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“ not dissemble and cloak them before the “ Face of Almighty God our heavenly Fa" ther, but confess them with with an hum“ ble, lowly, penitent, and obedient Heart.”. For certainly the Text speaks of covering and confessing our Sins, with respect to God, and not with respect to Men. Indeed, to conceal our Sins from Men, except in the Case of Injuries done to our Neighbour, (and there we are bound to acknowledge our Fault, and inake Satisfaction) is fe far from a Fault;, that in many Cafés it would be great Imprudence not to do its fince to make them publick might do a great deal of Hurt both to ourselves and others.
And as for Confession to a Minister (tho' that is always lawful, and sometimes highly expedient; and if People among us did more practise it, there is no doubt they would find both great Comfort and great Benefit thereby, yet) it cannot reasonably be thought to be intended in this place; and some of the Papists themselves, and those the most learned of them, do in plain Terms acknowledge as much, telling us, that these Words of Solomon are not spoken of Auricular or Sacramental Confeson, because the Sacrament of Penance was not in being at that Time, but was instituted by Christ long after. So that he doth not here speak of confesing our Sins to Men, but to God; that being the Confession that is every where in the Old Testament insisted
on as a necessary Expression of our Repentance. So also the covering our Sins which we are here cautioned against, and which is opposed to confessing, must be the covering them with respect to God. He that covereth his Sins fhall not prosper : But whoso confesseth them, and forsaketh them, shall find Mercy.
In speaking to which Words I shall shew,
I. First, What is meant by covering, cloaking, or dissembling our Sins, together with the Danger of so doing. He that covereth his Sins shall not prosper.
· II. Secondly, What kind of Confession that is which is here made an Effential Part of Repentance towards God; and how it comes to be so necessary. Whofo.confeffeth, and for saketh them, shall find Mercy.
I. First of all, What is meant by covering our Sins ; or, as our Liturgy expresses it, dissembling and cloaking them before the Face” of Almighty God. For here a Question ariseth, How can any Man cover or hide his Sins from God?
To which I answer, That truly and literally speaking he cannot ; for, as St. Paul tells us, All things are naked and open to the Heb.4.31. Eyes of him with whom we have to do. He sees every Action of our Lives, and hears every Word of our Mouths, and understands · Vol. V.
every Thought of our Hearts. So that to hide any thing from God is perfectly impossible; and he is a Fool, and ignorant of the Nature of God, who thinks to do it : But yet such Fools' and Ignorants many of ; us are, that tho' we cannot conceal any thing from God, we may desire it, and we may endeavour it; at least, we may he fo stupid, fo unattentive, so very careless of our own Actions, as to think that because we do not look into them, God will not ; because we do not see them amiss in our selves, God doth not; and because we are willing to make the best we can of our own State, to think that God will be willing to do 1o likewile : And this, in Scripture Language, is a covering of Sins. Tho' we cannot, in a strict and proper Sense, cover our Sins from God, yet we may do it interpre- ' tatively; that is, we may use such Arts for the palliating our Sins, that, in God's Account, will amount to the same thing, as if we thought or endeavoured to blind the Eyes of his Sovereign Majesty, so as that he should not see them. It is worth the while to explain this Matter a little more particularly, and to give an Account of the several Ways in which Men may, in this Sense, be said to cover their Sins. By which Means we shall be the better able to examine our own Consciences about this point, and where we find ourselves guilty, there to make Application to ourselves,
1. First of all: A Man may be said to cover his Sins when he hath no Sense of them ; whien he is so little apprehensive of his Faults that he will not own them to be such; but is as easy and unconcerned about them, as if he was perfectly innocent.
And this happens two Ways. Either thro' a stupid Inadvertency, or thro' an over-weening Conceit that hath possessed a Man of his own Righteousness and Goodness.
In the former of these Ways the Adulterous Woman, that Solomon describes in the 30th of Proverbs, covered her Sins. She 1.20. eateth, and wipeth her Mouth, and faith, I have done no Wickedness. And this, God knows, is the Case of some among us (tho' I hope they are not many.) They live in a Course of Profaneness and Wickedness; following their brutish Devices and Desires in every thing, without any regard to God or to good Manners. They stick at nothing that may please their Humour, or gratify their Lust, be it never so wicked, supposing that they keep within such Compass that the Law shall not take hold of them. And so far are they from being uneasy and troubled at this Course of Life, or owning themselves to be great Sinners before God upon account of these Things, that they rather stare and wonder at any one that shall blame them for these ExtraVagancies, God help such poor Wretches,
for there is no human Means left to help them. These Men do continually cover their Sins, and are just in the same Condition
with those that God speaks of the Prophet Jer. 8.6. Jeremy, I hearkened and beard, but they
Spake not aright. No Man repented him of
The other Thing, that often occasions the covering of our Sins in this Way (viz. renders us insensible of them) is an Opinion that we have taken up of our own Righteoufnefs and good Qualities, which doth so fill our Minds, that we have no Leisure to
reflect on our Miscarriages. Of this we Luke 18. have a notable Instance in the Pharisee, ,
that our Saviour brings in as going with a'i Publican into the Temple to pray. This Pharisee, instead of acknowledging his Sins to God, as he ought to have done, and as the Publican did), had other Matters to think of. He was so full of himself and his own Performances, that he never reflected on any thing wherein he had offended against God; but, on the contrary, instead of condemning himself, he despised others, and particularly that 'poor Publican : He