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any sober person owns; and this I say, that nature alone cannot bring us to God; without the regeneration of the Spirit, and the grace of God; we can never go to heaven: but because this nature was not spoiled by infants, but by persons of reason, and we are all admitted to a new covenant of mercy and grace, made with Adam presently after his fall, that is, even before we were born, as much as we were to a participation of sin before we were born, no man can perish actually for that, because he is reconciled by this. He that says, every sin is damnable, and deserves the anger of God, says true; but yet some persons that sin of mere infirmity, are accounted by God in the rank of innocent persons. So it is in this article. Concupiscence remains in the regenerate, and yet concupiscence hath the nature of sin, but it brings not condemnation. These words explain the former. Original imperfection is such a thing as is even in the regenerate; and it is of the nature of sin, that is, it is the effect of one sin, and the cause of many; but yet it is not damning, because as it is subjected in unconsenting persons, it loses its own natural venom, and relation to guiltiness, that is, it may of itself in its abstracted nature be a sin, and deserve God's anger, viz. in some persons, in all them that consent to it but that which will always be in persons that shall never be damned, that is, in infants and regenerate, shall never damn them. And this is the main of what I affirm. And since the church of England intended that article against the doctrine of the Pelagians, I suppose I shall not be thought to recede from the spirit and sense of the article, though I use differing manners of expression; because my way of explicating this question, does most of all destroy the Pelagian heresy, since although I am desirous to acquit the dispensation of God and his justice from any imputation or suspicion of wrong, and am loath to put our sins upon the account of another, yet I impute all our evils to the imperfections of our nature and the malice of our choice, which does most of all demonstrate, not only the necessity of grace, but also of infant baptism; and then to accuse this doctrine of Pelagianism, or any newer name of heresy, will seem like impotency and weakness of spirit; but there will be nothing of truth or learning in it. And although this article was penned according to the style of the schools, as they then did love to
speak, yet the hardest word in it is capable of such a sense as complies with the intendment of that whole sixth chapter. For though the church of England professes herself fallible, and consequently that all her truths may be peaceably improved; yet I do think that she is not actually deceived; and also that divers eminently learned do consent in my sense of that article. However, I am so truly zealous for her honour and peace, that I wholly submit all that I say there, or any where else, to her most prudent judgment. And though I may most easily be deceived, yet I have given my reasons for what I say, and desire to be tried by them, not by preju dice, and numbers, and zeal and if any man resolves to un-, derstand the article in any other sense than what I have now explicated, all that I shall say is, that it may be I cannot reconcile my doctrine to his explication; it is enough that it is consistent with the article itself in its best understanding and compliance with the truth itself, and the justification of God. However, he that explicates the article, and thinks it means as he says, does all the honour he can to the authority; whose words if he does not understand, yet the sanction he reveres.
And this liberty I now take, is no other than hath been used by the severest votaries in that church where to dissent is death, I mean, in the church of Rome. I call to witness those disputations and contradictory assertions in the matter of some articles, which are to be observed in Andreas Vega, Dominicus à Soto, Andradius, the lawyers about the question of divorces, and clandestine contracts, the divines about predetermination, and about this very article of original sin, as relating to the Virgin Mary. But blessed be God, we are under the discipline of a prudent, charitable, and indulgent mother; and if I may be allowed to suppose, that the article means no more in short, than the office of baptism explicates at large, I will abide by the trial, there is not a word in the rubrics or prayers, but may very perfectly consist with the doctrine I deliver. But though the church of England is my mother, and I hope I shall ever live, and at last die, in her communion, and if God shall call me to it, and enable me, I will not refuse to die for her; yet I conceive there is something most highly considerable in that saying, "Call no man master upon earth" that is, no man's explication of her arti
cles shall prejudice my affirmative, if it agrees with Scripture, and right reason, and the doctrine of the primitive church for the first three hundred years; and if in any of this I am mistaken, I will most thankfully be reproved, and most readily make honourable amends. But my proposition, I hope, is not built upon the sand: and I am most sure it is so zealous for God's honour, and the reputation of his justice, and wisdom, and goodness, that I hope all that are pious (unless they labour under some prejudice and prepossession) will upon that account be zealous for it, or at least confess, that what I intend hath in it more of piety, than their negative can have of certainty. That which is strained and held too hard will soonest break. He that stoops to the authority, yet twists the article with truth, preserves both with modesty and religion.
One thing more I fear will trouble some persons, who will be apt to say to me, as Avitus of Vienna did to Faustus of Rhegium; "Hic, quantum ad frontem pertinet, quasi abstinentissimam vitam professus, et non secretam crucem, sed publicam vanitatem," &c. That upon pretence of great severity, as if I were exact or could be, I urge others to so great strictness, which will rather produce despair than holiness. Though I have in its proper place taken care concerning this, and all the way intend, to rescue men from the just causes and inlets to despair; that is, not to make them do that against which by preaching a holy life, I have prepared the best defensative; yet this I shall say here particularly, that I think this objection is but a mere excuse which some men would make, lest they should believe it necessary to live well. For to speak truth, men are not very apt to despair, they have ten thousand ways to flatter themselves, and they will hope in despite of all arguments to the contrary; in all the Scripture there is but one example of a despairing man, and that was Judas; who did so, not upon the stock of any fierce propositions preached to him, but upon the load of his foul sin, and the pusillanimity of his spirit. But they are not to be numbered who live in sin, and yet " sibi suaviter benedicunt," think themselves in a good condition; and all they that rely upon those false principles which I have reckoned in this preface, and confuted in the book, are examples of it. But it were well if men would distinguish the sin of despair
from the misery of despair. Where God hath given us no warrant to hope, there to despair is no sin; it may be a punishment, and to hope also may be presumption.
I shall here end with the most charitable advice I can give to any of my erring brethren. Let no man be so vain, as to use all the wit and arts, all the shifts and devices, of the world that he may behold, to enjoy the pleasure of his sin, since it may bring him into that condition, that it will be disputed, whether he shall despair or no. Our duty is to make our calling and election sure; which certainly cannot be done but by a timely and effective repentance. But they that will be confident in their health, are sometimes pusillanimous in their sicknesss, presumptuous in sin, and despairing in the day of their calamity. "Cognitio de incorrupto Dei judicio in multis dormit; sed excitari solet circa mortem," said Plato". For though men give false sentences of the Divine judgments, when their temptations are high, and their sin is pleasant, yet about the time of their death, their understanding and notices are awakened,' and they see what they would not see before, and what they cannot now avoid.
Thus I have given account of the design of this book to you, most reverend fathers and religious brethren of this church; and to your judgment I submit what I have here discoursed of; as knowing that the chiefest part of the ecclesiastical office is conversant about repentance; and the whole government of the primitive church was almost wholly employed in ministering to the orders, and restitution and reconciliation of penitents; and therefore you are not only by your ability, but by your employment and experiences, the most competent judges, and the aptest promoters of those truths, by which repentance is made most perfect and irreprovable. By your prayers and your, authority, and your wisdom, I hope it will be more and more effected, that the strictnesses of a holy life be thought necessary, and that repentance may be no more that trifling little piece of. duty, to which the errors of the late schools of learning, and the desires of men to be deceived in this article, have reduced it. I have done thus much of my part toward it, and I humbly desire it may be accepted by God, by you, and by all good men.
De Repub. 1.
DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE
THE FOUNDATION AND NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE.
Of the indispensable Necessity of Repentance in Remedy to the unavoidable transgressing the Covenant of Works.
In the first intercourse with man, God made such a covenant as he might justly make out of his absolute dominion, and such as was agreeable with those powers which he gave us, and the instances in which obedience was demanded. For, 1. Man was made perfect in his kind, and God demanded of him perfect obedience. 2. The first covenant was the covenant of works; that is, there was nothing in it, but man was to obey or die: but God laid but one command upon him that we find; the covenant was instanced but in one precept. In that he failed, and therefore he was lost. There was here no remedy, no second thoughts, no amends to be made. But because much was not required of him, and the commandment was very easy, and he had strengths more than enough to keep it, and therefore he had no cause to complain: God might, and did, exact at first the covenant of works; because it was, at first, infinitely toler able.
2. From this time forward this covenant began to be hard, and, by degrees, became impossible; not only because man's fortune was broken, and his spirit troubled, and his passions disordered and vexed by his calamity and his sin,but because man, upon the birth of children and the increase