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delight in it, and a power over a man's resolutions; in these cases it is a miraculous grace, and an extraordinary change, that must turn the current and the stream of the iniquity; and when it is begun, the pardon is more uncertain, and the repentance more difficult, and the effect much abated, and the man must be made miserable, that he may not be accursed for ever.
1. I say, his pardon is uncertain; because there are some sins which are unpardonable (as I shall show), and they are not all named in particular; and the degrees of malice being uncertain, the salvation of that man is to be wrought with infinite fear and trembling. It was the case of Simon Magus: "Repent, and ask pardon for thy sin, if peradventure the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee"." If peradventure; it was a new crime, and concerning its possibility of pardon no revelation had been made, and by analogy to other crimes it was very like an unpardonable sin for it was a thinking a thought' against the Holy Ghost, and that was next to 'speaking a word' against him. Cain's sin was of the same nature: "It is greater than it can be forgiven:" his passion and his fear was too severe and decretory; it was pardonable, but truly we never find that God did pardon it.
2. But besides this, it is uncertain in the pardon, because it may be the time of pardon is past; and though God hath pardoned to other people the same sins, and to thee too sometimes before, yet, it may be, he will not now: he hath not promised pardon so often as we sin, and in all the returns of impudence, apostasy, and ingratitude; and it may be, 'thy day is past,' as was Jerusalem's in the day that they crucified the Saviour of the world.
3. Pardon of such habitual sins is uncertain, because life is uncertain; and such sins require much time for their abolition and expiation. And therefore, although these sins are not necessariò mortifera,' that is, unpardonable; yet by consequence they become deadly; because our life may be cut off, before we have finished or performed those necessary parts of repentance, which are the severe, and yet the only condition of getting pardon. So that you may perceive,
Acts, viii. 22.
that not only every great single crime, but the habit of any sin, is dangerous: and therefore these persons are to be "snatched from the fire," if you mean to rescue them: in Toù πugòs åpπáçovres. If you stay a day, it may be, you stay too long.
4. To which I add this fourth consideration, that every delay of return is, in the case of habitual sins, an approach to desperation; because the nature of habits is like that of crocodiles, they grow as long as they live; and if they come to obstinacy or confirmation, they are in hell already, and can never return back. For so the Pannonian bears, when they have clasped a dart in the region of their liver, wheel themselves upon the wound, and with anger and malicious revenge strike the deadly barb deeper, and cannot be quit from that fatal steel; but, in flying, bear along that which themselves make the instrument of a more hasty death: so is every vicious person struck with a deadly wound, and his own hands force it into the entertainments of the heart; and because it is painful to draw it forth by a sharp and salutary repentance, he still rolls and turns upon his wound, and carries his death in his bowels, where it first entered by choice, and then dwelt by love, and at last shall finish the tragedy by Divine judgments and an unalterable decree.
But as the pardon of these sins is uncertain, so the conditions of restitution are hard even to them, who shall be pardoned their pardon, and themselves too, must be fetched from the fire; water will not do it; tears and ineffective sorrow cannot take off a habit, or a great crime.
O nimiùm faciles, qui tristia crimina cædis
Bion, seeing a prince weep and tearing his hair for sorrow, asked if baldness would cure his grief? Such pompous sorrows may be good indices, but no perfect instruments of restitution. St. James plainly declares the possibilities of pardon to great sins, in the cases of contention, adultery, lust, and envy, which are the four great indecencies that are most contrary to Christianity: and in the fifth chapters, he
implies also a possibility of pardon to an habitual sinner, whom he calls τὸν πλανηθέντα ἀπὸ τῆς ὁδοῦ τῆς ἀληθείας, “ one that errs from the truth," that is, from the life of a Christian, the life of the Spirit of truth: and he adds, that such a person may be reduced, and so be pardoned, though he have sinned long; "He that converts such a one, shall hide a multitude of sins." But then the way that he appoints for the restitution of such persons, is humility and humiliation, penances and sharp penitential sorrows, and afflictions, resisting the devil, returning to God, weeping and mourning, confessions, and prayers, as you may read at large in the fourth and fifth chapters and there it is that you shall find it a duty, that such persons should be afflicted,' and should confess to their brethren:' and these are harder conditions than God requires in the former cases; these are a kind of fiery trial.
I have now done with my text; and should add no more, but that the nature of these sins is such, that they may increase in their weight, and duration, and malice, and then they increase in mischief and fatality, and so go beyond the text. Cicero said well," Ipsa consuetudo assentiendi periculosa esse videtur et lubrica:" "The very custom of consenting in the matters of civility is dangerous and slippery," and will quickly engage us in error: and then we think we are bound to defend them; or else we are made flatterers by it, and so become vicious and we love our own vices that we are used to, and keep them till they are incurable, that is, till we will never repent of them and some men resolve never to repent, that is, they resolve they will not be saved, they tread under foot the blood of the everlasting covenant. Those persons are in the fire too, but they will not be pulled out: concerning whom God's prophets must say as once concerning Babylon, "Curavimus, et non est sanata; derelinquamus eam :"-" We would have healed them, but they :”would not be healed; let us leave them in their sins, and they shall have enough of it.' Only this: those that put themselves out of the condition of mercy, are not to be endured in Christian societies; they deserve it not, and it is not safe that they should be suffered.
h Acad. Qu. lib. iv. 68.
But besides all this, I shall name one thing more unto you; for
nunquam adeò fœdis adeòque pudendis
Utimur exemplis, ut non pejora supersint.—Juv. 8. 183.
There are some single actions of sin of so great a malice, that in their own nature they are beyond the limit of Gospel pardon they are not such things, for the pardon of which God entered into covenant, because they are such sins which put a man into perfect indispositions and incapacities of entering into or being in the covenant. In the first ages of the world atheism was of that nature, it was against their whole religion; and the sin is worse now, against the whole religion still, and against a brighter light. In the ages after the flood, idolatry was also just such another: for God was known first only as the Creator; then he began to manifest himself in special contracts with men, and he quickly was declared the God of Israel; and idolatry perfectly destroyed all that religion, and therefore was never pardoned entirely, but God did visit it upon them that sinned; and when he pardoned it in some degrees, yet he also punished it in some and yet rebellion against the supreme power of Moses and Aaron was worse; for that also was a perfect destruction of the whole religion, because it refused to submit to those hands, upon which God had placed all the religion and all the government. And now, if we would know in the Gospel what answers these precedent sins; I answer, first, the same sins acted by a resolute hand and heart are worse now than ever they were: and a third or fourth is also to be added; and that is apostasy, or a voluntary malicious renouncing the faith. The church hath often declared that sin to be unpardonable. Witchcraft, or final impenitence and obstinacy in any sin, are infallibly desperate; and in general, and by a certain parity of reason, whatsoever does destroy charity, or the good life of a Christian, with the same general venom and deletery as apostasy destroys faith: and he that is a renegado from charity, is as unpardonable as he that returns to solemn atheism or infidelity; for all that is directly the sin against the Holy Ghost, that is, a throwing that away whereby only we can be Christians, whereby only we can hope to be saved. To" speak a word against the Holy Ghost," in the Pharisees was declared unpardonable, because it was such a word,
which, if it had been true or believed, would have destroyed the whole religion; for they said that Christ wrought by Beelzebub, and by consequence did not come from God. He that destroys all the whole order of priesthood, destroys one of the greatest parts of the religion, and one of the greatest effects of the Holy Ghost: he that destroys government, destroys another part. But that we may come nearer to ourselves: To " quench the Spirit of God" is worse than to speak some words against him; to "grieve the Spirit of God" is a part of the same impiety; to "resist the Holy Ghost" is another part: and if we consider that every great sin does this in proportion, it would concern us to be careful lest we fall into "presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over us." Out of this that I have spoken you may easily gather what sort of men those are, who cannot be 'snatched from the fire;' for whom, as St. John says, "we are not to pray;" and how near men come to it, that continue in any known sin. If I should descend to particulars, I might lay a snare to scrupulous and nice consciences. This only every confirmed habitual sinner does manifest the Divine justice in punishing the sins of a short life with a never-dying worm and a never-quenched flame; because he hath an affection to sin, that no time will diminish, but such as would increase to eternal ages; and accordingly, as any man hath a degree of love, so he hath lodged in his soul a spark, which, unless it be speedily and effectively quenched, will break forth into unquenchable fire.
THE FOOLISH EXCHANGE.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?- Matt. xvi. 26.
WHEN the eternal mercy of God had decreed to rescue mankind from misery and infelicity, and so triumphed over his own justice; the excellent wisdom of God resolved to