Page images

have these Thoughts, we shall seriously resolve to be wiser for the future, and accordingly we shall anew dedicate and devote ourselves to the Service of God our Creator, and Jesus Christ our Redeemer, renewing our Vows and Purposes that we have so often made to him, in a faithful Endeavour, in all our Thoughts, and Words, and Deeds, to govern ourselves by the Laws he hath prescribed us. All this is implied in the Notion of religious Confession, as I have before explained it, and is indeed the very Life and Soul of it.

2. But then, secondly, The more particular our Confession is, the better it is, and the more acceptable it will be: Not upon Account that God ever needs to be inform'd of what Faults we are guilty, or takes any Delight in a Rehearsal of a long Catalogue of Sins ; but because this particular Confession is an Argument and an Expression of the Sincerity of our Repentance, and fhews that we have searched and examined our Hearts to the Bottom, and that we harbour no concealed Affection to any particular Sin whatsoever, but that we are willing to bring out every Enemy that speaks Opposition to God and his Laws, to be Nain before him.

3. But, thirdly, He that confesseth as he should do, will be sure not to favour himfelf in his Confession; he will not be forward to make Excufe or Apologies for his


Şins. He will not say, that the Faults he
hath been guilty of, are either little in
their own Nature, or brought upon him by
such Temptations as he could not avoid.
On the contrary, he will rather aggravate
his Faults, and lay a Load upon himself,
that God may lay the less Load upon him.
He will acknowledge himself to be a base,
vile, unworthy Creature, unfaithful to his
Vows and folemn Purposes, and ungrateful
to his God, who is overy Day heaping Ob-
ligations upon him. He will remember all
the Engagements God hath laid upon him,
and that he hath laid upon himself, to a
strict Life of Virtue and Holiness. He will
bitterly cenfure his own Folly and unac-
countable Extravagance, that he hath in
any Instance departed from those Rules.
In a word, the aggravating Circumstances
which he can in his own Mind apply to his
Sins, will so affect him, that he shall be-
come vile and mean in his own Eyes ; so
unworthy a Thing, that he will from the
Bottom of his Heart profess to God, that
he is not worthy the least of his Mercies.
And certainly this is the Confession that is
acceptable to God. This is the judging of 1 Cor. 11.
ourselves that the Apostle speaks of, by
which we prevent our being judged of the
Lord. And lastly, this is that Oblation
which David speaks of, of a broken and pl.51.17.
contrite Heart, which he says, God will
not despise.

[ocr errors]


4. But,


4. But, fourthly, It is also to be remember'd, that the quicker and speedier our Confession is after the Commission of any Sin, the more Virtue it hath in it, and the more easily it obtains a Pardon. When it is our Unhappiness at any time to commit a Fault, it is the worst Course we can take to lie under that Fault. When the Sin is newly done, our Conscience (unless we be very bad) doth not fail to charge it home upon us; and we are then deeply sensible of it ; and if we go immediately to God Almighty to unburden our selves of the Load it lays upon us, we shall do it very affectionately, and with truly broken and contrite Hearts; whereas if we let the matter rest as it is, and do not presently make our Peace with God by humble Confession and begging Pardon, our Hearts in a little time will grow much harder, we shall lose all that pungent Sense we first had of our Sin, and it will be a difficult Matter afterwards to retrieve it. Besides, it is a hundred to one, if we delay the present Time, but the Sin gets ground upon us. By not having made Confession of it, and renewed our Resolutions (which is the setting ourselves in the fame State we were before) the next Temptation to that, or any other Sin, will the easier find Access to us, and prevail upon us.

We have by that Sin difarmed our felves. We have slacken'd our Guurd, and are more


obnoxious either to the same, or any other Enemy, that will make assault upon us.

If we design therefore to live virtuously and religiously, whenever we are overtaken in a Sin, let us presently repent of it, and beg Pardon for it, and reinforce our good Purposes. By this means the greatest Crime we can commit will not do us any great Mischief. But if we let Things alone, and defer our Reconciliation with God, even a little Sin may prove dangerous and of fatal Consequence. It is in this Casc as it is with the Wounds of the Body: A grievous Wound, presently taken care of, will find an easy Cure; but if thro' our Negligence we let it rankle and ulcerate, it proves oftentimes hard enough for the Skill of an able Surgeon.

Upon this Account I cannot but earnestly recommend to you the Rule that is so often mentioned in our Books of Devotion, viz. That every Night, before you sleep, you would take an Account of the Actions of the Day paft; that you would examine your

Consciences what has been done well that Day, and what hath been done amifs ; and for the former to return hearty Thanks to God; but what you find of the latter, not to sleep till you have confessed it to God, and beg'd his Pardon for it. If we would be thus punctual as to our Repentance and Confession, it would be in a man


ner impossible for us to miscarry at the long


s. But lastly, to conclude, There is another Advice that we should do


well to put in practice in this Business of confeffing our Sins, viz. That besides our daily Confessions and those others that we may have occasion for, we should appoint to ourselves fome stated Times (and those as frequent as our Affairs will give us Leave) for the more folemn Performance of this Duty. Why should we not once or twice in a Month set apart fome Hour or Hours in a Day for this Business ; that is, to take an Account of our own Actions, to examine the State of our Souls, to see how we are gone, forward or backward, in the great Work we have to do, and to adjust the Accounts between God and us. No Body but those that have tried it, will easily conceive the Benefits that we shall reap by this Exercise. 'Tis certainly the greatest Preservative of our Virtue and good Estate towards God that can be. And it is likewise the surett Way to set us right, if we have gone astray; especially if to this Exercise we add the renewing our Vows by partaking in the Holy Sacrament.

In a word, Let us all repent earnestly of our Sins, and return to the Lord with all our Hearts, confessing our own Vileness and Wickedness before him, and taking up most


« PreviousContinue »