Of this text three points we have gone through, these three 1.proferte, 'bring forth.' be not always carrying in; 2. proferte fructus, 'bring forth fruit,' leave swill not serve; 3. proferte fructus igitur, 'bring forth fruits, therefore;' wherefore? That so you may 'escape the wrath to come.' There is no way to escape it but that. Now we go on.
'Bring forth fruits, therefore.' What fruits? 'Fruits of repentance,' fruits growing on a tree called repentance; for the fruits ever carry us to the tree that carries them. If we be to have fruit, it must be brought forth; if brought forth it must be, there must be a tree to bring it forth. That tree is repentance.
The reason that St. John in his whole sermon runs all upon this metaphor of tree and fruits, and axe and root, that he brings in repentance as a tree, I have touched formerly. It seems to refer us, this tree, to another, the forbidden tree. That tree had fruit; this tree to have so too. Tree for tree, fruit for fruit. The worthy fruits of repentance for the unworthy fruits of disobedience. The fruit of that tree was our bane, the fruit of this to be our medicine. The fruit of that made ira ventura to come, the fruit of this will turn it away.
It is true the fruits of this tree of repentance they were not primæ intentionis, first or principally intended. There was another a more excellent plant called the tree of innocence, the fruit whereof was, ne peccetis, 'not to sin at all.' There [434/435] were no fruit to that if it were to be had. But where shall we find that? Where grows the tree that bears that fruit? Who is there that sinneth not? The forbidden fruit was no sooner taken, but that tree withered and died, could never be got to grown in our nature since. No talking of that.
That tree failing, it pleased God of His great goodness to graft upon a new stock this second plant, the plant of repentance, to the end it might serve for a counter-poison, the fruit of it against the venom of the forbidden fruit. To the end also that it might serve to supply that other of innocency.--They be Elihu's words in Job, 'to restore unto man his innocency.' For quem poenitet peccasse pæne est innocens, could the heathen man say, the next degree to innocency is penitency. That if we cannot present God with the fruit of innocency at the seat of His justice, yet with the fruit of repentance we may at the throne of His grace.
And this tree will grow in our soil, our soil will bear it, and with good tending bring forth fruits, worthy fruits, which we may offer unto God and He will take it in good worth. And this is the tree we must trust to now, and blessed be God that so we may.
To keep us close to our metaphor. I. We say first, that repentance if it be right is no log, no dry piece of wood; a tree it is, hath life in it, vegetable life at the least.
II. A tree, and that hath no barren tree; such there be that for all their root bring forth no fruit at all. This tree is a bearing tree, you may say proferte to it. It will 'bring forth.'
III. 'Bring forth,' and what? That it was set for. It was not set for shadow nor for fuel, it was planted for fruit and fruit it is to bring.
IV. But will any fruit serve? No; trees there be that carry fruit but fruit of no worth, porcis comedenda for swine perhaps, not for men. Neither for meat nor medicine. Neither meet to be presented to God nor useful for the service of men. So 1. a tree; 2. a bearing tree; 3. a fruit-bearing tree; and 4. the fruit it bears worthy the tree that bears it. 1. If it be a dead stock, and no live tree. 2. If it be a tree, but bare and barren; no proferte, 'bring not forth.' 3. If it bring forth, be it what it will if it bve not fruit. 4. If it be fructus and not dignos, 'fruit,' but such as is nothing 'worth,' it comes [436/437] not hence, St. John acknowledges it not. None of his tree, some bastard slip it is, none of his setting. His lies fair before us. 'Bring forth, therefore, &c.' Of these four we are to proceed. 1. Of the tree, 2. the bearing of the tree, 3. the fruit it bears, 4. the worth of the fruit; and a word, if you will, of the fruit- time, the time of all this, which will fall out to be at this very time.
We are to treat of repentance as a tree first. To speak properly, repentance is a virtue, a moral virtue, a branch of justice corrective, and so should be delivered in moral terms, as in the Ethics other virtues use to be. It is not though, you shall seldom find it so, but most what set out in the terms of some one passion of the mind or other. And why so? For no other cause, but that we are so dead and dull when we are about it, this business, as if repentance were a very log and no quick or live tree. Which cannot be, repentance being from 'dead works,' and therefore cannot be a dead thing itself, but have a life in it. Mark it when you will, the Holy Spirit as it were of purpose still chooses to express it under some term of passion, as sorrow, fear, anger and the like, rather than the other way; rather in pathetical than in ethical terms. And this He doth in a manner continually. For passions be quick, there is life in them. Therefore their terms he chooseth to put life in us. To shew he would have us affectionate when we are about this work, and not so cold and so calm as we use to be. And indeed, these affections be the radical humour or sap; if they go up, there is hope of some fruit; if down, and rise not, no proferte to be looked for.
Now if affections give life, the quicker the affection the more life it gives. And there is none quicker than that of anger. For which cause, when time was you may remember we made it the chief ingredient into repentance. Even anger at ourselves, we were so evil advised as to bring ourselves into the anger of God. Whose anger when it comes, qui poterit, who can, 'who is able?' that is, none can, none is able 'to abide.' And why found we it so? Because most life and spirit appears in that; fear and sorrow and the rest are but dull and heavy in comparison of it.
And this I now mention the rather because the passion of [437/438] anger, if you mark it, strikes upon ira ventura in the text, doth even in a manner lead us by the hand unto it. One anger to another, God's anger to ours, God's to come to ours for the present. For by our anger for the present we turn away His to come. Our anger is a supersedeas to His. Or if you will have it in terms of justice, judging ourselves we shall not be judged of the Lord.
But our anger and generally all our affections are well compared to lime. Out of the water, where they should be hot, no heat appears in them; in water, where they should be could, there they boil and take on. Used there most where they should be least, and again least where they should be most. For take me a worldly man, and let him but overreach himself in some good bargain, in matter of profit, you will see him so angry, so out of patience with himself as often it casts him into some disease. There lo, is repentance in kind; there is that which makes it a tree, the spirit of life. Ours for the most part towards God is dull and blockish, neither life nor soul in it.
But we may not stand thus about the tree, we are called on for proferte, to bring somewhat forth; else how shall we know it is a tree and no log? Small odds or none at all between a dead stock and a barren tree, one brings forth as much as the other. It is the bringing forth that makes the difference.
Bringing forth is opposite to keeping in, we must have no kept-in repentance. Forth it must come, forth it must be brought. From whence? from within. Carrying in before, keeping in now;- all within are against, utterly against proferte.
St. John saw well which way the world would go. Men would have their repentance prove res intus peragenda, 'a matter to be sped, dispatched, shuffled up within, between their conscience and them forsooth.' And then they would tell you great matters what they are within. There within they have it, that they have, where nobody can see what they have. Under the bushel much, but nothing on the candlestick that any man can see. So instead of proferte, we should have praeferte, nothing but 'pretending,' Nay, no præferte; proferte, saith St. John, no bosom repentance; bring it out, [438/439] shew it. For upon St. John's proferte is grounded St. James's Ostende mihi 'Shew me your faith;' and it holds in repentance too. Tell them not of a repentance under the ground, down in the root, within in the hollow of the bark; they will not hear of it. Ut in poenitentia sola conscientia præferatur, sed ut aliquo etiam externo actu administretur: not only a pretence or fair show to be made of our conscience within, but some outward thing to be done and executed upon it;'- somewhat to be brought forth. Take heed of this error, as if repentance were a matter merely mental or intentional. It is not good notions in the brain, nor good motions in the mind will serve, these are but the sap within; look to the branches, what see you there? Look to proferte, what is brought forth.
'Bring forth,' then; and what? Many things does a tree bring forth, and divers of them as forerunners to the fruit, as boughs and leaves, and buds and blossoms. St. John mentions none of them, passeth by them all; stays at none till he comes to the fruits. That is it the tree was planted for. Not to make materials, not to give shadow, not for the green boughs nor the gay blossoms, nor for any thing but for the fruit. The tree is for the fruit, and but for the fruit there had been no tree. Fruit it was for which it was first set, and for which it is let grow; and when there is no longer hope of bringing forth fruit, 'down with it,' saith the Lord of the soil, why troubles it the ground any longer?' And then comes ira ventura with his axe, lays it to the root and down it goes, and into the fire it is cast; and seeing it will not serve for fruit, makes it serve for fuel--the end of all unfruitful trees. Mark it well this. It is the fruit of repentance; not repentance itself, but the fruit it is sought for. That is all in all. So not only a bearing, but a fruit-bearing repentance.
And good reason. For if the one tree, sin, if that have brought forth fruit, so must repentance, the other tree, do likewise. It is true in sin the sense, and so the soul, is first in fault. In at that gate it first comes, and out at that it must first go. But sin has her fruit in the body, so is repentance to have hers too. Repentance is to be incorporate and bring forth her fruits in the body. The soul alone not to [439/440] be put to penance, all laid upon it; the body to share, as in the pleasure so in the pain.
Perhaps in their sin that lies smothering in the thought within, never comes in actum, there may be be some question whether repentance alone may not serve. But if it has brought forth the forbidden fruit, the body, the body must have her fruit in repentance also. To both said it is, said it must be, proferte igitur fructus.
And what be these fruits? To let go the metaphor, if you would know in plain terms what fruit mean, St. Paul will tell you without any figure. He saith he preached, 'Men should turn to God and do works worthy of repentance.' Look ye, St. John's 'fruits,' St. Paul being his commenter, are nothing but 'works.' Both mean the same thing; St. Paul's 'works' are St. John's 'fruits;' fruits and works are all one. In omni opere bono fructificantes,--it s the Apostle's 'Every good work is a good fruit.' To do a work then of repentance is to bring forth the fruits of repentance.
There is no virtue at all but hath her proper act or work, but not any virtue of them all so proper as repentance. For of repentance it is said, agere poenitentium; so it is not of any besides. That in a work it may be seen to claim a property, above and before all the rest. And that it so requires an act, as no act, no repentance. Now because we have taken up a distinction that an act is but a thing transient, but a fact, that is permanent. Therefore, to make all sure, besides poenitentiam agere, you have quæ fructum non fecerit. So both agere and facere, 'act' and 'fact,' both. not thought or said, but done, actually done. Otherwise, fingitur non agitur poenitentia,--it is Augustine, 'we do but dally, all is but counterfeit.' No serious repentance if somewhat be not done.
For that somewhat is to be done, is so sure as ye shall not find any man in the midst or way to repent, but ever his first question is, 'What must I do?' And that, even by the very instinct of reason. 'Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?'--St. Paul's first words, when he began. Quid oportet me facere?--the gaoler's first words, being now a convert, to St. Paul, [440/441] when he began. As much as to say, Somewhat I am to do if I knew what. Thrice together you have this question here immediately after. Quid faciemus? say the Publicans: 'What shall we do?' say the soldiers: 'What shall we do?' say all the people to St. John when they came to the 'baptism of repentance.' All agreeing in this, all implying somewhat there was to be done, whatsoever it was, that the fruit of repentance is in the work.
And what is that work? I will answer first in general. In moral Divinity, if we go that way, the proper work of justice is to give to each his due. Of corrective justice, to do justice, to inflict correction where it is due; and to sin it is due. The difference only is; correction for the most part is done upon others. In repentance, it reflects and is done upon ourselves.
If you will put more life into it, and utter it more pathetically, go by the way of affections. Anger is the predominant affection, we said. The proper work of anger is to be avenged. 'What, shall I not visit? shall not my soul be avenged on such an indignity?' saith Indignation. As anger then the chief passion, so that the chief action. The Apostle therefore leaves not off till he have asked, 'Yea, but' quæ vindicta? 'what revenge? what punishment?' That is his last question; comes not to his period till he have shut up all with that. For till that be done all is not done. That is the very consummatum est of all true repentance.
To grow to more particulars. We sort the works of repentance as they may best answer and suit with the works of sin. Now all sin grows out of these three heads, and may be reduced to one of them, the 1. spirit, the 2. flesh 3. and the world; and are corrected each of them by his contrary. In physic it holds, every thing is cured; in justice it holds, every thing is best corrected, by his contrary. Now it is contrary much against each of these to be deprived of that it loves and delights in.
The spirit loves to be at liberty to range and scatter itself in many manner thoughts; or if it fix, to do it upon some pleasing object. Confine the spirit, make it undertake some task of devotion, set it to pray, to read, to meditate, which is a dry object and nothing pleasing to it; fix it so, [441/442] and you punish it. For nothing is more irksome. It is vexatio spiritus.
The flesh that loves to fare well--put it to fast; loves to sleep and take her ease--put it to watch, or lie hard; loves vesitiri mollibus, gird it with sackcloth; loves mirth and good company--make it retire and sit pensive: abridge it of these all or any, and you punish it more or less I warrant you.
The world and the worldling, they love to part with as little as they can. Charge them with anything that will be to them chargeable, it punishes them shrewdly, and is to them a punishment.
Thus then these three may be met with, each of them if they have made a fault. For neglect of serving of God, with some task of devotion more than ordinary. For fullness of bread with that truly sacra fames, the exercising of fasting. For looseness of life, with works tending to the taking down of the flesh, and making it less fleshly. For taking that which was others, to depart with that which was our own. For want of bowels with works of mercy. In a word, with suffering what we would not, for doing what we should not. So punishing our evil concupiscence in that it is so bent to, and making it leave that for which it left God. So the triplicity stands thus: For spiritual sins, prayer and works of devotions; for fleshly, works pertaining to castigo corpus meum; for wordly, alms, and works of charity and compassion. Let me shew you them briefly.
For the first. Simon Magus went not through with his bargain, did but think the Holy Ghost had been ware for his money; all was but thinking, went no farther than the spirit. St. Peter prescribes him what to do, to fall to pray; 'Pray,' saith he, 'if it be possible this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee.' Prayer serves where it goes no farther than thought.
For the second. The King of Nineveh and his people, they fell to fasting on all hands. What was their sin? Nahum will best tell us that; he wrote the 'burden of Nineveh.' This it was; 'because of the fornications of the harlot.' For that kind of fleshly sin that was the proper fruit.
For the third. Our example shall be the King of Babylon. He had been a mighty oppressor of his people. [442/443[ There have ye now a worldly sin. 'Break off thine iniquity with mercy to the poor,' is Daniel's prescript to him. That is the right fruit for sins of that nature. All may be comprised under these three: 1. works of devotion, as prayer; 2. works of chastisement of the body, as fasting; 3. works of mercy, as alms. These three between them make up the corrective or penal part of repentance.
Prayer is a fruit of repentance. 'For this cause,' saith the penitential Psalm, even form this, and for no other cause, 'shall every one that is so disposed make his prayer unto thee.' The penitent Publican's first moving was, 'he went up to the Temple to pray.' Let them pray and say, 'Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not over Thine inheritance to be a reproach unto the heathen,' saith Joel in his repentance. 'Let them cry mightily unto the Lord,' say they of Nineveh in theirs. And the prayers of David, Jonas, Manasses, for their own sins; of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemias, for the sins of the land; and in word, the Penitential Psalms shew this, that were chosen for no other end but to be task for penitential persons. There is one fruit.
Alms is another. A fruit, and so by thy name of 'fruit' expressly called, Rom. 15.28. For by mercy shewed, sins are forgiven, saith Solomon; he that seek mercy is to shew mercy. Daniel you heard did prescribe it to no less person than the King himself at Babylon. And the same at Jerusalem was a fruit too; witness Esay fifty-eighth, 'break thy bread to the hungry,' made by him there a part of true repentance. And Zachee shewed as much in his own happy practice upon himself of our Saviour Christ's high approbation. There is another fruit.
Fasting is a third fruit; and that a special one, and so hath always been reputed. It appeareth by the three Kings. King David, who was a religious prince; not only by him, but by King Ahab, who was scarce sound in religion .Nor by them only, but by the King of Nineveh. a heathen man, who even by the light of nature brought forth this fruit.
We name it last, but it is indeed first--first in nature, first quoad nos. First in nature, as opposite to the first transgression, which was by eating. First, I am sure, quoad nos, speaking of us and our country. Excess that way in fare and [443/444] feeding, hath been and is counted our gentile vitium, our 'national fault.' So no fruit that our nation is more bound to bring forth than it. For esca ventri and venter escis, 'meat for the belly, and the belly for meat.' it no where reigneth so much. This is a third fruit.
A fruit, which if we would frame ourselves to bring forth in kind, there would come with it both the other fruits besides. For if we could so fast as we should, it would abate lusts certainly, which otherwise, keep the body high, you will hardly bring low;--that fruit. And if we could so fast it would mend our devotion much, our prayers would not be so full of yawning as we find them;--that fruit. And if we could so fast, there would be the more left to enable us to be so much the more plentiful in alms that we be;--that fruit. So as a good increase or yield would come of this third fruit well brought forth.
These three in special are chosen out, but in general any as well as these. There is a way how it is possible, there is not a virtue of them all but you may make the work of it a fruit of repentance. In moral matters it holds ever, finis dat forman, 'the end, that gives the form,' and so the true essence to every work; insomuch as the work is reckoned a fruit, not of that virtue from whence it proceeds, by which it is done, but of that virtue to which it refers, for whose end it is done.
Nay it fall out so as an act of virtue, as prayer, fasting, alms, done for a vicious end, suppose for vain-glory, loseth his own kind, and becomes the proper act of that vice it is done for. So powerful a thing is the end, in moralibus. Whereby it comes to pass, the work of any virtue, be it what it will, undertaken with a mind and intent, or as we say animo corrigendi, enjoined eo nomine, referred to that, alters the nature and becomes a work of justice corrective, and so a fruit of repentance.
For even in these three before remembered, so it goes. Alms of itself is a work of charity; fasting, properly an act of the virtue gkratea, 'abstinence;' prayer, of is own nature, a work of religious worship. But alms done some way to amerce ourselves, fasting done animo castigandi corpus, prayer imposed as a task work, to spend so much time, to stand so long bent at it; all these referred still with an eye to [444/445] that, change their nature and become acts penal, and so fruits of repentance.
Of fruits we said at first two uses there are; first, to be offered as a present, so Jacob sent them to the governor of Egypt. For the first; we have in all but three things to offer unto God, to present to honour Him with; the 1. spirit of soul, 2. the body, and 3. our worldly goods. 1.The offering of the soul is the pouring it out in prayers and other works of that kind. 2. Of the body, the chastening it by exercises that way tending. 3. Of our goods, by distributing and doing good with them in alms and offerings.
Supposing the sin-offering in the Law best to suit with repentance, as it doth. 1. 'A sorrowful spirit is a sacrifice to God,' that we know; 2. and no reason but a chastened body should be so likewise; 3. and why the price and charges of the sacrifice should not come into the reckoning I see not, which was part of their worldly state, which being distributed and done good withal, in meat and drink offerings, this the Apostle calleth 'a sacrifice wherewith God is well-pleased.' The first use of these fruits brought forth.
The second use we spake of was, as they are medicinable. This difference there is between the punishment of justice and repentance. Justice otherwhiles destroys the delinquent, so doth repentance never but saves always. So it is more like the punishment of physic than of law. For physic, though it be a cure, yet a penance it is to the body if we deal with it throughly, and go through with it. And repentance is the physic of the soul and body both. Sit obsecro sanatio, saith Daniel, 'let there be a cure done,' when he exhorted him to repent. Both are a cure; as corrective of what is past, so preservative, or if you will you may call it corrective too of what is to come. When the sinner is corrected, hath correction given him for the former, he correcteth his ways, amends his life for ever after. Castigo corpus serves for what hath been done; in servitutum redigo serves, that he do it no more. Both to wreak ourselves for so often offering so foul indignities to heaven and the God of heaven in our former bad course of life, and to keep under the flesh, and hold the concupiscence in awe, that it run not again into the former riot. pp.445/446 This latter, we call 'amendment of life;' which is not repentance, for it pertains rather to prÒnoia than to mht£noia, being yet to come, but it never fails to follow it infallibly, insomuch as if it do not, nothing is done.
For I report me to you; let it be but known to the flesh that this same light or slight repentance shall not serve the turn, but to a round reckoning it shall come and make full account to taste of these fruits throughly, without hope of being dispensed with, whether it will not take off the edge of our appetite, and make it more dull and fearful to offend? On the other side, let it be considered, whether this be not to lay the bridle on the neck of concupiscence to pour itself into all riot, if sinning it know it shall be dispatched with any repentance, never so short and shallow, as do no more so, and all is well? Whether, I say, this will not make all the sap go down as we shall never see fruit come; nay, whether it be not to destroy fruit and tree and all?
Verily they that for pure zeal and indignation at themselves for their sins never shed a tear, nor miss a meal nor break a sleep, nor so not suffer nor part with aught; it may seem a question, whether they think not St. John here overseen in pressing that for so needful which they can so easily dispense with.
But if when we come to castigo corpus, there we leave St. Paul; when to 'neither eating nor drinking,' there we leave St. John; and when to flevit amare, there we leave St. Peter; and when to p_nqj and kath»feia, changing our 'mirth into pensiveness,' there we leave St. James; I marvel what manner repentance we will leave before we have done, or what shall become of our fruits here!
In our repenting, commonly we make such haste, as we take away before the fruits come. But if there happen to come any, is not this even our case? Our tears if any, dry straight; our prayers, if any, quickly tedious; our alms, indeed pitiful; our fasts, fast or loose upon any least occasion; and so our repentance, if any, poenitentia poenitenda, 'a repentance needing another, a new, a second appearance to repent us of it.' To repent us of our repentance no less than of our sin itself. So that if any fruit, fruit of no worth. And if the fruit be of no worth, no more is the tree; unworthy both. [446/447] Thus we are not yet where we should be, till into fructus we have added dignos.
Nay then, if you fall to talk of worthiness, we shall have satisfaction up again. And had we not best then to ask first, Are any worthy? For, if there be none such, bid St. John beware how he talk of 'worthy fruits;' bid St. Paul beware how he speak of 'worthy works of repentance.' If none such be, they did ill to clog the bill with any such word. But they knew well what they said; therefore such there be sure, get them where we can.
Only when we say worthy it would be understood cum grano salis. How worthy? in what sense? whither referred that we mistake not. I demand then first, Shall we put them into the balance to weigh the worthiness of our fruits with the unworthiness of our sins, and the consequent of our sins 'the wrath of God;' the dignity of the one with the indignity of the other, and think by their dignity to satisfy God's just indignation? I trow not. At this beam, no fruit of ours will hold weight; none so found worthy; no, not if we could, I say not shed or pour out, but even melt into tears, and every tear a drop of blood. No; non sunt condignæ passiones, saith the Apostle, 'we can suffer nothing worthy our sins,' but that we cannot suffer ira ventura, 'the wrath of God.' The infinite incomparable high worth of Him That in our sin is wronged, the foul contempt that is therein offered, are far above the worth of any of our fruits -weigh them down as any feather. Why all Lebanon, saith the Prophet, is not sufficient to find wood, nor all the 'beasts upon a thousand hills' not enough for a sacrifice, 'Tekel, Tekel, too light all.' Take them out of the scales, away with them, non sunt digni, in that sense. In which sense not the wicked prodigal child only, but even the good Centurion, nay then, even St. John Baptist here himself, cry all, non sum dignos in this sense belongs to the fruits of no tree, but the tree of the Cross of Christ, to His sufferings and to none but His.
Yet I wot well there hath been another manner estimate by some men of their own fruits, but they weighed them with their own false weights, and made them a discharge both from poena and from culpa, and that toties quoties. Nay then inventus est plus habens, [447/448] they found a farther surplusage too of I know not what besides. What of that? Christ's caveat is here to take place, that weeding out the tares we take heed we pluck not up together good corn and all. That to avoid certain worms that may hap breed in the fruit, if it be not the better looked to, we beat not all the fruit off the tree, and leave it all naked and bare, no fruits at all; and for fear of teaching a proud, teach a fruitless repentance. Well; though not so compared, not this way, yet must we have fructus dignos.
How worthy then? referred whither? As worthy as the possibility of our nature will reach to, as our soil will bear or hath yielded; as the saints and servants of God are reported to have brought forth in former ages; -what say you to that dignos? That indeed were somewhat worth, if it might be had. They? they have become 'like bottles in the smoke,' their 'knees have grown weak through fasting,' they have 'all wet their pillows with their tears;' they have 'restored bribes, and that fourfold,' given in alms at once, 'half of all that ever they had.' This were indeed somewhat worth; but of this, I doubt our worthiness will be found short; or rather I doubt not, I dare not put it upon this dignos neither.
And yet were there in us any portion of that heroically free spirit, of that Christian magnanimity that was in the fathers of our faith,--the Apostle bears them witness that 'to their powers, nay and beyond their powers, they shewed themselves willing'--any never so poor fruit would not content us. But we, neither to our power nor a great deal short of it, endeavour ourselves, any never so slight and slender will serve us well enough.
I wonder what we think? Do we think to post God off with any, it skills not what fruit? with wind-falls, with worm-eaten stuff? Esay's 'sour grapes?' Jeremy's 'rotten figs?' Nothing comes amiss. Hold we Him in so vile account as any is good enough for Him, it is well with Him if He get any? Malachi tells us otherwise, 'That he holds it in great scorn;' bids us 'go offer such fruit to our Prince, and see if He will take it well.' Zachary tells us so likewise; 'A godly price,' saith he, 'they value Me at.' Goodly [448/449] fruit is it not they present Me with? Nay sure we must have dignos too; some worth there would be.
Is there any other way to take our dignos by? Compared with the Justice of God--Not so; nor with the great heroes of our nature, not so neither. Nor indeed are they said worthy of either of these, but how? Nor indeed are they said worthy of either of these, but how? Only 'fruits worthy of repentance;' that is, such as may well beseem persons as be truly penitent. Laying by sin, as it is an aversion from an infinite good, for so it is infinite, admits no measure or degree; but considering it as it is a conversion to the creature and that more or less; so it falls within compass of more or less worthy.
Say I this of myself? Saith not God's Law the same secundum mensuram æstimationemque deliciti, and pro mensura peccati? Is it not a clause there, repeated more than once? If there be a measure of the one, so is there of the other; if 'an analogy of faith,' of repentance too, why not? And to that we to apply ourselves, in the magis or minis dignos of our fruits. This is once; repentance may be too much, one may go too far in it; that will be granted, I know. And if too much, then too little, and we may fall too short the other way, that I am sure of. Which part we should offend on to choose, ¥gan in ¢gan£kthsij will soon teach us, that it would be home; rather with the more than with the less. In the Corinthian's case there it was too much, he was in danger to 'be swallowed up with sorrow.' In Miriam's case again it was too little, for, though she were right penitent for her folly committed, yet because the quality of her offence required a larger and more worthy repentance, she was shut out of the host yet seven days longer, and then and not before received to pardon. If there be an ultra and a citra, then is there a tenus; if too much and too little, then is there a sufficit, 'enough.' And that is the dignos we seek for.
But who shall tell us this tenus what it is? Who shall say suffict? I think it is not best to say it to ourselves, it s not safe that. We are like enough to give ear to propitus esto tibi, to spare and favour ourselves, and to think that worthy that is not; to dismiss the matter with a Do no more so, never to follow it to sentence. Or if we do, to reprieve ourselves and stay the execution. It hath been held no way safe for us [449/450] to make our own assessment, and as safe away as could be would ever be taken for the soul. Better some other body do it; and who will that other body be?
In the Law, everyman was not left to Himself. The 'offering for sin,' which was to them a fruit of repentance, it was rated ever, ever taxed dnw[b by the Priest. According to his ordering so it went; he made the estimate, how much was enough, what would serve. And here now in St. John's time, which was the interval or passage as it were, between the Law and the Gospel, at the 'baptism of John,' they knew not what to do, they were not so well skilled; to St. John they come, with their quid faciemus? And 'what shall we do?' All three one after another, the publicans, the soldiers, the common sort, and they had all their answers severally; one answer served not all, several kinds of sin require several sorts of fruit. And under the Gospel, there we see for the Corinthian St. Paul said, Sufficit viro huic; 'Thus much is enough,' this will serve; his conscience may be quiet, I restore him to the Church's peace. And the Canons penitential which were made in the times under the persecution, the very best times of the Church, lay forth plainly what is to be followed and observed in this kind.
And sure I take it to be an error added to the former, to think the fruits of repentance and the worth of them to be a matter any common man can skill of well enough, needs never ask St. John or St. Paul what he should do, knows what he should do as well as St. Paul or St. John either; and that it is not rather a matter wherein we need the counsel and direction of such as are professed that way. Truly it is neither the least nor the last part of our learning to be able to give answer and direction in this point. But therefore laid aside and neglected by us, because not sought after by you. Therefore not studied but by very few, quia nemo nos interrogat, because it is grown out of request quite.
We have learned, I know not where, a new, a shorter course, which flesh and blood better likes of; to pass the whole course of our life, and in the whole course of our life not to be able to set down where or when or what we did, when we did that which we call repenting; what fruits there [450/451] came of it, what those fruits might be worth. And but even a little before our death--and as little as may be--not till the world has given us over, then, lo, to come to our quid faciemus? To ask 'what we should do' when we are able to do nothing. And then must one come, and as we call it, speak comfortably to us, that is, minister to us a little Divinity laudanum, rather stupefactive for the present than doing any sound good; and so take our leaves to go meet with ira ventura.
This way, this fashion of repenting, St. John knew it not; it far from his fructus dignos; St. Paul knew it not, it is far from his opera digna; and I can say little to it, but I pray God it deceive us not. It is not good trying conclusions about our souls. 'Here is the plain way,' this is the straight path laid out before us by him who was 'sent to prepare the ways of the Lord, and to make his paths straight;' and go we which way we will, we shall hear the voice behind us, crying to Haec est via, ambulate in ea. Set your tree, bring forth your fruits, see to them; altogether unworthy they would not be, somewhat worth, raised to some degree of worthiness.
Quod potuit fecit did Christ accept Mary Magdalene's case, and quod habuit dedit in the poor widow's case, with her but 'two mites.' We doing our endeavours to raise them to what degree we can, He for His part will not be behind, but relieve and help us out. For expectat Dominus ut miseratur nostri, 'God even waits that He may have mercy on us.' And therefore laying away His rigour, will not go exactly to work, but be ready to relieve and repute that worthy that is not all out so. So in the Church of Sardis we find He saith, Non invenio opera tua plean, 'their works were not found to have the full poise,' yet notwithstanding He saith, Digni enim sunt, 'the parties found worthy' for all that.
All the worth is not instrinsical to the thing itself; when all is said that can be said, that which makes all full, the chief part of their worth, lieth in digni habebuntur. It is therefore Christ's counsel, Orate. ut digni habeamini, Pray, they may be found in so good a degree towards it, as God may count them, and so accounting make them; Quanquam sat digni si quos dignatur, [451/452] saith the Christian poet. In one chapter, we have them both, in the second Thessalonians, chap. 1. counted worthy at the fifth verse, made worthy at the eleventh verse. Both come to one. Two words there are in the Greek, ¢xiÒthj and ¢xwsij; two in Latin, dignitas and dignatio and there is dignatio ex dignitate, so is there dignitas ex dignatione. And that is it; worthy is the fruit He so esteemeth; but upon the point, rather dignatione Ejus, than dignitate suâ, rather 'by His deigning or dignifying them, than by the instrinsical, by their own dignity they have in themselves.'
Yet let us never think, be so base as to conceive, He will hold for such any at all, let them be what they will, it skills not how worthless, how far from all degrees towards it. No; but such as wherein He sees some conscience made, some care taken, some zealous desire, some earnest endeavour appear. Some proffers, at least, towards those seven degrees in 2 Cor.7, which may serve to assure ourselves and to show the world, we dally not with repentance but make a serious matter of it and go to it in good earnest; in witness whereof, this and this fruit we have brought forth. Somewhat like yet, somewhat beseeming persons truly penitent, whereto He would say, Sufficit tibi gratia Mea, 'My grace is sufficient for you.' And in that we may rest.
It remains we examine ourselves touching these points; 1. Our repentance, is it like a live tree, and not a dull heavy mood, neither life nor soul in it? 2. Have we set it on growing, brings it forth at all? 3. Is it fruit it brings forth? For whatsoever else it is, it is not for St. John's turn. 4. The fruit it brings, is it aught worth for the quantity, the quality, the well lasting of it? God grant it be so, and thanks be to God if it be so!
But this proferte will ask some time. Jonah's repentance was not like Jonah's gourd. His gourd was up in a night, suddenly; tress come not up so quickly, they require more time than so. Never trust a repentance repentine, no sudden flash or brunt. It is altogether an error to think repentance is a matter of no more than to be dispatched in a moment.
There be two words, words of weight; one is St. Peter's, [452/453] and that is cërÁhsai e"j met£nnoian, 'to withdraw, go aside, to retire and be private, to sequester ourselves to our repentance;' the other is St. Paul's, sccol£xeinn prosencÍ ka nhstea 'to take us a time, no, to make us a time, a vacant time, a time of leisure to intend fasting and prayer,' two fruits of repentance. I ask then, did we never cwrÁsai, 'withdraw ourselves to that end? What was the place where we so did? Did we at any time scol£xein, 'take any such vacant time?' What was the time and when, when we so did? I doubt ours had been rather a flash, a qualm, a brunt, than otherwise, rather a gourd of repentance than any growing tree. A time there must needs be for this proferte.
Now the time St. John gives is but while ira, ventura, 'the wrath to come,' is in coming. Ira ventura, are two words: in that it is 'wrath' and 'God's wrath,' there is just matter of fear; in that it is ventura, to come, but to come, and not yet come, there is hope yet some good may be done before `that come that is to come.'
If these fruits come, the wrath when it comes will not come upon us but pass by us, and not touch any fruit-bearing tree. To take a time then.
Now there cannot be a fitter time than that the Church has set us forth, that is now, at this time of the year. For now is the time of the year to plant in. In the picture of the months, in this next month, you will see nothing but men grafting and setting trees: it is the husbandry and the business of the month, wonderfully fitly chosen therefore that this tree may keep time with the rest. And now is the time that the sap goes up; so as there could not be a fitter time for St. John to call upon us. Look abroad, they begin now to 'bring forth;' now best speaking for proferte. To which proferte, differte is clean contrary. Defer it not then but take the time while it is in season.
And with high wisdom is this time so set that the time of our repentance, the forty days of it, end in the Passover, in the passing of ira ventura over us, as did the destroying angels over the houses in Egypt. That the mortifying of sin might end in the rising of Christ in us. The use of fruit is fruition; and this is the fruition in this life, even the fruits of the Spirit, fear and love and joy in the Holy Spirit. And in the life to [453/454] come, the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of Paradise; instead of ira ventura, vita ventura, gaudia ventura, 'the glory and joy eternal of the life to come.' To which life, glory, and joy, bring us Almighty God.'