Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

"worship that which their own fingers have made against the man who so "boweth down," and the great man who so "humbleth himself," saying in the name of God, "I will not forgive them?" Do we not read moreover of God himself proclaiming and threatening, "He that sacrificeth unto any God, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed?" Afterwards in the gospel do we not find our blessed Lord, who in his discourses was a preacher of that righteousness whereof in his actions he was a punctual practiser, thus directing us by the two-fold guidance of precept and example, do we not find him, I say, foretelling to us as well the present as future transactions; what is now doing, and what we have yet farther to expect? Hath he not denounced an everlasting punishment to such as shall deny him, and promised an eternal reward to such as shall confess him? Some, to their shame and scandal be it ever remembered, have no more regarded all this than if it had never been declared to them. They did not stay to have the question put to them before they denied their Lord and Saviour; they did not wait for the formality of being apprehended, but advanced of their own accord to the place of sacrifice. Unhappy wretch! Wherefore dost thou take the needless pains of carrying thither a victim with thee to sacrifice? Thou art thyself that victim! Thou makest a sacrifice of thine own soul! Thou hast offered up at this altar thine own sal

s vation, and thy faith and hope are consumed in its fatal fires.

5. Nor do I mean by any thing I have said upon the case of our fallen brethren, to load it with undue aggravations; I would only persuade them to seek their peace in a proper manner, and to give the church a becoming satisfaction. For since we find it written, "they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy pathscertainly he who sooths up the sinner with flattering words adds fuel to his lusts, multiplieth transgressions instead of lessening them, and is so far from laying them under any restraint or discouragement, that he abets and cherishes them by his mis-timed softness; whereas he who plies them with rougher medicines and a coarser treatment, will be found to have assisted his brethren with useful counsel, and thereby will prove instrumental towards their salvation. "As many as I love (saith our blessed Lord) I rebuke and chasten." A bishop therefore should follow the pattern set him by his great High-Priest, and so should not flatter the sinner with deceitful and soft expressions, but should go to the very bottom of his case, and should look out, not for palatable, but for wholesome remedies. He would betray great ignorance of his profession, who for fear of putting his patient to pain, by opening of his wound, should softly handle it, and skin it over, and close it up, leaving it uncleansed of the corruption lodged in it: yet if the knife be not spared, the patient for the present, 'tis likely, will complain, but he will thank the operator afterwards, when he finds his recovery hath been owing to such a management. Thus, my brethren, it should be with us; we have a new mischief broken out amongst us, and, as if the storm of our late persecution had not done us sufficient damage, another evil is added to it, not likely to prove less fatal, though it approaches with a serener aspect, and under the colour of tenderness and compassion. Through the rashness of some in granting, and of others in asking, the terms of communion are become too easy, the reins of discipline are shamefully relaxed, in opposition to the vigour and firmness wherewith the whole tenor of the gospel, and the laws of God and Christ have commanded them to be held. In short, a delusive insignificant absolution is at random given, which will prove dangerous to the givers and useless to the receivers. It is just in effect the very case I have mentioned; it is skinning over a mortal wound, and fixing the malignant humour to prevent the pain which would arise from dislodging it. Wherefore then dot'i any man pretend to offer to communicate with those, and thereby to prevent their penitential sorrow, who ought to spend a great deal of their time in lamentation and mourning, and in beseeching of God his compassion and mercy? All this indulgence is really no more beneficial to men who have been so unhappy as to fall from their steadfastness, than tempestuous weather to the fruits of the earth; than the murrain to cattle; or a dreadful storm to the mariner. They who are so forward in dispensing it, subvert the only true foundation which the lapsed can have of any hope in God; they tear up, as it were, the tree from its proper root; their discourse is fatal and contagious, like poison; their conduct resembles that of unskilful pilots, who, instead of conducting their vessel safe into harbour, split it upon the rocks. The peace thus given by them, upon such easy terms, is far from answering its genuine designs and purposes, that it directly thwarts them; so far from admitting the persons receiving it to the advantages of a just and regular communion, that 'tis really an additional stop to them in the way of their salvation. It amounts indeed to all the effects of a new and another persecution; 'tis a stratagem only of a different sort, whereby the great and subtle enemy of our souls makes his attempts upon our brethren who have fallen in the late grievous trial; he would have them desist from all farther lamentation; he would wipe out of their hearts all remembrance of their past offence; it is none of his interest that they should deprecate the wrath of God, or pass through all the forms of a long and laborious penance; he knows, and therefore would have them forget that it is written, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent."

6. Let no persons therefore venture to impose upon, and deceive themselves; no man's pity can here avail them. No one can pardon the sins committed against God, but he alone who bare our sins, who suffered for our sakes, and whom God delivered up for our offences. It is impossible that man should be greater than God, or equal to him; nor is it therefore within the power of man, who is the servant, to forgive in any case a sin of so deep a dye as this, which is committed against our common Lord and Master; and the unhappy offender who should in this case expect it, would only add to his other misfortune the curse denounced by God against such as should trust in man. We find it written of Moses, that he interceded for the sins of the people, and yet their sins were not forgiven them. "This people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." Though he were the friend of God, and had been honoured with the singular prerogative of speaking with God face to face; yet he could not, we may observe, succeed in this petition, nor had his intercession sufficient weight with it to appease the wrath of his offended majesty. We read the commendation of Jeremiah from God himself, saying of him and to him: "Before I

« AnteriorContinuar »