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though too many, God knows, submit to them out of fear of the temporal laws only, and not out of submiilion to Jesus Christ, and obedience to his ministers; yet as sure as any thing we preach is true, this is true, That they who have been guilty of any
scandalous crimes, and do not repent, and openly, if required, confess their lin and their sorrow for having done despite to the grace of God, for having broken their baptismal vow, for having brought a scandal upon their holy religion; such persons have no hopes of mercy and pardon from God.
And those who find ways to escape the censures of the church, by leaving their place of abode, or their country; by prevạiling with officers, whose duty it is to present them, to pass them by; or by any other way; such perfons are in the same sad condition; they are exposed to the wrath of God, and no man can promise them any hopes of pardon without publick acknowledgement of their crime, and such as the church appoints.
On the other hand :-All such who have had the misfortune to fall grievously, and come to be truly humbled for their offences, and submit to take shame to themselves, and to give glory to God in a free confession of their crimes; acknowledging that God is more to be feared than all other powers on earth, and his judgments dreaded more than death,(which is truly giving glory to God) whoever does
this in fincerity may be confident, that the absolution he receives here will most ceratinly be confirmed in heaven.
From all which you may fee, that if the ministers of Christ's kingdom should neglect their duty, and should forbear to call notorious offenders to publick penance; though they should (which God forbid) be partial, and favour some for their own, or for their friends' fake, or for the place they bear in the world; yet this would indeed be no favour at the last, unless we shall think it an advantage to avoid that shame in this life, which we have justly deserved, to meet with shame, and misery, and confusion of face, for ever and ever, in the next world.
Shame and forrow are the due reward of our fins, and we must suffer them either here or hereafter. And we know that those who have found ways to avoid the censures of the church, and the shame and affliction that at. tend them, have visibly been given up to bring double shame and sorrow upon themfelves in this life, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
It was a just sense of this which has ever prevailed with wise men, when they have fallen into any grievous crime, not only to submit with patience, and great meekness, to the judgment of their spiritual governors, but even to desire to be made publick examples, that they might obtain the prayers of all
good Christians, that they might receive absolution, and have one of the greatest comforts and assurances which Christ has given to his church.
They did not look upon themselves, nor did ever any good Christian look upon them as worse, but in a much better and/happier condition, for having submitted to shame for the glory of God.
And I hope a time will come, when all Christians will have the same thoughts of the discipline of the church; which God grant in his own good time!
In the mean time, we must not neglect to tell you the truth, whether you receive it or not; for what is it we get by your obedience, but only the blessing of being instrumental in saving your souls? We desire not to lord it over your consciences; we desire you to submit to the laws of Jesus Christ, not to any rules of ours, which he has not plainly warranted; in one word, we only desire to be helpers forward of your salvation, which you all hope for, as well as we.
To conclude:- It is to be hoped, that all such as submit to do penance, submit out of a principle of conscience, and in hopes thereby to find God, for Christ's fake, more favourable to them.
But because we are but too apt to deceive ourselves, I must add further, (for the fake of all such unhappy people as do things wor
thy thy of publick penance) that their submission and outward tokens of sorrow will not be accepted as any amends for their crimes, unless it proceed from an humble and contrite heart.
Hear how the penitent in the text speaks: And Achan answered Joshua, and said unto him, Indeed I have finned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done.
This humble confession shews, that it came from his very heart; and the danger he exposed himself to by making it fhews, that he feared the sentence and judgments of God more than either shame or death.
We have no power to inflict such punishment, nor any temporal evil; therefore we had need to be more earnest with penitents, not to deceive the church or themselves with false appearances.
People may submit out of fear, and forget all their promises of amendment when that is over; but then they forget their own souls.
Penance is designed to make men better; and if it does not do that, it were better it had never been performed.
If an inward change of heart, and an outward reformation of manners, do not follow, all your promises are lies, and all your sorrow is vile hypocrisy.
And therefore a person that has any fear of God in his heart, after he has humbly confessed his fault, begged God's pardon for
having done dishonour to his authority; alked forgiveness of the people; obtained absolution from the priest, the minister of Christ; he will, from that day forward, resolve to live more circumspectly; pray constantly to God for grace, without which we can do nothing; attend the church and service of God duly; avoid all temptations to impiety, and especially drunkenness, which makes way for all manner of villanies; and if he falls into any one sin, he will immediately repent and forsake it, that it may not make way for a greater. .
And he that does so, will have great reason to bless God that he has had his lot in a part of the Catholick church, where the discipline is kept up, the censures executed, and fin openly, as well as in private, rebuked.
And all wise and good men will be so far from despising those that thus humble themfelves, that they will receive them with open arms, and esteem them the better, as the father did his prodigal son.
And now, I pray you all to join with me in these petitions, That God of his goodness would be pleased to continue to this part of Christ's church, the power and the fpirit of discipline; that he would restore godly discipline to all Christian churches; and 'that he would vouchsafe, unto all that are engaged in sinful courses, a true sense of their errors, true forrow and repentance