Page images
[ocr errors]

tion to the first state of friendship; to love him as well, to think as well of him. And this is only due to them that repent, and ask pardon, and make amends as they can : for then the proper office of thy charity is to pity thy brother's infirmity, to accept his sorrow, to entertain his friendship and his amends, and to put a period to his repentance for having troubled thee. For his satisfaction and restitution hath taken away the material part of the injury, and thou art as well as thou wert before, or at least he would fain have thee so; and then there can be nothing else done, but what is done by thy charity; and by this thou must bear a share in his sorrow, believe his affirmation, accept his repentance, cancel his guilt, take off the remanent obli

gations, remove suspicion from him, entertain no jealousies - of him, but, in all things, trust him where charity is not imprudent.

For it is not always safe to employ a person that hath deceived my trust, and done me wrong. But if you perceive, that he may wisely be trusted and employed, charity must take off the objection of his former failing. If, by repentance, he hath cut off the evil that he did thee, and that evil by which he did it, then, if you refuse to employ him, because he once did you wrong, it is revenge and not prudence. If he offended thee by pride, by anger, by covetousness; it is not enough that he say, “Sir, forgive me; I will make you amends :' it is enough to make you pardon him, and perfectly to be reconciled to him : but, unless his repentance hath destroyed his covetousness, his anger, or his pride,—the evil principle remains, and he will injure thee again. Which thing if wisely and without pretences thou canst really perceive,-to trust or to employ him in such instances, in which he formerly did injure thee, is not prudent nor safe; and no charity ties thee to be a fool, and to suffer thyself to be tempted. Only be careful, that you do not mistake jealousy for prudence, and so lose the rewards of charity; lest, when we think ourselves wise, we become fools.

QUESTION II. How long, and how often, must we proceed in our Forgiveness,

and accept of the Repentance of injurious Persons ?

To this we need no answer, but the words of our blessed Saviour o: “ If thy brother trespass against thee seven times in a day, and, seven times in a day, turn again to thee, saying, “I repent,' thou shalt forgive him.” Now this seven times in a day,' and seventy times seven times,' is not a determined number, but signifies infinitely. “Seven times in a day do I praise thee,” said David. From this definite number some ages of the church took their pattern for their canonical hours. It was well enough, though in the truth of the thing he meant, • I will praise thee continually :' and so must our pardoning be. “For if Christ hath forgiven thee but seventy times seven times,” saith St. Austin P, “ then do thou also stop there; let his measure be thine. If he denied to spare thee for the next fault, do thou so to thy brother.” But St. Jerome 9 observes concerning this number, that • Christ requires us to forgive our brother seventy times seven times in a day, that is, four hundred and ninety times ; meaning, that we must be ready to forgive him oftener than he can need it. Now, though he that sins frequently, and repents frequently, gives great reason to believe that his repentances are but pretended, and that such repentances before God signify nothing ;-yet that is nothing to us; it may be, they are rendered ineffectual by the relapse, and that they were good for the present, as Ahab's was: but whether they be or be not, yet if he be not ashamed to repent so often, we must think it no shame and no imprudence to forgive him; and to forgive him so, that he be restored entirely to his former state of good things; that is, there must be no let in thy charity; if there be in prudence, that is another consideration : but his second repentance must be accepted as well as his first, and his tenth as well as his fifth. And if any man think it hard so often to be tied to accept his repentance, let him understand, that it is, because

• Luke, xvii. 4.

p De verbis Domini. 9 Ut toties peccanti fratri dimitteres in die, quoties ipse peccare non posset.

himself hath not yet been called to judgment: he hath not heard the voice of the exactor, he hath not yet been delivered to the tormentors, nor summed up his own accounts, nor beheld with amazement the vast number of his sins. He that hath, in deepest apprehension, placed himself before the dreadful tribunal of God, or felt the smart of conscience, or hath been affrighted with the fears of hell, or remembers how often he hath been spared from a horrible damnation,will not be ready to strangle his brother, and afflict him for a trifle, because he considers his own dangers of perishing for a sum which can never be paid, if it never be forgiven.

QUESTION III. What indications and Signs of Repentance are we to require

and to accept as sufficient ? I answer, that for this circumstance there is a proper use and exercise of our charity, as in the direct forgiveness. We are not to exact securities and demonstrations mathematical, nor to demand the extremity of things. If the enemy be willing to make an amends, accept of his very willingness for some part, and his amends for the other. Let every good act be forwardly entertained, and persuade you heartily, that all is well within. If you can reasonably think so, you are bound to think so; for after all the signs of repentance in the world, he may deceive you ; and whether his heart be right or not, you can never know but by the judgment of charity; and that you may better use betimes. For whenever your returning enemy says, he does repent,' that is, gives human and probable indications of his repentance, you cannot tell but that he says true; and, therefore, you must forgive. The words of Christ are plain : « If he returns, saying, I do repent:' then it is a duty, and we can stay no longer; for he that confesses his sin, and prays for pardon, hath done great violence and mortification to himself; he hath punished his faultr: and then there is nothing left to be done by the offended party, but to return to mercy and charity. But in this affair it is remarkable, what we are commanded by our blessed Lord: “Agree with thine ad

Pænæque genus vidişse precantem.


versary quickly," &c. “ lest thou be constrained to pay the utmost farthing :" plainly intimating, that, in reconcilements and returns of friendship, there is supposed always something to be abated, something clearly forgiven : for if he pay thee to the utmost farthing, thou hast forgiven nothing. It is merchandise, and not forgiveness, to restore him that does as much as you can require. “Be not over righteous," saith Solomon; that is, let charity do something of thy work, allow to her place, and powers and opportunity. It was an excellent saying of St. Bernard's 8: “ God is never called • the God of revenges,' but the Father of mercies;' because the original of his revenges he takes from us and our sins ; but the original and the causes of his forgiveness, he takes from himself.” And so should we, that we restore him that did us wrong, to our love again; let it not be wholly, because he hath done all that can be required, but something upon our own account; let our mercy have a share in it; that is, let us accept him readily, receive him quickly, believe him easily, expound all things to the better sense, take his word, and receive his repentance, and forgive him at the beginning of it; not to interrupt his repentance, but to encourage it: and that is the proper work of charity in the present article.

QUESTION IV. Whether, after every Relapse, must the Conditions of his

Pardon be harder than before ? I answer, that I find no difference in the expression of our blessed Saviour. It is all one after seven times; and after seventy times, and after seventy times seven times; if he shall return, saying, I repent,'--that is all is here required. But then, because by saying “I repent,' is not meant only the speaking it, but also doing it, it must at least be probable that he does so, as well as say so: therefore, although as soon as he does so, so soon you must forgive him, yet

1. After the first forgiveness, and at the second and third offence, we are not obliged so readily to believe his

s Recte non pater judiciorum vel ultionum dicitur, sed pater misericordiarum : quod miserendi causam sumat ex proprio, judicandi et ulciscendi magis sumat ex nostro, scilicet ex nostris peccatis. Serm. 5. de Natali.

saying, as after the first offence; at which time, although he did violence to justice and charity, yet he had not broken his faith, as now he hath: and, therefore, the oftener he hath relapsed, the more significations he ought to give of the truth of his repentance. “ He that is pardoned, and sins again, cannot expect so easily to be acquitted the third time, as at the first,” saith St. Basilt, At the first fault we must believe his saying, because we know nothing to the contrary: but when he hath often said so, and it is seen so often that he did not say true, he that is forgiven, and then relapses, is obliged to do more the next time he pretends repentance.

2. Although we are bound to forgive him entirely, even after a thousand injuries, if he does truly repent; yet this person cannot expect to be employed, or to be returned to all his former capacities of good; because it is plain, he hath not cured the evil principle, the malicious heart, or the evil eye,--the slanderous tongue, or the unjust hand-his covetous desire, and his peevish anger: and then, though we must be ready in heart to receive him to all the degrees of his former condition, when he shall be capable, and is the same man that ought to be employed : yet till he be so, or appears so in prudent and reasonable indications, he must be pardoned heartily, and prayed for charitably, but he must be handled cautiously. It must not be harder for thee to pardon him after ten thousand relapses and returns : but after so much variety of folly and weak instances, it will be much harder for him to say and prove he does repent. But in this, our charity must neither be credulous nor morose ; too easy, nor too difficult; but it is secure, if it pardons him, and prays for him, whether he repents or no.

3. There are some significations of repentance, which charity never can refuse; but must accept the offending person as a convert and a penitent,

1. Such is open and plain confession of the fault, with the circumstances of shame and dishonour; for he that does so much rudeness to himself as to endure the shame of his sin, rather than not to return to duty, gives great testimony that he returns in earnest. And this can no ways be abated,

+ Veniam delicti assequutus, si iterum peccat, gravius judicium sibi præparats Sumn, Moral,

« PreviousContinue »