[§ 1] AMong the many practicall errours which are gotten abroad into the world, a very large proportion there is of those which have either suckt their poison from, or disguised it under that specious venerable name of Conscience. That which the Philosophers could call their Guardian Angell, and justifie the phrase by vouching none but Angelicall dictates from it: That which some good-natured Atheists did so revere that they defined the onely deity in the world,* and in pro∣portion phansied nothing but God-like of it, is now by some Christians (like the true God among the Heathens) worshipt in so many corporeous shapes, that there is at length scarce any thing so vile (Phansie, humour, passion, prepossession, the meanest worldly interest of the ambitious or covetous de∣signer, like the Calves, the Cats, the Crocodiles, the Onions, the Leeks of Egypty but hath the favour or luck to be mistaken for Conscience, and receive all the respect, that I say, not adoration, that belongs to it.
[§ 2] 'Twill be then but an act of justice and mercy, justice to truth, and mercy to the abused world, and withall a speciall preparative to a prudent refor∣mation, to rescue so divine a man from such heathenish usage, to restore it to its naturall primitive simplicity, and cast out all the false sormes which it hath been forced to appeare under. To which purpose all that I shall de∣signe will be reduced to these two enquiries:
- 1. What is the proper notion of conscience.
- 2. What is required to entitle a man to a good conscience.
[§ 3] For the former of these, what is the proper notion of conscience, I shall labour to finde out not among the Scholasticall definitions or divisions of it among humane Writers, but onely by observing the force and use of the word in the Scripture, particularly the New Testament. And he that shall meet it there 32 times, and but take a view of it at every meeting, will sure come to some degree of acquaintance with it, and find upon judgement rea∣son to resolve, what for his ease I shall now lay before him.
[§ 4] That the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Conscience, is no more then Science or know∣ledge, (and therefore being but once used by the Gre•k Translators of the Old Testament, Eccles. 10. 20. it is there set to expresse a word which Page 2 is otherwise by them commonly rendred 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) onely with a peculiar relation added to it, as that knowledge is in order to action. Thus Tit. 1. 15. when 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, mind and conscience are distinguished, tis obvious to any to discerne the ground of that distinction,* that former be∣ing properly the denotation of the faculty meerly speculative, or intellectu∣all; this latter,* of the practicall judgement, or that whether act or faculty of the understanding soule, which extendeth to practice; the Apostle by that phrase, [the mind and conscience are defiled] meaning distinctly this, that this errour in mens judgements, (which is the defiling of their mind) carryes Un-Christian practice along with it, (which is the defiling of the practicall faculty) this Judaicall mistake in th•ir understanding is attended with Judaizing actions in their lives, the former apportioned to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the false Judaicall doctrines, which relate to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉the mind, the second to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the commands of men per∣verting the truth, v. 14. which relate to the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉the Conscience.
[§ 5] For the clearing of which (that it is such a practicall knowledge in the acception of the Scripture) if there need any light, you may have it from the survey of every place severally, and in speciall from this one, 1 Pet. 2. 19. This is thank-worthy, if〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for Conscience of God a man suffer griese, &c. i. e. if for this obedientiall practicall knowledge of God (this knowledge of truth attended with a resolution not to disobey God, though it cost a man never so deare) he suffer g•iefe, &c.
[§ 6] This being premised, there is but one thing more to be added to this mat∣ter, and it is this; That we take no•ice of the severall wayes of aspect that Conscience hath upon practice; One forward in the direct line, another backward, or by way of reflection; which are ordinarily exprest by the dou∣ble office of Conscience, 1. as a cust•s or monitor, advising and instructing and keeping us to our duty; 2. as a witnesse testifying to our selves and to God what we have done; which is in plainer termes no more but this, That there are two sorts of Conscience; 1. Conscience of duty to be performed, or full perswasion that such a thing ought to be done, or not to be done by me, a being resolved of the necessity or unlawfulnesse of any thing, and 2 consci∣ence of having performed, or not performed it, a knowing or judging my self to have done well or ill. And under these two notions, all the severalls in the New Testament, (and the one sole place of the apocryphall bookes of the Old) will be contained, If you please, you may see how.
[§ 7] To the former kind belongs that famous place, Rom. 13. 5. You must be sub∣ject (to the Supreame powers, v. 1.) not onely for wrath, i. e. feare or danger of punishment, the effect of wrath (the Magistrate being Gods Minister, an avenger for wrath, or punishment to him that doth evill, v. 4.) but also 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for or because of Conscience, i. e. because it is the command of God, and consequently that which all interiours (every soule) may, if they be not wilfully blind, know to be their duty, [to be thus subject.]
[§ 8] So 1 Cor. 8. 7. For some with conscience of the Idol, i. e. being resolved in mind, that it is not lawfull to eate or taste of any 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, part or por∣tion of the Idol-feast (whether 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, at the idoll table, or having Page 3 bought it at the Shambles, as it seemes, was the fashion for those 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to be sold there at second hand c. 10. 25.) accounting it unlawfull to eate any meat consecrated to that use, doe yet eate that which is of this nature, and by so doing, their weake i. e. uninstructed conscience is polluted, i. e. they sinne against their conscience, doe that which they are perswaded they may not doe, which although it be never so innocent a harmlesse thing in it selfe (an idoll being simply nothing) yet to them which doe it, when they think it unlawfull (and all have not knowledge, saith he in the beginning of the verse, i. e. are not sufficiently instructed in their duty) it is pollu∣tion or sinne, according to the fore-mentioned place Tit. 1. 15. To the pure all things are pure [all things] i. e. all things of that nature of which he there speaks, though in themselves indifferent, [are pure] i. e. may lawfully be used [by the pure] i. e. by them which are rightly instructed, but to the polluted and unbeleevers (i. e. to them that are misled by Jewish fa∣bles, or by the dogmatizing of false teachers, and brought to beleeve things to be prohibited by God, which are not prohibited) to them that are guilty of this kind of Judaisme, and (as it is interpretative) unbeliefe there is nothing pure, but their mind and conscience are polluted, both their under∣standing is in an errour, taking falsity for truth, and their practicall resolution is sinfull also,* nay obliged to sin, which way soever they turn themselves, whether they abstaine superstitiously, when they are not bound by God to abstaine, (which is the sinne of those that are subject to ordinances, Col. 2. 20. of which I have spoken at large in another place) or whether they ab∣staine not, when they are perswaded that they ought to abstaine, which is sin against conscience.
[§ 9] From whence by the way you may observe the miserable lot of those which have not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 knowledge in the beginning of that verse, which are missed to think any thing unlawfull which is lawfull, and continue in that errour without seeking of light, which are thus impure (for to such 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉nothing is pure) they are, as long as they remaine so, obliged to sinne, which way soever they take to, abstaine or not abstaine. For though in things indifferent and uncommanded, simply to abstaine were no sinne, yet then to abstaine 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as from a thing abominable or un∣lawfull, is both by Scrip•ure and the ancient Councels, in case of marriage and meats, every where condemned as sinfull: and yet on the other side to eate without, or against Faith, i. e. being doubtfull whether it be lawfull or no, or being perswaded it is unlawfull is sin, (saith the Apostle) and there is great necessity to such of seeking, (and in others great charity of helping them to) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 instruction, or right information in this case, which is the onely cure for this unfortunate malady.
[§ 10] So againe ver. 10. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; the conscience of him that is weake, or (which is the same) v. 7. and v. 12. the weake conscience] signifies the false perswasion of him that is in an errour, an erroneous conscience, weaknesse noting sicknesse in the Scripture stile John 5. 14. 1 Cor. 11 30. and errour being the disease or sicknesse of the soule, and that with a little im∣provement growing destructive and mortiferous; as in case he that hath Page 4 that erroneous sick conscience, doe act somewhat againsgt conscience, and so adde sinne unto errour, for then 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 v. 11. that sick man dyes, perishes of that disease. Soch. 10. 25, 27, 28, 29. the word Conscience is still in the same sense, for conscience or consideration of duty, and so 1 Pet. 2. 19. forementioned.
[§ 11] So likewise 1 Pet. 3. 21. where Baptisme is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉the answer of a good conscience to God, the good conscience signifies conscience rightly instructed in its duty, as in baptizing those of full age it is supposed to be; which Conscience is then to answer and con∣sent to all Gods proposals in baptisme (or the ministers in Gods stead) such as [wilt thou forsake the Devill, &c.] and so the words will be interpreted in a sense proportionable to that of denying ungodly lusts, Tit. 2. 12. which there the appearing of Christ is said to teach us. For as lust proposes ungodly que∣stions to us, which we are bound to deny; so God in baptisme is supposed to propose good questions to us, which we are bound to grant, and stipulate the performance of them, and that is the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉the answer of a good conscience to God or to his questions proposed in baptisme, after the manner of ancient pacts among the Romans made by way of question and answer, as part of the ritus solen•s or formalities of them.
[§ 12] But then for the second acception of the word, as it notes conscience of what we have performed, or passing judgement on my selfe for what I have done, (and that either for any one individuall act, or for the maine of our lives, our state; and that againe either 1 acquitting or 2 condemning or 3 considered in a third notion common to both those, passing sentence in gene∣rall) so shall you find it in many other places, and indeed in all the rest which we have not hitherto named.
[§ 13] For the first of these three species as it acquitteth, you have it Act. 23. 1. I have lived, (or behaved my selfe in all my conversation towards men 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in all my politique, or publique relations) with or in all good conscience, in such a manner, as I cannot excuse my selfe of any thing done contrary to my Christian profession, or dignity of my Apostolicoll calling. So 1 Cor. 9. 12. the Testimony of our Conscience is exprest by what followes, that in simplicity &c. we had our conversation in the world. So good con∣science is taken 1 Tim. 1. 5. and 19. and 3. 9. and 2 Tim. 1. 3. Heb. 13. 18. 1 Pet. 3. 16. but above all you have a speciall place belonging to this first branch of the second in Act. 24. 16. [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] we render it a Conscience void of offence, the meaning is, a confidence and assurance that he hath done nothing subject so much as to the censure of having scandali∣zed others; for Saint Paul being there accused by the Jewes v. 5. 6. for 3 crimes, sedition, heresie, and profaning of the Temple, he answers to the first v. 12. to the second v. 14. to the third v. 16. 18. and his being purified in the Temple after the Jewish manner he makes an evidence of his innocence in that particular, a proofe of his not having scandalized any Jew, which to have done would have been a fault in him, whose office it was to become all things to all men, that he might gaine or save all, and not to discourage or deter any who might be gained by complyance; and the doing so, is it which Page 5 is called being 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 1 Cor. 10. 32. giving none offence to the Jews, the very word in the place of the Acts.
[§ 14] In the second place, the accusing or condemning conscience is often men∣tioned also; John 8. 9. Convicted by their conscience, or reproved some for one sinne, some for another. So by intimation Heb. 9. 9. where tis said of the Legall sacrifices that they could not make perfect as pertaining to Conscience, where the word [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] rendred to make perfect, signifies in the sacred idiom [to consecrate,] to make a priest, whose office being 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉to draw neare to God, proportionably 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to perfect or consecrate as pertaining to conscience signifies to give accesse with boldnesse to God, by taking off that guilt which formerly lay upon their conscience, the same that v. 14. is called, to purge the conscience from dead works, to wash off that guilt of sin past, which hinders their approach to God, obstructs all entrance to their prayers (for we know that God hea∣reth not sinners, Joh. 9. 31. and Is. 1. 15.) whereupon tis observable, that Heb. 13. 18. when he bespeaks their prayers for him, he adds this reason to encourage them to doe so. For we trust we have a good conscience, that good conscience being necessary there to have other mens prayers heard for them, as here to give themselves accesse to God in prayer. So Heb. 10. 2. Conscience, or conscienciousnes of sins, and v. 22. Evill conscience, and so Wisd. 17. 11. there is mention of wickednesse condemned by her own witnes and prest by conscience.
[§ 15] And of the last sort, in the latitude common to both, are Rom. 2. 15. Rom. 9. 1. 2 Cor. 4. 2. and 5. 11. and 1 Tim. 4. 2. all cleare enough without the help of our paraphrase to adde light to them.
[§ 16] Having thus marshalled all these places of Scripture into ranks, and gi∣ven some hints of generall insight into them, it now remaines that we return a while to the neerer survey of the two generall heads, and first of the for∣mer acception of the word, as it imports a monitor, or director of life, by which our actions must be regulated, and from the mistaking of which the chiefe inconvenience doth arise.
[§ 17] To which end, it will be absolutely necessary to settle and resolve but one question, what is that rule or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of Conscience, from whence it must receive its regulation. For he that draweth a line of direction for a∣nother, must have a rule to draw it by, and that a straight exact one, or else the directions will not be authentique, and they which walke〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉exactly or conscientiously, must 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉walk by rule, Phil. 3. 16. and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉have their eye or thought alway upon that one thing, their rule of direction, or else be they never such 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the beginning of that verse, such forward proficients, their end may be perdition v. 19. This when once we have done, the difficulty will soone vanish.
[§ 18] And to this purpose I shall take that for granted which in thesi I never heard any doubt of, (though many of our actions look otherwise in hypoth•si) that law is this onely rule; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, rule and law being words of the same importance, and nothing fit or proper to regulate our actions, but that which the law-giver, to whom obedience must be payed, hath thought fit to rule them by. To which purpose it is ordinarily observed Page 6 that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Sin, or ab•rration from that rule by which we ought to walke (for so that word naturally signifies) is by Saint John 1 Epist. 3. 4. defined 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 which we render a trangression of the law. I• which place of Saint John, though the truth is, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 denoting more then the bare commission of sinne in that Author generally, viz. the wilfull per∣petration of it, and an indulgence in, and habit of so doing) the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 must proportionably also signifie not onely trans∣gressing, but wilfull habituall contemning the Law, b••ng an exlox, or with∣out law (as the Idolatrous Atheist is said to be without God in the world) i. e. without any account or respect of it, (and so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Joh. 31. 3. notes the greatest degree of sinfulnesse, we render in workers of iniquity, and so very frequently in the Septuagint we finde 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, where we render the Hebrew by mischiefe) yet still the observation stands good, that law is the rule, in aberration from which all sinne consists, and so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in both senses, the least degree of sinne a deviation from the law, and a malicious contentious sinning a malitious contemptuous deviation, or trans∣gression, and so Saint Paul hath also resolved it, that where •here is no law, there is no transgression, no 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Rom. 4. 15. no going awry, when there is no rule proposed to goe by.
[§ 19] This being so cleare in i•s selfe, and yet through the mistakes, yea and im∣pities of the world b•come so necessary to be thus farther cleared; Two things there are which will hence inevitably follow, the first Negative, the second Positive; The first or the Negative, that Whatsoever undertakes to direct, or guide our actions, to tell us our duty, that this we must, that we may not doe, and hath not some law, (in force, and still obligatory to us) to au∣thorize those directions by, is not Conscience, whatsoever it is.
[§ 20] First, Humour it may be, to think our selves bound to doe whatsoever we have a strong inclination to doe, it being a matter of some difficulty to di∣stinguish between my naturall and my spirituall inclinations, the motion of my sensitive appetite, and my diviner principle, my lower, and my upper soule, and the former commonly crying louder, and moving more lively, and impatiently, and earn•stly then the other.
[§ 21] Secondly, Phansie it may be, which is a kind of irrationall animall Con∣science, hath the same relation to sensitive representations (those lawes in the members) which Conscience hath to intellectuall (those lawes of the mind) and then, as Aristotle saith, that in those creatures which have not reason, phansie supplyes the place of reason; so they which have not, or will not have conscience to direct them, phansie most commonly gets into its place. Or
[§ 22] Thirdly, Passion it may be; Our feares will advise us one thing, our ani∣mosities another, our zeale a third, and though that be perhaps zeal of God, yet that zeale is a passion still, one of those which Aristotle hath defined in his Rhetoricks, being not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, according to knowledge or consci∣ence, Rom.* 10. 2. for the Hebrew word, as I told you, is rendred by those two words promiscuously, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, knowledge and conscience. Or
[§ 23] Fourthly, diabolicall suggestion or infusion it may be, an enthusiasm of Page 7 that black spirit; as it is, (or of some thing as bad in effect) infallibly, when∣soever Rebellion, Sedition, Murther, Rapine, Hatred, Envy, Vncharitablenesse, Lying, Swearing, Sacriledge, &c. come to us under the disguise of Religion and Conscience; and therefore the Spirits must be searcht whether they be of God, or of the Devill; and no surer way to doe it, then by these and the like Symptomes, these fruits and productions of that infernall Spi∣rit, which so perfectly represent and owne their parent, that none but blind or mad men or daemoniacks can beleeve them in earnest to come from God. Or
[§ 24] Fiftly, False doctrine it may be, and that againe set off either by the authority of the teacher, or by the dignity of some eminent followers and practicers of it, and then the Apostle calls it [having mens persons in admi∣ration] or by the earlinesse of its representation, being imbibed and taken in first, swallowed and digested before the truth was offered to us, and then it is prejudice or prepossession, and this again alwayes assisted by the force of that old axiom, [Intus existens &c.] and by that which is naturall to all ha∣bits, to be hardly moveable, and yet further improved sometimes by pride and obstinacy, alwayes by selfe-love, which makes us think our own opi∣nions (i. e. which we are already possest of) the truest; which in this case is in effect to think our luck the best luck, and the same which was observed in one worst sort of Heathens, who, whatsoever they saw first in the morning, worshipt that all the day after; a choosing of perswasions as country men choose Valentines, that which they chance to meet with first after their coming abroad.
[§ 25] Besides these, many other things it may be, and so, 1. It is oddes e∣nough that it will not be conscience, which pretends to be so, and 2. It is certainly not conscience, unlesse it produce some law for its rule to direct us by. And this was the Negative or first thing.
[§ 26] The second or the Positive thing which followes from the premises, is this, that Conscience of duty in any particular action is to be ruled by that law which is proper to that action; as for example: The Christian law is the rule of Conscience for Christian actions; the law of reason, or morall law, for morall; the law nationall, municipall, or locall, for civill; the na∣turall, law of all creatures, for naturall actions; and the law of scandall, (a branch of the Christian law) for matters of scandall; and the law of li∣berty, for indifferent free actions. And as it is very irregular, and unrea∣sonable to measure any action by a rule that belongs not to it, to try the exactnesse of the circle by the square, which would be done by the compasse, and in like manner to judge the Christiannesse of an action, by the law of naturall reason, which can onely be judged by its conformity with the law of Christ, superiour to that of nature; So will there be no just pretence of conscience: against anything, but where some one or more of these lawes are producible against it; but on the other side, even in the lowest sort of acti∣ons, if they be regulated by the law proper to them, and nothing done con∣trary to any superiour law, even by this God shall be glorified, 1 Cor. 10. 31. a kind of glory resulting to God from that readinesse of submission and Page 8 subordination of every thing to its proper rule, and law, to which the great Creator hath subjected it, and of all lawes to that supreme transcendent one, the law of Christ. And though some touches there are in the Scripture of each of these lawes, some sibrae or strings of them discernibly there, so farre, that there is nothing almost under any of the heads sorementioned, but by the Scripture some generall account may be given of it, and againe, though that of Scripture be the supreame law of all, and nothing authorizeable by any inferiour law, which is contradicted or prohibited by that, yet is not that of Scripture such a particular Code or Pandect of all lawes, as that every thing which is commanded by any other law, should be found commanded there, or be bound to prove its selfe justifiable from thence, any further then that it is not there prohibited, or thereby justly concluded to be unlawful.
[§ 27] From whence by the way, I conceive direction may be had, and resolution of that difficult practicall probleme, what a man may doe in case he be le∣gally commanded by his lawfull superiour to doe what he may lawfully doe, which yet he is perswaded he may not doe, or doubteth whether he may or no. For in this case if he be not able to produce some plaino prohibition from some superiour law, as from that of Scripture, he cannot be truly said to be perswaded in conscience, (which implyes knowledge) of the unlawfulnesse of that thing, nor consequently hath he any plea for disobedience to that lawfull command of his Superiours. All that may be said, is, that he may from some obscure place misunderstood have cause or occasion to doubt whether he may doe it or no, and then, although doubting simply taken (i. e. where no command interposes,) may keep me from doing what I doubt, yet it ought not to be of that weight, as to keep me from my lawfull Superiours lawfull command, because that very command is a sufficient ground to su∣persede my doubting, when I have no plaine prohibition of Scripture to the contrary, (which in this case I am supposed not to have, for if I had, Then, first, it were not a lawfull command, and secondly, I should not doubt but be assured) it being my duty, and part of my Christian meeknesse, in doubt∣full matters to take my resolution from those whom God hath placed over me, and it being the sinne of dogmatizing to affirme any thing for me or o∣thers to doe, which some law of God, &c. still in force, doth not prohibit; which sin being added to that other of disobedience to my lawfull Superiours, will sure never be able to make that commence virtue, which was before so far from any pretentions to that title.
[§ 28] Having proceeded thus far in the search of the ground of Conscience, 'twere now time to reduce this operation to practice, and shew you, first, What directions Conscience is able to afford from every of those lawes for the ru∣ling of all actions of that kind; and secondly, What an harmony and con∣spiration there is betwixt all these lawes, one mutually ayding and assisting the other, and not violating or destroying. But this were the largest under∣taking that could be pitcht on in the whole circle of learning, Aerodius's Pandectae rerum ab omni aevo judicaturum, and all the Schoolmens and Ca∣suists volumes, de legibus, de jure & justitia, and on the Decalogue, would be but imperfect parts of this; I shall give you but one taste or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of it, by Page 9 which the Reader will be perswaded to spare me, or rather himselfe that trouble.
[§ 29] The prime of these, the Christian law, is the rule of all actions that come within that spheare, sets downe the nature of all Christian duties of piety, and love of our brethren in generall, and more particularly of Faith, Hope, Charity, Repentance; selfe-denyall, taking up the crosse, &c. of humi∣lity, meeknesse, mercifulnesse, peaceablenesse, obedience to superiours, patience, contentednesse, and the like; and the relation of a Christian being a grand transcendent relation, there is no action imaginable, but may either in re∣spect of the matter, or motive, or principle, or circumstances, offend against one of these, (and then, malum ex quolibet defectu, the least of these defects blemisheth it) and so conscience directed by that rule or law, will direct me either to doe it, or not to doe it in that manuer, and then tis not any com∣playnce with, or agreeablenesse to any or all other lawes, which will make this action Christian, which hath any such notable defect or blemish in it; Not to pursue this any farther, having thus named it, and shewed you the vastnesse of the sea it leads to, it will suffice to our present designe to tell you, that from what is said these 3 corollaries, to omit many others, will be deducible.
[§ 30] 1. That it is not possible for Conscience (be it never so strongly perswa∣ded) to make any action lawfull, which is not regulated by those rules, or lawes which are proper to it, and reconcileable with the grand rule, the Chri∣stian law. Conscience can never transforme profanenesse into piety, sacri∣ledge into justice or holinesse, rebellion into obedience, faction into humility, perjury, or taking of unlawful oathes into religion, rapine into contentednesse, inhumanity into mercifulnesse, adultery, fornication, divorces, (save in case of adultery) or any uncleannesse into purity, labouring to shake a Kingdome, (to remove the crosse from my owne shoulders to another mans) into taking up of the Crosse; but contrariwise, if it be truly and univocally Conscience of duty, it will tel me that every one of these foule titles belongs to every such action (the Scripture being so cleare in these particulars, that there is no place or excuse for ignorance or mistake) and by setting before me the ter∣rors of the Lord, perswade me not to venture on any one such action upon any termes; or if I have ventured, it will smite and wound me for it, and drive me to timely repentance; or if it doe not, tis either a cauterized insen∣sate conscience, a reprobate mind, or else some of these Images, which even now I mentioned, mistaken for Conscience; or if it be a full perswasion of minde, that what I thus am about, I am obliged to doe, (if that be a possible thing in such matters and under so much light) tis then in the calmest style an erroneous Conscience, which is so far from excusing me (unlesse in case of ignorance truly invincible, which here is not imaginable) that it brings upon me the most unparalleld infelicity in the world, an obligation to sinne which way soever I turne my selfe, on one side appearing and lying at my doore the guilt of committing that sinne which I have so mistaken, and on the other the guilt of omitting that (though sinne) which my Conscience represented to me as duty; and nothing but repentance and reformation Page 10 of judgement first, and then of practice, will be able to retrive the one or the other.
[§ 31] The second corollary will be this, That it is the most unreasonable insolence in the world, for them that can swallow such Camell-sins as these without any regrets, nay with full approbation, and direction (perhaps) of conscience (if that may be called Conscience which is so divided from, and contrary to knowledge) yet to scruple and interpose doubts most tremblingly, and most conscientiously in matters of indifferency; not so much as pretended to be a∣gainst the word of God, (and so within the law of christian liberty, that they may be done if he will) and yet over and above their naturall indisterency commanded by that authority, in subjection to which the christian vertue of obedience consists; and all this either first upon no ground of conscience at all, but only that it is contrary to their Phansy, their Humour, their Pre∣possessions; or Secondly because it is a restraint, upon their christian liberty, which yet Christ never forbid to be restrained quoad exercitium, as farre as belongs to the exercise of it, but hath permitted sometime the care of not of∣fending the weak brother, i. e. Charity, and sometime Obedience, to law∣full superiours, to restreine it, (for if in things indifferent they may not restreine, there can no obedience be payed to them;) or Thirdly because they are offensive (though not to them, yet) to others, who are perswaded they are unlawfull. Whereas I that perswasion of those others is erroneous, and not sufficient to justifie disobedience in thems•lves, much lesse in other men, in case of lawfull humane command, And 2 that their censuring of such in∣different actions, i. e. being angry without a cause, may bee greater matter of scandall, and so more offensive to others, and more probable to work upon them to bring them by that example to be so angry also, then the doing that indifferent action, mistaken by others, and condemned for unlaw∣full, would be to bring th•m to transcribe that reprobated samplar, i. e. to doe what they thus condemne; all men being farre more apt and inclinable to break out into passions, then into acts against conscience, and so more likely to be scandalized or offended, or insnared, by following the former, then the latter example, to sinne (for company or after another man) by censuring whom he censures, which is being angry without a cause; then by doing what they are advised and resolved they ought not to do, which is sin∣ning against conscience. Or fourthly, because they are against their consci∣ence to doe, whilst yet they produce no law of God or man against them, and so in effect confesse there is nothing in them against conscience; unlesse, as before was noted, they wilfully aequivocate in the word Conscience; which will and skill of theirs, as it will not make any thing, unlawfull, which before was indifferent, so will it not conclude ought, save only this, that they which are so a•tificious to impose on others, and forme scruples where there were none, would not be thought the likeliest men to swal∣low grosse sinnes under the disguise of vertues, or if they doe so, will have least right to that onely Antidote of invincible ignorance to digest them.
[§ 32] The third corollary will be this, that scrupulousnesse of conscience in Page 11 some lighter lesse important matters (if it may be supposed excusable, •s a weaknesse of an uninstructed mind, joyned with that good symptome of tendernesse of quick sense, yet) can n•ver hope to be accepted by God by way of commutation or expiation for grosser sinnes, so that he that falls foulely in any confessed sinne, should fare the better at the great day of ac∣count, or be in lesse danger of being cast out of Gods favour for the pre∣sent, because he is over-scrupulous in other things: For sure this were a strange way of supererogation to pay one arreare to God by running into another with him, to discharge a debt by owing more. And yet this is an er∣rour which may seem worth the paines of preventing, it being so notorious∣ly seen, that some men, which professe to have care of their wayes, and must in charity be beleeved to have so, goe on confidently in greivous sins, which they cannot but know will damne without repentance, (the sentence of not inheriting the Kingdome of God, Gal. 5. being so distinct, and punctu∣all, and absolute, and indispensable against them) and yet have no Anti∣dote to relye on for the averting that danger, but onely this of their exact∣nesse and scrupulousnesse in things indifferent; which if they shall say they doe not confide in, they are then obliged, in conscience, and charity to their brethren (who may follow them to this precipice) either to give over ho∣ping, or to set to purifying, without which there is no true ground of hope. This hint puts me in mind that there is another part of my design still be∣hind, belonging to the second notion of conscience, to examine
[§ 33] What it is that is required to entitle a man to a good conscience; which will briefly be stated by premising what before was mentioned, that the good conscience belongs either to particular single performances, or to the whole state of life and actions. To the first there is no more required, but that that particular action be both for matter and circumstance regulated by the rule, or rules which are proper to it, and have nothing contrary to any supe∣riour transcendent rule. As that my meale be with sobriety and thanks∣giving, my almes with chearfulnesse, liberality, discretion, done in grati∣tude and obedience to God, and mercifulnesse to my brother, without re∣flexion on my own gaine or praise in this world. But for the Good Conscience, which belongs to the whole state of life and actions, which is called a good Conscience in all things, Heb. 13. 18. or a good Conscience consisting in ha∣ving a good conversation in all things, (for so the punctation in the Greek will direct rather to render it,* [we have a good conscience, willing to live well, (or have an honest conversation) in all things] there the difficulty will be greater. And yet two Texts there are which tend much to the clearing and disinvolving of that one, 1 Pet. 3. 16. where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Good Conscience in the beginning of the verse, is explained in the close by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a good conversation in Christ, or a good christian conversati∣on, or such as now through Christ, by the purport of the second covenant may and shall be accepted for good. Where the word [conversation] denoting first the actions and behaviour both toward God and man, and second∣ly, the whole course and frame of those actions, (wherein it seems a good conscience consists,) cannot better be explained then either by the Page 12 Apostles, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an accurate exact walking, Eph. 1. 15. or the phrase to Titus, c. 2. 12. living soberly and righteously and godly in this pre∣sent world; the first respecting our duty to our selves, or actions, as private men; the second, our duty to our brethren, in our more publique capacities; the third, our duty to God as creatures, men, and Christians; or Saint Lukes character of Zachary and Elizabeth, Luk. 1. 6. Walking in all the Commande∣ments and Ordinances of the Lord blamelesse; Walking Blamelesse, In all: Universall sincere obedience, (not entire or perf•ct without ever sinning, but) considered with the rules of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or moderation of strict law, (which is now part of the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Gospel-law, by which a Christian is to be tryed, as equity is a part of the municipall law of this land; Such is mercy for frailties, and infirmities, and grosser lapses recovered and retracted by re∣pentance) now under the Gospel, so as to be acceptable to God in Christ; which was intimated (as in the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in Christ, 1 Pet. 3. so) in the former part of that verse, and their character 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, righteous before God: Which phrase [Before God] hath a double intimation worth obser∣ving in this place, first of the perseverance or perpetuity of that righteous∣nesse (as opposed to the temporary of the hypocrite) for the phrase 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 [before him] refers to the shew bread of old, Exod. 25. 30. which was to be set before God alway; and therefore is sometime called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the bread of faces, or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉bread before his face, literally 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, before him, and sometimes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉perpetuall bread, and secondly, of the ac∣ceptation or reception in the sight of God, for that againe was the end of setting the bread alwayes before God, that God looking on it might accept them; and so righteousnesse before God, is such righteousnesse as God will please in the Gospel to accept of, as when visiting the fatherlesse, &c. Jac. 1. 27. is called, religion pure and undefiled before God the Father; it noteth such a degree of unblemisht purity, not as excluded all sinne, but as God in Christ would (or hath promised to) accept of. And the same phrase there∣fore is in another place of the same Chapter, Luk. 1. 75. rendred by our Church in the Gospel for Midsummer day by these words, such as may be acceptable for him.
[§ 34] Which being all taken into the description of a good conscience, that it is such a continued good conversation as God now under the Gospel promiseth to accept of; the onely difficulty behind will be, what that is which God pro∣miseth to accept of; To which end, it will be very instrumentall to take in that other place which I promised, and that is that forementioned, Heb. 13. 18. where the Good Con•cience is evidenced (or the ground of confidence that he hath a good conscience, demonstrated) by this [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] willing, or resolving, or endeavouring to live honestly, or to have honest conversation in all things. From whence the onely thing which I desire to collect is this, That the sincere resolution or endeavour to live honestly in all things (which I remember, one of our ancientest Church-writers Saint Cyrill of Jerusalem calls, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and opposes it to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, works) is the Scripture nomination of a good Conscience, or the Page 13〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that great treasure of confidence to all which have it; that ground of mature perswasion for any, that he hath, or shall by God be allowed, and acknowledged to have a good conscience.
[§ 35] And if it be farther demanded what is necessarily required, (and how much will be sufficient) to denominate a man Such, what is the minimum quod sic of this sincere resolution, or endeavour, although that, I confesse, will be hard if not impossible, to define in such a manner, as shall come home to every particular, (the proportions of more or lesse, knowledge or strength, the inequality of the talents of illuminating and assisting grace still interposing and making a variation) yet will it not be matter of much dif∣ficulty to give some generall advertisements, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which will be acknowledged as soone as mentioned, and being put together, and by each man single applyed to his particular case, by way of self-examination, will be able to tell him in some measure, whether he hath a good conscience or no. And the first of these will be, That
[§ 36] Acts and habits of sinne in the former (heathen or unregenerate) part of the life, of what nature (and clothed with what aggravations) soever, if they are now retracted and renounced by repentance (as that signifies not onely a sorrow,* but a thorow change) are reconcileable with a good conscience. The truth of which is cleare, first, because the Gospel allowes place for repen∣tance, and promises rest to the heavy laden, so he come unto Christ, and mercy to him that confesseth and forsaketh. Secondly, because the sincerity of re∣solution and endeavour now, (which is all that is required to a present good conscience) is reconcileable with past sins, even of the largest size. Thirdly, because Saint Paul himselfe, which was once a Saul, can yet say confidently, that he hath a good conscience. And fourthly, because (which I shal a little enlarge on) the sinne against the holy Ghost, which alone is by the Gospel made uncapable of remission, is, as I conceive, no act, no nor course of any speciall sinne, but a state of final impenitence, a continued persevering re∣sistance of all those saving methods which are consequent to the descent, and are part of the office of the holy Ghost.
[§ 37] To which purpose I shall give you one hint which may perswade the preferring of this opinion before the contrary, and it is by observing the occasion of Christs delivering those words concerning the irremissiblenesse of speaking against the holy Ghost. Those words are delivered by Christ both in Saint Matthew and Saint Mark upon occasion of that speech of the Jewes, that Christ cast out Devils, by the Prince of Devils, which was clear∣ly a blaspheming or speaking contumeliously against Christ himselfe, or the sonne of man, and there is no passage in the Text which can conclude that that speech of theirs was by Christ called the blasphemy against the holy Ghost, but rather the contrary that it was a blasphemy onely against the sonne of man; for tis apparent that Christ Mal. 12. 15. for the space of six verses sets himselfe to convince them of the falsity of that speech (which probably he would not have done, if they, to whom he sp•ke had been in an irreco∣verable irreversible estate of blasphemy. For that he should take such paines onely to leave them unexcusable, 1. there was no great need, in this case they Page 14 were so already. 2. it is a mistake to think that Christ doth so at any time, they are bowels of mercy and not designes of mischieving, or accumulating their sinne, and judgements, which incline him to call and knock, and la∣bour to convince sinners) and having done that, doth both invite them to re∣pentance by shewing them the possibility of pardon yet, and give them an admonition able to shake th•m out of all impenitence, by telling them the danger which attended, if the only last method of working on them which was yet behind, did not prosper with or work upon them, This is the impor∣tance of that 31 and 32 verse concerning the speaking a word, i. e. standing out against the sonne of man on one side, and the Holy Ghost on the o∣ther; the summe of which is this, there shall be by the coming of the Holy Ghost a possibility of pardon and meanes of reformation for those that re∣sist and hold out and even crucifie Christ (as by the coming of Christ, there was for those that should beleive on him, though they had formerly lived dis∣obedient unto God the Father, resisted those methods of mercy used on them under the old Testament) for them that speak a word. i. e. by an Hebraisme doe an action (of affront, of injury, of contumely) against Christ, yea that resist and beleive not on him, but conceive and affirme him to cast out Di∣vels by the power of Beclzebub (which was as contumelious a thing as could be said of him) but when Christ shall be taken from the earth, and the Holy Ghost shall be sent down to convince the world of that great sinne of cruci∣fying Christ, and to s•ttle in the Church of God such an orderly use of all Gospell-meanes that may tend to the bringing sinners to repentance (the use both of the word and sacrament and censures and all other things necessary to that great end of working on the most contumacious) that if this prevaile not, there is little hope left of ever working on such perversenesse, then it is to be resolved, that those that thus stand out against all those saving me∣thods of Gods last oeconomy, shall be left uncapable of any good, of any whether meanes of yet-farther working on them, or of pardon either in the Church or in heaven, there being no more persons in the God-head now behind (unlesse we will change the christians Trinity into Pythagorasses 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) nor consequently meanes in the providence of God, for the redu∣cing of, or obtaining mercy for such. By this it will appeare that this blas∣phemy against the Holy Ghost is not any one act no nor habit of sin (parti∣cularly not that speaking against Christ there, which you will also guesse by Saint Luke, who mentions not that speech of theirs concerning his casting out Divels by the Prince of Divels, and yet sets down this speech of Christ, of the irremissibility of this blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, Luke 12. 10. which argues that this hath no neare relation to that) but a finall holding out a∣gainst, and resisting the whole office of the Holy Ghost, and all those gra∣cious methods consequent to it.
[§ 38] To which I shall only adde in reference to my present purpose (that there may be no place of doubting even to him which will not receive my interpretation of this place) that even by those which conceive it to be some speciall kind of sinne, yet the unpardonablenesse of it is acknowledged to arise from thence, that it is impossible for any such to repent, yet not for Page 15 any that repents to find pardon and mercy, which is sufficient for the con∣firmation of my present proposition.
[§ 39] 'Tis true indeed, that he that is sold a slave of sinne, the unregenerate carnall man, is, whilst he is so, in a most hopelesse, comfortlesse estate, and if he have any naturall conscience left him, it must needs be a kind of feind and fury with him, No peace to such wicked, saith my God, and it is as true that the recovery of such a man out of the grave of rottennesse, that Lazar∣state in sinne, is a miracle of the first magnitude, a work of greatest difficul∣ty (Christ groanes at the raising of him that was 4 dayes dead and putrified in the grave) and costs the sinner much dearer to be raised out of it. Saul is strucke down in his march towards Damascus, blind and trembling before his conversion; but yet still when this conversion is wrought, he may have a good Conscience what ever his foregoing sins were.
And although the Apostles Censure Heb. 6. 6. and 10. 26. light yet hea∣vier upon those who after the knowledge of the truth and gust of the life to come, and participation of the holy spirit relapse to their former sinnes, it be∣ing there affirmed that there is no possibility to renew them,* or (as the Greeks read it) for them to renew or recover to repentance, and consequently the sa∣crifice for sinne [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] no longer belonging to or remaining for them, yet doth not this hinder the truth of the present proposition; for 1 those places to the Hebrews belong not to the sins of the unregenerate life, which only now we speak of, but of the relapse after the knowledge of the truth, 2. even in those places speaking of those sinnes, the doctrine is not, that there shall be any difficulty of obtaining pardon for them upon repentance, (for the Subject of the Apostles Propositions is the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 men considered exclusively to repentance, as abiding in sinne un∣reformed impenitent, and to such we designe not to allow mercy) but that this is so great a grieving and quenching of the spirit of God, that it becom∣eth very difficult, and in ordinary course impossible for them that are guilty of it to repent, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉again to recover to repentance: It being just and ordinary with God upon such sinnes of those to whom he hath given grace, to withdraw that grace againe, according to his method and oeconomy of providence exprest in the parable of the talents, [from him that hath not made use of the grace or talent given, shall be taken away even that which he hath] and Wisd. 1. 5. the holy spirit of discipline will not abide where unrighteousnesse cometh in; and so being thus deprived of that grace, it is consequently impossible that those should 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in a neutrall sense, renew and recover, or in an active reciprocall renew or recover them∣selves to repentance, though yet for God to give a new stock of grace it is not impossible, but only a thing which he hath not by revealed promise obliged himselfe to do; and therefore whether he will doe it or no, is meerly in his own hand and dispositive power, and that which no man hath ground to hope and title to challenge from him. All which notwithstanding our present pro∣position stands firm, that where there is repentance, or true thorow change, those former retracted acts or habits are reconcileable with good Consci∣ence.
Page 16 [§ 40] The second this, that Sinnes of weaknesse of all kinds, whether first, of ignorance, or secondly, of naturall infirmity, the one for want of light, the other for want of grace, or thirdly, of suddaine surreption, such as both by the law of [Si quis praecipiti calore] in the Code of Iustinian, and by the mu∣nicipal laws of most nations, are matter of extenuation to some crimes, to dis∣charge them from capitall punishment, at least to make them capable of par∣don, or fourthly, of dayly continuall incursion, either for want of space to deliberate at all, or because it is morally impossible to be upon the guard to be deliberate always, (opere in longo •as est obrepere somnum) or fistly, which through levity of the matter passes by undiscerned, and the like, are irrecon∣cileable with a good conscience, because againe, be a man never so sincerely resolute and industrious in endeavour to abstaine from all sinne, yet as long as he carries flesh about him, (which is such a principle of weaknesse, that or∣dinarily in the New Testament, the word flesh, is set to signifie weaknesse) such weaknesses he will be subject to, such frailties will be sure to drop from him. This, I remember, Parisiensis illustrates handsomely, first, by the similitude of an armed man provided with strength and prowesse, and wrest∣ling with another in lubrico, on a slippery ground, who though neither wea∣pons nor strength nor courage faile him, yet may he very probably •all, the slipperinesse of the footing will betray him to that; or secondly by an horse∣man mounted on an unmanaged or tender-mouth'd horse, who cannot with all his skill and caution secure himself: from all misadventures, the beast may upon a check come over with him, or getting the bit into the mouth 〈◊〉 into the enemies quarters; or thirdly, by a City that is provided for a siege with workes, and men, and victuals, and ammunition, and yet by a treach•rous party within may be betrayed into the enemies hands; there is a principle of weaknesse within like that slippery pavement, that tender∣mouthed beast, that insidious party, which will make us still lyable to such miscarriages, and nothing in this contrary either to courage or diligence, to resolution, or endeavour. And▪ for such as these frailties, ignorances, in∣firmities, &c. So they be laboured against, and the meanes of preventing or overcomming them sincerely used (which if it be done, you shall find them dayly wain in you, and if they doe not so in some measure, you have reason to suspect, and to double your diligence) there is sure mercy in Christ to be had, obtaineable, by dayly confession, and sorrow, and prayer for forgive∣nesse of trespasses) without any compleat conquest atchieved over them in this life. It being Saint Pauls affirmation, very exactly and critically set downe, Rom. 5. 6. that Christ 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, we being weake, dyed for the ungodly, to note the universal benefit of his death for such weak ones and such sinnes as these to which meer weaknesse betrayes them. The very doctrine which from that text at the beginning of our refor∣mation our Reverend Bishop Martyr did assert in his excellent Preface to his explication of the commandements.*
[§ 41] To which purpose I shall onely adde one proofe more, taken from the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or rationall importance of Saint Pauls exhortation Rom. 15. 1. We that are strong, saith he, must beare the weaknesses,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, of them Page 17 which are not strong,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and not please our selves, for v. 3. Christ did not so, but &c. which reason sure must come home to both parts, the affirma∣tive as well as the negative (or else the Logick will not be good) and so the affirmative be that Christ bare the infirmities of the weake; and so again v. 7. [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] applyed to the same matter he took us up when we were tous fallen. I might adde more, but I hope rather that I have said too much in so plaine a point, and abundantly evinced the irreconcileablenesse of such frailties with a good conscience.
[§ 42] A third thing is, that The lusting of the flesh against the spirit is reconcile∣able with a good conscience, so it be in him that walketh in the spirit, obeys the desires and dictates of that, and fulfilleth not the lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5. 16, 17. There is no spiritually good thing that a man ever doth in his life, but the flesh hath some mutinyings, lustings, and objections against it, there being such a contrariety betwixt the commands of Christ and the desires of the flesh, that no man, which hath those two within him, doth the things that he would. (For so tis, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉that you doe not, not that you cannot doe) [The things that he would] (i. e. the things, which either he resolves to doe, or takes delight in) those he doth not, i. e. either purely without some mixture, or still without some opposition of the contrary, or (as againe the place may be rendred) this opposition of these two one against another ten∣deth to this, that we may not doe, or to hinder us from doing every thing that we would, as indeed we should doe, were there not that opposition within our owne brests. This is the meaning of that 17 verse, which notwithstanding it followes verse 18. that if we be led by the spirit, if that be victorious over the contrary pretender (as it may, though tother lust against it) if the pro∣duction be not works of the flesh, adultery, &c. v. 19. but the fruit of the spirit love, peace, &c. v. 22. against such there is no law, no, condemnation, no accusa∣tion of conscience here, or hereafter.
[§ 43] For it must be observed, that there is great difference betwixt this lusting of the flesh against the spirit in them that are led by the spirit, Gal. 5. and the warring of the law in the members against the law in the mind, which bring∣eth into captivity to the law of sin, i. e. to it selfe, Rom. 7. For those in whom that latter is to be found, are there said to be carnall, sold under sinne (as a slave was wont sub hasta to be sold) and so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to be led by the flesh and fulfill the lusts of the flesh, which is of all things most unreconcile∣able with that mans state, against whom there is no condemnation in Christ, Rom. 8. 1. and so with a good Conscience.
[§ 44] And if the resistance of the minde, or the law morall, of the spirit, or the law Christian, be sufficient to excuse that action or habituall course which is committed and lived in, in opposition to both of these, or while both of these check and contradict, then sure are sins against conscience become (if not the most excusable sinnes, yet) the more excusable for this, that they are against conscience; that woulding or contending of the mind, or the law of the mind being no other but the dictate of the instructed conscience, (in them which know the law, Rom. 7. 1. which he that obeyes not, but followes the law or command of sin against it, hath no• sure a good conscience, in our second sence Page 18 as that signifies a Conscience of well-doing or doing nothing against rule of Conscience, for that this man in terminis is supposed to doe.
[§ 45] Having now proceeded thus farre in the affirmative part in shewing what sinnes are reconcileable with a good Conscience, I should now proceed to the negative part and shew what are not reconcileable therewith. But be∣fore I advance to that, there is one classi• or head of sinnes, about which there is some question and difficulty of resolving, to which of the extreames it should be reduced, i. e. whether it be reconcileable, or unreconcileable with a good Conscience. And that is the single Commission of some act of knowne sinne, which hath not the Apology of weaknesse to excuse it, and yet is not indulged or persisted, or continued in, (for of those that are so, you shall hear anon in the 8 Proposition) but without delay retracted by humili∣ation and reformation; For the stating and •atisfying of which it will be ne∣cessary first, to observe that
[§ 46] Any such act of wilfull sinne First, hath in it selfe a being, and so is capable of a notion abstracted from the retractation of it. Yea secondly, is a work of some time, and though it be never so suddenly retracted by repen∣tance, yet some space there is before that retraction; and if we speak of that time or space, there is no doubt, but that act, first, is contrary to good conscience, and contracts a guilt, and consequent to that, the displeasure of God and obligation to punishment, which nothing but repentance can do away; yea and secondly, is a naturall means of weakning that habit of good, of sauciating and wounding the soule, and for that time putting it in a bloody direfull condition, and should God before repentance strike, for ought we know there would be no remission, and so, fearfull would be the end of that soule.
[§ 47] But then secondly, if before God thus visit in justice, repentance inter∣pose, (as in this present case we suppose it doth) if this plank be caught hold on instantly upon the shipwrack, if he that hath committed this act of car∣nality, &c. lye not down (after the manner of the Grecian horses in Saint Ambroses expression, qui cum ceciderint, quandam tenent quietis & patien∣tiae disciplinam, are taught, when they fall in the rac•, not to strive or endea∣vour to get up again, lye still on the ground with great stilnesse and patience) walk not after the flesh, Ro. 8. •. Then presently is he set right again in Gods savour, upon (performance of the solemnities, as it were, payment of the fees of the Court) humiliation, contrition, confession, and lowly supplica∣tions to God for pardon in Christ, and so then to him thus repaired there is no condemnation; beside the forementioned effects that attended that sinne at the time there is no future arrear behind in the other world.
[§ 48] As for the other effect of sinne in this life, the wasting of the Conscience, or provoking of God to withdraw his grace; though any such act of wilfull sinne may justly be thought to do that also in some degree, first, to stop God from going on in his current of liberality, and secondly, to cast us back from that plenitude and abundance, which before in the riches of Gods bounty in Christ was afforded, and so much weaken our stock of grace, leave us much more infirme then wee were before the Commission; yet wee Page 19 find not any threat in Scripture that God will, upon this provocation of one single act not persisted in, presently withdraw all grace, but we have reason to hope what the Article of our Church supposes, that in this case he leaves sufficient grace to enable that child of his, that thus falls, by that his grace to return again.
[§ 49] And if that sad presage, Heb. 6. 6. seem to any to withstand this, the an∣swer will be prompt and easy, by observing that the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, there [the fallers away] signifies more then some one single act of sinne present∣ly retracted againe, even a generall Apostacie in their practice, (if not in their faith) a return to their former unregenerate sinnes, (as the phrase 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, [they being entangled are overcome] notes 2 Pet. 2. 20. a place perfectly paralell to this, and) as in this place the ancients have ge∣nerally interpreted. And then though such indulgence in sinne, such retu•∣ning to the vomit or mire againe in that other place, doe provoke God to withdraw his grace necessary to enable them to repent, yea and cast them back into a worse estate then they were in, not onely before such sinning, but even before their conversion, 2 Pet. 2. 20. Yet that God will so punish with totall desertion any one act or commission presently retracted againe, it is not affirmed here nor any where else, that I have observed, but rather on the contrary, that he will visit them with chastisements which are a grace and a meanes to recall them, without any utter forsaking or taking of his lo∣ving kindnesse from them, Psal, 89. 33. 35.
[§ 50] That this matter may be throughly cleared, I shall suppose this objection made against what hath hitherto been said of it, that it may seem by this do∣ctrine, [that the regenerate man may bee under Gods displeasure] that hee that remaines sanctified may be unjustified, for so he will be, if all his sinnes be not forgiven him, which they are not, if this act of sinne not yet repented of, be not forgiven. In answer to this, I shall reinforce my affirmation, that of necessity it must be granted, if we believe the Scripture, that any such act of sinne unretracted by repentance, doth certainly stand upon the sinners score unremitted; for that God (as some affirme) doth at the first act of my being justified, forgive all my sinnes not only past, present, but also future too; cannot be said, but upon a supposition that that man will ne∣ver commit any such sinne against which the Gospell threatens perishing, i. e. any deliberate presumptuous sinne, (which supposition if it were true, would inferre an impossibility of the regenerate mans thus sinning, not an assurance of his pardon without (or abstracted from the consideration of) his repentance, which is the only point, in hand) for if he doe, then upon confession and forsaking there is promise of mercy, and not otherwise; and in briefe, without repentance there is no remission: and therefore it is ob∣serveable, that they which thus affirm, find themselves enforced to fly to Gods omnipotence and immensity, to whom all things are present; by help of which they can conceive and resolve that at the time of that sinnes being upon him unrepented of, God yet seeing his future repentance as present, may seale his pardon, and then may by the same reason do so also before the commission; the weaknesse of which arguing, I shall no farther de∣monstrate Page 20 then by this rejoynder, that by the same reason it might be said, that a man is justified before he is borne, which yet the objectors doe not af∣firme, but that at the time of his first conversion, be it as such a Sermon or the like, he was justified, and then all his sins past, present, and to come for∣given him, which is as contrary to the notion of all things being present with God, as to say that this act of commission is not forgiven till it be repented of, for sure the time before that mans birth, and the time after it, are as truly present to God before all eternity, as the time of this commission and that re∣pentance.
[§ 51] The onely way for us to understand our selves or any thing that belongs to Gods actions concerning us, is that which the Scripture supposes and com∣mands us to walk in, not the way of Gods secret counsels, (which if we knew, were no longer secret) not the way of Gods immensity, (which if it were in∣telligible by us, were not imm•nsity) but the way of his revealed will, which is, that whensoever the sinner repenteth him of his sinne, and amends his life, he shall have his sin blotted out and put out of Gods remembrance, i. e. for∣given unto him and not till then: and to suppose he may have remission be∣fore such repentance, is to suppose God perjured who sweares he shall not, and to lay falsity to the charge of the whole Gospel, which resolves, Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.
[§ 52] To all this I might farther adde that Gods justifying the faithfull man, is the approving his fidelity upon tryall of it, and so acquitting him (upon a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or probation) from suspicion of hypocrisie, pronouncing him faithful, or Evangelically righteous, and upon that, owning him as a friend, entring into League with him, as might appeare by Gods justifying Abraham and calling him friend (in the sense wherein they are Christs friends, which doe whatsoever he commands them, so approve themselves unto him) if it were now seasonable to examine that businesse. This being supposed, it would be most evident, that such an act of knowne deliberate sinne committed in time of tryall, is quite contrary to justification, even as contrary as Abrahams re∣fusing to beleeve Gods promise first, or after to sacrifice Isaac, you may sup∣pose would have been. Of which the least that can be said, will be this, that such a failing is a shrewd blemish to sincerity, which will make it necessary for him that is guilty of it, to repaire his credit with God by expressing a great sence of his miscarriage, and by many future performances of constancy, and resolution, if ever he hope to be approved, or justified by him.
[§ 53] But now having thus far confirmed this, and so rather strengthned, then weakned the objection, the next thing I shall desire may be observed is this, that every non-remission of a sinne for some time, every displeasure of Gods, every not-imputing to righteousnesse, is not an utter intercision of justificati∣on, is not a calling all the former forgotten sinnes to remembrance, for to such onely an Apostacy, or continued falling away from God betrayes the soule. For, the whole current of my life may approve my sidelity to God, though some one action be very contrary to it: Nay secondly, a Fa∣ther may be displeased with his Sonne for some one fault, and yet not disinherit him, nay upon farther provocation he may cast him out Page 21 of his family, and yet afterward receive him into it againe.
[§ 54] So that there are three degrees observable in this matter, first displea∣sure, secondly wrath, thirdly fury. First withdrawing of the Fathers favour, suspension of pardon, so tis in case of any such single act of sinne presently repented of, considered before its retractation. Second, casting out of the fa∣mily, totall intercision of mercy for that present, so tis in case of such sin per∣sisted in indulgently. Third, utter finall irreversible abdication, so tis in case of finall obduration.
[§ 55] This may be illustrated, 1. by a vulgar, then by an ecclesiasticall resem∣blance. Among friends 1. there may be a matter of quarrell, dislike, displea∣sure, and one friend justly frowne upon the other, yea and keep some distance from him, and be really angry with him, for some act of injury done by him, contrary to the lawes of friendship, which till he hath some way repaired, the friend may justly not pardon him, and so absteine for that present from the former degree of familiarity with him: but then 2. the injuri•us friend may continue as injurious still, and go on and persist in that course of falsenesse or unfriendlinesse, and then the injur'd friend wholly forsakes his company, breaks off those bands of friendship with him, yet so as that upon the others relenting and amending, he may yet againe returne to him, and so that to∣tall separation prove no finall one, 3. there is, upon obduration or no man∣ner of relenting, a finall irreversible breach.
[§ 56] The ecclesiasticall resemblance is, that of the three degrees of excommuni∣cation among the Jewes, the first or lowest, was niddui separation, not totall turning out of either sacred or civill society, but remotion to a distance, that the offender should not come within foure Cubits of any other, and so be de∣nyed the peace of the Church, and the familiar kind of communion, which others enjoy. Above this there was cherem which was a totall exclusion or distermination with anathemas or execrations joyned with it, but yet was not finall, then thirdly there was Schammatha giving up to destruction or desolation, delivering up to Gods comming in judgement, and that was irreversible.
[§ 57] Now for the full satisfying of the argument, (having already shewed you the state of this offender in respect of justification) it will onely be necessary to adde one thing more, that the state of the same man as it respects sanctifi∣cation, is parallel and fully proportionable to the state as it respecteth justi∣fication, and so the objection will quite fall to the ground.
[§ 58] To the clearing of which you must know that sanctification may be con∣ceived in a double notion: 1. as a gift of Gods, 2. as a duty of mans. To prevent mistake; this I meane, God gives the grace of conversion and san∣ctification, and he that is effectually wrought on by that grace, is converted and sanctified, this is it which I meane, by the first notion of sanctification, as it is a gift of Gods: But the man thus converted and sanctfied, i. e. thus wrought on and effectually changed by the Spirit of God, is bound by the Gospl-law, to operate according to this principle, to use this talent, and this is called, to have grace, Heb. 12. 28. i. e. to make use of it to the purpose there specified of serving God〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (i. e. either well pleasedly, cheerfully, wil∣lingly, Page 22 or well pleasingly, so as God may and will accept) in righteousnesse and godly feare, according to the notion of Having in the parable of the ta∣lents, where tis said that to him that hath shall be given, i. e.•o him which makes use of the talent intrusted to him, operates accordingly, doth what that enables him to doe, offends not against it by idlenesse, or by commission of contrary sinnes, which he that doth, is the non habens, he that hath not there, from which shall be taken away, &c. And this having of grace is it which I meane by the second notion of sanctification, as it is a duty of mans, which I conceive is meant by the Apostle, when he saith, this is the will of God, even your Sanctification, and he which hath this hope purifies himself, and let us cleanse our selves from all filthinesses perfecting holinesse, all which places suppose the thing spoken of, to be the duty of man▪ which by the help of Christ strengthning him, he is able to performe, and therefore upon the supposition of Gods working in him both to will and to doe, to will, by sanc∣tifying, to doe, by assisting grace, he is incited and exhorted by the Apo∣stle, to work out his owne salvation.
[§ 59] This being thus cleared, twill be easily granted in the second place, that every such act of deliberate commission as we now speak of, is contrary to sanctification in this latter notion, contrary to the duty of the sanctified man, from which breach of duty it was, that we bound him before under that guilt, which nothing but repentance could rid him of, and if you mark it, that is the onely thing which contracts a guilt, the doing somewhat contrary to duty, and so the want of this second notion of Sanctification it is, the want of sanctifi•d operations, which interposes any rubs in the businesse of our justification, and not so properly that wherein God onely was concerned, his not giving grace, guilt being still a result from sinne, and sinne being a breach of the law, a contrariety to duty and not to guilt; and though he that hath not received the gift of sanctification be not justified, yet the cause of his non-justification then, is not, in proper speaking, Gods not having given him grace to sanctifie, (for that is but a negative thing, and cannot produce non-justification, which is in effect a positive thing by interpreta∣tion, signifying condemnation, two negatives making an affirmative, non-justifying being non-remitting of sinne, and that the actuall imputing of it to condemnation) but the sinnes of his former and present impenitent un∣sanctified life.
[§ 60] This also being thus cleared, I shall onely adde a third thing, and then conclude this matter, that in the same proportion that any such act of sinne doth unjustifie, it doth unsanctifie also, i. e. shake and waste, though not utttrly destroy, that sanctified state that before the man was in, by the gift and grace of God.
[§ 61] For as there were three degrees of provocation in the matter of justificati∣on, so are there also in this of sanctification, the first, grieving the Spirit of God, Eph. 4. 30. resisting it, trashing of God in his course of grace and boun∣ty towards us, putting our selves under niddui, as it were, in respect of Gods grace, as well as his favour, and so weakning our stock of sanctity, and this the deliberate act of sinne may be thought to doe. The second, is Page 23quenching of the Spirit, 1 Thes. 5. 19. putting it quite out, rebelling and vex∣ing his holy Spirit, Is. 63. 10. a totall extinction of grace, the Cherem that brings the present curse, or anathema along with it; and this is not done by one sin not persisted in, but onely by a habit or indulgent course of sin; and the third, is the despighting, or doing despight to the spirit of grace, Heb. 10. 29. that which is proportioned to Schammatha, that makes the finall ir∣reversible separation betweene us and Gods sanctifying grace, the first did not wholly deprive the sinner of all grace, no nor of sufficient to enable to repent; the second, did so for the present; the third did so finally also.
[§ 62] If you will now demand what are the effects and consequents of that dis∣pleasure of God, which this single act of sin brngs upon the offender; I an∣swer, that I have in some measure answered that already, shewed you at the beginning many lugubrious effects of it; and if that be not sufficient to sa∣tisfie you, or to shew the non-remission of such sinne till it be retracted by repentance, I shall then proceed one degree farther yet, to tell you,
[§ 63] That the method of Gods dealing in this case (of such single acts of com∣mission) seemeth by the Scripture to be after this manner. Upon any such commission, Satan is wont to accuse that man before God, [such or such a regenerate child of thine is falne into such a sin, and so into my hands as the lictor) then to desire, or require solemnly, to have him to winnow, by inflict∣ing punishments upon him, and God yeelds many times to this demand of Sa∣tans, delivers the offender up to him in some limited manner.
[§ 64] To which delivering though temptations (or afflictions which ordinarily are signified by temptations in Scripture) are constantly consequent, yet not utter desertion or withdrawing of grace, but allowing of strength sufficient to victory, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, ability to beare, 1. Cor. 10. 13. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, pas∣sage out of those difficulties in that same place, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sufficient grace, 2. Cor. 12. 9. and assistance of his faith, that it faile not totally, (which is the importance of Christs having prayed for Peter, Luk. 22. 32. his intercession being a powerfull intercession (as may appeare by his [Father, I knew that thou hearest me alwayes, Ioh. 11. 24] and so in effect, the obtaining from his Father, and actuall conferring on his Disciples the grace which he prays for) And therefore it is observable, that as those which are thus accused and de∣manded by Satan are generally such as, were it not for this present particular commission, would passe both with God and him, for faithfull Disciples, and good Christians, and therfore do stil retain that title (as appears by the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, when Satan is called the accuser of them, Rev. 12. 10. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the accuser of the bretheren, or the faithfull, it seems they are faith∣full still, though they have been guilty of some act, for which he thus accu∣seth them, and so he is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, 1 Pet. 5. 8. the plaintiffe or ene∣my, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, of you, i. e. the elect, to whom he writes, c. 1. •.) so the end of yeeld∣ing to Satans request in delivering them up to him is also fatherly and graci∣ous▪ 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that they may be disciplined, or taught not to blaspheme, 1 Tim. 1. 20. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that he may be ashamed, 2. Thes. 3. 14. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that the spirit may be saved, 1. Cor. 5. 5. Whereupon it is, Page 24 that the Fathers so clearly resolve it far better, and more eligible to be deli∣vered up to Satan, then to be delivered up to ones selfe, or ones owne affe∣ctions or desires; the first of them being the ordinary punishment of some act, or acts of sinne on purpose to recall to repentance; the second being the great plague of spirituall desertion, inflicted on indulgent continuers in sin, the first of them a mark of their not-yet-totall abdication, their continu∣ance in sonne-ship whom God thus chastens here, that he may not condemne them with the world; the second, of heir being cut off from that preroga∣tive, whom God thus forsakes.
[§ 65] To which purpose, of Gods dealing mercifully with his servants in case of single trespasses presently retracted by repentance, (so farre as not to inflict any grand spirituall punishment upon them, such as absolute desertion, or utter disinherizon) I conceive an Image represented to us in Christs com∣mand to his Disciples, how oft they should forgive the trespassing brother, Luk. 17. 4. If he trespasse against thee seven times a day, and seven times a day returne againe to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive; where trespassing seven times is a phrase, for [how oft soever he trespasse] the word [forgive] notes the obligation to punishment without forgivenesse, and the interposing the word [Repent] proportioned to every trespasse, shewes the necessity of that condition to wash oft that guilt; and the word [Turne] prefixt to that, argues the Repentance unavailable, if it containe not turning in it; upon which, forgivenesse being there commanded, if we shall now adde that other place Mat. 6. 36. where Gods mercy to us is made the measure of our mercy to our brethren, the argument will come home to prove that God doth▪ so deale with us, and consequently that every such act of sinne contracts a guilt, which is never pardoned but upon repentance, that upon the speedy perfor∣mance of that duty the patient is preserved from any heavy spirituall punish∣ment, which would otherwise attend that sin.
[§ 66] What we have hitherto said on this particular, will shew the danger of every act of deliberate sinne, and yet withall the difference betwixt such single acts presently retracted by repentance, and the like persisted, or con∣tinued in. To which purpose it will be worth the while to behold what we finde recorded of David. He, we know, had been guilty of severall acts of sinne, markt and censured in the Word of God; and some of them such, as for them he was in a manner delivered up to Satan to be contumeliously used (as he seemes to conceive from Shimei's cursing of him, 2 Sam. 16. 10. For Shimei being an instrument of Satans in cursing, and Satan thereto per∣mitted by God upon some crime, for which he had accused him to God, he there calls it, Gods saying to Shimei, Curse David,) And yet because he con∣tinued not with indulgence in any of them, (his heart presently smiting him, as in the case of numbring the people, and recalling him to instant refor∣mation) save onely in that concerning Uriah the Hittite (wherein it appears that he continued neere the space of a yeere, from before the conception till after the birth of the child, as is cleare by the time of Nathans com∣ming to him, 2 Sam. 12. 1.) tis therefore left upon record by God, That David did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and turned not aside Page 25 from anything that he commanded him all the dayes of his life, save onely in the matter of Uriah the Hittite, 1 King. 15. 5.
[§ 67] From whence although I shall not conclude, that God saw no other sinne in David but that in the matter of Uriah, (because I know he saw and pu∣nisht that of numbring the People, and for that other though no• acted, yet designed under oath against Nabal. 1 Sam. 25. 22. Abigail discernes that it was a causelesse shedding of blood, and an act of revenge, v. 31. (and so no small sinne in Gods sight) yet tis cleare, that the sin in the matter of U•iah, that onely sinne continued in for any long time, made another manner of separation betweene God and David, contracted another kind of guilt, (and was a farre greater waster to conscience) then any of those other more speedily retracted sinnes did, was the onely remarkable 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 draw∣ing back, or turning aside from obedience to God, the onely grand defection, shaking off Gods yoke, and so the onely chasme in his re∣generate state.
[§ 68] These 4 Propositions being premised, whereof 3 were affirmative, and this last of a middle nature, The rest will be negative; As
[§ 69] Fiftly, that Hypocrisie is not reconcileable with a good conscience. I mean not Hypocrisie which consists in the concealing from the eyes of men the sins or frailties he is guilty of: for supposing those frailties to be what they are, i. e. acknowledging in them a guilt proportionate to their nature, I cannot see why the bare desire to conceale them from the eyes of men (separated from the sins or frailties themselves, and from any treacherous designe in such concealing) should be thought to superadde any farther degree of guilt; when on the other side the publicknesse of a sinne is an aggravation of it, makes it more scandalous, and so more criminous also. Nor againe doe I meane that hypocrisie, which is the taking in any thought of the praise of men (and the like) in our best actions: for as long as we have flesh about us, some degrees of this will goe neare sometimes to insinuate themselves, and then though they prove blemishes to those best actions, and by anticipa∣ting the payment and taking it here before hand, robbe us of that heavenly reward hereafter, which would otherwise be rendred to us according to those works, yet stil being but spots of sons, reconcileable with a regenerate estate, (as the straw and combustible superstruction, is (in Saint Paul) compati∣ble with the true substantiall foundation,) they will be reconcileable with good conscience also, which is alwayes commensurate to a regene∣rate estate.
[§ 70] But the hypocrisy which I meane, is, first, that which is opposite to (and compatible with) Sincerity: first, the deceiving of men, with a pretence of piety, putting off the most Un-Christian sins, having no more of Christiani∣ty then will serve to mischieve others, i. e. onely the pretence of it to dis∣guise the poyson of a bitter heart. Secondly, the deceiving of God, or thirdly, his owne soule, not dealing uprightly with either, and nothing more contra∣ry then this to a good conscience.
[§ 71] Secondly, the maimed mutilate obedience, the compounding betwixt God and Satan, the Samaritanes fearing the Lord and serving their owne Gods, Page 26 joyning others with God, and paying to them a respect equall or superiour to that which they pay to God, serving Mammon and God, or Mammon more then God. Or
[§ 72] Thirdly, the formall profession, the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or outside-garbe of Godlinesse, not joyning the inward, but making a meer pageant of piety, denying the power thereof. Or
[§ 73] Fourthly, the hypocrisy of the wisher and woulder, that could wish he were better then he is, could be well pleased to dye the death of the righteous, to have all the gainfull part, the revenue and crown of a good Conscience, but will not be at the charge of a conscientious life; Or
[§ 74] Fiftly, the hypocrisy of the partiall obedient, that is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of duty, chooses out the easy, smooth, plyable doctrines of Christianity, the cheap or costlesse performances, the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, will serve the Lord his God of that which costs him nothing, will doe some things that have no∣thing contrary to passions in generall, or particularly to his passions, like Herod that could heare Iohn Baptist gladly, be present at as many Sermons as he could wish, (and many the like painlesse performances) but when the weightier matters of the law expect to be taken up also, cannot submit to such burthens. Or
[§ 75] Sixthly, the hypocrisy of the temporary, which abstaines onely as long as the punishment is over his head, and awes him to it, or as long as he meets with no temptations to the contrary; both which what place they have in the death-bed repentance even when it is not onely a sorrow for sinne, but a re∣solution of amendment also, I leave it to be considered. Or
[§ 76] Seventhly, the hypocrisy of those which commit evill that good may come of it, who venture on the most Vn Christian sins for Gods glory, accept the person of the Almighty, doe injustice for his sake, or rather suppose him im∣potent, and fetch in the Devill or their owne vile lusts to releive and assist God, of whom the Apostle pronounceth their damnation is just, Rom. 3. 8. Or
[§ 77] Lastly, the hypocrisy of him which keeps any one close undeposited sinne upon his soule. These are each of them contrary to some part of the ground of good Conscience, to the foundation of Christian confidence, some to the sincerity, some to the resolution, and some to the obedience, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in all, and some to the perseverance which is absolutely necessary to the good Con∣science.
[§ 78] A sixth Proposition is, that a supine wilfull course of negligence and sloth, whether in duties of mans particular calling, or more especially in the duties of the generall calling as we are Christians, that sinne of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is not reconcileable with a good Conscience, (Omissions being destructive, such they may be as well as commissions) whether it be omission of the per∣formance of morall or Christian precepts (Christs improvements of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, being not onely as Counsells, but Precepts ob∣ligatory to Christians) or whether it be onely the wilfull supine slothfull neglecting the meanes of knowledge, such as are agreeable to my course of life: Or the neglecting to make use of those meanes which are necessary to enable me to get out of any sinne: (One act of which nature was by Christ Page 27 noted and censured in his Disciples, Their not fasting and praying to cast out that Devill that would not otherwise be cast out.) Or the not avoyding such occasions which are apt to betray me to it; Such acts as these, are (as Christ saith to those Disciples) acts of faithlesnesse and perversenesse, Mat. 17. 17. and cosequently the continued course of them contrary to the sincerity of en∣deavour, and so unreconcileable with a good conscience.
[§ 79] The seventh Proposition is, that all habituall customary obdurate sinning is unreconcileable utterly with a good Conscience. I adde the word [Obdu∣rate] which signifies the hardning of the heart against the knowledge of the truth, against exhortations, against threats of Gods word, against checks of naturall Conscience, or illuminations of grace, against resolutions and vowes to the contrary, for this will make any habit certainly unreconcileable with a good Conscience; Whereas it is possible that some Customary sin∣ning may be through ignorance of the duty, and that ignorance if it be not contracted by some wilfulnesse of mine may be matter of excuse to me, and so reconcileable with a good conscience by force of the second Proposition. But the obdurate holding out against Gods spirit, either knocking for ad∣mittance but not opened to, or checking and restraining from sin after con∣version, and not harkned to, resisting all Gods methods of working on us and still resolutely walking after the flesh, this is by no means reconcileable with a good conscience, nay nor any habit of sin simply taken (for that is exclu∣sive of the habit of piety necessary to the good coscience) unlesse it have that authentique plea of faultlesse ignorance to excuse it.
[§ 80] The eighth proposition is, that any deliberate presumptuous act or com∣mission of any sin, against which damnation, or not inheriting the Kingdome of heaven, is pronounced in the New Testament, being not immediately re∣tracted by repentance, humiliation, and all the effects of godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7. 11 is wholly unreconcileable with a good conscience. Such are Gal. 5. 19. Adultery, fornication, uncleannesse, lasciviousnesse, (foure distinct degrees of incontinence) Idolatry, witchcraft, (two degrees of impiety) hatred, vari∣ance, emulation, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, envyings, murthers, (nine degrees of the pride of life, or that other branch of carnality flowing from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or the irascible faculty) drunkennesse, revelling, (the species of intem∣perance) and such like: and the same with some variation and addition, 1 Cor. 6. 9, 10. and Eph 5. 5. Every one of these at the very commission have the nature of Peccata sauciantia, wounding the Sinner to the heart, letting out a great deale of good blood and vitall spirits, and weakning the habit of Christian vertue, of peccata clamantia, crying sins, the voice of conscience so wronged by them, calling to heaven for judgement against such oppressours, or perhaps Satan carrying an accusation thither against such offenders; and if upon this they be not straight retracted by an earnest contrition, humili∣ation and repentance, they then proceed farther to be (any one act of them) peccata vastantia conscientiam, Sins wasting & despoiling the conscience, be∣traying to some sadder punishment, even desertion, and withdrawing of grace, and delivering up to our own hearts lusts, a consequent of which are all vile affections, Rom. 1. and that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, cursing, Heb. 6. 8.
Page 28 [§ 81] Just as it was the manner of the Jewes Judicatures. He that was punished by their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 separation or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (not permirted to come neare any man within foure cubits) if he did not thereupon shew and approve his repen∣tance within the space of two moneths,* on that contumacy was then smitten with their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the anathemation or execration, and sometimes cast into prison. So is Gods dealing with the sinner remaining impenitent for such a space, substraction of Gods grace and spirit, the curse of the Gospel is his portion.
[§ 82] For the clearing of which truth yet fartherr, twill be observable that the danger that arises from one sinne of the first magnitude, against which the sentence is pronounced, that they who are guilty of such, shall never inherit eternall life, is or may be to him that after the knowledge of the truth relap∣ses into it as great as that which is incurred by many lesser sinnes, or by a re∣lapsing into a generality of impure life, and therefore the remaining in that one sinne, will be as unreconcileable with a regenerate estate, as the remai∣ning in many other, and proportionably one act of it as noxious and wast∣ing to conscience, as apt to provoke God to withdraw his spirit, as many acts of those lesser sins, and though neither any single act either of lesser or grea∣ter sinne in a sincere lover of Christ, presently retracted, (as it will be if he continue so) doth so grieve, as to quench Gods spirit utterly, so provoke God, as to make him wholly withdraw his grace and totally desert him; yet if that one sin be continued in, favoured and indulged to, either by multiply∣ing more acts of it, or by no: expressing repentance for it by all those means which the Apostle requires of his incestuous Corinthian, or which are na∣med as effects of godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7. 11. this direfull punishment of deser∣tion is then to be expected as the reward of any one such sinne, and from thence will follow any impossibility for that man so diserted ever to return to repentance again, Gods speciall ayde, which is now withdrawne, being absolutely necessary to that.
[§ 83] Where yet of those, that thus remain in any such sin, there is some diffe∣rence; For some that so remain in sinne, doe so remain that they desire not to get out of it, hate to be reformed; others though ensnared so in sin that they cannot get out, yet are very earnest and sollicitous to find out some means to break through and escape out of those snares, and then this latter state of soul though it be not sufficient to give claime or right to mercy, (the victory over the world, the actuall forsaking of all such sins being necessary to that, and not only our wishes that we were victorious) yet is it a nearer and more hope∣full capacity of the grace of repentance, more likely to be blessed by the re∣turning of Gods spirit enabling to repent, then that former state of con∣temptuous continuers in the same sin appeares to be.
[§ 84] For though in both these states there is no repenting without Gods new gift of grace, and no absolute promise that God will be so gracious to such sinners, yet there is a place, 1 Iohn 5. 16. which makes a difference betweene sinne unto death, and sinne not unto death (both of them states of impeni∣tence and persisting in sin, but differing as the two latter degrees of excom∣munication did among the Iewes, C•erem and Sc••matha both noting a to∣tall Page 29 separation, but the latter a finall also, and by the composition of the word intimating death or desolation, giving up the sinner to divine venge∣ance, as hopelesse or contumacious, in reference to which the phrase is here used, a sinne unto death, whereas the other, of impenitence, not arrived to that desp•rate contumacy, is a state of curse under cherem and anathema, but not unto death yet) and allowes this priviledge to the prayers of faithfull men for others, that they shall obtain life for those that have sinned not unto death, where that (the not being to death] of a sinne, is to be taken not from the matter of the sinne, but from the disposition of the sinner, and so from this desiring to get out, though he remain in it, or somewhat answerable to that, might, if any doubt were made of it, be proved as by other arguments so by putting together the peculiar use of the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in that Authour, for abiding and continuing in sinne, and the no extenuation that such abiding is capable of (so farre as to make one such abiding so much lesse then another such abiding, as that one should be called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the other not) save only this of wishing and heaving and labouring to get out, (which supposes some remainder of exciting, though not of Sanctifying or assisting grace) while the other goes on without any care or love or desire of reformation.
[§ 85] And though still there be no promise that such a relapst unreformed sin∣ners prayers shall be heard for himselfe upon that bare desire to get out, which his praying for grace will suppose (there being no such promise of grace to the relapst person upon his prayer, as there is to any else) yet it is cleare from that place of Saint Iohn, that this priviledge belongs to the pray∣ers of other faithfull penitents, for such a more moderate degree of unfaith∣full impenitents upon their request God will give l•fe to such, i. e. such a degree of grace as shall be sufficient to enable them to recover back to repen∣tance, of which being given them upon the others prayers, if they make use, (as infalsibly they will if they were and continue to be really sollicitous to get out of that state) they shall undoubtedly live eternally.
[§ 86] The practice of which doctrine of Saint Iohns thus explayned, you shall see every where in the stories of, or canons for the paenitents, where they that for any sinne of Ecclesiasticall cognizance were excommunicated, did return to the peace of the Church, (an image of the peace of God) by severall de∣grees, of which the first was, to stay and oft lye without the Church doores, and in the portch at houres of prayer; and desire those that retained the honour of being accounted faithfull, and so had liberty to go into the Church, to pray to God for them. Which as the secure supine negligent impaenitent was not likely to doe, so was he not to expect the benefit of it, nor the Chri∣stian brother obliged to pray for him, though yet by Saint Iohns [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 I say not of that or concerning that state of sinne that he shall pray] I am not convinced that it were unlawfull so to doe.
[§ 87] By all this thus set and bounded with its due limitations, the truth of my eight Proposition will appeare, of the unreconcileablenesse of such presump∣tuou• acts of such branded sinnes unretracted, with a regenerate estate or good Conscience, as being indeed quite contrary to every part and branch of the premised ground of a good Conscience.
Page 30 [§ 88] To which all that I shall adde is onely this, that he that tenders but the comforts of this life, i. e. of a Good Conscience, will be sure never to commit deliberately and presumptuously, or having by surreption fallen, never to lye downe or continue one minuit unhumbled unreformed in any such sinne, on which that direfull fate is by Christ or his Apostles inscribed [shall not inhe∣rit the Kingdome of heaven] where yet as I shall not affirme that none shall subject us to that danger but those which are there specified; (for there is ad∣ded and such like, and other sins there may be committed with the like delibe∣ration and presumption, and so as contrary to Conscience) so shall I not say that all that commit any one act of any of these without that deliberation and presumption, or that are presently by their own heart smitten and brought to repentance for them, shall incur that danger; for the words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the doers and committers of them signifie the deliberate committing and indulgent yeelding to them, contrary to which the use of surreption at the time and the instant subsequent retractation of them (by contrition, con∣fession, forsaking, and reinforcement of greater care and vigilance for the fu∣ture) will be sure meanes to deliver from that danger.
[§ 89] Whereto yet this caution must be annext which may passe for
[§ 90] A ninth Proposition. That the frequency or repetition of any such acts after such contrition and resolution is an argument of the unsincerity of that con∣trition, of the deceavablenesse of that pretended greater care, and so a symp∣tome of an ill conscience, as the spreading of the skall or leprosie after the Priests inspection is sufficient to pronounce the patient uncleane. Levit. 13. and as that disease in the relapse may be mortall which at first was not.
[§ 91] Other more particular niceties I confesse there are, the distinguishing of which might be usefull for some mens states, and help disabuse them both out of an erroneous and a secure, yea and an over trembling conscience. But because that which would be thus proper to one, being laid down in common, or cast into the lottery, might have the ill hap to be drawn by him to whom it is not proper, (as that physick which would purge out a distemper from one, wil breed a weaknesse in another) and because no wise man ever thought fit to take lawes out of generalities, I shall resolve rather to obey such reasons, and to be directed by such examples, not to descend to particulars, then to be in danger first of tempting the Readers patience, then of interrupting his peace.
Heb. 13. 18.