HOMILY ON REPENTANCE AND TRUE RECONCILIATION UNTO GOD
AN HOMILIE OF
Repentance, and of true reconciliation
THere is nothing that the holy Ghost doth so much labour in all the Scriptures to beat into mens heads, as repentance, amendment of life, and speedy returning vnto the Lord GOD of hostes. And no maruell why. For wee doe dayly and hourely by our wickednesse and stubborne disobedience, horribly fall away from GOD, thereby purchasing vnto our selues (if hee should deale with vs according to his iustice) eternall damnation.
The doctrine of repentance is most necessary. So that no doctrine is so necessary in the Church of GOD, as is the doctrine of repentance and amendment of life. And verily the true preachers of the Gospel of the kingdome of heauen, and of the glad and ioyfull tidings of saluation, haue alwayes in their godly Sermons and Preachings vnto the people, ioyned these two together, I meane repentance and forgiuenesse of sinnes, euen as our Sauiour Iesus Christ did appoint himselfe, saying, So it behoued Christ to suffer, and to rise againe the third day, and that repentance and forgiuenesse of sinnes should bee preached in his Name among all Nations. And therefore the holy Apostle doeth in the Actes speake after this manner: I haue witnessed both to the Iewes and to the Gentiles, the repentance towards GOD, and fayth towardes our Lord Iesus Christ. Did not Iohn Baptist, Zacharias sonne, begin his ministery with the doctrine of repentance, saying, Repent, for the kingdome of GOD is at hand? The like doctrine did our Sauiour Iesus Christ preach himselfe, and commanded his Apostles to preach the same.
I might heere alledge very many places out of the Prophets, in the which this most wholesome doctrine of repentance is very earnestly vrged, as most needfull for all degrees and orders of men, but one shall bee sufficient at this present time.
These are the wordes of Ioel the Prophet. Therefore also now the Lord sayth, Returne vnto mee with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning, rent your hearts and not your clothes, and returne vnto the Lord your GOD, for hee is gracious and mercifull, slow to anger, and of great compassion, and ready to pardon wickednesse (Joel 2.12-13).
A perpetuall rule which all must follow. Whereby it is giuen vs to vnderstand, that wee haue here a perpetuall rule appointed vnto vs, which ought to bee obserued and kept at all times, and that there is none other way whereby the wrath of GOD may be pacified, and his anger asswaged, that the fiercenesse of his furie, and the plagues of destruction, which by his righteous iudgement hee had determined to bring vpon vs, may depart, be remooued and taken away. Where hee saith, But now therefore, saith the Lord, returne vnto mee: It is not without great importance, that the Prophet speaketh so. For hee had afore set foorth at large vnto them, the horrible vengeance of GOD, which no man was able to abide, and therefore he doeth mooue them to repentance, to obtaine mercie, as if hee should say, I will not haue these things to be so taken, as though there were no hope of grace left. For although yee doe by your sinnes deserue to be vtterly destroyed, & GOD by his righteous iudgements hath determined to bring no small destruction vpon you, yet know that yee are in a maner on the very edge of the sword, if yee will speedily returne vnto him, he will most gently and most mercifully receiue you into fauour againe. Whereby wee are admonished, that repentance is neuer too late, so that it be true and earnest. For sith that GOD in the Scriptures will bee called our Father, doubtlesse hee doeth follow the nature and property of gentle and mercifull fathers, which seeke nothing so much, as the returning againe, and amendment of their children, as Christ doeth aboundantly teach in the parable of the prodigall sonne (Luke 15.11-32). Doeth not the Lord himselfe say by the Prophet, I will not the death of the wicked, but that he turne from his wicked wayes and liue (Ezechiel 18.23, Isaiah 1.16)? And in another place, If wee confesse our sinne, GOD is faithfull and righteous to forgiue vs our sinnes, and to make vs cleane from all wickednesse (1 John 1.9). Which most comfortable promises are confirmed by many examples of the Scriptures. When the Iewes did willingly receiue and imbrace the wholesome counsell of the Prophet Esay, GOD by and by did reach his helping hand vnto them, and by his Angel, did in one night slay the most worthy and valiant souldiers of Sennacheribs campe (Isaiah 37.6, 36). Whereunto may King Manastes be added, who after all manner of damnable wickednesse, returned vnto the Lord, and therefore was heard of him, and restored againe into his kingdome (2 Chron. 33.12-13). The same grace and fauour did the sinfull woman Magdalene, Zacheus, the poore thiefe, and many other feele (Luke 7.48). All which things ought to serue for our comfort against the temptations of our consciences, whereby the deuill goeth about to shake, or rather to ouerthrow our faith. For euery one of vs ought to apply the same vnto himselfe, and say, Yet now returne vnto the Lord: neither let the remembrance of thy former life discourage thee, yea the more wicked that it hath beene, the more feruent and earnest let thy repentance or returning be, and foorthwith thou shalt feele the eares of the Lord wide open vnto thy prayers. But let vs more narrowly looke vpon the commandement of the Lord touching this matter. Turne vnto mee (saith hee by the holy Prophet Ioel) with all your hearts, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rent your hearts, and not your garments &c. In which wordes, hee comprehendeth all manner of things that can bee spoken of repentance, which is a returning againe of the whole man vnto GOD, from whom wee be fallen away by sinne. But that the whole discourse thereof may the better bee borne away, we shall first consider in order foure principall points, that is, from what wee must returne, to whom wee must returne, by whom wee may bee able to conuert, and the maner how to turne to GOD.
From whence we must returne. First, from whence, or from what things wee must returne. Truely wee must returne from those things, whereby wee haue beene withdrawen, pluckt, and led away from GOD. And these generally are our sinnes, which as the holy Prophet Esay doeth testifie, doe separate GOD and vs, and hide his face, that hee will not heare vs. But vnder the name of sinne, not onely those grosse wordes and deedes, which by the common iudgement of men, are counted to bee filthy and vnlawfull, and so consequently abominable sinnes: but also the filthie lustes and inward concupiscences of the flesh, which (as S. Paul testifieth) doe resist the will and Spirit of GOD, and therefore ought earnestly to bee bridled and kept vnder (Galatians 5.17). We must repent of the false and erronious opinions that wee haue had of GOD, and the wicked superstition that doth breede of the same, the vnlawfull worshipping and seruice of GOD, and other like. All these things must they forsake, that will truely turne vnto the Lord and repent aright. For sith that for such things the wrath of GOD commeth vpon the children of disobedience (Ephesians 5.6), no end of punishment ought to bee looked for, as long as wee continue in such things. Therefore they be here condemned, which will seeme to bee repentant sinners, and yet will not forsake their Idolatrie and superstition.
Vnto whom wee ought to returne. Secondly, wee must see vnto whom we ought to returne. Reuertimini vsque ad me, saith the Lord: that is, Returne as farre as vnto me. Wee must then returne vnto the Lord, yea we must returne vnto him alone: For he alone is the trueth, and the fountaine of all goodnesse: But wee must labour that wee doe returne as farre as vnto him, and that wee doe neuer cease nor rest till wee haue apprehended and taken hold vpon him.
But this must bee done by faith. For sith that GOD is a Spirit, he can by no other meanes be apprehended and taken hold vpon. Wherefore, first they doe greatly erre, which doe not turne vnto GOD, but vnto the creatures, or vnto the inuentions of men, or vnto their owne merites.
By whom we must returne vnto GOD. Secondly, they that doe beginne to returne vnto the Lord, and doe faint in the mid way, before they come to the marke that is appointed vnto them. Thirdly, because wee haue of our owne selues nothing to present vs to GOD, and doe no lesse flee from him, after our fall, then our first parent Adam did, who when hee had sinned, did seeke to hide himselfe from the sight of GOD, wee haue neede of a mediatour for to bring and reconcile vs vnto him, who for our sinnes is angry with vs. The same is Iesus Christ, who being true and naturall GOD, equall and of one substance with the Father, did at the time appointed take vpon him our fraile nature, in the blessed Virgins wombe, and that of her vndefiled substance, that so he might be a mediatour betweene GOD and vs, and pacifie his wrath. Of him doeth the Father himselfe speake from heauen, saying, This is my welbeloued Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3.17). And hee himselfe in his Gospel doeth cry out and say, I am the way, the trueth, and the life, no man commeth vnto the Father but by mee (John 14.6). For hee alone did with the sacrifice of his Body and Blood, make satisfaction vnto the Iustice of GOD for our sinnes (John 1, 1 Peter 1.19, John 15). The Apostles doe testifie, that hee was exalted, for to giue repentance and remission of sinnes vnto Israel (Acts 5.31). Both which things hee himselfe did commaund to be preached in his Name (Luke 24.47). Therefore they are greatly deceiued that preach repentance without Christ, and teach the simple and ignorant that it consisteth onely in the workes of men. They may indeede speake many things of good workes, and of amendment of life and manners: but without Christ they bee all vaine and vnprofitable. They that thinke that they haue done much of themselues towards repentance, are so much more the farther from GOD, because they doe seeke those things in their owne workes and merites, which ought onely to bee sought in our Sauiour Iesus Christ, and in the merites of his death, and passion, and bloodshedding.
The manner of our turning. Fourthly, this holy Prophet Ioel doeth liuely expresse the manner of this our returning or repentance, comprehending all the inward and outward things that may bee here obserued. First hee will haue vs to returne vnto GOD with our whole heart, whereby he doeth remooue and put away all hypocrisie, lest the same might iustly be said vnto vs: This people draweth neere vnto me with their mouth, and worshippe mee with their lippes, but their heart is farre from me (Isaiah 29.13, Matthew 15.8-9).
Secondly, hee requireth a sincere and pure loue of godlinesse, and of the true worshipping and seruice of GOD, that is to say, that forsaking all maner of things that are repugnant and contrary vnto GODS will, wee doe giue our heartes vnto him, and the whole strength of our bodies and soules, according to that which is written in the Law: Thou shalt loue the Lord thy GOD with all thy heart, with all thy soule, and with all thy strength (Deuteronomy 6.5). Here therefore nothing is left vnto vs, that wee may giue vnto the worlde, and vnto the lustes of the flesh. For sith that the heart is the fountaine of all our workes, as manie as doe with whole heart turne vnto the Lord, doe liue vnto him onely.
Halting on both sides. Neyther doe they yet repent truely, that halting on both sides, doe otherwhiles obey GOD, but by and by doe thinke, that laying him aside, it is lawfull for them to serue the world and the flesh. And because that wee are letted by the naturall corruption of our owne flesh, and the wicked affections of the same, hee doeth bidde vs also to returne with fasting: not thereby vnderstanding a superstitious abstinence and choosing of meates but a true discipline or taming of the flesh, whereby the nourishments of filthie lustes, and of stubborne contumacie and pride, may be withdrawen and pluckt away from it. Whereunto hee doeth adde weeping and mourning, which doe conteine an outward profession of repentance, which is very needefull and necessary, that so wee may partly set foorth the righteousnesse of GOD, when by such meanes wee doe testifie that wee deserued punishments at his hands, and partly stoppe the offence that was openly giuen vnto the weake.
This did Dauid see, who being not content to haue bewept and bewayled his sinnes priuately, would publikely in his Psalmes declare and set foorth the righteousnesse of GOD, in punishing sinne, and also stay them that might haue abused his example to sinne the more boldly (Psalms 25, 32, 51, 103, 142). Therefore they are farthest from true repentance, that will not confesse and acknowledge their sinnes, nor yet bewayle them, but rather doe most vngodly glorie and reioyce in them.
Hypocrites doe counterfait all manner of things. Now lest any man should thinke that repentance doeth consist in outwarde weeping and mourning onely (Psalms 52), hee doeth rehearse that wherein the chiefe of the whole matter doeth lye, when hee sayth: Rent your hearts, and not your garments, and turne vnto the Lord your GOD (Joel 2.13). For the people of the East part of the world were woont to rent their garments, if any thing happened vnto them that seemed intolerable. This thing did hypocrites sometime counterfaite and follow, as though the whole repentance did stand in such outward gesture. Hee teacheth then, that another manner of thing is required, that is, that they must be contrite in their heartes, that they must vtterly detest and abhorre sinnes, and being at defiance with them, returne vnto the Lord their GOD, from whome they went away before. For GOD hath no pleasure in the outward ceremonie, but requireth a contrite and humble heart, which he will neuer despise, as Dauid doeth testifie (Psalms 51.17). There is therefore none other vse to these outward ceremonies, but as farre forth as we are stirred vp by them, and doe serue to the glory of GOD, and to the edifying of other.
How repentance is not vnprofitable. Now doeth hee adde vnto this doctrine or exhortation, certaine godly reasons, which hee doeth ground vpon the nature and propertie of GOD, and whereby hee doeth teach, that true repentance can neuer be vnprofitable or vnfruitfull. For as in all other things mens hearts doe quaile and faint, if they once perceiue that they trauell in vaine: Euen so most specially in this matter, must we take heede and beware that we suffer not our selues to bee perswaded that all that wee doe is but labour lost: For thereof either sudden desperation doeth arise, or a licencious boldnesse to sinne, which at length bringeth vnto desperation. Lest any such thing then should happen vnto them, he doeth certifie them of the grace and goodnesse of GOD, who is alwayes most ready to receiue them into fauour againe, that turne speedily vnto him. Which thing hee doeth prooue with the same titles wherewith GOD doeth describe and set foorth himselfe vnto Moyses, speaking on this maner: For hee is gracious and mercifull, slowe to anger, of great kindenesse, and repenteth him of the euill, that is, such a one as is sorie for your afflictions (Exodus 34.6). First he calleth him gentle and gracious, as hee who of his owne nature is more prompt and ready to doe good, then to punish. Whereunto this saying of Esaias the Prophet seemeth to pertaine, where he saith, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the vnrighteous his owne imaginations, and returne vnto the Lord, and hee will haue pittie on him, and to our GOD, for he is very ready to forgiue (Isaiah 55.7). Secondly, he doth attribute vnto him mercy, or rather (according to the Hebrew word) the bowels of mercies: Whereby hee signified the naturall affections of Parents towards their children. Which thing Dauid doeth set foorth goodly, saying, As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that feare him, for he knoweth whereof we be made, he remembreth that we are but dust (Psalms 103.13-14). Thirdly, hee saith, that hee is slow to anger, that is to say, long suffering, and which is not lightly prouoked to wrath. Fourthly, that he is of much kindnesse, for hee is that bottomlesse well of all goodnesse, who reioyceth to doe good vnto vs: therefore did he create and make men, that he might haue whom hee should doe good vnto, and make partakers of his heauenly riches. Fiftly, he repenteth of the euill, that is to say, hee doth call backe againe, and reuoke the punishment which he had threatned, when he seeth men repent, turne, and amend.
Against the Nouatians. Whereupon we doe not without a iust cause detest and abhorre the damnable opinion of them which doe most wickedly goe about to perswade the simple and ignorant people, that if wee chance after wee be once come to GOD, and grafted in his Sonne Iesus Christ, to fall into some horrible sinne, shall be vnprofitable vnto vs, there is no more hope of reconciliation, or to be receiued againe into the fauour and mercy of GOD.
The sinne against the holy Ghost. And that they may giue the better colour vnto their pestilent and pernicious errour, they doe commonly bring in the sixth and tenth Chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrewes, and the second Chapter, of the second Epistle of Peter, not considering that in those places the holy Apostles doe not speake of the daily falles, that we (as long as wee carrie about this bodie of sinne, are subiect vnto: but of the finall falling away from Christ and his Gospell, which is a sinne against the holy Ghost that shall neuer bee forgiuen, because that they doe vtterly forsake the knowen trueth, doe hate Christ and his word, they doe crucifie and mocke him (but to their vtter destruction) and therefore fall into desperation, and cannot repent (Matthew 12.31, Mark 3.29). And that this is the true meaning of the holy Spirit of GOD, it appeareth by many other places of the Scriptures, which promiseth vnto all true repentant sinners, and to them that with their whole heart doe turne vnto the Lord their GOD, free pardon and remission of their sinnes. For the probation hereof, we read this: O Israel (saith the holy Prophet Hieremie) if thou returne, returne vnto me saith the Lord, and if thou put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not be remooued (Jer. 4.1). Againe, these are Esaias words: Let the wicked forsake his owne wayes, and the vnrighteous his owne imaginations, and turne againe vnto the Lord, and hee will haue mercie vpon him, and to our GOD, for hee is ready to forgiue (Isaiah 55.7). And the Prophet Osee, the godly doe exhort one another after this maner, Come and let vs turne againe vnto the Lord, for hee hath smitten vs, and hee will heale vs, hee hath wounded vs, and hee will binde vs vp againe (Hosea 6.1). It is most euident and plaine, that these things ought to be vnderstood of them that were with the Lord afore, and by their sinnes and wickednesses were gone away from him.
For wee doe not turne againe vnto him with whom wee were neuer before, but we come vnto him (Ecclesiastes 7.1-3, 1 John 1.8-9). Now, vnto all them that will returne vnfainedly vnto the Lord their GOD, the fauour and mercy of GOD vnto forgiuenesse of sinnes is liberally offered. Whereby it followeth necessarily, that although wee doe, after wee bee once come to GOD and grafted in his Sonne Iesus Christ, fall into great sinnes (for there is no righteous man vpon the earth that sinneth not, and if wee say wee haue no sinne, wee deceiue our selues, and the trueth is not in vs) yet if wee rise againe by repentance, and with a full purpose of amendment of life doe flee vnto the mercie of GOD, taking sure holde thereupon, through faith in his Sonne Iesu Christ, there is an assured and infallible hope of pardon and remission of the same, and that wee shall bee receiued againe into the fauour of our heauenly Father. It is written of Dauid: I haue found a man according to mine owne heart, or, I haue found Dauid the sonne of Iesse, a man according to mine owne heart, who will doe all things that I will (Acts 13.22, 1 Sam. 13-14). This is a great commendation of Dauid. It is also most certaine, that hee did stedfastly beleeue the promise that was made him touching the Messias; who should come of him touching the flesh, and that by the same faith hee was iustified, and grafted in our Sauiour Iesu Christ to come, and yet afterwardes hee fell horribly, committing most detestable adulterie and damnable murder (2 Samuel 11.4, 15, 17), and yet as soone as hee cryed Peccaui, I haue sinned, vnto the Lord, his sinne being forgiuen, he was receiued into fauour againe (2 Samuel 12.13). Now will wee come vnto Peter, of whom no man can doubt but that hee was grafted in our Sauiour Iesus Christ, long afore his denyall. Which thing may easily bee prooued by the answere which hee did in his name, and in the name of his fellow Apostles make vnto our Sauiour Iesu Christ, when he sayd vnto them, Will yee also goe away? Master (sayth he) to whom shall wee goe? Thou hast the wordes of eternall life, and wee beleeue and knowe that thou art that Christ the Sonne of the liuing GOD (John 6.67-69). Whereunto may bee added the like confession of Peter, where Christ doeth giue vs most infallible testimonie: Thou art blessed Simon the sonne of Ionas, for neyther flesh nor blood hath reueyled this vnto thee, but my Father which is in heauen. These wordes are sufficient to prooue that Peter was already iustified, through this his liuely faith in the onely begotten Sonne of GOD, whereof he made so notable and so solemne a confession. But did not hee afterwards most cowardly denie his Master (Matthew 26.69-75), although he had heard of him, Whosoeuer denieth me before men, I wil denie him before my Father (Matthew 10.33)? Neuerthelesse, assoone as with weeping eyes, and with a sobbing heart he did acknowledge his offence, and with an earnest repentance did flee vnto the mercy of GOD, taking sure hold thereupon, through faith in him whom he had so shamefully denyed, his sinne was forgiuen him, and for a certificate and assurance thereof, the roome of his Apostleship was not denyed vnto him. But now marke what doth follow. After the same holy Apostle had on Whitsunday with the rest of the Disciples receiued the gift of the holy Ghost most abundantly (Acts 2.1-4), he committed no small offence in Antiochia, by bringing the consciences of the faithfull into doubt by his example, so that Paul was faine to rebuke him to his face, because that hee walked not vprightly, or went not the right way in the Gospel (Galatians 2.11). Shall we now say, that after this grieuous offence, hee was vtterly excluded and shut out from the grace and mercy of GOD, & that this his trespasse, whereby he was a stumbling blocke vnto many, was vnpardonable? GOD defend we should say so.
What we must beware of. But as these examples are not brought in, to the ende that wee should thereby take a boldnesse to sinne, presuming on the mercy and goodnesse of GOD, but to the ende that if through the frailenesse of our owne flesh, and the temptation of the Deuill, we fall into like sinnes, we should in no wise despaire of the mercy and goodnesse of GOD: Euen so must wee beware and take heede, that wee doe in no wise thinke in our hearts, imagine, or beleeue that we are able to repent aright, or to turne effectually vnto the Lord by our owne might and strength. For this must bee verified in all men, Without me ye can doe nothing (John 15.5). Againe, Of our selues wee are not able as much as to thinke a good thought (2 Corinthians 3.5). And in another place, It is GOD that worketh in vs both the will and the deede (Philippians 2.13). For this cause, although Hieremie had sayd before, If thou returne, O Israel, returne vnto me, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 4.1): Yet afterwards he saith, Turne thou me, O Lord, and I shall bee turned, for thou art the Lord my GOD. And therefore that holy writer and ancient father Ambrose doeth plainely affirme (Ambrose, De vocat. Gent., Bk. 8, Chap. 9), that the turning of the heart vnto GOD, is of GOD, as the Lord himselfe doeth testifie by his Prophet, saying, And I will giue thee an heart to know mee, that I am the Lord, and they shall bee my people, and I will bee their GOD, for they shall returne vnto mee with their whole heart. These things being considered, let vs earnestly pray vnto the liuing GOD our heauenly Father, that hee will vouchsafe by his holy Spirit, to worke a true and vnfained repentance in vs, that after the painefull labours and trauels of this life, may liue eternally with his Sonne Iesus Christ, to whom bee all prayse and glory for euer and euer. Amen.
THE SECOND PART OF THE HOMILY OF REPENTANCE.
HItherto haue ye heard (welbeloued) how needfull and necessary the doctrine of repentance is, and how earnestly it is thorowout all the Scriptures of GOD vrged and set foorth, both by the ancient Prophets, by our Sauiour Iesus Christ, and his Apostles, and that forasmuch as it is the conuersion or turning againe of the whole man vnto GOD, from whom we go away by sinne: these foure points ought to be obserued, that is, from whence or from what things we must returne, vnto whom this our returning must be made, by whose meanes it ought to be done, that it may be effectuall, and last of all, after what sort we ought to behaue our selues in the same, that it may be profitable vnto vs, and atteine vnto the thing that we doe seeke by it. Ye haue also learned, that as the opinion of them that denie the benefit of repentance, vnto those that after they bee come to GOD and grafted in our Sauiour Iesus Christ, doe through the frailenesse of their flesh, and the temptation of the diuell fall into some grieuous and detestable sinne, is most pestilent and pernicious: So wee must beware, that wee doe in no wise thinke that we are able of our owne selues, and of our own strength, to returne vnto the Lord our GOD, from whom we are gone away by our wickednesse and sinne. Now it shall be declared vnto you, what bee the true parts of repentance, and what things ought to mooue vs to repent, and to returne vnto the Lord our GOD with all speed. Repentance (as it is sayd before) is a true returning vnto GOD, whereby men forsaking vtterly their idolatrie and wickednesse, doe with a liuely fayth embrace, loue, and worship the true liuing GOD onely, and giue themselues to all manner of good workes, which by GODS word they know to be acceptable vnto him.
There bee foure parts of repentance. Now there bee foure parts of repentance, which being set together, may bee likened to an easie and short ladder, whereby we may climbe from the bottomlesse pit of perdition, that wee cast our selues into by our dayly offences and greeuous sinnes, vp into the castle or towre of eternall and endlesse saluation.
The first, is the contrition of the heart. For we must be earnestly sorry for our sinnes, and vnfeignedly lament and bewayle that wee haue by them so greeuously offended our most bounteous and mercifull GOD, who so tenderly loued vs, that he gaue his onely begotten sonne to die a most bitter death, and to shedde his deare heart blood for our redemption and deliuerance. And verily this inward sorrow and griefe being conceiued in the heart for the heynousnesse of sin, if it be earnest and vnfeigned, is as a sacrifice to GOD, as the holy Prophet Dauid doth testifie, saying, A sacrifice to GOD is a troubled spirit, a contrite and broken heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise (Psalms 51.17).
But that this may take place in vs, we must bee diligent to reade and heare the Scriptures and the worde of GOD, which most liuely doe paint out before our eyes our naturall vncleannesse, and the enormitie of our sinfull life. For vnlesse wee haue a thorow feeling of our sinnes, how can it bee that wee should earnestly bee sorie for them? Afore Dauid did heare the worde of the Lord by the mouth of the Prophet Nathan, what heauinesse I pray you was in him for the adulterie and the murder that hee had committed (2 Samuel 12.13)? So that it might bee sayd right well, that hee slept in his owne sinne. Wee reade in the Actes of the Apostles, that when the people had heard the Sermon of Peter, they were compunct and pricked in their hearts (Acts 2.37). Which thing would neuer haue beene, if they had not heard that wholesome Sermon of Peter. They therefore that haue no minde at all neyther to reade, nor yet to heare GODS word, there is but small hope of them that they will as much as once set their feete, or take hold vpon the first staffe or step of this ladder: but rather wil sinke deeper and deeper into the bottomlesse pit of perdition. For if at any time through the remorse of their conscience, which accuseth them, they feele any inward griefe, sorrow, or heauinesse for their sinnes, forasmuch as they want the salue and comfort of GODS word, which they doe despise, it will be vnto them rather a meane to bring them to vtter desperation, then otherwise. The second is, an vnfained confession and acknowledging of our sinnes vnto GOD, whom by them we haue so grieuously offended, that if he should deale with vs according to his iustice, wee doe deserue a thousand helles, if there could bee so many. Yet if wee will with a sorrowfull and contrite heart make an vnfained confession of them vnto GOD, hee will freely and frankely forgiue them, and so put all our wickednesse out of remembrance before the sight of his Maiestie, that they shall no more bee thought vpon (Ezechiel 18.27). Hereunto doeth pertaine the golden saying of the holy Prophet Dauid, where he saith on this maner: Then I acknowledged my sinne vnto thee, neither did I hide mine iniquitie: I sayd, I will confesse against my selfe my wickednesse vnto the Lorde, and thou forgauest the vngodlinesse of my sinne (Psalms 32.5). These are also the wordes of Iohn the Euangelist If we confesse our sinnes, GOD is faithfull and righteous, to forgiue vs our sinnes, and to make vs cleane from all our wickednes (1 John 1.9). Which ought to be vnderstood of the confession that is made vnto GOD. For these are Saint Augustines wordes (Augustine, Epist. ad Julian Comitem, 30): That confession which is made vnto GOD, is required by GODS Law, whereof Iohn the Apostle speaketh, saying, If we confesse our sinnes, GOD is faithfull and righteous to forgiue vs our sinnes, and to make vs cleane from all our wickednesse. For without this confession, sinne is not forgiuen. This is then the chiefest and most principall confession that in the Scriptures and worde of GOD wee are bidden to make, and without the which wee shall neuer obtaine pardon and forgiuenesse of our sinnes. Indeede, besides this there is another kinde of confession, which is needefull and necessary.
And of the same doeth Saint Iames speake, after this maner, saying: Acknowledge your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that yee may bee saued. As if hee should say: Open that which grieueth you, that a remedie maye be found. And this is commanded both for him that complayneth, and for him that heareth, that the one should shew his griefe to the other. The true meaning of it is, that the faithfull ought to acknowledge their offences, whereby some hatred, rancour, ground, or malice, hauing risen or growen among them one to another, that a brotherly reconciliation may be had, without the which nothing that wee doe can bee acceptable vnto GOD, as our Sauiour Iesus Christ doeth witnesse himselfe, saying, When thou offerest thine offering at the altar, if thou remembrest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leaue there thine offering, and goe and bee reconciled, and when thou art reconciled, come and offer thine offering (Matthew 5.23-24). It may also be thus taken, that we ought to confesse our weaknesse and infirmities one to another, to the end that knowing each others frailenesse, wee may the more earnestly pray together vnto Almighty GOD our heauenly Father, that he will vouchsafe to pardon vs our infirmities, for his Sonne Iesus Christs sake, and not to impute them vnto vs, when he shall render to euery man according to his workes.
Answere to the aduersaries which maintaine auricular confession. And whereas the aduersaries goe about to wrest this place, for to maintaine their auricular confession withall, they are greatly deceiued themselues, and doe shamefully deceiue others: For if this text ought to bee vnderstood of auricular confession: then the Priestes are as much bound to confesse themselues vnto the lay people, as the lay people are bound to confesse themselues to them. And if to pray, is to absolue: then the laytie by this place hath as great authoritie to absolue the Priestes, as the Priestes haue to absolue the laytie. This did Iohannes Scotus, otherwise called Duns well perceiue, who vpon this place writeth on this maner (Johannes Scotus, Senten. Distinct. 17, quaest.1).
Neither doeth it seeme vnto mee that Iames did giue this commandment, or that he did set it foorth as being receiued of Christ. For first and foremost, whence had he authoritie to binde the whole Church, sith that hee was onely Bishop of the Church of Ierusalem? except thou wilt say, that the same Church was at the beginning the head Church, and consequently that hee was the head Bishop, which thing the Sea of Rome will neuer graunt. The vnderstanding of it then, is as in these wordes: Confesse your sinnes one to another. A perswasion to humilitie, whereby he willeth vs to confesse our selues generally vnto our neighbours, that wee are sinners, according to this saying: if wee say wee haue no sinne, wee deceiue our selues, and the trueth is not in vs. And where that they do alledge this saying of our Sauiour Iesus Christ vnto the Leper, to prooue auricular confession to stand on GODS word Goe thy way and shew thy selfe vnto the Priest: Doe they not see that the Leper was cleansed from his leprosie, afore he was by Christ sent vnto the Priest for to shew himselfe vnto him (Matthew 8.4)? By the same reason wee must bee cleansed from our spirituall leprosie, I meane, our sinnes must be forgiuen vs afore that wee come to confession. What neede wee then to tell forth our sinnes into the eare of the Priest, sith that they bee already taken away? Therefore holy Ambrose in his second Sermon vpon the hundred and ninetienth Psalme, doth say full well, Goe shew thy selfe vnto the Priest. Who is the true Priest, but he which is the Priest for euer, after the order of Melchisedech? Whereby this holy Father doeth vnderstand, that both the Priesthoode and the Law being changed we ought to acknowledge none other Priest for deliuerance from our sinnes, but our Sauiour Iesus Christ, who being soueraigne Byshoppe, doeth with the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, offered once for euer vpon the Altar of the Crosse most effectually cleanse the spirituall leprosie, and wash away the sinnes of all those that with true confession of the same doe flee vnto him. It is most euident and playne, that this auricular confession hath not his warrant of GODS word, els it had not beene lawfull for Nectarius Bishoppe of Constantinople, vpon a iust occasion to haue put it downe(Nectarius Sozomen, Ecclesiast. Hist., Bk. 7, Chap. 16). For when any thing ordayned of GOD, is by the lewdnesse of men abused, the abuse ought to be taken away, and the thing it selfe suffered to remaine. Moreouer, these are S. Augustines wordes (Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 10, Chap. 3), What haue I to doe with men, that they should heare my confession, as though they were able to heale my diseases? A curious sort of men to know another mans life, & slothfully to correct & amend their owne. Why do they seeke to heare of me what I am, which will not heare of thee what they are? And how can they tell when they heare by me of my selfe, whether I tell the trueth or not, sith no mortall man knoweth what is in man, but the spirit of man which is in him? Augustine would not haue written thus, if auricular confession had beene vsed in his time. Being therefore not ledde with the conscience thereof, let vs with feare and trembling, and with a true contrite heart, vse that kinde of confession, that GOD doeth commaund in his worde, and then doubtlesse, as hee is faithfull and righteous, hee will forgiue vs our sinnes, and make vs cleane from all wickednesse. I doe not say, but that if any doe finde themselues troubled in conscience, they may repayre to their learned Curate or Pastour, or to some other godly learned man, and shew the trouble and doubt of their conscience to them, that they may receiue at their hand the comfortable salue of GODS word: but it is against the true Christian libertie, that any man should bee bound to the numbring of his sinnes, as it hath beene vsed heretofore in the time of blindnesse and ignorance.
The third part of repentance, is fayth, whereby wee doe apprehend and take hold vpon the promises of GOD, touching the free pardon and forgiuenesse of our sinnes. Which promises are sealed vp vnto vs, with the death and blood-shedding of his Sonne Iesu Christ. For what should auayle and profite vs to bee sorrie for our sinnes, to lament and bewayle that wee haue offended our most bounteous and mercifull Father, or to confesse and acknowledge our offences and trespasses, though it be done neuer so earnestly, vnlesse we doe stedfastly beleeue, and bee fully perswaded, that GOD for his Sonne Iesus Christs sake, will forgiue vs all our sinnes, and put them out of remembrance, and from his sight?
The repentance of the Schoolemen. Therefore they that teach repentance without a liuely faith in our Sauiour Iesus Christ, doe teach none other but Iudas repentance as all the Schoole-men doe, which doe only allow these three parts of repentance: the contrition of the heart, the confession of the mouth, and the satisfaction of the worke.
Iudas & his repentance. But all these things we finde in Iudas repentance: which in outward appearance did farre exceede and passe the repentance of Peter. For first and foremost wee reade in the Gospel, that Iudas was so sorrowfull and heauy, yea, that hee was filled with such anguish and vexation of minde, for that which hee had done, that hee could not abide to liue any longer (Matthew 27). Did not hee also afore hee hanged himselfe make an open confession of his fault, when hee sayde, I haue sinned, betraying the innocent blood? And verely this was a very bold confession, which might haue brought him to great trouble. For by it he did lay to the high Priests and Elders charge, the shedding of innocent blood, and that they were most abominable murderers. Hee did also make a certaine kinde of satisfaction, when hee did cast their money vnto them againe.
Peter and his repentance. No such thing doe wee read of Peter although hee had committed a very heinous sinne, and most grieuous offence, in denying of his Master. We find that he went out and wept bitterly, whereof Ambrose speaketh on this manner (Ambrose, De penitentia distin., 1 Chap.): Peter was sory and wept, because he erred as a man. I doe not finde what hee said, I know that hee wept. I read of his teares, but not of his satisfaction. But how chaunce that the one was receiued into fauour againe with GOD, and the other cast away, but because that the one did by a liuely Faith in him whom he had denyed take holde vpon the mercy of GOD, and the other wanted Faith, whereby hee did dispayre of the goodnesse and mercie of GOD? It is euident and plaine then, that although wee be neuer so earnestly sorie for our sinnes, acknowledge and confesse them: yet all these things shall bee but meanes to bring vs to vtter desperation, except wee doe stedfastly beleeue, that GOD our heauenly Father will for his Sonne Iesus Christs sake, pardon and forgiue vs our offences and trespasses, and vtterly put them out of remembrance in his sight. Therefore, as wee sayd before, they that teach repentance without Christ, and a liuely Faith in the mercy of GOD, doe onely teach Caines or Iudas repentance. The fourth is, an amendment of life, or a new life, in bringing foorth fruits worthy of repentance. For they that doe truely repent, must bee cleane altered and changed, they must become new creatures, they must be no more the same that they were before. And therefore thus said Iohn Baptist vnto the Pharisees and Sadduces that came vnto his Baptisme: O generation of vipers, who hath forewarned you to flee from the anger to come? bring foorth therefore fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3.7-8). Whereby wee doe learne, that if wee will haue the wrath of GOD to bee pacified, wee must in no wise dissemble, but turne vnto him againe with a true and sound repentance, which may bee knowen and declared by good fruits, as by most sure and fallible signes thereof.
They that doe from the bottome of their hearts acknowledge their sinnes, and are vnfaignedly sory for their offences, will cast off all hypocrisie, and put on true humility, and lowlinesse of heart. They will not only receiue the Physition of the soule, but also with a most feruent desire long for him. They will not onely absteine from the sinnes of their former life, and from all other filthy vices, but also flee, eschew, and abhorre all the occasions of them. And as they did before giue themselues to vncleannesse of life, so will they from henceforwardes with all diligence giue themselues to innocency, purenesse of life, and true godlinesse. Wee haue the Nineuites for an example, which at the preaching of Ionas did not onely proclaime a generall fast, and that they should euery one put on sackecloth: but they all did turne from their euill wayes, and from the wickednesse that was in their hands (Jonas 3.5, 10). But aboue all other, the historie of Zacheus is most notable: For being come vnto our Sauiour Iesu Christ, hee did say, Behold Lord, the halfe of my goods I giue to the poore, and if I haue defrauded any man, or taken ought away be extortion or fraude, I doe restore him foure fold (Luke 19.8).
Here we see that after his repentance, hee was no more the man that hee was before, but was cleane chaunged and altered. It was so farre of, that hee would continue and bide still in his vnsatiable couetousnes, or take ought away fraudulently from any man, that rather hee was most willing and ready to giue away his owne, and to make satisfaction vnto all them that hee had done iniury and wrong vnto. Here may wee right well adde the sinfull woman, which when shee came to our Sauiour Iesus Christ did powre downe such abundance of teares out of those wanton eyes of hers, wherewith she had allured many vnto folly, that shee did with them wash his feete, wiping them with the haires of her head, which she was wont most gloriously to set out, making of them a nette of the deuill (Luke 7.37). Hereby we doe learne, what is the satisfaction that GOD doeth require of vs, which is, that we cease from euill, and doe good, and if wee haue done any man wrong, to endeuour our selues to make him true amends to the vttermost of our power (Isaiah 1.16-17), following in this the example of Zacheus, and of this sinfull woman, and also that goodly lesson that Iohn Baptist Zacharies sonne did giue vnto them that came to aske counsayle of him. This was commonly the penaunce that Christ enioyned sinners: Goe thy way, and sinne no more (John 8.11). Which penance wee shall neuer be able to fulfill, without the speciall grace of him that doeth say, Without me ye can doe nothing. It is therefore our parts, if at least we be desirous of the health and saluation of our owne selues, most earnestly to pray vnto our heauenly Father, to assiste vs with his Holy spirit, that we may be able to hearken vnto the voyce of the true shepheard, and with due obedience to follow the same.
Let vs hearken to the voyce of Almighty GOD, when he calleth vs to repentance, let vs not harden our hearts, as such Infidels doe, who abuse the time giuen them of GOD to repent, and turne it to continue their pride and contempt against GOD and man, which know not how much they heape GODS wrath vpon themselues, for the hardnesse of their hearts, which cannot repent at the day of vengeance. Where wee haue offended the Law of GOD, let vs repent vs of our straying from so good a Lord. Let vs confesse our vnworthynesse before him, but yet let vs trust in GODS free mercy, for Christs sake, for the pardon of the same. And from hencefoorth let vs endeuour our selues to walke in a new life, as new borne babes, whereby we may glorifie our Father which is heauen, and thereby to beare in our consciences a good testimony of our fayth. So that at the last, to obtaine the fruition of euerlasting life, through the merites of our Sauiour, to whom be all prayse and honour for euer, AMEN.
THE THIRD PART OF THE HOMILIE OF REPENTANCE.
IN the Homilie last spoken vnto you (right welbeloued people in our Sauiour Christ) ye heard of the true parts and tokens of Repentance, that is, heartie contrition and sorrowfulnesse of our hearts, vnfained confession in word of mouth for our vnworthy liuing before GOD, a stedfast faith to the merites of our Sauiour Christ for pardon, and a purpose of our selues by GODS grace to renounce our former wicked life, and a full conuersion to GOD in a new life to glorifie his Name, and to liue orderly and charitably, to the comfort of our neighbour, in all righteousnesse, and to liue soberly and modestly to our selues, by vsing abstinence, and temperance in word and in deede, in mortifying our earthly members heere vpon earth: Now for a further perswasion to mooue you to those partes of repentance, I will declare vnto you some causes, which should the rather mooue you to repentance.
The causes that should mooue vs to repent. First, the commandement of GOD, who in so many places of the holy and sacred Scriptures, doeth bid vs returne vnto him. O yee children of Israel (sayth he) turne againe from your infidelitie, wherein ye drowned your selues (Isaiah 31.6). Againe, Turne you, turne you from your euill wayes: For why will ye die, O ye house of Israel (Ezechiel 33.11)? And in another place, thus doth he speake by his holy Prophet Osee: O Israel, returne vnto the Lord thy GOD: For thou hast taken a great fall by thine iniquitie. Take vnto you these wordes with you, when you turne vnto the Lord and say vnto him, Take away all iniquitie, and receiue vs graciously, so will we offer the calues of our lippes vnto thee (Hosea 14.2). In all these places wee haue an expresse commandement giuen vnto vs of GOD for to returne vnto him. Therefore we must take good heede vnto ourselues, lest whereas wee haue already by our manifold sinnes and transgressions, prouoked and kindled the wrath of GOD against vs, wee doe by breaking this his commandement, double our offences, and so heape still damnation vpon our owne heads by our dayly offences and trespasses, whereby we prouoke the eyes of his Maiestie, wee doe well deserue (if hee should deale with vs according to his iustice) to be put away for euer from the fruition of his glory. How much more then are wee worthy of the endlesse torments of hell, if when wee bee so gently called againe after our rebellion, and commanded to returne, wee will in no wise hearken vnto the voyce of our heauenly Father, but walke still after the stubbornnesse of our owne hearts.
Secondly, the most comfortable and sweet promise, that the Lord our GOD did of his meere mercy and goodnesse ioyne vnto his commandement. For he doeth not onely say, Returne vnto me, O Israel: but also, If thou wilt returne, and put away all thine abominations out of my sight, thou shalt neuer bee mooued (Jeremiah 4.1). These words also haue wee in the Prophet Ezechiel: At what time soeuer a sinner doth repent him of his sinne, from the bottome of his heart, I will put all his wickednesse out of my remembrance (saith the Lord) so that they shall bee no more thought vpon (Ezechiel 18.21-22). Thus are we sufficiently instructed, that GOD will according to his promise, freely pardon, forgiue, and forget all our sinnes, so that we shall neuer be cast in the teeth with them, if, obeying his commandement, and allured by his sweet promises, wee will vnfainedly returne vnto him.
Thirdly, the filthinesse of sinne, which is such, that as long as wee doe abide in it, GOD cannot but detest and abhorre vs, neither can there be any hope, that we shall enter into the heauenly Ierusalem, except wee be first made cleane and purged from it. But this will neuer be, vnlesse forsaking our former life, wee doe with our whole heart returne vnto the Lord our GOD, and with a full purpose of amendment of life, flee vnto his mercy, taking sure hold thereupon through Faith in the blood of his Sonne Iesus Christ.
Similitude. If we should suspect any vncleannesse to be in vs, wherefore the earthly Prince should lothe and abhorre the sight of vs, what paines would wee take to remooue and put it away? How much more ought wee with all diligence and speed that may be, to put away that vncleane filthinesse that doeth separate and make a diuision betwixt vs and our GOD, and that hideth his face from vs, that hee will not heare vs (Isaiah 59.2)? And verily herein doth appeare how filthy a thing sinne is, sith that it can by no other meanes be washed away, but by the blood of the onely begotten Sonne of GOD. And shall wee not from the bottome of our hearts detest and abhorre, and with all earnestnesse flee from it, sith that it did cost the deare heart blood of the onely begotten Sonne of GOD our Sauiour and Redeemer, to purge vs from it? Plato doeth in a certaine place write, that if vertue could bee seene with bodily eyes, all men would wonderfully be inflamed and kindled with the loue of it: Euen so on the contrary, if we might with our bodily eyes behold the filthinesse of sinne, and the vncleannesse thereof, wee could in no wise abide it, but as most present and deadly poyson, hate and eschew it. Wee haue a common experience of the same in them, which when they haue committed any heinous offence, or some filthy and abominable sinne, if it once come to light, or if they chance to haue a through feeling of it, they bee so ashamed (their owne conscience putting before their eyes the filthinesse of their acte) that they dare looke no man in the face, much lesse that they should be able to stand in the sight of GOD.
Fourthly, the vncertaintie and brittlenesse of our owne liues, which is such, that we cannot assure our selues, that we shall liue one houre, or one halfe quarter of it. Which by experience we doe find daily to be true, in them that being now merrie and lustie, and sometimes feasting and banquetting with their friends, doe fall suddainely dead in the streetes, and other-whiles vnder the board when they are at meat. These daily examples, as they are most terrible and dreadfull, so ought they to mooue vs to seeke for to be at one with our heauenly iudge, that we may with a good conscience appeare before him, whensoeuer it shall please him for to call vs, whether it be suddenly or otherwise, for wee haue no more charter of our life, then they haue. But as wee are most certaine that wee shall die, so are wee most vncertaine when wee shall die. For our life doeth lie in the hand of GOD, who will take it away when it pleaseth him.
Death the Lords Summer. And verily when the highest Summer of all, which is death, shall come, hee will not bee said nay: but wee must foorth with be packing, to be present before the iudgement seat of GOD, as hee doth find vs, according as it is written: Whereas the tree falleth, whether it bee toward the South, or toward the North, there it shall lie (Ecclesiastes 11.3). Whereunto agreeth the saying of the holy Martyr of GOD Saint Cyprian, saying: As GOD doeth find thee when hee doth call, so doth hee iudge thee (Cyprian, Contra Demetrianum). Let vs therefore follow the counsell of the wise man, where he saith: Make no tarying to turne vnto the Lord, and put not off from day to day (Ecclesiastes 5.7). For suddainely shall the wrath of the Lord breake foorth, and in thy securitie shalt thou be destroyed and shalt perish in the time of vengeance. Which words I desire you to marke diligently, because they doe most liuely put before our eyes, the fondnesse of many men, who abusing the long suffering and goodnesse of GOD, doe neuer thinke on repentance or amendment of life. Follow not (saith he) thine owne mind, and thy strength, to walke in the wayes of thy heart, neither say thou, who will bring me vnder for my workes: For GOD the reuenger, will reuenge the wrong done by thee. And say not, I haue sinned, and what euill hath come vnto me? For the Almightie is a patient rewarder, but he will not leaue thee vnpunished. Because thy sinnes are forgiuen thee, be not without feare to heape sinne vpon sinne. Say not neither, The mercie of GOD is great, he will forgiue my manifold sinnes. For mercie and wrath come from him and his indignation commeth vpon vnrepentant sinners. As if yee should say: Art thou strong and mightie? Art thou lustie and young? Hast thou the wealth and riches of the world? Or when thou hast sinned, hast thou receiued no punishment for it? Let none of all these things make thee to be the slower to repent, and to returne with speed vnto the Lord. For in the day of punishment and of his suddaine vengeance, they shall not be able to helpe thee. And specially when thou art either by the preaching of GODS word, or by some inward motion of his holy spirit, or els by some other meanes called vnto repentance, neglect not the good occasion that is ministred vnto thee, lest when thou wouldest repent, thou hast not the grace for to doe it. For to repent, is a good gift, of GOD, which he will neuer grant vnto them, who liuing in carnall securitie, doe make a mocke of his threatnings, or seeke to rule his spirit as they list, as though his working and gifts were tyed vnto their will. Fiftly, the auoyding of the plagues of GOD, and the vtter destruction that by his righteous iudgement doth hang ouer the heads of them all that will in no wise returne vnto the Lord: I will (saith the Lord) giue them for a terrible plague to all the kingdomes of the earth, and for a reproach, and for a prouerbe, and for a curse in all places where I shall cast them, and will send the sword of famine, and the pestilence among them, till they be consumed out of the land (Jeremiah 24.9). And wherefore is this? Because they hardened their hearts, and would in no wise returne from their euill wayes, nor yet forsake the wickednesse that was in their owne hands, that the fiercenesse of the Lords fury might depart from them (Romans 2.5). But yet this is nothing in comparison of the intolerable and endlesse torments of hell fire, which they shall bee faine to suffer, who after their hardnesse of heart that cannot repent, doe heape vnto themselues wrath against the day of anger, and of the declaration of the iust iudgement of GOD: Whereas if we will repent, and bee earnestly sorry for our sinne, and with a full purpose and amendment of life flee vnto the mercy of our GOD, and taking sure hold thereupon through fayth in our Sauiour Iesus Christ doe bring foorth fruits worthy of repentance: hee will not onely powre his manifold blessings vpon vs heere in this world, but also at the last, after the painefull trauels of this life, reward vs with the inheritance of his children, which is the kingdome of heauen, purchased vnto vs with the death of his sonne Iesu Christ our Lord, to whom with the Father and the holy Ghost, be all praise, glory, and honour, world without end. Amen.
The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright 1999.