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make his way harder by putting more conditions to his sal-
vation, and more articles to his creed, I may use the words
of St. Gregory Nazianzen : " Tu quid salute majus quaeris?
gloriam nempe quae illic est et splendorem : mihi vero maxi-
mum est ut salver, et futura effugiam tormenta. Tu per
viam incedis minime tritam et incessu difficilem : ego vero
per regiam, et quae multos salvavit ; What dost thou seek
greater than salvation ?" (meaning, by nice inquiries and dis-
putes of articles beyond the simple and plain faith of the
apostles' creed) k " It may be, thou lookest for glory and
splendour here. It is enough for me, yea, the greatest thing
in the world, that I be saved and escape the torments that
shall be hereafter. Thou goest a hard and an untrodden path :
I go the King's highway, and that in which many have
been saved."


In the Law of Christ, there is no Precept that wholly ministers
to the Law of Moses ; but for a Time only, and less prin-

1. THIS rule I received from St. Irenaeus; and they are his
words as near as I could translate them. " In lege Christi,
non est ullum prseceptum veteri tantum legi inserviens, nisi
ad horam et minus principaliter." For our blessed Saviour
descended like rain upon a fleece of wool, and made no vio-
lent changes, but retained all the morality that he found
amongst his countrymen ; he made use of their propositions,
spake their proverbs, united their ejaculations into a collect
of his own, for almost every word of the Lord's prayer was
taken from the writings of the pious men of their nation ; he
changed their rites into sacraments ; their customs into
mysteries ; their washings he made our baptism ; their pas-

k See Liberty of Propbesying, sect. 1.


chal supper he converted into the holy eucharist : and still
because he would be understood by them, he retained the
Mosaic words, when he delivered a Christian precept ; for
he knew his Father would send his Holy Spirit to be an in-
terpreter ; and when the types of Moses passed into the sub-
stance of Christ, then the typical words also would be ex-
pounded in the senses of evangelical duties.

2. For indeed it is not reasonable to suppose that our
blessed Saviour, who came to fulfil the law in his own per-
son, and to abolish it in his disciples, to change the customs
of Moses, and to be an eternal lawgiver in the instances of
moral and essential natural rectitudes, would give a new
commandment to confirm an old precept which himself in-
tended to extinguish. No man puts a piece of new cloth to
an old garment, nor a new injunction to an abrogated law ;
that is, no wise master-builder holds up with one hand what
he intends to pull down with both : it must therefore follow,
that whatever Christ did preach, and affirm, and exhort, was,
although expressed in the words of the law, yet wholly rela-
tive to the duty and signification of the Gospel. For that
which St. Hilary a said of all the words of Scripture, is parti-
cularly true in the sense now delivered of the sermons of
Christ : " Sermo enim Divinus secundum intelligent! nos-
trae consuetudinem naturamque se temperat, communibus
rerum vocabulis ad significationem doctrinae suae et institu-
tionis aptatis. Nobis enim, non sibi, loquitur : atque ideo
nostris utitur in loquendo : God speaks to us and not to
himself: and therefore he uses words fitting to our under-
standings :" by common and usual expressions and such
as were understood, he expressed precepts and mysteries
which otherwise were not to be understood.

3. Thus when our blessed Saviour delivers the precept
of charity and forgiveness, he uses this expression: "When
thou bringest thy gift unto the altar, and there rememberest
that thou hast any thing against thy brother, leave thy gift
at the altar, go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then
come and offer thy gift." If Christ had said, " When thou
comest to the Lord's supper, and hast any thing against thy
brother," &c., he had not been understood : but because we
know this is an eternal precept, part of a moral and eternal

In Psal. cxxvi.


excellence, a duty of Christianity and a portion of Christ's
institution, and we know that Christ pulled down the Jewish
altars and the sacrifice of beasts by the sacrifice of his eternal
priesthood, and we also are sufficiently instructed by what
instruments and by what ministries the memory of that is
conserved, and the benefits of it conveyed ; therefore we
also are sure, that by these words Christ intended to com-
mand us to be at peace with our brother and with our enemy,
when we come to offer prayers and to celebrate the memorial
of his eternal sacrifice.

4. So when our blessed Saviour told the parable of Dives
and Lazarus, and intended to represent unto his disciples,
that we are to expect salvation by the ordinary ministries of
the Church, and not to expect it by the way of miracle and
extraordinary dispensation ; he was pleased to say, " They
have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them." This
was all which could be said to them, whose Scriptures were
completed in the writings of Moses and the prophets : but
when our great Master had, by his Holy Spirit and by his
apostles and disciples, perfected another instrument of salva-
tion and repository of Divine truths, the proposition is to be
enlarged to these. They have Christ and his apostles, they
have the Gospels and Epistles, let them hear them; for if they
will not hear and obey them speaking in the Scriptures, nei-
ther will they be converted though one arise from the dead,
and appear to them in the terrible dresses of affrightment.

5. When Christ whipped the buyers and sellers out of
the temple, and urged the words of the prophet, " My
Father's house shall be called the house of prayer to all
nations ; but ye have made it a den of thieves :" although
this was spoken to the Jews, and of their temple, yet Christ,
who knew this temple was to be destroyed, and not a stone
left upon a stone, intended the piety of his commandment
should last longer than the dying temple; and therefore it is
to be translated wholly to the Christian sense. And although
he would not have the temple profaned so long as it was
standing and used for prayer and Divine service, ' ad horam,'
as St. Irenaeus's expression is, even for ' an hour,' taking care
of that because it was a holy place ; yet the sacredness and
holy usage of the temple were less principally intended;
but principally Christ regarded the Christian oratories and


separate places of devotion ; that where God, by public
appointment and the laws, was to be worshipped, there the
affairs of the world should not intrude by the interests of a
private and a profane spirit.


The Laws of Jesus Christ are to be interpreted to the Sense of
a present Obedience according to their Subject-matter.

1. THAT which is true to-day, will be true to-morrow; and
that which is in its own nature good or necessary to-day, is
good or necessary every day : and therefore, there is no es-
sential duty of the religion but is to be the work of every day.
To confess God's glory, to be his subject, to love God, to be
ready to do him service, to live according to nature and to
the Gospel, to be chaste, to be temperate, to be just, these
are the employment of all the periods of a Christian's life.
For the moral law of the religion is nothing but the moral
law of nature; as I have already proved.* " Naturaliter lex
nostra est lex pietatis, justitiae, fidei, simplicitatis, caritatis,
optimeque instituta," said Cardan : b and again; " Christiani
Jovem junctum habent cum sole, illiusque diem colunt
Dominicum : sol autem significat justitiam et veritatem ;
Christiana autem lex plus continet reritatis, et simpliciores
reddit homines." The Christian law is nothing else but a
perfect institution of life and understanding ; it makes men
wise, and it makes them good; it teaches wisdom, and it
teaches justice; it makes them wise and simple, that is, pru-
dent and innocent, and there is no time of our life in which
we are permitted to be otherwise. Those who, in the Primi-
tive Church, put off their baptism till the time of their death,
knew that baptism was a profession of holiness, and an un-
dertaking to keep the faith, and live according to the com-
mandments of Jesus Christ ; and that as soon as ever they
were baptized, that is, as soon as ever they had made profes-
sion to be Christ's disciples, they were bound to keep all the
laws of Christ, and therefore that they deferred their baptism
was so egregious a prevarication of their duty, that as, in

1 Chap. i. and ii. of thia book. b De Astror. Jud. lib, ii. tit 54.


all reason, it might ruin their hopes, so it proclaimed their
folly to all the world. For as soon as ever they were con-
vinced in their understanding, they were obliged in their con-
sciences. And although baptism does publish the profession,
and is like the forms and solemnities of law, yet a man is
bound to live the life of a Christian, as soon as ever he believes
the doctrine and commandments of Christianity ; for indeed
he is obliged as soon as he can use reason, or hear reason.
The first things a man can learn, are some parts of Christ-
ianity ; nor to hurt any one, to do all that he can understand
to be good ; that is, as soon as ever he begins to live like a
rational creature, so soon he begins to live as Christ com-
manded : and since baptism (as to this relation and intention
of it) is nothing else but the publication of our undertaking
to do that which in our very nature, and by the first and
universal laws of God to mankind, we are obliged, to refuse
to be baptized, or to defer it, is nothing but a refusing or
deferring to our own natural obligation, a denying or not
accepting the duty of living according to the law of nature ;
which deferring, as it must needs be the argument of an evil
man, and an indication of unwillingness to live worthily,
so it can serve really no prudent ends to which it can falla-
ciously pretend. For Christianity, being in its moral part
nothing but the perfection of the natural law, binds no more
upon us than God did by the very reason of our nature. By
the natural law we are bound to live ' in holiness and right-
eousness all the days of our life,' and so we are by the Christ-
ian law ; as appears in the song of Zachary and in very many
other places ; and therefore although, when some of our
time is elapsed and lost in carelessness and folly, the good-
ness of God will admit us to second counsels, and the death
of Christ and his intercession will make them acceptable ;
yet Christianity obliges us to obedience as soon as the law of
nature does, and we must profess to live according to Christ-
ianity, as soon as we can live by the measures of the natural
law, and that is even in the very infancy of our reason ; and
therefore baptism is not to be deferred longer : it may be
sooner, because some little images of choice and reason,
which must be conducted by the measures of nature, appear
even in infancy ; but it must not be deferred longer ; there
is no excuse for that, because there can be no reason for so


doing, unless where there is a necessity, and it can he no

2. The effects of this consideration are these. (1.) All the
negative precepts of Christ's laws are obligatory in all per-
sons, and all periods, and all instances. " Nunquam licuit,
nunquam licehit ; It was and is and ever will be unlawful"
to do any action, which God forbids to be done : and there-
fore to say, ' I will be chaste when I am old, I will be tem-
perate when I am sick, I will be just when I am rich, I will
be willing to restore when I die,' is to measure eternity by
time, and to number that which is not. In negatives there
is neither number, nor weight, nor measure ; and not to kill,
not to blaspheme, not to commit adultery, hath no time, and
hath no proportion.

3. (2.) This is also true in the positive commandments
of Christ, in respect of the inward duty ; that is never to be
deferred. The charity of alms, the devotion of prayer, piety
to our parents, love of God, love of our neighbour, desires to
do justice; these are not limited to times and opportunities.
The habits of them and the dispositions to action, the readi-
ness and the love, must for ever be within; because these are
always possible, and always good, and always necessary, and
therefore cannot have accidental determinations from without :
being works of the inward man, they depend only upon the
grace of God and the will of man ; and that never fails, if
this does not, and therefore are always possible unless we will
not ; but they are always necessary, whether we will or no.

4. (3.) The external actions of duty are determinable from
without, and by things which are not in our power, and by
things which will not happen always and in some instances,
by our own will and mere choice. Thus a man is bound ac-
tually to restore but in certain circumstances; but to be ready
and to love to do it, he is always bound. To say Our prayers
is limited by time and place, by occasions and emergent ne-
cessities, by use and custom, by laws and examples : but to
depend upon God, to expect all good from him, to glorify
him, to worship him with all our heart, is not limited, but
may be done in all the actions of our life, by actual applica-
tion or habitual intention, by secret purpose or by open pro-
fession, by obedience and by love, or by the voice and hand.
For to " pray continually," which is the precept of our blessed


Saviour, is obligatory in the very letter, in proportion to the
natural possibilities and measure of a man : that is, in all our
actions we must glorify God, which is one of the parts of
prayer, and we must endear his blessing, which is the other.
But to kneel, or to speak, or actually to think, a prayer, being
the body of this duty, and determinable by something from
without, receives its limit according to the subject-matter ;
that is, when we are commanded, and when we have need,
and when we can, and in the proper season of it.

5. This rule is also otherwise explicated by distinguish-
ing the affirmative precepts of Christ, into universal and par-
ticular. Particular precepts are to be acted only in their
proper determinations, in special times, and pertinent occa-
sions, because they are always relative to time and place, or
person ; they have a limited effect, and are but parts of a
good life, and therefore cannot alone work out our salvation,
but must give allowance of time and action to others, of the
like particular and limited nature and effect.

6. But this is otherwise in the universal and diffusive, or
transcendent precepts of the religion, though they be affirma-
tive. He that shall say, that because to love God is an af-
firmative precept, that it is only obligatory in certain acci-
dents, and times, and cases, and that therefore we are not
always bound to love God, by the impiety of his conclusion,
reproves the folly of his proposition. Neither is it sufficient
to say, that we are indeed always bound to the habitual love
of God, but not always to the actual : not always to do an
act of the love of God. For the love of God does not consist
only in the fancy or the passionate part, neither is it to be
measured by the issues of any one faculty : and though we
are not bound to the exercise of an act of passion, or intui-
tion, or melting affection, that is, we are not always tied to
a limited, particular, single effect of one grace, in all times ;
yet we are bound to do an act of love to God, when we are
bound to do any act at all ; for all our religion, and all our
obedience, and all our conversation, is wholly to be conducted
by the love of God ; and although to love God be an affirma-
tive commandment, yet because it is a transcendent or uni-
versal precept, and includes in it all those precepts, which, by
binding at several times, fill up all our time, and every of
them being an act of obedience, is consequently an act and


instance of our love to God, it follows, that there is no time,
in which we are not bound to love God ; and to exercise acts
of this grace does not depend upon times and circumstances.

7. Upon the accounts of this rule it is very opportune,
and certainly very useful, to inquire concerning the duty of
repentance ; for upon this article the whole question of late
or death-bed repentance will depend, and consequently the
eternal felicity or infelicity of mankind : and therefore, I have
reason to reckon this to be the greatest case of conscience in
the whole world ; and it will appear so both in the event of
the discourse, and in the event of things.

Question I.

8. At what time precisely is every sinner bound to repent
of his sins, so that if he does not repent at that time, he com-
mits a new sin ?

9. To this question of "At what time?" the Church of
Rome answers, " At what time soever." For repentance is as
the precept of baptism and prayers. Neither this day nor
to-morrow precisely is it necessary to be baptized, but some
time or other; and if we pray half an hour hence, it is as
much obedience as if we fall down upon our knees at the in-
stant of the proclamation. Add to this, that since repent-
ance (besides that it is an affirmative commandment) is also
a primitive duty, it is generally agreed upon " neminem in
conscientia, donee condemnetur, ad pcenam exsolvendam
teneri ; no man is bound to undergo his punishment till
the instant that the law determines him :" and therefore,
when he is required, when the day of humiliation comes,
when there is danger that if it be not now done, it will not
be done at all, then let the sinner look to it, then he must
repent, it cannot be any longer put off. This is the doctrine
of the Roman schools, and of some others, which they have
pursued to dangerous and horrid propositions.

10. Scotus and his scholars say a man is bound to repent
upon holydays, as upon Christmas, Whitsuntide, or at Easter
to be sure. But Sotus and Medina very confidently reprove
this proposition as too severe, for this reason ; because the
Church having appointed many holydays, yet when she
explicates the doctrine of repentance, she did suppose it to
be sufficient to compel the sinner to repent once by the year:


and although the end why the festivals are ordained, is the
inward sanctification of the soul, " hsec tamen non id est,
quod per praeceptum de observatione festorum injungitur,
this is not it which was enjoined by the precept concerning
festivals," saith Reginaldus: c "for the Church (saith he)
commanded only the means to this interior holiness;" so
that if you do the outward work, it matters not, as to the
precept of the Church, whether that end be acquired or no :
you disobey the Church, if you do not hear mass; but though
you be never the better, so you do but hear mass, she does
not find herself grieved.

11. By the way, it is observable that Scotus and the
more severe part of them, which affirm a man to be bound
to repent on every holyday, do not intend to say that by the
law of God men are so bound, but by the law of the Church
only. Medina and the looser part deny the Church to have
determined this affirmative and indefinite commandment of
repentance to so much severity. But as to the law of God,
they all pronounce a man to be free to repent once for all ;
once he must, but when that once shall be, God hath not set
down : and since God left it at the greatest liberty, they do
not believe that the Church is so severe as some pretend,
neither do they think it fit she should ; but if they never
repent till the article of death, they prevaricate no command
of God. For " vera, atque adeo, ut expressit Navarrus in
Enchir. cap. i. n. 31, omnium communis sententia est, tern-
pus in quo peccator conteri tenetur (intellige per se, seu vi
specialis praecepti de contritione a Deo dati) esse imminen-
tem articulum mortis naturalis, vel violentse ;" so Reginal-
dus: d " The true and common opinion of all men is, that
the time in which a sinner is bound to have contrition for his
sins," meaning in respect of any Divine commandment, " is
the article of imminent death, whether natural or violent."
And in the meantime, " there is no precept commanding
that a sinner should not persevere in enmity against God :
there is no negative precept forbidding such a perseverance." 6
Nay worse, if worse be possible, "even to resolve to defer
our repentance," " velle posnitentiam difierre, nolleque nisi
ad aliquod tempus poenitere, and to refuse to repent till

c Vide Reginaldum in Praxi Fori Poenitent. v. de Contritione, c. 2, sect. 4.
d Lib. v. c. 2, sect. 4, n. 23. e Idem, sect. iii. n. 21.



such a day, is but very little sin," saith Sotus ; " it is none
at all," saith Medina ; it is neither an act of impenitence,
nor at all unlawful.

12. These are sad stories to be told and maintained by
Christian families, but therefore the more carefully to be
looked to, because it is concerning the sum of affairs, and an
error here is worse than an oversight in a day of battle : for
repentance being the remedy for all the evils of our soul, if
the remedy be ordered so as that it come too late, or deferred
till the disease increase to an intolerable arid an incurable
evil, the state of our soul must needs be without remedy ;
and that in our philosophy is equivalent to desperation.

13. But before I reprove these horrid doctrines, which
so entirely and without dispute prevail in some churches, I
am to say two things. 1. If God hath left the time of our
repentance and return so wholly without care and provision,
though by the doctrine of some Roman doctors the Church
hath been more careful of it, and more severe than God him-
self, yet neither the care of the Church nor the ordinary pro-
visions and arrests made by God, can ever be sufficient to
cause men to live well in any tolerable degree. For if God
binds you only to repent in the day of your death, or if he, to
hasten it, will affright you with a popular judgment upon the
neighbourhood, all those that escape the sickness, and all
that have but little or no reason to fear it, and all those that
can fly from it, shall not repent, and indeed shall not be tied
to it. And if we consider the event and impressions usually
made upon our cities and villages by any popular judgment,
we shall find so very many to be unconcerned, that if this
be the time of repentance, the duty will upon this account
go but slowly forward ; very many shall have no need to do
it ; and none will do it but they that have : and if the fear of
imminent death be the only period, we may easily perceive
what ill provisions are made for repentance, when even dying
men will hardly believe that they shall die yet, but hope for
life, till their hopes and powers of working expire together.
But then because it is pretended that the Church hath made
better provisions, and tied all men to communicate at Easter,
and consequently to repent by way of preparation to the
holy communion; I confess that the Church can only tie them
to the outward signification of repentance, as confession,


and the appendages of that intercourse ; and if they omit
the inward and more spiritual and essential part of this great
duty, they may for this sin as well as for the other repent in
the day of death, and that is sufficient for the performance
of the Divine commandment. And since the Church requires
no more but a periodical and a ritual repentance, the repent-
ance of a Christian will be like the Persian feast, which they
called ' vitiorum interitum, the destruction of impiety;'
upon the anniversary of which feast they killed all the
venomous creatures they could find, but they let them alone
to swarm till that day come again : and that is the event of
these ritual and anniversary repentances ; at a set time there
is a declamation made against sin, and some significations of
the evil of it expressed, but when the solemnity is over, it
returns in all the material instances; and there is no help
for it in this doctrine, nor in the customs and usages of those
churches that entertain it. So that this doctrine must be

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 18 of 61)