1621
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. III. Of Repentance.

The Brides Ornaments: Poetical Essayes upon a Divine Subject. [In The Song of Songs, which was Salomons.]

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett delivers a sermon on themes of sin and salvation.



The Highest that created first of nought
A Chaos vast, and out thereof did take
The Earth, whereof he noblest Creature wrought,
Ev'n man, and made all Creatures for his sake,
Him first pure, just, and righteous did make,
But since their owne inventions they obay,
And in a right path set, their way mistake,
And as blinde; fooles and slaves have gone astray,
Nor can, without the true Light, finde againe the way.

For whilst they doe yet in their sinnes remaine,
Their Soules in errour and in darknesse bide,
They know not how they should be borne againe,
For Sinne this mysterie from them doth hide;
And till Humilitie their trusty Guide,
Shall them to wholesome true Repentance leade,
They misse their ayme, and striving stray more wide;
Repentance quickneth men in sinne cleane dead,
And teacheth new-borne babes in path of Life to tread.

She is the Mid-wife, that with keenest knife
Our Navell cuts, whereby we cleave to sinne,
Who though shee cruell seeme, yet gives sweet life,
When first to live in Spirit we begin;
Shee, us polluted and defil'd within,
Doth clense in Fountayne of Regeneration,
Us new-born Babes, shee teacheth to let in
The milke sincere to sure Justification;
Till stronger meate make strong our Faith to sure Salvation.

And though in chaine of Gods most firme Decree,
First saving linke is his Predestination,
Election next, them Calling, yet wee see,
No certayne pledges here of our Salvation,
Till true Repentance workes Humiliation:
Loe! then we doe, by right degrees, proceede
Unto the highest linke, Glorification;
So that Repentance first to us doth reede,
What is eternally in Heav'n by God decreed.

Thou that dost Hearts with true Repentance season,
Making them view their owne vile wretchednesse,
That cast downe with Apostasie and Treason,
We may of thee seeke endlesse Happinesse;
First grant me true Repentance: next to expresse
What sov'raign Vertues I in her have found.
And though at first my soule with bitternesse
Were overwhelm'd; yet Grace did cure that wound;
So where most sinne there is, Mercy doth most abound.

Repentance is a holy worke of Grace,
From godly Sorrow: by which Man from sin
Is turn'd: Gods promises in Christ t' embrace,
And fruits fit for Repentance to begin:
Repentance is Gods holy worke within,
To worke our Righteousnesse, and Sinne deface,
And no Man can be exercis'd therein,
But he that standeth in the state of Grace;
For no Man turnes to God, till God him first embrace.

Grace and Repentance are in time conjoyn'd,
As Fire and Heate: but as Heate first appeares
To us, when fire and Embers is confin'd,
Ev'n so when sparkes of Grace our heart first cheares,
Repentance manifests her selfe by tears.
Grace is the sap in heav'nly vegetation,
Repentance is the prime bud which it bears,
The first sure signe of true Regeneration,
Then follow leaves, flowr's, fruits, as certayne demonstration.

This godly Sorrow differs from the care
And griefe a worldling in his heart receaves,
By sense of Gods just wrath or great Mens feare,
Or ought that their good names or goods bereaves.
This godly Sorrow griefe of mind conceives,
That he hath sinn'd, and that he did displease
So good and kinde a God, which so close cleaves
To's heart, that though no feare did him disease,
Of Judge, Hell, Devil, nought but Grace can him appease.

But true Repentance doth repent of all,
And not of many or one onely sin:
Herod converted thus at Baptists call,
Him gladly heard, and hearing did begin
For to doe many things: but would not lin
The sinne of incest with his brothers Love;
Some, like th' Adulterer, doe cease to sinne,
When they want strength: from bad to worse some move,
As when the prodigall a covetous man doth prove.

She hath two hands, with one, loe! shee beginnes
To presse us downe to true mortification,
Whereby we may returne from all our sinnes;
Us th' other raiseth by Regeneration
To a new life, and to Sanctification.
One from all actuall sinnes makes us abstayne,
Suppresseth, weakens natures depravation;
Makes the Mind purpose, and the Will full fayne,
And all our whole indeavours from sinne to refrayne.

The other hand Mans purged mind doth raise
Unto a serious firme deliberation,
To yeeld sincere obedience to Gods Sayes,
And worketh in the will an inclination
Him to obey, as at our first creation.
This doth Mans life and best indeavours frame,
To walke here in a holy conversation:
Though all, we doe, unperfect is and lame,
Yet if the Heart be right, God will accept the same.

And as shee hath a double energie,
Men head-long to th' infernall Pit to throw,
And them againe by Faith to vivifie:
So though of this great worke, one cause we know,
Gods Spirit, that whereas it list doth blow;
Yet useth it a two-fold instrument,
The Law, which Death to us for sinne doth show,
The Gospell, that doth preach attonement;
Thus both the Law and Gospel teach us to repent.

The Law first pierceth ev'n the very heart,
And doth by little and degrees proceede;
Till Knowledge foure things needfull doth impart,
Gods Law, the guilt of Sinne, and Sinnes just meede,
Which is eternall Fire by God decreed:
Then we these rightly to our selves apply,
Which doth in us a feare and horrour breed,
Except on Gospels comfort we rely;
For without that we die in hell eternally.

Then doth the Gospell make us comprehend
Gods mercy, for it seriously enquire,
And by the gifts of Knowledge to contend,
That though I justly have deserv'd Gods ire,
If I my selfe denie yet, and desire
My trust in Christs sole merits to repose,
I shall thereby escape eternall Fire:
Thus doth Repentance griefe and joy impose,
Griefe for my sinnes: but Joy, God doth me from them loose.

Thus godly Sorrow in our heart being wrought,
Which brings Repentance with true change of mind,
We are resolv'd never in word, deed, thought,
So to offend God in our wonted kind,
But a new life to leade; loe, then we find
Within our selves a wondrous alteration,
Not that it changeth substance of our minde,
Or body, in the matter or the fashion,
But doth reforme their powers as in their first creation.

Then bring we fruits worthy amendement
Of life; the truth whereof we doe expresse,
When, by good workes, we shew how we repent:
Repenting soules be Trees of Righteousnesse,
Planted by God which Rivers doe refresh,
Ev'n flouds that from the Sanctuarie flow,
Whose boughes doe lowly stoope with fruitfulnesse:
Their fruits for meat; leaves good for medicine grow,
Else to the roote the Axe is said them downe to throw.

Repentance Subject is a grieved heart,
A conscience wounded with the sight of Sinne,
Which nought but hell and horrour doth impart,
When to lay open conscience doth beginne
Our sinnes without, and wicked thoughts within:
And 'lesse shee to use hope in Christ reveale,
We may with Judas hang up by the chin,
But like a skilfull Surgeon shee doth deale,
First corrasive the sore, and then it gently heale.

Shee hath a double Object, guilt of sinne,
And Sinnes just meede, eternall condemnation,
Which terror breedes without, horror within;
The second is our Saviours blessed Passion,
Made ev'n our owne by a right application:
This brings true inward joy and sound delight,
And doth deface th' hand-writing of damnation,
This brings us out of darknesse into light,
This Sunne of Righteousness doth chase away our night.

As Pharaoh with his Butler and his Baker,
So deales shee with the wicked and the just,
They both alike offended have their Maker,
And both alike into one Dungeon thrust:
But, loe, shee lifts to place of highest trust
The Butler, but the Baker doth forsake,
And leaves him to the meede of the unjust:
Thus, with her left hand shee us drownes in Lake,
But with her right us into endlesse joy doth take.

Neare to her followes, gracious Restitution,
A Lady of a conscience wondrous tender;
That of all benefits makes retribution,
And for a wrong done, double mends will render;
Sorrow, Teares, Kindenesse, Bountie, doe attend her,
Sighs, Prayer, true Devotion on her wait,
If shee wants these Associates, God amend her,
Shee's but Hypocrisie, the devils bait,
To catch poore soules with false pretences and deceit.

For, loe, two Hags of hell would like her seeme:
One outward is and ceremoniall,
Which like proud Pharisee her selfe doth deeme
Above the Publican: And shee will fall
To prayer on her knees amongst them all:
The other ev'n my pen trembles to write,
Mine heart to thinke of: her, Despaire we call,
Oh! shee our Saviours suffrings doth despite,
Counting His satisfaction, for her sinnes, too light.

Many there be that will repent of sinne,
When they are scourged by th' Almighties hand,
But when to spare his rod he doth beginne,
They stay repenting, and themselves doe band
Against the Righteous: And though God command,
They will resist him like proud Egypts King,
Which notwithstanding ten Plagues did withstand
His Makers will, his Heart still hardening,
Till on himselfe and people he confusion bring.

Foure things observe in this great worke of wonder,
Grace, horrour, sorrow, comfortable peace,
Which I resemble to tempestuous thunder,
Lightning shewes first, next cracks, then showers encrease,
But all in comfortable Sunne-shine cease:
So in this worke of our Regeneration,
The Spirit first lights; Hell doth like thunder prease,
Then sorrowes, clouds, teares, showers make inundation:
Lastly, like Sunne shines joy, which seales up our salvation.

And as in course of humane generation,
Conception, travell, lastly birth wee see;
So in this worke of our regeneration,
The Spirit, Soules horrour, inward joy agree:
The Spirit first giveth life and power to bee,
The Soule then travelleth in griefe and paine,
Then followeth our glad nativitie,
Which recompenseth all our losse with gaine:
Thus as at first the Flesh the Spirit begets againe.

And as some women, though they doe conceave,
And quickning joy doe feele within their womb,
Yet by disorder oft a hurt receave,
And so miscarry ere to birth they come,
So that their wombe becomes the infants tomb:
So in us oft a quickning Spirit doth move,
As if Repentance were in us begun,
Yet in the end it doth abortive prove,
This is when we resist the holy Spirit of Love.

Some, as I say, conceive an embryon,
But lose their fruit ev'n in the vegetation,
Some in due time to travell have begun,
But wanted strength ev'n in the procreation,
And in this weaknesse falne to desperation,
Like Judas they have strangled their owne brood,
Before it had in new life respiration,
Who did deplore's betraying innocent blood,
Well he began, but ended in a desperate mood.

But if our travell doth to birth proceede,
And that there is a living Child forth brought,
Oh then what joy and comfort it doth breede,
Then we employ our care, and ev'ry thought
How we may nurse and feede it as we ought;
We therefore pap and milke to it first give,
And after stronger meates for it are sought,
Till it unto a perfect man hath thrive,
Loe then he can beget; that earst began to live.

Ev'n so a new borne Babe in Christ proceedes,
There's wondrous joy at's first regeneration,
On Gospel's Milke he young and tender feedes,
Till he grow strong: Then from Predestination
He can discourse ev'n to Glorification,
Thus doth he to a height and fulnesse grow
Of age and strength by Spirits Illumination,
Till he all Mysteries in Christ doth know,
Then is he able unto others them to show.

Men are like Horses wild, who sure had bin,
As at the first, to Man obedient,
Had they not beene corrupted by mans sin,
And would have beene servants most diligent,
Now they grow Rebels, disobedient,
Till we with bit, yoke, bridle, doe them tame:
So man grows 'gainst his Maker insolent,
Till by Repentance he doth him reclame;
Then he becomes as at the first God did him frame.

Mans heart is like the ground which for mans sinne
Is cursed, Thornes and Thistles for to reare,
Which first the skillfull Plow-man doth beginne,
With a strong Teame of Oxen up to teare;
Fallowes and Harrowes it oft to prepare,
Pure, sweet and cleane for to receive his seede:
Loe then, in stead of Thornes it Wheat will beare,
Repentance thus ploughs Hearts to kill Sinnes weede,
And Tils it, fit and sweet for Grace to sow faiths seede.

If a man sowes and doth not Till his ground,
Or if one Till his ground and doe not sow,
On first kind, Thornes and Thistles doe abound,
Which choke the seede so that it cannot grow;
And from the unsowne tilled ground, we mow
Nothing but stinking weedes fit for the fire:
Ev'n so, except with sorrow we doe plow
Our hearts, and Word to sow therein desire;
Sinne chokes all grace, and weeds therein grow ranke and higher.

Repentance like an Axe is, that hath praid
On all the Cedars that on Lebanon stand;
And ev'ry one downe on the earth hath laid,
The sound shee hews and squares with her right hand,
Making them posts and pillars fit to stand
In Gods owne house: But ev'ry hollow crust
She teares and cleaves for fire with her left hand:
Thus doth Repentance trim and square the just;
Despair th' ungodly rends, and into Hell doth thrust.

Behold! we thus with trembling and with feare,
In paine and griefe worke out our owne salvation,
But some whenas Repentance draweth neare,
And calls their conscience to examination,
Like Ahab, fall into this bitter passion,
What, hast thou found me? O mine enemie?
Despising godly Prophets reformation,
And rather unregenerate chuse to die,
Then pangs and bitter throwes of a new birth to try.

Latines and Greekes give her a divers name,
Which have in them a twofold true notation,
And yet in her they both employ the same;
Latines from Paine doe make their derivation.
Next is a new mind by interpretation;
Both these describe her nature wondrous right,
In paine and sorrow is her inchoation,
When shee with Flesh and powers of Hell doth fight,
Then followes change of mind which bringeth sweet delight.

For shee is bred in paine, brought forth in gladnesse,
Sorrow is over-night, but in the morne
Come soundest joy, to chase away nights sadnesse,
And when we thinke that we are left forlorne,
Then comfort's night to lift on high our horne,
And though a while the Worldlings us doe deeme
The off-scumme of the people, and the scorne
Of wicked men: yet God doth us esteeme,
And by this change, most precious in his eyes we seeme.

Thus have all holy men in former ages,
By griefe and change of mind obtayn'd Gods grace.
This eke is shadowed in those grand Sages,
That tooke great paynes and care to find the place,
Where Christ was borne, that they might see his face;
Who after, in a dreame, forwarned were
Not to returne againe in their first trace:
Thus after travell long, great paines and care,
With joy and change of mind another way they fare.

Of all the Vertues that attend Loves state,
Ev'n from dread Mercy that sits in her Throne,
To low Humilitie, that keeps her gate,
Our blessed Saviour hath us paternes showne,
Only because no sinne was ever knowne
To be in him, He cannot well be said
For to repent of sinnes that be his owne;
But sure for ours a ransome deare he paid,
And felt the wrath of God which on us should be laid.

His Soule was heavie ev'n unto the death,
He fear'd to drinke this cup of bitternesse,
God did on him such wrath and vengeance breathe,
That he sweat drops of blood in his distresse:
Such horrour, by Gods curse, did him depresse,
That he cry'd out as if he were forsaken,
Such horror doth repenting soules oppresse,
But not in so great measure are they shaken,
For Christ the edge of Gods displeasure off hath taken.

This was his way to heav'n, This must be ours,
Before we be to true Repentance brought.
Consider now with me the bitter stowers,
Whereby our Fathers have Repentance sought,
Let Abram tell, from native Countrey brought
Into an unknowne Land, to be a stranger,
Where he endured Hunger, cold, and drought,
Whom Canaans famine made an Egypt ranger,
Whereof the losse of Wife and Life he was in danger.

Afflicted Job, modell of true Repentance,
How was he plagu'd without? frighted within?
Who though he seem'd most happy in his entrance,
Yet his last dayes were best: David did sin
Most desperately: but after did begin
Sadly to crie, when he Gods anger found,
Purge me without, and make me clean within.
When Solomon felt his sinnes cursed wound,
He a whole Booke of true Repentance did compound.

Good Hezekiah chattered like a Swallow,
Or like a Crane, and mourned like a Dove,
And though his sonne Manasses long did wallow
In much foule sinne, yet bondage did him move
To true Repentance: Peter more did love
His Master after unadvis'd denyall:
Thus all Gods servants better Saints doe prove
After they have endur'd the fiery tryall.
Experience of Gods love makes holy men more loyall.

But why seeke I for witnesses without?
Looke in thine heart, if there thou hast not found
This smart of horror, thou maist justly doubt
Thy soul's not yet up in Lifes bundle bound;
Therefore unto thy selfe with speede propound,
To view Gods wrath and thine owne wretchednesse,
Then griefe of heart and sorrow will abound,
Which thee unto the brinke of hell will presse,
Till Faith thee raise by inward joy to happinesse.

Thou shalt not find her like fruit, which to th' eye
Was wondrous faire, and pleasant to the taste,
Which poyson'd Adam and his Progenie:
Shee bitter is at first, sweet at the last:
And when the cloud of sorrow's over-past,
Shee brings of joy and comfort so great store
That all become new: loe, old things are past,
Shee is the Antidote that doth restore
What Adam lost, when he forsook his Makers lore.

No, th' Antidote is Christs most precious Blood,
Repentance is but the preparative,
To make our soules taste this most heav'nly food,
Then which no other can keep us alive:
And till Repentance out of us doth drive
In-bred corruption, and all actuall sin,
This Balme of Gilead will not make us thrive,
Oh then Repentance! purge me cleane within,
And make my stomack fit this Manna to let in.

The Spirit's willing, but the Flesh is weake,
Oh a most pill is this temptation,
None but they that have felt it, right can speake
What pangs it breedes in our regeneration:
Well, let men-pleasers onely sing salvation,
Let not vaine fruitlesse hopes thine heart deceive,
We must first taste the curse of our damnation,
Before salvation truely we conceive;
As head, so must the members that to it doe cleave.

We here must taste it, or then, when w' appeare
At Christs Tribunall: From which none can hide
Himself; but all stand forth themselves to cleare;
When Bookes are brought forth, and are open'd wide,
In sight of God, Christ, Angels, and the Bride,
When Satan and thy conscience thee accuse,
And no gold can an Advocate provide:
Oh, who thinks of this day and can refuse
To taste here of Christs Cup, and scape the Devils Cruse?

Wherefore against thy selfe an Action bring,
And thus accuse, examine, judge, and trie,
Lest thou beest judged of the righteous King:
First before Gods Tribunall prostrate lie,
As if he then beheld thee with his eye,
Confesse thy in-bred sinnes, known, and unseene,
Against thy selfe pronounce unfeignedly
Damnation, hell, and horrour: when we seeme
Most vile in our owne eyes, God doth us best esteeme.

Death, to all men the wages is of sin,
But unto those the Hav'n of Happinesse,
That thus on earth condemn themselves within,
And after bring forth fruits of Righteousnesse;
But to those that goe on in wickednesse,
Death is the Port and entrance into Hell.
Lord give me here this pill of bitternesse,
Which may corruption from mine heart expell:
No wound can be so deepe, but thou by grace canst heal.

And though shee seems like fiery two-edged sword,
That keepes from man the way to Tree of Life,
Because her fiery triall is abhord,
And Cowards heart doth fain to see her knife,
Swouning away at Flesh's and Spirits strife:
Oh never yet let feare my courage quaile,
To hinder me from that sweet Tree of Life,
Better Repentance thresh me with her flaile
On earth; then hellish Dragon breake me with his tail.

We are as Satan hop'd Job to have found,
Whenas he said, Doth Job serve God for nought?
Whilst God doth hedge us in on each side round,
And prospers all that by our hands are wrought,
Whilst by our stocks are multitudes forth brought,
So long we seeme his bountie to embrace;
But take away our goods and leave us nought,
Behold, I say, we curse him to his face,
Except, as unto Job, he grant preventing grace.

This is of wicked men the punishment,
That all their life Repentance have despised,
Ev'n at their end they thinke not to repent,
This trade must in thy youth be exercised,
As Abel of his Firstlings sacrificed.
They that from sinne abstain not till their last,
And to Worlds pleasures have their Youth devised:
Are like those, that being sicke, professe to fast,
Whenas alas! they have no appetite or taste.

Such late Repentance seldome is or never:
We one example in the Scripture reade
Not to despaire, repent what time soever,
But onely one example, lest it breede
Presumption: 'Tis meat and drinke indeede
To Satan, for to see youth doe his will,
And on the other side great joy doth breede
To th' Angels, for to see young men fullfill
Gods Statutes in their Youth, and eke obey his Will.

Oh! then embrace her whilst 'tis cal'd To day:
For most uncertain is our life and fraile,
The longer I the lusts of sinne obey,
Against them I the hardlier shall prevaile;
Late med'cines of their cures doe most what faile,
Which would yeeld remedie in season taken;
The Serpent in the head, not in the taile
Is quickly kil'd: young twigs are easily shaken,
But grow hard to remove when they deepe root have taken.

If in due time thou seekest to repent
By godly sorrow which ne're comes too late,
And thou hels pangs dost feele; be confident,
Thou art by Faith in Christ regenerate,
Assure thy selfe, most happy is thy state;
If thou least drop of Mercy dost obtaine:
The danger's past; sinnes stinging will abate,
The Spirit of thy mind's renew'd again,
And from least show of sinne hereafter now refraine.

Though, like Elisha's servant, first thou see
Nought but Hostilitie, thee to confound,
If that thine eyes with his once open'd be
To looke up to the Mountayne: There abound
Horses and Charets fiery about thee round,
Cry but Alas! Master, What shall we do?
Loe, more for thee, then there for them are found:
Thy light with blindenesse so confounds thy Foe,
Thou mayst them captive leade, and unto others show.

Thy Groat is found, which thou before hadst lost;
Thy Sheepe's brought home, that earst hath gone astray;
Thy dead sonne hath againe receiv'd his ghost;
The Prodigall's come home that ran away;
Vashti's deposed from the Scepters sway,
And humble Hester now hath got her place,
The workes of darknesse now are chac't away,
And in their room are workes of Light and Grace,
Faith by Repentance shewes us now Loves smiling face.

Joy after sorrow, after labour rest,
And after shipwrack the desired Port,
All men have safety: they discern it best
That lately have escap'd some eminent hurt.
Loe! light is pleasing unto ev'ry sort,
To them most that in darkest Dungeon bee,
To passe from death to life, doubtlesse the sport
Of living: But 'bove all the joyes I see,
Is when from wounded conscience, Grace doth set us free.

And now, O Lord, unable to expresse
Thy wondrous bountie in our first creation;
And much more here unworthy to confesse
Thy Love and Grace in our regeneration
Begun here first in us by renovation
And true Repentance: Lord, now cure my wound,
The sting of conscience by sweet application
Of Faith: the fruits whereof may still abound,
And to the riches of thy glorious Grace redound.

You may be pleas'd with me to call to mind,
How when the humble Lady first me brought
To Dame Repentance, harsh I her did find,
And shee most strongly on my conscience wrought,
Yea, though with teares, I oft her Grace besought,
That I might judged be at Mercies seate,
Shee me, by force, before Dame Justice brought,
Where all my sinnes and faults shee did repeate,
But Faith me justifide, of whom I next entreate.

[pp. 62-78]