An Homily of Repentance and of True Reconciliation Unto God Part III

In the Homily last spoken unto you, right well beloved people in our Saviour Christ, ye heard of the true parts and tokens of repentance; that is, hearty contrition and sorrowfulness of our hearts, unfeigned confession in word of mouth for our unworthy living before God, a steadfast faith to the merits of our Saviour Christ for pardon, and a purpose of ourselves by God’s grace to renounce our former wicked life, and a full conversion to God in a new life to glorify his Name, and to live orderly and charitably to the comfort of our neighbour in all righteousness, and to live soberly and modestly to ourselves by using abstinence and temperance in word and in deed in mortifying our earthly members here upon earth.[1] Now, for a further persuasion to move you to those parts of repentance, I will declare unto you some causes which should the rather move you to repentance.

First, the commandment of God, who in so many places of his holy and sacred Scriptures doth bid us return unto him. O ye children of Israel, saith he, turn again from your infidelity wherein ye drowned yourselves.[2] Again: Turn you, turn you from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O ye house of Israel?[3] And in another place thus doth he speak by his holy Prophet Osee. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast taken a great fall by thine iniquity. Take unto you these words with you, when ye turn unto the Lord, and say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we offer the calves of our lips unto thee. In all these places we have an express commandment given unto us of God for to return unto him. Therefore we must take good heed unto ourselves, lest, whereas we have already by our manifold sins and transgressions provoked and kindled the wrath of God against us, we do by breaking this his commandment double our offences, and so heap still damnation upon our own heads. By our daily offences and trespasses, whereby we provoke the eyes of his Majesty, we do well deserve, if he should deal with us according to his justice, to be put away for ever from the fruition of his glory. How much more then are we worthy of the endless torments of hell, if, when we be so gently called again after our rebellion, and commanded to return, we will in no wise hearken unto the voice of our heavenly Father, but walk still after the stubbornness of our own hearts!
Secondly, the most comfortable and sweet promise that the Lord our God did of his mere mercy and goodness join unto his commandment. For he doth not only say, Return unto me, O Israel, but also, If thou will return and put away all thine abominations out of my sight, thou shalt never be moved.[4] These words also have we in the Prophet Ezechiel: At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sin from the bottom of his heart, I will put all his wickedness out of my remembrance, saith, the Lord, so that they shall no more be thought upon.[5] Thus are we sufficiently instructed that God will, according to his promise, freely pardon, forgive, and forget all our sins, so that we shall never be cast in the teeth with them, if, obeying his commandment, and allured by his sweet promises, we will unfeignedly return unto him.

Thirdly, the filthiness of sin: which is such that, as long as we do abide in it, God cannot but detest and abhor us; neither can there be any hope[6] that we shall enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, except we be first made clean and purged from it. But this will never be, unless, forsaking our former life, we do with our whole heart return unto the Lord our God, and, with a full purpose of amendment of life, flee unto his mercy, taking sure hold thereupon through faith in the blood of his Son Jesu Christ. If we should suspect any uncleanness to be in us, wherefore the earthly prince should lothe and abhor the sight of us, what pains would we take to remove and put it away! How much more ought we, with all diligence and speed that may be, to put away that unclean filthiness that doth separate and make division betwixt us and our God, and that hideth his face from us that he will not hear us![7] And verily herein doth appear how filthy a thing sin is, sith that it can by no other means be washed away but by the blood of the only begotten Son of God. And shall we not from the bottom of our hearts detest and abhor and with all earnestness flee from it, sith that it did cost the dear heart blood of the only begotten Son of God, our Saviour and Redeemer, to purge us from it? Plato doth in a certain place write, that, if virtue could be seen with bodily eyes, all men would wonderfully be inflamed and kindled with the love of it. Even so on the contrary, if we might with our bodily eyes behold the filthiness of sin and the uncleanness thereof, we could in no wise abide it, but, as most present and deadly poison, hate and eschew it. We have a common experience of the same in them which, when they have committed any heinous offence or some filthy and abominable sin, if it once come to light, or if they chance to have a through feeling of it, they be so ashamed, their own conscience putting before their eyes the filthiness of their act, that they dare look no man on the face, much less that they should be able to stand in the sight of God.

Fourthly, the uncertainty and brittleness of our own lives: which is such, that we cannot assure ourselves that we shall live one hour or one half quarter of it. Which by experience we do find daily to be true in them that, being now merry and lusty, and sometimes feasting and banqueting with their friends, do fall suddenly dead in the streets, and otherwhiles under the board, when they are yet at meat. These daily examples, as they are most terrible and dreadful, so ought they to move us to seek for to be at one with our heavenly Judge; that we may with a good conscience appear before him, whensoever it shall please him for to call us, whether it be suddenly or otherwise. For we have no more charter of our life than they have: but, as we are most certain that we shall die, so are we most uncertain when we shall die. For our life doth lie in the hand of God, who will take it away when it pleaseth him. And verily, when the highest summer of all, which is death, shall come, he will not be said nay, but we must forthwith be packing, to be presented before the judgment seat of God, as he doth find us; according as it is written, Where as the tree falleth whether it be toward the south, or toward the north, there it shall lie.[8] Whereunto agreeth the saying of the holy Martyr of God, St. Cyprian, saying, “As God doth find thee when he doth call, so doth he judge thee.” Let us therefore follow the counsel of the Wise Man, where he saith, Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord break forth, and in thy security thou shalt be destroyed, and thou shalt perish in time of vengeance.[9] Which words I desire you to mark diligently, because they do most lively put before our eyes the fondness of many men, which, abusing the longsuffering and goodness of God, do never think on repentance or amendment of life. Follow not, saith he, thine own mind and thy strength to walk in the ways of thy heart; neither say thou, Who will bring me under for me works? For God, the revenger, will revenge the wrong done by thee. And say not, I have sinned, and what evil hath come unto me? For the Almighty is a patient rewarder, but he will not leave thee unpunished. Because thy sins are forgiven thee, be not without fear to heap sin upon sin. Say not neither, The mercy of God is great, he will forgive my manifold sins. For mercy and wrath from him and his indignation cometh upon unrepentant sinners. [10] As if ye should say, Art thou strong and mighty? Art thou lusty and young? Hast thou the wealth and riches of the world? Or, when thou hast sinned, hast thou received no punishment for it? Let none of all these things make thee to be the slower to repent, and to return with speed unto the Lord; for in the day of punishment and of his sudden vengeance they shall not be able to help thee. And specially, when thou art, either by the preaching of God’s word, or by some inward motion of his Holy Spirit, or else by some other means, called unto repentance, neglect not the good occasion that is ministered unto thee; lest, when thou wouldest repent, thou have not the grace for to do it. For to repent is a good gift of God, which he will never grant unto them which, living in carnal security, do make a mock of his threatenings, or seek to rule his Spirit, as they list, as though his working and gifts were tied unto their will.

Fifthly, the avoiding of the plagues of God and the utter destruction that by his righteous judgment do hang over the heads of them all that will in no wise return unto the Lord. I will, saith the Lord, give them for a terrible plague to all the kingdoms of the earth, and for reproach, and for a proverb and for a curse in all places where I shall cast them, and will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they be consumed out of the land.[11] And wherefore is this? Because they hardened their hearts, and would in no wise return from their evil ways, nor yet forsake the wickedness that was in their own hands, that the fierceness of the Lord’s fury might depart from them. But yet this is nothing in comparison of the intolerable and endless torments of hell fire, which they shall be fain to suffer who after their hardness of heart, that cannot repent do heap unto themselves wrath against the day of anger and of the declaration of the of the just judgment of God.[12] Whereas, if we will repent and be earnestly sorry for our sins, and with a full purpose of amendment of life flee unto the mercy of our God, and, taking sure hold thereupon through faith in our Saviour Jesu Christ, do bring forth fruits worthy of repentance[13], he will not only pour his manifold blessings upon us here in this world, but also at the last, after the painful travails of this life, reward us with the inheritance of his children, which is the kingdom of heaven, purchased unto us with the death of his Son Jesu Christ our Lord. To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all praise, glory, and honour world without end. Amen.

  1. Col iii, 5
  2. Is xxxi, 6
  3. Ezek xxxiii, 11
  4. Jer iv, 1
  5. Ezek xviii, 31‒32
  6. Rev xxi, 27; xxii, 14‒18
  7. Jer llx, 2
  8. Eccles xi, 3
  9. Eccles v, 7
  10. Ibid 2‒6
  11. Jer xiv, 9-10
  12. Rom ii, 5
  13. Matt iii, 8

 



The Editors


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