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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
AND NOBLEST LORD,
RICHARD, EARL OF CARBERY,
The duty of repentance is of so great and universal concernment, a catholicon to the evils of the soul of every man, that if there be any particular in which it is worthy the labours of the whole ecclesiastical calling, “to be instant in season and out of season, it is in this duty; and therefore I hope I shall be excused, if my discourses of repentance, like the duty itself, be perpetually increasing; and I may, like the widow in the Gospel to the unjust judge, at least hope to prevail with some men by my importunity. Men have found out so many devices and arts to cozen themselves, that they will rather admit any weak discourses and images of reason, than think it necessary to repent speedily, severely, and effectively. We find that sinners are prosperous, and God is long before he strikes; and it is always another man's case, when we see a judgment happen up
on a sinner, we feel it not ourselves, for when we do, it is commonly past remedy.
Indeed it was to be pitied in the heathen, that many of them were tempted to take the thriving side, when religion itself was unprosperous. When Jupiter suffered his golden sceptre to be stole, and the image never frowned; and a bold fellow would scrape the ivory thigh of Hercules, and go away without a broken pate, for all the club that was in his hand; they thought they had reason to think there was no more sacredness in the images of their gods, than in the statues of Vagellius“: and because the event of all regular actions was not regular and equal, but Catiline was hewn down by the consul's sword for his rebellion, and for the same thing Cæsar became a prince, they believed that the power that governed these extraregular events, must itself be various and changeable, and they called it · Fortune.' But, my Lord, that Christians should thus dote upon temporal events, and the little baits of fishes and the meat of dogs, adoring every thing that is prosperous, and hating that condition of things that brings trouble, is not to be pardoned to them who profess themselves servants and disciples of a crucified Lord and Master. But it is upon the same account, that men are so hardly brought to repent, or to believe that repentance hath in it so many parts, and requires so much labour, and exacts such caution, and cannot be performed
a Juv. xiii. 119.
without the best assistances, or the greatest skill in spiritual notices.' They find sin pleasant and prosperous, gay and in the fashion: and though wise men know it is better to be pleased than to be merry, to have rest and satisfaction in wisdom and perfective notices of things, than to laugh loud, and fright sobriety away with noises, and dissolution, and forgetfulness: yet this severer pleasure seems dull andi at, and men generally betake themselves to the wildnesses of sin, and hate to have it interrupted by the intervening of the sullen grace of repentance.
It was a sprightly saying of him in the comedy,
Ego vitam Deorum proptereà sempiternam esse arbitror,
Parta est, si nulla huic ægritudo gaudio intercesserit . “ Our immortality is to be reckoned by the continuance of our pleasure: my life is then perpetual, when my delights are not interrupted.” And this is the immortality, that too many men look after by incompetent means.
But to be called upon to repentance, and when men inquire what that is, to be told it is all the duty of a returning man; the extermination of sin, the mortification of all our irregular appetites, and all that perfection of righteousness which can consist with our state of imperfection ; and that in order to these purposes, we must not refuse the sharpest instruments, that “they may be even cut off which trouble us, but that we suffer all the severity of voluntary or imposed discipline, according
b Andr. 5. 5. 3.
as it shall be judged necessary, this is it which will trouble men; such, I mean, who love a beggarly ease before a laborious thriving trade (a foul stable to some beasts is better than a fair way); and therefore it is, that since all Christians are convinced of the necessity, the indispensable necessity of repentance, they have resolved to admit it, but they also resolve they will not understand what it is. “Una hercle falsa lacrimula ; one or two forced tears against a good time: and, believe it, that is a great matter too, that is not ordinary. But if men lose an estate,
Contentus, vexare oculos humore coacto c. Men need not to dissemble tears or sorrow in that case: but as if men were in no danger when they are enemies to God, and as if to lose heaven were no great matter, and to be cast into hell were a very tolerable condition, and such as a man might very well undergo, and laugh heartily for all that ;—they seem so unconcerned in the actions of religion, and in their obedience to the severe laws of repentance, that it looks as if men had no design in the world, but to be suffered to die quietly, to perish tamely, without being troubled with the angry arguments of the churchmen, who by all means desire they should live and recover, and dwell with God for ever. Or if they can be forced to the farther entertainments of repentance, it is nothing but a calling for mercy, an
c Juv, xii. 131.
ineffective prayer, a moist cloud, a resolution for today, and a solemn shower at the most.
Mens immota manet, lacrimæ volvuntur inanesd. The mind is not changed, though the face be: for repentance is thought to be just as other graces, fit for their proper season, like fruits in their own month ; but then every thing else must have its day too: we shall sin, and we must repent; but sin will come again, and so may repentance: for “ there is a time for every thing under the sun;' and the time for repentance is when we can sin no more, when every objection is answered, when we can have no more excuse; and they who go upon that principle, will never do it, till it be too late: for every age hath temptations of its own, and they that have been used to the yoke all their life-time, will obey their sin when it comes in any shape, in which they can take any pleasure. But men are infinitely abused, and by themselves most of all. For repentance is not like the summer-fruits, fit to be taken a little, and in their own time; it is like bread, the provisions and support of our life, the entertainment of every day, but it is the bread of affliction' to some, and the bread of carefulness' to all: and he that preaches this with the greatest zeal and the greatest severity, it may be, he takes the liberty of an enemy, but he gives the counsel and the assistance of a friend.
My Lord, I have been so long acquainted with the secrets of your spirit and religion, that I know I
d En. iv. 449.