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Book 2; Homily 19

Homily 2.20, Of Repentance Book 2; Homily 19

Homilies Appointed to Be Read in Churches

Second Book, Homily xix.


AN HOMILY

OF REPENTANCE AND OF TRUE RECONCILIATION UNTO GOD.

The First Part. How Needful the Doctrine of Repentance is.

How Needful the Doctrine of Repentance is.

For the kingdom of God.

By the grace of God.

The four principal points of repentance.

1. Whence we must return.

2. Unto whom we ought to return.

3. By whom we must return unto God.

4. The manner of our turning.

Halting on both sides.

Hypocrites do counterfeit all manner of things.

Four ways that repentance is not unprofitable.

Against the Novatians.

The sin against the Holy Ghost.

What we must beware of.

The Four Parts of Repentance.

1. A contrite heart.

2. Confession of sin.

Answer to the adversaries which maintain auricular confession.

3. Faith.

The repentance of the schoolmen.

Judas and his repentance.

4. A new life.

Five Causes which Should Move to Repentance.

1. God’s commandment to return to him.

2. God’s promise to forgive our sins.

3. Our faith in the blood of Christ.

4. Our uncertainty when we shall die.

5. God’s everlasting judgement.

T

HERE is nothing that the Holy Ghost doth so much labour in all the scriptures to beat into men’s heads as repentance, amendment of life, and speedy returning unto the Lord God of hosts — and no marvel why. For we do daily and hourly, by our wickedness and stubborn disobedience, horribly fall away from God, thereby purchasing unto ourselves, if he should deal with us according to his justice, eternal damnation. So that no doctrine is so necessary in the Church of God as is the doctrine of repentance and amendment of life. And verily the true preachers of the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven and of the glad and joyful tidings of salvation have always in their godly sermons and preachings unto the people joined these two together, I mean repentance and forgiveness of sins, even as our Saviour Jesus Christ did appoint himself, saying, “So it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24.46-47).

For the kingdom of God.

And therefore the holy apostle doth in the Acts speak after this manner: “I have witnessed both to the Jews and to the gentiles the repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20.21). Did not John Baptist, Zachary's son, begin his ministry with the doctrine of repentance, saying “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3.2)? The like doctrine did our Saviour Jesus Christ preach himself, and commanded his apostles to preach the same (Matthew 4.17). I might here allege very many places out of the prophets, in the which this most wholesome doctrine of repentance is very earnestly urged, as most needful for all degrees and orders of men, but one shall be sufficient at this present time. These are the words of Ioel the prophet. Therefore also now the Lord saith,

Return unto me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning, rent your hearts and not your clothes, and return unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great compassion and ready to pardon wickedness (Joel 2.12-13).

Whereby it is given us to understand that we have here a perpetual rule appointed unto us which ought to be observed and kept at all times; and that there is none other way whereby the wrath of God may be pacified and his anger assuaged, that the fierceness of his fury and the plagues of destruction which by his righteous judgement he had determined to bring upon us, may depart, be removed and taken away. Where he saith, “But now therefore, saith the Lord, return unto me”, it is not without great importance that the prophet speaketh so. For he had afore set forth at large unto them the horrible vengeance of God which no man was able to abide and therefore he doth move them to repentance, to obtain mercy, as if he should say, “I will not have these things to be so taken, as though there were no hope of grace left.”

For although ye do by your sins deserve to be utterly destroyed, and God by his righteous judgements hath determined to bring no small destruction upon you, yet know that ye are in a manner on the very edge of the sword. If ye will speedily return unto him, he will most gently and most mercifully receive you into favour again. Whereby we are admonished that repentance is never too late so that it be true and earnest.

By the grace of God.

For sith [since] that God in the scriptures will be called our Father, doubtless he doth follow the nature and property of gentle and merciful fathers, which seek nothing so much, as the returning again, and amendment of their children, as Christ doth abundantly teach in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32). Doth not the Lord himself say by the prophet, “I will not the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his wicked ways and live” (Ezekiel 18.23, Isaiah 1.16)? And in another place, “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to make us cleanse from all wickedness” (1 John 1.9), which most comfortable promises are confirmed by many examples of the scriptures. When the Jews did willingly receive and embrace the wholesome counsel of the prophet Esay, God by and by did reach his helping hand unto them, and by his angel, did in one night slay the most worthy and valiant soldiers of Sennacherib's camp (Isaiah 37.6, 36). Whereunto may King Manasses be added, who after all manner of damnable wickedness, returned unto the Lord and therefore was heard of him and restored again into his kingdom (2 Chronicles 33.1-13).

The same grace and favour did the sinful woman Magdalene, Zachæus, the poor thief, and many other feel (Luke 7.48). All which things ought to serve for our comfort against the temptations of our consciences whereby the devil goeth about to shake or rather to overthrow our faith. For every one of us ought to apply the same unto himself, and say “Yet now return unto the Lord”, neither let the remembrance of thy former life discourage thee, yea the more wicked that it hath been, the more fervent and earnest let thy repentance or returning be, and forthwith thou shalt feel the ears of the Lord wide open unto thy prayers. But let us more narrowly look upon the commandment of the Lord touching this matter. “Turn unto me” (saith he by the holy prophet Ioel) with all your hearts, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments” &c. In which words, he comprehendeth all manner of things that can be spoken of repentance, which is a returning again of the whole man unto God, from whom we be fallen away by sin.

The four principal points of repentance.

But that the whole discourse thereof may the better be borne away, we shall first consider in order four principal points, that is, from what we must return, to whom we must return, by whom we may be able to convert, and the manner how to turn to God.

1. Whence we must return.

First, from whence, or from what things we must return. Truly we must return from those things, whereby we have been withdrawn, plucked, and led away from God. And these generally are our sins, which as the holy prophet Esay doth testify, do separate God and us, and hide his face, that he will not hear us. But under the name of sin, not only those gross words and deeds, which by the common judgement of men, are counted to be filthy and unlawful, and so consequently abominable sins: but also the filthy lusts and inward concupiscences of the flesh, which (as St. Paul testifieth) do resist the will and Spirit of God, and therefore ought earnestly to be bridled and kept under (Galatians 5.17).

We must repent of the false and erroneous opinions that we have had of God, and the wicked superstition that doth breed of the same, the unlawful worshipping and service of God, and other like. All these things must they forsake, that will truly turn unto the Lord and repent aright. For sith that for such things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience (Ephesians 5.6), no end of punishment ought to be looked for, as long as we continue in such things.

Therefore they be here condemned which will seem to be repentant sinners and yet will not forsake their idolatry and superstition.

2. Unto whom we ought to return.

Secondly, we must see unto whom we ought to return. Revertimini usque ad me, saith the Lord: that is, Return as far as unto me. We must then return unto the Lord, yea we must return unto him alone. For he alone is the truth and the fountain of all goodness. But we must labour that we do return as far as unto him, and that we do never cease nor rest till we have apprehended and taken hold upon him. But this must be done by faith. For sith [since] that God is a Spirit, he can by no other means be apprehended and taken hold upon. Wherefore, first they do greatly err which do not turn unto God but unto the creatures, or unto the inventions of men, or unto their own merits; secondly, they that do begin to return unto the Lord and do faint in the midway before they come to the mark that is appointed unto them.

3. By whom we must return unto God.

Thirdly, because we have of our own selves nothing to present us to God and do no less flee from him after our fall than our first parent Adam did, who when he had sinned did seek to hide himself from the sight of God, we have need of a mediator for to bring and reconcile us unto him who for our sins is angry with us. The same is Jesus Christ, who being true and natural God, equal and of one substance with the Father, did at the time appointed take upon him our frail nature in the blessed Virgin’s womb, and that of her undefiled substance, that so he might be a Mediator between God and us, and pacify his wrath. Of him doth the Father himself speak from heaven, saying, “This is my well beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.17). And he himself in his Gospel doth cry out and say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14.6). For he alone did with the sacrifice of his body and blood, make satisfaction unto the Justice of God for our sins (John 1, 1 Peter 1.19, John 15). The apostles do testify that he was exalted for to give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel (Acts 5.31). Both which things he himself did command to be preached in his name (Luke 24.47).

Therefore, they are greatly deceived that preach repentance without Christ, and teach the simple and ignorant that it consisteth only in the works of men. They may indeed speak many things of good works and of amendment of life and manners: but without Christ they be all vain and unprofitable. They that think that they have done much of themselves towards repentance are so much more the farther from God, because they do seek those things in their own works and merits, which ought only to be sought in our Saviour Jesus Christ and in the merits of his death, and passion, and blood-shedding.

4. The manner of our turning.

Fourthly, this holy prophet Ioel doth lively express the manner of this our returning or repentance, comprehending all the inward and outward things that may be here observed.

(1) First he will have us to return unto God with our whole heart, whereby he doth remove and put away all hypocrisy, lest the same might justly be said unto us: “This people draweth near unto me with their mouth and worship me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Isaiah 29.13, Matthew 15.89).

(2) Secondly, he requireth a sincere and pure love of godliness and of the true worshipping and service of God. That is to say that forsaking all manner of things that are repugnant and contrary unto God’s will, we do give our hearts unto him and the whole strength of our bodies and souls, according to that which is written in the Law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” (Deuteronomy 6.5).

Here therefore nothing is left unto us that we may give unto the world and unto the lusts of the flesh. For sith [since] that the heart is the fountain of all our works, as many as do with whole heart turn unto the Lord, do live unto him only.

Halting on both sides.

Neither do they yet repent truly that halting on both sides, do otherwhiles obey God but by and by do think that laying him aside, it is lawful for them to serve the world and the flesh. And because that we are letted [prevented] by the natural corruption of our own flesh and the wicked affections of the same, he doth bid us also to return with fasting not thereby understanding a superstitious abstinence and choosing of meats but a true discipline or taming of the flesh whereby the nourishments of filthy lusts and of stubborn contumacy and pride may be withdrawn and plucked away from it. Whereunto he doth add weeping and mourning which do contain an outward profession of repentance, which is very needful and necessary that so we may partly set forth the righteousness of God, when by such means we do testify that we deserved punishments at his hands and partly stop the offence that was openly given unto the weak.

This did David see, who being not content to have bewept and bewailed his sins privately, would publicly in his Psalms declare and set forth the righteousness of God, in punishing sin, and also stay them that might have abused his example to sin the more boldly (Psalms 25, 32, 51, 103, 142). Therefore they are farthest from true repentance that will not confess and acknowledge their sins nor yet bewail them, but rather do most ungodly glory and rejoice in them.

Hypocrites do counterfeit all manner of things.

Now lest any man should think that repentance doth consist in outward weeping and mourning only (Psalm 52), he doth rehearse that wherein the chief of the whole matter doth lie when he saith: “Rent your hearts, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God” (Joel 2.13). For the people of the East part of the world were wont to rent their garments, if anything happened unto them that seemed intolerable. This thing did hypocrites sometime counterfeit and follow as though the whole repentance did stand in such outward gesture.

He teacheth then that another manner of thing is required; that is, that they must be contrite in their hearts, that they must utterly detest and abhor sins, and being at defiance with them return unto the Lord their God, from whom they went away before. For God hath no pleasure in the outward ceremony, but requireth a contrite and humble heart, which he will never despise, as David doth testify (Psalm 51.17). There is therefore none other use to these outward ceremonies, but as far forth as we are stirred up by them and do serve to the glory of God and to the edifying of other.

Four ways that repentance is not unprofitable.

Now doth he add unto this doctrine or exhortation certain godly reasons which he doth ground upon the nature and property of God and whereby he doth teach that true repentance can never be unprofitable or unfruitful. For as in all other things men’s hearts do quail and faint if they once perceive that they travail in vain, even so most specially in this matter must we take heed and beware that we suffer not ourselves to be persuaded that all that we do is but labour lost. For thereof either sudden desperation doth arise or a licentious boldness to sin, which at length bringeth unto desperation.

Lest any such thing then should happen unto them, he doth certify them of the grace and goodness of God, who is always most ready to receive them into favour again that turn speedily unto him. Which thing he doth prove with the same titles wherewith God doth describe and set forth himself unto Moises, speaking on this manner: “For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil, that is, such a one as is sorry for your afflictions” (Exodus 34.6).

(1) First he calleth him gentle and gracious, as he who of his own nature is more prompt and ready to do good, then to punish. Whereunto this saying of Esay the prophet seemeth to pertain where he saith, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous his own imaginations, and return unto the Lord, and he will have pity on him, and to our God, for he is very ready to forgive” (Isaiah 55.7).

(2) Secondly, he doth attribute unto him mercy, or rather (according to the Hebrew word) the bowels of mercies: Whereby he signified the natural affections of Parents towards their children. Which thing David doth set forth goodly, saying, As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear him, for he knoweth whereof we be made, he remembereth that we are but dust (Psalm 103.13-14).

(3) Thirdly, he saith that he is slow to anger, that is to say, long suffering, and which is not lightly provoked to wrath.

(4) Fourthly, that he is of much kindness, for he is that bottomless well of all goodness who rejoiceth to do good unto us; therefore did he create and make men that he might have whom he should do good unto, and make partakers of his heavenly riches.

(5) Fifthly, he repenteth of the evil. That is to say, he doth call back again and revoke the punishment which he had threatened, when he seeth men repent, turn, and amend.

Against the Novatians.

Whereupon we do not without a just cause detest and abhor the damnable opinion of them which do most wickedly go about to persuade the simple and ignorant people, that if we chance after we be once come to God and grafted in his Son Jesus Christ to fall into some horrible sin, repentance shall be unprofitable unto us, there is no more hope of reconciliation or to be received again into the favour and mercy of God.

The sin against the Holy Ghost.

And that they may give the better colour unto their pestilent and pernicious error, they do commonly bring in the sixth and tenth chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, and the second chapter, of the second epistle of Peter, not considering that in those places the holy apostles do not speak of the daily falls that we (as long as we carry about this body of sin), are subject unto, but of the final falling away from Christ and his Gospel which is a sin against the Holy Ghost that shall never be forgiven because that they do utterly forsake the known truth, do hate Christ and his word, they do crucify and mock him (but to their utter destruction) and therefore fall into desperation, and cannot repent (Matthew 12.31, Mark 3.29). And that this is the true meaning of the Holy Spirit of God it appeareth by many other places of the scriptures which promiseth unto all true repentant sinners and to them that with their whole heart do turn unto the Lord their God free pardon and remission of their sins.

For the probation hereof, we read this: “O Israel”, saith the holy prophet Jeremy “if thou return, return unto me saith the Lord, and if thou put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not be removed” (Jeremiah 4.1). Again, these are Esay's words: “Let the wicked forsake his own ways, and the unrighteous his own imaginations, and turn again unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he is ready to forgive” (Isaiah 55.7). And the prophet Osëe, “The godly do exhort one another after this manner, Come and let us turn again unto the Lord, for he hath smitten us, and he will heal us, he hath wounded us, and he will bind us up again” (Hosea 6.1). It is most evident and plain, that these things ought to be understood of them that were with the Lord afore, and by their sins and wickednesses were gone away from him.

For we do not turn again unto him with whom we were never before, but we come unto him (Ecclesiastes 7.13, 1 John 1.89). Now, unto all them that will return unfeignedly unto the Lord their God, the favour and mercy of God unto forgiveness of sins is liberally offered. Whereby it followeth necessarily that although we do, after we be once come to God and grafted in his Son Jesus Christ, fall into great sins (for there is no righteous man upon the earth that sinneth not, and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us), yet if we rise again by repentance and with a full purpose of amendment of life do flee unto the mercy of God, taking sure hold thereupon through faith in his Son Jesu Christ, there is an assured and infallible hope of pardon and remission of the same and that we shall be received again into the favour of our heavenly Father.

It is written of David: “I have found a man according to mine own heart”, or “I have found David the son of Iesse, a man according to mine own heart, who will do all things that I will” (Acts 13.22, 1 Sam. 13-14). This is a great commendation of David. It is also most certain that he did steadfastly believe the promise that was made him touching the Messias; who should come of him touching the flesh, and that by the same faith, he was justified and grafted in our Saviour Jesu Christ to come, and yet afterwards he fell horribly, committing most detestable adultery and damnable murder (2 Samuel 11.4, 15, 17). And yet as soon as he cried Peccavi, “I have sinned” unto the Lord, his sin being forgiven, he was received into favour again (2 Samuel 12.13).

Now will we come unto Peter of whom no man can doubt but that he was grafted in our Saviour Jesus Christ long afore his denial. Which thing may easily be proved by the answer which he did in his name and in the name of his fellow apostles make unto our Saviour Jesu Christ, when he said unto them, “Will ye also go away? ‘Master (saith he), to whom shall we go?’ Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and know that thou art that Christ the Son of the living God” (John 6.67-69). Whereunto may be added the like confession of Peter where Christ doth give us most infallible testimony: “Thou art blessed Simon the son of Ionas, for neither flesh nor blood hath revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16.17). These words are sufficient to prove that Peter was already justified through this his lively faith in the only begotten Son of God whereof he made so notable and so solemn a confession. But did not he afterwards most cowardly deny his Master (Matthew 26.69-75), although he had heard of him, “Whosoever denieth me before men, I will deny him before my Father” (Matthew 10.33)? Nevertheless, as soon as with weeping eyes and with a sobbing heart he did acknowledge his offence and with an earnest repentance did flee unto the mercy of God, taking sure hold thereupon through faith in him whom he had so shamefully denied, his sin was forgiven him and for a certificate and assurance thereof, the room of his apostleship was not denied unto him.

But now mark what doth follow. After the same holy apostle had on Whitsunday with the rest of the Disciples received the gift of the Holy Ghost most abundantly (Acts 2.14), he committed no small offence in Antiochia by bringing the consciences of the faithful into doubt by his example, so that Paul was fain to rebuke him to his face because that he walked not uprightly or went not the right way in the Gospel (Galatians 2.11). Shall we now say, that after this grievous offence, he was utterly excluded and shut out from the grace and mercy of God, and that this his trespass whereby he was a stumbling block unto many was unpardonable? God defend we should say so.

What we must beware of.

But as these examples are not brought in to the end that we should thereby take a boldness to sin presuming on the mercy and goodness of God, but to the end that if through the frailness of our own flesh and the temptation of the devil, we fall into like sins, we should in no wise despair of the mercy and goodness of God. Even so must we beware and take heed that we do in no wise think in our hearts, imagine, or believe that we are able to repent aright or to turn effectually unto the Lord by our own might and strength. For this must be verified in all men, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15.5). Again, “Of ourselves we are not able as much as to think a good thought” (2 Corinthians 3.5). And in another place, “It is God that worketh in us both the will and the deed” (Philippians 2.13). For this cause, although Jeremy had said before “If thou return, O Israel, return unto me, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 4.1), yet afterwards he saith, “Turn thou me, O Lord, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God”.

And therefore that holy writer and ancient father Ambrose doth plainly affirm that the turning of the heart unto God is of God (Ambrose, De vocat. Gent., bk. 8, chap. 9). As the Lord himself doth testify by his prophet, saying “And I will give thee an heart to know me that I am the Lord and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24.7).

These things being considered, let us earnestly pray unto the living God our heavenly Father that he will vouchsafe by his holy Spirit to work a true and unfeigned repentance in us that after the painful labours and travails of this life, we may live eternally with his Son Jesus Christ, to whom be all praise and glory forever and ever. Amen.


THE SECOND PART OF THE HOMILY

OF REPENTANCE.

The Four Parts of Repentance.

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ITHERTO have ye heard, well beloved, how needful and necessary the doctrine of repentance is and how earnestly it is throughout all the scriptures of God urged and set forth, both by the ancient prophets, by our Saviour Jesus Christ and his apostles, and that forasmuch as it is the conversion or turning again of the whole man unto God from whom we go away by sin, these four points ought to be observed, that is: whence or from what things we must return; unto whom this our returning must be made; by whose means it ought to be done that it may be effectual; and last of all, after what sort we ought to behave ourselves in the same that it may be profitable unto us and attain unto the thing that we do seek by it. Ye have also learned that as the opinion of them — that deny the benefit of repentance unto those that after they be come to God and grafted in our Saviour Jesus Christ, do through the frailness of their flesh and the temptation of the devil fall into some grievous and detestable sin — is most pestilent and pernicious, so we must beware that we do in no wise think that we are able of our own selves and of our own strength to return unto the Lord our God from whom we are gone away by our wickedness and sin.

Now it shall be declared unto you what be the true parts of repentance, and what things ought to move us to repent and to return unto the Lord our God with all speed. Repentance (as it is said before) is a true returning unto God, whereby men, forsaking utterly their idolatry and wickedness, do with a lively faith embrace love and worship the true living God only and give themselves to all manner of good works which by God’s word they know to be acceptable unto him.

Now there be four parts of repentance which being set together may be likened to an easy and short ladder whereby we may climb, from the bottomless pit of perdition that we cast ourselves into by our daily offences and grievous sins, up into the castle or tower of eternal and endless salvation.

1. A contrite heart.

The first is the contrition of the heart. For we must be earnestly sorry for our sins, and unfeignedly lament and bewail that we have by them so grievously offended our most bounteous and merciful God, who so tenderly loved us, that he gave his only begotten son to die a most bitter death, and to shed his dear heart blood for our redemption and deliverance. And verily this inward sorrow and grief being conceived in the heart for the heinousness of sin, if it be earnest and unfeigned, is as a sacrifice to God, as the holy prophet David doth testify, saying, A sacrifice to God is a troubled spirit, a contrite and broken heart, O Lord, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51.17).

But that this may take place in us, we must be diligent to read and hear the scriptures and the word of God, which most lively do paint out before our eyes our natural uncleanness, and the enormity of our sinful life. For unless we have a thorough feeling of our sins, how can it be that we should earnestly be sorry for them? Afore David did hear the word of the Lord by the mouth of the prophet Nathan, what heaviness I pray you was in him for the adultery and the murder that he had committed (2 Samuel 12.13)? So that it might be said right well that he slept in his own sin. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that when the people had heard the Sermon of Peter, they were compunct [anxious] and pricked in their hearts (Acts 2.37). Which thing would never have been if they had not heard that wholesome sermon of Peter.

They therefore that have no mind at all neither to read, nor yet to hear God’s word, there is but small hope of them that they will as much as once set their feet or take hold upon the first staff or step of this ladder, but rather will sink deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of perdition. For if at any time through the remorse of their conscience, which accuseth them, they feel any inward grief, sorrow, or heaviness for their sins, forasmuch as they want the salve and comfort of God’s word, which they do despise, it will be unto them rather a mean to bring them to utter desperation, then otherwise.

2. Confession of sin.

The second is an unfeigned confession and acknowledging of our sins unto God — whom by them we have so grievously offended, that if he should deal with us according to his justice, we do deserve a thousand hells, if there could be so many. Yet if we will with a sorrowful and contrite heart make an unfeigned confession of them unto God, he will freely and frankly forgive them, and so put all our wickedness out of remembrance before the sight of his Majesty, that they shall no more be thought upon (Ezekiel 18.27). Hereunto doth pertain the golden saying of the holy prophet David, where he saith on this manner: “Then I acknowledged my sin unto thee, neither did I hide mine iniquities. I said I will confess against myself my wickedness unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the ungodliness of my sin” (Psalm 32.5). These are also the words of John the Evangelist If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous, to forgive us our sins, and to make us clean from all our wickedness (1 John 1.9).

Which ought to be understood of the confession that is made unto God. For these are St. Augustin’s words “That confession which is made unto God is required by God’s Law whereof John the apostle speaketh, saying ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to make us clean from all our wickedness’” (Augustin, Epist. ad Julian Comitem, 30). For without this confession, sin is not forgiven. This is then the chiefest and most principal confession that in the scriptures and word of God we are bidden to make and without the which we shall never obtain pardon and forgiveness of our sins. Indeed, besides this there is another kind of confession, which is needful and necessary.

And of the same doth St. James speak after this manner, saying: “Acknowledge your faults one to another and pray one for another that ye may be saved” (James 5.16). As if he should say: “Open that which grieveth you, that a remedy may be found”. And this is commanded both for him that complaineth and for him that heareth that the one should show his grief to the other. The true meaning of it is that the faithful ought to acknowledge their offences whereby some hatred, rancour, ground, or malice, having risen or grown among them one to another, that a brotherly reconciliation may be had, without the which nothing that we do can be acceptable unto God. As our Saviour Jesus Christ doth witness himself, saying “When thou offerest thine offering at the altar, if thou rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thine offering and go and be reconciled, and when thou art reconciled come and offer thine offering” (Matthew 5.23-24).

It may also be thus taken that we ought to confess our weakness and infirmities one to another, to the end that knowing each others frailness, we may the more earnestly pray together unto Almighty God our heavenly Father, that he will vouchsafe to pardon us our infirmities for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake and not to impute them unto us, when he shall render to every man according to his works.

Answer to the adversaries which maintain auricular confession:

And whereas the adversaries go about to wrest this place for to maintain their auricular confession withal, they are greatly deceived themselves and do shamefully deceive others. For if this text ought to be understood of auricular confession, then the priests are as much bound to confess themselves unto the lay people as the lay people are bound to confess themselves to them. And if to pray is to absolve, then the laity by this place hath as great authority to absolve the priests, as the priests have to absolve the laity. This did Iohannes Scotus, otherwise called Duns, well perceive, who upon this place writeth on this manner (Johannes Scotus, Senten. Distinct. 17, quæst.1).

Neither doth it seem unto me that James did give this commandment or that he did set it forth as being received of Christ. For first and foremost, whence had he authority to bind the whole Church, sith that he was only bishop of the Church of Jerusalem? Except thou wilt say that the same Church was at the beginning the head Church and consequently that he was the head bishop, which thing the See of Rome will never grant.

The understanding of it then is as in these words: “Confess your sins one to another”. A persuasion to humility whereby he willeth us to confess ourselves generally unto our neighbours that we are sinners, according to this saying: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1.8). And where that they do allege this saying of our Saviour Jesus Christ unto the leper to prove auricular confession to stand on God’s word “Go thy way and show thyself unto the priest”, do they not see that the leper was cleansed from his leprosy, afore he was by Christ sent unto the priest for to show himself unto him (Matthew 8.4)? By the same reason we must be cleansed from our spiritual leprosy; I mean, our sins must be forgiven us afore that we come to confession.

What need we then to tell forth our sins into the ear of the priest, sith that they be already taken away? Therefore holy Ambrose, in his second Sermon upon the hundred and nineteenth Psalm, doth say full well “’Go show thyself unto the priest’: who is the true Priest but he which is the Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedech”? Whereby this holy Father doth understand that both the priesthood and the law being changed, we ought to acknowledge none other priest for deliverance from our sins but our Saviour Jesus Christ — who being sovereign Bishop, doth with the sacrifice of his body and blood offered once for ever upon the altar of the cross most effectually cleanse the spiritual leprosy and wash away the sins of all those that with true confession of the same do flee unto him.

It is most evident and plain that this auricular confession hath not his warrant of God’s word, else it had not been lawful for Nectarius Bishop of Constantinople upon a just occasion to have put it down (Nectarius Sozomen, Ecclesiast. Hist., bk. 7, chap. 16). For when anything ordained of God is by the lewdness of men abused, the abuse ought to be taken away and the thing itself suffered to remain. Moreover, these are St. Augustin’s words,

What have I to do with men, that they should hear my confession as though they were able to heal my diseases? A curious sort of men to know another man’s life and slothfully to correct and amend their own. Why do they seek to hear of me what I am, which will not hear of thee what they are? And how can they tell when they hear by me of myself whether I tell the truth or not, sith no mortal man knoweth what is in man but the spirit of man which is in him (Augustin, Confessions, bk. 10, chap. 3)?

Augustin would not have written thus if auricular confession had been used in his time. Being therefore not led with the conscience thereof, let us with fear and trembling and with a true contrite heart use that kind of confession that God doth command in his word, and then doubtless as he is faithful and righteous, he will forgive us our sins and make us clean from all wickedness (1 John 1.9). I do not say but that if any do find themselves troubled in conscience, they may repair to their learned curate or pastor, or to some other godly learned man, and show the trouble and doubt of their conscience to them, that they may receive at their hand the comfortable salve of God’s word; but it is against the true Christian liberty that any man should be bound to the numbering of his sins, as it hath been used heretofore in the time of blindness and ignorance.

3. Faith.

The third part of repentance is faith whereby we do apprehend and take hold upon the promises of God, touching the free pardon and forgiveness of our sins. Which promises are sealed up unto us with the death and blood-shedding of his Son Jesu Christ. For what should avail and profit us to be sorry for our sins, to lament and bewail that we have offended our most bounteous and merciful Father, or to confess and acknowledge our offences and trespass — though it be done never so earnestly — unless we do steadfastly believe and be fully persuaded that God for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake will forgive us all our sins and put them out of remembrance and from his sight?

The repentance of the schoolmen:

Therefore they that teach repentance without a lively faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ do teach none other but Judas’s repentance as all the schoolmen do, which do only allow these three parts of repentance: the contrition of the heart, the confession of the mouth, and the satisfaction of the work.

Judas and his repentance:

But all these things we find in Judas’s repentance which in outward appearance did far exceed and pass the repentance of Peter. For first and foremost we read in the Gospel that Judas was so sorrowful and heavy, yea, that he was filled with such anguish and vexation of mind for that which he had done, that he could not abide to live any longer (Matthew 27.3-5). Did not he also afore he hanged himself make an open confession of his fault when he said, “I have sinned, betraying the innocent blood” (v. 4)? And verily this was a very bold confession which might have brought him to great trouble. For by it he did lay to the high priests’ and elders’ charge the shedding of innocent blood, and that they were most abominable murderers. He did also make a certain kind of satisfaction when he did cast their money unto them again.

Peter and his repentance:

No such thing do we read of Peter although he had committed a very heinous sin and most grievous offence, in denying of his Master. We find that he went out and wept bitterly, whereof Ambrose speaketh on this manner: “Peter was sorry and wept, because he erred as a man. I do not find what he said. I know that he wept. I read of his tears, but not of his satisfaction” (Ambrose, De penitentia distin., 1 chap.).

But how chance that the one was received into favour again with God and the other cast away; but because that the one did by a lively faith in him whom he had denied take hold upon the mercy of God and the other wanted faith, whereby he did despair of the goodness and mercy of God? It is evident and plain then that although we be never so earnestly sorry for our sins, acknowledge and confessed them, yet all these things shall be but means to bring us to utter desperation except we do steadfastly believe that God our heavenly Father will for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake pardon and forgive us our offences and trespass and utterly put them out of remembrance in his sight. Therefore, as we said before, they that teach repentance without Christ and a lively faith in the mercy of God, do only teach Cain’s or Judas’s repentance.

4. A new life.

The fourth is an amendment of life or — a new life — in bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance. For they that do truly repent must be clean altered and changed, they must become new creatures, they must be no more the same than they were before. And therefore thus said John Baptist unto the Pharisees and Sadduces that came unto his baptism: “O generation of vipers, who hath forewarned you to flee from the anger to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3.7-8)! Whereby we do learn that if we will have the wrath of God to be pacified, we must in no wise dissemble but turn unto him again with a true and sound repentance, which may be known and declared by good fruits as by most sure and fallible signs thereof.

They that do from the bottom of their hearts acknowledge their sins and are unfeignedly sorry for their offences will cast off all hypocrisy, and put on true humility, and lowliness of heart. They will not only receive the Physician of the soul, but also with a most fervent desire long for him. They will not only abstain from the sins of their former life and from all other filthy vices, but also flee, eschew, and abhor all the occasions of them. And as they did before give themselves to uncleanness of life, so will they henceforwards with all diligence give themselves to innocency, pureness of life, and true godliness.

We have the Ninevites for an example, which at the preaching of Ionas did not only proclaim a general fast and that they should every one put on sackcloth, but they all did turn from their evil ways and from the wickedness that was in their hands (Jonas 3.5, 10). But above all other, the history of Zachæus is most notable: For being come unto our Saviour Jesu Christ, he did say, “Behold Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor and if I have defrauded any man, or taken ought away by extortion or fraud, I do restore him fourfold” (Luke 19.8).

Here we see that after his repentance, he was no more the man that he was before, but was clean changed and altered. It was so far off that he would continue and bide still in his unsatiable covetousness, or take ought away fraudulently from any man, that rather he was most willing and ready to give away his own and to make satisfaction unto all them that he had done injury and wrong unto. Here may we right well add the sinful woman which when she came to our Saviour Jesus Christ did pour down such abundance of tears out of those wanton eyes of hers wherewith she had allured many unto folly, that she did with them wash his feet, wiping them with the hairs of her head, which she was wont most gloriously to set out, making of them a net of the devil (Luke 7.37).

Hereby we do learn what is the satisfaction that God doth require of us, which is that we cease from evil and do good, and if we have done any man wrong, to endeavour ourselves to make him true amends to the uttermost of our power (Isaiah 1.16-17). Following in this the example of Zachæus and of this sinful woman, and also that goodly lesson that John Baptist Zachary’s son did give unto them that came to ask counsel of him; this was commonly the penance that Christ enjoined sinners: “Go thy way and sin no more” (John 8.11). Which penance we shall never be able to fulfil without the special grace of him that doth say, “Without me ye can do nothing”. It is therefore our parts if at least we be desirous of the health and salvation of our own selves, most earnestly to pray unto our heavenly Father to assist us with his Holy spirit, that we may be able to hearken unto the voice of the true Shepherd and with due obedience to follow the same.

Let us hearken to the voice of almighty God when he calleth us to repentance, let us not harden our hearts as such Infidels do who abuse the time given them of God to repent, and turn it to continue their pride and contempt against God and man, which know not how much they heap God’s wrath upon themselves for the hardness of their hearts which cannot repent at the day of vengeance. Where we have offended the law of God, let us repent us of our straying from so good a Lord.

Let us confess our unworthiness before him, but yet let us trust in God’s free mercy, for Christ’s sake, for the pardon of the same. And henceforth let us endeavour ourselves to walk in a new life as new born babes, whereby we may glorify our Father which is heaven and thereby to bear in our consciences a good testimony of our faith. So that at the last to obtain the fruition of everlasting life through the merits of our Saviour, to whom be all praise and honour forever. Amen.


THE THIRD PART OF THE HOMILY

OF REPENTANCE.

Five Causes which Should Move to Repentance.

I

N the Homily last spoken unto you, right well beloved people in our Saviour Christ, ye heard of the true parts and tokens of repentance, that is, hearty contrition and sorrowfulness of our hearts, unfeigned confession in word of mouth for our unworthy living before God, a steadfast faith to the merits of our Saviour Christ for pardon, and a purpose of ourselves by God’s grace to renounce our former wicked life, and a full conversion to God in a new life to glorify his name, and to live orderly and charitably, to the comfort of our neighbour, in all righteousness, and to live soberly and modestly to ourselves, by using abstinence, and temperance in word and in deed, in mortifying our earthly members here upon earth: Now for a further persuasion to move you to those parts of repentance, I will declare unto you some causes which should the rather move you to repentance.

1. God’s commandment to return to him.

First, the commandment of God, who in so many places of the holy and sacred scriptures doth bid us return unto him. “O ye children of Israel”, saith he “turn again from your infidelity, wherein ye drowned yourselves” (Isaiah 31.6). Again, “Turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O ye house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33.11)? And in another place, thus doth he speak by his holy prophet Osëe:

O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. For thou hast taken a great fall by thine iniquity. Take unto you these words with you, when you turn unto the Lord and say unto him, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, so will we offer the calves of our lips unto thee” (Hosea 14.2).

In all these places we have an express commandment given unto us of God for to return unto him.

Therefore we must take good heed unto ourselves lest whereas we have already by our manifold sins and transgressions provoked and kindled the wrath of God against us, we do by breaking this his commandment, double our offences and so heap still damnation upon our own heads by our daily offences and trespass, whereby we provoke the eyes of his Majesty, we do well deserve (if he should deal with us according to his justice) to be put away for ever from the fruition of his glory.

How much more then are we worthy of the endless torments of hell, if when we be so gently called again after our rebellion and commanded to return, we will in no wise hearken unto the voice of our heavenly Father, but walk still after the stubbornness of our own hearts.

2. God’s promise to forgive our sins.

Secondly, the most comfortable and sweet promise that the Lord our God did of his mere mercy and goodness join unto his commandment. For he doth not only say, “Return unto me, O Israel”, but also, “If thou wilt return and put away all thine abominations out of my sight, thou shalt never be moved” (Jeremiah 4.1). These words also have we in the prophet Ezechiel: “’At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sin, from the bottom of his heart, I will put all his wickedness out of my remembrance’, saith the Lord ‘so that they shall be no more thought upon’” (Ezekiel 18.21-22).

Thus are we sufficiently instructed that God will according to his promise, freely pardon, forgive, and forget all our sins, so that we shall never be cast in the teeth with them, if, obeying his commandment, and allured by his sweet promises, we will unfeignedly return unto him.

3. Our faith in the blood of Christ.

Thirdly, the filthiness of sin which is such that as long as we do abide in it, God cannot but detest and abhor us, neither can there be any hope that we shall enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, except we be first made clean and purged from it. But this will never be, unless forsaking our former life we do with our whole heart return unto the Lord our God, and with a full purpose of amendment of life flee unto his mercy, taking sure hold thereupon through faith in the blood of his Son Jesus Christ.

If we should suspect any uncleanness to be in us, wherefore the earthly Prince should loathe and abhor the sight of us, what pains would we take to remove and put it away? How much more ought we with all diligence and speed that may be, to put away that unclean filthiness that doth separate and make a division betwixt us and our God, and that hideth his face from us, that he will not hear us (Isaiah 59.2)? And verily herein doth appear how filthy a thing sin is, sith [since] that it can by no other means be washed away but by the blood of the only begotten Son of God. And shall we not from the bottom of our hearts detest and abhor and with all earnestness flee from it, sith that it did cost the dear heart blood of the only begotten Son of God our Saviour and Redeemer, to purge us from it?

Plato doth in a certain place write that if virtue could be seen with bodily eyes, all men would wonderfully be enflamed and kindled with the love of it. Even so on the contrary, if we might with our bodily eyes behold the filthiness of sin and the uncleanness thereof, we could in no wise abide it, but as most present and deadly poison hate and eschew it. We have a common experience of the same in them, which when they have committed any heinous offence, or some filthy and abominable sin, if it once come to light, or if they chance to have a through feeling of it, they be so ashamed (their own conscience putting before their eyes the filthiness of their act) that they dare look no man in the face, much less that they should be able to stand in the sight of God.

4. Our uncertainty when we shall die.

Fourthly, the uncertainty and brittleness of our own lives which is such that we cannot assure ourselves that we shall live one hour or one half quarter of it. Which by experience we do find daily to be true in them that being now merry and lusty, and sometimes feasting and banqueting with their friends, do fall suddenly dead in the streets, and otherwhiles under the board when they are at meat. These daily examples, as they are most terrible and dreadful, so ought they to move us to seek for to be at one with our heavenly judge, that we may with a good conscience appear before him, whensoever it shall please him for to call us, whether it be suddenly or otherwise, for we have no more charter of our life than they have. But as we are most certain that we shall die, so are we most uncertain when we shall die. For our life doth lie in the hand of God, who will take it away when it pleaseth him.

And verily when the highest summer of all, which is death, shall come, he will not be said nay; but we must forthwith be packing, to be present before the judgement seat of God as he doth find us, according as it is written: “Whereas the tree falleth, whether it be toward the south or toward the north, there it shall lie” (Ecclesiastes 11.3). Whereunto agreeth the saying of the holy martyr of God St. Cyprian, saying: “As God doth find thee when he doth call, so doth he judge thee” (Cyprian, Contra Demetrianum).

Let us therefore follow the counsel of the Wise Man, where he saith: “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day” (Ecclesiasticus 5.7). For suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord break forth, and in thy security shalt thou be destroyed and shalt perish in the time of vengeance. Which words I desire you to mark diligently because they do most lively put before our eyes the fondness of many men, who abusing the long suffering and goodness of God, do never think on repentance or amendment of life. “Follow not”, saith he,

Thine own mind and thy strength to walk in the ways of thy heart; neither say thou, “Who will bring me under for my works?” For God the revenger will revenge the wrong done by thee. And say not, “I have sinned and what evil hath come unto me?” For the Almighty is a patient rewarder, but he will not leave thee unpunished. Because thy sins are forgiven thee be not without fear to heap sin upon sin. Say not neither, “The mercy of God is great, he will forgive my manifold sins.” For mercy and wrath come from him and his indignation cometh upon unrepentant sinners (vv. 2-7).

As if ye should say, “Art thou strong and mighty? Art thou lusty and young? Hast thou the wealth and riches of the world? Or when thou hast sinned, hast thou received no punishment for it?” Let none of all these things make thee to be the slower to repent, and to return with speed unto the Lord. For in the day of punishment and of his sudden vengeance, they shall not be able to help thee. And specially when thou art either by the preaching of God’s word, or by some inward motion of his holy spirit, or else by some other means called unto repentance, neglect not the good occasion that is ministered unto thee, lest when thou wouldst repent, thou hast not the grace for to do it. For to repent, is a good gift, of God, which he will never grant unto them, who living in carnal security do make a mock of his threatenings, or seek to rule his spirit as they list, as though his working and gifts were tied unto their will.

5. God’s everlasting judgement.

Fifthly, the avoiding of the plagues of God and the utter destruction that by his righteous judgement doth hang over the heads of them all that will in no wise return unto the Lord, “I will”, saith the Lord,

Give them for a terrible plague to all the kingdoms of the earth, and for a reproach, and for a proverb, and for a curse in all places where I shall cast them; and will send the sword of famine and the pestilence among them till they be consumed out of the land (Jeremiah 24.9).

And wherefore is this? Because they hardened their hearts, and would in no wise return from their evil ways, nor yet forsake the wickedness that was in their own hands, that the fierceness of the Lords fury might depart from them (Roman’s 2.5). But yet this is nothing in comparison of the intolerable and endless torments of hellfire, which they shall be fain to suffer, who, after their hardness of heart that cannot repent, do heap unto themselves wrath against the day of anger and of the declaration of the just judgement of God.

Whereas if we will repent and be earnestly sorry for our sin and with a full purpose and amendment of life flee unto the mercy of our God, and taking sure hold thereupon through faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ do bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, he will not only power his manifold blessings upon us here in this world, but also at the last after the painful travels of this life, reward us with the inheritance of his children which is the kingdom of heaven, purchased unto us with the death of his son Jesu Christ our Lord; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all praise, glory, and honour, world without end. Amen.



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