Page images

gious Acts, it is extremely difficult to reason with their Fears and Scruples, and to disposfess them of the Misapprehensions they have of their own State and Condition. Such Suggestions as bring Ease and Comfort to their Minds come suspected, as proceeding from their own or their Friends Partiality; and they are afraid to hope, left even to hope, in their deplorable Condition, should prove to be Presumption, and assuming to themselves more than in Reason or Justice belongs to them. But when we can shew them Men of approved Virtue and Holiness, whose Praise is in the Book of Life, who have struggled with the same Fears, and waded through even the worst of their Apprehensions to the peaceful Fruits of Righteousness; it helps to quicken both their Spirits and their Understanding, and at once to administer Knowledge and Consolation. And for this Reason we can never sufficiently admire the Wisdom of God, in setting before us the Examples of good Men in their lowest and most imperfect State. Had they been shewn to us only in the brightest Part of their Character, Defpair of attaining to their Perfection might incline us to give over the Pursuit, by throwing a Damp upon our best Resolutions: But when we see them rising to Virtue and Holiness from the same wretched Condition which we are in, and labouring under the fame Difficulties, the same Anxieties and Torments of Mind; when we see their very Souls convulsed with the Pangs of Repentance, and their Faith almost sinking under the Doubtfulness of their Condition; when we hear them cry to God in the Words of Anguish, not knowing how to pray, 'or in what Terms to lament their Sins; when we see this Nakedness of their Souls, and find that they are like one of us, what secret Comfort must it give to an afflicted Spirit, what Support to a Mind oppressed with the Sense of Guilt, to find in these great Examples, what heavenly Joy and Peace often spring from the lowest Depths of Sorrow and Woe!


PA 20 5

5 3

And there is indeed, with respect to the Comfort and Security of a Sinner, a great Difference between Arguments drawn from general Reasonings and Reflections, and those which are suggested from the Experience and Practice of holy Men. In the Case before us, if we consider the Words of the Text without Regard had to the Person who spoke them, we may raise many Reflections


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

from the great Variety of human Actions, and the complicated Nature of them, from the Short-sightednefs of the Understanding, and the Weakness and Imperfection of the Faculties, to shew how very hard it is, and almost impossible, for any one perfectly to understand his Errors: Whence might be deduced the Reasonableness of the Petition, Cleanse thou me from secret Faults; becaufe where we cannot in particular recollect, we can only in general lament, our Ipiquities : Beyond this Probability we čannot go-tó determine the Method in which God will deal with Sinners. But take the Words: as spoken by David, of the Sincerity of whose Repentance, and the Acceptance of it with God, we nothing doubt, and the Conclusions will be much fuller, and fuch as cannot fail to refresh the Soul of every languishing Pénitent; for in this View the Words fairly afford us these two Propofitions: ;.

First, That the Security and Efficacy of Repentance do not depend upon a particular Recollection of all our Errors. inc

Secondly, That for such Errors as we cannot recollect, a general Confeffion and Repentance are full and fufficient.


These two Propositions contain the plain Doctrine of the Text; so plain, that I need not spend your Time in enlarging upon it. But that we may not mistake in the Application of it to ourselves, and hope for Forgiveness whilst we are willingly ignorant of our Sins, and, to save the Trouble and Pain of Recollection, endeavour to cover them all under general Ejaculations and Petitions for Mercy; I beg your Patience, whilft I set before you of what kind and nature the Sins are, which we may justly call our secret Sins, and for the Expiation of which a general Confession and Repentance will be accepted.

And, first, we may reckon among our secret Sins those which our Liturgy has taught us to ask Repentance and Forgiveness for, under the general Names of Negligences and Ignorances. For Neglect of our Duty, and Negligence in discharging it, are two things; the one arising from a Dislike and Aversion to the Work, and attended with a Consciousnefs and Consent of Mind; the other proceeding commonly from want of Thought, or want of Disposition, two Infirmities which we care not to accuse ourselves of, and yet from which we are seldom free: Insomuch • Vol. III.


[ocr errors]


that, when we think ourselves most secure of a good Disposition and firm Resolution to go through the Business of our Duty, they often forsake us in the midst of our Work, and we find ourselves on a sudden becalmed, our Inclinations grown faint and languid, and too fick of the Employment to support us in the Prosecution of it. · Such Surprizes good Men have frequently complained of in their Devotions: They fet out with Zeal and Fervency of Spirit, with Eyes and Hearts up-lifted to God, till some chançe Object diverts the Eyes, fome favourite Care steals into the Heart, and they both wander and are lost in the Multiplicity of Objects and Imaginations which succeed each other; and when their Thoughts return to the proper Object, they are as one that awaketh from a Dream. Offences of this kind are secret to us even whilst they are committing, the Mind not being conscious to the Delusion; and yet they are so frequent in every part of our Duty, that when we call ourselves to the stricteft Account, it is impoffible to find their Number, or to bring every single At to our Remembrance.

Secondly, Sins of Ignorance are secret Sins likewise, as the very Name they are distin


« PreviousContinue »