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God's mercy, they concealed not the greatness of man's sin, in again defiling what God had anew hallowed: they concealed not that such a fall was worse than Adam's, since it was a fall from a higher state and in despite of greater aids : that though God's mercy was ever open, yet it required more enduring pains, more abiding self-discipline, more continued sorrow, again to become capable of that mercy. God is always ready to forgive : the sins can be forgiven; and yet they are not ! why? but because to rise again after falling from Baptismal grace, is far more difficult than the easiness with which men forgive their own sins, leads them to think ; the frame of mind which would really seek forgiveness, requires greater conflict, more earnest prayers, more complete self-abasement, and real renunciation of self, than men can bring themselves to think necessary, or comply with. Men will not confess to themselves how far astray they have gone: they cannot endure that all should be begun anew; and so they keep their sins and perish ! But on that very account did the early Church the more earnestly warn them of the greatness of the effort needed. While she affectionately tendered the hopes of pardon held out in God's word, she faithfully warned men not to build those hopes on the sand. She called on men to returnnot as if now they could at once lay down all their burthen at their Saviour's feet, but to wash His feet with their tears ; to turn-not with the mockery of woe, but with weeping, fasting, mourning, and rending of the heart. They separated not what God had joined. This the Romish Church has done in its way. They held in words, as well as we, that the Sacrament of Baptism could not be repeated, and that its efficacy alone would not wash away sins subsequently committed; but by devising the new Sacrament of Penance, they did contrive, without more cost, to restore men, however fallen, to the same state of undisturbed security in which God had by Baptism placed them! Penance became a second Baptism. Man's longing to be once again secure, was complied with : his old sins were effaced, not to rise up again against him: again and again he began afresh : again and again he was told, " Thy sins are forgiven thee," and so the salutary anxiety about past sin, and its fruit" a righteous, godly, " and sober life," were in ordinary minds choked and effaced. Perverting the earnest sayings of the Fathers, they turned the hard and toilsome way of Repentance into the easy and royal road of Penance. Let us beware lest by an opposite course we arrive at the same result. The blood of Christ is indeed allpowerful to wash away sin ; but it is not at our discretion, at once, on the first expression of what may be a passing sorrow, to apply It. On true repentance It will yet
1 Card. Bellarmine directly argues (Contróv. t. ji. p. 1483,) “ Since the “ Apostle says (Heb. vi.) that it is impossible that a man should be restored “ through that repentance which is united with Baptism, therefore we must “either with the Novatians deny all reconciliation, or with the Catholics “ admit a new Sacrament distinct from Baptism, whereby remission of sins " may be given. Nor can the adversaries say that Paul only means that the “ action of Baptism ought not to be repeated, for Paul does not speak of the “rite, but of its effect, i. e. renewal. Wherefore, if we cannot have again “ the effect of Baptism, we must look certainly for some other rite, some “ other Sacrament.”
66 cleanse men from all sin ;" but how much belongs to true repentance! The fountain has been indeed opened to wash away sin and uncleanness, but we dare not promise men a second time the same easy access to it, which they once bad: that
but once : it were to abuse the power of the keys entrusted to us, again to pretend to admit them thus : now there remains only the “ Baptism of tears," a Baptism obtained, as the same fathers said ", with much fasting, and with many prayers. We are familiar with the striking saying of Tertullian? against despair. “ God would not threaten the impenitent, unless He forgave the
penitent.” Would that we equally laid to heart what he says in the same place', of the greatness of that penitence ! “ far, (namely of Baptismal repentance), thus far, O Christ the “ Lord, may Thy servants hear and learn of the discipline of re
pentance, to hear which it needs not that [while Thy servants]
1 Clemens of Alexandria, ap. Euseb. H. E. 1. 3. c. 23. of the youth who having after Baptism become a robber was restored by St. Jolin.
2 De Pænitentia, c. 8.
3 C. 7. sqq.
they should have offended : henceforth let them know and re
quire nothing of (such] repentance. I am loath to subjoin “the mention of a second, yea of a last, hope ; lest treating again “ of a yet remaining aid of penitence, I should seem to mark out " a space for sin. God forbid, that men should so interpret this,
as if a door was open to sin, because it is open to repentance ; “and the redundancy of divine benevolence should make human “ rashness to wax wanton. Let no one become the worse, be
cause God is the more good : sinning again, because there is " again forgiveness: there will be an end of escaping, if there is “not of offending." After praising those then who shrunk from being " again a burthen to the Divine mercy, and who dreaded " to seem to trample on what they had obtained,” he thus at last, timidly, or rather reverently, advances to set forth God's last provision against the malice of Satan, repentance after Baptism. “ God, providing against these his poisons, though the “ door of full oblivion (ignoscentiæ) is closed, and the bolt of “ Baptism fastened up, alloweth somewhat still to be open. He “ hath placed in the vestibule (of the Church, where penitents “ used to kneel) a second repentance, which might be open to “ those who knock.” But how does Tertullian describe this discipline ? “ Full confession (exomologesis) is the discipline “ of prostrating and humbling the whole man; enjoining a con“ versation which may excite pity; it enacts as to the very dress " and "sustenancemto lie on sackcloth and ashes : the body “defiled, the mind cast down with grief: those things, in which " he sinned, changed by a mournful treatment : for food and “ drink, bread only and water, for the sake of life not of the “ belly : for the most part to nourish prayer by fasting: to groan; " to weep; to moan day and night before the LORD their God; “ to embrace the knees of the Presbyters and of the friends of “ God; to enjoin all the brethren to pray for them. All this is “ contained in full confession, with the view to recommend “ their repentance; to honour the Lord by trembling at their “ peril ; by pronouncing on the sinner, to discharge the office of “the indignation of God; and by temporal affliction - I say not “ to baffle, but.-to blot out eternal torment. When therefore it " rolls them on the earth, it the rather raises them : when it " defiles, it cleanses them: accusing, it excuses them : condemn
ing, it absolves them. In as far as thou sparest not thyself, “ in so far will God, be assured, spare theel.”
It is not of course the outward instances and expressions of grief, of which Tertullian speaks, which one would contrast with our modern practice; although most sincere penitents will probably have found it a great hindrance to effectual repentance, that they were obliged to bear about the load of their grief in their own bosoms; that they might not outwardly mourn; that they must go through the daily routine of life without unburthening their souls by a public confession ; that they could not, without the evils of private confession, obtain the prayers of God's servants ? ; that their outward, must needs be at variance with, thwarting, contradicting their inward, life :but this is a distinct subject, although it may well make us pray, that God would fit our Church again to receive the godly discipline, whose absence she annually laments », and yet cannot restore. And how are we not open to the indignant burst of Tertullian', after speaking of the luxury of his day, “ Seek the
* This is a sentiment frequent among the Fathers, founded on 1 Cor. xi. 31. see e. g. St. Augustine Serm. 351, De Pænitentia c. 4. St. Ambrose de Lapsu Virginis § 36. It has nothing to do with the Romish doctrine of satisfaction: thus even Calvin, (Institt. 3, 3, 15) “ The last character of
repentance is revenge' (2 Cor. vii. 11) for the severer we are upon ourselves, the
more rigidly we bring our sins to account, so much the more may we hope “to have God propitious and merciful. Yea, it cannot be, but that the “ mind struck down with horror at the Divine judgment, should anticipate “ the office of revenge by enacting punishment on itself. Fear cannot be too
great which ends in humility, and does not abandon hope of pardon.”
2 The Church has provided a place, where the distressed in mind, as well as the sick in body, might, if they desired it, obtain the prayers of the Congregation directly for themselves. There would be no occasion for naming them, as is sometimes done in the case of bodily sickness. Christian sympathy might be much promoted, and great relief obtained for sufferers, if the clergy were, in sermons or in private, to recall persons' minds to this forgotten provision.
3 Commination Service. 4 L. c. §. 11.
HOW WE HEREIN FALL SHORT OF THE ANTIENT CHURCH.
“ baths or the glad retreats of the sea-side ; add to thy expense ;
bring together large store of food; choose thee wines well re“ fined ; and when they ask thee, on whom bestowest thou this?
say,—I have offended against God, I am in danger of perishing
eternally, and therefore I am now distracted, and wasted, and “agonized, if by any means I may reconcile God, whom, by my " iniquities, I have offended."
But what one does mourn, is the loss of that inward sorrow, that overwhelming sense of God's displeasure, that fearfulness at having provoked His wrath, that reverent estimation of His great holiness, that participation of His utter hatred of sin, that loathing of self for having been so unlike to Christ, so alien from God; it is that knowledge of the reality and hatefulness of sin, and of self, as a deserter of God; that vivid perception of Heaven and hell, of the essential and eternal contrast between God and Satan, sin and holiness, and of the dreadful danger of having again fallen into the kingdom of darkness, after having been brought into that of light and of God's dear Son,-it is this that we have lost : it was this which expressed itself in what men would now call exaggerated actions, and which must appear exaggerated to us, who have so carnal and common-place a standard of a Christian's privileges, and a Christian's holiness. The absence of this feeling expresses itself in all our intercourse with the bad, our tolerance of evil, our apathy about remediable, and yet unremedied, depravity; our national unconcernedness about men's souls; our carelessness amid the spiritual starvation of hundreds of thousands of our own people. We are in a lethargy. Our very efforts to wake those who are deeper asleep, are numbed and powerless. Until we lay deeper the foundations of repentance, the very preaching of the Cross of Christ becomes but a means of carnal security.
It is indeed a hard and toilsome path which these Fathers point out, unsuited to our degraded notions of Christianity, as an easy religion, wherein sin and repentance are continually to alternate, pardon and Heaven are again and again offered to all who can but persuade themselves that they are sorry for their sins, or who, from circumstances, from time of life, or any other outward