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ness of the heart in both these parts of repentance; and, First, As to a hearty sorrow for the sins and
of the time past. Is there a more usual thing than for a man to impose upon himself, by putting on a grave and demure countenance, by casting a severe look into his past conduct, and making some few pious and devout reflections upon it; and then to believe that he hath repented to an excellent purpose, without ever letting it step forth into practice, and show itself in a holy conversation? Nay, some persons do carry the deceit a little higher; who, if they can but bring themselves to weep for their sins, are then full of an ill-grounded confidence and security; never considering, that all this may prove to be no more than the very garb and outward dress of a contrite heart, which another heart, as hard as the nether millstone, may as well put on.
For, tears and sighs, however in some persons they may be decent and commendable expressions of a godly sorrow, are neither necessary nor infallible signs of a true and unfeigned repentance. Not necessary, because sometimes, and in some persons, the inward grief and anguish of the mind may be too big to be expressed by so little a thing as a tear, and then it turneth its edge in ward upon the mind; and, like those wounds of the body which bleed inwardly, generally proves the most fatal and dangerous to the whole body of sin: not infallible, because a very small portion of sorrow may make some tender dispositions melt, and break out into tears; or a man may perhaps weep at parting with his sins, as he would bid the last farewell to an old friend.
But there is still a more pleasant cheat in this affair, that when we find a deadness, and a strange kind of unaptness and indisposition to all impressions of religion, and that we cannot be as truly sorry for our sins as we should be, we then pretend to be sorry that we are not more sorry for them; which is not more absurd and irrational, than that a man should pretend to be very angry at a thing, because he did not know how to be
angry at all.
But, after all, what is wanting in this part of repentance, we expect to make up in the next: and to that purpose we put on a resolution of amendment, which we take to be as firm as a house built upon a rock; so that, let the floods arise, and the winds blow, and the streams beat vehemently upon it, nothing shall shake it into ruin or disorder. We doubt not, upon the strength of this resolve, to stand fast and unmoved amid the storm of a temptation; and do firmly believe, at the time we make it, that nothing in the world will ever be able to make us commit those sins over again, which we have so firmly resolved against.
Thus many a time have we come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, with a full purpose
of amendment, and with as full a persuasion of putting that same purpose into practice; and yet have we not all as often broke that purpose, and falsified that same persuasion, by starting aside, like a broken bow, into those very sins, which we then so solemnly and so confidently declared against.
Whereas had but any other person entered with us into a vow so solemn, that he had taken the Holy Sacrament upon it; I believe, had he but once deceived us by breaking in upon the vow, we should hardly ever after be prevailed upon to. trust that man again, although we still continue to trust our own fears, against reason and against experience.
This indeed is a dangerous deceit enough, and will of course betray all those well-meaning persons into sin and folly, who are apt to take religion for a much easier thing than it is. But this is not the only mistake we are apt to run into; we do not only think sometimes that we can do more than we can do, but sometimes that we are incapable of doing so much: an error of another kind indeed, but not less dangerous, arising from a diffidence and false humility. For how much a wicked man can do in the business of religion, if he would but do his best, is very often more than he can tell.
Thus nothing is more common than to see a wicked man running headlong into sin and folly, against his reason, against his religion, and against his God. Tell him, that what he is going to do will be an infinite disparagement to his understanding, which, at another time, he setteth no small value upon; tell him, that it will blacken his reputation, which he had rather die for than lose; tell him, that the pleasure of sin is short and transient, and leaveth a vexatious kind of sting behind it, which will very hardly be drawn forth; tell him, that this is one of those things for which God will most surely bring him to judgment, which he pretendeth to believe with a full assurance and persuasion: and yet, for all this, he shutteth his eyes against all conviction, and rusheth into the sin like a horse into battle; as if he had nothing left to do, but, like a silly child, to wink hard, and to think to escape a certain and infinite mischief, only by endeavouring not to see it.
And now, to show that the heart hath given in a false report of the temptation, we may learn from this; that the same weak man would resist and master the same powerful temptation, upon considerations of infinitely less value than those which religion offereth; nay, such vile considerations, that the grace of God cannot, without blasphemy, be supposed to add any manner of force and efficacy to them. Thus, for instance, it would be a hard matter to dress up a sin in such soft and tempting circumstances, that a truly covetous man would not resist for a considerable sum of mo money;
when neither the hopes of heaven, nor the fears of hell, could make an impression upon him before. But can any thing be a surer indication of the deceitfulness of the heart, than thus to show more courage, resolution, and activity, in an ill cause, than it doth in a good one? and to exert itself to better purpose, when it is to serve its own pride, or lust, or revenge, or any other passion, than when it is to serve God upon motives of the gospel, and upon all the arguments that have ever been made use of to bring men over to religion and a good life? And thus having shown that man is wonderfully apt to deceive and impose upon himself, in passing through the several stages of that great duty, repentance, I proceed now, in the
Second place, To inquire into the grounds and reasons of this ignorance, “and to show whence it comes to pass that man, the only creature in the world that can reflect and look into himself, should know so little of what passeth within him, and be so very much unacquainted even with the standing dispositions and complexion of his own heart.” The prime reason of it is, because we so
very seldom converse with ourselves, and take so little notice of what passeth within us: for a man can no more know his own heart, than he can know his own face, any
way than by reflection: he may as well tell over every feature of the smaller portions of his face without the help of a lookiny-glass, as he can tell all the inward bents and tendencies of his soul, those standing features and lineaments of the inward man, and know all the various changes that this is liable to from custom, from passion, and from opinion, without a very frequent use of looking within himself.
For our passions and inclinations are not always upon the wing, and always moving toward their respective objects; but retire now and then into the more dark and hidden recesses of the heart, where they lie concealed for a while, until a fresh occasion calls them forth again: so that not every transient oblique glance upon the mind, can bring a man into a thorough knowledge of all its strength and weaknesses; for, a man may sometimes turn the eye of the mind inward upon itself, as he may behold his natural face in a glass, and go away," and straight forget what manner of man he was.” But a man must rather sit down and unravel every action of the past day into all its circumstances and particularities, and observe how every little thing moved and affected him, and what manner of impression it made upon his heart; this, done with that frequency and carefulness which the importance of the duty doth require, would, in a short time, bring him into a nearer and more intimate acquaintance with himself.
But when men, instead of this, do pass away months and years in a perfect slumber of the