Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

Flee also the

Lusts of Youth.


By Robert Bruce.


[In the time of the King's absence, (in Denmark,) Bothwell offered to Mr. Robert Bruce, and Mr. Robert Rollock, to make his public repentance. So upon the Sabbath-day, the 9th of November, he humbled himself on his knees in the East Kirk before-noon, and in the Great Kirk afternoon he confessed with tears his dissolute and licentious life, and promised to prove another man in time to come. But soon after he brake forth in gross enormities.]—(Calderwood's History, p. 245.)



  1. Flee also from the lusts of youth, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with them that call on the Lord with pure heart.
  2. And put away foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they engender strife.
  3. But the servant of the Lord must not strive, but must be gentle toward all men, apt to teach, suffering the evil men patiently.
  4. Instructing them with meekness that are contrary-minded; proving, if God at any time will give them repentance, that they may know the truth.
  5. And that they may come to amendment out of the snare of the devil, which are taken of him at his will.
IN these two letters that the Apostle directeth unto his disciple Timothy, he taketh a very great care to inform Timothy that he may behave himself accordingly in all his proceedings; that he might behave himself as well in his own person as in his office towards others beside.

In his own person, in respect he was a young man, young in years, suppose no other way young, neither young in knowledge nor yet in manners, but somewhat young in years; in respect of his youth, and of the imperfections that accompany youth; in respect of the continual folly whereunto youth is drawn, he biddeth him first remember that he take heed to his youth, that he be not carried with those vices, with those affections and lusts, that use violently to carry youth. As towards others, he willeth him to have a discretion and foresight of their estate, to discern the persons with whom he hath to do; and, first of all, that he consider whether these persons be friends or adversaries, whether they be of one family with himself in the family of faith, or otherwise strangers as yet and adversaries to this faith. If they be friends, and of the family of faith, as he is, he willeth him to keep charity, to keep peace in Christ Jesus, and unity with them; that as he keepeth his faith to God, so he may keep unity in love and peace with them.

If, again, those men be not of the family of faith, but adversaries to this faith, they are either obstinate with knowledge, or else ignorant and obstinate with ignorance: Obstinate with knowledge, such as are heretics; apostates, that have knowledge and have lost it. In case these men be heretics, he teacheth, in the Epistle to Titus, how he should behave himself toward them; if they be apostates, he teacheth, in the person of Hymenćus and Philetus, how he should behave himself toward them, to wit, he should first travail to win them if it be possible; and if thy travail succeedeth not, that thou get no gains at their hands this way, then he willeth Timothy, and the pastors in Timothy, to go another way to work, to proclaim their names; yea, at the last, to give their flesh (as we speak) to the devil, that their soul may be safe, if it be possible, in the day of the Lord. To proclaim their names, and make their names manifest to the people, that the people may be aware of such persons, and fear to fall into such offences.

If the persons, again, be ignorant, they are either ignorant with simplicity, or ignorant with a willful stubbornness. In both those cases he informeth his disciple. If they be ignorant with simplicity, he recommendeth unto the teacher three virtues: meekness, gentleness, and patience. Patience not of their evil, nor of their vices, but patience toward their persons, suffering them to come and hear. And suppose thou suffer him to come and hear, yet he willeth thee not to suffer his vices; he willeth thee not to conceal his vices, nor yet to flatter his vices. But this is his meaning; reprove his vices, advertise him of his faults; and in thine admonition do the thing that lieth in thee, that he who is admonished may perceive that the admonition floweth from love, and that we seek nothing less nor [than] his shame and skaith [blame], and nothing more nor [than] his weal and honour. This ought to be the behaviour of those who have to do with simple ignorants; for if so were that any man would bear with vices or iniquities that he knoweth to be in any person, it were the ready way not only to tyne [lose] the person with whom he beareth, but to tyne [lose] himself also in concealing that part of his office and duty which is enjoined to him. And, therefore, it is not such a patience that is craved in the pastor or minister, that he suffer his vices, or conceal the person's vices, but only this kind of moderate, meek, and good behaviour is craved unto him, that in his reproof he may let the person see, so far as in him lieth, that he craveth nothing less than his shame, and nothing more nor [than] his amendment.

In case, again, the person be ignorant and willful with ignorance, as there is many that are obstinate in ignorance, in such sort that the person of the pastor is fashed [troubled] and wearied with continual admonition and reproof, and cometh no speed at his hands, in such sort that at the last the pastor himself, through the long travail that he hath taken, conceiveth a despair of the recovery of that person; the Apostle, in this case, admonisheth the pastor not to faint, not to conceive of his long travails a despair, but suppose he remain stubborn yet to bide upon him, pronounce the threatenings and promises of God indifferently, to tarry upon him at list [will] and leisure. Why? Because the gift of repentance, which turneth the heart of the man, is not in his own hand, nor is it in the hands of the person to give it; but the gift of repentance, which turneth the heart of the man, is in the hands of God; and God will bestow this gift at such times as he pleaseth, and not at that time when the pastor pleaseth. Suchlike, the gift of repentance, it is not visibly wrought; it is not a corporal gift, that it may be perceived by the pastor at the first hand, when it is given and wrought in the heart of man; but it is a spiritual gift, and invisibly wrought in the soul of man. And oft-times it is wrought, then, when the pastor least weeneth [thinks], and that in the mighty and gracious providence of our God. Therefore, seeing it falleth forth so oft-times, that the Lord will bestow this gift when the pastor least weeneth [thinks], he willeth the pastor, suppose the man be stubborn, not to despair; and when the Lord shall give him the gift of repentance, there is no question many commodities shall accompany this gift, which commodities are set down in the end of this chapter.

By this gift, First, he shall be delivered from the snare of the devil, into the which he was holden captive to do him service. By this gift, Secondly, he shall come to knowledge; not only to the knowledge of God in Christ, but of himself and his own misery. Thirdly, by this gift of repentance, where his soul was sick and diseased before, his conscience terrified and exceedingly astonished, that soul, by the enjoying of this gift, shall be restored to health, he shall come to amendment, and to an wholesome disposition of heart, mind, and conscience. This I take to be the sum of all that I have read.

The matter is large, and the heads are many, that might be handled upon this text; but I purpose not to insist on every head, but to content me only with such points as are most necessary for our edification and instruction. Therefore, I select of the whole two points to speak of, by the grace of God at this time, as his Spirit shall assist me for the present.

The heads to be entreated in this Sermon.

The two points that I am to speak of are these:—

The First point, the first verse that I have read, the first part of it, giveth manifest occasion to it, to wit, What is the first and chief thing wherefrom young men should flee?

The Second point, the penult [last] verse of this text, giveth occasion to it, and the end of that verse, and it is this: What is the chief and principal thing that young men should follow and pursue?

What is the chief thing that young men should flee.

The chief and principal thing young men should flee, every youth of the world, is the lusts and affections of the mind whereunto youth is inclined. He should "flee from the lusts of his youth," not so much from the lusts of any other man's youth, or another person's youth, as from the lusts that are in himself, and the lusts that his young years bring with them. And as he should flee from the lusts of his own youth, so the chief thing that he should follow, seek, and pursue, is the gift of repentance, amendment of life, conversion unto God, taking up of a new course, a gift which is as far out of his hands and from him by nature, as the lusts of his youth are near him by nature; and, therefore, he should be the much more diligent and earnest in suiting [seeking] of this gift the nearer he knoweth these lusts to be to him, and the farther he knoweth this gift to be from him by nature. Of these two points, as the Lord shall assist me by his Holy Spirit, I think to speak at this time.

What is meant by the lusts of youth.

And, First, concerning the lusts of youth, I understand by them whatsoever motions, waging flames, or vicious affections, or whatsoever evil inclinations, a young man is addicted to; from all these lusts and enticements youth ought to flee, as there is no vice under the sun unto the which youth is not subject. For our corruption, so long as we live in this world, is never idle; but in what age that ever we be, our corruption is perpetually fertile, bringing forth evil thoughts, evil motions, evil actions out of us; but chiefly our corruption is fertile in our youth; in the time of our youth, chiefly, and most of all, is our corruption fertile and abundant, for then the blood of man burneth, that the affections are in a rage, and he hath not power of himself to control them, but he is carried hither and thither as his own appetites command him, in such sort that it may be counted a miracle, a special work and blessing of the Almighty God, to see a youth pass over his young years without a notable inconvenient either to body or soul, or to both, without a notable menze, as we speak: For there is no youth, there is none that took flesh, that was gotten of man, but in his youth he is subject to one vice or other, and there is few but they are subject to many; but there is no youth that ever proceeded of the womb of a woman but in his youth, before his calling, he is subject to one vice or other; the affection of the which vice, whatever it be, whereto he is subject and is in servitude, commandeth him as ordinarily, craveth obedience of him as ordinarily, as any master of his servant; and the heart of that man, the mind of that man, the body of that man, are as ready to yield obedience to that vice and affection as any servant or slave in the earth is ready to yield obedience to his master.

As, for example, if any man be inclined to aspiring, and addicted in his heart to promotion, and he would be a worldly honour, in such sort that that vice commandeth him, in this point ambition hath as ordinary a command of him, as mighty and potent a command to enjoin to him, as any master hath over his servant. Suchlike, if a man's heart be set upon the gear of this world, upon the paltry that is in it, greediness commandeth that man as ordinarily, and more constantly, nor [than] any master is able to command his servant. If a man be addicted to pleasure his flesh, and to defile his body, that lust commandeth that man as ordinarily, and more continually, nor [than] any master can do his servant. And so fareth it in all the rest of the vices. Look to what vice thou hast addicted thee in service, the affection of that vice ordinarily commandeth thee.

The ground of this floweth from the heart of man, and from the nature of man, which is corrupted in the first Adam; for such is the condition and estate of the heart of man, so long as we remain in our natural estate, that the heart of every man and of every woman that ever was gotten and born, carrieth about in it the seed of all kind of vice and impiety. That vice is not so monstrous, nor that wickedness is not so ugly, that our ears or any of our senses abhor to hear or see most, but the seed of that same vice lurketh and lieth naturally in the heart. It is true, indeed, that all these seeds they bud not, that all these seeds spring not, that men burst not forth in all high impieties in their external and outward actions, but there cometh in a restraint in the soul, whereby we are restrained from these same actions whereunto some men burst forth, and shew what they are to the world.

Whereof cometh the restraint of sin.

This restraint, whereby I abstain and thou fallest in, I keep close and thou bursteth forth, cometh no more of my nature nor [than] of thine that doth the turn, but of the grace and providence of the mighty God. For if God had no means to restrain the impiety that is in the heart of man, but every man, as his heart carried him, bursted forth in every impiety, how would it be possible that a society could be kept; how would it be possible that a kirk could be gathered; how would it be possible that any man could have company or any conversation among men? Therefore, the Lord, that a society might be kept, that out of this society a kirk might be gathered, he restraineth the impiety, the seeds of impiety, that lieth lurking and hid in the heart of every man.

How the Lord restraineth impiety.

The ways whereby he restraineth impiety, and holdeth the seeds of impiety choked, that they burst not out, are two: He restraineth the impiety that lurketh in the heart, either by discipline, by severe punishment, and good execution of laws, or he restraineth this lurking of the heart by the work of his own Spirit. The restraint that cometh by discipline and execution of laws, it taketh not away the tyranny of sin; it taketh not away the absolute command and sovereignty which sin hath; it holdeth wicked men in awe; it maketh them to keep an external society, and holdeth them in some honesty and civil conversation; but it taketh not away the sovereignty and empire of the affections.

The restraint, again, which is made by the Spirit of God, by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, which we call the Spirit of sanctification, the restraint that is made by this Spirit taketh away the sovereignty and tyranny which mine affections had before it came. It taketh away the dominion and kingdom which mine affections had before it came, in such sort that where the worldling is restrained from the outward impiety against his will, I, by the power of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, abstain willingly. But take heed, I pray you, the incoming of the Spirit of God to mine heart and mind, suppose it take away the full empire and sovereignty which mine affections had in my soul before it came, yet it taketh not away the lodging and dwelling of sin in my soul. But suppose mine affections and sin dwell not as a king, dwell not as a prince, as an absolute commander, to command the powers of the soul, the members of the body, to put his will in execution, as he had wont to do of before; suppose he dwell not as a king, yet he lodgeth in the soul as a companion, he dwelleth as a companion to the Spirit of God in me, to that part of my soul which the Spirit of God hath reformed in men, in such sort that sin dwelleth in me, and he hath his own will, his own wit, his own counsel out of my mind which he followeth. As, upon the other side, the reformed part of me hath his own will, his own counsel, his own wisdom and understanding in men, which he followeth, so that all the rest of the days of my life there is a continual battle betwixt these two wills; the will of sin and flesh dwelling in my soul, and the will of the Spirit of God, and of the reformed part of my soul; sin persuading me to do evil, the Spirit of God persuading me to do heavenly things; this part suggesting holy thoughts and motions, the other part suggesting wicked thoughts and motions: And this is the estate of every man in this earth that hath entered in society with the Spirit of God. [Gal. 5.16-26; Rom. 7.14-25.]

So take up this matter, that the long discourse of it carry us not from our purpose: There is no youth, yea, let be youth, there is no age nor part of man's life but it carrieth the own affections, the own vices and imperfections with it, unto the which affections and vices every one of us are either slaves and servants, or then enemies; servants, without contradiction, to sin, or then enemies to it, without battle. All the powers of the soul and members of the body in that man where Christ hath not begun to work, consent and agree till the evil turn run in a rage to the performance of the will of the flesh; for thou art either an ordinary slave and servant of sin, or else thou art a contradictor to sin; and this contradiction sheweth the battle that ye have within yourselves.

It is true, that, to the natural man, reason, and the light that is left in nature, maketh some opposition, but not long; for she is unarmed, destitute of power, and, therefore, the power of darkness that is in the affection blindeth the eye of reason incontinent. To fly from thyself, and to fly from thy affections, it is not possible to thee, except that grace come down out of the heaven, except the Spirit of Christ give thee eyes to see and perceive that these same lusts of thine, these same affections of thine, which thou thought, in the folly of thy youth, to be no sin, except that He give thee eyes to see that they are sin, thou wilt never condemn them. For this is the custom of the natural man, if he burst not forth in the outward deeds which are so plainly damned in the law of God, his inward lusts appear to him to be no sins; and it is only by the light of the Spirit of Christ, by the knowledge wrought by the Spirit of Christ, that he beginneth to see clearly that all his affections and his lusts are damned in the sight of God, and are sins. And this sight, first, it maketh us flee from them, for we would never twin [separate] with our lusts and affections if the Spirit of God let us not see the ugliness of them; and beside this ugliness, it maketh us feel in our hearts, and taste of the bitterness of them, where the devil and our corruption made us to think that they were sweet of before. When the Spirit beginneth to rip up our hearts, and to discover the secrets of our hearts and blindness of our minds, it maketh us to feel the ugliness and bitterness that is in them: And this is the first thing that ever maketh man to repent, and giveth him a conscience of sin, and maketh him to have a greedy desire to fly from himself and the lusts of his youth.

If thou fly not in time, and take not on this flight in due season, when thou art called to fly, as now thou art called to fly by the word of God, which giveth thee a clear light, and an eye to see wherefrom thou shouldst fly; if thou learn not now to fly, no question thou and thine affection shall both perish. These same affections wherein thy soul, through long custom, so delighted, shall putrify thy soul, and shall corrupt thy soul more and more, shall bring thy body, the tabernacle wherein thy soul lodgeth, to greater and greater decay, waste thy conscience, subvert thy faith, and spoil thee of thy white garments, whereby only access is granted to thee to the throne of grace; and, in the end, shall bring everlasting destruction on soul and body both. Except, therefore, thou learn to fly, there is no outgate from death everlasting, both in body and soul; therefore, this flight is necessary.

And now it is time that every one of you crave the Spirit of God that ye may flee; for, if ye knew these terrors of conscience, the fire of God's wrath, and the fear of hell and damnation, whereunto the heart of every man is subject, for all the kingdoms of the earth ye would not take in hand to offend so mighty and so gracious a God. But such is the deceit and false pleasure of sin, and such is the canker and venom which the devil hath spewed into our hearts, that it shutteth our eyes, letteth us not see the ugliness of sin, nor taste of the bitterness of it. Therefore, every one of you, in the fear of God, examine your affections, examine your minds, and see whereto ye are addicted; suspect ever your affections, whatever enticement they have to cloak thyself with; suspect ever the motion of them, for the devil is in them; for, when they appear to be most quiet, yea, wholly rooted out and extinguished, the stumps of them stick in the soul, and a very slight object or short idleset will enkindle them: So, they would ever be handled as tod's birds; for they are aye [ever] the worse of over great liberty. And as this should be done in every man, especially it should be done in public men; men who are placed in public offices, and must discharge them in some measure to the glory of God, to the contentment of his Kirk, and weal of his people. As we ought to do this, so, chiefly they ought ever to suspect their affections, lest, giving place to their affections, they make them to pervert justice; for what is it that perverteth justice but affection? So these affections in public persons would be chiefly eschewed.

An exhortation to the Lord Bothwell.

Then ye see the exhortation riseth clearly to you, (my Lord,) who is now placed to bear a piece of charge and government in the absence of our Prince, that ye (my Lord) cast away your affections, bury them under your feet, and let justice strike indifferently where it should strike; let no community of name, ally, proximity of blood, or whatever it be, move you to pervert justice, but let every man be answered according to the merit of his cause. Except these affections that accompany great men be removed, no question, ye must pervert that place. Let not the thief pass because he is your servant, nor the murderer because he is your kinsman, no the oppressor because he is your dependant: Therefore, in time lay them aside, and let the execution declare that no man is spared for feed nor favor. Thus far for the first point.

What things young men should chiefly seek after.

The next point that we have to speak of is, that the thing that the youth should chiefly seek after, straitly pursue, and follow, the Apostle here setteth down, to wit, they ought to seek after the gift of repentance. Seeing it is the Spirit that must fortify the lusts and affections of the youth, they should seek the spirit of repentance.

This gift of repentance here is called the gift of God; and that every one of you may understand the better what this repentance meaneth, for, suppose this doctrine sound in your ears daily, yet it soundeth not in your hearts, there is few that in their hearts have a feeling what the spirit of repentance meaneth; to bring you, therefore, to the better feeling, and to the better knowledge of it, we shall keep this order in deducing of it.

Heads to be entreated of repentance.

First, We shall mark the word itself. Secondly, We shall examine the parts of it. Thirdly, We shall let you see who is the worker, and who is the efficient cause that worketh it. Fourthly, By what instrument it is wrought. Fifthly, Who is the author and the giver of it. And, last of all, How many sorts of true repentance there is.

As to the word itself, if ye will take heed to the force of it, and take heed to the signification of it, it hath this force, taken generally, to signify a sadness for the thing done, a dolour for the thing done, so that it would fain have it undone again. I call it a sadness for the thing done, whether it be good or evil, or however it be, it would have it undone again; taking the word generally, it signifieth this dolour.

Two sorts of repentance.

The Apostle, 2 Cor. 7, setteth down two sorts of dolour, two sorts of sorrow or dolour, raised in the heart of man: He calleth the first sort a worldly dolour or sadness; he calleth it (no doubt) a worldly dolour and sadness, because it is conceived for a worldly respect, because it is conceived for a worldly and a fleshly end, when a man beginneth to be sorrowful for the thing that is done, not so much for God's cause, or for any reverence he beareth to the infinite majesty of God, whom he hath offended, as for the present pain that is upon his carcass, for the present anxiety that is in his conscience, or for any worldly or fleshly respect. In this case, where God is always neglected, where the sorrow is not for God's cause, that is a worldly and an earthly sorrow. And this kind of sorrow, I can call it no other thing but a blind terror, vexation, and anxiety of conscience.

In what respects the worldly sorrow is called blind terror.

I call it blind, in these respects, first, by reason they see no outgate; for their estate, no doubt, were the more tolerable if they saw any hope of outgate, that they might have some rest and ease in their conscience: But they are always blind, and all sight of outgate is taken from such a conscience. It is blind also, in respect they wit not from whom it cometh, who it is that striketh them with this, that they may come unto him by amendment. They see not that it cometh from God; and as they are ignorant of this, they are ignorant of the cause that procured it. They are ignorant that their own sin and wickedness is the cause that procured it; so the ignorance of these three maketh it to be a blind torment, and this kind of torment which I call a blind torment, either it is intended in an high degree, or then it is remitted that they may suffer it.

When it is intended into an high degree, desperation is the end of it; and it maketh them, as Judas did, to put hands in themselves. Sometimes, again, it is not so intended, but it is remitted that they may bear it, and then piece and piece it vanisheth; and so soon as it departeth, so soon departeth their sorrow and their tears; and at the departure of their pain, as their tears depart, so return they to the puddle out of the which they came, as the sow doth; and to the same vomit which they spewed out, as the dog doth; so this dolour and torment, it turneth not the heart, it changeth not the heart, it altereth not the soul, but moveth the soul for the present, and that by reason of the pain; and if the pain were away, they would return to the same sins wherein they offended of before as greedily as ever they did; so that they mourn not for the sin but for the presence of the pain.

The example of this we have in Esau: He cried bitterly for a while, so long as he felt any dolour; but from the time the dolour was removed he went back to his old sins again. And what did he? He cast him to anger his father worse than ever he did, and specially in choosing of his wife; which testifieth that his dolour was but for a worldly respect. So, I say, this worldly dolour is either conceived for the present pain and torment that is upon the conscience, as we have an example in Cain; for in his repentance, wherefore sorrowed he? Not that he had offended God, not that he had displeased so gracious a Father, but for the greatness of his pain, and crieth out, "My pain is greater than I can suffer." Mine iniquity, by the which I understand his pain, either my pain must be made less, or I am not able to bear it. So, I say, this kind of sorrow is either conceived for the present pain, or for a worldly and civil respect.

What is the godly and right sorrow?

Besides this sorrow, therefore, there is a godly sorrow, which the Apostle also setteth down in that same seventh chapter. And this godly sorrow is an earnest sorrow, a true sorrow, not feigned or counterfeit. And as it is true and earnest, so it is conceived, not so much for the present pain or torment that is upon the mind and conscience, as no doubt the pain and torment that is upon their soul moveth them to, but it is not so much conceived for any present pain as for God's own cause, that they have offended so gracious a God, who was so loving, so merciful, and had such pity and compassion upon the multitude of their sins; and, therefore, they set aside all creatures, forget creatures, suppose against them also they have offended; and they run to God only, seek mercy for their sins at him only, and put their trust in him only. So, ye see, David, Psalm 51, as if he had offended none in the world but God only, he turneth to the majesty of the living God, and he saith, "Against thee, against thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight." Now, there is no doubt but he had offended against the man whom he slew, against the wife of the man whom he had defiled; yet, as if he had offended no creature, he addresseth him to God, and craveth pardon and mercy for his sins at him only.

So, this is the true repentance, where men and women, suppose they have offended the creatures, yet they run to God only and seek remission. And, indeed, this is the right way; for why? It is only God that may forgive them their sins, suppose they have offended men and women. There is no man nor woman that is able to purge their conscience, to take away the guiltiness of sin off their conscience; it is only God who, by virtue of the blood of his Son, doth purge the conscience; therefore, they address them to God only. Properly, also, it is him whom they have offended, for as to men and women they may escape their eyes, but it is not possible that they can escape the all-seeing eye of God, who seeth the sins of the heart as well as the sins of the body; therefore, in respect of his all-seeing eye, it becometh them specially to have recourse to him, and to address them to him only. This is called the godly sorrow.

A caution to be observed in this part of repentance.

In this part ye have only this to be aware of; for the devil is ever ready at thine hand, and this provision is not necessary only for a hard heart; but if men and women, through the weightiness of their sins, conceive over-deep a sorrow in their hearts, in this case they would be helped. For, I say, at that time the devil is present, and so soon as he perceiveth thee thrown down with the consideration of thine own sins, that thou art, as it were, presently in the pit of hell, then he is busy to make thee to doubt, to make thee to despair, and to make thee to think that thy sins are so many, so ugly, and so great, that the Lord will never forgive them, and casteth in this or that stay before thee, to terrify thee that thou come not to seek grace at the throne of grace: Therefore, men should in this point take heed to themselves; they should remit their cogitation, and hold it not aye [forever] fixed upon the consideration of the ugliness of their sins and weightiness of their iniquities; but thou ought to remit their cogitation sometime, to take thee to the consideration of the mercy of God, to hoise it to the consideration of the great goodness of God, to the infinite store of mercy which he hath promised to penitent sinners in Christ Jesus. So, when thou art so casten down, and the devil would draw thee to desperation, withdraw rather thine heart to the consideration of the riches of the mercy of God; and whatever thou think of thyself, (and the more abject, so thou end in humility, and not in desperation, it is the better;) think nothing of God but more than excellent, and of his mercy as a thing that passeth all his works, an infinite thing that cannot be compassed.

What is the greatest sin a man may commit.

For of all sins that can be committed, I esteem this the greatest, when a man in his heart will match the gravity of his iniquity with the infinite weight of the mercy of God; when the devil, by his suggestion, maketh thee to believe that thy sins are greater than the mercy of God, and his mercy, suppose it be infinite, less than thy sins. Of all sins I think this the greatest; for in this thou spoilest God of his majesty, of his infinite power; thou makest him not a God; for if he were not infinite in all things, he were not a God. So, I say, in true dolour, to prevent this thing, men must not stick perpetually upon the consideration of their sins, but sometimes it is necessary that they withdraw their cogitation. This sorrow, where it is, it appeareth in the effects; for if the effects of it appear not in thy life, thy repentance is not true.

The effects of this godly dolour.

Where this godly dolour is, first, it bringeth forth in that person a hatred of that which God hateth; it maketh that person to agree with God, in that he hateth the thing which God hateth, and loveth the thing which he loveth. It worketh, then, First, a hatred of sin, which God hateth. This hatred of sin bringeth forth a turning from sin; for I could never turn from it if I hated it not: This turning from the sin bringeth forth a flight from the further turning and continuance in departing: This flight from the sin bringeth forth a care and study how to please God; and this study bringeth a more earnest care how to hold fast that grip of him which thou hast gotten, and to retain his favour which thou hast felt. All these effects flow of the right sorrow and dolour.

Why this part of repentance is called mortification.

This part of repentance is called mortification, or (as the ancients call it) contrition. It is called mortification, because by the power of the Spirit, which worketh this dolour, sin is mortified. It stayeth the lusts and affections that are in me, it taketh away the strength and power of sin within me; in respect of the which slaughter it is called mortification: For Christ not only overcame sin, death, and hell, by the virtue of his death, perfectly in his own person, but he spoileth sin of his power, he spoiled death of his power, and he carried such a rich and honourable triumph over them, that sin hath tint [lost] his power, and death hath lost his sting; so that whosoever can get a grip of Christ and his power, by the virtue thereof sin shall die in him, and his affections shall be daily piece and piece slain. In respect of the which effects, this part of repentance is called mortification.

Of this godly sorrow springeth the other part of repentance, whereby we turn our hearts, and apply the mercy of God to ourselves; and this part is called by the Prophet conversion. By the Apostle himself, Rom. 2, "circumcision of the heart." And Christ, speaking of repentance, he speaketh of it under the name of "conversion," as the chief part of repentance, speaking to the men of Galilee, Luke 13, "Except also ye repent, ye shall all perish also," that is, except ye turn also. This conversion, whereby our hearts are turned unto God, floweth from this godly dolour; but take heed this turning is not the first effect. It is not wrought in an instant of time. It is not possible that the conscience that is only terrified with the sight of the own sins can turn unto God. It is a great matter to the heart that feeleth the wrath of God in so great a measure, to wrestle against desperation, let be to turn unto him. It is a great matter to the soul that is under the fear of hell and everlasting death, to turn unto him; but so long as I find him a fire burning me up as stubble, no question, I must fly from him. So long as the present torment remaineth in my heart, it is not possible that I can turn to him.

Therefore, there goeth before this turning a feeling of mercy, a feeling of his peace, a feeling of his sweetness, whereby I find his wrath pacified, I find his fury pacified. And were it not for this taste, I would never turn unto him; but from the time that my heart got a taste of his mercy, a taste of that peace that passeth all understanding, whereby I find his wrath to be pacified, the terrors of my conscience to be quieted, and the fire of his wrath to be slackened; then I begin to turn unto him, to believe in him, and to apply the promise of mercy in particular to myself, which I durst in noways do so long as I felt nothing but the fire of his wrath upon my conscience. Upon this feeling, I say, riseth the application, and upon the application riseth the turning to him. So, this feeling of wrath, in order, suppose not in time, goeth before the turning unto God. The turning bringeth forth a joy, and a gladness of mercy that he hath gotten, and this joy bringeth forth a love towards him.

As the other part bringeth forth a hatred of sin, so this part bringeth forth a love towards God. This love, again, bringeth forth a care and study to please him; and this care and study bringeth forth an appetite of revenge and indignation against thy corruption, so that thou would be revenged upon thy corruption, which made thee to sin and offend against him. [2 Cor. 7.11.]

Why this part of repentance is called vivification.

And this part of repentance, in respect of the great and manifold effects of it, is called vivification: As the other part is called mortification, so is this called vivification, in respect the Spirit of God maketh a new creation in us, maketh us up as new creatures of old, endueth our hearts with new affections, our souls with new qualities, and bringeth forth in us living motions, actions, and cogitations, which are called living, because, as they proceed from a living Spirit, so they carry us to life everlasting. They are called also living, in respect of those dead actions which we brought forth of before, which were called dead, not only in respect that they flowed from the flesh, that is, from corruption, but because they carried us to the death both of body and soul. In this respect, I call this part vivification; others call it confession, and it getteth this name in respect the thing that is quickened cannot but burst forth in the praise of God, and glorify him with a confession; he cannot conceal the kindness of God done to him, but he will confess it before the world, and proclaim the riches of the mercy of God, that they may glorify a common God with him.

There is nothing that the devil stayeth more than our confession.

And this confession, it is the thing in earth which the devil casteth him most diligently to stay [hinder]; for, as there is nothing in the earth whereby God is glorified more than by a sincere confession, so there is nothing in the earth that the devil travaileth more to stay [hinder] than this confession, in respect he seeth God so far glorified by it. The Lord craveth not the death of a sinner, he seeth not the slaughter of his creature, he seeketh but the repairing of his own glory, and this he counteth to be done by a sincere confession of thy sin. Therefore it is, I say, that the devil casteth him to stay [hinder] this confession; and to hold them from this confession he casteth in the shame of the world, the estimation before men, this inconvenient, that inconvenient; for this ye may perceive of his craft, that where shame is, and shame should be indeed when the deed is in doing, there he maketh us bold and pert. But where no shame is, and no shame can follow of it, where God should be glorified by a confession, his kirk edified, and men moved through their example to do the like, there he casteth in shame, and maketh them believe it is the most shameful turn that ever they did; and all that, that the soul should not be saved, but holden drowned in his snare for ever and ever. Therefore, men would be advertised of this, that they ashame not to glorify God with an open confession. As they are not ashamed to sin publicly, so they should not be ashamed to confess it as publicly, that God may be glorified. Remember of this.

This is not spoken for this nobleman's cause only: It is spoken for every one of you that are in inferior ranks, that every one of you may confess your sins; and seeing this is the craft of the devil, by the holding you back that ye may lose your soul, be ye as careful to win your soul by confessing your sins to the world. The confession of David, Psalm 51, serveth it to his shame, or to his honour? No, of all the deeds that ever he did it is counted, and shall be counted in all ages, the most notable and honourable deed; so, let not the devil deceive men in this point.

That repentance which proceeds of desperation.

As to this kind or repentance which proceedeth of desperation, it is nothing worth: It turneth not the heart nor the mind; but this repentance which turneth the hearts of men proceedeth of the Spirit of Christ; so, it is the Spirit of Christ that is the worker of this true dolour and conversion.

As to the instruments which he useth in working of it, they are two: First, the Law: Next, the Evangel [Gospel]. He must first bring in the law, to bring us to the acknowledging of our sins; for, except the law were laid down, we would never come to the knowledge of our sins. Thereafter he bringeth in the Evangel, the promises of mercy and grace freely offered in Christ, and through Christ to all them that believe. So, the Evangel cometh in the second room; by the Evangel he worketh belief, and after he hath wrought belief he draweth out exhortations out of the law and out of the Evangel, that according to the law we may conform our lives, and obey the same in all time coming. So, the law and the Evangel are the means whereby repentance is wrought in the soul of man; exhortations out of the law and Evangel are the means whereby a good life and conversation is continued among men.

As to the Author, he letteth us see that his gift groweth not in our own breasts, nor it proceedeth not of ourself, nor from no creature in heaven or earth, but from God in Christ only: It is the gift of God, given freely for Christ Jesus' sake. For ye may consider with yourselves, and look how impossible it was to us to make ourselves the sons of men; far more impossible is it to us to make ourselves the sons of God. And by repentance we are made the children of God, companions to the angels, and sons of light; so that the second creation, which is wrought in us by the spirit of repentance, is a far more great and excellent work than our first creation in this world.

A caution to be observed in this part of repentance.

Into this part of repentance, whereby we are assured of the mercy of God, as there is a caution on the other part to be observed, so there is a caution here to be taken heed of; for our nature is so wicked and corrupt that it cannot hold itself within bounds, nor contain itself in a mediocrity. But as when we find the fire of God's wrath in any measure kindled for sin, we would be back at desperation, so, if the conscience be acquainted long with the joy, with the taste of his mercy and of his peace, the devil in this world deceives us, and draws us to presumption: Therefore, as before, being casten down with the consideration of thine own sins, to eschew desperation, thou withdrew thy consideration to the mercy of God, so now, to eschew presumption, thou must cast back thy thoughts to the consideration of thyself, of thine own sins and iniquities, and look what thou was before thou was called to repentance. This is the way to hold thee low and humble, and to distinguish grace from nature.

Two sorts of repentance.

As to the sorts of repentance: Of true repentance there are two sorts, an ordinary repentance, wherein every Christian is bound to walk all the days of his life, and an extraordinary and special repentance. The extraordinary repentance is this; when any man, after he is called to the participation of grace, falleth into a special sin, the rising from that sin I call a special repentance, as David's rising. In this ordinary repentance we are commanded all to walk; the special repentance should waken them that are fallen into one special vice or other. From the extraordinary we should beseech the Lord to preserve us; always, if we fall, the Lord waken us! Now, ye have heard the parts of repentance according to the order and division which I have laid.


There is nothing farther to be spoken of this head, except only this: We ought to praise and thank God for the victory that we have gotten over ourselves through him. We have to consider and see how far we are obliged to him, that he should have had such a special regard to us vile sinners, that he hath poured out streams, heaps, and pipes of his mercy among us, which he hath denied to others, who, in the judgment of the world, were in a better case than we. The consideration of this, no doubt, will raise a thankfulness in us, and move us to consider how far we are obliged to so gracious a God. As to the gift itself, seeing it is out of us, we ought ever to be instant in seeking of it. Therefore, I recommend this repentance to be sought of every one of you. And ere we go further, let us pray for it both to ourselves and others.

Then remember of the things that have been spoken. What is the chief thing that young men should flee, to wit, the lusts of the flesh; and what is the chief thing that they should follow and straitly pursue, the gift of repentance. Therefore, from your hearts seek this gift. And ere we go forward to the rest of our action, let us pray for it, and pray that his matter may have a good issue and succeed well, and that for the righteous merits of Christ: To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, praise, and glory, for now and ever.

IT is not unknown to you all (well-beloved in Christ Jesus) how many means and sundry ways the Lord hath to waken a sleeping conscience, to bring men to the confession of their sins, and to make them to seek grace and mercy at his hands. And as he lacketh no store of instruments and means, so it hath pleased him of his mercy, to the salvation of his soul who is penitent, and to your good example who hear, to work this motion in the heart of this nobleman: In such sort, that he is content from his heart, upon his knees, to acknowledge and confess those sins wherein he hath offended the majesty of God, and given evil example to the meanest and poorest of you. And to let you understand that this confession is willing, and from his heart, it is true, and none of you can pretend ignorance of it, that by the liberty of the acts of our kirk, and custom received, it had been leisome [lawful] to him, according to the order in his own kirk, to have made satisfaction; yet, such is the willingness of his own heart, that, for the better satisfaction of you that are the indwellers of this city, he is content, in this chief part and kirk of the country, and in that same place where he shed last innocent blood, to repair the same, and in presence of you all, to seek that God of heaven and mercy.

The Lord hath put this motion in his heart, and that not suddenly, nor of late; but he informed our brother, James Gibson, a long time before his Majesty's departure out of this country, and desired him to come and shew unto us that he was willing to make satisfaction to the kirk, not only for his murder and bloodshed, but for taking the name of God in vain, and for everything wherein he hath abused himself, and for all his offensive and rash speeches; and, generally, for everything wherein he hath offended the least of you. Which, if we had understood, we had craved the practice of it sooner.

Always, we have every one of us to thank God that he hath so moved his heart, and to crave of the Lord that it may be from his heart, and that he may declare the effects of it in all time coming. Therefore, (my Lord,) ye have no farther ado but go to your knees, and crave God mercy and pardon for your sins, wherein ye have offended him. The Lord of his mercy grant it you!

The words which the Earl Bothwell, &c. uttered, being upon his knees:


The Lord of his mercy grant it to him, and to us all. Amen.