PREACHED UPON THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS.
Psalm xxxii. 5.
I acknowledged my eiu uuto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
This is the sacrament of confession ; so we may call it in a safe meaning; that is, the mystery of confession : for true confession is a mysterious art. As there is a mystery of iniquity1, so there is a mystery of the kingdom of heaven'. And the mystery of the kingdom of heaven is this, That no man comes thither, but in a
s* 1 Sam. iii. 11.
1 2 Thess. ii. 7- * Matt. xxii. 1.
sort as he is a notorious sinner. One mystery of iniquity is, thafc in this world, though I multiply sins, yet the judge cannot punish me, if I can hide them from other men, though he know them; but if I confess them, he can, he will, he must. The mystery of the kingdom of heaven, is, that only the declaring, the publishing, the notifying, and confessing of my sins, possesses me of the kingdom of heaven; there is a case, in which the notoriety of my sins does harm; when my open sinning, or my publishing of my sin, by way of glory in that sin, casts a scandal upon others, and leads them into temptation; for so, my sin becomes theirs, because they sin my sin by example, and their sin becomes mine, because I gave the example, and we aggravate one another's sin, and both sin both. But there is a publication of sin, that both alleviates, nay annihilates my sin, aud makes him that hates sin, Almighty God, love me the better, for knowing me to be such a sinner, than if I had not told him of it. Therefore do we speak of the mystery of confession; for it is not delivered in one rule, nor practised in one act.
In this confession of David's, (7 adinmcledgedmy sin unto thee, &c.) We shall see more than so; for, though our two parts be but the two acts, David's act, and God's act, confession and absolution, yet is there more than one single action to be considered in each of them. For first, iu the first, there is a reflected act, that David doth upon himself, before he come to his confession to God; something David had done, before he came to say, / will confess, as he did confess, before God forgave the iniquity of his sin. Now that which he did in himself, and which preceded his confession to God, was the Notumfeci, I acknowledged my sin; which was not his bringing it to the knowledge of God by way of confession, for, (as you see by the method of the Holy Ghost, in the frame of the text) it preceded his purpose of confessing, but it was the taking knowledge of his sin in himself, it was his first quickening, and inanimation, that grace gave his soul, as the soul gives the child in the mother's womb. And then in David's act upon himself, follows the Non operui, I have not hid mine iniquity, none of mine iniquities from mine own sight: I have displayed to myself, anatomized mine own conscience, left no corner unsearched, I am come to a perfect understanding of mine own case, non operui, this is David's act upon himself, the recalling, and recollecting of his sins, in his own memory. And then finding the number, the weight, and so, the oppression of those sins there, he considers where he may discharge himself of them; and dixi, says David, which is a word that implies both deliberation, and resolution, and execution too; I thought what Was best to do, and I resolved upon this, and I did it; Dixi confitebor, That I would make a true, a full, a hearty confession to God of all those sins; for such we see the elements and the extent of his confession to be; he will confess Peccata, Transgressions, Sins; neither by an over-tenderness, and diffidence, and scrupulosity, to call things sins, that are not so, nor by indulgent flattering, and sparing of himself, to forbear those things which are truly so; he will confess Peccata, Sins, and Peccata sua, His sins; First, Sua, that is, A se perpetrata, He will acknowledge them to have proceeded, and to have been committed by himself, he will not impute them to any other cause, least of all to God; and then, sua, non aliena, he will confess sins that are his own sins, and not meddle with the sins of other men, that appertain not to him. This is the subject of his confession, sins, and his sins, and then, Peccata sua Domino, His sins unto the Lord, both in that consideration, that all sins are committed against the Lord, and in that also, that confession of all sins is to be made unto the Lord; and lastly, all this, (as St. Hierome reads this text, and so also did our former translation) Adversum se, Against himself, that is, without any hope of relief, or reparation in himself. He begins to think of his own sinful state, and he proceeds to a particular inquisition upon his conscience, there is his preparation, Then he considers, and thereupon resolves, and thereupon proceeds to confess things that are truly sins, and then all them as his own, without imputing them to others, if they be his own, without meddling with others, and these to the Lord, against whom all sin is committed, and to whom all confession is to be directed; and all this still against himself, without any hope from himself. All this is in David's action, preparatorily in himself, and then declaratory towards God, and do but make up our first part.
In the other, which is God's act towards David, the absolntion, the remission, the forgiveness, we shall consider first the fulness ; for, it is both of the sin, and the punishment of the sin, for the word imports both, and our two translations have expressed it between them, for that which one translation calls the iniquity of the sin, the other calls the punishment; and then we shall consider the seasonableness, the speed, the acceleration of God's mercy, in the absolution, for in David it is but actus inchoatus, and actus consummatvs in God, David did but say, I will confess, and God forgave the iniquity, and the punishment of his sin. Now as this distribution is paraphrase enough upon the text, so a little larger paraphrase upon every piece of the paraphrase, will be as much as will fall into this exercise. For, as you see, the branches are many, and full of fruit, and I can but shake them, and leave every one to gather his own portion, to apply those notes, which may most advance his edification.
First then in this mystery of confession, we consider David's reflected act, his preparatory act, preceding his confession to God, and transacted in himself, of which the first motion is, the notum feci, I acknowledged in myself, I came to a feeling in myself, what my sinful condition was. This is our quickening in our regeneration, and second birth ; and till this come, a sinner lies as the chaos in the beginning of the creation, before the Spirit of God had moved upon the face of the waters, dark, and void, and without form; he lies, as we may conceive, out of the authors of natural story, the slime and mud of the river Nilus to lie, before the sun-beams strike upon it; which after, by the heat of those beams, produces several shapes, and forms of creatures. So till this first beam of grace, which we consider here, strike upon the soul of a sinner, he lies in the mud and slime, in the dregs and lees, and tartar of his sin. He cannot so much as wish, that that sun would shine upon him, he doth not so much as know, that there is such a sun, that hath that influence, and impression; but if this first beam of grace enlighten him to himself, reflect him upon himself, notum facit, (as the text says) if it acquaint him with himself, then, as the creatures in the creation, then, as the new creatures at Nilus, his sins begin to take their forms,' and their specifications, and they appear to him in their particular true shapes, and that which he hath in a general name, called pleasure or wantonness, now calls itself in his conscience, a direct adultery, a direct incest; and that which he hath called frugality, and providence for family and posterity, tells him plainly, My name is Oppression, and I am the spirit of covetousness. Many times men fall into company, and accompany others to houses of riot and uncleanness, and do not so much as know their sinful companions' names; nay they do not so much as know the names of the sins that they commit, nor those circumstances in those sins, which vary the very name and nature of the sin.
But then, Oculos, quos culpa claudit, pcena aperit*, Those eyes, which sin shut, this first beam of grace opens, when it comes, and works effectually upon us; till this season of grace, this sinner is blind to the sun, and deaf to thunder. A wild ass, that is used to the wilderness, and snuffeth up wind at her pleasure, in her occasion who can turn her away*? An-habitual sinner, that doth not stumble, but tumble, as a mighty stone down a hill, in the ways of his sin, in his occasion, who can turn him ? In his rage of sin, what law can withhold him ? But says the prophet there, of that wild ass, All they that seek her, will not weary themselves; friends, magistrates, preachers, do but weary themselves, and lose their labour, in endeavouring to reclaim that sinner; but in her month they shall find her, says the prophet; that is, say our expositors, when she is great and unwieldy. Some such month, God of his goodness brings upon this sinner; some sickness, some judgment stops him, and then we find him; God by his ordinance, executed by us, brings him to this notumfeci, into company with himself, into an acquaintance and conversation with himself, and he sees his sins look with other faces, and he hears his sins speak with other voices, and he finds them to call one another by other names : and when he is thus come to that consideration, Lord ! how have I mistaken myself, am I, that thought myself, and passed with others, for a sociable, a pleasurable man, and good company; am I a leprous adulterer, is that my name ? Ami, that thought myself a frugal man, and a good husband; I, whom fathers would recommend to their children, and say, Mark how he spares, how he grows up, how he gathers, am I an oppressing extortioner, is that my name ? Blessed be thy name, O Lord, that hast brought me to this notiimfeoi, to know mine own name, mine own miserable condition; he will also say, May that blessing of thine enlarge itself farther, that as I am come to this notumfeci, to know that I mistook myself all this while, so I may proceed to the non operui, to a perfect sifting of my conscience, in all corners: which is David's second motion in his act of preparation, and our next consideration, / acknowledged my sin, and I hid none, disguised none, non operui.
' Gregory. * Jer. ii. 24.
Sometimes the magistrate is informed of an abuse, and yet proceeds to no farther search, nor inquisition. This word implies a sifting of the conscience. He doth not only take knowledge of his sins, than when they discover themselves; of his riot and voluptuousness, than when he burns in a fever occasioned by his surfeits ; nor of his licentiousness, than when he is under the anguish and smart of corrosives; nor of his wastefulness and pride, than when he is laid in prison for debt: he doth not seek his sins in his belly, nor in his bones, nor in his purse, but in his conscience, and he unfolds that, rips up that, and enters into the privatest, and most remote corners thereof. And there is much more in this negative circumstance, non operui, I hid nothing, than in the former acknowledgment, notum feci, I took knowledge of my sins. When they sent to sift John Baptist, whether he were the Christ, because he was willing to give them all satistion, he expressed himself so, He confessed, and denied not, and said, I am not the Christ''. So when Joshua pressed Achan, to confess his trespass, he presses him with this negative addition, Show me what thou hart done, and hide it not*; that is, disguise nothing that belongs to it. For, the better to imprint a confidence, and to remove all suspicion, men to their masters, wives to their husbands, will confess something, but yet operiunt, they hide more. Those words, In multitudine virtutis tuce, Through the greatness of thy power, thine enemies shall submit1, St. Jerome, and the Septuagint before, and Tremellius after, and all that bind themselves to the Hebrew letter, read it thus, Mentientur tibi inimici tui, when thy power is showed upon them, when thy hand lies upon them, thine enemies will lie unto thee, they will counterfeit a confession, they will acknowledge some sins, but yet operiunt, they hide, they cover others. Saul in the defeat of the Amalekites reserved some of the fattest of the spoil*, and being deprehended, and reprehended, he said he intended it for sacrifice : many times, men in great place, abuse their own souls with that imagination, or palliation, that they do God good service in some sin, and that they should more hurt the cause of God, if they should proceed earnestly to the punishment of those that oppose it, than if they let them alone, and so leave laws unexecuted, and God's truth endangered. But David's issue was, non intquitas, non operui, I left none iniquity unsearched, I hid none. But anything serves us, for a cover of sin, even from a net, that every man sees through, to such a cloud of darkness, as none but the prince of darkness, that cast that cloud upon us, can see us in it, nor we see ourselves. That we should hide lesser sins with greater, is not so strange; that in an adultery, we should forget the circumstances in it, and the practices to come to it. But we hide greater sins with lesser, with a manifold, and multiplied throng and cloud of lesser sins, all comes to an indifferency, and so we see not great sins. Easiness of conversation in a woman, ueems no great harm; adorning themselves to please those with whom they converse, is not much more; to hear them, whom they are thus willing to please, praise them, and magnify their perfections, is little more than that; to allow them to sue, and solicit for the possession of that which they have so much praised, is not much more neither; nor will it seem much at last, to give them possession of that they sue for; nay it will seem a kind of injustice to deny it them. We hide lesser sins with greater, greater with lesser; nay we hide the devil with God, we hide all the week's sins with a Sabbath's solemnity; and as in the Koman church, they poisoned God, (when they had made their bread God, they poisoned the emperor with that bread) so this is a possessing of God, a making the devil to enter into God, when we hide our sins with an outward sanctity, and call God to witness and testify to the congregation, that we are saints, when we are devils ; for this is a subormng of God, and a drawing of God into a perjury. We hide our sins in his house, by hypo
5 John i. 20. 6 Josh. vii. 19. '' Psalm Lxvi. 3.
8 1 Sam. xv.
crisy, all our lives, and we hide them at our deaths, perchance with an hospital. And truly we had need do so, when we have impoverished God, in his children, by our extortions, and wounded him, and lamed him, in them, by our oppressions, we had need provide God an hospital. As men that rob houses thrust in a child at the window, and he opens greater doors for them, so lesser sins make way for greater. De minimis non curat lex, The law is fain to pass over small faults; but De minimis curat lux, That light of grace, by which a sinner disposes himself to confession, must discover every sin, and hide none, suffer none to hide itself, nor lie hidden under others. When God speaks so much of Behemoth, and Leviathan", the great land and sea oppressors, he calls us to the consideration of the insupportableness of great sins; but in the plains of Egypt by hail, and locusts, and lice, little and contemptible things, he calls us to the consideration of these vermin of the soul, lesser and unconsidered sins. David had not accomplished his work upon himself, his reflected, his preparatory act, till he had made both those steps, notum feet, non operui, first I took knowledge of my sinful condition, and then I proceeded to a particular inquisition of my conscience, / took knowledge of my sin, and mine iniquity I have not hid, and then he was fit to think of an access to God, by confession, D'avi confitebor, &c.
This word, Dixi, amar, I said, is a word that implies first meditation, deliberation, considering, and then upon such meditation, a resolution too, and execution after all. When it is said of God, dixit, and dixit, God said this, and said that, in the first creation, Cave ne cogites strepitumTM, Do not think that God uttered any sound; hia- speaking was inward, his speaking was thinking. So David uses this word in the person of another, Dixit insipiens, The fool hath said, that is, in corde, said in his heart, that is, thought that there is no Godn There speaking is thinking; and speaking is resolving too. So David's son Solomon uses the word, Behold, I purpose to build a house unto the Lord1*, where the word is, / say, I will do it, speaking is determining; and speaking is executing too, Dixi custodiam, I said I will take
* Job xl. & xli. 1* Basil.
11 Psalm xiv. 1. " 1 Kings v. 5.
heed to my waysTM, that is, I will proceed and go forward in the paths of God. And such a premeditation, such a preconsideration, do all our approaches, and accesses to God, and all our acts in his service require. God is the rock of our salvation, God is no occasional God, no accidental God; neither will God be served by occasion, nor by accident, but by a constant devotion. Our communication with God must not be in interjections; that come in by chance; nor our devotions made up of parenthesis, that might be left out. They err equally, that made a God of necessity, and that made a God of contingency: they that with the Manichees, make an ill God, a God that forces men to do all the ill that they do, and they that with the Epicures, make an idle God, an indifferent God, that cares not what is done; God is not destiny; then there could be no reward, nor punishment; but God is not fortune neither, for then there were no Providence. If God have given reason only to man, it were strange that man should exercise that reason, in all his moral and civil actions, and only do the acts of God's worship casually; to go to court, to Westminster, to the exchange, for ends, and to come to church, by chance, or for company, or for some collateral respects, that have no relation to God, not to think of our confession, till the priest have called upon us, to say after him, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, to come for absolution, as Nebuchadnezzar came to Daniel", for the interpretation of his dream, who did not only not understand his dream, but not remember it, Somnium ejus fugit ab eo, He did not only not know what his dream meant, but he did not know what his dream was, not to consider the nature of confession, and absolution, not to consider the nature of the sins we should confess, and be absolved of, is a stupidity against David's practice here; dixit, he said, he meditated, he considered, God's service is no extemporal thing. But then di.vit, he resolved too, for so the word signifies, consideration, but resolution upon it; and then, that he resolved, he executed.
This is not only David's dixit in corde, where speaking is thinking, nor only Solomon's dixi cedificabo, I resolved how I might build, but it is also the prodigal's dixi recertar, I said I
1* Psal. xxxix 1. Dan. ii. 3.
go to my fatherTM, a resolving and executing of that resolution for that, that execution crowns all. How many think to come hither, when they wake, and are not ready when the hour comes ? And even this morning's omission is an abridgment, or an essay of their whole lives, they think to repent every day, and are not ready when the bell tolls. It is well said of God's speaking, in the Creation, it was Dictio practica, definitiva, imperativa ", It was an actual speaking, a definitive, an imperative speaking; and, Dicto absolvit neffotium" , His saying he would do it, that is, his meaning to do it, was the very doing of it. Our religious duties require meditations, for God is no extemporal God ; those produce determinations, for God must not be held in suspense ; and they flow into executions, for God is not an illusible God, to be carried with promises, or purposes only ; and all those links of this religious chain, consideration, resolution, execution, thought, word, and practice, are made out of this golden word, Amar, dixi, I said I will do it. And then, Dixi confitebor, I considered that my best way was to confess. and I resolved to do so, and I did it ; Dixi confitebor.
It is but a homely metaphor, but it is a wholesome, and a useful one, Confemo vomititsTM, Confession works as a vomit ; it shakes the frame, and it breaks the bed of sin ; and it is an ease to the spiritual stomach, to the conscience, to be thereby disburdened. It is an ease to the sinner, to the patient ; but that that makes it absolutely necessary, is that it is a glory to God ; for in all my spiritual actions, appreciations, or deprecations, whether I pray for benefits, or against calamities, still my Alpha, and Omega, my first and last motive, must be the glory of God. Therefore Joshua says to Achan, My so??, give I pray thee, glory unto the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto himTM. Now, the glory of God arises not out of the confessing ; but because every true confessing is accompanied with a detestation of the sin, as it hath separated me from God, and a sense of my reunion, and redintegration with God, in the abjuration of my former sins, (for, to tell my sin by way of a good tale, or by boasting in it, though it be a revealing, a manifesting, is not a confession) in every true confession God hath
15 Luke xv. 12. 10 Cajetan. " Ambrose.
10 Origen. " Josh. vii. 19.
glory, because he hath a strayed soul, re-united to his kingdom. And to advance this glory, David confesses peccata, sins, which is our next consideration, / said I will confess my sins unto the Lord. First he resents his state, all is not well; then he examines himself, thus and thus it stands with me; then he considers, then he resolves, then he executes, he confesses, (so far we are gone) and now he confesses sins. For, the Pharisees, (though he pretended a confession) was rather an exprobration, how much God had been beholden to him, for his Sabbaths, for his alms, for his tythes, for his fasting. David confesses sins; first, such things as were truly sins. For, as the element of air, that lies between the water, and the fire, is sometimes condensed into water, sometimes rarefied into fire : so lies the conscience of man between two operations of the devil; sometimes he rarefies it, evaporates it, that it apprehends nothing, feels nothing to be sin, sometimes he condenses it, that everything falls and sticks upon it, in the nature, and takes the weight of sin, and he misinterprets the indifferent actions of others, and of his own, and destroys all use of Christian liberty, all conversation, all recreation, and out of a false fear, of being undutiful to God, is unjust to all the world, and to his own soul, and consequently to God himself, who, of all notions, would not be received in the notion of a cruel, or tyrannical God. In an obdurate conscience that feels no sin, the devil glories most, but in the over-tender conscience he practises most; that is his triumphant, but this is his militant church; that is his Sabbath, but this is his six days' labour; in the obdurate he hath induced a security, in the scrupulous and over-tender he is working for desperation. There are few things in the Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost hath expressed in so many names, as sin; sin, wickedness, iniquity, transgressions, offences, many, many more ; and all this, that thereby we might reflect upon ourselves often, and see if our particular actions fell not under some of those names ; but then, lest this should over-intimidate us, there are as many names given by the Holy Ghost, to the law of God; law, statutes, ordinances, covenants, testimony, precept, and all the rest, of which there is some one at least, repeated in every verse of the hundredth and nineteenth Psalm ; that thereby we might still have a rule to measure, and try our actions by, whether they be sins or no. For, as the apostle says, He had not known sin, if he had not knourn the law; so~there had been no sin, if there had been no law. And therefore that soul that feels itself oppressed under the burden of a vow, must have recourse to the law of God, and see whether that vow fall under the rule of that law; for as an over-tender conscience may call things sins, that are not, and so be afraid of -things that never were, so may it also of things that were, but are not now; of such sins as were truly sins, and fearful sins, but are now dead, dead by a true repentance, and buried in the sea of the blood of Christ Jesus, and sealed up in that monument, under the seal of reconciliation, the blessed Sacrament, and yet rise sometimes in this tender conscience, in a suspicion and jealousy, that God hath not truly, not fully forgiven them. And as a ghost, which we think we see, affrights us more than an army that we do see: so these apparitions of sins, of things that are not against any law of God, and so are not sins, or sins that are dead in a true repentance, and so have no being at all, by the Devil's practice work dangerously upon a distempered conscience; for, as God hath given the soul an imagination, and a fancy, as well as an understanding, so the devil imprints in the conscience, a false imagination, as well as a fearful sense of true sin. David confesses sins, sins that were truly sins.
But the more ordinary danger is, in our not calling those things which are truly sins, by that name. For, as sometimes when the baptism of a child is deferred for state, the child dies unbaptized: so the sinner defers the baptism of his sin, in his tears, and in the blood of his Saviour, offered in the blessed Sacrament, till he die nameless, nameless in the Book of life. It is a character, that one of the ancientest poets gives of a well-bred, and well-governed gentleman, that he would not tell such lies as were like truths, not probable lies ; nor such truths as were like lies, not wonderful, not incredible truths; it is the constancy of a rectified Christian, not to call his indifferent actions sins, for that is to slander God, as a cruel God; nor to call sins indifferent actions, for that is to undervalue God, as a negligent God. God doth not keep the conscience of man upon the rack, in a continual torture and stretching; but God doth not stupify the conscience with an opiate, in an insensibleness of any sin. The law of God is the balance, and the criterium; by that try thine actions, and then confess; David did so; pectata, he confessed sins; nothing, that was not so, as such; neither omitted he anything, that was so. And then they were peccata sua, his sins, / said, I tcill confess my sins unto the Lord.
First, sua, his sins, that is, a se perpetrata, sins which he confesses to have been of his voluntary committing; he might, and did not avoid them. When Adam said, by way of alienation, and transferring his fault, The woman whom thou gavest me; and the woman said, The serpent deceived meTM; God took this, by way of information to find out the principal, but not by way of extenuation, or alleviation of their faults; every Adam eats with as much sweat of his brows, and every Eve brings forth her children with as much pain in her travail, as if there had been no serpent in the case. If a man sin against God, who shall plead for him ? If a man lay his sins upon the serpent, upon the devil, it is no plea, but if he lay them upon God, it is blasphemy. Job finds some ground of a pious expostulation with God, in that, My flesh is not brass, nor my strength stones; and such as I am, thou hast made me; why then dost thou set me up as a mark to shoot at? But Job never hopes for ease, in any such allegation; thou hast made my soul a cistern, and then poured temptations into it; thou hast enfeebled it with denying it thy grace, and then put a giant, a necessity of sinning upon it. My sins are mine own; the sun is no cause of the shadow my body casts, nor God of the sins I commit. David confesses his sins, that is, he confesses them to be his ; and then he confesses his, he meddles not with those that are other men's.
The magistrate and the minister are bound to consider the sins of others; for their sins become quodammodo nostra, in some sort ours; if we do not reprove, if the magistrate do not correct those sins. All men are bound to confess, and lament the sins of the people. It was then when Daniel was in that exercise of his devotion, confessing his sin, and the sin of his people", that he received that comfort from the angel Gabriel; and yet, even then, the first thing that fell under his confession, was his own
*0 Gen. iii. 12. " Dan. ix. 20.
Vol. n. 2 o
sin, my sin, and then, the sin of my people. When Joseph's brethren came to a sense of that sin, in having sold him, none of them transfers the sin from himself, neither doth any of them discharge any of the rest of that sin ; they all take all; They said to one another, says that text, we, all we, are verily guilty, and therefore is this distress come upon usTM, upon us all; national calamities are induced by general sins, and where they fall, we cannot so charge the laity, as to free the clergy, nor so charge the people, as to free the magistrate. But as great sums are raised by little personal contributions; so a little true sorrow from every 8oul, would make a great sacrifice to God, and a few tears from every eye, a deeper and a safer sea, about this island, than that that doth wall it. Let us therefore never say, that it is Aliena ambitio, The immoderate ambition of a pretending monarch, that endangers us, that it is Aliena perfidia, The falsehood of perfidious neighbours that hath disappointed us, that it is Ali&na fortuna, The growth of others who have shot up under our shelter, that may overtop us; they are peccata nostra, our own pride, our own wantonness, our own drunkenness, that makes God shut and close his hand towards us, withdraw his former blessings from us, and then strike us with that shut, and closed, and heavy hand, and multiply calamities upon us. What a parliament meets at this hour in this kingdom? How many such committees as this ? how many such congregations stand, as we do here, in the .presence of God, at this hour ? And what a subsidy should this state receive, and what a sacrifice should God receive, if every particular man would but depart with his own beloved sin ? We dispute what is our own, as though we would but know what to give. Alas, our sins are our own, let us give them. Our sius are our own : that we confess; and we confess them, according to David's method, Domino, to the Lord ; / will confess my sins to the Lord.
After he had deliberated, and resolved upon his course, what he would do, he never stayed upon the person, to whom; his way being confession, he stayed not long in seeking his ghostly Father, his confessor, confitebor Domino. And first, peccata Domino, that his eius were sins against the Lord. For, as every
" Cien. lii. 21.
sin is a violation of a law, so every violation of a law reflects upon the law-maker. It is the same offence to coin a penny, and a piece ; the same to counterfeit the seal of a subpoena, as of a pardon. The second table was writ by the hand of God, as well as the first; and the majesty of God, as he is the lawgiver, is wounded in an adultery, and a theft, as well as in an idolatry, or a blasphemy. It is not enough to consider the deformity and the foulness of an action so, as that an honest man would not have done it; but so as it violates a law of God, and his majesty in that law. The shame of men, is one bridle, that is cast upon us. It is a moral obduration, and in the suburbs, next door to a spiritual obduration, to be voice-proof, censure-proof, not to be afraid, nor ashamed, what the world says. He that relies upon his Plaudo domi, Though the world hiss, I give myself a plaudit at home, I have him at my table, and her in my bed, whom I would have, and I care not for rumour; he that rests in such a plaudit, prepares for a tragedy, a tragedy in the amphitheatre, the double theatre, this world, and the next too. Even the shame of the world should be one, one bridle, but the strongest is the other, Peccata Domino, To consider that every sin is a violation of the majesty of God,
And then Confitebor Domino, says David, / will confess my sins to the Lord; sins are not confessed, if they be not confessed to him ; and if they be confessed to him, in case of necessity it will suffice, though they be confessed to no other. Indeed, a confession is directed upon God, though it be made to his minister: if God had appointed his angels, or his saints to absolve me, as he hath his ministers, I would confess to them. Joshua took not the jurisdiction out of God's hands, when he said to Achan, Give glory unto the God of Israel, in making thy confession to him; and tell me now, what thou hast done, and hide it not from me. The law of the leper is, That he shall be brought unto the priest**; men come not willingly to this manifestation of themselves; nor are they to be brought in chains, as they do in the Roman church, by a necessity of an exact enumeration of all their sins: but to be led with that sweetness, with which our church proceeds, in appointing sick persons, if they feel their consciences troubled with any weighty matter, to make a special confession, and to receive absolution at the hands of the priest; and then to be remembered, that every coming to the communion, is as serious a thing as our transmigration out of this world, and we should do as much here, for the settling of our conscience, as upon our death-bed; and to be remembered also, that none of all the reformed churches have forbidden confession, though some practise it less than others. If I submit a cause to the arbiterment of any man, to end it, Secundum voluntatem, says the law, How he will, yet still Arbitrium est arbitrium boni viri, His will must be regulated by the rules of common honesty, and general equity. So when we lead men to this holy ease of discharging their heavy spirits, by such private confessions, yet this is still limited by the law of God, so far as God hath instituted this power by his Gospel, in his church, and far from inducing amongst us, that torture of the conscience, that usurpation of God's power, that spying into the counsels of princes, and supplanting of their purposes, with which the church of Rome hath been deeply charged.
** Levit. xiv. 2.
And this useful and unmisinterpretable confession, which we speak of, is the more recommended to us, in that with which David shuts up his act, (as out of St. Hierome, and out of our former translation, we intimated unto you) that he doth all this Adversum se, I will confess my sins unto the Lord, against myself; the more I find confession, or any religious practice, to be against myself, and repugnant to mine own nature, the farther I will go in it. For, still the Adversum me, is Cum Deo; The more I say against myself, the "more I vilify myself, the more I glorify my God. As St. Chrysostom says, every man is Spontaneus Satan, a Satan to himself, as Satan is a tempter, every man can tempt himself; so I will be Spontaneus Satan, as Satan is an accuser, an adversary, I will accuse myself. I consider often that passionate humiliation of St. Peter, Exi a me Domine, He fell at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord"; and I am often ready to say so, and more; depart from me, O Lord, for I am sinful enough to infect thee; as I may persecute thee in thy children, so I may infect thee in thine
*1 Luke v. 8.
ordinances; depart, in withdrawing thy word from me, for I am corrupt enough to make even thy saving Gospel, the savour of death unto death; depart, in withholding thy sacrament, for I am leprous enough to taint thy flesh, and to make the balm of thy blood, poison to my soul; depart, in withdrawing the protection of thine angels from me, for 1 am vicious enough to imprint corruption and rebellion into their nature. And if I be too foul for God himself to come near me, for his ordinances to work upon me, I am no companion for myself, I must not be alone with myself; for I am as apt to take, as to give infection; I am a reciprocal plague; passively and actively contagious; I breathe corruption, and breathe it upon myself; and I am the Babylon that I must go out of, or I perish. I am not only under Jacobus Non dignus, Not worthy the least of all thy mercies"; nor only under the centurion's Non dignus, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof**, that thy spirit should ever speak to my spirit, (which was the form of words, in which every com municant received the sacrament, in the primitive church, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof;) nor only under the prodigal's Non dignus, Not worthy to be called thy son*1; neither in the filiation of adoption, for I have deserved to be disinherited; nor in the filiation of creation, for I have deserved to be annihilated; but Non dignus procumbereTM, I am not worthy to stoop down, to fall down, to kneel before thee, in thy minister, the almoner of thy mercy, the treasurer of thine absolutions. So far do I confess adversum me, against myself, as that I confess, I am not worthy to confess, nor to be admitted to any access, any approach to thee, much less to an act, so near reconciliation to thee, as an accusation of myself, or so near thy acquitting, as a self-condemning. Be this the issue in all controversies, whensoever any new opinions distract us, be that still thought best, that is most adversum nos, most against ourselves; that that most lays flat the nature of man, so it take it not quite away, and blast all virtuous endeavours; that that most exalts the grace and glory of God, be that the truth; and so have you the whole mystery of David's confession, in both his acts; pre
" Gen. xxxii. 10. ** Matt. viii. 8.
*7 Luke xv. 21. ** Mark i. 7.
paratory, in resenting his sinful condition in general, and surveying his conscience in particular; and then his deliberation, his resolution, his execution, his confession; confession of true sins, and of them only, and of all them, of his sins, and all this to the Lord, and all that against himself. That which was proposed for the second part, must fall into the compass of a conclusion, and a short one, that is God's act, Thou Jorgavest the iniquity of my sin.
This is a wide door, and would let out armies of instructions to you; hut we will shut up this door, with these two leaves thereof, the fulness of God's mercy, He forgives the sin and the punishment; and the seasonableness, the acceleration of his mercy, in this expression in our text, that David's is but actn-s inchoatus, he says he will confess, and God's Ib Act u,s conmmmatus, Thou forgavest, thou hadst already forgiven the iniquity, and punishment of my sin. These will be the two leaves of this door; and let the hand that shuts them be this and, this particle of connexion which we have in the text, / said, and thou didst. For though this remission of sin be not presented hero as an effect upon that cause of David's confession, (it is not delivered in a quia, and an ergo, because David did this, God did that; for man's will leads not the will of God, as a cause, who does all his acts of mercy for his mercy's sake) yet though it be not an effect, as from a cause, yet it is at least as a consequent from an occasion, so assured, so infallible, as let any man confess as David did, and he shall be sure to be forgiven as David was. For though this forgiveness be a flower of mercy, yet the root grows in the justice of God; if we acknowledge our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin"; it grows out of his faithfulness, as he hath vouchsafed to bind himself by a promise, and out of his justice, as he hath received a full satisfaction for all our sins. So that this hand, this and, in our text, is as a ligament, as a sinew, to connect and knit together that glorious body of God's preventing grace, and his subsequent grace; if our confession come between and tie the knot, God, that moved us to that act, will perfect all.
Here enters the fulness of his mercy, at one leaf of this door;
" 1 John i. 9.
well expressed at our door, in that Ecce sto, et pulsoTM, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; for, first he comes; here is no mention of our calling of him before; he comes of himself; and then he suffers not us to be ignorant of his coming, he comes so, as that he manifests himself, Ecce, Behold; and then he expects not that we should wake with that light, and look out of ourselves, but he knocks, solicits us, at least, with some noise at our doors, some calamities upon our neighbours; and again he appears not like a lightning that passes away as soon as it is seen, that no man can read by it, nor work by it, nor light a candle, nor kindle a coal by it, but he stands at the door, and expects us; all day; not only with a patience, but with a hunger to effect his purpose upon us, he would come in, and sup with us, accept our diet, our poor endeavours; and then, would have us sup with him, (as it is there added) would feast us with his abundant graces, which he brings even home to our doors; but those he does not give us at the door; not till we have let him in, by the good use of his former grace; and as he offers this fulness of his mercy, by these means before, so by way of pardon, and remission, if we have been defective in opening the door upon his standing and knocking, this fulness is fully expressed in this word of this text, as our two translations, (neither departing from the natural signification of the word) have rendered it.
The word is the same here, in David's sweetness, as in Cain's bitterness, gnavon; and we cannot tell, whether Cain speak there of a punishment too great to be borne, or of a sin too great to be pardoned"; nor which David means here; it fills up the measure of God's mercy, if we take him to mean both. God, upon confession, forgives the punishment of the sin; so that the just terror of hell, and the imaginary terror of purgatory, for the next world, is taken away; and for this world, what calamities and tribulations soever fall upon us, after these confessions, and remissions, they have not the nature of punishments, but they are fatherly corrections, and medicinal assistances, against relapses, and have their main relation and prospect upon the future.
For not only the sin itself, but the iniquity of the sin, is said to be forgiven; God keeps nothing in his mind against the last
80 Rev. iii. 20. *1 Gen. iv. 13.
day; but whatsoever is worst in the sin, the venom, the malignity of the sin, the violation of his law, the affrontings of his majesty residing in that law, though it have been a winking at his light, a resisting of his light, the ill nature, the malignity, the iniquity of the sin is forgiven. Only this remains, that God extinguishes not the right of a third person, nor pardons a murder so, as that he bars another from his appeal: not that his pardon is not full, upon a full confession, but that the confession is no more full, if it be not accompanied with satisfaction, that is, restitution of all unjustly gotten, than if the confession lacked contrition, and true sorrow. Otherwise the iniquity of the sin, and the punishment of the sin, are both fully pardoned. And so we have shut one leaf of this door, the fulness; the other is the speed, and acceleration of his mercy, and that leaf we will clap to, in a word.
This is expressed in this, David is but at his dixit, and God at his remisit; David was but saying, nay, but thinking, and God was doing, nay perfecting his work. To the lepers that cried out for mercy, Christ said, Go, show yourselves to the priest"; so he put them into the way; and they went, says the text; and as they went, they were healed upon the way. No man comes into the way, but by the illumination, and direction of God, Christ put them into the way. The way is the church; no man is cured out of the way; no man that separates himself from the church ; nor in the way neither, except he go; if he live negligently, and trust only upon the outward profession; nor though he go, except he go according to Christ bidding; except he conform himself to that worship of God, and to those means of sanctification, which God hath instituted in his church, without singularities of his own, or traditions of other men's inventing, and imposing. This, this submitting, and conforming ourselves to God, so as God hath commanded us, the purposing of this, and the endeavouring of this, is our dixit in the text, our saying that we will do it, and upon this dixit, this purposing, this endeavouring, instantly, immediately, infallibly follows the remisit, God will, God does, God hath forgiven, the iniquity, and the punishment of the sin.
*t Luke xvii. 11.
Therefore to end all, Pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord. No liquor comes so clearly, so absolutely from the vessel, not oil, not milk, not wine, not honey, as that it leaves no taste behind ; so may sweet sins; and therefore pour out, says the prophet, not the liquor, but the heart itself, and take a new heart of God's making; for thy former heart was never so of God's making, as that Adam had not a hand in it; and his image was in it, in original sin, as well as God's in the creation. As liquors poured out leave a taste and a smell behind them, imperfected confessions (and who perfects his confession ?) leave ill gotten goods sticking upon thine heir, and they leave a taste, and a delight to think, and speak of former sins, sticking upon thyself; but pour out thy heart like water; all ill impressions in the very root. And for the accomplishment of this great mystery of godliness by confession, fix thy meditations upon those words, and in the strength of them, come now, (or when thou shalt be better strengthened by the meditation of them) to the table of the Lord, the Lord looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned", and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not, he will deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see light; and it is added, Lo all these things worketh God twice and thrice. Here is a fulness of consolation, first plenary, and here is a present forgiveness; if man, if any man say, I have sinned, God doth, God forgives; and here is more than that, an iteration, if thou fall upon infirmity again, God will on penitence more carefully performed, forgive again. This he will do twice, or thrice, says the Hebrew; our translation might boldly say, as it doth, This God will do often. But yet if God find dolum in spiritu, an over-confidence in this, God cannot be mocked; and therefore take heed of trusting upon it too often, but especially of trusting upon it too late. And whatsoever the Holy Ghost may mean by the twice or thrice, be sure to do it once, do it now, and receive thy Saviour there, and so as he offers himself unto thee in these his ordinances this day, once, and twice, and thrice, that is, in prayer, in preaching, in the sacrament. For this is thy Trinity upon earth, that must bring thee to the Trinity in heaven : to which Trinity, &c.
00 Job xxxiii. 27