Meditation 1: Confession of Sin. Richard Allestree.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1. 9.
Omnipotent God, my sins ever appear in my sight, and are a torment unto my mind; every day I think of thy judgment, because death threatens me every hour. And when I remember, I must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Cor. 5. 10. then I examine my whole life, and find it is altogether vanity; my actions are vain, my words profane, and my thoughts unprofitable. If the shadow of some virtue appears, it is imperfect; because original sin, and my vitiated nature hath polluted it.
If all our righteousness are as filthy rags, Isa. 64. 6 what can we expect our unrighteousness should be? Our Saviour tells us, When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants, Luke 17. 10. And if we are so unprofitable in our acts of obedience, certainly we are abominable in our transgressions. St. Gregory, in his Morals, tells us, A diminutive light may shine in obscurity; but being set in the sun, is darkened. Wood not measured, may appear strait; but applied to the rule, is found oblique. The impress of a seal may appear perfect in the eyes of the spectators, and yet be very imperfect in the eye of the artificer. So that which glitters in the estimation of the performer, is often-times sordid in the discretion of the judger. For, the thoughts of God are different from the thoughts of Men, Isa. 55. 8.
The memory of many sins affrights me; and yet there are divers I am ignorant of. Who can tell how oft he offendeth? O cleanse thou me from my secret faults! Psal. 19. 12. I dare not look up to heaven, because I have offended him which inhabits there. In earth I enjoy no refuge, expecting nothing from the creatures, because I have offended the Lord of the Universe. My adversary the devil accuses me to the Almighty, and desires him the most just judge to condemn me to chains of darkness, for my sin, that would not lay hold on the means of grace.
Next, The four elements, in their order, accuse me: And, first, the heavens acquaint me, they have supplied me with light, to my joy and comfort. The air whispers me, I have given thee all manner of fowl my region affords, to be at thy command. The water violently speaks, I have given thee all manner of fish to eat. And the earth opens her mouth, saying, I have given thee corn, wine and oil to nourish thee; but how hast thou abused these mercies, to the contempt and dishonour of our creation? Therefore let our benefits redound to thy punishment; let the fire consume thee, the water overwhelm thee, the air fan and winnow thee, the earth swallow thee up, and hell devour thee.
The holy Angels which were appointed by the Almighty to minister unto me in this life, and to be my comforts in the life to come, they accuse me: for by my sins I have deprived myself of their ministry in this life, and hope of their fellowship in the world to come; the voice of God's divine law accuses me; either I must fulfil it, or perish; to perform the one, is impossible; and to undergo the other, is intolerable.
God, the most severe judge, and potentest executer of his eternal law, accuses me: Him I cannot deceive, who is wisdom itself; from him I cannot fly, who is power itself, and reigns every where. Whither then shall I fly? Psal. 139. 7. Even to thee, O Blessed Jesus, my alone Redeemer and Saviour. I hear a voice which bids me hide myself in the clefts of the rock, Cant. 2. 14. Thou art that Rock, and thy wounds are the clefts; in them will I hide my self against the accusations of all the creatures.
My sins cry aloud, even unto heaven; but thy blood which was poured forth for my sins, cries louder, Heb. 12. 24.
My sins are potent to accuse me, but thy passion is effectual to defend me; the unrighteousness of my life is powerful to condemn me, but thy most perfect righteousness is powerfuller to save me. I appeal therefore from the throne of thy justice, to thy Mercy-Seat; but I dare not appear before thy great tribunal, unless thy holy merits interpose betwixt me and thy judgment.