Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF REPENTANCE AND FASTING, PREACHED ON ASH-WEDNESDAY.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the Tenth of February, A.D. MDCXIX.
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
Joel ii: 12-13
Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rend your heart, and your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.
Nunc ergo dicit Dominus: convertimini ad Me in toto corde vestro, in jejunio, et in fletu, et in planctu.
Et scindite corda vestra, et non vestimenta vestra, et convertimini ad Dominum Deum vestrum.
For this time hath the Church made choice of this text. The time wherein, howsoever we have dispensed with it all the year beside, she should have us seriously to entend and make it our time of turning to the Lord. And that ‘now,’ the first word of the text.
For she holds it not safe to leave us wholly to ourselves to take any time it skills not when, lest we take none at all. ‘Now now,’ saith Felix, ‘but when I shall find a convenient time,’ and he never found any; and many with him perish upon this ‘not now.’ Take heed of ›tau eŰkair»sw, ‘when I shall find a convenient time,’ it undid Felix, that.
She hath found this same keeping of continual Sabbaths and Fasts, this keeping the memory of Christ's birth and [356/357] resurrection all the year long hath done no good; hurt rather. So ‘it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to her to order there will be a solemn set return once in the year at least. And reason; for once a year all things turn. And that once is now at this time, for now at this time is the turning of the year. In Heaven, the sun in his equinoctial line, the zodiac and all the constellations in it, do now turn about to the first point. The earth and all her plants, after a dead winter, return to the first and best season of the year. The creatures, the fowls of the air, the swallow and the turtle, and the crane and the stork, ‘know their seasons,’ and make their just return at this time every year. Everything now turning that we also would make it our time to turn to God in.
Then because we are to turn cum jejunio, ‘with fasting,’ and this day is known by the name of caput jejunii, ‘the first day of Lent,’ it fits well as a welcome into this time —a time lent us as it were by God, set us by the Church, to make our turning in.
And besides the time ‘now,’ the manner how is here also set down. For as it is true that repentance is the gift of god, si quo modo det Deus poenitentiam, saith the Apostle, and we by prayer to seek it of Him that it would please Him to grant us true repentance, so it is true withal there is a ‘doctrine of repentance from dead works,’ as saith the same Apostle, and that is here taught us.
The Church turns us to these words here of the Prophet Joel, which, though they be a part of the Old Testament, yet for some special virtue in them as we are to believe, she hath caused them to be read for the Epistle of this day.
And surely had there been a plainer than this wherein the nature of true repentance had been more fully set forth, it behoveth us to think the Church, inspired by the wisdom of God, would have looked it out for us against this time, the time sacred by her to our turning.
Again, that the Church carrying to her children the tender heart of a mother, if there were a more easy or gentle repentance than this of Joel, she would have chosen that rather. For this we are all bound to think, she take no pleasure to make us sad, or to put us more than needs she must. Which in [357/358] that she hath not, we may well presume this of Joel is it she would have us hold ourselves to, and that this is, and is to be, the mould of our repentance.
I wot well, there is in this text somewhat of sal terrae, something of the ‘grain of mustard- seed’ in the Gospel; the points be such as we list not hear of. Fasting is an ‘unwelcome point’ to flesh and blood; but as for weeping and mourning, and rending the heart, ‘who can abide it?’ Abide what? These days? the abstinence in them? No, but ‘the great and fearful day of the Lord.’ If you speak of not abiding, who abide that? As if he should say, if you could abide that day when it comes, I would trouble you with none of these. But no abiding of that. Turn it away you may; turn it into a joyful day, by this turning to the Lord. Thus you may, and but thus you cannot. Now therefore you see how ‘therefore’ comes in. Here is our choice, one of them we must take. And better thus turn unto God in some of these little days, than be turned off by Him in ‘that great day,’ to another manner weeping than this of Joel—even to ‘weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.’ Scientes igitur terrorem hunc, ‘knowing therefore this fear,’ and that upon turning,cardo vertitur, the ‘hinges turns’ of our well or evil doing for ever, to be content to come to it and to turn the heathen man's non enam into enam tanti poenitere. To this turning then. Our charge is to preach to men, non quĺ volunt audire, sed quĺ volunt audisse, ‘not what for the present they would hear, but what another day they would wish they had heard.’
Repentance itself is nothing else but redire ad principia, ‘a kind of circling’ to return to Him by repentance from Whom by sin we have turned away. And much after a circle is this text; begins with the word ‘turn,’ and returns about to the same word again. Which circle consists, to use the Prophet's own words, of two turnings; for twice he repeats this word, which two must needs be two different motions. 1. One, is to be done with the ‘whole heart:’ 2. The other with it ‘broken and rent.’ So as one and the same it cannot be. [358/359]
First, a ‘turn,’ wherein we look forward to God, and with our ‘whole heart’ resolve to ‘turn’ to Him. Then a turn again wherein we look backward to our sins wherein we have turned from God, and with beholding them our very heart breaks. These two are two distinct, both in nature and names; one conversion from sin; the other contrition for sin. One resolving to amend that which is to come, the other reflecting and sorrowing for that which is past. One declining from evil to be done hereafter; the other sentencing itself for evil done heretofore. These two between them hereafter, the other sentencing itself for evil done heretofore. These two between them make up a complete repentance, or to keep the word of the text, a perfect revolution.
And this and none other doth Joel teach the Jews, and this and none other doth Jonas teach the Gentiles. None other the Prophets, nor none other the Apostles; for St. James comes just to this of Joel, enjoining sinners to ‘cleanse their hands,’ and to ‘purge their hearts,’ which is the former; and then withal, to ‘change their laughter into the mourning, and their joy into heaviness.’ Where pýuqoj and katnfýia are as full for the New as planctus and fletus are for the Old. These two; both these, and neither to spare; and we have not learned, we hold not, we teach not any other repentance. I speak it for this. There is a false imputation cast on us, that we should teach there goeth nothing to repentance but amendment of life; that these of fasting and the rest we let run by, as the waste of repentance, no, that for fasting ‘we proclaim a fast from it,’ and teach a penitence with no penal thing in it. That therefore this text by name, and such other, we shun and shift, and dare not come near them. Not come near them? As near as we can by the grace of God, that the world may know, and all here bear witness, we teach and we press both.
Indeed, as Augustine well saith, Aliud est quod docemus,aliud quod sustinemus, ‘What we are fain to bear with is one thing, what we preach and fain would persuade is another.’ Et vĺ tibi flumen moris humani, saith he and we both., ‘Woe to the strong current of a corrupt custom,’ that hath taken such a head as, do what we can, it carries all headlong before it. But whatsoever we bear, this we teach though. [359/360]
I forget myself. I intend to proceed as the words lie. 1. To ‘turn,’ first; and ‘to God:’ 3. ‘To God, with the heart;’ 4. and ‘with the whole heart.’ Then the manner with these four; 1. ‘Fasting;’ 2. ‘Weeping;’ 3. ‘Mourning;’ 4. and a ‘Rent heart.’ Of which the two former are the body's task, ‘fasting and weeping;’ the two latter the souls, ‘mourning and rending the heart.’ The former, ‘mourning’ the affection of sorrow; the latter ‘rending,’ from anger or indignation, of both which affections repentance is compound and not of either alone. This for the manner how.
Then last for the time when; now to do it, ‘Now therefore.’
I. Diversely and in sundry terms doth the Scripture set forth unto us the nature of repentance. Of renewing, as from a decay, of refining, as from a dross; of recovering, as from a malady; of cleansing, as from soil; of rising, as from a fall; in no one, either for sense more full, or for use more often than in this of turning.
To ‘turn’ is a counsel properly to them that are out of their right way. For going on still and turning are motions opposite—both of them wit reference to a way. For if the way be good, we are to hold on; if otherwise, to turn and take another.
Whether a way be good or no we principally pronounce by the end. If, saith Chrysostom, it be to a feast, good, though it be through a blind lane; if to execution, not good, though through the fairest street in the city. St. Chrysostom was bidden to a marriage-dinner, was to go to it through divers lanes and alleys; crossing the high street, he met with one led through it to be executed; he told it his auditory, that Non qua sed quo was it.
If then our life be a ‘way,’ as a ‘way’ it is termed in all writers, both holy and human, via morum no less than via pedum, the end of this way is to bring us to our end, to our sovereign good which we call happiness. Which happiness not finding here but full of flaws, and of no lasting neither, we are set to seek it, and put in hope to find it with God, ‘in Whose presence is the fulness of joy, and at Whose right hand pleasures for evermore.’
From God then, as from the journey's end of our life, our [360/361] way, we are never to turn our steps or our eyes, but with Enoch, as of him it is said, ‘still to walk with God’ all our life long. Then should we never need to hear this convertite.
We are not so happy. There is one who maligneth we should go this way, or come to this end; and therefore to divert us holdeth out to us some pleasure, profit, or preferment; which to pursue, we must step out of the way, and so do full many times, even ‘turn from God,’ to serve our own turns.
And this is the way of sin, which is turning from God. When having in chase some trifling transitory, I wot not, to follow it we even turn our backs upon God, and forsake the way of His commandments. And here now we first need His counsel of convertite.
For being entered into this way, yet we go too far in it; wisdom would have we staid and were advised whither this way will carry us, and where we shall find ourselves at our journey's end. And reason we have to doubt; for after we once left our first way which was ‘right,’ there takes us sometimes that same singultus cordis, as Abigail well calls it, ‘a throbbing heart;’ or as the Apostle, certain ‘accusing thoughts’ present themselves unto us which will not suffer us to go on quietly, our minds still misgiving us that we are wrong.
Besides, when any danger of death is near; nay, if we do but sadly think on it, a certain chillness takes us, and we cannot with any comfort think on our journey's end, and hear as it were a voice of one crying behind us. Hĺc est vis, That is not the way you have taken; ‘This,’ that you have lost, ‘is your way, walk in it.’ Which voice if we hear not, it is long of the noise about us. If we would sometimes go aside into some retired place or in the still of the night hearken after it, we might peradventure hear it.
A great blessing of God it is, for without it thousands would perish in the error of their life, and never return to their right way again. Redite prĺvaricatores ad cor, ‘that sinners would turn to their own hearts.’ And this is the first degree to help us a little forward to this turning.
Being thus turned to our heart we turn again and behold, the trocÕs geuýsewj,. as St. James termeth it, ‘the wheel of our nature,’ [361/362] that it turneth apace, and turns off daily some, and them younger than we, and that within a while our turn will come that ‘our breath also must go forth, and we turn again to our dust.’
And when that is past, another of the Prophet, ‘That Righteousness shall turn again to judgment:’ Mercy that now sits in the throne, shall rise up and give place; Justice also shall have her turn. And then comes the last turn, Convertentur peccatores in infernum ‘the sinners will be turned into hell, and all the people who forget’ in time to turn unto ‘God.’ There was wont to be a ceremony of giving ashes this day, to put us in mind of this converteris. I fear with the ceremony the substance is gone too. If that conversion into ashes be well thought on, it will help forward our turning.
This turning to our heart, the sad and serious bethinking us there of nature's conversion into dust, of sins into ashes, for ashes ever presuppose fire; that the wheel turns apace, and if we turn not the rather, these turnings may overtake us; God's spirit assisting may so work with us as we shall think Joel's counsel good, that if we have not been so happy as to keep the way, yet we be not so unhappy as not to turn again from a way, the issues whereof surely will not be good.
And would God these would serve to work it! If they will not, then must conversus sum in ĺrumna dum configitur spina, ‘some thorn in our sides,’ some bodily or worldly grief must come and procure it. But that is not to ‘turn,’ but to be turned, and there is great odds between these two. As one thing it is ‘to take up the cross,’ another to have it laid upon us.
To be turned I call, when by some cross of body or mind, as it were with a ring in our nose, we are brought about whether we will or no, to look how we have gone astray.
To turn I call, when the world ministereth unto us no cause of heaviness, all is ex sententia; yet even then the grace of God moving in us, we set ourselves about, and representing those former conversions before us we work it out having from without no heavy accident to force us to it.
We condemn not conversus sum in ĺrumma; many are so turned, and God is gracious and rejects them not. [362/363] But we commend this latter, when without wrench or screw we ‘turn’ of ourselves. And that man who being under no arrest, no bridle in his jaws, shall in the days of his peace resolve of a time to turn in and take it, that man hath great cause to rejoice and to rejoice before God. And thus much for convertite, or if it may not be had, for convertimini.
‘Turn,’ and ‘turn to Me,’ and He that saith it is God. Why, whither should we turn from sin but to God? Yes, we may be sure, it is not for nothing God setteth down this. In Jeremy it is more plain, ‘If ye return return to Me, saith the Lord;’ which had been needless if we could turn to nothing else, were it not possible to find divers turnings, leaving one by-way to take another, from this extreme turn to that, and never to God at all. They that have been fleshly given, if they cease to be so, they turn; but if they become as worldy now as they were fleshly before, they turn not to God. They that from the dotage of superstition run into the phrensy of profaneness, they that from ‘abhorring idols fall to commit sacrilege,’ howsoever they turn, to God they turn not.
And this is even the motus diurnus, the common turning of the world, as Moses expresseth it, ‘to add drunkeness to thirst;’ from too little to too much, from one extreme to run into another. Would God it were not needful for me to make this note! But the true turn is ad Me, so from sin as to God. Else in very deed we turn from this sin to that sin, but not ‘from sin;’ or, to speak more properly, we turn sin, we turn not from sin, if we give over one evil way to take another.
‘To Me,’ then, and ‘with the heart;’ And this is also needful. For, I know not how, but by some our conversion is conceived to be a turning of the brain only, by doting too much on the word respiscere, as a matter merely mental. When before thus and thus we thought, such and such positions we held, now we are of another mind than before, and there is out turning. This of Joel's is a matter of the heart sure. This? Nay, to say truth, where is conversion mentioned but it is in a manner atended with in corde. And so requireth not only alteration of the mind but of the will, a change not of certain notions only in the head, but of the [363/364] affections of this heart too. Else it is vertigo capitis, but not conversio cordis.
Neither doth this in corde stand only against the brain, but is commonly in opposition to the whole outward man. Else the heart may be fixed like a pole, and the body like a sphere turn round about it. Nay, heart and all must turn. Not the face for shame, or the feet for fear; but the heart for very hatred of sin also. Hypocrisy is a sin; being to turn from sin we are to turn from it also, and not have our body in the right way, and our heart still wandering in the by-paths of sin. But if we forbear the act which the eye of man beholds, to make a conscience of the thoughts too, for unto them also the eye of God pierces. Thus it should be; else conversion it may be, but heart it hath none.
‘With the heart,’ and ‘with the whole heart.’ As not to divide the heart from the body, so neither to divide the heart in itself. The devil, to hinder us from true turning, turns himself like Proteus into all shapes. First, turn not at all, you are well enough. If you will needs turn, turn whother you will, but not to God. If to God, leave your heart behind you, and turn and spare not. If with the heart, be it in corde, but not in toto, with some ends or fractions, with some few broken affections, but not entirely. In modico, saith Agrippa, ‘somewhat;’—there is a piece of the heart. In modico et in toto, saith St. Paul, ‘somewhat and altogether;’—there is ‘ the whole heart.’ For which cause, as if some converted with the brim or upper part only, doth the Psalm call for it de profundid; and the Prophet ‘from the bottom of the heart.’
To ‘rend the heart’ in this part is a fault, which is a virtue in the next. For it makes us have two hearts hovering as it were, and in motu trepidationis; and fain we would let go sin, but not all that belongs to it; and turn we would from our evil way, but not from that which will bring us back to it again, the occasion, the object, the company, from which except we turn too we are in continual danger to leave our way again, and to turn back to our former folly, the second ever worse than the first.
When the heart is thus parcelled out, it is easily seen. See you one would play with fire and not be burned, ‘touch pitch and not be defiled’ with it, ‘love peril, and not perish in it;’ [364/365] dallying with his conversion, turning ‘like a door upon the hinges,’ open and shut, and shut and open again, with vult et non vult, ‘he would, and yet he would not?’ Be bold to say of that man, he is out of the compass of conversion; back again he will ad volutabrum luti.
And as easily it is seen, when one goes to his turning with his whole heart. He will come to his quid faciemus? Set him down what he should do, and he will do it. Not come near the place where sin dwelleth, refrain the wandering of his sense whereby sin is awakened, fullness and idleness whereof sin breeds, but chiefly corrupt company whither sin resorts. For conversion has no greater enemy that conversing with such of whom our heart telleth us, there is neither faith nor fear of God in them. To all these he will come. Draw that man's apology, pronounce of him he is turned, and ‘with his whole heart turned to God.' And so may we turn, and such may all our conversions be: 1. voluntary, without compulsion; 2. to God, without declining; 3. With the heart, not in speculation; with the whole heart entire, no purpose of recidivation!
All this will be done; we will ‘turn with the heart, with the whole heart.’ Is this all? No, here is a cum we must take with us, cum jejunio, with fasting. Take heed of turning cum into sine, to say with it or without it we may turn well enough; since it is God Himself who to our turning joins jejunium, we may not turn without it. Indeed, as I told you, this is but the half-turn. Hitherto we have but look forward; we must also turn back our eye and reflect upon our sins past, be sorry for them, before our turning be as it should. The hemisphere of our sins not to be under the horizon clean out of our sight must ascend up, and we set them before us, and we testify by these four that follow how we like ourselves for committing of them.
I know we would have the sentence end here, the other stripped off, have the matter between our hearts and us, that there we may end it within, and no more ado; and there we should do well enough. But the Prophet tells us farther, or God Himself rather, for He it is that here speaketh, that our repentance is to be incorporate into the body no less than the sin was. Hers hath been the delight of sin, and she to bear a [365/366] part of the penalty; that the heart within and the body without may both turn, since both have gone astray. It is a tax, a tribute, it hath pleased God to lay upon our sins and we must bear it.
I speak it for this. It is a world what strange conceits there are abroad touching this point. To the animales homo flesh and blood reveals a far more easy way not encumbered with any of these. To ‘turn,’ and yet not lose a meal all the year long; and not shed a tear, and not ‘rend’ either ‘heart or garment,’ and yet do full well. And with this conceit they pass their lives, and with this they pass out of their lives, as it seems resolved to put their souls in a venture, and to come to Heaven after their own fashion, or not come there at all. Change Joel into Jael, take a draught of milk out of her bottle, and wrap them warm, and lay them down, and never rise more.
And that which is worse, they would not by their good-will have any other spoken of. For this is a disease of our nature; look how much more we are of ourselves disposed to do, just so much more and no more must be preached to us. For more than we have a liking to perform we cannot at any hand abide should be urged as needful. But these conceits must be left, or else we must tell Joel we can ‘turn to God’without any of these. But it is not Joel, God it is that speaketh Who best knoweth what turning it is that pleaseth Him best; and Whom we must needs leave to prescribe the manner how He would have us to turn unto Him.
To speak after the manner of men, in very congruity when after a long aversion we are to turn and present ourselves before God, there would be a form set down how to behave ourselves, in what sort to perform it. This is it, how for our cheer, our countenance, how for our carriage every way. Very duty will teach us, if we will not break all the rules of decorum, we should do it suitably to such as have stood out in a long rebellion, and being in just disgrace for it are to approach the highest Majesty upon earth. Now would they being to return make a feast the same day they are to do it, with light merry hearts, with cheerful looks? and not rather with shame in their countenance, fear in their hearts, grief in their eyes? As they would, so let us. Still and ever remembering what [366/367] the Prophet saith, Magnus Rex Jehova, ‘God is a more high and mighty Prince than any on earth;’ stands on His State, will not be thus turned to, thus slightly, with or without it skills not. But we in our turning to come before Him all abashed and confounded in ourselves that for a trifle, a matter of nothing, certain carats of gain, a few minutes of delight—base creatures that we be! so, and so often sis et sic faciendo, by such and such sins, have offended so presumptuously against so glorious a Majesty, so desperately against so omnipotent a Power, so unkindly against so sovereign a bounty of so gracious a God, and so kind and loving a Saviour.
To take them as they stand. ‘Fasting;’ which, were there nothing else but this, that the Church makes this time of our return a time of fast, it shews plainly in her opinion how near these two are allied, how well they sort together. Which fast the Church prescribeth not only by way of regimen to keep the body low, that it may be a less mellow soil for the sins of the flesh, for this pertains to the former part so to prevent sin to come, but awards it as a chastisement for sin already past. For to be abridges, whether by others or by ourselves, of that which otherwise we might freely use, hath in it the nature of a punishment. They be the words of the Psalm, ‘I wept and chastened myself with fasting;’ ‘chastened’ himself—so a chastisement it is.
And thus preach we fasting; 1. Neither as the Physicians enjoin it in their aphorisms, to digest some former surfeit. 2. Nor as the philopsophers in their morals, to keep the sense subtile. 3. Nor as the States politic in their proclamations, to preserve the breed of cattle, or increase of strength by sea;. but as the holy Prophets of God, as Joel straight after, we do sanctificare jejunium, prescribe it, and that to a religious end, even to chasten ourselves for sin by this forbearance. So no physical, philosophical, political, but a prophetical, yea an evangelical fast. For if in very sorrow we are to fast when ‘the Bridegroom is taken away,’ much more when we ourselves by our sins committed have been the cause of His taking, no, of His very driving away from us.
And must we then fast? Indeed we must, or get us a new Epistle for the day, and a new Gospel too. For as God here in the Epistle commends it, so Christ in the Gospel presupposeth [367/368] it with His cum jejunatis, taking it as granted we shall fast. That sure fast we must, or else wipe out this cum jejunio, and that cum jejunatis, and tell God and Christ they are not well advised, we have found out a way beyond them to turn unto God without any fasting at all.
But how fast? To relieve all we may, when we speak of fasting, humanum dicimus propeter infirmitatem vestram, we intend not men's knees should ‘grow weak with fasting.’ Two kinds of fasting we find in Scripture. 1. David’s who fasted ‘tasting neither bread’ nor ought else ‘till the sun was down,’ no meat at all— that is too hard. 2. What say you to Daniel’s fast. ‘He did eat and drink,’ but ‘no meats of delight,’ and namely ate no ‘flesh.’ The Church as an indulgent mother, mitigates all she may; enjoins not for fast that of David, and yet, qui potest capere capiat for all that; she only requires of us that other of Daniel, to forbear cibos desiderii, and ‘flesh’ is there expressly named, meat and drink provoking the appetite, full of nourishment, kindling the blood; content to sustain nature, and ‘not purvey for the flesh to satisfy the lusts thereof.’ And thus by the grace of God we may, if not David’s, yet Daniel’s. For if David’s we cannot, and Daniel we list not, I know not what fast we will leave, for a third I find not.
And yet even also doth the Church release to such as are in Timothy's case, have crebras infirmitates. It is not the decay of nature, but the chastisement of sin she seeketh. But at this door all scape through; we are all weak and crazy when we would repent, but lusty and strong when to commit sin. Our physicians are easy to tell us, and we easy to believe any that will tell us, propitius est tibi, ‘favour yourself,’ for it is not for you.
Take heed, ‘God is not mocked’ Who would have sin chastened. Who sees I fear the pleasing of our appetite is the true cause, the not endangering our health is but a pretence. And He will not have His ordinance thus dallied with, fast or lose. Said it must be that Joel here saith; ‘Turn to God with fasting,’ or be ready to show a good cause why, and to shew it to God. It is He here calls for it, the pen is but Joel’s; He best knows what turning it is will serve our turn, will turn away ira ventura, which Quis poterit sustinere, ‘Who [368/369] is able to abide?’ And take this with you; when fasting and all is in, if it be, Quis scit si convertatur Deus? If we leave what we please out, then it will be Quis scit? indeed.
The next point—and God send us well to discharge it! is ‘weeping.’ Can we not be dispensed with that neither, but we must weep too? Truly even in this point somewhat would be done too; else Joel will not be satisfied but call on us still. There is, saith the Psalm, a flagon provided by God of purpose for them; therefore some would come, some few drops at least. Not as the Saints of old. No: humanum dicimus here too. Job’s eyes ‘poured forth tears to God;’ David’s eye gushed out with water, he all to ‘wet his pillow’ with them; Mary Magdalene wept enough to make a bath. We urge not these. But if not pour out, not gush forth, saith Jeremy, ‘Will not our eyes afford a drop or twain?’
Stay a little, turn and look back upon our sins past; it may be, if we could get ourselves to do it in kind, if set them before us and look sadly, and not glance over them apace; think of them not once, but, as Ezekiah did, recogitare, ‘think them over and over;’ consider the motives, the base motives, and weigh the circumstances, the grievous circumstances, and tell over our many flittings, our often relapsing, our wretched continuing in them; it would set our sorrow in passion, it would bring down some—some would come; our hearts would turn, our repentings roll together, and lament we would the death of our soul as we do otherwise lament the death of a friend, and for the unkindness we have shewed to God as for the unkindness we do that man sheweth us.
But this will ask time. It would not be posted through as our manner is—we have done straight. It is not a business of a few minutes; it will ask St. Peter's cwrÁsai, ‘retired place,’ and St. Paul's scel£zeiu, ‘vacant time.' It would ask a Nazarite's vow to do it as it should be done, even a sequestering ourselves for a time as they did; in other respects I grant, but among others for this also, even to perform to God a votive repentance. This I wish we would try. But we seek no place, we allow no time for it. Our other affairs take up so much as can spare little or none [369/370] for this, which the time will come when we shall think it the weightiest affair of all.
And yet it may be, when all is done, none will come though, for who hath tears at command? Who can weep when he lists? I know it well, they be the overflowings of sorrow, not of every sorrow, but of the sensual parts; and being an act of the interior parts, reason cannot command them at all times, they will not be had.
But if they will not, the Prophet hath here put an ĘutiballŮmeuouk instead of it, for so do the Fathers all take it, ‘Mourn.’ If weep we cannot, mourn we can, and mourn we must. Et vos non luxistis, saith the Apostle; he saith not, et vos non flevistis, ‘and you have not wept,’ but ‘and you have not mourned;’ as if he should say, That you should have done at the least. Mourning they call the sorrow which reason itself can yield. In schools they term it, Dolorem appretiativum, ‘valuing what should be,’ rating what the sins deserve though we have it not to lay down; yet what they deserve we should, and that we can. These and these sins I have committed, so many, so heinous, so often iterate, so long lain in; these deserve to bewailed even with tears of blood.
2. This we can; and this too wish with the Prophet, and so let us wish, ‘O that my head were full of water, and my eyes fountain of tears,’ to do it as it should be done! This we can.
3. And pray we can, that He Which ‘turneth the flint stone into a springing well,’ would vouchsafe us, even as dry as flints, gratiam lachrymarum, as the Fathers call it, some small portion of that grace to that end. Though weep we cannot, yet wish for it and pray for it we can.
4. And complain we can and bemoan ourselves as doth the Prophet, with a very little variation from him; ‘My leaness, my leanness,’ saith he, ‘woe is me!’ The transgressors have offended, the trangressors have grievously offended. Grievously offend we can, grievously lament we cannot, my dryness, my dryness, woe is me! Nay, we need not vary, we may even let leanness alone, his own word. For dry and lean both is our sorrow, God wot: God help us! This mourn we can.
[370/371] 5. And lastly, this we can; even humbly beseech our merciful God and Father, in default of ours to accept of the ‘strong crying and bitter tears which in the days of His flesh His blessed Son in great agony shed for us;’ for us I say that should, but are not able to do the like for ourselves, that what is wanting in ours may be supplied from thence. These by the grace of God we may do in discharge of this point. Then let us do, and it will be accepted.
And so to the last, ‘Rend your hearts’—you see first and last, to the heart we come. For indeed a meal may be missed, a tear or two let fall, and the heart not affected for all that. Esau wept, Ahab gave over his meat, their hearts both swelling and apostumate still. To shew, that though these be requisite all, yet that the passion of the heart is caput poenitentiĺ; to the heart He cometh again always, to verify that; in both and in all quod cor non facit non fit, ‘if it be not done with the heart, if the heart do it not, nothing is done.’ As in conversion the purpose of amendment must proceed from the heart, so in our contrition, the sorrow, the anger, for our turning way, must pierce to the heart; some cardiaque passion to be, the heart must suffer.
And what must it suffer? Contrition.—it should even conteri, be ‘ground to powder.’ ‘A contrite heart,’ it should be. If not that, ‘a broken heart,’ broken in pieces, though not so small. If neither of these, yet with this qualifying here, cor conscissum, with some rent, or cleft. Solutio continui, somewhat there is to be opened; not only that the apostumate matter may breathe forth, but much more, which is the proper of this part, that feeling the smart there we may say, and say it with feeling, quod malum et amarum, that an ‘evil thing it is and a bitter, to have turned away and forsaken the Lord.’ Some such thing is the heart to feel, or else nothing is done.
Now this ‘rending,’ if we mark it well, does not so properly pertain to the passion of sorrow, but rather to another, even to that of anger. ‘Their hearts rend for anger,’ it is said. And it easily appeareth, for we use violence to that we rend. Ephraim's smiting his thigh, the Publican his breast, both the acts of anger rather than heaviness. [371/372] The Apostle puts into his repentance indignation and revenge, no less than he doth sorrow.
To say truth, they are to go together. Sorrow, if it has no power to revenge, grows to be but a heavy dull passion; but if it has power, indignation and it go together. One cannot truly be said to be grieved with the thing done, but he must be angry with the doer and we, if we be sorry indeed for our sins, will be angry with the sinner. So was Job: ‘Therefore I abhor myself.’ ‘Myself,’ saith he, not so much the sin, which was done and past, and so incapable of anger, as myself for the sin. Which if it be indignation indeed in us, and not a gentle word, will seek revenge some way or other: ‘Grind to powder, break in pieces,’ at least make a rent.’ Contritio, confractio, conscissio, compuncti, somewhat it will be.
But when we return to enquire, whether and which of these two acts hath in it the very true essence of repentance? In conversion I find it not. Why? For ‘after I converted, I repented,’ saith Jeremy; and Nihil prius aut posterius seipso, ‘ nothing is after itself.’ Conversion then is not it. And when we seek for it in this latter, first, in sorrow it is not; Why? For tristitia operatur poenitentiam, saith the Apostle—mark that operatur, ‘works’ it; therefore is not it, for nihil sui causa. It remains then of force, that it is in this now of indignation. So that now, and not before, are we come to the essence of it indeed. And set down this; that Ęgau£kthsij,. ‘indignation’ is the essential passion, and ™kd…khsij, revenge,’ or this ‘rending’ here the principal and most proper act of a true turning unto God.
Now if you ask how or which way we can come to make a rend in the heart, since no hand may touch it and we live? The meaning is not literal; but that the heart by reflecting on itself is able to make such an impression on it as the Prophet may well call ‘a rent in the heart.’ At first, even by good moral respects, wherewith the very heathen set themselves in passion against vice. That it is a brutish thing, so against the nobleness of reason; that a shameful, so against public honesty; that ignominious, so against our credit and good name; that pernicious, as shutting us out of Heaven whither we would come, the greatest loss and poena damni, and pressing us [372/373] down to hell which we fainest would fly, the great torment and poena sensus, for even the heathen believed the joys and pains of another world. And yet we for all this so evil advised as to commit it.
But these are both kat’ Řuqrwpou, ‘drawn from man;’ the Christian man's is to be ™ij QeÕu, his eye to God. Who with great indignation cannot but abhor himself for the manifold indignities offered to God thereby. To the law of His justice, to the awe of His Majesty, the reverend regard of His presence, the dread of His power, the long-suffering of His love, that being a creature of so vile and brittle consistence he has not sticked for some lying vanity, some trifling pleasure or pelting profit, to offend so many ways at once all odious in themselves and able to make a rent in any heart that will weigh them aright.
Sure if we take the impression right, so God may work with us, as these may work in us, a just indignation, which if once it be in fervour, what the hand can come to it will smite, and would the heart also, if it could reach it. And if it be in kind, it will award the body to fast, and the mind to spend some time in these meditations. And this is the act of `rending' as the Prophet, of ‘revenge’ as the Apostle; and these two between them both, in Joel and in Paul, make up the full power and consummatum est of our conversion and contrition both.
It remains that we set not the Church to teach us that which we never mean to learn. but that we intend and endeavour to do as we have been taught.
And to do it now; For, as in a circle, I return to the first word ‘now,’ which giveth us our time when we should enter our first degree:—‘now therefore.’ And when all is done we shall have somewhat to do to bring this to a nunc, to a time present. But besides that ‘now’ at this time, it is the time that all things turn, now is the only sure part of our time. That which is past is come and gone, that which is to come may peradventure never come. Till tomorrow, till this evening, till an hour hence, we have no assurance. ‘Now therefore.’ Or it not ‘now,’ as near ‘now,’ with as little distance from it as may be; if not this day, this time now ensuing.
For though no time be amiss to turn in, yet seeing many [373/374] times over our heads, and still we cannot find a time to do it in, the Church as I said willing to reduce the diffusedness of our repentance at large to the certainty for some one set time, hath placed this ‘now’ upon the time now begun, and commends it to us for the time of our turning to God.
And we by a kind of form which we perform, by the altering of our diet to a less desireful, by oftener resort hither to sermons that at other times, every week twice—these make as if we did agree, seem in a manner to promise as if we would perform somewhat ‘now’ that we have not all the year before.
Sure the Christian Church ever looked otherwise, had another manner face: going in the street you should have seen by men's countenances what time of the year it was—more grave, more composed, than at other times.
Perform it then, and when out turn is done God will begin His, et poenitentiam suam gratificabitur nostrĺ ‘our repentance shall beget His.’ If we turn from the evil we have done, He will turn from us the evil that should have been done to us. Where there was Commination read with many curses, He shall turn them away and instead of them shall leave a blessing behind Him. We shall turn His very style, which at first was ad Me, and in the end is ad vestrum; and so make a change in Him.
In nullo detrimentum patiemini, saith the Apostle, ‘we shall be no losers by it.’ A less sorrow shall turn away a greater by a great deal. Weigh the endless sorrow we shall escape by it; it admits no comparison. The contristation is but prÕj érau, saith he, ‘for an hour;’ the consolation is ‘for ever and ever.’
To this lugentes there belongeth a beati, ‘blessed they that thus mourn.’ To this ‘hunger and thirst,’ a saturabimini. It is so set by the Church, the time of it, that our Lent will end with an Easter, the highest and most solemn feast in the year, the memory of Christ's rising, and the pledge of our blessed and joyful resurrection. To which, &c.