as is of force to put all the powers of the Soul upon their utmost activity, and thereby the temper of such a person is marvellously raised and improved. For there is a vast difference betwixt the efficacy of a spirit of bondage, and the spirit of adoption: if the former may be able to re­strain sin, yet it can never inflame men to generous goodness; or if that impresses a caution of offending out of apprehension of the wrath of God, the latter rises higher, and stirs up indeavour of returning love for love; the one is apt to inquire after the minimum quod sic (as they call it) the lowest measure of grace that will but serve the turn to avoid Hell; the other seeks aliquid eximium, and thinks nothing enough by way of gratefull return, and therefore courts occasi­ons, and rejoyces in difficulties as happy opportuni­ties of demonstrating his ingenuous sense of his obli­gations.

[Page 285] WHEN Cyrus had vanquished Croesus, and having it in his power to destroy him, not only preserved him but imployed him, and made him privy to his Counsels; meer generosity provoked him to become not a true Prisoner, but a faithfull Friend and use­full Counsellor. But our Saviour gives us the most il­lustrious example of that I am saying, Luk. 7. 37. in the instance of a certain Woman that had been a great sinner, who finding out our Saviour where he was at Dinner in a Pharisee's House, brings a box of very costly ointment, and having washed his feet with penitent tears, wiped them with her hair and kissed them; she anoints them also with the precious balm she had brought for that purpose. The Phari­sees murmured at the familiar approach and access of such an ignominious person; Judas grudged the cost, and all the Disciples wondred at the novelty of the business, but our Saviour applies himself to Simon, and expounds the business to him by a Parable, vers. 41, &c. There was a certain creditour had two debtors, &c. whereby he silences the murmurs of the one, and removes the wonder of the other, shewing the power of gratitude, and the admirable efficacy of great obligation upon ingenuous minds.

SECONDLY, when God receives the Peni­tent into his favour, he gives him by faith a full per­suasion of the great things in another world; the re­al and serious apprehensions of which are able not only to place him above all the charms below, and to make him disdain all the baits of the Devil, but also to transport him with love and desire, and to car­ry him with full fail in the prosecution of those in­comparable glories thus discovered to him, and there­by marvellously heightens and improves him in holi­ness. So the Apostle, Hebr. 11. 1. pronounces of [Page 286] faith that it is [...], the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, that is, it maks those things that seemed meer fables and Romances to other men, to be the greatest realities in the world; and those things that being looked upon at a distance seemed small and inconsiderable, and had little effect upon men's minds, now being made near and present are of mighty influence, as he shews at large histori­cally throughout that long and excellent Chapter.

FOR this reason it is that all the accomplishments of a Christian are ascribed to his faith, Acts 15. 9. Having purified their hearts by faith; as if that subli­med a man, and drew him off from his Lees, 2 Pet. 1. 4. There are given to us exceeding great and preci­ous promises, whereby you might be partakers of the di­vine nature; as if the objects of faith duely operating upon us were able not only to raise us above the world, but above our selves, and to transfuse a di­vine temper into us: For so he goes on, vers. 5, 6, 7. Adde to your faith vertue, and to vertue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, &c. the word he uses is [...], q. d. faith will lead the dance to all other vertues, or do but set that on work, and it will draw on the whole Encyclopaedy, and circle of graces.

IT is matter of daily observation, that not only men's industry is increased (which is a great matter) but their parts also are raised and inlarged proportio­nably to the incouragements set before them; great hopes make great men, and fit them for great under­takings, insomuch that Quintilian inquiring the rea­son why the former Ages bred greater wits, and more exquisite Orators then latter days, resolves it into this, that those times afforded the greatest honour and in­couragement to them. And it is an ordinary remark in [Page 287] Historians, that those Princes and States have always the ablest Ministers, whose fortunes have presented to them the most honourable employments and great­est rewards. But it is more to our business to observe that although in the darker times of the Law there were some very great and admirable persons, who were the prodigies of the Ages they lived in, yet ordinarily Christianity ought to doe and doth afford far the most and bravest Hero's, by reason of the mighty great and clear promises therein exhibited. The Law (saith the Apostle, Hebr. 7. 19.) made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did. For shall not the glories of Heaven out-shine the feli­cities of a Land of Canaan, and the belief of the one be as operative as that of the other? And what though the one be present, and the other to come? yet to every good man this is as certain as that, and to every wise man the unspeakable odds in the things, abundantly recompences that disadvantage of circum­stances. What man that hath a persuasion of eternal life can choose but disdain the present life, further then as it is a time of probation for the other? and scorn that the mean pleasures and allurements here should interrupt his course thither: what difficulties will he not glory in, and what duties will he not per­form to assure his interest therein? 1 Jo. 3. 3. He that hath this hope purifies himself, as God is pure, especi­ally when a man shall find these things not only made certain to him by faith, but made near to him also. When he shall consider himself now in a fair way to those coelestial mansions, and that every day he approaches nearer and nearer to Heaven. Now there­fore he will cast off all the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light; when he remembers, Rom. 13. 11. That now his salvation is nearer then when he [Page 288] first believed, and finds that a little more exercise of faith and patience will bring him to his desired ha­ven.

THIRDLY and lastly, our heavenly Father puts this Best Robe upon the Son whom he hath re­ceived and pardoned, not only by the Ministery of his Gospel, and all the ordinary advantages of his Church and Family, but extraordinarily improves the sanctification of such a person, by the especial super­intendency, guidance and influence of his Holy Spi­rit. The consideration of which brings me to the next member of the Parable, He put a Ring on his hand; which expresses the second blessing the recon­ciled Father bestows upon his penitent Son; which we are to treat of in the next Chapter.

Of the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

  • § I. The difference between the visits or motions of the Holy Spirit, and the gift or residence of it: and that the Holy Ghost doth reside with, and inhabit very good men.
  • § II. The wonderfull comfort and advantages thereof in four respects.
  • § III. That although some good men have no experience of this residence of the Holy Spirit, it is nevertheless certainly attainable in this life, and the reasons of that case. The peculiar qualifications of persons fit for the entertainment of this divine Guest.
  • § IV. How to distinguish the motions of God's Spirit from the impressions of Sathan, or the results of our own temper.

§ 1. THE second favour which the Father bestows upon his Son after he is recon­ciled to him, is, He puts a Ring upon his Hand. This hath by the common consent of the world been sym­bolical either of freedom and ingenuity, of riches and affluence, of singular favour and respect, or of quali­ty and nobility. Most of these things St. James bears testimony to in that passage of his, Chap. 2. 2. If there come into your assemblies a man having a gold ring, and goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, and ye have respect to him in the [...] [Page 288] [...] [Page 289] [Page 290] gay cloathing, &c. And for the rest, at the famous battel of Cannae where the Romans suffered a total de­feat by the Carthaginians, the greatness of the victory was estimated by this (as Livy observes) that more then a bushel of Rings were taken by the Conquerers from the Hands of the slain, whereby it appeared how many principal Romans and persons of Quality fell in the battel. And thus the Father's putting a Ring on his Son, should signify in the general his re-instating him in the quality and honour of a Son: But St. Je­rom, St. Austin, St. Chrysostom, Theophylact and others, consider here more particularly, that a principal use of the Ring was for Sealing, as commonly bearing the image, impress, or cognizance of him that wore it, and consequently they apply this passage in the my­stical sense to the gift of the Holy Ghost: St. Chryso­stom expresses it thus; [...], Give my Son a Ring also, that he may have the earnest of the Holy Spirit, and carrying that about him, may be kept in safe-guard by it; that bearing my signet, he may both become for­midable to all his enemies, and publickly appear the Son of such a Father. And this interpretation is the more natural because this is the usual method of God's fa­vours, that after he hath justified, then he further sanctifies, and for the completion of that gives his Holy Spirit.

IT was the saying of one of the Ancients, that man is, [...], The wager which God and the Devil contend about: But when a man hath given himself up to sensuality, or any kind of sin, then the title is decided, and such a person [Page 291] becomes the Devil's peculiar; and on the contrary, when he sincerely addicts himself to vertue, God recovers his right, and takes possession of him by his Holy Spirit: agreeably hereunto we reade, Ephes. 1. 13. After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spi­rit of promise: and also 2 Cor. 1. 22. Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit: and again Eph. 4. 30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit, where­by ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. For the more clear understanding of which, we are to take notice, that God doth employ his Holy Spirit about men before conversion, and in order to it; so Gen. 6. 3. he is said by his Spirit to have striven with the old world; and after that in like manner with his an­cient people the Jews, for Isa. 63. 10. they are said to have vexed his Holy Spirit: and in general to all sorts of men both Jew and Gentile, especially such as have been baptized into Christianity, the Holy Spi­rit applies it self, awakening Conscience, suggest­ing good thoughts, and giving check to their course of sin, insomuch that whatsoever degree or begin­nings of good there is in any man, the Spirit is the first mover of it. For as no good can come but from God, so it is not reasonable to think that there is any man so despised by God, but that some overtures of good have been made to him; nor is it worthy of God to imagine, that this good Spirit doth quite abandon any man upon whom it hath begun to work, till such person hath resisted, quenched, grieved, and at last drove it away from him. But this is not that address of the Holy Spirit which we are considering of, these are only the motions or visits which he vouchsafes to make (pendente lite, or) whilst it is yet undetermin­ed, to whom men will ultimately belong. That therefore which we are concerned about is the pecu­liar [Page 302] priviledge of very good men, such as have che­rished the motions, entertained the visits, and com­plied with the intimations of the Holy Spirit; and when it is come to that, from thenceforth he doth not visit them in transitu only, or call upon them, but resides and inhabits with them, and becomes as it were a constant principle, a Soul of their Souls: in short, they are the temples of the Holy Ghost.

THIS I take to be that which our Saviour means, Jo. 14. 23. If any man love me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him; and that al­so of St. John in the name of our Saviour, Rev. 3. 20. Behold I stand at the door and knock, (which phrase signifies the previous and more ordinary motions of his grace) And if any man open to me, (i. e. if men at­tend to my admonitions and invitations, and break off their custom of sin which barrs the door of their Souls against me) then I will come in, and sup with him, &c. (i. e. then I will be a familiar guest, or in­habitant with him) and this is both interpreted and confirmed by St. Paul, 1 Cor. 3. 16. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? i. e. being sanctified and made fit for the residence of that heavenly Guest, he hath taken possession of you as his house and temple: and more expresly yet by St. John, 1 Ep. 3, 24. He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth with us by his Spirit, which he hath given us.

§ II. NOW this inhabitation or residence of the Holy Spirit is called a Seal, and men are said to be sealed by the Holy Spirit, because as seals use to de­note propriety, so God hereby marks out as it were [Page 303] such men for his own; i. e. as those that he hath a peculiar concern about, those that have an interest in him and he in them; and this is of wonderfull comfort and advantage, especially in these four respects.

1. THE Spirit thus inhabiting men, gives them a title not only to God's care and providence, but to an inheritance of Sons, to a participation of that unspeakable felicity wherewith himself is eternally happy and glorious. So the Apostle concludes in the forementioned place, Eph. 1. 13, 14. After ye believed ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance untill the time of the purchased possession. q. d. We are hereby assured of Heaven and glory hereafter, though we are not yet in possession of it: or, this is the pledge of our adoption, upon which the inheritance is intailed. Hence it is that the same Apostle, Rom. 8. 11. makes this an assured argument of our resurrection; But if the Spirit of him that raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. q. d. You cannot lie under the power of death and the bonds of the grave, but God will assert you to life and immortality, because you have a princi­ple of life the Holy Spirit in you, which will as sure­ly revive you, as it raised Jesus from the dead; for by his residence in you, you are marked out as be­longing to God, and thereby he hath taken possessi­on of you for himself.

WHEN God owned the Tabernacle amongst the Jews built by Moses, and after that the Temple built by Solomon, and solemnly dedicated to him, for his House or Palace wherein to dwell amongst that peo­ple, it pleased him as it were to take livery and sei­sin, by the cloud which on the behalf of the Divine [Page 294] Majesty hovered over them, and was therefore not improperly called by the Jews the Shekinah, or dwel­ling presence; and God was said to dwell between the Cherubims, because there this symbol of the divine presence subsisted. And as in the Christian Church all those miracles which the primitive Christians were inabled to perform, were principally to assure their minds that God owned them; and although they were destitute of humane help, and persecuted both by Jews and Gentiles, yet God was with them, in which respect the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter so often by our Saviour; I say, in those miraculous effusions of the Holy Spirit, the cloud as it were sate over the mercy-seat in the Christian Church, which was now departed from the Temple of the Jews, and denoted the collection of believers, both of Jews and Gentiles united under Christ Jesus, to be now God's peculiar houshold and family: So also to all holy men in all Ages God is present by his Spirit, by which they become Temples of the Holy Ghost; upon which the Apostle pronounces peremptorily, Rom. 8. 9. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his. Which I understand in this sense. q. d. He is not arrived at the excellent state of Christianity, that hath not experience of the residence of God's Holy Spirit in him.

ONLY this is to be remembred, that this resi­dence of the Holy Spirit in good men which we speak of, is not to be judged of by miraculous effects, nor are such to be expected now, because those were proper only for the first Ages, when whilst the Church was under persecuting Emperors, and in its infancy, God thought fit by such prodigious displays of his power and presence to make all the world see his concern for it; and that (as I said before) he had taken pos­session [Page 295] of it: but ordinarily, and especially in the case of private Christians, the presence of the Spirit with them, discovers it self by such effects as these fol­lowing. For

2. THE Spirit of God, though he doth not work miracles now, yet doth he not meerly take up his re­sidence in the hearts of holy men, but actuates them, prompts them forward in all good actions, helps and strengthens them in their duty, and inflames their re­solution and zeal in all brave and generous enterpri­zes; in respect of which we are said to be lead by the Spirit, to live and walk in the Spirit. Which is not so to be understood as if what good was done the Spirit did it for men; nor much less, as if he hurried men on whensoever they did well, and so for defect of such motion were liable to bear the blame of their ir­regularities when they did evil; for as on the one side he never moves but to that which is certainly good and agreeable to the standing rules of Scripture and natural reason, so neither on the other hand, when he incites to any such thing doth he overpower men, but he raises and actuates their native powers; re­moves impediments, cures their sloth; and in short, concurring with them, helps their infirmities; with which agrees that forementioned observation of Cice­ro, Nunquam vir magnus sine afflatu divino, That there never was a brave Hero, nor any admirable performance without divineinfluence.

3. THE Holy Spirit residing in the Souls of good men is also a spirit of confirmation, settling and esta­blishing their Souls against revolt and apostasy, and giving a kind of angelical stedfastness to them, that ill examples shall not draw them aside, nor tempta­tion prevail upon them; neither insinuations of false doctrine stagger them, nor prosperity and the blandish­ments [Page 306] of the world debauch them, nor afflictions and persecutions shake their constancy: for they are now built upon a rock; and though the rains descend, and the waves rise, and the winds blow, they stand immo­vable; or as St. John expresses it, Rev. 3. 12. they having overcome and obtained the reward of being under the conduct of this Holy Spirit, are now made pillars of the temple of God, and shall goe no more out. To which add that of St. Peter, 1 Ep. 1. 5. They are [...], kept (in Garison) by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

4. BESIDES all which in the last place, it is usual with the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of those holy men he inhabits with inexpressible joy, giving them the foretasts of the blessedness which they ex­pect to enjoy hereafter; insomuch that they do not altogether live by faith (which is their usual viati­cum) but in some measure by sense also, having a present glimpse of their future happiness, by means whereof they rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glo­ry; they exult, triumph and applaud themselves in their interest in God, and their glorious portion with him.

THE Holy Spirit carries men as God did Moses up to Mount Pisgah, to take a view of the good Land of promise, and affords them the prelibations of Heaven; the very relish of which blessedness upon their spirits puts them into a kind of ecstasy, that they fell not the troubles and vexations which may assault them from below; they triumph over morta­lity it self, and wish and long to die: when (like St. Stephen) they see Heaven opened, and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, their face (like his) shines like that of Angels, and a glory incircles them; they seem to hear the blessed Quire of Angels, and are [Page 297] ready to join in the Allelujah: in short, their Soul raises it self, and would fain take wing and fly thither presently.

THIS I think is that which is figuratively but excellently set forth by our Saviour in his Epistle to the Church of Pergamos, Rev. 2. 17. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna. Manna was called Angels food, and as the Jews ob­serve, it applied it self to every man's palate, and had that relish which every man desired: which ad­mirably expresses the joys of Heaven, which are for the present the entertainment of Angels; and when men come to enjoy them, shall fill all their powers, and leave no desire unsatisfied: And it is called hidden manna, because (as saith the Apostle) it doth not yet appear what we shall be: however, it seems some taste and anticipations of this shall those have in the mean time who overcome. But that which I principally intend is the next words, And I will give him a white stone with a new name written upon it, which no man knows but he that receiveth it. This passage some take to be an allusion to the custom at Athens, and some other Greek Common-wealths; where in capitall causes especially, the Citizens gave their Suffrages by White and Black Stones; and when the number of White Stones was greatest, the person at the Bar was absolved or acquitted. And thus the white stone in the Text should in the mystical sense import justifica­tion and pardon of sin. But this comes not up to the design of the place: and there is another custome which fits it better, and most probably was here al­luded to by our Saviour; (viz.) it was in use that those which conquered at the Olympick Games, had a token or ticket given them, expressing their names, and specifying the reward they were to have for [...] [Page 306] [...] [Page 297] [Page 298] their atchievements. In conformity to which our Sa­viour here seems to promise to those who acquit them­selves manfully and bravely in the conflict, or race of Christianity; that they shall receive an inward and invisible pledge and assurance of the glorious re­wards in the other world; which can be nothing else but this which we are speaking of, namely, the comforts of the Holy Ghost.

THIS is now the second Boon which our Hea­venly Father bestows upon the Son he receives, and is a very great and glorious one. This is the admi­rable effect of our Saviour's ascension into Heaven; the accomplishment of his promise, and the supply of his own presence to his servants till he take them up to himself. This is the glory of Christian Religi­on, that whensoever it is vigorously pursued, it yields this present advantage besides whatever is in reversion. And this is the mightiest incouragement to men to be generously good.

AND although things of this nature partly be­cause they are meerly divine favours, not naturally due to men, and so cannot be proved by reason; partly also being in their own nature invisible and transacted in secret, cannot be understood by the generality of men who have no part nor lot in this matter, but are apt to be looked upon as dreams and phansies (if not vain-glorious pretences and forgeries) yet that this we have been speaking of is a great rea­lity there can be no doubt, unless we will reject both the testimony of God and the experience of the best of men; so that it may justly seem either unneces­sary or fruitless to add any thing to what hath been already said on this point.

NOTWITHSTANDING, because I observe that there are two things which prejudice the minds [Page 299] of a great many men in this business, I will indeavour briefly to remove them, and then pass on.

THE first is grounded upon an observation that several good men have experience of no such matter; i. e. they are neither sensible of such a residence of the Holy Ghost in them, nor of any such ravishing com­forts as are pretended to accompany such a glorious Guest: and therefore they are apt to suspect either all is phansy, or at best that it is only some great rarity not the common portion of God's Children.

AGAIN, they observe that not only many good men are without pretences to the Spirit, but many evil men lay claim to it, and therewith frequently cheat themselves; and besides, countenance their evil de­signs by it, and under that pretence do a great deal the more mischief in the world. Therefore though they do not doubt but that God might think fit at the first planting of the Gospel to give his Holy Spi­rit as aforesaid, because upon many accounts there was then extraordinary necessity for it; and also the Spirit then given was so plainly miraculous, and gave such proof of it self, that there could be no suspicion of cheat in the case: yet forasmuch as both these things fail now, (viz. both the occasion and the dis­crimination) they think it safer to reject all such pre­tensions, then admitting them, to lay open a way for so much cheating and imposture as may be reasona­bly expected, when there is no certain way of de­tecting it.

NOW therefore if in the first place I can give a plain account how it may come to pass, that such men as are supposed in the first objection may be de­stitute of such advantages of the Holy Spirit as we have asserted to be the tokens of his residence; and then secondly, if I shew also how to prevent all im­posture, [Page 300] by distinguishing the operations of the Spirit from fancy and other allusions, then both the objections will be answered, and the Reader will not be offended with the digression.

§ III. AND to dispatch all briefly I begin with the first, to which I say, That as it is not usual with God to precipitate or prevent the course of natural causes, but to blesse and succeed them in their due and proper order; so neither in his especial providence, or in the acts of his grace, doth he delight to work per saltum, but gradually, according to the conditi­on of the subject, and its fitness to receive his impres­sions: accordingly though he be always ready to be­stow his Spirit, with all the comforts and advantages thereof; yet he expects and requires all due qualifica­tions and preparations before he confer it. Now there are these three especial qualifications for the reception of the Holy Ghost in the sense we speak of.

1. (AS I have intimated already) That a man be not only purged from grosser pollutions, and be­gin to have a love of holiness, but that he be singu­larly pure, so as at least not to admit of any volunta­ry transgression, and especially be above all sensuali­ty of what kind soever. It is observable in that sad miscarriage of David (which we have often had oc­casion to refer to) that it made him justly fear, and therefore earnestly pray, Psal. 51. that God would not thereupon take his Holy Spirit from him; and the Apostle when he is earnestly persuading the E­phesians, Not to grieve the Holy Spirit, Eph. 4. 30. whereby they were seald to the day of redemption, solemnly warns them in the verse before, That no corrupt (or obscene and filthy) communication proceed out of their mouths, [Page 301] as that which would assuredly argue their hearts to be no temple for the Holy Ghost; and again, in the verse after the aforesaid exhortation, he with the same earnestness gives them caution against all bitter­ness, and wrath, and clamour, &c. as intimating that those also defiled the Soul, and made it incapable of receiving the blessed Spirit. To which purpose the Jews have a common saying, Super animum turbidum non requiescit Spiritus Sanctus, That the Spirit of God requires a sedate even temper as his quiet habitation.

2. THE Spirit of God requires a lovely, sweet and benign frame of Spirit, and abhors that Hypochon­driack sourness and austerity, which yet some place a great deal of Religion in; when men will be always sighing and complaining, and peevishly refuse conso­lation. Jonah confidently told God he did well to be an­gry; and so these men seem to think they please God by grieving his Spirit, frowardly or at least phanta­stically resisting his consolations. But it is a mighty mistake to think the Spirit of God will comfort men whether they will or no; he requires a persuadeable, counsellable temper, and such a disposition as will work with him; for to make a black melancholist comfor­table immediately, is not to be done but by a phrenzy or a miracle, and for this last we are not to expect it now at God's hands:2 Kings 3. 15. nay even the Prophet Elisha, when he desired to call up the Spirit of Prophecy, called for an Harp, that he might put his mind in tune, and dispose himself to become the instrument of the Spirit of God; and so it is here, an harmoni­ous Soul added to the former qualification invites down the Spirit of God. Especially if

3. IN the third place there be servent prayer joined herewith; for since God expects we should make our acknowledgments of him, and demonstrate [Page 302] he value we have of the mercy we seek by the im­portunity of our addresses to him, even then when we address our selves to him for common favours; with much less reason can we expect that he should bestow this great boon upon us, unless it be sought by ardent and instant prayer: so our Saviour hath told us, Luk. 11. 13. that though he have a fatherly affection to give all good things to us, yet it is upon condition that we ask him. And St. James hath fur­ther explained to us the manner of asking, Chap. 1. 6, 7. that it must be in faith without wavering; i. e. neither as doubtfull of God's goodness, nor as if we were indifferent whether he granted our request or not; for (saith he) Let not such a man think that he shall receive any thing at the hand of the Lord.

NOW forasmuch as the comfortable portion of the Holy Spirit is not intailed upon all the Children which God receives to grace and pardon, but that all these qualifications are pre-required; since it is al­so evident that some who perhaps may passionately desire it, yet have an unhappy temper that unfits them for the entertainment of this heavenly Guest; and many others that have some good measure of sin­cerity, which God will mercifully accept in order to eternal life, are not yet raised to such a measure of holiness as to be capable of this favour at the present: It cannot seem strange that such should remain stran­gers to this most happy priviledge, nor can it yet be reasonable that their want of experience of it should be any argument that there is no such thing to be ex­pected.

§ IV. BUT then for the other difficultie, (viz.) how to distinguish the moti on of God's Spirit from either the impressions of Sathan, or the results of a man's own [Page 303] temper and constitution; I answer there are these properties of the Holy Spirit, which if they be at­tended to and laid together, will infallibly distin­guish it from any other motion, and secure us from all illusion.

1. THE Spirit of God never moves any man but in an action or course warrantable by the word of God: for since the Holy Scripture is given for a rule of our actions, and as such confirmed in the most ample manner by the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit should notoriously contradict it self, if it should contradict that.

INDEED, in former Ages whilst the mind of God was not intierly delivered, and consigned in holy Writ, there were frequent intimations of his pleasure by the spirit of Prophecy to supply that defect, and several special directions given upon emer­gencies; but then also it is to be observed, that such extraordinary interpositions were attended with mi­raculous circumstances, and thereby brought their credentials along with them, and gave assurance of their divine authority: but now those miraculous at­testations being ceased, as well as the reason of them, whatsoever pretends to God, and is contrary to the Holy Scripture, is an illusion of the Devil. To the Law, and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this Rule, it is because there is no light in them, Isa. 8. 20.

SECONDLY, the motions of the Holy Spirit particularly in comforting the hearts of holy men, are rational and accountable, and consequently of that are also even and constant. It is very ordinary for some men to be sometimes marvellously cast down they know not for what, and then raised up again they know not how, and this they ignorantly call [Page 304] the accessions and recesses of the Holy Spirit, or a Plerophory, and a state of desertion. Whilst there is nothing to alter the case, no change in themselves, neither of apostasy from God, nor of improvement in piety, yet their state of mind is altered, as if God changed, and not themselves,

BUT it is quite otherwise with the Holy Spirit, that never causlesly withdraws from men; it never grieves those who have not first grieved it, nor doth it arbitrarily give joy and consolation to the minds of men, but upon just ground and foundations, when there is a root and cause of it within, in their own Consciences. So Erasmus well observes upon that passage of the Apostle, Rom. 8. 16. The Spirit wit­nesseth with our Spirits, that we are the Sons of God. [...], Ʋt intelligas (saith he) geminum esse testimonium duorum Spirituum nostri & Dei, &c. The Spirit doth not comfort against the sense of our Con­sciences, but concurrs with, and confirms the testimony of our own spirit; so that we may see, and understand, and can give account of our own joys. And consequent­ly of this, these comforts are not flashy and uncertain, but stable and certain; like those effects that proceed from known and certain causes. The joy of such men is not a blaze like a meteor, but as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day, Prov. 4. 18. But on the contrary, those that have their ebbings and flowings, their sudden and unaccounta­ble dejections, and their as sudden ecstasies and trans­ports, very unworthily impute these motions to the Holy Spirit, which are only fits of the body, and the several disguises of hypochondriack passions.

THIRDLY, the Spirit of God in all its im­pressions upon men is gentle, sedate, and governa­ble; puts not men into a rage, nor disorders their [Page 305] reason, but is manageable by it, submits to all deco­rum, and complies with all decency of circumstances. This is that which is thought by the best Interpreters to be the meaning of that remarkable passage of the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1 Ep. Chap. 14. vers. 29, 30, 32, 33. Let the Prophets speak two or three, and let the rest judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For the spi­rits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets. For God is not the authour of confusion, but of peace, &c. i. e. (saith the Learned Dr. H. Hammond) even in those effusions of the Holy Ghost, and in the exer­cise of those extraordinary gifts, you may ob­serve method and order. For the afflations or in­spirations of the Prophets here spoken of may be ruled by the Prophets, i. e. by them that have them; these Chri­stian gifts being not like the afflations of evil spirits, which put men into ecstasies, &c. for the Spirit of God is not a violent, ecstatical, impetuous, but a soft, quiet spirit, &c. And if it was so in those extraordinary impulses in the primitive times, much more must it needs be so now, when all those miraculous and pro­digious circumstances are ceased,Vide Gal. 5. 22. as I said before. There­fore wherever men pretending to the Spirit, are ra­ving and furious, and pervert all order and govern­ment, or wheresoever such persons shall under such pretences thrust themselves into the Ministry, or put the Magistrate out of office, shall take upon them to be reformers of the world, revile authority, run up­on desperate attempts, or in short, whereever there is a raging whirlwind instead of a still soft voice, God is not there, but either the Devil, or at least a Phrenzy. And so much for that.

Of the great honour God doth to a true Penitent, putting him into his service, and the peculiar usefullness of such a person.

  • § I. The great trust God reposes in those he pardons, and their obligations to faithfullness and activity in his service.
  • § II. Several ways whereby all good men may be usefull towards the conversion of others, (without taking upon them to be publick Preachers) and their incourage­ments thereunto.
  • § III. The peculiar aptness of Converts from an evil life, to be serviceable to God in the reclaiming of o­thers.
  • § IV. The Character of an accomplisht Christian accord­ing to all the ornaments forementioned.

§ I. WE come now to the third Ornament which the Father invests his returned Son with, He puts Shoes on his Feet, which were the habit not of Slaves, but of Free-men, as we have noted before; but what is the mystical sense of this passage, or what favour on God's part towards peni­tent sinners is hereby denoted, is not altogether so easy to resolve upon: St. Chrysostom, and Theophylact, understand hereby the Grace of God, which defends the Convert from the temptations of the Devil; Put Shoes on his feet (saith the former) that the old Ser­pent [Page 307] may not find him naked so as to wound his heel, and that he may be able to tread upon the serpent's head, and have no disturbance in running the way of God's commandments. But St. Jerom, and St. Austin apprehend, that hereby is signified the honour that is put upon eminent Converts, to be employed by God as usefull instruments of propagating his Go­spell, and of drawing in others from the evill of their ways to submission and obedience. To this purpose St. Jerom applies that circumstance of the Passeover, that it was to be eaten with staves in their hands, and shoes on their feet, as well as with bitter herbs; as if the mystical reach of that injuncti­on was to teach us, that a man delivered by the mighty power of God's grace out of Aegypt, (the state of servility to sin and Satan,) should not only solem­nize the memorial of God's mercy with a sorrowfull and bitter reflection upon his former folly and misery, but stand (as in procinctu) ready to run on God's errand, and to call in others to him. And indeed, this same Metaphor is used in that very sense (accord­ing to the judgment of the best interpreters,) Eph. 6. 16. Having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which seems to allude to that passage of the Prophet Isaiah, 52. 7. How beautifull are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace; and the intent of the Apostle seems to be to injoin a readiness to promote and set forward the Christian Religion. And in this sense I take it here, that when God hath pardoned a sinner, and sanctified and adopted him, he then fits him for his service, employs him in it, and expects from him that he become usefull towards the reclaiming of others.Phil. II. of Sp. D. of Alva.

A great Prince of the last Age had upon some displea­sure cast an old Captain and a potent Minister of his [Page 308] into Prison, where he continued a long time without any hopes of restitution; untill at length it happened that the great Monarch having projected the adjoin­ing a neighbour Kingdom to his own dominions, thought none so fit to execute his design as the person he had long kept under a restraint; him therefore he sends for out of prison, pardons him, and commissions him for so great an affair, and found the success of his courage and conduct according to his own desires. It is not easy to say whether this action argued more the wisedom of the Prince, (who knew who was fittest for his turn, and could also submit his own passion to his interest;) or whether it was a sign of the necessity of his affairs, and of the scarcity of expert and able ser­vants, but it is certain it was a glorious testimony to the gallantry of him he so employed.

NOW though it be most evident that God stands in need of no man for the execution of his designs, yet it is as certain that in all the instances of his provi­dence he loves to employ the capacities of his crea­tures, and it is the greatest honour any of them are capable of to be so made use of by him.

AND as for rational Beings who were at first de­signed, and admirably fitted for his Service, (as well as singularly obliged by innumerable favours to be faithfull to his interest,) and yet have forfeited their allegeance and served against him: it is an instance of the most wonderfull goodness that he should trust them again; for it was very much to forgive them, but to trust them, when (as I have noted heretofore,) it is become a rule of wisedom amongst them not to trust one another in such a case, is very admirable: and yet God doth both these, and more then all this; for he pardons his ingratefull rebels, he fits them for service, and then trusts them. Nay, it is oftentimes the aim of [Page 309] Princes when they imploy one in any eminent ser­vice that hath been formerly faulty, to expose him to such difficulties, as that the hazard of the imployment shall either revenge the former miscarriage, or at least make him dearly earn his restitution to favour. But God as he hath no ends of his own, nor seeks any thing from them he indeavours to reclaim, but their own good and happiness; so in those he employs in any expedition, he peculiarly aims at their honour and comfort therein.

WHEN a Man of God came to old Eli the Priest to threaten him and his Sons with the effects of God's severe displeasure for their prophaneness, and the scandal they gave to his service: he expresses it in these words,1 Sam. 2. 30. Them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. The import of which compared with the context plainly amounted to this, that as it was the highest honour and dignity to be admitted to and to continue in a re­lation of service to God, so it was the greatest debase­ment (which that family should undergo) to be thrust from it.

THE Prodigal Son in the Text (as we have seen) acknowledges his unworthiness to be called any more a Son, and desires to be admitted but into the lowest rank of servants, and into so mean a condition, as that he was so far from expecting any honour by it, that he thought himself incapable of any trust; but the Father honours him with the highest relation of a Son, and God honours penitent sinners with the most weighty and important trust, putting shoes on their feet; i. e. employing them in his vineyard. St. Paul had a mighty sense of this, 1 Tim. 1. 12. and breaks out into a passionate adoration of the divine goodness, I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath ina­bled [Page 310] me, for that he counted me faithfull, putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer, &c.

BUT we are not to understand any thing of this that hath been now said, as if all Converts were to be imployed as God's Ministers in the publick dispen­sation of the Gospel; for God doth not give to all such those peculiar abilities which are requisite to the discharge of it, nor are all persons competent judges of the necessary qualifications thereunto; and there­fore it is made a special office by God, which no man may undertake, but either he that is called thereto miraculously by God himself, (as the first publishers of the Gospel were) or by the orderly approbation and consecration of the Church; (as hath been the constant practice ever since.) All therefore that is hereby intended is partly to remark the transcendent goodness of God to his penitent Children, in that he is pleased to pass such a perfect act of oblivion of all their former enormities, as that he disdains not to ad­mit even some of them to this highest trust and em­ployment, (all their former demerits notwithstanding,) as we had instance in St. Paul; but principally to re­commend it to the care and Conscience of all those whom God hath been pleased to pardon, (that though they may not invade the office of the Ministery, yet) they ought to think themselves concerned to use their utmost indeavours (within their sphere) to be instru­ments of spiritual good to others.

THIS seems to be the meaning of that charge of our Saviour to St. Peter, Luk. 22. 32. Thou when thou art converted strengthen thy Brethren. Or if that be liable to exception, yet that of King David is not, Psal. 51. 13. who vows it as the fruit of his own pardon, that then he would teach God's ways unto sin­ners, and transgressours should be converted unto him. [Page 311] IT is certain Religion never prospers well in the world whilst doing good is thought to be the office of some certain persons only, and not the common concern of all good men; nor will it ever be a good world till men think themselves obliged to be as charitable to the Souls of men as to an Oxe or an Ass, and be as ready to help them out of the snare of the Devil, as the other out of a ditch. And if it should happen that a Priest and a Levite should pass by a man faln amongst Thieves and wounded, yet sure every good Samaritan will have compassion on him, and bind up his wounds; especially he that hath been formerly a great sinner himself, and hath known by sad experience the deplorableness of that condition, and found mercy at God's hands: (methinks) such a person should with warm affections and tender bowels, awaken that man into an apprehension of his danger, who is in the condition he himself hath escaped, and incou­rage him to try those mercies of God which he him­self hath experimented. For if either a righteous man that never needed repentance, (i. e. such a change of his whole state as we have been speaking of) should be less sensible of such a man's case; or especi­ally if a proud self-applauding Pharisee despise him, yet it will by no means become a Convert to be without compassion. For besides all other argu­ments to this purpose, it may be such a man may have just cause to consider whether his own example (when he did goe on in the way of sin) had not that pernicious contagion as to infect or confirm this man in his wickedness, which he sees him now lie under, and then it will not be only charity but justice which will oblige him to this duty.

IT was the opinion (if I remember rightly) of St. Basil, that in Hell the torments of the damned are [Page 312] daily increased in proportion as the evil seed of their corrupt doctrine, (or the evil example) which they sowed whilst they were alive, fructifies upon earth; but whether that be so or no, it is certain men's sins are ag­gravated by the mischief they do to others, as well as by other circumstances; and therefore every such Penitent as we speak of, must think it his duty and concern, to indeavour to hinder the propagation of sin, and to stop the infection in others, as well as to destroy the malignity of it in himself.

§ II. NOW there are many ways which an ho­nest heart will find out of doing this we are recom­mending, without taking upon him to be a Preacher; Solomon tells us,Prov. 6. 13. A wicked man speaketh with his feet, and teacheth with his fingers: that is, though he say nothing with his lips, all his life and actions do teach and instruct the world in wickedness: and there is no question but that holy men may most effectual­ly recommend vertue to others by their own practice and example. Example insinuates gently, works in­sensibly, but powerfully, (as almost all great Engines do;) it relieves men's modesty, and yet shames their sloth; it kindles emulation, presses upon ingenuity, recommends the excellency, convinces the necessity, demonstrates the possibility of vertue. Besides, that there are a great many of the most curious lines thereof that are not to be described by the pencil, or that can be expressed by words, but are to be observed in the life and conversation of good men. For this reason (amongst others) it pleased God to send our Saviour, not only to preach the divine life to the world, but to live and converse with men, that by his example he might more plainly convince them of it; and for this cause also we solemnly thank God for the exam­ples [Page 313] of all holy men that have gone before us.

AND besides example, there are many opportuni­ties and advantages, which good men have of propaga­ting a sense of piety and Religion, such as the autho­rity of Parents, influence of benefactours, interest of relations, convenience of travelling together, socie­ty of commerce, and all other bonds of conversation. Every of which a mind inflamed with the love of God, and compassion to the Souls of men, will find usefull to this purpose. And this was the course Mo­ses advised Israel for the keeping up a sense of God and his Laws in their minds, and the propagation of it to posterity. Deut. 6. 6, 7. These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy Children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up, &c.

And for the incouragement of all good men in this business, besides the great honour it is to be subservi­ent to God in so important an affair, and besides the unspeakable comfort to our own Consciences, If by converting a sinner from the evil of his way we save a Soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins, Jam. 5. 20. and that by such an act of zeal we have also the happi­ness to efface our own former miscarriages: Besides all this (I say) in present, we shall also advance our own glory and crown hereafter; for in the words of the Prophet Daniel, They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the Firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the Stars for ever and ever, Daniel 12. 3.

IT were very easy to inlarge on this subject, but that which is most pertinent, and the peculiar consi­deration of this place, is, to shew the particular apt­ness [Page 314] of those, that have themselves been converted from a wicked life, to be instrumental of recovering others, which I will briefly give account of in the following particulars and so dismiss this point. And in order to this

§ III. IN the first place, it is considerable that those that are of sickly constitutions, are generally observed to be more pitifull and compassionate to the infirm, then those robust and healthy persons that scarce ever knew what sickness meant; and those that have long lan­guished under any painfull infirmity, and at last have recovered, are both the best able, and most willing, to give advice to others under the same distemper. Upon which account it hath been the custom of some Nations (who had no professed Physicians) to bring their sick out into the Market-place, (where all per­sons that came were obliged by Law to take notice of them,) that by this means the experience of one that had escaped a disease, might afford a relief to him that now laboured under it. And so it is reasonable to think, that those who have been sick in sin, and of sin heretofore, must needs by their own ex­perience know the baits that allure men, the charms that bewitch them, the fallacies of Sathan that impose upon them, the folly and perverseness that defixes men in that unhappy estate; the workings of passion, the regret of Conscience, the thoughts and reasonings, the objections, the prejudices, and the very inside of other men in that condition. And there­fore, as God commands Israel, Exod. 23. 9. Thou shalt not oppress a stranger, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Aegypt. i. e. they knew what injuries, oppressions, insolencies and af­fronts a stranger was exposed to; and what fears, anxieties, and jealousies, he must needs be always un­der; [Page 315] and therefore it having been their own case, they ought to think it reasonable to pity such: so in the present case, the Convert is furnished both with more observations to render him serviceable to the conver­sion of Souls, and more compassion to apply and make use of his experience to that end.

THEREFORE St. Paul, though he was execrated of his own Countrymen, because he for­sook Moses to follow Christ, yet shewed more dex­terity in refuting their prejudices, and more tenderness to their Souls then any other Apostle: and particu­larly Rom. 9. 1, 2, 3. he expresses himself thus. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sorrow and heaviness in my heart For I could wish that my self were accursed from Christ for my Brethren, my Kins­men, according to the flesh, &c. Where whatever he mean by the expression of being accursed from Christ, he certainly describes the deepest compassion that a mortal breast is capable of; and that he had a sense of this towards his Brethren, he confirms by the most solemn Oath that can be made. I need not here add (because I have touched that before) that such persons are also filled usually with the great­est zeal of God's glory (whom they have formerly dis­honoured,) and the greatest indignation against sin, (by which they have been abused,) and think them­selves obliged to a double diligence, by the conside­ration of their former dis-service, of all which St. Paul is also an example, 1 Cor. 15. 10. I laboured more a­bundantly then all the rest, &c. But I observe

IN the second place, such persons as have been for­merly notorious for a course of wickedness, and now are become sincerely good and vertuous, are a standing reproof of the folly of sin; nay, I may call [Page 316] them the very credential letters of vertue, and convin­cing arguments of the necessity of conversion, & such as strangely awaken men to consider their own station.

IT was a very good plea that the Platonist makes for Vertue in these words.Simpl. in Epict. [...], &c. That the ways of vertue are more pleasant to a good man, then the ways of sin and licentiousness are to an evil and vi­cious man (and therefore more amiable and better in themselves) appears (saith he) by this, that several men who have tasted all the pleasures of sin forsake it, and come over to vertue; but there is scarce an instance to be found of the man that had well experimented the delights of vertue, that ever could be drawn off from it, or find in his heart to fall back to his former course. But to see a man that had ran into all excess of riot, to tack about to a quite contrary course, from a drunkard, to become sober; from lascivious, to be­come chaste and modest; from a covetous person, to become charitable; from prophaneness, to set him­self to reade and study the Scripture; and from cur­sing and blaspheming, to bless and pray: and this change to be wrought in health and strength, with­out the check of a sick-bed, or the dreadfull appre­hensions of approaching death: I say, this spectacle cannot but be a most convincing argument of the ne­cessity of repentance to all such as are yet in the gall of bitterness, and under the bonds of iniquity.

LASTLY, (to say no more) such persons so changed as aforesaid, are standing monuments of the divine mercy, and of the powers of the Gospel, and irrefragable arguments of the possibility of recovering the greatest sinners, if they be not wanting to them­selves, [Page 317] or rather if they do not chuse their own de­struction. For they proclaim aloud the greatness of the divine goodness, the largeness of his heart, the open­ness of his arms; and they upbraid the sinner of fol­ly, of madness, of cruelty to himself if yet he perse­vere. It is said Miltiades Trophies would not suffer Themistocles to sleep; and Caesar's thoughts continu­ally upbraided him with the great exploits Alexander had effected in a few years. But when a sinner shall observe such a man that was as foolish as himself, to become wise and sober; one that ran in the same race, and was as near the pit of Hell as he, escaped, and himself still upon the brink of it; when I say, he shall consider, that such a man that had all the temptati­ons, pretences, excuses, examples, and every other instance of debauchment that himself hath, to find just reason to break through those obstacles, and by the mercy of God to be saved, and as a fire-brand plucked out of the fire, certainly if any thing in the world can move him, this must make him look about him.

IN the 16. Chapter of this Gospel, our Saviour in­troduces a certain rich man in Hell, interceding with Abraham that Lazarus might be sent from the dead to preach repentance to his five Brethren, supposing that though they would not hearken to Moses and the Prophets, yet such a spectacle, and so certain in­telligence from the infernal regions, must needs rouze them: Father Abraham denied his request, and (God doth not use to gratify such curiosity.) But indeed, if a man consider well, it is almost the same thing, when God affords us an example of a man that was dead in trespasses and sins, and under the very torments of Hell in his Conscience, but now redeemed and reco­vered by the grace of God, and sends him to preach [Page 318] repentance to us. And I think I may say in this case as the afore mentioned Simplicius said of the discourses of Epictetus, Simpl. in Praef. ad Epict. [...]. i. e. The man that is incorrigible under such a powerfull remedy, there is nothing but the very torments of the damned can work upon him. And so much also for that point.

§ IV. WE have now seen severally the three Or­naments the Father puts upon his returning Son, and the favours God bestows upon a sincere Convert re­presented by the Best Robe, a Ring on his Hand, Shoes on his Feet. Let us now take a view of them altogether; let us I say, make a stand a little, and see the Son in all his new attire; I mean, let us sup­pose all these favours of God bestowed upon some pardoned sinner, and then take notice what a brave and excellent person such a man will be.

IT was a noble character which the Historian gives of Marcus Cato,Vell. Pa­terc. hist. lib. 2. homo virtuti simillimus, & per omnia diis quàm hominibus propior; qui nunquam rectè fecit ut facere videretur, sed quia aliter facere non po­tuit. Cato (saith he) was vertue drawn to the life, and the resemblance was so exact, that it was hard to say whether vertue animated Cato, or Cato gave subsistence and visibility to vertue; nay, such was the unshaken greatness of his mind, and the purity of his life, that he seemed more to participate of divine perfection then of hu­mane frailty; for he was both so far above all temptations of doing evil, and also free from the allay of mean ends and designs in doing good, that it seemed a kind of neces­sity of nature in him to doe well. This was bravely said, had it not been somewhat too Romantick. But the man we are speaking of (under the aforesaid qualifications) [Page 319] must as much out go Cato, as he out-stripped other men; or rather as much as the advantages of Christianity out-went those of Philosophy.A brief description of a perfect Christian. For this man is not only improved by humane discourse, but raised by di­vine revelation, and governed by the wisedom of God; is not under the faint and fluctuating hopes which reason can suggest, but under the assurances of faith; is not only eminent for some one or more vertues, but being inflamed by the love of God, and the prospect of Heaven, he breaths nothing but greatness and glory; wherever he goes, God is in his heart, Heaven is in his eye, joy in his countenance; and he spreads the sweet odours of piety, and casts a lustre upon Religion.

FOR in the first place, he is sanctified through­out, the image of God is restored upon him, and Christ Jesus formed in him. All the maims of his fall are cured, the confusion of his powers rectified, the tyranny of custom vanquished, his Conscience is in­lightned, his reason raised, his passions subdued, his will set right, and all the inferiour powers obedient. Vertue is made natural, easy and delightfull to him, and it is his meat and drink to doe the will of his Hea­venly Father.

FURTHERMORE, to assure his station, he is confirmed by the grace of God, and upheld by divine power; he is the peculiar care of God's pro­vidence, the special charge of the holy Angels, and the Temple of the blessed Spirit; all God's dispen­sations provide for his safety, consider his strength, and work for his good. The Devil is so restrained that he shall not tempt him above what he shall be able to bear, and hath not so little wit with his great malice, to attempt where he is sure to be foiled. Persecuti­ons may assault him, and flatteries may undermine him; prosperity may indeavour to blow him up, or [...] [Page 318] [...] [Page 319] [Page 320] adversity to crush him down; raillery may goe about to shame him out of his course, or buffonry to laugh him out of it; but his race is as certain, as that of the Sun, or the Stars in the Firmament, and his founda­tion sure as the Mountains; for he knows whom he hath believed.

AGAIN, he is adopted a Son of God, and sealed by the Holy Ghost to the day of redemption; he feels himself quickned by his vital presence, warmed with his motions, and assured by his testimony. This erects the hands that would hang down, and strengthens the feeble knees: this lifts up his head with joy, because he knows his redemption draweth nigh. Every day he walks, he finds himself a days journey nearer Hea­ven; therefore he sets his face thitherwards, he puts on the habit, the mein, the joy, the very heart of Heaven: he goes up by contemplation, and views it; he ravishes his heart with the sight of it; he falls in­to a trance with admiration, and when he comes to himself again, cries out, Come Lord Jesus, come quick­ly. He needs nothing, he fears nothing, he despises the world; life is tedious, death is welcome, to be dissolved and to be with Christ is best of all.

WHAT can trouble him that hath peace in his Conscience? what can disturb him that hath Heaven before him? what can dismay him that is secure of im­mortality? what can affright him whom death can­not hurt? and what can deject him that is sure of a crown of glory?

AND lastly, no wonder if after all this, such a man be active and vigorous for God, if he be used by God, and become his Embassadour, beseeching men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. For all those comforts and incouragements afore menti­oned inlarge his Soul like an Angel, put wings upon [Page 321] him like a Cherub, and set him on fire like one of the Seraphim, with holy zeal of God's glory, and the good of men. Therefore with David he tells the unbelieving world what God hath done for his Soul; and with his Lord and Master Christ Jesus, he goes about doing good; and in this flame of holy love is contented to offer up himself a sacrifice of a sweet smell to God.

HERE is adulta virtus, Religion and Piety at their highest pitch and fullest maturity that is attain­able in this world; the next step is Heaven, one degree more commences Glory. Let the envious world now (if they dare) reproach Religion as hy­pocrisy, or as meer pretences and great words; when they observe that this glorious state is the design and the attainment of it, whenever it is wisely and wor­thily prosecuted; or let them say, all this is impossi­ble, who as Tully well expresses it, Ex sua ignavia & inertia, & non ex ipsa virtute de virtutis robore existi­mant. These things are no Romances, nor have I dressed up any Legendary Hero: the things are true and real; Thus shall it be done to the man whom God delights to honour. All this hath been attained, and might be attained again, would men but cease to take up an opinion of their own goodness from the extream badness of others, and take their measures rather from the rules, and motives, and assistances of the Gospel, then from the examples and customs of the world; then without doubt others besides St. Paul might be able to say, I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, from henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also that love his ap­pearing, 2 Tim. 4. 7, 8. And that brings me to the [Page 322] last instance of the Father's kindness, and the top of that glory which God bestows upon truely good men.

The splendid Entertainment, or the joys of Heaven.

St. Luk. Chap. 15. Vers. 23.

And bring hither the fatted Calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.

  • § I. The peculiar intendment of this passage of the Para­ble. That by the feast upon the fatted Calf are repre­sented the joys of Heaven.
  • § II. The several figurative expressions which the joys of Heaven are set out by in holy Scripture, (viz.) Paradise, Rest, a City, a Kingdom, a Feast.
  • § III. A more plain and literal account of the felicities of the other world; especially in four particu­lars.
  • 1. The resurrection of the Body.
  • 2. Provision of objects fit to entertain and satisfy all the powers both of Soul and Body.
  • [Page 323] 3. The eternity of that state of life and happi­ness.
  • 4. The blessed presence of God and our Saviour, and the happy society of Angels and Saints.

§ I.Vide Struc­kium de Conviv. lib. 2. cap. 24. IT was thought to be a just civility amongst the more soft and voluptuous Nations (especially those of the East) that those who were to be the Guests at a Feast, should be as curious in the preparation of themselves for the solemnity, as he that made the entertainment was for their accommo­dation; and for that cause usually a considerable time of notice was given them before-hand, that they might be in such circumstances as should both do ho­nour to him that invited them, and also render them gratefull to all the society: upon which account, they were wont to bath, anoint, exercise, and per­fume themselves before-hand; and amongst other cu­riosities, to put on a habit which was both sumptu­ous, and significant of respect. Agreeable whereun­to is that passage in the Gospel, Matt. 22. 11. where the Master of the Feast takes it extream ill of one of his guests, that he appeared there not having on a wedding garment. And with this accords the contri­vance of this Parable; for the Father having (as we have seen) put his Son into a befitting garb, now proceeds to his entertainment; which is the third and last expression of his reconciliation. Bring hither (saith he) the fatted Calf, &c.

THAT he intends a Feast for joy of the recovery of his lost Son is very plain, wherein he designs that all his family shall bear a part with him; the fatted Calf being the ancient most sumptuous treatment, as appears Gen. 18. 7. for therewith Abraham solemnly entertained the three Angels that came to visit him in [Page 324] the habit of way-faring men; and as the afore-named Stuckius, and the learned Bochart observe, there was not a Feast of old times, especially amongst those men­tioned by Homer, where this was not the principal Dish: and the Text lays the Emphasis of a double article upon it here in the Parable. But what is mystically meant by this passage, or what pe­culiar favour of God to penitent sinners our Saviour intends hereby to express, is not very easy to deter­mine.

IN the foregoing particulars we have had the con­current opinion of the Fathers for the countenance of our applications; but here I doubt we shall be deserted by them, and therefore if we walk alone must proceed the more warily.

THE Ancients agree in the general, that hereby, is to be understood the great and inestimable gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. [...] (saith St. Chrysostom) [...], &c. What fatted Calf doth the Father call for? what but his only Son born of the Virgin Mary, &c. And in like manner the rest only with this difference, that St. Chrysostom especially applies it to the sacrifice of Christ represented in the Sacrament, and St. Austin to the same Christ Jesus preached in the Gospel; but with the leave of such great men, it may perhaps seem reasonable to pitch upon another interpretation, namely, that hereby is meant the joys and glories of the Kingdom of Heaven; for the confirmation of which I offer these following considerations.

FIRST, it is well enough known that the Jews had commonly such a crass notion of the happiness of the world to come; as to think it to consist in the pleasures of the Body, and particularly of eating and drinking; agreeable to which is the fable amongst [Page 325] them of Behemoth and Leviathan, the one a prodigi­ous Beast, and the other a Fish; which together with great quantities of delicious wine, they report to be laid in store by God, for the entertainments of the life to come; which ridiculous conceit of theirs seems to have given countenance, if not rise, to the sensu­al Paradise of the Mahumetans, and some of the Ea­stern Nations.Menasse. Ben Isr. de Resur­rect. lib. 3. cap. 9. And though Menasse-Ben-Israel, a late learned Jew, indeavours to mince the matter, and to turn the story into an Allegory, yet he confesses, and strongly contends, that a great part of the Para­disiacal felicity must consist in the pleasures of eating and drinking. Now it is no strange thing to imagin, that our Saviour speaking to the Jews, should make use of their own language, and allude to their cu­stoms and conceits, how gross soever they were.

AND that he did so, will be the more probable if in the second place we consider, that he compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a Feast, Matt. 2. 22. that he tells his Disciples he will drink no more of the fruit of the vine till he drink it new with them in his Father's Kingdom, Matt. 26. 29. and allowed the expression of him that esteemed it to be the greatest blessedness to eat bread in the Kingdom of Heaven, Luk. 14. 15.

THIRDLY, even in this very Chapter, our Saviour telling us there is joy in Heaven at the con­version of a sinner, vers. 7. and amongst the holy An­gels, vers. 10. he by those expressions invites and leads our thoughts to this sense, and in this very Pa­rable, vers. 25. the entertainment of the penitent is expressed as accompanied with dancing and mirth; by all which, he seems to give us sufficient ground to think the entertainment we are now speaking of is no other then that of the joys of Heaven.

[Page 326] BUT especially if we observe in the last place, that the order of the Parable requires such a sense of these words as this we have suggested. For accord­ing to the scheme of the Parable, God having been hitherto represented, as bestowing all those favours and blessings upon the penitent, which render him fit for, and capable of Heaven, (as we have seen al­ready) what can now follow more properly, or what would one expect to be intimated in the next place, but that he should thenceforward be described con­ferring that happiness, and actually placing him in that state he had by all his former unspeakable fa­vours made way for. Besides, God's giving his Son is the foundation of all his other favours, and our Savi­our's giving himself for us, is the meritorious and procuring cause of justification, adoption, sanctifica­tion; the giving of the Holy Ghost, and all the great things forementioned; and therefore it would not be agreeable to the wisedom of our Saviour in the contrivance of this scene, to represent this in the last place, when all those benefits which flow from it had before been supposed to be conferred. This therefore upon the whole matter seems to be the in­tent of our Saviour in the words we are upon, to personate our Heavenly Father, crowning all those former gifts he had bestowed upon sincere converts in this life, with glory and blessedness, and the joys of Heaven, in the conclusion. As if in the literal sense the Father of the Prodigal Son had said, ‘I remem­ber the misery, the hunger and hardship my Son hath indured; and I pitied him, even then when he well deserved all he suffered; but since the time that I have seen him returning, not only the pale looks, sharp countenance, dejected eyes, and all other arguments of his former calamities which I [Page 327] have observed in him, run in my mind, but I think also of the conflicts he hath had with himself upon the point of returning; fear turning him back, and hope incouraging him to goe on; and the latter with great difficulty vanquishing the former: me­thinks I see the anguish of his mind, his indignati­on against himself, his shame for his own folly, and the awefull reverence he had of my presence, be­tween all which I know how his heart panted and laboured, till at last the reviving sense of his duty, and the confidence in the benignity of a Father car­ried him through. And now that he is returned, it is not fit to heap sorrow upon sorrow, I will wipe away all his tears, and repair all his sufferings; he shall take his fill of refreshment, not only my heart but my hand, my purse, all my stores are open to him. I have forgotten his rebellion, and he shall forget his sorrows; he hath by this last act effaced the memory of what he had done, and I will take care there shall remain no marks of what he suffered; and because all my family heretofore sorrowed for him, they shall all now rejoice with me and him. Enter O Son into thy Father's joy; reap now the fruits of thy repentance; I am satisfied with thy return, satisfy thy self in this, that all I have, and all that belong to me, shall speak thy welcom.’

OR as if in the mystical sense our Heavenly Father should thus bespeak his penitent Children: ‘I am sensible as well as you what husks you have lived upon since you forsook me, and when you neither loved me nor your selves, I pitied you; it was a long time before you would understand, that in forsaking me you departed from your own happi­ness; and now that you have believed that it was good for you to return, you shall not find your [Page 328] selves deceived, your own experience shall justify your choice; you came indeed late into my vine­yard, yet I will reward you equally with those who have born the burden and heat of the day; and though it was a great while before you would be perswaded over to my side, yet now having ac­quitted your selves well I will crown you. I have already set some marks of favour upon you, but those are but earnests of greater which I intend you; and that you may be sure I sought not my self but you, when I put the task upon you of li­ving vertuously and holily, it shall now appear, that I only educated and trained you up in that School for glory. And now that I have by these preparations fitted you for it, enter into the joy of your Lord; you shall not have only the ornaments but the inheritance of Sons, and shall partake of the same blessedness which my most dutifull Chil­dren (that never went astray from me) and which I my self am happy in, Isa. 25. 6. For in this moun­tain will I make unto all my servants a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the Lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the Lees well refined, &c. Come ye blessed, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, live with Saints and Angels, and rejoice with them to all eternity.’

§ II. BUT to render this interpretation of this passage in the Parable the more clear and satisfactory, and also to make way for some account of the admi­rable greatness of this favour; let us take a little com­pass, and in the next place consider the several phra­ses that the state of coelestial happiness is expressed by in Scripture; and the most remarkable are these four: it is called Paradise, a Rest, a City, a Kingdom.

[Page 329] IN the first place it is described under the notion of Paradise, Luk. 23. 43. 2 Cor. 12. 4. which imports a Garden of pleasure; and this name took its rise from that place and condi­tion in which Almighty God settled our first Parents when they came immediately out of his hands: and as there he had ordered all things to be at hand, which ministred either to man's necessity or delight, and had fenced him from all that could disturb and annoy him; so it is here, but in a far higher degree both of gratification and security, as we shall see by and by.

2. IT is called a Rest, Hebr. 4. 9. There remaineth a rest for the people of God; alluding to the Land of Canaan, where God gave the Children of Israel rest and quiet habitation after a long servitude in Aegypt, and a tedious pilgrimage through the Wilderness. So in the world to come, God gives all good men repose from all the troubles of life, and from all the solici­tation and disturbances of their enemies of all kinds. Rev. 14. 13. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours, &c.

3. IT is called a City, Hebr. 11. 10. A City which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. In opposition to that temporary and flitting accommo­dation which the Children of Israel had in the Wil­derness; and to note the stability and perpetuity of the state of those that have finished their course, and attained the crown of immortal life.

4. IT is also called a Kingdom, Matt. 25. 34. Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit a Kingdom, &c. Principally as a Kingdom speaks grandeur, and glory, and affluence of all things, far beyond the reach and capacity of a private fortune; and so in the world to come, God hath prepared and accumulated all the in­gredients of felicity and glory.

[Page 330] NOW with all these figurative representations of the state of happiness in the world to come doth this in the Text of a Feast very well accord, [...] &c. Phil. Jud. de Alleg. setting out the same thing in like manner by the entertainment of the senses, wherein according to the notion of it, not only the greatest delicacies, and the greatest plen­ty of them are implied, but also order, and joy, and un­animity in those that partake of them, which together marvellously well represent that felicity we speak of.

TO speak fully and clearly about that estate is be­yond the ability of any mortal man: for besides that the Apostle hath told us, 1 Cor. 2. 9. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entred into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for those that love him; It is obvious to consider, that infinite goodness and wisedom may easily contrive such instances of happiness, as surpass our understand­ing, till we come to enjoy them; since he can either raise up new objects to entertain those faculties we have, or create new powers in our Souls, which shall be able to discover fresh and more quick and admi­rable delights then any we are now capable of; espe­cially when he sets himself to make demonstration of his magnificence, and of the miracles of his love: and therefore we may very well surcease our curiosity, and rest our selves contented, since we have both as­surance of such a thing in general, and of the great­ness and compleatness thereof: notwithstanding, be­cause some knowledge of particulars also, will mar­vellously quicken us in our race thither, and support us under the burdens we must undergoe in the mean time; therefore I will by the guidance of the Scrip­ture, lay down these four particulars touching that estate.

[Page 331] § III. IN the first place, it is that which the Holy Scripture insists upon as a principal ingredient of the happiness of the other world; that whereas death had made a separation of Soul and Body, and (whatever circumstances the former might be concei­ved to be in in the mean time, yet) the latter lay under the power of the grave, and was the spoil and triumph of the Prince of darkness; now by the won­derfull power of the Almighty, this is raised up a­gain out of its own ashes, or out of whatever more desperate estate it might seem to be in, and united to the Soul its old inmate again, that so the whole man may be happy. This is a point of felicity, which as it is not naturally due to men, but depends upon a voluntary act of the divine goodness, so also it can no otherwise be proved but by divine revelation. And those that were destitute of that light (what­ever raised apprehensions they might have of future rewards, and the happiness of the other life) could never with all their Philosophy make any discovery of this: nay, it was so far out of the rode of their thoughts, that it is a well known story of Synesius (who for his learning and piety was made of a Philo­sopher a Christian Bishop) that he confessed his Phi­losophy represented this point as utterly incredible to him; upon which account, he desired to be excu­sed that dignity in the Church; and for the generali­ty of the greatest Pagan wits, they laughed at and de­rided this doctrine when it was preached by the Apo­stles. And indeed,Acts 17. 18. 32. the thing it self is so very wonderfull, that had we not the plain and infallible promise of him to whom nothing is impossible, and therewithall a satisfaction to our reason, that he that could bring all things out of nothing at first, may well be supposed able to effect other things also above our apprehen­sion; [Page 332] it would stagger Christian Faith it self to assent to it: therefore for the manner of doing it, we must leave that to him; but for the matter, it is (as I said) as certain as divine testimony can make it, and being believed is of unspeakable consolation.

FOR what can be more comfortable then to be asserted from the power of the grave, and rescued from death and mortality, to have our Soul refitted with Organs, and all the bodily powers awakened again so as to lose nothing by our fall; when death shall like a faithfull depositary, restore us our whole selves perfect and intire? Is not the Spring very plea­sant after a sharp and severe Winter, wherein though the seeds of all things have been preserved, yet they have been benummed and rendred inactive; wherein the Heavens frowned, the Sea wrinkled her face, and the Earth grew effete and barren; as if her youth was over: to see now God renewing the face of all things, rendring them their wonted vigour, and cloathing them with their former verdure; to observe the Sea smoothing her brow, the Fields smile, every thing gay and glorious, and Heaven and Earth sing­ing by way of Antiphone's, to each other in praise of their great Creatour; and in a word, whole Nature triumphing as in a resurrection from the dead? But now to see man after diseases had acted all their spite upon him, and death had defloured his beauty and bound up all his powers, and the grave had held him long in possession, wherein his body had undergone a thousand changes from flesh to earth, from earth to grass, from grass to the substance of this or that beast, &c. and after all this to see him restored again fresh and glorious, sprightly and vigorous like a Gi­ant refreshed with wine, and this same body to be uni­ted to its proper Spirit, by more firm and indissoluble [Page 333] ligaments, and be again usefull for all its offices and pur­poses; how happy must this meeting, how great must this joy be! and not much unlike that we had lately be­fore us in the Parable, when the long sorrowfull and indulgent Father recovers his lost and deplored Son.

I do not doubt but that the Souls of men when they are separated from their Bodies, are able to un­derstand and perform some of their most proper and spiritual functions; for I see no reason why the Soul should so much depend upon matter, as to be utterly inactive without it; especially when I consider, that whilst we are in the Body we govern it, prescribe to it, deny it, expose it to hardship, and sometimes act directly cross to the interest of it; and besides this, we find that there are some things which our mind takes notice of, which the Bodily faculties could give no intelligence of, and other things which our mind apprehends at first, before the exercise of any faculty at all, as in first principles, &c. All which (were it necessary to insist upon that point now) would afford sufficient arguments to convince the mistake of those that assert the sleep of the Soul du­ring its state of separation. Nay, I make no question but that the Souls of good men are in the actual per­ception and enjoyment of some measures of happiness before the resurrection; for besides, that if it were not so, it would very much abate their joys here, and so be apt to take off the edge of their endeavours, but most certainly it would marvellously glue men to this life, and make them extreamly unwilling to die; besides this I say, and all other arguments of that nature, the holy Scripture is so clear and express in several places touching this point, that a man may almost with as good confidence deny the world to come as disbelieve this.

[Page 334] AMONGST the rest I will only offer these two passages to the Reader's consideration; (viz.) Phil. 1. 21, 22. & 2. Cor. 5. 1, 4. In the first the A­postle speaks on this wise. I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needfull for you. q. d. I cannot tell whether to desire to live longer or to die sooner, being prest with arguments on both sides; for if I consult my self and my own good, it is doubtless better for me to die, and to enter presently into happiness; but then if I consult your convenience, it were better I should live longer in the world, to be serviceable to your edification. Now (I think) it is evident, that if the Apostle could have supposed that he should have en­tered into a state of silence after death, and not pre­sently been in the fruition of bliss; there could have been no strait in the case, nor any dispute, but that it was better to live still in the world, and continue in the comforts of a good Conscience, and of doing good to others, rather then to fall into a state of in­sensibility and inactivity.

IN the other place the same Apostle expresses him­self thus. For we know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, but eternall in the Hea­vens. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan be­ing burdened, not that we would be uncloathed but cloathed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life. q. d. We are well assured that from such time as these Bodies of ours are dissolved by death, which were intended but as tents or tabernacles for our short and temporary residence, thenceforward we shall be in a more settled state of life and happiness. And that's the reason why we groan and desire to die, not meerly [Page 335] because we are weary of our station, and impatient of this present life, but because we have then hope to be forthwith in a far better condition, being put into an unalterable estate of life.

NOTWITHSTANDING the truth of all which, it would nevertheless be uncomfortable to good men, if they had not a prospect of the union of their Souls again with their Bodies; not only because few men are so metaphysical as to have any clear and satisfying notion of this separate state; and the most of men (having been always used to a Body) would be in fear of losing their Being, if they were not re­lieved with the expectation of being united to them again: But principally because it is certain, that however the Soul can exist, and perform some actions of life without the Organs of the Body, yet it being created in a middle rank between purely spiritual and meerly corporeal Beings, and being apta nata, fit and ordained to inform a Body, must needs have an inclination thereunto, and especially in regard most of its accustomed actions do require the help of the bodily powers; for though it may understand with­out them, love God, adhere to goodness, reflect up­on it self, and feel the comforts of a good Conscience, upon a well-performed life, &c. yet it is not intelli­gible how it can see without eyes, move locally, or apply it self to society without them.

NOW forasmuch as God intends that the whole man should be happy, and compleatly comfortable in the other world, therefore he hath resolved with him­self, and assured us that the Body shall be raised again, and therefore the Scripture lays so much stress upon the Resurrection, as if men's happiness were adjourn­ed to that great day.

[Page 336] TO which this is also to be added, that the Bo­dies we then are incouraged to expect, will be, as the Apostle calls them, Spiritual Bodies; that is, rai­sed and sublimed from this drossy feculency, freed from sickness, pain, weariness, hunger, heaviness, and all the other imperfections of gross matter, and so be fit to correspond with the vigour of the Soul, and the glories of that blessed state. In all which to­gether I place the first instance of the happiness of the other world, and whoever well considers, will find it to be a very great and glorious one. But

SECONDLY, man shall not only be restored to himself, and to all his capacities, but in the world to come there shall be the most delightfull objects and entertainments provided for, and presented to all his powers, so as to employ, fill, and ravish them. We intimated under the former Head that the powers of the Body should be raised and improved, the Bo­dy being made spiritual and fine, by which means al­so the intellectual powers will be much advanced, ha­ving then exteriour Organs capable of more generous use and imployment. But to have powers inlarged without objects whereupon to imploy, and wherein to delight themselves, would be a torment instead of an happiness. For the very reason of pain and grief lies in nothing else, but either that some powers are destitute of their proper objects, or that the powers and objects are mis-matched and unproportionate to each other. Who will goe about to appease hunger with musick, or content any one sense with the ob­jects of another? or think to satisfy the desires of a man with the repast of a Beast? We see, both ex­tream little and excessively great and glorious ob­jects are alike troublesome to the eye, and as well excessive joy as grief break and disturb the mind; [Page 337] all discontent and uneasiness of men's spirit with their condition is from hence, that some power of theirs is either not provided for, or less benignly dealt with then it desires. So that felicity or misery arise nei­ther from the absolute nature of things, but from their relative consideration; nor from that meerly, unless those things that are relatively good and pro­per, be also proportioned to the capacity of the power that receives and feels them.

NOW therefore as the wise and good Creatour of all things never brought any Creature into being, which he had not fitted with a satisfaction in its kind, nor opened any power for which he had not provi­ded proportionable enjoyments; because had he done otherwise he had been the authour of evil and misery, and could not have looked over his works and pro­nounced of them that they were good: So much less will he permit that in the other world, wherein he intends to make the fullest demonstration of his good­ness, there should be any instance of unhappiness, by reason of defect or disproportion; or especially that such holy men as he there designs to reward for all their faithfull adherence and service to him, should have inlarged powers and scanty satisfactions, but the one answerable to the other: agreeably to which it is, that that state is represented by a Feast, (as we have observed already) where care is always taken that there be nothing offensive to the Guests, and that none of the participants may goe away without full measures of what is desirable to them; where­with also accord those other expressions of Holy Scripture, which describe God as making preparati­ons from the beginning of the world, 1 Cor. 2. 9. Matth. 25. 34. as we have intimated before.

[Page 338] IN conformity to this notion it must needs be, that in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the first place, the mind of man will be adorned with a greater measure of knowledge and wisedom then is attainable in this life; partly as it is exercised about higher and more noble objects then those we converse withall here below, partly also as it will have a clearer apprehen­sion, and quicker perception then it is capable of whilst it is clouded by the fumes of a gross Body. Hence it is that the Apostle tells us, 1 Cor. 13. 12. Here we see through a glass darkly, but there we shall see clearly, as we are seen. There we shall contemplate things in themselves, and in their causes, which here we have but a faint reflection of; there we shall un­derstand all the admirable wisedom of divine provi­dence, which is here a mystery to us. Whilst we were in this world we modestly and humbly belie­ved that all things wrought for good, but then we shall clearly understand the manner thereof: here we have a narrow sphere, but there we move in a clear and free air, and have a vast and unbounded prospect before us, in which our minds may ravish themselves with admiration, and expatiate without bounds or limits. There all the secrets of nature, the mysteries of grace, the knots of Theology, and the very area­na imperii will be open to us, as being now interioris admissionis of the privy Council of Heaven.

AND this will be as much more pleasant then the entertainments of sense are to us now, as the plea­sures of a man are beyond those of a beast; or the fa­culty of reason is above the powers of the Body. And although it be too observable, that in this world men are commonly more taken with the latter then with the former, it is not because this is greater then that, or comparable to it, but because the generality of [Page 339] men have drowned themselves in the Body, and so lost all relish of intellectual pleasures; therefore when the Body is refined, and reason hath recovered there­by its just pre-eminence, and become a true test and citerion of good and evil, there will an unspeakable pleasure flow in this way.

NOR will the delight of the will in the close em­braces of true and indubitable goodness be less ravish­ing then that of the mind in the apprehension of truth, forasmuch as the former is as natural to, and as pecu­liarly the entertainment of the one, as the latter is of the other faculty, and must most certainly afford so much a greater pleasure, as he will, which hath a kind of infinity in it self, must consequently be able to take in more largely of the pleasure of its object. And now that the man is delivered from the juggling and sophistry of Sathan, and the false light of sense and carnal interest, so that he apprehends true good in its native beauty, it cannot be but he must be more taken with it, then ever he was heretofore with the empty and guilded Pageantry of corporeal delights; for it cannot be doubted but God hath taken care to reconcile every man's duty with his happiness, and made that best for man which he doth most peculiar­ly require of him; and every man will find it so when once temptation being removed, he singly and sin­cerely applies himself to the experiment.

AND then for Conscience, or the comfortable reflexion upon what hath been done well and vertu­ously. I need say the less of that, in regard every man in this life hath experience of the happy effects of it. But alas, in this world oftentimes melancholy of Body so much abates the comforts of it, and either dark thoughts of God, or the just sense of our own demerits by many miscarriages in time past, do so [Page 340] much either disturb its reasonings, or weaken its con­clusions, that few men know rightly the force of it, and fewer live under the constant consolations there­of. But when men come to Heaven, and see God a God of love and goodness; find their sincerity ac­cepted, and their sins done away; have no cloud of ignorance, nor melancholick panick fear upon them, then they recount with triumph all the difficulties they have conquered, the temptations they have re­sisted, the afflictions they have sustained, the self­denial they have used, the vertuous choice they have made, the manly prosecution they have performed, the brave examples they have left behind them, and the many evil ones they despised and escaped; in short, the good they have done, and the evil they have eschewed; and by all together, the demonstra­tion they have given of sincere love and loyalty to God; which affords them a continual feast within themselves, and then rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

AND then in the last place, since (as we have shewed) the Body it self shall be raised again and glorified; the meaning is not surely, that it shall on­ly become an accession to the felicity of the Soul, or be happy by reflection only; but doubtless all such bodily powers as are fit to be restored in this glorified state of a spiritual Body, shall be accommodated with their proper and peculiar entertainments: that so as that hath been denied and mortified in subserviency to the interest of the Soul in its former state, it may now have its amends here. And whereas it is cer­tain some of the more gross powers of the Body shall be laid aside in this renovation of things, because our Saviour hath told us, that in the resurrection they nei­ther marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the [Page 341] Angels of God: Mat. 22. 30. and the Apostle S. Paul ex­presses himself thus, 1 Cor. 6. 13. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them: It seems therefore not improbable, that as some of those offices shall cease, so others more gene­rous and excellent, shall then be discovered in their stead. And for all those that are restored with the Body, they shall not be in vain, but have their use, their objects, and their delights. The Eyes shall probably please themselves with delightfull prospects, the Ears be entertained with harmonies; there shall be a kindly and delicious motion of the Spirits, the whole Fabrick shall shine with light and beauty, and shall have a wonderfull agility and vigorous motion, so as to be able to mount the Heavens, as we know the Body of our Saviour did after his Resurrection. All this, and whatsoever else is good, or desirable, or glorious, or possible, shall be the portion of good men in the other world.

TO which add, that as that happiness shall be of the whole man, and of all his powers and capacities, and with the highest gratifications; so that it may be meer sincere and perfect happiness indeed, there shall be no allay or mixture of any thing that may give the least trouble or disturbance; there shall be all the instances of joy, all the ingredients of feli­city, and nothing else to the contrary. No sad cir­cumstance to imbitter his delights, nothing to divert him, or call him off from his enjoyments, no weari­ness to interrupt his prosecutions, nor satiety to make the fruition loathsom and tedious; no fear or solici­tude to abate his delight, no temptation to disturb or molest him, no danger of excesses to check and re­strain him. Here the former Prodigal may now swim in the highest and most generous pleasures without [Page 342] riot or intemperance; without danger of exhausting either himself or them: in a word, here there is no fatal interchanges and vicissitudes of good and evil, bitter and sweet, as is usual in this world, but simple, unmixt, constant joy and happiness.

IT was a rare and unparalleled happiness of Quin­tus Metellus, of whom it is said, that he had such a benign gale of prosperity constantly attended him, that in all the tedious and perillous voyage of a ve­ry long life, he never met with storm nor calm, rock nor shelf, but arrived at his Port in peace, full of days,Valerius Maxim. lib. 7. cap. 1. and laden with blessings. For (saith the Historian) he lived in the greatest honour and afflu­ence, having had the glory of being Consul (the highest Magistracy) of being General of a Roman Army, (the highest trust) and of a triumph, (the greatest honour and felicity.) He lived to see his three Sons all arrive at the highest dignities and pre­ferments that magnificent State of Rome could yield them; his three Daughters all married to the best Families: and by all these he had a numerous and hopefull progeny of Grandchildren descending from himself, and trained up under his eye. In all his life there was no other news in his Family but of weddings, births, successes, jollities and triumphs; no such thing as a funeral, mourning, or any disaster all his days: and all this crowned with an [...], a gentle and easy death at last in the presence and imbraces of all his dearest Friends, Children, and Family.

BUT this (as I said) was a rare and extraordi­nary case, not to be matched again in all History; the common method of providence in this world is to mingle sweet with bitter, grief with joy; and so light and darkness, day and night, prosperity and adversity [Page 343] intercept and succeed each other; he that is now mise­rable may expect to be one day happy, and he that is happy now, must expect his turn of misery. It was therefore worthily esteemed a brave and noble carri­age of Paulus Aemilius, when he had conquered and taken captive the potent Prince Perseus, after he had gently treated and comforted the unfortunate Prince, he turns himself to admonish the unexperienced young Men of his Train and Family.Livy Hist. lib. 45. cap. 7. Exemplum insigne cer­nitis (saith he) mutationis rerum humanarum, vobis haec praecipue dico Juvenes, ideo in secundis rebus nihil in quenquam superbe ac violenter consulere, nec praesenti credere fortunae, cum quid vesper ferat incertum sit, &c. You see here before you (saith he) a remarkable example of the mutability of humane affairs, a Prince that was lately a terrour to the Roman name now in chains, and at our mercy; learn hereby you young men, that you neither suffer your selves to be transported with pride, nor trust too much to fortune, since you see by this specta­cle what changes a little time may produce. But most memorable of all, and most accommodate to my pur­pose, is that carriage of the same Paulus, when in the midst of all his glories and successes, the news was brought him that his two Sons were dead, he recol­lecteth himself, and addresses himself to the people of Rome in this sort.Ibid. cap. 41. Mihi quoque ipsi nimia jam fortu­na mea, edque suspecta esse coepit, & postquam omnia secundo cursu fluxissent, neque erat quod ultra precarer, illud optavi ut cùm ex summo retrò volvi fortuna consue­scit, mutationem ejus domus mea potiùs quam respublica sentiret, &c. I was aware (saith he) that my fortune was too great to hold on at that rate, and since I could not but expect an ebbe to succeed such tide, I am glad it hath pleased God that the change hath happened in my private family rather then in the publick affairs.

[Page 344] THIS great man well understood the course of this world, in which nothing is so certain as uncer­tainty it self, nothing so sad but hath some qualifica­tions or abatements; nothing so perfectly happy, but it hath some grievous consequents or appendages. But in those happy regions we speak of, a constant gale breaths always from the same point; a man is evenly carried along his course, without interrupti­ons and turnings; I say, in the world to come only, there is pure and unmixed joy, and there it is in the truest and fullest measures.

NOW the result of all these things together must make it a most glorious and comfortable estate; when a man shall arrive at the summ of all his wishes, when he shall not be put to contentment but receive satis­faction; not shrink himself, and contract his mind to his condition, but his condition be fitted to his mind; when there shall not be that thing which is possible, and can minister any delight, but shall be poured out upon him, and that in such full measure, as to replenish and overflow all his powers and capa­cities; and where his powers shall be all inlarged and refined to that very end, that he may receive in more of happiness, and that of the noblest purest kind with­out mixture or allay. ‘O happy and glorious state of things! O happy day when these things shall come to pass! and most happy they that shall be thought worthy of it! Stay my Soul, and wonder at thy Father's bounty and goodness; ravish thy self with admiration of these glorious preparations for thy entertainment. Look up hither, and comfort thy self under all the uncertainties, disappointments, adversities, conflicts of this life, turn thy eyes this way, and loath the husks of sinfull pleasure; de­spise the unsincere, the guilded hypocritical treat­ments [Page 345] of the lower world, trample upon all the glories of it, and reach after this and hasten hi­ther.’

3. BUT this is not all yet, the joys of Heaven are as lasting as they are great and full. When God hath recovered his lost Son (as aforesaid) he shall never be lost again, he shall never be miserable more, he now gives him an inheritance by an indefecible ti­tle; A Crown immortal that fadeth not away, a King­dom that cannot be shaken. A house not made with hands, but eternal in the Heavens: Stronger then the foundations of the Earth, or the poles of Heaven; for those shall be dissolved, and these shall melt away with fervent heat, But thy throne, O God, indureth for ever and ever.

LET there be never so many and great ingredients of felicity otherwise, if this be wanting of the duration of it, it answers not the desires of a man, and is very short and defective. For whenever it shall expire, it will be as if it never had been; nay, if any sense of things remain afterwards, it is a great aggravation of unhappiness fuisse foelicem, that a man hath out-lived his own comforts; and the comparing his present de­stitution with his former injoyments, is really a torment to him. Therefore it is observed to be the humour of some of the wisest Nations, to bestow as little cost as they possibly can upon feasting, and the bodily entertainments of eating and drinking, who yet are very sumptuous and magnificent in buildings, and such other things as are durable, because they consi­der those former perish in the using. And this is the very argument upon which the Holy Scripture slurs all the glories of this world,1 Cor. 7. 31. that [...], the Scene changes; all is but acting a part for a while, and shortly the lights are put out, the curtain drawn, [Page 346] and sic transit gloria mundi; in whatever gallantry a man appeared upon the Stage, he must retire and be undrest, and be what he was before; upon which account he must be a very vain and silly man, who so little forethinks what will shortly befall him, as to bear himself high upon his present ornaments.

BUT it was without doubt a cutting saying to the Glutton in the Gospel, Son remember thou hast had thy good things, and Lazarus evil things; now therefore he is comforted, and thou art tormented. For although (as we noted before) it be the common fate of this world that good and evil take their turns, yet most certainly the relish and remembrance of good things past makes the succession of evil most pungent and intolerable. Nay, which is more, the very fears and expectation of this vicissitude makes the sense of the greatest present flat and insignificant.

IT would questionless be a great relief to the Souls in Hell, and a remission of their torments, if they could conceive any hopes of emerging at last out of that condition; and it would be a great abatement of the joys of Heaven, if any suspicion should enter there, that possibly that felicity might one time or other expire. But this is the very Hell of Hell, that there is not the least crany through which to spy light beyond those dark regions; no hopes, but they that come thither are for ever abandoned by God, and made the triumphs of his vengeance. And it is the glory of coelestial glory, the crown of the Heavenly Kingdom that it is eternal, that the river of life is in­exhaustible, that the glorious enjoyments of that bles­sed state never fail, and that men shall ever live to enjoy them.

O Eternal, eternal! that word speaks Seas of com­fort and a boundless glory; it fills us with wonder [Page 347] and astonishment, it is that which we cannot com­prehend, and therefore fit to be the supream happi­ness. Eternal life is all the world, and more then ten thousand worlds in one word. It is higher then the Heavens, greater then the Universe, it is all things. It is the flower of joy, the quintessence of comfort, the pinnacle of glory, the crown of blessedness, the very soul and spirit of Heaven. It is all miracle, all ecstasy, all that we can wish, all that we can receive, all that God can give; nay, all that he himself can enjoy.

BUT the wonder rises higher yet, if we consi­der who it is that is made the subject of this blessed eternity. If it had been some glorious Angelical Be­ing, who was by nature removed from all matter, out of the reach of bodily contagion or infirmity; a pure bright shining intellect: or if it had been man that had never faln from Paradise, that had contracted no sickliness and infirmity, no disorder of passions, nor violence of humours, nor other presage of mortality; or especially, if it had been a man that never had vo­luntarily sinned against his Maker, but such an one as by prudent management and subjugation of his Body under all the difficulties he is thereby exposed to, had merited some extraordinary favour at God's hand; if, I say, any of these had been the case, eternal life had been less admirable.

BUT that man cloathed with a Body, clogged with flesh, that faln and degenerate man, nay, sick­ly, infirm man, a meer bundle of a thousand diseases, the triumph of death, and the prisoner of the grave, that he should become the subject of eternity, and be placed in a condition out of the reach of fate, beyond the sphere of chance and contingency, above morta­lity, where no time shall wear him away, no violence [Page 348] shall touch him, no strife of principles shall gradually work his destruction:

WHEN the everlasting Springs are dried up, that he should have life in himself; when the Moun­tains shall be removed, the Earth abolished, and the Heavens pass away as a smoak, that he should survive all this, and be fresh and vigorous to a thousand A­ges, and feel a perpetual motion, a constant circula­tion of the principles of life and joy in himself; this is the wonder of all wonders, and here we may cry out [...], O the height, and depth, and breadth of the power and goodness of God.

NOTWITHSTANDING all these mul­titudes of wonders, this shall be done; for besides that the Divine Majesty made the Soul of an immor­tal nature from the beginning, that it cannot perish but by an act of his Omnipotency, he will be so far from destroying it violently, that he will everlasting­ly irradiate it by his own vital Spirit, and thereby perpetually improve that energy he first gave it; and then for the Body, that shall be sublimed to such a purity and perfection, that it shall admit of no cor­ruptive fermentation, nothing shall weaken, weary or disorder it, but it shall be plainly indissoluble as the Soul it self. This is the third step of Heavens glory; but there is a fourth yet behind which must not be forgotten. And that is

4. THE consideration of the incomparably sweet and blessed society there to be enjoyed. When God had first made man, and placed him in the terrestrial Paradise, where to the perfection of his nature he had furnished him also, with all things of necessary use, or delightfull entertainment, he considered yet that it was not good for man to be alone, and therefore provi­ded a companion for him; for in the midst of all af­fluence [Page 349] of other things solitude is most uncomfortable to humane nature, insomuch that it is not to be doubted, but that any man in his right wits, would rather chuse very mean and hard circumstances in so­ciety, then the most plentifull and commodious, with seclusion from the conversation of men like himself. For society not only relieves men's impotency, and secures them against danger, but fortifies the spirits, and raises the parts of men, as we see by daily experi­ence; and above all, it eases the burdens, and mul­tiplies the joys of humane life: and touching this last, as the Earth is not so much warmed and inriched by the direct, as by the reflected beams of the Sun, so we find by experience that there is no happy accident or success equally refreshes us in its direct contingen­cy, as when we perceive it in the rebound or sally, and find other men (especially our Friends) take no­tice of it, and reflect it upon us: And for this reason it is, that though the world be full enough of men, yet men (not content with that common alliance) enter besides into more strict confederations, which we call Friendships, (which are therefore not unfitly called by some body sal societatis, infirmitatis praesidium & vitae humanae portus,) as if life was not only an unsafe but an insipid and flat thing without Friendship.

AND this is not only so amongst men, but some­thing of it is discoverable even amongst those higher and more noble Beings the Angels themselves, touch­ing whom though some have been too phantastical and boldly intruded into things they understand not, per­emptorily defining their distinct Orders and Colledges, yet it's plain enough that God placed not them in so­litude, but made several Orders and Societies of them, and accordingly they find delight in one another, not only in the mutual assistance they give each [Page 350] other in the discharge of their Ministeries here below, but in joyning together in blessed Quires above, to admire and praise their ever glorious Creatour. And perhaps it is not impertinent to add this also, that even the Divine Majesty it self, who by reason of his infinite perfections is seipso contentus, and can have no need of any thing without or besides him­self; yet when we say (and that truely) of him, that he made all things for himself, and his own glory, the meaning is, that he takes delight in the reflection of his own image, and feels his own perfections rever­berated upon him from his Creatures.

BUT there is no necessity we should goe so far, since all I am concerned in at present is sufficiently manifest; namely, that the happiness of men in the Kingdom of Heaven could not be compleat and full without the advantage of that blessed society which there they shall enjoy, and that added to the foremen­tioned ingredients, raises it to the highest pitch of felicity that we can apprehend or imagine.

FOR in the first place, there we shall enjoy the glorious presence of the Divine Majesty, without consternation or affrightment; whilst men are in this world, it is not only impossible for weak eyes to be­hold so bright a glory, but every approach of him strikes them with terrour. When God had appeared to Jacob in a vision only, it filled him with great ap­prehensions of so august a Majesty, and he breaks out, Gen. 28. 17. How dreadfull is this place, &c. And the Prophet I saiah, when he saw a stately scene of the Divine Glory, cries out, Woe is me, I am un­done; for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord of Hosts: Isa. 6. 5. For besides that the very glory of such displays of the Divinity, were wont to be very wonderfull and surprizing, the consideration also of [Page 351] what men had deserved at God's hands, and the re­flection upon their own miscarriages, made all such appearances very formidable and suspicious to them. But now in Heaven we shall see him and live; he will not oppress us with his Majesty, nor confound us with his Glory; there shall be no guilt to affright us, nor object to amaze us; he will either fortify and sharpen our sight, or submit himself to our capacity, and shine out in all sweetness, delight and compla­cency towards us.

NOW this must needs afford unspeakable felici­ty, for in enjoying him we enjoy all things; foras­much as all that is any where good and delectable, did flow from him, and is to be found in him, as in its source and original. All that can charess our powers, that can ravish our hearts, all that is good, all that is lovely and desirable, are here in their great­est perfection, and compendiously to be enjoyed. So the Psalmist, Psal. 16. 11. In thy presence there is full­ness of joy, and at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

AGAIN, we shall there also enjoy the society of the blessed Jesus, we shall see him as he is, and behold his glory; and be with him for ever. What a ravishment was it to the Disciples, and what an ecsta­sy did it put them into, when he appeared again to them after his Resurrection? he had promised them he would do so, and they had reason to believe him; having seen the miracles he had wrought already, and the wonderfull attestations to his divine power; notwithstanding, when they saw with what ma­lice the Jews persecuted him, and with what suc­cess, that they stigmatized his reputation, insult­ed over his person, derided his doctrine, and put him to death, which he had now for some time [Page 350] lien under the power of; their hearts mis-gave them, and they began now to mistrust they should never see him again, who they had hoped should have redeemed Israel. However, they resolve to see what is become of him, and between hopes and fears they come to his Sepulchre on the third day, but with more of the latter then the former, as appears by the spices they brought with them to imbalm him; as if they resolved his memorial should be precious with them though they never saw him more. Thither be­ing come they find the Watch dismayed and fled, the Sepulchre open, the Grave-cloaths laid in order, all which somewhat revived them; and besides, they see an Angel standing at the door, telling them that he was indeed risen from the dead, this more incourages them: but when himself appears to them as they were going pensive into Galilee, and convinces them that it was indeed he, by entertaining them with the same discourses he used to have with them, by eating with them, and by shewing to Thomas especially his Hands and his Feet, and all the Characters of the same person:

THEN what joy were they in! Lord how were they transported! how do they wonder at their own stupidity and incredulity hitherto, and admire their own felicity now! But when at the last day after many hundred years interruption of his bodily appea­rance, nay, when those good men that have not seen, but have believed; that have lived to him, de­nied themselves, been persecuted, have died for him, shall see him in glory, shall behold that image of per­fect goodness and loveliness, shall injoy him that died for them, that purchased them by his bloud, that o­pened Heaven to them, shall hear him say, Come ye blessed of my Father, receive a Kingdom prepared for [Page 353] you, &c. ‘You who have imitated me in holiness, and followed me in my sufferings; you who have not been discouraged by the meanness of my first appearance, nor the long expectation of my second coming; whose love and resolution for me was not baffled by the contempt of the world, debauched by the examples of men, nor abated by the pre­tended difficulty of my institutions; you shall now see my glory, be like me, rejoice with me, live with me, and never be separated from me more.’ It is in vain for me to goe about to express the tran­scendency of this joy, which no tongue can utter, nor any pen can describe; we can think a great deal more then we can speak, but we shall then feel what we cannot now conceive; when every face shall shine with chearfullness, every eye sparkle with joy, every heart overflow with gladness, and every mouth be filled with Allelujah, and the whole Quire sing together the new song, the song of Moses, and of the Lamb.

BUT this is not all yet, for in Heaven holy men shall not only enjoy the presence of their Lord, but the comfortable society of all his train, the glorious host of Angels; these as they have condescended to minister to men in this world, and diligently to im­ploy themselves for the protection of good men, and for the recovering of evil men to God, and for the raising them from the dead, and presenting them be­fore God in Heaven; so having now successfully fi­nished all that ministry, shall now wellcome them to glory; rejoice with them, and entertain them in friendly and familiar conversation: those great, and wise, and holy Spirits shall recount to them all the wonders of divine providence past, which they have been imployed in, discover to them all the secrets of [Page 354] the other world, and as Praecentors, goe before and guide them in all the joys and triumphs of that blessed Kingdom.

AND lastly, holy men shall rejoice in the happy society of one another. Some men call the betaking themselves to a Cloister or Monastery, by the name of forsaking the world, as if that was the greatest in­stance of self-denial and mortification; whereas in truth if things be well considered (especially if that state of retirement be ordered as it should, and pre­tends to be,) it is so far from a severity to ones self, that it is the most effectually to consult a man's ease and comfort; it is to forsake the hurry, the trouble, vexation and care of the world, and to enjoy freely and without interruption the best thing this world hath, which is the company of persons just like a man's self, without the annoyance of different humours, qualities and interests; and doubtless were such a thing to be hoped for in this world (which that sort of men pretend) it were the most lovely and desira­ble thing that can be here, that so many good and wise men who destine themselves only to the study of vertue and knowledge, who are all of a mind, all in a like condition; who have no cross or interfering interests amongst them, should enjoy one another constantly, under the same roof, relieve one anothers necessities, improve one anothers parts, and comfort each others minds. Such a condition I say, were it any where to be found on this side Heaven, would tempt men to say with St. Peter, Master, it is good for us to be here, &c. But alas, whatever men talk or fancy, there is no so select company, but there is some weakness and folly amongst them; there is no such recess, but emulation and passion finds en­trance; no wilderness without a Devil and tempta­tion, [Page 355] nor any life whatsoever in this world, that is wholly free from care and vexation. Because there is sickliness and passion, divers humours of Body and different constitutions of mind, the understandings of men are of several statures, their interests thwart one another; there will be peevishness and mis-under­standing, whisperings and jealousy, passion and par­ties amongst men while they are here.

BUT in the Kingdom of Heaven there meet the spirits only of just men made perfect, holy men freed from mis-understanding, passion, or imperfection; no annoyance either by the vicinage of the wicked, or the infirmities of the sincerely vertuous. All are of one mind, of one lip, one heart, no saying I am of Paul, I of Cephas, or I of Christ, for Christ is all, and in them all.

AND what a felicity this is like to be we may partly guess by the distractions of the Church here be­low, for want of it, which are such as that it's hard to say whether Religion suffer more by its united enemies, or by its divided friends; and whether the uncharitableness of Christians be not as lamentable, as the persecutions of Pagans. But there disputes shall cease, all heats be abated, all controversies um­pired, and all having one end and interest, the only emulation shall be who shall imbrace the other with the more ardent love, and more adore and magnify the Divine Majesty.

THERE shall be the glorious Panegyris, the Assembly and Church of the first born, a collection of all the good men that ever were from the founda­tion of the world; and men shall come from the East and West, and from the North and from the South, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the King­dom of God. Here shall be no private spirit, no [Page 356] narrow hide-bound mind that can love only their own opinion, or party, or kindred, or benefactours; but a generous love, an universal good-will: those shall imbrace that never saw each other before, be­cause the same image of God and goodness runs through the whole society. ‘Who would not make one of this Assembly? who would not get into this Ark out of a troublesome, froward, contentious world, and there live in love, in joy, in peace to all eternity?’

THESE are some Clusters of the Land of Cana­an, this is a rude and imperfect draught of the New Jerusalem; this (I say,) is (according as I am able to set it forth) the entertainment which God gives his Children when they come home to him. And so much for the third and last part of the Parable.

THE FATHER'S APOLOGY, OR A VINDICATION OF THE Divine Goodness In the aforesaid Dispensation.

WE have now gone through all the three Parts of the Parable which we observed at our en­trance upon it; and in the first of them under the type of a loose and undutifull Son, we have seen the extravagant folly and madness of a course of sin. In the second, under the figure of the same Son, reco­vering his right mind, and returning to himself, and to his Father, we have had set before us a lively draught of true repentance. And in the last, by the compassions and kindness of an earthly Parent, in receiving, blessing, and rejoicing in such a Son upon his return, we have had some resemblance of the un­speakable mercies of God in pardoning, sanctifying, and saving penitent sinners. And now we are come to the Epilogue or Conclusion of the whole, which in the letter contains the Apology which the Father [Page 358] makes for this his indulgent proceedings with his Son, and in the mystery and scope of it, a vindication of God's justice, wisedom and goodness, in treating great sinners, upon their repentance with all those demon­strations of favour and bounty which we have lately discoursed of.

FOR (as we have noted in the entrance upon this Parable) the Scribes and Pharisees took great of­fence, both at the kind and obliging conversation which our Saviour used towards Publicans and Sin­ners, and at the incouragement he gave them (in his doctrine) to hope for pardon and reception with God upon their repentance; the latter of these was the immediate discharge of that gracious Embassy our Sa­viour came into the world upon; (viz.) to amend it, and to make reconciliation between God and man, and the former was only a prudent Oeconomy of his to oblige their attention and to gain opportu­nities of treating with men in order to their reforma­tion.

BUT those ill-natured and self-weening persons who would ingross all God's favours to themselves and their own character, interpret this condescension of our Saviour to bad men, to be in derogation to those that were good, and traduce the comfortable­ness of his Gospel as an incouragement to looseness. ‘For why (say they) should God the King of glo­ry be thought to debase himself so far as to send Em­bassadours to Rebels? hath he more kindness for them then for his most dutifull Subjects? hath he (like David) such soft indulgence towards a come­ly but disobedient Absolom, that he prefers his safe­ty before the whole host of his most loyal Servants? can it be that the Almighty should (like some good natured persons) be so ready to forgive their ene­mies [Page 359] that, they forget their friends and themselves too? what is there no difference between the good and the bad? no distinction? is Heaven prepared for the one as well as for the other? is he likely to be a messenger sent from God, and to reform the world, that is found in conversation, and main­taining friendship with those that are the scandal of it? or why doth he not preach hell and damnation to such, rather then hopes and comfort? why doth he not proclaim the glorious priviledges of good and holy men, rather then pardon to the bad and vicious? at least, why doth he not reprove debau­chery and prophaneness, rather then expose hypo­crisy, and be always girding at the sanctified party? We Scribes and Pharisees fast and pray, and oblige our selves to a thousand nice and difficult observan­ces: we wear God's livery, and call our selves by his name; insomuch that all the world takes us for his servants: But these Publicans and Sinners are meer Sons of Belial, have acknowledged no Lord, submitted to no yoke, but given themselves up to their own will and pleasure. AND we have always maintained the same tenour, kept up our profession, and drawn the eyes of all men upon us for our zeal and accuracy in our Religion; but these men with whom this pretended Messias is so familiar, and whom he so much incourages, if they are good, it is very lately come upon them, and the scars of their former life must needs reflect as much scandal upon his institution, as their present discipleship can do honour to his skill in their cure and reformation. What reason can there be that he should be so fond of them, and so neglectfull of us? how can they have equal title to, or the same shares in the other world with our selves? [Page 360] such equality is the greatest inequality; such arith­metical justice, would be the greatest injustice, and argue God guilty of accepting persons, which he declares against.’

THIS is a true Copy of the thoughts of these self­conceited Jews that murmured against our Saviour's doctrine and management, and this is the best that can be made of their pretences for so doing; TO con­vince them of the weakness and absurdity whereof our Saviour turns the Tables, and (as we have seen) having introduced a foolish, disobedient, and vici­ous man, after a long course of wildness and extra­vagancy, coming at last to himself, and then return­ing to his Father, and his duty, pardoned, and joy­fully received by him.

THIS (saith our Saviour) is the image or like­ness of the case we dispute about. But then suppose (saith he) this Father having another Son, who had not as the former, ever run into rebellion against him, and he should now expostulate with his Father after this manner. Lo these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: And yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which had devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted Calf. q. d. ‘Sir, I call your self to witness the sincerity and constancy of my duty towards you; did I ever dispute your au­thority, boggle at your commands, or express a weariness of your service? I never to this day re­belled against you, as this your younger Son hath done; who after he had mis-spent your substance by riot and debauches, made himself a shame to your name and family; and now reduced to ex­tremity (having no other way to betake himself to) [Page 361] is returned to you, and received by you with such demonstrations of unusual joy and favour. Was I ever he, that by any wilfull miscarriage deserved your just displeasure? or were you ever so kind a Father to me, as to express your resentment of my duty and diligence, by any such instance as you have made to him after an extraordinary manner? Give me leave therefore to say, I cannot but wonder at the different measures you make use of towards him and me; if this indeed be your act, and not rather the unlicensed profusion of your Steward and Ser­vants, for joy that they have now found a Son of your like themselves, to countenance and incou­rage their excesses! Sure it is not all one with you whether your Children be good or bad, obedient or disobedient. I cannot suspect it should be with you as with common persons, who remember the last and freshest kindnesses, but forget old and faith­full services; or who value their hopes above their experiences; nor can I think it becomes me to ac­cuse you of fondness and partiality, as the present face of things would give some colour for. It is true, your younger Son is returned, but he went away first; he is found, but I was never lost. In short, the present scene of jollity is of dangerous example, apt to incourage looseness, and discou­rage obedience; therefore I hope it hath not your allowance; or however, I cannot bear the refle­ction it makes upon my self, and therefore will bear no part in it.’

AND now (saith our Saviour) look what an­swer you would think the Father would make in this case to the discontents of his elder Son: and the same will both justify God, and vindicate me in the point in hand. And I doubt not but you imagin the Fa­ther [Page 362] would reply thus, Son thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine; but it was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy Brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found. And this answer will as well justify God in his pro­ceedings with the Sons of men against the murmurings of Scribes and Pharisees, as it will do an earthly Pa­rent in his dealings with his Children: for whether we consider the literal, or the more recondite sense of the words, we shall easily observe these three things to be contained in them.

  • 1. An assertion of prerogative, in that in both the cases supposed, as well the Heavenly Father as the Earthly, do but dispose of their own.
  • 2. A declaration of justice in those words, All that I have is thine.
  • 3. A demonstration of wisedom, It was meet that we should make merry and be glad, &c. But these de­serve to be more fully explained.

FIRST then in the cases forementioned, both the Earthly Parent, and especially God Almighty, have just right to dispose as they please. [...], &c. (saith St. Chrysostom) I took nothing from thee (my elder Son) to give to my younger; I did not strip one to adorn another; all was my own grace and favour. There is a vast difference betwixt matters of strict justice, and matters of bounty; or between me­rit and free gift. If an Earthly Parent should deprive one Son of his right out of fondness or indulgence to the other, or should give the first less then he de­serves, that he might give the second more, this were apparent injustice; but so long as the one hath no [Page 363] wrong done him, though the other have more then is necessarily due to him, there is no cause of complaint. And so should God do as the people of Israel charged him, Ezek. 18. that is, should he make one man a sufferer for anothers sin, and order it that Whereas the Fathers have eaten sour grapes, the Children's teeth should be set on edge; This he himself acknowledges would represent his ways unequal; or if he should (as some have had the confidence to assert) by an horrible decree, pre-judge a great part of mankind to eternal torments before they had done good or evil, or with­out respect to their carriage in times to come, meerly for the demonstration of his Sovereignty, or the in­hansing of his favour to others, whom he alike abso­luetely decrees to save; this would notoriously ble­mish his justice: and therefore he neither can nor will ever do any such thing. But now to resolve to punish one less then another, when both have de­served ill alike; or to give more and greater favours to one then to another, when both have deserved equally well, is very agreeable to the Divine Maje­sty, and that which we see instances of in common experience. For who shall say the rest of the Galile­ans were not as bad as those Eighteen upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell, or those other whose bloud Pilat mingled with their sacrifices? Or who will be so uncharitable as to affirm, that every man whom we observe to be rich and prosperous in this world, is a better and more vertuous man, then he whose for­tune is lower and less comfortable? In neither of these cases any man is wronged, only some are favou­red; and in the first of these two cases God remits of his own right to punish, and in the latter he exercises his bounty and liberality. So our Saviour hath de­termined the case in the Gospel, when those that [Page 364] came early into the Vineyard expostulated, when they observed that those which came in at the last hour fared as well as they, Matt. 20. 12. Is thine eye evil because mine is good? shall I not do what I will with my own? q. d. Is it any wrong to you that another speeds better then he deserves? or must God not on­ly give account of his justice, but of his bounty too? And this will be as apparent if we suppose two per­sons to have deserved unequally, (that is to say) when one hath indeed deserved better in the same kind then another, but neither of them have been in any sort proportionable to the reward which is be­stowed, for then it is plain that there can be no wrong because there is no merit properly so called.

AND this is the very case in hand, suppose a ve­ry holy man that hath constantly persevered in a course of the strictest vertue, if now another man that becomes vertuous at last be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven as well as he, there can be no ground of murmuring because Heaven is no man's due, no man deserves it but in the words of our Saviour, St. Luk. 17. 10. When we have done all that we can we must say we are unprofitable servants, and have only done what was our duty to do. In short, the great blessings of the Gospel (which we not long since spoke of) namely, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Resurrection of the Body, and the glories of the Kingdom of Heaven, are all the effects of meer and unspeaka­ble grace, to which no man hath any right antece­dent to God's promise; and therefore since no man could have complained of God if he had not pro­pounded them to us, no more then the posterity of Esau could challenge God that he promised not the Land of Canaan to them as well as to the off-spring of Jacob; consequently lest of all can any man reasona­bly [Page 365] think himself injured if God by prerogative ad­mit other men besides himself into the participation thereof. Especially if we consider

2. IN the second place, that one man's injoyment of those glories is no abatement of another man's hap­piness that partakes of them. For thus saith the Fa­ther, Son, all that I have is thine. q. d. ‘I am still able to reward thee, though I have been thus libe­ral to thy Brother; I will be just to thee though I have been thus kind to him.’ S. Chrys. ubi priús. [...], &c. I esteem thee for thy vertuous course, and have mercy on him for his wise recourse or return: I love thee for thy constant holy life, and him for his happy conclusion. Thou shalt have never the less then I promised, though he have more then he could expect.

NOw although it be somewhat difficult to make this literally true in the narrow condition of humane affairs; for first it is very common for Parents to take off that love from one Child which they bestow im­moderately upon another; and again, if their affecti­ons were infinite, yet their fortunes are not; and a great liberality to one must make the other fare the worse: yet the mystical sense is very easy, for God is neither narrow hearted nor strait handed; he can imbrace infinite Souls, and reward innumerable obser­vances: He neither despises one when he loves ano­ther, nor is disabled to requite an old Servant when he shews favour to a new Convert. He (like Isaac) hath more then one blessing, so that Jacob need not plot to supplant Esau, nor Esau despair because Ja­cob hath been first blessed. The feast of good things God hath prepared is sufficient to accommodate all [Page 366] the Guests whether they come early or late, Heaven is wide enough to hold both the one and the other.

WITH this consideration our Saviour comforts his Disciples, Jo. 14. 2. In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you be­fore. q. d. I will not deceive you with vain hopes, Heaven is capacious enough to receive all you my Disciples, and though I leave you for the present, there I will entertain you all; and if there be diffe­rent degrees of glory, yet no vessel shall be empty; every man shall be as full of happiness as it is possible. Therefore there can be no cause of emulation, no room for discontent where there is no power or capa­city unsatisfied. Besides, (as I have shewed already) the society in Heaven is a principal ingredient of the happiness thereof, where blessed Spirits communicate with, delight in, exhilarate and ravish each other: and therefore the more arrive at that state, the more glorious is the appearance, the fuller is the harmony, and the more redoubled and multiplied are the refle­ctions of joy and blessedness.

ENVY is common in this world, where because there is not enough for all, one man's excessive hap­piness proves the disappointment of the hopes of ano­ther; for the same wheel that brings one man up must cast another down: And the Courts of Princes are full of jealousies, rivalties and emulations, because the hearts of the greatest men are narrow, and can­not admit several competitors in any eminent degree of sincere affection. But where both these and all other causes of discontent are removed, that is, where the heart and good will of God, who confers this happiness, is infinite; where the powers of those that receive it are inlarged; where the objects to be enjoyed are unlimited and unmeasurably great, and [Page 367] lastly, where the duration is eternal; no wrong is done to one man when another is happy as well as himself, nor can any complaint, murmur, or animosi­ty enter there.

3. BUT thirdly, if it appear that there was great reason why the Father should thus dispose, then his apology is the more perfect, and the murmurs of the elder Brother utterly absurd. Now for this the Fa­ther adds, It was meet that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy Brother was dead and is alive a­gain, &c. As if he had said, ‘Son, though the pre­rogative of a Father ought to bear down the pre­tensions of a Son, and I might without your leave dispose as I will of my own, yet I have taken care of your interest as well as of my own authority, and have shewed you that your Brothers gain shall not be your loss; and now I will condescend fur­ther to you, and shew you what equitable consi­derations there were on the part of your Brother, which made it becoming my wisedom to do as I have done.’

‘IN the first place, when I saw in how sad and pitifull a plight your poor Brother was, (who was my own flesh and bloud as well as your self) and thereby collected what hardships he had undergone, I should have forgotten my self as well as him, and not have deserved the name of Father, if seeing his contrition as well as his distress, I had not had compassion on him.’ [...], &c. St. Chrysost. When (saith the Father) I saw my Son, observed his submission, and heard his humble address, what could I do less then I did? was [Page 368] it in my power not to pity my own Son? be thou judge that art angry at it. It was not in my nature to be cruel to him that proceeded from my own loins, &c. ‘And by the favours which you see I have conferred up­on him, I have not only melted down all the hard­ness of his heart, and assured him to my self for the future against all relapses, but also set open a door of hope to others of my family (if ever such a case should happen again) that they may have no in­vincible temptation to be obstinate and incurable. And if perchance you may think that by this means I as well incourage others to rebell as to return, I tell you that I for my part had rather (if it must be so) that many should presume upon my goodness, then that one should despair of mercy; since the latter would seem to perish by my default, but the other only by their own folly.’

‘AND again, when I considered how difficult a matter it is for any that are once intangled in a course of sin to dis-engage themselves again, be­cause rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft; and that to sip of the cup of meer liberty is intoxicating, and stirs up an unquenchable thirst after more; that there are charms in debauchery, and the lips of an whorish-woman are snares and bird-lime: when, I say, I consider that a young man who hath once cast off the awe and reverence of his Father, and the reins of government is like the Raven out of the Ark, who though she found not where to set her foot, but saw the face of all things full of horrour and desolation, yet hovered to and fro, and return­ed not to the Ark again; and I have observed the way of riot and licentiousness usually to end in death, and the very mouth of Hell: I was there­fore not only seised with admiration, and trans­ported [Page 369] with joy to see your Brother emerge out of all these difficulties; but I thought it fit to set up a monument of so rare an accident, and to place some marks of favour upon him, that had with such resolution broke through and recovered.’

‘MOREOVER, (saith the Father) as this event was rare and extraordinary in it self, so it will have a very happy influence upon the reputation of my family and government; for as insuccess­full rebellions in the conclusion tend to the great­ning of the Prince or State, from whom the seces­sion was made, so this return of my Son will re­pair the honour of my discipline and management as much as his miscarriage had aspersed it. And lastly, I have great reason to believe that he who hath made trial of all things, and knows so through­ly both the miseries that attend an extravagant course, and the good and comfort as well as the burdens of obedience, and hath by the severity of the former been driven to return to the latter, will for ever after prove most dutifull and governable. Where­fore upon the whole matter I think there is just grounds for my joy at my Son's return, and that you should rejoice also.’

AND now this Apology of the Father suggests to us these four things in justification of the divine wisedom as well as his goodness, in bestowing all the unspeakable favours (mentioned in the former Chap­ters) upon penitent sinners.

  • 1. The great interests and happy influence of such de­monstrations of kindness.
  • 2. The extream difficulty, and consequently the ra­rity of such recoveries make it very well worth a memo­rial when any such thing happens.
  • [Page 370] 3. It is a vast honour to Religion, and demonstrates both the efficacy of its methods, and the comfortableness and sureness of its incouragements when such persons are reclaimed.
  • Lastly, such persons are commonly very eminent and remarkably usefull afterwards, and therefore are fit ob­jects of the divine bounty.

1. FIRST, such demonstrations of favour and kindness to penitent sinners is greatly the interest of God's Family and Kingdom, in order both to the bringing men into it, and to the assuring their station therein. For God (as we have said heretofore) nei­ther forcibly draws any into his service, nor violently detains them in his family, but leaves them to the exer­cise of their own liberty; his people are a willing people, and that obedience is not worthy of God that is not voluntary and chearfull. Therefore it is necessary that he propound great and mighty motives and inducements, that so he may out-bid the Devil, and convince the minds of men that it is their interest as well as their duty, to forsake sin, to turn to God, and to adhere to him.

THE Founder of Rome that he might quickly furnish it with Inhabitants, made it an Asylum or Sanctuary to all that were in danger or distress, that so men finding that security, and those advantages abroad which they could not expect at home, might make that their Country where they found best enter­tainment.Matth. 22. 2. Luk. 14. 16. Not unlike to this is the meaning of our Saviour in the Parable of the King which made a Marriage Feast for his Son, and having invited his Guests but they refusing, he sends his Servants into the High-ways and Hedges, commanding them to bring those in which they found there, that his house [Page 371] might be furnished with guests; not doubting but partly the great necessity such persons were in, and partly the honour and happiness of such an entertain­ment would compell them to come in. Upon this account God propounds not only pardon of sin, but all the forementioned inestimable benefits to repent­ing sinners, as well as to those just men that need no repentance.

AND although it be certain, that God hath nei­ther such need of men's service, as to oblige him to resort to these great inducements; and it be also ve­ry true, that there are but a small number of those that make up the Quire in glory, who upon such motives were converted from extream debauchery: yet such is the graciousness of the good Shepherd, that he car­ries the lost Sheep home on his Shoulders rejoicing; and such is the goodness of God, that he sticks not at this price for the redemption of any one Soul. Besides, it is to be considered, that as we noted from the Historian formerly, Difficile est in tot humanis er­roribus solâ innocentiâ vivere, that though no good Subject will voluntarily transgress the laws of his Country, and fall into the displeasure of the Prince, yet the most wary and inoffensive person, that is most secure of his own integrity, would desire to live under such a government where there was room for mercy and pardon if he should offend; and the best of men are so sensible of the power of tempta­tion, and the slipperiness of their station (as well as conscious of their own sincerity) that they are mar­vellously comforted and incouraged by this admirable grace and goodness of God to sinners.

AND whereas the fear of Hell may be thought sufficient both to reclaim sinners from their evil ways, and to preserve good men from apostasy, we shall [Page 372] find upon due consideration, that fear, let it be of what object it will, is neither so lasting a principle, nor so potent and effective a motive as hope; for this last raises generosity, inflames the mind, spirits all the powers, despises or glories in difficulty; and there­fore all wise men imploy this Engine, (especially in all great enterprizes) and indeavour to make men's hopes greater then their fears, and so order the mat­ter, that those they employ may have a prospect of so great a good by success in their attempts, as shall out­weigh all their apprehensions of difficulty or danger in the atchievement. And this will be the more re­markable if we observe in that famous encounter of David with Goliah the Giant of Gath, that although there was doubtless some extraordinary impulse upon David's heart to undertake that business,1. Sam. 17. 26, &c. yet the holy Text intimates that he listned to the discourses of the people, and was inflamed by the general assurance was given him of a mighty and glorious reward to him that should effect it. Since therefore the proposition of great and glorious hopes is so necessary, not only to draw men off from the present allurements of sin, and to dissolve the charms of sense which habituate sinners are bound in; but also to comfort and incou­rage even good men themselves, and to ingage both the one and the other in a generous course of vertue: the Divine Majesty considering he hath to do with men, and resolving to deal with them agreeably to their natures, thinks it as well becoming his wisedom as his goodness, not only to proclaim impunity to his rebels upon their submission, but to assure them of the highest favours and preferments in the Court of Heaven.

2. SECONDLY, the extream difficulty, and consequently the wonderfull rarity of examples of [Page 373] great sinners recovered to sincere piety makes such happy accidents deserve to be solemnized with the greater joy and triumph. St. Gregory Nazianzen making an oration in commemoration of St. Cyprian, as well reports his flagitious life before his conversion to Christianity, as his admirable vertues and piety af­terwards, and makes the former a shadow to heighten and set off the latter:Greg. Naz. orat. 18. For (saith he) [...]. It is nothing so great a matter to maintain the Character of a good man when a man hath once attained to it, as to begin a whole new course of piety; for now the one is but to be like a man's self, and to pursue a custom or habit; but the other requires a vertuous choice, and a manly resolution able to bear down former habits, and therefore there are but few examples of the one, but many of the other.

INDEED, it is an unspeakable advantage to be early ingaged in the ways of vertue, for then by rea­son of the easiness of doing good, which is consequent of custom, a man seems to be under [...], a divine fate, a peculiar predestination to happiness; and therefore (if it be well considered) there is no­thing in all a man's whole life that he hath greater rea­son to thank God for, then that good providence of his which takes hold of our tender years, and forms them to a sense of Religion: for hereby sin is made dreadfull to our Consciences, and upon the matter vertue is as easy as vice, and the narrow way to Heaven as ready to our feet as the broad way of de­struction. But on the other side, Revocare gradus hic labor hoc opus, to reduce an old dislocation is very painfull, to put off the old man, to change customs, [Page 374] to cast out Satan out of his old possession must be very difficult, and require a very brave and generous resolution.

AND although to omnipotent power all things are alike easy, yet forasmuch as God not only speaks af­ter the manner of men, but also proceeds ordinarily by the course of natural causes, and doth not super­sede their activity, but assist them proportionably to their natures, it must needs (notwithstanding the di­vine grace) be a very difficult thing to recover an old and deplored sinner, in whom all the powers of the mind are enfeebled, the sense of Conscience stu­pified, and the very Synteresis and natural notions of the Soul are corrupted, and consequently a through reformation of such a person is like to life from the grave, and must needs draw after it, not only the eyes and admiration of men, but also the vexation of Hell, and make the Devil rage as disappointed of the prey he thought himself sure of, but especially must produce joy in Heaven, and amongst the holy Angels.

IT can indeed be no surprizal to Almighty God who foreknows all things from the beginning, and is as far from admiration as from mutability of passi­ons (both which proceed from shortness of under­standing) nor to our Lord Jesus Christ now in glory; for we see that whilst he was upon earth he knew when vertue-proceeded from him to cure the woman of her inveterate distemper. But whereas men are wont to make some passionate expressions of their resentment of every new and admirable event, God thinks fit also in such an extraordinary recovery as this we are speaking of to set up a monument, crown­ing him that overcomes the aforesaid difficulties with immortal glory: inasmuch as such a vertue though it [Page 375] run a shorter race, yet by reason of the aforesaid dif­ficulties it encounters withall, equalls if not exceeds that of the earliest setting out, and the longest course.

3. THIRDLY, it pleaseth God so plentifully to reward those that come into his Vineyard at the last hour, and to make the condition of sincere Con­verts equall to that of those who continued always in his service, because the return of such demonstrates both the excellency of vertue, the great comforts of religion, and the mighty efficacy of the methods of the Gospel.

TO begin with that first which we named last, what can be a more irrefragable proof of the power of the Gospel, then to see men who were given up to all debauchery, abandoned of all true reason, drowned in sensuality, careless of eternity; in a word, dead in trespasses and sins, recover their right minds, and come to life again? Doth not this evince that which the foolish world called foolishness, to be the power of God to salvation? Doth it not bear an il­lustrious testimony to that divine institution in shew­ing such effects of it as all Philosophy and humane Rhetorick despaired of? To preserve those that are in health is valuable, but to recover the sick, and especially to raise the dead is admirable. To civilize some part of mankind is all that humane wisedom can pretend to; but to make men substantially and com­pleatly vertuous, to alter men's tempers, to correct their course, to reclaim the desperate, to make lewd and profligate wretches become grave, and sober, and chaste, and holy: this is a noble atchievement, and this is the pretence of the Gospel, and such Converts as we speak of verify all its pretensions. Is it not therefore agreeable to the divine wisedom to cast a [Page 376] glory upon that which glorifies the wisedom of his invention?

AND then for the other point, that by such con­versions as we speak of, the native excellency of Re­ligion, and the solidity of the comforts of vertue, are demonstrated to be above all the gaudy outside and empty pageantry of the world, or all the temptati­ons to sin whatsoever, is clear as the light, since these men who have made experiment of both, forsake the one for the other; and having found the reasonable­ness of its injunctions, the plainness and evenness of its path, and the certainty of its upshot, the present comforts, and the future rewards, stick firmly and immovably to vertue.

THE Apostle St. Peter, Ep. 2. Chap. 2. Vers. 20. tells us, that if after a man hath escaped the pollutions of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ, he be again intangled therein, and overcome, the latter end of such a man is worse then the beginning; and that it had been better for him not to have known the way of righteous­ness, then after he hath known it to turn from the holy commandment, &c. And St. Paul complains of the Galatians, as if they seemed to be bewitched, that having begun in the Spirit they would goe about to end in the flesh, Gal. 3. 1. 3. For besides that such aposta­sies render their second recovery most desperate, ha­ving eluded all the divine methods, they also sadly aggravate their own guilt, Trampling under foot the bloud of the Covenant; giving the lie to God, and belying their own Consciences in going cross to the convictions of their reason, and their experience of the comforts of Religion; in which doing they can­not seem other then inchanted or infatuated. On the other side, those that having tried all the pleasures of sin, and considered and cast up all the gains of the [Page 377] Devil's service, forsake him and seriously devote themselves from thenceforth to God and his holy ways, utterly disparage the Kingdom of Sathan, and betray the secret weakness, the falshood, the beggery and tyranny thereof. Namely, they de­clare that the Devil performs not what he promises, nor sin what it pretends to; that all the allurements of ease, mirth, pleasure, profit, which men were drawn to sin by, were nothing but vain boasts, all cheat and imposture. And they confute all the scan­dals cast upon Religion, all the calumnies against God, (as if he were an hard Master) and answer all the objections which men take up against his service, (as difficult or uncomfortable) as proceeding from meer cowardise and effeminacy of spirit. Wherefore since such men who heretofore like Sampson whilest their locks were shorn, and their eyes put out, made sport for those Philistins the infernal spirits; now calling upon God, and collecting themselves in one great effort subvert the very pillars of that Kingdom; and by this last act, giving a more fatal blow to it then otherwise they could have done in all their lives, it seems good to God to crown them as if they had always fought under his banners, as well as as­sisted his conquest at the last.

4. LASTLY, such men as have formerly lived flagitiously and wickedly, and are at last brought over effectually to hearty piety and devotion, prove commonly very eminent and remarkable for several vertues, to such a degree as is scarcely attainable or imitable by any others. And therefore though they come in late, they are crowned with the first. Name­ly, such persons are generally extraordinary humble and modest in their sense of themselves, they are very charitable and free from censoriousness and severe re­flection [Page 378] upon others, they are exceeding watchfull and cautious for the time to come, they have both a great compassion to the Souls of men of whom there is any hope of recovery, and they have a wonderfull zeal of God's glory; which things together render them both very beautifull in the eyes of God, and very usefull in the world. They are very modest and humble, as reflecting upon their former miscarri­ages, and being ashamed of themselves, their present attainments do not puff them up, by reason they have a thorn in the flesh; a fresh and quick sense of their former follies and disobedience; they remember that when they were lately in their bloud, God said to them Live. And this makes them not only most highly to admire and adore the riches of God's grace to them, that he snatcht them as a brand out of the fire; but also exceedingly contented with any condi­tion of life his providence thinks fit to put them in. ‘Let those (saith the Convert) who never defiled their garments, stand upon their own justification, and plead their own righteousness; for my part, mine is but filthy rags: If I had not found a merci­full God and a gracious Saviour, I had perished ever­lastingly. And if there be any can think God a debtor to them, they may expostulate with him about his providences; but I of all men have least reason to do it, who am less then the least of all his mercies. Now these things containing a full com­pliance with all God's designs, and being the most real advancement of his glory, must needs be very ac­ceptable to him.

AGAIN, in consequence of this humble sense of himself, the Convert is also the most charitable and favourable Judge of others, and the furthest from censoriousness. There is nothing more unbecoming [Page 379] that modesty which should be in all men, then to be Critical and curious in espying the failings of others; and nothing can be more arrogantly done towards God, then to take the judgment out of his hand, and place our selves in the Tribunal: nay, there is no­thing more infests the peace of the world then this pragmatical humour of censoriousness; but (saith the Convert) Let those that are without sin cast the first stone at others; for my part I have enough to do at home, and see more evil in my self then in all the world besides: I have learnt of the Apostle to Speak evil of no man, considering that I my self was sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, Tit. 3. 3. Thus he com­poses himself to be an example to the world of that temper, then which nothing is more conducent to better the estate of mankind; he will not rake in men's wounds, nor rip up their old sores, but for­gives as he hopes to be forgiven; he will not give ear to malicious whispers, which like the arrow of the pestilence flies in the dark, and kills without noise: he will entertain no uncharitable surmises, but hopes the best; nor aggravate men's follies, but makes the most benign and candid interpretation that that the case can bear; and thus not judging others, he shall not be condemned of the Lord. Nay further, the Con­vert is so far from all the aforesaid instances of unchari­tableness, that he is the most compassionate man in the world, both towards those that are yet in a state of sin, and those also who have stumbled and faln in their race of vertue, and the most ready and offici­ous to bring the former to an apprehension of his danger, and to restore the latter in the spirit of meek­ness: he knows the wretchedness of a sinfull conditi­on; he hath felt the pangs of a guilty Conscience; [Page 380] his heart trembles at the thoughts of Hell, and there­fore his Soul is troubled for those that are insensible of their own case; his Bowels yern, his Eyes weep in secret, and his Heart bleeds for them; he counsels, persuades, forewarns them, prays for them, and as the Prophet towards the Widows Son, he as it were stretches himself upon their dead Souls, and by the application of a lively example, indeavours to bring spiritual warmth and life into them. And now it cannot be imagined that such affection to Souls should be unrewarded by the great lover of Souls our Lord Jesus.

BESIDES, it is not to be doubted but the Convert who hath this compassion to the Souls of others, will be infinitely cautious of indangering his own; he knows the Devil continually goes about as a roaring Lion seeking whom he may devour; he under­stands how many artifices and strategems he hath to de­ceive Souls, and is sensible how full the world is of charms and allurements; he is well aware of the pit which he hath but lately escaped; and therefore is al­ways watchful and sollicitous of himself, careful to resist beginnings, and cautious of all appearance of evil; and in all these things his care and circumspection surpasses that of those happy men who never foully miscarried. ‘No (saith he) let those be secure that never knew what danger was but in contemplation only; 'tis not for me to live at ease, it was too much to ha­zard a Soul once, God forbid I should do it again; O my heart akes at the very danger it hath escaped! methinks I am not yet safe till I am in Heaven! stand upon thy guard O my Soul! keep God in thy eye! trust not thy self a moment, but in his and thy own keeping!’

[Page 381] LASTLY, (to add no more) such a person hath constantly in his bosom a burning zeal of God's glory, which the consideration of God's wonderfull mercy to him hath kindled in him. He therefore loves much, because much was forgiven him; others that have not incurred such dangers, nor been sensi­ble of such deliverances, cannot have such raised af­fections as he hath. They do not hunger and thirst after righteousness as he doth, find not that savour and relish in the means of grace that he feels, perceives not those obligations upon themselves to redeem their time, and repair their former omissions by a double diligence in God's service.

IN consideration of all these things together (to which severall others might have been added of like nature) the Jews have a saying in their Talmud, That the most just and perfect men cannot be able to stand in judgment with the Penitents; and a Rabbine of theirs Commenting upon that saying, adds fur­ther, That no Creature, no not the very Angels them­selves that never sinned, are able to compare with them. But most assuredly (without Hyperbole) they are by all the qualifications forementioned, prepared for vessels of honour, fit objects of the divine favour, and shall be received with the joy and triumph of Angels and all the celestial Host into those glorious mansions, whither Christ Jesus the friend of Penitent Sinners, and the Authour of eternall salvation is gone before. To whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory and adoration, world without end. Amen.



PAge 16. In the Contents of § 2. for his reade our Saviour's.

P. 27. l. 2. after the word maker, add to which the Almighty replies.

P. 40. l. 2. for duely, r. daily. ibid. l. 22. r. follows.

P. 50. l. 12. after rule, adde, as if.

P. 56. l. 22. for not, r. or. ibid. after evil, adde but not having such im­perative power, as to enforce the execution of its own dictates.

P. 93. l. 10. instead of worshipfull, r. worship.

P. 135. l. 34. dele, it.

P. 136. in Marg. for quum, r. quam.

P. 184. l. 13. dele, or. ibid. l. 19. dele, when.

P. 245. l. 19. for he, r. the.

P. 257. l. 1. for he, r. see.

A Catalogue of some Books Re-printed, and of other New Books Printed since the Fire, and sold by R. Royston, (viz.)

Books written by H. Hammond, D. D.

A Paraphrase and Annotations upon all the Books of the New Testament, in Folio. Fourth Edition.

The Works of the said Reverend and Learned Authour, containing a Collection of Discourses chiefly Practical, with many Additions and Corrections from the Author's own hand; together with the Life of the Authour, en­larged by the Reverend Dr. Fell, Dean of Christ Church in Oxford. I large Fol.

Books written by Jer. Taylor, D. D. and late Lord Bishop of Down and Connor.

Ductor Dubitantium, or, The Rule of Conscience, in Five Books, in Fol.

The Great Exemplar, or, the Life and Death of the Holy Jesus, in Fol. with Figures suitable to every story, ingrav'd in Copper: Whereunto is added, the Lives and Martyrdoms of the Apostles: By Will. Cave, D. D.

[...], or, A Collection of Polemical Discourses addressed against the enemies of the Church of England, both Papists and Fanaticks, in large Fol. The Third Edition.

The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living, and Holy Dying. The Eleventh Edition, newly Printed, in Octav.

Books written by the Reverend Dr. Patrick.

The Christian Sacrifice: A Treatise shewing the Ne­cessity, End, and Manner of receiving the Holy Commu­nion: together with suitable Prayers and Meditations for every Month in the Year; and the principal Festi­vals in memory of our Blessed Saviour, in Four Parts. The Third Edition corrected.

The Devout Christian instructed how to pray and give thanks to God: or a Book of Devotions for Families, and particular persons in most of the concerns of Humane life. The Second Edition in Twelves.

An Advice to a Friend. The 3. Edition in Twelves.

A Friendly Debate between a Conformist and a Non­Conformist, in Octavo, Two Parts.

Jesus and the Resurrection justified by Witnesses in Heaven and in Earth, in Two Parts, in Octavo New.

The Glorious Epiphany, with the Devout Christian's Love to it, in Octavo New.

[Page] The Sinner Impleaded in his own Court, to which is now added The Signal Diagnostick; by Tho. Pierce, D. D. Dean of Sarum, in Quarto. The 4. Edition.

Also a Collection of Sermons upon several occasions, together with a correct Copy of some Notes concerning God's Decrees, in Quarto. Enlarged by the same Au­thour.

The History of the Church of Scotland, by Bishop Spotswood. The Fourth Edition, enlarged. Fol.

Memoyres of the late Duke Hamilton, or a Continu­ation of the History of the Church of Scotland, begin­ning in the year 1625. where Bishop Spotswood ends, and continued to the year 1653. Fol. New.

The Lives of the Apostles, in Folio, alone: by William Cave, D. D.

Chirurgical Treatises; by R. Wiseman, Serjeant­Surgeon to his Majesty, Fol. New.

Go in Peace. Containing some brief directions for Young Ministers in their Visitation of the Sick. Ʋsefull for the people, in their state both of Health and Sick­ness. In Twelves New.

The Practical Christian; in Four Parts: or a Book of Devotions and Meditations. Also with Meditations and Psalms upon the four last things; 1. Death, 2. Judg­ment, 3. Hell, 4. Heaven. By R. Sherlock, D. D. Rector of Winwick. In Twelves.

The Life and Death of K. Charles the First: By R. Perenchief, D. D. Octavo.

Bishop Cozen's Devotions: In Twelves.

The true Intellectual Systeme of the Ʋniverse, the First Part: wherein all the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism is confuted, and its Impossibility demonstrated: By R. Cudworth, D. D. Fol. New.

The End of the Catalogue.

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